Thoughts on World War I & national recovery + webinar updates & WWI book recommentations

An item from the World War One Centennial Commission.

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Liberty Plane first flight

“Aviation is proof that, given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.”

 — Eddie Rickenbacker
World War I American fighter ace

Flu Poster

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As our nation struggles with how to get the country back to normal after the Covid-19 challenge, looking back 100 years to the aftermath of World War I offers some possible lessons for our national endeavor. As our World War I Centennial partners at have written: “Somehow, despite a global flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans in 1918 and 1919, and a depression that gutted the economy in 1920 and 1921, the United States not only recovered but entered into a decade of unprecedented growth and prosperity.”  Americans made and wore masks as the nation worked to overcame the effects of the virus, and in time was “able to exercise a wide and important influence in restoring the world to a normal and livable condition.” Though many obstacles had to be overcome, the nation was on course to recovery.

Liberty Plane in flight

We will be encountering such obstacles alike in the 21st Century while overcoming the current challenges our nation faces, as “even the best battle plan doesn’t survive first contact with the enemy.” This can also be true of efforts to honor those who flew for America’s armed forces in WWI. A multi-year effort to restore to flying status the last remaining original, made-in-WWI American DH4 aircraft was very successful recently…up until it wasn’t. Dorian Walker, leader of the Friends of Vintage Flight Team and pilot of the “Liberty Plane,” took to the sky last week on a test flight, and thrilled his team with the sight of the DH4 aloft for the first time in 100 years, as the photos at top and at left attest. However, as Dorian tells us, something “happened to interfere with our flight plan” before the aircraft was back on the runway safely…a happenstance all-too-familiar to WWI aviators like Eddie Rickenbacker. The team is now determining the extent of damage and the costs to repair, similar to what the nation is going through now in the wake of the Covid-19 “crash” that it has endured. We won’t necessarily be successful with each step the first time we take it, but with good planning and hard work, we’ll get it done. As Eddie Rickenbacker said, “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through – then follow through.

construction 05062020

The World War I Centennial Commission and The Doughboy Foundation team has been working hard to keep construction moving forward on the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC, while taking the required Covid-19 precautions, and so far there have been no delays, for which we are all very thankful. We’re keeping focused on our mission of honoring and remembering the 4.7 million Americans who served in our nation’s Armed Forces in World War I, confident that we have thought things through, and determined to follow through until the job is done.

The Liberty Plane team, thinking things through right now in the wake of the aircraft mishap, is also intent on following through with their commemorative mission. As Dorian told us, “I don’t regret for a moment climbing into that original 102 year-old cockpit, strapping myself in behind the totally rebuilt century-old 400 hp Liberty engine, and pushing the throttle forward, like the aviators of a century ago did to defend Liberty in the skies over Europe. Our team’s mission has been and continues to be to Honor and Remember those brave lads from long ago. And for that brief flight we feel we did exactly that!

We will continue sending you these World War I-themed updates and activities over the coming weeks, hoping you will find them useful and enjoyable during these challenging times.

Thumbnail for The Soldier's and Artist's Journey Webinar

If you missed our “The Soldier’s and Artist’s Journey” webinar on May 1, you can click on the image at left to see and hear sculptor Sabin Howard describe the origin and making of the monumental bronze sculpture for the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC. Take an unprecedented look through the artist’s eye at the amazing work of art that will be honoring all the Americans who served in uniform in World War I.

If you are interested in how we plan to allow you to put the entire National World War I Memorial into your pocket, check out the the webinar about our exciting upcoming WWI Memorial Virtual Explorer smartphone App.

Didn’t see our “Finding Your WWI Ancestors” webinar on April 10? Click here to watch genealogist Debra Dudek provide a brief but deep introduction into how to research the records of your family members who served in uniform in World War I.

You can also watch a replay of our April 3 webinar about the status of the National World War I Memorial under construction in Washington, DC.  Click here to view the replay of this informative webinar.

Doughboys reading

When our Doughboys had a bit of precious time for rest and relaxation on the front lines in World War I, they would often turn to the camp library for a book to read that would help take their minds off the conflict for a short while. Courtland Jindra, Co-Director of the California WW1 Centennial Task Force, and long-time volunteer for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, has compiled his Top Ten Books about WWI list to share with us.  Here are the next three of Courtland’s Top Ten picks, with his comments about them. We hope these volumes can help take minds off of the current situation here in the US by looking back at the Great War and those great American veterans who served during the conflict.

First Over There

First Over There: The Attack on Cantigny America’s First Battle of World War I by Matthew J. Davenport

“This book focuses on the organization, training, and first combat episodes (climaxing with the three days at Cantigny) of the 1st Division till early June 1918. It has an extraordinary level of detail, partly because the scope of Cantigny wasn’t as large as some of the later battles fought by the AEF. Davenport almost follows the action minute by minute as the men of the Big Red One takes and then holds the village against numerous counter attacks.” 

First Over There is available in hardcover, Audio book, and Kindle versions from Amazon, and from other online booksellers.

Passed by the Censor

Passed by the Censor: The Experience of an American Newspaper Man in France by Wythe Williams

“Williams was bureau chief of the New York Times in Paris and the book is his experience covering the first year or so of the war there. The book is fascinating as the author describes living the events as they happened, from the week leading up to France entering the war, to covering the battle near the front line (including his arrest by Military Police), working for the American Red Cross for two months, and his views of General’s Joffre and Foch. The book loses a bit of near the end but admiration for it has only grown in the years since I first came across it.”

Passed by the Censor is available in hardcover, softcover, and Kindle versions from Amazon, or can be read free online here.

My Fellow Soldiers

My Fellow Soldiers: General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great War by Andrew Carroll

“My Fellow Soldiers works as both a biography of General Pershing as well as a nice overview of the American experience in World War I. Cutting between the two story lines we see how the Iron General came to be chosen to lead the AEF, his struggles to put a modern Army on the field – as well as characters ranging from the Lafayette Escadrille, to the Choctaw Indians, to Sergeant Alvin York, The Lost Battalion and everything in between.”

My Fellow Soldiers is available in a variety of formats (including audio) from Amazon, and from other online booksellers.

Remember that if you shop using AmazonSmile, a percentage of the price of your purchase will go to help build the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC which is currently under construction.

Stay safe.

Dans Signature

Daniel S. Dayton
Executive Director
U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

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