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World War I Centennial News


Public to see U.S. Mint's WWI commemorative coin design on Oct. 9

By Johnathon Clinkscales
via The American Legion web site

On Oct. 9, the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission will unveil the design of the World War I commemorative coin at the Association of the U.S. Army exposition in Washington, D.C.

Struck by the U.S. Mint, the coin will mark the centennial of U.S. involvement in World War I and honor the 4 million Americans who served in uniform, including 116,516 who died.Coin design competition

This is the Mint’s first commemorative coin program memorializing the Great War; in the 1990s, coin programs supported the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the 50th anniversary of World War II and preservation of Civil War battlefields.

The World War I coin will be available for purchase early next year. Part of the proceeds from its sale will go toward building the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington.

“These people served 100 years ago, but they faced the same challenges our veterans and military face today,” said Chris Isleib, director of public affairs for the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. “No veteran should be forgotten. No war should be forgotten.”

The design’s unveiling follows a two-phase competition. In 2016, artists were encouraged to submit their work samples for consideration, and an expert jury selected 20 to move on. During the second phase, those artists submitted designs for the obverse and reverse of the coin and plaster models of their design. The winner will receive $10,000 and have his or her initials placed on the coin.

Read more: Public to see U.S. Mint's World War I commemorative coin design Oct. 9

Wentworth alumni fight to save WWI 'Doughboy' statue from auction block

By Jim Finnegan
via The Columbia Missourian web site

The “Doughboy” statue that has stood in front of Wentworth Military Academy since 1923, commemorating the sacrifice of Wentworth cadets in World War I, is at the center of a legal debate pitting alumni against the school they once called home.

Wentworth DoughboyA statue erected in honor of fallen soldiers during World War I, including Wentworth cadets, stands outside Wentworth Military Academy. (Photo courtesy of attorney Jennifer Kerr)Financial troubles forced Wentworth, in Lexington, Missouri, about 50 miles east of Kansas City, to close its doors at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. Bank Midwest holds liens on the school and its property, including memorabilia like old uniforms, badges, photographs — and the doughboy statue, by the American sculptor Ernest Moore Viquesney, one of 139 made.

On Oct. 7, the property is to be sold at auction in Lexington by Oldham Auctions to help pay off the school’s debts to the bank.

The Wentworth Military Academy Alumni Association filed a petition in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Aug. seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the sale of the doughboy, claiming that the alumni, not the school, are its rightful owners.

“The doughboy was dedicated, it was never donated or gifted,” said George Hittner, a Wentworth alumnus who is now the attorney for the alumni association, the plaintiff in the case.

In 1880, Stephen G. Wentworth, a banker from Lexington, founded Wentworth Male Academy after the death of his son. During the 1881-82 school year, the idea of operating the school as a military academy was sparked when an associate principal saw a student marching a group of other boys around, armed with broomsticks, according to the school’s 1963 nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places. The assistant principal proposed holding military classes “and offered to buy guns if the students would buy uniforms.” The uniforms and the guns — Austrian muskets — were ordered, and in 1890 Wentworth Male became Wentworth Military.

Read more: Wentworth alumni fight to save Doughboy statue from auction block

Navy announces plan to survey underwater wreck of WWI cruiser USS San Diego near NYC

By Paul Taylor
U.S. Navy History & Heritage Command

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy announced plans Sept. 6 to survey the wreck of the World War I U.S. Navy cruiser, on which six American Sailors lost their lives when she was sunk as a result of enemy action off the coast of New York on July 19, 1918.

NY Times San Diego sunkThe New York Times publishes the news of the USS San Diego being sunk the day before off New York.The survey's objective is to assess the condition of the wreck site and determine if the ship, the only major warship lost by the United States in, was sunk as a result of a German submarine-launched torpedo or mine. Ultimately, data gathered will help inform the management of the sunken military craft, which lies only a few miles south of Long Island.

