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World War I Centennial News


Battleship Texas has reopened after divers repaired leaks

By Steve W. Stewart
via the kjas.com web site

593f15e0757d6.imageUSS Texas, last remaining US Navy battleship from WWI, is open again after leak repairs were completed.The Battleship Texas reopened on Saturday after divers last week were able to make underwater repairs to a major leak which filled her hull with water faster than her bilge pumps could evacuate it, and caused her to list 9 degrees to starboard.

Texas Parks & Wildlife, which oversees the 103-year-old warship, noted that leaks are common and occasionally they grow in size. In 1988, the last surviving dreadnought was wrestled from her berth at San Jacinto State Park in LaPorte and she was dry docked in Galveston where her hull underwent complete restoration.

Over the last 30 years, there has been much talk of creating a permanent dry display for the warship with her sitting slightly elevated over a concrete base, allowing visitors to actually walk underneath. The display would protect her from the corrosive brackish water that continuously rusts away her hull.

Plans were drawn up, but it has never gotten beyond that stage due to funding issues.

Commissioned in 1914, the Battleship Texas was at one time the most dangerous weapon in the world and served in both World War I and World War II, and she provided offshore bombardment during the D-Day invasion off the Normandy Coast on June 6th, 1944.

Read more: Battleship Texas has reopened after divers repaired leaks

Golfer Bobby Jones, the Red Cross, and the 1917 U.S. Open that didn't happen

By Alyssa Carter
Staff Writer

One-hundred years ago this week, the 1917 US Open was cancelled due to the recent American involvement in the First World War. Even though he wasn’t playing in the Open, Bobby Jones made some of his most important contributions to the war effort and to the game of golf.

Bobby Jones c1917He often played and traveled with Alexa Stirling and Perry Adair. Through the two years spent touring, Jones earned $150,000, all of which he donated to the war effort.

At the time of the cancellation, Jones was a teenage golf prodigy. In 1916, he had won the inaugural Georgia Amateur Championship at the age of fourteen, earning his first invitation to the U.S. Amateur Tournament at Merion near Philadelphia. He was eliminated from the tournament after the third round, but his level of play greatly impressed the spectators and the golf community as a whole.

Instead of attempting to qualify for the US Open in 1917-18, Jones toured the country playing exhibition matches in front of crowds. These matches were organized by the American Red Cross, and one of the more successful of these events took place in September of 1918. The exhibition was held at Baltusrol Country Club in northern New Jersey.

The night before the event, members of the club raised $2,000 to add to proceeds from the match. The morning of the match--before Jones and his partner, Chick Evans, played against Oswald Kirkby and Max Marston-- a set of golf clubs and the privilege of caddying for one of the players was auctioned off, and this part of the fundraiser combined with the ticket sales made $4,000 dollars total. In 2017 dollars, this is about $50,000. The four-ball match went to hole 16, with Jones and Evans winning 2 and 1.

The donations that Jones made allowed him to famously keep his amateur status. He would never turn pro -- but in 1930, he would win his grand slam by winning the Amateur Championship, Open Championship, US Open, and US Amateur in the same calendar year.

Read more: Golfer Bobby Jones, the Red Cross, and the 1917 U.S. Open that didn't happen

BYU World War One document archive is a national resource

By Alyssa Carter
Staff Writer

Did you know that one of America's most comprehensive university archives on World War I is at Brigham Young University? Richard Hacken is the European Studies Librarian at the BYU campus in Provo, Utah. He was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his work developing their World War I Document Archive. His answers show how he feels about this important work, and how important the contributions from relatives of WWI soldiers are to the expansive and ever-growing archive.

Tell us about your Archive. What is it? What makes if unique/different from the other collections that are out there?

Hacken Richard 300Richard HackenThe World War I Document Archive has been online, growing and developing, for some 22 years now. The late Dr. Lynn Nelson, a digital history pioneer who had been encouraged by Tim Berners-Lee to develop and expand the WWW Virtual Library for History in 1993, approached me about hosting a site for the Great War at Brigham Young University in 1994 or 1995. (He had known me from my efforts to establish EuroDocs, a portal to online primary documents from Europe.)

What connected you with the volunteers from the World War I Military History List?

