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World War I Centennial News


U.S. Embassy France hosts “Lafayette, we are here!” 4th of July fest

By Nathalie Nguyen
Staff Writer

DDehKn8WsAAZDIgOn June 29, the U.S Embassy in France hosted an early Fourth of July celebration at the Residence of the U.S Ambassador to France. The day was marked by these famous words: “Lafayette, we are here!”

In celebration of the Franco-American friendship, the event commemorated America’s 241st birthday and its centennial entry into World War I. The celebration events started with a World War I-themed garden party, and also included a period vehicle display at Rue du Eaubourg Saint Honoré, and a ceremony in front of General Marquis de Lafayette’s tomb in Picpus Cemetery, the following day.

As French visitors took pictures in front of the famous Uncle Sam poster at the U.S Official Residence, it was clear that the two nations shared something further: common gratitude and friendship.

A century ago, in June, American troops under General John Pershing arrived in St. Nazaire, to help France. Some saw it as a way to repay Lafayette for French support during the American Revolution. That support directly led to American victory, and the creation of the independent, democratic, United States.

Paying tribute to the French men who sacrificed for America’s liberty, General Pershing, and his aide, Colonel C.E Stanton went to the tomb of General Lafayette, and declared, “Layfayette, we are here!” Uttered on the Fourth of July almost a hundred years ago, it was a moment that boosted the morals of the French and laid the groundwork to turn the U.S-France cooperation into a powerful offensive.

Read more: U.S Embassy France hosts “Lafayette, we are here!” 4th of July fest

Centennial of first U.S. combat troops in France on June 26, 1917

By Paul Brugholzer
Staff Writer

June 26th marks the 100th anniversary of the first unit of American combat troops landing in France.

46ac704b7343b9667a9e36162570c570The first contingent of American combat soldiers assemble on the pier at St. Nazaire, France, before marching to their first camps. These troops were the vanguard of over one million U.S. forces who deployed to Europe in WWI before the Armistice in 1919.The small French port of St. Nazaire welcomed the first wave of American soldiers from the 1st Division with open arms. St. Nazaire was an ancient shipbuilding town. Upon the arrival of the first troop ships, the city was the focus of jubilant celebration. French citizens cheered and shouted, as a new sense of hope flooded their hearts. They had seen four years of horrifying war, and millions of men, women, and children had been killed. A significant part of France was occupied by Germany. The opposing militaries were deadlocked, and the end had been nowhere in sight.

The people of St. Nazaire saw the American Army as a heroic liberator. The fantastical notion of liberation is one that has shaped America’s character and it was sealed in reality when the heroes of the US Army landed in St. Nazaire.

America in 1917 was not regarded a world power. It was a country that, a little over 50 years ago, almost tore itself apart in a brutal civil war. The US had little colonial influence compared to the great European powers. America was still largely agrarian and most of the soldiers landing in France had never been to Europe before. American life was isolated from the problems of the world until the nation entered the war. These troops, who marched through the streets of St. Nazaire were the physical representation of America entering the world stage with the global superpowers.

In some ways, the German leadership was not concerned when America entered the war America lacked a modern army, at the time. Further, the incredible logistical effort to form a modern army, and to deploy troops across the Atlantic Ocean, was seen as far beyond their capability. But somehow, despite the enormous challenges, and through with national focus, under an incredible leadership effort, America was able to create their modern army, and to bring them across the ocean, and to leverage them into effective use to end this awful war.

Read more: Centennial of first American combat troops landing in France June 26

Race begins

The Race of a Century: the Queen Mary II sails across Atlantic with the fastest yachts in the world, in memory of World War I

By Michael Stahler
Staff Writer

At 7 pm on Sunday, June 25, three cannon shots rang out into the night as the last true transatlantic ocean liner, the Queen Mary II, left the same French shore that the first American troops of World War 1 arrived at a century ago.

Also departing from the port of St. Nazaire were four other sailing crews manning the best multi-hull yachts in the world. Queen Mary II, a flagship liner from the British Cunard cruise company, was built solely for luxury yet it is currently in the lead, dominating the powerful trimarans built for speed.

This historic race was organized by the Mission du Centenaire, the French commission for the Great War centennial, and supported by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Foreign Minister nominated by Emmanuel Macron. A celebration of Franco-American friendship over the century, all of these ships are headed straight for the foot of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, a fitting representation of the two nations’ alliance.

