Congress created the National Park Service in 1916, just a few months before the United States entered World War I. Many places that are now national parks are part of the story of World War I, whether it was the people who served, the places where events happened, or the ideals we hold up as a nation.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, 11/11/1918, here are 11 connections between our national parks and World War I!
1. A huge explosion damaged the Statue of LibertyIn the early morning hours of July 30, 1916, a munitions depot located on Black Tom Island, in Jersey City, NJ, was detonated in an act of sabotage. Shrapnel damaged the Statue of Liberty and buildings at Ellis Island. The statue's torch has been closed to visitors ever since.
2. Harry Truman served on the front linesTruman enlisted in the Army in 1917 and was elected lieutenant of Battery F in the Missouri National Guard, which mobilized as part of the 129th Field Artillery Regiment in the 35th Division. His military experience was an asset in his political career, paving the way to the presidency.
3. Suffragists picketed the White House
How could the United States fight for liberty abroad, when half its citizenry was denied the right to vote? Women organized and, in a first for the nation, picketed the White House throughout the World War I, calling for a Constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage. National parks including Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument and Women's Rights National Historical Park help tell the story of the different strategies suffragists used to gain women the vote.
4. Dwight Eisenhower trained tank troops in GettysburgOn the grounds of the Gettysburg Battlefield, “Camp Colt” was home of the newly organized Tank Corps of the United States Army, and the only Tank School in the United States. Assigned to command the fledgling tank school, Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower's experience with this new type of weapon was invaluable to Army training.
5. Dayton-Wright built the only US-made plane to reach the frontAlthough powered flight had recently been invented in America, the nation was behind the curve in military aircraft production. The British-designed DeHavilland DH-4 was produced in Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers, using the buildings formerly used by the Wright Company.
6. One in five American soldiers was an immigrant500,000 immigrants from 46 nations served in the U.S. armed forces in World War I. Thirteen earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Most immigrants at the time arrived through Ellis Island, including Irving Berlin, who arrived in America as a child before he wrote "God Bless America" while serving in the Army.
7. Buffalo Soldiers Volunteered for ServiceMany African Americans, including 104 Storer College students from Harpers Ferry, WV answered the call after the United States entered World War I. They trained in places including Camp Sherman at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park However, the Buffalo Soldier units faced intense discrimination and were relegated to duties behind the front lines.
8. Troops practiced trench warfare on a Civil War battlefieldCamp Lee, in Petersburg, Virginia, mobilized over 138,000 troops, more than any other Army installation in the war. They trained in the art of trench warfare, digging earthworks on the same ground Lee and Grant had done so just over 50 years earlier at the Battle of Petersburg. The Blue Ridge Division, which trained at Camp Lee, participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, earning the nickname "Only Moves Forward!"
9. A scuttled German freighter became a US Navy shipIn Charleston Harbor, near Fort Sumter, a German captain scuttled the freighter Liebenfels on January 31, 1917. Raised and repaired, the ship was re-commissioned as the Houston on July 3, 1917 and saw service in convoys to France, transporting vital wartime goods like coal, oil, trucks, and airplanes.
10. Herbert Hoover fed the starving
Herbert Hoover founded and chaired the Commission for Relief in Belgium, sourcing food globally and feeding 11 million starving people in Belgium and France. After the war, Hoover continued to help feed starving people overseas in Poland and the Soviet Union. Some called him “The Great Humanitarian.”