1918

Seventy-five years after the guns fell silent along the Western Front, the work they did there remains of incalculable importance to the age we inhabit and the people we are

In many ways 1918 is closer to us than we are inclined to think. Read more »

What We Lost In The Great War

Seventy-five years ago this spring a very different America waded into the seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century. World War I did more than kill millions of people; it destroyed the West’s faith in the very institutions that had made it the hope and envy of the world.

Many ingenious lovely things are gone That seemed sheer miracle to the multitude… —W. B. Yeats Read more »

The Real War

Walt Whitman said, “The real war will never get in the books.” The critic and writer Paul Fussell feels that the same sanitizing of history that went on after the 1860s has erased the national memory of what World War II was really like.

The big push” is how the G-3 journal of the 103d Infantry Division described its attack against elements of the German 19th Army on November 16, 1944. At H-plus-15, American guns bombarded enemy lines, and the regiments moved forward. In Company F of the 410th Infantry Regiment, the future author of Wartime, 2d Lt. Paul Fusse!!, was about to receive his baptism of fire and his first Purple Heart when shrapnel tore up his elbow. That was near St-Dié, on the western slopes of the Vosges Mountains of Alsace. Read more »

Land Of The Candy Bar

It was born in America, it came of age in America, and in an era when foreign competition threatens so many of our industries, it still sweetens our balance of trade

The candy bar as we know it was born in America. So too, many centuries earlier, was chocolate itself. Mexican natives cultivated the cocoa bean for more than twenty-five hundred years before Hernán Cortés took it to Spain with him in 1528. Spanish royalty drank a cold, sweetened beverage made from the beans, but they liked it so much they kept it a secret from the rest of Europe for the remainder of the century. Not until the 1840s did a British firm, Fry and Sons, make the first chocolate bar.Read more »

World War I: Tetanus And Plastic Surgery

 

VICTIMS OF mustard gas, American soldiers of the 82nd and 89th divisions lie in a field north of Royaumeix, France, too numerous to be cared for in the nearby field hospital. New weapons like gas and the increasing efficiency of conventional weaponry meant ever larger numbers of wounded men: this war saw dramatic improvements in the number and quality of hospitals and in triage—the method of sorting the wounded.

 
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The Great North Sea Mine Barrage

An extraordinary World War I naval operation is recounted by the commander of a decaying coastal steamer crammed with a terrifying new explosive

When my father, Rear Adm. D. Pratt Mannix 3rd, died in 1957, he had served as a midshipman on a square-rigger and lived to see the atomic bomb dropped on Japan. Born in 1878, he had fought in eight wars, been awarded six medals, and had seen action against Moro pirates and the Imperial German Navy. He had watched the United States grow to be the most powerful country in the world. As the U.S. Navy was responsible for much of this growth, he had had an opportunity to see, firsthand, history being made.Read more »

A Postage Stamp History Of The U.S. In The Twentieth Century

Here is the federal government’s own picture history of our times—and it tells us more than you might think

FEW ARE AWARE of a major publishing project that has been sponsored by the federal government and some of our leading citizens over the past eight decades. It is a lavishly illustrated history of the United States in our times and it comes in parts—on postage stamps, to be precise. The story it tells may say as much about how we see ourselves as about what we’ve done since 1900. Read more »

Sergeant York

In the Meuse-Argonne, this backwoods pacifist did what Marshal Foch saw as “the greatest thing accomplished by any private’ soldier of all the armies of Europe.”

Pershing called him “the greatest civilian soldier” of World War I. Foch described his exploit in the Argonne as “the greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe.” Read more »

The Merriest Christmas

A LETTER FROM WORLD WAR I

December, 1918; the war was over. There was special reason for cheer that Christmas, particularly for those who had done the fighting, even for those who had been cut down and now waited for their wounds to heal in France before returning home. It shines through the following letter, written on January 10, 1919, from a hospital in Mesves, France, and recently discovered by Rita Cheronis of Deerfield, Illinois, who was kind enough to pass it along to us.Read more »

The Great Gun Merchant

For years passengers travelling the railroad between New York City and Albany were stirred from their reveries by a Scottish castle looming suddenly from the Hudson River. An outpost of nearby West Point? The domain of an émigré laird? No, this island fortress was once the private arsenal of the world’s largest arms dealer. Read more »