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World War I Centennial News



maker key splitU.S. Army Private 1st Class Raymond W. Maker, left, and the key he says he took from Verdun, France, around the end of World War I. His grandson, Bruce Norton, went to France last November to return the key back to the town.

World War I centennial: US author honors grandfather by returning key taken from France 100 years ago 

By Greg Norman
via the Fox News web site

One hundred years ago on this date, U.S. Army Private 1st Class Raymond W. Maker wrote in his diary “today is one of the happiest days of my life."

“The War is off, thank God. And all the boys have gone about half mad with joy. Bands are playing all day and at night all kinds of flares in the sky,” he beamed, capturing the relief felt among Allied forces as World War I officially came to an end.

It was a thrilling moment for Maker who, during the war, had been hit with mustard gas from the German army, wounded by artillery fire during the Muese-Argonne offensive – the deadliest battle in U.S. military history – and later went on to earn a Purple Heart for his service.

A century later, on Veterans Day 2018 – marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended The Great War – his grandson, Bruce Norton, was in France retracing Maker’s footsteps and honoring him by returning a key his grandfather took during the war. Norton joined the many Americans remembering the heroics of family members from generations past.

“My grandfather never spoke about the war to me, and it was only after his death that war stories were told at family gatherings about his service in France,” Norton, a former Marine and military author who is writing a book about Maker’s service, told Fox News.

Read more: World War I centennial: US author honors grandfather by returning key taken from France 100 years...


MTJXX3UXDQI6TGQW3RKR5JNEHMFrom left, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Italian Council President Vittorio Orlando, French Council President Georges Clemenceau and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attend the opening day of the Conference for Peace in Paris on Jan. 19, 1919. (AFP/Getty Images) 

Learning the wrong lessons from World War I?

By Gabriel Glickman
via the Washington Post newspaper web site

This week, we celebrate peace, notably, the centennial of the peace treaty that brought an end to the First World War. The average person today may take this for granted: We live during an era in which war and violence are no longer celebrated. But this progress is a double-edged sword because the lack of large-scale war, combined with weariness from almost two decades of continuous American deployment to the Middle East, makes us numb to the roads that can lead to a larger conflagration.

Because we are transitioning toward a more competitive and perilous international order, today should also be an occasion to reflect on the cause of a war that sucked in established and aspiring powers alike during a time of peace. After all, it is much better to learn from war than to live through it.

With more than 30,000 accounts of the war written in the English language, World War I has commanded the attention of scholars and politicians since it ended. They have asked the question: What brought those nations into such a devastating conflict? What lessons can we learn from it to stop future localized crises from spinning out of control?

The most popular description of it is that it was an “accidental war.” This argument posits that political leaders absent-mindedly slid into war without realizing the magnitude of the risk they were taking. New archival evidence has shown a more disturbing truth that historical figures were making decisions with their eyes wide open.

This is the pressing lesson we need to understand now. Great-power rivalry can dangerously affect decision-making during a time of peace. In the words of Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan, “National rivalries fueled an arms race which in turn deepened insecurities and so added yet more impetus to the race. Nations looked for allies to make up for their own weaknesses and their decisions help to bring Europe closer to war.”

This happened in four ways. First was the rivalry between Germany and Great Britain. From the turn of the 20th century, the two were locked in an economic competition and an arms race for naval supremacy. By 1913, leaders in both countries announced that the rivalry was at an end, but the dynamic seemed to persist. On the eve of the war, neither appeared willing to tolerate the other’s dominance.

Read more: Learning the wrong lessons from World War I?

Five Questions for Michael Polston, Arkansas Great War Letters Project

"Reading such letters makes the events of the past real." 

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

Michael Polston has a remarkable story to tell. Curator of a history museum in Central Arkansas, part of Cabot Public Schools, he saw a raw opportunity to do something unique to mark the World War I Centennial period, something that would be immediate, accessible, relevant, and that would have value that would last long into the future. This project was a "Letters" project. He is better at explaining, and his journey to success with it is quite unique. Michael took some time to tell us about it.

