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World War I Centennial News




1425981254 MARS SUR ALLIER hopital ame ricain vue ge ne ral American Expeditionary Forces Hospital Center Mars-sur-Allier, located south of  Nevers, France, near the village of Saint-Parize-le-Châtel.

French village of Saint-Parize-le-Châtel commemorates American presence in World War I

By André Garcia (Mayor of Saint- Parize-le-Châtel, France), Georges Martinat (Président de Hérédit-Nièvre—Historical Association of Saint-Parize
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

(Translated from French to English by Jenifer Burckett-Picker, daughter of WWI veteran, author of Dad and Dunk in the Great War, and visitor to commemorative celebrations at Mars-sur-Allier site in 2017. The information below was sent to Burckett-Picker by Andre Garcia, George Martinat, and Gianni Belli of Saint-Parize-le-Châtel— respectively the mayor, the head of the historical society, and the designer of historic route around the former World War I U.S. Hospital of Mars-sur-Allier. It tells of how citizens from the small French village of Saint-Parize-le-Châtel (just south of the city of Nevers—former site of the Service of Supplies of the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI) still commemorate the American presence in their area where the huge Mars-sur-Allier Hospital Camp was located 1917-1919.)

CeremonyJune 25, 2017 ceremony with officials from Saint-Parize-le-Châtel and visiting Americans whose ancestors were in WWI working at the Mars-sur-Allier American Hospital. This marked the transfer of the 1924 French memorial from the cemetery to the site of the American Water Tower. Now both monuments constitute the “Memorial of the American Presence in the Nièvre”.We are interested in adding to the World War 1 Commission’s historic records the description of the historic commemorations and historic route with informational plaques at the site of the former WWI U.S. Hospital at Mars-sur-Allier that have taken place in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. (Note that Mars-sur-Allier and Saint-Parize-le-Châtel are about 10 miles south of the French city of Nevers, which is in central France and was about midway between the Atlantic ports and the Western Front in the area of Verdun during WWI. Nevers was designated as a Service of Supplies area during WWI and as such had two very large hospitals built there – one just south of Nevers (Mars–sur-Allier) and one just north. 

For more than 20 years, we have commemorated along with the village of Saint-Parize-le-Châtel, the Armistice of the 11th of November, 1918. Our village is the only one in the Nièvre Department (county) that possesses two monuments: one French and one American, that honor the sacrifice of these (American) men and women who were killed during the First World War.

Saint-Parize-le-Châtel is in the Nièvre Department (county), known today for its world-renowned F1 sports car track of Nevers/Magny-cours. However, at this same place in World War 1, between 1917-1919, there was a huge American camp hospital, considered today as one of the largest in the theater of European operations—the Mars-sur-Allier Hospital Center, APO 780 – established on over 700 acres.

Read more: French village of Saint-Parize-le-Châtel commemorates American presence in World War I


Greenwood, MS American Legion Post 29 named after World War I heroes: Sam Keesler, Ward Hamrick, Gordon Gillespie 

By Harley L. Davidson, Ph.D.
Veterans Services Historian, United States World War One Centennial Commission

American Legion Post 29 in Greenwood, Mississippi bears the name of three World War I veterans who all sacrificed their lives during the Great War.

Sam Keesler Ward Hamrick Gordon GillespieLt. Samuel R. Keesler, Jr. was born on April 11, 1896 in Greenwood and attended Davidson College. He joined the United States’ burgeoning U.S. Army Air Service, commanding the 24th Aero Squadron in the Verdun sector of the Western Front. Air combat emerged during World War I as a vital piece of modern warfare. Aerial reconnaissance was crucial for increasing the accuracy of artillery bombardment and determining the depth and layout of enemy trenches.

Keesler was performing reconnaissance over German territory on October 8, 1918 when his plane came under attack by squadron of German Fokkers. Keesler was wounded six times and his plane forced down, but he took a German plane down with him. He died the next day in a German hospital and was eventually buried at Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in France. Keesler’s legacy lives on. In addition to winning the World War I Victory Medal with Silver Star, the Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi was named after him in 1941.

Cpt. Henry W. Hamrick (326th Inf. AEF) and Lt. Gordon Gillespie perished within days of one another during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in mid-October 1918. Their deaths highlight the tragedy of so many American servicemen in the war’s final months, so close to escaping the war with their lives. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest and greatest American operation of the war and punctuated the Allies’ inevitable victory on the Western Front.

