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World War I Centennial News



NE corner entrySet within a historic modern urban park, the memorial will activate an underutilized space in downtown D.C.

National WWI Memorial moves ahead with Pershing Park plan

By Sydney Franklin
via the The Architect's Newspaper (NY) web site

Years ago, Frank Gehry asked sculptor Sabin Howard to help him design a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C. Though the job didn’t pan out for “stylistic reasons,” Howard said, it planted the seed that grew his interest in creating commemorative spaces.

“I proved to have too much of an opinion,” Howard told AN. “I said to Frank, ‘Look, do you want me to be your in-house sculptor or you want me to tell you what I really think?’ He goes, ‘Shoot,” and I said, “Well it looks like you designed the Natural History Museum here.”

Had he taken the job, Howard would have been engulfed in what’s turned out to be a two-decade-long controversial battle to get the memorial built ahead of the 2020 Victory in Europe Day. While he didn’t end up on this monumental project in the nation’s capital, he did venture into the complexities of another.

This spring, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) approved Howard’s sculptural contribution to the upcoming National WWI Memorial in Pershing Park, a 1.76-acre landscape set along Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. Designed by Joseph Weishaar, “The Weight of Sacrifice” is the result of another two-decade controversial effort to pay tribute to an often overlooked period of history. A Soldier’s Journey, Howard’s massive, 60-foot-long, 10-foot-high bronze figure sculpture, will be the centerpiece of the renovated landscape, and a major component of the project that took years for preservationists and the U.S. government to sign off on.

“As an entire team, we struggled with the urban context at the beginning,” said Weishaar, who was selected for the project just a few years after graduating from the University of Arkansas’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design in 2013. “Where do you draw the boundaries between urban park and memorial?”

Read more: National WWI Memorial moves ahead with Pershing Park plan


Crew of new Navy ship, USS Kansas City, WW1CC Commissioners, in attendance at Memorial Day ceremonies at the National WWI Museum & Memorial 

By Sean McDowell
via the web site (Kansas City, MO)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There was a suitable celebration amid the metro's observance of Memorial Day.

Crew members from a brand new U.S. Navy ship, the USS Kansas City, paid their respects at Monday's public ceremonies at Liberty Memorial.

It`s always a sacred time when thankful Kansas Citians gather to thank their military heroes. However, this year's gathering was unique. This year's guests of honor included the crew of the forthcoming USS Kansas City, a U.S. Navy vessel that`s due to be commissioned next year.

"Dear Lord, hear our prayer for all who have died," one speaker at Monday's ceremony said in a prayer for mercy for suffering families.

Within those solemn seconds, there was reserved excitement concerning the USS Kansas City, a new breed of Navy warship capable of traveling at high rates of speed while still transporting personnel and equipment.

Read more: Crew of new Navy ship, USS Kansas City, WW1CC Commissioners, in attendance at Memorial Day...


Private Compton: My Experiences in the World War  

"America had a big part in bringing the war to an end"

By Wendy Yessler
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

A century has passed since the Great War was fought. This is a never-before-published, first-hand account, written and compiled by my great grandfather, Paul L. Compton. His narrative brings events to life from a perspective of one who was actually there. Beginning with training at Camp Hancock, Georgia, he carries you through the voyage to Europe, the war, and then the return home to the welcoming parades.

CoverWendy YesslerWendy YesslerNot only does his writing bring the events of the war to life, but his personality adds some lightheartedness and humor to an otherwise difficult topic. It's an enjoyable read, making you feel as if you are by his side and participating, as he retells the events. The reader is left with a sense of being there, as well as making a friendship connection with Paul Compton himself. Included near the end of the book are his poetic reflections and ponderings about various memorials, monuments, and life. These further illustrate the man Paul Compton was.

Over a year ago, my brother gave me a large folder which he explained contained the writings of Paul Compton, our great grandfather. Paul Compton’s granddaughter had given it to my brother. I had the folder for a year and because of busyness with responsibilities, had not been able to read it. I decided I should return it to my brother. I was planning to visit my brother in November while I worked as election support in southern MD. When I was packing, I pulled the “writings” out of the folder and discovered it was a complete manuscript of Paul Compton’s experiences in WW1. At that moment, I knew I could not return it yet. I knew that this needed to be published so that it would be available for others to read.

