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From the Archives… America enters World War I

wwiimageOn April 6, 1917, the United States formally entered World War I, joining France, Russia, and Britain. While often considered a “forgotten” war in the United States, for American historians the war is not only worth remembering but relevant to understanding and navigating today’s world. America’s direct involvement in the conflict would only last about a year. Yet despite its brief stint in fighting, according to historian Jennifer Keene, it “quite simply shaped the world in which we live.”

As we think about how to teach and commemorate the U.S. entrance into the war, we’ve dipped into the OAH’s archives to bring you some of the best interviews, scholarship, and other content by American historians of World War I.

  • In its September 2015 issue, the Journal of American History hosted an interchange conversation among many of the leading historians of World War I and the United States. Among the questions discussed was, “Why did the United States enter World War I?” This freely-available conversation can be viewed online.
  • The JAH podcast for Jan. 2014 featured a conversation between Richard Rubin, author of The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War, and Ed Linenthal.
  • Video lectures are available from several OAH Distinguished Lecturers who specialize in World War I history, including Christopher Capozzola,Mary L. Dudziak, Jennifer D. Keene, Michael S. Neiberg, and Chad Williams. Visit our World War I page for video links as well as a list of all participating speakers, and make plans to host an OAH Lecturer during the war’s centennial years.
  • It can be easy to forget about the first World War. In a piece published in The American Historian, Jennifer D. Keene makes this case in Why World War I Matters in American History.”  Keene shows that the war has left many lasting influences on today’s world but more importantly that studying the war provides insight into the present and how we as a society might better address our political and social issues.
  • The Journal of American History published a wonderful (open access) article by Chris Rasmussen on the Veterans of Future Wars, a Princeton University-based group that briefly gained national attention in the 1930s for satirizing the political meanings of war. Process also featured a piece by Rasmussen about how he came to the project.
  • A prize-winning JAH article by Rebecca Jo Plant and Frances M. Clarke described the treatment of African American gold star mothers during their pilgrimages to their sons’ burial sites in Europe during the early 1930s. Also featured in an interview on Process and in the JAH podcast, Plant and Clarke’s article went on to win the Berks Conference’s prize for best article in the fields of history of women, gender, and/or sexuality for 2015.
  • The October 2002 issue of The OAH Magazine of History focused on World War I. Alongside reflections on the home front, the draft, and the great migration, this issue includes lesson plans on American women and WWI, Woodrow Wilson, and a simulation on “The Road to U.S. Involvement in WWI.”
  • In a 2004 interview, the OAH-sponsored radio show Talking History featured an interview with historian Thomas Fleming on Woodrow Wilson and World War I.