Arlington National Cemetery exhibit observes US role in WWI

ARLINGTON, Va. — It’s been nearly 100 years since the United States became embroiled in World War I, and an exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery is commemorating that somber anniversary.

A joint exhibit by American Battle Monuments Commission and Arlington National Cemetery opened Friday and runs through the WWI centennial.

Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. While the joint exhibit observes the 100th anniversary of American entry into that conflict, the display covers the years 1914 through the war’s end in 1918.

Photos and artifacts give a snapshot of how women and Americans of different races and ethnicities contributed to the war effort on the home front and abroad.

Women served in various capacities, including working as nurses, overseas phone operators and factory workers at the Colt’s Patent Firearms Plant in Hartford, Connecticut.

According to the exhibit, women also enlisted in the armed forces during those years. The Navy and Marine Corps temporarily allowed them to serve at the Yeoman (F) rank, also known as yeomanettes. They also served as Marine reservists.

One segment of the thematic display highlights the service of African Americans who served with distinction during the Great War.

Lt. James Reese Europe was one of the African-American servicemen highlighted in the exhibit. He led the 369th infantry “Hell Fighters” band and brought jazz music to Europe. He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Artifacts on display include a helmet, a coil of rusted barbed wire along with masks used to protect troops from poisonous gasses.

Technology is part of this thematic exhibit, which discusses how some innovations led to lots of bloodshed during this conflict. For the first time in American history, aircraft played a key role during wartime and were used in reconnaissance missions and air combat.

More than 4 million Americans served. Combat and disease claimed about 116,000 lives.

In addition to war implements on display, visitors can also see examples of victory medals.

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