Fifteen million to 20 million soldiers and civilians were killed in World War I, a global conflict so devastating that, at the time, it was known as “the war to end war.” On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of its end — the fighting stopped at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — and the day will be commemorated around Washington with exhibits, tours and events. Here is a selection:
Arlington has many ties to World War I, including the Tomb of the Unknowns, which was erected to hold the remains of a soldier from World War I; the Argonne Cross Memorial, dedicated to Americans buried in France; and memorials to chaplains and nurses who served in the war. On Veterans Day, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, followed by a program in the Memorial Amphitheater. Sunday at 11 a.m. at Arlington National Cemetery, 1 Memorial Dr., Arlington. Gates open at 8 a.m. Visitors are encouraged to get there by 9:30 a.m. Free.
“Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences in World War I” is a hefty multimedia exhibition that tells the story of the war on both sides of the Atlantic through restored film footage, vintage maps and photographs, soldiers’ letters home and the diaries of Gen. John J. Pershing. Through Jan. 21, 2019, at the Library of Congress, 10 First St. SE. Free. Note: The library is closed on Sundays, including Veterans Day. On Saturday, the library will host a symposium, “The Road Back: Veterans and Literary Writing,” which includes tours, a panel discussion and a film screening.
The Smithsonian’s major commemoration of the Great War is a day-long event that will include reenactors; 15-minute “lightning talks” on how the war changed American society; displays of historic objects that are usually kept in storage; and hands-on family activities. The museum’s theater will screen veteran-related films all weekend, and there are multiple World War I exhibits, including “Uniformed Women in the Great War” and “Advertising War: Selling Americans on World War I.” Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the National Museum of American History, 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free, except for the film screenings.
It might come as a surprise to visitors to Washington that there’s no national memorial to World War I: The temple-like shrine on the Mall is dedicated only to veterans who hailed from the District of Columbia. Plans are afoot, however, to turn Pershing Park — which features a statue of General of the Armies John J. Pershing — into a national memorial. Organizers will be hosting a “first look” preview in Pershing Park, with discussions about the roles Native Americans, women and minorities played in the war; live music; and a World War I film festival. Through Monday at Pershing Park , 15th and E streets NW. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Events are free, but some require reservations.
When World War I broke out, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson was determined to keep America neutral; his successful 1916 reelection campaign even used the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” (Five months later, however, he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.) Wilson purchased a house in Kalorama after leaving office, which is now a museum and memorial. On Veterans Day, tours of the house will be offered every hour on the hour. Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Woodrow Wilson House, 2340 S St. NW. Adults $5-$10, children younger than 12 free. Admission is free for veterans and their families on Sunday.