African American Soldiers 1 pilots in dress uniforms doughboys with mules Riveters The pilots gas masks Mule Rearing African American Officers

World War I Centennial News


Opha Mae Johnson: first woman to enlist in the USMC

By Betsy Shepperd
Staff Writer, United States World War One Centennial Commission

In 1918, while the United States engaged in the battles of World War One and women on the home front fought for suffrage at home, the US Marine Corps enlisted its first woman. Opha Mae Johnson (sometimes written “May”) was the first woman to enlist in the US Marine Corps.

Opha Mae Johnson women marines military womenOpha Mae JohnsonPrior to enlistment she worked as a civil service employee at the headquarters of the Marines, from which she received assignment to be a clerk in the office of a quarter master general. Like most women enlisted in the Marine Corps, Johnson’s job consisted mainly of typing and military office work. Nevertheless, her place as the first female in the Marine Corps broke barriers for the future.

Despite being the first, Johnson was not the only woman to enlist in the Marine Corps during World War One. In fact, thousands of women arrived for recruitment days in major cities, but the Marines required intense mental and physical stamina in addition to superior office skills, which resulted in only a small portion of these enthusiastic women successfully enlisting. In these major cities, local women were recruited for office work so that male personnel could be reassigned to the front. Without these women, the Marines would have lacked the man-power necessary to their success.

While it may seem surprising to people today, the women marines during World War One earned the same pay as their male counterparts as they were valued members of the Corps.

However, this value did not last long and following World War One, the United States military began retracting women from service. On July 15th, 1919, the Marine Corp issued an order for the women reservists and those on clerical duty to be moved to inactive status by August 11th. Thus, the first female marine, Opha Mae Johnson lost her job in 1919, after which she remained active in the local American Legion and continued supporting women in service. Despite this dis-enrollment, Johnson and the other female reservists in the Marine Corps received the same veterans benefits as men, including the right to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Read more: Opha Mae Johnson: first woman to enlist in the USMC

SGT Stubby partners with Humane Society of U.S. 

By Christina Stwart
Director Fun Academy Motion Pictures

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero", which marches into theaters everywhere April 13, is based on the incredible true story of the unbreakable bond between a young Soldier and a stray dog who, for his valorous feats, was the first dog promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Army, remains the most decorated dog in U.S. Armed Forces history and is widely considered the forerunner to the Army's working dog program.

1 1Beyond his extraordinary military exploits – well documented in history books, but largely forgotten until now – Stubby's status as an adopted stray is earning him recognition by animal rescues and welfare organizations.

As part of that celebration of this four-legged hero, Fun Academy Motion Pictures announces a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States and approximately 90 other regional and national animal organizations in all 50 states.

Partners will support the release of the film through social media, contests, movie screenings and more to promote rescue and adoption by shining a light on the special bond between people and their pets and the amazing things animals can do when given a chance.

"For all who appreciate the service of dogs in war and the ties of loyalty that unite them with soldiers and veterans, this film's a treat. There are few stories in the history of the human-animal bond to match the stirring tale of a special dog and a special soldier who met on the training ground and served together on the field of battle during World War I. Stubby's legacy as a doughboy mascot and a post-war ambassador for animal adoption and the kindness cause makes his story one for the ages -- all ages!," commented Bernard Unti, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor, The Humane Society of the United States.

Read more: Sgt. Stubby movie partners with the Humane Society of the U.S.

Interview with Matthew McCoy 

Rhode Island's Doughboy Roadshow!

By Nicole Renna
Staff Writer, United States World War One Centennial Commission

There was a Doughboy Roadshow event in Rhode Island! Created by Rhode Island World War I Centennial Commission Commissioner Matthew McCoy, this remarkable event was designed to introduce the public to historical appraisers and experts, who could help them correctly identify, and appraise, their World War I-related artifacts and documents. There were also genealogists and archivists who helped people with their research on the World War I veterans in their family tree. The event, similar to a combined “Antiques Roadshow” and “Genealogy Roadshow,” two popular PBS television shows, was held on Saturday, March 10, at the Rhode Island Historical Society. People from all over the area brought World War I-related items for identification, and a free informal, non-binding, appraisal. We talked to Matthew McCoy about the event, and about his efforts with the Centennial Commission in Rhode Island.

