Skip to main content

tv   Jennifer Keene Discusses World War I  CSPAN  July 1, 2017 10:15am-11:09am EDT

10:15 am
>> look for these titles in bookstores this coming weekend watch for many of the authors in the future on booktv on c-span2. [inaudible conversations] >> all right, folks, let's get going this morning. remember to put your phones on do not ring so that we are not interrupted during speaker presentations. my name is reina pennington and i teach military history here and i'm happy to introduce a couple friends of mine. first up is jennifer keene,
10:16 am
professor of history and chair of the deferment of history at chapman university in southern california. as you can tell she's a specialist in the american military experience in world war i man award-winning scholar lose her books include the great war and remaking of america, and the united states in the first world war. she is the author of dozens of articles and has contributed to textbooks and reference works, the encyclopedia of war in american society won the society for military history's best military history reference book. one of her many articles, jack miller center prize for the best military or diplomatic history published in historically speaking and she edits the peer-reviewed online in cyclopedia and other digital humanities projects. in addition to all that she was
10:17 am
co-edited, finding common ground, new directions in first world war studies. she is on the advisory board of the international society for the first world war studies and associate editor for the journal of first world war studies. we are happy to have her as our current president for the society for military history which had a conference a couple weeks ago and she's doing a fabulous job at challenging times with that. her current book is a project dealing with the african american experience in the first world war, also a product comparing the experiences of soldiers from french and british empires in world war i so join me in welcoming jennifer keene to norwich. [applause] >> thank you very much for coming out early this morning to talk about the first world war. you see from the title of my
10:18 am
talk, beginning with this idea what did it all mean, american soldiers in the first world war, i want to talk about the war from the american soldiers experience and think a little bit about when wilson declares war, what does this mean for the majority of american men, especially men of military age. so i was going to begin with a poster that is ubiquitous. when we think of the first world war it is always going to pop up. in many respects it encapsulates the first big challenge the united states has after the decision to bring america into the war. as you probably recall the united states has been debating for two years whether there was a war to fight. interestingly we had made very few concrete preparations to fight a war that by 1917 we understand is going to require millions of men in the army and also mobilization on the home front. you can make the argument that
10:19 am
in 1914 europe didn't know what it was getting itself into. people had the expectation of a 6-week war with movement, negotiating peace, it is over quickly but by 1917 there are no more illusions of that sort. we understand what kind of war this is after they are done so we know we are going to raise a mass army and do it relatively quickly. interestingly, we only have an armed force of 300,000 men which takes them together. we have a big challenge ahead of us. it makes sense to begin with this, i want you for the u.s. army, this is the challenge, i want to think about the process by which men come into the american military in the first world war. we like to look at evidence and use that to tell the story, we
10:20 am
like propaganda posters, we have seen a lot of the man seen a lot of posters like this. hopefully you can kind of see, maybe not so well that this says analyst and at the bottom of it the captioning is on which side of the window are you. this is the perfect encapsulation of a moment of individual choice for men in american society. you have a man who is very well-dressed and hiding in the shadows and contemplating his decision should he enlist. he sees outside these men walking in the sunlight, walking together, part of a community under the american flag and the caption says here is your choice, which side of the window are you going to be on. we have posters like this which
10:21 am
in a sense emphasize. the problem with this evidence, posters encouraging enlistments, the reality is going to be very different. in the first world war, the united states is going to raise the bulk of its armed forces to conscription and it will be the first time we institute it at the beginning of a conflict. in reality, 72% of the men come into the army are going to be drafted and after december of 1917 you are not even allowed to enlist in the army. why do this? why turn immediately to conscription? there were a few reasons for this. one reason might seem the most obvious, are you sure the american people are behind you? this had been a controversial decision, to go to war. if you only turn to enlistment will men actually join? this is a legitimate question people have it the time.