The announcement comes just weeks after the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, and the survey, which is planned for Sept. 11-15, is timed to allow researchers to conduct a thorough examination of the site and prepare, then release, their findings around the date of the 100th anniversary. The U.S. is currently commemorating the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I.

The survey, led by the Naval History and Heritage Command's Underwater Archaeology Branch will be performed in partnership with the Coastal Sediments, Hydrodynamics, and Engineering Laboratory (CSHEL) of the University of Delaware's (UD) College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. Additional research support will be provided by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD), the office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), and the Fire Island U.S. Coast Guard Station (USCGSFI) will provide essential logistical support.

Read more: Navy announces plan to survey underwater wreck of WWI cruiser San Diego near NYC

Junior Master Gardener program works to honor WWI veterans

via the Texas A&M AgriLife Today web site

COLLEGE STATION — In honor of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entrance into World War I, the Junior Master Gardener program is partnering with the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission’s Poppy Seed Program to raise money for a new National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Poppy BoxJMG programs across the country can purchase the WW1CC Poppy Seed packets and sell them within their local communities to help honor the 4.7 million Americans who fought during WWI, according to Lisa Whittlesey of College Station, program coordinator for the International Junior Master Gardener Program, administered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Poppies grew across the war-torn battlefields of Europe after World War I and became a symbol first of soldiers who died there and later of all fallen veterans. From 2017 to 2019, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission will coordinate events and activities commemorating the Centennial of the war.

The Poppy Seed Program provides an opportunity for local JMG groups or schools to raise funds to honor veterans by supporting the National World War I Memorial while also supporting local youth garden projects, Whittlesey said.

For a donation of $64.99, WW1CC provides “Poppy Seed Kits” of 60 packets. At the recommended selling price of $2 per packet, each kit would generate $55 for the local JMG program, as well as raise funds and awareness for the National World War I Memorial, she said.

“A pillar of the Junior Master Gardener Program certification is for youth to serve others through service learning programs,” Whittlesey said. “This project allows youths to learn about veterans who served their country in WW1, while also honoring them through raising funds to support building the national memorial. Learning by doing in such a personal way makes this such a meaningful project for our youth.”

A Competition Countdown for participating students, schools and community organizations began Sept. 5 with the challenge being to sell the most poppy seed packets by Oct. 20, Whittlesey noted. The announcement of winning groups/schools selling the most poppy seed packets will be Oct. 23.

Representatives from four winning groups/schools will be invited to an all-expense paid trip to attend the groundbreaking of the National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C. in November. To be eligible to win, groups must sell a minimum of 50 WW1-JMG Poppy Seed Kits.

Read more: Junior Master Gardener program works to honor World War I veterans

Four questions Keith Colley

"Give 'The Great War' the Respect that is owed."

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

One of the WWI Centennial Commission's Commemorative Partners is Keith Colley, whose World War I Mobile Museum we profiled last year. His museum has twelve galleries of exhibits, which can be set up & taken down in a matter of hours. True to the name, Keith's Mobile Museum has been traveling across the country, and he sets up the exhibits as part of state fairs, veteran commemorations, living-history activities, and even sporting events. He has been very busy over the past couple of weeks, with a summer schedule that has taken him from Delaware to Texas. We caught up with Keith to get the latest news about the museum, what he is trying to achieve, and what is up ahead for him and the mobile museum.

Why did you feel like you needed to make commemorating WWI your mission?

Colley 300Keith ColleyWell it all began with a visit to my home town in Kansas City Missouri where the National WWI Museum is located which was actually closed all of my childhood. I decided to drive by it for old times’ sake and I was surprised to see that is was not only open, but is now the largest WWI Museum in the world. After spending 2 days touring the Museum (I could have stayed a week) all I could think about were the Senior Citizens I teach back in Dallas and realizing they are probably the last descendants who would have had a parent or grandparent in this war.

