pilots in dress uniforms African American Officers Riveters The pilots doughboys with mules gas masks African American Soldiers 1 Mule Rearing

Welcome to the Georgia WWI Commission

"To Honor, Educate and Commemorate"

Tybee Island to Host a Memorial Dedication Ceremony to Honor the Sinking of the H.M.S. Otranto

This event unfortunately has been cancelled because of the approach of Hurricane Florence. It is not anticipated to be rescheduled. We encourage you (when you can safely do so) to visit the site and view the impressive historical marker that has been installed commemorating the centennial of the Otranto tragedy.

DEDICATION CEREMONY Of a Historical Marker to the sinking of the Troopship H.M.S. Otranto with 470 lives lost. Saturday, September 15, 2018 10:00 a.m. Fort Screven Museum at Battery Garland Meddin Drive, Tybee Island, Georgia American Legion Post 154 Color Guard Jason Buelterman, Tybee Island Mayor Reading a Proclamation from Governor Nathan Deal Lunch and Social Gathering 11:30 a.m. | American Legion Post 154 Screening of Islay: For Those in Peril 2:00 p.m. | Tybee Post Theatre

TYBEE ISLAND, Georgia (June 22, 2018) - The community of Tybee Island, Georgia, welcomes the public to attend a memorial dedication ceremony for a historical marker at Fort Screven in  honor of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the British Troopship, H.M.S. Otranto, followed by a special screening of the BBC Documentary, Islay, For Those in Peril. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Fort Screven Museum at Battery Garland in Tybee Island.

In September 1918, 2nd Lt Samuel E. Levy was ordered by the Commander of Fort Screven to lead a group of new recruits to the Western European Front following America’s entry into World War I. Levy departed Fort Screven with 574 Coastal Artillery Corps (CAC) officers and enlisted recruits and traveled to New York where they boarded the British Troopship, H.M.S Otranto. bound for port in Liverpool.

The H.M.S. Otranto collided with another British Troopship on Oct. 6, 1918 in a severe storm, killing 470 of the 1,025 US and British servicemen on board, resulting in the single greatest loss of life in troop transport during World War I. Of the 358 American casualties, more than 130 were from Georgia. The collision took place off the coast of Isle of Islay, Scotland, and the ship subsequently struck a reef off the rocky shore, broke in half and sank.

A memorial of the dead stands in Isle of Islay, Scotland, and a statue commemorating the American dead stands in Nashville, Georgia. A third memorial marker was dedicated in Sylvania, Georgia, in 2017 by the Georgia Historical Society and the VFW. Due to the number of troops from Fort Screven, Georgia, a memorial is being dedicated on the grounds of Fort Screven to mark the 100th anniversary of the tragedy and to honor those that perished in the service of their country.

The ceremony will include a Presentation of Colors by the American Legion Post 154 Color Guard, remarks from Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman, and other dignitaries and families of descendants.

Guests are welcome to attend the ceremony on Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. A light lunch and refreshments will be provided following the ceremony at the American Legion on Veterans Drive. A special screening of the BBC Documentary, Islay, For Those in Peril will be begin at 2 p.m. at the Fort Screven Post Theatre.


Georgia History Day 2018 - WWI Awards

The Georgia World War I Centennial Commission at its June 2018 meeting recognized two students who won its top awards in the National History Day Georgia 2018.  In partnership with the Georgia Humanities Council, the Centennial Commission sponsored special awards for outstanding research on WWI. 

The junior division recipient is Daniel Wright of Monroe, Ga.  He produced a documentary on the Treaty of Versailles, entitled “An Unpeaceful Treaty: How the Paris Compromise Ignited Conflict”,  https://youtu.be/XTxWh10HcD4 .  Daniel, his teacher and family receive a trip to Washington D.C. to participate in WWI Centennial activities.

The senior division recipient is Brooklyn Reese, of Thomasville, Ga.  She produced a display and presentation on “The Hello Girls of WWI”.  These French-speaking American young ladies were recruited by the United States Army to operate the telephone system in France for the military and their soldiers.  Brooklyn, her teacher and parents receive a trip to France to visit important WWI sites and participate in Centennial activities.  

Funding  for the Commission’s participation in Georgia History Day, and for these awards, was provided by a grant from the Georgia Veterans of Foreign Wars.

With the two recipients are Dr. Billy Wells, Chair of the GA WWI Centennial Commission, and Ms. Laura McCarty, President of Georgia Humanities.With the two recipients are Dr. Billy Wells, Chair of the GA WWI Centennial Commission, and Ms. Laura McCarty, President of Georgia Humanities.

GA History Data Awards 1Brooklyn Reese with her “Hello Girls of WWI” exhibit.