In January I began scanning his manuscript for the book. I felt keeping his original typed pages was important for the authentic feel of the book. His poetry section contained photos of the memorials and monuments he wrote about, but the copies were extremely dark. I discovered that he had actually used postcards and was able to locate 99% of the ones he had used and inserted fresh copies. The National Archives gave me access to the AEF collection of photos where I searched for photos that would depict things he talked about.

Read more: Paul L Compton: "America had a big part in bringing the war to an end"


Bremerton Memorial 1000Research Elisabeth Demmon librarian uncovered errors on a remembrance stone to veterans of World War I and wants to see all those who died in the war get their due.

Who are the vets on the WWI Bremerton Memorial and why are some missing? 

By Josh Farley
via the Kitsap Sun (WA) newspaper web site

Twenty bronze plaques on a chunk of concrete.

It seemed a simple enough assignment for researcher Elisabeth Demmon as she copied the names of 11 soldiers, five sailors and four Marines off a memorial for those who “fought and died” in World War I at Bremerton’s Evergreen-Rotary Park.

Her mission: learn who these men were.

“I thought it was going to be a straightforward project,” said Demmon, a library research associate at Kitsap Regional Library working on her master’s degree in genealogical studies. “I had no idea what I was in for.”

Close to 100 years after the conflict ended, Demmon’s many months dredging the early 20th century for clues about the 20 men led to some perplexing discoveries and startling inaccuracies. She found not every man from Bremerton who died in the “war to end all wars” is actually listed. And some of those who were immortalized there didn’t die in the war at all. There was even one who would make it through the war and come home only to be murdered by his wife.

“I never knew what I was going to find from one man to the next,” Demmon said. “They were each very unique in so many ways.”

Demmon examined birth certificates, obituaries and stories from the newspapers of the day. Slowly, as she verified and vivified each man’s story, other questions about the memorial itself began to pop up. Who picked these names for the memorial, when did they decide to create the memorial and why?

“To this day, I do not know the criteria used for choosing these men,” she said.

Read more: Who are the vets on the WWI Bremerton Memorial and why are some missing?


polar bears monument 1000A monument for the Polar Bears stands at White Chapel cemetery in Troy. (Photo: David Guralnick, The Detroit News)

'Polar Bear' memorial in Troy marks a largely forgotten GI mission in WWI Russia

By Neal Rubin
via the Detroit News newspaper (MI) web site

Troy — The first 56 who lie buried near the marble statue of the polar bear died in Russia, where their government sent them to fight ghosts when the rest of the world was celebrating the end of the Great War.

The others, though — the ones who bought their burial plots close by, across a pathway from the Polar Bear Monument — were lucky enough to come home. And years later, when so many others had forgotten the sad and sorry story of the Polar Bear Expedition, they made the choice to lie forever near their brothers in shared misery.

The Polar Bears were some 5,000 soldiers of the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces, most of them from Michigan. They fought the Bolsheviks with guns and cannons in Russia's frozen northern reaches for seven deadly months after the November 1918 armistice that ended World War I.

Their mission was unclear, their president reluctant and their weaponry ill-suited for the conditions. Largely forgotten outside Metro Detroit, they were remembered at 11 a.m. Monday, May 27 in the 90th annual WWI Polar Bear Memorial Service in Troy.

Read more: 'Polar Bear' memorial in Troy marks a largely forgotten GI mission in WWI Russia


“The instruments of Destiny”: Reception of Iliad in American Great War Poetry 

By Claire Davis
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

One hundred years from the conclusion of the First World War, much of the classical reception in the war poetry of the early twentieth century remains unexamined. Most notably in this area, Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver’s recent book Stand in the Trench, Achilles challenges the persistent notion that all World War I poets refuted the tradition of their forefathers through her examination of classically-inspired poetry. Partially due to the late entry of the American forces in the First World War and partially because of the decline in classical education across the country, the small pool of American war poetry does not lend itself as easily to analysis, especially when the memory surrounding the First World War in America remains so vague.

Nevertheless, despite these inhibitors, a close reading of American war poetry before and during the First World War reveals that poets and their audience also found meaning and representation in the classical tradition in works such as the Iliad. However, the American classical tradition differentiates itself from its British counterparts by showcasing the nations’ disparate experiences in the war as well as their differing cultural values and self-images.

