The Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers' Newspaper of World War I, 1918-1919 provides access to the newspaper provided to military personnel during World War I. This newspaper was written by servicemen for servicemen and was created to improve morale and provide unity within the American forces. Included in the newspaper was news from the home front, poetry, sports and cartoons. Also included were articles written by noted writers such as Alexander Woollcott, Harold Ross, and Grantland Rice.
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- Emergence of Modern America, 1890-1930
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The Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers' Newspaper of World War I, 1918-1919 presents a full scan of each issue of the military newspaper that began publication on February 8, 1918, and was published every Friday for 17 months. The eight-page weekly featured war news as well as news from home, sports news, poetry, and cartoons. Extremely popular among enlisted men, who reveled in its often-irreverent articles on military regulations and daily routines, the paper began with an initial printing of 1,000 copies; within a year its circulation had increased to 500,000.
The Stars and Stripes had the appearance of a typical hometown newspaper. Established by experienced journalists who had worked for some of the nation's leading newspapers before the war, the paper relied on enlisted men as writers, editors, and managers and carried stories of primary interest to servicemen of the American Expeditionary Force — the soldiers on the frontlines in France.
The Stars and Stripes documents the experience of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. Although the paper carried stories of battles and campaigns, articles had to be submitted to military headquarters before they could be published in the paper. Examining news articles reveals what members of the American Expeditionary Force actually read about military battles and campaigns in the last year of "The Great War." The Stars and Stripes reveals the interests and concerns of American soldiers during wartime and how servicemen responded to news from the home front. It provides insight into activities that occupied soldiers' time abroad. Evidence of American attitudes, such as racism, is also apparent in the paper.
The collection may be viewed by columns, full page, or as a text transcription. The transcription is scanned, however, and the narrative is sometimes difficult to decipher.
Reasons for U.S. Involvement in the War
World War I marked the first time that U.S. troops were sent overseas to defend foreign soil. Some Americans opposed U.S. involvement in the war, which required a massive and swift increase in the number of men in the military. When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, the U.S. Army was a force of only 127,500. By the end of the war, nearly five million had served in one of the branches of the military.
Given opposition to the war at home and the huge number of new soldiers, making sure those soldiers believed in their mission was critical to the military's success. One of the purposes of the weekly paper was to reassure soldiers that the war was just and to express in plain terms the reasons for U.S. involvement in a war that was opposed by some Americans. "A Doughboy's Letter to Kaiser Wilhelm," in the paper's second issue, expressed patriotism in simple terms:
"The other day I came across a reported speech of yours in one of a bunch of papers from back home, in which you inquired — as if you really wanted to know — why we Americans were over here. In this speech you said you didn't see what business it was of ours to be over here at all, and you intimated that you didn't think that any of us knew why we were pitted against you and your kind.
But, although I suspect you know pretty well what brought us here, I am going to do what very few people nowadays care to do — take you at your word; and give you the information you say you want. A cat may look at a king, and I rather guess an American doughboy may write to an emperor.
So, here goes.
We are against you and your kind because..."
Read the "Doughboy's" entire letter.
- According to the "Doughboy," what were the reasons for American participation in the war?
- Why did the "Doughboy" use an open letter in The Stars and Stripes to express his opposition to the Kaiser?
- What domestic American problems were attributed to the Kaiser?
- How did the letter reflect American public opinion during the war?
Even some brief items that appeared to be "fillers" addressed the reasons for U.S. involvement:
"Captain: 'Well, Jim, what do you think of this war game anyway? Glad you joined up?'
Private Jim (wearily): 'Well, sir, a guy what goes to war for Old Glory and the U.S.A. and to avenge martyred Belgium and repay France for what she has done for us and all the rest is on the right track. But a guy what they call a soldier of fortune — what goes around the world lookin' for other people's private wars to butt into for the fun of it — why, he, sir, is my humble opinion, is just a plain _____ _________ fool.'"
The Stars and Stripes often included reports on the brutality of the Germans, whom the paper generally referred to as "Huns." An article in the February 22, 1918, edition told of a 14-year-old boy burned alive in Lorraine as his mother, held by a German soldier, was forced to watch her son's murder. The article reported that soldiers poured gasoline "...on the boy's head and clothes, set fire to him, and while he staggered about, a flaming torch, they shrieked with laughter." The March 29, 1918, issue reported that an elderly Belgian merchant was transported to a prison camp in Germany and held with captive soldiers and civilians. According to the merchant, prisoners were treated brutally by the Germans. The article reported, "...he would tell you he would have never believed a human being capable of the obscene and purposeless brutality it was his lot to see practiced on the helpless inmates of that camp." The paper often reported on similar brutal treatment to American prisoners of war.
