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How local groups are marking 100th anniversary of end of World War I
History Center plans living history event, Family Day Sunday, Nov. 11
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World War I soldiers in a photograph in the Northeast Georgia History Center collection.

The first sentence in the Nov. 13, 1918, article in the local newspaper, the Gainesville News, read simply, “The war is over.”

And so it was 100 years ago today.

Battlefields fell silent in what was described at the time as the “the war to end all wars,” which drew American involvement only in its final, brutal year.

Hall County lost 29 men in the war, which began in 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. It ended with Germany’s surrender, and the formal agreement to stop fighting came on Nov. 11, 1918.

The day would be celebrated as Armistice Day and later as Veterans Day, which is being observed in several area events, including ceremonies Monday, Nov. 12, at Rock Creek Veterans Park and Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville.

“Peace and rejoicing forever,” the Gainesville News declared. “Kaiserism banished from civilization. World rests from greatest struggle ever known to mankind.”

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Northeast Georgia History Center curator of education Ken Johnston observes an old German helmet from World War I Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, as the History Center prepares a World War I exhibit. - photo by Scott Rogers

The kaiser was the German monarch at the time of the war.

Unknown to people of the day, World War I would set the stage for world-changing events throughout the 20th century, including World War II and the Cold War.

Tank and aerial warfare, the United Nations, global communism and chemical weapons can be traced to the war, which has been upstaged in modern times by the more horrendous World War II and the divisive Vietnam War.

“It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of (World War I) in world history,” said Glen Kyle, executive director of the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville.

He noted that “many Georgians, including those from Hall County and Gainesville, participated in such far-reaching events.”

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A World War I military issued gas mask is part of Northeast Georgia History Center managing director Glen Kyle personal collection. - photo by Scott Rogers

The history center at 322 Academy St., Gainesville, is especially marking the anniversary Sunday with “The End of the War to End All Wars,” a Family Day program with living history demonstrations, hands-on activities, special gallery tours and performances. 

Also, a forum is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the history center. “The Great War and the World it Made” will be an examination of what effects the war and the resulting Treaty of Versailles had on today’s political, social and economic climate.

And a special exhibit, “Over Here & Over There: Georgia and Georgians in the Great War,” featuring original artifacts and memorabilia from the war, along with local stories, will be open through Jan. 12, 2019.

“We feel it’s important to remember the events of 100 years ago, to reflect on the sacrifices, the beliefs and the efforts of those who fought in (the war),” Kyle said.

“To most Americans, (World War II) tends to overshadow the first because it’s still within living memory.”

One of Hall County’s best-known figures from the war was Paul E. Bolding, who was once believed to be Hall’s first fallen serviceman in the war.

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World War I Cpl. Paul E. Bolding’s photograph hangs inside the American Legion hall named in his honor on Riverside Drive. At the time, it was believed Bolding was Hall County’s first fallen serviceman in the war.

The Marine’s photograph and military garb are on display at the Paul E. Bolding Post 7 of the American Legion in Gainesville at 2343 Riverside Drive. Also displayed is a letter from Bolding to his mother, written Aug. 14, 1918, from France on stationery provided by the American YMCA.

An Oct. 30, 1918, newspaper article says that “Corporal Bolding was a young man of sterling character, unquestioned in integrity, and genial nature, and had won hundreds of friends … who feel a sense of loss in his death.”

The story states that Bolding had been injured months earlier but that “he received his fatal wound in action later, dying on Oct. 3.”

History would later show that James T. Bailes was the first Hall veteran to fall, dying in France while serving in the U.S. Army infantry on Sept. 26, 1918.

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Pope Ellard’s military issued machete is framed in son Martin Ellard’s Gainesville home. The piece also include’s Ellard’s military photograph. - photo by Scott Rogers

Georgia records from the era indicate 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.

A book produced by the state, “In memory of the Gallant Sons of Georgia,” shows Albert Parham died “together with every man in his company” on the Argonne front on Oct. 7, 1918.

The war is particularly known for its many battlefield trenches, where life became a nightmare for soldiers.

Mortar shells exploded all around, and warriors dealt with rain, mud, rats and disease.

“It was constant, unremitting misery,” Kyle said.

Many troops suffered from “shell shock,” an early version of what is now commonly known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

And many died not from bullets and bombs but illness. That was the case with several of Hall County’s fallen, who suffered from such conditions as pneumonia, tuberculosis and, in one case, spinal meningitis.

World War I, along with other conflicts, is depicted in a somber way at the history center. Its outdoor Freedom Garden features the “Circle of Honor,” a series of monuments recognizing veterans by name and including their military rank, branch of service and years in service. The monuments also feature the names of families of area veterans.

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Northeast Georgia History Center Executive Director Glen Kyle prepares a World War I style backpack with canteen Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, for an exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of World War I. - photo by Scott Rogers

The University of North Georgia also is leading efforts of the Georgia World War I Centennial Commission, which has been busy preparing to mark a century since the war’s end.

Billy Wells, the college’s senior vice president for leadership and global engagement, serves as the commission chairman. Retired Lt. Col. Keith Antonia, UNG’s associate vice president for military programs, is a commission associate.

Wells, a retired Army colonel, will be the keynote speaker on the war’s impact at a Sunday event at the Atlanta History Center.

He plans to talk about the cost of the war, the dramatic changes it brought to American society, its impact on future military affairs, the changes it led to in America’s foreign relations and policy, and the hard lessons the U.S. and Europe learned on how to end a conflict.

The Georgia group is joining the national World War I Centennial Commission to encourage Americans to ring bells 21 times at five-second intervals at 11 a.m. Sunday to mark 100 years since the war’s end. 

Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a proclamation for the Bells of Peace ringing.

Also, Virginia Dilkes, who has served on the advisory board for the state World War I Centennial Commission and as a volunteer for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on the grave of four-star Gen. Courtney Hodges, a UNG alumnus who earned the Distinguished Service Cross during the war.

World War I’s 100th anniversary

What: Northeast Georgia History Center’s Family Day

Featured: living history demonstrations, hands-on activities, gallery tours and performances commemorating the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11

Where: History Center, 322 Academy St.

Admission: free