Highly Recommended Books
On America at War
by David C. Homsher

Highly Recommended Books On America at War and Fighting with The A.E.F in World War I

by David C. Homsher

 

About the author

David C. Homsher, a veteran of U.S. Army service during the Korean War, and now retired, is a historian/author of and about the American soldier of World War I and his battlefields. Dave has traveled extensively over many of the battlegrounds of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France and Belgium, and he is currently publishing the first of a series of guidebooks to the American battlefields of World War I.

David Homsher, author of: American Battlefields of World War IChâteau Thierry--Then and Now
ISBN: 97809702444307  $29.95

Orders taken now at www.battlegroundpro.com

Battleground Productions
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David C. Homsher. 85 Tilton Avenue, # 4, San Mateo, CA 94401 USA
Tel. (650) 347-6073
e-mail: [email protected]bal.net

 

There are mountains of books which tell about America at war and the combat participation of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I. This brief listing of forty books will be all you will need to read to get the "gut-feeling" of what it was like to be in and fight with the AEF of 1917-1919 in France during World War I. Most of these titles are books which were written by the Doughboys who were ‘up front,' and not by the generals in corps or division headquarters.

It has been almost ninety years since the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) fought its great battles in France during World War I.

The Great War of 1914-1918, now known as World War I, has also been a great war of words. Although the conflict has attracted more than its fair share of bores, there are nonetheless a lot of interesting reads in its massive bibliography. In the process of researching and writing my series of guidebooks to the battlegrounds of the AEF in France and Belgium, it has been my pleasure, over a period of some twenty years, to have read about well over one thousand unit histories, memoirs, fictional and non-fictional books relating to the AEF and its combat operations. My working bibliography is now 100 pages in length. One finishes his reading of this literature with his emotions and thoughts stirred by some of the better writings. In spite of the fact that World War I has been over for eighty-six years, and has been eclipsed by cataclysmic events since, the intensity of passion spread upon the pages of many of these literary efforts still has a great impact. Many of these writers felt deeply, and their intense involvement in the issues of the war was well translated in fictional form to the written page. They made the war and their positions come alive for readers of that period, and their words still have that power. It is this type of literary effort that it has been the compiler's purpose to list. These authors, even in presenting the most destructive effects of war, offered their novels as testaments of horror, and, in so doing, expressed some hope for change.

We sometimes overlook the testimony of the ordinary soldier- not a scholar or an expert in the accepted sense - but he who knew certain limited things because he was there, he was personally involved, he did the fighting himself. The serious historian should always seek out such first-person accounts because they can frequently correct a record that was distorted in the first writing and was perpetuated by scholarly experts copying each other. Eyewitnesses and participants have memories of things not previously in print or commonly known. The soldiers observed people and events from a special viewpoint. They should therefore be considered prime sources for the military historian and author.

Authenticity is a prerequisite of the good war literature. Of all the books, both pre-and post- Armistice, there are too few which have caught the reflection of the American doughboy so that he himself may recognize the image. Of that which Barbusse did for the French poilu in Le Feu and Ian Hay for the British Tommy in The First Hundred Thousand, our shelves show but faint traces. Who can fail to be moved even today, in a world grown callous by brutality and destructiveness, with the poignant writing of Hervey Allen about the fighting of the Pennsylvanians in Fismette, the little suburb of Fismes (by the Vesle River in France), or of John W. Thomason's account of the capture of Hill 142 on the left flank of Belleau Wood, on the morning of the day on which Belleau Wood was assaulted. Yet these books are so intensely personal and historical at the same time that each one individually still reveals new insights to an understanding of that period out of which they came and of later periods as well.

According to Richard Coombs, the late editor of Relevance, the Journal of the Great War Society, 150,000 books have been written about the Great War. Of these, a relatively small number have survived the test of almost a century and can truly be called classics, in the best sense of the word. These show the magic of the writer’s penmanship holding the reader’s immersed attention on the subject. An even smaller number of books fit these criterion for the AEF of 1917-1919.

There are hundreds of good books on the AEF in the First World War. I have listed a few of the best here, including some old ones, because they are classics and have lasted these many years since the War faded into history. Here then, are the forty books that I would like to recommend to the readers of this article, the books that give the reader a "gut-feeling" of life and combat in the AEF. These books see the war as a microcosm of the large war. The authors "get at the real thing" (Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage) and show life in the AEF "the way it really was" ( Ernest Hemingway, author of For Whom the Bell Tolls).

The infantry and artillery soldiers viewed war from a different angle than those staff officers and generals who wrote memoirs and other wartime effusions--the combat soldiers saw and felt war from the bottom of the ladder, so to speak.

It was the infantry that conquered enemy ground, and the artillery paved the way for the infantry. These books, with the sole exception of Anton Myrer’s Once an Eagle, were all written by men and officers of the AEF who had huddled in trench and shell-hole, and who had known Zero-Hour. There are no books here that were authored from "back yonder" by Generals, about whom it has been said they "die in bed", nor are there any accounts from the "headquarters viewpoint." There are only the narratives of AEF life and actions in which the writer had directly participated.

These books present a moving, true picture of what men feel, how they act, what passes in their minds and hearts, living, fighting and dying in the trenches of the most awful war of all time. “On this war,” said a great man, “men will think and write for a thousand years.” They will. And the things that will concern, interest and fill the thoughts of the great bulk of humanity who do think and want to know, will be not the great battles, not the tactics and the strategy of generals and mighty armies but such human feelings and actions as fill these books.

Some of these books may be easily and currently available at your local library. Often large libraries will have them in their collection. If not available, the reference department of your library can get the book for you on the National Interlibrary Loan Program; they are well worth searching out and reading. What follows is a brief list of some of the better works that should be read by non- specialists and accidental historians. Here then, is my distillation of two decades of steady reading about the AEF in World War I.

 

Allen, Hervey : TOWARD the FLAME. NY: Doran, 1926

Hervey Allen's account of his experiences as an infantry lieutenant showed that one man's battle role was so insignificant that the war aims faded into the background. Once in action, the individual's struggle to survive eliminated all other considerations. In most cases, success depended on a combination of fortunate circumstances, seldom on skill. Allen's graphic account of service in the 28th Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, AEF, and the vicious battle for Fismes and Fismette during the Aisne-Marne offensive of 1918 is very lucid. The five day fight for Fismette was said to have been the worst five days of fighting by the American Expeditionary Forces. Allen describes the Fismette massacre in horrendous detail. This book is very candid in its observations and formed a basis for some of Allen's later war stories.

Allen’s story covers only a few weeks in the summer of 1918, during which American troops attacked German positions in Fismette and were virtually annihilated. It wasn’t a crucial action— the Germans gained nothing by their momentary victory—and it shed no particular glory on the Americans who fought in it. But it is a convincing picture of the American war—the new, untried troops moving anxiously through country they don’t know, uncertain of where the enemy is, where their supporting troops are, or even what they are expected to do. Troops move, bivouac, move again, attack and are attacked, without ever knowing quite what is happening. What they do know is the immediate physical scene in which they live and fight and die; the village, its river and bridge, a stone wall, a hill. Allen’s narrative has the virtue that all good battle memoirs have: it makes real the part of a war that one man, fighting, sees.

Allen’s book is listed here mainly for the sense of its ending. In the last episode, Allen and his men are sheltering from the German shells and gas in a dugout in the village of Fismette. The shelling stops, and Allen realizes that an enemy attack is about to begin, and tries to marshal his men to cover the hilltop over which the Germans come.

Not surprisingly, few accounts exist of what it was like to be on the receiving end of a flamethrower attack. Can there be a narrative more memorable than the concluding paragraph of Hervey Allen’s appropriately titled Toward the Flame, one of the notable memoirs of the Great War? Allen, better remembered (though mostly forgotten today) as an historical novelist, was a first lieutenant in the American 28th Division, a National Guard unit from Pennsylvania. At Fismette on the Vesle River in August 1918, storm troops swept over Allen and his company:

“Suddenly along the top of the hill there was a puff, a rolling cloud of smoke, and then a great burst of dirty, yellow flame….It was the Flammenwerfer, the flame throwers; the men along the crest curled up like leaves to save themselves as the flame and smoke rolled clear over them. There was another flash between the houses. One of the men stood up, turning around outlined against the flame—“Oh! My God!” he cried. “Oh! God”

A war-novel of exceptional interest, should be considered a classic of war, but it is not.

“Toward the Flame” is the simple, moving narrative of an infantry lieutenant with the A.E.F. in France during the great war. Set down from memory as a picture of war, with no comment and very little in the way of explanation, every word of this account of trial by battle rings true. It is no story of trench life but a stirring narrative of an army on the march and under battle fire during some of the fiercest days of the war, including the drive from the Marne to the Vesle in July and August, 1918, and the fighting about Château-Thierry and Fismes.”

“Toward the Flame’ ranks with Masefield’s ‘Gallipoli.’ It is a stupendous piece of emotional reporting. His simple narrative is filled with drama and humor. His comrades live in his pages. He shows restraint, courage, intense observational powers in this narrative. It is unforgettable and beautiful. It has the mark of a classic, and will be read as long as the World War is remembered.” Bookman, April, 1926.

“If any one still has the idea that war is romantic this book is recommended to him. Although the writing is often careless to a degree, it still has a sort of breezy style about it reminiscent of the soldiers themselves. It will make those who were in the army and those who were not wonder again how men could do and dare the incredible things that were accomplished, without food, without water, bent by fatigue and numbed with exposure. New York Herald Tribune Books, April 26, 1926.

“He tells us nothing new or startling about the war, but he gives us with genuine fidelity a narrative of life and death in 1918. Mr. Allen belongs to the small group of honest realists. He does not keep shouting at us, ‘War is horrible, War is funny, War is Hell, War is the outcome of capitalism.’ He tells us simply his own experience and we do the rest. The result is the best ‘war stuff’ yet written by an American author.” Independent, April 10, 1926.

