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World War I Centennial News


 

 

A hero of the Great War: N.C. A&T instructor Robert Campbell 

By John Newsom
via the Greensboro News & Record (newspaper (NC) web site

GREENSBORO — At N.C. A&T, like at most universities, the buildings are named for people who played important roles on campus.

The original main building is named for a past A&T president. So, too, are the library, the current administration building and four academic buildings.

Robert CampbellLt. Robert CampbellAnd then there’s Campbell Hall, home of A&T’s ROTC programs since 1955. The building’s namesake, Robert Campbell, wasn’t a college president or a dean or a major donor. He became the university’s first instructor of military science way back in 1919.

But Campbell was so much more than just a college instructor. He held a patent for an invention he came up with while in college in Alabama. He fought in the Spanish-American War and again in World War I, where he was honored by two different governments for his bravery under fire.

A century ago this fall, Campbell received one of France’s top military medals in a ceremony that made national news. A program August 17 at the Greensboro History Museum commemorated Campbell’s life and service.

Campbell was a well-known figure around the A&T campus long after the war ended, said James Stewart, the archives and special collections librarian at A&T’s Bluford Library.

“He was the definition,” Stewart said, “of an officer and a gentleman.”

Robert Lee Campbell was born in 1875 in Athens, Ga. Little is known about his early life until he enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. At the historically black school in Alabama, he studied to be a machinist.

Campbell left school in 1899 to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War. He served for two years in the infantry in the Philippines. He returned to Tuskegee in 1901 as a sergeant.

Two years later, Campbell was awarded a patent for a valve gear for steam engines. He shared the patent with Booker T. Washington — yes, that Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee’s first president and one of the nation’s top black leaders more than a century ago.

Read more: A hero of the Great War: N.C. A&T instructor Robert Campbell

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

War Tech: The Interrupter Gear    

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anthony fokkerAnthony Fokker, a Dutch aircraft designer, pioneered the Interrupter Gear for GermanyFrom August 12th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 135 (originally aired in Episode 68): At the beginning of World War I the airplane had yet to realize its lethal potential as a weapon of war. One major hindrance to aerial combat was the difficulty of firing a forward-mounted machine gun on a propeller plane without destroying the propeller itself. Then in 1915, a Dutch engineer named Anthony Fokker changed the world with his revolutionary "Interrupter Gear." Read on to learn more about this deadly invention:  

Theo Mayer: An arms race in the sky was inevitable as each side tried to improve the capability, reliability, and the lethality of planes. Believe it or not, the first gunfire in the air involved pilots just pulling out their service revolvers and popping off at each other. Aiming the plane and shooting where the plane was aimed was a big deal. The first attempts to mount a machine gun on a plane ended with the heavy nose prototype crashing on its first experimental flight. As we said, those early planes were not very powerful flyers. Beyond that, mounting a machine gun to shoot forward without shooting off your own propeller was a really big challenge.

They tried a lot of ideas. Some guns were mounted very high on top of the wings. Some planes carried a second man, a machine gunner who whipped around his weapon on a swinging tripod. There were pusher planes with props behind the wings allowing the pilot to aim the plane forward and shoot without hitting the blades of the propeller. But pusher planes were slow and less maneuverable.

Enter Dutch aircraft designer, Anthony Fokker, who came up with the ultimate answer. Unfortunately, he did it for the Germans. His mechanism, referred to as an interrupter gear, connected the firing of the machine gun with a turning of the propeller allowing the bullets to pass through the brief gap between the blades as they spun. Now in spite of the tests on both the ground and in the air proving that his design worked, German generals remained skeptical. They demanded that Fokker prove his idea by going out on a mission and shooting down an enemy by himself. That's pretty harsh in my book. Fokker saluted and did as he was told. Pretty soon a French plane came into his sights, but that poor Fokker found himself unable to pull the trigger. He was an engineer not a warrior.

