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tv   America Goes Over  CSPAN  April 1, 2017 9:30am-10:31am EDT

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effectiveness and legacies of 20th-century presidents. >> how weak the american presidency was in the late 19th century and how powerful an office it was when theodore roosevelt surrenders power in order to shoot eastern, at 4:00 p.m. the 1961 encyclopaedia britannica film, "the ordeal of woodrow wilson." >> even though they had agreed to mr. wilson's 14 points committees delegates were determined not to let idealism stand in their way. conflicted with their own purposes and desires. >> for a complete schedule, go to >> up next on american history
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america," we present "america goes over." we invited two scholars to provide context and commentary throughout the film, which was made by the u.s. army signal corps. "america goes over" is one of many silent films the national archives has restored. this is about an hour. >> welcome to "reel america." let me introduce mitch and allison. as we get started, how are these kinds of films made at the time? who saw them? >> in the case of this film, it was done by the united states government.
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it was a compilation of footage by cameramen overseas to promote what america did, which was help bring the war to a close. >> it was released after the war was over. so, how would the propaganda have been intended by the government at that point in time? >> this was intended to reassure americans they fought for a just cause. there was quite a bit of backlash against world war i. this is the era where you see america retreat into neutrality, the rejection of the league of nations. this kind of film would have given a little bit of a boost of morale. >> where are the films held today? mitchell: the original copies are maintained by the national archives. they are being digitized and they are placed on the national archives youtube channel so anyone can watch these at any time. >> and is the preservation of
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this type of film a difficult art? mitchell: it is because in some cases you have original copy ies that might have scratches and so forth. we have a staff that will meticulously go through and check to make sure each scene is clear. and try to do some sort of scene script that you know what is going on. sort oft came with that thing when it was transferred from whatever government agency brought it over. >> thank you for the background. now, we are going to roll the film called "america goes over." >> the signal corps. was communications for the u.s. army. they were the ones responsible for motion picture and still photographs. susan: and the eastman kodak company, a very storied name. allison: they always have that
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little border around the film, and those two flag insignia was ps. seal of the survey core they are actually signal flags. it was a moment of pride for the signal corps to have these films. >> so many films were done with reenactment. for example, the british did a reenactment of the battle of the psalm. this is actual footage taken in the united states or overseas. >> this is footage of the background that got the united states into the war. tell us about that decision. allison: the entry of the united states into the war is still interesting. what they are showing on the screen here is submarine warfare where they were attacking civilians or supposedly civilian ships. this caused a lot of tension between the u.s. and germany. some scholars say this led to the u.s. entering the first world war, particularly the
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sinking of the lusitania. susan: this is remarkable footage they were able to get, the american or allied vessels. those being sunk. mitchell: i agree. i mean, the fact that the cameras were so, i guess, antiquated. certainly these surroundings would have shook from the reverberation of the torpedoes hitting the ships. susan: we are seeing president wilson. how controversial was the decision to go to were? desk to go to war? -- decision to go to war? mitchell: for one thing, wilson ran on his reelection platform on keeping the u.s. out of the war, which some were against. theodore roosevelt was still active, even though he was not in office, was a proponent of war. there was a huge war preparedness movement. some folks were saying it is about time we get into the war. others said, do we really need to get into this war? this is not america's problem.
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but the fact that our ships, merchant ships were being sunk. some of them were actually carrying armaments. in the eyes of the germans, they were warships. susan: what country are they in? mitchell: i'm guessing this would be france. it is hard to tell because pretty much all of the western front was torn up like this. it could be belgium. susan: the unique aspect of world war i was trench warfare. allison, tell us about that. allison: trench warfare is probably the most iconic battlefield aspect of world war i. it certainly did not define the entire world war, but at least on the western front where a lot
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of the british are focused right now. what happened was that you had a stalemate that both sides were using weapons. people could not actually go further on the battlefield without risking basically suicide attacks, which is what happened in the battle of the psalm. you had over 60,000 killed on one day. you get a type of warfare that is very difficult for people to survive. they huddle into those trenches to get some sort of shelter. susan: from a strategic standpoint, what is happening in this battle? what are the germans trying to capture? mitchell: that is an interesting question. the germans were on the defensive for most of the war, except for early on, and then a few other attacks, like allison mentioned around the somme where they move forward a little bit. but, i think in this case -- here, you see it completely different.
