Hello and welcome to my blog! I have never done a thing like this before, but I’m giving it a shot.
For those of you who know me well, which I’m guessing is most of you reading my first post, you likely know I’ve always had a range of interests – most of them in the realm of history and politics. For what feels like a very long time now, I’ve had this fascination with the First World War.
The First World War is recalled very little by most Americans, as our involvement was limited to about 9 months and was followed by a conflict much larger and impactful to our collective national memory, WWII. When I lived in Canada, I began to appreciate the scale of the WWI (it is remembered with much reverence in Commonwealth countries), how much it changed the course of global history and also how deeply its consequences affected communities and the people who lived through it. Since then, I have immersed myself in all the stories I can soak up in my spare time, through books, documentaries, my travels to France and visits to museums here in the US.
Stories like the 200+ women who went to Europe as part of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. They were switchboard operators, fluent in French, supporting the Army in a much needed way; communication across a torn landscape. Many served close to the front lines. Despite their service, they were not recognized as Army veterans until 1978.
Edward Kaluza, my great-great-uncle, was drafted at age 23 when he was working for the railroad in Montana. He died in battle two days before the end of the war.
There were the thousands of Americans who crossed the border north to enlist and fight with Canada before America was even part of the war.
And then there was General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, who was a stoic and tough leader but felt the loss of his men so deeply that it pained him to the end of his life.
These stories have been woven into my life experiences and travels. I decided to start a blogging for a few reasons. One, I like to write and could really use an outlet for writing outside of my professional life. I like to create and this is something I can make my own. My little corner of the internet. Second, I know there’s a great community online of people across the world who share my interest. It would be great to connect with you! At the end of the day my knowledge on this topic is minuscule and I am eager to learn more.
Third, I feel these stories should be recalled and retold because they remind us of the consequences of extreme nationalism and blind patriotism; a horrible, ghastly war. At the same time, they are stories of sacrifices made by everyday people and communities. This was a time when the world was transforming in such a profound way.
Now, a few disclaimers.
I am not a military historian.
This will not be about strategy, tactics, or any of the things my husband and any number of academics could tell you about. What’s always drawn me to history are the stories. And over the past years of my life, as I’ve followed my own path in my education, career, travels and personal relationships, my interest in these stories has never waned and my pursuit of them has brought me to some amazing places both physically and, I guess you could say, spiritually.
So, in sum: this is a personal blog. I might get some things wrong. I will try not to, but it’s undoubtedly a possibility.
I’ve needed a project like this for a long while to fuel something inside of me. I have a pretty rad calendar already set up of books to read, movies and documentaries to watch (and re-watch) and, bien sûr, an exceptionally long travel list of battlefields and memorials to visit. Most of them are in France and Belgium. I promise it’s not just about the cheese and the wine, but that certainly doesn’t hurt. (Side bar – I’m hoping to work on French language skills as well, so some Franglais is not out of the question).
My Instagram @pershingfangirl is where I will share even more photos and shorter anecdotes.
Thank you for reading, and here goes something!