Read more: Podcast Article - Interrupter Gear

From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

War in the Sky: Medal of Honor Recipient Erwin Bleckley    

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erwin bleckley2nd Lieutenant Erwin Bleckley posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his efforts to locate the men of the Lost BattalionIn August 12th's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 135, we reprised an earlier interview about a heroic but largely unknown American serviceman. As the Lost Battalion fought for their lives in the fall of 1918, a group of Airmen risked their lives to relocate and resupply them- the first such mission in American military history- including 2nd Lieutenant Erwin Bleckley. Here is his remarkable story, as told by historian Lieutenant Colonel Doug Jacobs, U.S. Army (Ret.). The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

Theo Mayer: For our next segment, I'd like to introduce you to Erwin Bleckley. He's one of the aerial heroes of the Lost Battalion saga, a name that's not that well known in aviation history. To tell us the story of Erwin, we're joined by Lieutenant Colonel Doug Jacobs, US Army (Retired). Doug is the former command historian and curator for the Kansas National Guard Museum. He's also an Erwin Bleckley biographer who spent years researching this man and his story. Here is a conversation I had with Doug in September of 2018 during Episode #91. Doug, welcome to the show.

Doug Jacobs: Thank you, Theo. I appreciate being here and an opportunity to talk about a subject that is very dear to my heart and I feel a lot of passion for, and that is the story of Erwin Bleckley.

Theo Mayer: Who is Erwin Bleckley?

Doug Jacobs: Well, Erwin Bleckley has a unique story in that he was a man that enlisted in the Kansas National Guard from Wichita, Kansas. He was the second man to join the first field artillery battery that was just formed in Wichita. He received a commission, and 30 days after, that unit was mobilized to go to war. It was made part of the 130th Field Artillery regiment which is part of the 35th Division. It's a National Guard unit made up of members of the Missouri National Guard and the Kansas National Guard. I know about Erwin because I've spent about 25 years of my life studying him.

Read more: Podcast Article - Erwin Bleckley

 

Middleborough’s WWI Veterans: Augustine Ouellette, rejected but determined to serve 

By Bob Lessard / Commander and Historian Post 64 American Legion
via the SouthCoastToday newspaper (MA) web site

Augustine J. Ouellette originally was rejected by the United States Army when he attempted to join other Middleboro men, who were serving with Company D 101st Infantry at the Plymouth Armory.

Augustine J OuelletteAugustine J. OuelletteHe was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Ouellette of 70 Everett Street. At the time of his enlistment, his identification card sent to the Middleboro’s Commercial Club stated he was 24 years old. He had been employed at the Leonard & Barrows factory prior to joining the service.

According to a letter from Ouellette sent from France in March 1918, which stated that he had been able to enlist with company H of the 23rd Infantry of the American Expeditionary Force. “After trying to enlist in Co. D of Plymouth last April but was turned down for being too short. I went to Boston and sailed for France on a horse boat. On my return....went to Allentown (PA) and on the 26th of June, 1917, I enlisted in the U.S. Regulars and was sent to Columbus, Ohio and took the oath. He was mustered in on July 1, 1917.”

A news account in the Middleboro Gazette with Augustine’s picture reported that he arrived in France on September 2. The story also mentioned that he had “seen much fighting.” The article also mentions that he had been promoted to “first class private” and had transferred to the 31st Prisoners of War Escort.

A second letter, addressed from France to the Service Committee of Middleboro’s Commercial Club dated April 18, 1918 and postmarked April 30 by the Army Postal Service, was sent by Ouellette.

Parts of that letter read: “I received five letters from the states last night and believe me I did not take very long to read them and it made me sleep better all night. Have not received any packages that you sent me last November or the one that the Red Cross sent to me.”

“You didn’t have my right address. Last year when I tried to enlist in Company D. of Plymouth, I did not pass.” Ouellette’s letter then mentions that he was serving with the 23rd Infantry and that his parcels may have been shipped to Company D.

Ouellette’s letter then informs the Service Committee, “The hardest things to get here is tobacco and playing cards. If you care to send any, why I will be happy. As it is hard to get along without tobacco and it I hard to buy any French tobacco as they have very little.” He continued, “I will close with best wishes to all Middleboro and hoping from you soon.”

Read more: Augustine Ouellette, rejected but determined to serve

 

Chandler OKPaul Vassar looks at the grave of Arthur Matheny, one of six young men from Chandler, OK killed on the same day in World War I. Vassar, a retired district judge, has written a book about what was a tragic loss for his hometown.

A century ago in World War I, six soldiers from Chandler, OK were killed on the same day 

By Tim Stanley
via the Tulsa World newspaper (OK) web site

CHANDLER — Only the names on the telegrams were different.

Otherwise, the six were exactly the same: Same date. Same place. Even the same wording.

