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World War I Centennial News


 

 

Construction update collage 01302020A collage of photos showing the Phase I construction work currently underway at the site of the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC.   A construction fence now surrounds the site.

Phase I construction work underway at site of new National WWI Memorial

By Patrice Ford
Communications Manager, Grunley Construction Company, Inc.

Work is underway at the site of the new National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C. project! The Grunley Construction Company Project Team is currently tagging and documenting the existing conditions of every stone in the park to determine which are salvageable and which need to be replaced.

Salvageable stones will be stored offsite while the underground utilities and new structural work takes place, then reset in their original positions.

Land Collective, the landscape designer for the memorial, will be identifying and tagging trees to ensure that the appropriate ones are available for re-use when trees will be planted later this year.

 

 

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The Hello Girls musical returns for one-night-only concert in NYC February 26

Prospect Theater Company's original Off-Broadway cast is reuniting for a special, one-night-only concert reading of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-nominated original musical The Hello Girls in New York on February 26.

The special event takes place at 7:30 pm in the Peter Norton Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway @ 95th St. in Manhattan.  Tickets are available now.

Featuring a critically-acclaimed score, The Hello Girls tells the story of the groundbreaking women who served as the first soldiers in the U.S. Army, during World War I. Prospect Theater Company's original Off-Broadway cast re-unites for this special, one-night-only concert reading of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-nominated original musical! 

From New York to Paris, from ragtime to jazz — an ensemble of actor-musicians chronicles the story of America's first women soldiers. These intrepid heroines served as bi-lingual telephone operators on the front lines, helping turn the tide of World War I. They then returned home to fight a decades-long battle for equality and recognition, paving the way for future generations.

Read more: The Hello Girls musical returns for one-night-only concert in NYC February 26

 

IMG 0026Students from Washington Court House, (Ohio) meet with community leaders at an African American Cemetery with a World War I soldier's headstone. 

Teaching more than the Harlem Hellfighters; Black History Month, World War I, and the Classroom

By Paul LaRue
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

February is Black History Month. This provides teachers an important opportunity to highlight diversity too often overlooked in classrooms. World War I content can assist in teaching diversity with lesson plans that highlight the service, sacrifice and heartbreak of African American World War I soldiers and sailors.

Paul LaRue tightPaul LaRueAbout the title: please do not think the heroic service of the Harlem Hellfighters should not be celebrated and taught. What I am saying is – as a thirty-year classroom history teacher, students need and deserve more classroom exposure than a couple of paragraphs in a traditional textbook. I believe the same concept applies to the Civil War service of the Massachusetts 54th and the World War II service of the Tuskegee Airmen. The bravery of these soldiers and their incredible service is not in question.

I do, however, worry students leave American History thinking only a small select group of African Americans served. The African American military experience is as diverse as the other men and women that served. I also question if racism, institutional bias, and African American military service are explored in a genuine way with students. African American military service cannot be explored without these painful discussions.

The World War I Centennial has helped spur both interest and the creation of new African American World War I classroom content. What should a student know about African American World War I service?

Here is African American World War I Service by the numbers:

Read more: Teaching more than the Harlem Hellfighters; Black History Month, World War I, and the Classroom

 

memorial 1View of the planned new National World War I Memorial looking west toward the monumental bronze sculpture. The new memorial is now in Phase I of the construction process.

Pershing Park: The Evolution Of A Modernist Memorial

By David Rubin
via the David Rubin Land Collective web site

Landscapes are extraordinary, if only for their dynamism – an ever-changing marriage of static and living systems. They’re also reflections of our culture – truly political constructs describing the values of our society. Landscapes present a living canvas of pentimenti expressing both the site’s history and our own changing cultural values as time moves forward.

Historically-significant landscapes require a nuanced approach to managing change, one that is respectful of the past, but that lifts the bell jar, so that history can be made accessible to twenty-first century society. Such is the case with our work on Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., revivifying a modernist construct redefined as a national memorial and a welcoming place of urban respite. 