Tell us about the Arkansas Great War Letter Project. What is it? What will people find at the site? How is it organized?

The Arkansas Historical Association called it “one of the most valuable of the efforts marking the centennial.”

The project is a website of posted letters written by Arkansas soldiers published in the state’s local newspapers during the war.

Michael PolstonMichael PolstonThese letters are transcribed from those newspapers. At present there are over 2600 letters on the site. What a researcher will find are transcribed letters written by Arkansas soldiers. The letters are transcribed exactly as they are found in the newspaper. No corrections have been made by the transcriber. Many of the letters have brief biographical information in the notes at the bottom of the letter.

The site is fairly easy to navigate. You click on the Browse Letters at the top of the home page. That click will take you to a list of the 75 Arkansas counties. Click on any of those counties and it will take you to an alphabetized list of soldiers. It is important to note that there are also some letters from Arkansas nurses. Click on the name and a letter or letters written by that person will appear. The project is a work in progress and all counties don’t’ have letters. Some may never have letters due to the fact that many wartime newspapers no longer exist.

There are letters written by Benton County Arkansas Ace Field Kindley, US Treasury Secretary from Craighead County John Snyder and a letter written by I. D. Ashcraft mentioning Ray Cash, the father of the famous musician Johnny Cash in Cleveland County.

The most letters posted by any one soldier is that of Wyric Lewis in Benton County. About 60 of his letters are posted.

How did the project get started? Whose idea was it? How did the research process work? How did it grow? Who helped you to build it, and to expand it.

In a round about way this began back in the 1980s. I was doing research on the role of Arkansas in WWI and discovered that many of the local newspapers published soldier letters. I put the discovery away for about 30 years.

When the Centennial came around I revisited the letters. Now with the internet I thought what a great project it would be to put the letters online. They are pretty much a pain to access in their present form in the newspapers. Very time consuming to look up. I pitched the idea of a website to a couple of organizations, who thought it was a great idea but offered no help.

Read more: Arkansas Great War Letters Project

Five Questions with the Tattooed Historian, John Heckman

"It is not only one generation who may forget its history, it is an entire society."

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

The world of World War I historians has no voice more unique than John Heckman. Also known as the Tattooed Historian, John has had long experience with teaching, and creating Living History impressions for other genres, including the Civil War, before he started to really devote his maximum efforts to World War I. John is very active online, hosting successful a Podcast series, Twitter, and Facebook social media accounts. John's take on history is very fresh -- he brings modern sensibility, personal viewpoint, and soldier-level context, to his interpretation of historical topics. John has also been a great friend and partner to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, participating in several of our key events, including parades, commemorations, and the design rollout of the National World War I Memorial in Washington DC. John can be found online at:

You have an education background, and have been doing Living-History for decades. Tell us your thoughts about 'Living History'. What can a reenactor's impression get across to people that other forms of education cannot? What does it bring to the milieu?

John HeckmanJohn Heckman,AKA the Tattooed Historian, giving a battlefield tour.Living history, when done correctly, is a beautiful tool to educate all people, regardless of backgrounds. What do I mean by "correctly?" What I mean is that your history can be footnoted; it can be found within the pages of primary or secondary sources. To truly connect with the past and the viewing public, an interpreter must be passionate about getting it right. When the pieces of this puzzle come together, it provides an invaluable educational tool to work in tandem with a historical site, non-profit, or school setting.

Tell us about your background, and you work in this world of Living-History. Tell us about the impressions that you have developed. Tell us about how you generally got interested in history, in the first place. Tell us what drew you to the world of World War I.

I became interested in history at a very young age. I was around eight years old when I started reading books by Bruce Catton on the American Civil War. I would shut myself inside my room for hours and read. It was an escape mechanism due to growing up in a broken home. History also allowed me to live other lives through the pages of text when it seemed like my own life was a little rough. I finally started doing living histories at the age of twelve. My grandparents would take me to events so I could take part in them. Growing up in southcentral Pennsylvania, it was obvious that I would get lured into the Civil War hobby. And at the age of twelve, I found myself on an artillery crew, working an original twelve-pound howitzer. I was immediately hooked. It was my escape, my therapy. I could live another life for a weekend and so it made me want to dive deeper into the research and provide the best programming I could.

