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World War I Centennial News


American sculptor built facial prosthetics for disfigured WWI soldiers

By Gareth Davies
via the web site

Anna Coleman Ladd at workAnna Coleman Ladd works on the mask of one of the soldiers. The incredible set of photos from nearly 100 years ago show the impact one American sculptor had on the lives of numerous soldiers who were horrifically disfigured during World War One.Incredible before and after photographs show how British soldiers had to have their faces rebuilt having been maimed during World War One.

Images taken shortly after the conclusion of the First World War, between the end of 1918 and the beginning of 1919, show the horrible facial injuries suffered by several soldiers.

The pictures show how a pioneering sculptor and a leading surgeon used their expertise to transform the men who had become victims on the frontline.

Anna Coleman Ladd created custom-made masks for soldiers to wear over their wounds.

Ladd was an American-born sculptor who studied in Paris and Rome, and soldiers would come to her studio to have a cast made of their faces, which would then be used to help construct the prosthetic from very thin copper.

This would then be painted to try and resemble the soldiers' skin colour, and each piece would be adorned with some form of string or eyeglasses in order to keep it in place.

Before she got to work on the masks, many soldiers required surgery to rebuild their faces.

Young surgeon Harold Gillies transformed the faces of many of those who were injured and shipped back to Britain.

Read more: American-born sculptor built facial prosthetics for WWI soldiers

Five Questions for Jerry Michaud, Roll of Honor Foundation

"Make sure that those U.S. service men and women who served in this war are not forgotten by this and future generations."

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

One of our great partners in our effort to create the new National World War I Memorial is the Roll Of Honor Foundation. The Roll of Honor Foundation is a nonprofit charity with the mission of honoring the military service of the men and women of America’s Armed Forces, educating the public about their legacy and encouraging public service among the next generation. The Foundation provides the Roll of Honor -- an online registry of U.S. service persons -- which allows former military members and their families to display their military experience, records of achievement and photos in a digital visual biography. In partnership with the United States World War One Centennial Commission, the World War I Roll of Honor features profiles of many of the more than 4 million American service persons who responded to the call of “Over There” in support of the war-weary Allies and helped achieve victory in "The War That Changed the World." We spoke to Jerry Michaud, who created the profile platform for the Roll of Honor Foundation, to hear about their efforts regarding World War I veterans.

Tell us about the Roll of Honor Foundation and what you do to honor our nation’s veterans.

The Roll of Honor Foundation’s mission is to honor the military service of the men and women of America’s Armed Forces, educating the public about their legacy and encouraging public service among future generations.

Jerry Michaud 300Jerry MichaudThe Foundation provides a free online registry of U.S. service men and women ( which allows current and former military members and their families to display their military experience, records of achievement and photos in a digital visual biography. Our ambition is to document the entire U.S. military service history – from Lexington and Concord to today’s deployments – through the individual histories of America’s military. Almost 3 million service members are currently in the Roll of Honor and new profiles are being added daily.

You recently partnered with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission for a special edition of the Roll of Honor. What will people see when they go to the Roll of Honor?

The World War One National Memorial Roll of Honor ( was designed to give individual visibility to the millions of Doughboys, pilots, sailors and nurses of “the war that changed the world,” detailing their ranks, units, battles, awards, citations and other elements of their service. Through a vivid digital display, each profile page will focus on that individual’s World War One experience, making sure that everyone who took a stand for freedom – serving their country in the military, surviving extremely tough circumstances and possibly facing death – will not be unnoticed or forgotten.

On the WWI Commission’s website, visitors can use the “Find Your World War One veteran” search tool to discover their ancestor’s individual profile on the WWI Roll of Honor. If there is no profile created yet or you have additional details, photographs, letters or “Stories of Service” you want to add to an existing profile, the Roll of Honor Foundation staff will help you build or enhance the profile.

Read more: Five Questions for Jerry Michaud

Five Questions for David Hanna

"The volunteers' commitment to the cause they were defending rarely, if ever, wavered."

Before America joined World War I, a small group of Americans volunteered for the French Foreign Legion to help defeat the Central Powers. In his book Rendezvous with Death, historian David Hanna profiles seven of these volunteers: a poet, an artist, a boxer, a stunt pilot, a college student, a veteran of the Spanish American War, and an advertising executive. All seven men were united in courage; and some, like poet Alan Seeger, paid the ultimate sacrifice. Now Hanna has built a section about The American Volunteers of 1914 on the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission web site. The Rendezvous with Death site provides additional information, from both American and international sources, about the Volunteers. We talked to David about his book, the new site, what he learned personally while researching the volunteers.