This World War I Document Archive was, and continues to be, to be a collaboration of the World War I Military History List (WWI-L). My particular emphases have been on developing the Diaries, Memorials and Personal Reminiscences, on the one hand, and a page linking various topical and geographical aspects of the Great War, on the other. As may be expected in such a collaboration, certain elements of the site are better developed than others. Of particular help have been separately maintained pages on the Maritime War, the Medical Front, and an Image Archive. One disappointment to me was the establishment of a parallel site that has developed separately for the past 12 years or so.

For approximately the first decade of its existence, the World War I Document Archive was an html site. Then, in order to facilitate easier participation of volunteers, I converted it to a wiki. Counting both formats, we have had roughly 30 million virtual visits since the archive's beginnings.

What is the most common submission that comes into the archive?

The most common submissions submitted to the site are diaries and other personal memorabilia. In cases where only physical materials were donated, we have from time to time digitized materials here. The section on diaries is augmented by links to previously established books, articles and other materials in the public domain.

Read more: BYU World War One document archive is a national resource

The Real Story of WWI Poison Gas in 'Wonder Woman'

By David Hambling
via the Popular Mechanics web site

When Diana leaves the secret island of the Amazons in the new DC movie Wonder Woman, she finds herself racing to end "the war to end all wars." That means Gal Gadot's superhero is doing battle against not only mythological forces of evil, but also the technological forces of destruction that defined WWI: warplanes, machine guns, and most importantly to the plot of the movie, poison gas.

Wonder Woman still Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman in the superhero movie set in World War I.Chemical warfare plays a key role in Wonder Woman, and while DC Comics may not be the obvious source to look for factual accuracy about military history, the movie's take on toxic weapons is more realistic than the usual Unobtainium-powered McGuffin you'd find in a superhero movie.

Here's everything you need to know about Wonder Woman's take on war history, and whether the villain's superweapon really could have been true.

Chemical Warfare

Gas was intended to win the war. On that much Wonder Woman is absolutely right.

In the film, the evil German general sees his extra-deadly super-gas as the way to strike a decisive, deadly blow against the British. In real life, barbed wire and machine guns had brought the ground war to a stalemate of trench warfare, and it was up to the scientists and engineers to find a solution. The resulting burst of inventiveness actually yielded some good things—inventions like synthetic rubber and ultrasound. But it also brought new, horrible forms of destruction, including lethal gases and the strategic bombing of civilian targets.

Gas warfare had been around in some form since ancient times. People used smoke to drive out enemies from inside tunnels or caves, and the addition of arsenic or sulfur to the burning material made the smoke that much more effective. These weapons were ineffective out in the open, though.

Read more: The Real Story of WWI Poison Gas in 'Wonder Woman'

Five new names added to roll of Aggies lost in World War One

By John Blair and Greg Bailey
via the Texas A&M Today web site

TAMU WWI MemorialThe WWI War Memorial on the plaza adjacent to the Corps Arches at the front of the Quad on the campus of Texas A&M.Texas A&M University has long recognized the loss of 55 former students in the First World War, but recent research by members of the Brazos County World War I Centennial Committee has uncovered five additional students who died during the conflict, but whose names have never been included on any memorial. They include John W. Butts ’10 and Ira W. South ’17, both of Austin, Texas; Hubert R. Florence ’11 of Leesburg, Texas; Joseph Z. Sawyer ’16 of Clarendon, Texas; and George W. Splawn ’17 of Greenwood, Texas.

The Centennial of the First World War for the United States officially began on April 6 of this year—the day war was declared against Germany in 1917. Nearly five million Americans served with over 116,000 losing their lives. An armistice was announced for November 11, 1918; yet, the war did not officially end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.

The Association of Former Students verified the men’s attendance at the university. Butt’s name surfaced during a research project concerning the Memorial Trees planted on the Simpson Drill Field. He was originally considered, but for some reason was discounted. An inquiry into why that occurred prompted further research on each case of the previously confirmed 55 students to determine what criteria was used at the time to classify them as “Gold Star” Aggies.

In 1918, a service flag, approximately 12 feet by 10 feet, was crafted by the university to honor all former students who were in service during the war. A maroon star identified that service, but the flag also featured 50 gold stars for those who had lost their lives.

The committee felt that Butts should have been included because he was killed in an airplane accident one month prior to Jesse Easterwood’s death, who is a Gold Star Aggie.

