CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- As the World War I centennial approaches, a new book by a Croton-On-Hudson resident takes readers to some of the war's historic sites.
Mark Van Ells, a history professor at Queensborough Community College, is the author of "America and WW1: A Traveler's Guide." The book takes the reader to war-related sites on both sides of the Atlantic, including a few sites in the Northeast.
On June 28, 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and that sparked the war, which began on July 28, 1914. It eventually involved the United States, which entered the war in April, 1917.
In New York, 1,200 members of New York Guard's First Provisional Regiment patrolled the Hudson Valley, guarding against German sabotage. A memorial at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery honors the 40 men who died and is included in Van Ells' book.
Van Ells' book also travels up to West Point and the West Point Museum, which features the artillery gun that fired the first American shot in ground operations during World War I. This took place near the small French village of Bathelémont-lès-Bauzemont, in the Lorraine region of France near Metz, on Oct. 23, 1917.
Van Ells, who lost a family member in World War I thinks that in America, World War I has become overshadowed by World War II.
"People have forgotten about it," Van Ells said. "It had an unsatisfactory ending with a treaty that didn't satisfy anyone. There was no definitive victory. World War II had bad guys that were really bad and it was a complete and total victory."
Having previously written a travel book about his native Wisconsin, Van Ells decided to combine his academic and personal interests, getting to travel all over Europe.
In Scotland, he visited the Isle of Islay, where 500 Americans were killed in a shipwreck. He also visited American military cemeteries in Europe.
"They are very beautifully done," Van Ells said. "Very few people visit them. It's mostly Frenchmen, not many Americans."
Van Ells served in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Germany from 1982-1984.