How did you first become interested and involved in WWI history?

I've always been interested in military history, but primarily World War I and II.

Do you have a personal connection to the war?

Matthew McCoyMatthew McCoyYes, Both my paternal grandfather and great uncle served overseas with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. My paternal grandfather was an artillery officer. He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 129th Field Artillery, 60th Field Artillery Brigade, 35th Division (National Guard), with Harry S. Truman. My paternal great uncle was an infantry officer who served as a 1st Lieutenant with the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Division (Regular Army), American Expeditionary Force. He was severely wounded on July 19, 1918, while leading his 37mm (One-Pounder) gun platoon near Chaudun, Aisne, France, during the Sencond Battle of the Marne. Both are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

What was the goal of the Doughboy Roadshow and why is it an important one?

The primary goal of Doughboy Roadshow was to get the public to bring in World War I artifacts in their possession and provide a means to preserve them digitally. Secondary goals were to help them identify what they had and to help them find the genealogical resources needed to research the World War I veterans in their family tree. This was important because on of the missions of the Rhode Island World War Once Centennial Commission (RIWW1CC) is to educate the public on the service and sacrifice of our nation's World War I veterans, specifically those from Rhode Island. I think that our event was successful. We hope to have a second event in the Summer/Fall 2018 time frame.

Read more: Rhode Island's Doughboy Roadshow!

WWI Centennial Commission receives $7 million in Omnibus Spending Bill

via the web site

Commission logo smallWashington, D.C. – Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II is proud to announce the approval of $7 million in funding for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission (WWICC). The funding is included in the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus funding bill, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today. Along with the funding, the bill allows other federal agencies to contribute funding or personnel to support the activities of the Commission. Commemoration events are scheduled throughout the next year nationwide to educate American citizens about the causes and consequences of the “war to end all wars” and to honor the heroism and sacrifices of those Americans who served.

The WWICC was created in 2013 by an Act of Congress, sponsored by Congressman Cleaver and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) to honor, educate and commemorate soldiers and participants of World War I. The Centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I was commemorated on April 6, 2017 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO. Over 4,000 people attended the ceremony, along with foreign dignitaries from 27 countries as jets from the Patrouille de France flew above. Over 4.7 million men and women served our nation in uniform and over 116,000 Americans gave their lives in defense of liberty. The funding approved by this bill will support activities and events in all 50 states over the next year.

“This is tremendous news. This means WWICC can continue to do the great work of further educating and remembering what WWI means to this country,” said Congressman Cleaver.

Read more: WWI Centennial Commission receives $7 million in Omnibus Spending Bill for FY2018

Coin Design Contest: African American WWI Hero Sgt. Henry Johnson 100th 

via the web site

One of the nation's oldest rare coin shops is seeking artists from across the nation to design a silver coin-shaped medallion honoring African American World War I hero Sgt. Henry Johnson.

Johnson medal competitionFerris Coin Co. of Albany, N.Y. is offering two prizes of $1,000 each to the winning designs for the obverse and reverse sides of a 1.5 in (39 mm) coin-shaped silver medallion. The deadline for submissions is April 17, 2018.

"It is our hope that through this competition and the medallion it produces, more Americans learn the story of Sgt. Henry Johnson and his sacrifices to this nation," said Geoffrey Demis, co-owner of Ferris Coin.

"With humility, we contribute to the efforts of generations who have worked tirelessly to keep Sgt. Johnson's legacy alive and to see his valor given the recognition due."