Read more: Five Questions with the Tattooed Historian, John Heckman


Versailles symposiumPanelists discuss “The Treaty of Versailles: 100 years later”, at an education symposium at France's Palace of Versailles, on the 100th anniversary of the Treaty that ended WWI. The special symposium brought together major historians and students from universities in France and the United States.A video version of the symposium be available for free, online, at (Caption by Chris Isleib, Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission.)

Events in France, Online Exhibition Mark the Centennial of the Treaty of Versailles

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

VERSAILLES, FRANCE July 29, 2019 — Yesterday brought remembrance, commemoration, and education to Versailles France, as historical organizations honored the 100th Anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles. The first of the Paris Peace Treaties, the Treaty of Versailles officially, effectively, ended World War I.

Presenting sponsor, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, worked with the National WWI Museum and Memorial, National History Day, and with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to create a series of activities that were hosted by the legendary Palace of Versailles, where the Treaty was signed a century ago.

There were several parts to the commemoration, including a day-long educational symposium, the rollout of a special online digital exhibition, a wreath remembrance ceremony, and a fundraising reception to benefit the new National World War I Memorial in Washington DC.

The education symposium brought together major World War I historians, and students from universities in France and the United States, and gave them opportunity to discuss and explore the long term impacts from the Treaty. A video version of the symposium be available for free, online, at the Centennial Commission website

The online historical exhibition, titled “The Rise of Giving: American Philanthropy and World War I”, highlights the extraordinary achievements of American volunteers and philanthropists during and after World War I in Europe. It is also free, and can be found on the website of the National WWI Museum and Memorial, at

Read more: Events in France, Online Exhibition Mark the Centennial of the Treaty of Versailles l

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Spotlight on the Media: An Interview with
WWrite Blog Curator Dr. Jennifer Orth-Veillon

CN PodcastLogo Final gray lower

In June 28th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 129, host Theo Mayer interviewed Dr. Jennifer Orth-Veillon. Dr. Orth-Veillon is a writer, researcher, and war literature expert who has curated the Commission's WWrite blog for the past several years. Read on to learn more about how World War I changed writing and literature forever. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

Theo Mayer: Jennifer Orth VeillonDr. Jennifer Orth-Veillon is a writer, researcher, and war literature expertSo much has happened during this WWI centennial period and as the U S WWI Centennial Commission was reaching its stride in organizing the centennial of WWI, we started to explore and question the common perceptions of WWI. We realize that common references like the "forgotten war" or the "great war" were anachronistic. These were no longer fit descriptions. After all, people were beginning to remember WWI all over. And the "great war" was a term that was assigned before an even larger global conflict followed. So as the centennial was shedding a new light on the subject, a new reference was suggested to us by one of our wonderful communication advisors, Robert Glens, an ad industry legend. He suggested that we begin to refer to WWI as "the war that changed the world." Now, words are powerful and as we started to live with this new reference, it acted as a catalyst causing a new perspective and reexamination of how WWI changed the world.

All of that leads us to today's interview with Dr. Jennifer Orth-Vellion, who has masterfully curated a very special section of our website since December of 2016 called the WWrite blog. That's w-w-r-i-t-e. The blog is self-described as exploring WWI's influence on contemporary writing and scholarship and has earned a loyal following of over 30,000 avid readers. Dr Orth-Veillon holds a Ph.D. In comparative literature from Emory University, lives in France, and besides her own contribution, has pulled together thoughtful, interesting and provocative articles from a who's who of thinkers and writers to help us understand how the war that changed the world changed the nature of literature, art and film in the 20th and 21st centuries. Jennifer, it's not only a pleasure to have you on the show, but it's also been my pleasure and privilege to work with you over these past two and a half years. Welcome to the podcast.

