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.

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.

 

My thin red line

Yes, I know that’s a different war.

The progress on the script continues. I’ve now gone through with a new edit, using my red pen (get the title now?) to make edits and to mark where the script needs to be either rewritten or relocated.

It’s still a work in progres. But we’re closer to the mark, and the proofreading marks.

The goal is to have this next round of edits completed by mid-October with a final, presentable draft coming sometime in November.

 

Study war no more…

My script, Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy, continues to be a work in progress. As I’ve mentioned, it’s in the editing stages now.

But to get to his point I found that I had to read and research much more than what my grandfather had written in his diary, and what my aunt had provided in commentary.

So, for weeks, perhaps months, I read more about World War I. I searched the Internet. I listened to podcasts.

And then it really hit me that I didn’t need to “study war no more…”

The story I’m telling is that of one American soldier, not the entire U.S. military or England and France.

I’m telling one story, and the tendency is to want to put in all of the details, all of the history.

But, then I wonder how much an audience really needs to be told about the horrors of war. That’s almost a given. Almost.

What’s not a given is how that war affected the average soldier far away from home.

That’s the story I’m telling.

This blog is the story of that story. There’s work to be done.

After all, it’s a long way to Tipperary.

 

‘Til it’s over, over there

worldwar1a

It’s been over eight months since last I posted here. I had high hopes and fancy plans to keep this going, along with my regular home on the web at The Write Side of My Brain. But schedules change, and plans change.

So, today I’m back and we’re taking this blog in a different direction. I’ll still talk occasionally about meetings and events, but for now, we’re looking at history, specifically World War I history.

I plan to be here every Tuesday to talk to you about the development of, and the promtion of my stage play.

See, I’ve written a script entitled: Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy.

It’s a stage play based on the diary of my grandfather from World War I. The first public reading is this coming Monday with the Richmond Playwright’s Forum.

Here’s how the script came to be.

I’ve had a copy of the diary for years. The version I have was transcribed by my aunt, who also provided commentary and history. The original diary is now at the Library of Congress as part of the Veteran’s History Project.

In addition to writing, I also spend some time on the stage. About two years ago, I was again participating in A Night at the Quartermaster Museum, at Fort Lee, Virginia. I’ve done this annually for the last four years and will be there again in November.

Two years ago I portrayed a World War I era doctor. The nurse and I talked to the students about the hazards of trench foot and prevention methods which include…you guess it…Clean Dry Socks. I remembered my grandfather’s diary at that point.

But things started to gel the next day when I attended the first performance in the newly restored Beacon Theatre at City Point in Hopewell, Virginia. The program was a series of letters written during the Civil War era.

I was inspired to go home and pull out my grandfather’s diary where I learned, or remembered, that he had trained at what was then Camp Lee, then marched to City Point in Hopewell where he and the 80t Blue Ridge Division departed for France.

It was then that I knew that I had to take this story to the stage.

So, the script has been written, and re-written, and will soon be read in public for the first time.

Is it ready? The reading will tell.

But it’s closer, and it’s on its way the stage.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how the reading goes.