Read more: Five New Names Added To Roll Of Aggies Lost In World War One

CeremonyAs part of a June 14, 2017 twilight tattoo event at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., held on honor of the Army's 242nd birthday, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, left, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, present a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for Army Capt. James E. Miller to Miller's great grandson, Byron Derringer, center. Miller served as a pilot during World War I, and was the first combat aviation casualty of the war. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Trevor Wiegel)

First fallen aviator of World War I honored with Distinguished Flying Cross

By C. Todd Lopez
via the army.mil web site

Capt. James E. Miller, one of the first aviators in the U.S. military and the first U.S. aviation casualty in World War I, has been named recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross more than 99 years after his heroic actions over France in 1918.

On the 242nd birthday of the U.S. Army, during a twilight tattoo ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer presented the Distinguished Flying Cross to Miller's great-grandson, Byron Derringer.

MillerCapt. James MillerWe're very proud today to have some of the descendants from James Miller's family here and able to represent him and a lineage of what he achieved on those battlefields as the first individual who gave his life in that war in aviation," Speer said.

The presentation of the Cross to a WWI Soldier is significant, given that the theme for this year's Army birthday is "Over There! A celebration of the WWI Soldier."

"This is the 100th anniversary of World War I," Speer said. "And it's the 242nd birthday of our Army. But 100 years ago, there were significant changes in terms of the character of war. You had at that time, for the first time, the Army going off to war in foreign lands with our allies, fighting side-by-side with our allies, and representing the United States -- which placed the United States into a significant leadership role in the world."

Speer said several aspects of warfare changed during WWI, including the development of armor units and precision artillery. One of the most significant developments, however, was that the U.S. military had "aviation for the first time as part of the U.S. Army Air Corps," he said.

"We have a privilege today to be able to recognize not only the heraldry of our total 242 years but also that point and time, where we recognize, late, a Distinguished Flying Cross for an American hero," said Speer.

As a Soldier in World War I, Miller was one of the first to make use of new aviation technology. The captain took command of the 95th Pursuit Squadron on Feb. 10, 1918 -- just 10 months after the United States declared war on Germany. The men in the squadron were the first American-trained pilots to fight in the war.

Read more: First fallen aviator of World War I honored with Distinguished Flying Cross

Army aviator hero honored with Distinguished Flying Cross 99 years later

By Charlsy Panzino
via the Army Times web site

James MillerJames MillerThe Army this week posthumously awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross to the first U.S. aviation casualty in World War I, according to an Army news release.

Capt. James Miller, one of the first aviators in the U.S. military, took command of the 95th Pursuit Squadron in February 1918 in France. The pilots in this squadron were the first American-trained pilots to fight in World War I.

Miller and a fellow pilot flew into enemy territory a month later and fought off two German aircraft, according to the release. The other pilot experienced trouble with his machine gun and had to leave Miller to fight on his own.

The Distinguished Flying Cross citation said Miller “fearlessly” exposed himself to the enemy “until his own aircraft was severely damaged and downed behind the German lines.”

Read more: Army aviator honored with Distinguished Flying Cross 99 years later

The History of the WWI Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay 

By Cynthia Houston
via the SpinSheet web site

Forty miles south of Washington, DC, off of Maryland’s Charles County shoreline near a little town named Nanjemoy, the weather- and water-beaten remains of more than two hundred ships lie in their final resting places in the shallow waters of the Potomac River’s Mallows Bay. “Mallows Bay is the richest marine heritage site in the United States,” according to Samuel Orlando, Chesapeake Bay Regional Coordinator at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) office of National Maritime Sanctuaries. “In addition to being reflective of America’s emergence as a naval superpower during World War I, the Ghost Fleet provides the structure for a unique marine ecosystem.”

Mallows Bay photo by Don ShometteMallows Bay (NOAA photo by Don Shomette)In November of 2015, the emergent and submerged vessels of this Ghost Fleet, the largest shipwrecked fleet in the Western Hemisphere, were nominated as a candidate to become part of a national “underwater park” system of 13 national marine sanctuaries which encompasses more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System protects unique water habitats and is home to diverse aquatic ecosystems ranging from kelp forests to coral reefs to the playgrounds of humpback whales. Pending the results of current public outreach soliciting input on four alternatives, the Mallows Bay-Potomac River Sanctuary would become the 14th National Marine Sanctuary under NOAA’s care.

