History,  News

Governors Island WWI Monuments Designated National War Memorials

In a surprise announcement, the project to restore three lost World War I memorials on Governors Island were named national war memorials by a group of U.S. historians and veterans organizations. Governors Island joins 99 other sites across the U.S. to be chosen for national designation this month.

The 2016-2017 project replaced and restored three lost or damaged WWI memorials on the island. They are for Private Merle Hay, one of the first Americans killed in combat; Captain Harry Kimmell, missing in action and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; and a tree memorial dedicated to General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, who departed for France from Fort Jay. The memorials were restored on time (and on budget) in September 2017. A grand two-day rededication ceremony was part of Camp Doughboy WWI History Weekend. The U.S. Army sent men from the Sixteenth Infantry Regiment, 1st Division, to lead the ceremonies. Reenactors from the Long Island Living History Association and the East Coast Doughboys dressed in WWI uniforms took part.

The project had the support of the Trust for Governors Island, the National Park Service, and the World War One Centennial Committee for New York City. Kevin C. Fitzpatrick was the project manager.

The official press release:

100 Cities/100 MemorialsOn the eve of the 101st anniversary of the United States entering World War 1, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library announced today the final 50 WW1 Memorials to be awarded grants and honored with the official national designation as “World War One Centennial Memorials.”

All 100 memorials, in all 100 cities have now been designated including such national landmarks as: Chicago’s Soldier Field, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, San Francisco’s War Memorial Veterans Building and Opera House, Honolulu’s Natatorium, and Washington, D.C.’s National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park.

In addition, many smaller local community projects are being recognized such as: Scranton Pennsylvania’s Col. Frank Duffy Memorial Bridge and Park, Cape May, New Jersey’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Ocean Springs, Mississippi’s Emile Ladnier WWI Memorial, and the North Carolina State University Memorial Bell Tower, to name just a few.

The newly-designated memorials are in 37 different states and each will receive a $2,000 matching grant, towards the restoration, conservation and maintenance of these local historical treasures.

The 100 Cities/100 Memorials program, sponsored by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library with support from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have now awarded $200,000 in matching grants and designated 100 memorials in 100 cities as official “WW1 Centennial Memorials.”

“More than 4 million American families sent their sons and daughters to serve in uniform during World War I, 116,516 U.S. soldiers died in the war and another 200,000 were wounded,” said Terry Hamby, commissioner of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. “100 Cities/100 Memorials is a critically important initiative that will have an impact beyond these grants. These memorials represent an important part of remembering our past and preserving our culture.”

“I am impressed by the community involvement that has sprung from this project,” noted Dan Dayton, Executive Director of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. “By focusing on restoring these community treasures, local cities, veterans groups, historical societies, and citizens have come together to remember the community’s heritage—and that was really a key goal of the program.”

Kenneth Clarke, former president and CEO of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library and the originator of the program agreed. “By designating 100 WWI memorials across the nation, we believe the breadth and scope of this initiative will have a ripple effect beyond the 100 “WWI centennial memorials. By promoting renewed interest and focus on these monuments and memorials—as a nation, we honor the names of those who served and the history of the communities where they lived.”

The profound impact of the war moved citizens in places across the United States to commemorate both the national and local sacrifices from the conflict through monuments, buildings, plaques, parks, groves, even roads and highways.

The 100 Cities/100 Memorials program was created to help draw attention to WWI memorials across the United States, and enables all of America to take part in the WWI centennial commemoration. Many of these WWI memorials have deteriorated due to the ravages of time, exposure to the elements, neglect, and even vandalism.

The funds will be used to conserve, restore or improve these memorials. More important, the program is designed to raise community awareness of those who served, and provides a tangible connection to the profound impact this war had on local towns and cities, securing an important place in military history.

For more information about the 100 Cities/100 Memorials, to view an official project timeline, visit here.

Kevin C. Fitzpatrick has written and edited seven books with ties to New York history, including "The Governors Island Explorer's Guide" and "World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War." Kevin is a licensed sightseeing guide and has been leading walking tours since 1999. He resides in Manhattan.