TTU to host regional Western Front Association Conference here April 27, 28

Tennessee Tech University’s Derryberry Hall Auditorium is the place to be on Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28, for anyone interested in learning more about technology and World War I.

That’s because the university is hosting this year’s conference of the Tennessee-Kentucky Western Front Association, a local chapter of an international organization devoted to educating the public about various aspects of that war.

The cost of the event, which is open to the public, is $70 and includes an information packet about the conference’s presentations, lunch on Saturday and a banquet on Saturday night.

Registration is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the day the conference begins, but pre-registration is preferred, said Michael Birdwell, a history professor at TTU who is currently serving as president of the Tennessee-Kentucky WFA.

“Schools in the Upper Cumberland area are encouraged to consider the conference an opportunity for their history teachers to gain important professional development,” he said. “In fact, any teacher who wishes to participate can get $40 of the registration fee waived by the Cumberland Plateau Consortium Teaching American History grant.”

Students are also welcome to attend the sessions. “I plan on getting the students in my World War I course involved with the conference,” Birdwell said.

It kicks off at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 27, with opening remarks and a welcome from Jeff Roberts, chairperson of TTU’s history department.

Topics of that afternoon’s sessions will include “Battlefield Tourism,” presented by England’s Michael Kelly of Bartlett’s Battlefield Journeys; “Cinema and the War: How Hollywood Came to Dominate the World,” presented by Birdwell; and “Cookeville History Museum’s Special Exhibit on the 13th Aero Squadron,” with remarks by Sam Barnes.

Saturday’s sessions kick off with a presentation by Birdwell, Kelly and Middle Tennessee State University’s Tom Nolan titled “In Search of Sergeant York: Digging in the Argonne.”

TTU chemistry professor Tom Furtsch will continue with a session titled “Fritz Haber and the German War Machine.”

“This conference normally doesn’t lend itself to presentations by chemists, but Dr. Furtsch will be able to tie together the history and the science behind the story of Haber, who created virtually all of the deadly gases that were used in battle during World War I,” Birdwell said.

Several family members of Sgt. Alvin C. York are expected as special guests during lunch on Saturday.

That afternoon, TTU history professor George Webb will present a session titled “Announcing the War to American Scientists: Reports from Scientific American, 1914.”

Wrapping up the conference will be an exhibit of and discussion about a collection of World War I artifacts, followed by a banquet that evening at Nick’s Restaurant.

Support for a number of the sessions to be presented come from the Cookeville History Museum and Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation.

For more information or to register for the conference, call or e-mail Birdwell at 931/372-3356 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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