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Experiencing War: World War I Remembered: 100 Years Later (Stories from the Veterans History Project, Library of Congress)

Diaries and Memoirs

There is a particular comfort in putting down one’s daily experiences on paper—particularly if those experiences take place in a war zone. For many who served during World War I, keeping a diary offered an outlet, a place into which they could unload their fears and frustrations. Today, these diaries stand as unparalleled historic documents, providing readers with a wealth of information about the day-to-day lives of service members. Whether they consist of brief notes about the weather conditions or the chow, or more elaborate entries about losing a comrade, original diaries stand as unmediated records of the war. In the years following World War I, these diaries were often used by veterans (or their family members) as the basis for memoirs. These retrospective accounts place the events of the war in the context of what came next, and answer the question of what remains memorable many decades later.

Featured Story: Quincy Claude Ayres
Quincy Claude Ayres - link to story
“It is remarkable how the birds still sing in the war-swept forest.” (Diary, 3/2/1918)

Boarding the USS Pocahontas on December 3, 1917, for the trip overseas, First Lieutenant Quincy Ayres made daily entries in his diary for the next eighteen months, narrating his arrival in France and his journeys and experiences throughout. He was sustained by letters from his wife, Mary, whom he addresses in his diary as “honey presc,” an abbreviated term of endearment. Quoting a comrade, he writes that “letters from home are like the heavens breaking through depressing clouds.”

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Quincy Claude Ayres' story
Experience more stories of Diaries and Memoirs more stories
“The whole horizon to our left and north was a giant display of fireworks and the noise continues.” (Elliott Lee, Memoir, page 4)
Edward J. Bayon - link to story
"...but here [Riviere] the whole town had turned out to meet us with flags and flowers".

Edward J. Bayon's story

John Joseph Brennan - link to story
"Boy, these cooties are great; I don’t think that they ever sleep..."

John Joseph Brennan's story

Albert Carpenter - link to story
"Our eats have run out, but still trying to keep up good spirits."

Albert John Carpenter's story

Hillie John Franz - link to story
"The screeming of the shells was so loud it all most would run any one crazy."

Hillie John Franz's story

Quiren M. Groessl - link to story
"...I could hear these shells coming over I really began to know what fear was..."

Quiren M. Groessl's story

Alfred C. Harrison - link to story
"Cannot express myself in my letters home the way I should like to..."

Alfred C. Harrison's story

Gustav Hermann Kissel - link to story
"It was a most impressive thing to hear & filled one's mind with the wonders of war."

Gustav Hermann Kissel's story

Theodore Kohls - link to story
“Many of us called it the ride of what was to be the biggest battle of the war."

Theodore Kohls' story

Elliott Hugh Lee - link to story
"We raced for the next post with sparks flying all around us."

Elliott Hugh Lee's story

Morris Martin - link to story
"Those boys up there were still in that Hell, and the end wasn't in sight yet."

Morris Albert Martin's story

Mark Lewis McCave - link to story
"All he can do is get away or be dug in so deeply that none will injure him."

Mark Lewis McCave's story

James Nelson Platt - link to story
"If I ever wanted to be about the size of an ant, it was when I crawled through that hell of shellfire..."

James Nelson Platt's story

Orville F. Rogers - link to story
"From here to Chambry the fields are just full of graves. It is a terrible sight."

Orville F. Rogers' story

Joseph Rosenblum - link to story
"And if one does not believe in fate, let him, the coward, read Voltaire."

Joseph Rosenblum's story

Reese Melvin Russell - link to story
"He handed the grenade to one of the men and said, 'Give them [the enemy] this. I wish I could.'"

Reese Melvin Russell's story

George Brown Sheppard - link to story
"I had no men ... and we had no actual orders, so I stayed in bed and hoped the bombardment would go away."

George Brown Sheppard's story

Earle Covington Smith - link to story
"There were so many bad odors around that I had to watch the gas sentries from sounding unnecessary alarms."

Earle Covington Smith's story



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  November 4, 2014
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