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World War I Centennial News



World War I Memorial Artist's rendering of the new National World War I Memorial now under construction in Washington, DC. The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has announced a $100,000 donation to the Memorial building Fund.

DAR Supports the National World War I Memorial

By Denise Doring VanBuren, President General
via the Daughters of the American Revolution web site

I am immensely proud to share that the NSDAR has become an official sponsor for the construction of the National World War I Memorial with a $100,000 donation. The monument is being built in Washington, D.C., in order to honor the heroism and sacrifice of the 4.7 million American sons and daughters who served during the conflict. Though more than 2 million Americans deployed overseas -- with 375,000 of them killed and 204,000 of them wounded -- World War I has been called “the forgotten war.”

Forgotten, that is, until now. The $40 million memorial is being constructed in Pershing Park at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, which was created by an Act of Congress in 2013. Members of the 12-member Commission were appointed by the President and Congressional leaders, and represent the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National World War I Museum. All four living former Presidents serve as honorary chairmen. 

Following a design competition, the commission selected "The Weight of Sacrifice," by Joseph Weishaar of Arkansas, as the massive and moving 80-foot long bas relief focal point of the memorial.  Ground was broken on the project in November 2017 and dedication is scheduled for November 2021.

In addition to constructing the memorial, the Commission’s purpose is to plan, develop and execute programs, projects and activities to commemorate World War I. The website contains a video simulation of the memorial and a wealth of information about the war, including informative videos that may be used for chapter programs, learn more here.  Individuals or chapters that would like to support the memorial may make checks payable to The Doughboy Foundation, and mail them to The Doughboy Foundation, Donation Dept., 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW  #123, Washington, DC  20004.

Supporting the Memorial’s construction also honors the memory of the Daughters who served with valor during this time. DAR Members established the War Relief Service Committee 103 years ago, on April 16, 1917, to organize their volunteer efforts, which ranged from knitting garments for soldiers to training for food conservation. Many DAR members were nurses serving in World War I, including Jane A. Delano who organized the Red Cross Nursing Service.

Read more: DAR Supports the National WWI Memorial


ft Harriet Chalmers Adams ReimsHarriett Chalmers Adams, writing for National Geographic, is shown here while on a French army press tour with other correspondents, visiting Reims cathedral, which had been severely damaged by German artillery. She holds a bouquet of flowers given to her by a French soldier. Note the officer on the right wears an artificial hand and arm. Source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. 

The American Women who reported World War One 

via The American magazine (UK) web site

Historian Chris Dubbs discusses the challenges, the triumphs and the stories of the pioneer American Women who reported the First World War. His book, An Unladylike Profession: American Women War Correspondents in World War I is being published in July 2020, and is available to pre-order now.

Thank you for your time Chris. Our traditional first question - where in the States are you from?

I was born in one corner Pennsylvania, the southeast, in Quakertown, and now live in the opposite corner, the northwest, in Edinboro, just south of Erie.

Your upcoming book, An Unladylike Profession, is about the American women who worked as War Correspondents during the First World War. How did the idea for the book come about?

In 2017, I published a book about the American journalists who covered WW1: American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting. That book mentioned only a few of the women journalists who reported the war. However, when I later compiled an anthology of war journalism, The AEF in Print (with John-Daniel Kelley), I realized that I had shortchanged the women reporters. There had been far more of them than I realized and their perspective on the conflict had been different than their male counterparts. The challenges they faced, the stories they covered, how they gathered the news — it resonated with a unique voice and outlook on the Great War. I knew then that I had to tell their story.

Today, we're quite used to women on the front line of war correspondence, but what would have been the response to women reporting in the First World War - both in America and Europe?

When veteran reporter for the New York Evening Mail, Rheta Childe Dorr, showed up in Paris to cover the war, an official in the War Office asked her “Why did your newspaper send you over? Why didn’t it send a man?” That was typical of attitudes toward women journalists among civil and military officials. War reporting was men’s work. Those women who persevered found a way to access the war zone and gather the news, but there were usually additional hurdles to overcome. In fact, their determination and ingenuity to cover the war became an interesting element of their reporting.

