On Saturday and Sunday, the Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will host its third annual Great War Weekend, this year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the “War to End All Wars.”
The free event will feature speakers, a walking tour of Soldiers’ National Cemetery featuring the graves of soldiers who died in World War I and living history actors portraying both allied and central power characters.
“They are available to talk to the public about the history of the unit they are portraying,” said Ahna Wilson, site manager for the Eisenhower National Historic Site. “We have American Army, we have Marines, we also have Navy and some civilians. We do not do any kind of battles, but they will be participating in a wreath laying ceremony.”
There will also be special “join the army” programs for children throughout both days and an activity book, Wilson said.
“They will receive a WWI dog tag as the prize for completing the activity book,” she said.
The event will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of Camp Colt, the tank training camp at Gettysburg National Military Park, which was under the command of the then-Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Wilson. The Eisenhower National Historic Site borders the Gettysburg battlefield at its southwest corner.
“It was his first command after leaving West Point and it lasted until just after the Armistice,” she said.
Paul Shevchuk, a retired park ranger, will be discussing Eisenhower’s time at Camp Colt, while other speakers will include historian Ed Lengel discussing the role of U.S. forces in the WWI western front and Michael Neiberg, assistant professor of history at the United States Army War College, who will be discussing the road to U.S. involvement in WWI — the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 4, 1917.
While the event itself is free, Wilson said the recent rains have made parking on site impossible, so visitors should plan on taking shuttles from the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, at 1195 Baltimore Pike.
“We had planned on providing onsite parking. It would have been field parking, but unfortunately due to the historic rains we’ve been having, all of our fields are completely saturated,” Wilson said. “Everybody would be stuck.”
Shuttle tickets are $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 6. They can be purchased by calling 877-874-2478 or visiting www.nps.gov/eise/planyourvisit/fees.htm.
Being in the center of Civil War history, and with WWII looming large in the national memory, Wilson said WWI is often neglected, but that it is worthwhile to spend time remember why it was dubbed the Great War.
“WWI is a little overlooked. It is a very complex war and it was a very complex reason we got into the war,” she said. “It’s important to our history to remember what the causes were and the consequences. Not just with what happened in the military, but what happened at home, the impacts on the people who were left behind.”