- How effective do you think reports of German brutality would be in convincing the A.E.F. that the war was fought for a just cause? Explain your answer.
- Find other terms that the paper used to refer to the Germans. Why do you think the paper referred to Germans as "Huns" and other terms, rather than simply as Germans? What connotations do the words have?
- Read about the reasons for U.S. involvement in World War I in your textbook or another secondary source. How do the reasons compare with those given in The Stars and Stripes? How would you explain any differences that you noted?
Training the A.E.F.
With so many new soldiers, training was obviously a concern. An early issue of the paper described advanced training offered to officers and enlisted men. The June 28, 1918, issue described training for the flyers of the new Air Service. Read these two articles to learn more about the training available to U.S. soldiers in Europe.
- What were some of the topics or skills taught at A.E.F. University?
- According to the writer, how was the training in Europe different from training offered back home in the United States? Do you find his reasoning persuasive?
- To what did the writer compare flyers' training? Does this comparison help you understand the progression of training?
The Stars and Stripes also provided information that helped people new to the military understand the institution they had become part of. For example, several early issues featured a column entitled "Mentioned in Orders," which made soldiers aware of recent orders affecting them. In March and April 1918, the paper printed explanations of the insignia of the French, British, Italian, and Belgian armies. The paper also featured articles that described the work of a variety of members of the military from balloonists to chaplains, woodchoppers, and doctors.
- Why would it be useful for soldiers to be familiar with the insignia of allied forces?
- How might understanding the duties of particular jobs in the military be useful to new soldiers?
- Imagine that you were a relatively new member of the Army, stationed in France in 1918. You have had some training, but the military is still very new to you. What information would you like to have? Search The Stars and Stripes collection to see if you can find any articles presenting that information.
In the Trenches
The first American troops landed in Europe in June 1917. At first, American troops played a supporting role, with French and British forces taking the lead. Throughout the spring and summer of 1918, however, the American role in the fighting grew. By the fall, U.S. General Pershing was commanding a combined force of 1 million U.S. and French troops.
Shortly after the armistice, General Pershing submitted a report to Secretary of War Baker. The report is presented in two installments in The Stars and Stripes issues of December 20 and December 27. Working with several other students, locate these articles and assign sections of the articles to pairs of students. Each pair of students should read their section and look for additional articles about the events described in their segment of the report. Once pairs have compiled as much information as possible about the events covered in their section of General Pershing's report, they should create a plan for a museum exhibit on "In the Trenches in World War I." Image: drawing from page 4 of the May 31,1918 issue Caption: "Getting Hotter All the Time." What event of the war is referenced in this cartoon? What does the cartoon suggest about the outcome?
One soldier described his experience of war in "One Man and a Battle 60 Miles Long." In the moments before mounting an attack:
"All along our platoon you could hear the bunch chuckling and whispering and getting set — and some of them were singing ever so softly. I remember hearing 'Fair Harvard.' Yes, and 'Old Nassau.' And a lieutenant was humming 'My Little Girl.'"
From "One Man and a Battle 60 Miles Long," The Stars and Stripes, July 26, 1918, page 3, columns1-5
Read "One Man and a Battle 60 Miles Long" and consider the following questions:
- What hardships did the soldiers involved in this battle face?
- How did the sergeant convey the emotions experienced by the soldiers? The experience of the battle?
- How do you think reading this article affected soldiers waiting to go into battle?
The September 13, 1918, issue included a front-page article reporting on the treatment of personnel exposed to mustard gas. "Hot baths are being sent into the shell-fire zone on motor trucks to help doughboys who have been burned by mustard gas." The article reassured soldiers who were wearing gas masks that burns on unprotected parts of their bodies could be checked by immediate hot baths.
- Considering that one of the purposes of The Stars and Stripes was to help build morale, why do you suppose the paper printed articles on the use of poison gas?
The Life of a Doughboy
When soldiers weren't in the trenches, they spent time in "rest" camps, but life there was not easy either. An article like "Edible Mattresses for Army Sleepers" was humorous but also conveyed the challenges of life on the front. The article informed soldiers that their bedsacks would in future be filled with hay rather than straw and that, when they got new stuffing after a month, the used hay would be fed to animals. Similarly, an article on "Shaving in France" described well the challenges of a simple task of personal hygiene (which was required by military orders!).
Stories make clear the importance of "A Box from Home" or the Salvation Army's "Pies and Doughnuts for Men up Front.". Writing home was also important to the soldiers:
"But rain or no rain, the great and goodly sport of writing home flourishes apace in every camp, in every rest billet, in every place where the A.E.F. lays down its pack. Censoring officers are said to dread Sunday nights almost as much as if they had to go to prayer-meeting."
