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Remembering the USA’s Entry into World War I

This last Thursday, April 6th, a small group of us from my department went to Florida National Cemetery for a number of projects, including the Florida in World War I Project. The cemetery, which is in Sumter County, is over 500 acres with over 100,000 internments. The cemetery is vast, pristinely kept, and honors veterans from numerous wars including the First World War.

April 6th marked the one hundred year centenary that the United States officially entered the ‘war to end all wars’. The United States had remained neutral during the first two and a half years; however, for a variety of reasons, President Woodrow Wilson, the man whose presidental reelection campaign centered on his keeping the USA out of war, went to and asked Congress on April 2nd to have the United States declare war on Germany. He argued that the world needed to “be made safe for democracy.” On April 6th, Wilson’s request was answered and the United States officially entered the war it was divided over. There are many debates as to whether or not the United States should have participated in the war, but the reality is whether or not the United States should or should not have entered the war, the United States did enter the war. I am not going to go into that debate or give my argument of what I believe to be the reasons why the United States entered the war. Instead, I want to reflect on my time at the cemetery on that one hundred year cenntenial.

I was honored to be at the cemetery on the centennial of the USA’s entry in the First World War to commemorate those that served. Being there reminded me that the First World War is comprised of so many individuals that sacrificed so much- not just for themselves, but for so many others. It reminded too, that there are still those who do the same now.

Below is a photograph of one of the many monuments/memorials placed in the cemetery. It was incredible to see these monuments/memorials and their dedications. The one below is dedicated to Florida veterans of World War I. The quote on the right side of the monument is from the famous “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. McCrae was a Canadian physician in the war, who died before the end of the war from pneumonia.

When I decided to center my research on the First World War, I was specifically drawn in by how many lives it affected and the ways it affected those lives. Going to the cemetery reminded of how war is comprised of individuals reaffirms how important it is to remember and commemorate. I hope that not only with my research and the Florida in World War I Project helps to remember and commemorate those lives.

Some of the Florida in World War I Project team at the gravesite of World War I army veterans Robert Gerlach; (L-R: Kayla Campana, Dr. Barbara Gannon, Tyler Campbell, Drew Fulcher)


Internship Week #12: Going Down the List

There are a number of loose ends that need to be tied up before the end of the semester and beginning of the summer for the Florida in World War I project. This week I have been jumping from one component of the project to another, trying to get done what I can.

First and foremost, the website design itself, I think, is fairly complete (though there will always be room for change and improvement). If you look at the images in the gallery below, you can see the way the website is setup (or feel free to click here to go directly to the website). Essentially, the homepage has a slider on it that rotates various posts and pages we want to highlight. When you go on an individual page or post, it will show you (as seen in the second screencapture) rotating promo boxes. This was a great solution to the lack of color issue that was a concern when the website first began (which you can see in the third photo in the gallery below).

The next item I worked on was the Resources page. The project’s advisor, Dr. Barbara Gannon, presented today at the Society for Military History Annual Meeting on the project. In preperation for that, I sat down with Dr. Gannon and another project coordinator, Tyler Campbell, to get some materials together in anticipation for Dr. Gannon’s presentation, which included getting some resources up. I put up several sources (online resources and books) in order to have something up while I still continue to organize and sort. I think though, whether I figure out a way to sort the sources and organize them where they are easily searchable, I may put up more in the simple format I already have. At least this way there are sources up for those that visit the website.

In addition to the work I mentioned above, I have been working on three research and writing components to the project. The first is my historiography for my internship. The second research and writing component is my encyclopedia entry for the website. The entry is in the form of a fleshed out outline, but should be a fully composed entry by next week. I have decided to use some of the research I presented at the conference I attended in London, specifically how the United States viewed and handled those with shell shock. And thirdly, I am working on an academic journal article that is in the works on the project for publication. I am working with my fellow project coordinators to write about the creation and history of the project, as well as a myriad of components that have sprung from the project including the Soldiers of Florida databases, the website, conference papers and posters (see below for screenshot of the poster that the project presented at the 2016 Graduate Research Forum at UCF), and more.

