The United States’ declaration of war against Germany in April of 1917 is often cited as a turning point in World War I. However, the involvement of American citizens in the war effort actually transpired immediately at the onset of the war through volunteer contributions that assisted in sustaining the Allied Powers in the early years of conflict. The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I, 1914-1919, a new special exhibition at Old Westbury Gardens, highlights these contributions from every day Americans who risked their lives in support of others.
Now open, The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I, 1914-1919 is a special exhibition on loan from the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO, and presents individual descriptions, documents and artwork detailing the ways in which Americans aided war efforts through humanitarian and military relief. Countless local, regional and national groups throughout the U.S. such as the American Field Service, the YMCA and the YWCA provided labor, food, entertainment and physical support to Allied forces. Additionally, the French Foreign Legion afforded Americans the earliest opportunity to fight on the front lines. The contributions of these men and women to war-torn countries was pivotal in the early stages of war.
“The Phipps family played a pivotal role during World War I, and we are thrilled to host a series of exhibits that showcases how American volunteers, including Long Islanders’ supported the war effort,” said Nancy Costopulos, Old Westbury Gardens CEO. “Old Westbury Gardens’ own history has a personal connection to World War I, and as the most well-preserved estate in the country from that era, this exhibit will transport guests back to a time when the world was awakening to global warfare for the first time.”
The efforts of the American Field Service are among those highlighted in the exhibition, which features images, stories and documents from its archives. American ambulance drivers played key roles in several battles during the early stages of the war, most notably in parts of France, and often served under extremely dangerous missions on the Western Front.
The special exhibition was produced by the National World War I Museum and Memorial in collaboration with AFS Intercultural Programs, which also created a series of free downloadable lesson plans. Principal funding for the exhibition was provided by the Florence Gould Foundation.
“The contributions of Americans during the early stages of war are not often given a proper spotlight,” said National World War I Museum and Memorial President and CEO Dr. Matthew Naylor. “By telling their stories, we shed light on the thousands of Americans who risked their lives and contributed to the war almost immediately at the onset.”
The exhibition runs through July 1, 2018. For more information about Old Westbury Gardens and upcoming events, visit www.oldwestburygardens.org.