I chose an image of an American trench as well as the diary of a Missouri solider as my two sources about the life of the American solider.
I think that the picture of the trench is an important supplement to the discussion that we had in class, because it is easy to talk about the large-scale moves of the war and the diplomatic driving forces without ever being able to put into context how that played out in the lives of actual people. An image such as this one shows the reality that many WWI soldiers faced in spending much of their time in trenches. Though the trench shown seems to be a fairly dry and stable one, it puts into perspective what a muddy or less well reinforced trench might have been like.
The diary of the American soldier was probably the most interesting source that I found. It brings the discussion of the war home in a new way for me, since the man writing it was from Missouri, and references landmarks that I have been to, such as Union Station. More than just putting a face to the war, his diary gives details that would never come up in a class discussion, such as the mundane daily events of seasickness on the trip across the Atlantic and his relationship with the close friend he enrolled with. It was also interesting to read his impression of the British soldiers’ first reaction to the American troops; namely, that they were only interested in the food and money that the Americans’ were bringing with them, and had little respect beyond that for the soldiers. I think that this might be an interesting representation of the larger idea that British and French soldiers were mildly resentful of how long it took the U.S. to become fully involved in the war; perhaps this was tied with a perception of the coming U.S. troops as untried in comparison to their own troops who had been suffering from the war for years.
For one of my sources concerning life on the home front I chose an image depicting lady liberty dozing comfortably with what appears to be smoke outside the window over her shoulder and the caption, “Wake up, America! Civilization calls every man, woman, and child!” The second image that I chose was one of a woman with her arms full of canned and preserved foods with the caption, “OF course I can! I’m patriotic as can be- And ration points won’t worry me!”
I thought these pieces of propaganda provide a strong example of the American home front because they demonstrate two important themes of WWI propaganda in the U.S., one being the general call to action and the other being the emphasis on full participation from those who could not fight. This second point is a very important one because the emphasis on the involvement of every American as a matter of duty was something that signified the total war nature of the conflict. It emphasizes how U.S. economy and society reoriented itself around the war. The second image also shows the governmental attempt to put a patriotic spin on the consequences of its involvement in the war by showing a woman reacting patriotically to the imposed rations. Keeping this concept of total involvement in mind can influence how one perceives U.S. public sentiment regarding the League of Nations and further U.S. involvement in Europe. The American society had been living and breathing war for years in order to do their duty to achieve victory, and had accomplished that victory. It makes sense that they might be opposed to any chance of involvement in a similar scenario any time soon, which is what the League might have seemed to make more likely.