On June 5, 1917, Albany resident Henry Johnson enlisted in the first African American unit in the U.S. Army to engage in combat in World War I. In May 1918 Johnson heroically fought off a German raid in hand-to-hand combat, saving the life of a fellow soldier. For his bravery, Johnson received France's highest award for valor, becoming the first American to receive this distinction. Sgt. Johnson returned to Albany in 1919. Despite having been wounded 21 times, he received no honors from his home country and no pension. He died, destitute, in 1929, in his mid-30s. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sgt. Henry Johnson was finally recognized by the United States government for his service to his country when he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. In 2015 he was awarded the National Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest military honor -- by President Barack Obama.

Read more: Coin Design Contest: African American WWI Hero Sgt. Henry Johnson 100th

DH4 Liberty Plane restoration project featured

WWI Centennial activities highlight AirVenture 2018 

via the web site

March 22, 2018 - Activities at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 commemorating the centennial of the final year of World War I will feature historic and replica aircraft from the era and flying and other activities that look back at the Great War that concluded with the armistice of 1918.

This year’s WWI commemoration activities will take place throughout the week, with a special emphasis on Friday, July 27. Many of the aircraft that will be on display are also connected to the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force that is also part of AirVenture week.

image007 2A total of 4,846 American built DH4s, dubbed the "Liberty Plane", served in thirteen Army Air Service squadrons during WWI.“In the four-year stretch of World War I, aviation technology and piloting made strides that have been rarely matched in the history of flight,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions.

“A century later, aviation enthusiasts still marvel at the determination, ingenuity, and skill of those who designed, built, and flew these aircraft. They were making history in a field of engineering that mostly did not exist just 15 years earlier.”

The WWI programming will be primarily based in the vintage aircraft parking area on the AirVenture flightline. Along with the aircraft on display from the 1915-1918 era, there will be WWI re-enactors and static engine runs. In addition, WWI-era aircraft, aircraft owners, and historians will participate in forums and Vintage in Review session throughout the week. A number of the aircraft will also be displayed at various times on AirVenture’s showcase Boeing Plaza.

Among the aircraft expected to be on display is a newly restored Dayton-Wright DH.4 Liberty biplane being reconstructed by EAA members and high school students in Tennessee.

Read more: WWI Centennial activities highlight AirVenture 2018

First black woman aviator inspired by WWI fliers

By Erin Blakemore
via the web site

Bessie ColemanAviator Bessie Coleman, circa 1920. “NEGRESS AN AIR PILOT,” blared the headline of the special dispatch to the Washington Post. It was Bessie Coleman’s first appearance on the national stage, and already she was being defined by her race first, her gender second, and her accomplishments last.

In the brief news item, Coleman struck a characteristically confident note. “I like flying,” said the 20-year-old, “and I’m going into the business.”

But in order to become the first African American and Native American pilot in the world, Coleman had to leave the United States.

She returned in the summer of 1922 with an international pilot’s license and ambitious plans, and found herself suddenly in the spotlight. Everyone wanted a piece of Bessie Coleman — but her story, inspirational and thrilling at first, would end in tragedy.

Born nearly a decade before the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, Coleman was the 12th of 13 children, raised by a single, sharecropping mother in Waxahachie, Texas. She walked miles to a segregated school, did domestic work with her mother, and picked cotton with her siblings.

Coleman hated picking cotton and longed to leave the poverty of Waxahachie. In 1915, she got her wish when her mother let her move in with her brothers in Chicago to attend beauty school.

Spirited and smart, Coleman loved her new city. At the time, Chicago was a locus of Great Migration culture, and home to African American institutions like The Defender, a forward-thinking weekly newspaper aimed at black readers. Coleman worked in barbershops, where she listened to men gossip and soaked up news of the day, becoming increasingly intrigued by the idea of flight. Some of Coleman’s clients were veterans of World War I, the first war to use airplanes. She listened eagerly to their stories and started dreaming of her place in the cockpit.

Read more: First black woman aviator inspired by World War I fliers

Interview with author Patricia Fara

WWI gave Women Scientists a Chance to Shine 

By Simon Worrall
via the web site

Later this year is the centenary of the end of the First World War, one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, which led to the deaths of nearly 20 million people. But as Patricia Fara shows in her new book, A Lab of One’s Own, the Great War also gave some women the chance to emerge from the shadows and show their mettle as scientists, whether by digging experimental trenches to research trench foot, x-raying wounded soldiers on the battlefront, or inventing explosives.