Many articles in The Stars and Stripes described places soldiers could visit on leave and the amenities available to them. By the end of the war, 435,472 American soldiers had enjoyed weeklong leaves in many of France's most beautiful locations. Search the collection using the term leave to learn more about where and how soldiers traveled and about the suspension of leaves during the late spring of 1918.
Harold Ross, a veteran journalist, joined the army and served as part of a Railway Engineer Corps until he joined the staff of The Stars and Stripes, where he initiated the highly successful War Orphans Campaign. The campaign was launched with a front-page article in the March 29, 1918, issue. The article said, in part:
"In France there are thousands of children who need help — orphans, the children of crippled soldiers, the children of the invaded districts whose parents may now be laboring at the point of a bayonet behind the German lines, or may be dead. The story of their tribulation is well known. Of all those who have made sacrifices for liberty their sufferings are the most acute. Of all causes theirs is the worthiest and most pressing. . . .
These children need assistance. They deserve the prerogative of every child, a chance. No one is able to help them more than the men of the A.E.F. No one."
Nearly every subsequent issue of the paper included an article about the orphans. In the September 27, 1918, issue of The Stars and Stripes, a second major call went out to the doughboys — adopt "500 Christmas Gift War Orphans" in a campaign to double the size of the A.E.F.'s war orphan family, "...a campaign to secure food, clothing, comfort, schooling for a year for little French children whose fathers have paid the supreme price for liberty."
- Consider all that you have read about the day-to-day life of a doughboy when not in the trenches. Write a letter from a doughboy to a friend, describing a day in your life at a rest camp.
- Reflect on what you learned about leave for soldiers. Write a second letter home, describing a one-week leave in France. Where did you go? How did you get there? What did you do while you were there?
- Find out how successful the war orphans campaign was. How would you explain this level of success? Add a postscript to your doughboy's letter home, describing the war orphans campaign and why you are involved. Explain how participating in the campaign makes you feel.
The Home Front
The Stars and Stripes included stories on events back home in the United States, including political campaigns. In the July 5, 1918, issue an article described the split in Republican Party ranks over the support of pacifist Henry Ford's run for the Senate in Michigan. The paper also reported on political, economic, and social issues on the home front. Search the collection using such terms as prohibition, strikes and lockouts, and woman suffrage for reports of issues making news in the United States.
The paper also carried stories about support for the war effort on the home front, from a knit fest in New York City to the end of Sunday drives in Illinois. Of course, one of the most significant contributions made by Americans at home was to raise money through bond drives. Search the collection using the phrase Liberty Bond to find out more about the drive to raise money for the war effort.
Read several articles about issues on the home front, as well as public support for the troops. Prepare a front page for a newspaper edition reviewing the year 1918 on the home front. What do you think were the most important news stories? What aspects of public support would you cover?
The War's End
"In the November 15, 1918, issue of The Stars and Stripes, read about the jubilation on the front when soldiers got the news of an armistice: On the stroke of 11 the cannon stopped, the rifles dropped from the shoulders, the machine guns grew still. There followed then a strange, unbelievable silence as though the world had died. It lasted but a moment, lasted for the space that a breath is held. Then came such an uproar of relief and jubilance, such a tooting of horns, shrieking of whistles, such an overture from the bands and trains and church bells, such a shouting of voices as the earth is not likely to hear again in our day and generation. ...
The man from Mars, coming to earth on the morning of November 11, 1918, would have been hard put to it to say which army had won, for, if anything, the greater celebration, the more startling outburst, came not from the American but from the German side. At least he could have said — that man from Mars — to which side the suspension of hostilities had come as the greater relief."
Read the report of the German revolution and the exile of the Hohenzollerns in the same issue:
- How did The Stars and Stripes report on rumors about the whereabouts of members of the German royal family and military leaders?
- How did the reporter contrast the German revolution to the Russian Revolution of the previous year?
- What were the terms of the armistice? Why was there a lapse of six hours before it was to take effect?
Negotiations over a peace treaty continued for some months. Read the article "Germany Faced With Peace Pact Dictated by Victor Nations" in the May 9, 1919, edition of the paper:
- What were the salient points in the treaty?
- To what extent did the final treaty of peace with Germany conform to President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points?
- What alternative course of action could have been taken at Versailles considering previous relationships between France and Germany (e.g., settlement at the end of the Franco-Prussian War)?
- According to the article, what were the prospects for the establishment of a League of Nations?
