Remembering and honoring those that served and gave their lives during the First World War is a central task in the Centennial Commemoration period. More than four million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during the Great War. In only five months of fighting at the end of the war, 116,516 U.S. soldiers gave their lives in combat, with another 200,000 wounded – a casualty rate far greater than in World War II. More than 350,000 African Americans served in the U.S. military, as did Native Americans and members of other minority groups. And, for the first time, women joined the ranks of the U.S. armed forces.
By establishing a national memorial to World War I in the nation’s capital, and bringing renewed attention to local WWI memorials around the country, the Commission will honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served, not only on the battlefields but behind the lines and on the home front, and help today’s generations of Americans begin to understand the true heroism of all those who served.
Since 1982, the nation has dedicated national memorials in Washington, DC, in remembrance of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. No such memorial exists for the veterans of World War I. Congress has authorized the Commission to establish a national World War I Memorial in Pershing Park, one block from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Currently, Pershing Park serves as the existing memorial honoring General John J. Pershing, the commander of all U.S. forces in the war. The memorial would be renovated and expanded to officially serve as the nation’s World War I memorial in Washington.
Across the country there are local WWI memorials in thousands of cities and towns that are forgotten and in disrepair. The Commission has partnered with the World War I Memorial Inventory Project and partners from all 50 states to create an on-line database that will assist with locating, restoring, and bringing new attention to all the memorials built to honor U.S. veterans of the First World War.