Read more: The American Women who reported World War One


Nurses WWI(Left) World War I nurses in the Vanderbilt unit. Vanderbilt sent a dozen medical doctors, aided by enlisted men and nurses recruited from around Nashville, to operate Vanderbilt Hospital Unit “S,” based in central France. (Right) African American nurses during the First World War era.  

Answering the Call: Nursing and the Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 

By Lisa M. Budreau, Ph.D.
via the Tennessee State Museum web site

When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, the US Army Medical Department officials believed they had learned vital lessons about disease from the Spanish-American War. Feeling better prepared for war than ever before, and with stronger preventive measures in place, such as a proven vaccination program against smallpox and typhoid fever, its preparation still fell short of the demands that lay ahead. Neither it, nor any other medical organization in the world, could do much to cope with the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Modern medicine was powerless against this virulent virus that swept across the globe, killing millions.

With soldiers everywhere packed into close quarters, the Army suffered heavily from the flu and its associated respiratory consequences, especially pneumonia. Deaths from the flu and respiratory disease accounted for 80 percent of the 55,868 deaths from all diseases during the war. Men caught the virus on trains taking them to their embarkation points or in the transports crossing to France. Many died without ever leaving their American camps.

At a time when heroic death on the battlefield was considered an honor, families and some elements of the military were reluctant to acknowledge those who fell victim to pneumonia or the flu. Loved ones at home, such as young Essie Bishop of Tate, Tennessee, were quick to defend men like her husband, Robert, who died of pneumonia in December 1918, before arriving overseas. Essie, widowed six months after marriage, wrote, “He was not in the service long enough to accomplish very much . . . [but] I believe he would have made a brave soldier, anyway. He was my soldier and I want my little boy to feel proud of his ‘Daddy’ even though he saw no active service.” [1]

To help address the medical needs of the military during wartime, the Army’s Medical Department relied heavily on the Army Nurse Corps, created in 1901. Despite the continued growth of the organization, no regular Army hospital units were ready for departure at the outbreak of war in 1917. However, a number of 500-bed Red Cross Army Base Hospital units were trained and ready for service. Six of these units were ordered to France in May to support the appeal for medical assistance from the British who had been at war since 1914. Vanderbilt University’s hospital followed months later by sending a dozen of its medical doctors, aided by enlisted men and nurses recruited from the Nashville area, to operate Vanderbilt Hospital Unit “S,” based in Nevers in central France. 

Read more: Answering the Call: Nursing and the Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919


 anti tank gunAmerican soldiers manning a French '37', a one-pounder anti-tank gun in firing position behind barbed wire in a second line trench at Dieffmatten, in Alsace.

7 things you didn’t know about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War

By Terrence J. Finnegan
via the Europe Centenary web site

American troops arrived on the western front in 1918 full of enthusiasm, and in the spirit of great adventure. Yet most of them were novices who, unlike their German counterparts, had seen practically no action. Determined to teach them this was no game, the Germans proceeded to unleash the war’s most harmful weapons. Here are 7 facts you might not know about America’s entry into the First World War…

Naming their first major raid against American troops – with gallows humour – Einladung (an invitation), the Germans exposed American troops to the weapons of modern warfare: gas, flamethrowers, and high explosives. Their surprise attack in the Woëvre region around the village of Seicheprey, France, on 20 April, spearheaded by elite German storm troopers and supported by aircraft, trench mortars and heavy artillery, was designed as a propaganda coup against the perceived ‘weak’ newcomers (America had formally entered the conflict with an official declaration on 6 April 1917).

In his book, retired US Air Force colonel Terrence J Finnegan uncovers the story of the combatants, the outcome of battle and how the war was portrayed by the media. Relying entirely on primary sources, ‘A Delicate Affair’ on the Western Front offers the only analysis of the United States’ entry into the First World War, and is said to be the most complete account of how the Germans planned an operation ever published (most of the data having been destroyed in the Potsdam raid of 1945). Finnegan reveals seven little-known facts about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War…

1. In 1918 the first American infantry divisions fought at a ‘quiet sector’

Quiet sectors exemplified the concept of ‘live and let live’ – a welcome respite from the ongoing horror of the western front. In 1916, the St Mihiel region became known as a ‘convalescent home’ – a quiet sector for units of both sides recovering from other battlefronts.

