World War I: Above & Beyond the Battlefield

The United States had over 4.7 million men—and several thousand women—in uniform during the Great War, most of them in support of the soldiers on the front lines. Newly minted pilots took to the skies in rickety planes, doctors and nurses tended to the grievously wounded or those laid low by influenza, military police tried to keep order, and map readers tried to keep troop movements straight. Few of these veterans were immune to witnessing the effects of war on their comrades and, thanks to new, long-range artillery, some were in occasional danger even if they were miles from the fighting.

Featured Story: Doyen P. Wardwell

“Oct. 27 [1918]. George Ewing killed in a fall. Machine burns up. This was the first fatal airplane accident that I ever witnessed. It made me think a little toward the future.”

(Diary excerpt in Memoir, page 86)

Doyen “Dink” Wardwell wasted little time in leaving college in the spring of 1917 to enlist in the war effort as a pilot. He persuaded his sweetheart, Dorothy, to marry him that summer, before he shipped out to Europe, and wrote her frequently. His letters to her, hers to him, and his tersely composed diary were assembled by his daughter for a posthumous memoir, On the Wings of Time: An Aviator’s Story. After the war, the thrill of flying never left Wardwell. He flew geological surveys in the West and helped to run Wyoming Airways, a pioneer commercial airline. He was killed when his plane burst into flames over Casper, Wyoming, in 1929; he was 33 years old.