In the Midwest, Remembering Europe’s Fields of Red (Exhibit/WW I)

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KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 30 — There was never a network of trenches running through the vast fields here in Missouri, as there was in Flanders or along the 466 miles of the Western Front. Nothing in America’s heartland ever resembled the “morass full of shrieking and dying” that a German soldier witnessed after the battle of Verdun. And these plains have surely never been as saturated with blood as the muddy earth that provided a ready grave for Europe’s lost generation during World War I.

In fact, the Kansas City soldiers dead in that war numbered only in the hundreds. Even the scars left by the deaths of 100,000 American soldiers seem slight compared with the nearly 9 million dead of the other combatants.

But now Kansas City, so remote in space and time from that cataclysm, has become one of the few places where that war can begin to be understood, and the shadow that it still casts can be mapped out.

On Saturday a new 30,000-square-foot National World War One Museum is opening here, recounting the history of that “Great War” and the United States entrance into it in 1917, drawing on a major collection of 49,000 objects and wrapping around them a strongly conceived narrative of conflict, heroism, death, determination and waste.

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