Until the St Mihiel offensive of September 1918, the conflict saw regimental-sized units committed against each other. One American soldier recalled: “Guns are booming all the time. This harassing fire gets our goat. And they call this a quiet sector… C’est la guerre!” (This is war!)

A quiet sector seemed the most logical first commitment for independent American forces on the western front, and the Americans arrived at the Woëvre tasked with the responsibility of defending French ground. American operations proved the area to be anything but quiet. Both the 1st ‘Fighting First’ Division and 26th ‘Yankee’ Division showed the Germans that the bow wave of American soldiers was committed to battle.

Read more: 7 things you didn’t know about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War



How the women of Orange County, NC stepped up to respond to WWI and the Spanish Flu 

By Emma Kenfield
via the Daily Tar Heel newspaper (NC) web site

World War I called on the women of America to serve their country as best they could. But expected to be housewives and caretakers to their families, American women had lives that were far from independent.

women give world war i supplies 0Women give World War I supplies (North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)UNC history professor W. Fitzhugh Brundage said women were excluded from many roles before the war.

“Prior to the war, women weren’t allowed to vote except in certain states. Women moved through public space subject to very strict notions as to where women should and shouldn’t be,” he said. “They were virtually excluded from far more occupations than they were allowed to participate in.”

That is until the men went overseas, and the roles of women changed.

“During WWI, some of women’s organizational capacity was harnessed to the war effort,” Brundage said. “There were increases in employment for women. There were tens of thousands of women who went and worked in Europe and France as nurses.”

While Orange County is a tiny dot on a map of the world, its women worked hard and their efforts in WWI did not go unnoticed. Annie Sutton Cameron, who was born in 1896, wrote "A Record of the War Activities in Orange County, North Carolina" as a Hillsborough resident during the war.

In early February 1917, before the United States' entrance into WWI, K. J. Brown, a graduate nurse, formed a class in First Aid and Surgical Dressings. The class met bi-weekly for two hours for the entire spring, until the U.S. joined the war in April. Brown’s class developed into much more and eventually formed a Red Cross Chapter in June with 71 members.

The chapter shipped 44 cases of Red Cross supplies, including almost 19,000 gauze dressings and 9 cases of Belgian relief clothing. Its membership grew to 687 by October 1918. 

Women also formed various war circles, in which they made hospital gowns, garments for refugees, bed pads and various medical supplies. These circles were the accessible alternative to Red Cross Chapters for rural women of Orange County who lived in more isolated areas.

Orange County was home to at least three women who saw active service with the Red Cross during the war, Cameron said in her book. Marion Williamson, Laura Hutchins and Jean Blue were stationed across the country to give aid to returning soldiers battling pneumonia, influenza or battle wounds.

Read more: How the women of Orange County stepped up to respond to WWI and the Spanish Flu


5e90e9030e358.image French-American pilot Lt. Raoul Lufbery, shown in France circa World War I, served first with the legendary volunteer Lafayette Escadrille in the Great War. (PhotoQuest / Getty Images ) 

Meet Wallingford’s forgotten hero pilot of the First World War 

By Erik Ofgang
via the Connecticut Magazine web site

The giant enemy plane, a German reconnaissance craft, appeared early in the morning on May 19, 1918, in the skies above France. Several fighter pilots with the United States’ 94th Aero Squadron took to the air to fight it but proved little match for it.

“The scene, in full view for many miles, looked like a lot of swallows pecking at a giant bird of prey,” The New York Times reported.

After running out of bullets, one of the Americans landed and reported the obvious: they weren’t able to damage the heavily armored plane. Even so, one of the United States’ most experienced pilots decided to join the fight. His name was Raoul Lufbery and he was already a legend.

