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St. Mary’s University students in San Antonio are producing a variety of short videos on Texas during the Great War. As part of the university’s Public History program, Dr. Teresa Van Hoy’s students have created “microdocumentaries,” each 5-8 minutes in length on various subjects including Texas WWI training camps, San Antonio during WWI, and the persecution of German-Americans during the war period. One student film is narrated in French and documents the role of the 36th Infantry Division, an American division that fought in the Meuse Argonne offensive attached to the French Fifth Army. These videos have received official endorsement by the National Commission and bear the WWICC logo. For more information on Public History at St. Mary’s, please contact the History Department, 210 436-3704 or Dr. Van Hoy, Click through to read the full story and access the hyperlinks to these videos.




H. Clyde Balsley was among the American volunteers who joined the Lafayette Escadrille. Authorized by the French, the Escadrille Américaine (Escadrille N.124) was deployed as an operational flying squadron on April 20, 1916 in Luxeuil-les-Bains, France. On June 18, 1916 Balsley would have the distinction of being the first American flyer to be shot down in World War I.

After leaving his job working in his Mother’s bakery in San Antonio, Balsley travelled to France and originally served as a volunteer ambulance driver. He captured his initial enthusiasm about serving in his diary:

     “Many strange thoughts have been coming in my head all day. … How strange it was for me to be there. I, who a little more than a year ago never even dreamed of France. I was in a lecture room full of officers and soldiers participating in this war and I was one of them. That is the wonderful part of it, that I should be there as one of France’s soldiers.” (San Diego Air & Space Museum Blog, accessed 4/14/16)

Balsley’s initial training was typical of young pilots in the war. He received flight orientation and had flown practice missions behind the front. On June 18, ..


John "Mac" McCarthy, Vce President of Facilities & Infrastructure for Brooks City Base, speaks at the renovation ceremony March 29, 2016

Brooks City Base in San Antonio started construction on a $2.8 million rehabilitation and restoration project of the historic Hangar 9 building here on March 29, 2016. The building is the oldest wooden aircraft hangar of is kind still standing. Hangar 9 is a San Antonio Historic Landmark, listed in the Texas State Historical Survey, the National Register of Historic Places, and is a National Historic Landmark. 

Brooks Field, named for Sidney j. Brooks, Jr. – the first San Antonio native to die in a WWI aviation-related accident – was a WWI training airfield established in 1917. The base later became Brooks Air Force Base and was ultimately returned to the San Antonio community as Brooks City Base as part of the base closer and realignment program in 2012.

A ceremony marking the start of the renovation work was held outside the hangar. Dignitaries attending included officials from Brooks City Base, the City of San Antonio, The National Park Service, and the Texas Historical Commission. Work is scheduled to be completed by late 2016 or early 2017. Hangar 9 will serve as a venue for business and public gatherings.



Sgt Mac Letters

By William F. Haenn

December 1916 saw the very last submission of the “Post Return”, a monthly report of vital statistics submitted by every post, camp and station in the U.S. Army for over 110 years. Historians have been frustrated ever since to find any single source which duplicates the essential data found in the post returns. It takes considerable digging, patience, and an element of luck in order to pick-up the story of Fort Clark after 1916.

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson cited Germany’s violation of its pledge to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, as well as its attempts to entice Mexico into an alliance against the United States, as his reasons for declaring war. On April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate voted in support of the measure to declare war on Germany. The House concurred two days later. Before entering the war, the U.S. had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to Great Britain and other Allied powers. When the United States entered the World War it had been raging since August 1914.

The ..


Maj.Gen. Alfred Valenzuela, WWICC Commissioner, addresses South Texas planning meeting guests

The South Texas WWI Centennial Commemoration coordination meeting was held at the Army Medical Museum at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio on March 3, with over 25 people in attendance at both the morning and afternoon sessions. If you missed the meeting, you can find the presentation and other resources on the Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration shared documents site (Google Drive;

The program focused on identifying projects that are in development for Texas, highlighting resources available, and to brainstorming new ideas. The “grassroots” nature of the Centennial commemoration effort was an underlying theme. The WWI Centennial is unfunded and attendees were encouraged to “make it happen” in their communities and organizations by identifying partners and local sponsors for commemoration projects. Attendees also brainstormed ideas for new initiatives. Some of the most innovative ideas included a mobile trench systems (mounted on a commercial trailer) and a WWI food festival (leveraging both renditions of rations eaten in the war zones and “home front” foods of the era).  Large scale speculative projects were also identified, such as establishment of WWI monuments to the 36th andn90th Divisions in France and a proposal to organize a battalion of WWI doughboy reenactors (possibly ..