If you’re concerned that there was a Battle of Mallows Bay on American soil during WWI that sunk hundreds of ships, and that you’ve somehow gravely overlooked a key event in U.S. history, fret not. The origins of the Ghost Fleet may have its roots in America’s burgeoning war effort, but it was largely the industrial complex and economy that grew out of World War I that led to the fleet’s demise.

Read more: The History of the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

Battleship Texas closed after sprouting new leak

By Ray Bogan
via the foxnews.com web site

Crews are working to repair major leaks and stop flooding on board the historic Battleship Texas in Houston. As a result, the site is closed to the public until further notice.

The ship is constantly leaking and a system of pumps are in place to push out the water, according to Bill Erwin, Superintendent for San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.

USS TexasUSS Texas, last remaining US Navy battleship from WWI.But a new six-by-eight-inch hole in the blister tank let in a substantial amount of water that the current pump system could not control. The extra water caused the ship to list six degrees to the starboard or to the right.

Texas Parks and Wildlife hired a contractor who installed additional pumps and put divers in the water to find and patch the hole. As of 9:30 local time Monday morning, the hole was fixed and crews were working to get the pumps operating again.

“We’re going to be working on this with our contractors until we come to a resolution and get the ship righted,” said Erwin. He believes there was another leak in the ship and divers are scheduled to get back in the water and check the hull again.

Ballard praised the students for leading the effort to have the memorial back on public display.

Battleship Texas took part in some of the most significant battles in both World Wars. At the time she was built in 1914, she was the most powerful weapon in the world according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. USS Texas was the first ship to have anti-aircraft guns and was one of the first to have radar installed in 1939. She was decommissioned in 1948 and became a memorial ship.

Read more: Battleship Texas closed after sprouting new leak

How the U.S. decided to send millions of troops into World War I

By Erick Trickey
via the Smithsonian.com web site

U.S. General John J. Pershing, newly arrived in France, visited his counterpart, French general Philippe Pétain, with a sobering message on June 16, 1917. It had been two months since the U.S. entered World War I, but Pershing, newly appointed to command the American Expeditionary Force in France, had hardly any troops to deploy. The United States, Pershing told Pétain, wouldn’t have enough soldiers to make a difference in France until spring 1918.

ap 134334552346 11U.S. Army General John J. Pershing, center, inspects French troops at Boulogne, France on June 13, 1917.“I hope it is not too late,” the general replied.

Tens of thousands of Parisians had thronged the streets to cheer Pershing on his June 13 arrival. Women climbed onto the cars in his motorcade, shouting, “Vive l’Amérique!” The French, after three years of war with Germany, were desperate for the United States to save them.

Now Pétain told Pershing that French army was near collapse. A million French soldiers had been killed in trench warfare. Robert-Georges Nivelle’s failed April offensive against the German line in northern France had caused 120,000 French casualties. After that, 750,000 soldiers mutinied, refusing to go to the front line. Pétain, who replaced Nivelle in May, had kept the army together by granting some of the soldiers’ demands for better food and living conditions and leave to see their families. But the French were in no condition to launch any more offensives. “We must wait for the Americans,” Pétain told Pershing.

But the United States wasn’t ready to fight. It had declared war in April 1917 with only a small standing army. Pershing arrived in France just four weeks after the Selective Service Act authorized a draft of at least 500,000 men. Though President Woodrow Wilson intended to send troops to France, there was no consensus on how many. “The more serious the situation in France,” Pershing wrote in his 1931 memoir, My Experiences in the World War, “the more deplorable the loss of time by our inaction at home appeared.”

Read more: How the U.S. Decided to Send Millions of Troops Into World War I

Why the Wonder Woman movie had to be set in World War I

By Claire McBride
via the SyfyWire web site

Like her fellow star-spangled superhuman Captain America, Wonder Woman has always been closely and explicitly associated with World War II. In her 1941 debut in All Star Comics #8, Diana is specifically sent by her mother Queen Hippolyta into Man's World to help Steve Trevor fight the Nazis.

Wonder WomanStill from the Wonder Woman movie set in World War I.For much of the decade-long run of Sensation Comics, the anthology series Wonder Woman more or less anchored, she fought alongside Steve Trevor (with the occasional help of Etta Candy and her sorority) against Nazi villainesses like Doctor Poison and Baroness Paula von Gunther.

