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World War I Centennial News


Women Writers of World War I: an interview with Margaret R. Higonnet

The World War I Bridges web site recently published an interview with Margaret R. Higonnet, professor of English and Comparative Literature at University of Connecticut, Storrs, on the roles and accomplishments of women writers in World War 1. The starting point for the interview was Lines of Fire: Women Writers of World War I, a very rich book Higonnet published in 1999.

Q: What was your main purpose when you started writing Lines of Fire. Women Writers of World War I?

A (MRH): When I decided to edit a collection of women’s texts about World War I, I was motivated in good part by my desire to write about some of these works and share their power. In order to reach my audience, I needed to make a group of those texts available. women writers in WW1While certain major authors such as Virginia Woolf and Vera Brittain in England, or Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and Katherine Anne Porter in America were readily available, even famous authors such as Colette or Anna Akhmatova were harder for an Anglophone audience to track down. At the time, little work had been done to reprint women’s writings about the Great War. Among feminist critics, Jane Marcus, Claire Tylee, and Nosheen Khan had focused on English and American writers. 

As a comparatist, I was eager to bring to light those who wrote in other languages. While I wanted to include better known writers, I also was eager to include new names. Luckily, I could use the old card catalogue at Harvard’s Widener library, and call up books from the deposit library that had not been read for decades--not since they were first bought by librarians or donated by Harvard alumni in the years following the war. One of my favorite finds was a small selection of wartime issues from Anna Kuliscioff’s La difesa delle lavoratrici, which was lying on metal shelving in Harvard’s Littauer library. It was the only copy mentioned in the Library of Congress World Cat bibliography. Articles had been snipped out, perhaps even before the paper was acquired by Harvard. There I found the typical mix of material published in a women’s journal: political articles and poems, as well as advertisements.

Part of my interest in the project arose from the question, “What is a war text?” When Jean Norton Cru wrote his famous overview, Témoins (1929), which weighed the veracity of war memoirs and fiction, it never occurred to him that women might have anything to say about the matter. “War” meant “combat.” The underlying issue was whether a civilian population (whether female or male, adult or child) encountering war right on their doorstep might have “authentic” (and significant) experiences to recount. Should the record of a “total” war include the dramatic changes in women’s labor that had been precipitated, whether on farms, in factories, or in medical units on hospital trains? As it happens, the Great War was marked by the institutionalization of women soldiers on the Eastern Front, but their record had been largely forgotten, since the Russian Revolution and postwar political upheavals had refocused attention on other historical events.

Read more: Women Writers of World War I: an interview with Margaret R. Higonnet

WWI flies into EAA airshow!

By Adam Bieniek, Kate Lyons, Mike Parks, and Jack Wood
Staff Writers

The 2016 edition of the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has officially wrapped up. During its week-long run, from July 22nd through the 30th, the air show featured nearly 10,000 airplanes and hosted 891 exhibitors. The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission was there, as a participant, telling the story of World War I.

Edwin interview 1000Commissioner Vice Chair Edwin Fountain talks with the media in front of two World War I-era fighter planes.Commissioner Edwin Fountain and Commissioner Libby O’Connell helped the effort. Throughout the week, Commissioner Fountain was interviewed by several local media outlets, EAA radio, and two German aviation reporters from the FLYING WINGS magazine and Bayerische-Flugzeug blog site.

The Commissioner was also able to reach out to the thousands of EAA followers on social media when he was featured on a live-to-Facebook interview by EAA Social Media.

In addition to the Commissioners, several staff were also in attendance at the air show. Three volunteers from Hampden-Sydney College sold WW1CC tee shirts and gave out free stickers, while WW1CC staffers helped raise awareness in other ways.

Reenactors 1000WW1 reenactors and historians were present in full force at Oshkosh, ready to bring the Great War alive for the energetic crowds.Roger Fisk, Chief Development Officer of the Commission, was interviewed by local news outlets, and even featured on the event’s jumbotron at the Main Announcer Stand. Fisk adds, “Our team met people from museums, aviation clubs, and veteran groups while there for the show, as well as historical re-enactors, gearheads, pilots, collectors, and plenty of active military.”

