The “war to end all wars” will be on display this year at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University in Gainesville.
The museum has long featured a small exhibit on World War I, but it hopes to bring more attention to the major world event though “Over Here & Over There: Georgia & Georgians in The Great War.”
The exhibit opens Friday and includes items the museum has been able to gather, such as photos, books, letters and the iconic “doughboy” helmet worn by U.S. troops.
But “we’ll definitely add some things to it,” museum director Glen Kyle said. “It’s going to be a living exhibit.”
The center also will have related programs, but “we hope the community will come forward with some neat objects that we can put on display,” Kyle said.
World War I exhibit
Where: Northeast Georgia History Center, 322 Academy St. NE, Gainesville
When: Yearlong display opens Friday; center hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
How much: $6, adults; $5, active and retired military and those 65 and older; $4, students; free for members and children younger than 6
More info: 770-297-5900
National ArchivesView a timeline and additional information about the war
The exhibit, which marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the war on Nov. 11, 1918, also will feature an area where visitors can put on a helmet or hat.
The war began in 1914 as Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Other nations got involved, including America, which joined in 1917. The U.S. was prodded by Germany’s sinking of the British liner RMS Lusitania, with 128 Americans among the dead.
America lost 116,708 lives in the war, compared to 407,000 in World War II.
U.S. military involvement is on display at the history center through uniforms worn by soldiers and the weapons and other supplies they carried.
One of the more interesting items is a gas mask that soldiers carried in case of a chemical attack.
“We weren’t in World War I long enough ... to affect Northeast Georgia like World War II did,” Kyle said. “A lot of people from this area did go into the military and the service, so a lot of the exhibits are about those experiences.”
A monument at the Paul E. Bolding American Legion Post 7, supplemented from state records from the era, shows that 29 Hall Countians died in the war.
Bolding himself is believed to be Hall’s first fallen serviceman during the war. The Marine’s photograph and military garb are on display at the post at 2343 Riverside Drive in Gainesville.
Bolding died Oct. 3, 1918. He is buried at Gainesville’s Alta Vista Cemetery under a monument bearing an eagle’s image.
Many of the Hall veterans’ stories are lost to time, but some are tucked away in state records.
They show that Silas Dunnegan was killed in the trenches during the Battle of Argonne, Hubert Ledford was killed in his first battle and Daniel McKinney took a machine-gun bullet in the Battle of Château-Thierry.
“It’s interesting that, to my knowledge, none of the other big museums in the state are really looking at doing something (on the war),” Kyle said. “So, as a result, we’re going to cast a wider net over some of the stories we tell.”
World War I doesn’t get quite the attention as World War II, but it would set the stage for WWII, as well as other world-changing events throughout the 20th century, including the Cold War.
Tank and aerial warfare, the United Nations, global communism, Middle East conflicts and chemical warfare can be traced to the war. Even Veterans Day, known as Armistice Day in other countries, has its roots in World War I.
“The effects of World War I on the nation and the world are lasting,” Kyle said.