Throughout the years, there have been some attempts to update Wonder Woman for the modern day. Some are more straightforward, like just introducing the concept of pants. Others have been just bizarre, like that time Diana gave up her powers to run a mod boutique and learn kung fu. (Oh yeah.) But despite her immortality, her origin story is so rooted in World War II that there's always a whiff of that time period about her.

So when it was announced that the first Wonder Woman feature film would be set against the backdrop of World War I, I had to double-check to make sure that there wasn't a numeral missing. At the time, I lacked all faith in the DC Extended Universe, having born witness to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so I, quite uncharitably, assumed it was Warner Brothers trying to unsubtly stand out from the competition by using World War I as decorative wallpaper.

I'm very happy to report that I was wrong. Not only is Wonder Woman superior to Batman v Superman in every respect, it also uses its World War I setting thoughtfully and cohesively as an integral part of the story.

Read more: Why Wonder Woman had to be set in World War I

World War I memorial rededicated at Orleans County Courthouse

By Tom Rivers
via the OrleansHub.com web site

Orleans NY plaqueALBION, NY – A Bronze tablet listing the names of 24 soldiers from Orleans County who died in World War I was rededicated Friday, June 9 at the County Courthouse.

Tim Archer, the service learning teacher at Albion, addresses a crowd during the dedication program at the courthouse. The marker was originally installed at the courthouse but was removed, and later was in possession of the American Legion. That veterans group formed when soldiers returned from World War I nearly 100 years ago.

The American Legion in Albion group sold its post building on Main Street to Community Action, and relocated to the former Scottish Pines golf course on Gaines Basin Road.

The Legion wanted to find a proper home for the memorial tablet, and reached out to Archer. His seventh grade students were doing research on local soldiers involved in World War I. The memorial tablet had been in storage.

The 3-by-5-foot plaque lists the names of soldiers from central Orleans – Barre, Albion, Gaines and Carlton – who died in the war. They include: John D. Arnett, Albert Beary, Jesse S. Brooks, John A. Butler, Leo. F. Christopher, Oliver E. Clement, Ronald F. Corey, Robert B. Densmore, Harry H. Dibley, Frederick Green, John Kurzawski, Martin Larwood, Louis Monacelli, Dewey Mott, Benjamin A. Needles, Leonard Osborne, Adolfo Passarelli, Stanley Rutkowski, James A. Sheret, Egbert Sheret, John H. Stevens, Alexander Wilson and Stanley P. Zyglarski.

“These men witnessed what no citizen, man, woman, or child, could ever imagine,” said County Historian Matthew Ballard. “A war that raged in the French countryside thousands of miles from home, exposing men to terrible disease, horrific weapons, chlorine and mustard gas, barbed wire and trenches, the list goes on.”

Seventh-grader Aurora Serafin was among the speakers during the rededication program.  The Albion students had considered having the tablet placed at Mount Albion Cemetery, but decided the best spot for it would be its original location at the courthouse.

Ballard praised the students for leading the effort to have the memorial back on public display.

Read more: World War I memorial rededicated at County Courthouse

A Fighting Chance for Veterans: The Catholic Church, Catholic University, and World War I

By Paul Burgholzer
Staff Writer

World War I took place at a time when there were few of the official channels of support for our military members and veterans that we have today – there was no Department of Veteran Affairs, there was no GI Bill, there were only a handful of organized Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) to advocate for veterans. Benefits and treatments afforded to Great War veterans were limited.

National Catholic War CouncilThe hierarchy meeting that founded the National Catholic War Council However, there was enormous emotional support for the troops. As the United States entered World War I, public support for the war and for the military was very high.

Catholic Americans, and major Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus, joined the support effort and displayed spirited patriotism. One leader of that effort was John J. Burke (1875–1936).

Burke was a prominent Paulist priest in the United States, and editor of the widely-read Catholic World newspaper from 1903 to 1922. Burke saw a leadership role for the church, in helping the lives of the military members, as well as the lives of those veterans who were returning home.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the US followed Father Burke’s vision. They reacted to this American patriotism by creating the National Catholic War Council. This council helped Catholics unite through American nationalism. The Council managed 700 Catholic organizations that contributed to the war effort, supported the creation of student army training camps, and even helped with efforts to get women involved in the war.

Read more: A Fighting Chance for Veterans: The Catholic Church, Catholic University, and World War I

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