WWI in the Spring of 2017

April was a busy month for anyone interested in the Great War. For me, besides keeping track of all the commemorations surrounding the anniversary of America's entry, and other 100-year-ago landmarks like the Nivelle Offensive, I've had to prepare for my springtime battlefield expedition, which will include looks at the Battles of Arras, Vimy Ridge, Messines, and Passchendaele. In future issues of the Trip-Wire I'll have updates and photos of the tour. Also, don't forget to check in on our daily blog, Roads to the Great War. There's an icon you can click on at the bottom of this column for easy access. Till next month. . .   MH

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World War 1 History Symposium
   U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
Carlisle, PA
Saturday — 13 May 2017, 10:30 a.m.
Program & Details: HERE

How WWI Changed Richmond, CA
   Richmond Museum of History
Recommended & Supported by the World War One Historical Association
Exhibits & Programs: Now thru 30 June 2017
PDF Flyer with Details: HERE

99th Annual 314th Memorial Day Service
   Washington Memorial Chapter
King of Prussia, PA
Sunday — 28 May 2017, 2 p.m.
Contact for Information:

Quarterly Mtg, League of WWI Aviation Historians
   National Air and Space Museum
Venue: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center:
Thursday — 10 June 2017, 10 a.m.
Program & Details: HERE

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Poster of the Month

Another Example of How Miss Liberty Was Called Upon to Support the War Effort

America Goes to War, Part 2: Organizing for Victory

The Need for an American Expeditionary Force

Where To Deploy American Forces & How Many?

Defining the Mission of the AEF

Organizing the Marine Corps for WWI

The U.S. Navy in the Great War

The Leadership of General Pershing

Lafayette, We are Here!

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23 May 1917

At 3:00 the Prime Minster brought Prince Sixte of Bourbon [brother of the Empress of Austria] who is serving in the Belgian Army. He came to inform me that the Emperor of Austria had written to him to try and arrange for a separate peace with the Entente. The difficulty will be Italy. It is of course very secret: only M. Poincaré and M. Ribot know. It would be a great thing if it could be brought about.

George V

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Images from the Commemoration of
America's Entry into the Great War

Over the past month the anniversary of America's entry into the war has been commemorated and honored in many different ways, large and small. Here is a selection of photos of some of them. If you have photos of an event you organized or attended, please sent them to the editor and we will try to use them in future issues of the Trip-Wire.

The main event at the National World War One Museum & Memorial jointly sponsored with the Centennial Commission was a smashing success. This photo shows my favorite moment, when George Patton's granddaughter Helen sang "The Raindrops on My Old Tin Hat" for the crowd.

A Moving Evening Ceremony at the U.S. Flanders Fields Cemetery in Belgium

The PBS documentary The Great War that debuted over three nights has drawn mixed reviews and I'm going to re-watch all six hours before I share my thoughts with our readers. Shown here is Lost Battalion expert Rob Laplander, who along with authors Richard Rubin and Scott Berg, was one of the rare effective "talking heads" of the series. The army of academic commentators were mostly flat and uninspiring.

The Los Angeles Commemoration of California's WWI Task Force: Event Organizer Courtland Jindra giving introductory remarks; Great War Historical Society members Damian Stallabot and Phillip Dye flank the memorial plaque at the Los Angeles Coliseum; Annie Boxell performing the National Anthem.

Farther north, the California Task force had an equally successful event at the Marines' Memorial in San Francisco. Sal Compagno (shown left) and Professor Jonathan Roth of San Jose State University put together an outstanding program, and the Marines could not have been more gracious hosts. (Photos by our own staff editor Diane Rooney.)

Meanwhile, the State of Arkansas has been running this wonderful traveling WWI road show.

At the end of March, Arlington National Cemetery and the American Battle Monuments Commission opened a display honoring the nation's fallen that shares General Pershing's personal involvement in commemorating the sacrifices of America's military.

May 1917
U.S. Congress Passes
the Selective Service Act

Six weeks after the declaration of war against Germany on 6 April 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act. Initially, President Woodrow Wilson and Congress had hoped the needed one million men would volunteer for the army. But when by May only about 73,000 men had signed up, it was clear other measures needed to be taken.