Captain Hamrick died on October 15, 1918 after being struck by shrapnel from an artillery shell. Hamrick’s unit had just been relieved from the front lines and was on its way to the rear when the artillery shell struck near Hamrick.

A few days later, a German bullet killed Cpt. Gillespie on October 18, 1918 while he was commanding a machine gun company.

Read more: Greenwood, MS American Legion Post 29 named after World War I heroes


Minority veterans of World War I to be considered for Medals of Honor 

By Caitlin M. Kenny
via the Stars and Stripes web site

WASHINGTON — Minority World War I veterans whose actions during the war were overlooked because of their race or religion could have their service records reviewed to determine whether some of them deserve the Medal of Honor.

09 007 5Members of the 369th Infantry, formerly the 15th New York Guard Regiment, arrive in New York City in 1919. The regiment has been known as the Famous 369th, the Harlem Hellfighters and the Black Rattlers. War Department photo.The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, if it is passed and signed into law, would require the service secretaries to re-examine the records of African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Jewish American and Native American veterans of World War I who earned medals for valor and decide whether any of them should be upgraded to the nation’s highest military honor.

The World War I Valor Medals Review Act spearheaded the effort to review the service records and is included in the final version of the NDAA. The bill was originally introduced in the House in April by Rep. French Hill, R-Ark.

“The World War I Valor Medals Review Act provides an opportunity to correct this injustice for countless American heroes and their families. This bill ensures that minorities who served in World War I are honored with the recognition they deserve on behalf of a grateful nation,” Hill said in a news release after his bill was included in the NDAA, which directs policy and spending plans for the Defense Department.

The review would look at minority veterans who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Croix de Guerre with Palm awarded by the French government, for actions that occurred between April 6, 1917 to Nov. 11, 1918. The review would also determine whether the Defense Department has records for minority veterans who had been recommended for a Medal of Honor during that time period.

Read more: Minority veterans of World War I to be considered for Medals of Honor


fitA rendering of the planned National World War I Memorial in Washington's Pershing Park.The first phase of construction began December 12. 

Construction Has Finally Begun On The National World War I Memorial In D.C. 

By Jon Banister
via the BISNOW (Washington, DC) web site

For more than a century after World War I ended, Washington did not have a national monument to commemorate its combatants, but after years of slogging through complex approval processes and raising tens of millions of dollars, that is about to change. 

The World War I Centennial Commission last week received building permits and celebrated the groundbreaking of the National World War I Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue, more than a decade after the effort to build it began.

The groundbreaking comes more than a century after the war ended with the Treaty of Versailles. The Centennial Commission was founded in 2013, and the following year, Congress authorized the construction of a memorial on Pershing Park, a 1.8-acre site just one block from the White House.

Construction was able to begin after the project reached a series of milestones in recent months, including design approvals from the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in September and October, respectively, and the culmination of fundraising.

The Centennial Commission recently reached its goal of raising $40M for construction of the memorial, with donations this year including $1M from the National Football League, $1M from the Carnegie Foundation and $5M from the Lilly Endowment, Centennial Commission Vice Chairman Edwin Fountain tells Bisnow. He said the commission is continuing to fundraise for the dedication events and virtual elements of the memorial.

Read more: Construction Has Finally Begun On The National World War I Memorial In D.C.

Lilly Endowment donates $5 million to help build new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC

Lilly Endowment LogoThe U.S. World War I Centennial Commission has announced a $5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars (the Doughboy Foundation) in support of the campaign to build the first-ever National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Memorial, to be located near the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue at 15th Street NW, will include a 58-foot-long bronze, 38 character wall telling the story of America’s involvement in the war through the experience of a single soldier. Based on the average visitation of nearby D.C. memorials and landmarks, it is anticipated that the Memorial will receive a minimum of 1.5 million visitors per year.

To date, the Commission and Foundation have raised approximately $44 million toward the $50 million campaign goal and the Commission recently received a building permit from the National Park Service (NPS) to begin construction.

“This is a transformative moment in our campaign,” said Dan Dayton, Executive Director of the Commission. “Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Lilly Endowment and many others, we are now within striking distance of finally honoring the veterans of the First World War in our nation’s capital.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation that was created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company.

One of Lilly Endowment’s founders, J.K. Lilly Jr., served in World War I and rose to the rank of captain in the medical supply service of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Read more: Lilly Endowment donates $5 million to help build new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC


WWI Memorial Construction Launch(December 12, 2019) Key leaders joined the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission on the site of the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC to mark the start of construction. (Left to right) National Park Service Acting Director David Vela; Commission Special Advisor Admiral Mike Mullen; Commission Chair Terry Hamby; Commission Special Advisor Senator John Warner; and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

First construction phase began December 12 

U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Receives Construction Permit For New National World War I Memorial In Washington, DC. 

via PR Newswire 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2019 -- The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission has received a building permit from the National Park Service (NPS) for the first construction phase of the new National World War I Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.

