WWI Memorial Statue, Salem, Oregon. WHC Collections, X2012.016.0587.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI. To commemorate this event, volunteer Richard van Pelt has agreed to act as our WWI Correspondent. He has spent the last year delving into archives and newspaper reports to help us understand what life was like for those living in Marion County during the outbreak of a World War. Beginning June 29th, you will be able to follow daily accounts of the war and life back here on the homefront.


By Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

World War I, or The Great War, can be described in two metaphors. It began as does an earthquake, perhaps with a minor temblor that works its way to a sustained series of shocks. That metaphor describes Europe during June, July, August, and September of 1914. The minor temblors began with the assassinations of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. The temblors grew in intensity, culminating in the outbreak of war in August. Shock after shock occurred as Germany invaded France and threatened her defeat, while in the east Russia invaded Germany.

By the end of September no belligerent had achieved the objectives they had set out to achieve in August, and for the next four years the war settled into the body of Europe like a disease such as malaria. The war sapped the strength of every country, periodically breaking out into fevers of destruction.

At home, here in Marion County, a significant segment of the population were either immigrants, or the children of immigrants from one of the belligerent powers. The purpose of this project is to show how that war affected people here, in terms of family, economy, and eventual participation once the United States entered the war.

I am not a World War I specialist, but I hope to show people today how the war was viewed as it occurred. This is not a place to describe the details of battles, strategies, or the politics of the period, though I do attempt to provide background that would have been understood at the time, and to provide, back story where appropriate. I will try to provide links to sources and links for those interested who may want to research further.

I am interested in suggestions and comments, as well as diaries, letters, sermons, or articles from the period readers may wish to share. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions you may reach me.