Soldiers began shipping home at the end of November 1918, but many remained in Europe for some months. Opportunities for education while waiting to return to the United States were made available to soldiers, but some still sought a quicker return home:
"Flat feet that weathered months and months of war with the A.E.F. suddenly became an acute infirmity when the armistice was signed. Soldiers who had been suffering from wartime colds developed unbearable pains in the chest shortly after firing ceased along the front. Rheumatic pains began to twinge the joints of buck privates about the same time, but medical officers handling sick call usually found that the rheumatism, flat feet or suspected tuberculosis had complications of homesickness or 'pressing business responsibilities back in the states.'"
"...Nobody under God's great tranquil skies can tell of the rottenness of war but the men who suffered through it.
Upon them rests a solemn duty. They must go home and choke the coward jingo who masks himself behind his false and blatant patriotism, and the merchant-politician, not content with stuffing his home coffers till they burst-but anxious to barter the blood of his country's young manhood for new places in the sun!
The Prussian Guardsman died hard, fighting for such a place. The men in frock coats who make the laws never had to stand up against him. They never took a machine gun nest or saw a barrage roll down, stop and then uncurtain a wall of shrieking steel. We know what the Prussian Guardsman means-his code, his cold courage and the blind patriotism that sent him forward, granting none the right to live but those who wore his uniform."
- What was the author's tone in this piece? What images helped convey that tone?
- Who were the cowardly "jingoes" and the "merchant-politicians"?
- What specific action did the writer urge veterans to take? What did he predict would happen if that action was not taken?
Chronological Thinking: Interpreting and Creating Timelines
The Articles and Essays include a Timeline (1914-1921) of the "Great European War." The author of the timeline chose these events as events important in the history of the war. Choose an event on the timeline that occurred during the months The Stars and Stripes was published (February 1918-June 1919). Look for information about that event in issues of The Stars and Stripes that were published around the time of the event. Examples might be the battles at Cantigny (May 28, 1918); Chateau-Thierry (June 2, 1918); St. Mihiel (September 12, 1918); and the Meusse-Argonne (September 26, 1918). You may also want to do some additional reading on the event in other sources. Then consider the following questions:
- How was the event covered in The Stars and Stripes?
- What was the significance of the event?
- Do you agree with the timeline's author that the event was one of the most important occurrences of the war? Why or why not?
Timelines are selective; innumerable events — both significant and mundane — occur at the same time as the events represented on any timeline. Using the same event you examined above, browse the issues of The Stars and Stripes around the time of the event. Create a timeline for a one-month period that features other events covered in the paper at that time. You may choose to focus on events in the war, day-to-day occurrences in the lives of soldiers, or events on the home front (in the United States), as covered in The Stars and Stripes.
Historical Comprehension: Identifying Racial Bias
More than 350,000 African Americans served in the military during World War I, helping "make the world safe for democracy." While many served in support roles, a number fought side by side with French troops; 171 African American soldiers won the French Legion of Honor.
Yet African Americans on the front faced prejudice and discrimination, just as they did back in the United States. The Stars and Stripes perpetuated racial prejudice through stereotyping. Read the letter "From the Minute Man of 1776 to the Minute Men of 1918 in France" in the November 15, 1918, edition of the paper.
- How did the letter attributed to the "Minute Man of 1776" perpetuate racial stereotypes?
- What impression of African American solders was given in this piece?
- How did Al Jolson's comedy routine at the Winter Garden Memorial Day matinee play upon popular prejudices?
Examine the article "'Taters and Suchlike to Be Grown by A.E.F." in the March 8, 1918, issue; the story reported on a general order requiring that gardens be planted behind the lines of every division. Explain how the reporter's attempts at humor played on racial stereotypes. Analyze the cartoon "Forward, Hoe — As Per G.O. 34" in the March 15, 1918, issue. Explain how the caricature reinforced the negative image of African-American soldiers.
The May 24, 1918, issue covered the story of two African-American soldiers who received the French Croix de Guerre. Read the story and consider the following questions:
- What evidence, if any, do you find that the writer respected the African-American soldiers?
- What evidence, if any, do you find of prejudice against African Americans?
- How would describe the overall tone of the article?
- The drawing below appeared on the same page as the article about the Croix de Guerre winners. What did the drawing convey? What is the significance of the text beneath the drawing? Do you find it ironic that it appeared on the same page as the article about African-American soldiers? Why or why not?
To learn more about African Americans in the military and at home during the World War I era, explore the "World War I and Postwar Society" section of the Library of Congress exhibition, "The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship." Then search The Stars and Stripes collection for coverage of African-American soldiers' contributions. How does the gap in reporting on African-American combat troops reflect the racial attitudes prevalent during the early part of the twentieth century?