“It must’ve been gut-wrenching,” said Paul Vassar, who still has a hard time grasping what it was like for his hometown — losing six of its young men on the same day in World War I.

“Chandler was an even smaller community then, where all the families knew each other,” he said.

Although the deaths occurred on Oct. 8, 1918, it was three weeks before the news arrived in Chandler and telegrams were sent to the families.

Making the loss even harder to swallow, just a week later that same telegraph relayed another big news item: An armistice had been signed.

The war was over.

“How terribly bittersweet that must’ve been,” Vassar said.

A retired district judge for Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties, Vassar has written a book about this tragic chapter in his hometown’s history. It’s called “The Boys: The Story of a Town and War.”

The men were part of a Chandler-area National Guard unit sent to France to fight.

“Sadly, the story was lost to time,” Vassar said. “I wasn’t aware of most of it until I started researching.”

Read more: A century ago in World War I, six soldiers from Chandler, OK were killed on the same day

 

5d49f0e8daefa.imageThe 223 "Hello Girls" went to Europe in cohorts of about 30 at a time,and  took calls from U.S. Army forward observers regarding artillery and regiment movements as well as communications between officers in the field and headquarters, all while being close enough to the war to come under artillery fire. 

'Hello Girls' documentary tells story of women on the front lines in WWI 

By Mark Walker
via the Fredricksburg.com web site (VA)

An errant Google search and a last-minute, fortuitous find at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., made James Theres’ documentary “The Hello Girls” come together.

James TheresJames TheresTheres, with three documentaries under his belt now, started searching in 2017 for a project to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in November 1918.

A mistake in a Google search for information on WWI led to Elizabeth Cobbs’ book, also called “The Hello Girls,” which told the story about American women who went to Europe during WWI to run the switchboards and the phones that connected generals to the battlefronts. The moniker derived from the women answering the phones with “Hello.”

Theres had found the subject for his second documentary.

“Truthfully, I had meant to type in WWI men. For some strange reason, I typed in WWI women,” the 55-year-old Alexandria filmmaker said. “I looked at the screen and said, ‘OK, let’s see what’s here,’ and up popped Elizabeth Cobbs’ book of the same name.”

Theres read the book and emailed Cobbs, who helped set him on the path to his documentary version of “The Hello Girls.”

Theres’ research led him to Kansas City; San Francisco; Marine City, Mich.; and Chaumont, France—places where he interviewed the descendants of four of the Hello Girls.

John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front in WWI, brought the Hello Girls to Europe at the suggestion of AT&T executives who were part of his staff, Theres said.

Pershing was not satisfied with the way the American soldiers were doing the job for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. “He knew how important that private communication was on the battlefield and that it would be a game changer,” Theres said.

Read more: 'Hello Girls' documentary tells story of women on the front lines in WWI

 

Fort DouaumontRidgefield High School seniors Aaron Cohen and Mairead Lacey were among a group of 15 students who participated in the "Digging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration” program in Seicheprey, France this summer. The program brought participants to the site of the first German offensive against American troops to restore a section of trench once occupied by Connecticut’s 102nd Infantry Regiment. The group tours Fort Douaumont in the picture above.

Ridgefield, CT students dig into World War I history 

via the MySA (San Antonio, TX) web site

Ridgefield students Aaron Cohen and Mairead Lacey have returned from the Connecticut State Library’s “Digging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration” program in Seicheprey, France.

The three-week innovative experiential learning program brought fifteen Connecticut high school students to the site of the first German offensive against American troops to restore a section of trench once occupied by Connecticut’s 102d Infantry Regiment.

“This program, the only one of its kind in the United States, was a spectacular success and resulted in a life changing experience for students and chaperones alike,” said Christine Pittsley, project director of the state library’s “Remembering World War One: Sharing History and Preserving Memories” program.

The trench restoration work, led by local military historians Phillipe Dourthe and Denis Meyer, resulted in more than 100 meters of trench restored; two wattle walls built and a shelter rebuilt. A number of artifacts were found, including an American boot, a French spoon with a bullet hole and even a Napoleon III coin dating to the 1850s.

Students cataloged the finds and documented their work through photos and video that will become part of the Connecticut State Library’s permanent archives.

