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Experiencing War: World War I: The Great War (Stories from the Veterans History Project, Library of Congress)

It was the coming-of-age war for the United States, and for the men who served in combat overseas, it provided a sobering lesson in the realities of twentieth-century warfare. Barrages of immense artillery shells snuffed out lives by the thousands, trenches filled with water and rats and worse were home for months on end to weary soldiers, and geographical orientation was often impossible. Though Americans had a sense that the tide had turned with their arrival, the sense of certain victory remained a rumor until the very end.

Featured Story: James Nelson Platt
George Paris Davis - link to story
“If I ever wanted to be about the size of an ant, it was when I crawled through that hell of shellfire and slid over onto that sunken road.” (Memoir, page 162)

James Nelson Platt sailed for Europe in the spring of 1918 as a private and returned home eight months later as a sergeant. Not long after landing in France, he volunteered for typing duty and was given corporal’s stripes; he soon became a map reader and then was promoted to mess sergeant. When his company’s commanding officer was killed, Platt took over briefly. His familiarity with maps helped him guide his men out of trouble. In his memoir, he vividly describes the war’s devastation and is honest about his fear of being shot.

Go to George Paris Davis' story Go and experience
James Nelson Platt's story
Experience more stories of In the Trenches more stories
“Finally we mutually agreed to call it The First World War in order to prevent the millennium folk from forgetting that the history of the world was the history of war.”     -- Charles à Repington, English journalist, September 1918
John Joseph Brennan - link to story
"Boy, these cooties are great; I don’t think that they ever sleep..."

John Joseph Brennan's story

Albert Carpenter - link to story
"Our eats have run out, but still trying to keep up good spirits."

Albert John Carpenter's story

Richard Thomas Crump - link to story

Richard Thomas Crump's story

Herry Frieman - link to story
"Most of the men were drinking water out of shell holes..."

Harry Frieman's story

Quiren M. Groessl - link to story
"...I could hear these shells coming over I really began to know what fear was..."

Quiren M. Groessl's story

Alfred C. Harrison - link to story
"Cannot express myself in my letters home the way I should like to..."

Alfred C. Harrison's story

Arnold Hoke - link to story
"...there is nothing pleasant about war in any shape or manner..."

Arnold Stephen Hoke's story

Morris Martin - link to story
"Those boys up there were still in that Hell, and the end wasn't in sight yet."

Morris Albert Martin's story

Mark Lewis McCave - link to story

"All he can do is get away or be dug in so deeply that none will injure him."

Mark Lewis McCave's story

Reese Melvin Russell - link to story

"He handed the grenade to one of the men and said, 'Give them [the enemy] this. I wish I could.'"

Reese Melvin Russell's story

George Brown Sheppard - link to story

"I had no men ... and we had no actual orders, so I stayed in bed and hoped the bombardment would go away."

George Brown Sheppard's story

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  May 15, 2007
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