World War I Centennial News


Four Questions for Valerie Chapeau

"Remembering the friendship that evolved between the Doughboys and the population"

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

During the Spring 1917, a few weeks after the United States entered World War One, the American General Staff decided that the southern sector of the Loir-et-Cher Department would become a key element in its military strategy. An extensive infrastructure took shape under the American Service of Supply Command (camps, depots, communication lines, transport). Among the many localities that welcomed Uncle Sam's Doughboys, an outstanding example is the Cher Valley and in particular, the town of Gièvres. The U.S. Army Engineer Corps arrived in August 1917 and began construction of an immense supply camp, including a cold storage plant that supplied food for American forces dispatched from Dunkerque to Italy. The sector comprising Noyers-sur-Cher/Saint-Aignan was occupied by the 41st Division as a Replacement Camp. Its mission was to receive and maintain personnel, including classification, training, and assignment of soldiers to replace those wounded or killed in battle. 100 years later, the communities and associations located in the Cher Valley and in the Sologne are celebrating this historical episode by organizing a span of cultural activities. Valerie Chapeau, historian for the French region of Vallée du Cher et du Romorantinais, fills us in on what the region has planned.

The vallée du Cher et du Romorantinais played a key role in World War I for the American troop. Tell us about what happened there.

Quickly after the declaration of war, the American General Staff decided to make of the center of France, and particularly the south of the Loir-et-Cher department, an intermediate base between the landing ports (Saint-Nazaire, Brest) and the fighting areas. This rural territory, well connected by railroad lines, was the ideal place to maintain, train or cure soldiers. Moreover, General J. J. Pershing had made a policy to provide each soldier who landed in France 30 days of training & support. One ton of materiel also arrived for each of them.Valérie Chapeau 200

To store and deliver this material in the good time, the Service of Supply chose Gièvres, a community located in the southern of the Loir-et-Cher department, to built an immense supply base capable of furnishing food, clothing, and technical, medical and communications equipment for an army of two million men. This depot was called the G.I.S.D (General Intermediate Supply Depot). Its construction began in august 1917. The hugest cold storage plant of the period, after those of Chicago, was also built in order to provide fresh food for American forces dispatched from Dunkerque to Italy.

In February 1918 the first center for airplane assembly was built in Gièvres and Pruniers-en-Sologne. The Air Service Production Center n°2, completed the two air service bases, settled near Tours and Issoudun, which formed and trained pilots. This center was quickly followed by a plant for automobile assembly, which reached a total of 20,000 vehicles by 1919. More than 80,000 American men served in these camps.

The south of the Loir-et-Cher department was also chosen to become the settlement of the 41st division. In the first days of January 1918, an immense camp made of tents and baracks settled in the meadows of the community of Noyers-sur-Cher. Other camps were built, during the following months in the communities of the whole Cher valley.

Read more: Four Questions for Valerie Chapeau

Hamby sworn as new Commissioner for the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

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

WASHINGTON, DC—The United States World War One Centennial Commission has a new commissioner, Mr. Terry Hamby, who was appointed by Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. He was officially sworn in as a Commissioner at the Commission offices in Washington on Wednesday, 14 December 2016.HambyCommissioner Terry Hamby

Commissioner Hamby joins fellow commissioners Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro (Chairman), Edward L. Fountain (Vice Chairman), Jerry L. Hester, Colonel Thomas Moe, Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick, Dr. Libby O’Connell, Dr. Monique Seefried, Major General Alfred A. Valenzuela, Debra Anderson, and Dr. Matthew Naylor.

Mr. Hamby is a veteran of the Vietnam War. During the War he served as a member of the Naval Air Wing. After the war he served in the U.S. Army reserves until he retired in 1993. Mr. Hamby is also a businessman, and was founder and CEO of BMAR & Associates, which provides services to the Department of Defense.

He comes from a family full of military tradition. His great grandfather served in the union army during the Civil War, and his grandfather served in World War One.