Key leaders gathered on the Memorial site to mark the start of construction, including Commission Chair Terry Hamby, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, National Park Service Acting Director David Vela, Commission Special Advisors Senator John Warner and Admiral Mike Mullen, and others.

The first phase of construction will be a 360-day project to rebuild the former Pershing Park, and prepare the site for the eventual installation of the Memorial bronze sculpture when it is completed. The building permit was awarded after the Memorial design was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission earlier in 2019.

The Memorial is being built under the Commission's authority by the Doughboy Foundation. Prime contractor for Memorial construction is Grunley Construction Company, Inc. Architect for the Memorial is GWWO Architects.

Chair Hamby was very pleased with the receipt of the building permit and start of construction. "Finally the 4.7 million Americans who left their homes to deploy to a country most had never visited, fight in a war they did not start, and were willing to die for peace and liberty for people they did not know, will be honored at this magnificent spot in our nation's capital," he said.

Read more: U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Receives Construction Permit For New National World War I...


Saturday, December 7; Tuesday, December 17 & Wednesday, December 18

They Shall Not Grow Old returns to theaters in December for limited run

Back by Popular Demand, Academy Award-winner Peter Jackson’s masterpiece WWI documentary in theaters near you this Holiday Season, featuring never seen before World War I soldiers and events colorized and in 3D.

This cutting edge, cinema event was created by using materials from the BBC and Imperial War Museum’s archives, including 600 hours of archival interviews. Using the voices of the men involved, the film explores the reality of war on the front line; their attitudes to the conflict; how they ate; slept and formed friendships, as well what their lives were like away from the trenches during their periods of downtime.

Jackson and his team used cutting-edge techniques to make the images of a hundred years ago appear as if they were shot yesterday. The transformation from black and white footage to colorized 3D footage can be seen throughout the film, revealing never-before-seen details. Reaching into the mists of time, Jackson aims to give these men voices, investigate the hopes and fears of the veterans, the humility and humanity that represented a generation changed forever by a global war.

These showings include an exclusive introduction from Jackson, and interview with him at the close.

DON’T MISS THE SPECIAL SHOWING of “They Shall Not Grow Old” December 7, 17 & 18 at a theater near you. Click here to find the closest theater, and to purchase tickets:




Chasuble in Ossuaire BishopBishop Francois Maupu oversees placement of the Chasuble in the Chapel in the Ossuaire at Verdun, November 11, 2007. 

Remember Frank Havlik: Doing what's right

By Dave Theis, Ed.D, LTC U.S. Army (Ret.)
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

He saw the church in flames. Corporal Frank Havlik, E Co, 355 Infantry, 89th Division, was attacking in WWI.

Havlik at FunstonFrank Stephen Havlik at Camp FunstonHavlik and his buddy entered the church and found no one there. They did find a priest’s golden robe, a chasuble. To save it, they separated front from back. Havlik folded the back, and put it under his tunic.

At St Mihiel and in the Meuse Argonne, Havlik attacked, and endured machine gun fire, artillery, gas. He made it through both attacks without a scratch. He never recorded in which attack the church was.

He wrote many letters to his beloved Vlasta Vonasek, without mentioning the chasuble. When he returned, he told Vlasta the chasuble saved him and kept him safe. His intent? Return it to the rightful owner.

Havlik was drafted in April 1918, trained at Camp Funston, deployed with the 89th to France. His baptism of fire was at Jury Woods. Through all, he was known to do what’s right, evidenced by his promotion to corporal and his two gold war service ribbons.

Upon the Armistice, he returned to the U.S. In New York, and in his hometown of Omaha, the welcome home was terrific.

Vlasta and Frank married, had two sons, Frank and Wesley. The Depression and WWII came and went. Vlasta kept the treasured chasuble in her cedar chest. Both wanted to return it.

Frank died in 1952, Vlasta in 1975. The chasuble passed to their son Wesley. In 2002, shortly before he died, Wesley reaffirmed the need to return the chasuble.