Officially hailing from Wallingford, though he never stayed in one place for long, Lufbery had served with France’s foreign service since the outbreak of World War I. In 1916 he joined the Lafayette Escadrille, a French command volunteer group of mostly American fighter pilots that was named in honor of the French hero of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette. After the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Lufbery became the commanding officer of the 94th Aero Squadron.

Known as the “knights of the sky,” the fighter pilots of World War I were hailed for their bravery and grace. Lufbery embodied their devil-may-care spirit as much as anyone. He had already garnered 17 confirmed kills, with some modern observers putting his true tally closer to twice that number.

Lufbery steered his aircraft above the German plane and swept headfirst at the enemy craft, riddling it with bullets. Then he swerved off suddenly. Most likely his gun had jammed. In a few minutes, he attacked again. Contemporary accounts say that on this final pass, a thin line of flame shot from his plane. The craft seemed to hang in the air for a moment before darting downward, and as the plane fell, Lufbery jumped from it either to avoid a fiery death or in the desperate hope of landing in a nearby river. Other research suggests he was thrown from his plane when it capsized. Regardless, his body flew into the morning sky and started to fall.

Read more: Meet Wallingford’s forgotten hero pilot of the First World War


War Fare collage"[W]e again have the collective opportunity to reduce usage of scarce items—both for the community at large and particularly for those on the front line of this crisis," says Lora Vogt, curator of education at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

Cook These Quarantine-Friendly World War I Recipes

By Alex Fox
via the Smithsonian Magazine web site

If you’re running low on flour or getting tired of feeding your sourdough starter, the National World War I Museum and Memorial has some alternative culinary options for your perusal. The Kansas City institution offers a host of online exhibitions, including one dedicated to the critical role that food played during the Great War. Titled “War Fare: From the Homefront to the Frontlines,” the show includes a list of recipes first published in the 1918 Win the War in the Kitchen cookbook, reports Mike Pomranz for Food & Wine.

Win the War in the Kitchen, published by the newly created United States Food Administration (then headed by future president Herbert Hoover), promoted conservation or substitution of ingredients such as meat, wheat, dairy and sugar, all of which were deemed crucial to sustaining soldiers on the front lines. Messages appealing to citizens’ patriotic duty to support the war effort from home accompanied the recipes—a directive one historian says may inspire Americans amid this time of national solidarity.

“While the COVID-19 and World War I/1918 flu pandemic are fundamentally different situations, they have both resulted in shortages of essential supplies, including food,” Lora Vogt, the museum’s curator of education, tells Food & Wine. “The concept was that a person or family’s choice to skip a tablespoon of sugar at the kitchen table meant that sugar—and its calories—could be used to help a soldier go the extra mile during World War I.”

Now, Vogt adds, “[W]e again have the collective opportunity to reduce usage of scarce items—both for the community at large and particularly for those on the frontline of this crisis.” 

Read more: Cook These Quarantine-Friendly World War I Recipes


Soldiers of the 370th Infantery Regiment Luciden EdmondSoldiers of the 370th Infantry Regiment in World War I (Luciden Edmond) 

The bravery of the only all-African-American unit in WWI, the ‘Black Devils’ 

By Dena Holtz
via the (WI) web site

During World War I, they earned a reputation of ferocity, and bravery. So much so that they were known as the “Black Devils” by dispirited Germans.

Dr. Jeff Gusky, a National Geographic photographer, and explorer, recently unearthed the only trace of the Black Devils, which was the only all-African-American unit in WWI. Their story has become part of an exhibit, “We Return Fighting: The African-American exhibit in World War I. 

The Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History & Culture shines light on the bravery of this Company. After the war, they continued to fight at home, “for a democracy they never knew.”

The exhibit is called, “We Return Fighting: The African-American experience in World War I” probing war-time conditions at home and abroad.

During World War I, over 380,000 African-American soldiers served in the armed forces. The Military restricted most black soldiers to labor battalions where they unloaded ships, dug trenches, and built roads.

The 370th Infantry arrived to fight in France on April 22, 1918. By June of the same year, they took position on the front-lines. The 370th, commanded entirely by black officers, faced hard fighting, shelling, and poison gas attacks.

