Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spotlight on Our Collections: WWI Artillery Shell

Welcome to the first installment of our new series, Spotlight on Our Collections! The first object we will be sharing is the casing of the first artillery shell fired by American troops in World War I. Before we discuss the casing and its history, let's trace the United States' entrance into the war.

By early 1917 in the U.S, internal pressure to enter the war in Europe had increased drastically, especially after Germany's desperate resumption of its unrestricted submarine warfare in January combined with the March revelation of the Zimmerman Telegram, sent by Germany to Mexico. In the telegram, Germany promised Mexico the return of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico in exchange for an alliance with Germany.

The artillery shell casing
As such, war was imminent for the United States. On April 6, 1917, the United States officially declared war on Germany and its allies. The country mobilized after this declaration, but American troops did not go overseas to a war ravaged France until the fall of 1917.

It was not until October 23, 1917 that the first artillery shell was fired by gunnery Corporal Robert Braley of Batter C, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, First Division. The shot was fired by American ground troops into a German trench a half mile away. The brass casing of the shell was given to President Wilson as a souvenir by the First Division American Expeditionary Forces in France.

The shell casing now sits on the fireplace mantel in Wilson’s bedroom at the Woodrow Wilson House. We hope you enjoyed the first installment of a Spotlight On Our Collections; please share with us what you think in the comments below!

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