By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – It was called The Great War even as it was going on. It engulfed the world, and the world is still feeling its effects.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, and U.S. officials are gearing up to mark the centennial.
In his day job, Robert J. Dalessandro is the director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History at Fort Lesley J. McNair here. He also is the acting chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission.
The Great War began in July 1914 with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This triggered an interconnecting network of alliances to spark mobilization, bringing in the empires of Europe. England, France and Russia lined up against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
A generation of men died in battle on the fields of France. The Somme, Verdun, Ypres and Meuse-Argonne became killing grounds. On the Eastern Front, millions of Germans, Austrians and Russians battled. Overall, about 16.5 million people were killed in the war.
At first, the United States stayed out of it. In fact, when President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916, his campaign slogan was "He kept us out of war."
As part of Washington National Cathedral’s commemoration of the start of World War One, the cathedral hosted an exhibit of Brian Whelan’s “Passion of Edith Cavell” on July 24, featuring a talk by the artist, and a discussion of World War One poetry by the Cathedral's Dean. The exhibit remained at the Cathedral through September 18.
Cavell (1865–1915) was an International Red Cross nurse, known as a humanitarian who gave her life to the cause of her fellow human beings and who treated British, German, Belgian, and French soldiers alike during World War One. Commissioned to hang at Cavell’s final resting place in Norwich Cathedral, “The Passion of Edith Cavell” will embark on an international tour between its initial showing in Washingto Cathedral and final installation in the UK.
Beyond commemorating the bravery and humanitarian actions of one woman, the work also aims to document the often-forgotten, but highly important, role of women in World War One and other conflicts. Click here for more information on the event and to watch video of the opening remarks and the artist's talk.