I have a non-profit program called “KeepingitrealwithKeith.com” which is a series of classes that I teach with a focus on Seniors and Veterans as they age with topics anywhere from Hydration to Loneliness which helps keep them healthier so they can enjoy their Senior years. That gave me the idea to create a class to promote memory care which I could focus on WWI. I decided I needed one artifact that could represent the entire war and I would take it with me to all my classes. After the visit to the Museum in KC I decided that artifact had to be the entrenching tool aka; trench shovel. With approximately 25,000 miles of Trenches I knew the shovel would best represent "the war to end all wars".

There are many ways to commemorate WWI, why did you decide to make a mobile museum and travel with it?

I so wished I could have taken all my Seniors to KC to see the WWI Museum but knew it was not feasible due to age, costs, etc. So I knew the classes were my best bet. When the Shovel finally arrived I opened it and could finally feel the worn wood for myself. I began to think about whose hands had touched this shovel, how many blisters it caused or how many lives were saved because of this one shovel. So I began researching more intently about the trenches and realized there were so many facets of the trench in the war it blew my mind. So I thought, I need to see if I can find more artifacts about the trenches, and boy did I.

Read more: Four questions Keith Colley

Four Questions for Bernhard Kast, creator of Military History Visualized

"We are hard pressed to give a clear answer to our questions relating to the past."

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

When it comes to military history on the internet, one of the top Producers working today is Bernhard Kast. His YouTube channel, Military History Visualized, took a meteoric route to fame -- garnering over 16 million views of his 160+ video segments, which were all produced just in the past year. Bernhard is the real deal -- an expert in computers/gaming, an expert in history, an expert in teaching, and a gifted storyteller. He was born in 1980, Central Europe, studied Computer Science and History at the University of Salzburg (Europe, Austria) from 2001 to 2008. In his final semester, he had the opportunity to develop and teach a course in rhetoric “Modern Rhetorical Role Models”. Later on, he went to Hamburg to work as a Sales Engineer at a Consulting Firm in the automotive industry and as Junior-Online Marketing Manager at InnoGames a company in browser-based (and now also client-based) gaming. His latest work is a remarkable piece on World War I. Our WW1CC intern Michael Stahler talked to Bernhard about his work, and about how World War I continues to impact us today. 

Your channel has been up for a little over a year, yet you've produced 165 videos that, combined, have 16.3 million views. How do you engage such a wide viewership in technical, academic videos on military history?

bernhard kastBernhard KastWell, I think Military History is one of the most popular genres of History in general. Yet, most people don’t have the time to read about it as much as they would like, but still want information from high-quality sources.

So where do I come in? Well, I love to understand and explain. And I think most people notice this. I believe the strength of my videos is that I present a lot of information from quality sources in a compact manner without overwhelming the audience. I try to keep information that is crucial for an understanding and context, but leave everything else.

From tanks to artillery to aircraft to submarines, much of your coverage on World War 1 has focused on the advances in military technology. What draws you to this subject? Through these topics, what kind of picture emerges about the war?

History is a complicated subject. There are many ways to interpret sources and often there are no easy answers. Especially for times of great change, we are hard pressed to give a clear answer to our questions relating to the past. I assume this is one of the appeals of technology in general, it is rather clear cut and you can see how things developed the way they did with relative certainty.

Another aspect is of course, that we can touch, hear and see military technology, it's very physical to us and thus contrast with the behind-the-scenes politics that seems more like a labyrinth. So, technology allows us in a way to connect in a safe way, we know what we are at.

With World War One, there is the added dimension that it is often portrayed as a very static war. Yet, the improvements in many aspects were quite staggering and often forgotten. It shows the constant cycle of problem and solution. That's one of the things that I want to highlight.

Read more: Questions for Bernhard Kast, creator of Military History Visualized

Governors Island living history event  to mark NYC WWI Centennial

Camp Doughboy 2017 posterNEW YORK, NY – On September 16-17, World War I will be alive, with a full weekend of activities, ceremonies, and living history demonstrations on Governors Island. All activities are free and open to the public.