“In a way his narrative is hardly different from so many books about the war. He gives you the facts in a pleasant and lucid style, with occasional moments of moving eloquence. He has vividness and probity, and he can make scenes appear as in a mirror. It may be argued whether his record adds another document to masterpieces called forth by the war.” International Book Review, August, 1926.

“Splendid writing, colored with emotion and free from conscious propaganda.” Literary Review, May 1, 1926.

“Toward the Flame’ is written in admirable and simple prose throughout…The whole constitutes an important record of a type of American which is scarcer than it should be.” Saturday Review of Literature, April 10, 1926.

 

IT WAS LIKE THIS: TWO STORIES OF THE GREAT WAR. NY: Farrar & Rinehart, 1940

"Report to Major Roberts" tells of a young Yank lieutenant who comes to enjoy killing and whose only hold on reality during combat is his title, "Blood Lust" sees the transformation of a simple youth into a professional soldier via a heavy-handed introduction to the horrors of combat. This book contains a shocking scene or two of Americans enjoying the killing of Germans and a somewhat heavy-handed initiation of an American innocent named William Henry Virgin.

“Two stark, realistic stories of the Great War: Report to Major Roberts, the story of a young American lieutenant, whose only hold on reality during days and nights of horror, was the fact that he had been told to “Report to Major Roberts”; and Blood Lust, story of the transformation of a simple youth into a hard-boiled soldier.” Atlantic, June, 1940; Booklist, Mar 15, 1940; Books, Mar 3, 1940.

“Both stories are readable, but neither accomplishes its purpose. That sleepless men with jangled nerves reveal hitherto unsuspected aspects of their characters is not news. The imaginative will learn from the stories nothing about war that they have not already surmised, and the realism is not intense enough, not visceral enough, to stir the unimaginative to a just sense of what they are in for if war comes. In fact, some may suspect that the realism of the book is only superficial, the covering of a deep-going and unconscious romanticism.” Commonweal, March 29, 1940.

“Timely. Realistic. An excellent plea for peace.” Library Journal, Feb 1, 1940; New Republic, April 1, 1940.

“For those who ask the question, ‘What’s war like?’ Hervey Allen has given in both tales descriptions in graphic detail of battle as it is experienced within small units. A final word should be said for an interesting and provocative brief introduction.” NY Times, March 3, 1940.

“The longer ‘Report to Major Roberts’ is graphic, romantic, even Frank-Merriwellish, but even the most wretched of wars does not lack those qualities. The shorter, ‘Blood Lust,’ is a grim little character study. The two together do not make very much of a book, in size or in importance. Saturday Review of Literature, March 2, 1940; Wisconsin Library Bulletin, June, 1940.

 

Baker, Chester E. : DOUGHBOY’s DIARY. Burd Street Press, 1998

Corporal Chester E. Baker joined the U. S. 28th Division of Pennsylvania National Guard along with friends and relatives from Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Suddenly these young men found themselves in Texas chasing Pancho Villa. Baker, unofficial mother hen to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 112th Regiment of Infantry tells a fascinating, sometimes hilarious, sometimes tender, and often heartrending tale of the year the men of Company F spent in France, before and after the Armistice. Together, they fought lice and dysentery, mutilation and death, shell shock and homesickness. In one short year they were changed from quixotic boys dreaming of glory to battle-hardened veterans, willing to lay down their lives to save a friend’s. Baker and the others who survived the war, which they thought would end war forever, returned from France members of a brotherhood as sacred as Arthur’s Knights of the Roundtable. Baker’s memoir was written when he was eighty-seven years of age and something of his advanced age is reflected in the writing thereof. Some of the passion and impact of 1918 is missing. Baker admits to having lost his original notes and to using the notes of others in writing this memoir. Nonetheless, Baker’s account of the fighting in Fismes and Fismette (at the Vesle River) is, at times, colorful. He seems to simply skip over the ten days of vicious fighting by the U. S. 28th Division for the heavily fortified ridge of the Argonne Forest plateau called La Chene Tondu. All-in-all Baker’s memoir of fighting with the “Bloody Bucket” (as the Germans called the Red Keystone insignia) 28th Division is a solid one, although at times rather pedestrian in nature.

 

Barber, Thomas H. : ALONG the ROAD. NY: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1924

Thomas Barber, formerly a captain in the Pioneer Infantry, writes graphically about twelve ordinary days of combat experience by his engineer company in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. Barber has presented a small cross section of that war with which the majority of the AEF were familiar. Reading Barber's book is akin to the feeling one has when striking gold on a worked-out claim. A tale told with simple vigor that, to those who knew the Argonne front, will make the shadows of October 1918 leap out from the past into sharp reality. Such boldness and homely honesty of line could only have been drawn by one endowed with rare powers of observation and human sympathy. Through the lines of a soldier's diary emerges the soldier himself. That strange mixture of discontent and cheerfulness, stubbornness under discipline and tractability under leadership, sentimentalism and repression, garrulous incoherence. Barber has captured the spirit of the "middle army" which sweated unsung through seas of mud, heaving, cursing, straining to get supplies up to the front lines.

“The writer was in command of a company of pioneer infantry in the Argonne advance. A period of twelve days is covered by his narrative—three days of quiet and nine days of attack—which he describes as just average days, neither the dullest nor the most exciting. In its simplicity and faithfulness of detail, this account presents an evidently truthful picture of a small cross-section of the war and of the American soldier. Marvelously photographic in its simplicity, directness and sense of actuality. There is no attempt at fine writing, no painting of the lily, no unconscious effort at dramatic effect. There is nothing but the simple, unadorned account of what Captain Barber saw and did and experienced during each twenty-four hours.” New York Times, July 6, 1924.

 

Barkley, John Lewis : NO HARD FEELINGS. NY: Cosmopolitan, 1930

John L. Barkley's narrative takes the reader from Château-Thierry to the Argonne, where he was a winner of the Medal of Honor. Enough said!

“Being a scout and sniper in the Intelligence service of the A. E. F. just suited the narrator of this personal war story. Mr. Barkley, during his six months active service in France, found himself and his equally daring pals in more than one dangerous and thrilling situation, but he usually came off the victor—as his various honors and medals testify. This is the record of a man who really enjoyed the war.”

“A straightforward and unassuming narrative, which more than compensates for the undeniable lack of literary value by the quality and abundance of its material.” Bookman, Oct 1930.

“One reads this book with breathless haste to get on to the next thrill, but at the end there is no conviction that Mr. Barkley’s version of the war is a representative one or even a real one. Certainly Mr. Barkley’s enjoyment of it will appear to most people as somewhat abnormal. Even when we allow him the natural fighting temperament of a descendant of pioneers there is a certain unreality in the extraordinary gusto with which he fought. Mr. Barkley’s facts may be correct, but the emphasis which he continually puts upon them taxes the readers’ sense of reality past the breaking point. The general air of bravado with which he tells his story gives it more the atmosphere of a Dumas melodrama than a narrative of the World War. And somehow we are still too close to the reality to enjoy it as a blood and thunder tale.” Books, Sept 28, 1930.

“Here at last is a war novel that makes no great pretensions, that does not claim to be the epic of the whole war in its revelation of the blasting of human lives and the rending of the traditions of nations. Mr. Barkley in ‘No Hard Feelings’ gives us an unbiased and unadorned story. He does not dwell upon unpleasantness, but accepts it when it comes, and relieves the unbroken strain of fighting with quite bursts of humor. In general the martial tone of this book is never too oppressive or too weighty. ‘No Hard Feelings’ is a book that you will like.” Boston Transcript, Oct 11, 1930.

 

Boyd, Thomas Alexander : THROUGH THE WHEAT. NY: Scribner's, 1923. Reprinted 1978 by Southern University Press, Carbondale, ILL.

Boyd's book stands at the top of the list. War's utter waste and futility permeate Boyd's novel. During the Château-Thierry and Soissons battles, Boyd revealed in each member of a marine platoon his motives for fighting, his fears, and his ambitions. He knew the men who fought and he has crystallized their actions, both physical and mental, with an unerring pen in this novel concerning marines in France during World War I and their adjustment to the daily tasks of surviving under front-line conditions and the constant advance into almost certain death.

William Hicks enlists in the U. S. Marine Corps hoping to see some action. Before going into battle, he had a great urge to fight. During the fighting some men were brave, some cowardly, but without maudlin extremes. Through the bloody action, the personnel changed radically. One who remained was Private William Hicks. Hicks’ education, however, is more complete, with greater realistic detail: he is caught sleeping on guard duty; feels numbing fear in combat; sees unarmed men shot down in cold blood; is gassed; and finally goes insane during a heavy bombardment that kills his best friend before his eyes. Boyd shows a brief glimpse of an ambitious general who, devoutly seeking his third star, exhorts his troops to battle by promising them “Hell, Heaven, or Hoboken by Christmas. Battle horrors dissipated his enthusiasm for everything except getting away. It was not that Hicks was afraid of dying, but that he was weary of the seeming futility of it all. This is the story of how young Private Hicks adjusted to the daily encounter with death on the front line.

