Indiana Military Museum remembers 100th anniversary of World War I
By Mike Grant
World War One was called the “the war to end all wars.”
It was not. World War II began about two decades later. The end result of the treaties and boundaries drawn following the end of World War I.
At this time 100 years ago the world was beginning to try and put the pieces back together again and on March 30 and 31 the Indiana Military Museum will conduct the Great War Event marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.
“World War I was the war where technology of weapons snowballed,” said president of the Indiana Military Museum James Osborne. “It went from calvary charges to trench warfare.”
World War I also led to new ways of fighting. Submarines became involved in battles at sea. Tanks and machine guns were perfected and added to jumps in artillery performance for fighting on land and a new thing called the airplane took war into the skies.
Visitors attending the World War I event will have an opportunity to see a lot of those authentic items. “We have just opened our 22,000 square foot annex,” said Osborne. “We will have several artillery pieces, a tank, and a bi-plane on display along with a lot of other artifacts from World War I. There are going to be a lot of things that people have never seen here before.”
Along with those static displays will be some living history provided by World War I re-enactors from all over the Midwest. “We will have mock battles, both days of the event,” said Howard Lanam, operations manager for the Indiana Military Museum. “We are expecting around 75 participants. They will all be dressed in uniforms and with equipment that is accurate to the time. These guys are very picky about accuracy. If they have a recreation of something it is made to be just like the original.”
The Indiana Military Museum began the event in 2014.
“It was the start of the 100th anniversary,” said Lanam. “We looked around and it seemed like at the time there wasn’t anyone doing anything on World War I and that’s when we decided to hold our event.”
World War I recreations tend to be a little smaller than Civil War and Revolutionary War events.
“I think it is because all of World War I was in Europe and there was no fighting in the United States,” said Lanam. “A lot of the equipment that was used was left behind in Europe and that has made it tougher to get hold of.”
Interest in World War I is growing
But the interest has picked up in recent years during the 100th anniversary of the war.
“There are more re-enactors,” said Lanam. “There is a large group from around Chicago in northern Indiana. I think a lot of them will be coming down for our event.”
Visitors won’t just see uniforms from a single army. Multiple countrys’ battle gear and uniforms will be worn on the battle field. “We expect re-enactors that are not just wearing U.S. gear, but also British, French, German and maybe even some Russian,” said Osborne.
Other than the battles the public will have a chance to get a closer look at the re-enactors operations in other ways. The event allows the public to walk through the encampment and talk with the soldiers. The Museum has even put together a recreation of a World War I trench so that visitors can get a more realistic feel of what those battle fields were like.
Those battlefields were the deadliest the world had ever seen 100 years ago. By the time the Battle of the Marne, Battle of the Somme and Battle of Verdun were over World War I had left 20 million people dead and an additional 20 million injured. Half of the dead were civilians the other half military personnel.
The United States mobilized 4 million soldiers for the war with 116,000 killed and 204,000 wounded. Of that number 130,000 troops called to duty were from Indiana and 3,000 died.
Visitors won’t just see uniforms from a single army. Multiple countrys’ battle gear and uniforms will be worn on the battle field. “We expect re-enactors that are not just wearing U.S. gear, but also British, French, German and maybe even some Russian,” said James Osborne, IMM president.
One of those Indiana soldiers was Samuel Goodfill. He was the only Hoosier who was awarded the Medal of Honor during the war. “Goodfill was later named to be a pallbearer for the casket of the unknown soldier that was buried in the tomb of the unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery,” said Osborne. “We will have some artifacts from his service during World War I on display at the museum.”
U.S. General “Blackjack” Pershing, commander of U.S. Forces during World War I once called Goodfill “the best soldier he ever knew.”
The Military Museum has a unique piece of General Pershing’s history on display. “We have a telephone taken from his headquarters in France during World War I,” said Osborne.
Organizers say that they are hoping for a good turnout for the “Great War Event.”
“You know a lot of the young people have no idea about the kind of equipment those guys had to use,” said Lanam. “People who are coming, you show up with the mindset that they will learn something about history. After all, we are as much about education as we are about history.”
Fourth year for the event
The Great War Event or World War I Event is in its fourth year. It runs March 30 and 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Battles are scheduled for each day but could be cancelled by poor weather. One thing organizers say they have learned by putting this event on in the past is that people who attend have a pretty good time.
“The visitors and the participants both really love it,” said Lanam. “They all really have a big time.”
“When we started this we were just doing it to mark the anniversary of World War I,” said Osborne. “If the public wants it, we are more than willing to continue having it.”
The Indiana Military Museum is located at 715 S. Sixth Street Road just south of the Willow Street intersection and next door to the French Commons where the annual Vincennes Rendezvous is held.