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World War I Centennial News



WWI Memorial Construction Launch(December 12, 2019) Key leaders joined the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission on the site of the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC to mark the start of construction. (Left to right) National Park Service Acting Director David Vela; Commission Special Advisor Admiral Mike Mullen; Commission Chair Terry Hamby; Commission Special Advisor Senator John Warner; and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

First construction phase began December 12 

U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Receives Construction Permit For New National World War I Memorial In Washington, DC. 

via PR Newswire 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2019 -- The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission has received a building permit from the National Park Service (NPS) for the first construction phase of the new National World War I Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.

Key leaders gathered on the Memorial site to mark the start of construction, including Commission Chair Terry Hamby, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, National Park Service Acting Director David Vela, Commission Special Advisors Senator John Warner and Admiral Mike Mullen, and others.

The first phase of construction will be a 360-day project to rebuild the former Pershing Park, and prepare the site for the eventual installation of the Memorial bronze sculpture when it is completed. The building permit was awarded after the Memorial design was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission earlier in 2019.

The Memorial is being built under the Commission's authority by the Doughboy Foundation. Prime contractor for Memorial construction is Grunley Construction Company, Inc. Architect for the Memorial is GWWO Architects.

Chair Hamby was very pleased with the receipt of the building permit and start of construction. "Finally the 4.7 million Americans who left their homes to deploy to a country most had never visited, fight in a war they did not start, and were willing to die for peace and liberty for people they did not know, will be honored at this magnificent spot in our nation's capital," he said.

Read more: U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Receives Construction Permit For New National World War I...


Saturday, December 7; Tuesday, December 17 & Wednesday, December 18

They Shall Not Grow Old returns to theaters in December for limited run

Back by Popular Demand, Academy Award-winner Peter Jackson’s masterpiece WWI documentary in theaters near you this Holiday Season, featuring never seen before World War I soldiers and events colorized and in 3D.

This cutting edge, cinema event was created by using materials from the BBC and Imperial War Museum’s archives, including 600 hours of archival interviews. Using the voices of the men involved, the film explores the reality of war on the front line; their attitudes to the conflict; how they ate; slept and formed friendships, as well what their lives were like away from the trenches during their periods of downtime.

Jackson and his team used cutting-edge techniques to make the images of a hundred years ago appear as if they were shot yesterday. The transformation from black and white footage to colorized 3D footage can be seen throughout the film, revealing never-before-seen details. Reaching into the mists of time, Jackson aims to give these men voices, investigate the hopes and fears of the veterans, the humility and humanity that represented a generation changed forever by a global war.

These showings include an exclusive introduction from Jackson, and interview with him at the close.

DON’T MISS THE SPECIAL SHOWING of “They Shall Not Grow Old” December 7, 17 & 18 at a theater near you. Click here to find the closest theater, and to purchase tickets:




Chasuble in Ossuaire BishopBishop Francois Maupu oversees placement of the Chasuble in the Chapel in the Ossuaire at Verdun, November 11, 2007. 

Remember Frank Havlik: Doing what's right

By Dave Theis, Ed.D, LTC U.S. Army (Ret.)
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

He saw the church in flames. Corporal Frank Havlik, E Co, 355 Infantry, 89th Division, was attacking in WWI.

Havlik at FunstonFrank Stephen Havlik at Camp FunstonHavlik and his buddy entered the church and found no one there. They did find a priest’s golden robe, a chasuble. To save it, they separated front from back. Havlik folded the back, and put it under his tunic.

At St Mihiel and in the Meuse Argonne, Havlik attacked, and endured machine gun fire, artillery, gas. He made it through both attacks without a scratch. He never recorded in which attack the church was.

He wrote many letters to his beloved Vlasta Vonasek, without mentioning the chasuble. When he returned, he told Vlasta the chasuble saved him and kept him safe. His intent? Return it to the rightful owner.

Havlik was drafted in April 1918, trained at Camp Funston, deployed with the 89th to France. His baptism of fire was at Jury Woods. Through all, he was known to do what’s right, evidenced by his promotion to corporal and his two gold war service ribbons.

Upon the Armistice, he returned to the U.S. In New York, and in his hometown of Omaha, the welcome home was terrific.

