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Northwest Ohio in The Great War, 1917-1919

World War I - known contemporaneously as The Great War and "the war to end all wars" - broke out in Europe in July of 1914.  Prompted by the June 28, 1914 assassination in Sarajevo of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's presumed heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the war quickly spiraled into a global conflict between the Central Powers (led at the outset by Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Allied Powers (led at the outset by France, Britain, and Russia).

135th Field Artillery troops on the Western Front, 1918

While the United States initially intended to remain neutral throughout the duration of the war, it was eventually drawn into the conflict after Germany began sinking American merchant ships in the Atlantic Ocean as part of its unrestricted submarine warfare campaign against Britain.  In addition, the interception by British Intelligence of secret communications from Germany to Mexico, in which Germany proposed an alliance between the two countries, further compelled President Woodrow Wilson to commit U.S. military forces to the war.

On April 6, 1917, Congress voted to declare war on Germany, and the United States entered The Great War as part of the Allied Powers, marking the beginning of the U.S.'s development into a superpower on the global stage.

Nearly 3 million Americans would go on to serve in combat overseas as part of the U.S.'s engagement in The Great War, helping to eventually turn the tide of the war in the Allies' favor, and finally leading to the collapse of the Central Powers in the fall of 1918.  On November 11, 1918, the Great War officially ended with the signing of an armistice between the Allied Powers and Germany.  Most American troops began returning home in 1919.

This exhibit tells the story of Northwest Ohio's contribution to the U.S.'s engagement in World War I, and features hundreds of archival materials drawn from several collections held by the Center for Archival Collections of the Bowling Green State University Libraries.  Selected materials represent the military enlistment and training of troops from Northwest Ohio, the deployment of Northwest Ohio troops to Europe and their experiences fighting overseas, the homefront mobilization of Northwest Ohioans in support of their communities' active servicemen and the national war effort, and the celebrations that rang out across the region upon the signing of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, and Northwest Ohio troops' subsequent return home.

Credits

This exhibit was curated by Nick Pavlik, Curator of Manuscripts and Digital Projects, Center for Archival Collections, fall 2018.

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