What did World War I mean for the American soldiers who fought it? Many twentieth-century ideas about how to raise an army and what it means to serve in the armed forces took shape during WWI. The character of the army reflected the diversity of the nation (20% were foreign-born; 13% were African American) and the occupational specialization required to fight a modern, industrial war created a dizzying array of wartime experiences. Nonetheless, there were common elements to serving in World War I, most particularly how military service politicized the wartime generation and served as pivotal lifetime event.
Jennifer D. Keene is a professor of history and chair of the History Department at Chapman University. She is also the current President of the Society of Military History. She has published three books and numerous articles on the American involvement in the First World War including Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America (2001), World War I: The American Soldier Experience (2011), and The United States and the First World War (2000). In addition, she is the lead author for an American history textbook, Visions of America: A History of the United States that uses a visual approach to teaching students U.S. history. She has received numerous awards for her scholarship, including Fulbright Senior Scholar Awards to France and Australia and Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship in International Studies. She has served as an historical consultant for exhibits and films, and was recently featured in the PBS documentary mini-series, The Great War. She is also a general editor for the “1914-1918-online,” peer-reviewed online encyclopedia, http://www.1914-1918-online.net/, a major digital humanities project.