Centennial Commission Chair Robert Dalessandro welcomed the new appointee. “This is great news for us. Mr. Hamby comes to our commission with decades of public service, along with significant skills in leadership and management. We are very pleased to be joined by Commissioner Hamby in our efforts to tell the World War One story”.

Read more: New Commissioner for the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

Four Questions for Christopher A. Warren

"WW1 fundamentally changed the relationship between the American public and the Federal government"

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

Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) have teamed together to create a joint exhibit on the First World War. Arlington National Cemetery Historian Christopher A. Warren Talks about the timely new exhibit and how it came to be, what surprises the creation of exhibit provided, and why it is so important to remember those who wore the uniform of their nation in World War One.

The Arlington National Cemetery has a new Visitors Center exhibit that is really interesting. Tell us about it.

Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) have teamed together to create a joint exhibit on the First World War. The exhibit will mainly focus on the American experience in the war, and how ANC and ABMC were focal points for remembrance and commemoration of the Great War. Arlington visitors centerArlington National Cemetery Visitors CenterOur exhibit is thematic in nature, covering everything from the arrival of the U.S. on the battlefield, to the influence of technology on the war, from the experiences African-Americans and Women during the war, to the repatriation of fallen service members back to the U.S. and ANC, as well as the creation of ABMC cemeteries overseas.

We emphasize and explore how ANC and ABMC became partners in commemoration throughout the 1920s-1930s. Although ABMC cemeteries are overseas and ANC is here in Virginia, both venues had a significant impact on the American public as locations for grieving and solace, whether at the burial site of a loved one, or visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, who initially represented all unknown and unrecovered service members who gave, as Abraham Lincoln said, “the last full measure of devotion.”

The exhibit, located in the ANC Welcome Center, will officially open on 6 April 2017, the 100th year anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war on Imperial Germany. The exhibit will remain in the ANC Welcome Center until 2021, the 100th year anniversary of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Read more: Four Questions for Christopher A. Warren

Four Questions for Kevin Fitzpatrick

"Meet others who are passionate about living history"

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

Kevin Fitzpatrick is a noted historian, reenactor, author, and living history storyteller. He is based in NYC, and he has particular interest in how his city was involved with & impacted by World War One. As a reenactor, he is leading an event, called the Doughboy Swap Meet, to help recruit new history buffs to the field, and also to help outfit reenactors who are already active within that community. He took a few moments to talk to us about the event taking place on February 17, 2017.

What is a Doughboy Swap and Sale?

Fitzpatrick leftKevin Fitzpatrick (left) in a Doughboy uniformIt is a one-day event in New York City for World War One reenactors to find uniforms and equipment, and to meet others who are passionate about living history. A proper Doughboy impression starts with a basic uniform. At this event we’ll bring together reenactors and vendors with items specific to Doughboys, from collar discs to helmets.

Why are you doing this? Who are you trying to reach?

As the centennial of America’s entry into the war approaches, more living history enthusiasts are being drawn into reenacting and Great War impressions. We see a steady increase in questions on social media and forums about getting into the hobby and how to get kitted up properly. There are a lot of reenactors in the New York region, and they can help those new to WW1 living history get properly equipped. Who we want to reach are both those that are already reenactors and want to swap or buy more gear, as well as meet those that want to begin an A.E.F. impression.

Read more: Four Questions for Kevin Fitzpatrick

Not Waiting for the Call: American Women Physicians and World War One

via wwionline.org

Womens HospitalThe modern weapons and tactics of World War One produced unprecedented conflict and carnage in Europe. France suffered the devastating effects of the war being fought on its soil, including a severe humanitarian crisis resulting from the bombardment of villages near the constantly-moving front lines. With the local village doctors away fighting at the front, the rural civilian population--already ailing from malnutrition and disease--were left even more vulnerable to illness and epidemics. Despite the widespread suffering, women physicians were not permitted by the European Allied countries, and later, the United States, to serve as officers in the military medical corps.