Read more: Ridgefield, CT students dig into World War I history

 

How WWI Changed the Meaning of ‘Barbaric’ 

By Walter Benjamin
via the Literary Hub web site

Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was a philosopher, cultural critic, and essayist. Associated with the Frankfurt School, Benjamin influenced many of his contemporaries, including Bertolt Brecht, Gershom Scholem, and Theodor Adorno. Benjamin’s best-known essays include “The Task of the Translator,” “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” and “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” In 1940, he killed himself in Portbou, on the French-Spanish border, when his attempt to escape Nazi forces was thwarted. The following essay is from The Storyteller Essays, translated from the German by Tess Lewis.

496px Walter Benjamin vers 1928Our children’s storybooks contained the fable of the old man who, on his deathbed, convinced his sons that a treasure was buried in the vineyard. They simply had to dig for it. They dug and dug but found no sign of the treasure. But when autumn came, the vines yielded a harvest like none other in the land. The sons realized their father had given them the fruit of his experience: true wealth lies not in gold but in hard work. We were presented these lessons drawn from experience as threats or blandishments the whole time we were growing up: “Still wet behind the ears, and he’s got opinions!”

Everyone knew exactly what experience was: older generations had always shared theirs with the young. They did so succinctly, with the authority of age, in proverbs or at length and volubly, in stories, sometimes as stories from distant lands recounted to children and grandchildren by the fire. What happened to that custom? Can we still find people able to tell a proper story? How are the words of the dying passed on from generation to generation like an ancestral ring? Who, today, has a helpful proverb ready to hand? Who attempts to deal with the young by evoking past experience?

No, this much is clear: experience’s stock has fallen and did so for a generation that underwent, from 1914 to 1918, one of the most horrific experiences in world history. Perhaps this is not as surprising as it seems. Was the observation not made at the time that people returned mute from the battlefield? They did not come back richer in experiences they could impart, but poorer. What flowed into the flood of books about the war that appeared ten years later was anything but experience, which streams from lips to ears. No, this was not surprising at all.

For experiences have never been refuted more thoroughly than strategic ones were by trench warfare, economic ones by inflation, physical ones by hunger, ethical ones by the ruling powers. A generation that had gone to school in horse-drawn streetcars found itself under the open sky in a landscape in which only the clouds were unchanged and where, in the midst of it all, in a force field crossed by devastating currents and explosions, stood the tiny, fragile human body.

Read more: How WWI Changed the Meaning of ‘Barbaric’

 

1918 photo of Quartermaster Supply unit in France1918 photo of Quartermaster Supply unit in France. (Courtesy of Library of Congress) 

“Letters from Over There” by Lt. Scott of Armstead, Montana

By K.C. Picard, Idaho WW1 Centennial Commissioner
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

2nd Lt Parke Tolman Scott, was standing outside the Quartermaster’s office when he spotted his corporal returning with dispatches, memorandum and requisition forms. The 25-year-old gas and oil officer for the AEF Quartermaster Depot in France on the Western Front re-entered his office and picked up the outgoing mail which included two letters addressed by Scott’s own hand. One was a letter to his parents, Mr. James Wallace and Laura Tolman Scott of Armstead, Montana. The other letter was addressed to Francis Foote, the current editor of the Dillon Tribune in Beaverhead County, Montana.

He opened the letter to the editor and scanned the contents for the last time. Then with quick motions, Scott tore that letter into small pieces which he dropped into a metal tray. Lighting a match he quickly turned the scraps into ashes. American postal censorship was serious business. It came into being when the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. In the US Army, letters were scrutinized by three levels of censors: the company, regimental and base censors, before they reached the “acceptable” stage and were released for “overseas delivery.”

There were at least ten different items that could not be included in letters to the home front, including the names of the soldiers or officers who were killed or wounded in action, in hospital or captured by the enemy. Details of planned attacks were strictly prohibited, and no details were allowed about the exact location of troops, tanks or artillery. Enlisted men were to place their unsealed envelopes in the organization mailbox, and officers had to seal their envelopes and sign their names in the lower left hand corner to show their compliance with the censorship regulations.All intercepted communication, both military and civilian were forwarded to Military Intelligence in Washington.

Being an officer himself meant that 2nd Lt. Scott had to censor some of the letters of the soldiers under his command, and in the current situation he destroyed his own letter instead of giving it to the censor. Scott saved the emptied and pre-addressed envelope which he then used to enclose a small note addressed to Editor Foote, along with a notice to be published in the newspaper for his readers at the Dillon Tribune.

