RALEIGH — In April 1917 the United States officially entered World War I, and North Carolinians rallied to the cause. Men joined the armed forces and served in all the major battles of the Western Front. Women joined the American Red Cross, YWCA and Salvation Army to serve as nurses in military hospitals at home and in France. Farmers grew victory acres and children grew thrift gardens to earn money to buy war bonds. Individuals and industry united to support the war effort.
One hundred years later, we remember their courage and sacrifice with a weekend of special events commemorating the centennial anniversary of the U.S. entry into “the Great War.”
Saturday, April 8 at 10 a.m., Gov. Roy Cooper will preside over a wreath-laying ceremony with members of the North Carolina National Guard and other dignitaries at the WWI section of the North Carolina Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol building in Raleigh.
“I am glad to be part of this special ceremony to remember the remarkable North Carolinians who answered the call to serve their country 100 years ago,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “It is a privilege to have this opportunity to honor their valor and sacrifice.”
“North Carolinians played many significant roles during World War I,” said N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton. “From the armed forces to the home front, they were instrumental to the country’s war effort. This weekend’s commemoration events are an important way for us all to reflect on the contributions of these men and women.”
Following the wreath-laying ceremony, attendees will cross the street to the North Carolina Museum of History to the inviting melodies of a bagpiper dressed in WWI regalia. There, dignitaries will cut the ribbon to officially open the groundbreaking new exhibit North Carolina and World War One, featuring full-sized, immersive trenches, interactive video and over 500 artifacts from European and American soldiers. The museum will host a full day of free family-oriented events, with costumed reenactors, film screenings and hands-on craft tables, as well as historic interpreters, veterans’ representatives, armored vehicles from the National Guard and more!
Friday and Saturday, the North Carolina Symphony — with Music Director Grant Llewellyn, the North Carolina Master Chorale, Raleigh Boychoir, and vocal soloists Tamara Wilson, Nicholas Phan and Stephen Powell — will present special performances of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh. The War Requiem masterfully intersperses the text of the traditional Latin Requiem Mass with poetry about the devastation of war that was written by Wilfred Owen while he served in World War I. The work is a tremendous artistic undertaking, with more than 200 musicians performing.
Pre-concert activities in the Meymandi Concert Hall lobby will provide historical context for Mr. Britten’s music. Living history interpreters from the Great War Tar Heels will be present in uniform, and concertgoers will be among the first to have the opportunity to view a traveling exhibit, which will then make its way to locations all across the state throughout the year. Pre-concert talks with Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Deputy Secretary Kevin Cherry and Jessica A. Bandel, research historian for the department’s Historical Research Office, will take place both evenings. Visit ncsymphony.org for tickets and more information.
North Carolina will commemorate the centennial of World War I through 2018 with a variety of special events, programs and publications designed to highlight North Carolina’s role in the war. Follow the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ “North Carolina in WWI” topic online to keep up with upcoming events, subscribe to our blog, and view items from the WWI collection of the North Carolina State Archives.
Members of the public can even join DNCR historians on an exciting trip to visit WWI sites in France and Belgium, May 18-27, 2018. This 10-day excursion will include sites significant to North Carolina troops, as well as Paris and Normandy, with guided sightseeing tours and city walks. Visit www. ncdcr.gov/WW1FranceTrip to learn more.