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Dennis Skupinski.

Next year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. Dennis Skupinski, a marketer by trade, has been busy organizing a grassroots effort to observe the United States' participation in the war and the Michigan connection. His development of a YouTube channel on this subject has helped bring attention to this sometimes-forgotten conflict.

MH: What sparked your interest in the history of World War I?

DS: Years ago, I became involved with a Civil War group based at Greenfield Village. I realized from that experience that there were a lot of people who knew about the Civil War, but not about the world war that erupted 50 years later. Nobody seemed interested in World War I, and I wanted to know why. I began doing research into that conflict and gathering a personal collection of related artifacts.

MH: What prompted you to take a lead role in organizing Michigan's centennial commemoration of the war?

DS: In 2012,1 started looking for an opportunity to volunteer in Michigan's World War I centennial efforts and soon discovered that no state commission had yet been set up. While waiting for that to happen, I began some projects of my own. I started a centennial Facebook page and then created a monthly video program on YouTube. Each video focuses on one aspect of World War I and how Michigan was involved with it.

MH: What were some highlights of the state's contributions to the Great War?

DS: World War I was a dress rehearsal for the later conflict. Fisher

Body's Aeroplane Division made medium and heavy bombers in Detroit, while a consortium of Grand Rapids furniture manufacturing companies produced the British Handley Page heavy bomber. Women were involved in the production of those aircraft--you might call them "Rosie the Riveters' moms." Of course, the automakers were involved in producing trucks, staff cars, and other vehicles. One of the most interesting items produced for the war effort was prefabricated homes made by the Aladdin Company in Bay City and shipped to Birmingham, England, to house war plant workers. The village that was created from those buildings still exists and will be celebrating its centennial in 2017.

MH: What other kinds of topics have you covered on your YouTube channel?

DS: Animals in the war, recruitment posters, sheet music, training camps, cooking and gardening on the homefront, and the peace movement are just a few. There are more than 45 videos already produced. The total will be about 90 when the last one is completed in November 2019.

MH: What other plans are being made to commemorate the centennial?

DS: I know that Camp Custer plans to reshoot a photo taken 100 years ago that gathered 10,000 people in the pattern of a patriotic shield. Detroit's 2019 Veterans Day parade will be dedicated to the war, and museums in Eastpointe, Frankenmuth, and Grass Lake are organizing World War I displays. But a lot more should be happening to honor the Michigan men and women who sacrificed so much during the conflict.

MH: Be sure to keep an eye out for articles relating to World War I in upcoming issues of Michigan History magazine as we approach the war's centennial.

Check out Skupinski's YouTube channel at xmoable1.



Caption: Below: In 1918,10,000 officers and men gathered at Camp Custer during World War I to create the famous image known as "The Human U.S. Shield."

Caption: Aviators train during World War I at Selfridge Field, a U.S. Air Service training camp near Mount Clemens. (Black & white photos courtesy of Library of Congress.)
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Publication:Michigan History Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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