New Year / New Memorial

DAVID RUBIN Land Collective is celebrating 2020 with the commencement of construction of the National World War I Memorial. On December 12, 2014, the United States Congress redefined the entirety of Pershing Park, so named for the conflict’s formidable leader, General John J. Pershing, as the National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, located in the monumental core of the nation’s capital at the terminus of Pennsylvania Avenue proximate to the White House, is a modernist construct by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg.

The expanded commemorative composition no longer focuses solely upon a monumental figure. Rather, in expression throughout the park, the memorial will shift from singular recognition to a broader, more inclusive acknowledgement of sacrifice and the United States’ role in this global conflict.

Read more: Pershing Park: The Evolution Of A Modernist Memorial

 

g06385Sailors reading, writing and relaxing at the Red Cross Rest Room in New Orleans. Around 400,000 African Americans served in World War I.  

World War I Planted the Seeds of the Civil Rights Movement 

By Anna Diamond
via the smithsonianmag.com web site

n early April 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress seeking to enter the United States in the first World War, he urged the “world must be made safe for democracy.” A. Philip Randolph, the co-founder of the African-American magazine The Messenger, would later retort in its pages, “We would rather make Georgia safe for the Negro.”

The debate over democracy, and who it served in the U.S., was central to the black experience during the Great War. African Americans were expected to go abroad to fight, even though they were denied access to democracy, treated as second-class citizens and subjected to constant aggression and violence at home.

Randolph was at odds with other leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois, who saw the war as an opportunity for African Americans to demonstrate their patriotism and who expected they’d be better treated after their return home. Writing in the NAACP’s magazine The Crisis, Du Bois called on African Americans to “forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy.”

This tension frames the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s new exhibition, “We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity.” Focusing on both soldiers and civilians, the expansive show explores the experiences and sacrifices of African Americans during the war, and how their struggles for civil rights intensified in its aftermath. “World War I was a transformative event for the world,” says guest curator Krewasky Salter, who organized the show, “but it was also a transformative experience for African Americans.”

Read more: World War I Planted the Seeds of the Civil Rights Movement

 

Florham Park, New Jersey American Legion Post 43: Pvt. Frank A. Patterson 

By Harley L. Davidson, Ph.D.
Veterans Services Historian, United States World War One Centennial Commission

The battlefields of World War I are well known for their ability to take human life on an industrial scale. But the war’s most insidious killer was disease. Infectious diseases such as influenza, meningococcal meningitis, and tuberculosis claimed the lives of tens of thousands of American soldiers. Men were gathered in tight quarters at every stage of deployment, from training camps, to transport vessels, to the trenches of the Western Front.

legion 300Tuberculosis claimed the life of Private Frank A. Patterson of Madison, New Jersey before he ever reached the Western Front.

Patterson died in March 1918 while training at Camp MacArthur, Texas.

Despite the military’s efforts to screen new recruits for disease, it was inevitable that men still got sick on base. Tuberculosis became more prevalent in the wartime years and then quickly dropped off afterward, meaning that certain facets of World War I likely helped spread the disease. The use of poison gas in warfare, people being more crowded together, the lack of ventilation in wartime fortifications and shelters, malnourishment, and a lack of medical care all combined to help tuberculosis claim thousands of American lives.

Private Patterson was one of the disease’s unfortunate victims, his life claimed on American soil by an invisible killer.

Read more: Florham Park, New Jersey American Legion Post 43: Pvt. Frank A. Patterson

 

Manuel “Mannie” E. Reams - American Legion Post 182 

By Harley L. Davidson, Ph.D.
Veterans Services Historian, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Manuel Mannie E. ReamsManuel "Mannie" E. ReamsAmerican Legion Post 182 is named after Manuel “Mannie” E. Reams, who served in the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Reams was born in February 1890 in Suisun, California. He attended local schools in the area and, between the years 1910 and 1915, made a name for himself playing semi-pro baseball where his teammates gave him the nickname “Babe.”

After being drafted in 1917, he was assigned to the newly organized 91st Division at Camp Lewis, Washington. In June 1918, the entire division was on the move to New Jersey before it finally set sail for England, then on to France in July. There, Reams fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, where he was seriously wounded in the arm.

