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The Centennial Commemoration of The United States in World War One

Centennial World War One Commemoration effort gearing up

 

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world-war-i-president-wilson-declares-war-1"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

 

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2014 – It was called The Great War even as it was going on. It engulfed the world, and the world is still feeling its effects.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, and U.S. officials are gearing up to mark the centennial.

In his day job, Robert J. Dalessandro is the director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History at Fort Lesley J. McNair here. He also is the acting chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission.

The Great War began in July 1914 with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This triggered an interconnecting network of alliances to spark mobilization, bringing in the empires of Europe. England, France and Russia lined up against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

A generation of men died in battle on the fields of France. The Somme, Verdun, Ypres and Meuse-Argonne became killing grounds. On the Eastern Front, millions of Germans, Austrians and Russians battled. Overall, about 16.5 million people were killed in the war.

At first, the United States stayed out of it. In fact, when President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916, his campaign slogan was "He kept us out of war."

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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.

poster 14The 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.

poster 11Under 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. poster 4The 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.  poster 6Almost 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.

The Commemoration

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.poster 15

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.

To take part, click on our EVENTS link for a detailed list of events being planned during the centennial commemoration period. Many more events will be announced later.

 

Centennial Conference & Trade Fair set for Washington, DC June 14

The United States World War One Centennial Commission has announced an opportunity for historians, educators, curators, cultural programmers, authors, re-enactors, students, and other enthusiasts to gather in Washington, DC on June 14 to discuss the upcoming centennial commemoration, share information, and develop partnerships.

The information-sharing and networking event will take place 1:30-5:00 pm EDT at the offices of Jones Day, 300 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Advance registration is required. Please RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
by May 15 if you intend to attend this event.

Participants will receive a briefing by the Commission on its strategic plan. Discussion of opportunities to partner with the Commission will also take place. Individuals and organizations will make presentations on their centennial programming.

The "trade fair" will provide the opportunity to display materials on commemorative programs and capabilities to attendees seeking ideas and services for state and local commemoration activities and events.



Commemoration News

Monuments,  memorials
to be registered, revitalized

WASHINGTON, DC -- Across the nation, thousands of monuments and memorials to America's World War One efforts stand in city squares, cemeteries, parks, and public buildings.  The World War One Centennial Commission will partner with Saving Hallowed Ground, the American Battle Monuments Commission, the World War One Memorial Inventory Project, and other organizations to identify and record all these monuments. 933  chambersburg doughboy 3The Commission will encourage local communities and organizations to perform conservation and preservation services to the monuments themselves, and engage school students and communities in researching and learning about the history of their monuments and about the stories behind the names inscribed on these Living History Memorials, to remind citizens of their meaning and the great deeds they memorialize.



Commemoration Partners

AmerLegion color Emblem op 600x600 VFW National World War I Museum logo armyhistory Navy Memorial
ABMC-logo World War I Memorial Inventory Project 2 logo saving hallowed ground NDIA seal

 

WashingtonScholars

 

 

TFGON

 

WWI Historical Association 2 National-Guard-Bureau-logo