The novel concludes with a scene that suggests the final moments of The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane: “An ochre cannon-ball lay suspended in the soft blue sky. Efflorescent clouds, like fresh chrysanthemums were piled on top one another….” The enemy approaches from an adjacent ridge-line as Hicks walks over ground strewn with bodies to get his rifle. The Germans draw “ever…nearer,” bur “no longer did anything matter, neither the bayonets, the bullets, the barbed wire, the dead, nor the living. The soul of Hicks was numb.” The scenes of death and putrefaction are continuous, adding steadily to the final impact of Through the Wheat. Boyd, however wrote of that comparatively small body of men, the Marines, who participated in desperate fighting of July and August 1918. Considered by many to be not only the best combatant story of the World War I but the best American war book since "The Red Badge of Courage." The characters are all familiar, but the action, thrilling, horrifying, vivid, is, fortunately, unfamiliar to a great majority of the American army. A true literary military classic. Boyd served with the 4th Marine Brigade, 2nd Division, AEF, and when he wrote about the Battle of Soissons, he knew that many of the men of his Marine Brigade would judge his record.

“’Through the Wheat’ records the experience of William Hicks of the marines who never distinguished himself, but who never flinched, who never fled from action and responsibility and who never cultivated glory and bravado for their own sakes. Heroism was incidental and unavoidable. Throughout the novel Hicks is never far from the front line. The ugly business of war consumes all his strength. He does not cut loose and end up in the guardhouse. And although he never quite forgets himself, never deliberately merges his own individuality in the whole affair or loses himself entirely in a great cause, neither does he think only of himself or become neurotic. In the end, in the most furious attack of his experience, Hicks became acclimated. The effect of attack after attack, numberless tragedies day after day, unceasing danger, was to deaden his senses completely. His companions concluded, not without reason, that he was mad. He wandered about under fire with perfect composure—not because he was more brave than his fellows, but because he was psychologically dead.” NY Times.

“As a picture of the war it is far better than Dos Passos’ ‘Three Soldiers,’ and far more terrible because it is well rounded. It is less a novel than ‘Three Soldiers’ because it lacks the passionate drive and purpose of that one-sided picture; it lacks the incident and color. Yet there is superb characterization in ‘Through the Wheat’ and there is beauty because there is such noble truth.” Bookman, Aug 1923.

“It is a rough book, as is entirely proper, the language exact and scarcely poetic. Again a welcome change from introspective analyses of many another war volume. Others could have written the equivalent—others did for that matter—but as an objective account it satisfies, as yet another first-hand impression.” Boston Transcript, May 25, 1923.

“This is probably the only candid account on record of what it meant to be a hero in the Marines, and a valuable document on the ordinary human virtues in reaction to the conditions of modern warfare.” Dial, July, 1923.

“Take now your copy of ‘The Red Badge of Courage,’ remove it respectfully from your library shelves, and bestow it in the attic. For it is obsolete. It is superseded. It must give place, after a generation of unquestioned supremacy in its line, to a better book. In its room insert ‘Through the Wheat,’ the mightiest story of arms and the man this century has produced.” Greensboro (N.C.) Daily News, July 15, 1923.

“It is an exceptionally graphic, well-balanced account of the war as it seemed to a private soldier.” International Book Review, Aug 1923.

“There is a fine unity about it all which only becomes fully apparent when this note is struck. The effect is cumulative in the fullest sense; there are no skies and stars and dawns pointed out to give significance to the insignificant or to imply a connection where there is no connection. The whole book is written in the light of one sharp emotion and hence it is a work of art rather than a textbook for patrioteer or pacifist that the book is arresting.” Literary Review, May 26, 1923.

“Mr. Boyd falters at the end. Hicks is a little undefined and his spiritual disintegration is thereby rendered less poignant. The author seems to hesitate between a finality and a progression and achieves neither. ‘Through the Wheat’ is nevertheless a remarkable first novel.” Nation, July 18, 1923.

“It has remained for Thomas Boyd to write the least partisan and most brilliant of doughboy reminiscences. Mr. Boyd has recorded as nearly as he can recall it, and without grinding an axe or proving a thesis, the physical and spiritual progress (or is it retrogression?) of a normal youth, an enlisted man in the marines, neither holier nor viler than the run of his comrades.” NY Times, April 29, 1923.

“We like this novel better than ‘Three Soldiers’ for the reason that it is organically more sound and because there is more about the actual fighting man’s war in it than in Dos Passos’ story. Besides, although marred with jejune fretting here and there, it suffers less from that quality than did the earlier book. ‘Three Soldiers’ dealt too definitely with odd fish. Hicks, the protagonist of this novel, lives in many places on this earth. Therefore, his tragedy has a wider significance for us, if we take this book as a novel of purpose. In the main it sets down the truth about war in the unforgettable manner of passionate soberness. The scene is splashed in whole, and then sharpened with accurate bits of action, brought into relief with vehement description, and given the lasting color of conviction.” New York Tribune, May 6, 1923.

“A remarkable book young Mr. Boyd has written. It will be much read and perhaps fiercely debated. It should not be without effect. NY World, May 6, 1923.

“A realistic picture of war. Called “the least partisan and most brilliant of the doughboy reminiscences.” Very accurate day-by-day description of the way an average man, a very real character, takes part in the war.”

“An impressionistic handling of the reactions of a normal American soldier, Private Hicks, to the war. The keynote is numbness—a deadly numbness which offers the sole defense of the normal mind against the horrors it confronts. Its matter-of-factness, detached point of view, and the ordinariness of the hero, set it apart from Three Soldiers and The Enormous Room. An excellent bit of impressionism.”

 

Casey, Robert J. : THE CANNONEERS HAVE HAIRY EARS: A DIARY OF THE FRONT LINES

Captain Robert J. Casey, a battery commander in the 58th Field Artillery Brigade kept a wartime diary, later published anonymously as The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears.

This work is the unedited journal of a combat unit of the United States Field Artillery—the story of one battery of seventy-fives from the date on which it was hurriedly called out of the training sector at Valdahon, until that November morning on which the last shot of the Great War was fired, and, as such, may properly be accepted as the story of most combat units. Necessarily without form, or definite continuity, it is, none the less, a remarkable literary performance, composed, though it was, to an accompaniment of shell-fire.

From the book the reader will miss, perhaps, certain linguistic spices and savors that have given a pungency to other war records, yet the men of the author’s battery did speak the language of the A.E.F. with fluency, including references, on occasions, to definite canine ancestry as well as numerous colorful Anglo-Saxon monosyllables. The author’s avoidance of these sprightly terms was due in no degree whatever to any personal squeamishness, but because the journal was kept for the eyes of a lady—a lady into whose hands it might possibly fall only after the author himself had been transferred to somewhere in the far silence and thus rendered unable, in person, to explain his yearnings for realism. Furthermore, the language of this battery, the author surmises, was probably as chaste as that of the average group of college students, and it improved steadily as the repetition of certain open-air expletives ceased to soothe. Moreover, as the author makes beautifully clear, the average American soldier was not the introspective Russian novelist that certain war fiction would have us believe. He appears herein, not to have been concerned at all about the status of his soul, nor the many and muddled causes that had dragged him out of an Alabama back-lot to make the world safe for anything in particular. Certainly his primary, and frequently his only, questions with regard to the murderous trade to which he found himself apprenticed were:

(a) “When do we eat?” (b) “Where to we go from here?”

Of the conditions under which the journal was kept and of its author, the reader may be interested in knowing that before the “outfit” left Valdahon, the author bought a fountain-pen, a packet of ink tablets, four notebooks, and a ream of coordinate paper. The paper and two of the notebooks he carried in his saddlebags; the rest of his literary equipment was stowed away in the pockets of his blouse. The journal was pen-kept, so to speak, until the battery arrived at Romagne, where its author discovered an ancient typewriter in a compartment of a reel-fourgon. The variety of style in the work may be thus, in some degree, accounted for.

Obviously, the author declares, an artilleryman would have a far better opportunity to keep a detailed journal than an infantryman, for, even though the battery were seldom more than one thousand yards behind the front lines, an efficient battery functioned like a machine, and the executive officer found plenty of time on his hands. As a matter of fact, the author’s battery spent the last days of the war ahead of the infantry, yet was composed, in greater part, of high-school boys from Springfield, Illinois. The outfit was detached from the 33rd Division and sent into the line as “circus” artillery, which means that it was not hauled out when new divisions came up. For accuracy, efficiency, and conduct under fire it was cited several times, twice by Major General Summerall.

The battery’s “boss,” and author of this book, was awarded a Captaincy in October, 1918, but in the meantime had received three citations, one of them signed by General Pershing himself.

This journal is an exceptionally good read about the fighting done by one battery of French .75’s from the start of the St. Mihiel Campaign on into the Meuse-Argonne and to the end of the war. Inasmuch as the journal was written while in combat, the writing is fresh, at-the-time, and original. This is not a book written many years after-the-fact and with a retrospective pen. The author pulls no punches in describing the horrors of front-line combat for both the infantry and the artillery.

“The diary of a battery of field artillery in action on the front lines. The publishers say that the author “is a well known newspaper man who was a Captain of Artillery and saw service at the front.”

“The artillery officer who wrote ‘The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears’ has treated the whole thing as a duty to be performed as lightheartedly as possible. Because of this attitude, the book probably comes nearer indicating the state of mind of the majority of the A .E. F. than any other previous work. The tale is a gripping, straightforward diary of two and a half months of fighting with a battery of French 75s.” Boston Transcript, Dec 10, 1927.

“It is without a doubt, a genuine memoir of the war, a long book full of the names of towns, people and battle fronts, but containing very little description or feeling. New York Evening Post, Oct 29, 1927.

“Saturated to the hilt with natural, unforced drama.” North American, Dec 1927.

