Take Ten: Soldiers of WWI

Armistice Day in Twin Falls, November 11, 1918 (Photographer: Clarence E. Bisbee)

November 11, 2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of the armistice of WWI. The Great War, as it was called at the time, lasted four years (though the U.S. had been involved for just over a year). What was it like for the average soldier in the trenches, or in the air, or even at home? The following books all take a look at the war through the eyes and actions of the American men who fought in WWI.


Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family: A Test of Will and Faith in World War I – Louisa Thomas

  • Norman Thomas and his brothers’ upbringing prepared them for a life of service–but their calls to conscience threatened to tear them apart. Sons of a Presbyterian minister and grandsons of missionaries, the four brothers shared a rigorous moral upbringing, a Princeton education, and a faith in the era’s spirit of hope.

The Doughboys: America and the First World War – Gary Mead

  • Examines the contributions of American soldiers during the First World War, following their progress from initial derision by the Europeans to a hard-won respect.

The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Grandest Escape of the Great War – Neal Bascomb

  • Presents the story of a group of downed Allied airmen who masterminded a courageous and ingenious breakout from Germany’s Holzminden POW camp.

First to Fly: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, the American Heroes Who Flew for France in World War I – Charles Bracelen Flood

  • The story of the daredevil Americans of the Lafayette Escadrille, who flew in French planes, wore French uniforms, and showed the world an American brand of heroism before the United States entered the Great War.

Five Lieutenants: The Heartbreaking Story of Five Harvard Men Who Led America to Victory in World War I – James Carl Nelson

  • Documents the stories of five young Harvard students who met different fates while serving in World War I, drawing on uncensored letters and memoirs to illuminate the impact of the conflict on the educated class of soldiers.

Hellfire Boys: The Birth if the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World’s Deadliest Weapons – Theo Emery

  • Traces the actions of the “Hellfire Battalion,” a group of American engineers who were trained in gas warfare and were sent to the front lines in France to launch multiple assaults against the Germans.

The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War – Richard Rubin

  • Journalist Richard Ruben painstakingly tracked down and interviewed dozens of surviving WWI veterans (aged between 101 and 113 years old at the time of their interviews) over the course of a decade. He skillfully weaves their halting, haunting individual stories into a vividly humanized account of the world’s first industrial-scale war, and America’s last days as a rural economy.

Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality – Richard Slotkin

  • Examines the United States’ history of ethnic assimilation and racial strife through the experience of World War I regiments, the fabled Harlem Hell Fighters of the 369th infantry and the legendary “lost battalion” of the 77th division.

Sons of Freedom: The Forgotten American Soldiers Who Defeated Germany in World War I – Geoffrey Wawro

  • A prize-winning historian describes the battles, strategies and human toll of the Americans during World War I, but whose efforts ultimately saved the Allies, defeated Germany and established their nation as a great power.

The Unknowns: The Untold Story of America’s Unknown Soldier and WWI’s Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home – Patrick K. O’Donnell

  • A critically acclaimed medical historian describes the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery and tells the stories of those laid to rest there as well as those veterans serving as Body Bearers.


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