Read more: “Letters from Over There” by Lt. Scott of Armstead, Montana

 

livinggreatwarIn conjunction with the World War I centennial commemoration, the Museum and Memorial is sponsoring "Living the Great War." The free weekend event features the Living History Volunteer Corps and other World War I living historians sharing their knowledge and inviting the public to inspect their collections in a camp setting on the Museum and Memorial grounds. 

August Offerings at National WWI Museum and Memorial 

By Mike Vietti
Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services, National World War I Museum and Memorial

KANSAS CITY, MO. – A weekend event featuring the Living History Volunteer Corps and living historians presenting real WWI artifacts for visitors to inspect, a panel discussion on challenges faced by returning soldiers from war and a presentation on the race riots of the “Red Summer” of 1919 are among the August offerings at the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

On Saturday, Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. – 3p.m. the Museum and Memorial is sponsoring Living the Great War. This free weekend event features the Living History Volunteer Corps and other World War I living historians sharing their knowledge and inviting the public to inspect their collections in a camp setting on the Museum and Memorial grounds. Living historians also offer education programs each day at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., a children’s obstacle course is available and the Kansas City Dawn Patrol will have replica WWI-era aircraft on display, while a 1918 Ford Model T from the Military Vehicle Preservation Association will also be present (weather permitting).

Many African American soldiers returned from WWI with a newfound sense of pride and determination for equality, but home was still plagued by racial violence, heightened during the “Red Summer” of 1919. On Thursday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m., Dr. Geoff Ward, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at Washington University, discusses his research and engagement efforts to address the history of racial violence and its legacies today during a free program. Ward considers the scientific evidence that U.S. communities remain affected by centuries of this violence, while discussing transformative justice projects communities are implementing to confront these enduring impacts, including in Missouri.

Read more: August Offerings at National WWI Museum and Memorial

 

web1 Convoy 2009The Military Vehicle Preservation Association is sponsoring a reenactment of the 1919 military convoy that traveled across the Lincoln Highway, from the East Coast to the West Coast, to celebrate the victory in World War I. The 2019 MVPA Transcontinental Convoy got on the road August 10th in York, PA and end September 14th in San Francisco, CA. If you are wondering where the Convoy is at any moment, click on this link for the Live Convoy Tracker.

Historic military convoy will stop in Galion, OH Aug. 17 

By Russell Kent
via the Galion Inquirer newspaper (OH) web site

GALION — Galion-area residents will have a rare opportunity in two weeks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a special military convoy. In 1919, to celebrate the victory in World War I, a military convoy traveled across the Lincoln Highway, from the East Coast to the West Coast.

Galion, being located on the Lincoln Highway at that time, was one of the convoy’s stops, as it was in 2009 on the 90th anniversary of this special celebration.

The convoy is expected to be in Galion sometime around mid-morning Saturday, Aug. 17.

The Military Vehicle Preservation Association has invited its members and their various historical military vehicles to participate in this grand convoy re-enactment. It leaves Washington D.C. on Aug. 10. The group will bivouac in Wooster. before coming through Galion about mid-morning on Saturday, Aug. 17.

Expected to participate in the coast-to-coast tour — about 3,200 miles — are more than 50 Historic Military Vehicles. Another 20 or so vehicles will participate in different portions of the trip.

The convoy will follow the original Lincoln Highway route as closely as possible. That route crosses all or part of 11 states from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, joining the Lincoln Highway in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The route begins on the lowlands of the eastern seaboard, traverses the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, travels the lush farmlands of the Midwest, crosses the high plains, dips into the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah, crosses the Nevada Desert, climbs the Sierra Nevada and descends to Lake Tahoe. It will end in California and the San Francisco Bay area.

Read more: Historic military convoy will stop in Galion, OH Aug. 17

 

Brooke USA salutes America's WWI Horse Heroes

"One can only wonder what would have happened if these US equines had not contributed to the war efforts." 

By Chris Isleib
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

Since 2017, the Brooke USA organization has put the spotlight on the services of American horses and Mules in World War I through their very popular Horse Heroes site here on the United States World War I Centennial Commission web site. As the commemoration period for the centennial of World War I winds down, we wanted to follow up with the Brooke team to review everything the organization has done to put a well-deserved spotlight on the horses and mules that supported the war effort of the United States and its Allies a century ago, and also talk about the Brooke mission to support the 21st Century Horse Heroes that make life better for people in the developing world.  Brooke USA Executive Director Emily Dulin, and Brooke USA's Horse Heroes Special Project Volunteer Jo Ellen Hayden, took the time to answer a few questions for us.