J. Orth-Veillon: Thank you very much Theo, and it's also been a pleasure to work with you and with the other members of the commission.

Read more: Podcast Article - Spotlight on the media with Dr. Orth-Veillon


wwi exhibit 12 A glass case allows visitors to view the photographs and their handwritten narratives on the reverse side.

WWI Exhibit Showcases 100-Year-Old Portraits Of Cincinnatians At War 

By Tana Weingartner
via the Cincinnati Public Radio (OH) web site

The Cincinnati Museum Center is marking the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I with an exposition featuring images not displayed since 1919.

Until We Meet Again: Cincinnati Portraits from World War I features photographs of servicemen and women, uniforms and flags that were part of a December 1918 Allied Governments War Exposition at Music Hall.

The Expo ran for nine days and drew 164,000 people, says Jim DaMico, curator of audio visual collections at the museum center.

"One of the components of the Exposition was a local call to family members to lend photographs of their loved ones in service, so there were approximately 6,000 photographs on display. You can tell on a lot of the photographs because there's still the pinholes from that time. The last time they were displayed was in 1919," DaMico explains.

Afterward, organizers asked families to donate the images to the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio - which would later become the Cincinnati History Library & Archives - and 2,625 photographs were sent.

Read more: WWI Exhibit Showcases 100-Year-Old Portraits Of Cincinnatians At War


Was the Treaty of Versailles a Victory for Democracy? 

By Ted Widmer
via the New York Times newspaper web site

June 28, 1919, dawned as a beautiful day; fair, with moderate winds, according to The New York Times. It was a perfect day to see a baseball game, and 28,000 did, going to the Polo Grounds to watch the Yankees and Red Sox split a doubleheader. New Yorkers could only envy the Red Sox, who had won the last World Series, and seemed poised to win many more, since they boasted “the mighty Babe Ruth, Boston’s swatting all-around player.”

It was hard to believe on this sunny day, but it had been precisely five years since World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Since then, nearly 20 million had died, and entire empires, including Franz Ferdinand’s, had vanished. But those painful memories were softened by the knowledge that nothing so terrible could ever happen again. Because June 28 was the day that a new history would begin.

Across the Atlantic, outside Paris, another huge crowd thronged the old royal seat of Versailles, where a peace treaty awaited signature. It was the culmination of months of work, led by the American president, Woodrow Wilson, who had promised to make the world safe for democracy.

The immense chateau was an unlikely backdrop for a democratic pageant. But like a versatile actress, it was ready to play this demanding new part. Auspiciously, the treaties that recognized the United States were signed here in 1783, validating the idea that one people, at least, might dare to govern itself. Less auspiciously, democracy had surged out of control during the French Revolution, when the proud buildings were stripped of their furnishings. But these were obscure footnotes on what was sure to be a great day. News cameras were on site, ready to record every detail for a voracious public.

Read more: Was the Treaty of Versailles a Victory for Democracy?


How World War I transformed economic warfare 

By Phillip Dehne
via the Washington Post newspaper web site

Though World War I officially ended 100 years ago today with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, in its overwhelming influence on economic sanctions since 1919, the Allied blockade never really stopped. While it’s the narratives of destruction and change, from the bloodbath of the Somme to the triumph of Vladimir Lenin in Russia, that have captured the public imagination about the war, the way the war transformed economic warfare should also be seen as one of its central legacies, one that continues to shape international relations today.

Blockade cartoonIn particular, the war launched a new style of economic blockade. Practiced most avidly by the United States, economic sanctions now include attempts to curtail North Korean coal exports, freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs and limit the ability of Venezuela to import equipment for its disintegrating oil industry. Economic coercion is now a widely accepted tool of first resort when dealing with foreign foes — though its utility and effectiveness are endangered by the Trump administration’s unwillingness to build support for sanctions among allies.

During World War I, the coalition warfare led by Britain, France and eventually the United States aimed to control access to international trade and finance, and relied largely on nonmilitary methods of enforcement. The “Inter-Allied Blockade” did not entail besieging enemy ports, but rather meant identifying and confiscating German goods on the high seas, denying credit on international bankers’ ledgers and using controls over global shipping assets and supply chains to attempt to permanently disrupt Germany’s commercial connections in overseas markets.