Steele’s Bridge 100 Year Memorial Observance

On June 16, 2018, a gathering of almost 100 took place very near the spot where three soldiers from Camp Gordon died while on a mission, exactly 100 years ago to the day. Sgt. Scott Abraham Marquisee, Corp. Samuel F. Smith, and Pvt. Ernest Rhinesmith were killed when the convoy truck they were riding in fell through the old covered bridge. This convoy of several troop trucks and automobiles was on a mission to round up deserters in the hills of Cherokee County, Georgia. The covered bridge had been sabotaged, causing the heavy truck to crash through and fall 40 feet to the Etowah river below.

This memorial event, produced by retired police officer and historical researcher, Michael Hitt, brought together military, police, religious, and the community to remember the sacrifices of these men and their families. An historical color guard, 21 gun salute, bagpipes and bugle taps helped to mark the occasion.

More information about this almost forgotten tragic incident may be found at: https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/georgia-wwi-home/4394-steele-s-bridge-incident-3-camp-gordon-soldiers-killed-in-military-operation-in-cherokee-county-centennial-memorial.html


In May 1918, U.S. troops, commonly known as the Doughboys, fought in their first major battle in Europe during World War I. The war was a turning point in U.S. history, establishing the nation’s influence and prosperity in the 20th century. By the end of combat in November 1918, more than 4 million Americans served.

Now, 100 years later, Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace: The Doughboys, 1917-1918,an outdoor photography exhibition opening March 16th in the Atlanta’s History Center’s Goizueta Gardens, honors the sacrifice of those men and women who served in the conflict that shaped the world in which we live today.

Featuring the work of British photojournalist Michael St Maur Sheil, Fields of Battle tells of the healed scars of World War I through our only remaining living witness: the land on which our heroes fought. The exhibition, in its only Southern appearance, remains on view through July 5th.

Inspired by the concept of land and terrain as the grounds of war and realm of peace, the exhibition is to be installed throughout Goizueta Gardens’ 33 acres—within that garden landscape, telling a story of reconciliation across the lands of warring nations, and the healing of time on the earth itself. On the European soil, once places of devastating violence, we now see landscapes of great beauty, testament to peace and remembrance.The exhibition features historical content as well as archival images to support the beautiful contemporary landscape photography of Michael St. Maur Sheil.

World War I was the first “modern” war, as industry enabled weapons and explosives to be manufactured in vast quantities that brought death and destruction on a scale never previously experienced.

When the United States entered the war, the global conflict had consumed many nations since 1914 and continued for years. The Armistice of November 11, 1918 halted the fighting.

The Western Front on which the Doughboys lived, fought, and died included scenes of environmental degradation, obliterated villages, vast cemeteries, and continuing massive destruction. Much of the landscape of the Western Front looked like an uninhabited planet foreign to them.

The outdoor exhibition containing Sheil’s photography will be displayed throughout Goizueta Gardens, giving guests the opportunity to explore sites of beauty amid the Atlanta History Center’s 33 acres, including the Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden, Smith Family Farm Gardens, and Swan Woods.

Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace: The Doughboys, 1917-1918, is the final of four Great War-related exhibitions presented by the Atlanta History Center in recognition of World War I’s centennial during 2017-2018.

More than 116,000 American soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice before the “war to end all wars” finally ended.

Man talks to a crowd while pointing at a mapMan speaking to a crowd while standing in front of an outdoor displayMan speaking to crowd in front of a picture of an old WW1 battlefield.  The battlefield has depressions in the ground from bombs but nature has taken over throughout the years.Man speaks to crowd in front of picture that looks like a color photo of soldiers walking through tall green grassMan speaking to crowd in front of a picture of the ocean.


Ga. DOT Plants Memorial Poppies

Traditional World War I memorial poppies bloom along U.S. 78 in Walton County, the Moina Micheal Highway. Planted by the Georgia Department of Transportation in cooperation with the Georgia World War I Centennial Commission, the poppies commemorate long-time University of Georgia faculty member Moina Michael, who developed the idea of using red poppies to support veterans of World War I, and ultimately of all wars. Ms. Michael was from the nearby town of Good Hope in Walton County.

Planted poppies with red bloomsred blooming poppiesred blooming poppiesred blooming poppies


BBC commemorates Otranto sinking

Special broadcasts in May on two BBC channels will commemorate the tragic sinking of the troopship H.M.S. Otranto on Oct. 6, 1918 off the coast of Islay, Scotland.  Most of the soldiers aboard were trained at Fort Screven on Tybee Island, Georgia.  After an accidental collision with its sister ship the H.M.S. Kashmir, some 500 soldiers and crew were saved, but another 470 died, including nearly 130 from Georgia.  In addition to the broadcasts, British Princess Anne will lead commemorations at Islay on May 4 to mark the centennial of the tragedy.  See details of the broadcast and photos of the tragedy and its aftermath in this link. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-43948079

Digging The Graves At Otranto Cemetery, Islay, ScotlandIslanders digging the graves at the Otranto Cemetery


Steele’s Bridge Incident - 3 Camp Gordon Soldiers Killed in Military operation in Cherokee County. - Centennial Memorial.