By 1917 when the U.S. entered the conflict, there was a shortage of workers for all types of jobs related to the war effort, including physicians – domestically and overseas. The need for the nation to mobilize for the war effort, and the growing professionalization of women accelerated the conversation about the role and status of women in the United States, where most were still denied the right to vote. Women doctors eagerly participated in this conversation, as many viewed it as their patriotic duty to use their medical skills during the war, to care for both civilians and soldiers.

With so many male doctors called away to combat, it seemed obvious to women physicians like Dr. Frances Van Gasken, Professor of Clinical Medicine at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, that the United States government would call upon them to fill the need for medical personnel.

Read more: Not Waiting for the Call: American Women Physicians and World War I

Commissioner James Whitfield, January 12, 1926–December 6, 2016

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

Jim WhitfieldJim Whitfield (Photo by The American Legion)The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission has received the sad news of the recent passing of our Commissioner James Whitfield. He was 90 years old.

The Centennial Commission Chair, Robert Dalessandro, expressed the sorrow felt by the entire Commission and staff. "Jim was a true gentleman and friend. We will all miss him. He will long be remembered for his dedication and work on behalf of veterans, and the World War One generation."

Fellow Commissioner Jerry Hester added "I will treasure his devotion and friendship".

James Seymour “Jim” Whitfield was born on January 12, 1926 in Warrensburg, Missouri, the son of William Henry “Dub” and Mary Virginia (Asbury) Whitfield. On January 3, 1957, he and Ruby Virginia Raker were united in marriage in Warrensburg. She preceded him in death on March 12, 1999. On July 19, 2003, he and Kathryn Henry were married in Louisiana, MO. She preceded him in death on March 26, 2013.

Read more: Commissioner James Whitfield, January 12, 1926-December 6, 2016

VFW joins $200,000 giveaway program to rescue ailing WW1 Memorials

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

WASHINGTON, DC—The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has become a Supporting Organization for the 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS program.

Sponsored by the United States World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS is a $200,000 matching grant program for groups who undertake the restoration, preservation or conservation of local World War One memorials.100C 100M Logo snip

After the war, thousands of World War One memorials were erected across the country to honor the local veterans who fought. 100 years later, many of these have fallen into obscurity and neglect fading from view as honors to those vets. The 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS program was created to support up to 100 WW1 memorial rescue projects in 100 places around the country.

“The VFW strongly believes in honoring all who served as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This project allows us to take action at the local level in communities across the country to bring attention to those who served in World War One," said Debra Anderson, Quartermaster General for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Commissioner with the World War One Centennial Commission.

The 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS program launched in July, 2016, and the grant application period runs until June 15, 2017. "Having the VFW as a supporting organization is a real benefit", said Theo Mayer, the 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS program manager for the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. "With the help and support of the VFW's 1,300,000 members, we can expand the awareness of these available funds. Our mutual goal is to ensure the memory of World War One veterans, and the memorials placed all over America to honor their are remembered."

To help local VFW members to identify & adopt community World War One memorial projects, the 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS program managers have prepared new resources that are specially-tailored to VFW regional and local posts. These will be distributed in the coming weeks. Visit the 100 CITIES/100 MEMORIALS page for more information on the program.

Centennial commemoration to bring fresh look at 'Black Jack' Pershing

By Chuck Raasch
via the
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WASHINGTON—It Pershing clipwas not the war that ended all wars, a fact that resonates in today’s long struggle to defeat terrorism.

World War One, which the United States entered in 1917 and helped win a year later, is easily passed over in the nation’s annals of conflict.

Even though nearly 4.7 million Americans served during the war and 116,516 were killed (more than half in non-combat deaths) and more than 200,000 wounded, it is no longer a memory for most. Monuments to Civil War generals and big memorials to the Vietnam War and World War II grace the capital’s mall and neighborhoods.

World War One? Not so much.

