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The assassination of an archduke in far-off Serbia in June 1914 was the spark that ignited a global conflict. While Europe’s entangled alliances pulled the world into war, for the next three years, America engaged in bitter arguments over whether to join the fight. Though President Woodrow Wilson declared neutrality, the US crept closer to the brink of engagement, spurred by developments such as the sinking of the commercial ocean liner Lusitania, which Leonard Maunder discusses in his oral history interview, and humanitarian concern for war-torn Belgium.
Once the United States declared war on April 6, 1917, the nation turned its energy to preparing a combat force, and to the industrial needs as well as the public opinion needed to bolster the war effort. The Committee on Public Information used propaganda tools like print media and motion pictures to foster popular support of the war; Dennis Sullivan managed domestic distribution of the movies it made, and his collection includes images used in production of the 1918 film Under Four Flags.
Though some men, like Dr. Orville Rogers, had volunteered for service before the official outbreak of war, and women played a critical role, working and volunteering on the home front and serving as nurses on the Western Front, the newly-instituted Selective Service Act was the main force behind raising an Army. The draft sent men to training camps throughout the United States, including Camp Sherman, Ohio, where Augustus Warfield ushered the 332nd Field Artillery Regiment through their adjustment to military life. As the stories of Louis Quayle and Joseph Rosenblum make clear, camp life came as a shock to many of these draftees. Drawing soldiers from a nation of immigrants, many of them recently arrived, necessarily engaged questions of assimilation and “Americanization.” The battlefield service of soldiers from German-American families, like Hillie John Franz, Otto Leven, and Quiren Groessl, proved their loyalties beyond question.
“The screeming of the shells was so loud it all most would run any one crazy.”
“...but now that I could hear these shells coming over I really began to know what fear was...”
“...I’ve certainly got lots to tell.”
“In fact, the slogan became ‘Get into this war because this is the war to end all wars.”
“I guess the only thing to do is make the best of it.”
“...the fighting was hand to hand, with bayonets and rifle butts..."
“And if one does not believe in fate, let him, the coward, read Voltaire.”
“Under Four Flags is a picture that the Government intends every one...shall see...”
“The second of a series of Regimental Schools of Fire began today...”