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World War I Centennial News


 

 

Major General George Owen Squier nominated to Aviation Hall of Fame 

By Dennis Skupinski
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

The Michigan WW1 Centennial Commission has nominated Major General George O. Squier the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Squier made a tremendous impact on early military aviation. He was the pioneer in military aviation, making the U.S. Army leaders in this field until the World War 1. He also established Langley Field which served as a research facility for civilian and military aviation and eventually space travel.

George Owen SquierMajor General George Owen SquierSquier's invention of multiplexing enabled telecommunications to be scalable and affordable which benefited mankind and the military. This also allowed the internet or world wide web to develop. Without the innovations of George O. Squire, our lives would be vastly different today.

From May 1916 to February 1917, he was Chief of the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, the first successor of the Aeronautical Division, before being promoted to major general and appointed Chief Signal Officer during World War I.  Squier wrote the paper that created the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Aeronautical Division, on August 1, 1907. This becomes the first "Heavier Than Air" unit in the U.S.Military. This will eventually become the U.S. Air Force 40 years later. He was commandant of the Army Signal school at Fort Leavenworth at the time when they were teaching about "Lighter than Air" aircraft.

Squier wrote the first specifications for a military aircraft to be purchased by the U.S. Army which was to be produced by the Wright Brothers in 1908.

He was the first military passenger on an airplane on September 12, 1908 on the Wright Brothers Flyer.

He was responsible for the first purchase of the first military airplane by the U.S. Army in 1909. It is also the first purchase of a military aircraft (Heavier than Air) in the world. The Wright Brothers airplane was used to train military pilots from 1909 until 1911. Then it was housed in the Smithsonian Institute for public display. This airplane is now located in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

He was responsible for the purchase of 1,659 Acres of Virginia farmland that became Langley Field in late 1916. Langley Field was named by then Lt. Col. G.O. Squier after Samuel Langley and became the principal research facility of military and civilian aviation. He founded the Army's aviation research laboratory there.

He patented multi-plexing which is the ability to send multiple signals over the same wire by dividing up the bandwidth. This would allow the telecommunications and the internet, to be scalable. This also resulted in the formation of the company called Muzak which piped music in on telephone lines and eventually became known as "Elevator Music".

Read more: Major General George Owen Squier nominated to Aviation Hall of Fame

 

Iowa rooster crowed for cash during World War I 

By Jeff Morgan
via the Mapleton Press newspaper (IA) web site

Iowans have come up with some pretty bird-brained fundraisers over the years.

When RAGBRAI rolled through Dallas Center a few years ago, folks placed bets on Chicken Poop Bingo and watched the birds leave “surprises” on a numbered grid. In the early 1990s, anyone who donated to WOI public radio got to name a chicken at Living History Farms. (Whenever a donor showed up to visit, a staffer called out the bird’s name and pointed to whichever one happened to look up: “Oh, there it is! It’s that one over there.”)

5d4499dadfac0.imageDuring World War I, Private C.W. Gill of Exira, carried this postcard of auctioneer D. R. Jones with the rooster Jack Pershing. Gill gave it to Jones after the war and asked that he donate it to the State of Iowa. (State Historical Society of Iowa)But Iowa’s most famous fowl fundraiser was a scrawny little rooster named Jack Pershing, who is on triumphant (taxidermy) display at the Rolling Hills Bank in Casey, straight west of Des Moines. The old bird was part of a temporary exhibit for the town’s sesquicentennial festival, July 12-14.

“Everybody thinks he’s pretty cool,” banker Emily Wedemeyer said.

Jack’s overnight rise to celebrity status began just about a century ago,  on Dec. 15, 1917, when local auctioneers Ed Meinkey and D.R. Jones were gathering items to auction off in support of the American Red Cross during World War I.

Mark Dunkerson, a farmer from nearby Fontanelle, wanted to contribute something for the auction that night but could spare only a chicken.

“I don’t have much to offer,” Dunkerson told the auctioneers, according to an account the Audubon County Journal published years later in 1944. “But there are a couple of roosters in that little flock of chickens. You could have one of them, if that would help any.”

Meinkey and Jones searched the barnyard, found an unhappy brown-black rooster in a yeast box and enlisted him for the auction with relatively low expectations. As the Audubon County Journal put it, “A scrub rooster is a scrub rooster –  just that  – and, as an article of value, is reckoned somewhat lightly.”