A century ago, however, it was from New York that 14,750 brave Americans in the “Big Red One” division embarked to St. Nazaire. This symbolic reversal will also serve as the first reference time from St. Nazaire to New York, taking a unique route bypassing the many obstacles of the Atlantic, from icebergs to migrating whales.

Other events have also been planned for The Bridge 2017, the non-profit association organizing the Centennial Transatlantic Race. To honor the cultural exchange that occurred during the American arrival, The Bridge is hosting the FIBA 3x3 World Basketball Championship, a sport carried to France with the AEF. Another symbol of America, jazz music, will also be celebrated with a series of jazz concerts.

Read more: The Race of a Century: the Queen Mary II sails with the fastest yachts in the world, in memory of...

Ceremony in Brest marks centennial of U.S. troops arrival France

By Nathalie Nguyen
Staff Writer

Ceremony 1French and U.S. Navy color guards ready for the centennial ceremony in Brest on June 22.On the morning of June 22, members of the French military including the French Navy Band participated in an international military ceremony in Brest, France to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of U.S troops to Brest during World War I. There were also informal remarks offered at the nearby Brest Naval Museum.

Robert Dalessandro, Chair of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, and acting secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, was on hand at both events, to represent those organizations for the special moments.

Honoring the historical ties between France and the U.S, the military event paid tribute to the American troops who fought in France, in front of the American World War I Naval Monument.

In June of 1917, the first American troops arrived to France through major port cities. During the Great War, Brest became a vital port for American forces to enter through France, where more than 700,000 men came through to head to the front lines. It was a landing that played a decisive role in the outcome of the war.

During 1917 and 1918, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) set up supplies, troops, and equipment to use Brest as a disembarking port. Brest also served as American Naval Headquarters in France, and was the scene of every aspect of the naval war -- convoy planning, anti-submarine strategies, logistic plotting, liaison with allied naval efforts, etc.

Read more: Ceremony in Brest marks centennial of U.S. troops arrival in France

Why does World War I still get second-rate treatment in our capital?

By Marc Ferris
via the Washington Post web site

When Congress and President Trump approved a bill potentially providing space on the Mall for a National Desert Storm War Memorial, they delivered a slap in the face to the brave Americans who fought in World War I.

PershingPeople walk past a statue of Gen. John J. Pershing, who had served as general of the Armies in World War I, in Pershing Park, at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, in Washington in 2015. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)The Great War, so-called before the advent of World War II, is one of the nation’s many forgotten wars, evidenced by the fact that there is no national memorial to the conflict on the Mall. This disgrace helps consign the conflict to the cobwebs of memory.

Indeed, the 100th anniversary of the country’s declaration of war against Germany, on April 6, generated little fanfare. Participants in the war effort are deceased, of course, resulting in a lack of political pressure to find room on the Mall. Identifying a spot would be the right thing to do.

The existing World War I memorial on the Mall, built by D.C. dignitaries in 1931, honors only local service members, and few know of its existence. The modest marble structure is situated in a grove of trees 500 feet southwest of the massive National World War II Memorial (dedicated in 2004, 59 years after that war’s end).

The de facto national World War I monument in the District, Pershing Park , commemorates Gen. John J. Pershing, who vanquished the German foe. Christened in 1981, it sits in a zone designated as Area 1, outside the core section of the Mall, the grassy grounds that stretch from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol and from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial.

The Desert Storm memorial also will be in Area 1, but one approved site, a field at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is a much more prominent spot for a war memorial than Pershing Park, which is one long city block from the Mall proper.

In 2013, anticipating the 100th anniversary of American entry into World War I, Congress created the United States World War I Centennial Commission, which sponsored a design competition to reimagine the Pershing Park space.

The organization selected the winner in 2016, and the project is slated for completion by November 2018, the centennial of the war’s end. The goal, however, is contingent on the ability to raise $30 million to $35 million in private funds.

Read more: Why does World War I still get second-rate treatment in our capital?

Volunteer 'Doughboy' team works to bring WWI MIAs home

By Katie Lange
via DoD News, Defense Media Activity

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are still about 82,540 U.S. service members considered missing in action since World War II began. But that agency doesn't account for the more than 4,400 still missing from World War I.

BrookwoodU.S. service members and the local community honor U.S. service members killed during World War I during a Memorial Day ceremony at Brookwood Military Cemetery in England. Brookwood, the final resting place for 468 service members and 41 unknown service members from World War I, is one of the smallest American cemeteries in the United Kingdom. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chrissy Best)Thanks to the efforts of several volunteers, the records of these missing WWI men are slowly being unearthed, and more men are identified.