Read more: Remember Frank Havlik


A Memoir of the War: A Doughboy's Journey Through France and Germany in World War I 

By Charles Daris
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

Writing the memoirs of his participation in the American Expeditionary Forces twelve years after the end of the First World War, my father proudly declared that the time he was in uniform was “the greatest experience of my life.” Reading them, one can sense that he relished every minute of it, including terrifying moments in combat or coping with mind-numbing mud whether in the trenches or on his never-ending marches. But he never lost his sense of humor. The ubiquitous mud and frequent rain often prompted him and his buddies to remark with no little irony, “sunny France!”

cover 2The young man from a small New England town, Ashburnham MA, arrived wide-eyed in Old Europe and absorbed it all with fascination and curiosity. He wrote of the cobblestone streets, the charming chapels, the seemingly endless quantities of wine, the pretty French girls. He continued to marvel when, after the Armistice, he was part of the American Army of Occupation in the enchantingly picturesque Rhine valley in Germany.

He served in the 4th Division, 47th Infantry, Company A. Throughout his service he wrote copious notes in the small diaries he kept with him. These treasured memories made it possible for him to narrate his adventures in detail years later. He also researched the origins of the U.S. participation in the war and the history of his own regiment and incorporated his findings into his memoirs.

He told me that one of his sisters had typed the narrative for him on the onion-skin parchment that I kept in a box for a very long time. In addition to the narrative, he created a set of four photo books that included photos and postcards annotated in stunning relief in white ink on black construction paper, written in his impeccable penmanship.

The collection – the narrative and the photo books - have been recreated and are presented herewith in more readable format in two volumes.

My father was one of ten children, the offspring of humble French-Canadian immigrants who spoke virtually no English. Their house was lively and bustling with activity, accompanied always by great hilarity. I recall having my first taste of cold beer in that house when my mustachioed grandfather mischievously let me have a sip. Dad’s sense of humor was nurtured in that house, and it resurfaced time and time again in his descriptions of his war experiences.

Read more: A Memoir of the War A Doughboy's Journey Through France and Germany in World War I


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Vital to Allied Victory 

Postal Service stamp remembers U.S. participation in World War I

By Lisa Y. Greenwade
Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service

Although the United States did not send forces into combat until the final year of World War I, the nation emerged from the global conflict as a major world power. Crucially, America’s involvement in WWI helped bring an end to the Great War, as it was known at the time.

President Woodrow Wilson’s position of neutrality was difficult to maintain in the face of the contest between Britain and Germany for command of the seas. The most significant provocation came in 1915, when a German U-boat sank the British liner Lusitania, which carried many American passengers. Nevertheless, Wilson won reelection in 1916 with a slogan that emphasized how he’d kept the country out of the war.

Germany, however, resumed unconditional submarine warfare in 1917. This action, along with intercepted intelligence that Germany had proposed an alliance with Mexico against the United States, caused Wilson to end his policy of neutrality, and in April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany.

In 1917, nearly five million Americans, mostly men, joined the military, and about a million women entered the workforce to make up for the shortage of civilian labor. In spring 1918, U.S. forces played vital roles in the St. Mihiel battle and the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which helped bring an end to the war.

The art for the World War I: Turning the Tide Forever® stamp issuance features a member of the American Expeditionary Force holding the U.S. flag. Guided by art director Greg Breeding, artist Mark Stutzman painted the image in airbrush on an illustration board, evoking the propaganda posters used during World War I.

For a closer look or to order the World War I: Turning the Tide Forever® stamps, visit the Postal Store® at or call 800-STAMP-24.



IMG 2171Example of educational materials on World War I developed by the Ohio World War I Centennial 

Teaching World War I after the Centennial 

By Paul LaRue
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

This Veterans Day marked one hundred and one years since Armistice was declared. The World War I Centennial is winding down. What is the state of World War I education in classrooms across the country?

IMG 0051Paul LaRueI was a classroom teacher for thirty years in a rural, high-poverty school district in southern Ohio. I also had the opportunity to serve on the Ohio World War I Centennial Committee, working primarily on education. It would be foolish for me to speak to all World War I education nationwide. Education varies widely by state as well as by individual school districts. For example, Ohio has 609 public school districts; my comments are necessarily general and draw on my experience from education in Ohio.

Generally speaking, today's classroom history teacher has a large amount of content to cover in a limited amount of time. Many states, Ohio being one, have divided U.S. History into two blocks. Colonization to the end of Reconstruction is taught in the eighth grade, and Industrialization (1877) through post-September 11, 2001 is taught in high school. The reality is every teacher feels pressure to cover the entire curriculum. This translates into no one area of history receiving extensive coverage. World War I likely will receive one week or less of class time in a high school history class. Elementary and middle school students may receive little to no exposure to World War I. Before you start pulling your hair out, there is good news.