Patricia FaraPatricia FaraSpeaking from Claire College, Cambridge, where she is a fellow and president of the British Society for the History of Science, Fara explains how Darwin’s theory of evolution put forward the idea that women were intellectually inferior to men; how American-born scientist Ray Costelloe became a leading member of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury Group; and how, even today, women scientists still face enormous challenges, not least from a lack of child care.

Set the scene for us, Patricia, by describing the position of women scientists in Britain before The Great War, and how the conflict changed it.

The position of women in Britain in science before the war was very bleak. Only very good schools gave girls scientific educations and, even if they had the education from school, to go to university they had to get round their parents, who usually wanted them to follow a conventional life. So there were very few women studying science at university. Then the war came and changed things enormously. A lot of men went off to fight, so in the museums, for example, women were left looking after everything. Dorothea Bate, for instance, became a great fossil expert and was in charge of the collections in the Natural History Museum. But she was just getting paid on a temporary staff basis. That was another problem. When the women took over the men’s jobs, they earned far less money. When the men went away, women were also allowed to lecture for the first time because, previously, it had been thought unsuitable for them to lecture in front of a mixed audience.

At Imperial College London there was a woman called Martha Whitely who’d been studying pharmacology, but switched her area of research during the war. She dug an experimental trench in the gardens of Imperial College and led a seven-woman team down into the trench. She even had an explosive named after her, called “DW” for Doctor Whitely, and was the first person to test mustard gas. 

Read more: World War I gave Women Scientists a Chance to Shine

Medalsofhonor4The Medals of Honor -- Army, Navy, and Air Force. (Personnel of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard receive the Navy version.)

National Medal of Honor Day – March 25th

121 received Medal of Honor for heroism in WWI

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

Tim Hudak

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 

The greatest military commendation that our nation can confer is the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,493 individuals during 26 conflicts. Today, there are currently 79 living Medal of Honor recipients.

The first Medals of Honor were presented during the American Civil War, at a ceremony that took place on March 25, 1863. On that day, U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presented Medals of Honor (Army) to six members of “Andrews Raiders” for their voluntary participation in what became known as the Great Locomotive Chase, a dangerous operation deep behind Confederate lines in April of 1862.

To commemorate that date, and to honor all Medal of Honor recipients, Congress declared March 25th as National Medal of Honor Day.

The Medal of Honor is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity.” This National Medal of Honor Day, we remember the courage and selfless sacrifice of those incredible individuals.

121 men received the Medal for their actions in World War I, 34 of them posthumously. Of those awards, 92 were from the Army, 21 from the Navy, and 8 from the Marine Corps.

Read more: 121 received Medal of Honor for heroism in World War I

Army Lt. Takes Out Trench Enemies, Helps Turn Tide of WWI 

By Katie Lange
via the Defense Media Activity's DoDLive web site

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. involvement in World War I, so it’s fitting to honor a Medal of Honor recipient whose courage and tenacity helped turn the tide of the war in the Allies’ favor.

william b turner service photo 279x350Army 1st Lt. William B. Turner enlisted in 1915 after moving to New York from Massachusetts. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. joined the war in Europe alongside its allies, Britain, France and Russia. By the next year, Turner was serving alongside them in northern France as part of the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division.

The 27th, along with soldiers from the 30th Infantry Division, was among those who fought in the pivotal Battle of St. Quentin Canal, near the town of Ronssoy, in late September 1918.

St. Quentin Canal was one of two key battles that took place during the Great War’s 100 Day Offensive. The American 30th and 27th had joined British and Australian troops in a fight to gain a crossing point over the canal, which was part of the heavily defended Hindenburg Line, where Germany had begun its offensive earlier that year.

Turner fought and died in the battle, displaying bravery that would posthumously earn him the Medal of Honor.

