"Good-Bye Broadway, Hello France" - America in the Era of World War I

 

The men of my unit were of one mind. There was a war to be fought and they intended to win it... In this war, at least, the moral[e] was not something brought down from the top. It came up from the bottom.


Private Robert E. Glover
Company D, 342nd Machine Gun Battalion, 89th Division

 

A portion of the "trench system" inside the exhibit area, which showcases the blend of material from the USAHEC Collection into the landscape of the battlefield.

World War I was a pivotal clash that forever changed the world. Empires collapsed, new nations were born, and the maps of the Middle East and Africa were redrawn. Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine were created, as well as Ukraine, the Baltic nations, Poland, Hungary, and others. Today's conflicts and wars in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe are directly rooted in World War I. This war unleashed a century of conflicts that included the Second World War and the Cold War. American diplomat and historian George Kennan was right to call it the seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century.

World War I changed the way nations waged war. The slaughter on battlefields like Verdun and the Somme, the horrors of gas warfare, and the power of modern industrial armies altered how people viewed war. Any pretense of glory quickly disintegrated in battles with unprecedented casualties. And yet, war's hunger was not satisfied on the field of battle. It reached far beyond the trenches and struck into the heart of London, Paris, and other cities through the targeting of citizens by aerial bombing or long range artillery. The sinking of ships in international waters by U-boats also emerged as another means of waging war.

The introduction of tanks, machine guns, and other innovations in mechanization dramatically altered the method of warfare as the era of glorious Napoleonic charges came to an end. In the midst of this trying era, the modern U.S. Army was born. Entering the war in 1917 with barely 200,000 Soldiers, the U.S. Army quickly expanded to over 2 million men under arms, and by the end of the war, more than 1.2 million of them fought in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, America's largest military operation ever. In the midst of this campaign, the burden of success or failure, and victory or defeat, often fell upon individual Soldiers, who rose to the challenges and made history. Although World War I is often forgotten today, it is the source of many of the challenges the world still faces.

"Good-Bye Broadway, Hello France" - America in the Era of World War I is a two part exhibit, the first of which opened last year in the USAHEC's Ridgway Hall, and the second of which is now open in the new exhibit gallery in the Visitor and Education Center. Artifacts, photographs, and archival materials from the USAHEC Collection tell the Soldier stories and history of the First World War. In the second part of the exhibit, these items are exhibited in an in-depth and engaging battlefield landscape, providing visitors with the feeling of walking through the trenches, as they learn about the lives and experiences of Soldiers who called them home. Plan a trip to the USAHEC to witness this incredible new display, highlighting the many actions and sacrifices of the courageous Soldiers who waged the forgotten war that changed the world.