It was the war to end all wars—and we all know how that turned out. Which is one reason why remembering the outbreak of World War I is important: Since this first global conflict, not much has changed. Another reason is that despite the greatly increased efficiency of combat technology, the war remains one of the deadliest conflicts in world history.
On Monday (Aug. 4) in front of the World War II obelisk between Western and Madison avenues in Albany, a ceremony marking “the one hundredth anniversary of the Great War” was held for the public. Lest We Forget, a commemorative program presented by the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association and the Pine Hills Film Colony, featured live music from the era, speeches from public dignitaries, a memorial ceremony, and afterward, two free screenings of movies about World War I: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Little American starring Mary Pickford from 1917, and 2008 German biopic The Red Baron.
An estimated 4 million men and women from the United States served in the war. New York state sustained some of the heaviest casualties, among them 300 enlistees from Albany. Participants at the event came from the United States Army, Navy, and Marines (including two recipients of the Purple Heart), the National Guard, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. Among the many veterans in attendance were two Albany brothers who served in World War II, Jim and Henry Landau, who fought together in the South Pacific.
A trumpeter and a barbershop quartet set the mood before several local officials gave talks about the Great War. Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy made a dedication to her grandmother-in-law, one of the last surviving widows of a World War I veteran; Mayor Kathy Sheehan described how the devastation of the war “helped to lay bare the injustice of female disenfranchisement,” resulting in the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote; and historian and former Assemblyman John McEneny gave a localized account of the war, its military horrors, and the profound changes it made to society.
The presentation concluded with the lowering of a 1914 flag, the placing of a memorial wreath, and a sing-along of “When the Boys Come Marching Home.”
“They did a fine job,” said Jim Landau of the ceremony. “We’re very proud.”