“The Yanks are Coming!” Tennesseans in World War I
Exhibition opens at State Museum on the 100th Anniversary of America’s entry into WWI
Nashville — March 30, 2017 — To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of America’s entry into World War I on April 6, 1917, the Tennessee State Museum has organized an exhibition entitled “The Yanks are Coming!” Tennesseans in World War I. The exhibition opens at the museum on April 6 and explores Tennessee’s role in the war that came to be known as the “Great War.”
The first mass war of the 20th century, World War I lasted four long years, from 1914 to 1918, with the United States entering the conflict on April 6, 1917. Tennessee supplied more than 61,000 men to the Selective Service and 19,000 volunteers. Six Tennesseans would receive the Medal of Honor for their service.
President Wilson delivered his War Message to a special session of Congress on April 2, 1917, declaring that Germany’s latest hostile action had rendered his “armed neutrality” policy untenable. He asked Congress to declare Germany’s stance an act of war. He proposed the United States enter the war to make the world safe for democracy. “We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make.”
The declaration of war by the United States against Germany passed Congress on April 4, 1917. It was signed by Wilson on April 6, 1917. The U.S. did not enter into a formal alliance with Britain or France but operated as an “associated” power — an informal ally.
Most Tennesseans served in the U.S. Army’s 30th and 82nd Divisions, but others were in the Marine Corps, the Army Air Corps, and the Navy. The 30th Infantry “Old Hickory” Division of the Army, named after Tennessee native President Andrew Jackson, was comprised of troops from Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
On view in the exhibit will be selected artifacts from the State Museum’s World War I collection — posters, photographs, and other historical objects.
The exhibit shares stories of soldiers such as Zephaniah Porter Broom of Inskip in Knox County, who exemplified the state’s volunteer spirit. He served with the 3rd Tennessee Infantry National Guard from 1910 until 1915. He enlisted as a private with the Canadian Army’s 70th Battalion in October 1915. While in the field the following June, he joined the ranks of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. In France, he was wounded by a machine gun bullet near the Somme in September 1916, and was returned to Canada. On October 1, 1917, he joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to Company C, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division and trained at Camp Sevier, South Carolina. The 117th fought near Ypres, Belgium in 1918 and in several engagements on the Hindenburg Line. Broom was honorably discharged in April 1919. He died in 1979 at the age of 89 and is buried near Knoxville.
This exhibit will have an online component which highlights every county in Tennessee. The online exhibit can be found at: www.tnmuseum.org/WWIonline.
The exhibit is free to the public and will be located near the Visitors Desk on D Level of the main State Museum.