Historian Robert Laplander, known for his research and writings on the "Lost Battalion" of the Great War, started to search for World War I Army Pvt. Eugene Michael McGrath after someone found battle remnants in 2005 at the site of the Lost Battalion's last stand.

"Among the stuff was a dog tag. It was to one of the guys in the Lost Battalion who was missing in action," Laplander said, referring to McGrath. "We decided to see if we could figure out what happened to him."

And thus began the Doughboy MIA Project. Laplander recruited several volunteer researchers, archivists and historians to help search for McGrath's files. Over the years, word got out of their efforts, and they began to look for other fallen World War I service members.

"We have technology today that they didn't have back then: deep-penetration metal detectors, ground penetrating radar, spatial imaging -- all that kind of stuff," Laplander said.

In 2015, Laplander was contacted by someone at the WWI Centennial Commission and asked to highlight their efforts on the centennial's website. Their page, ww1cc.org/MIA, has since grown by leaps and bounds.

Read more: Volunteer 'Doughboy' team works to bring WWI MIAs home

"Hardly prepared to play a secondary role," U.S. adopts Draft in 1917

By Erik Sass
via the Mental Floss web site

Registering 0Young men at the first national registration day held in association with the Selective Service Act of 1917.After the end of the U.S. Civil War, conscription was swiftly abolished and the American military reverted to its traditional all-volunteer basis, with the U.S. Army bolstered by National Guard units when needed. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, the U.S. Army swelled to around a quarter million, all volunteers and National Guardsmen, and U.S. forces involved in the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 totaled 126,000. Later the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa in northern Mexico in 1916-1917 numbered just 10,000 men, with roughly another 130,000 guarding the border.

By the time the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, the U.S. Army tallied 128,000 officers and men, along with 182,535 mobilized National Guardsmen. Needless to say, these figures were laughably small compared to the monstrous machines now locked in a titanic death struggle in Europe. In the spring of 1917 Germany had around 5.5 million men under arms, the British Empire 4.5 million, and France had two million serving on the Western Front alone – and these were just a fraction of the total manpower mobilized over the course of the war (France mobilized a total of 8.3 million men, including around half a million colonial troops, from 1914-1918).

Although America had adopted an unconvincing “preparedness program” in 1916, raising the target size for the National Guard to 450,000 by 1921, this goal was far from being realized, and the Americans would obviously be unable to make more than a symbolic contribution to the Allied war effort in terms of manpower in the near future: in July 1917 just 20,000 Americans were deployed in the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, increasing to 129,000 by the end of the year.

However the United States was hardly prepared to play a secondary role in the long run, demanding an energetic, decisive intervention to bring Germany to terms and end the war. To accomplish this the country would have to train and equip armed forces numbering four million by the end of 1918 – a massive undertaking which would require months of feverish effort, including the construction of a whole network of training camps and, most importantly, bringing back the draft.

Read more: "Hardly prepared to play a secondary role," U.S. adopts Draft in 1917

Award-winning Liberty graduate shows WWI through a fresh lens

By Drew Menard
via Liberty University News Service

For recent Liberty University graduate Becky Barker, it wasn’t enough to trudge through World War I trenches deep in the pages of history books — she was so captivated by the stories that she brought them to life on film in the forests surrounding Lynchburg.

becky barker wearethedeadFilmmaker Becky Barker (second from left) with cast members from her movie "We Are the Dead" at Liberty University in Virginia.“I fell in love with this area of history because of the many untold stories I discovered,” she said. “World War I is not as thoroughly studied as the wars that came later. This is mostly because although it was a war of previously unheard of catastrophic size, World War II eclipsed it only 20 years later. WWI also fascinated me because, unlike WWII, the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides of the conflict are not nearly so black and white.”

As a student in Liberty’s Department of History, Barker took advantage of the university’s cross-disciplinary program and added a minor in cinematic arts. When she discovered that she loved filmmaking, she added a cinematic arts major, and that’s when she embarked on a project to bring the First World War to life. Her short film, “We are the Dead,” focuses on a young soldier who must overcome fear before his first battlefield attack and an almost certain death.

For her short film, Barker turned a creek bed 30 minutes from campus into a trench in France's Argonne Forest in 1918.

“The point of the story is that although the Great War is often thought of in terms of the millions lost, every one of those numbers had a name, a family, hopes, fears, and dreams,” Barker said. “My goal was to take the First World War and distill it down to a micro level, a personal level, and show the humanity in what is often characterized as an inhuman war.”