Vlasta and Frank married, had two sons, Frank and Wesley. The Depression and WWII came and went. Vlasta kept the treasured chasuble in her cedar chest. Both wanted to return it.

Frank died in 1952, Vlasta in 1975. The chasuble passed to their son Wesley. In 2002, shortly before he died, Wesley reaffirmed the need to return the chasuble.

Read more: Remember Frank Havlik


A Memoir of the War: A Doughboy's Journey Through France and Germany in World War I 

By Charles Daris
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

Writing the memoirs of his participation in the American Expeditionary Forces twelve years after the end of the First World War, my father proudly declared that the time he was in uniform was “the greatest experience of my life.” Reading them, one can sense that he relished every minute of it, including terrifying moments in combat or coping with mind-numbing mud whether in the trenches or on his never-ending marches. But he never lost his sense of humor. The ubiquitous mud and frequent rain often prompted him and his buddies to remark with no little irony, “sunny France!”

cover 2The young man from a small New England town, Ashburnham MA, arrived wide-eyed in Old Europe and absorbed it all with fascination and curiosity. He wrote of the cobblestone streets, the charming chapels, the seemingly endless quantities of wine, the pretty French girls. He continued to marvel when, after the Armistice, he was part of the American Army of Occupation in the enchantingly picturesque Rhine valley in Germany.

He served in the 4th Division, 47th Infantry, Company A. Throughout his service he wrote copious notes in the small diaries he kept with him. These treasured memories made it possible for him to narrate his adventures in detail years later. He also researched the origins of the U.S. participation in the war and the history of his own regiment and incorporated his findings into his memoirs.

He told me that one of his sisters had typed the narrative for him on the onion-skin parchment that I kept in a box for a very long time. In addition to the narrative, he created a set of four photo books that included photos and postcards annotated in stunning relief in white ink on black construction paper, written in his impeccable penmanship.

The collection – the narrative and the photo books - have been recreated and are presented herewith in more readable format in two volumes.

My father was one of ten children, the offspring of humble French-Canadian immigrants who spoke virtually no English. Their house was lively and bustling with activity, accompanied always by great hilarity. I recall having my first taste of cold beer in that house when my mustachioed grandfather mischievously let me have a sip. Dad’s sense of humor was nurtured in that house, and it resurfaced time and time again in his descriptions of his war experiences.

Read more: A Memoir of the War A Doughboy's Journey Through France and Germany in World War I


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Vital to Allied Victory 

Postal Service stamp remembers U.S. participation in World War I

By Lisa Y. Greenwade
Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service

Although the United States did not send forces into combat until the final year of World War I, the nation emerged from the global conflict as a major world power. Crucially, America’s involvement in WWI helped bring an end to the Great War, as it was known at the time.

President Woodrow Wilson’s position of neutrality was difficult to maintain in the face of the contest between Britain and Germany for command of the seas. The most significant provocation came in 1915, when a German U-boat sank the British liner Lusitania, which carried many American passengers. Nevertheless, Wilson won reelection in 1916 with a slogan that emphasized how he’d kept the country out of the war.

Germany, however, resumed unconditional submarine warfare in 1917. This action, along with intercepted intelligence that Germany had proposed an alliance with Mexico against the United States, caused Wilson to end his policy of neutrality, and in April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany.

In 1917, nearly five million Americans, mostly men, joined the military, and about a million women entered the workforce to make up for the shortage of civilian labor. In spring 1918, U.S. forces played vital roles in the St. Mihiel battle and the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which helped bring an end to the war.

The art for the World War I: Turning the Tide Forever® stamp issuance features a member of the American Expeditionary Force holding the U.S. flag. Guided by art director Greg Breeding, artist Mark Stutzman painted the image in airbrush on an illustration board, evoking the propaganda posters used during World War I.

For a closer look or to order the World War I: Turning the Tide Forever® stamps, visit the Postal Store® at www.usps.com or call 800-STAMP-24.



IMG 2171Example of educational materials on World War I developed by the Ohio World War I Centennial 

Teaching World War I after the Centennial 

By Paul LaRue
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

This Veterans Day marked one hundred and one years since Armistice was declared. The World War I Centennial is winding down. What is the state of World War I education in classrooms across the country?

