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Americans All!

Foreign-born Soldiers in World War I

By Nancy Gentile Ford

Publication Year: 2001

During the First World War, nearly half a million immigrant draftees from forty-six different nations served in the U.S. Army. This surge of Old World soldiers challenged the American military's cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions and required military leaders to reconsider their training methods for the foreign-born troops. How did the U.S. War Department integrate this diverse group into a united fighting force? The war department drew on the experiences of progressive social welfare reformers, who worked with immigrants in urban settlement houses, and they listened to industrial efficiency experts, who connected combat performance to morale and personnel management. Perhaps most significantly, the military enlisted the help of ethnic community leaders, who assisted in training, socializing, and Americanizing immigrant troops and who pressured the military to recognize and meet the important cultural and religious needs of the ethnic soldiers. These community leaders negotiated the Americanization process by promoting patriotism and loyalty to the United States while retaining key ethnic cultural traditions. Offering an exciting look at an unexplored area of military history, Americans All! Foreign-born Soldiers in World War I constitutes a work of special interest to scholars in the fields of military history, sociology, and ethnic studies. Ford's research illuminates what it meant for the U.S. military to reexamine early twentieth-century nativism; instead of forcing soldiers into a melting pot, war department policies created an atmosphere that made both American and ethnic pride acceptable. During the war, a German officer commented on the ethnic diversity of the American army and noted, with some amazement, that these "semi-Americans" considered themselves to be "true-born sons of their adopted country." The officer was wrong on one count. The immigrant soldiers were not "semi-Americans"; they were "Americans all!"

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

I became interested in both ethnic studies and military history while in graduate school at Temple University. At first, researching immigrant soldiers of the American Army during the First World War proved difficult, and this book, an exciting journey through a variety of archives, almost-...

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pp. 3-15

During the First World War, the U.S. government drafted into military service nearly half a million immigrants of forty-six different nationalities, creating an army with over 18 percent of its soldiers born in foreign countries....

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CHAPTER 1. In the Family of One Nation”: The Complexities of Ethnic Patriotism during the Great War

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pp. 16-44

America in 1817 was a nation in the throws of wartime mobilization. This went far beyond mustering in men for the military forces. The initial unpopular nature of the war, the threat of draft resistance, and the diversity...

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CHAPTER 2. Drafting Foreign-born Doughboys into the American Army

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pp. 45-66

The U.S. Army has traditionally consisted of both native-born and foreign-born troops. The best way to understand the influence and experience of immigrant...

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CHAPTER 3. The Camp Gordon Plan: Organizing and Training Foreign-born Troops

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pp. 67-87

When freshly recruited soldiers reported to army camps, the military was shocked to learn the extent of illiteracy among its new troops, including those with long American ancestries. The General Staff estimated that almost...

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CHAPTER 4. Military Moral Uplifting: Socializing Native-born and Foreign-born Soldiers

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pp. 88-111

The War Department needed to turn millions of civilians into productive soldiers in a rapid, efficient, and systemic manner. Yet at the same time, military leaders recognized that the same social problems that plagued civilian...

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CHAPTER 5. “Mindful ofthe Traditionsof His Race”: Respecting the Culture of the Foreign-born Draftees

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pp. 112-136

The War Department understood the vital link between maintaining a high level of troop morale and creating an effective fighting force. Although ethnic leaders willingly assisted the military, they also saw morale in terms of retaining...

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Conclusion: “Americans All!”

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pp. 137-145

During the First World War, the United States government drafted nearly a half million immigrants, and thousands of second-generation immigrants, into the American Army. The war took place on the heels of the Progressive...


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pp. 147-175

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 177-183


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pp. 185-194

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443296
E-ISBN-10: 1603443290
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441322
Print-ISBN-10: 1603441328

Page Count: 214
Illustrations: 12 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2001