American Leadership and Generalship During the Great War

As part of Virginia’s commemoration of the World Wars, this symposium marks the 100th Anniversary of America’s participation in World War I.

Join us in the historic setting of Virginia Military Institute in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley as we hear from national and regional experts.  Together, we will explore the political and military leadership of the war, examine the experiences of the ‘Doughboys,’ and share the crucial role that Virginians played in the Great War, highlighting the contributions of VMI graduates, the Virginia National Guard, and other Virginia institutions to the war effort.

April 27 – 28, 2018

General John J. Pershing, President Woodrow Wilson, Brigadier General Hunter Liggett, and Pershing’s aide-de-camp Colonel George C. Marshall

Pictured above (left to right): General John J. Pershing, President Woodrow Wilson,
Brigadier General Hunter Liggett, and Pershing’s aide-de-camp Colonel George C. Marshall 


We greatly appreciate the generosity of Gerald P. Kaminsky and Martin I. Kaminsky in support of our symposium. Additional funding has been provided by the VMI Dean’s Academic Speakers program.


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Speakers and Panelists

Nationally-recognized American WWI scholars will focus on leadership at varying levels of war. Panelists will examine presidential wartime command, assess generalship at the operational level, and highlight examples of Doughboy citizen-soldier tactical leadership.  Scholars will also highlight how Virginia Military Institute, its graduates, the Virginia National Guard, and civilian society contributed to victory.

Alexander Barnes was born in Niagara Falls, New York, and grew up in an Air Force family. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1974 and then joined the Army National Guard in 1977, retiring as a Virginia Army National Guard chief warrant officer in 2004. He retired from US Army at Fort Lee in July 2015 after 30 years of service as an Army Civilian.

Al is a Desert Storm Veteran and has a master’s degree in Anthropology. He authored In a Strange Land: The American Occupation of Germany 1918-1923, Let’s Go! The History of 29th Infantry Division, and To Hell with the Kaiser: America Prepares for War, a two-volume set describing America’s entry into WWI.  His sixth book, Forgotten Soldiers of The Great War: America’s Immigrant Doughboys is scheduled for summer 2018 release.

Al is currently serving as the Command Historian for the Virginia National Guard and is a member of American Legion Post 284.

Acting Secretary, American Battle Monuments Commission

Virginia Military Institute Historian
Executive Director, VMI Museum System

Col. David R. Gray, Ph.D. US Army (Ret.)
Director, VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics

Kelly C. Jordan is an academic, scholar, education administrator, and retired US Army officer.

Kelly received his B.A. in History from the Virginia Military Institute, graduating with academic distinction and as a Distinguished Military Graduate, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Military History from The Ohio State University.

Kelly is an award-winning professor who has served on the faculties of the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Army Command and General Staff College, the United States Naval War College, the American Military University, the University of Notre Dame, and Holy Cross College.  He has held the academic ranks of instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor.

As a scholar, he is the author of numerous military history and leadership publications, and he has a manuscript regarding the connection between leadership and citizenship at the beginning of the 20th century currently under consideration for publication by an academic press.

Kelly’s administrative experience in education includes service as an academic division executive officer, academic department head, assistant college dean, dean of boys at the secondary level, dean of students at the collegiate level, and as a vice president in higher education.  He has focused on training, educating, and developing others in each of these roles.

Kelly is currently teaching those who are serving online with American Military University and continuing his scholarly work in the areas of History, Leadership Studies, and Military Studies, with a focus on the training, education, and development of leaders of character.

Jennifer D. Keene is a professor of history and chair of the History Department at Chapman University. She is also the current President of the Society of Military History.

Keene has published three books and numerous articles on the American involvement in the First World War including Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America (2001), World War I: The American Soldier Experience (2011), and The United States and the First World War (2000).  In addition, she is the lead author of an American history textbook, Visions of America: A History of the United States that uses a visual approach to teaching students U.S. history.

Keene has received numerous awards for her scholarship, including Fulbright Senior Scholar Awards to France and Australia and Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship in International Studies.  She has served as a historical consultant for exhibits and films and was recently featured in the PBS documentary mini-series, The Great War.  She is also a general editor for the “1914-1918-online,” peer-reviewed online encyclopedia,, a major digital humanities project.

Edward G. Lengel is Chief Historian of the White House Historical Association. He received his B.A. in history from George Mason University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 1998.