Historical Analysis and Interpretation: Analyzing how The Stars and Stripes Contributed to Morale
The mission of The Stars and Stripes was to "strengthen the morale of the troops" and to provide troops "with a sense of unity and an understanding of their part in the overall war effort." The last issue of the paper quoted General Pershing's assessment of the paper's success:
"THE STARS AND STRIPES . . . has been an important factor in creating and supporting the excellent morale which has at all times characterized the American Expeditionary Force."
Make a list of factors that you think would contribute to the morale of troops fighting overseas. For example, believing that they are fighting for something important and knowing that their fellow Americans support their efforts are generally considered to be important to military morale. You may want to do some research to find out what military psychologists say about factors contributing to troop morale. Make a three-column chart like the one shown below. In the first column, write the four factors contributing to troop morale that you think are most important. Next, select and read three different issues of The Stars and Stripes. As you read, look for examples of stories, illustrations, or poems that you believe would develop each factor among soldiers. Record these stories in the chart and make some notes about your reasoning. One example is shown in the chart below.
|Factor Contributing to Troop Morale||Story that Develops Factor||Reasoning|
|Common purpose||"33 More War Waifs Adopted as Mascots by American Units," April 12, 1918 issue, page 1||Soldiers "adopting" French orphans are united in helping others and showing respect for their French comrades; also, by planning for the orphans' future, they are showing hope for a positive future after the war.|
Based on your analysis, which factors did The Stars and Stripes address best? Were there any factors it did not address well? Why do you think that is true?
Historical Issue Analysis and Decision-Making: Analyzing the Decision to Suspend Sports Coverage in The Stars and Stripes
The sports page was a popular feature of The Stars and Stripes, which, in its early months in operation, reported on the A.E.F. football league and boxing and wrestling championship bouts, as well as sporting news from the United States.
In the summer of 1918, however, events prompted the newspaper's editors to make an unusual decision. The July 19, 1918, edition of the paper reported on an appeal to draft boards by baseball players who wanted to be exempted from the draft on the grounds that baseball was an "essential business." A week later, the paper reported on Secretary of War Newton Baker's ruling that baseball was a non-essential occupation:
"Secretary Baker gave out no half-way decision. He went on to say that ball players are men of unusual physical ability, dexterity and alertness, just the type needed to help in the game of war at home and abroad. He also brought out the very plain point that people at home could very well do without a recreation that depended for its existence upon a class or type badly needed for the greater game of winning the war."
On the same page of the July 26 edition, The Stars and Stripes reacted to the ballplayers' actions by suspending the paper's sports page. A follow-up article, "Shipyard Athletic Patriots," reported that some athletes took jobs in the shipyards in order to avoid the draft and continue their athletic careers on weekends.
Read the announcement regarding discontinuation of the sports page as a regular feature in The Stars and Stripes and the news articles reporting on the issue.
- What reasons were given for discontinuing the popular page in the weekly paper?
- How did the editorial staff reflect the comments of the Secretary of War?
- Why did the announcement single out sports figures like Cobb, Willard, Ruth, Fulton, and Johnson?
- How did the August 2 article "Shipyard Athletic Patriots" reinforce the paper's decision to suspend the weekly sports page?
- What arguments might have been made to continue the sports page?
- Do you think the decision to discontinue the sports page was a good one? Why or why not?
On December 20, The Stars and Stripes announced on the front page that the sports page would resume in the next issue of the paper.
Historical Research Capabilities: Analyzing Censored Documents
While the editors and reporters for The Stars and Stripes had what might be considered a surprising degree of freedom to gather and publish information, the paper was subject to military censorship. According to the Articles and Essays.
"Each Tuesday, the Army's Board of Control and its General Headquarters examined the content proposed for the forthcoming issue. Approved articles had to support the mission of the newspaper, maintain high morale, and promote the idea that the war was for a 'just cause,' while publishing as much news as possible. In addition, news reports were vetted by the censorship-of-the-press section of the Military Intelligence Service, headed by Major Frederick Palmer, formerly of the Associated Press. Facts regarding general engagements, casualties suffered, and troop identifications were released only if the information had been reported in official communiqués."
Analyzing primary sources requires a critical frame of mind. Many sets of questions for analyzing primary sources are available. For example, the Library of Congress Teachers Page includes a helpful set of "Questions for Analyzing Primary Sources." Primary sources that may have been censored at the time they are created pose special challenges. What do you think those challenges might be? Think about what you have learned about the purpose of The Stars and Stripes and the censorship process. If you were writing a report about the role of the A.E.F. in World War I, could you rely on The Stars and Stripes as your only source of factual information? Why or why not? What other types of sources would be useful?
