World War I Centennial News


From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

100 Years Ago This Week: The Middle East   

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From May 24th's edition of the WWI Centennial News Podcast, Episode 124:  

Let's jump into our centennial time machine and look at the Middle East 100 years ago with a report from podcast researcher and writer, David Kramer. A major challenge, and one that frustrates President Wilson time after time, comes from the wartime agreements between nations, oftentimes secret, that addressed short-term war needs but created long-term headaches. With that in mind, let's take a look at the Middle East.

sykes picotThe Sykes-Picot treaty divided the post-war Middle East into French and British ruled areasA prime example of what we're talking about is a 1916 secret agreement between the United Kingdom and France called the Sykes-Picot treaty. Under Sykes-Picot, France and England decide that France is going to control the Syrian coast in much of today's Lebanon. Meanwhile, England takes control of a large part of what was then called Mesopotamia. That's today's southern and central Iraq. Palestine is to become home to both Palestinians and Jews and by French and British agreement will be under international control. In addition, the inland portion of Syria, northern Iraq and Jordan are to be given some limited local rule but will be under the watchful eye of the French. Meanwhile, regardless of that treaty, as World War I wraps up, Britain, who already holds a lot of influence in Persia, today's Iran, decides to seize a big hunk of the new oil-producing region of Mesopotamia for their kingdom. Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, now believes not only that the French shouldn't have oversight of such a large region, but that the international control of Palestine isn't really necessary. Britain can handle that on her own. In other words, Sykes-Picot is trashed.

The British now propose only a small area go to France and honor the 1917 pledge to reserve an area for the Jewish homeland in Palestine. Greece is at the center of two important secret agreements. The Allies reward Italy for entering the war on their side by giving them an island group currently belonging to Greece. At the same time, Greece is to gain the largely Greek-populated region of Smyrna on the Turkish coast.

Read more: Podcast Article - The Middle East 100 Years ago


A “Special” Memorial Day…

WWI Memorial in Covington, Ohio honors over 250 men who served 

 via the covington-oh.gov and whio.com web sites

The 2019 Memorial Day festivities were like no other as the Village of Covington honored those residents who fought in Word War I with a monument. Nearly 300 Covington servicemen fought in Word War I with the United States Army’s 148th Infantry Regiment in the battles to liberate Belgium in 1918. On hand to represent Belgium in paying respects for the sacrifices of the Covington servicemen who sacrificed on behalf of freedom was Lieutenant Colonel Heidi Libert of the Belgian Armed Forces.

Covington’s World War I Centennial Monument was made possible thanks to generous donations that raised over $40,000 – a project spearheaded by Jay Wackler, a 1961 Covington graduate and David Frank, a 1967 Covington graduate.

WORLD WAR 1; Company A left El Paso, Texas and entered Fort Benjamin Harrison to be mustered out but as world war was imminent, the order was recalled. After a short stay at Fort Benjamin Harrison, they were sent to Ohio on guard duty. On August 14, 1917 they were ordered to Camp Sherman near Chillicothe and later became part of the 148th Infantry, 37th Division, U. S. Army. They were also stationed at Camp Sheriden (Montgomery, Ala.) and Camp Lee at Petersburgh, Virginia. On June 23, 1918, they embarked for overseas service on the U. S. S. Susquehanna and on July 5, 1918 landed at Brest, France and a short time later were detailed for. service on the Alsace- Lorraine front. They also served at Vosges Mountains, Robert- Espange, Verdun, Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel, St. Jean, Weltje, Belgium, Olsene, Bellow Wood and Ypres. They returned to the United States March 28, 1919 and were discharged in April of that year.

Read more: WWI Memorial in Covington, OH honors over 250 men who served


369th homecomingThe 369th Infantry Division Band forms up to participate in an American Expeditionary Force homecoming parade in New York City in 1919.

 Lawmakers push for a World War I medal review to ensure minorities get the recognition they deserve

By Haley Britzky
via the taskandpurpose.com web site

House lawmakers are pushing for a Pentagon review of valor awards given out for service in World War I to ensure that minorities are getting the recognition they deserve.

Draft language of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act from the House Armed Services Committee, unveiled on Monday, pushes for the Defense Department to "review the service records of certain African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Jewish American, and Native American war veterans to ensure that minority service members are appropriately recognized for their valorous service."

