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Over There, and Overlooked

The centennial of the First World War is slipping past unnoticed in the United States, despite its persistent legacy

reinforcementsDavid Frum
Defense One

In a couple of months, we'll mark the centennial of the sinking of the Lusitania, a history-bending event that will probably engage Americans not very much more than any of the other commemorations of the First World War over the past seven months. The United States lost some 115,000 soldiers in the First World War, more than in Vietnam, Korea, and all other post-1945 conflicts combined. Yet the war's impress on the American mind—once seemingly so deep and indelible—has faded. The war men once called "the Great" has receded almost beyond memory in this country that did so much to win it.

It's not so elsewhere, of course. I was in a business meeting in a Toronto office building on November 11. At 11 a.m., a buzzer sounded and the intercom announced the two-minute silence that still marks the hour of the armistice in the countries of the former British empire. The participants looked uncertainly at each other. Wasn't it kind of...hokey to stop and stand? And yet, pause and stand they did, until the intercom buzzed again.

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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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Pershing Park site for Memorial approved by Congress, President

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.

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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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Jersey Boys: Irish-American Soldiers in World War OneUSS Agamemnon 1919 returning troops

By Megan Smolenyak, Contributor
irishamerica.com

America entered World War One on April 6th, 1917, and though the execution of the leaders of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 greatly angered the influential Irish-American community on America's East Coast, many Irish and Irish-Americans saw it as their duty to enlist. Megan Smolenyak looks at the great state of New Jersey and profiles several of those soldiers, including her grandfather, who heard the call of duty.

He was Pop-Pop to me, and I remembered him as the gentle, older fellow who would give me a penny for gum when we went on a stroll to the neighborhood drug store. Other times, he would sit on the bottom step leading up to the bedrooms in his Chatham, New Jersey split level – the driver accepting my pretend fare as I climbed the stairs behind him to take a seat in our imaginary city bus.

But we lost him when I was only four, so the life of James Vincent Shields remained a mystery to me until I became a genealogist in the sixth grade and started pestering my nana for memories of the past. And even then, it would take some time to learn that he had served in World War One. Born in Jersey City in 1898 to Irish immigrants David and Margaret (McKaig) Shields, James was the ninth of eleven children. In 1923, he married Beatrice Agnes Reynolds after she accepted his proposal with a specially made ring engraved with shamrocks.

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How World War One made the Apple Watch possible

US soldiers wearing wrist watch WW1 with cutline 800By Christopher Klein
history.com

March 10, 2015 -- Yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled his company's new smartwatch, which will let users make phone calls, read e-mail, surf the web, pay for groceries and even monitor their health right from their wrists. The high-tech Apple Watch, however, may never have come to fruition had World War One not erased the cultural stigma that used to surround wristwatches.

While some credit Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet with designing the first wristwatch in 1810 for Caroline Murat, the younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen of Naples, others give the nod to Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Patek Philippe, which developed one for Hungary's Countess Koscowicz based on an 1868 design. Regardless of the wristwatch's origins, 19th-century society primarily viewed "bracelet watches" and "wristlets" as dainty, jewel-encrusted baubles to be worn strictly by women for fashion, not practicality.

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Effort takes off to restore crumbling Lafayette Escadrille Memorial

Lafayette Escadrille1By Paul Glenshaw and Dan Patterson
Air and Space Magazine (Smithsonian Institution)

Former Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley calls them "the founding fathers of American combat aviation," yet few Americans know their names. The 38 pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, who flew for France beginning in 1916, before the United States entered World War I, created a culture that influences combat pilots today, Moseley says. They helped shape the U.S. Army Air Service when it was formed in 1918. "All the way up to the Army Air Forces and the U.S. Air Force," says Moseley. "Having thought about this a lot and having lived inside that world for 40 years, I would say [Air Force culture] goes right back to those guys who decided in the spring of '16 that this would be a good idea."

Moseley is helping to lead a fundraising effort to restore the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial outside Paris. Built in 1928 with private donations, the monument commemorates not only the original 38 but the 200 or so who succeeded them as volunteers in various French squadrons, together known as the Lafayette Flying Corps. Forty-nine who died in the war are buried in the memorial crypt.

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Commission project will feature African American experience in Great War

369th experience snipWASHINGTON, 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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