Tell us about your book, RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH, on which your new web site is based. It has a truly unique World War I topic.

My book focuses on the original group of American volunteers in the French army in 1914. I found my way to this topic when doing some exploratory research on a book on the Lafayette Escadrille. What intrigued me most was the story of the pilots that had originally served in the trenches, on the ground, in the French Foreign legion before taking to the air. I was also drawn to the stories of those of their original comrades who did not join the air service. There was something pure, for lack of a better way of putting it, about their motives and their sacrifice. They truly believed - even the most hard-boiled and/or jaded among them - that this cause was a worthy one, that they were fighting "For Civilization" ( the original title of my book, by the way - dropped because it wasn't considered marketable enough...).

Hanna DDavid HannaI also have a strong personal connection to the war, as my maternal grandfather, John Elco, served in France in 1918 with the Keystone Division and the 19th Engineers. We were close when I was a boy. He instilled in me a love of history that has persisted throughout my life.

Who were these American men who enlisted with the French Foreign Legion? Where did they come from? Where they running to the war, or running away from something? Why did they join FFL instead of an American military service?

A majority of them were expats, living in Paris when the war broke out. Some were from wealthy backgrounds, others, humble. Some black, some white. Artists, writers, poets, posers, boxers - they all had found something living abroad, living in Paris, that spoke to them. When their French counterparts in the cafes got their call-up papers, and headed to the Front, many felt they owed something and joined them.

There were others, smaller in number, who felt that France's cause was noble and Germany was a bully. They booked passage on their own to France, and joined the Legion too. Probably the most famous of these were the Rockwell brothers, Paul and Kiffin. Kiffin would go on to become one of the founding members of the Lafayette Escadrille.

The reason they joined the Foreign Legion was because it was the only outfit that would allow them to serve while retaining their U.S. citizenship. With Wilson firmly opposed to intervention in the war, the only way to come to France's aid was to do so directly. But they were the trailblazers. The hundreds of thousands of their countrymen that would follow in 1917-1918, were walking in their footsteps.

Read more: Five Questions for David Hanna

The Trains & Traction Project

Six United States WWI-era railcars to be rebuilt in France for the Centennial Commemoration

By Ashleigh Shaw
Staff Writer

unnamed 25Alaine (L) and Phillippe, volunteers from Trains & Traction, shown at work restoring the American military rail cars from World War I, with the exact-reproduction stencil markings from the era.Trains and Traction: Le Train des Mouettes, a French train association, is rebuilding six United States World War I railcars. These train cars were originally constructed by U.S. Doughboys from the 35th Engineer Regiment in 1917-1918.

Olivier Jaubert, Heritage Director for Trains & Traction, says it is a heartfelt project of friendship between the people of America and France. "Our project is relatively big and involves a lot of partners, including French Ministry of Culture. It may interest American citizens to know that the people of France vividly remember the past help that came to us from the United States".

100 years ago, the Doughboys of the 35th Engineers worked to assemble railcars in order to move supplies and men to the front lines. Across France, U.S. Army Engineers would assemble thousands of rail cars, and create a brand new railway system. Many of the railcars were assembled in La Rochelle, France by the 35th Engineers.

Train des Mouettes is working to complete all six rail cars before the end of the Centennial. In honor of the first of these railway cars being completely reconstructed, the Consul of the United States in Bordeaux visited the car during its formal presentation in July 2017.

Read more: The Trains & Traction Project

‘Rodin at The Met’ Celebrates a Centennial

Rodin inspired more emotion in the World War I memorial sculpture

By Milene Fernandez
via the Epoch Times web site

Rodin exhibit“Rodin at The Met” exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sept. 15, 2017. (Milene Fernandez/The Epoch Times)NEW YORK—If you would be asked to imagine a sculpture, you would most likely conjure an image of a robust male nude sitting on a rock, hunched over diagonally with his right elbow digging into his left knee, his chin resting on his right hand, his head downcast—that iconic sculpture by Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), “The Thinker.” This year marks the centennial of Rodin’s death. It gives us ample opportunity to re-think this larger-than-life sculptor. Rodin may be difficult to pinpoint in art history yet he continues to influence artists today.

Museums around the world are celebrating Rodin’s legacy and The Metropolitan Museum of Art is no exception. Since cementing a fruitful relationship with Rodin during the artist’s lifetime and owning a wide array of his work, The Met has put together a most refreshing and uniquely comprehensive exhibition, “Rodin at The Met,” on view until Jan. 15, 2018.

