Post-War reconstruction and VIP travel

President Wilson visiting the ruins of the library of the Catholic University of Leuven
President Wilson visiting the ruins of the library of the Catholic University of Leuven

November 11, 1918 marked the end of World War I. Total civilian and military casualties were more than 37 million people. The world rejoiced that the war was over but the difficult task of rebuilding had just begun.

President Wilson traveled to Europe to personally represent the United States at the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles. On his way to France, he first toured the battlefields of Belgium.  Wilson arrived by train in Adinkerke and proceeded to visit Zeebrugge, Ieper, Nieuwepoort, Veurne and other sites near the former battlefields before heading to Brussels. During the next few days, he visited Mechelen, Charleroi, and received an honorary degree while standing in the rubble of the KU Leuven library tower.

King Albert leaving the Capitol
King Albert leaving the Capitol

Later that year, King Albert visited the United States. In October, 1919, he arrived in Newport News and traveled throughout the United Stgates. All around the country, enthusiastic crowds welcomed King Albert as a hero of WWI. King Albert was one of the first reigning monarchs to officially visit the United States.  He traveled on a U.S. Navy ship, the USS George Washington, the same ship that brought President Wilson to Europe earlier that year.

The President was only able to meet with the King in private as he had suffered a stroke, so all of the King’s public appearances were with Vice President Marshall.