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World War I Centennial News


Study: Nearly 1,000 Irish died serving in the U.S. Army in World War One

The number of Irish-born soldiers who died in World War One while serving the United States army is actually three times higher than previous estimates, claimed one genealogist.

soldiersMegan Smolenyak, the genealogist who traced Barack Obama's roots to Moneygall, County Offaly, asserts that previous research "significantly" understated the real losses of Irishmen in the Great War.

"Many more Irish-born were killed serving the American military than previously thought. The true figure may be 900 or 1,000, but it's likely somewhere in this neighborhood," Smolenyak said.

Previously experts have turned to America's army registration data to investigate the losses. However, the bulk of US military personnel records from 1912 to 1960 were destroyed by a fire in 1973.

After Smolenyak came across a New Jersey database focused on WWI soldiers, she discovered that 69 Irish-born individuals from New Jersey had died during the conflict. As 3,427 from NJ had died altogether, Smolenyak used basic arithmetic to conclude that about two percent were Irish nationals. She then applied a similar method to New York focusing on births, deaths and enlistment records, using census records, military abstracts and ancestry websites. She eventually estimated that 976 Irish nationals died fighting for the US.

Read more: Study: Nearly 1,000 Irish died serving in the U.S. Army in World War One

Thanksgiving During the Great War

Thanksgiving 2By Joshua Venuti
Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is a time when many people take the time to gather with family and friends to feast give thanks, celebrate, or maybe cheer for their favorite NFL team from the comfort of their own homes.

During World War One, however, the Thanksgiving holiday was slightly different. On the home front people were encouraged to cut back on food items such as sugar, meat, fats, and wheat so that food could be sent to troops fighting overseas. Many newspapers across the country printed alternative recipe ideas that cut back on food items especially sugar.

American families were inspired to grow their own gardens and use homegrown food in their Thanksgiving meals instead of buying food from the local food market.

 In fact, as part of his annual Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 reminded Americans of the privations in Europe:


Read more: Thanksgiving During the Great War

Four Questions for Jonathan Kuhn

"To care for these monuments and statuary is an obligation across time"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Jonathan Kuhn is the Director of Art & Antiquities for New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The city of New York has nearly a thousand different memorial sites - and over a hundred of those honor the local veterans of World War One.  He and his team at the NYC Parks Citywide Monuments Conservation Program (John Saunders, Conservator, and Steve Drago and Victor Riddick, Monuments Technicians) are responsible for the care and preservation of those sites. They are commemorative partners to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, and are also active participants in the WW1CC's 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS local preservation program. Veterans Day was a big day for the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program team, and Jonathan Kuhn talked to us a little about how his team prepared for it.

Your teams were working hard in advance of Veterans Day. Tell us about what they were doing. What care do the sites & the artwork pieces need?

Father Duffy 416 Victor Riddick hot waxing 11.2.16 photo 400NYC Parks Monument Technician Victor Riddick hot waxing the Father Duffy Memorial in Times Square.Thankfully, given the gains we've made in recent years, much of the work is preservation rather than restoration work. For a typical World War One memorial sculpture, the team will first clean using appropriate methods, removing all soiling, any incipient surface corrosion, or failing coatings. They will renew protective coatings, typically of wax, and sometimes of lacquer, that protect the bronze from acid rain and other environmental damage. They will buff the surface to literally add luster to the pieces and heighten sculptural modelling and ornamental details.

They assess the monuments needs, monitor from year to year potential issues of concern (failing mortar in masonry joints, loose plaque anchoring bolts etc.) and when these rise to a level requiring intervention take immediate action.

Of course given the size and height of many of the sculptures, we require use of a boom lift truck to gain access. The field crew also uses specially prescribed equipment, for instance often pre-heating the metal with propane torches before applying the protective wax so that it may better adhere.

Read more: World War One Memorials in New York City refreshed for Veterans Day

Four Questions for Mark Samuels

"What happened then transformed our nation and the world."