For example, jute importers and wool exporters in neutral Argentina avoided trade with local German merchants who were on Allied blacklists, fearing that otherwise they would be blacklisted themselves and lose access to shipping and international banking. As a nearly global effort against their enemies, the Allied economic campaign helped to undermine German resilience.

The blockade begun by the British in 1914 intensified as they drew their allies into the effort. It developed through official collaboration both at the highest level, in meetings in Paris and London, and also on the local level between Allied diplomats and business executives in Buenos Aires and Shanghai. Everywhere this Allied cooperation occurred, it ratcheted up pressure on German commercial and financial interests.

This strategy suggested warfare could happen without direct military action. For statesmen reeling from the carnage of the battlefields, this was a hopeful prospect. At the Paris Peace Conference that ended the war, wartime blockaders wrote economic war into the founding document of the League of Nations. Looking to enhance the possibility of peace between countries, the League’s “Covenant” envisioned automatic and universal economic sanctions against any peace-breaking nation.

Read more: How World War I transformed economic warfare


North Danville's Ben Clifford

A country poet and World War I soldier 

By Sharon Lakey
via the North Star Monthly magazine (VT) web site

There is a story in North Danville that has held a warm spot in my heart for many years. Ben Clifford, an old country poet, walked the back roads of North Danville and left his handwritten poems in neighbors’ mailboxes.

Ben CliffordBen CliffordShirley Langmaid was a recipient of a number of them, and she passed a folder of them on to the Danville Historical Society. They have been tucked away in a file cabinet until recently, when it was decided that Ben’s poems should see the light of day at the upcoming July 4th celebration in North Danville.

I pulled the file; I actually read the writing. It is handwritten in a beautifully slanted script. One particular piece surprised me. Instead of poetry, it is written in prose. In content it details one day at the end of WWI. It is the only first-hand account of the war that I’ve encountered here in my nine years on the job. It especially intrigued me when I was able to verify his story by following his words to actual events recorded by history.

Ben gives us an inkling of the reality of that war, a stark memory that stayed with him for the rest of his life. He titled the piece “Our Nation’s Progress,” and wrote it under the pen name Daniel Boone.

They say old age lives in the past. If so, there must be another old boy that remembers that cold bleak day of Dec 24, 1918 when the 102nd Machine Battalion, a unit of the old 26th Yankee Division traveled all day with the old Hotchkiss mule-drawn gun carts and caissons to reach a little village near Paris where they were to stay overnight. The men had the privilege of sleeping on the dirt floors of the barns, giving the little cooties a chance to warm up and travel at a tremendous pace over your body. There were two kinds looking for the best location. The mules stayed out in the lot, lying down in the clayey mud for which that country seemed famous.

As luck would have it, Christmas was bright and sunny. The President of the United States was up in the reviewing stand under the magnificent stove pipe hat. It seems he had called for the Fifth Liberty Loan drive back home, the proceeds which we understood were donated to the French government, possibly as a tribute to Lafayette, who helped this country gain its independence.

On Dec. 25, President Wilson reviewed the troops at Hume, France, a location near Paris. He had signed the Armistice in November. He climbs out of a vehicle, jovial, wearing a fur coat and top hat and walks a boardwalk to a reviewing stand where he is to speak. A 35mm film clip of him in action can be accessed on YouTube. A local typewritten Souvenir book in our collection identifies two Liberty Loan amounts given from the Town of Danville. “The subscriptions of the people of Danville to the First Liberty Loan amounted to $53,500. and to the Second Liberty Loan, $90,950. a total of $144,450.” (It doesn’t mention the Liberty Loans beyond that.)

Read more: A country poet and World War I soldier


MN family donates WWI-era artifacts to county museum 

By Troy Krause
via the Redwood Falls Gazette newspaper (MN) web site

McKayKenneth S. McKayThose who serve in war have a tendency to not talk much about that experience.