In the Senate, a standalone bill was introduced in April by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), which calls for service secretaries to conduct a similar review of veterans of their branch. It has received bipartisan support, though a spokesperson for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is a cosponsor, told Task & Purpose that the language is not yet in the Senate's version of the NDAA, but could be added later.

Communications director for Van Hollen, Bridgett Frey, told Task & Purpose that the senator "continues to work with Senate leadership to push for passage of this important bipartisan legislation."

To be eligible for the review, according to the Senate's legislation, the veteran must have been awarded either the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross for action; the Croix de Guerre with Palm by the French government; or been recommended for a Medal of Honor for action taken between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918.

The House Armed Services Committee's draft language lays out the same eligibility requirements, and says the service secretaries should consult with the Valor Medals Review Task Force, and other veteran organizations that the Secretary deems appropriate.

Read more: Lawmakers push for a WWI medal review to ensure minorities get the recognition they deserve


extra large 1558694788 cover imageWalter Reed Hospital flu ward during the so-called Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919. Despite its name, it's been long established that the World War I  pandemic didn’t start in Spain.

How vaccines and vigilance could have stopped the World War I pandemic 

By Tom Hale
via the iflscience.com web site

Just one century ago, the world was in the grips of one of the deadliest pandemics in history. At least 50 million people – 3 percent of the world's population – were killed by the Spanish influenza pandemic that swept across the planet, considerably more lives lost than in World War I, which was also occurring at the time.

While much has changed since this chapter of the 20th century ended, the story of Spanish flu still holds a valuable lesson in not underestimating the pathogens we share Earth with. As a new study has detailed, the outbreak sharply highlights the importance of vaccination programs and the risks of complacency when it comes to communicable diseases in the globalized world.

Writing in the journal Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, a virologist and historian have detailed how the Spanish flu emerged from humble beginnings and took over the world in a matter of years. They argue that the Spanish flu may have emerged in Europe two years earlier than previously thought at sometime around 1915. For these two years, the virus was largely ignored and brushed off as a “minor respiratory infection”.

By the time it was taken seriously, around 1918, the virus had mutated into a whole other kind of beast and it was too late to roll out effective vaccination programs.

"In essence, the virus must have mutated. It lost a great deal of its virulence but gained a marked ability to spread," study author Professor John S. Oxford, the UK's top expert on influenza, said in a press release. "Recent experiments with a pre-pandemic 'bird flu' called H5N1, deliberately mutated in the laboratory, have shown that as few as five mutations could have permitted this change to take place."

"Once the virus is able to spread from human to human, disaster strikes. With a generation time of two to three days, from just three patients who were infected originally, a million infections can be caused in around 40 days, and this is probably exactly what happened in 1918-1919," Professor Oxford and Douglas Gill, a military historian, conclude in their paper.

Read more: How Vaccines And Vigilance Could Have Stopped The Worst Pandemic Of Modern Times


61273959 10156324641797546 469996364235800576 oStaff members and volunteers of the United States World War I Centennial Commission helped spread the word about the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC during Fleet Week NY 2019. (from left) Margaret Frontera, NJ American Legion Post 136; Kathy Abbott, WWICC staff; Lindsey Mulholland & Alex Hasni, United War Veterans Council (UWVC)' Ernesto G Diaz USMC 1st SGT (Ret.) & War Veterans Council.

2019 Fleet Week New York is a Wrap! 

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

2019 Fleet Week New York is one for the books. Now in its 31st year, FWNY is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services. It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services.

This year was unique in that Fleet Week New York was also a celebration of a tradition of service. Fleet Week 2019 had a special World War I theme, an as such, included a number of activities -- concerts, exhibits, events, ceremonies, etc. -- to tell the story of World War I, and remember its heroes.

Five U.S. Navy ships, one Royal Canadian Navy vessel and one Military Sealift Command ship participated in 2019 Fleet Week New York, and more than 51,000 people visited the Navy and Coast Guard ships during the weeklong event.

There, they were treated to displays and interactions with teams of Centennial Commission Living History experts, in World War I period uniforms, with period gear. They also learned about World War I genealogy, and were given free opportunities to start their research. Visitors to the ships' piers also learned about our new National World War I Memorial in Washington DC, and how to support it.

Read more: 2019 Fleet Week New York is a Wrap!