But this was for a good cause, after all, so someone made a 50-cent bid.

“Sold,” Jones said. “Here’s your bird. Come and get him.”

The buyer, however, thought the rooster was “too darn cantankerous to take home,” so he told the auctioneer to sell it again, according to a colorful account on an Adair County tourism website.

Read more: Iowa rooster crowed for cash during World War I

 

 fb7ec6ae c2a3 4e0f b011 1093ce1db76f large16x9 WWIbackgroundThe update of the World War I Monument at the Craven County Courthouse in North Carolina coincides with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.

WWI monument being updated at Craven County, NC Courthouse 

By Sydney Basden
via the New Bern, NC News Channel 12 television station web site

NEW BERN, Craven County — The American Legion, The New Bern Historical Society and the Craven County Department of Recreation and Parks have partnered to update the World War I Monument at the Craven County Courthouse.

This project coincides with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.

The New Bern Historical Society says the goal is to update the WWI monument that has stood on the courthouse grounds since 1944. The update has two parts: to clean the 75-year-old obelisk and to add the names of Craven County residents who were not originally listed.

The society says research has been done by historians Mark Sandvigen and Claudia Houston. They have looked through family records and histories and would like the public to review the list of names at www.NewBernHistorical.org and https://newbernpost539.com/.

The updated monument will be unveiled to the public in September.

Read more: WWI monument being updated at Craven County, NC Courthouse

 

Descendants of RI Italian WWI veteran span five generations at reunion 

By Ethan Hartley
via the Warwick Beacon newspaper (RI) Warwick Online web site

Michael Tudino led an adventurous life that took him from the small Italian town of Sant'Ambrogio sul Garigliano to the jungles of Brazil, the textile factories of Industrial New England, and the front lines of World War 1.

20190801 124019 5th Generation Reunion Michael TudinoMichael Tudino as seen in his Italian military uniform.On July 13, during a warm summer weekend in Warwick, roots that the man probably never imagined to have planted culminated in a family reunion that spanned five generations and included as many as 70 members of the family that came to be because of Tudino’s marriage to Teresa Bianco.

The story of Tudino’s life is an interesting one that starts on December 30, 1895 in the small aforementioned Italian village. “A strong man with an adventurous spirit,” as a family-written biography chronicling his life (provided by family member Tina Joyce) states, Tudino left with his father as a teenager (just 15 or 16) to Brazil to find work to support their struggling family.

“Oh, they found work alright,” the biography describes. “It was in the steamy, dangerous jungle of Brazil, chopping and clearing trees and underbrush, to make way for the railroad.”

After a while of this, Tudino returned home to Italy before immigrating to the United States, alone, still as just a teenager. He settled in Lawrence, Mass., where he had some cousins in the area, and began working in a textile mill. Lawrence was an industrial power during this era in New England, with cheap labor needed sorely, so it was a likely place for an Italian immigrant to wind up.

But then duty to his country called during World War 1. He returned to fight for his country and served as a machine gunner after braving the hostile waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. He would become wounded in combat and spent time in a military hospital, which earned him his first medal. He then returned to the front where he earned another award for valor after blowing up enemy barbwire.

Read more: Descendants of RI Italian WWI veteran span five generations at reunion

 

299682 originalThe "WWI America: Stories From a Turbulent Nation" The exhibition is on display through August 11.

Austin museum's WWI exhibition is a look at America's turbulent past 

By James Jeffrey
via the CultureMap Austin web site (TX)

ust children die and mothers plead in vain? Buy more Liberty Bonds!” extolls a poster in the "WWI America: Stories From a Turbulent Nation" showing now through August 11 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

The patriotic advertising, aka propaganda, repeatedly leaps out from among a collection of equally bold and artfully drawn posters for the government bonds that sought to raise public money to help finance the war effort when America finally entered the war in April 1917.

Close to the posters is a mock-up cinema showing the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplain, whose physical antics and bowler hat made him a worldwide icon in early twentieth century cinema. Across from that is a full-size mock-up WWI army ambulance where video recollections of six Americans who participated in the war are projected inside.

