On the centennial of Armistice Day, the US still doesn’t have a national memorial for World War I — but that is about to change

  • On November 11, 1918, Germany signed the Armistice, bringing an end to World War I.
  • Over 4 million Americans served during the Great War, but the US has yet to dedicate a national memorial to honour their sacrifices.
  • Retired Col. Gerald York, grandson of legendary World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York, said a memorial is important for future generations of Americans.
  • The memorial is funded only through donations.

On the corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., just across from White House grounds, famed World War I General John Pershing raises a pair of binoculars.

In the midst of a tree-lined plaza dedicated to his name, the eight-foot bronze statue of one of the Great War’s most celebrated heroes now overlooks park benches and concrete. But the general’s view is about to change.

Retired Col. Gerald York, grandson of decorated World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York, says it’s about time.

“At last we’re remembering those that served,” York said.

Over 4 million Americans served during World War I, and in less than one year of fighting over 100,000 US soldiers lost their lives. Despite these sacrifices, and the myriad ways the war altered life in America and throughout the world, the conflict’s veterans have never been recognised with a memorial even after their counterparts in World War II, Korea and Vietnam were so honored.

The World War I Centennial Commission has been working to rectify that – and says it is on track to dedicate a memorial in Pershing Park, under the general’s watchful eyes, on November 11, 2021.

The wall sculpture follows a soldier’s journey from leaving his family to fighting and returning home. WWI Centennial Commission

The project, like the war it aims to commemorate, is unique. The memorial’s funding is based on donator contributions alone, and without any living veterans of the war to advocate, the commission has fought an uphill battle towards its completion, York said.

Although York’s grandfather, who received the Medal of Honour, never spoke with his family about the war, Col. York said he learned about his grandfather’s service through diaries and speeches, and is certain that if he were still alive, would lend his full support to building a memorial.

Read more:
The story of Sgt. York, the man who killed or captured more than 100 Germans in a WWI battle

Upon Sgt. York’s death in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson lauded York as a “symbol of American courage and sacrifice.”

It is this courage and sacrifice that Col. York hopes a memorial will help future generations of Americans to discover.

For more information about the memorial or how to contribute, see www.worldwar1centennial.org.