USSSanDiego1 Eureka Times StandardThe U.S WWI Centennial Commission unveils a new memorial plaque honoring the crew of the U.S. Navy WWI heavy cruiser USS San Diego during Fleet Week New York. The plaque honors the USS San Diego, which was sunk by enemy action off the coast of New York’s Fire Island over a hundred years ago, and the six U.S. Navy sailors who were lost in the tragedy. A Blue Lake resident was among those honored. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)  

Blue Lake man who died in World War I honored in New York’s Fleet Week 

By Dan Squier
via the Eureka Times-Standard newspaper (CA) web site

The story of how a Humboldt County native’s name, alongside those of five other U.S. Navy sailors, ended up on a memorial plaque in New York City on Tuesday begins in 1918 — the final year of World War I.

In July of that year a mine laid by a German U-boat off the coast of Fire Island, New York, detonated against the hull of the USS San Diego. Within 30 minutes, the armored cruiser launched from the Union Iron Works shipyard in San Francisco in 1904 under its original name, the USS California, had flipped over and sunk beneath the Atlantic waves. The ship came to rest upside down on the seafloor.

One of the sailors who perished that summer day in 1918 was 24-year-old Blue Lake native James F. Rochat, born in 1894 to George and Catharine Rochat in Humboldt County. According to historical records from the Naval History and Heritage Command, Rochat died instantly in the explosion. The cruiser was the only capital ship the Navy lost in WWI.

“The ship was a heavy armored cruiser and it still only took 28 minutes for her to go down,” said Chris Isleib, director of public affairs for the WWI Centennial Commission, the organization that organized the commemoration of the San Diego at Fleet Week in New York City. “One of the first things the San Diego was involved in was the mission of the Navy to transport troops to Europe in convoys. In less than a year, the Americans were able to deliver nearly two million troops from our eastern shores to France. You’re talking about U-boat infested waters. The Germans had almost 400 U-boats out there.”

Read more: Blue Lake man who died in World War I honored in New York’s Fleet Week


NE corner entrySet within a historic modern urban park, the memorial will activate an underutilized space in downtown D.C.

National WWI Memorial moves ahead with Pershing Park plan

By Sydney Franklin
via the The Architect's Newspaper (NY) web site

Years ago, Frank Gehry asked sculptor Sabin Howard to help him design a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C. Though the job didn’t pan out for “stylistic reasons,” Howard said, it planted the seed that grew his interest in creating commemorative spaces.

“I proved to have too much of an opinion,” Howard told AN. “I said to Frank, ‘Look, do you want me to be your in-house sculptor or you want me to tell you what I really think?’ He goes, ‘Shoot,” and I said, “Well it looks like you designed the Natural History Museum here.”

Had he taken the job, Howard would have been engulfed in what’s turned out to be a two-decade-long controversial battle to get the memorial built ahead of the 2020 Victory in Europe Day. While he didn’t end up on this monumental project in the nation’s capital, he did venture into the complexities of another.

This spring, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) approved Howard’s sculptural contribution to the upcoming National WWI Memorial in Pershing Park, a 1.76-acre landscape set along Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. Designed by Joseph Weishaar, “The Weight of Sacrifice” is the result of another two-decade controversial effort to pay tribute to an often overlooked period of history. A Soldier’s Journey, Howard’s massive, 60-foot-long, 10-foot-high bronze figure sculpture, will be the centerpiece of the renovated landscape, and a major component of the project that took years for preservationists and the U.S. government to sign off on.

“As an entire team, we struggled with the urban context at the beginning,” said Weishaar, who was selected for the project just a few years after graduating from the University of Arkansas’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design in 2013. “Where do you draw the boundaries between urban park and memorial?”

Read more: National WWI Memorial moves ahead with Pershing Park plan


Crew of new Navy ship, USS Kansas City, WW1CC Commissioners, in attendance at Memorial Day ceremonies at the National WWI Museum & Memorial 

By Sean McDowell
via the foxkc4.com web site (Kansas City, MO)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There was a suitable celebration amid the metro's observance of Memorial Day.

Crew members from a brand new U.S. Navy ship, the USS Kansas City, paid their respects at Monday's public ceremonies at Liberty Memorial.

It`s always a sacred time when thankful Kansas Citians gather to thank their military heroes. However, this year's gathering was unique. This year's guests of honor included the crew of the forthcoming USS Kansas City, a U.S. Navy vessel that`s due to be commissioned next year.