Upon returning to Illinois, a grand celebration took place with a parade, welcoming the brave men home.

Read more: The bravery of the only all-African-American unit in WWI, the ‘Black Devils’


Jeannette Rankin’s history-making moment

via the National Constitution Center's Daily Constitution web site

It was on April 2, 1917 that Jeannette Rankin became the first woman in Congress. But within days, she became the target of national scorn for voting against America’s entry into World War I.

Jeannette Rankin Jeannette Rankin Four years before the 19th Amendment's ratification, which extended the right to vote to all American women, Rankin was elected as the first woman member of Congress. A Republican from Montana, Rankin ran on a platform promising a constitutional amendment for woman’s suffrage and reforms on other social welfare issues such as child labor. Despite the fact that she was elected in 1916, she wasn’t sworn in as a Representative until April 2, 1917, only after Congress had a month-long debate about whether a woman was fit to be a United States Representative.

Born in 1880, Rankin was a trailblazer and activist from a young age. After graduating Montana State University, she worked as a social worker in Washington before joining the woman suffrage movement in that state, which extended to women the right to vote in 1910. By 1914 she was experienced in navigating the suffrage battle and she was a lobbyist for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, where she contributed to the woman suffrage campaign in Montana.

When she announced her candidacy for a House seat in Montana in 1916, some were understandably skeptical about her chances. While her election was a long shot, she benefited from her political experience and reputation as an activist, and from support from her wealthy brother Wellington. During the campaign, she took a staunch pacifist position towards U.S. participation in World War I, and she pledged that she would not vote for any American involvement in the deadly European conflict. After her victory, she acknowledged the gravity of her achievement for women across the country and said that she was “deeply conscious of the responsibility resting upon” her.

On April 2the same day that she officially became the first female member of Congress, President Wilson addressed Congress encouraging it to pass a declaration of war and authorize United States involvement in World War I.

As she voted no on the declaration of war three days later, she told her colleagues “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war”. The resolution ultimately passed 373 to 50, but Rankin established herself as both an active member of Congress and a staunch anti-war representative. 

Read more: Jeannette Rankin’s history-making moment


KCUR 03312020Cpl. Reid Fields, left, frequently wrote letters to his sweetheart, Clara Wrasse, during World War I. The National WWI Museum and Memorial is working to transcribe documents like Wrasse's reply.

Instead of Laying Off Workers, National WWI Museum Redeploys Them to Expand Digital Archive 

By Elle Moxley
via the KCUR 89.3 radio station (MO) web site

Even when the National World War I Museum and Memorial is open, the majority of its vast holdings aren’t on public display but stored for safekeeping.

Now, with a metro-wide stay-at-home order keeping the Kansas City museum closed until at least April 24, museum employees who usually work with guests are helping transcribe about 10,000 digitized pages from letters, diaries and journals.

“One of our team members came up with the brilliant idea to use this time and transition part of our staff toward our goal of fully transcribing these items from the collection,” President and CEO Matthew Naylor said.

“It’s a creative solution to provide continuous work opportunities to our team members who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have tasks during the period of time when the Museum and Memorial is closed.”

Because the collection was scanned previously, employees can do the transcription work from home. Registrar and Exhibitions Manager Stacie Petersen said transcription makes the archival material more accessible to digital visitors, especially people who are visually impaired and rely on screen readers for text to speech.

“Transcription takes handwriting in cursive and turns it into something basically anyone can read,” Petersen said. “In a typed format, you can pull into Google Translate, which can translate it roughly into other languages.”

That’s important because digital visitors come to the museum’s website from 169 countries. Transcription also ensures that the content of the documents won’t be lost to time.

Read more: Instead Of Laying Off Workers, Kansas City's WWI Museum Redeploys Them To Expand Digital Archive


5e6bff5755d70.image Roanoke’s Red Cross volunteers, shown here campaigning to sell Liberty Bonds for the World War I effort, tended to people stricken with the flu during the 1918 pandemic. (Courtesy of Virginia Room, Roanoke Main Library )

Roanoke fought a war against a flu pandemic in 1918

By Ralph Berrier Jr.
via the Roanoke Times (VA) newspaper

During the afternoon of Sept. 23, 1918, Wiley W. Eastwood left work early, complaining of chills and a fever, and went to his bed in his Highland Avenue home.

