It has now been a century since World War I began, but America’s role in this colossal struggle has been largely forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic. Historian and travel writer Mark D. Van Ells aims to change that.
America and World War I follows in the footsteps of the Doughboy—as the U.S. soldier of the Great War was known—from the training camps of the United States to the frontlines of Europe and back again. Tracing the totality of America’s experience from the factors that led the nation to enter the war in April 1917 to the armistice in November 1918, his riveting narrative describes a military buildup on a scale the world had never seen, as well as the war’s major battles and campaigns and, throughout, it leads the traveler to the memorials erected in the Doughboys’ wake, as well as to the many places that remain unmarked and uncommemorated.
Through their own words, we learn the feelings of those young men and women who served in the war. What were their private thoughts and fears? Their personal memories? Such eyewitness accounts, woven into the fabric of each chapter, give this absorbingly written book an immediacy and vividness that marks a new departure in guidebooks.
The American Legion was founded by World War I veterans in 1919, a fact that does not escape the author’s attention. Legion-related sites featured in the book include a plaque in Paris commemorating the founding of the organization, an American Legion post in Paris that is now a posh hotel, and the Emil A. Blackmore Museum in the American Legion headquarters building in Indianapolis.
Complete with photographs, the voices of the doughboys themselves, and up-to-date travel information, America and World War I is an indispensible guide for those who wish to explore this vital but neglected chapter in the American and European experience.
Mark D. Van Ells is Professor of History at Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York. Dr. Van Ells writes scholarly works as well as books and articles for general audiences on history and travel. His books include To Hear Only Thunder Again: America’s World War II Veterans Come Home (2001), a study of veteran readjustment following the Second World War, and his travel articles on historic places have appeared in numerous periodicals, among them America in WWII, Military History, Naval History, Stars & Stripes, and World War II. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (1982-1986). His website is markdvanells.com.