IMG 0051Paul LaRueI was a classroom teacher for thirty years in a rural, high-poverty school district in southern Ohio. I also had the opportunity to serve on the Ohio World War I Centennial Committee, working primarily on education. It would be foolish for me to speak to all World War I education nationwide. Education varies widely by state as well as by individual school districts. For example, Ohio has 609 public school districts; my comments are necessarily general and draw on my experience from education in Ohio.

Generally speaking, today's classroom history teacher has a large amount of content to cover in a limited amount of time. Many states, Ohio being one, have divided U.S. History into two blocks. Colonization to the end of Reconstruction is taught in the eighth grade, and Industrialization (1877) through post-September 11, 2001 is taught in high school. The reality is every teacher feels pressure to cover the entire curriculum. This translates into no one area of history receiving extensive coverage. World War I likely will receive one week or less of class time in a high school history class. Elementary and middle school students may receive little to no exposure to World War I. Before you start pulling your hair out, there is good news.

The World War I Centennial has generated interest in quality lesson plans and resources to assist today's classroom. The United States World War I Centennial Commission was fortunate to have Dr. Libby O'Connell serve as a Commissioner. Dr. O'Connell is an excellent historian and educator who encouraged the development of strong educational content to support the World War I Centennial. State World War I Centennial Committees, The American Battle Monuments Commission, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, The National Park Service, The Library of Congress, and The National World War Museum and Memorial have all developed excellent World War I content for the classroom.

Read more: Teaching World War I after the Centennial


0b737796 cd81 4064 a4f8 e5733c225d02 image003Sabin Howard with the Weta maquette for A Soldier’s Journey (Photo courtesy of the artist)

A Soldier’s Journey – Sabin Howard’s National World War One Memorial

By Michael Pearce
via the MutualArt web site

When American soldiers entered the Great War that had torn Europe apart since 1914, their involvement ended the horror that bloodily consumed a generation of young men. By early 1918, over two million Americans had crossed the Atlantic to fight, and over one million of them saw combat. Their participation was decisive. In Spring of 1918 the Kaiser’s forces had fought their way forward to within fifty miles of Paris, but heroic American assaults on the German lines turned them back, certainly saving Europe from German rule. It took less than a year for the Germans to surrender after the first American boots landed in the mud of the front lines. Nearly fifty thousand American soldiers gave their lives in battle, and a quarter of a million were wounded, some terribly.

Under the clear, cold light of four broad skylights cutting through the dark, wood-beamed ceiling of his austere New Jersey industrial warehouse studio, the brilliant American sculptor, Sabin Howard, is twelve weeks into his work on the final modelling stage of A Soldier’s Journey, which will soon become the United States’ National World War One Memorial. The 60 foot long figurative bronze was approved for installation in Pershing Park, next door to the White House in Washington, D.C. by the US Commission of Fine Arts last May. Until now, Washington has had no official monument to the sacrifice of the American armed forces in the Great War.

Howard’s sculpture cleverly tells the dramatic story of a soldier’s journey to war and his return home, arranged cinematically in a sequence of scenes, which seamlessly blend together. Reading the narrative of the sculpture is an extraordinarily emotional experience. First, we see the soldier’s daughter handing him his helmet, and his departure from his wife is a scene of outstretched arms and high emotion; he is encouraged to stride forward into the ranks by an officer, then charges pell-mell into battle, which is cleverly sculpted as a moment of violent intensity where some of his comrades fall, either dead or injured. Shell-shock is perfectly captured in the form of the soldier facing directly out toward us, interrupting the flow of action from left to right, and forcing viewers to consider not only the horrible death experienced by many of the soldier’s comrades, but also his own experience of surviving that horror. 

Read more: A Soldier’s Journey – Sabin Howard’s National World War One Memorial


“The Lafayette Escadrille” World Premiere takes place at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

The Air Force Museum Foundation Living History Series presented the World Premiere of the film “The Lafayette Escadrille” on Saturday, November 9, in the Air Force Museum Theatre.

NYHS poster video 041619 wlogosA live symposium featuring current and retired members of the military, historians, and descendants of the Lafayette Escadrille pilots was held on Sunday, November 10. The symposium took place in the Carney Auditorium, also inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, near Dayton, OH.