“There have been a number of exhibitions that celebrated America's efforts in World War I from a military angle, [but] this exhibition is different,” says Kate Betz, the museum’s deputy director of interpretation. “It takes a deep look at what taking part in WWI did to America as a nation, pulling us away from isolationism and toward the modern nation that we know today. This point is made over and over through the stories and artifacts of relatable people, both famous and average citizens, as well as through interactive experiences to help connect visitors to a pivotal time period in our nation's history.”

Read more: Austin museum's WWI exhibition is a look at America's turbulent past

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Remembering Veterans: Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford on Foreign-Born Soldiers in the American Army   

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In August 4th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 134, host Theo Mayer spoke with Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

Amercans All bookTheo Mayer: For Remembering Veterans, a new World War I special subject website is now available at ww1cc.org. It's based on a book titled, Americans All! Foreign Soldiers in World War I. Let me set this up with the opening statement from the site. "Immigrants have served in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War. However, World War I represented the first time military forces were so ethnically diverse and foreign born soldiers served in such large numbers. Between 1880 and 1920, a short 40 years, over 23 million people primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe immigrated to the United States. During The Great War, almost one in five immigrants became a soldier in the United States Army representing some 46 nationalities." Now, if you ever doubted the true immigrant nature of the American melting pot World War I is certainly a testament to it and its strength. With us today is the author of that book, Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford, a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania where she teaches 20th century American military cultural and political history. Three of her books include, The Great War and America Civil-Military Relations During World War I, and Issues of War and Peace, and our subject today, Americans All! Foreign-born Soldiers in World War I.

Dr. Ford: Hi, Theo.

Theo Mayer: Well, welcome to the show. Let me start with my first question. Before we get into the translation of your book into a website, let me ask you a little bit about the subject of the book. Not only was this the most culturally diverse army in our nation's history, but the darn thing effectively came together in under a year. Can you talk a bit about what happened?

Read more: Podcast Article - Dr. Nancy Gentile Ford interview

 

31atwar WWIPOSTERS3 image jumboOne of the posters designed after World War I to show America’s service members how they should behave once they came home. (Illustration by Gordon Grant/National WWI Museum and Memorial)

The Army’s Message to Returning World War I Troops? Behave Yourselves 

By David Chrisinger
via the New York Times Magazine web site

The shelling stopped on Nov. 11, 1918, sending millions of American soldiers back to the United States to pick up where they had left off before joining or being drafted into the war effort. For one officer, the return meant facing a perfunctory public welcome and superficial support. “The quick abandonment of interest in our overseas men by Americans in general,” he observed three years after the Armistice, “is an indictment against us as a nation, not soon to be forgotten by the men in uniform from the other side.” The soldier, a former Army officer later identified as Herbert B. Hayden, anonymously published his observations in an essay for The Atlantic Monthly. The severe effects of combat-related injuries, like the ones Hayden described in his essay, drew more public attention during the 1920s, when the figure of the shellshocked veteran became part of larger debates over the government’s responsibility to care for its military forces.

The First World War saw more death than all of the Western world’s wars from 1790 to 1914 combined, and the American troops who arrived in France in 1917 were not insulated from the bloodshed. As one veteran remembered, fighting in the trenches was like “getting slaughtered as fast as sheep could go up a plank.” When the fighting ended the next year, any sense of idealism the American public felt when the United States entered the war was quickly replaced with weariness and a strong desire to move on. There was little consideration for the men who survived the war and what their long-term needs would be.

A series of posters — on display at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., until Sept. 15 — designed by the Army to show America’s discharged soldiers how they should behave once they returned to civilian life, provides evidence of the nation’s blindness to the toll modern war took on those who endured it. The Army didn’t want the flood of veterans returning home to become a disruptive presence or a financial burden on society.

Read more: The Army’s Message to Returning World War I Troops? Behave Yourselves

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

WWI Now: Philanthropist David Rockefeller Jr.   

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In August 5th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 134, host Theo Mayer spoke with David Rockefeller Jr., scion of the legendary American family and a very successful business leader and philanthropist in his own right. Mr. Rockefeller is involved in many prestigious non-profit organizations, including the Council on Foreign Relations and the Museum of Modern Art. In the interview, Mr. Rockefeller discusses the connection between his family's early philanthropic ventures and the First World War, his impression of the National Memorial maquette, and why WWI is important to remember. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:
David Rockefeler in Versailles 2019Philanthropist David Rockefeller, Jr. receives the the inaugural Versailles Award for American Philanthropy, presented in recognition of the contributions his grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made to rebuild France after World War I.