By the end of the week nearly 561,000 people attended the air show, one of the biggest turnouts in over ten years, according to EAA. Thanks to the organization’s tireless efforts, the hundreds of thousands of attendees were able to witness history come to life in Oshkosh.


Read more: WWI flies into EAA airshow!

The Olympics, 100 Years Ago and Today

By Kate Lyons
Staff Writer

This summer, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 206 nations will come together to compete in the Olympics. While we begin to celebrate this event, it is also important to look back on its rich history. Listed below are a few highlights of what was happening with the Olympics just one century ago.

1. Exactly 100 years ago, the Olympics were canceled due to World War I.

Ever since the formation of the modern Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee has stressed that it “is committed to building a better world through sport.” However, the Olympics became a bit of an unfeasible challenge in 1916, due to the fact that most of the world was at war. So the 1916 Olympics that were planned for Berlin would go on to host 206 fewer nations than 2016’s Rio Olympics.

2. Several countries were not invited to participate in the 1920 Olympics.

In 1920, two years after fighting ended, the Olympics finally resumed. However, the world was still in the long process of recovering from the physical destruction and millions of casualties that had resulted from World War I. Only 29 nations would compete in the 1920 Olympics at Antwerp, Belgium. Many of the countries that lost the war, and who were blamed for the war’s outbreak, were not invited to participate in these Games. This list included Austria, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire. Russia, which was going through a Communist revolution and in the process of becoming the Soviet Union, also did not attend. Germany continued to be uninvited from competing in any Olympics until 1925.patton in 1912 olympicsGeneral George S. Patton (right) fencing during the Modern Pentathlon event at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.

3. The 1920 Olympics were hosted in Belgium to honor the country’s great suffering during the War.

The decision to host the 1920 Olympics in Belgium was made to honor the country’s great suffering it endured as a result of German occupation throughout World War I, during which at least 117,500 Belgian soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded.

4. The original Olympic flag was stolen by an athlete during its first Olympics in 1920.

The famous Olympic flag with five multicolored rings was first used at the 1920 Olympics in Belgium, and has remained the symbol of the Olympics ever since. In fact, the first Olympic flag was stolen towards the end of the Games by an American medalist. On a dare from one of his fellow divers, Olympian Hal Haig Prieste climbed up the flagpole and took the Olympic flag, which he kept hidden in his suitcase for decades after. He revealed the story in a 1997 interview, and returned the flag to the Olympic Committee during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. The flag is currently displayed at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Read more: The Olympics, 100 Years Ago and Today

The Coca-Cola Foundation awards major grant to 369th Experience Project

Coca Cola 369th

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The Coca-Cola Foundation has awarded a grant of $200,000 to go towards the 369th Experience. This program, sponsored by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, and led by Executive Producer Stephany Neal, is designed to honor the 369th Infantry Regiment, and their famous musical ensemble, with a slate of public performances and art exhibitions during the centennial period of World War I.

The 369th Experience will bring the music and art of the era into the 21st Century, and tell modern audiences about the experiences of African-Americans during the turn of the 20th Century.

During World War I, the U.S. Army was racially segregated, and the 369th Infantry Regiment was made up of African-American soldiers. Overcoming racial prejudice at many levels, the unit served in the trenches of the Western Front during World War I, and earned the nickname ‘Harlem Hellfighters’. Their soldiers earned 171 Croix de Guerre medals and Legions of Honor awards from the French government, making them one of the highest-decorated units of the American Expeditionary Force.

Read more: The Coca-Cola Foundation awards major grant to the 369th Experience Project

Black Tom Island: Germany secretly attacks U.S. during WWI

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff Writers

One hundred years ago, on July 30th, 1916, New York City was rocked by one of the largest explosions in history. On this night, two million pounds of explosives ignited simultaneously, reducing the great munitions depot on Black Tom Island to rubble. The horrors of World War I had arrived in the United States before the country would officially enter the War. Even worse, the nation would not realize for another twenty-three years that the explosions were an act of terrorism carried out by foreign enemies on U.S. soil.

