The defense ministers of France and Belgium will attend the World War I centennial in Kansas City on April 6, but there was no word at a press briefing Tuesday about whether President Donald Trump would accept his invitation.
Officials of the United States World War One Centennial Commission announced details of the national observance, including that free tickets for the public will be limited to about 3,000 and can be reserved online beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.
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Heads of state from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Canada and Australia also have been invited to the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war against Germany in 1917. The event will be at the Liberty Memorial. The host will be the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
If Trump is not able to attend, organizers are hopeful that Vice President Mike Pence would come, said Monique Seefried, a member of the commission. Other state, local and federal elected officials also are expected, as are relatives of World War I military leaders George S. Patton and John J. Pershing.
Debra Anderson, quartermaster general of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and also a commission member, said the guest list remains fluid but ambassadors to the U.S. from Belgium, Italy, Ukraine, Slovenia, Latvia, Malawi and Guatemala are expected to attend.
The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on the south mall of the Liberty Memorial. The stage will be erected facing south so that the audience — and the media cameras — will have the tower of the Liberty Memorial as a backdrop. The ceremony will begin with a flyover of the Patrouille de France aviation demonstration team, which will sweep up and over the Liberty Memorial tower trailing red, white and blue smoke. The ceremony will be bookended by a flyover of the U.S. Air Force B-2 bomber.
The program will consist of a multimedia presentation about American life in 1917, live and recorded music and readings.
Members of the public will have to be in place by 9 a.m., when a preceremony is scheduled. All streets in the vicinity of the Liberty Memorial will be closed beginning at 5 a.m., so commuters will have to make other plans.
“Ticket holders are strongly encouraged to walk or use public transportation including RideKC bus service and the KC Streetcar,” according to an advisory. “All public ticket holders will be required to enter the event at Main Street and Pershing Road.”
Ticket reservations are limited to four tickets. Everyone, including children, will require a ticket to enter the event. Security screening will begin at 6 a.m.
Outside food or beverage is not allowed. Backpacks, bags and purses also are forbidden, as are animals other than service animals. No weapons of any kind will be allowed.
There will be no seats, but blankets and pads will be allowed.
The ceremony will be streamed live from a link on the event website.
The centennial commission chose to mark the observance in Kansas City because citizens here stood up soon after the war’s end and, in just 10 days, raised the money to build the Liberty Memorial. It is now a National Historic Landmark and has been designated by Congress as the national museum and memorial.
The European war began in 1914, but the United States did not enter the war until 1917 after Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare and continued to sink American merchant ships in the Atlantic Ocean. The war on the Western Front, and America’s participation, ended Nov. 11, 1918. The United States lost more than 116,000 people in the conflict.
The commemoration in Kansas City is the beginning of an 18-month observance of American involvement in World War I. More information can be found at ww1cc.org/events.