For three days, Reams was reported as “Missing in Action” but was later found hiding in a former German dugout in “No Man’s Land” with several other wounded soldiers.

“No Man’s Land” was the unoccupied, contested area between opposing frontline trenches occupied by the Allied nations, and the Imperial German Army. After the Battle of the Marne during the opening stages of the First World War, British, French, and German armies began to “dig in” to avoid the murderous machine-gun and artillery fire that covered the Western Front. The trench network stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss border. It is believed that if all the trenches that were dug on the Western Front were laid end-to-end, the distance would stretch some 35,000 miles.

Read more: Manuel “Mannie” E. Reams - American Legion Post 182

 

 Claude Rains movies ranked CasablancaBefore becoming a movie star in films like Casablanca Humphrey Bogart (right) served as a sailor in the United States Navy in World War I.

Before they were famous they served on the front lines of World War I 

By Susan King
via the Gold Derby web site

Sam Mendes’ acclaimed World War I epic “1917” graphically shows how the Great War was indeed hell. And numerous actors and filmmakers were there on the front lines or bravely engaging in dogfights in the sky over France. Just as Mendes’ illustrates in “1917,” the combat took its toll on these soldiers who went on to fame in feature films. Numerous were wounded, gassed and even were POWs. Needless to say, the majority were never the same.

Here’s a look at 10 actors, who became stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood, who participated in World War I

Humphrey Bogart

Long before he uttered “Here’s looking at you kid” in 1942’s “Casablanca,” the Oscar-winning superstar was a teenager when he enlisted in the Navy in May of 1918 where he was assigned to the ship the Leviathan. And it was during this time, he suffered the injury that created the scar on the right corner of his upper lip. Though Hollywood lore has stated that he was hit by shrapnel, the official Bogart website bio maintains it was probably due to a Navy prisoner he was escorting. The man asked Bogey for a cigarette and when he reached for a match, the prisoner smacked Bogart across the mouth with his handcuffs and took off. Despite the fact that Bogart was bleeding from a severely torn lip, he ran after and tracked down the escapee.

Ronald Colman

The suave British actor came to fame in the silent era and had a long and successful career during the sound era winning an Oscar for 1947’s “A Double Life” and starring in such classics as 1935’s “The Tale of Two Cities,” 1937’s “The Prisoner of Zenda,” 1939’s “The Light that Failed” and 1942’s “Random Harvest.” Colman enlisted as a private in 1914 with the 14th Battalion London Regiment. During the Battle of Messines in Belgium, Colman was blown into the air by a shell and suffered such bad damage to his knee and ankle, he had a permanent limp. He managed to hide his limp in his film roles even tackling major action roles in several films.

Read more: Before they were famous they served on the front lines of World War I

 

1917 movie Films about World War I, such as “1917" with Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, provided filmmakers with plenty of downbeat inspiration, especially when compared with films about World War II. (François Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

Why World War I films, like ‘1917,’ have a different feel than those about WWII 

By Lewis Beale
via the Los Angeles Times (CA) newspaper web site

Director Sam Mendes’ new film, “1917,” tells the story of two men on a mission to save 1,600 British soldiers from being slaughtered by German forces leading them into a trap. But in its own way, it’s every World War I movie in microcosm: the trenches, the scarred battlefields, the rats, the gruesome deaths, the utter futility of a conflict fought over minuscule pieces of land; a war that seems to make no sense, despite the heroism of its combatants.

“The First World War is the beginning of modern warfare,” says Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who co-wrote the “1917” screenplay with Mendes. “It began with cavalry, horses and men in pristine, brightly colored uniforms, and it ends in tanks, aerial warfare, machine guns, chemical weapons and mud. Millions died over inches of ground.”

That seemingly pointless conflict has, nevertheless, provided filmmakers with plenty of downbeat inspiration, especially when compared with films about World War II.