You have been busy since we last visited! Tell us about your current projects at Brooke USA.

Emily Dulin 2Emily DulinBecause Brooke USA is such a young organization and our growth has been so rapid, we are always working on new projects and campaigns. We have even made some changes to our mission to better reflect the areas of the world we support; we simply wanted to be more explicit and share with supporters how we ensure that the funds we raise are put to the best use. Our new mission is to significantly improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people they serve throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and the Caribbean by raising funds and responsibly directing them to the areas of greatest need. We do this through a holistic approach to funding which includes capacity building, sustainability programming, female empowerment and international advocacy. Brooke USA connects private philanthropists with their passion for helping relieve the suffering of working equines and their owners.

Brooke USA logoIn addition, we have been very disciplined as to what programs we have funded, allowing us to stay more focused and provide more concentrated service in certain geographic areas. During 2019, we are raising funds to support the extraordinary work of Brooke West Africa which serves as an example of programmatic excellence for the African continent. We know that by helping Senegal its goal to improve the welfare of 150,000 working equines, we are making a huge dent in other countries which adopt and emulate these programs.

We continue to support the work of Brooke India as it relates to improving the quality of life of working equines in the brick kilns. We are funding Brooke's work in 3,245 brick kiln sites, offering emergency vet treatment and vaccinations as well as advice on disease prevention. From Brooke USA's standpoint by engaging and training local service providers such as farriers, saddlers and cart makers, we can ensure that access to service is granted to poorest communities.

Read more: Brooke USA salutes America's WWI Horse Heroes

 

WWI documentary wins National History Day First Prize

By Joshua Baker
Staff Writer

Every year, thousands of students and teachers gather to share their passion for history in the National History Day Contest, which places students and their research projects into a friendly competition. Hosted by National History Day (NHD), a non-profit educational organization, students compete at the local and state level, where finally the top students then advance to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.

NHD offers year-long academic programs that aim to connect over half a million students across the world by encouraging them to conduct original research on historical topics of their choosing.

Sebastian pic 1Sebastian PizziniThis year, the US World War I Centennial Commission had the honor of interviewing Sebastian Pizzini from Puerto Rico. His original work, Heroes: African Americans in World War I, placed first in the Senior Division: Individual Documentary category.

Sebastian first took an interest in World War One history in 10th grade from his teacher Mr. Proskauer. Pizzini informed the commission that there wasn’t one specific topic that drew his attention to World War One, but rather the conflict as a whole “just stuck” with him. With Pizzini entering into the National History Day Contest, he knew World War One would fit into the parameters of the contest, but he obviously needed to narrow his focus. From there, he then moved his focus on a lesser known topic in American military history, African Americans in the World War One.

Pizzini described his research as a real “eye-opener” because African American involvement in the war was never covered in much depth during his formal education. He learned that of all the African Americans to serve in uniform, only 20 percent were engaged in combat while 80 percent were used for hard-labor. His project noted that the tasks that these African American soldiers were ordered to do had an unsettling connection to Slavery in America’s past time. Despite these harsh realities, African American service in World War One would help lay the foundation for the Civil Rights movement several decades later.

When asked about his experience with the National History Day Contest, Pizzini spoke highly of the program, but also revealed some of the difficulties associated with conducting original research. Pizzini’s project was presented in a documentary format and this led to some difficulties. For example, he mentioned the difficulties of finding the appropriate imagery for certain pieces of information in his documentary, while remaining historically accurate.

Other difficulties came from being the sole person behind the project. For this reason, he felt overwhelmed at times managing all the moving parts by himself. Despite these difficulties, “I had my classmates to motivate me and also had Mr. Proskauer,” to help guide him through the whole process, said Pizzini.

Once Pizzini entered the competition he confessed that he was nervous since he had never participated in a competition like this one before. Obviously he had nothing to be worried about because he would later be informed that he would be advancing to the National competition. With the great news Pizzini said he was “super excited” but still a bit nervous because he had to make some adjustments and do some final tuning prior to entering the National Contest.

Read more: World War I documentary wins National History Day First Prize

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