April 6th marks the one hundredth anniversary of United States’ entry into World War I. WWI is the only period of military history that sparks my curiosity. In some perverse way, all the public education about WWI that has sprung up in recent weeks has me feeling like a kid in a candy store. World War I was a horrible thing. It feels strange to get excited about it, but when we learn we grow, right? At Main Library, Lafayette, We Are Here: Tennesseans Go to War, 1917 opens April 6th. At Tennessee State Museum, there will be ”The Yanks Are Coming!” Tennesseans in World War 1, not to mention the smorgasbord of resources on Tennessee Great War Commission’s website. If that is still not enough for you, you can peruse Library of Congress’ huge archive.
Okay, you want something specific, a text, a codex. Something you can immerse your brain in, at home, alone, while you drink tea and pet your cat because you’re an introvert that reads the public library’s staff blog. I’ve got you covered with To Conquer Hell: the Meuse-Argonne, 1918 by Joseph Lengel. United States entered the war late and saw comparatively minimal combat. One of our few major engagements was the Battle of the Argonne Forest. Lengel goes deep nerd on this particular battle and uses it as a springboard to extrapolate the minutiae of the U.S. infantry experience. Differing from most Western Front battles, the Argonne happened in dense woods and not in trenches with empty space between opposing armies. It was here that Alvin York distinguished himself. You can see an oversized statue of him on 6th and Charlotte. Lengel dispels myths about York without detracting from his genuine heroism. Even with its attention to detail, To Conquer Hell offers a bird’s eye view on how the U.S. perceives our contributions to WWI versus how Europeans perceive our contribution.
Highly recommended, but could benefit from more maps.