Liberty Memorial ablaze with animated poppies in dramatic WWI commemoration
Editor’s note: The Wichita Public Schools Veterans Day Parade sponsored by Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday has been canceled. The school district canceled the parade, citing projected cold temperatures and wind chill.
The impact of World War I and its armistice signed a century ago on Nov. 11 was long-lasting and continues today, according to a local history professor.
“Even now, if people would stop and think, a lot of things going on reflect the … decisions made during and after that war,” said Wichita State University history professor John Dreifort, who will be a featured speaker at one of the several special Armistice Day centennial activities happening in Wichita this weekend.
The war, often called the Great War, was a watershed event in history, bringing about huge changes in the geographical and political landscape, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, where sometimes boundaries are still in conflict. Four imperial dynasties in Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Turkey fell. It led to the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise of communism and the continuing turmoil in the Middle East.
The heavy emotional, financial and human toll that the war took brought about disillusionment that was reflected in the people’s psyche and all elements of society, including the arts. More than 10 million lives were lost during the war years of 1914 through 1918, but the weakened physical conditions of soldiers and citizens and the movements of so many troops contributed to the epidemic spread of the Spanish flu later. Ordinance from the war is still buried in parts of Europe.
It also increased the number of Americans who had to start paying income tax, Dreifort said.
“Relatively few people paid taxes before then, but the tax code was changed to get more revenue (to fund the war) and increased the number of people who were eligible to pay taxes,” Dreifort said.
World War I started in mid-1914, pitting the Central Powers of primarily Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire against the Allies of primarily Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan. In April 1917, the U.S. announced it would enter the war, fighting for the Allies, Dreifort noted, but it would take nearly a year to get an army ready to ship out.
“We had a time tracking down Pancho Villa in Mexico so getting ready to take on the German army was a major undertaking,” Dreifort said. Thousands of American forces pursued the Mexican revolutionary in 1916.
Once American forces made it to the WWI theater, the armistice was declared a few months later.
Until 1953 in the U.S., Nov. 11 was officially known as Armistice Day to mark the day in 1918 when an armistice, or temporary halt, was signed at what historians note was the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, the victorious commanding general of the Allies in World War II, signed legislation in 1954 officially renaming Nov. 11 as Veterans Day to recognize veterans of all wars.
A number of veterans and community groups are celebrating Veterans Day and Armistice Day over the next several days with a parade, concerts, talks and other salutes.
Friday through Sunday
Public open house and war memorabilia exhibit at VFW Post 112, 1560 S. Topeka St. Post 112 is hosting an exhibit featuring historians, speakers and artifacts focusing on WWI during its open house from 5-8 p.m. Friday, 1-6 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Free. More information: vfw112.org
▪ Spirit AeroSystems Veterans Day Parade, 11 a.m. start along Main Street in Wichita, from East 11th Street North to Lewis Street. Followed by various activities and displays. Free. More information: dwss.us/WichitaVeteransDayParade/Post_Parade_Activities.htm
▪ “The Great War and Wichita” talk by Robert Weems Jr., WSU business history professor, 2-3 p.m. at DeVore Auditorium, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main St. Weems will talk about the war’s effect on Wichita, particularly the African-American community. Free. More information: facebook.com/events/2028806280762816/
▪ First of two Wichita Symphony performances of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem,” 7:30 p.m., Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas. Ave. “War Requiem” is a composition that incorporates poetry written by soldier Wilfred Owen killed the week before the WWI armistice. Maestro Daniel Hege will give a pre-concert talk, “A Warning to Future Generations,” at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $20 to $70, from wichitasymphony.org, by phone at 316-267-7658 or at the symphony box office.
▪ “The Great War and ‘No Futures for This Generation,’” talk by John Dreifort, WSU history professor, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Howard E. Wooden Lecture Hall, Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd. Building off a quote from writer Gertrude Stein, Dreifort will talk about the precedent-setting and lingering effects of WWI. Free with regular museum admission of $7 adult, $5 seniors, $3 students with ID and youth ages 5-17, and free to WAM members and children under 5.
▪ WAM also has a special exhibit, “Over There, Over Here: American Print Makers Go to War, 1914-1918.” More information: wichitaartmuseum.org/programs_events/history
▪ Second Wichita Symphony performance of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem,” 3 p.m. Century II Concert Hall, with 2 p.m. pre-concert talk by Hege. Tickets: $20 to $70, from wichitasymphony.org, by phone at 316-267-7658 or at the symphony box office.
▪ Delano Chamber Brass Ensemble Salute to Veterans concert, 3 p.m., West Side Baptist Church, 304 S. Seneca. Free, $10 suggested donation. More information: delanochamberplayers.org
▪ Reflection and Exploration post-symphony reception and opportunity to see Spirit of Wichita exhibit with memorabilia of WWI, 4:30 p.m. Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main St. Free with regular museum admission of $5 adults, $2 children ages 6-12, free to museum members and children under 6.
Veterans Coming Home Salute and Awards Banquet, 5 p.m. VIP reception, 6 p.m. general reception, 7 p.m. program, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Wichita Airport, 2098 S. Airport Road. KPTS will recognize three south-central Kansas veterans making a difference in their communities and a local business advocating and providing resources for veterans. Keynote speaker is retired Navy Rear Admiral Jeffrey Penfield, with special guests Jim and Kate Lehrer, former PBS news anchor and the USS Wichita ship sponsor, respectively. General tickets: $100 each or $175 for two; VIP tickets: $150 each or $275 for two. Veterans may qualify for sponsored tickets. More information/tickets: kpts.org
“World War I in Poetry with Music,” 1:30 p.m. Advanced Learning Library, 711 W. 2nd St. This is a Senior Wednesdays program for adults 55 and older. Free. More information: seniorwednesday.org