Black Tom PierThe aftermath of the attack. The first explosions were aboard Johnson Barge 17. By the end of the night, two million pounds of explosives would reduce Black Tom Island to practically nothing. Two years prior to this explosive act of terrorism, President Woodrow Wilson delivered a declaration of neutrality to Congress on August 4, 1914. He reassured Americans that, “The United States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name, during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought, as well as action.” The War that had recently broken out in Europe was a world away, far out of range of posing an immediate threat to the United States. However due to the United States’ large and growing immigrant population, the conflict that was spreading across Europe posed a threat to peace, and risked causing tensions among different nationalities that had immigrated to the U.S. While the nations in Europe battled each other into submission, the United States sat by patiently and securely, washing its hands of the carnage that had torn the world in two.

Read more: Black Tom Island: Germany Secretly Attacks U.S. During WWI

Camp Sherman dig in Ohio reveals WW1 surprises

Chris Balusik
Chillicothe Gazette

CHILLICOTHE - Andy Sewell's voice grew a little more animated when he approached a large concrete pit on the southwestern corner of a Camp Sherman archaeological dig off Ohio 104.

Camp Sherman digThomas Grooms, Archaeology Transportation Reviews Manager at Ohio History Connection, left, and Andy Sewell, principal investigator, talk about what has been found at one of the Camp Sherman excavation sites."This is one of the buildings we don't have any floor plans for," said Sewell, principal investigator on the project for Lawhon & Associates. "Finding something like this was a complete surprise, and trying to understand what it was took a little while. Because why would you have a cellar like this?"

It appears to have been was a fire station for the World War I-era training camp that once dominated the landscape along Ohio 104 just north of the city. Making his way past the concrete pit to another part of the excavation of the structure, Sewell was able to point out piping that appears to have belonged to the lavatory for the fire crew, the location where it was likely the crew's quarters once were and a water pipe running into the facility from elsewhere in the camp.

The excavation work has been going on for nearly a month as part of a task order from the Ohio Department of Transportation to retrieve whatever items from the portion of the camp that existed where an extension of Industrial Drive is scheduled to go. The extension is part of an effort by the Community Improvement Corporation to expand development opportunities within the industrial park off Ohio 104.

Read more: Camp Sherman dig reveals surprises

Winchester, VA man works to reveal history of city’s WWI markers

Associated Press

WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) - On Nov. 11, 1924, there was a ceremony near Handley High School commemorating nearly 50 Winchester and Frederick County soldiers who fought and died during or immediately after World War I.

Winchester markerIn a July 7, 2016 photo, a bronze plate honoring WWI soldier Charles E. Graber is embedded in the concrete curb on Handley Blvd. near Stewart Street in Winchester in Winchester, Va. On Nov. 11, 1924, there was a ceremony near Handley High School commemorating nearly 50 Winchester and Frederick County soldiers who fought and died during or immediately after World War I. Bronze markers were installed beneath about 50 red oak trees standing along what is currently Handley Boulevard. (Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star via AP) / Bronze markers were installed beneath about 50 red oak trees standing along what is currently Handley Boulevard, but at the time was dedicated as Memorial Avenue, according to a past article in The Winchester Star.

Just seven of the 49 bronze plaques that were mounted during the Women’s Auxiliary of the American Legion ceremony are still known to exist, Gene Schultz, a Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society board member, said Thursday at the organization’s office on South Pleasant Valley Road.

Read more: Winchester man works to reveal history of city’s WWI markers

PBS and American Experience announce “The Great War” to premiere in April 2017

BEVERLY HILLS, CA — At the Summer 2016 Television Critics Association press tour on July 28, PBS and American Experience announced that “The Great War,” a six-hour, three-night event, will premiere in April 2017 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the war on April 6, 1917.

“The Great War” is executive produced by Mark Samels and directed by award-winning filmmakers Stephen Ives, Amanda Pollak and Rob Rapley.

Doughboys 1917Drawing on the latest scholarship, including unpublished diaries, memoirs and letters, “The Great War” tells the rich and complex story of World War I through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and the American troops who came to be known as “Doughboys.” The series explores the experiences of African-American and Latino soldiers, suffragists, Native-American “code talkers” and others whose participation in the war to “make the world safe for democracy” has been largely forgotten.

