The First World War . . . usually called “The Great War” until there was a second world war twenty years later . . . was unlike any other armed conflict in human history. European armies sustained massive casualties during the first few years of the war, with extensive trench lines along the Western Front offering scant protection from terrible new weapons such as massive artillery barrages, machine guns and poison gas. As commanders sought to break the trench deadlock, the death toll only grew; overall, there were eight and a half million deaths, and nearly three times that many wounded.
This exhibit shares some of the stories of Alexandrians during the war, their feelings about this nearly-incomprehensible world tragedy, their early efforts to help, and their more active participation in the American war effort after April, 1917. Artifacts on view include souvenirs from the passenger liner Lusitania, sunk by a German U-boat in 1915 . . . weapons and equipment used by American soldiers . . . photographs of a local aircraft factory . . . and a model of a submarine chaser, a new type of ship that was built along the waterfront in Alexandria. Many of us have ancestors who lived through this conflict and participated in some way, and the museum staff hopes this exhibition provides a renewed interest in and appreciation for their struggles and sacrifices, as well as the new role they helped to create for the United States on the world stage.