On the night of Sept. 27, 1918, Turner and some members of his unit got separated from the rest of their company. Turner led them forward anyway, despite heavy artillery and machine-gun fire. He single-handed took out the crew of an enemy machine gun nest with his pistol.

Read more: Army Lt. Takes Out Trench Enemies, Helps Turn Tide of WWI

American socialite was WWI humanitarian hero

By Yasmin Chaudhary
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Julia Hunt Catlin Park Depew Taufflieb Julia Hunt Catlin Park Depew Taufflieb Julia Hunt Catlin Park Depew Taufflieb was no ordinary American socialite. During the Great War, she turned her huge French mansion into a 300-bed military hospital for the Allies.

In honor of her actions, was the first American woman to be awarded the Legion d’honneur and Croix de Guerre from the government of France.

Julia was born in Vermont and lived in New York until the death of her first husband, Trenor Park. Together with her daughter Frances, Julia moved to Paris. There she married again (to Chauncey Depew) before divorcing and marrying General Emile Taufflieb of the French Army – thus her lengthy name.

The year the war broke out, she converted her Chateau d’Annel into a military hospital with three hundred beds for wounded Allied soldiers. Julia ran the hospital for four years, often under fire, and completely on her own expenses.

She appealed back the to the States for money to support the 1500 refugees camping out nearby in the cold, only some of whom she managed to house. Among them she mentioned a mother with a three-month-old baby, whose husband and daughter were captured by Germans. The anguish in her tone was evident as she described several freezing to death from lack of shelter; $4000 were sent to her immediately ($85,000 today).

Read more: American socialite was WWI humanitarian hero

Women in WWI

Women in World War I Education Resources 

By Ryan Hegg
Education Department, United States World War One Centennial Commission

For Women's History Month, we invite you to teach/learn about the contributions of women in the war. World War I marked the first time American women directly participated in a war effort on a wide scale. Their contributions helped win the war -- and helped them finally win the right to vote.

Learn more -- and find lessons and resources -- at

Women have played important roles in all of America’s wars. However, World War I marked the first time women directly participated in the war effort on a wide scale. Their contributions helped win the war, and also helped them make major strides towards equality.

Women in uniform

World War One was the first war in which women formally served in the U.S. military. The largest group was the Army Nurse Corps: over 20,000 served, and 10,000 went overseas. Nurses were often close to the front lines, and experienced artillery and gas attacks. They provided medical care to over 200,000 wounded men. During the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918-19, over 200 nurses died caring for sick service members.

Read more: Women in World War I Education Resources

Six Questions for Michael Wilson

"ONE: Man, War, Hundred Years" paints personal WWI story

By Betsy Sheppard
Staff Writer

Wilson mugMichael WilsonMichael Wilson is a visual artist, and a military veteran, who has created a remarkable new WWI-themed art exhibit, which will be showing at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids Iowa from September 15 – December 30, 2018. This show is entitled "ONE: Man, War, Hundred Years", and the project is endorsed by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, and ithe Iowa WWI Centennial Committee. We had the opportunity to ask Michael some questions about his upcoming exhibit.

You mention in one of your Facebook posts that your Great Uncle registered for the draft in World War One.

Yes my Great Uncle Herb registered on June 5 and fought in the war. One of the pieces in my exhibit is titled Over There and it’s a mixed media piece that includes an authentic New York Times newspaper (dated May 19, 1917). The NYT headline calls the nation to arms and says that registration would be on June 5. The painting includes a copy of my Great Uncles registration card (dated June 5, 1917) and authentic sheet music to the popular WWI era song Over There by George Cohan.

Did he fight in the war?

Yes. Herb served in the 82nd “All-American” Division in the 321st Machine Gun Battalion, Co. B. His engagements: Fort Sector, St. Mihiel, Argonne-Meuse and Marbache Sector.

Read more: "ONE: Man, War, Hundred Years" exhibit paints personal WWI story

"Pershing" Donors

Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo

Starr Foundation Logo