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WORLD WAR I
Transcript of WORLD WAR I
Collection Gathered and Designed By:
The Schilling Family
The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial
Within months of the first battles, Allied and German soldiers had dug trenches that stretched hundreds of miles along the war's Western Front. Trenches gave soldiers some protection from the gunfire and bombings of the opposing forces, but trench warfare was still deadly. Life in the trenches was terrible. Soldiers lived in constant fear of attack and ate and slept for weeks in mud and filth. Dead soldiers littered the trenches and the surrounding area and the decaying bodies invited pests, like rats to the trenches. Rats, in turn, spread lice and disease to the already wounded soldiers. The smells from the trenches were unimaginably bad. Decaying bodies, soldiers who had gone weeks without bathing, smells of poison gas, and cooking food all combined in the trenches. Many soldiers who survived the trenches suffered from psychological problems for years.
In The Trenches
The Great War, what we know today as World War I or the First World War, showed the full bloody horror of war that was greater that anyone could have imagined. . The United States joined its European allies in combat in the summer of 1917, and in November 1918, the Great War ended. American involvement helped swing the advantage in the Allies' favor. In the months leading up to the war's end, American troops led the Allies in relentless attacks against German soldiers and the Central Powers. Heavy artillery and machine-gun fire came from both sides; however, the Central Powers' forces began to disintegrate, leading to their ultimate demise. We know of the events of the war, but what of the events of the individual? Enjoy the following collection and immerse yourself in the lives of soldiers on the battlefields of the First World War.
Call to Arms
Object: Draft Card
Name: WWI Draft Card of James Samuel Dishman
Date: September 12, 1918
Notes: Notice the "Race" and "US Citizen" options. They hint strongly at the social times.
World War I began in Europe in 1914, but the United States did not enter the war until 1917. Once the United States entered the war, the task of mobilizing its human resources began. When the United States entered the war, only 200,000 men were in the military, few of which had combat experience. The United States needed to quickly build and train its armed forces. To do this, Congress passed the Selective Service Act in May 1917. This law required adult men ages 21 to 30 to register for random selection to military service. By the end of 1918, about 24 million men had registered and received Draft Cards as shown here. To stop 'draft dodgers' police stopped a man and should he be without a draft card, jail time was almost guaranteed. In total about three million men were called for service, and two million served in Europe.
Name: The First Draft Call
Date: July 20, 1917
Notes: The Secretary of War, Mr. Baker draws the first number in the World War 1 Draft and Announces " 2 5 8"
New recruits were trained for eight months, spending long days on drills, duties, target practice, and cleaning the grounds. The War Industries Board ensured that businesses were producing much needed supplies for the war effort. The War Labor Board watched over wages and working hours to keep workers happy and keep them in shifts around the clock producing weapons and ammunition for the boys "over there.” Look at the pack and essentials to the left. All of which were carried through trenches, and war zones in the heavy pack.
Objects: Military pack, weapons, ammunition, uniform, and survival kits.
Notes: To the far left is recreation based on original design, to the right is a soldier's uniform and pack items donated.
Something New to Fear
Money raised from war bonds helped support the troops with items needed for everyday survival, like soap, razors, and minor first aid (band-aids kept out dirt, which did a lot in the filth filled trenches.) The Food Administration ensured that U.S soldiers were kept fed by rationing food supplies back home and promoting "victory gardens." And for those who wanted to not only show their support for their country, but for their loved ones at war, care packages were sent like the one seen here. It raised money and sent soldiers items like toothpaste, cold cream, shaving cream and foot powder. To use they seem like gas station and quickie shop items, but to the soldiers who lived in filth, disease, and moisture, it was all much needed relief.
Object: Care Package and
Name: $1.50 Care Package
Date: ca. 1918
Name: "Trench Warfare"
Date: ca. 1917
Notes: Four soldier sleep while one gunman takes watch.
Name: "Death in the Trenches"
Date: ca. 1918
Notes: Three bodies waste away in mud and still water.
World War I is considered the first modern war. Weapons in the air, on the ground, and underwater killed and wounded soldiers and civilians. The weapons on both sides were so powerful that the armies could do little more than dig ditches in defensive positions. New tactics such as trench warfare brought armies to standstills, facing each other across war-torn landscapes. Some weapons that were first used were not as effective as they became in later wars, but some effectiveness was all they needed when it came to the gases. WWI saw the first use of chemical weapons, particularly poison gas.
Poisonous gases such as chlorine and mustard gas posed new threats to soldiers. These gases could blind, burn, or kill people exposed to them.
Name: "Mustard Gas Patient"
Date: ca. 1917-1918
Notes: This is only a mild case. ***Severe cases are not suitable for possible child viewing.
Name: "Soldiers Prepare for Attack"
Date: ca. 1917
"...[Mustard Gas] causes severe skin burning, as well as damage to the eyes, respiratory system and internal organs...."
Name: "The Update"
Date: ca. 1917
Notes: Mass amounts of soldiers write letters and postcards to loved ones to keep them informed.
