Tag Archives: World War History Commission

- “Fit to Fight”: The Second Virginia Council of Defense

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I.


Camp A. A. Humphreys (now Fort Belvoir), ca. 1918, Box 279, Folder 9. Virginia War History Commission, Series XIV: Second Virginia Council of Defense, 1917-1921, 1923-1924. Accession 37219, State Records Collection, The Library of Virginia.

In 1915, as the guns thundered in Europe, America found itself at a crossroads. A small but vocal group, including Teddy Roosevelt and General Leonard Wood, called for preparedness– the immediate build-up of naval and land forces to make the nation ready for war. President Wilson and the Democrats, more inclined toward localism and the state-based National Guard, found these notions suspicious and did little to grow the existing military. Consequently, prior to the National Defense Act (June 1916), the U. S. Army consisted of about 100,000 men. Even combined with 100,000 National Guardsmen, it fell well short of the Imperial German Army by a factor of 20.

When United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, there immediately arose a critical need for able-bodied men to fight. Congress had created the Council of National Defense nearly a year earlier to coordinate all national resources relevant to efficient mobilization and maintenance of the armed forces. Each state created its own Council of Defense to carry out the directives of the national body. After a disorganized start in April 1917 by Governor Henry Stuart, Governor Westmoreland Davis established the Commonwealth’s Second Virginia Council of Defense (SVCD) in February 1918.

The Council’s activities … read more »

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- Mapping No-Man’s-Land: The Official War Atlas of the 1st Division, A. E. F.

This article originally appeared in slightly altered form in the Summer 2001 issue of “Virginia Cavalcade.”

 


The Official War Atlas of the 1st Division, American Expeditionary Force.

Between 1928 and 1930, the federal government published the official records of the 1st Division, American Expeditionary Force (AEF). The Library of Virginia recently conserved an atlas that complements those twenty-four massive volumes. Maps are, of course, crucial in warfare, and these twenty-six base maps and forty-two overlays provide topographic documentation of portions of the American—and Virginian—involvement in World War I.

The federal government distributed the canvas-bound atlas with the 1st Division’s published records in the early 1930s. Army cartographers and engineers at Fort Humphreys, Virginia (now Fort Belvoir) and Fort DuPont, Delaware (now a state park), created the atlas using French Cartographic Service maps purchased in 1928. The army made the overlays with lithography and reproduced original maps with mimeographs. Numbers on the overlay maps correspond to coordinates on the base maps, allowing the researcher to see precise positions of enemy lines, mustard-gas concentrations, machine gun nests, and the like. The army cartographers characterized these maps and overlays as “exact reproductions of all available maps, sketches, charts, etc., showing all of the troop dispositions, operations, plans, situation reports, diagrams, [and] barrage charts…which have been found in the World War Records of the First Division.”

The maps nearly languished in obscurity in the Library’s archives storage. They came … read more »

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- Over There and Over Here: Virginia, World War I, and the Records of the War History Commission

Editor’s note: This post was adapted from a talk given by Roger Christman, state records archivist.


Virginia in the War: Topical Outline for a City or County War History - Publication No. 3, Virginia War History Commission, Series IX Office Files, box 233, folder 3, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

A hundred years ago, on 6 April 1917, the United States officially entered World War I, declaring war on Germany almost three years after the conflict began in Europe. Virginia was a major participant in the United States’ war effort. Just over 100,000 Virginians served in World War I, with over 4,000 dying from disease, combat, and training accidents, and many more injured or disabled. Several areas in Virginia became essential centers for the war effort; these included Hampton Roads as a supply and deployment center, the naval base at Norfolk, the horse remount station in Front Royal, and the mobilization base now known as Fort Lee.

Virginia will commemorate the World War I centennial with a number of events and projects. The Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour will provide an interactive exhibit to museums, libraries, and historic sites throughout Virginia. Visitors will be invited to bring their own World War I and II-related photographs to be scanned for inclusion in the Virginia Profiles of Honor project. The Library of Virginia will catalog these materials, and some will be featured on Transcribe along with materials from our other collections.


Photograph of Arthur Kyle Davis, Virginia War History Commission, Series XI. Office Files, 1917-1927, box 160, folder 1, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Efforts to document Virginia’s involvement in WWI are far from new, however.  In … read more »

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