Even so, the centennial of the United State’s entry into that war will be modestly commemorated next year, and with a big Missouri twist.

“World War One has been kind of bookended between the Civil War and World War Two,” said Mitchell Yockelson, a military history specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration. “A lot of vets came back and never wanted to talk about it. Everyone and their cousin was trying to publish a book on the Civil War. By the time we were ready to embrace [World War I], World War II came along.”

Yockelson is the author of a book about Missouri native John “Black Jack” Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force that tipped the war for the French and British against Germany.

Read more: Centennial commemoration brings fresh look at Missourian 'Black Jack' Pershing

WW1 exhibition comes to Hampshire library

By Denise Moran
via the
Elgin Courier-News

ELGIN, IL— A soiree was held on Monday, December 5 at the Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library, 109 South State Street in Hampshire, to celebrate the arrival of the World War One Centennial Traveling Exhibition.

Hampshire and Burlington area vetsHampshire and Burlington area World War One veterans posed for this photo in 1919. (Photo via Denise Moran / The Courier-News)The exhibition is being sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and presented by Library of America in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Voices from War, Warrior Writers, Words After War, The National WWI Museum and Memorial, the United States World War One Centennial Commission, and Wounded Warrior Project.

World War One began in 1914. It ended when the treaty was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, which was Nov. 11, 1918. The day is remembered as Armistice Day.

"The exhibition will be at the library until Thursday, Dec. 22," said Kelly Sheahan, reference specialist at the library. "We are fortunate to be one of the 50 libraries across the country to showcase this exhibition. We applied in July, and we learned in mid-August that we would host it. In addition, we received a $1,200 grant that we will use for WWI history and to recognize the service of veterans from other wars."

Read more: WWI exhibition comes to Hampshire library

Admiral Mike Mullen joins Commission Board of Special Advisors

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

WASHINGTON, DC – Admiral Mike Mullen has signed on to become a Special Advisor to the United States World War One Centennial Commission. Mullen Mike 200Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (Ret.)Admiral Mullen joins Special Advisors Secretary Leon E. Panetta, the Honorable John W. Warner, General Barry McCaffrey, General Gordon R. Sullivan, Sandra Sinclair Pershing, Helen Ayer Patton, Gary Sinise, Vint Cerf, and Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

The Board of Special Advisors to the Commission provide expert advice in order to help the Commission carry out its goal of honoring and commemorating the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War One.

Admiral Mullen graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1968 and he served in the Navy until his retirement in 2011. Admiral Mullen served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He acted as the principal military advisor to the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council, and the President of the United States. Admiral Mullen also served as the 32nd Vice Chief of Naval Operations and as the 28th Chief of Naval Operations during his time with the US Navy.

The Executive Director for the Centennial Commission, Daniel Dayton, welcomed the new advisor. “Admiral Mike Mullen brings decades of world-class military leadership to our organization. We could not be more honored to have his help in reaching out to the American people, and telling the World War One story.”

Governor signs New York State Centennial Commission bill

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

27th DivisionThe great "send-off" parade of New York's 27th Division passing the New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, August 30, 1917. Members of the immediate families of the soldiers occupied the great reviewing stand on the steps of the Library..The New York State World War One Centennial Commission has officially been signed into existence by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York State Senator Jack M. Martins announced on November 30 that legislation he sponsored to honor the heroic contributions of New Yorkers to America’s victory in World War One establishes the statewide commission to help honor the role New York State and New Yorkers played in the war had become law. The legislation was introduced into the State Assembly by Assembly Member Michael DenDekker.

“No other state gave more to America’s victory in World War One than New York. Approximately 10 percent of the American fighting force came from New York and over 13,000 New Yorkers made the ultimate sacrifice, more than any other state. As we approach the centennial anniversary of America’s entry into World War One, there is no more fitting way to honor and remember these heroes than teaching the present generations about their actions.