Camp Doughboy will bring together living history re-enactors, vintage vehicles from a century ago, authors of World War I books, and active duty Army soldiers. They will even have a working World War I-era tank!

“We are taking history out of the classroom, and opening it up to everybody." observed Dr. Libby O’Connell, U.S. World War I Centennial Commissioner. “Camp Doughboy gives people of all ages the opportunity to learn about the Great War”.

Event organizer, noted NYC history author Kevin Fitzpatrick, agreed. "The story of America in World War I is very much a New York/New Jersey-area story. The Lusitania departed from Pier 54 on her last voyage. The Black Tom explosion was right over there. The Rainbow Division, the Fighting 69th, the Harlem Hellfighters, New Jersey's Lightning Division, were all legendary. Most of the U.S. troops left for France from Hoboken. Irving Berlin wrote the great WWI songs from Tin Pan Alley. The 'Lost Battalion' were nearly all Lower East Siders. The big Memorial Day parade at the end of the war went down 5th Avenue. This is our city's heritage".

The Living History site will be open from 10 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday, September 16-17. Ferries are available from Brooklyn and Manhattan every half hour. https://govisland.com/info/ferry

Read more: Camp Doughboy Living history event on Governors Island to mark WWI Centennial in NYC

The National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council & WWI research competition

national academy of sciences 2 510 320By David A. Hounshell
Roderick Professor of Technology and Social Change, Emeritus, Department of Social & Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University

On the occasion of the centennial of World War I, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are pleased to announce an open competition for scholars under the age of 30 to research and write a scholarly paper on a major aspect of how scientists and engineers in the United States were engaged in the World War I effort.

The focus, drawing on the creation of the National Research Council (NRC) associated with World War I, is on institutional changes (e.g., the charter of the NRC) and the research enterprise in America. In effect, scholars should look at how the war experience shaped long-term relationships among scientists and engineers and U.S. policymakers regarding national security and public welfare.Hounshell David 188x220David Hounshell

(Read a brief account of the NAS and NRC in the context of World War I.)

Qualified scholars should submit, by November 30, 2017, a 500-word concept document that describes the scope of the proposed research. In addition, applicants should provide a list of possible primary sources of evidence to be used in the proposed research.

The five best entries will be chosen by a National Academies’ review committee, and the authors will be invited to submit a fully developed research paper. Upon acceptance of the invitation, invitees will enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to provide a final paper of between 8,000 and 10,000 words by September 10, 2018. They will be provided with a grant of $5,000.00 for research expenses and invited to utilize the NAS' records under the mentorship of the NAS professional archivists. The scholars will be expected to present a 20-minute summary of major research findings at a public conference at the NAS in Washington, DC on October 26, 2018.

Additional discussants and participants will be included in the public event. The review committee will subsequently deliberate and announce the winner of a $10,000.00 first prize.

Read more: World War I and the National Academy of Sciences & National Research Council: A Research...

Fort Sam Houston commemorates WWI centennial

By Staff Sgt. Tomora Nance, USA
U.S. Army North Public Affairs

FORT SAM HOUSTON, TX—The year is 1917. It’s approximately three years after the onset of World War I, also known as the “Great War.” Most of the world’s economic, great powers are already involved in a taxing warfare in terms of money and loss of lives—both civilian and military.

However, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. ended its non-intervention policy, and Congress declared war on Germany entering into the Great War after the breach of international law through unrestricted submarine warfare, the publicized Zimmerman Telegram and the sinking of several U.S. merchant ships.

