I was reminded today about how grateful I am to have found so many amazing books during the course of this project. Some are nearly as old as my grandfather’s diary and were written by men and women who witnessed the war first hand. Some were written in the immediate aftermath of the war. And others were written recently with the benefit of 100 years of scholarship, analysis and archaeology.
These are World War 1 books that I have used in my research and occasionally quoted. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
This list has to start with From Doniphan to Verdun: The Official History of the 140th Infantry (Classic Reprint) by Chaplain Evan A. Edwards.
This is the book that started it all for me. I had read through my grandfather’s diary several times over the years, but didn’t think I would have any way to tie Robert’s words to actual history. I will never forget the day I paged through the 140th Infantry roster in the back of Chaplain Edwards’ book and found Robert’s name listed. This is also one of the very few sources I have that is focused on the 140th Infantry Regiment as opposed to the much larger 35th Division.
If you’ve read even a few of the posts on this site, you’ve probably seen an excerpt or two from Chaplain Edwards, adding detail, color, or a big-picture perspective to Robert’s experiences. Chaplain Edwards is an excellent writer. He’s both funny and touching, and occasionally snarky.
A close second in terms of value is a new book, Pershing’s Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I (Modern War Studies) by Richard S. Faulkner.
While the vast majority of books I’ve used this year are looking at the organization, structure and movement of the regiments and divisions of the AEF, Pershing’s Crusaders looks at the experience of the doughboys themselves. The author has a large collection of letters, diaries and other collections, providing an amazing view of every aspect of the American soldier’s experience. This includes everything from recruitment and conscription to the U.S. training camps, transportation, and day-to-day life “Over There,” including gear, weapons, food, shelter, entertainment and so much more. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Probably the most entertaining – if not the most accurate – book I’ve read this year is A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne: A Memoir, 1917-1918 by William S. Triplet.
I mentioned that I had some reservations about the accuracy of this book. Sergeant Triplet also served in the 140th Infantry, but either because of his rank, his specific role, or his memory/imagination, he had a very different experience from Robert. The book has lengthy quoted dialogue and detailed descriptions, making it read very much like a novel. Likewise, Sergeant Triplet – despite enlisting at age 17 in 1917 – comes across as an action hero who at one point sticks his sidearm in a disobedient soldier’s face and at other points embarks on night-time missions into No Man’s Land like a World War One Rambo.
Two histories of the 35th Division were useful but often focused on other regiments, leaving Robert and the 140th out. From Vauquois Hill to Exermont: A History of the Thirty-Fifth Division of the United States Army (Classic Reprint) by Clair Kenamore and Heroes of the Argonne: An Authentic History of the Thirty-Fifth Division (Classic Reprint) by Charles B. Hoyt both provided valuable information on the movements of the 35th Division. And while neither author is in Chaplain Edwards’ league, both books contain excellent stories and descriptions of the Division’s adventures.
In the category of “hard” military history, American Armies and Battlefields in Europe, published by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission, has been invaluable. I don’t own this one (yet) but have used it extensively as the text is available online. The book was originally published shortly after the war and has been reprinted several times. A must-have for serious students of the Great War.
United States Army in the World War, 1917-1919: American Occupation of Germany, published by the Center of Military History, United States Army, is a multi-volume publication containing a wealth of information and detail. It includes an enormous collection of letters, memoranda, and more, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the massive amount of communication and coordination needed to bring America in the war. One of the highlights for me was United States Army in the World War, 1917-1919, V. 3, Training and Use of American Units With the British and French, which told the really fascinating story of how the Americans negotiated and argued with the British and French before (and during) the doughboys’ arrival overseas.
One book that was incredibly helpful earlier this year was War in Words by Daniel W. Phillips. As luck would have it, Phillips was at Camp Dodge, Iowa, at nearly the same time as Robert. His descriptions did a great job fleshing out those weeks in Robert’s story. Unfortunately, their paths diverged after reaching France and I haven’t been able to use this book recently.
There are a few books that I intend to use extensively in the coming weeks when Robert and the 140th join the huge Meuse-Argonne offensive. There are several books covering this period that I am very excited to read and share, including:
Collapse at Meuse-Argonne: The Failure of the Missouri-Kansas Division, as the title suggests, will not be complimentary about the preparation and performance of the 35th Division. To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 The Epic Battle That Ended the First World War, by Edward Lengel, just recently came to my attention and I can’t wait to read it.
Finally, a book I’ve discussed before. Percy A Story of 1918 is a beautiful little book, based on a true story, and brought to life through a mixture of historical artifacts and amazing illustrations. This one is for everyone, whether you’re interested in the war or not.