Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I

Article excerpt

By John S. D. Eisenhower with Joanne Thompson Eisenhower. New York: The Free Press, 2001. 353 pages. $35.00.

This latest offering by acclaimed historian John S. D. Eisenhower, with his wife Joanne Thompson Eisenhower, is a notable contribution to the increasing interest in World War I. Although World War I has had literally thousands of books written about it, relatively few are available at the present time, even in libraries, and even fewer have been read by present generations. This book provides readers and historians with a wealth of information logically presented with scholarship and integrity.

The purpose of the book, in the words of the author, "is to strike a balance, to examine how the American Expeditionary Force came about; to describe the gargantuan efforts needed to create it, supply it, train it, and fight it; and in so doing to show how the modern Army was born."

The book is divided into three main parts. Book One is entitled "Creating the AEF." It develops the international scene that found a small US Army on the Mexican border pursuing Pancho Villa, augmented by a militia force. The Army that fought on the border was woefully unprepared for participation in a struggle as colossal as the one ongoing in Europe. The story of how America entered World War I is succinctly presented. Of particular interest is the genesis both here and in France of the American Expeditionary Force.

The selection of General Pershing and the Army politics of the time make for a fascinating story. The trials and tribulations experienced by General Pershing in creating an Army, as well as his problems in relationships with the Allied commanders at home and in Europe, provide lessons for any officer aspiring to high command and staff. Joint and combined operations, coalitions, politics, and statesmanship were but a few of the challenges presented to a comparatively innocent American high command. Of particular interest were Pershing's efforts to establish a logistical base and a training command that would mold the amateur American force into an efficient and sustained fighting machine.

Book Two, entitled "Apprenticeship: The Opening Battles," is a story that closely parallels the problems faced by the Army at the start of World War II and Korea. One cannot help but be reminded that history repeats itself. This book is a primer on the responsibilities and the relationships between the Army Secretariat, the Army Staff, and the forces in the field.

The first fights at Cantigny and Belleau Wood baptized the AEF in the brutal combat of World War I. …