World War I, fought from 1914-1918, was the modern world’s first international conflict. Approximately 11 million soldiers were killed, and the war's toll including civilian casualties exceeded 20 million. The United States, by declaration of President Woodrow Wilson, formally entered the war Apr. 6, 1917. By Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, more than 116,000 Americans died as a result of the war. Of these, more than 1,600 were Knights of Columbus. Both the first and last American military officers to die during the war were K of C members.
In addition to Knights who served on the battlefield as soldiers, the Order was active in war relief efforts, managing highly successful fundraising drives and providing hospitality to servicemen in America and abroad through Knights of Columbus recreation centers known as “huts.”
The impact of World War I was felt for generations. Methods of warfare were forever altered. The map of Europe was completely redrawn at the conclusion of the war, and decisions that followed may be attributed to the start of World War II in 1939. No one was unaffected during this time period.
The Knights of Columbus Museum commemorates the 100th anniversary of the United States’ participation in the war with an exhibition, World War I: Beyond the Front Lines (Apr. 6, 2017 – Dec. 30, 2018). The exhibition provides an historical retrospective of the war and includes interactives, images and artifacts from the Knights of Columbus Museum collection, Supreme Council archives and borrowed materials from private lenders and organizations. A series of WWI-related lectures and presentations will be offered throughout the course of the exhibition.