10:22 am
that is not really the primary motivation. the primary motivation is to think about raising this armed force in a way that is going to have the least disruption to your home front economy. by 1917, and mobilizing the home front. this is after -- able to look at the french and british experience and learn some lessons from that. one lesson from the british experience where they didn't introduce conscription until 1916, that can be disruptive in both building or military courts and your home front economy. in the first world war, when you
10:23 am
think about conscription, the idea in a sense is everybody is doing to have a responsibility to serve the nation. some people will better serve in the military, some people are going to better serve on the homefront, and in fact it is not up to the individual to decide. somebody else is going to decide. this is where we think about calling the draft in the first world war which is not the draft. using the words draft and conscription are very unpopular term and what does the government call this during the first world war? they call it the same thing we call it right now. selective service. a lot of times, i like to rebrand it, selective service. it encapsulates the philosophy behind this. everyone has a responsibility to serve, draft board and government to connect, whether you better serve the war effort on the home front or in the
10:24 am
military. in this respect everybody therefore has an obligation. and see this in the poster. and they have a draft, in midway, that didn't go so well. draft riots, a lot of people that objected to the idea of being forced to go in, people could buy substitutes. these were not popular measures. in the first world war, always trying to learn from the past, going to institute new lessons here, lessons, you can't find substitutes in the selective service in the first world war but the other, you look back and sells one of the mistakes they had made was the process by which people registered for the draft.
10:25 am
in the civil war, federal agents, ask the men of the house to register. if this was wrong, going back to the earlier poster, an individual decision with you complied with the left. in the first world war they wanted to take that out of your hands. what i mean by that is on june 5, 1917, it is national registration day. all draft eligible men in the first part of the warmings men between ages 21 and 30 all register for the selective service and they go down to their voting station, in front of their friends and neighbors register for the draft and that is what this poster is advertising and you can see, all these guys throwing their hats in the air, all going to go down and register for the draft. in this way, make sure you
10:26 am
actually did it. taking a quick look here, newspapers announcing the national registration day in june, you can actually see these come from two different communities. on this one from california, they are both presenting the same imagery here and you have men standing in line, to hand in their draft registration card to uncle sam. the hats are interesting because it indicates the different walks of life men are coming from, the different classes and ethnic backgrounds and to hand it in. i apologize for the poor quality of the projection but if you look at the image on the left, you can't see it but that
10:27 am
photograph in the middle is actually of men standing in line to register so on the one hand you have caricature and photographic evidence that this is happening. and accompanying this, parties or parades, the community is coming out to celebrate young men being willing to come fourth and serve their country here. i have to take out chicago daily tribune actually sums it up the best. i love this headline because and rolling liberty army, patriots will register gladly, all others must. in a nutshell that is the selective service system. a lot of emphasis is put on mass compliance, the idea that people line up, that they are complying with the law and this is evidence of people registering
10:28 am
gladly but we would be remiss if we didn't point out there were people that did not gladly register for selective service. we had 11% evasion rates for draft eligible men during the war and even more importantly, this is what you do in public and what you do in private, selective service made a huge deal about 20 million men who gladly register but why these men then went home and filled out a request for a deferment because there were other situations, ways you could legally be exempt. if you had dependences, if you are working in an industry that was considered essential to the war and if you did not pass a physical exam. there were many men who registered in public, got their pictures in the paper, names in the newspaper but in private they went home and filled out an exemption card to ask for
10:29 am
exemption so something you did in public, some things you did in private. for the most part the system was going to be amazingly successful and that would be how the united states raises the bulk of its military and it would set in motion a way to create a mass army we would follow again. we would -- we still have a selective service, what we use in world war ii and what we use in vietnam. i wanted to call your attention to this cartoon in the center of this because this also suggests some things about the appearance and the reality. that is what i'm trying to suggest to you. they are prolific in terms of the propaganda yet the reality is conscription. we seem to have mass compliance, registering yet many men go in and request deferment. here we have a cartoon which kind of shows uncle sam
10:30 am
registering these men and you can see as a registered, they came in with hats, they are all different, coming from all different walks of life and as they go out they are stamped registered mail, they all look exactly the same. turning them into a uniform force. down here at the bottom uncle sam is talking to these men who have evaded, saying to them these are the registration draft dodgers, he is saying after prison you are going to be drafted and you're going to be stoking the call on ships going over to france so basically threatening them with noncombatant work. he will serve as laboring troops and this is as a result that you have not been willing to be patriotic and actually serve your country. ..
