On April 17 in Washington DC, the new National World War 1 Memorial was opened. Across the country there are a few memorials to what was called “The Great War” when there was only one, and “The War to End All Wars” by optimists of the day. In Europe, the land on which the war was fought, has many WWI memorials. Certainly in our capitol city with so many monuments, there has been a glaring void honoring those who served a century ago.
Here in Santa Barbara, we have two faded murals in the Veterans’ Memorial Building and a small grouping of olive trees with a bronze plaque installed in 1919 on a boulder near the Old Mission pottery. In Summerland is the cut stone monument base for the flagpole dedicated in 1918. There may be others, but two that are often missed are medallions mounted on the Franceschi House in Franceschi Park.
Installed during the complete house makeover in 1926 by Alden Freeman, the first 16 inch diameter plaque acknowledges “The Great Generals of the Allied Armies in the World War,” including busts of John Pershing (USA), Philippe Pétain (France), Douglas Haig (Great Britain), Armando Diaz (Italy), King Albert I (Belgium), and Ferdinand Foch (France). The second plaque is to The Allies: France, British Empire, Panama, Italy, Belgium, Serbia, Cuba, Haiti, Portugal, Montenegro, Guatamala (sic), Greece, Szecho-Slovakia, Honduras, Russia, Roumania (sic), Nicaragua, Japan, China, Siam, Liberia, Brazil, and the United States of America. The medallion features a bust of Woodrow Wilson and this quote attributed to him: “The object upon which all free men have set their hearts has been obtained.”
The war ended in November 1918 and the official Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 without the United States. The elections of 1918 had flipped the US Senate into Republican control and the 2/3 majority needed to ratify the treaty could not be reached.