Draft Registration Card for the Editor's Grandfather, John Benjamin Hanlon

The United States had experimented with conscription laws during the Civil War. The Confederacy had passed the first such law (S.32) on 16 April 1862. The Union followed by passing a conscription law on 3 March 1863, ch. 75, 12 Stat. 731. Both Union and Confederate subscription laws allowed for a number of exemptions as well as including the very unpopular measure of “substitutes,” which allowed wealthy men to pay for someone to serve in their stead.

However, the World War I Selective Service Act specifically forbade the use of substitutes. This law, which was passed on 18 May 1917, applied to all “male citizens, or male persons … who have declared their intention to become citizens, between the ages of twenty-one and thirty.” The law directed that quotas for each state should be established based on the state’s population. The law also addressed the issue of exemptions based on moral objections, as well as occupation. Those exempted from the draft included federal and state officials and judges, religious ministers, seminary students and any person who was found to be a “member of a well-recognized religious sect or organization … whose existing creed or principles forbid its members to participate in war in any form.”

Secretary of War Newton Baker Draws the First Draft Number on 20 July 1917

However, as the law went on to state, “no person so exempted shall be exempted from service in any capacity that the President shall declare to be noncombatant.” The law also exempted persons in certain classes or industries, including workmen in armories and those in agriculture whose work was “necessary to the maintenance of the Military Establishment.”

Ultimately the regulations issued by the president divided up the men subject to conscription into five classes. This law directed the president to create local draft boards in each county that were to consist of three or more members who were to determine all questions of exemption in their jurisdiction. The law further set up district boards that could hear appeals from the county draft boards.

Conscripted New Soldiers Arrive at Camp Upton, NY

Between 6 and 19 August 1918, the House Committee on Military Affairs held hearings to consider expanding the ages between which men should be drafted. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker testified at the hearing that, “There are two ways of fighting this war. One is to make every possible effort and win it soon, and the other is to proceed in a somewhat more leisurely fashion and win it late.” Congress appears to have preferred the first method, and a little less than two weeks later amended the Selective Service Act. This law made all men between the ages of 18 and 45 subject to the draft. The penalties for evading the draft remained the same. The evader would be charged with a misdemeanor and subject to a year of imprisonment unless the evader was subject to military law, in which case they would be tried by a court-martial. Congress anticipated a shortage of “manpower” and directed that soldiers’ wives should not be disqualified from working for the government because they were married women. Indeed, ten years after the war, Congress held hearings about the effect of the universal draft and conscription in times of war.

Source: Library of Congress Blog

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Caporetto and the Italian Front

25 July – 4 August 2017: The Most Important Battle of the Italian Front

Includes: The Eleven Battles of the Isonzo, Caporetto 1917, Monte Grappa, and Vittorio Veneto. We will also follow the advance of the American Doughboys sent to the Italian Front.

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Kaiser's Offensives &
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6 – 14 May 2018: Study of Germany's Last Effort to win the War and the British Victory offensive.

Includes: German advances in the Somme, Flanders, and the Marne Sectors, the Black Day of the German Army, the St. Quentin Canal, and the pursuit to Mons.

Reduced Price — $3,450 (dbl occupancy, sgl supp avail)

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AEF: Pershing's Doughboys Centennial

7 – 17 August 2018: Comprehensive Study of the American Expeditionary Force

Includes: All major battles, memorials, cemeteries, and service sites of your family members.

Price — $3,750 (dbl occupancy, sgl supp avail)

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Photo Album: Vimy Ridge Centennial Commemoration

Monchy-le-Preux: Saving a French Town

Wyoming and the Great War: 100 years later

Alonzo Shewmaker, AEF: Unpublished War Poet

12 March 1917-The Pavlovsky Regiment Mutiny

A British Soldier's Return from the Dead

The Day Theodore Roosevelt Lost His Youngest Son

The First World War Through The Eyes of London's Jewish Children

Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until our next issue, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
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Content © Michael E. Hanlon