10:31 am
of keeping the front lines going. you're going to see a proliferation of in jobs skilled, some sheer labor you're going to knee right from the very beginning you're suggesting that being assigned to noncombatant job is punishment and that's going to great a lot
10:32 am
of dissatisfaction, which is the sense they're not real soldiers. they haven't really, really done the job that the nation is expecting fighting men to do. there's no group for whom this is more true than african-american soldiers, and, again, not this great quality here but this is an example of -- a picture of a group of african-american soldiers heading to france and when these soldiers get -- they see the reality. this is i the port where the army at the front is not going to be able to do its job without a tremendous amount of resources at the rear, and something that might seem rather mundane but all the stuff from the united states and one of the huge jobs you have to unload this material from the ships and in the united states army, which is completely segregated during the war, 89% of african-american soldier are
10:33 am
will be assigned to noncombatant positions and that will be very problematic, especially people hoping to use military service as a way to advance the civil rights movement. this is an interesting puck tour, again, not easy to see right here, but it kind are encapsulates a lot of how complex the logistical operation becomes. you have these boxes coming off of the ship, and they have a sort of maybe niced -- mechanized system and the black soldiers doing the lifting and the who it officers supervising them. the black soldiers are wearing uniforms but over that a coverrals. and for a lot of people that's going to end up being the reality of their service.
10:34 am
so, again, yet another sort of image or projection when you go to war, it's a fight, it's to defend your country, verse reality which is that a large number of people with serve the war effort but in more nontraditional rolls. one positive thing for african-americans going to france. there are 400,000 african-american soldiers drafted into the army, or enlist and half go to france. and one of the advantages of being in the rear is many of the soldiers have opportunities to have contact with french civilians, and in this photograph this is a group of black soldiers who are helping some french's stabs rebuild their -- peasants rebuild their house and so while for many african-american soldiers there were a lot of discouraging parts of service. they were brought over as
10:35 am
laborers, still under white command, there's tremendous racism. it's met gait by relationships they establish with french civilians and often those relationshippers are the first time they've actually had friendships or -- with white people. you come from jim crow south and you good to france and suddenly a frank family is inviting you to dinner. for many of these men this is just something that never had happened to them before. so they begin to have just an awareness in their day-to-day interactions that the way american race relations are structured not the way it has to be. this happens pervasively in the african-american soldier community, and these men come home with very different ideas about how the post war world might look and as much as the american military is crying to keep american race relations stable by putting african-american soldiers in work position, the interactions
10:36 am
with the french change their mind about the possibility of civil rightness the united states. now, back on the home front, just to kind of think a little more before conscription, we did see 1917 this idea that maybe there was not 100% compliance. this became a little bit of a mania in 1918, where people began to become very paranoid about the notion that some men were slacking in their duties, they were not actually stepping up and either registering or appearing for their physical exams or induction. , so we had this phenomenon known as slacker raids. they were groups of citizen who would voluntarily dep pew ties themselves and go out and round up men that they thought had evaded the selective
10:37 am
service, dragnet. this is a few, week period where the groups fanned out. they would go into movie theaters, waited at the gates of state fairs, they were -- nickelodeons, where large group offed young men were congregated. they would ask them if they have their draft card, their registration card, and the card that tells them what classification they had been put in. this guy you can see is actually put in classification one which means he is draftable jib and if they did not -- draft eligible, and if they did not have that on their person they were thrown into a wagon, taken to police station and were investigated to see if they actually complied. this gives us an indication that a lot of the enforcement of ensuring that people comply with selective service is taking place at the community level; to a large extent citizen is are
10:38 am
