Some observations of the earliest Doughboy experiences were recorded in a letter home by this anonymous A.E.F. lieutenant during the Summer of 1917. He was unusually interested in the French architecture and rustic culture that surrounded him but also noted the deeply depressed German P.O.W. laborers, his food and the different treatment between officers and men.
This letter was clipped from a German newspaper and subsequently appeared in a British magazine some months later; it was written in response to a letter from a 13 year-old German girl who wrote to her brother at the front. She encouraged him in his sad, murderous work in her letter that was positively dripping with an affected air of trench-swagger. Outraged that his school-age sister should make such a vulgar suggestion, the soldier's response was admirable and seemed much like the prose of Erich Maria Remarque.
This letter is very short and was composed by a German soldier who is simply identified as "a socialist". Writing to his wife from the war-torn Eastern European front in Moldavia, he describes what the man-made Hell of industrial war was like - the gas shells, the grenades, the ceaseless rattle of machine guns and the never ending groans of the wounded. The soldier concludes that if only the kings who were responsible for the war could witness this carnage for only fifteen minutes, then surely the war would end.
Click here to read about the foreign-born soldiers who served in the American Army of the First World War.
ARBEITER ZEITUNG, a Viennese newspaper, quoted the following swelled with hubris recalling his flight over crushed French Village in the Verdun sector:
"I felt like a king, loaded with my bombs... I flew over Saint Privat quite low, so that I could see all the houses, and if I dropped my bombs there, I should have been able to to destroy half the village..."
Printed five years after the war, an American nurse published these letters that were dictated to her in France by a handful of dying American soldiers; equally moving were the grateful responses she received months later from their recipients:
"I am glad and thank God he had such a quiet, peaceful death. It is a very hard thing for a mother to realize she cannot be with [her son] in his last moments...I am proud to give up my only boy to his country, and that alone is a great consolation."
This is just a segment from a longer article; to read the six page memoir in it's entirety, click here.
Click here for clip art depicting the nurses of World War One.
An experienced Canadian trench fighter gives some tips to an American Guardsman.
"Men enthuse over descriptions of bayonet charges. They are no idle pastimes, so it behooves all soldiers not only to become absolutely perfect in bayonet exercises, but to practice getting under way, keeping abreast with your mates and having a firm hold on your rifle. The soldier may say, 'Oh, that bayonet exercise isn't practical in a charge." No? Very well, that may appear right to some, but I should advise every one knowing every parry, thrust and counter so thoroughly that after they become second nature you can then do whatever your intuition at the moment directs."