The Centennial Commemoration of The United States in World War One

Magic of Holiday Season created brief oases of peace during Great War

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 Tribune

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.
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.

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 Carol Funck
Army Heritage Center Foundation

Few things can be understood and shared by all cultures across the globe. The Christmas holiday spirit is one of them. A child-like magic exists, where even the most sensible adults can agree that reality pauses for a moment and the simple things in life take center stage. In the December 1914, the Allied and German forces in the trenches of Europe paused as a common yearning for family, friends, and festivities halted fighting for a moment of camaraderie.

The "Christmas Truces" continued through World War One; the best known being that of 1914. On Christmas Eve 1914, various officers of nine British divisions ventured into "no-mans land" where they and their German counterparts agreed on truces averaging around 24 hours. During this time, the Soldiers could go about the trenches with ease and enjoy Christmas Day without the threat of attack. At the end of the agreed amount of time, these particular officers bowed to each other from the parapets and the German's fired two warning shots. With this, the war continued.


All former Presidents join
Centennial Commission
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.

George HW BushJimmy CarterFormer 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.

George W BushBill ClintonWhile 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.

The legislation also designates Kansas City's National World War One Museum at Liberty Memorial as the National World \War One Museum and Memorial. National World War One Museum President and CEO Dr. Matthew Naylor said. "We are grateful to each of the members of Congress, including local Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt and Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves and Kevin Yoder, for leading this effort to officially recognize Liberty Memorial."

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) were the lead sponsors of the legislation. Congressman Cleaver originally spearheaded legislation to establish the U.S World War One Centennial Commission during the 112th Congress, and has led the years-long effort to get the appropriate memorials to honor American sacrifice during World War One.


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.


Commemoration Partners

 Commemoration News
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All faiths worship services mark
centennial of Great War's start

People of all faiths gathered on Sunday, July 27 across the nation to mark 100 years since the beginning of the First World War, and reflect on the effects and consequences of that terrible conflict. The World War One Centennial Commission invited faith communities Commission-Cathedral logosacross the nation to mark the occasion somberly, and consider the suffering of that time and resolve to avoid such agony in the future.

This ecumenical day of remembrance and reflection across all faiths was  the solemn beginning of the national commemoration of the Great War centennial which will extend through 2019. In order to facilitate this remembrance, the Commission partnered with Washington National Cathedral to create resources for worship on that Sunday. These resources include prayers and collects (also suitable as a litany) and homiletic reflections on the scriptures. The Cathedral and the Commission invite you to use these resources, in whole or in part, with freedom to modify them for use by your congregation, on appropriate dates throughout the commemoration period.

For more information and links to these and other liturgical resources for the centennial commemoration, click here or on the graphic above right.

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 933  chambersburg doughboy 3World 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.

The Commission will encourage local communities and organizations to perform conservation and preservation services to the monuments themselves, and engage school students, Scouts, 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.

Check out the Monuments and Memorials page to view the sites currently listed in the database.  Monuments and memorials not included already by by nominated by completing the submission for linked on the Monuments and Memorials page.

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Founding Sponsor
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 World War I Memorial Inventory Project 2

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