Rediscovering Rodin

“The exhibition tells the story of this great artist but also the story of a hundred years of gifts and acquisitions of his works,” said Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of The Met at a press preview on Sept. 15. Many of the works The Met acquired as gifts from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, which also made the exhibition possible.

The Met owns 91 Rodin sculptures, in marble, bronze, plaster, and terracotta. More than half, 49, are on view, featuring iconic sculptures like “The Thinker” in the same size as in “The Gates of Hell” portal, and “The Hand of God,” among others. One of the curator’s joys of working on this exhibit was discovering the exquisitely carved sculpture, “The Tempest.” It had been kept in storage well over 20 years. The only other marble known of it is in the Musée Rodin in Paris.

“Rodin actually changed the way that I work. I had to learn drama and storytelling, and Rodin helped me with that.”
-- Sabin Howard, sculptor for the national World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, DC.

The statue that marked the beginning of Rodin’s public career, “The Age of Bronze,” stands as usual in the center of the gallery, as the axis of two major themes of the exhibition—creation and death.

On the west side of the gallery, stands the literary giant, the “Monument to Balzac,” and “The Hand of God,” Rodin’s great tribute to Michelangelo and to artistic creativity. In contrast, the east side of the gallery focuses on despair, displaying “Adam” and “Eve” on both sides of ‘The Thinker,” mimicking their placement in the great portal, “The Gates of Hell.”

On the walls, paintings from The Met’s collection by some of Rodin’s most admired contemporaries are displayed. “We could make the paintings for the first time really speak to the sculptures and the sculptures speak to the paintings and that’s [the result of our] collaborative effort,” said Denise Allen, curator of European sculpture and decorative art at The Met and the main organizer of the exhibition. Allen led a team from three departments.

Read more: Rodin inspired more emotion in the World War I memorial sculpture

Vintage baseball game in Newport honors WWI hero

By Mark Reynolds
via the Providence Journal web site

NWC Baseball gameAir Force Lt. Col. Chris Cornette, playing for the Army team, takes a practice wsing while Navy and Army managers go over the ground rules with the umpires before the WWI baseball game in Providence, RI on September 29. [The providence Journal / Glenn Osmundson]NEWPORT, R.I. — Bernardo Cardines was an Italian immigrant, a resident alien, a tailor and a future soldier who lived just a short distance from one of the earliest baseball parks in the United States.

He had journeyed to Rhode Island by his 15th birthday, registered for the draft by his 22nd birthday. He never celebrated his 23rd birthday. He was killed on a battlefield in France during World War I.

Remembering the sacrifice of the immigrant was one of the story lines Friday when the iconic ball field on America’s Cup Way was rededicated in Cardines’ name.

The event, organized in part by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, also featured an old-fashioned baseball game between Naval War College students dressed in World War I-era Navy and Army baseball uniforms.

Baseball was an element in diplomacy that glued together the Western alliance and paved the way for the meaningful service of Cardines and many other U.S. aliens, according to a member of the centennial commission, John D. Monahan, a retired U.S. Army major who knows his history.

About 25 percent of the individuals who served in the American Expeditionary Forces were not natives of the United States, says Monahan.

“That’s absolutely critical to the story,” said Monahan.

Cardines was born in Venafro, Italy, and he arrived in the U.S. in 1909, joining his father, a tailor. He became a tailor himself. He worked in a business on Thames Street and lived with relatives on Sanford Street — on the other side of the ballpark.

A year after the United States entered World War I, he was among U.S. soldiers who boarded a troopship in Philadelphia for deployment to Europe to serve under Gen. John J. Pershing.

Read more: Vintage baseball game in Newport honors WWI hero

Four Question for Cypher, "The Cynical Historian"

WWI: "A clear breaking point in world history, and American history is no exception to that."

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

As part of our series on historical resources online, we wanted to showcase a remarkable YouTuber named Cypher, who hosts the channel "The Cynical Historian. Cypher is an offbeat, frank, and fresh, voice in the world of historical review -- and thorough his insight, he has earned a wide & enthusiastic following online, with nearly 40,000 subscribers. His latest episode was one that he produced as a commemorative partner with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. The episode discusses the lasting effects of World War I.

Tell us about your new WWI episode on your YouTube Channel -- "What Were the Effects of WWI?" sounds like an pretty ambitious topic!

