New World War I Memorial Unveiled in First Colors Ceremony

photo-1556046905-2508233aea86

It’s been more than 100 years since Pvt. Henry Gunther fixed his bayonet and fatefully charged a German machine-gun nest. He was acting alone, trying desperately to salvage a tarnished reputation. As both Americans and Germans cried out for Gunther to stop, he rushed forward until a burst from the enemy guns struck Gunther in his temple, making him the last official casualty of World War I.

175606934-1857761897732433-2145317978255738951-n-1024x682.jpg

The new World War I Memorial’s temporary canvas artwork. Photo from World War One Centennial Commission/Facebook.

Gunther was just one of about 3,000 men to die after the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Although the treaty marked the official end to the conflict, it took six hours for news of the war’s end to spread across Europe. Among those tragically killed in the final moments of the cataclysm were 320 Americans. Until now, those casualties, along with the more than 116,000 other Americans killed in the war, did not have a proper memorial in Washington, DC.

On Friday, the new World War I memorial was revealed during a “first colors” ceremony. The ceremony kicked off with “To the Colors,” played on Gen. John J. Pershing’s personal bugle. As the melody echoed throughout the nearly 2 acres of Pershing Park, Old Glory was hoisted over the memorial for the first time.

640px-John_J._Pershing_General_of_the_Armies

John J. Pershing General of the Armies, by Robert White. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/public domain.

John J. Pershing, General of the Armies, by Robert White. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

The flag used for the ceremony has its own impressive history. It was the same flag flying over the Capitol when the United States first joined World War I in 1917. Later, it flew over cemeteries in Europe housing Americans killed in the war and eventually made its way back to the US where it flew over the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

The first flag ceremony included an F-22 flyover and a video message from actor Gary Sinise. The memorial currently includes an 8-foot statue of Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front during World War I. Across from the statue is a wall of canvas art depicting a soldier’s journey from the point of enlistment to his service in Europe and eventual return home. The largest high-relief bronze sculpture in the Western Hemisphere is set to replace the current canvas by Memorial Day 2024.

The memorial is located on Pennsylvania Avenue, next to the White House, just a short walk from the National Mall. It marks the last tribute to America’s major wars and is now open to the public.

Read Next: How a First Nation Canadian Became World War I’s Deadliest Sniper

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a US Marine Corps veteran and a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
With the US and India deepening their military ties, the Himalayan mountain chain marks another geopolitical flashpoint with China.
With its iconic folding wings and six machine guns, the Corsair proved exceptionally lethal in World War II and beyond.
Letter bombs mailed to the US Embassy in Madrid and Spanish government offices triggered elevated security at Naval Station Rota.
The Air Force will officially reveal the replacement for the B-2 stealth bomber on Friday, Dec. 2.
When he was released, after 28 months as a prisoner, he thought he would face charges. Instead, he was told he’d won the highest award for valor.
A Connecticut man faces up to 20 years behind bars for trying to join Islamic State group terrorists.
The annual matchup was first played in 1890 and has since become something much bigger — and more important — than just a football game.
A blaze erupted on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, injuring nine sailors before it was extinguished.
The encounter highlighted a trend of increasingly aggressive Chinese military behavior in the region.
Marines and sailors see the landing assault ships Tripoli and America as light carriers.