"Dear Lord, hear our prayer for all who have died," one speaker at Monday's ceremony said in a prayer for mercy for suffering families.

Within those solemn seconds, there was reserved excitement concerning the USS Kansas City, a new breed of Navy warship capable of traveling at high rates of speed while still transporting personnel and equipment.

Read more: Crew of new Navy ship, USS Kansas City, WW1CC Commissioners, in attendance at Memorial Day...


Private Compton: My Experiences in the World War  

"America had a big part in bringing the war to an end"

By Wendy Yessler
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

A century has passed since the Great War was fought. This is a never-before-published, first-hand account, written and compiled by my great grandfather, Paul L. Compton. His narrative brings events to life from a perspective of one who was actually there. Beginning with training at Camp Hancock, Georgia, he carries you through the voyage to Europe, the war, and then the return home to the welcoming parades.

CoverWendy YesslerWendy YesslerNot only does his writing bring the events of the war to life, but his personality adds some lightheartedness and humor to an otherwise difficult topic. It's an enjoyable read, making you feel as if you are by his side and participating, as he retells the events. The reader is left with a sense of being there, as well as making a friendship connection with Paul Compton himself. Included near the end of the book are his poetic reflections and ponderings about various memorials, monuments, and life. These further illustrate the man Paul Compton was.

Over a year ago, my brother gave me a large folder which he explained contained the writings of Paul Compton, our great grandfather. Paul Compton’s granddaughter had given it to my brother. I had the folder for a year and because of busyness with responsibilities, had not been able to read it. I decided I should return it to my brother. I was planning to visit my brother in November while I worked as election support in southern MD. When I was packing, I pulled the “writings” out of the folder and discovered it was a complete manuscript of Paul Compton’s experiences in WW1. At that moment, I knew I could not return it yet. I knew that this needed to be published so that it would be available for others to read.

In January I began scanning his manuscript for the book. I felt keeping his original typed pages was important for the authentic feel of the book. His poetry section contained photos of the memorials and monuments he wrote about, but the copies were extremely dark. I discovered that he had actually used postcards and was able to locate 99% of the ones he had used and inserted fresh copies. The National Archives gave me access to the AEF collection of photos where I searched for photos that would depict things he talked about.

Read more: Paul L Compton: "America had a big part in bringing the war to an end"


Bremerton Memorial 1000Research Elisabeth Demmon librarian uncovered errors on a remembrance stone to veterans of World War I and wants to see all those who died in the war get their due.

Who are the vets on the WWI Bremerton Memorial and why are some missing? 

By Josh Farley
via the Kitsap Sun (WA) newspaper web site

Twenty bronze plaques on a chunk of concrete.

It seemed a simple enough assignment for researcher Elisabeth Demmon as she copied the names of 11 soldiers, five sailors and four Marines off a memorial for those who “fought and died” in World War I at Bremerton’s Evergreen-Rotary Park.

Her mission: learn who these men were.

“I thought it was going to be a straightforward project,” said Demmon, a library research associate at Kitsap Regional Library working on her master’s degree in genealogical studies. “I had no idea what I was in for.”

Close to 100 years after the conflict ended, Demmon’s many months dredging the early 20th century for clues about the 20 men led to some perplexing discoveries and startling inaccuracies. She found not every man from Bremerton who died in the “war to end all wars” is actually listed. And some of those who were immortalized there didn’t die in the war at all. There was even one who would make it through the war and come home only to be murdered by his wife.

“I never knew what I was going to find from one man to the next,” Demmon said. “They were each very unique in so many ways.”

Demmon examined birth certificates, obituaries and stories from the newspapers of the day. Slowly, as she verified and vivified each man’s story, other questions about the memorial itself began to pop up. Who picked these names for the memorial, when did they decide to create the memorial and why?

“To this day, I do not know the criteria used for choosing these men,” she said.

Read more: Who are the vets on the WWI Bremerton Memorial and why are some missing?


polar bears monument 1000A monument for the Polar Bears stands at White Chapel cemetery in Troy. (Photo: David Guralnick, The Detroit News)

'Polar Bear' memorial in Troy marks a largely forgotten GI mission in WWI Russia

By Neal Rubin
via the Detroit News newspaper (MI) web site

Troy — The first 56 who lie buried near the marble statue of the polar bear died in Russia, where their government sent them to fight ghosts when the rest of the world was celebrating the end of the Great War.