Unknown 9Cypher, "The Cynical Historian"Awhile back I did an episode on the causes of WWI. Since we’re still within the centennial of the war, I thought I would talk about its effects. It is a clear breaking point in world history, and American history is no exception to that. But there is an interesting interpretive layer that many don’t explore when discussing WWI’s end.

Some of our readers are not well-acquainted with the history shows on YouTube, or with your particular Channel. Tell us about what aspects of history that you specialize in, and what interests you pursue in producing your shows.

I do a lot of analytical history on whatever I feel like doing really. The best explanation I can give for the channel is to direct you to the channel trailer: The Cynical Historian | Channel Trailer

Read more: Four Question for Cypher, "The Cynical Historian"

Announcing the First 50 Official 'WWI Centennial Memorials'

Via the Veterans of Foreign Wars web site

On September 27th, the United States World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library announced the first 50 official “WWI Centennial Memorials” from 100 Cites/100 Memorials program.

100C 100M Logo largeAlthough the 100 Cities / 100 Memorials program submission period lasted a full year, from July 2016 to July 2017, since the April 6 centennial of the U.S. declaration of war and the subsequent national awakening about World War I, the interest and focus on local WWI memorials around the country has had a large resurgence.

Rather than simply extending the submission period, the 100 Cities / 100 Memorials program Executive Committee has resolved to select and to name the first 50 awardees now, and then to re-open a new submission period starting today, September 14, 2017, through January 15, 2018. In this way, we are opening the National Matching Grant challenge to the many additional WWI memorial projects manifesting around the country. Aside from the dates and deadlines, the competition rules and regulations will remain essentially unchanged and can see found at

The extension is called: 100 Cities / 100 Memorials Round #2. All entries that were submitted in Round #1, but were not awarded a grant, are automatically entered into Round #2. Additionally, those participants’ entries will be opened for editing allowing them to add to, edit and update their submissions until the closing of Round #2.

Through this program, we found that every project submitted is amazing in its own right. Though we are announcing 50 awardees today, literally every submission received deserves recognition and congratulations. The program sponsors, supporting organizations and project staff wish to thank everyone who has and everyone who will be participating in the program. The dedication and honor you have shown to your community, your history and our national heritage is genuinely humbling. Thank you.

Furthermore, during the World War One Centennial Commission meeting in Washington DC on September 13, 2017, the Commission resolved to designate the awarded memorials as “WWI Centennial Memorials” and as the congressionally designated U.S. government body for the national Commemoration of World War One, to make such a designation an official national designation.

Read more: Announcing the First 50 Official 'WWI Centennial Memorials'

WWI: Immigrants make a difference on the front lines and at home

By Ryan Reft
via the Library of Congress Blog

By 1910, nearly a third of the United States’ 92 million residents were either born abroad or the progeny of parents who immigrated to America. The idea of “hyphenated Americans”—citizens who identified as Polish-American or Italian-American, for example—discomforted many native-born citizens. Former President Teddy Roosevelt insisted all citizens, no matter their birthright or ethnic heritage, embrace “the simple and loyal motto, America for Americans.” Future president Woodrow Wilson, too, expressed doubts about foreign-born citizens, worrying they might harbor “alien sympathies.”

Americanization DayIn the years immediately surrounding World War I, organizations like the New York National Americanization Day Committee hoped to use patriotic holidays such as the Fourth of July as a means to unify the country’s diverse populations.Although Americans did not know it at the time, immigrants would soon prove critical to the country’s effort in World War I, both in military service and in industry. Despite their importance, America closed its borders in the years after the armistice, ending what had been the largest immigration flow in the country’s history.

The complicated experience of immigrants on the American home front during the WWI era is conveyed in the Library’s current exhibit “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I,” which features artifacts from divisions across the Library. In addition, case files from the Manuscript Division’s Woodrow Wilson Papers shed further light on the wartime lives of American newcomers.

Whatever nativist doubts the native-born harbored, immigrants in 1917 poured themselves into the war effort. Nearly 500,000 servicemen in the newly conscripted army consisted of individuals born abroad in 46 different nations. Like their African-American counterparts, however, immigrants were over drafted: nearly 18 percent of enlisted men were foreign born despite making up less than 15 percent of the nation’s total population.