 

Dos Passos, John R. : THREE SOLDIERS. Doran, 1921. Reprinted 1964

John Dos Passos enlisted in the army as a man of letters. By nature he would have written of graceful and humane living—of individuals working out the pattern of their lives without interference—of generous impulse and playful whim—and of landscapes molded by the toil of farmer and forester. But what he found was twisted heaps of brick and iron and officers creeping into shelters. This lover of phlox and honeysuckle met everywhere the smell of carbolic and latrines, of gas and shrapnel, of foul bodies in uniform, and headless bodies rotting in the woods. This lover of freedom and idiosyncrasy found men made slaves, bullied and humiliated, denied all dignity, and kept to their endless drill, their loading and unloading of scrap iron, their window-washing and emptying of slops, long after the War was over. His three soldiers are all good men;; but all three were driven by the cruelties of the system to the desperate expedient of deserting. They would have willingly given their lives for their country; but the endless waiting and futility, the bungling and brutality of the War, stifled all remnants of patriotic feeling.

Three Soldiers was the first important American novel, and one of the first in any language to treat the War in the tone of realism and disillusion. The book made a deep impression, and may be counted the beginning of strictly contemporary fiction in the United States. Three Soldiers is an American war classic that traces the experiences of three doughboys through World War I, showing how all are broken by the pressures of conflict and the "system"; a bitter attack on what the author conceived as the misery, tyranny, and degradation found in Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces. This was one of the first books published which de-glorifies the American Army and which presented the War in unheroic colors. Dos Passos accurately depicts the uneasy relationships between the officers and men of an egalitarian society’s army. The book of hard-boiled realism is the odyssey of three buck privates—Fuselli from the West, Christfield from the South, John Andrews the musician from New York—multiple protagonists, the theme of America as a melting pot, was an attempt to tell in miniature the national story of the AEF. The book takes Andrews, a dilettante musician through his war experiences and with him the two average Americans who share his discontent. One of them begins by being ambitious for promotion, but rises no higher than an army kitchen. Another, a mild farm boy, murders and officer who has bullied him. Fuselli is an urban non-entity but Andrews, an alienated, passive artist, and Chrisfield, a pathological man-of- action, a man who hates all forms of authority. There are three protagonists in the book, but only one hero, John Andrews; and it is his humiliation and agony in war that finally dominate the book. The book follows the central figures from background phases in the United States to their final fates in war. Andrews, the musician, permitted after the Armistice to study in Paris, is so resentful because his final discharge is slow in coming that he deserts and at the end faces a long term in prison. John Andrews, the musician and chief figure in Three Soldiers, has come from Harvard to the war expecting that he will find peace for his troubled mind in a large, generous cause. Instead, he finds slavery and boredom. Andrews rebels against dullness and pettiness, aimlessness and cruelty. His own impulses are vague: he desires a perfect freedom in which he can compose a symphony on the Queen of Sheba. Andrews survives the war only to die—at least symbolically, at the hands of the military police—in the peace. Once the war is over and he is free to work in Paris, there is every reason why he should put up a little longer with the minor annoyances of being still technically a soldier. But he has reached his limit of irritation and thinks he can endure no more. His desertion seems a heedless folly. He rebels with a desperate gesture. It was a gesture with which Dos Passos and his generation could sympathize. They resented officers and officials, routine and red tape. Three Soldiers is a bureaucratic horror in which Andrews deserts the army in order to write a great orchestral poem, is captured after all; and when the police take him away, the sheets of music flutter slowly into the breeze. Dos Passos’ fated soldier, John Andrews, observes that “civilization is nothing but a vast edifice of sham, and war, instead of its crumbling, its fullest and most ultimate expression.”

These three soldiers were not typical of the army at large, many shocked readers insisted. Dos Passos insisted that his story was as true as the romantic versions of the war, with their happy warriors all bravely aware that they were fighting to save democracy. If such instances as he had chosen to present were special, such moods were not. Soldiers were not all heroes, and those who set out to be had a very good chance of being disillusioned. The sympathy in Three Soldiers lies with the common men, whether they are heroic or not, who do the plain work of the war.

This was a book published with great trepidation by George H. Doran in 1921. It is mild as milk compared with the books of today, but this book may be remembered as having been the first American war novel published in which, for the first time, the name of the Christ was used as an expletive. Some readers feel that the book draws a picture in which American doughboys were self- pitying neurasthenics and all French women were easily immoral.

“The story is a terrible indictment of militarism. Beginning with the training camp in America, it gives the military history of three young men very different in temperament, mentality and social background. Dan Fuselli, of Italian parentage, had been in the optical business in San Francisco. His ambition was not to “get in wrong” with the authorities and to advance in rank. Chrisfield was a farmer boy from Indiana whose disillusionment took the form of sentimental homesickness for “God’s own country.” John Andrews, the college man, was an aspiring musician, and resentful from the start at being forced into the army for which he had no use and was entirely unfitted. They all survive the war, but all three of them are broken by the army life, which the book describes with distressing detail. The greatest sufferer, because the most keenly sensitive and the subject observer of his own mental and spiritual processes, is John Andrews. The reader follows him through his various phases of dull resignation, defiant and self-reproachful moods, to open rebellion and leaves him facing the fate of a deserter with the calmness of desperation.”

“It is a great pity that the propaganda and the pages of barrack pettiness, which Mr. Dos Passos puts in to prove his case, should be allowed to make the book curiously top-heavy; for, judged apart from its thesis ‘Three Soldiers’ is a work of marked distinction. It is aesthetically honest and quite fearless.” Atlantic Bookshelf, Dec 1921.

“We are not disposed to class this book either among lamentations or revelations. It is not important whether there were ten men in the Army like Andrews or ten thousand. We feel sure that there must have been at least one, which is ample for the purpose of any artist. Nothing which has come out of the school of American realists has seemed to us so entirely honest. There is not an atom of pose in the book. It represents deep convictions and impressions eloquently expressed. Indeed the eloquence sometimes carries the writer a little beyond the province of realism. There is at times a little more lyricism than is quite compatible with life in the army or elsewhere.” Bookman, Dec 1921.

“What makes ‘Three Soldiers’ so indubitably is its story of the army, its concentration of the rancours of countless individuals into something not at all mean or plaintive, the harmonious expression of a well-chewed rage.” Dial, Nov 1921.

“Mr. Dos Passos hits from the shoulder and hits straight, but he is willing to paint the bruise with iodine afterwards. His sense of beauty is on every page. Color is a part of his being, and he has the gift of making one see with his eyes. Certain of his descriptions of Paris are little masterpieces; and some of the least of his incidental characters are unforgettable. Some people will loathe this book and forbid their sons and daughters to read it (not that that will make much difference). Others will praise it and urge it upon all and sundry. But whichever way it takes them, it will take them hard.” Freeman, Nov 30, 1921.

“All the profanity and obscenity of talk in the barracks is reported with the pedantic accuracy of a dictaphone, and consequently lack of reality, a complete loss of artistic truth. The exactions and annoyances of military discipline, which undoubtedly grind upon the sensitive spirit, but which are accepted with grumbling philosophy and humor by 95 percent of the men, are represented by Mr. Dos Passos as intolerable and fiendish insults—reasonable cause for desertion or for murder.” Independent, Oct 29, 1921.

“Three Soldiers’ must be set down as a rather brilliantly written piece of sordid, narrow-minded realism—the technique and spirit of ‘Main Street’ applied to the war. If it has any general significance it is less the cry of Young America than the cry of Greenwich Village.” Independent, Oct 29, 1921.

“The story is told brutally, with calculated sordidness and a blind whirlwind of rage which respects neither the reticences of art nor the restraints of decency. The book fails because of its unmanly intemperance both in language and in plot. The voice of righteousness is never once sounded; the only voice heard is the voice of complaint and petty recrimination. There are scenes in it which are tragic and powerful as a storm, but the intention of all this wealth of energy is dismal vituperation.” NY Times, Oct 2, 1921.

“Whether or not it is a masterpiece, there is no question that it is an intense, a skillful, and an utterly sincere expression of throbbing human nature, and therefore real literature, to be discussed respectfully as such. It is not a pretty narrative. Mr. Dos Passos is not licentious in his art, but he writes in the Latin rather than the American tradition. He calls a spade a spade, although never brandishing it. Dainty readers will now and then be shocked. In short, this book is by no means a perfect book, but it is a very engrossing one, a first-hand study, finely imagined and powerfully created. Its philosophy we may dismiss as incomplete; its conception of the free soul tortured, deadened, diseased by the circumstances of war, we cannot dismiss.” Literary Review, Oct 8, 1921.

“This novel gives to American literature a document as pitiful and vivid as those which Barbusse and Latzko have been giving to Europe. But it is first of all a competent work of art.” Nation, Oct 26, 1921.

“Not a readily classified book. He has, quite plainly, written with fiery ardor and almost savage energy; at times his observation of detail is intense. Without the propagandist in him, which is apt to mar a clear case by extremism may rank among those few who have attempted finely to take away the reproach aimed at recent literature by certain war- imprisoned spirits.” Nation and Ath, Oct 21, 1921.

“It is unlikely that it will find great favor with the American Legion, or that it will seem entirely just and salubrious to those who worked at G.H.Q or with the intelligence corps. It should certainly infuriate the Y. M. C. A. But it is written of the common soldier by a common soldier out of a full heart and an extraordinarily quickened spirit. Mr. Dos Passos has the great sense to embody his theme in his characters, to let them speak and act from their own centers. Consequently our attention is never transferred to the abstract consideration of the author’s position. It is passionately absorbed in his presentation of fact.” New Republic, Oct 5, 1921.

“What it reveals is not the life of the men who fought in France but the mind of the author—and that proves neither agreeable nor interesting.” Outlook, Oct 26, 1921.

“The book surely is a protest against war. But considered as such in itself it must be regarded as a failure. It fails because it will provide ammunition for the militarists. It fails in another war, in that it is written with a too restricted view. Despite pictures drawn with much amazing skill and despite the wonderful accuracy in its description of little things, it is not fair.” Springfield Republican, Jan 8, 1922.

