“Over There,” The Doughboys in the Great War

American soldiers, France, 1918 / Photo courtesy of Library of Congress_ggbain 26963


“Over There,” The Doughboys in the Great War

October 16-October 27, 2018

A World War I Commemorative Field University Program[hr]

The Great War had been raging since 1914, after nearly 100 years of entangling alliances known as the “Concert of Europe” had dissolved with the assassination of a relatively low-level nobleman in Serbia. With war declared, each country was compelled to honor their mutual defense pacts, leaving Germany largely alone with a tottering ally in the Czar of Russia. Other old and ancient empires proved to be paper shells of themselves, and war on the Western Front became the dominate feature of a brutal, bloody, and largely inert pair of siege lines stretching across northern France and Belgium (the theme of the classic movie All Quiet on the Western Front). The Von Schleiffen Plan had brought German military might into France where numbers, logistics, and exhaustion degenerated into brutal, immoral, and inhumane trench warfare.

The United States had experienced its industrial revolution, and it was a prized alliance sought by the combatants. The Americans promised massive manpower and the capacity to produce “game changing” resources for whichever side could bring them in. The 1915 sinking of the SS Lusitania off the coast of Ireland nearly brought America in. However, a strong isolationist element in the United States had no interest in the war and, despite President Woodrow Wilson’s altruistic call for a “League of Nations” to resolve international conflict, Congress would not budge. This changed when Germany, in a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, attempted to align with Mexico against the United States. A diplomatic dispatch was intercepted (known as the Zimmerman Telegram). In it, Germany advised Mexico that they intended to resume unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic. They believed this would provoke America to enter the war. In exchange for Mexico’s support, Germany would assist them in restoring lands taken by the Americans during the Mexican-American War of the 1840s. Over the next few months, the Germans sank seven American merchant ships, and in April 1917 America declared war on Germany.

Within a month, Wilson had named Major General John “Black Jack” Pershing to command the United States forces. While never formally allied with the western powers, America went to war and brought with it resources and manpower never imagined by the Germans or the war-weary French and English. Once in theater, stale unimaginative tactics fed United States Army and Marine Corps units into bloody and untenable battles. This tour is the story of those Doughboys and is a tribute to those warriors of which all are now gone.

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Jim White is a retired US Army officer living in Europe. He currently works as a logistics management specialist (Operations and Plans) for the Defense Logistics Agency—Europe & Africa. A Federal Civil Service employee since 2002, Jim has worked as the logistics planner and Chief of the Business Management Office for the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia-European Region. Jim is also an assistant professor for the US Army Command and General Staff College. He has served as a Civil-Military Plans Officer for the US Department of State in Kabul, Afghanistan. During his career in the Army, he was an Infantry Officer and Foreign Area Officer.   

Jim has a BS in History from Eastern Michigan University, a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas-Austin, and a Master of Arts in Public Policy (Peace Operations Policy Program) from George Mason University. He graduated from the US Army Infantry Basic and Advance Courses, the Foreign Area Officer Course, and the US Army Command and General Staff College. He has led over 20 tours on WWI and WW II topics.