Liebermann Werner Jaeger 300Werner JaegerOne of the most striking ways that classical tradition impacted British culture was how it bred a type of soldier that viewed their status in society as the product of a legacy based on courtesy and discipline. Werner Jaeger argues in his book Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, that the most famous of classical authors, Homer, “presents the courtesy of his heroes as an absolute value; not as an unimportant background to their life, but as a real factor in their superiority . . . it gives them a special excellence, which they justify both by their grand and noble deeds, and by their blameless conduct in happiness and misery alike.”1 This justification of the elite in Greek culture and later British culture bred young men and women who were fully conscious of their ancestors’ superiority and inspired them to live up to their example. The British societal system perpetuated a widespread demand for knowledge of the classics and its virtues, and since most of the higher officers in the British army were public-school graduates or attendees,2 it was only natural that a major part of the British army be well versed in authors such as Plato or Homer and that a number may later refer to them to better explain their own war-time experiences.

While the classical tradition was not confined to a certain view or treatment, Vandiver finds a few major themes of sacrifice and idealism within British war poetry. She writes that the prevailing conception of the war as more than a struggle between nations put increased pressure on British civilians and soldiers, who were told that they were “defending civilization itself” through their service.3 Britain’s idealistic basis for entering the war elevated the status of the soldier and his combat to extraordinary heights in the contemporary mind to where any man could become a selfless hero and any skirmish the stuff of epic. Portraying the British soldier as an extension of the very culture that he defends is a way to claim and support the tradition to both contemporary and future audiences. Furthermore, the poet fulfills the function of epic poetry by honoring the soldiers for their bravery and thus committing their memory to eternity, which provides the soldier immortal glory, or kleos. By incorporating it into their work, British poets strengthened their nation’s ties to the classical tradition and acknowledged the platform of idealism that surrounded the British perceptions of the war.

Read more: “The instruments of Destiny”: Reception of Iliad in American Great War Poetry


Fox 21 video

Construction Set to Begin on New World War I Memorial in West Duluth 

By Nachai Taylor
via the Fox 21 KQDS television web site (MN)

DULUTH, Minn. – A $60,000 construction project is set to begin in June for a new World War I memorial at Memorial Park to honor more than 20 West Duluth soldiers.

A new concrete surrounding and a flag pole will be installed in the park on the corner of Central and Grand Ave.

The memorial will also pay tribute to over one hundred fifty World War One Gold Stars members.

Duluth Parks and Recreation says the previous memorial resided in the park for one hundred years.

Over time it had become destroyed and pieces have gone missing.

Read more: Construction Set to Begin on New World War I Memorial in West Duluth


Once World War I enemies, Minneapolis musicians shared bond over French horn left on battlefield 

By Curt Brown
via the StarTribune newspaper (MN) web site

With all its brass curves, a lost French horn wound up in what the 1927 Minneapolis Daily Star called “the center of one of the most amazing coincidents …”

Wilhelm Muelbe and Fred Keller were born nearly seven years and 4,300 miles apart in the late-1800s. They wound up fighting — and playing in military bands — on opposite sides of World War I a century ago.

ows 154248832937740Wilhelm Muelbe and Fred Keller, from a 1927 Minneapolis Daily Star clipping, with the French horn abandoned by Muelbe and recovered by Keller during fighting in World War I near Saint-Mihiel.Muelbe, a German musician born in Rostock in 1888, gave up his chair with the famous Grand Opera orchestra in Cologne to fight with the Germans along the Russian and Western fronts from 1914 to 1918. He survived unscathed, although a bullet once pierced his knapsack.

Keller was born in Minneapolis in 1895, the son of a German immigrant father and Wisconsin mother. Census rolls show Fred as a newspaper circulation manager in 1930, a leather salesman in 1940 and an ammunition maker in New Brighton by 1942.

Back in 1918, Keller was a member of the band connected with the Army’s 151st field artillery battery made up largely of Minneapolis men. They went on the offensive near Saint-Mihiel in northeastern France.

During five hellacious days in mid-September, American forces deployed one of their most audacious combat operations, using war planes for the first time and aggressive tank assaults under the command of young Col. George Patton, who would become famous in the next world war. The victory at Saint-Mihiel came at high cost: 7,000 American casualties, but more than 10,000 Germans taken prisoner.

Read more: Once World War I enemies, Minneapolis musicians shared bond over French horn left on battlefield


Groundbreaking for WWI Memorial starts this Fall in D.C. 

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

Nexstar Media is the second-largest television station owner in the United States (after Sinclair Broadcast Group), owning 171 television stations across the U.S.  The chain broadcast a Memorial Day article on progress of our National WWI Memorial.  The video is shown below as it appeared on NewsChannel 34 in Binghamton, New York last week.