“To one who knew the A. E. F., ‘Three soldiers’ has an immense and all-inclusive familiarity, and he must read it in a passion of excitement and recognition. To one who did not know and will soon learn, it is a social document of supreme importance.” Survey, Nov 5, 1921.

“Gives the military history of three men of dissimilar backgrounds, from their days at training camp through to the end of the fighting and disillusionment. Told from the point of view of common soldiers and full of indignation and hatred toward army life and war.”

“It is difficult to estimate at this distance of time, with a greater war intervening, the unusual effect Three Soldiers had on the reading public of 1921. After a spate of romantically presented war stories celebrating war’s opportunity for private heroism and its sacred nature, this novel burst like a bombshell into the postwar mood of disillusion,and probably helped increase it. Crane’s Red Badge of Courage had similar repercussions, but this time the results were even more overpowering. No American had written so devastating a criticism of war’s effects upon the individual’s real attitude toward the army machine that destroyed his manhood as surely as its guns could destroy his body. The novel’s three soldiers—Fuselli, the young San Franciscan of Italian parentage; Chrisfield, the Indiana-born farm boy; and Andrews, the New Yorker with a college education—all are ground under the wheels of the monstrous machine. Fuselli is the deluded neophyte; he wants to abide by the rules and win glory, as he has been told he may by the jingoes back home. To become a corporal is his driving ambition, but he goes through the same rigid process of training and the mass molding which turns him into a hard-bitten cynic with an additional handicap of venereal disease contracted from a French woman. Chrisfield, the individualist, develops a burning hatred for a superior officer who has subjected him to various humiliations. His experience is to kill his officer in one of the most bitter episodes of war fiction. But Andrews is the fulcrum of the novel, for he is the man more worth saving, and for whom salvation is least possible. Sensitive and aesthetically aware, Andrews can find no one to talk with, no moment of inner peace; the grinding of the machine wears upon him with inexorable force. The mud, stench, blood and death are a continuing inferno for him, and only when he goes AWOL does he momentarily reach stature as a man. A musician, he has only the unquenchable desire to go on with his composition, a work to be known as “The Queen of Sheba.” When the Armistice is signed, and he finds that he cannot obtain a discharge, he deserts. He seems to know that his desertion is only an interlude and that he has been on the treadmill too long to ever escape it. The old song, “John Brown’s Body,” choruses in his mind as the time of his recapture comes and he is given into the custody of the military police by his concierge. As he is marched away, his music on which he has been working dissolves into the limbo of forever unattainable ambition. “On John Andrew’s writing table the brisk wind rustled among the broad sheets of paper. First one sheet, then another, blew off the table , until the floor was littered with them.”

“A naturalistic handling of war that serves as a commentary on One of Ours. The most notable work on the theme since Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. Similar in temper to Henry Barbusse Under Fire, but dealing the barracks and the drill field. Compare with Andreas Latzko, Men in War—impressionistic in handling. Dos Passos a young artist from the university, an idealist who enlists and is disillusioned. A study of war machine and the effect of regimentation on different types of men—the contrast between army discipline and a lax individualism, and the disasters that may ensue from sudden change. Fuselli a low-grade character who wants to rise; Chrisfield a solid animal who becomes sullen; Andrews a highly nervous organism to whom routine is killing. Coarse episodes set in a brilliant background: the glamour of militarism gone.

 

March, William. [Pseud. Campbell, William E. M.] : COMPANY "K", by William March, issued. NY: Smith, Haas, 1933. Also Hill & Wang, 1957, and University of Alabama Press, 1995

Arguably the best work of American Great War fiction is William March’s 1933 classic Company K. March, the pen name for William Edward Campbell, served with the 5th Marines in France and was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross for his heroism under fire. The book contains 113 short chapters, or sketches, spoken by various men of Company K, tiny lightning-sharp vignettes of combat experiences in France that together print an emotional and unforgettable group portrait that works its way through the entire personnel roster of the fictitious company. March manages to completely capture every aspect about the war in the highly personal insights of the men of Company K.

William March, author of Company K, presents a true picture of what the war meant to the "provincial" young American. March, who was wounded and gassed in 1918 has each soldier in his company of one hundred and forty-seven men tell their story in their own words. Each is given a chance to express his feelings concerning war through some small action of incident which impacts strongly upon the mind of each soldier.

Company K supplies an adequate array of points of view and capturing in vivid detail an entire unit’s disenchantment with the war and its country’s involvement in it. Contained in it is criticism of Christianity more profound than that found in many other war novels. At one point a captain orders his men to slaughter German prisoners, and, shortly thereafter, orders them to attend church services. In a comic aside, his YMCA representatives supply women-impersonators rather than have American boys mix with French women. Campbell’s men are at the mercy of experimenting doctor. Campbell presents military justice as cruel and expedient, and he seems to conclude that all soldiers are prisoners, controlled by inhuman laws and absurd traditions. The more educated members of the company see war as “brutal and degrading” and common soldiers as “pawns shoved about to serve the interests of others.”

Campbell’s Unknown Soldier is unknown because, lying on barbed wire with his entrails dripping out, he destroys his dog-tags, letters, and everything else that might identify him in order that his body would not be returned to the United States and be fawned over by hypocrites. Those members of Company K who return home meet defeat in one form or another, and Campbell make it clear that the war experience is ultimately responsible. Private Yancey, in Company K, conjectures that “If the common soldiers of each army could get together by a river bank and talk things over calmly, no war could possibly last as long as a week.”

Company K is an unusual novel, much acclaimed in its day. The author (whose real name was Campbell) was a highly decorated (Croix de Guerre, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross) sergeant of Marines who served in the 4th Brigade of Marines (Co F, 2nd Battalion., 5th Marines), U. S. 2nd Division, AEF, in WWI. Sgt Campbell served in all major engagements of the Brigade, including Belleau Wood and Blanc Mont. Company K, arranged after the manner of the Spoon River Anthology, presents brief consecutive soliloquies by over one hundred members of a Marine Corps rifle company in WWI, most of them characterized by a morbid wit and a tone of bleak resignation.

“Mr. March, himself a veteran who served with distinction overseas, has hit on the effective idea of writing his war ‘novel’ in a series of very brief sketches, each of the 113 of which carries the name of one of the members of ‘Company K.’ Each tells his experience in the first person, character is implicit in dialogue and action, and occasional cross-lights are cast by having the same episode viewed by contrasting characters in succession. There is no further direct continuity between the various episodes, but there is a rough sequence of time, and the tabloid dramas, most of them little more than a page in length and some even shorter than that, following the rising and descending curve of emotion from the American training-camp through the months of active fighting and back home again.” Saturday Review of Literature. Booklist, April 1933.

“This strangely moving book will take its place with the best imaginative work which has come out of America’s participation in the war. Mr. March’s deep despairing hatred of modern war would come out in bitterness did it not sink into a kind of philosophical hopelessness, lightened here and there with touches of genuine sentiment and roused, occasionally, by a fine spirit of amazed dismay. The few touches of humor, carefully brought in so as not to destroy the undercurrent of meaning, serve to express the gentler, rather than the more raucous, features of American World War soldier life.” Books, Jan 22, 1933.

“Not everyone will like ‘Company K.’ It is a strange and bitter book, a smashing indictment of a world system that permits the atrocity of war among civilized nations. Yet it is a devastatingly true book in which students of human nature will find ample field for observation and study. ‘Company K’ deserves a place among the few really honest books that the Great War has produced.” Boston Transcript, March 11, 1933.

“Here and there one finds a delicate touch of artistry, now and again the keen comment of a psychologist; on the other hand many pages are thin and uninspired, not to mention five or six so gratuitously coarse as to unfit the book for general circulation; and again we will find fault with a lack of proper perspective.” Catholic World, June, 1933.

“Brief as the individual sketches are, Mr. March is enormously successful in portraying character through the impact of experience. His novel is the more cruelly effective because its bitterness is restrained.” Forum, March, 1933; Nation, March 1, 1933.

“’Company K’ immediately takes its place with the two or three first-rate American novels about the World War.” New Republic, March 1, 1933.

“Once read, ‘Company K’ will not be readily forgotten: it is one of the few important novels of the war written by an American, and deserves a place beside Dos Passo’s ‘Three Soldiers’ and E. E. Cumming’s ‘Enormous Room.’ NY Evening Post, Jan 21, 1933.

“Mr. March has found some remarkable use for his form. Thus he is enabled to tell both sides of the story in the case of a feud between an officer and a private. And he is able to tell of the killing of German prisoners from six points of view. Indeed he gains much from his form; but we must not forget that he sacrifices some of the integral power of prose narrative for the for the persistent peck-peck-peck of the sonnet cycle. His very invention of this form is an admission that the underlying novel, the ultimate story of the war, is too great for him or for any other man to write.” NY Times, Jan 22, 1933.

“One can’t help speculating on the sensation this book would have made had it appeared in the early ‘20’s, before ‘What Price Glory,’ ‘All Quiet’ and all the rest of the anti-war literature and drama. It is easier now to write such a book. The author is under no necessity to overcome initial prejudice, to waste steam on non-essentials. He can throw away all the impedimenta and drive straight for his objective—that of making modern war seem utterly bestial and futile. Granting this atmospheric change and its implications, Mr. March has nevertheless written an extraordinarily moving and an important book—one that deserves a place with the best of its kind.” Saturday Review of Literature, Jan 28, 1933.

“His book has the force of a mob-protest; an outcry from anonymous throats. The wheel turns and turns and it does not matter, one hardly notices that the captain of the company, killed on page 159, is alive again a hundred pages later. It does not matter that every stock situation of the war, suicide, the murder of an officer, the slaughter of prisoners, a vision of Christ, is apportioned to Company K, because the book is not written in any realistic convention. It is the only War- book I have read which has found a new form to fit the novelty of the protest. The prose is bare, lucid, without literary echoes, not an imitation but a development of eighteenth-century prose.” Spectator, April 7, 1933.