Theo Mayer: Now we're going to stay with our theme of American philanthropy as we explore how World War I has been and is being remembered and commemorated in the present. With us today, is businessman and noted philanthropist David Rockefeller Jr., a fourth generation son since John D. Rockefeller established the foundation in 1913. David and his wife Susan recently joined the World War I Centennial Commemoration at a very special event held at the Palace of Versailles on the anniversary of the peace treaty signing that ended World War I with Germany. David Rockefeller Jr. previously served as the chairman of The Rockefeller Foundation itself, including presiding over the organization during its centennial in 2013, but his interests are really diverse, including the arts. David Rockefeller is a life trustee at the Museum of Modern Art, having served there as a trustee for nearly four decades. He is a board member of the Asian Cultural Council, a fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His accolades and accomplishments just go on. David, welcome to the podcast.

David Rockefeller: Thanks, Theo. I'm glad to be with you today.

Theo Mayer: Now for over 130 weeks we've been exploring the many and oftentimes forgotten facets of World War I, but we haven't had a chance to talk about the role and the impact of your family, not on the war, but on humanitarian relief during this cataclysmic global event. David, could you tell us about the genesis of The Rockefeller Foundation and how it got involved in World War I years before America did?

David Rockefeller: Yes. Well, of course I wasn't around at that time, but I did serve on the board of The Rockefeller Foundation for 10 years and half of that time as its chairman, so I became much more familiar with the history of the foundation, which was founded in 1913 before the war began. It really was one of the first two major philanthropic foundations formed in the US along with The Carnegie Foundation. And early on the then-trustees, including my grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Jr., were very moved by the plight of humans in grave situations. And so, it was not surprising that among the early actions of the foundation were to give relief, including with the Belgian refugees in 1914, so there was a very humane purpose for the foundation, really for the welfare of mankind around the world.

Read more: Podcast Article - David Rockefeller Jr. interview

 

Marcellus Herod flag recovered

Family is reunited with missing flag, an heirloom from their WWI veteran ancestor 

By Brad Bell
via the WJLA ABC7 television station (DC) web site 

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD (ABC7) — On July 17, a folded flag was found in the middle of the road in Prince George's, inside of a shattered glass display case.

Navy veteran Tom Jarrett picked the flag up, knowing it had to mean something to someone. ABC7 ran his story in an attempt to help find the owner.

And the right person was watching: William Holley's oldest daughter. She immediately called her dad.

79-year-old Holley had inherited the flag after the death of his wife's uncle, WWI veteran Marcellus Herod, in the early 1980s. It was the memorial flag from Herod's casket.

Holley hadn't yet told his daughter that while he was moving, his car piled high with belongings, the flag had fallen off and gotten lost. Another driver stopped him and told him he had lost something, but when he retracted his journey, the flag was gone.

Prince George's police retrieved the flag from Jarrett and were able to present it back to Holley ceremonially.

Read more: Family is reunited with missing flag, an heirloom from their WWI veteran ancestor

 

Walter JagoeIn this photo taken in 1910, 14-year-old Walter Jagoe (left) and his friend Robert Storrie show off a glider they built at the Jagoe Home at 600 N. Locust St. in Denton. 

Walker Jagoe was one of America’s first fighter pilots 

By Annetta Ramsay
via the Denton Record-Chronicle newspaper (TX) web site

Walker Jagoe’s passion for aviation began in 1910 when he was 14 years old. He and fellow Denton High School student Robert Storrie built a biplane glider in Jagoe’s yard at his home at 600 N. Locust St., presently the site of the Greenhouse Restaurant.

Before graduating from high school in 1915, Jagoe became the 700th person in Denton County to purchase a Ford automobile. He completed his freshman year as a paid geometry coach at Purdue University in Indiana, and met future wife, Elsie Marie Siegler.

Although World War I had begun in 1914, the U.S. wasn’t involved until 1917. Aviation was new. The Naval Balloon Section’s tethered balloons were replaced by airplanes to observe activity behind enemy lines. Operations were developed in the field without prior knowledge, and the Army Air Service drew the most adventurous recruits.