Name: The Ufkes Letters
Date: ca. 1918
Notes: Every letter sent by John H. Ufkes to his family during his serving.
Military men and women stationed abroad sometimes found it difficult to obtain the materials they needed for correspondence. Postcards were one of the popular ways military personnel communicated with family and friends during World War I. Cards were widely distributed for free by nonprofit organizations. Other postcards were readily available with scenes of life at training camps in the U.S. or printed in Europe with patriotic themes, exotic sights, or scenes of the war’s destruction. Today, these postcards provide a glimpse of the attitudes and experiences of members of the armed forces. Though simple, these notes gave great relief, not only to the soldiers, but for worried loved ones at home. Some confessed the tragedies of war, others would simple comment about the weather or poor coffee. Like the picture below, when asked what he was writing about 'John' responds “Gripping about the weather....the usual.”, even though the war had just ended.
Name: "John and the Weather"
Date: November 18, 1918
Now a century after WWI broke out, the aftermath of WWI is still seen and even discovered today. Traces of the war have been left across the European landscape, hidden under collapsed trenches, buried by debris an left deep under now peaceful communities. In recent years construction crews have unearthed World War I trenches in several countries, including Belgium. In Britain, the remainders of trenches have been transformed into museums and memorials for the thousands that died and still rest there. In other areas, people have uncovered more than just trenches. Sites where ammunition, weapons, and even old bombs from the war have been dumped or buried. At one site in France, thousands of artillery shells were found nearly a century after the war. Bomb squads were called to the scene to carefully remove the shells and because of the danger of the shells exploding or releasing dangerous gases, people living in the community had to be evacuated as the bomb squad worked tirelessly to remove all that they could find. It is a true testament to the scale of the war.
Name: “30 tons of Shells”
Date: November 23, 2010
Notes: A German World War I munitions dump containing 1,652 artillery shells weighing a total of 30 tons.
The American Expeditionary Forces reflected the diversity of the U.S. population. More than 365,000 African Americans joined or were drafted into the military. Most of these men worked in support roles ranging from digging ditches to transporting supplies. Likewise, despite facing language barriers and racism, Hispanic Americans volunteered and fought bravely. For most of these soldiers, service in World War I was the first time they traveled outside of the U.S. Southwest. More than 4,000 Mexican Americans were trained for the military; however, few actually saw combat. Most soldiers with Hispanic surnames were segregated in non-combat roles as were Asian Americans. Some conscientious objectors of all races also served behind the scenes. They drove ambulances or performed other medical tasks for combat units in France. And yet, about 12,000 Native Americans served alongside white soldiers in combat units. Women also served, taking on important new roles during the war. The U.S. Army and Navy created a nursing corps that formally admitted women to the military for the first time. As many as 21,000 women joined one of these Nurse Corps and served overseas while another 15 thousand took on other jobs.
Name: Ernest Childers, Creek Indian
Date: ca. 1917-1918
Notes: Winner of Metal of Honor.
Name: Army Nurse Corps
Date: ca. 1917
Name: The 93rd Regiment
Date: ca. 1917-1918
Notes: A famous all black regiments in WWI.
Name: “Soldiers Parade”
Date: ca 1919
Name: “Soldiers Come Home”
Date: ca 1919
Notes: This African American regime stands proud in hopes of equality.
Many ethnic groups volunteered for duty believing that would
reduce prejudice and discrimination. Involvement in World War I changed the way that minority groups saw their place in the world. African American soldiers fighting with the French met soldiers from North and West Africa. The French treated African American soldiers fairly and respectfully, unlike the treatment they often received at home. Other minority groups also found the war changed their perspectives. Mexican Americans' efforts abroad made them determined to resist discrimination when they returned home. Native Americans gained increased respect for their valiant fighting and also took up the call for increased civil rights. Back home, these veterans hoped their wartime sacrifices would lead to gains in civil rights. Yet conditions did not improve for African Americans, if anything, they became worse as tensions rose after the war; however, African Americans who had served overseas felt new determination to fight racism in American society. Their contributions to the war effort increased their pride and their demands for equality. Women's involvement in the war helped them at last gain the right to vote. President Wilson noted that granting women the right to vote showed the power of democracy, and that women deserved the right to vote in return for their work in the war, and a couple of years later they could. Asian Americans who had served in the U.S. military gained the right to apply for naturalized citizenship. However, discrimination against Asian Americans in workplaces and housing remained, just as racism against African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans continued. It would still be a long way before the equality of today.
"We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting. Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America"
- W.E.B. DuBois
In 2012, the last World War I veteran passed away just 12 days away from the wise and wary age of 111.
With no living witnesses to continue their stories and testimonies, we and our future rely on collections and artifacts to keep the memory alive.
This Exhibit is free of charge, open to all of the public, every day, and accepts any and all donations no matter their condition.
Please invite friends and family to join us in this remembrance.
- Thank You.