looking at each other and making sure that everybody is doing the right thing. we shouldn't think about this as a top-down process for the federal government is coming into communities and saying you have to register for the draft. the federal government in 1917-1918 doesn't have enough people to make sure everybody does it. in many communities the most effective enforcer of this are your neighbors. tons of letters coming in saying, so and so is not registering. names being published in the newspaper of people who don't register and now you have these selective -- these groups of vigilantes making sure that men comply, and just to give yaw an example of how people felt they had to advertise the fact they had actually done what they were supposed to do ash nice pin that says "exempt" to prove you have
10:39 am
actually done everything you're supposed to do and not get caught up in this dragnet. so, suddenly a whole bunch of new pins and cards that you have to carry to demonstrat you have complied with the selective service. now, in the home front as well, we can see that the samephoneas -- same phenomenon was occurring. theser propaganda posters and what you can see and one of the most important things here is the blue star flag that is hanging in the window, and on purpose i have this -- a white family, the black family, and both of them the man has enlisted or been drafted, he's got a picture that is kind of the place of honor on the mantle piece, the family is very proud of their patriotic duty and as
10:40 am
important as the blue fog, they're advertising to their neighbors they have a relative who is serving their country. and you have to ask -- i mean, why do you have to tell your neighbors or show you neighbors this is what you're doing some what difference does it make. if you're doing the right thing, isn't that enough? the first world war you'll see a proliferation of flags, cards, pins, ribbons, everybody is literally wearing it on their sleeve. i'm going to show you that i'm one of the people who is complying, and the implication here is there are people who north explaining need to be encouraged to or forced to comply, and also the sense that you need to create immediate unity because this war has been very controversial. now, in this particular example, we know that the guy is still alive because of the blue star. if he had died, that soar turn to gold and that would be
10:41 am
something also that you -- people would fly to show their neighbors they had made the ultimate sacrifice. and so what we see in all of this is that this is more than just a way to raise a military. there's a lot of ways to raise an armed forces. this is a way to create unity and a sense of purpose in a culture that has been uncertain that this was their war to fight. not until april 1917 that wilson says we're fight fighting this wore and not sure the countries is unified, and the public acts of patriotism. the sense of performing your patriotism is a way to unify the community behind the men who are fighting battles. what happens in terms of how you raise your arm and advertise support for the military, these become public practices that we see replicated again and again
10:42 am
in the 20th century and that makes this story more than just a world war i story. it's a story about how the modern military changes in the 20th century and how the relationship between civilians society and the wartime military changes in american society. now, why are we doing all of this? i've outlined a kind of huge amount of public mobilization, creating the military, all of the public resources, community resources that have to go into raising that force, supporting it, all of the ways the physical landscape changes with this pat tropical storm tim. what is the point of all of this? well, here we can look at the kind of official reason that woodrow wilson gives for the war and these are words he issued almost 100 years ago today. just about a week after the actual 100th anniversary of the united states entered the
10:43 am
war. here's a few famous phrases to give us a sense howl the president, at least, has given the country a purpose in this war, to explain why we have to do all this, have to have selective service and this mass military. and he says we're glad now we see the facts of no false pretense about them. the fight thus for. the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation ofs, peoples, the german people as well. the ultimate peace of the world. he right of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose they're way of life and obedience. his articulation of self-determination. men should have the right to choose the government are in which they live, and in woodrow wilson's mind there's only one kind of government anybody would consider and that is of course the world must be made safe for democracy.
10:44 am
doesn't otour woodrow wilson that if people are lift to their own devices they might choose another form of government, like maybe community. in his view always going to be democracy. so this is woodrow wilson articulation of what the war is about. the question here, what is seen and what it is, is this why american soldiers are fighting? for these soldiers enlisting or complying with selective service, training, going to france, what are their ideas -- what in their minds is the war all about? and here in fact, if we look at the words of soldiers themselves, we're going to see quite difference of reasons or explanations for that the war represents to them. here i have some quotes from some soldiers' letters, and it's always interesting question to ask how much these ideas match up with what woodrow wilson said.