Historical Research Capabilities: Researching Technology in World War I
Read the article reporting on the transport of two 42-centimeter German howitzers abandoned near Verdun in June 1919 and their shipment across France to Mehun and ultimately to Aberdeen, Maryland. Research the German howitzers known as "Big Berthas" and their effectiveness against allied fortifications at Liege, Antwerp, and Paris. Research other implements of war introduced during World War I, including the use of airplanes for reconnaissance and as bombers.
- How effective were "Big Berthas" in securing the fall of the Belgian fortress of Liege in 1914?
- What were some of the other major weapons used by the Central Powers and Allies during the war?
- How did technological advances begin to alter warfare during World War I?
Airplanes were also used, on occasion, to deliver The Stars and Stripes, as noted in this story:
"THE STARS AND STRIPES for October 4 were delivered on the day of publication to the men in the front line in Argonne by American pilots flying Liberty planes.
All the different types of air-craft in the American service, bombing planes, observation planes, chasse planes, aided in the distribution that day and the next of some 2,200 copies, done into little bundles of ten and scattered along the line all the way from the western edge of the Argonne forest itself to Brieulles on the Meuse.
Some were dropped from a height of 1,000 feet, some were scattered over the lines by flyers swooping so low that they almost scraped the tree tops. They could see the doughboys rush for the papers and then look up to wave their appreciation. Just to be facetious, and for the general good of the German soul, a few copies were carried far back into 'Germany' and dropped around Mouzon and Sedan.
...Some of the most celebrated flyers in our service — pilots who wear the D.S.C. and aces like Lieutenant Cook and Lieutenant Rickenbacker — were among the aerial newsboys of THE STARS AND STRIPES that day."
Another lighter story about technology in World War I has to do with the wristwatch. A relatively new timepiece, the wristwatch prior to the war was seen as an item of women's jewelry. During the war, however, the military purchased wristwatches for some units. Find out more about adoption of the wristwatch as a man's timepiece during World War I. A Search of the collection using the keyword wristwatch will identify several early items designed to convince soldiers that wearing a wristwatch was a good idea:
- What pre-war attitudes about wristwatches were reflected in the stories?
- What arguments were used to convince soldiers that wearing a wristwatch was a good idea?
- Why advantages might wearing a wristwatch have over using a pocket watch, especially when soldiers were in combat?
- How does the example of the wristwatch illustrate the complex factors that influence how technological innovations are adopted?
Arts & Humanities
Poetry was part of The Stars and Stripes from its first issue. A regular feature, "The Army's Poets," was inaugurated May 3, 1918. According to a review of the paper's first year, published February 7, 1919, that feature proved to be the most widely read column in the paper:
"Army verse is not particularly a STARS AND STRIPES fad. It is a STARS AND STRIPES necessity. Anyone would think so if he had had to sort 500 poems a week, or something like 18,000, to be conservative, since the paper was established.
This newspaper, in the first 52 weeks of its existence, printed 381 poems, not counting the little carols on the Sporting Page or verse in such inside departments as 'The Listening Post' or 'Star Shells.' Possibly 40 of these were written by members of the editorial staff. The rest (and the best) were contributed. With very few exceptions, possibly ten or a dozen, every bit of verse printed was the work of a soldier."
Search the collection using the term Army poets to access a sampling of poems published in the paper's weekly column. Select several poems that convey the spirit of the A.E.F. One example might be the poem entitled "Off to the Trenches," reputed to have been tacked to the billet door as the doughboys were deployed to the front:
"...the Boches [Germans] big and small, Runty one and Boches tall, Won't keep your boys a-squatting in the ditches very long; For we'll soon be busting through, sir, God help Fritzie when we do, sir — Let's get going Colonel Blank, because we're feeling might strong."
Read several poems and consider the following questions:
- What types of poems were featured in the weekly paper? For example, were the poems humorous? Sentimental? Did they use standard rhyming patterns (e.g., abab, abba)? Were any free verse (poems without rhyme or with nonstandard rhyming patterns)?
- What do you notice about the language used in the poems? Was it formal or informal? Did the poets use metaphors or more literal language?
- What attitudes and feelings were expressed in the poems? How effectively did the poets express their emotions and ideas through their work?
- Why do you believe the poetry column in the paper was so popular?
The Army and Navy Register of April 15, 1919, published a poem by Owen P. White, in which the poet expressed hostility to the formation of the League of Nations. The Stars and Stripes reprinted the poem with a soldier's critique written as a letter to the editor The soldier introduced the poem with the statement, "Being a more or less superficial student of psychology and a profound student of bunkology, I desire to recommend to other students of these closely related subjects the following heroic poem." He concluded:
"Now, as it is the mind of Mr. White that I wish to study and not the meter of the poem, certain additional data is required. Perhaps some one in the A.E.F. can supply it. What is wanted is information as to whether or not Mr. White got his inspiration for the above lines while with a company of Infantry in the Argonne or at Nantes in company with Mademoiselle Vin Blanc."