Retired Master Sgt. Vernon Schmidt (left), a 91 year old surviving member of the 90th Infantry Division’s from WWII, sits alongside his wife during the Fort Sam Houston’s WWI Centennial Ceremony honoring the 90th ID inside the historic Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. “This is exciting and a real honor for me to represent my division,” said Schmidt. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tomora Nance, U.S. Army North Public Affairs)Retired Master Sgt. Vernon Schmidt (left), a 91 year old surviving member of the 90th Infantry Division’s from WWII, sits alongside his wife during the Fort Sam Houston’s WWI Centennial Ceremony honoring the 90th ID inside the historic Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. “This is exciting and a real honor for me to represent my division,” said Schmidt. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tomora Nance, U.S. Army North Public Affairs)With a small military force, the Selective Service Act allowed the U.S. government to increase its force through manning of the Army. Over 4 million men and women from the U.S. served in the armed forces. Not only did the manning forever change the Army, so did the structure with the inception of divisions. One of those divisions was the 90th Infantry Division.

Fast forward 100 years.

Several Soldiers and civilians gathered Aug. 25 for Fort Sam Houston’s WWI Centennial Ceremony honoring the 90th ID inside the historic Quadrangle here for an outdoor ceremony.

As this year marked the national commemoration for the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI, military basses across the U.S. are celebrating their storied unit’s involvement and accomplishments in ceremonies. And, Fort Sam Houston is no different.

“I’m so honored to be able to witness this ceremony; it was very humbling and emotional to witness the unfurling of the division’s colors,” said Jeanie Travis, daughter of retired Maj. Gen Robert H. Travis, the last commanding general of the 90th ID. “I grew up respecting the Army because it was a part of my everyday life as a small child. And when I read the history of the division, his [her father’s] stories come back to me.”

Read more: Fort Sam Houston commemorates WWI centennial

September 1 2017 arboreal conditions surveyRepresentatives from the U.S. World War I Commission and its National World War One Memorial Design Team met with tree specialists on Friday, September 1 at Pershing Park in Washington, DC to assess the park's existing arboreal conditions. Discussing tree preservation included (l-r) Joe Weishaar, lead designer for the Memorial; Harry Chopev, Bartlett Tree Experts; Edwin Fountain, WWICC vice chair; and Monica Pascatore, GWWO, Inc. Architects. Click here to check out the latest progress of the WWI Memorial design.


Bismarck Powwow to honor Native Americans who served in WWI

By the Associated Press
via the usnews.com web site

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — One hundred years after World War I, a powwow in North Dakota will honor Native Americans who served in the conflict before they were even considered U.S. citizens.

They'll being remembered at the 48th annual International Powwow next weekend at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. Several hundred family members and descendants of World War I Native servicemen are expected to participate in the ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 10, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

SmithSgt. John W. Smith from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, pictured in the WWI era (right) and as a member of the American Legion in the 1950's.The grand entry will feature honor guards and drum groups from the five governing tribes of the college: the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation; Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate; the Spirit Lake Sioux; the Standing Rock Sioux; and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

"They'll sing songs in their language, World War I victory songs, that represent some of the deeds that their relatives have done," said Leander "Russ" McDonald, president of the college.

Names will be read of more than 355 veterans from the five tribes who served in World War I, including Sgt. John W. Smith from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Before he left he wrote a note on a picture of himself that said, "Forget me not."

Native Americans didn't become U.S. citizens until 1924.

"I don't think the fact that they weren't citizens was really relevant to them at the time," said Marilyn Hudson, a relative of Smith and longtime director of the Three Affiliated Tribes Museum. "There's always been the desire to protect and serve the country where you live."

Read more: Bismarck Powwow to Honor Native Americans Who Served in WWI

Forgotten faces of WWI get their due in St. Paul historical mural

By Curt Brown
via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune web site

There probably wasn’t a more patriotic graduate from the University of Minnesota. Or one dealt as harsh a hand as Tokutaro Nishimura Slocum.

Born in Japan in 1895, he emigrated to America at 10. When his father moved to Canada to escape discrimination, the Slocum family in Minot, N.D., adopted “Tokie.”

