(Image: US World War I Centennial Commission)

'100 Cities' campaign to restore US war memorials for 2017 Centennial

Posted on centenarynews.com on 04 August 2016
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The US Centennial Commission and Chicago’s Pritzker Military Museum & Library have launched a new initiative ahead of next year’s centennial commemorations to restore old World War I monuments, writes CN’s Patrick Gregory.

The project,100 Cities/100 Memorials, is encouraging anyone with an interest in renovating war memorials across America to come to the Commission and its partner bodies with their ideas. 

Any municipal government, individual or organisation interested in restoring an old WWI monument is eligible to apply for funding – and likewise any company or person willing to sponsor the drive is being urged to come forward.

Grants of up to $2,000 each in terms of match-funding are available for any approved scheme; but it’s also hoped that that funding might rise over time if the hoped-for extra sponsorship and donations do start to flood in.

American Legion

The restoration project has the backing of the American Legion whose founding charter pledges the veterans’ organisation to that very task of preserving ‘the memories and incidents of their associations in the Great War’.

In restoring the monuments and memorials, the organisers of the initiative say they hope not only to honour the names of those who served, but also to help raise awareness of the conflict as a crucially important event in modern American history: representing as it did the first real time the United States had operated on the global stage in a full military and political capacity.

Even the casualty rate suffered by American forces in France in 1917 and 1918 sets it apart from most other conflicts in which the US has been involved, with some 115,000 dead and 375,000 injured in the short period of involvement – more than died in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

The organisers say they hope 100 Cities/100 Memorials can act as a fitting recognition of the role played by servicemen at the time. 

US soldiers commemorated on the First Division Monument in Washington DC (Photo: United States World War One Centennial Commission)

Kenneth Clarke, President and Chief Executive of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library said the restoration drive was a timely one in all senses: "The words 'Lest We Forget' appear on World War I memorials across the nation. Sadly, however, many of these memorials are in need of repair and restoration, in this, their centennial year." 

The Centennial Commission believes the programme is well-suited for community-service projects hosted by schools, scout troops, veteran groups and other local history and cultural organisations. Executive Director of the Commission Dan Dayton said: "Doughboys came from every town and village in the US. This programme gives the Commission a way to say thank you in a very tangible way."

The sponsor organisations have teamed with the World War I Memorial Inventory Project, a nationwide database of sites across the United States, to help identify where monuments are located, and what condition they are in.  

The deadline for applications is November 11th, Armistice Day, 2016. Full details can be found at 100 Cities/100 Memorials.

Images courtesy of United States World War One Centennial Commission

Posted by: Patrick Gregory, Centenary News