Over There

When the U.S. entered World War I, the war in Europe was at a stalemate. The thought was that the Yankees coming over would take care of things. To a certain extent they did.

To express that sentiment, songs like “Over There” expressed the sentiment of a nation. The 1917 hit song by George M. Cohen helped to galvanize young men to enlist in the fight against the “Hun” in both World Wars.

Why were WWI Soldiers called Doughboys?

We’re not talking about Pillsbury.

Doughboy was a terms used to describe members of the U.S. Army or Marine Corps, most often use for members of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. While origins of the term are unclear it was initially sued in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. There are other uses throughout history.

While World War I began in 1914, the United States didn’t enter the conflict until 1917, in part due to the American sentiment that we didn’t go fight wars for other people.

Because of the later entrance into the war, one of the jokes surrounding the term was that the doughboys were “kneaded” in 1914, but didn’t “rise” until 1917.

But for the script I’m working on, it’s a term of endearment used for my grandfather and his buddies. These doughboys came from the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountain and traveled to a far land to fight for their country. Many didn’t return.

All who did return were changed.

This Week in 1918

After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. Alvin C. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machinegun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machinegun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns.

York (12/13/1887 – 9/2/1964) was one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of Word War I. York was drafted during World War I; he initially claimed conscientious objector status on the grounds that his denomination forbade violence. Persuaded that his religion was not incompatible with military service, York joined the 82nd Division as an infantry private, and went to France in 1918.

Read more about the Medal of Honor citation for SGT York at the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

The 1941 movie, Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper is available from Amazon.

Not likely to be made into a movie, the work on my script Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy continues. Stay tuned for updates.

How we got there…

Woodrow Wilson announces to Congress on February 3, 1917 that official relations with the German Empire have ceased. (Wikimedia Commons)

In the early 1900s, Americans were almost uniformly opposed to becoming involved in wars on foreign lands. Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 reelection was based on an anti-war platform. But by 1917 things had changed, and it was increasingly more clear that the Germans intended to draw the United States into the war.

On April 2, 1917, President Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to seek a Declaration of War against Germany.

Wilson said…

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them…

…It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free…

A month later, Congress would authorize the draft. Just a few months after that my grandfather was called up, as a 29-year-old man, and within a year, he was in France.

My work on his story, Clean Dry Socks, continues…

Read the full Wilson speech.