Academic journal article Military Review

Americans in Occupied Belgium, 1914-1918

Academic journal article Military Review

Americans in Occupied Belgium, 1914-1918

Article excerpt

AMERICANS IN OCCUPIED BELGIUM, 1914-1918 Accounts of the War from Journalists, Tourists, Troops and Medical Staff Ed Klekowski and Libby Klekowski, McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2014, 296 pages

This book surprised me. I had little expectation that a volume titled Americans in Occupied Belgium, 1914-1918: Accounts of the War from Journalists, Tourists, Troops and Medical Staff could hold the interest of a serious military professional or student of military history. I expected an eclectic travelogue at best, but the authors delivered a different result. Ed Klekowski is a retired professor of biology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he writes with his wife, Libby Klekowski. They openly admit that the book grew out of their visits to a daughter and her husband who live in Louvain, Belgium, but they felt compelled to tell this story. They have produced a worthy historical account.

This book capably sets the experiences of Americans who lived or travelled in Belgium during the Great War in chronological context. Most historians of the western front largely ignore Belgium, except for early German atrocities or the battles of Ypres, and they certainly do not set events in the full context from German invasion until war's end, illuminating the effect of combat on the noncombatants. The Klekowskis do that, and meanwhile they interweave some fascinating tales of personal American experience from a great variety of perspectives. The story of Herbert Hoover's Commission for Relief in Belgium is a principal part of this book. Americans also fought on both sides, Allied and German. Aid workers, ambulance drivers, curious businessmen, nurses, journalists, and adventurers all have a voice in this story.

Ed and Libby Klekowski employ their primary sources in a most adept way, and no pertinent source is wasted. The book is primarily based on the memoirs of those Americans who experienced World War I in Belgium, but it also makes great use of visual records, such as period postcards and photographs, as well as contemporary sources such as newspapers and journals. …

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