Commemorating the First World War Centennial in Kansas

Month: May 2016

Memorial Day at Aisne-Marne ABMC Cemetery

Beginning in 1920, even before the permanent cemeteries were constructed, every Memorial Day in Europe has been marked by ceremonies at the 20 American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) cemeteries (8 are WW1 and 12 are WW2), at other selected locations in Europe including the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial and the Arc de Triomphe and at the ABMC cemeteries in Tunisia and the Philippines. In France and Belgium the organizer of these events is the American Overseas Memorial Day Association ( , a public charity organized in the US and France, which receives no public funds (visit the website to support).  Every ceremony includes placing flags on all of the graves, wreath laying, speeches by local politicians and US military personnel, performances by school children and a color guard, sometimes US military, sometimes local, occasionally both. US Air Force (USAF) aircraft fly-over some locations. It is necessary to start the schedule of these ceremonies the weekend before Memorial Day and continue to the weekend after in order to cover all of the sites. more

Teaching World War I

Thoughts on Teaching World War I:  Some Frames of Reference for 21st Century Kansans

This past semester, I offered a World War I colloquium (see below reading list) for the first time.  After two weeks of historiography, I chose to focus on the Western Front, emphasizing the British Expeditionary Force’s role.  Rather than a war-wide survey, I opted for a narrower focus that would reveal multiple and sometimes conflicting impressions of the same people and events, yet one that covered the war’s full duration.  As English language sources and criticism thereof have most often informed U.S. awareness of those events, the BEF thus seemed like the place to start.  That the most important American critique of World War I literature, Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory, focuses on the British — rather than the American — experience speaks to the relative belatedness and brevity of the latter. more

God Bless America is a WW1 song

Irving Berlin was constantly writing songs, and didn’t slow down even after he was drafted. While he was writing the revue Yip Yip Yaphank (more about that later), he turned out a song that he called God Bless America. He had no specific need for a patriotic number in the show plus the patriotic music of the era was up-tempo and stirring, music you could march to. He told his colleague Harry Ruby that the work felt “just a little bit sticky”, and it went into his “trunk”. more

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