Although World War I began in 1914, on April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered the war. This “Great War” changed the nation and world forever, resulting in 9 million people who perished as a direct outcome of the war. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI and to show the vital role of Ohioans in the war, the Ohio History Connection has a special display of artifacts from Ohioans whom had a direct connection to the “Great War.”
Photo Courtesy of Ohio History Connection
World War I is commonly referred to as the first “modern war.” With new forms of technology utilized, such as; transportation (automobiles, military tanks, submarines and airplanes), weaponry advancements (machine guns and artillery shells with longer ranges) and chemical weapons all played an important role in the transition from “traditional warfare” to “modern warfare.” The use of new technology also changed the rules of warfare which led to prolonged war in trenches and significant effects, both physical and psychological, on soldiers.
Ohio had an active role in the war with one of the largest military training camps in the United States, Camp Sherman. More than 154,000 Ohioans were drafted into the military and more than 200,000 draftees, volunteers and Ohio National Guardsmen represented the state during World War I. Giving the ultimate sacrifice, more than 6,500 Ohio soldiers perished from battle wounds or disease during the war.
On the home front, Ohioans supported the war effort with councils devoted to national defense, industry for wartime production, farming and food production and many Ohioans contributed to Liberty Loan campaigns to help finance the war effort. While most Ohioans supported the war and served their patriotic duty to the United States, several Ohio anti-war groups and pacifists voiced their opposition. Along with local anti-war groups, a surge of anti-German sentiment increased throughout the state, causing problems between extreme American patriots and the German-American communities living in Ohio.
With nearly 1,000 items on display, the WWI exhibit at the Ohio History Connection gives visitors a glimpse of life during the “Great War,” both on the battlefield and the home front. From military uniforms and weapons, remnants from uniforms including medals, patches and pins to daily items from soldiers like canteens, mess kits, journals, photos and religious items portrays the life of a soldier. On the home front, war propaganda such as newspaper articles, documents, posters and photos depict the change in war imagery. While home goods (cans, jars, etc.), food ration cards, farm tools, toy soldiers and service flags support the war effort from thousands of miles away. Every historic piece in the WWI display has a connection to an Ohioan during the war. Whether a souvenir brought home from Europe by a soldier or a family heirloom passed down to future generations, each item plays a significant role in remembering the thousands of Ohioans and Americans whom gave the ultimate sacrifice during World War I.
The World War I display at the Ohio History Center (in Columbus) is an open-ended exhibit and is free with regular museum admission. To learn more about the important mission to preserve Ohio’s history and to plan your visit to the Ohio History Center, please visit www.ohiohistory.org.