Aside from the signature Legislative Building rotunda, one of the most recognizable structures on Capitol Campus is the Winged Victory Monument, which honors the 1,642 Washingtonians who died in World War I.
The bronze monument depicts a sailor, Marine, soldier and Red Cross nurse who are all backed by Nike of Samothrace, the Greek goddess of victory. At a ceremony Tuesday, local veterans placed a wreath at the monument’s granite base, nearly 100 years to the day after the U.S. entered World War I — among the deadliest wars in history.
About 4.7 million U.S. soldiers — including about 65,000 soldiers from Washington — served in the war, also known as the Great War. The war changed the state’s economy and workforce because of the demand for raw materials, such as lumber and agricultural products.
The war led to the founding of what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in 1917. More than 60,000 soldiers came through the base during the war, said State Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, who spoke of the war’s impact in Washington at a program Tuesday in the Legislative Building. The event was organized by the Washington State Historical Society, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, Military Order of the World Wars and the Office of Secretary of State.
“The modern version of America was born in World War I,” said Conway, noting how the war prompted the government to take responsibility for injured soldiers through programs such as disability insurance.
Tuesday’s program also featured speaker and historian Lorraine McConaghy, who described a Washington that was transformed by radical organized labor and the mobilization of factories, lumber mills, forests and farms.
About one in four Washington residents were foreign-born when the war broke out, and there was already a strong isolationist sentiment in both the state and country. McConaghy also noted a pervasive fear of immigrants, who were arriving in droves during these years.
Women were involved in every aspect of the war, she said, from filling critical roles such as military nurses to staffing ammunition factories. Government propaganda campaigns urged women to cook without meat or wheat to conserve food supplies.
McConaghy said World War I also was pivotal in the way people viewed war, causing people to question why we fight and what we need to defend.
“World War I allowed us to address these things,” she said, noting that “at one time, it was just called the World War, not World War I.”
Alfie Alvarado, the first female director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, urged attendees to remember the legacy of World War I veterans — especially through the Winged Victory Monument on the Capitol Campus.
“It is more than a gathering place,” she said. “It teaches future generations that freedom is not free.”
Tuesday’s presentations included students from Lopez Island Middle School, who are collaborating on The Monuments Project with the American School of Paris to research U.S. soldiers who died and were buried in France during World War I.