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Our friends at PBS American Experience have great news -- they are able to share the trailer for their upcoming documentary series on World War One. The show is entitled THE GREAT WAR, and is set to air in April of 2017. This date is to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. The show will be a six-hour series, airing over three nights. Keep an eye out for exact air dates. To talk about the series, we were very fortunate to enjoy a few moments with Mark Samuels. Mark is the executive producer of PBS American Experience, and he conceives, commissions and oversees all AMERICAN EXPERIENCE films.

You have a new series coming about the history of World War One. Tell us a little about it. When will it air?

Mark Samuels mugMark Samuels “The Great War,” a six-hour documentary, premieres over three consecutive nights, Monday, April 10 through Wednesday, April 12, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS. The series brings to life the well-known figures of the war — President Wilson, General Pershing and many others — but also reveals the human experiences of the war through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and of course Doughboys. We’ve included stories representative of the teeming melting pot of America in 1917 — African-American and Latino soldiers, suffragists, Native American “code talkers” and others whose participation in the war has been largely forgotten.

Our history buffs are very excited about this project. What was the research process like for your team? Where did you find the imagery?

A team of three full-time researchers spent more than a year scouring the globe for imagery. The final film includes material from more than 140 repositories from at least eleven countries, not including the United States — much of it never seen before. We received help from around the world, from historical societies and local archives who opened up their collections to our researchers. The French archives housed a treasure trove of footage of American soldiers.

In addition to film footage and still photographs, the team’s research turned up a rich collection of art work created by the Committee on Public Information that tells a powerful story about the propaganda efforts that helped mobilize the nation.

Read more: Four Questions for Mark Samuels

Why a World War One memorial makes sense, a century later

By Leon Panetta
via the Military Times

PanettaFormer Secretary of Defense Leon PanettaThere is an effort underway by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission to create a national memorial to the American veterans of World War One in Washington, D.C.  I firmly support this effort.

World War One is the only great war of the 20th century that doesn’t have a national memorial in the nation’s capital. That, in itself, makes it important enough for us to do everything possible to make this a reality.

But this memorial is important for a number of other reasons.

First, we have to honor those, and the memory of those, who served our country. World War One involved 5 million men and women who came together in uniform, including 2 million who went overseas and 116,516 who died in the war. We need to take the time to remember their brave sacrifices.

As defense secretary, I had the responsibility to deploy men and women in uniform to our battlefields. I was always reminded of the fact that this country is great because there are those men and women who are willing to put their lives at risk — men and women who will fight, and die, for this country. I’ve always wondered where these brave young people come from, and why they are willing to do this for us. We have to remember them, those men and women, who were willing to sacrifice so much to defend their nation.

Read more: Why a World War One memorial makes sense, a century later

Forgotten Maryland WW1 hero immortalized in art

By Anthony C. Hayes
via the Baltimore Post-Examiner

A century ago, as the horrific “War to end all wars” dragged on, a daring young sportsman from Baltimore, named Francis Warrington Gillet, set his sights on throwing in with the Allied cause. By Armistice Day, the flying ace, who was known to his comrades as “Razors”, was officially credited with downing 20 German aircraft – a number second to only the wildly acclaimed ace: Eddie Rickenbacker.Captain Francis Warrington GilletCaptain Francis Warrington Gillet

On September 17, members of the Western Front Association, East Coast Branch (USA), were joined by descendants of Captain Gillett, diplomatic representatives of Great Britain, Belgium, and France, and other invited guests, in honoring Gillet and his fellow service members with the unveiling of a painting, titled “Maryland Over Flanders”. The dedication ceremony took place at the War Memorial Building on North Gay Street in Baltimore.

Paying tribute to Captain Gillet were Paul Cora, President of the Baltimore Chapter of the Western Front Association; Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro, Chairman of the United States World War One Centennial Commission; David Craig, head of the Maryland World War One Centennial Commission; and Alan Walden, former mayoral candidate and news commentator at WBAL-AM.