A Sept. 15, 1917, call from the Army aviation corps directed Jagoe to report immediately to an Austin air base. After passing written exams, he received flight training at Fort Worth’s Benbrook Field, allowing Jagoe to visit his family several times by airplane.

After a promotion to second lieutenant, Jagoe received three months’ advanced air training in England. He sent a cable to his mother just before leaving for France. By the end of the war, seven Denton County men were pilots: John Bailey, David Faulkner, Alfred Grant, Jagoe, Sam Rayzor, Olin Shiflett and John Laurence Tompkins.

Jagoe was among America’s first group of pilots in the 135th Aero Squadron, nicknamed the “Liberty Squadron.” He flew alongside celebrated pilots like Eddie Rickenbacker and future generals Carl Spaatz and Benjamin Foulois. Pilots flew over German lines, performing reconnaissance on France’s Western Front, leaning over the edge of planes to photograph enemy activity.

Read more: Walker Jagoe was one of America’s first fighter pilots

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

WWI Now: Commission Executive Director Dan Dayton  

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In July 29th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 133, host Theo Mayer spoke with Executive Director Dan Dayton about the progress of the national memorial, the newly renamed memorial fundraising arm, and how World War I continues to resonate in American society. The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

Theo Mayer: Dayton at CFAExecutive Director Dan DaytonFor Commission News we have another guest with us today, who has been as deeply immersed in the centennial of World War I as Matt Naylor has. Dan Dayton also has dual roles. First of all, Dan is the executive director of the US World War I Centennial Commission, and Dan is also the president of a 501-C3 nonprofit organization newly renamed The Doughboy Foundation. That's been the fundraising arm for the National World War I Memorial in Washington DC. Dan is also an avid listener to the podcast, having been the guy who asked us to develop it. Dan, thank you for joining us.

Dan Dayton: Theo, great to be with you. I do enjoy this podcast, so it's a special honor for me to be on with you today.

Theo Mayer: My first question to you is, you've spent the last half a decade immersed in nurturing the commemoration of World War I. How did you wind up in that role?

Dan Dayton: A gentleman from North Carolina, Jerry Hester, has been interested in World War I for much of his life. He is now an octogenarian, and one of my favorite people. And Jerry asked me for my help as a volunteer. As he began to discuss the importance of the war, its impact on the United States, its impact on the world, the impact the United States had when it entered the war, I knew I had to help him. He helped me to understand that. And he helped me to understand how important it is to remember those who came before, as well as the lessons that were learned in the war, and how critical they are, even to where we are today, and the effect on events in the world today.

An interesting thing, we had the model of the memorial on display at the 9/11 museum in Lower Manhattan last fall for about six weeks. When we first approached their museum leadership, they understood immediately the direct line connection between the effects of World War I and the attacks on the United States and 9/11. We didn't have to explain that. We didn't have to sell it. They said, "We've got it. We understand it. We want to help." So Jerry was the guy who got me in.

Read more: Podcast Article - Dan Dayton interview

 

A century ago: The 1919 Iowa State 'Victory Fair'

By Chris Rasmussen
via the Des Moines Register newspaper (IA) web site

In August 1919, Iowans streamed through the State Fair gates in record-breaking numbers to attend the “Victory Fair,” which celebrated World War I’s end.

Iowa State Fair 1919 Chateau ThierryAn ad for the spectacle of Chateau Thierry from the Des Moines Register, Aug. 15, 1919. (Photo: The Register)Still reeling from the war’s carnage, they were hopeful that an era of peace and prosperity was dawning. Crop prices were high, farmers were buying automobiles, and improved roads enabled people to drive to the fair instead of taking a train. Happy to glimpse the return of peace, Iowans were eager to put the war behind them, turn to the future, and go to the fair.

But the war was seemingly everywhere on the fairgrounds. The main exhibit of the Victory Fair’s daytime program was the War Department’s display of weapons and trophies from the Western front. Iowans marveled at a 35-ton tank (a new weapon in WWI), artillery, and machine guns. The exhibit saluted Allied victory and allowed fairgoers to see the technology that had transformed warfare, just as tractors, automobiles and household appliances had remade farm life.