Barker’s dedication to uncovering history’s forgotten stories led to multiple accolades. She was awarded Liberty’s History Student of the Year in April 2016. The following semester, Barker was given the Zaki Gordon Award for Excellence in Screenwriting for “We Are the Dead,” her thesis film.

Read more: Award-winning Liberty University graduate shows WWI through a fresh lens

World War I memorial in Los Angeles restored, rededicated

By Michael Hjelmstad
via the American Legion web site

The monument at Victory Memorial Grove in Elysian Park near Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles had nearly been forgotten. Inspired by the 100 Cities 100 Memorials project of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library and the United States World War One Centennial Commission, American Legion members have helped restore it and refresh the area’s memory, or initial understanding, of what it meant.LA MemorialWWI Memorial in Los Angeles is rededicated. Photo by Jon Endow/The American Legion

Volunteers chose Flag Day, June 14, 2017, for the rededication ceremony. Nearly 100 people, ranging from community volunteers to Disney executives to veteran organization leaders, unveiled a stone memorial tablet that looks as good as did 97 years ago. In 1921, the Daughters of The American Revolution held the original ceremony to present the memorial in conjunction with The American Legion and local residents honoring members of the community who served and fell in the Great War. It was an effort to unite the nation in a collective celebration of victory.

The memorial plaque reads: "Erected 1921 by Daughters of the American Revolution of Southern California to honor the service in the World War of all men and women from the families of the state society and in memory of twenty one who made the supreme sacrifice."

Victory Memorial Grove is a part of the oldest park in Los Angeles. Elysian Park is filled with trees, ponds, hiking trails and the Chavez Ravine, featuring Dodger Stadium and the Los Angeles Police Academy.

“This is a park within a park,” said Janice Gordon with the California Daughters of the American Revolution Regent. “Victory Memorial Grove was donated to the city by a DAR member from our chapter. Then they erected this monument and it’s kind of a forgotten part of the park.”

The American Legion, Daughters of the American Revolution, Disney and The Mission Continues were all a part of making this come together, with action and fundraising.

Lester Probst, a member of American Legion Hollywood Post 43 who worked closely with Courtland Jindra, a war historian and volunteer with the United States World War One Centennial Commission, brought the restoration project to The American Legion.

Read more: World War I memorial in LA restored, rededicated

At Paris Air Show, symbolic paint scheme by Daher honors Centennial of U.S. entry into WWI

By Krista Kuznecova
via the Fifty Sky Shades web site

a symbolic daher tbm 930 to honor the centennial of americas entry into world war i 11189 LVgB201ZSlWUQmHj4VCufzGydSymbolic paint scheme honors the Centennial of Americas entry into WWI.As part of its presence at this week’s Paris Air Show, aircraft manufacturer Daher is honoring the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I with a symbolic paint scheme on one of its new TBM 930 very fast turboprop aircraft.

The stars and stripes featured on this TBM 930 are a reminder of the role of France’s Morane-Saulnier – the predecessor aircraft manufacturer to Daher – in developing America’s nascent air power during the early 1900s. Morane-Saulnier’s “Parasol” high-wing aircraft served as trainers for the American Expeditionary Forces at Issoudun, France, which was the world’s largest air base at the time.

“The World War I centennial celebrates 100 years of French and U.S. cooperation, a camaraderie that continues today across the Atlantic,” said Nicolas Chabbert, Senior Vice President of the Daher Airplane Business Unit. and President of Socata North America Inc., which is Daher’s subsidiary in the USA.

“We are proud of Daher’s continued American presence, with nearly 1,000 airplanes in operation – composed of our TBM very fast turboprop, as well as the Rallye and TB general aviation aircraft. Backed by a network of 15 service centers, our company continues to give wings to U.S. aviators.”

Daher’s largest single market for its TBM aircraft family is the U.S., with more than 600 delivered to owners and operations in the country.

Read more: At Paris Air Show, symbolic paint scheme by Daher honors Centennial of U.S. entry into WWI

Remembering muted voices: WWI conscientious objectors

By Andrew Bolton
via The Mennonite web site

“The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict.”

These are the first words written by British historian John Keegan in his book, The First World War.

World War I was unnecessary because it was preventable: it was a local conflict that did not need to escalate. It was tragic because at least 10 million people died, 20 million people were injured and 50 million died from the Spanish flu epidemic that incubated in the trenches. One hundred countries were involved and the seeds of World War II were sown.Hofer BrothersA watercolor painting depicting the Hofer brothers, David, Joseph and Michael, Hutterites and WWI conscientious objectors who were courtmartialed and imprisoned. Joseph and David died in prison after enduring torture. (Don Peters, copyright 2014 Plough Publishing, Walden NY.)