World War I “allows you to tell a particular kind of war story,” says Mark Sheftall, a Bucknell University history professor who teaches courses on global warfare. “Because of the way people understand World War I, setting a movie in it tells you about the horrors of war, the futility; you can tell it as a tragedy, as disillusion. And people go, ‘Yes, war is like that.’

“Whereas World War II, that’s a story of victory, it’s the horrors and all that stuff, but typically the outcome is victory. You look for a positive resolution that can justify all that sacrifice, but you don’t have that in World War I.”

Read more: Why World War I films, like ‘1917,’ have a different feel than those about WWII

 

Eliz and pledgeDaughters of the American Revolution member Elizabeth Clodfelter, 101 years old, leads the Pledge of Allegiance at the dedication ceremony for the new Argonne Bridge World War I Memorial in Spokane, WA on November 11, 2019.

Spokane community unites to restore World War I Memorial bridge

By Rae Anna Victor
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

mem2Spokane Argonne Bridge World War I MemorialHere in Spokane. WA, we raised nearly $20,000 and dedicated the Argonne World War I Memorial on Veterans Day 2019. Hundreds of people attended the dedication ceremony. We had an honor guard do the Bells of Peace Ceremony and the Marines do the flag salute, rifle volley, and taps. The 12 foot x 10 foot memorial features the names of the soldiers who died in the war from Spokane County, an original Doughboy hat, an eagle on a light post, and the story of the Argonne Offensive.

This was an incredible project. Here is how it happened:

Originally, five bronze plaques adorned the Argonne Bridge in Millwood; the bridge was named for the Argonne Meuse Offensive of World War I, and was dedicated on Veteran’s Day 1920. When the bridge was redone in the 70s, the plaques disappeared. Two have been recovered. The three with the names of the over 200 soldiers who lost their lives in World War I were not.

Months ago, I was chatting with local historian Chuck King. We have worked together on several historical projects. We talked about how sad it was that the plaques had been taken off the Argonne Bridge because now hardly anyone knew the origins of the name. Both of us agreed that it needed to be rectified and I said it might be a project my Jonas Babcock Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution chapter (DAR) would take on.

We kicked around several ideas. In 1970, when the bridge was redone, the dedication plaques were removed. I had heard that one the original bronze plaques was in the county roads office downtown, and that another had been donated to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum. The two plaques that contained the names of all the soldiers who died in the war had disappeared.

Read more: Spokane community unites to restore World War I Memorial bridge

 

VFW Post 287 Celebrates 100th Anniversary by Honoring Cpl. Sahler 

By Joseph Felice
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

One day this past July while driving along Main Street in Coatesville, PA, banners lining the sidewalks piqued my innate curiosity about history. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 287 issued these banners in honor of Coatesville area men and women who served their country past and present.

One banner in particular grabbed my attention because as far as I could determine it displayed the only local veteran who had served in the First World War. The banner read “Wellington G. Sahler, Killed in Action, 1918, Died in the Battle of Argonne Forrest.”

Sahler Eck PictureI always thought that World War I was overlooked in school and wanted to learn more about him. I contacted VFW Post 287 (which I had learned started the banner project in our town) on Facebook, and was surprised to discover that Sahler was their namesake. The post is named Sahler-Sedan VFW Post 287.

After discussing online with the Post Chaplain Claresa Whitfield about my interest in Sahler, she informed me that little was known about his history. She asked me to do research and invited me to the 100th anniversary celebration of the Post on December 7, 2019 to make a formal presentation of my work. Post 287 was chartered on December 4, 1919.

Sadly, I would come to learn that Sahler endured heartache and tragedy long before the atrocities of war claimed his life.

Wellington was born in March 1896 to Isaac Wayne and Rachel Sahler of Coatesville. In 1899, he was only three years old when his father succumbed to rheumatism. Following his father’s death, his mother secured employment as a clerk at W.W. Mast Department Store, present day Coatesville Cultural Society. While employed at Mast, Wellington was under the care of Rachel’s closest friend Rebecca Grey of Thorndale.

