World War One was a watershed in American history. The United States' decision to join the battle in 1917 "to make the world safe for democracy" proved pivotal in securing allied victory — a victory that would usher in the American Century.
In the war's aftermath, individuals, towns, cities, counties, and states all felt compelled to mark the war, as did colleges, businesses, clubs, associations, veterans groups, and houses of worship. Thousands of memorials—from simple honor rolls, to Doughboy sculptures, to grandiose architectural ensembles—were erected throughout the US in the 1920s and 1930s, blanketing the American landscape.
Each of these memorials, regardless of size or expense, has a story. But sadly, as we enter the war's centennial period, these memorials and their very purpose—to honor in perpetuity the more than four million Americans who served in the war and the more than 116,000 who were killed—have largely been forgotten. And while many memorials are carefully tended, others have fallen into disrepair through neglect, vandalism, or theft. Some have been destroyed. Watch this CBS news video on the plight of these monuments.
The extant memorials are our most salient material links in the US to the war. They afford a vital window onto the conflict, its participants, and those determined to remember them. Rediscovering the memorials and the stories they tell will contribute to their physical and cultural rehabilitation—a fitting commemoration of the war and the sacrifices it entailed.
We are building a US WW1 Memorial register through a program called the Memorials Hunters Club. If you locate a memorial that is not on the map we invite you to upload your treasure to be permanently archived in the national register. You can include your choice of your real name, nickname or team name as the explorers who added that memorial to the register. We even have room for a selfie! Check the map, and if you don't see the your memorial CLICK THE LINK TO ADD IT.
These memorial walls honor the fallen from all wars beginning with WW1. They encircle three flags: the Arkansas state flag, the POW/MIA flag, and the flag of the United States. In front of the memorial walls stands a statue of a servicemember's helmet, rifle, and boots. The statue's plaque reads: To The World They Were Soldiers / To Their Family They Were The World. The memorial wall reads: This Memorial Is Dedicated To The Courage And Sacrifice Of Those Who Served Their Country In Long Forgotten And Faraway Places. The Memory Of Their Deeds Will Be Enduring And Imperishable To The Rigors Of Time.
A bronze plaque on this stone obelisk reads: "A Memorial Erected in Memory of All War Veterans of Silver Bow County." Visible on the memorial is an empty space for a similar plaque; replacement and restoration efforts are underway, but first historical research must be done to determine what was written on the plaque.
The following is an account of the signing of the US WWI Peace Treaty published in the New York Times issue of May 27, 1984:
"Although the other Allies accepted the Treaty of Versailles, a vicious, partisan battle over its adoption erupted in the United States. ... Formal peace did not come for another two years: July 2, 1921. The place the war ended was in rural Somerset County.
The US resolution contained some of the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, but not membership in the League of Nations.
As the debate in Congress was ending, President Warren Harding left to spend a relaxing Fourth of July weekend at the picturesque country home of Senator Joseph S. Frelinghuysen in Somerville, NJ.
The President was accompanied by his wife and a group of cronies from the Senate and the House. The Presidential party arrived on Friday evening, July 1, after taking the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from Washington to Bound Brook.
The following day, a White House courier arrived with the resolution that had just been adopted by Congress, and reporters described the ensuing events with the sort of colorful journalistic detail that characterized newspaper reporting in those days.
President Harding, who had been playing golf at the Somerset Hills Country Club, returned to the Frelinghuysen home in an automobile. He was wearing ''a Palm Beach suit, white shoes, white socks with black clocks, a white shirt buttoned by removable gold studs and a green and red bow tie.''
He met the White House courier on the front porch, where he read through the documents. The President then entered through the front door and sat at a table.
About 30 people crowded into the room, including reporters, photographers, Secret Service agents, Washington dignitaries, the Frelinghuysen children, the acting Governor of New Jersey, butlers, maids, chauffeurs and gardeners.
A reporter asked Senator Frelinghuysen what he called the room.
''Oh, I don't know,'' he said, ''library, living room, parlor - anything you please.''
A group of Somerset County officials, including Sherrif Bogart Conkling, had brought along a feathery quill pen for the President to use, but he instead took a ''new steel pen in an ordinary wooden holder'' from Senator Frelinghuysen.
In silence, except for the clicking of cameras, the President signed the resolution.
''That's all,'' he said, in what must be one of the most unmemorable lines ever uttered in a historic moment.
At that point, a large drop of ink fell from the pen to the page, obscuring part of Mr. Harding's signature. An aide applied a blotter, and the document was placed in a leather pouch to be returned to Washington.
