100 Years After The US Joined WWI, Photos From The Trenches Show The Horror Of War – And The Occasional Hard-Won Moment Of Levity
Although the war started in 1914 it was on April 16th, 1917, that the US joined the First World War by sending money, troops and supplies. The US had tried to stay out of the conflict but with repeated attacks from Germany on ships carrying American citizens, it became clear that they would need to join the fray to defend themselves and their people.
One of the events which led to the US joining in the war, was the attack in May 1915 on the British ocean liner, Lusitania, which was torpedoed, killing 1,198 passengers of the total 1,959. 128 of the people who were killed were American. Another Italian liner was sunk in November, killing 272 people, including a further 27 Americans. After this the US broke off relations with Germany, and joined in the war in 1917.
The Library of Congress has recently released this collection of photographs, relating to every aspect of the war. The collection shows pictures from the early days of the war, with American soldiers being sent to France, building their own trenches and adapting to the conditions at the time.
The collection shows soldiers from the 1st division waiting to board the train to leave, we can see the various types of gas masks which were used in different countries. By 1918 over 1 million American troops had arrived in France, and over half of them went to fight on the front lines.
Some pictures are disturbing, showing soldiers in actual battle scenes, such as the one where the soldier has lost his gas mask and helmet during a gas attack. Other pictures show soldiers forging forwards over the bodies of some who have fallen.
Some soldiers were pictured recovering in hospitals in places like Auteuil, Paris, while others were pictured boarding the liner Leviathan to return to the US, after the war ended.
On a lighter side, there are some photos of soldiers resting, or playing games such as baseball. There are shots of soldiers returning home at the end of the war, with their happy faces showing relief at arriving back to loved ones.
This is an iconic collection, showcasing life as it was during the war, with soldiers at rest, play and in battle. It gives us a glimpse into their world, where we can see their fears, frustrations and hopes.
While the US was only actively involved in the war for some 20 months, by the end of the war on November 11, 1918, 116,516 American soldiers died, 53,402 killed in combat. 204,002 were wounded.