Read the original poem and the critique. Consider the following questions:
- What were Owen White's arguments against the League of Nations? Was his poem an effective way to make the case against the League?
- What technique did "Curious" use to reflect his opposition to White's poem on the League of Nations?
- How effective was the concluding paragraph in arousing support among the A.E.F. for the League of Nations?
Read "Afterwards", a poem by Lieutenant Grantland Rice. Rice, who had been a sportswriter and editor at several major newspapers prior to the war, was originally assigned as editor of the sports page. He decided that he could better serve the paper as a war correspondent reporting from the front lines. In "Afterwards," he reflected upon the experiences of war from one who witnessed campaigns from the front lines.
- What experiences on the front lines did Rice write about?
- What did Rice predict would happen when the Doughboys were far away — in time and space — from their war experiences?
- How effective was the poem in expressing the experiences of A.E.F. members?
- Compare Rice's poem with some of the other poems written by soldiers. What, if anything, sets Rice's poem apart?
After the war, Rice returned to writing about sports and became one of the nation's best known and most admired sportswriters. He often included poems he had written in his sports columns. Find out more about Rice and his poetry through an Internet search or a visit to the poetry section of the school media center.
The quality of art or literature that causes readers to feel sorrow, tenderness, or sympathy is called pathos. Writing about the casualties of war quite naturally has a quality of pathos. In October 1918, the editors of The Stars and Stripes printed a letter from a soldier named Bennie, writing from the trenches in the Argonne to his mother. The letter closed with the lines "But don't worry one bit, Mother dear, if the Boches get me I will get ten of them while they are about it. This will be all until next time." The editors added a postscript:
"The next time never came for Bennie. When the burial squad found this letter in his shirt pocket he was lying with his face towards Germany, his right front finger pressing the trigger of his rifle. A few yards in front of him was a German machine gun nest. There were nine dead Germans in the pit."
Read Bennie's letter, as well as some of the other items under the headline "Echoes from the Argonne Fight." Consider the following questions:
- What do you think was the overall purpose of the set of brief stories combined under the heading "Echoes from the Argonne Fight"?
- What was the point of printing Bennie's letter and the postscript about the Germans he had killed before dying? Do the letter and postscript reflect pathos? Why or why not?
- Does the report appear authentic? What evidence is there to support your position?
- How would this account have affected the morale of soldiers at the front?
Another example of pathos can be found in a June 1919 letter to the editor entitled "The Adopted Graves." In this letter, a soldier who signed himself simply "A Yank" described his encounter with a French mother who has tended the grave of his comrade, who was killed in action. Read the letter and answer the following questions:
- How effective was the "Yank" in expressing the feelings of the "old mother of France"?
- Pathos can be an inherent element of a sad story. It can also be enhanced through the language a writer uses. Can you find examples of the Yank's language that enhance the story's pathos?
- What can you discern from this open letter to the editors about the regard French civilians had for American servicemen?
- How do you think families of American servicemen killed in France would have responded upon reading this letter?
Find a story in the newspaper that has elements of pathos. Rewrite the story, using language that enhances the story's pathos.
The Stars and Stripes was never intended to generate money other than to pay for operating expenses. The paper began operation with a loan of just under 25,000 francs. Within seven months, the paper repaid the loan with interest. The last edition of the paper, June 13, 1919, reported the closing of the financial ledger with a surplus of approximately 3,500,000 francs to be turned over to the U.S. Treasury. Advertisements from French and U.S. companies carried in every edition of the paper accounted for the surplus. The staff expressed some pride in reporting that "...the occasions were numerous when a large ad was lifted out to make way for a story of greater interest to the A.E.F." Examine advertisements in several different issues of the paper. Select advertisements from various issues and compare them to ads in contemporary newspapers.
- What types of products and services were advertised? Did French and American companies advertise different types of products and services? Explain your observation.
- How were the ads constructed to appeal to servicemen? If you looked at the ads without knowing in what paper they appeared, what evidence would help you deduce that the audience was American servicemen?
- What differences do you find between The Stars and Stripes ads and contemporary newspaper advertisements? Which differences are the result of a wider audience? Which reflect changes in printing technology? In the types of products available? In the interests of consumers?
- To what extent would current "truth-in-advertising" regulations have restricted claims made by advertisers in The Stars and Stripes? Find an example to support your answer.