After a few moments of conversation, the President and his party departed for some more golf, this time at the Raritan Valley Country Club.
Nobody is quite sure how it got there, but the desk on which President Harding signed the resolution is tucked away in a small room in the concrete and glass library on the Rutgers-Newark campus. There is no plaque or marker on it, and it is used principally as a conference table for librarians."
Today, a small plaque commemorates the location of the former Senator Joseph S. Frelinghuysen home in Somerville, NJ. It is located at the entrance to the Somerville Circle Shopping Center.
Photo courtesy of: Somerset County Historical Society; original credit: Unionist-Gazette newspaper, 1921
This monument commemorates the 47 men of Draft Board District 61 who lost their lives in World War I. Dedicated on Armistice Day (now Veterans Day), November 11, 1922, the monument consists of a polished Stoney Creek granite stele bearing a classical bronze relief by Charles Keck (1875–1951).
In 1931 the new state highway from Mt. Vernon to Anacortes, Washington, now SR 536, was named “The Memorial Highway” in honor of the 50 Skagit County soldiers that died in The World War. 50 Elm trees were planted along the highway at that time. Sometime in the 1950’s, the road was widened and the trees removed. On March 24th, 2015, a project to restore the elm trees was started with the planting of the first five new trees at this location.
The Slope County Veterans Memorial was one of the last ones dedicated specifically to veterans of WWI in North Dakota. Since it was dedicated in June of 1940, when a major war was being fought in Europe, the designers left room on the other side to add another memorial should the United States enter what would be become WWII. This memorial is built from petrified wood supporting a granite tablet.
Located in Smithsburg Veterans Park
"Solano County's Tribute to Its Fallen Heroes, 1917 - 1919"
50 names are listed on the rear panel of the memorial's pedestal. Memorial is in front of the old Solano County Courthouse. The memorial is flanked on either side by unique 47mm Rotating 5 barrel cannons that were made in 1883/84.
This is a chain saw-carved piece of wood, probably elm, depicting a standing WWI soldier. He wears an open-necked shirt and pants tucked into his boots, holds his rifle's barrel, and carries a helmet. It was carved in 1990 by Dennis Roghair to honor WWI veterans. Nearby is another Roghair carving, "Eagle," which may also be in honor of veterans.
Opened in 1924 as the Grant Park Municipal Stadium, in 1925 the stadium was renamed Soldier Field to honor the men and women who lost their lives during World War I. The ceremony to mark the name change was held on Armistice Day and began with a firing of guns at sunrise, a 21-gun salute at 11:00 am, and included parades and ceremonial flag raisings. Its formal dedication as Soldier Field was on Saturday, November 27, 1926, during the 29th annual playing of the Army–Navy Game. Its design is in the Neoclassical style, with Doric columns rising above the East and West entrances. The stadium cost $13 million to construct ($182 million in 2015 dollars), a very large sum for a sporting venue at that time. (Although it opened in 1924, construction wasn’t completed until 1939). A Spirit of the American Doughboy Memorial, created by American sculptor Ernest Moore Viquesney (1876-1946) in 1926, originally placed in Chicago’s Garfield Park and dedicated to the service men and women who gave their lives during World War I, was re-located in 2003 near Gate O of Soldier Field. It stands raised on a marble slab inside a protective glass circle with an etched inscription.
The monument in Leeds was designed by George Glynquist, who served as an army engineer in the war. It was erected by the War Mothers of Leeds and dedicated on August 7, 1921. The bronze plaque lists the names of all who served in WWI from Leeds, including Red Cross nurses. The monument was originally in a park near the railroad but is now in Fireman's Park along with a monument for pioneers.
This is a 45-foot white concrete tower with windows and bas-reliefs depicting World War I soldiers. Three are white, one is black, and all are painted with a brown gun and boots, green uniform, and beige background. A circular staircase inside leads to an observation platform. This monument was erected as a tribute to the 6,341 people from Contra Costa County who served in WWI and the 77 who died. A plaque was added in 1954 to honor those who died in WWII and the Korean War
Manufactured of granite and bronze, this monument is composed of five sections which fit together, the nine fool tall center section being the tallest. On the ends are sculpted helmets, canteens, a gas mask, ammunition belts, a saddlebag and a bayonet. It also had medallions of the U.S., the Spanish-American War Veterans, and the Grand Army of the Republic. Atop the center section was a sculpted element, but it was stolen during the 1960s. The monument was dedicated on May 30, 1923, as a tribute to the Minnesota veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and WWI.
This elaborate memorial rests on a slightly curved stone base with four Corinthian columns supporting an ornate, slightly curved roof. Between the columns stands a stone pedestal with a bronze plaque on the front, topped by an eagle with its wings outspread.