The World War I Centennial has generated interest in quality lesson plans and resources to assist today's classroom. The United States World War I Centennial Commission was fortunate to have Dr. Libby O'Connell serve as a Commissioner. Dr. O'Connell is an excellent historian and educator who encouraged the development of strong educational content to support the World War I Centennial. State World War I Centennial Committees, The American Battle Monuments Commission, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, The National Park Service, The Library of Congress, and The National World War Museum and Memorial have all developed excellent World War I content for the classroom.

Read more: Teaching World War I after the Centennial


0b737796 cd81 4064 a4f8 e5733c225d02 image003Sabin Howard with the Weta maquette for A Soldier’s Journey (Photo courtesy of the artist)

A Soldier’s Journey – Sabin Howard’s National World War One Memorial

By Michael Pearce
via the MutualArt web site

When American soldiers entered the Great War that had torn Europe apart since 1914, their involvement ended the horror that bloodily consumed a generation of young men. By early 1918, over two million Americans had crossed the Atlantic to fight, and over one million of them saw combat. Their participation was decisive. In Spring of 1918 the Kaiser’s forces had fought their way forward to within fifty miles of Paris, but heroic American assaults on the German lines turned them back, certainly saving Europe from German rule. It took less than a year for the Germans to surrender after the first American boots landed in the mud of the front lines. Nearly fifty thousand American soldiers gave their lives in battle, and a quarter of a million were wounded, some terribly.

Under the clear, cold light of four broad skylights cutting through the dark, wood-beamed ceiling of his austere New Jersey industrial warehouse studio, the brilliant American sculptor, Sabin Howard, is twelve weeks into his work on the final modelling stage of A Soldier’s Journey, which will soon become the United States’ National World War One Memorial. The 60 foot long figurative bronze was approved for installation in Pershing Park, next door to the White House in Washington, D.C. by the US Commission of Fine Arts last May. Until now, Washington has had no official monument to the sacrifice of the American armed forces in the Great War.

Howard’s sculpture cleverly tells the dramatic story of a soldier’s journey to war and his return home, arranged cinematically in a sequence of scenes, which seamlessly blend together. Reading the narrative of the sculpture is an extraordinarily emotional experience. First, we see the soldier’s daughter handing him his helmet, and his departure from his wife is a scene of outstretched arms and high emotion; he is encouraged to stride forward into the ranks by an officer, then charges pell-mell into battle, which is cleverly sculpted as a moment of violent intensity where some of his comrades fall, either dead or injured. Shell-shock is perfectly captured in the form of the soldier facing directly out toward us, interrupting the flow of action from left to right, and forcing viewers to consider not only the horrible death experienced by many of the soldier’s comrades, but also his own experience of surviving that horror. 

Read more: A Soldier’s Journey – Sabin Howard’s National World War One Memorial


“The Lafayette Escadrille” World Premiere takes place at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

The Air Force Museum Foundation Living History Series presented the World Premiere of the film “The Lafayette Escadrille” on Saturday, November 9, in the Air Force Museum Theatre.

NYHS poster video 041619 wlogosA live symposium featuring current and retired members of the military, historians, and descendants of the Lafayette Escadrille pilots was held on Sunday, November 10. The symposium took place in the Carney Auditorium, also inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, near Dayton, OH.

“The Lafayette Escadrille” is the first comprehensive documentary film made about the American volunteers who flew for France before the United States entered World War I. They have been called “the Founding Fathers of American combat aviation.” The production was filmed at over 40 locations in France, drawing on over 20 interviews, and thousands of original artifacts, letters, memoirs, photographs, and films.

The movie is officially endorsed by the United States World War I Centennial Commission.

“The Lafayette Escadrille” follows the path of the young Americans who came to the aid of America’s oldest ally—standing up for the values of freedom and liberty shared by the sister republics. It is the only American story that covers the entire duration of the war, from one end of the Western Front to the other.

“The story of the Lafayette Escadrille is well-known, and since it embodies the spirit of devotion and sacrifice, it is dear to the hearts of aviators everywhere,” said Darroch Greer, co-producer/director of the film. “This film is our tribute to America’s first combat aviation squadron, and we are honored to hold its premiere at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.”

Raoul Lufbery III, great grand-nephew of Major Raoul Lufbery, the Escadrille’s leading ace, said, "The filmmakers have done a wonderful job telling this amazing story of remarkable Americans fighting for righteous causes for all mankind."


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