10:45 am
so the first one here, here was our one great chance for excitement and risk. we cannot afford to pass it up. there's no doubt that for many of the men entering into the military and going to france, this was for them the great adventure of their lives. they understood the war as an historic event, the most important historic event they would live through. many didn't have crystal balls that other things were coming down the pike, the depression and world war ii. most men are working class men. many of them live lives where maybe they could expect to travel 40 miles from where they were born. people did not hop on planes and see the world. the expectation wasn't you were going to see the united states. just the very fact of going -- getting on a train and going to training camp, getting on more trains and going to new york
10:46 am
city, seeing america, going to new york city? going to new york city, getting on a boat, going to france. just the trip, if you read soldiers' letters and they have sent tons of post cards home. you wonder what is going on. what they were recounting was their great world tour. they may never do this again and this idea of seeing america, being on the ocean, those black soldiers i showed you, these guys had never seep the ocean before. the first time. now they're going to go to france, something they never thought they would do. so there's an element of just the excitement of going to war, traveling, and also the excitement of being part of something significant in the world, a moment that you think could actually be transformative in terms of world history. and you see that actually is a motivation that a lot of american soldiers articulate. the second one is also quite
10:47 am
interesting. my parents warrant want to say after the wars were over their sons didn't go into the front lines and now they won't have to say it. in a sense honoring your family, showing you have done the right thing, the sense your community is watching what you do, you could see all of those sentiments being articulated in how the draft process worked. that these soldiers are internalizing that as well. they have to be able to come home with good war stories that show they've been patriotic and i think what you can also see in a comment like this is how hard it's going to be for somebody to come home and -- their parents are walking down to the country store, and a neighbor says, oh, what did your son do in the war? and the parent says, oh, hell, he fixed trucks behind the lines. you can start seeing how you don't have good war stories when you're a noncombatant and that's going to make things problematic
10:48 am
for people who are motivated to fight and say, well, the honorable thing to do is actually fight. last one here, whenever i hear of things like that bombardment of church in paris, things can seep dish just itch to get up where i can see the low boots die. wartime propaganda creates a lot of hate in american soldiers. when you get fired upon, of course defending yourself causes you to hate the enemy even more. while woodrow wilson may be thinking about the war as a way to spread political ideals, for a lot of american second it's matter of defeating the germans bus the germans represent a threat to specification need to be put down. the last thing here is harder to see just in terms of the poster and all the different things it's articulating, but here what it's really arguing's it when you're a soldier, don't forget the importance of an honorable
10:49 am
discharge. an honorable discharge, these are kind of -- they're entreating american soldiers to behave properly while in military service. because that honorable discharge is literally going to be a job reference for you, and this is one way in which the american military is very distinct from european militaries -- again we see something new being introduced into the concept of military service, and that is the idea that military service represents a way for you to improve your life. this can be a stepping stone into a better job, into a better socioeconomic position, this can be something that can help you, a working class guy with not many prospects for education or for a career, actually jump up a step, and i can imagine there's many of you, especially the could dotes here, who in a -- cadets here who understand that.
10:50 am
we look at military service as a way for you actually to improve your life and you don't see french soldiers being told, come into the military so it will improve your life. you don't see german soldiers being told this. but in the american concept is that you will learn skills, you will have an honor rabil discharge we which will be a good reference letter for you. there will be ways you can improve your condition. the first world war when that doesn't prove to be immediately true when soldiers come home you see a lot of dissatisfaction and veterans kind of calling the government out and saying, wait a minute. this was supposed to be way for me to improve my life and things are worse. what's going on? we'll see some important changes which i'll talk not a second. now, i've been talking sort of rather broadly here about different -- the way the army is ratessed and different ways in which we see things, how they
10:51 am
seem and things how they really are, and i wanted to talk about, as we think about soldiers who did fight in the first world war, the experiences of three different soldiers. i feel in some was they represent not just their own experiences but other sort of important representational aspects of how america guess to war. three soldiers, charles minder, alvin york and horance pippen. charles minder is a second generation german-american, and he writes a book after the war about his experiences, in 306 machine gun battalion, the 77th division. he is in a very interesting position because as a second generation german-american, you can imagine the kind of suspicion and problems he has within the military when he actually joins up. he is second generation but also
10:52 am
-- it's also a good moment to point out that america at this moment has just undergone a lot of immigration, we have had a massive wave of immigration especially from eastern europe and southeastern europe, and so many foreign born soldiers get drafted into the american military. they come from allied nations, italy, for example, 20% of the american military in the first world war is foreign-born. that is a big issue for the military, isn't it? it's not just now that you're bringing in men that have to be trained to fight from civilian life, but sometimes you're bringing in men that don't even speak english. you have to teach them english. you have to get them to eat american style food. get them to understand, even american symbols of patriotism. there's a lot of things that go into drafting so many foreign soldiers.