“The idea behind Mr. William March’s story is a clever one for a War novel. It is, in fact, so obviously effective that it is curious that it has not been thought of before. It is to take an imaginary roster of a company of infantry and give it a short extract, in the first person, from the views of every officer and man either on the War in general or on some particular incident. The company being an American one, the synthesis is not so representative as is claimed, since the Americans took part only in the last year of the war, but it could have been made more representative than it is. There are some inconsistencies and other points where probability is strained.” Literary Supplement, London Times, May 11, 1933: Wisconsin Library Bulletin, June, 1933.

“Company K is straightforward and unpretentious. Its devastating effect and unique power are achieved by excellent writing and good reporting.” World Tomorrow, April 12, 1933.

“A unique story of one company. Short sketches of many individuals in the company, telling what happened to each and his reactions.”

 

Elliot, Paul B. : ON THE FIELD OF HONOR: A COLLECTION of WAR LETTERS AND REMINISCENCES OF THREE HARVARD GRADUATES WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT CAUSE. Boston: D. B. Updike, 1920. The Merrymount Press.

A collection of wartime letters written by three young lieutenants in the AEF, all three of whom were killed in action. Don't let the title of this book fool you! In reading these letters, the reader cannot help but become emotionally involved with the feelings of these men.

 

Fredenburgh, Theodore. : SOLDIERS MARCH. NY.: Harcourt, 1930.

Examines 18 months in the life of an American non-com with the Field Artillery, AEF, in France in 1917-1918.

“At twenty, Zorn receives the rank of corporal and embarks for France with American troops. At twenty-one, a sergeant, he has experienced all the hardships, horrors and disillusions of war. He is a hardened and embittered man. The author, who served eighteen months in France, presents an authentic picture of the American soldier in the war.” Booklist, Jan 1931; Books, Oct 4, 1930.

“Mr Fredenburgh has written, if not the most brilliant novel of the war, one of the best balanced and sanest.” Boston Transcript, Oct 4, 1930; Nation, Nov 12, 1930.

“As far as war books go ‘Soldiers March’ will be read with interest. What Mr. Fredenburgh lacks is sufficient detachment from his immediate scene to give his writing balance and rhythm and make his work something more than a tour de force.” NY Times, Nov 2, 1930.

“Not one of the many books about the American fighting man in France, which have come to the notice of this reviewer, can even approach ‘Soldiers March’ in truth, just appraisal, unforced dramatic interest, or skillful characterization. Bared clean are the weaknesses, the oddities, enthusiasm and prejudices of the A. E. F.’s seasoned combat troops. To read Mr. Fredenburgh’s pages is to talk over old times with a former comrade-in-arms. His book is a valuable study of the men who composed a representative fighting regiment of the American Expeditionary Force.” Saturday Review of Literature, Sept 27, 1930.

 

Hallas, James H. : DOUGHBOY WAR: THE AMERICAN EXPEDITIONAR FORCE IN WORLD WAR 1. Boulder Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2000

Hip, Hip, Hooray! At long last, a big book entirely composed of the writings of American soldiers during World War I. This is not another one of those tedious, academic historian--‘in my highly-educated opinion’ books—this is the real thing, and entirely written in the words of our inimitable Doughboy of World War I. This multilayered 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 related 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 of the training sectors to the bloody battle for Belleau Wood, from the violent clash on the Marne to the seemingly endless 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.

 

Hemingway, Ernest. : IN OUR TIME: STORIES BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY. NY: Scribner’s-Macmillan, 1988

Prolific author Ernest Hemingway, primarily a writer of and about subjects other than the American soldier of World War I, has a poignant and rather sad little short story in this book entitled, “Soldier’s Return.” The story concerns itself with a Marine Corps combat veteran named Krebs. Krebs has been through all of the World War I campaigns of the Corps: Belleau Wood, Soissons, Champagne, St. Mihiel and the Argonne and finds his adjustment to civilian life to be painful and difficult. This short story perhaps shows a thread of commonality regarding the problems facing veterans in adjusting to civilian life after the war. This story, dealing with the problems of the returned veteran’s difficulty in readjusting to a value system that now seems out of step with his experience. Hemingway’s protagonist, Krebs, who “went to war from a Methodist college in Kansas,” simply cannot readjust to the simple Christianity of the provincial midwest. In the war and the European experience he has discovered that he needs nothing that his former environment has to offer him: not marriage with one of the nice girls nor his father’s bribe of the family car nor his mother’s sentimental love nor traditional Christian values. It is clear that he regards the beliefs of the culture as sham.

 

Hemrick, Levi E. : ONCE A MARINE. NY: Carlton Press, 1968

Although written some forty years after the war, Mr. Hemrick presents a thought provoking memoir of his service in the Marine Corps during World War I.

 

Hoffman, Robert C. : I REMEMBER the LAST WAR. York, PA.: Strength & Health Publishing Co., 1940

Infantry officer's service with the 111th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 28th Division, AEF.

 

Jacks, Leo Vincent. : SERVICE RECORD; BY AN ARTILLERYMAN. NY: Scribners, 1928

Artillery service in the AEF- 119th Field Artillery Regiment, 32nd Division.

“A narrative of the 32nd Division of the 119th Field Artillery in action in France, recorded by an artilleryman who took part in the engagements described and wrote down his experiences after his discharge in 1919.” Booklist, Nov 1928.

“Before one has read a third of this record, one is impressed by the combination of a fervent pictorial style with a cool and observant detachment.” NY Evening Post, Aug 4, 1928 and NY World, May 6, 1928.

“Capable, frank, unsentimental record.” Saturday Review of Literature, May 26, 1928.

 

Jackson, Warren R. HIS TIME in HELL: A TEXAS MARINE IN FRANCE. The World War I Memoir of Warren R. Jackson. Presidio Press, 2001

Although my initial impression of this memoir is that it is a bit on the pedestrian side, and of ‘the unit marched to point Y, then marched to point X, etc., genre, the memoir squeaked by and made it into this listing. To quote from the jacket blurbs: “The casualties suffered by the 6th Marine Regiment during World War I were staggering. Remarkably, Warren R. Jackson may have been the only Marine in his company to remain unscathed as they fought their way from Verdun through the end of the war.

His Time in Hell is an extremely valuable memoir of the World War I Marine. In addition to providing a wealth of detail about enlisted service of that period, the reader will find that Jackson’s normal human strengths and weaknesses shine through on every page. He saw his share of combat,, though he wasn’t always in the forefront of battle. He writes his account in self deprecating, non- heroic tone. “Several times when it was still dark a storm of machine-gun bullets rained over our heads….My unselfish instincts prompting me, I used dispatch to get someone else between me and the bullets. While there were quite a bunch of us huddled there, my attempt was in vain, for others were trying to perform the same feat.”

Jackson must have done something right, however: he was promoted to corporal and awarded two Silver Stars and the Croix de Guerre. Based on his promotions and the fact he was often chosen for roles that required intelligence and fortitude, Jackson was indeed a good Marine.

An unlettered man, Jackson’s reminiscences bring to life a point in time now past. Life at the front, when viewed through modern eyes, was terribly primitive. “Mud, mud, mud! Everything, everywhere was covered with mud. There was mud on our hands, mud on our helmets, mud on our faces, mud on our uniforms, and shoes. It was impossible to get away from or forget that abiding, clinging, sticky mud.”

Through the words of a man who lived it, the reader experiences the discomfort, hunger, and danger in the maelstrom of mortal combat. “The crack of our rifles, the hollow rattle of the enemy bullets striking the leaves…the dreadful crash of exploding shells—this din kept my ears ringing.’

Starting in the trenches of Verdun and proceeding to Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont, St. Étienne, and the Meuse: it would take much hard fighting to reach Armistice Day. With its unvarnished prose and perceptive eye for detail, His Time in Hell is a remarkable testament to the valor, bravery, and sheer perseverance of Jackson and his fellow Marines in the face of danger and hardship.”

Another review states: “The staggeringly high casualties suffered by the 6th Marine Regiment during World War I mean that Warren R. Jackson was almost certainly the only member of his company to survive from Belleau Wood to the end of the war. With that in mind, it is the manifestly human approach of this book that creates such a vivid impression of life in the trenches- this is not a diatribe against inept allied leadership or against the institution of war itself, it is the honest reflection of a soldier. His Time in Hell is an extremely valuable memoir of a World War I marine. It provides a wealth of information about enlisted life at the time, and is told in a self- deprecating tone that might lull the reader into thinking that perhaps the author was not much of a marine; however, the fact that he was regularly promoted, awarded two Silver Stars and the Croix de Guerre and that he was regularly chosen for operations that required intelligence and bravery should be enough to show that he had not only these qualities, but also a measure of humility, a trait not often ascribed to men of his profession.”

 

Mackin, Elton E. : SUDDENLY WE DIDN'T WANT TO DIE: MEMOIRS of a WORLD WAR I MARINE. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1993. Introduction and annotation by George B. Clark. Forward by LtGen Victor H. Krulak, USMC.

A haunting portrayal of war. Private Mackin participated in every campaign in which the Marine Brigade saw action—from Belleau Wood to the crossing of the Meuse on the eve of the Armistice. A runner with the 1st Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, U. S. 2nd Division, he miraculously escaped serious physical injury, but as this evocative memoir shows, his psyche did not. In the tradition of All Quiet on the Western Front, Mackin offers a soldier's eye view of not just the horrors of battle, but also the subtle little everyday experiences that make the life of the combat soldier both tolerable and soul-shattering.

