Archive for April 6, 2017
On this date in 1917, the United States entered what was then known as the Great War.
A column of American troops passing Buckingham Palace, London, 1917. (Photo: Imperial War Museum collection)
After avoiding entanglement in the European bloodbath that erupted in August 1914, America finally got involved when Germany resumed unconditional submarine warfare — threatening freedom of the seas — and tried to win over Mexico as an ally by promising a return of lands lost in the Mexican-American War of 1846.
Congress declared war on Germany just two months after U.S. troops under General John J. Pershing returned from a punitive expedition into Mexico to catch or kill the rebel general and bandit Pancho Villa. When Congress declared war of April 6, 1917, the U.S. army was still small and hadn’t fought a nation state’s army (Spain) since 1898.
While 4GWAR won’t be following the centennial of World War I as closely as we did the bicentennial of the War of 1812, SHAKO will be checking in from time to time to ponder the implications of America’s involvement in an overseas war that saw the introduction of tank warfare, poison gas and the widespread use of the airplane, submarine and machine gun.
Pilots of the 94th Aero Squadron at Foucaucourt Aerodrome, France, November 1918. The top U.S. air ace of WWI, Eddie Rickenbacker (center), leans against a SPAD XIII fighter plane bearing the squadron’s “Hat in the Ring” symbol.
World War I also saw veteran units like the Marine Corps and the 69th New York Infantry Regiment add to their glory while new outfits like the “Harlem Hellfighters” and the “Hat in the Ring Squadron” added their names to the history books.
In the coming months leading up to November 11, 2018, we hope to introduce you to some interesting people and units like the “One Man Army,” the “Lost Battalion,” “Arizona Balloon Buster,” and the “Rock of the Marne.” Meanwhile, to get you started, here are some informative websites about World War One and the American Expeditionary Force. The U.S. Army Center of Military History, The Great War and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point New York.