"I thank Governor Cuomo for working with us to pay tribute to the brave New Yorkers who answered the call to serve in the First World War,” said Senator Martins.

Read more: Governor Signs New York State Centennial Commission bill

Four Questions for Rich Bachus

"Bringing the war to life through the details (both great and small) of one soldier"

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

Rich Bachus is a writer, publisher, and teacher whose inheritance of a family collection of artifacts dating to World War One inspired an interest in the Great War that led him to author a book about his grandfather's service. Now Rich has become a Publishing Partner on the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission web site, where his Trench Commander blog chronicles "the Bachus family military adventures and how they influenced me and my last-of-the-baby-boomers generation." In an interview, Rich talks about the origins of this project, what he has learned about the history of his own family and the nation, and why stories like Trench Commander are important to tell during the Centennial Commemoration of World War One.

Your Trench Commander blog is really interesting. Tell us about what it is, and what your vision is for it.

Rich Bachus 200Rich BachusI love digging through the nooks and crannies of history, and I’m especially drawn to a 100-years-ago-today approach. I was pleased to discover that several projects featured on the WW1 Centennial Commission site use this framework. From the The Great War Channel to Mike Hanlon’s worldwar1centennial.org work, there is considerable effort going into exploring week-by-week snapshots of what was happening in the time leading up to and through WW1. Most of the existing projects provide a wide-screen view of the war as seen through the eyes of entire armies, whole countries, or the great men and women who appear in the history books. On the other hand, features like “Stories of Service” highlight the lives of individual soldiers through a much narrower lens. But sadly, these more intimate stories usually don’t come with much more detail than a few faded photos, a couple of old records, and perhaps a story or two passed down from generation to generation.

The Trench Commander blog is all about bringing the war to life through the details (both great and small) of one soldier — my grandfather Capt. Joseph L. Bachus — and his family: wife Lina and daughter Betty. I barely knew these ancestors of mine before Aunt Betty passed on and left the family archive to me. As luck would have it, this incredible collection of personal letters, trench maps, army records, photographs and postcards fell into the right hands. As a former journalist, history major, and sometime teacher, I knew that some day I would write about the Bachus family military adventures and how they influenced me and my last-of-the-baby-boomers generation.

My vision is to unpack this archive before the eyes of WW1 Centennial Commission followers like you and attract new readers to the cause. Each week, I’ll post photos, records, and letters that tell the story of how one family — my family — went to war, handled the immense challenges both at home and in the trenches, and lived to tell about it.

Read more: Four Questions for Rich Bachus

How 1916 set the stage for America to enter WW1

Brian Bethune
via McLeans

OWilson stickern Nov. 7, 1916, 100 years and one day before Republican Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, his Democratic predecessor Woodrow Wilson was re-elected to the job. Wilson’s campaign unfolded in a manner familiar—then and now, win or lose—to Democrats. He racked up the numbers in big population centres, taking 52 per cent of the overall popular vote, but barely squeaked through the Electoral College. If his opponent, Charles Evans Hughes, had picked up 3,800 more votes of the one million cast in California, the Republican would have won. Plus ça change.

But the victory went to Wilson, meaning that, in the midst of the First World War, the presidency remained in the hands of someone who combined high-minded idealism, absolute insistence on the right of Americans to trade freely with all belligerents (even if it was overwhelmingly with Britain and France), and a barely suppressed inclination to the Allied side. That made his re-election one of the year’s signal moments, according to 1916: A Global History, Irish historian Keith Jeffery’s month-by-month account of the Great War’s hinge year, the year that changed everything.

The U.S. greeted the outbreak of war in 1914 with disbelief and a note of sanctimony, and its press frequently trumpeted the superiority of the New World in its aversion to war. (The newspapers could only do this, of course, by adherence to two American traditions: refusing to equate American punitive attacks on Latin American and Caribbean nations with “war,” and by ignoring the entity to the north, a steadily more significant participant in the war.)

Read more: How 1916 set the stage for America to enter WW1

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