Humor was one of the hallmarks of The Stars and Stripes, and the editors took measures to insure that it was a regular ingredient in feature stories and often in news accounts. The October 4, 1918, issue reported on the confrontation between an American private and a German soldier over a rooster as amusement for readers in a column entitled "Echoes from the Argonne Fight":
"An American private spied a rooster prowling around a farm house in No Man's Land just after the Americans had captured Very. Being angry, and having an appetite for roast chicken, this American private decided to crawl up on the rooster and trap him in the building.
'I'he American was about to lay his hands on the astonished rooster when a German entered the rear door of the building bent on the same mission. Both were so surprised that they stood for a moment and glared at each other, then the American motioned for the German to do a right flank on the prey they were after and both closed in on him. The rooster was captured by the American, who later returned to the American lines with both rooster and German in tow.
Later, at the regimental P.C. the German roasted the chicken for his captor, who shared it with him."
The article "Etiquette Talks for Doughboys: Brig Manners" presented humorous advice to young Doughboys on the consequences of improper etiquette. Look for other examples of humorous writing in The Stars and Stripes. Consider the following questions:
- What made the pieces funny? What techniques of humor did they use? Some examples of techniques of humor include exaggeration, juxtaposition of incongruous elements, surprise, absurdity, satire, parody, irony, word play, and attributing human characteristics to non-humans.
- Are these humorous articles still funny? Why or why not? What aspects of humor seem to hold up best over time?
- Why do you think the editors included humor as an essential part of The Stars and Stripes? How would humorous stories tend to boost morale?
According to the Articles and Essays
"The Stars and Stripes used illustrations to communicate ideas, especially those aimed at justifying military goals and encouraging the troops' adherence to the war effort. . . . In many cases, the images selected by the editors would be considered propaganda by today's standards. . . . Besides expressing editorial opinion, cartoons entertained the troops, offering them humorous stories and images that satirized everyday life in the military."
The last issue of The Stars and Stripes featured a series of nine drawings by Private Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge, who was referred to in the paper as "the respectable half of the Art Department." The cartoons appeared under the heading "Pass in Review," with the caption indicating that they constitute "a graphic resumé of the Yanks from the days of the old trenches to the days of the watch on the Rhine."
Examine the nine Baldridge cartoons reprinted in the June 13, 1919, issue of The Stars and Stripes and answer the following questions:
- How did these nine drawings reflect the reasons for U.S. entry into The Great War and the services performed by American "Doughboys"?
- What symbols did Baldridge use in the drawings?
- What emotions do you think Baldridge was trying to convey? What techniques did he use to convey these emotions?
- How effective are such drawings in conveying a message? Give examples and reasons to support your answer.
- Would you consider these drawings to be propaganda? Why or why not?
Private Abian "Wally" Wallgren, a cartoonist for the Philadelphia Public Ledger and Washington Post before the war, served with the Marines during the war. His cartoons, a regular feature in The Stars and Stripes, poked fun at army life, satirizing ridiculous military regulations to the delight of soldiers on the front. A series of his cartoons includes a panel entitled "Helpful Hints" including such warnings as, "Do not sneeze in your gas mask"; "Never become too familiar with an officer"; and "Never stop a shell with your helmet". Search the collection using the search term Wallgren to generate a list of the artist's irreverent and comical portrayals of military life, including a cartoon poking fun at "conchys" (conscientious objectors).
- Why do you think Wallgren's cartoons were so well received by enlisted personnel?
- Why do you think the Army allowed cartoons making fun of Army regulations to be printed in the paper? Do you think this was a wise decision?
- What caricatures — depictions that exaggerate some aspect of a person's appearance for comic effect — did Wallgren use? How effective are caricatures in conveying a message?
- In your opinion, what are the ingredients of a good cartoon? Use examples from Wallgren's cartoons to illustrate your answer.
Design and Layout
The design and layout of The Stars and Stripes were typical of newspapers of the day. The pages were fairly dense in appearance, although illustrations helped to "break up" the text. The top headline on a story appeared in all capital letters; below that headline, one to three "stacked" headlines provided additional details to lead readers into the story. Many headlines were the same size, so pages were sometimes rather monotonous in appearance.
Examine a number of issues of The Stars and Stripes, focusing on the front page.
- Do you notice any common features about the way the front page was laid out from issue to issue?
- Can you tell from the layout of the front page which was the most important story of the day? Explain your answer.
- Study several contemporary newspapers, such as The New York Times, USA Today, and your local newspaper. Which paper looks most like The Stars and Stripes? Which looks least like The Stars and Stripes? What changes do you think are due to technology? To changes in people's tastes? Which paper do you find most appealing? Choose an issue of The Stars and Stripes and redesign the front page to resemble the paper you find most appealing.