10:53 am
now, for charles minder, he is pretty motivated by this. as german-american is he 100% american? he feels the weight of having to prove that every day that he is in the military, but yet he knows something else that makes him wonder, his family considered 100% american? he goes into the military but his parents, who are german immigrants, have to go down and have -- they have a different -- he carries this draft registration card around. they have to carry a different kind of card around. they have to carry registration card of an enemy illen. so he registers for the draft. they have to register for -- go to post office, have the their pictures and thumb prints taken and care a card showing they have actually registered as enemy aliens and the government can keep an eye on him. he is in the military but the parents are considered potentially traitors to the
10:54 am
country and have to be watched. he is i ware of this dichotomy but even from his own mother. his mother is petrified by the idea that he might accidentally when he gets to the western front kill a relative on the other side, because she is -- comes from germany and still has -- her brother is serve neglect german army, his children are serving in the german arm y. she is petrified that by some queer accident of fate that her son would kill her brother. he has to promise he would pretend to shoot but not really, shoot up into the air or to the side but he shoot in a way that he kills no germans. this is what she makes him promise, and he promises this to her. he says, all right, i won't do it. but then this puts him in a
10:55 am
terrible position because he knows everybody is looking at him? is he really going to fire on germans so he ought cotts between two worlds. -- caught between two worlds. he keeps his promise until september 29th when he is -- this is the beginning of the new offensive. his unit is covering an infantry battalion and he sees german mexico machine gunners and firing al the and he says my loyalty to my comrades as to outweigh my premier is no my mother and he goes ahead and fires thousand german machine gun nest and they kill the three german gunners who are operating it. so then the -- his unit moves forward, and he just can't help himself. he keeps thinking about this, what his mother said to him. so he walks over to the machine gun nest and he sees these germans lying face down, he's
10:56 am
like i have to know. i have to know, and he takes one guy by the shoulder and turns him over and the other guy and the other guy and he looks at them and writes, of course he was not uncle -- not not killed his uncle but i kept thinking of him in the german lines and my cousins there, too, and an officer came long and start hollering at me. what the hell are you doing there? this is no time for souvenir hunting. we're advancing. i was so heartsick i couldn't talk. and i think that this is a story in which we kind of see that he appears to be doing the right thing, prove he is 100% american but these personal struggles he has about what he is doing and is he doing the right thing and is this going to basically destroy his family, don't go away. even though on the surface it seems he is actually a loyal american soldier who is doing exactly what the american
10:57 am
military wants him to do, and this is the kind of crazy thing that people did. 40,000 soldiers standing in the hot sun in july be shape of the statue om liberty. this idea he is standing next to a guy in the shape hoff the statue liberty makes you an american, like you learn together how hot it is in iowa in july. but if we peel it back we see that there's a lot more going on. and the same thing can be said of really one of the most famous soldiers of the first world war, alvin york. on the one hand his story seems to suggest to us a man who overcomes his doubts about serving in in the military, is highly decorated during the war, but is that really all the story tells in alvin york, this is a picture of alvin york up here. you know it's not a picture of alvin york. you should just call me on it. come on. that's gary cooper playing alvin
10:58 am
york in the movie in 1941. you think alvin york is a movie star quality guy? no. this is alvin york. a very different guy. shows you how palm miss alvin york was, so famous that may make a move vicious sergeant. >> , just about his life, and he his story in the movie is really of somebody who begins as a conscientious objector and actually has filed a pet is to be one of these people, exempt from military servicele. he registered and then filed for an exemption based on his religious beliefs. his claim is rejected. he is actually inducted into the military and then when he gets there he has certain choices he can make. he can -- he does this, requests noncombatant duty, he can refuse to perform any military duty, which some many do some
10:59 am
conscious objectives refuse to do something, some do noncome bat tenant work and some do nothing and go to leavenworth or agree fight and serve. because i told you he is one of the most decorated soldiers of the first world bar and they make a movie about him in 194 circumstance gave it away. he agrees to fight and serve. he has a very famous moment again in the offensive where he is credited single hand deadly with talking out -- handedly taking out machine guns and capturing 132 soldiers and he receives a medal of honor for this action. what makes him agree fight and serve? he has a very long theological conversations with his commander, who really talks to him about what his objections are, and he says, well to him, he's not well-educated. to him it's pretty clear the bible says thou shalt not kill and he has these long
11:00 am
conversations and at the end his commander is able to convince him, with the idea that the bible also says, blessed are the peacemakers and if you go back to what woodrow wilson claimed the war was be, war to end all wars, war for eterm peace. ...