Read more: VFW Post 287 Celebrates 100th Anniversary by Honoring Cpl. Sahler

  

12th BC in ActionThe 12th Balloon Company in action in France during World War I. Author Robert Eugene Johnson's father Austin Johnson served in the 12th as a member of the American Expeditionary Forces.  

How I Found Austin—And How He Found Me 

By Robert Eugene Johnson
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

Note: Robert Eugene Johnson is the author of Austin in the Great War, the story of his father Austin Johnson's service in the 12th Balloon Company of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.

My family always longed to know what happened to Austin during the Great War. When I retired I resolved to find out.

Front CoverAt the outset of my research I had only the barest facts about my father’s time “over there.” One of these was from his own lips—the only thing he ever uttered, either to me, to my mother, or to my eight siblings: “We left for France from Norfolk, Virginia.”

Dads LeavingsA few months later, three more pieces of information had made their way to me:

• A Great War Victory Medal, left among my father’s things, which had been saved by my sister Genevieve after our mother died. The three clasps on it read “Defensive Sector”; “St. Mihiel”; and “Meuse–Argonne.”

• A single red Private’s stripe—Dad had never even told us his rank—found in a side drawer of my mother’s old (treadle-powered) Singer sewing machine;

• A tightly folded, yellowed, tattered copy of a full-page newspaper article from the New York Times Magazine dated April 13, 1919 titled “Balloons: Eyes of the Army,” which had been sequestered in the same drawer. One paragraph on the second page of the article had been circled—by whom, I never discovered. It mentioned the 12th Balloon Company, and a special commendation it earned for bravery under fire.

First Goosebumps

It was when I read that NYT text that I began to realize there was a much bigger story hidden under my father’s iron reticence than I ever suspected. And it was the first (of many) cases of goosebumps when I finally got to the bottom of the story hinted-at by its sub-head: “Twenty-three Arose in a Blinding Storm at St. Mihiel and One Broke Its Leash, But Its Observers Gave Germans No Comfort.” (It was my father’s balloon that “broke its leash”—an accident that saw the only capture of AEF balloonists in the war.)

Read more: How I Found Austin—And How He Found Me

  

12th BC in ActionThe 12th Balloon Company in action in France during World War I. Author Robert Eugene Johnson's father Austin Johnson served in the 12th as a member of the American Expeditionary Forces.  

How I Found Austin—And How He Found Me 

By Robert Eugene Johnson
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

Note: Robert Eugene Johnson is the author of Austin in the Great War, the story of his father Austin Johnson's service in the 12th Balloon Company of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.

My family always longed to know what happened to Austin during the Great War. When I retired I resolved to find out.

Front CoverAt the outset of my research I had only the barest facts about my father’s time “over there.” One of these was from his own lips—the only thing he ever uttered, either to me, to my mother, or to my eight siblings: “We left for France from Norfolk, Virginia.”

Dads LeavingsA few months later, three more pieces of information had made their way to me:

• A Great War Victory Medal, left among my father’s things, which had been saved by my sister Genevieve after our mother died. The three clasps on it read “Defensive Sector”; “St. Mihiel”; and “Meuse–Argonne.”

• A single red Private’s stripe—Dad had never even told us his rank—found in a side drawer of my mother’s old (treadle-powered) Singer sewing machine;

• A tightly folded, yellowed, tattered copy of a full-page newspaper article from the New York Times Magazine dated April 13, 1919 titled “Balloons: Eyes of the Army,” which had been sequestered in the same drawer. One paragraph on the second page of the article had been circled—by whom, I never discovered. It mentioned the 12th Balloon Company, and a special commendation it earned for bravery under fire.

First Goosebumps

It was when I read that NYT text that I began to realize there was a much bigger story hidden under my father’s iron reticence than I ever suspected. And it was the first (of many) cases of goosebumps when I finally got to the bottom of the story hinted-at by its sub-head: “Twenty-three Arose in a Blinding Storm at St. Mihiel and One Broke Its Leash, But Its Observers Gave Germans No Comfort.” (It was my father’s balloon that “broke its leash”—an accident that saw the only capture of AEF balloonists in the war.)

Read more: How I Found Austin—And How He Found Me (2)

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