Artist and American Field Service ambulance driver Waldo Peirce sketching on the side of his ambulance during World War I. Courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

Before the United States entered the War, some Texans had already joined the fight in Europe as volunteers. The American Field Service has created a free downloadable curriculum, lesson plans, and a teacher toolkit focused on this period of the war available on the AFS website ( Educating young Texans is a key part our mission. If you know an educator, tell them about the World War I Centennial Commemoration effort and the resources available to them.

Army Medical Department Museum Hosts WWI Centennial Planning Meeting

WWIExhibits_lg (AMEDD)

The U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Museum at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio will host the first South Texas coordination meeting for the Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration on March 3, 2016. The Museum will host two identical meeting sessions (9am-11am and 1pm-3pm) in the Museum Auditorium. The meetings are open to organizations and individuals interested in helping commemorate the role of Texas and Texans in The Great War. For more information on attending, contact

In addition to hosting the meeting, the Museum features a significant exhibit of WWI military medical artifacts, photographs and documents. This includes to early military ambulances dating to the War. See more about the AMEDD Museum at



USS TEXAS in World War I: Sailing with the British Grand Fleet

USS Texas off Hampton Roads, Va. Dec. 12, 1916 (GPO photo))

After the United States entered WWI, TEXAS set sail to join the British Grand Fleet, but was delayed when she ran aground off Block Island, Rhode Island. After a period of repairs, TEXAS finally set sail to join the British in their patrol of the North Atlantic on January 30, 1918. TEXAS spent almost ten months with the Grand Fleet escorting

British ships on mine laying missions, conducting gunnery drills and participating in fleet maneuvers in the North Sea. The various patrols and activities of TEXAS and the Grand Fleet were primarily meant to counter and deter movements of the German High Seas Fleet. Although TEXAS and the Grand Fleet fired at what they thought were submarines, the patrol duty was mostly uneventful.

In between missions, TEXAS’s crew indulged in friendly competition between ships. TEXAS won the inter-fleet Baseball Championship, and showed well in a Smoker (boxing tournament) hosted aboard.

Although TEXAS and the British Grand Fleet kept their skills honed while waiting to engage the German High Seas Fleet, a confrontation never happened. November 11, 1918 saw Armistice in Europe. TEXAS was on hand to rendezvous with the German Fleet when they surrendered on November 21, 1918, and TEXAS helped escort the ..


Weight of Sacrifice

WASHINGTON, January 26, 2016.  The World War I Centennial Commission selected a winner for the WWI Memorial Design Competition today in Washington, D.C.. “The Weight of Sacrifice” design and concept was chosen from several finalists. 

According to Commissioner Dr. Libby O’Connell, “World War I had a lasting impact on our world, but so many people have forgotten its lessons and the service of millions of American men and women. Yesterday, the World War One Centennial Commission announced the winner of the national memorial design competition.  As a WW1CC Commissioner, I am thrilled that we will be partnering with Joseph Weishaar to build a national memorial that will honor the service provided by almost five million Americans in the Great War.   There are many ways you can help in your community and across your state, so please click here to learn more about the National World War One Memorial in Pershing Park, as well as commemorative activities in communities across the country.  Together, we can make sure these extraordinary young Americans get the recognition they deserve.  CLICK HERE”



In early 1916 America moved closer to war. Texas had a man in the White House. No, not President Woodrow Wilson, but his personal advisor, Colonel Edward M. House.

He was “President Wilson’s closest advisor during the war,” according to Ralph A. Wooster in Texas and Texans in the Great War. House arrived in England on January 5, 1916 on one of three trips to Europe prior to America’s entry into the war. As Wilson’s representative he consulted with European leaders – on both sides.  Departing in late February, 1916 House ultimately concluded that war between the U.S. and Germany was unavoidable. He advised Wilson to request a declaration of war from Congress after the German submarine campaign led to a break in relations, but it would be another year before Wilson acted on this advice.

Before serving Wilson, House was a successful businessman who became a confidant and advisor to Texas politicians. Named an honorary Lieutenant Colonel by Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg in 1892, the press began to refer to him as Colonel House. House was valued as a skillful organizer and motivator and managed the campaigns of three Texas Governors, as well as a Senate campaign.

House met Wilson in ..