The American Expeditionary Forces in Memory and Remembrance
Publication Year: 2008
The Great War remembered
“This book is not a history of World War I, nor is it a history of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) on the Western Front. Rather, it is a collection of essays that examines how the wartime generation and those that followed have remembered or commemorated individuals, groups, and military organizations that comprised the AEF.”
—from the Preface
When the United States declared war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson sent the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) under the command of General John Pershing to the Western Front. After the war, Pershing became the head of the American Battle Monuments Commission, the new government agency that commemorated the AEF’s exploits.
The essays comprising Unknown Soldiers are divided into three sections: “Remembering the AEF,” “Soldiers and Their Units in Battle and Beyond,” and “The AEF in Popular Memory.” The first section provides an overview of how Americans and the government have remembered, commemorated, and interpreted the history of the AEF, its battles, and its soldiers. The four essays in the second section shed light on how the doughboys fought, how they interacted with Allied soldiers, how the war shaped their postwar careers and memories, and how heroic feats became the stuff of myth and legend. The last section explores how the AEF has been remembered through popular literature, film, and music.
This collection draws on primary sources from previously unheard voices, including memoirs, autobiographies, official records, and oral histories, to present the coherent story of the AEF’s experience and the memories they evoked. Unknown Soldiers will be a welcome addition to World War I literature and a solid addition to the fields of military history and the history of memory.
Published by: The Kent State University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I stood in front of the assistant superintendent’s living quarters at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery one unseasonably warm late March afternoon in 2002 and gazed in utter amazement at the sea of crosses and Stars of David on the slopes below me. It was the end of two weeks of battlefield trekking, the first week having been spent covering World War II sites and the second...
Part 1. Remembering the AEF
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“The Price Was Made and the Price Was Paid”: Grandpa’s Scar and Other Memories of the AEF
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I never knew my maternal grandfather and, based on what my grandmother told me, I am not sure if I would have wanted to meet him. Grandpa abandoned my grandmother and her two-year-old daughter in 1923 for parts unknown—worse yet, he illegally remarried despite the absence of a divorce decree. Nonetheless, I still had a tad of admiration for the old fellow because of his honorable...
Remembering the War to End All Wars
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Soon after America entered the World War, President Woodrow Wilson’s administration organized a massive public relations campaign to win support for the war. The Committee of Public Information blanketed the country with posters, speakers, and tracts that depicted a united nation ready to sacrifice for the good of all mankind. According to the committee, America fought...
The Memory of the Great War in the African American Community
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This encounter between two officers in France during the First World War encapsulated the essence of black troops’ war experience: trying to serve with honor and distinction while encountering a steady torrent of racial prejudice. A host of memoirs and histories published immediately after the war took up this theme, some to make a broader political statement about the fight for...
Part 2. Soldiers and Their Units in Battle and Beyond
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Bayonets, Blood, and Beyond: A Single Day of Combat for a Marine Corps Rifle Company
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It is a quiet place today, with the only sounds heard made by caretakers in the adjoining Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and the occasional chirping of birds. In the center of the old hunting preserve that the French government in 1918 had renamed Bois de la Brigade de Marine stands a memorial to the U.S. Marine Corps. A polished black granite monument bearing...
Brothers-in-Arms: The 27th and 30th American Divisions with the British Army and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line, 1918
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Almost two years after arriving home from France, Major General John F. O’Ryan, former commander of the 27th Division, celebrated the publication of his unit’s history, The Story of the 27th Division, a monumental achievement. It encompassed more than a thousand pages divided into two volumes. Upon receiving advance copies from his publisher, O’Ryan sent the books to friends, ...
Robert Rutherford McCormick: Journalist, Citizen-Soldier, and Country Gentleman
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Robert R. McCormick was a dominant figure in the twentieth-century world of publishing.¹ His interests extended to military affairs and the cultural life of what he called “Chicagoland.” Early in his life he served as president of the Chicago Sanitary District and Chicago alderman, but his interest in the American military establishment was not one of idle curiosity. His great uncle...
General Charles P. Summerall: The Training, Command, and Education of the Citizen-Soldier
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Charles Pelot Summerall was a remarkable man. Born in the sandy flatlands of central Florida on the banks of the Suwannee River, he rose to high command in the Great War of 1914–18 and concluded his active service in 1931 as army chief of staff. However, unlike many of his colleagues, Summerall chose not to retire to less demanding responsibilities and more tranquil...
In Search of York: Man, Myth, and Legend
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The men of the 2nd Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Division, had spent a cold, wet, and miserable October day in a drainage ditch along the Varennes-Fl
Part 3. The AEF in Popular Memory
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The Literature of the AEF: A Doughboy Legacy
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Popular American remembrance of the Great War of 1914–18 relies on the literature of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), with the doughboy as its centerpiece.¹ The eulogized Unknown Soldier immediately comes to mind, but the three literary titles most frequently recalled are a Canadian’s poem written before America entered the war, a novel of a volunteer...
“After They’ve Seen Paree”: The AEF in Film and Music
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Motion Pictures and popular music of the First World War rallied Americans to action, expressed postwar cynicism, preached pacifism, and set the stage for the World War II combat film. From propaganda films and songs to lasting masterpieces like King Vidor’s Big Parade and Irving Berlin’s anthem “God Bless America,” World War I inspired creative expression.¹ Hollywood returned...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: (To view these images, please refer to print version)
Publication Year: 2008