World War I

A Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sofia in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, setting off a chain of events that would culminate in a world war by August. Five years later, on June 28, 1919, Germany and the Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending World War I and providing for the creation of the League of Nations.
Ypres, Belgium, 1919. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991
After the 1914 assassinations, an elaborate network of treaties among the nations of Europe led to a rapid escalation in the “Great War” between the Central Powers—including Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, and the Allied nations of Britain, France, Italy, and Russia. On April 6, 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies.
Good Bye and Luck Be with You Laddie Boy External,” Will D. Cobb, lyrics, Gus Edwards, music, 1917. Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920 External
It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary External,” written and composed by Jack Judge and Harry Williams, 1912. Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920 External
Oui, Oui, Marie; (Wee, Wee Marie) External,” Alfred Bryan and Joe McCarthy, lyrics, Fred Fisher, music, 1918. Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920 External
It’s a Long Way Back to Tipperary
Henry Reed, fiddler, July 17, 1967. Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection In this selection from an American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940 interview, a veteran recalls his experiences in the First World War:
I spent some time in Paris. Stayed at the Hotel Continental there. I remember the Crystal Palace…the soldiers and girls promenaded on the make for each other. It was a great war—but not for the poor guys up front in the mud and blood.

No Bombs Dropping,” Montpelier, Vermont, Roaldus Richmond, interviewer, circa 1936-1940. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940

A Wrecked German Ammunition Train, Destroyed by Shell Fire, Schutz Group Photographers, circa 1918. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991
Germany eventually sought an armistice that went into effect on November 11, 1918. The peace agreement was supposed to be structured around the Fourteen Points of reconciliation developed by President Woodrow Wilson. The Fourteen Points, which included a provision for the formation of the League of Nations, were meant to prevent “the crime of war,” but the actual terms of the Treaty of Versailles were harshly punitive. The final treaty stipulated that Germany lose approximately 13 percent of its territory and all of its overseas colonies, as well as pay reparations for damages caused by the war. It also limited the size of the German military and restricted the production of armaments.
When the Good Lord Makes a Record of a Hero’s Deed He Draws No Color Line External,” Val Trainor, lyrics, Harry DeCosta, music, 1918. Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920 External
The all black 369th Infantry Regiment saw extensive combat duty during World War I. Later awarded the French Croix de Guerre, the 369th was the first Allied regiment to reach the Rhine. The approximately 370,000 African-American men who served in World War I returned home to face overt racism and segregation. In a speech just after World War I, Senator Gilbert M. Hitchcock spoke of the need for international cooperation to forestall another massive war in Europe:
The late war cost seven million lives…It has destroyed hundreds of towns…it has brought in its train…pestilence and famine. Massacre, torture, and assassinations have accompanied it…The confidence of men in government has been shaken. It will never be restored until governments devise some way to end war. The League of Nations is that way.

Senator Gilbert M. Hitchcock, “The Trouble with Senators Who Oppose the League of Nations,” circa 1918-1920. American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election

The U.S. Senate refused, however, to ratify a treaty that included a provision for membership in the League of Nations. Opponents to membership feared an international organization that would have the power to impose sanctions on its members in the interest of collective security. Led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles on November 19, 1919 and again on March 19, 1920. Thus, U.S. participation in the organization that Wilson had worked so hard to create was nullified. Not until July 2, 1921, did Congress, by joint resolution, formally end U.S. participation in the Great War. Months later, the U.S. ratified separate treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary.
We Want Our Daddy Dear, Back Home External,” Also known as: “Baby Ballad” or “Hello Central, Give Me France”, James M. Reilly, lyrics, Harry De Costa, music, 1918. Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920 External
For American children, the end of the war meant their fathers would be coming home. The lyrics of this sentimental song were clearly meant to tug the heartstrings of parents:
“Hello, Central, give me France,
I want to talk to Daddy dear,
Because I’d like to tell him while I got the chance,
The stork brought a brand new baby here. Won’t you say that its me
And he’ll answer, you’ll see;
So hurry, please, and get him on the phone,

Hello, Central, give me France,
‘Cause we want our Daddy dear back home.”

Learn More

  • Search the complete seventy-one-week run of the World War I edition of the newspaper The Stars and Stripes. Published in France by the United States Army from February 8, 1918, to June 13, 1919, the eight-page weekly featured news, poetry, cartoons, and sports coverage.
  • During the World War I era (1914-18), leading U.S. newspapers took advantage of a new printing technique called rotogravure that produced richly detailed, high quality illustrations. The online collection, Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures, includes the Sunday rotogravure sections of the New York Times and the New York Tribune, as well as the book, The War of the Nations: Portfolio in Rotogravure Etchings. The images in this collection document events of World War I and popular American culture of that era.
  • Search Today in History on World War I for relevant features on the war, such as the sinking of the Lusitania, the United States’ entry into World War I, Armistice (Veterans) Day, and General John J. Pershing, leader of the U.S. forces in Europe.
  • Search the collection Taking the Long View: Panoramic Potographs, 1851-1991 on World War to retrieve over 100 panoramic photos of battlefields and military life. Twelve photos associated with the battles of the Meuse-Argonne are among these.
  • Search on World War in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940 to read more veterans’ stories. This collection includes some 2,900 documents collected in twenty-four states.
  • Search on World War I in Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920 External to find over 100 pieces from the period of the First World War. Cover illustrations and song lyrics contribute valuable information to our understanding of the popular culture of that time, with themes ranging from politics and patriotism, to racial stereotypes, to sentiments about home and family.
  • Search on League of Nations or Wilson in American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election to listen to and read speeches recorded at the time of the controversy over America’s participation in the League. For example, hear Senator Warren G. Harding, state that “…the aspiring conscience of humankind must commit the nations of the earth to a new and better relationship.”
  • Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920 includes over 25,000 glass plate negatives, transparencies and photolithograph prints. Search on World War for more images from the European battlefronts.