Centennial Commission Meeting Video
The Centennial Commission held a public meeting at the Pritzker Military Library and Museum in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 12:30 CST. You can view the event video above.
Pritzker Museum donates $5 million to Commission
in support of World War One centennial efforts in U.S.
By Kate Thayer
Chicago -- A $5 million donation from a Chicago military museum will help a national effort to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
The Pritzker Military Museum and Library, which announced the donation Friday, is the founding sponsor of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission — a group formed last year and charged with developing projects to mark the anniversary of the United States' involvement in the war in 1917.
“As an institution dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and heritage of the Citizen Soldier, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library is proud to support the Centennial Commission in similarly preserving and sharing the history of World War One, so that we can learn lessons from the past to apply to the future.” — Col. (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, ILARNG (Retired)
Kenneth Clarke, president and CEO of the Pritzker museum and library, said remembering the war and those who served brings to light how applicable the history of World War I still is today.
"We believe the Great War is something everybody needs to know about. There are very real examples in today's geopolitical climate that make World War I very relevant today," he said, pointing to boundary conflicts in the Middle East, among other issues.
The Centennial of World War One
"The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.... It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free."
President Woodrow Wilson
Address to Congress, 2 April 1917
100 Years Ago
World War One—called the "Great War" until the world learned that there would be more than one such war in the twentieth century—was the first total war of the modern period. The participants, unprepared for the long and bloody conflict that ensued after the summer of 1914, scrambled to mobilize their manpower and industry to prosecute the war. All searched for a decisive military victory. Instead, dramatic and largely unforeseen changes in warfare quickly followed one another, in the end altering both Europe and the larger Western culture that it represented. Although the bloody conflict finally ended with an armistice in November 1918, it cast a long politico-military shadow over the decades that followed.
The United States reluctantly entered Europe's "Great War" and tipped the balance to Allied victory. In part the nation was responding to threats to its own economic and diplomatic interests. But it also wanted, in the words of President Woodrow Wilson, to "make the world safe for democracy." The United States emerged from the war a significant, but reluctant, world power.
Under unprecedented government direction, American industry mobilized to produce weapons, equipment, munitions, and supplies. Nearly one million women joined the workforce. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans from the South migrated north to work in factories.
Two million Americans volunteered for the army, and nearly three million were drafted. More than 350,000 African Americans served, in segregated units. For the first time, women were in the ranks, nearly 13,000 in the navy as Yeoman (F) (for female) and in the marines. More than 20,000 women served in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. The first contingent of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), commanded by General John J. Pershing reached France in June, but it took time to assemble, train, and equip a fighting force. By spring 1918, the AEF was ready, first blunting a German offensive at Belleau Wood.
The Americans entered a war that was deadlocked. Opposing armies were dug in, facing each other in trenches that ran nearly 500 miles across northern France—the notorious western front. Almost three years of horrific fighting resulted in huge losses, but no discernable advantage for either side. American involvement in the war was decisive. Within eighteen months, the sheer number of American "doughboys" added to the lines ended more than three years of stalemate. Germany agreed to an armistice on November 11, 1918.
Two million men in the American Expeditionary Force went to France. Some 1,261 combat veterans—and their commander, General Pershing—were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest award for extraordinary heroism. Sixty-nine American civilians also received the award.
To learn even more about the Great War, click on the "History" button on the front page.
From 2017 through 2019, the World War One Centennial Commission will coordinate events and activities commemorating the Centennial of the Great War. (Why?) The Commission has partnered with a broad range of organizations across the United States and around the world to spotlight events publications, productions, activities, programs, and sites that allow people in the United States to learn about the history of World War One, the United States involvement in that war, and the war's effects on the remainder of the 20th century, and to commemorate and honor the participation of the United States and its citizens in the war effort.
The Commission will serve as a clearing house for the collection and dissemination of information about events and plans for the centennial of World War One. The Commission will also encourage private organizations and State and local governments to organize and participate in activities commemorating the centennial of World War One.
By Lyna Tucker
America entered the war in April 1917 with a saturation campaign aimed at overwhelming the enemy to bring the war to a rapid end. To accomplish this goal, the U.S. needed to raise a multi-million strong fighting force and Congress passed the Selective Service Act May 18, 1917, which required males aged 21 through 30 to register for military service.
The Wheel (Fort Eustis, VA)
When the U.S. entered the war, the armed services numbered 110,000 service members. By the time the war ended, 24 million men had registered and 2.8 million had been drafted.
Conscription of men changed the role of women in war forever. The changes in gender roles brought on by the war permitted women to step out of their prescribed roles for the first time.
Shedding ribbons and satin and donning coveralls and serge uniforms, many women left their homes and took up positions in factories manufacturing munitions, gas masks and other war production.
All former Presidents join
as Honorary Chairs
CHICAGO, December 10, 2014-- The United States World War One Centennial Commission announced today that all four living former Presidents of the United States will serve as Honorary Chairs of the Commission.
Former Presidents James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton, and George Walker Bush each will lend their name to the centennial commemoration, which will run through July 2019, honoring the participation of the United States and its citizens in the war effort.
While there are no living veterans of World War One, President George H.W. Bush offered the use of his name in honor of his father Prescott Bush who served as a field artillery captain with the American Expeditionary Forces (1917–1919) during World War One, where he came under fire in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
Pershing Park site
for Memorial approved
WASHINGTON, December 21, 2014 – The World War One Centennial Commission announces that, with the President’s signature on December 20th, 2014, of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4435, the United States government has officially approved redevelopment of Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., designating it as the National World War One Memorial. The U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate approved the legislation last week, and sent it to the White House on December 12th.
Pershing Park, located on Pennsylvania Avenue one block from the White House in front of the Willard Hotel, currently contains a statue of General John J. Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War One.
This expansion of the Pershing memorial to a national-level memorial will complete the quartet of national memorials in Washington to the four great wars of “the American Century” – World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. This new World War I Memorial will be designed to honor the 4.7 million Americans who served in U.S. armed forces during the war, and the millions more who served at home and in civilian capacities.
Commission project will
feature African American
experience in Great War
WASHINGTON, December 21, 2014 – The World War One Centennial Commission announces that it has undertaken a memorandum of understanding with S&D Consulting Services to produce The 369th Experience, a series of public performances and education programs depicting the American, African American, and French experience in World War I through the eyes of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the "Harlem Hellfighters."
The production is an official project of the Commission in line with its charge to educate the people of the United States about the history of World War I, the United States’ involvement in that war, and the war’s effects on the remainder of the 20th century, and to commemorate and honor the participation of the United States and its citizens in the war.
The three proposed productions will feature music honoring the bravery of the 369th’s solidarity and bravery in the face of stateside prejudice as well as European battle, as well as the contributions of the 369th’s regimental band in disseminating and winning hearts for the then-emerging art form of jazz.