Read more: Groundbreaking for WWI Memorial starts this Fall in D.C.

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Remembering Veterans: Luca Angeli on Italian-born Doughboys  

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In May 17th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 123, host Theo Mayer spoke with Luca Angeli about his project commemorating Italian-born Doughboys who died fighting for the United States. A native of Italy, Mr. Angeli has spent time working in the United States, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

Theo Mayer: Because we're coming up on Memorial Day, we're focusing this week's segments on a series of stories that remember veterans. Our first segment looks at a group of immigrant soldiers that served in World War I. The New Colossus is a sonnet that American poet Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was cast into a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level. The most famous part of the sonnet reads:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, the tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

America has always been a nation of immigrants, and so it was in 1917 when we entered World War I on the side of the Allies and constituted a draft to grow our military from a small standing army to a major fighting force. A huge number of immigrants were swept into national service. One such group were Italians, many of whom had recently come to America suddenly finding themselves returning to Europe in uniform as part of the US Army. Our next guest, Luca Angeli, has been curating this information including a section on the Commission's website called, "Back Over There: Italian Immigrants Serving in the US Army." Luca, welcome to the podcast.

Luca Angeli: Thank you Theo, thank you for having me here.

Read more: Podcast Article - Luca Angeli Interview

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

100 Years Ago This Week: The League and Treaty as Viewed In America  

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From May 17th's edition of the WWI Centennial News Podcast, Episode 123:  

The story of the Paris Peace Conference not only plays out in the halls of Versailles, in Germany's Weimar, in the United Kingdom's parliament, but also here in America's Washington, DC. This week World War I Centennial News researcher and writer Dave Kramer explores the events on this side of the pond. The negotiations in Paris have been tortuous for Woodrow Wilson and things are no easier for him at home. As Mike Shuster told us, the Germans finally decide to sign the Treaty, even over the objections of their so-called irreconcilables. It's a very different story here in the States. We also have a group in the United States dubbed the irreconcilables. But unlike Germany, they hold the power to either ratify or kill the peace treaty to be completed in June. It seems hard to believe that Woodrow Wilson does not seem to take the Senate opposition to the treaty more seriously. The signs have been there for a long time.

President WilsonPresident Wilson ran into strong political headwinds as he tried to promote the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations at homeOn November 5, 1918, just days before the jubilation of an armistice to end the Great War, the US midterm elections hand the president a stunning defeat. Wilson Democrats lose control of both the House and the Senate to the Republicans. It is the Senate that gives the thumbs up or thumbs down for international treaties for the United States. By November 21, the Senate Republicans make it clear that they expect to have representation on the US Peace Commission. Citing earlier precedents, and based on the idea that these representatives will be better able to explain the reasoning behind complex or controversial terms of the treaty, The Washington Post believes that Wilson will grant their request. He doesn't and the Senate isn't very appreciative. It's not the terms of the peace treaty gradually being hammered out in Paris that caused the problems. It's the League of Nations. Republican senators believe the League will undermine US sovereignty. An important concession that they seek is to separate the League Charter from the peace treaty. What do these anti-League senators object to? Many feel that the League will force the US to enter into wars in defense of other league members and wars that may not hold any national interest for us. They worry that it will threaten the Monroe Doctrine, which largely keeps European and Asian powers out of the Western Hemisphere. In essence, they fear that the League will limit our own sovereignty and power.

Read more: Podcast Article - U.S. Reception of the League and Treaty

Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery

The 369th Experience at Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York 2019

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

In foreground wearing civilian clothes, from left: Noble Sissel Jr., Cynthia Sissel, and James Reece Europe III, descendants of members of the original 369th Regimental Jazz Band, join The 369th Experience, a World War I tribute band sponsored by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission, as they perform in Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York, which this year is commemorating World War I, Saturday, May 25, 2019, in New York. The band, which is made up of music students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the U.S., play the musical repertoire of New York's legendary 369th Regiment "Harlem Hellfighters" Regimental Jazz Band. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)


Read more: Fleet Week 2019 Photo Gallery: The 369th Experience at Rockefeller Center May 25

Fleet Week Photo Gallery

Fox & Friends gives an update on new National WWI Memorial

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

This year's Fleet Week New York had a World War I theme, so the team from FOX & FRIENDS invited the World War I Centennial Commission to give an update on the new National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC. The segment brought many surprises, and helped to tell our story to audiences across the country.

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Read more: Fleet Week Photo Gallery: Fox & Friends

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