Friends visited him the next morning, when news of his grave condition made rounds of the neighborhood. By noon, Eastwood was dead — the first Roanoke resident to die of influenza during the infamous “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918.

Over the next month, more than 4,000 Roanokers were struck with the flu, as sickness swept up citizens from all walks of life: orphans, railroad workers, soldiers, millhands, health care workers, college students and scores more.

Some 85 people died in 31 days, according to Roanoke historian Nelson Harris, who wrote about the 1918 flu pandemic in his book “Hidden History of Roanoke.”

Perhaps 50 million people died worldwide during the flu outbreak in 1918-19, a number that included 675,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 12,000 Virginians died of the flu, 10 times more than died on the battlefields during World War I.

Roanoke had experience fighting disease pandemics in its early boomtown years. The stagnant, unsanitary downtown, where disgusting rivulets of animal and human waste flowed in the open down muddy streets, served as a giant Petri dish for germs and disease. 

Read more: Roanoke fought a war against a flu pandemic in 1918


0304 pitThe remains of a World War I chemical weapons testing and disposal site — known as the American University Experiment Station — were discovered in 1993 in the Spring Valley section of Northwest D.C. 

WWI munitions cleanup in Northwest DC nears completion

By Neal Augenstein
via the WTOP radio station (DC) web site

The peaceful serenity of the neighborhood surrounding the stately home at 4825 Glenbrook Road, in the Spring Valley section of Northwest D.C., was matched by the potential danger and uncertainty of chemical agents buried beneath it.

Almost eight years since heavy machinery knocked down the first bricks of the home that had been built atop a World War I chemical weapons testing and disposal site — known as the American University Experiment Station — the painstaking cleanup of what’s been called the “mother of all toxic dumps” is entering its final stages.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Christopher Gardner told WTOP that only two small areas remain to be excavated on the property, after tons of contaminated soil and broken glassware with traces of potentially dangerous chemicals have been removed.

“At this point, we’re down to saprolite,” Gardner said. “For all intents and purposes, we’re scraping rock.”

The Spring Valley project began in 1993, when a contractor unearthed buried military ordnance on nearby 52nd Court Northwest. Digging and research indicated the likely presence of mustard gas and lewisite — an arsenic-containing blister agent — under the former home.

In March 2012, after testing of the property between 2007 and 2010, the decision was made to remove the home.

Read more: WWI munitions cleanup in Northwest DC nears completion


1995.2.7 1024x789Female yeoman in Navy uniform stands next to a sorting rack in State, War and Navy Building. 

This International Women’s Day, We Celebrate Women’s Roles in World War I 

By Doran Cart
via the Ms. magazine web site

“We had air raids night after night. When we were not operating at night, we spent the time from darkness to dawn in a cellar twenty feet underground,” Navy nurse Mary Elderkins wrote of working close to the lines.

Thousands of American women served in all duties overseas during World War I, except combat—although some were killed by shells and bombs.

They were doctors, hospital administrators, ambulance and truck drivers, telephone operators, nurses, dietitians, physical therapists, reconstruction aides, entertainers, canteen workers, office workers, fundraisers and many other occupations.

For many women, it was a chance to work at tasks unavailable to them in the regular circumstances of society.

The most lasting effect of WWI on American women was the loss of loved ones: of husbands, sons, daughters and siblings. Battlefield deaths and cataclysmic diseases took a terrible toll which the society would struggle to recover from.

For others who put on uniforms in a military capacity or as volunteers, to go back to pre-war life proved a difficult transition. Many who served in defense of the country could not continue to defend it without the voice of the vote, and they became leaders in the passage of the 19th Amendment. Others went back to civilian life, some perhaps welcoming it and others chafed by it.

Read more: This International Women’s Day, We Celebrate Women’s Roles in World War I

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