David GeisterArtist David Geister at work on the WWI mural at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.He did well enough at the U to gain acceptance to Columbia Law School in New York — just as the U.S. entered the first world war in 1917. Slocum dropped out, enlisted in the U.S. Army and fought in the forests and trenches along the Western Front. German poison gas would scar his lungs for the rest of his days.

Initially denied U.S. citizenship despite his service, Slocum lobbied for legislation granting citizenship to Asian-Americans who fought for the U.S. during the Great War. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor a generation later, Slocum helped the FBI arrest Japanese immigrants living in America.

That didn’t stop the government from forcibly removing him from his home in Los Angeles in 1942 and locking him up at the Manzanar incarceration camp. He was one of 120,000 Japanese-Americans corralled during WWII.

Slocum battled health problems for years before dying in 1974, two weeks shy of his 79th birthday. Tokie lives on, though, in a massive new mural-in-progress at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

“When this mural is finished, we will showcase 100 individuals who had a hand in creating modern America,” said David Geister, a self-described “storyteller with a paintbrush.”

Read more: Forgotten faces of WWI get their due in St. Paul historical mural

Four questions for Dr. Patrick R. Jennings, National Museum of the United States Army

The Five of Hearts: "She is a legendary piece of US Army history."

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

We are following with great interest the construction progress of the new National Museum of the U.S. Army. The museum will house a remarkable collection of artifacts that will tell the story of our nation's military history, from our very beginnings as a nation, right up to present-day.  We are pleased to learn that World War I will play a front-and-center role in that story. The Museum promises to have a truly world-class collection of artifacts from World War I, to include period uniforms owned by high-profile figures from the war, pivotal documents that shaped the war's outcome, weapons that were used in combat, and much, much more. Among the items that will have a permanent home there is a very special tank, the "Five of Hearts", which was a combat veteran from the battle of Meuse-Argonne, and which was recovered from the battlefield soon after the war, and returned to the U.S. as a special tribute to the the courage of those first tank soldiers to serve in the U.S. Army. We spoke to Dr. Patrick R. Jennings, Ph.D., Programs & Education Specialist at the National Museum of the United States Army, to hear more about this great museum, and about it's World War I artifacts.

We heard about the recent placement of your World War I-era tank at the museum construction site. Tell us about this tank! Whose is it, where did it come from, how did you hear about it? How did you get it here?

Dr. Patrick R. Jennings pictured inside the 2-man crew compartment of the Renault FT-17 tank during an inspection. (U.S. Army Photo)Dr. Patrick R. Jennings pictured inside the 2-man crew compartment of the Renault FT-17 tank during an inspection. (U.S. Army Photo)This particular tank, a Renault FT-17 with serial number 1516, was built by the French. The tank mounts a short-nosed 37mm gun in an armored plate, rotating, turret that had slight angles to deflect enemy fire.

It carried a crew of two – a commander/gunner and a driver - in a remarkably small space with the engine exposed just behind them. Despite the small size, the Renault FT-17 proved a capable combat vehicle so the US selected the design as the foundation for America’s first tank, the M-1917.

Final design and production of the M-1917 would, however, take quite some time, so the French supplied several FTs to the fledging American Tank Corps.

Serial number 1516 was passed down the line from depot to front line unit where it landed with Company C, 344th Tank Battalion. Dubbed the “Five of Hearts,” a tactical identifying mark, the tank went into action St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

I will tell you more about the storied combat history of this tank, but once it was accepted as Army property it remained just that.

Because of her history she was shipped back to the US as a “war hero” and placed at the first home of the US Army Tank Corps, Fort Meade, Maryland. Fort Meade has been home to the “Five of Hearts” since about 1919.

So, hearing about it, or finding it, wasn’t hard – she is a legendary piece of US Army history.

Read more: Four questions for Dr. Patrick R. Jennings, National Museum of the United States Army

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