100 years to the day after the US entered the Great War, the Centennial has been marked with an international ceremony at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
More than 3,000 people from 26 US states joined special representatives from 27 nations in Kansas City for the commemorations hosted by the US World War I Centennial Commission.
Planes from the visiting Patrouille de France display team soared over the Liberty Memorial Tower in blue skies that had only recently cleared after a week of rain.
The events of 1917 that clouded President Woodow Wilson's repeated efforts to keep the US out of the conflict between Europe's great powers were told in readings, music and song from the time.
"Before this moment, the United States had kept the rest of the world at arm's length. After, she would become a key participant in events that reshaped the Old World," the audience heard.
"On this day, 100 years later, it is appropriate that we as a nation look back at the decision, hear again the voices that spoke for and against our entry into the Great War, remember the devastation and suffering inflicted by the conflict and reflect on the war's impact on the world, our nation and on our people".
General John Pershing, who would lead American forces to the Western Front, was among those congratulating the President after the declaration of war on 6 April 1917: "Your strong stand for right will be an inspiration to humanity everyhere but especially to the citizens of the Republic".
But Wilson himself had wept after being applauded by Congress. Returning to the White House from his April 2 address, he lamented: "My message today was a message of death for our young men. How strange it seems to applaud that."
A century later, guests at the National World War I Museum and Memorial observed a moment of silence to reflect on the human cost that the President had so feared. More than 116,000 American lives were lost in WW1. The note of a bell tolling and an artillery salute signalled a poignant conclusion to the silence.
Watch the full ceremony on the United States World War I Centennial Commission website.
The centenary event launches an 18-month long commemoration period of America's involvement in the First World War, marked by anniversaries of specific events of the war, including major engagements of US forces, key local dates, and more. See the Centennial Events Register.
More about America's decision to go to war in 1917 can be found here in Centenary News.
Information & images: United States WWI Centennial Commission
Posted by: CN Editorial Team