For many years he was Professor and Director of the Washington Papers project. Lengel has written several award-winning books, including First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His—and the Nation’s—Prosperity (2016); Thunder and Flames: Americans in the Crucible of Combat, 1917-1918 (2015); To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 (Henry Holt, 2008); and General George Washington: A Military Life (2005).

Lengel writes regularly for Military History Quarterly, American History, and other periodicals, and has made television and radio appearances on The History Channel, Fox News, and National Public Radio.

Williamson Murray graduated from Yale University in 1963 with honors in history.  He then served five years as an officer in the United States Air Force, including a tour in Southeast Asia with the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing (C-130s).  He returned to Yale University where he received his Ph.D. in military-diplomatic history, working under Hans Gatzke and Donald Kagan.  He taught two years in the Yale history department before moving on to Ohio State University in fall 1977 as a military and diplomatic historian.  He received the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award in 1987.  He took early retirement from Ohio State in 1995 as Professor Emeritus of History.

Dr. Murray has taught at a number of academic and military institutions, including the Air War College, the United States Military Academy, and the Naval War College.  He has also served as a Secretary of the Navy Fellow at the Navy War College, the Centennial Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics, the Matthew C. Horner Professor of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University, the Charles Lindbergh Chair at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, and the Harold K. Johnson Professor of Military History at the Army War College.  He served as a consultant with the Institute of Defense Analyses, where he worked on the Iraqi Perspectives Project.  In 2008 he completed two years as the 1957 Distinguished Visiting Professor of naval heritage and history at the U.S. Naval Academy.  From 2011 through 2013, he served as a Minerva Fellow in the Strategy and Policy Department at the Naval War College.  At present he is The Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall Chair of Strategic Studies at the Marine Corps University.

He has written a wide selection of articles and books.  He is the author of The Change in the European Balance of Power, 1938-1939, The Path to Ruin (Princeton University Press, 1984); Luftwaffe (Nautical and Aviation Press, 1985); German Military Effectiveness (Nautical and Aviation Press, 1992); The Air War in the Persian Gulf (Nautical and Aviation Press, 1995); and Air War, 1914-1945 (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1999). Professors Murray and Allan Millett have published an operational history of World War II, A War To Be Won, Fighting the Second World War (Harvard University Press, 2000) which has received rave reviews from a number of newspapers and journals, including The Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, The Naval War College Review, The Journal of Military History, and Strategic Review..  Professor Murray was a major contributor to The Cambridge History of War, ed. by Geoffrey Parker (Cambridge University Press) and also authored with Major General Robert Scales, Jr. The Iraq War, A Military History (Harvard University Press, 2003).  He has also edited with Allan Millett a number of books on the implications of the past for current military thinking: Military Effectiveness, three volumes (Allen and Unwin, 1988; reissued by Cambridge University Press, fall 2010)); Calculations, Net Assessment and the Coming of World War II (Free Press, 1992); and Military Innovations in the Interwar Period (Cambridge, 1996).  Professor Murray has also edited with MacGregor Knox, The Making of Strategy, Rulers, States, and War (Cambridge University Press, 1994) and The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050 (Cambridge, University Press, 2001).  He also edited with Richard Sinnreich The Past as Prologue, The Importance of History to the Military Profession (Cambridge University Press, 2006).  In 2009 he published The Making of Peace: Rulers, States, and the Aftermath of War which he edited with James Lacey (Cambridge University Press, 2009); and Conflicting Currents: Japan and the United States (Praeger, 2009).  In 2011 he published three books: The Shaping of Grand Strategy, Policy, Diplomacy, and War, which he edited with Richard Sinnreich and James Lacey (Cambridge University Press), War Strategy and Military Effectiveness (Cambridge University Press), and Military Adaptation in War, With Fear of Change (Cambridge University Press). In 2012 he published Hybrid Warfare, co-edited with Peter Mansoor and in 2014 Cambridge published Successful Strategies, coedited with Richard Sinnreich and The Iran-Iraq War, coauthored with Kevin Woods. He has recently published Grand Strategy and Coalition Warfare (coedited with Peter Mansoor, Cambridge University Press, 2016). In September 2016 he published A Savage War, A Military History of the Civil War, coauthored with Wayne Hsieh (Princeton University Press, 2016); and in 2017 he published America and the Future of War, The Past as Prologue (Hoover Press)..  He has completed the manuscript for The Battle of Generals, coauthored with James Lacey (scheduled for publication by Random House in 2018)

