August 1918. In the Hundred Days Offensive, the US has been fighting alongside the Allies to end the brutal and exhausting conflict that is playing out across the globe; the Marines have spent the summer in the infamous Belleau Wood. The “Spanish Flu” epidemic is gaining strength; it has been detected in a US military camp and eventually will kill more than 20 million men, women, and children. Russia is in chaos; the Bolsheviks, bolstered by anti-war sentiment, have recently murdered the Czar and the Romanov family. Yet in just a few months, the guns will fall quiet: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, nearly four years later than experts initially predicted the end of the Great War.
How did the men and women of the First World War experience and record their experiences in this fundamental moment of modernity? How does our own distance, a century beyond the world’s baptism into mechanized killing, both enable and hamper our understanding of that experience, and what do we learn from The War to End All Wars? I hope our semester is the beginning but not the end of your work considering those questions.