“The Lafayette Escadrille” is the first comprehensive documentary film made about the American volunteers who flew for France before the United States entered World War I. They have been called “the Founding Fathers of American combat aviation.” The production was filmed at over 40 locations in France, drawing on over 20 interviews, and thousands of original artifacts, letters, memoirs, photographs, and films.

The movie is officially endorsed by the United States World War I Centennial Commission.

“The Lafayette Escadrille” follows the path of the young Americans who came to the aid of America’s oldest ally—standing up for the values of freedom and liberty shared by the sister republics. It is the only American story that covers the entire duration of the war, from one end of the Western Front to the other.

“The story of the Lafayette Escadrille is well-known, and since it embodies the spirit of devotion and sacrifice, it is dear to the hearts of aviators everywhere,” said Darroch Greer, co-producer/director of the film. “This film is our tribute to America’s first combat aviation squadron, and we are honored to hold its premiere at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.”

Raoul Lufbery III, great grand-nephew of Major Raoul Lufbery, the Escadrille’s leading ace, said, "The filmmakers have done a wonderful job telling this amazing story of remarkable Americans fighting for righteous causes for all mankind."



National WWI Memorial takes shape, as sculpture models are revealed 

By Mike Valerio
via the WUSA-9 television station (DC) web site

WASHINGTON — More than a century after Armistice Day marked the end of the Great War, sculptures commemorating America’s involvement are now taking shape – the central element of D.C.’s planned National World War I Memorial.

Sculptor Sabin Howard revealed the images on his Instagram account, with the first models of American service members soon ready for bronze casting.

The memorial is planned for Pershing Park, across the street from the Wilson Building and White House grounds.

"I'm ready to break ground on this memorial," architect Joseph Weishaar said in an interview Monday. "When it's completed, it'll be the largest, free-standing bronze relief in the Western Hemisphere."

Read more: National WWI Memorial takes shape, as sculpture models are revealed


olympia leadThe casket of the World War I Unknown Soldier being carried off of the U.S. Olympia in 1921. 

“Known But To God”: The Unknown Soldier and the U.S.S. Olympia 

By Max Kaiserman
via the American Rifleman web site

Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier recently received new SIG Sauer U.S. M17 pistols inlaid with wood from the U.S.S. Olympia. It was selected because she was the honored ship that transported the remains of the World War I Unknown Soldier home from Europe. Today, three American soldiers are interred at the Tomb, one each from World War I, World War II and Korea. (A fourth unknown from the battlefields of Vietnam was later identified and returned to his family).

Aboard the U.S.S. Olympia, a young U.S. Marine Corps captain led the Honor Guard that accompanied the remains of Unknown Soldier back home in 1921—the year the Tomb was dedicated. His name was Graves Erskine. 

General Graves B. Erskine, USMC

Graves Blanchard Erskine was born in Columbia, La., on June 28, 1897. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany. Little more than a month later on May 22, 1917, Erskine was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He was 19 and had just completed his degree at Louisiana State University. Like so many young men, Erskine joined the military to fight for his country in what would become known as World War I.

Read more: “Known But To God”: The Unknown Soldier and the U.S.S. Olympia


The Doughboy Foundation Releases Free Updated “Bells of Peace” App for Commemorating Veterans Day 2019 

WASHINGTON, DC ― The Doughboy Foundation, in cooperation with The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS), has released an updated version of the “Bells of Peace” phone app for commemorating Veterans Day 2019.

BOP Header 2019 500The updated Bells of Peace app, which is now available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play, assists American citizens and organizations across the nation to toll bells in their communities twenty-one times on Monday, November 11, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. local time. The nationwide bell tolling will honor those American men and women who served one hundred years ago during World War I, as well as saluting all Americans veterans who have served their nation at home and abroad in both war and peace.

The nationwide Bells of Peace initiative also supports the annual SHGTUS National Salute as the organization prepares for the 100th Anniversary, in 2021, of the burial of an Unknown American Soldier who fought and died in World War I, in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) in Arlington National Cemetery. The National Salute shows America’s deep respect for its Unknown Soldiers buried in the TUS, and all its veterans.

The website http://ww1cc.org/bells provides more information about the Bells of Peace app. The app will toll the bells automatically: as the app's built-in countdown timer reaches 11 a.m. local time, Bells of Peace will toll from every device; together; 21 times; in a remembrance of when the fighting ended on the Western Front in 1918. The bells can be tolled manually as well. Seven different types of bells are available.

