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Experiencing War (Companion to the Exhibition -- World War I: Echoes of the Great War) Stories from the Veterans History Project

Part 1: “Arguing Over War and Over Here”

The assassination of an archduke in far-off Serbia in June 1914 was the spark that ignited a global conflict. While Europe’s entangled alliances pulled the world into war, for the next three years, America engaged in bitter arguments over whether to join the fight. Though President Woodrow Wilson declared neutrality, the US crept closer to the brink of engagement, spurred by developments such as the sinking of the commercial ocean liner Lusitania, which Leonard Maunder discusses in his oral history interview, and humanitarian concern for war-torn Belgium.

Once the United States declared war on April 6, 1917, the nation turned its energy to preparing a combat force, and to the industrial needs as well as the public opinion needed to bolster the war effort. The Committee on Public Information used propaganda tools like print media and motion pictures to foster popular support of the war; Dennis Sullivan managed domestic distribution of the movies it made, and his collection includes images used in production of the 1918 film Under Four Flags.

Though some men, like Dr. Orville Rogers, had volunteered for service before the official outbreak of war, and women played a critical role, working and volunteering on the home front and serving as nurses on the Western Front, the newly-instituted Selective Service Act was the main force behind raising an Army. The draft sent men to training camps throughout the United States, including Camp Sherman, Ohio, where Augustus Warfield ushered the 332nd Field Artillery Regiment through their adjustment to military life. As the stories of Louis Quayle and Joseph Rosenblum make clear, camp life came as a shock to many of these draftees. Drawing soldiers from a nation of immigrants, many of them recently arrived, necessarily engaged questions of assimilation and “Americanization.” The battlefield service of soldiers from German-American families, like Hillie John Franz, Otto Leven, and Quiren Groessl, proved their loyalties beyond question.

Hillie John Franz
Hillie John Franz in Army Uniform, American Flag in background. Hillie John Franz Collection, Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center.

Image of Hillie John Franz

“The screeming of the shells was so loud it all most would run any one crazy.”

Hillie John Franz's story

Image of Quiren M. Groessl

“...but now that I could hear these shells coming over I really began to know what fear was...”

Quiren M. Groessl's story

Image of Otto Ferdinand Leven

“...I’ve certainly got lots to tell.”

Otto Ferdinand Leven's story

Image: Leonard H. Maunder

“In fact, the slogan became ‘Get into this war because this is the war to end all wars.”

Leonard H. Maunder's story

Image of Dennis J. Sullivan

“I guess the only thing to do is make the best of it.”

Louis Hildreth Quayle's story

Image: Joseph Rosenblum

“...the fighting was hand to hand, with bayonets and rifle butts..."

Orville F. Rogers' story

Image: Joseph Rosenblum

“And if one does not believe in fate, let him, the coward, read Voltaire.”

Joseph Rosenblum's story

Image of Dennis J. Sullivan

“Under Four Flags is a picture that the Government intends every one...shall see...”

Dennis J. Sullivan's story

Image of Augustus Bennett Warfield

“The second of a series of Regimental Schools of Fire began today...”

Augustus B. Warfield's story

 
 
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  June 26, 2017
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