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California in WW1


The California WW1 Centennial Task Force welcomes you to our website and invites you to explore the many resources it offers as you commemorate with us the centennial of World War One.

Californians in training at Camp Kearny, San Diego County, California, later to be the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. 


Mission Statement of the California WW1 Centennial Task Force:

The mission of the California World War One Centennial Task Force is to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of America's involvement in the Great War, and especially the sacrifice of Californians in it, and to educate people about the role California played in the war, and how it changed California.

Over the course of the centennial years the Task Force will plan, develop, and execute programs, projects and activities to commemorate the centennial of World War One (WW1.) The Task Force's mission is to raise awareness and give meaning to the events of one hundred years ago using educational experiences and programming for all ages. The Task Force will use the centennial to educate Californians about the war, and to honor the heroism and sacrifice of those who served.


Did you know that Californian’s Walt Disney, film funnyman Buster Keaton, novelist Charles Nordhoff, and General George S. Patton, Jr. all served during WW1?

 When the war began in Europe in 1914, America remained isolationist even after German submarines killed American passengers on ocean liners, and anti-German sentiment grew. Thus, the urge to go to war came late in California like it did for many in the western portions of the United States, but still, there were those who took up the call to arms even before the U.S. declaration of War.


Charles Nordhoff, a former Stanford University student, and executive for his father's tile and brick company in Redlands, California, joined the Ambulance Corps as a volunteer, and went to France. There he joined other Americans as a pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille earning for himself the revered Croix de Guerre. After the war, he co-authored numerous literary successes that included Pitcairn’s Island and Mutiny on the Bounty.


After the war, a 40th Division veteran of World War I, won the hearts of movie patrons as the film industry struggled in its adolescent silent film era. Frank Joseph "Buster" Keaton, was celebrated as one of the funniest comedians from the period, and is still recognized by audiences today.

Visit to learn more on Walt Disney in WW1

Getting to France was not an easy step for some. Though Walt Disney attempted to enlist for military service in 1918, he was turned away being only sixteen years old at the time. Instead, Walt joined the Red Cross where he was sent to France, to serve a year driving an ambulance, not festooned with camouflage, but decorated with his early characters.

As a member of the 77th Division, Californian, Captain Nelson M. Holderman fought in one of the war’s most famous battles involving Americans, that of the “Lost Battalion.” For his bravery, Captain Holderman received the Medal of Honor when the unfortunate battalion lost contact with HQ, and was surrounded after a lack of support to either side of it. The fantastic story of the unit’s near destruction when Major Charles Whittlesey stuck to his orders, refusing for nearly a week to surrender to overwhelming German forces, was the kind of heroism Americans loved.


Still, one of America’s most respected officers of World War Two was to cut his teeth on the fields of France commanding his first tank brigade in World War One. From a wealthy California family George S. Patton, Jr., began to hone his skills at mechanical warfare in armored cans that were little more than steel plated farm tractors mounted with small caliber canon or a machine gun. Yet, in his flamboyant style he was wounded atop one while riding in the open into battle to fire his brigade’s zeal.              ~Bill Betten