Initially, the military subscribed to the 100-percent Americanism promoted by Roosevelt. U.S. Army Captain Ralston Flemming, for example, wrote of successful efforts at Camp Jackson in South Carolina to inculcate immigrants with “enthusiastic militant Americanism.” But the military soon adopted the gentler Americanization program of progressive reformers, which allowed for retention of cultural traditions. Congress also helped by passing legislation that enabled foreign-born soldiers to obtain expedited naturalization. Eventually, about 300,000 immigrant soldiers would attain citizenship through military service in the war.

On the home front, with immigrant labor concentrated in wartime industries—coal, steel, textiles, oil, lumber and many others—newcomers to the U.S. contributed mightily to mobilization and war work. At Bethlehem Steel, one of the largest wartime steel producers, nearly 10,000 of the plant’s 30,000 workers were immigrants.

Unions, too, saw an opportunity to expand through immigration. Historically, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) had expressed ambivalence and even reticence toward immigrant labor. But during the war, it incorporated the foreign born into the labor movement. AFL membership boomed, as did that of other unions, like the International Association of Machinists.

Read more: Immigrants Make a Difference on the Front Lines and at Home

The first woman Marine: In 1918, she couldn’t vote but rushed to serve

By Petula Dvorak
via the Washington Post web site 

The first female Marine?

Not what you may think. Yes, women served as parachute riggers and welders, and eventually became drill sergeants and pilots. But the first woman to join the Marine Corps was the 39-year-old wife of an orchestra conductor.

Opha May JohnsonOpha May Johnson, center, the first woman to join the Marines in 1918, watches as adjustments are made to a World War I uniform being modeled by Pfc. Muriel Albert. (U.S. Marine Corps)Opha May Johnson joined up Aug. 13, 1918 — before she was even allowed to vote.

Almost a century later, the Marines announced Thursday a woman has passed the grueling Infantry Officer Course, long the domain of the toughest male Marines, for the first time.

This still-unidentified woman was tested for 86 days on a course that washes out 25 percent of the men who try it. She hiked for miles in the Mojave Desert and in the mountains, swam laps in all her battle rattle, carried a load of up to 152 pounds for more than nine miles at a three-mile-per-hour pace, and came across a pile of springs, firing bolts, stocks and barrels and — on the spot — assembled them into foreign and American infantry weapons (under an undisclosed time limit). Among other horrors.

Her performance was so jaw-dropping, the Marines announced her halfway point in August.

It was different for the first female Marine 100 years ago — she did not have to hike in the desert. She did take a man’s job.

It was close to the end of World War I when the Marine Corps decided to fill some of the gaps left behind by all the men fighting overseas. In 1918, Johnson was the first of 300 women who showed up to take one of those jobs. They made headlines in newspapers all across the country.

Johnson, born Opha May Jacob in Kokomo, Indiana, was a rapid-fire typist.

Her name is often misspelled, Kara Newcomer, an historian with the Marine Corps History Division, told the Quantico Sentry.

Her middle name usually appears in books and on photos as “Mae,” though it’s spelled like the month, May, Newcomer said.

“We also believe she probably went by her first name alone, based on how she signed her name,” Newcomer said.

A wise decision on her part.

Read more: The first woman Marine: In 1918, she couldn’t vote but rushed to serve

100 Cites/100 Memorials program update

First 50 official “WWI Centennial Memorials” to be announced

By Theo Mayer
100 Cities/100 Memorials Program Manager, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

100C 100M Logo largeCHICAGO—The World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, in partnership with The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, will announce the first 50 memorials officially designated as WWI Centennial Memorials Wednesday, September 27, 2017 10:00am Eastern / 9:00am Central.

This media event will be live streamed from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago. The announcement will also be live-streamed via the PMML's YouTube channel and Facebook account, as well as via the Centennial Commission's Facebook account. All selected memorials will be posted on the Commission web site after the media event.

Each memorial project will receive $2,000 in matching grant funds towards the restoration and maintenance of these memorials through 100 Cities/100 Memorials.

The 100 Cities/100 Memorials Program was created to help draw attention to WWI memorials across the United States and enables all of America to take part in the WWI Centennial Commemoration. Many of these World War I war memorials have deteriorated due to exposure to the elements, neglect and even vandalism and all require maintenance.

Two-hundred thousand dollars in matching funds have been allocated by the World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, with additional support from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War, to restore these memorials back to their physical beauty and to help actively raise public awareness of those who served and of the effect this global conflict still has on today’s society. These community treasures are a tangible connection to the profound impact this war had on local towns and cities, securing an important place in military history.