This photo was taken moments after the big army truck crashed through the bridge.  The bridge is a covered bridge and shows men down below in the water investigating the crashed truck.This remarkable picture of the accident of Sunday afternoon when the big army truck crashed through the Etowah river bridge, killing three men outright and seriously injuring six others, was taken only a few minutes after the accident occurred. It shows the hole the truck tore in the bridge timbers and the distance of the fall. Around the truck are men engaged in rescue work. At the bottom is Sergeant Abe Marguesee, Syracuse, N.Y., from Infirmary No. 1, Depot brigade, Camp Gordon, who was one of the men killed. Sergeant Marguesee had gone with the party as a "first aid" man in the event of casualties. On June 16, 2018, one hundred years to the date, a memorial event will take place remembering the soldiers from Camp Gordon that were tragically killed during a local military operation. The centennial memorial will be held at 3:00pm at 810 Bridge Mill Avenue, Canton, GA 30114. This is the closest location to the site of the incident on the Etowah River that is now part of Lake Allatoona. Here’s the summary:

This WW1 event has been forgotten in time until now.

On Sunday, June 16, 1918, a secret U.S. Army mission set out from Camp Gordon, at 1am in the morning, to gather evidence and capture army deserters in southern Cherokee County. Some of these deserters were from Camp Wheeler, in Macon, Georgia. The men deserted with their weapons and had banded together for security.

Before sun up, homes were raided in northern Cobb and southern Cherokee Counties, all south of Woodstock. The Army cut the phones lines to keep anyone from the houses they had raided from using a phone to warn other people of this raid. But, it was too late because the deserters had been tipped off days before.

The military convoy needed to cross over the Etowah River, to reach the western hills of Cherokee County, where is was believed the deserters were in hiding. The bridge to use to get into the target area, was Steele's Bridge, off Bells Ferry Road. The first three cars crossed with no problem but the first army truck to enter this covered bridge, broke through the bridge flooring, taking 20 soldiers down with it. The truck fell 40 feet and then upside down into the river below, on top of the men. Three were killed and ten injured. There is strong evidence that the bridge had been sabotaged by cutting into the support beams.

Of the three killed, one was the convoy’s medic. A trained nurse, Mrs.Winnie F. Carpenter, just happened to be visiting friends in a nearby home. When she heard of the incident she rushed to the bridge and started administering aid to the men. No one died after she took over. This lady would later receive a commendation from the United States for what she did that day. She attended Reinhardt College before the war and was trained in nursing at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

A second man killed, Cpl. Sam Smith, had just received his ten day pass to go home to visit his parents, in Massachusetts. He heard about this planned raid and choose to join the mission. He went home but not the way his parents had planned.

Most the men in this Army convoy were former members of the 82nd Division who, for different reasons, had been left behind when the 82nd deployed to France. The highly decorated Sgt. Alvin York was a member of this division.

As for the truck, it had already been used in Mexico by General Pershing’s forces, before being sent to Camp Gordon. The day after crashing into the river, it was pulled up a 40 foot embankment and driven back to Camp Gordon.

As for the deserters, the army stopped looking for them that day, and this gave them a chance to get away. It appears no one was prosecuted for this crime as the war ended several months later and attention turned to the soldiers coming back from Europe.

Soldiers from Georgia were in this ill fated army convoy. One from Norcross, one from Marietta, one from Atlanta and two army majors were from the Georgia selective service board. Another vehicle in the convoy carried reporters and photographers from the Atlanta Constitution. They reported extensively on this incident. The Georgia governor's personal secretary was in the last vehicle. --- Michael Hitt, World War 1 researcher, Roswell, GA. mdhitt2000@yahoo.com

Steels Bridge Incident Save the Date flyer showing the date of the memorial event.  June 16th, at 3:00pm at 810 Bridge Mill Ave. Canton, GA 30114.  "Please join us in remembering the lives of the three soldiers that were lost and the story of a tragic incident."


Georgia World War I Centennial Commission Donors

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Delta Logo

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Georgia Power

John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Foundation, Inc.

Numerous generous individuals


Georgia World War I Centennial Commission

Contact: georgia@worldwar1centennial.org

Commission Members

  • Mr. Scott Delius, Atlanta
  • Mr. Rick Elder, Sylvania
  • Mr. Samuel Friedman, Atlanta
  • Mr. Thomas Lacy, Peachtree City (vice-chair)
  • Dr. John Morrow, Athens
  • Dr. Billy Wells, Dahlonega (Chair)

Executive Director:

Dr. Thomas H. Jackson, Jr., University System of Georgia

Federal Commissioner for Georgia

Dr. Monique Seefried, Atlanta

Commission Associates

  • Dr. Lamar Veatch, University of North Georgia
  • Mr. Keith Antonia, University of North Georgia


Next Meeting:

Date to be determined

Future Meetings:

None schedule at this time.

"Pershing" Donors

$5 Million +

Founding Sponsor
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The Lilly Endowment