This memorial, commemorating those who served in World War I, was designed by J&R Lamb Company of New York, and erected by Ellsworth Matthews of Lakewood, NJ. The local War Memorial Committee raised $8,000 through benefit dances and personal contributions over a two-year period.
This monument replaced a temporary wooden one that was located at the intersection of Second Street & Clifton Avenue.
Photo courtesy of: Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission
Vintage photo courtesy of: Sheldon Wolpin Lakewood Historical Museum
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Ramsey, NJ is an elegant classical composition that sits in a grassy island in a park. Flanked by two other honor roll memorials, the monuments are set in front of a backdrop of six flagpoles with flags, three on either side of the World War I monument.
The monument sits on a stone slab base constructed of three stepped slabs. Rising from either side of the top slab are baseless fluted Doric columns with a full entablature including triglyphs and guttae. The monument is crowned by a pedimented gable. A bronze honor roll plaque is set in a stone surround between the two columns.
Photos courtesy of: Ramsey Historical Association
Vintage postcard courtesy of: Ramsey Historical Association, Collection of Daniel Kennedy
This Soldiers & Sailors Monument is a full-length figure of a World War I soldier, wearing a uniform and hat. His left arm is outstretched holding a rifle. In his right hand he holds a grenade which he is positioned to toss. The painted bronze sculpture stands on a white concrete base.
The monument was installed by the Hudson City Soldiers & Sailors Welfare League in 1930.
Narrative adapted from Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) inventory #NJ000481.
Photo courtesy of: Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS)
Wallington's monument was created by local citizens as an expression of gratitude, respect & remembrance to those who served in the "Great War."
Wallington's VFW Pavlick-Koster Post #1640, named after two Wallington war heroes, was formed in 1932, with 40 World War I veterans.
In addition, an honor roll, framing the names of all the men in service, is still displayed in the council chamber of the municipal building.
Narrative adapted from Wallington Borough, NJ official website.
Photos courtesy of: NJ State Historic Preservation Office
This World War Memorial is of a soldier and his rifle. Inscription on plaque:
To The Honor Of Our
Soldiers & Sailors
Montclair's landmark World War I memorial in Edgemont Park consists of a tall granite obelisk. The shaft is surmounted by a bronze female figure of Liberty. She stands on a globe which is upheld by eagles. Her right arm is raised straight in the air; her left arm is held out in blessing.
At the base of the obelisk stands a bronze figure grouping. At the front of the group is a WWI soldier, dressed in uniform and carrying a rifle. Behind him is a figure of a sailor.
Columbia, a full-length female figure, stands behind and above the two male figures. She wears a helmet and holds a round shield in her left hand, towering over the soldier & sailor.
The bronze grouping stands on a stepped base surrounded by a flagstone platform.
This memorial was funded by popular subscription; $85,000 was raised. The municipality contributed an additional $6,000 to build two small bridges and to grade the island in the park on which the memorial stands.
Narrative adapted from Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) inventory #NJ000507.
Photos courtesy of: Lee Sandstead
Vintage postcard courtesy of: Rutgers University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
Donald F. Curran, a Danbury resident who won a design competition, designed this bronze sculpture of four soldiers and a sailor encircling a flagpole. The World War I soldier stands with his leg slightly extended, left arm raised to his waist. The Spanish-American War soldier crouches and holds a rifle. The Civil War soldier kneels, holding a sword. The soldier from the Revolutionary War holds a bugle and flagstaff. The sailor is kneeling and holds signal flags. This memorial was originally dedicated in 1931 to honor Danbury's citizens who fought in the four wars represented, and a plaque was added in 1952 to include World War II. A dedication at the monument’s base reads: “Dedicated to the soldiers and sailors of Danbury”.
Known colloquially as the Todd Memorial, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial honors the Delawareans who perished in World War I; the extant 1925 commemorative program acknowledging the tribute: "In memory of the men and women who gave their lives for Liberty and Universal Peace". The Memorial was restored to coincide with the centennial of the Great War and was rededicated in 2018. In 1925 shipbuilder William H. Todd provided $100,000 to create the memorial; it was designed by sculptor H. Augustus Lukeman and consists of a granite obelisk and a triumphant Victory figure.
The Soldiers and Sailors Hall (now the History Hall of the Missouri State Museum) was dedicated following WWI to all Missourians who served in that conflict and those previous. The hall is located on the first floor of the Missouri State Capitol building and contains several plaques dedicated by various organizations to the memory of Missouri's contributions to the war effort.