“The Great War” also explores how a brilliant PR man bolstered support for the war in a country hesitant to put lives on the line for a foreign conflict; how President Woodrow Wilson steered the nation through three-and-a-half years of neutrality, only to reluctantly lead America into the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, thereby transforming the United States into a dominant player on the international stage; and how the ardent patriotism and determination to support America’s crusade for liberty abroad led to one of the most oppressive crackdowns on civil liberties at home in American history.

It is also a story of little-known heroism and sacrifice (including the deadliest battle in American history) that would leave more than 53,000 men dead on the battlefield and more than 60,000 dead from disease. American fatalities would come at a critical time in the war, but they would be dwarfed by a cataclysm of violence that would ultimately claim 15 million lives.

“On this centennial anniversary, we’re proud to present this in-depth examination of a truly pivotal event in American history from the perspectives of the people who lived through it,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “The Great War transformed America and the world, and this series brings that transformation to life through unexpected personal stories.”

Read more: PBS and American Experience announce “The Great War” to Premiere April 2017

A look at Highland’s Navy veterans of World War I

By Roland Harris
for the Highland News Leader

American Expeditionary Forces would arrive in Europe to reinforce the Allies in early 1918 and would turn the tide on the battlefield, but there was also war being waged on the seas.

Because of America’s late entry into the war, there were few ship-to-ship encounters with the German fleet. Most of the U.S. Navy’s involvement focused on bringing troops and supplies to European allies and countering the German’s unrestricted U-boat (submarine) attacks on merchant ships.

There were a few local men who served in the Navy during World War I.

USS Ohio BB 12USS Ohio (BB-12) in 1918.Robert H. Ammann, the son of Mrs. Anton Ammann of Highland, and Harry C. Breitenbach, the son of Philip Breitenbach, both had enlisted in the Navy in 1907.

Ammann was just 18 and was assigned to the USS Connecticut for active duty. In April 1907, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, had made the Connecticut his flagship, and it would be part of President Teddy Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet,” a force of 16 battleships that departed New York on Dec. 16, 1907 and would sail around world as a way of demonstrating the naval power of the U.S.

Ammann re-enlisted on Nov. 22, 1911 and assigned to the USS Dixie, a destroyer tender. By 1914, he was sent to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. He was discharged in 1915, but re-enlisted and remained on active duty.

By May 6, 1917, Ammann was assigned to the USS Ohio as chief gunner’s mate. The Ohio had been recommissioned on April 24, 1917.

Read more: A look at Highland’s Navy veterans of World War I

Four Questions with Kenneth Clarke on 100 Cities /100 Memorials

"This is an opportunity for us to right a historical wrong"

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff Writers

Kenneth Clarke is the President & CEO of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, Illinois. He is one of the architects behind the 100 Cities/100 Memorials Matching Grant Challenge that promotes local restoration and commemoration of World War I memorials in communities across America. The program launched on July 15, 2016.Kenneth Clarke mugKenneth Clarke

Why do you feel the 100 Cities/100 Memorials program is important?

This program gives everyday Americans the chance to discover, rediscover, or draw attention to World War I monuments in their town or city, and then renovate it, refurbish it, and get it into condition to last for the next 100 years.

How did this program come about? Were there any specific events that inspired this idea?

I was inspired by feedback that was provided when the World War I Centennial Commission launched the [design] competition for the [National] World War I Memorial in Washington, the new one. There was feedback in the newspapers that said, “That’s great, that’s in Washington. But I’m likely to never get to Washington.” And I thought, “That’s absolutely right.” And then I started thinking that the monuments in America to World War I were built by everyday people, many of them American Legion members who had served during World War I. They raised monuments to memorialize the men who didn’t come home in town squares across America. The memorialization of World War I after the war happened on a very local level and it wasn’t guided by the government, it wasn’t guided by politicians, or experts, or academics. It was guided by everyday folk who served during the War, and their families who wanted to remember and properly memorialize the fallen of the War and those who served. It’s a long answer, but it wasn’t until later in our country’s history that we started doing the bigger national monuments.