Some of Professor Murray’s published articles include: “Clausewitz Out, Computer In, Military Culture and Technological Hubris,” The National Interest, Summer 1997; “Air War in the Persian Gulf: The Limits of Air Power,” Strategic Review, Winter 1998; “Preparing to Lose the Next War?,” Strategic Review, Fall 1998; “Does Military Culture Matter?,” Orbis, Winter 1999; “The Emerging Strategic Environment, An Historian’s View,” Strategic Review, Spring 1999; “Military Culture Matters,” Strategic Review, Summer 1999; “Military Experimentation in the Interwar Period,” Joint Forces Quarterly, spring 2000;.and “What History Suggests about the Future, Orbis, Fall 2008. He has also written a number of pieces that have appeared recently in Military History Quarterly, Military History, and World War II.

Michael S. Neiberg is Professor of History and Chair of War Studies in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the United States Army War College.

His published work specializes in the First and Second World Wars in a global context. The Wall Street Journal named his Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I (Harvard University Press, 2011) one of the five best books ever written about that war. In October 2016, Oxford University Press published his Path to War, a history of American responses to the Great War, 1914-1917 and in July 2017 Oxford published his Concise History of the Treaty of Versailles.

He is now at work on a history of US involvement in the Middle East from 1942 to 1950.

Associate Professor of History, Virginia Military Institute

Lynn Rainville is a research professor at Sweet Briar College where she directs the Tusculum Institute for Public History.

Although her Ph.D. is in Near Eastern archaeology, she has spent the last two decades studying historic American cemeteries, segregated schools, enslaved communities, poor farms, and World War I.

She is the author of several books, including Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia (University of Virginia Press, 2014) and the recent Virginia and the Great War (McFarland, 2018).

David R Woodward
Ph.D. University of Georgia (1965)
Teaching: Texas A@M University, 1965–1969
Marshall University, 1970-2004

Publications: Eight books, including Lloyd George and the Generals; Trial by Friendship: Anglo-American Relations, 1917-1918; United States Army in World War I; and Hell in the Holy Land: World War I in the Middle East. He also has written numerous articles that have been published in such journals as the Journal of Modern History, Historian, Albion, and The Historical Journal.


This event is open to the public. We invite you to attend. 

Both Days

$40 Regular Registration
Includes dinner and Friday night speaker
$35 Seniors (60+)
$35 VMI Alumni Discount
$25 Optional Trip
Woodrow Wilson Museum

Saturday Only

$25 Regular Registration
$20 Seniors (60+)
$20 VMI Alumni
Register Now

VMI & Lexington, Virginia

Virginia Military Institute is the nation’s oldest state-supported military college located in Lexington, Virginia. VMI’s rigorous education includes a broad curriculum with undergraduate programs in engineering, science, liberal arts, and social sciences within a physically challenging and demanding environment.

Marshall Hall is the home of Virginia Military Institute’s Center for Leadership and Ethics, which promotes leadership and ethics initiatives. The facility is named in honor of Gen. George C. Marshall, VMI class of 1901, hailed as the “organizer of victory” for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II.

Lexington, Virginia

Named one of Travel+Leisure magazine’s Best College Towns, as well as the sixth top small city in Virginia by Cities Journal, Lexington, Va. is accessible from U.S. Routes 11 and 60, as well as Interstates 64 and 81.

Situated at the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley, it is a small town full of history and culture, as well as amenities for business travelers attending conferences and symposia. Information on all that Lexington has to offer, including lodging, may be found at the Lexington and Rockbridge Area Tourism site.


Area hotels offering block rooms and conference rates.

850 North Lee Highway
Lexington, VA 24450

Reservations: 540-458-3020

Rate is the prevailing government per diem rate at time of stay for April 27 – 28, 2018. Cut-off date: Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hotel Details

95 Maury River Road
Lexington, VA 24450

Reservations: 540-463-6000

Rate is 91.00 + taxes/fees for April 26 – 28, 2018. Cut-off date: Monday, March 26, 2018

Hotel Details

2814 N. Lee Highway
Lexington, VA 24450

Reservations: 540-463-6400

Rate is 79.99 + taxes/fees for April 26 – 28, 2018. Cut-off date: Sunday, February 11, 2018

Hotel Details