Representing the family were Francis Warrington Gillet III and his son, Francis Warrington Gillet IV.

The Western Front Association East Coast Branch (USA) commissioned noted aviation artist Michael O’Neal to create the commemorative painting for permanent display at the War Memorial Building. O’Neal’s stunning work – rendered in oil on Belgian linen – depicts Gillet’s Sopwith Dolphin fighter emerging from the clouds with two German Fokker D.VII’s falling away on either side. The painting – based on an actual event – recalls a harrowing dogfight Gillet won near the end of the war.

Read more: Forgotten Maryland WWI hero immortalized in art

Four Questions for David Shuey

Pershing "the foremost soldier-diplomat since our Founding Fathers"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

David Wayne Shuey is a historian, teacher, and living history reenactor, from Pennsylvania. For the past two years, he has devoted himself to the study of World War One, and specifically to the development of his portrayal of General John Pershing. He has been an active partner of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, and has represented General Pershing in three parades, six national conventions, and a host of other events. Most recently, he rode his horse Aura Lee at the lead of an entire company of Doughboy reenactors, in the big 2016 New York City Veterans Day Parade.

Look like you had an exciting time at the NYC Veterans Day Parade. Tell us about your & Aura Lee's experience up there for the big parade.

Shuey NYC 2016David Wayne Shuey (AKA "General John Pershing") chats with a fan during the 2016 New York City Veterans Day Parade.I’ve put this wonderful horse through so many ordeals; school presentations with dozens of children crowding in to touch her, countless parades (three of which have occurred in Washington, D.C.) and events where the distractions would frighten most horses and she never ceases to amaze me with her ability to take it all in stride. The approach through Manhattan traffic was harrowing for us in the truck, I can only imagine what she must have been experiencing in the trailer. For logistical purposes, we parked at the parade finish which provided me with every cowboy’s dream – riding my horse alone for 24 blocks on Fifth Avenue among light traffic, past curious onlookers - to take our place at the assembly area. Aura Lea is an athlete and a natural performer. She puts on a show in whatever she does and wherever she goes. I simply mount up and enjoy the best seat. To my delight we merged with the 30+ members of the Long Island Living History Association who portrayed troops and a nurse representing the American Expeditionary Forces of the Great War. They were magnificently authentic with perfect uniforms, arms, gear and splendid military bearing. The crowd obviously appreciated their portrayal of Veterans who were long gone, but on this day, not forgotten.

What is your background? How did you get involved in living history portrayals?
I began doing living history portrayals of figures from the American Civil War during the recent Sesquicentennial. I encountered Pershing, as part of my research, and the more I learned about his many exploits, the more fascinated I became with one of our nations iconic heroes. Most of my career has been spent in business management. Although, I realize now I should have been a teacher or an entertainer. Now I combine both with my portrayal of Pershing, for there are so many valuable lessons we can learn from the man, his challenges and his accomplishments.

Read more: Four Questions for David Shuey

Four Questions for Michael Siembida

"We must never forget the sacrifices these men made."

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Michael SiembidaPlacing flags at the DC War Memorial on Veterans DayMichael Siembida is a 2016 fall semester intern working at the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. He is pursuing his bachelors degree from George Mason University, and is a leader in the Delta Phi Kappa service fraternity, which he helped to create. For Veterans Day, Michael produced our WW1CC commemoration ceremony at the Washington DC War Memorial, a site on the National Mall that was created in 1931 to honor the 499 residents of the District who gave their lives in World War One. He talks a little about the ceremony, and how he teamed with his service fraternity members to make the day a success.

Tell us about the Veterans Day event that you produced last week at the DC War Memorial. What was your plan, what did you do?

