This week marks the centennial anniversary of the United States entry into World War I, the “Great War” and the “war to end all wars.” Lest we forget, World War I and its consequences shaped the events to follow in the 20th Century.
Surprisingly, this centennial anniversary has received little to no attention in the American media.
Yesterday, April 2, was the anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson asking Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. It went without notice in the American media. Wilson asks for declaration of war:
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to send U.S. troops into battle against Germany in World War I. In his address to Congress that day, Wilson lamented it is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war. Four days later, on April 6, Congress obliged and declared war on Germany.
In February and March 1917, Germany, embroiled in war with Britain, France and Russia, increased its attacks on neutral shipping in the Atlantic and offered, in the form of the so-called Zimmermann Telegram, to help Mexico regain Texas, New Mexico and Arizona if it would join Germany in a war against the United States. The public outcry against Germany buoyed President Wilson in asking Congress to abandon America’s neutrality to make the world safe for democracy.
Wilson went on to lead what was at the time the largest war-mobilization effort in the country’s history. At first, Wilson asked only for volunteer soldiers, but soon realized voluntary enlistment would not raise a sufficient number of troops and signed the Selective Service Act in May 1917. The Selective Service Act required men between 21 and 35 years of age to register for the draft, increasing the size of the army from 200,000 troops to 4 million by the end of the war.
More than four million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during the Great War. 116,516 U.S. soldiers gave their lives in combat. Another 200,000 were wounded (a casualty rate far greater than in World War II).
The influx of American troops, foodstuffs and financial support into the Great War ended the stalemate in the war and contributed significantly to Germany’s surrender on November 11, 1918.
There is a World War I Centennial Commission that offers a number of educational resources and media resources.
The World War I Centennial Commission and the National World War I Museum are hosting an event, “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the US Entry Into World War I ” at the World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri on April 6. This event will be live streamed on the World War I Centennial Commission web site, and possibly by C-Span. Hopefully the American news media will finally take notice and cover this centennial commemoration event.
On April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered World War I, a war that changed the nation and the world forever. On April 6, 2017, thousands in attendance, as well as those watching video across the nation and around the world, will see the United States commemorate this turning point in our nation’s and the world’s history with the “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry into World War I” ceremony, hosted by the United States World War One Centennial Commission at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
This international ceremony will consist principally of the reading of passages from significant and representative American writings of a century ago about the U.S. decision to enter the war, including selections from speeches, journalism, literature, poetry, and performance of important music of the time. Invited American readers include the President of the United States. Certain Heads of State from other nations are invited to read passages reflecting the reaction of their respective nations to the U.S. entry into the war in 1917. “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace” also will include flyovers by U.S. aircraft and Patrouille de France, as well as military bands, color guards, ceremonial units, and video productions. Students across the nation will participate in this historic event, learning how WWI changed the United States and the world.
Invited attendees include the President of the United States; Congressional leadership; Cabinet members; State governors; U.S. military leaders; veterans organizations, including those representing historic U.S. military units; descendants of significant American WWI figures; and other organizations, dignitaries, and VIPs. The Heads of State of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and the United Kingdom are invited to be readers during the Ceremony. The Heads of State of all nations whose people were involved in WWI are invited to attend the ceremony.
About the Ceremony
The commemorative ceremony is a multi-media production illustrating America’s step by step decision to enter the war. A creative team led by artistic director Ed Bilous has adapted historic images and music of the period into a 90-minute mixture of live performance and film to be broadcast on giant screens at the National WWI Museum and Memorial.
[The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on the south mall of the Liberty Memorial. The stage will be erected facing south so that the audience — and the media cameras — will have the tower of the Liberty Memorial as a backdrop.]
The colorful and awe-inspiring ceremony will also include commemorative flyovers by U.S. aircraft and Patrouille de France, the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force, as well as the U.S. First Infantry Division Band and Color Guard, Native American Color Guard, Army and Air Force legacy units that served during World War I, and special video presentations and musical performances from the World War l period.
The show features powerful musical moments under the direction of Michelle DiBucci, including the world premiere of two historic songs, a special appearance by members of the Kansas City Symphony and two US military bands. Notable performers participating in the event include Kevin Costner, solo R&B recording artists Billy Cliff and Lisa Fischer, baritone John Brancy with pianist Peter Dugan, and Kansas City Lyric Opera featured artist Samantha Gossard.
Attending the Ceremony in person on April 6, 2017
By prior reservation, members of the general public will be able to attend the ceremony in a “festival seating” area (i.e. no chairs; standing or sitting on blankets or cushions). Tickets must be obtained in advance via the designated web site. There will be no admission without tickets in hand, either printed or on a mobile phone. Click here for more information on registering to attend “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace” in person on April 6.
Watching the Ceremony on TV or online on April 6, 2017
C-SPAN may cover “In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace” live on April 6. It is anticipated that other TV news organizations will cover the ceremony as well. The Defense Media Agency (DMA) will broadcast the ceremony live to the U.S armed forces and Defense Department Schools internationally. Live video of the ceremony will also be streamed on the Internet in several locations.
In the afternoon of April 6, a distinguished colloquium will feature notable scholars and former high-ranking diplomats discussing what brought the United States into World War I, and what lessons on ending large conflicts can be learned from the war’s results. Attendance at the colloquium is by invitation only. The colloquium will be be streamed live on the Internet. Click here for more information on watching the colloquium live on April 6.
State and Local Events on April 6, 2017
The ceremony in Kansas City on April 6 will be reflected and complemented by state and local events across the nation, organized by state-based WWI centennial commemoration organizations and others. Click here to find a state or local event in your area.
Educational resources and opportunities
Students across the nation will be able to participate in this historic event which will be live-streamed, learning how WWI changed the United States and the world through both the performance and available educational materials.
The Centennial Commission chose to mark the observance in Kansas City because citizens there stood up soon after the war’s end and, in just 10 days, raised the money to build the Liberty Memorial. It is now a National Historic Landmark and has been designated by Congress as the national museum and memorial.
The commemoration in Kansas City is the beginning of an 18-month observance of American involvement in World War I. More information can be found at ww1cc.org/events.
UPDATE: The Washington Post today has posted a retrospective on the U.S. entry into World War I, by Michael Ruane. The U.S. joined the ‘Great War’ 100 years ago. America and warfare were never the same. An interesting read.