McCollum, Lee. : OUR SONS at WAR. Chicago: Bucklee Publishing Co., 1940

A heartfelt story of an American infantryman from the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in September, 1918 to the Armistice. Mr. McCollum, writing from his own experiences, attempts to tell his son and the sons of others who are about to go to war, what it was like on the Western Front in 1918. Through the medium of his own experiences as a soldier in the AEF, McCollum admirably succeeds in conveying to the reader the experience of battle.

 

Myrer, Anton. : Once an Eagle. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968

Once an Eagle was not written by an AEF combat veteran and it is not a World War I novel, per se, but Myrer’s descriptions of First World War combat in the Argonne Forest and the experience of the men in the AEF have seldom been equaled. Myrer’s protagonist, Sam Damon, is the quintessential American figure. Growing up in a small farming community in Nebraska, playing baseball and working a night job while doing homework to help support his family, he aspires to great things. Thwarted in his dream to attend West Point, he enlists in the Army and ends up in France in the First World War, where he is earns the Medal of Honor and a battlefield commission. Damon stays in the post-war army, serving in a series of isolated posts and thankless assignments, yet gaining invaluable experience and insight from tours in China and the Philippines, all the while perfecting his craft and learning the meaning of duty and leadership from examples both good and bad. Despite his refusal to “play politics” to further his career, he is promoted to brigadier general as the nation enters the Second World War. He serves again with honor and distinction in the Pacific campaigns. It is a career pattern shared with the likes of men such as Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, George Patton, Joseph Stillwell, and many others, men who would, like Damon in the novel, be shaped by their shared experiences in the Great War, then go on to serve the nation in the Second World War and beyond. Once an Eagle is one of those books that stays with you. Myrer knows something of the ‘shock and crash’ of battle--he was a combat marine during World War II and was badly wounded on Guam.

“This novel concerns the conflict between Sam Damon, an American who serves in several military campaigns and wars, rises form private to general, but never forgets that soldiers are human, and Courtney Massengale, a West Point graduate who allies himself with the sources of political power and considers war a game. The title is taken from a quotation from Aeschyius “that once an eagle, stricken with a dart, said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft, ‘with our own feathers, not by others’ hands, are we now smitten.’” America, Nov 30, 1968; Atlantic, Oct 1968; Best Sell, Sept 1, 1968; Book World, Sept 1, 1968.

“The book is romantic but its political and moral anger save it from the maudlin. Myrer has tried to create in Damon a realistic Golden Mean. Flat in some areas, full in others, this book is recommended (although not mandatory) for its flashes of good battle writing, of political and military insights, and of fascination that any well crafted historical fiction holds.” Choice, Oct 1968.

“This novel will be read and argued over for months. But primarily it will be read. At long last we have an honest-to- God hero. It is a purging experience to watch his—often tortured success, up to the very end. And what is the message of the end? At this moment of anti-Army, anti-war, it is here that the argument will come. For this is also as good a story as one will find of the American Army and fighting men and that mystical thing that seems to happen to men who have fought together, and of the dreadful responsibility of the man in command. It is an even more vivid depiction of the horrors of war. The mind boggles at the amount of well-digested research that must have gone into this work to come out in such easy, compelling narrative.” Harper, Sept 1968.

“This is a big book, and the effort to make it good is apparent—too apparent. It begins weakly and ends in the same way, in between there are exciting battle scenes (the best parts), overwritten conversation and transition passages. Mr. Myrer’s novel reads like a strong attempt at the great 20th Century adventure of Army life. The novel has a wide screen effort, ringing true in battle, but too often Mr. Myrer tries to do too much and doesn’t succeed. The plot patterns, the character portrayals, the anticipated ending—all are too often too familiar. The book may sell, but it lacks too much to be of more than contemporary literary interest.” Library Journal, July 1968; Nation, Sept 9, 1968; NY Times Book Review, Sept 15, 1968; New Yorker, Aug 24, 1968; Saturday Review, Aug 24, 1968.

 

Morgan, Daniel. : WHEN the WORLD WENT MAD. Christopher Publishing House, 1931. Pike, 1993

Memoirs of a marine sergeant in the 77th Co., 6th Machine Gun Battalion, U.S. 2nd Division, who went through all five of the USMC campaigns in World War I. Sgt. Morgan does a good bit of editorializing, and is very acrimonious, but his book contains many gems of eloquence.

 

Nason, Leonard H. : CHEVRONS. NY: Doran, 1926

The sequel novel to "Sergeant Edie." A superior portrayal of combat in the infantry and artillery of the AEF.

“In ‘Chevrons’ Leonard H. Nason has gone a step farther than Boyd with his Private Hicks, or Stallings with his Captain Flagg, and has produced Sergeant Eadie, who in his own harassed person combines the viewpoint of both classes. He takes for his principal character two men—Jake and the aforementioned Sergeant Eadie—and carries them part of the way through the battles of Mont Sec and Montfaucon. There is all the pageantry of war unrolled before you—the rugged advance of harried infantry, the artillery in action—men sweating and panting as they drag their one-pounders forward to the lines, airplane fights and a town being smashed into fragments, while Americans and Germans cower beneath its falling walls—but this is not all. The way the soldiers talked—their catchwords, their slang, the very moods which prompted their utterances and produced with utter authenticity.” New York Herald Tribune Booklist, Jan 1927.

“In ‘Chevrons’ Mr. Nason has accomplished a rather extraordinary feat: He has produced in sequence pictures of men, officers, states of mind and actions with a fidelity that is only a little less than uncanny. I believe ‘Chevrons’ is a very important book if for no other reason than it sets down starkly the crisp humor, the drama of those war days and faithfully reproduces the attitude and emotions of men whose figures are already being dimmed.” NY Herald Tribune Books, Oct 10, 1926.

“It is a good book to read for such as have the breadth of vision to see beneath the surface. Others may find it a bit too roughly etched.” Boston Transcript, Oct 16, 1926 and Cleveland Open Shelf, Dec 1926.

“It contains many truthful pages from a doughboy’s record; and it maintains a continuity of interest which makes it a book not easily laid aside.” Independent, Oct 3, 1926.

“Of all the war fiction I have read, foreign as well as domestic, it is the most complete, the most photographic, the most unpartisan. The point of view of a novel depends upon what selection of experience is made, and Chevrons is cheerful, rabelaisian, humorous, as well as ghastly in spots.” New Republic, Oct 27, 1926.

“Anybody who was in the show may quarrel with details of Mr. Nason’s portrait. But there is no getting around the fact that it is a powerful and convincing portrait—a portrait full of color and character and racy Americanism. It seems to this reviewer that it is the best portrait so far achieved, perhaps, because there has been no attempt to combine the picture of the soldier with a made-up romance—or any romance.” NY Times, Oct 8, 1926 and Dec 5, 1926.

“It is an excellent book, colorful, revelatory, and vivacious. Without love-interest it nevertheless holds one from cover to cover and it is evidently the fruit of a tremendous personal experience. Saturday Review of Literature, Oct 2, 1926.

“’Chevrons,’ to any person interested in the American expeditionary force, is well worth reading. For the man who was overseas—who balanced his “slum,” Karo and ‘coffee’ in a baffling mess-kit and hiked the long mile--it will evoke memories pleasant and unpleasant and provide genuine entertainment.” Springfield Repubican, Oct 25, 1926.

“A clear picture of World War I—battles, states of mind of the soldiers, etc. Written in amusing, familiar style.”

 

THREE LIGHTS FROM A MATCH. NY: Doran, 1927

Another superior book of three short stories dealing with life and action in the AEF. Leonard Nason is one of the best and most prolific writers of AEF fiction.

“While these three long-short stories of the doughboy in France do not gloss over the ugliness and brutality of war, they are written with spirit and lusty humor.” Booklist, July 1927.

“By and large these are good stories of the unkempt files who fought our war. Mr. Nason knows what he is talking about; you will find no dreamy crusaders for democracy in his pages; they are uncouth and violent fellows, concerned with rations and regarding their personal comfort and safety with a very human solicitude. Their talk is honest soldier talk, and their reactions are quite normal. One thing, though—if those files had belonged to me, and been as ineffective about getting things done according to orders, as they were, I would have been exceedingly annoyed with them, adventure or no adventure.” J. W. Thomason, Jr. Books, NY Herald Tribune, June 5, 1927 and Boston Transcript, June 22, 1927. [John W. Thomason was the author of Fix Bayonets!]

“From the beginning of the first story to the end of the last one—there is little but talk—bright, vulgar, amusing, talk. Only sometimes it seems a little bit out of place, as when a battery of artillerymen, coming into position after a long hike which has so wearied them that they fall to the ground, carry on brilliant repartee throughout the night. This method of writing saturates three stories of about one hundred pages each. As a result, Mr. Nason reduces war to vaudeville.” Thomas Boyd. Literary Review, May 14, 1927. [Thomas Boyd authored Through the Wheat.]

“The sputtering of machine guns and the crash of shells combined with the humor of Mr. Nason’s characters keep the action from growing dull. Anyone who enjoys war tales should find plenty to interest him here.” Independent, May 28, 1927.

“It is the talk of the soldiers which makes so vivid Nason’s story of life in the trenches along the Western Front.” NY Times, May 8, 1927.

“His three stories are told with humor, with terror, and with a wealth of sound detail, from the standpoint of the enlisted man. His soldier dialogue is splendid, sometimes a shade too splendid, if that be a fault.” Saturday Review of Literature, June 4, 1927 and Springfield Republican, June 26, 1927.

 

SERGEANT EADIE. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1928

The sequel novel to Chevrons by the same author.

“A very human and appealing story of an average young American who went through nearly all the experiences of the war, from being in a torpedoed transport to shell shock and recovery.” Booklist, July 1928.

