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“The Melting Pot of the Great War”
Written by Matt Jackson   

Excerpt from That’s War Pg. 19

I came to a little black haired boy down the line who had no bayonet. I asked him, “where is your bayonet?”

“Bayonet no go,” he answered in an Italian accent.

Further along I came to a tall, sandy haired fellow, also without a bayonet. I asked him the same question, Where is your bayonet?”

“I ain’t been issued nair one yet,” replied this one in a slow Southern drawl.

That is the American Army-boys from all over the world. There are twenty-eight nationalities represented in our Division.

Immigration was at an all-time high when the United States entered the war. Nearly half a million immigrant draftees from forty-six different nations served in the U.S. Army. Many of them had recently fled Europe in search of refuge.

World War I was the first time in American history that the United States sent soldiers abroad to defend foreign soil. The war started in August, 1914, but the United States didn’t join until April, 1917. At the time, forces were dismal and certainly not capable of fighting abroad. Due to slow response following the declaration, Congress passed the Selective Service Act. The Act stated, all males aged 21 to 30 were required to register for military service (Later amended all men 18 to 45).

By the end of World War I, some 24 million men registered for various branches of the armed services, and some 2.8 million had been drafted [1].

In May, 1918, Congress passed legislation that waived all naturalization requirements for soldiers who served in the military and received an honorable discharge- over 280,000 men took advantage of this opportunity to gain immediate citizenship [1].

African-Americans made up 13% of the draftees. By the end of the war, over 350,000 African-Americans had served in American Expeditionary Forces units on the Western Front.

The first American troops were often called "Doughboys", the origins are unclear. The most often cited explanation is that it arose during the Mexican–American War, after observers noticed U.S. infantry forces were constantly covered with chalky dust from marching through the dry terrain of northern Mexico, giving the men the appearance of unbaked dough [3]

Some of the most influential people in history and entertainment also served in World War I. Such as: Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Harry Truman, General Marshall, General George Patton, General Douglas MacArthur, Humphrey Bogart, Walt Disney, Ernest Hemmingway, Pope John XXIII, Lawrence of Arabia, , and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Frank Woodruff Buckles (February 1, 1901 – February 27, 2011), was the last surviving American veteran of World War I.



Source:
1. "Selective Service System: History & Records".
2. Library of Congress
3. Hanlon, Michael E., The Origins of Doughboy, 16 June 2003, Origin of Term Doughboy
American Decades, ©2000 Gale Cengage



 


 

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