Letters from the Boys: Wisconsin World War I Soldiers Write Home

By Carrie A. Meyer

Paperback: $19.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-851-5

232 pages, 40 b&w photos, 5.5 x 8.5

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Words from the Wisconsin boys manning the trenches.

On the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the flood of American troops in Europe that would shift the tide of World War I in favor of the Allies, Letters from the Boys brings to life this terrible war as experienced by Wisconsinites writing home.

Technology had transformed the battlefield in alarming ways. Automatic rifles mowed down the young men who went "over the top" to attack enemy trenches; airplanes and improved artillery brought death unseen from miles away; terrifying clouds of poison gas choked and burned the European countryside; the internal combustion engine brought tanks to the battlefield for the first time and revolutionized the way troops deployed.

In the thick of it were young men from Wisconsin who found themselves caught up in geopolitical events half a world away. Professor Carrie A. Meyer combed through three newspapers in Green County, Wisconsin, to collect and synthesize the letters from the boys into a narrative that is both unique and representative, telling the stories of several Green County boys and what they saw, from preparing for war, to life among French families near the front, to the terror of the battlefield. Meyer gracefully removes the veil of obscurity and anonymity hanging over soldiers who participated in a war fought so long ago by great numbers of men, reminding us that armies are made of individuals who strove to do their part and then return to their families.

Carrie A. Meyer is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University and has been a full-time faculty member since 1988. She has written numerous papers, books, reports etc. Since Nov 2000, she has focused her research on the history of the rural Midwest. One outcome was the book Days on the Family Farm, published by University of Minnesota Press in 2007. Her article "Wisconsinís Gas Engines" will appear in the Wisconsin Magazine of History in spring 2016.