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Great War Reference

June 2024
1min read

THE UNITED STATES IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR


An Encyclopedia, edited by Anne Cipriano Venzon, Garland Publishing, 830 pages .

America’s part in the great war fills this first-rate encyclopedia written by more than 230 scholars of the conflict. Through its disparate entries on subjects like the pacifist Jane Addams, the Camp MacArthur riot, slacker raids, and the different treatments for the emerging malady of “shell shock”—rest, cold douches, talking cures, and electric shock—the book remains authoritative and literate. Its authors are as confident explaining domestic cultural and economic changes as they are detailing the birth of aerial warfare or the nuances of the Otranto mine barrage. A section on wartime music traces American attitudes through popular song, from the neutralist “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” to “Let’s All Be Americans Now.” Gary P. Cox’s essay on trenches is a grimly thorough history from the Middle Ages through the ghastly massive deadlock on the Western Front. The Americans missed several bitter years of the trench war and so arrived with a fresh take. No one was more out of his element in the conflict than Alvin C. York, the deeply Christian Tennessean who had his conscientious-objector application turned down but emerged from the Argonne Forest at war’s end marching 132 German prisoners ahead of him. America’s months in the World War changed the nation utterly in ways this book does its best to detail.

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