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 United States World War One Centennial Commission is supporting The World War One Memorial Inventory project. This nationwide inventory seeks to identify, document, and preliminarily assesses the condition of the country's World War I memorials and monuments. The effort is intended to raise public awareness of the presence, and in many cases, sadly, the plight of these historic monuments and memorials, as a necessary first step to ensuring their conservation and preservation.
Read more about the World War One Memorial Inventory project in this article by the project's founder, Mark Levitch.
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.
(Names of 590 men are listed in 9 columns.)
A standing figure of a soldier dressed in his khakis and wearing his helmet. He holds a rifle in front of him with both hands. The base of the sculpture is a shaft flanked by large paneled slabs inscribed with the names of Cecil County men who died in World War I. At the bottom of the base is a row of three steps. At each end of the base, on the front corners, are tapered shafts topped by electric lamps. On the front of the base is a carved eagle.
The Eastern High School Alumni flagstaff commemmorates seven former Eastern High students who were killed in the Spanish-American War (2) and World War I (5). Paid for by alumni of the school, the flagstaff stands before the school's main entrance. It was in place when the school moved to this then-new building on March 1, 1923.
South of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Near 17th Street NW, across from Corcoran Gallery
October 4, 1924
Cass Gilbert, architect; Daniel Chester French, sculptor
The First Division Monument sits on a plaza in President's Park, west of the White House and south of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) at the corner of 17th Street and State Place, NW. (The EEOB was originally known as the State, War, and Navy Building and then as the Old Executive Office Building.) The monument was conceived by the Society of the First Division, the veteran's organization of the U.S. Army's First Division, to honor the valiant efforts of the soldiers who fought in World War I. Later additions to the monument commemorate the lives of First Division soldiers who fought in subsequent wars. The World War II addition on the west side was dedicated in 1957, the Vietnam War addition on the east side in 1977, and the Desert Storm plaque in 1995. Cass Gilbert was the architect of the original memorial and Daniel Chester French was the sculptor of the Victory statue. Gilbert's son, Cass Gilbert Jr., designed the World War II addition. Both the Vietnam War addition and the Desert Storm plaque were designed by the Philadelphia firm of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston, and Larson. Congressional approval was obtained to erect the First Division Monument and its later additions on federal ground. The Society of the First Division (later called the Society of the First Infantry Division) raised all the funds for the original monument and its additions. No federal money was used. Today, the monument and grounds are maintained by the National Park Service. (Courtesy National Park Service)
A corner marked with a sign that includes the deceased's name and a gold star.