The Great War happened from 1914-1918 and now we take time to remember: 100 years later.

The United States entered WWI (ironically) on Good Friday, April 6, 1917. It was a war to end all wars, promised President Woodrow Wilson, but he was not a true prophet, just a politician.

And what of those who resisted? Should they not be remembered? Many Anabaptists, Quakers and others would neither fight, nor buy war bonds, nor fly the flag. At the time their voices were often silenced or muted. Mennonites who spoke German as their first language suffered twice.

“Conscientious objectors were the shock troops of anti-war dissent in World War I,” according to historians Scott H. Bennett and Charles Howlett. There are many moving stories of WWI conscientious objectors in the USA, Canada and Europe.

Perhaps the most moving for me is the story of four Anabaptist Hutterites from South Dakota. These Hutterites were part of a 400- year tradition of resistance to war. Jacob Hutter, an early leader, wrote the following in a letter in 1536:

“We do not want to harm any human being, not even our worst enemy. Our walk of life is to live in truth and righteousness of God, in peace and unity. ... If all the world were like us there would be no war and no injustice.”

In 1918, three Hutterite brothers, David, Joseph, and Michael Hofer, and Joseph’s brother-in- law, Jacob Wipf, were absolutist objectors. They were in their 20’s, married with children, and farmers with an eighth- grade education. However, they clearly understood that Jesus said no to participate in war. They were court-martialed and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor.

In the Alcatraz prison, they were subjected to torture. In November 1918, they were transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Joseph and David died. The authorities said they died from Spanish flu. Their families and fellow Hutterites considered them martyrs who died from their ill treatment. I knew this account and others from WWI and I felt called to help tell these stories 100 years later.

Read more: Remembering muted voices: WWI conscientious objectors

Chillicothe Ohio to Celebrate Camp Sherman Days

Just north of Chillicothe, Ohio, Camp Sherman lays nestled on the banks of US-23, once a WW1 training camp. Now a National Guard training facility, it will be part of a nine-day celebration (July 1-9) in honor of the training center and the contributions made from those who served.Unknown 7Postcard shows Camp Sherman during World War I.

camp sherman days logoIt was a hundred years ago that the rapid entry of the U.S into WW1 left the nation ill-equipped for what laid ahead. Established in 1917, Camp Sherman trained thousands of American soldiers – drilling military instructions, instilling discipline and order, and marching recruits to mobilize for the war effort.

In just matter of a couple of months, one hundred years ago, the camp was ready to accept 40,000 draftees and later produced one of the top engineer units – the 112th Engineer Battalion -- as well as four other divisions.

This year marks the centennial anniversary of the opening of Camp Sherman. Presented by the city of Chillicothe, Camp Sherman Days is a centennial commemoration event of WW1 and the training camp, which will take place from July 1-9 in multiple locations.

“We have a lot of people right here in this county who don’t really know what Camp Sherman was, so this can be a public awareness event,” says Junior Vice Commander Robert Leach of Veterans Foreign Wars in an article with Chillicothe Gazette.

Read more: Chillicothe Ohio to Celebrate Camp Sherman Days

Sabin Howard panel discussion in NYC spotlights Memorial

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

Howard at National ArchivesSabin HowardSabin Howard, sculptor for America's new National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC, was a member of a lively arts discussion last week, at the Paul Booth Gallery in midtown Manhattan, New York City. He was invited to provide his insights on the World War I Memorial project.

It was a panel discussion, which included the prominent art critic Donald Kuspit.

The panel's formal topic was Heroic and Public Art, and the event was attended by an enthusiast crowd of artists and arts supporters.

Howard appreciated the back and forth dialogue between audience and panelists "Through the discussion, it soon became obvious that there is an opening in the art world for work that is narrative in nature and explains stories through the figurative tradition."

He described the reaction to his memorial bas relief "The project of the relief wall is groundbreaking and leading the way for the next generation in the direction that art will take. The public has become tired of looking at art that needs to be explained by reading a book rather than by looking at the art and understanding it immediately. This bas relief wall is a return to art that elevates. It's about making an art that is truly visual in nature first and foremost."

Howard shared artwork from the World War I Memorial project. His drawing for the 65 foot-long bronze wall was met with oohs and aahs from the crowd. There were many questions about the next step in a project, which will be the of building a 9 foot long miniature maquette of the piece.





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