Doughboy War: The American Expeditionary Force in World War I

Doughboy War: The American Expeditionary Force in World War I

Doughboy War: The American Expeditionary Force in World War I

Doughboy War: The American Expeditionary Force in World War I


This multi-layered history of World War I's doughboys recapitulates the enthusiasm of scores of soldiers as they trained for war, voyaged to France, and finally, faced the harsh reality of combat on the Western Front. Drawing on journals, diaries, personal narratives, and unit histories, Hallas relates the story of men in combat—the men behind the rifles. He has crafted a vivid pastiche that portrays the realities of all the major campaigns, from the first experiences in the muddy trenches to the bloody battle for Belleau Wood, from the violent clash on the Marne to the seemingly unending morass of the Argonne. His moving account reveals what the doughboys saw, what they did, how they felt, and the impact the Great War had on them.


Why write about them now?

They are gone and largely forgotten, those once jaunty young men with the quaint dishpan helmets, the spiral puttees, and highcollared wool tunics. The songs they sang, the weapons they used— their very concept of the world—are mere curiosities to most of us today.

But they were so American! A latter-day historian referred to them as “the fierce lambs. ” Fierce they certainly were; their combat record brooks no dispute. And yes, they were lambs, their lack of sophistication and worldliness sometimes humorous, often touching and sometimes sad and a bit pathetic. They were farmers and mill workers, students and clerks, men whose roots went back to the original 13 colonies and men who were barely off the boat from Europe and had yet to master the English language. Few in the ranks were well educated, a surprising number (by today's standards, at least) were illiterate.

Nearly 5 million Americans served in the armed forces during World War I—the largest fighting force the country had ever seen. Some 2 million of them served in Europe where U. S. presidents had traditionally promised never to interfere. Nearly 80,000 of them died there.

They went because they had to go, most of them; because they were expected to go; and many because they wanted to go. They went to save France, to repay LaFayette, to skin the Kaiser or just, as one Marine veteran recalled, “to see what all the noise was about. ”

Of course they were innocents. So was their country. When the United States entered the war in the spring of 1917, the standing army numbered less than 130,000 men—this at a time when millions were engaged on the Western Front. The largest organization in the U. S. Army at the time was the regiment—a unit . . .

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