In the evening, the fair’s grandstand show, “The Grand, Scenic Military Spectacle, The Battle of Chateau Thierry,” re-enacted the battle in France that turned the tide of the war against Germany in 1918. Enormously popular with fairgoers, disaster spectacles headlined the fair’s entertainment from the 1890s into the 1930s. Thousands of spectators gaped as a cast of 300 portrayed American, French and German troops and clashed before the grandstand, culminating with a fireworks barrage that leveled the 450-foot wide set. A crew of 50 workers scrambled to rebuild the set in time for the next evening’s performance.

The fair’s advertisements stated that the spectacle was “under the direction of military experts” and presented a realistic view of warfare, but it was principally an eye-popping extravaganza to entertain viewers.

Veterans doubtless found it less than realistic. Register reporter Sue McNamara observed that a billboard for “Chateau Thierry” elicited nothing but “grins and groans” from a trainload of veterans returning home from the war in 1919.

The actual Battle of Chateau Thierry was a bloody fight, and Iowans were in the thick of it. American troops went “over the top,” leaving their trenches to assault the enemy lines and defeat some of Germany’s most battle-hardened troops. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was there, stated that the 167th Alabama and 168th Iowa displayed “gallantry I do not believe has been surpassed in military history” at Chateau Thierry.

Allied victory came at a price: The U.S. suffered 1,900 casualties, and 227 Iowans from the 168th gave their lives at Chateau Thierry and lie buried there. The 168th fought in some of the war’s toughest battles, suffering a total of 677 soldiers killed and 3,100 wounded in the war.

A few veterans of the 168th, along with the regiment’s chaplain, Des Moines pastor Winfred Robb, attended the 1919 fair. The 168th Infantry had trained on the fairgrounds in 1917 and received an emotional sendoff from thousands of well-wishers as their train departed from the fairgrounds and the regiment headed for France in early September. Two years later, the 168th pitched a tent on the grounds, in which Chaplain Robb met with grieving families and shared reminiscences of the young Iowans buried so far from home. As the Register’s Sue McNamara observed, the tent was a hushed, somber shrine, jarringly at odds with the fair’s festivity.

Determined that the heroism of the 168th not be forgotten, Chaplain Robb published a book, “The Price of Our Heritage; in Memory of the Heroic Dead of the 168 Infantry,” in 1919. Filled with photographs and testimonials to the soldiers’ bravery and sacrifice, Robb’s book is as inspiring and heartrending as any war memorial:

Read more: A century ago: The 1919 Iowa State 'Victory Fair'

 

The Lessons of the Versailles Treaty 

By Victor Davis Hanson
via the PJ Media web site

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919. Neither the winners nor the losers of World War I were happy with the formal conclusion to the bloodbath.

The Big Four at VersaillesCouncil of Four at the WWI Versailles peace conference, May 27, 1919 (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando (Italy0, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson. Photo credit Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps)The traditional criticism of the treaty is that the victorious French and British democracies did not listen to the pleas of leniency from progressive American President Woodrow Wilson. Instead, they added insult to the German injury by blaming Germany for starting the war. The final treaty demanded German reparations for war losses. It also forced Germany to cede territory to its victorious neighbors.

The harsh terms of the treaty purportedly embittered and impoverished the Germans. The indignation over Versailles supposedly explained why Germany eventually voted into power the firebrand Nazi Adolf Hitler, sowing the seeds of World War II.

But a century later, how true is the traditional explanation of the Versailles Treaty?

In comparison to other treaties of the times, the Versailles accord was actually mild -- especially by past German standards.

After the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war, a newly unified and victorious Germany occupied France, forced the French to pay reparations and annexed the rich Alsace-Lorraine borderlands.

Berlin's harsh 1914 plans for Western Europe at the onset of World War I -- the so-called Septemberprogramm -- called for the annexation of the northern French coast. The Germans planned to absorb all of Belgium and demand payment of billions of marks to pay off the entire German war debt.

In 1918, just months before the end of the war, Germany imposed on a defeated Russia a draconian settlement. The Germans seized 50 times more Russian territory and 10 times greater the population than it would later lose at Versailles.

So, under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the winning democracies were far more lenient with Germany than Germany itself had been with most of its defeated enemies.

Read more: The Lessons of the Versailles Treaty

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