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this is, i guess, in the alps? allison: yes, i think so. mitchell: the italian theater. susan: who are the allies and who were the central powers? allison: the allies were great britain, france, the united states later when the u.s. entered. belgium started off as neutral before they were invaded. then, you have germany, austria, hungary, the ottoman empire. world war i stretches beyond what we are seeing on the western front. you have a middle eastern theater. you have a lot of what is happening in places that are now part of the modern middle east. susan: we are now back in the united states with buildups of armaments. mitchell: right, they are showing how america is becoming prepared for the war. we really started the war completely unprepared. we had to rely on the allies for everything from shipping to mostly what armaments we would use in combat, especially airplanes. but here, you show the navy built up. the navy central role was not
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so much combat, but destroyers were used to protect the truth -- the true transfer ships as they left american port. because they were under threat to fight the merchant ships were from german u-boats. susan: how was the war financed? mitchell: war was financed from the american coffers, but eventually, there were similar drives to world war ii where americans were asked to give money to help on the effort for men and women. susan: so, were men and women taken from normal jobs and put in these factories to work? allison: you had a lot of women who started to take factory jobs more than they had been before. you also had african-americans migrating north, in many cases to take those jobs. here, we see the draft. i think this may be the first election of the first draft member. mitchell: right. this is the first draft, the secretary of war -- >> theodore roosevelt, still
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active. mitchell: he had three sons that were in the war. allison: he actually lost one. his son, quentin roosevelt, was a pilot. he died during the war. that really strongly affected teddy roosevelt. susan: the graphic said up to 3 million american men were drafted ultimately. mitchell: ultimately. not all of them served. but the vast majority of what would become the american expeditionary forces were made up of listed and drafted. susan: here, we see people being conscripted into war, taken from their homes and ordinary lives, being turned into soldiers. mitchell: yes. you can see the buildings. they called them containments. those were quickly built structures by the army quartermaster corp. there were some forts scattered around the u.s., but they needed
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the so-called temporary camps, and they were constructed mostly in the south and southeast. the climate tends to stay warmer year-round. training was about nine months out of the year. so, you had to factor in what the weather was going to be like. susan: how difficult was the turning of citizens into soldiers? allison: it was pretty difficult. one of the things that you find in these primary sources, many of the soldiers did not have the training that they thought they needed. they were very rushed. when i look at this footage, you kind of wonder, what happened to these men? there, you see the statue of liberty. i think we thought that was camp upton. mitchell: did you notice, allison, they were using wooden rifles? allison: yes. mitchell: now, there were british and french officers who
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came to the united states, whose transportation and housing was paid for by the u.s. war department and the idea was for them to lecture the soldiers at the camp. what they had seen. but not until they got overseas, did it really hit home. susan: once the americans joined in, how much of the war was fought on the seas versus the land? mitchell: by the time the americans got in the war, practically not, other than some attacks by u-boats. there was not a major naval engagement the americans were involved in. allison: this is one of my favorite stories from world war i. how one of the first things i general pershing and the
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american troops did on arriving in paris was visiting the tomb of marquis de lafayette among who helped the americans during the revolution. really connecting the historic alliance between france and the united states. mitchell: they are training -- you can see they have their gas masks on. what is interesting is, even though trenches are synonymous with world war i, the american's s primarily did not fight from the trenches. general pershing was adamant the american troops fight a so-called open warfare. and so, they would basically lead from above ground, i'm sorry, over the ground through the woods and so forth. he was fearful because the french and british were using the trench warfare, this war would go on and on and on. he felt as though the only way to defeat the germans was to
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attack by going over the top. susan: what are they depicting here? the good times could still be had while here? fighting these wars? allison: i think these are just scenes of camp life. if you look at the faces of these men, they are very young. they are probably between 18 and 25. they are just playing cards, trying to do laundry, and living life on the front. i think these personal scenes are the most interesting of this film. mitchell: what they are showing now, they are jumping ahead to the spring of 1918. the germans are realizing, now that the americans are in the war and are starting to get more and more troops, they have launched an offensive against the british and the french in hopes to drive those allied
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forces away and capture paris and bring the war to a close before americans get into the war. -- more americans get into the war. susan: earlier on, you referenced wearing gas masks. can you talk about the use of gas during world war i? mitchell: well, it started by the germans in 1915 in belgium. and then slowly, the allies caught up. the idea of the gas was more like a choking element. it did not necessarily kill soldiers, but it made you so miserable, it would get into your lungs and into your skin that you could not fight any longer. they were pretty much taken out, and the suffering the soldiers experienced well after the war was horrible. allison: it was also very psychological. soldiers began to fear gas attacks, and it made them a lot more jumpy at the front.