If they do, it is typically much later in life.

That was the case with Kenneth S. McKay.

McKay, a World War I veteran, was born and raised in Kintire Township, Redwood County and attended Delhi school. He was born Nov. 20, 1894 and served his country as a member of Company L, the Redwood Falls National Guard Unit.

The story of McKay may have never been told if it were not for the fact that some of his things were given to Philip and Janean McKay. They had gotten to know Kenneth McKay and his wife Roberta (Rogers) McKay while they are all living in the Morris area.

Among the things given to Philip and Janean was a collection of items from his time in the service of his country. Janean held on to those items, which included a number of photographs, as well as a diary he kept that told the story of his experience in basic training.

Janean recently talked about the items with her children, and it was agreed the best place for those items was not with the family, and so Janean recently donated them to the Redwood County Historical Society.

“We thought the best place for them was in a museum,” said Janean.

Janean added in the items they received was that diary McKay kept, which included a day by day account of his time preparing for and being involved in the war.

The diary itself was actually given to Kenneth McKay’s children, but Janean took the time to transcribe what was written in it, and as part of the donation she has included a copy of that account.

Read more: MN family donates WWI-era artifacts to county museum


coblenz.panorama The Stars And Stripes Flying Over Ehrenbreitstein Fortress On The Rhine. View Looking East From Coblenz, Germany, April, 1919.

"Stars & Stripes Over the Rhine Exhibition" at University of South Carolina

via the Kroger Center at the University of South Carolina web site

As part of the Wunderbar Together initiative, The Columbia World Affairs Council, the Atlantische Akademie Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. and the Koger Center for the Arts as well as the Instistut Für Geschichtiliche Landeskunde as der Universitat Mainz e.V. are proud to bring the "Stars & Stripes over the Rhine" exhibit all the way from Germany to Columbia, South Carolina!

From October 2018 until late 2019, Germany will celebrate its close friendship to the U.S. through the Year of German-American Friendship, or the Deutschlandjahr. The theme of "Wunderbar Together" highlights the strong relationship between our two countries, which is rooted in deep historical ties and shared culture.

People are at the heart of the U.S.-German relationship, and at the heart of this celebration. Wunderbar Together will bring together more than 200 partners across all 50 states, who will host more than 1,000 events in local communities.

Read more: "Stars & Stripes Over the Rhine Exhibition" at U of South Carolina

Historian's 10-year quest for World War I New York soldier’s grave ends in success

By Scott Desmit
via the Batavia News/The Daily News newspaper (NY) web site

BATAVIA, NY — On May 2, St. Joseph’s Cemetery manager Matt Dispenza gathered the entire office staff and his crews and headed to the cemetery.

Silvie headstone as foundJames Silvie headstone as discovered.They were on a mission: To find the grave of James Silvie, a World War I veteran who died of Spanish flu while at Fort Douglas, Utah.

“We were all walking through the cemetery when I saw a stone that was broken and tipped over,” said Jackie Motz, business manager at Resurrection Parish. “I almost walked right by it but then I though ‘Oh, I’ll try looking at it.’”

The stone was partially buried in the ground, muddy and moss-covered with two or three letters showing, Motz said.

She wiped the moss from the stone and the rest of the letters came into view: James Silvie 1893-1918.

“It’s the oldest section of the cemetery. There’s thousands of stones in that section,” Dispenza said. “It’s incredible she found it.”

Incredible and important, most of all important to Terry Krautwurst.

Krautwurst, formerly of Le Roy and now living in North Carolina, has devoted the last 10 years of his life documenting the men and women of Genesee County who served in World War I.

His Honor Roll project includes eight binders of information, including more than 100,000 words of text and 1,200 military documents related to the 66 men and one woman from Genesee County who died while serving during World War I. He donated the project to Genesee County History Department and has a website, “The County and the Kaiser.”

One part of his project was to photograph every grave of the 67 who died.

Read more: Historian's 10-year quest for World War I soldier’s grave ends in success

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