Veterans Day is a day of remembrance of the men and women that gave their lives for this great country. On veterans day my service fraternity, the alpha chapter of Delta Phi Kappa, in association with the First World war centennial commission planted 499 American flags to honor the 499 fallen dc veterans during the first world war. While the flags were being planted the names of all 499 veterans were read out loud to ensure that these brave men names will never be forgotten.

You were able to solicit a special group of friends. Tell us about them -- who are they, where do they come from, why did they help with this project. You also had coworkers and interns from the WW1CC. Tell us about them.
For this event my service fraternity the alpha chapter of delta phi kappa were able to bring out over 30 brothers in order to honor the men who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We are a local service fraternity located in the city of Fairfax. We are a large group of diverse men ranging from as local as Fairfax to as foreign as Dubai and Ethiopia. We are committed to improving our community in any way we can. It was an honor to come into DC to honor our veterans. Alongside Delta Phi Kappa members of the WW1CC intern and staff came out to support this event. These members were vital to the success of this event from planning to getting the word out there. The staff of the WW1CC doing great and tireless word and I’m proud to be working with them.

Read more: Four Questions for Michael Siembida

Why World War One matters for your Federal agency

By Sarah Herman
via digitalgov.gov

I recently asked some friends—a group of intelligent, successful individuals—what they knew about World War One. The responses I received included, “Ummm.....it was in the 1910s?” or “Started in Europe when the archduke was killed?” Beyond this, it’s mostly blank stares and shoulder shrugs. mobilization parade Mobilization parade in 1917People who consider themselves history geeks might mention President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points, or the creation of the League of Nations, but for many Americans, World War One is a forgotten war. It happened thousands of miles away, unlike the battles of the Civil War, and It was too long ago for most Americans to have known a person that served, unlike veterans of World War Two.

Despite these inherent challenges, the role of World War One as part of our nation’s history needs to be communicated to the public. The decisions and actions carried out nearly a century ago still reverberate today in our country. And April 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in this global conflict.

At the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), where we manage eight overseas American military cemeteries from World War One, we’re preparing our stories now so we’re ready when the centennial begins. And now is the time for you to start thinking about how you can share your agency’s mission through the lens of this war.

Read more: Why World War One matters for your Federal agency

In the trenches: Research explores WNC’s role in World War One

By Max Hunt
via the Mountain Xpress

Kiffen RockwellKiffin Rockwell, who lived in Asheville, NC off and on prior to joining the war effort on behalf of France in 1914, is credited with being the first American fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft.While Americans anxiously followed reports of World War One raging across Europe, Asheville’s first Great War casualty was already receiving a hero’s funeral in France.

Kiffin Rockwell, widely acknowledged as the first American to shoot down a German plane while serving in the Escadrille Lafayette fighter pilot squad, was himself shot down in September 1916, more than six months before the U.S. formally entered the conflict.

To this day, “He’s a well-known, very respected American hero over in France,” says Jeff Futch, curator of North Carolina in the Great War, now on display in East Asheville. The exhibit is a project of the Western Office of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources on Riceville Road. “They have a huge monument to the Lafayette Escadrille over there and still lay flowers at his grave.”

And though those battles were fought half a world away, WW1 had a profound and lasting impact on Western North Carolina, both among those who fought in the European theater and on the home front.

As the state gears up for a big centennial retrospective on North Carolina’s involvement in the Great War, local researchers have worked to bring WNC residents’ stories and experiences to contemporary audiences.

Remembering the Great War

Next April, says Futch, the state agency will open an expansive exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, to mark the centennial of America’s entrance into the war.

As a kind of preview, Futch decided to showcase WNC’s involvement in the conflict with a smaller exhibit in the Western Office’s Heritage Room Gallery. Drawing on museums and repositories from around the region, Futch has assembled a small but eclectic collection of artifacts, memorabilia and stories.

Read more: In the trenches: Research explores WNC’s role in World War One

They Deserve Their Own Memorial video designed to educate & motivate

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Doughboys videoThe United States World One Centennial Commission has partnered with Loma Media in San Diego to create an outreach campaign designed to educate and motivate the American public to support and fund the creation of a Memorial dedicated to “The Doughboys” who successfully fought to end a devastating war that cost many millions of lives.