“The book is good in every particular—in description, in narration, in situation, and most of all, of course, in dialogue. Only Eadie himself is disappointing—and this probably because his second appearance is distinctly an anticlimax to his first. It may be that Eadie of the new book is immature and undeveloped—not the Eadie that we first learned to love. The two volumes should be read in reverse order if one is to follow the real character development of this best of all fictional doughboys.” Bookman, July, 1928.

“This book is honest work with just as little fakery as is possible in a popular story of war written ten years after the event.” Independent, March 17, 1928.

“Nobody can read Leonard Nason’s ‘Sergeant Eadie without feeling that this author must have got as much enjoyment out of writing the book as his most ardent admirer could get out of reading it. For the character of Sergeant Eadie is the sort that springs full grown from his creator’s consciousness and lustily sets about to do all of the things that the author would like to have done, and in the way that he would have liked to do them.” T. Boyd, NY Evening Post, April 7, 1928. [Thomas Boyd was the author of Through the Wheat]

“His best book to date. It is balanced. This characterization of a doughboy has been set down with perception; for the plot of this war novel is his increasing experience as a non-com. Mr. Nason is acting historian to one man’s part in the late war.” NY Times, March 11, 1928.

 

THE TOP KICK. NY: Grossett & Dunlap, 1928

A very good trilogy of combat and life in the AEF. The first of the three short stories is entitled "A Sergeant of Cavalry," and, although not mentioning its locale by name, is obviously a story of the fighting along the Vesle River in France during July and August, 1918.

“This new book of war stories by the author of “Chevrons” and “Sergeant Eadie” contains three long short stories: Sergeant of Cavalry; The roofs of Verdillot; A matter of business.” NY Times, Mar 11, 1928.

“Mr. Nason seems to have omitted no detail of how soldiers felt and acted, or what their surroundings were, at all times. Except when he pauses to give informative lectures on more or less technical points, he sees only through the eyes of his characters, and interprets only as their minds would interpret. The result, naturally, is undistinguished realism. But because the stories are filled with action and suspense, they do not drag. And, as usual, they are enlivened with a considerable amount of humor.” NY Times, Sept 16, 1928.

“Mr. Nason once more assays that seemingly inexhaustible mine of the A. E. F. adventure—and again with gratifying success.” Saturday Review of Literature, Dec 29, 1928.

 

THE MAN in the WHITE SLICKER. Garden City, NY: Grossett & Dunlap, 1929. Also Doubleday, Doran, 1929

Considered a minor classic in war fiction. The story of a small group of American soldiers and their battles with the Germans and each other.

“Suddenly out of the woods an officer in a white slicker comes striding up to a machine gun crew and orders them to turn their guns on their own troops. The doughboys respond by knocking him out, and in the next few busy moments forget him. The man in the white slicker disappears. But he leaves a trail of trouble and mystery behind him. Bookman, July, 1929.

“Another readable chronicle of the A. E. F. crowded with sympathetic characters, pathos and incidental fun.” Books, NY Herald Tribune, Aug 11, 1929; Cleveland Open Shelf, Sept 1929.

“This book should appeal to average citizens who were average soldiers during the war. To others it will seem technical and undistinguished—except, perhaps, on those pages devoted to one Droghan’s piercing observations on men and war delivered in an excellent Dooleyan brogue.” NY Times, July 7, 1929.

“A racy and exciting battle piece.” Outlook, May 29, 1929.

 

A CORPORAL ONCE. Garden City, NY: Doubleday-Doran., 1930

Good general account of a soldier's life in the AEF from the Mexican border to France.

“Private John L. Sullivan’s chief task in the regular army on the Mexican border was to take care of the Major’s Arabian horse—for which he hoped to be promoted to the office of corporal. But when John set sail for France there were already too many corporals, so he continued his army career as a buck private. Mr. Nason, in this latest story concerned with the A. E. F., repeats his story of the typical America doughboy.” Booklist, Dec 1930; Bookman, Oct 1930.

“A good deal of the dialogue seems written to display the author’s knowledge of doughboy and flatfoot wisecracks, and the writing shows no hint of style-consciousness. But much of the conversation is, for all that, genuinely amusing, and the author, in spite of occasional rather juvenile references to ‘Uncle Sammy’ and ‘Yanks’ and ‘Huns,’ has given an honest portrayal of the mistakes and clumsy maneuverings of the green Americans who first went to France. Books, Jan 4, 1931.

“The story abounds with vivid description of life in the trenches, on the march and in hospitals. Grim realism stalks through the pages. There is little of the glamour of war but plenty of the real experiences which many a doughboy knew.” Boston Transcript, Nov 5, 1930.

“Leonard Nason has carried the writing of novels about the World War to the point where they become a staple commodity. The characteristic outline of his stories does not vary to any great extent.” NY Times, Dec 21, 1930.

“Here is good, broad farce written on the principle that everything funny in this life takes place below the belt; here are incidents, pungent allusions, bits of racy idiom over which any American soldier in a reminiscent mood will laugh his head off. Here, too, are scenes of combat, less successful than the humorous pages, because written pretty closely after what appears to have become a stereotyped pattern for American battle-pictures. ‘A Corporal Once’ is a riot of the brightest colors imaginable slapped against a background of muddy, tattered, olive-drab.” Saturday Review of Literature, Oct 11, 1930.

“A colorful and lively study of a representative American doughboy in the trenches. Little of the glamour of war; only the experiences of boys behind the line.”

 

O’Brien, Howard Vincent : WINE, WOMEN and WAR: A DIARY of DISILLUSIONMENT. NY: J. H. Sears, Inc., 1926

It is rarely the editor’s fortune to discover a book deserving not only of re-publication, but of the widest reading, whose author, in its composition, had neither end in view, yet such happens to be the case with this originally anonymous work. The author, an AEF officer, had been trained as an artillery officer and was later attached to “Intelligence” and worked behind the front lines. His wartime journal was kept in a series of small black books in a half shorthand of his own devisement, but quite readily translatable. Here is one of the most remarkable books that the Great War has produced, a vivid, living thing; done without attempt at drama or at form by an honest man who possessed, perhaps unconsciously, an extraordinary literary facility. Very few books like it have been produced in any country since the conflict, though why this is true is difficult to understand. Written with perfect candor for the eyes of its author only, the necessity for the author’s original anonymity will be apparent to every reader. Authentic from the first word to the last, it is precisely what it appears to be—the undramatized record of the actions and reactions, recorded almost at the moment of their execution and perception, of one young American, who, given an undramatic part to play in one of the greatest dramas the world has ever witnessed, played it through to the final curtain. And, while playing it through, he recorded some of the most perceptive observations ever written about the Allied armies, France and its people and of the Germans. Here are some reviews of this book:

“Under the veil of anonymity there is offered another war book, ‘Wine, Women and War.’ There is considerable profanity in this volume of impressions and dissertations offered in the form of a diary. The writer went overseas as an officer in the field artillery but was transferred into intelligence work and on the whole had not too bad a time.” Springfield Republican.

“Authentic this certainly is; entertaining it is when the officer was entertained, dull when he was not. But it adds nothing new to the period. There is no new light shed on either training camps or life at the front. “Wine Women and War’ is in essence simply the wanderings of one lieutenant from the S. O. S.[Service of Supply] in Paris and the best restaurants therein—Ciro’s, Voisin’s, Prunier’s.” New York Herald Tribune Books, Jan 30, 1927.

“There are enough unguarded observations and sufficient patches of realism scattered through the diary to give it the necessary tartness, but there have been too many war books, more vigorous than this, already published to entitle, ‘Wine, Women and War’ to more than a casual reception.” Boston Transcript, Dec 18, 1926.

“It is fascinating because it is utterly intimate, never having been intended for publication. And it is stirring because it displays an intelligent and questioning mind at work in the presence of an unprecedented and amazing pageant of life.” Literary Review, Dec 11, 1926.

“Stripped of lurid title and misleading jacket, this volume would have a much better chance to reach its proper audience. Its contents will disappoint seekers for sensation and pornography. Those who want exciting and colorful narrative of fighting should look elsewhere. But veterans who are not driven away by its publicity will find here what they have long desired; an unedited and unexpurgated diary of life in the American S. O. S. in France.” Nation, Sept. 14, 1927.

“Written for his own eyes, it is often successful in condensing an impression or situation into a few words. It is straightforward and honest, if not exceptional. It has been surpassed by other war books in depth of feeling and keenness of thought; but it will be valuable for its picture of the routine life of one of the thousands of civilian- officers who worked, fretted and sipped good wine in the Service of Supplies.” New Republic, Feb. 23, 1927.

“There is something about the diary’s sketchy style that gives it a freshness and a sense of living.” NY Times, Jan. 23, 1927.

“Wine, Women, and War” has many refreshing pages in it. It purports to be a diary written at the time, but no writer was so wise as to have made these records on the dates set opposite them. Its staccato style becomes tedious, but it is enlivened by racy anecdotes—many of them amusing, if they are not new.” Outlook, Jan. 12, 1927.

“His hero is a very average young man who records only average impressions in a very average style. The book may have some interest as a commentary on the war; it has little interest of its own.” Saturday Review, Oct. 8, 1927; Springfield Republican, Oct. 8, 1927; Times (London), Literary Supplement, Nov. 3, 1927.

 

Scanlon, William T. : GOD HAVE MERCY ON US: A STORY of 1918. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1929

The author was there, from corporal to gunnery sergeant, until 11 November 1918. Sergeant Scanlon was with the 97th Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Brigade, U.S. 2nd Division and wrote this first person fictional memoir of Marines in action from Belleau Wood through the Champagne, Soissons, the Meuse-Argonne and ending with the Armistice.

“Mr. Scanlon’s tale is at once thrilling and horrible, as any true story of the war inevitably must be, but it is neither neurotic nor insensitive. As valuable and informative a record of the World War as has yet be