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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WWI Centennial is upon us as we remember how millions went to war in summer 1914: USA's WWI Centennial Commission

     I had the honor of being selected to attend the WWI Congressional Centennial Commission's first meeting in Washington D.C. June 14.
     Yes, here I am with my book at the event that bright Saturday afternoon, offering my services to speak at museums and tell others about the 22,000+ women who served in the Army Nurse Corps during The Great War. Ten thousand of them sailed to France to serve there.
     You are going to be surprised and very pleased by the number of those involved in the American commemoration projects.
     And yes, I will list them here, then post their website links to the right in the sidebar for you. What's more, I am delighted to tell you more about each one. They are so varied—from those who are re-enactors to those who are discovering and preserving our long-lost WWI memorials to those who are developing projects for K-12.
     The first website you should visit is that of the World War One Centennial Commission. This is a group authorized by the U.S. Congress to coordinate all commemorative activities by groups and individuals for the war. http://worldwar-1centennial.org
     This Commission will be the information center for American activities. If you know of an event or a private individual who has a special project or expertise, do send them to the website and encourage them to write to the Commission. Note too that this group was authorized without funding so all activities are voluntary.
     While those in Europe are already deep into the commemorative process, we here are just getting started. Understandable of course, since we Americans did not declare war against Germany and her allies until April 6, 1917.
   Then too, once we declared war, we really did not GO to war until approximately a year later. General Pershing demanded that he have at least 1 million men to go to the battlefront—and that conscription allotment was not fulfilled until approximately one year later. By the time we were in France in force of one million, it was the Spring 1918. No, Pershing did not go to war with the Army he had. He knew would be disastrous. Furthermore, he advocated educating his staff first, sending his artillery and cavalry (let that read mechanized forces, such as they were) into situations with French and British troops along their lines. He wanted his troops to benefit from what the British and French had learned.
  One of the first groups to go was the first hospital to be organized to go abroad. From Baltimore Maryland (my home town), Johns Hopkins University medical staff volunteered and organized as Base Hospital #1. I post here a photograph given me by First Division Museum curators in Cantigny Illinois of the interior of that hospital. Do note the wooden construction, the metal beds, the uniformity of linens and blankets and do notice especially the nurse in the aisle working with orderlies.

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