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Thursday* marked the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War One. The historical event was commemorated Saturday* by both a wreath-laying ceremony at the North Carolina state capitol and the opening of a new World War One exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History.

“Today, we honor all North Carolinians who fought and gave their all during this conflict,” said Dr. Kevin Cherry, deputy secretary for the North Carolina department of natural and cultural resources. “President Woodrow Wilson called this conflict the war to end all wars. If this had only been so.”

The ceremonial wreath was laid by Major General Gregory Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard, and Roy Cooper, the Governor of North Carolina.

“The great war was indeed a tremendous moment in our nation’s history,” Lusk said. “It was indeed a costly and a brutal affair.”

Lusk said that prior to the United States’ entry into the war, the American army was 133,000 strong. By the end of the war, the army grew to about 4 million men.

“480,000 of [the soldiers] came from the great state of North Carolina,” Lusk said. “Nearly 80,000 of them actually served on the Western Front.”

The Western Front of World War One took place in Belgium, France and Germany. Combined American, French, British and Belgian forces fought the German army in trench warfare. The so-called “Great War” stretched from July 1914 until November 1918 and resulted in over 17 million total deaths.

Some historians attribute the deadliness of World War One to the new military technologies showcased throughout the war. For instance, the Great War was the first large conflict to see widespread use of the machine gun. Contemporary inventions such as tanks and airplanes also made their debut in the war, forever changing warfare.

“North Carolinians rose to the challenge in so many ways,” Lusk said. “Whether it be from the establishment of victory gardens that children and farmers and other people in North Carolina [kept] to raise money to buy war bonds, or there was the commencement of a lot of industrial revolution that occurred right here in North Carolina for building armaments and artillery shells and parts of ships and other things that were needed to support the effort. These were some of the first significant events and impacts in North Carolina that continue on to this very day.”

The largest grouping of North Carolinian troops in World War One was in the 30th infantry division. Nicknamed “Old Hickory” after North Carolina native, former President Andrew Jackson, the 30th infantry was responsible for attacking and breaking through the Hindenburg Line, a German defensive zone near the border of France and Belgium. This offensive helped to bring an end to the war.

“[The 30th infantry’s] lineage and honor continues to exist right here today in the North Carolina Army National Guard,” Lusk said.

Before laying the ceremonial wreath in front of the state capitol, Cooper highlighted the sacrifices that the United States army made in the name of freedom.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States stepped up, reluctantly, but assuredly, to make sure that freedom was protected across the globe,” Cooper said. “North Carolina sent soldiers into battle on the Western Front. The horrors of World War One were almost unspeakable. What we have to remember is the sacrifice that these men and women who were there and those who were here, the sacrifice that they have given for our freedom.”

After the wreath laying ceremony at the state capitol, a ribbon was cut in front of the new exhibit. The World War One exhibit is the largest of its kind in any state history museum. It features a life-size trench that visitors can walk through, evoking the type of warfare that took place on the Western Front.

Several artifacts from the war were on display in the exhibit, including the uniform of North Carolina native Kiffin Rockwell, who was the first American to shoot down a German plane.

“I want to thank all of the veterans who are here today and those who have served our country honorably,” Cooper said. “I’m able to stand here today and say whatever I want because of you. I’m able to run for any office because of you. I’m able to demonstrate. I’m able to have the freedom to travel. I have my freedom because of you.”

The last living American veteran of World War One, Frank Buckles, died in 2011.

“These men and women who fought and died in World War One and were part of that noble effort and participation by the United States are not physically with us now,” Cooper said. “They are here in spirit, and we are grateful for their courage and sacrifice, and we should reflect that gratitude onto the veterans, the active military, those in the national guard and their families who give so much to keep us safe.”

The World War One museum exhibit concluded with a poem by John McCrae, a Canadian physician during the war. The poem, “In Flanders Fields”, references the poppies that grew over the graves of soldiers in northern Belgium:

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row,/ That mark our place; and in the sky/ The larks, still bravely singing, fly/ Scarce heard amid the guns below...”

“Today, we honor all North Carolinians who fought and gave their all during this conflict,” said Dr. Kevin Cherry, deputy secretary for the North Carolina department of natural and cultural resources. “President Woodrow Wilson called this conflict the war to end all wars. If this had only been so.”

* Editor's note: this story initially misstated the anniversary of the United States' entry into World War One.