The They Deserve Their Own Memorial video series consists of pieces that tell the World War One story in formats of seven-minute, three-minute, 60-second, 30-second, and versions that can be applied to a variety of communication uses, to include classroom settings, fundraiser events, TV public service announcements, etc.

This video series, centerpiece of the initiative, is designed to raise general awareness for World War One, and specific awareness for the Commission's effort to build a new National WW1 Memorial which will be dedicated in Washington DC on November 18, 2018.

The They Deserve Their Own Memorial video series is narrated by Oscar nominee Gary Sinise, an unabashed military supporter, whose own grandfather served as an ambulance driver during World War One. The series was written & directed by award-winning filmmaker John DeBello, who has worked on military film projects for over twenty years.

We invite you to share these videos with your audiences, and to post them to your own website & social media. To do so is to honor those 4.7 million Americans who stepped forward to serve our country 100 years ago.


Four Questions for John DeBello

"We protect our future by remembering our past."

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission has a new set of fundraising videos that are designed to raise awareness for World War One, and for the Commission's effort to build a new National WW1 Memorial in Washington DC. The video series consists of pieces that tell the WW1 story in formats of 7 minute, 3-minute, 60-second, 30-second, and they can be applied to a variety of communication uses, to include classroom settings, fundraiser events, TV public service announcements, etc. The pieces in the series are narrated by noted Hollywood actor -- and unabashed military supporter -- Gary Sinese, whose own grandfather served as an ambulance driver during World War One. Writer/Director/Producer of the series is award-winning filmmaker John DeBello, who took some time to share with us his vision for the video series project.

You have created a new series of videos to help tell the story of the Commission, the Memorial, and of World War One. Tell us about these videos & their different missions.

John DeBelloJohn DeBelloWorld War One is a hazy memory for most Americans. If they think about it at all, it’s as a prelude to World War Two. That’s unfortunate, and unfair to the more than 116,000 U.S. servicemen who gave their lives in defense of freedom. The goal of this video series is to underscore a very important fact--their sacrifice ended a global conflict that had already taken literally millions of lives. In addition, our participation in what was called “The Great War” became a seminal turning point in our history--the beginning of the American Century and the promise of the American Dream to so many more people of all ethnicities.

This film series is quite high quality. The scripts are solid. The imagery is remarkable. There are some amazing visual & audio effects used. Plus, you got a pretty notable actor to be the voice-over talent. Tell us about putting together the elements to create these films.

The idea was to use powerful period footage and images, many of which are relatively unknown to most people. We also used motion graphic techniques to subtly animate some of the photos. However, no matter how much the visuals resonate, the key to any narrative is the storytelling. We strove for an understated approach that would deliver important information succinctly, but with an emotional punch. Gary Sinise is one of the nation’s foremost actors, and we were very fortunate that he was kind enough to donate his talents to this cause. His grandfather was a “Doughboy” who served in France during the War, and actually appears in the video. When you see his photo circa 1918, you’ll see a strong resemblance.

Read more: Four Questions for John DeBello

posterTremendous teamwork on #countdowntoveteransday campaign in 2016

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

YOUR awesome effort made it a success!

On Facebook, there were some 1,840 #CountdownToVeteransDay postings from our partners and friends, creating 4,773,700 Audience Impressions.

On Twitter, our collective efforts yielded some 2,950 Posts by 637 Partner Users, earning a total Audience of 6,471,100 Impressions.

Combined -- the #CountdownToVeteransDay campaign generated a total audience of 11,244,800 people!

We thank you for helping us to make people more aware of our veterans, and our military members!

For more information, and for opportunities to honor America's Veterans, go to the Countdown to Veterans Day page.



Your teamwork has made this effort a remarkable achievement!

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