Memorial competition: a chance to keep World War I history alive

By Ashley Wright

The iconic wall for Vietnam, the fountains for WWII and the rows upon rows of white stones in Arlington hold tribute to those who perished for freedom from the Civil War to today. But there is something missing from the familiar landscape of our nation’s capital, and now is your chance to remedy that and pay tribute to the heroes of the Great War.

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission opened a design competition for a National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC, May 21.  The site approved by Congress for the monument is Pershing Park in Washington, DC.

While the nation erected monuments for other conflicts over the years, WWI remained unnoticed, despite costing more American lives than Vietnam and Korea combined and shifting the world in ways still evident today.

The two-stage design competition is an open, international contest for professionals, university-level students or any other interested participants.

In the first stage, participants will submit narrative and graphic descriptions of a design concept responding to the competition’s design goals. Submissions from Stage I selected as finalists will be further refined and developed in Stage II.


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Contributions of any size will assist the United States World War One Centennial Commission in carrying out its prime missions of educating about, honoring, and commemorating those Americans who served and gave their lives in the military services during the First World War, as well as those who served in other vital capacities as the nation armed, equipped, trained, transported, and supported America's fighting forces during the conflict. Click the "Donate" button below to make a donation to the U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars, the Commission's official fundraising organization.

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Monuments and 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.

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.


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Lusitania commemoration events in NYC and DC

On Thursday, May 7th, 2015, the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission hosted two commemorative events to honor the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915.

In New York City, at 10 a.m. EDT, there was a wreath-laying ceremony at Pier A in Battery Park, with honored guests and descendants of Lusitania passengers. The location is symbolic, as it houses the first dedicated memorial to World War One in the United States. Further, the location overlooks the Statue of Liberty, and is not far from Pier 54, where the RMS Lusitania departed on her final voyage one hundred years ago.

 In Washington, DC, at 6:30 p.m. EDT, the Commission hosted a panel discussion with noted historians at the National Press Club. The panel included: John Maxwell Hamilton from Louisiana State University, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Professor Richard Striner from Washington College, an expert on President Wilson; and RADM Samuel Cox (USN, Retired), the Director of the U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command. The panel was moderated by noted national correspondent Gil Klein. Discussion focused on the wartime role of Lusitania, the worldwide reaction to her tragedy, and the impact of Lusitania's sinking on public opinion in the United States.  Click here for more information on the Washington, DC event.

For more information on the Lusitania, her sinking, and how that tragedy affected the war, click here.

Commissioner O'Connell has family link to Lusitania tragedy

New York -- World War One Centennial Commissioner Dr. Libby O’Connell had always heard that an ancestor of hers died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland May 7, 1915.

Her father taught European History so she was raised on stories from the continent, including the sinking of the Lusitania. Still, she found it difficult to believe that a relative of hers had been aboard the ill-fated ship, since she could never verify the story.

As the 100th anniversary of the historic sinking approached, O’Connell, now Chief Historian for the History Channel, was finally able to piece together the fascinating details of her great-great grandmother’s life.

Catherine Sterrit was a singer and pianist in Pennsylvania when she divorced her first husband and remarried. It was this second marriage to Cameron Willey, unknown to O’Connell during her initial archives search, which finally led her to discover the truth.

When her second marriage also ended in divorce—an almost unheard of circumstance in the early part of the 20th century--Catherine Willey left the country. “Like so many other women of her time who had the means, she left America and went to Paris,” O’Connell said.

At the outbreak of war in Europe, Willey returned to the United States to visit family and raise money for those in need. “She collected money and jewelry and planned to use the proceeds to set up a home for penniless war widows,” O’Connell said.

Despite German warnings that any ship flying the flag of Great Britain would be sunk upon entering the war zone, Willey was one of more than 1,900 passengers aboard the Lusitania when it sailed from New York’s Pier 54 on May 1, 1915.

The Lusitania was sunk by a single torpedo, killing more than 1,100 passengers and crew, including Catherine Willey.

The sinking of the Lusitania was “one of the pivotal moments of World War I,” O’Connell said. “The United States was neutral at the time, but the sinking brought us much closer to joining the war.” Still, it would be nearly two years before the U.S. officially entered the conflict.

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 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.


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