“More than 4 million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during World War I. 116,516 U.S. soldiers died in the war and another 200,000 were wounded,” said Terry Hamby, commissioner of the United States World War One Centennial Commission. “100 Cities/100 Memorials is a critically important initiative that will have an impact beyond these grants. These memorials represent an important part of remembering our past and preserving our culture.”

Read more: First 50 official “WWI Centennial Memorials” to be announced

'A Soldier's Journey' explored - with US WWI Memorial sculptor Sabin Howard 

By Patrick Gregory
via the web site

The design for America’s proposed new National World War I Memorial in Washington DC has reached another key stage thanks to an innovative collaboration between the memorial’s sculptor and computer artists in New Zealand. Sabin Howard, the leading classical sculptor, has taken designs for the memorial from his studio in New York to Wellington to work with leading 3-D modelling specialists. He’s been talking to Patrick Gregory.

dk6ox1tf3hjhndvyfvdd thumbSabin Howard with his new working model of 'A Soldier's Journey', developed in partnership with digital modellers, Weta Workshop, in Wellington, New Zealand (Image © Weta Workshop/US World War I Centennial Commission)It's over 18 months since the WWI Centennial Commission chose Sabin Howard and architect Joe Weishaar’s design for the new national memorial in Washington, but it has been time busily spent taking the original concept through a number of different design stages. For sculptor Howard that has meant 60-hour weeks in his Bronx studio while discussing and developing the various iterations of his ideas through a detailed committee process; and now he has a new set of partners on the other side of the world. All are helping shape the final design.

Howard's focus has been on the wall of remembrance which will be set in the middle of what is to be a newly-configured Pershing Park, off the National Mall in the capital, not far from the White House. In particular, the centrepiece of that wall, a 65-foot bronze bas-relief.

Entitled A Soldier's Journey, the layout and figurative design of the sculpture has been put together very deliberately and with great precision. It is, explains Howard, constructed in a geometric and mathematically precise manner, but he hopes it manages to achieve something which is "not esoteric and classical but more expressive and emotional".

For that he has developed a 38-figure composition which flows from left to right, moving across the length of the relief, characters overlapping, straining, toiling on the way. The composition seeks to tell different stories within one framework. The main narrative is a two-in-one affair: a soldier’s journey through the Great War as he leaves his family to go to the front, charting his battles there and his ultimate return home; the second is of America’s journey in the war. Together the two form an allegory: the soldier’s personal war representing America’s journey and its coming of age through the conflict.

Read more: 'A Soldier's Journey' explored - with US WWI Memorial sculptor Sabin Howard

Four Questions for Jerolyn Barbee and Paul LaRue

"The role of African Americans in the WWI war effort is often overlooked in the textbooks"

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

There is a remarkable new exhibit at the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center in Dayton Ohio. The exhibit is called "African Americans Fighting for a Double Victory", and it includes a special section on World War I. The exhibit just opened this past weekend, on Sept. 23, 2017. Further, the museum is also hosting amazing public programs related to the exhibit, to include talks on African American genealogy, as it relates to World War I. We spoke to Jerolyn Barbee, Assistant Director for the museum, along with Paul LaRue, a noted historian and educator, who will give the public presentation on genealogy.

You have great World War I-related efforts going on. The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center has an amazing long-term exhibit, "African-Americans Fighting for a Double Victory". What is in the exhibit?

Barbee: "African Americans Fighting for a Double Victory" spotlights African American civilian and military service during World War II and explain how African American service during wartime advanced civil rights on the home front.

Jerolyn BarbeeJerolyn BarbeeThe exhibition will present an overview of African American military service abroad, the limitations imposed on them through segregationist policies, as well as the many accomplishments achieved in all of the military branches despite rampant discrimination.

The first section of "African Americans Fighting for a Double Victory" will include an overview of African American military service from the colonial period through World War I.

The exhibition will feature digital images of African American muralist Charles Alston, whose drawings were commissioned by the Office of War Information during World War II. Alston created a series of drawings to promote the war effort at home and abroad. Unlike the many other war propaganda materials produced, Alston’s work features African Americans and sought to motivate and energize the African American community. The goal was to encourage African American support of the war effort at home and abroad.

Through these images, and a wide variety two and three-dimensional materials from the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC) archives and collections, visitors will learn more about the impact of African American military and civilian service. They will experience what daily life was like on the home front. Like all Americans, Blacks purchased war bonds, grew victory gardens, conserved resources, and supported the troops with letters to family members and friends in uniform.

Read more: Four Questions for Jerolyn Barbee and Paul LaRue

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