The others, though — the ones who bought their burial plots close by, across a pathway from the Polar Bear Monument — were lucky enough to come home. And years later, when so many others had forgotten the sad and sorry story of the Polar Bear Expedition, they made the choice to lie forever near their brothers in shared misery.

The Polar Bears were some 5,000 soldiers of the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces, most of them from Michigan. They fought the Bolsheviks with guns and cannons in Russia's frozen northern reaches for seven deadly months after the November 1918 armistice that ended World War I.

Their mission was unclear, their president reluctant and their weaponry ill-suited for the conditions. Largely forgotten outside Metro Detroit, they were remembered at 11 a.m. Monday, May 27 in the 90th annual WWI Polar Bear Memorial Service in Troy.

Read more: 'Polar Bear' memorial in Troy marks a largely forgotten GI mission in WWI Russia


“The instruments of Destiny”: Reception of Iliad in American Great War Poetry 

By Claire Davis
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

One hundred years from the conclusion of the First World War, much of the classical reception in the war poetry of the early twentieth century remains unexamined. Most notably in this area, Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver’s recent book Stand in the Trench, Achilles challenges the persistent notion that all World War I poets refuted the tradition of their forefathers through her examination of classically-inspired poetry. Partially due to the late entry of the American forces in the First World War and partially because of the decline in classical education across the country, the small pool of American war poetry does not lend itself as easily to analysis, especially when the memory surrounding the First World War in America remains so vague.

Nevertheless, despite these inhibitors, a close reading of American war poetry before and during the First World War reveals that poets and their audience also found meaning and representation in the classical tradition in works such as the Iliad. However, the American classical tradition differentiates itself from its British counterparts by showcasing the nations’ disparate experiences in the war as well as their differing cultural values and self-images.

Liebermann Werner Jaeger 300Werner JaegerOne of the most striking ways that classical tradition impacted British culture was how it bred a type of soldier that viewed their status in society as the product of a legacy based on courtesy and discipline. Werner Jaeger argues in his book Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, that the most famous of classical authors, Homer, “presents the courtesy of his heroes as an absolute value; not as an unimportant background to their life, but as a real factor in their superiority . . . it gives them a special excellence, which they justify both by their grand and noble deeds, and by their blameless conduct in happiness and misery alike.”1 This justification of the elite in Greek culture and later British culture bred young men and women who were fully conscious of their ancestors’ superiority and inspired them to live up to their example. The British societal system perpetuated a widespread demand for knowledge of the classics and its virtues, and since most of the higher officers in the British army were public-school graduates or attendees,2 it was only natural that a major part of the British army be well versed in authors such as Plato or Homer and that a number may later refer to them to better explain their own war-time experiences.

While the classical tradition was not confined to a certain view or treatment, Vandiver finds a few major themes of sacrifice and idealism within British war poetry. She writes that the prevailing conception of the war as more than a struggle between nations put increased pressure on British civilians and soldiers, who were told that they were “defending civilization itself” through their service.3 Britain’s idealistic basis for entering the war elevated the status of the soldier and his combat to extraordinary heights in the contemporary mind to where any man could become a selfless hero and any skirmish the stuff of epic. Portraying the British soldier as an extension of the very culture that he defends is a way to claim and support the tradition to both contemporary and future audiences. Furthermore, the poet fulfills the function of epic poetry by honoring the soldiers for their bravery and thus committing their memory to eternity, which provides the soldier immortal glory, or kleos. By incorporating it into their work, British poets strengthened their nation’s ties to the classical tradition and acknowledged the platform of idealism that surrounded the British perceptions of the war.

Read more: “The instruments of Destiny”: Reception of Iliad in American Great War Poetry


Fox 21 video

Construction Set to Begin on New World War I Memorial in West Duluth 

By Nachai Taylor
via the Fox 21 KQDS television web site (MN)

DULUTH, Minn. – A $60,000 construction project is set to begin in June for a new World War I memorial at Memorial Park to honor more than 20 West Duluth soldiers.

A new concrete surrounding and a flag pole will be installed in the park on the corner of Central and Grand Ave.

The memorial will also pay tribute to over one hundred fifty World War One Gold Stars members.

Duluth Parks and Recreation says the previous memorial resided in the park for one hundred years.

Over time it had become destroyed and pieces have gone missing.

Read more: Construction Set to Begin on New World War I Memorial in West Duluth

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