National World War I Museum observes centennial

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

The United States is observing its centennial of the country being involved in World War I. And that has boosted attendance at The National Museum and Memorial just south of Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

That was the message that Jonathan Casey delivered to about 35 persons who attended the quarterly meeting of the Wyandotte County Historical Society Sunday afternoon, Nov. 19, at the George Meyn Community Center in Wyandotte County Park, Bonner Springs. Casey is director of archives and the Edward Jones Research Center at the National Museum.

The museum tells the whole story of the war that covered a period from 1914 until 2019. The United State got involved in 1917. Fighting stopped on Nov. 11, 1918. That date used to be called “Armistice Day.” The holiday is now called “Veterans’ Day.”

The peace treaty was signed in 1919. About 9 million persons died.

Casey said ground was broken for the museum site in 1921; a crowd estimated at 100,000 showed up. Calvin Coolidge, who was vice president, was among the dignitaries who attended. Also present were five Allied military commanders; they were Lieutenant General Baron Jaques of Belgium, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Admiral Earl Beatty of Great Britain, Marshall Ferdinand Foch of France and General John J. Pershing of United States. This was the only time that these five were together.

The museum was dedicated in 1926. Calvin Coolidge, who was president then, attended with another large crowd. Harry Truman, who was an artillery officer during the war, was also there.

Casey said that the archives at the museum has many artifacts and records including letters written to and from soldiers. Among the correspondence is that to and from Warren Shaw of Bonner Springs who was a member of an army band unit. He played the violin and clarinet. He was killed in October of 1918 and was buried in France.

The most visible part of the museum is the 217-foot tower. Visitors are allowed to travel to the top of this structure and enjoy an excellent view of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan.

The museum has a staff of about 40 fulltime and part-time workers. About 200 volunteers help out.

According to its 2016 tax form filed with the IRS, the museum had total revenue of $9,973,623; its total expenses were $5,596,712. It attendance for 2016 was 309,288.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, telephone 816-888-8100 or see the web site

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte west and The Piper Press.

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