Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Lindsay Young Professor in the Department of History and director of the Center for the Study of War and Society, was recently a guest columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Liulevicius recounts how the world reacted to America’s entry to the Great War in 1917. Two million Americans went over to the Old World, singing cheerful songs as they plunged into the conflict.
The Center for the Study of War and Society is a research institute that collects the oral histories and documentary evidence left by American soldiers, and among the newest recent collections are the papers of an American soldier who went “over there,” donated by his grandson.
The young soldier’s name was Paul Harvey and he was with the 89th Division from Kansas. Even many years later, he recalled vividly the last stage of the war, crossing the flooded Meuse River just before the Armistice and attacking German lines. The next day, when the ceasefire finally arrived, on Nov. 11, 1918, he said “it gave us the impression we were entering heaven.”
Liulevicus’s column explains how documentary evidence allows the center to gain more insight into history.
President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany as a means to “bring peace and safety to all nations.” His call for justice inspired many Americans, but some were not persuaded.
While the Great War marks a major turning point in the nation’s engagement in international affairs, it is well for us also to remember the terrible toll that this war took on America’s democracy on the home front.
Enter the Espionage Act and other measures that ensured anyone or any publication that spoke against the war would be censored–thus creating a false appearance of a pro-war climate in the nation.
Freeberg explains how this affected the United States nearly a hundred years ago and how it continues to affect us today.