About the National Archives

100 Years: World War I and the Weight of Sacrifice

Welcome remarks for
100 Years: World War I and the Weight of Sacrifice
Thursday, April 13, at 7 p.m.
McGowan Theater, Archives I

Good evening, I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased to welcome you to the McGowan Theater at the National Archives. Whether you’re here in the theater or watching us on YouTube, we’re glad you could join us for tonight’s discussion about the National World War One Memorial in Washington, DC.

We present this program in partnership with the United States World War One Centennial Commission, and I thank them for their support.

Before we get to tonight’s discussion, I’d like to alert you to two other programs coming up soon in this theater.

Next Wednesday, April 19, at 2 p.m., Sam Rushay, supervisory archivist at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, will be here to talk about the historical significance of the Truman Doctrine in observance of its 70th anniversary.

The next evening, Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m., authors Larrie Ferreiro and François Furstenberg will bring us back to our nation’s founding as recounted in their books, Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It and When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

The National Archives is the largest repository of American World War One records. That collection began with our very first accession—the records of three defunct World War One–era agencies that regulated the supply, distribution, and conservation of food.

As many Government posters had proclaimed, “Food Will Win the War,” but fighting men were needed on the fields of France and on the seas.

Wilson had committed the United States to war with a skeleton fighting force. Between the Regular Army and the National Guard, the nation’s military might rested on fewer than 200,000 men. After instituting a national draft, more than 4 million Doughboys served in the U.S. Army, and half of those fought overseas.

The records of those millions of men—and women who served as nurses, telephone operators, and Navy yeomen—eventually swelled the holdings of the National Archives holdings. They were joined by 24 million draft registration cards, military operational records, and records of civilian agencies that supported the war effort.

America’s wartime activities were extensively documented on film—both still and motion picture. A generous gift from an anonymous donor has allowed us to preserve and digitize World War One and World War Two motion picture films. The World War One footage alone amounts to nearly 150 miles of film. We have also digitized more than 110,000 World War One photographs and made them available in the National Archives’ online Catalog.

The soldiers, sailors, and Marines returning to America at war’s end lived through boom times and bust. The Great Depression and rising global tensions consumed the nation’s attention. World War One—the Great War, the World War, the war to end all wars—was soon overshadowed by the country’s immersion into World War II.

Upon the centennial of the war, we acknowledge and honor the service and sacrifices of those who served “over there” with a new memorial in the nation’s capital.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce the Vice Chair of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, Edwin Fountain. Previously, he served as General Counsel of the American Battle Monuments Commission and was a partner in the Washington, DC, office of the international law firm Jones Day, where he practiced for 24 years. He is the grandson of two World War I veterans.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Edwin Fountain.