The Doughboy Foundation and The Society of the Honor Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier encourage the tolling of bells on Veterans Day in communities across the nation, in places of worship, schools, town halls, public carillons, and cemeteries; at military bases, posts, and stations; aboard ships at sea; on aircraft in the air; and by astronauts in orbit above the earth. 

Participating individuals and organizations are asked to use the hashtags #BellsofPeace and #CountdowntoVeteransDay to spread the word about their intention to Toll the Bells of Peace on Veterans Day, and to highlight photos and articles of their ceremonies afterward.



26700v bannerThe U.S. Army's World War I "Hello Girls" military telephone operators will be honored November 6 at Overseas Service League Flagstaff and Grove in Central Park, he only memorial in Manhattan to women veterans. 

Tribute Ceremony at Newly Rediscovered Women's Overseas Service League Flagstaff and Grove in Central Park Honors Women Serving America in World War I and Beyond

By Kevin Fitzpatrick

East Side World War I Centennial Commemoration, American Red Cross, and the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services holding a Tribute Ceremony to the Women Who Have Served America, Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 11:00-12 noon at the newly rediscovered Overseas Service League Flagstaff and Grove, Central Park at 69th Street Walk.

In 1925 a Central Park memorial grove of 24 trees and flagstaff were conceptualized for a tribute to American women who died overseas in World War One. Today the living memorial of thriving trees spans the wall along Fifth Avenue from 69th to 71st Streets. In 1932 hundreds of leading New Yorkers gathered on a “smooth green plot set aside by the Parks Department”, for a ceremony in bugle sounds, song, and words. Today this grove, almost lost to history, remains the only memorial in Manhattan to women veterans, but is sadly forlorn and overlooked.

To remember these brave women, and others who have served America as veterans and in support roles up and until today, we renew this Tribute Ceremony. Once again we bring attention to this most wonderful Flagstaff and Grove in Central Park.

The event is free and open to the public. Enter Central Park on Fifth Avenue and East 69th Street.



They Shall Not Grow Old horizontal banner“They Shall Not Grow Old”, director Peter Jackson’s extraordinary look at the soldiers, the events, the sounds and the sights of World War I, will be back in movie theaters in both 3D and 2D for three days only in December 2019.  

Peter Jackson’s Unforgettable WWI Documentary ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ Returns to Movie Theaters In December 2019 for Encore Presentations in Both 3D and 2D 

By John Singh
J2 Communications

By popular demand, Fathom Events and Warner Brothers will bring director Peter Jackson's remarkable World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” back to movie theaters nationwide for three days only this December, offering audiences another chance to see it on the big screen and in 3D.

One of the most acclaimed and highest-grossing documentaries ever made, “They Shall Not Grow Old” is director Peter Jackson’s extraordinary look at the soldiers, the events, the sounds and the sights of World War I. After hearing from moviegoers nationwide who wanted to relive this unique cinematic experience in 3D, Fathom Events and Warner Bros. will bring “They Shall Not Grow Old” back to movie theaters across the country for three days only this December. The film will also be available in 2D in select locations.

On December 7, 17 and 18, more than 800 cinemas throughout the U.S. present the film the New York Times called “a brisk, absorbing and moving experience,” and about which Rolling Stone wrote, “You won’t believe your eyes.” Initially released by Fathom Events and Warner Bros. in December of 2018, “They Shall Not Grow Old” has become one of Fathom’s most successful and most requested titles. The December presentations will include both an introduction to the film by Jackson as well as a post-film exploration of how the film was made.

Tickets for “They Shall Not Grow Old” can be purchased at www.FathomEvents.com or participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

For generations, World War I has only been experienced through grainy, silent black-and-white footage. With unprecedented digital restoration, meticulous colorization and revelatory use of sound, “They Shall Not Grow Old” was nominated by BAFTA and the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Documentary, and won the Motion Picture Sound Editor’s Golden Reel Award. “They Shall Not Grow Old” opens a window to the past in a way that has never been seen or heard before.

One of the most acclaimed and highest-grossing documentaries ever made, “They Shall Not Grow Old” has been one of Fathom Events' most requested titles since its initial release one year ago.


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