11:01 am
yet come he comes from this impoverished community and he is caught in it and he has-- is not so sure himself at the in that he made the right decision he has doubts almost his whole life and he famously makes a lot of money. he builds schools, roads, a lot of good works in his community almost like he's trying to make amends for having become famous through the act of taking people's lives and even on his deathbed people around him claimed he was punished for killing them. the last soldier i went to mention here is lawrence pippen, an american soldier who fought with the 359 in this state-- embassy regiment, one of the most famous regiments in the
11:02 am
first world war and the idea of african-american soldiers in combat because he was one of those soldiers who was able to fight, the hope was that by effort american soldiers fighting on the front line they would be able to advance the civil rights movement, the notion that here's abraham lincoln, this towering figure that through friday at the frontline and showing their picture to them also their ability to fight well that african american soldiers would be vehicles through which the civil rights movement would push forward and a lot of times when we talk about the african-american soldier experience in the first world war we think about that and linking it to improving civil rights for african americans at home. corinth had been i think it's summer spence-- specs shows us something difference as well as putting a label wholeheartedly on african-american soldiers and
11:03 am
pippen was someone who had experienced a tremendous amount combat. the 369th infantry regiment, one reason it's so famous besides being a black infantry regiment is that it was in line for 189 days, so the longest of any american regiments during the war. in part, they were in there so long because they were given to the french and they fought under french command and in the african-american press this was important because you could point to examples of black men fighting well, given metals by the french and they had famous heroes that came out of this unit. it was really-- their exploits were meant to advance the race. they were going to be the poster children if you will of who could demonstrate the abilities of african-american soldiers, but if you look at it that his
11:04 am
and how he processed the experience, this is not what it meant to him, so i will give you examples. his work comes to an end early in the offensive and he's fighting under french command. he goes into battle and he's almost immediately shot. he's a shot in the right shoulder and he falls into a shell hole in his comrade binds up his wound and has to keep going on and pippen is weak, losing blood and he keeps trying to pull himself out, maybe back to the rear. he pulls himself up in its his head over the that there is a german sniper constantly firing at him, so he ends up having to stay put. he figure sooner or later maybe someone will rescue him and he's lying in the shell hole looking up at the sky and suddenly he sees a french soldier and before
11:05 am
pippen has a chance to say, hey, watch out for the sniper the sniper gets the french soldier through the head and he falls on pippen and pippen is stuck with this guy on top of him. as you can imagine-- he's not just wounded losing blood, but he has a corpse that he's pinned underneath and he's like this for almost 10 hours before he is rescued, he writes later on that this guy may have saved his life because french soldiers got water and food in his pockets and he's able to pull that out consisting himself during this ordeal he has to be taken to the rear, so pippen's war is over. he's been wounded to the point that he's never going to be able to fight and. the war torments him for years and years. he can't get the war out of his head. he tries writing, but he's poorly educated and what he ends up doing is he ends up painting. corinth pippen is a self-taught
11:06 am
artists and he has this painting , not well predicted here called the end of the were coming home, which he works on for three years and you can see from this picture that i have earlier that pippen never regains use of his right hand, so the way he actually paints is by putting the brush in his right hand and using his left hand to move his hand around so he can paint and he becomes one of the most famous artists of any race that comes out of the war. his paintings for many people are considered some of the best painting that we have from a front-line soldiers perspective of what is actually meant to fight and so a lot of these paintings really represent the way in which the combat experience dominated his thoughts even after he came home. pippen became famous, discovered
11:07 am
by the philadelphia art community and his paintings were bought in a sense that you would think it might have actually helped him readjust, but in reality it never left him. he died in his early 40s of a heart attack. he was an alcoholic. in a sense, this great person we celebrate i'm a 191 days in combat with the regimen shows that honor of african-american soldiers and i'm not disputing that, but it also destroys peoples life and pippen's example of that kind of experience, so that response ability put on that unit to sort of be representative and do great things to benefit the entire african american community had a great cost to him personally. as you can see at a time when there's not a thinking of that to-- help these men come home. they did conclude with their stories by pointing out that these stories of the
11:08 am
difficulties of what did it mean to go in to the military, actually shows how ethnically, racially and class wise diversity are in american society. there is not one american soldiers experience. independently come from. it depends on how you commend. it depends on where you get placed in the military. it depends on a whole host of things, so when we think about what the american soldier experience of war was, i think our best approach is to appreciate that is multiple things, just as it is today. thank you very much. [applause]. [inaudible conversations] >>

11 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on