On July 18 at 5:30 p.m., Patrick K. O’Donnell will deliver the 2018 Hazel and Fulton Chauncey Lecture entitled “The Unknowns: The Untold Story of America’s Unknown Soldier and WWI’s Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home.”
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is sacred ground at Arlington National Cemetery. Originally constructed in 1921 to hold one of the thousands of unidentified American soldiers lost in World War I, it now also contains unknowns from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and it receives millions of visitors each year who pay silent tribute. When the first Unknown Soldier was laid to rest in Arlington, Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in WWI, selected eight of America’s most decorated, battle-hardened veterans to serve as Body Bearers. For the first time, author Patrick O’Donnell reveals their heroics on the battlefield one hundred years ago, thereby animating the Tomb by giving voice to all who have served. Their stories slip easily into the larger narrative of America’s involvement in the conflict, transporting readers into the midst of dramatic battles during 1917–1918 that ultimately decided the Great War. The Unknowns is a timeless tale of heeding the calls of duty and brotherhood and humanizes the most consequential event of the twentieth century, which still casts a shadow a century later.
Patrick K. O’Donnell is a bestselling, award-winning military historian and an expert on elite units. He is the author of eleven books, including Washington’s Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution; Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc—the Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day’s Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe; Beyond Valor: World War II’s Ranger and Airborne Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat; and The Unknowns: The Untold Story of America's Unknown Soldier and WWI's Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home. He served as a combat historian in a marine rifle platoon during the battle of Fallujah and has provided historical consulting for DreamWorks’ award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers and for documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, Fox News, and Discovery.
Critical praise of The Unknowns:
“Brilliant in conception and style, The Unknowns presents the awe-inspiring and profoundly moving story of The Great War from the viewpoint of the men who fought, sacrificed, and bled to win it. The outpouring of books marking the 100th anniversary of WWI is well underway; The Unknowns is the first of them that is a ‘must read’ . . . an incredible story related by a master storyteller!” – James Lacey, author of Pershing and the forthcoming The Washington War and professor of military science at the Marine Corps University
“This unknown story of extraordinary sacrifice and heroism is a powerful and timely tribute to the Americans who fought a century ago in the First World War. Superb history brilliantly told.” – Alex Kershaw, author of The Longest Winter
A light reception and book signing will take place at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture following the lecture.