Read more: Four Questions with Kenneth Clarke on 100 Cities/100 Memorials

The National Park Service Brings “Blackjack” Pershing To Life

By Adam Bieniek and Kate Lyons
Staff Writers

On July 14th, the National Park Service hosted a walking tour of Pershing Park led by Park Ranger Joseph Mohr titled, “World War I, Blackjack Pershing, and American Diplomacy.” This site will be the future home of the National Memorial to World War I in Washington, D.C., making it the ideal setting to discuss how the world is still influenced by the lasting effects of World War I. In order to understand the present, it is important to remember and honor the past. This is precisely what the National Park Service managed to do in the span of forty-five minutes.Mohr 2 500National Park Service Ranger Joseph Mohr uses the information panels at Pershing Park to help explain the challenges that General Pershing faced while leading an American army in France.

The talk was an in-depth and engaging discussion about the circumstances and events that surrounded the outbreak of World War I in 1914. By covering topics such as the rise of Germany and the decisions of various nations in the early days of the conflict, Mr. Mohr was able to bring a tremendous amount of context to America’s forgotten war. "The memorial reminds us of who we were,” stated Mr. Mohr. “There were a lot of diplomatic decisions made, and we are still living with the legacy and consequences of those today." Mr. Mohr displayed his incredible knowledge about American history by drawing from the research of several well-known academics of World War I history, such as Forty-Seven Days by Mitchell Yockelson and the works of Margaret MacMillan.

Read more: The National Park Service Brings “Blackjack” Pershing To Life

World War I: Time to Recall What This War Was About

By Gayle Osterberg
Director of Communications, Library of Congress

PosterNext April begins the centennial of America’s involvement in World War I, from April 6, 1917, when the U.S. Congress formally declared war on the German Empire. It concluded November 11, 1918, with the armistice agreement.

I am going to risk embarrassment by confessing that I have retained very little of what I learned about this war in school. I must have been taught all the basic information – how it started, why we were involved, what its legacies were. But unlike the Civil War and World War II, there is little I can discuss in an informed way about the 19 months America was engaged in this global conflict.

I am told by Library colleagues that this is not unusual. In the United States, what was known as “The Great War” over time has been less widely studied, written about and dramatized on screen than other conflicts.

But consider that during those 19 months, more than 1 million women joined the workforce and momentum built for suffrage; nearly 400,000 African-Americans volunteered and served overseas, along the way popularizing jazz in Europe; the U.S. transitioned from being a debtor nation to a creditor nation, for the first time establishing America as a global power; and the global mobilization and conditions of warfare led to the spread of influenza; between 1918 and 1919, Spanish Influenza, as it was known, killed more people than the war itself.

Read more: World War I: Time to Recall What This War Was About

Nearly 100 years later, Passamaquoddy Army veterans honored for service

By Bill Trotter
Bangor Daily News, July 18, 2016

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, ME — Ninety-nine years after six young men volunteered to fight the Imperial German Army in World War I, their families on Sunday received the official recognition that the soldiers never did.

Maine eventSylvia Polchies holds an American Eagle feather and a folded American flag that she received on behalf of her late father, Henry Sockbeson, during a ceremony to honor six members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe who fought in World War I on Sunday in Indian Township. (BDN photo)

One of them, Charles Lola, was 22 years old when he was killed in the conflict. He later posthumously was awarded the Croix de Guerre medal by the French government for his valor in battle.

Moses Neptune, son of the tribe’s governor at the time, William Neptune, enlisted at the age of 19 and was killed the following year, one of the final soldiers cut down before the Armistice was signed in November 1918.

Samuel J. Dana did not lose his life in the war, but he did lose a leg. Dana, who later would serve as the tribe’s representative to the Maine Legislature, survived his wounds and returned home to the Passamaquoddy lands in eastern Washington County, as did George Stevens Sr., Henry Sockbeson and David Sopiel.

Despite their sacrifices, none of the men received any official recognition or honor during their lifetimes from the country that they served as members of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Regiment. Like all members of Indian tribes nationwide, they were not even considered U.S. citizens until 1924.

On Sunday, amid performances of traditional Passamaquoddy songs and dances, each man’s legacy got what was long overdue. More than 300 people were estimated to have attended the ceremony at the tribe’s community center.

Read more: Nearly 100 years later, Passamaquoddy Army veterans honored for service

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