Exactly 100 years ago today, April 6, 1917 the United States of America declared war on the German Empire and officially entered World War I. Largely forgotten today, Americans across the country volunteered to serve their country and played a vital role in bringing an end to one of the most devastating conflicts of the Twentieth Century.
To celebrate America’s World War I Centennial, events are being held in major cities around the world. In tribute, we round up some of our favorite books that identify our heroes and their sacrifice.
Our Favorite World War I Books
Back Over There: One American Time-Traveler, 100 Years Since the Great War, 500 Miles of Battle-Scarred French Countryside, and Too Many Trenches, Shells, Legends and Ghosts to Count by Richard Rubin
The Assassination of The Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World by Greg King and Sue Woolmans
Drawing on unpublished letters and rare primary sources, King and Woolmans tell the true story behind the tragic romance and brutal assassination that sparked World War I.
In the summer of 1914, three great empires dominated Europe: Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Four years later all had vanished in the chaos of World War I. One event precipitated the conflict, and at its hear was a tragic love story. When Austrian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand married for love against the wishes of the emperor, he and his wife Sophie were humiliated and shunned, yet they remained devoted to each other and to their children. The two bullets fired in Sarajevo not only ended their love story, but also led to war and a century of conflict.
Now over 100 years after the event, it offers the startling truth behind the Sarajevo assassinations, including Serbian complicity and examines rumors of conspiracy and official negligence. Events in Sarajevo also doomed the couple’s children to lives of loss, exile, and the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, their plight echoing the horrors unleashed by their parents’ deaths.
Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F. Ross
At the turn of the twentieth century two new technologies—the car and airplane—took the nation’s imagination by storm as they burst, like comets, into American life. The brave souls that leaped into these dangerous contraptions and pushed them to unexplored extremes became new American heroes: the race car driver and the flying ace. No individual did more to create and intensify these raw new roles than the tall, gangly Eddie Rickenbacker, who defied death over and over with such courage and pluck that a generation of Americans came to know his face better than the president’s.
Enduring Courage is the electrifying story of the beginning of America’s love affair with speed—and how one man above all the rest showed a nation the way forward. No simple daredevil, he was an innovator on the racetrack, a skilled aerial dualist and squadron commander, and founder of Eastern Air Lines. Decades after his heroics against the Red Baron’s Flying Circus, he again showed a war-weary nation what it took to survive against nearly insurmountable odds when he and seven others endured a harrowing three-week ordeal adrift without food or water in the Pacific during World War II. For the first time, Enduring Courage peels back the layers of hero to reveal the man himself. With impeccable research and a gripping narrative, John F. Ross tells the unforgettable story of a man who pushed the limits of speed, endurance and courage and emerged as an American legend.
FIRST OVER THERE: The Attack on Cantigny, America’s First Battle of World War I by Matthew J. Davenport
The riveting true story of America’s first modern military battle, its first military victory during World War One, and its first steps onto the world stage.
At first light on Tuesday, May 28th, 1918, waves of American riflemen from the U.S. Army’s 1st Division climbed from their trenches, charged across the shell-scarred French dirt of no-man’s-land, and captured the hilltop village of Cantigny from the grip of the German Army. Those who survived the enemy machine-gun fire and hand-to-hand fighting held on for the next two days and nights in shallow foxholes under the sting of mustard gas and crushing steel of artillery fire.
Thirteen months after the United States entered World War I, these 3,500 soldiers became the first “doughboys” to enter the fight. The operation, the first American attack ever supported by tanks, airplanes, and modern artillery, was ordered by the leader of America’s forces in Europe, General John “Black Jack” Pershing, and planned by a young staff officer, Lieutenant Colonel George C. Marshall, who would fill the lead role in World War II twenty-six years later.
Drawing on the letters, diaries, and reports by the men themselves, Matthew J. Davenport’s First Over There tells the inspiring, untold story of these soldiers and their journey to victory on the Western Front in the Battle of Cantigny. The first American battle of the “war to end all wars” would mark not only its first victory abroad, but the birth of its modern Army.
LUSITANIA: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age by Greg King and Penny Wilson
Now over 100 years since its sinking, King and Wilson tell the story of the Lusitania’s glamorous passengers and the torpedo that ended an era and prompted the US entry into World War I.
Lusitania: She was a ship of dreams, carrying millionaires and aristocrats, actresses and impresarios, writers and suffragettes – a microcosm of the last years of the waning Edwardian Era and the coming influences of the Twentieth Century. When she left New York on her final voyage, she sailed from the New World to the Old; yet an encounter with the machinery of the New World, in the form of a primitive German U-Boat, sent her – and her gilded passengers – to their tragic deaths and opened up a new era of indiscriminate warfare.
The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War by James Carl Nelson
The Remains of Company D follows the members of Company D, 28th Infantry Regiment, United States First Division, from enlistment to combat and the effort to recover their remains, focusing on the three major battles at Cantigny, Soissons, and in the Meuse-Argonne and the effect these horrific battles had on the men.
This is an important and powerful tale of the different destinies, personalities, and motivations of the men in Company D and a timeless portrayal of men at war.
FIVE LIEUTENANTS: The Heartbreaking Story of Five Harvard Men Who Led America to Victory in World War I by James Carl Nelson
James Carl Nelson tells the dramatic true story of five brilliant young soldiers from Harvard, a thrilling tale of combat and heroism in the First World War.
Five Lieutenants tells the story of five young Harvard men who took up the call to arms in the spring of 1917 and met differing fates in the maelstrom of battle on the Western Front in 1918. Delving deep into the motivations, horrific experiences, and ultimate fates of this Harvard-educated quintet—and by extension of the brilliant young officer class that left its collegiate and post-collegiate pursuits to enlist in the Army and lead America’s rough-and-ready doughboys—Five Lieutenants presents a unique, timeless, and fascinating account of citizen soldiers at war, and of the price these extraordinary men paid while earnestly giving all they had in an effort to end “the war to end all wars.”
Drawing upon the subjects’ intimate, eloquent, and uncensored letters and memoirs, this is a fascinating microcosm of the American experience in the World War One, and of the horrific experiences and hardships of the educated class of young men who were relied upon to lead doughboys in the trenches and, ultimately, in open battle.