There is definitely a great deal to work on this upcoming week. Let’s hope for a productive one!


Internship Week #11: A Long To-Do List

I meant for spring break a time of getting ahead on a bunch of tasks that I had been working on since I returned; however, I did not accomplish as much as I would have liked during spring break. This week has been about trying to play catch up so to speak and getting as much done as possible so I can move forward with other tasks for the project. The design of the website has taken a back seat and I am trying to work on formatting the current content so it is uniform. In that process I have also been editing, which has taken more time than I anticipated. In addition, the resources page is taking a lot longer than I had hoped. I have been going through a number of sources, trying to see which are relevant to the project and finding ways to organize them. I think that has been the biggest challenge with the resources. Having a simple long list, while more than nothing, does not help when looking for something specific. So trying to find a way to organize everything, how to categorize the resources, is a challenge. I think another issue is that I find myself so captivated by the sources we have collected since the project began that a lot of my time is spent on simply exploring these resources out of my own interest and curiosity. This coming week I have to be a little more mindful of time so my to-do list shortens.

In this coming week I plan to finish everything I have been working on listed up above. My next steps include working on an encyclopedia entry of my own for the website. The conference paper I presented in London has a lot of research that I think I can use for an encyclopedia entry. It centers on my own personal research, specifically the American perspective on shell shock. I am going to go through my conference paper and sift through the research and see what I can use. Once I have that done, I am going to outline the entry. Hopefully I can complete a draft of the entry in the coming week and have something to present the week after next. In that time as well, I need to also work on the historiography.

I am definitely feeling the time crunch as the end of the semester is rapidly approaching. I have to keep reminding myself though, that just because the internship ends the first week of May, that does not mean that the work on the project ends- or my work on the project ends. I will be continuing to work on the project and anything that needs to be completed can be completed after the internship is over as well; however, I do want my time with this project in an intern role to have a lot to show for it, and a lot to work with once it has come to an end.


Internship Week #9: Resources and a Historiography

It has been a while since I last posted on my internship. After a few weeks away from the project, I am back at work and am actively working on multiple components of the Florida in World War I project. As with all my previous weeks, the website has been the priority, but I have taken a step back from the design in favor of working more closely on the content. I am centering my attention on the Resources section of the website, expanding upon a bibliography an undergraduate student put together last fall. The bibliography the student put together has a number of works that have small pockets of information on Florida in the First World War, but the works need to be combed through and organized. In addition to the few sources on Florida in World War I, my fellow project coordinators and I want the Resources section to go beyond just the focus of Florida. We have slowly been gathering various resources, which I have been putting together. I have also been adding books from my own research. The trick is trying to organize them in a way that helps those that visit the website to go through and find exactly what they are looking for. Or, if they are just browsing, it makes it easy to go through the resources without jumping from one topic/theme to the next.

In addition to working on content for the website I have also had my focus on the historiography paper that my internship requires. As I study World War I outside of my internship, I want to do something that will not only satisfy the requirement, but will help with my research in the future. After speaking with my internship supervisor, Dr. Barbara Gannon, we agreed that centering my historiography on memory and the First World War will prove beneficial. I have read a number of books on memory of the First World War and I am looking forward to creating a historiography around that. I think having the books together in one historiography paper will really be an advantage in the future, understanding the historical arguments and trends that I hope to fit my own work in. One of the books I am including in the historiography I am currently rereading. The book is called Bodies of War: World War I and the Politics of Commemoration in America, 1919-1933 by Lisa M. Budreau. Budreau argues there are three stages of the American response: repatriation, remembrance and return. Outside of the Florida and World War I project, my own research has primarily been centered in Europe, but this book opened me up to American aspects of memory and remembrance. It is interesting to see the parallels between the American perspective and the European perspective, including the politics of the physical act of burial.

As for this coming week, even though it is spring break, that does not mean the work stops! I am going to continue working on the project throughout the week with hopes of catching up from my time away.