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mitchell: yeah, despite the fact that we are in the so-called modern age of mechanized warfare with trucks and tanks, the type of terrain, because it had been so shell-pocked, and because it rained quite a bit in this part of europe, you still needed horses carrying litters with the wounded. bringing ammunition and supplies to the front. the motorized trucks could not handle -- here, you see the firing of artillery, which was a really important component during the war.
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allison: and here is general pershing, the leader of the american expeditionary forces. a quick shot of him. mitchell: that was ferdinand fouts, the commander of the allied forces. the scene right before the where -- before that where they show the casualties, that would have been french or british troops. general pershing was very adamant that the signal corps photographers not show deceased or wounded american soldiers. susan: because it would be harmful to the war? mitchell: absolutely. he had all film footage censored before it was printed. susan: here, we see the overwhelming force americans bring to the effort. allison: you see some african american service members here. remember, the american military was segregated at this time. so, those african-american service members were probably
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battalions oror on that dock. it is a really interesting and very sad heroic story of their service. mitchell: roughly 200,000 african-americans served. the vast majority were in labor battalions or infantry. there were exceptions. there were infantry regiments hellthe famous harlem fighters, who were in combat longer than any other unit. susan: now, the germans were well aware of the american buildup, so they would have wanted to destroy these ships before they crossed the sea? mitchell: absolutely. but they were not that successful. two american ships were some are unk during the course of the war. allison: this is why we see them traveling in convoys protected
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by other naval ships. mitchell: amazing footage. susan: what a steady hand by the photographer. mitchell: a lot of credit to them. and i am not aware of any photographers getting killed during the war. see theere, you successful destruction of u-boats. mitchell: that would have been navy airships. susan: 40 men and eight horses is what that translates to. mitchell: many of the horses, the u.s. purchased from the french. here, you have a mascot brought over. i don't think dogs were technically allowed on the troop transports. here, you have americans entering france for the first time. in letters i have read, it was astonishing, because often they , womenee in these towns
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dressed in black. widows or the daughters of those who were killed. susan: the europeans must have just been floored at the numbers of americans who came over. mitchell: they are jumping ahead here. this is the americans being put into the line to stop the germans in this great offensive. allison: and he is famous for the efforts of the first division, the big red one. mitchell: this is the artillery. 75 millimeter french artillery. the americans did not have their own guns to bring over. so, we borrowed them from the french. one of the more famous artillery commanders was captain harry s. truman, who was a battery commander of the national guard from missouri. susan: and the germans were hoping to overtake charis? -- paris? mitchell: they were. they had tried several times
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before. they got close again, but logistics and other problems, and certainly the fact that the americans were placed in the line and they were hungry and eager. here, you will see them in the town. it is amazing when you look at these towns on how decimated they are. allison, when you go there today, you do not recognize that there had been a war there. allison: no. these towns are basically small villages left over today. you can see where there are these ruins and a few buildings that might have been restored. mitchell: here are americans with some captured german pow's. americans like to wear the german helmets. they would send these things home and you would see them in museums, or up on ebay today. susan: 10,000 minute day coming to aid the war effort in world
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war i. mitchell: the americans did not have enough at the beginning of the war. but the british lent us the transport ships, otherwise, it would have taken a lot longer to get american troops over. allison: these ships are interesting. they are painted with dazzle camouflage, a technique that would make it harder for them to be hit. mitchell: this is the second battle of the marne, where the germans were stopped in their effort to get into paris. this would last pretty much most of the summer. allison: these are the engagements where the americans were starting to jump in a lot
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more. you see places like chateau thierry become symbols of the first world war. there's a very prominent american monument there. susan: you can see the conditions under which the troops advanced. actually, earlier, mitch, you were suggesting these battlefields today are farm fields and they still find unexploded armaments? mitchell: yes. it is amazing that farmers use them today. there is so much metal in the ground that is still found. often, farmers are maimed or killed when their plows go over these ordinances. and then you have the second world war going over some of the same ground. allison: this landscapes are really devastated. these trench lines, many of them were not filled in. you can find trench lines and barb wire sticking up from the ground, these ghosts of the americans and the british and
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the germans and all of the combatants still very much there in the land. mitchell: these are the scenes where they are showing the communications, which were actually quite sophisticated for their time. wireless was used, but also signal corps wire was used to be able to relay messages from the front to the rear, or vice versa. you also had runners who would deliver messages, often they were native americans. and you had messages all the way to the back that were handled by the female telephone operators known as the "hello girls." susan: you can see that there is absolutely very little protection for the troops, firing repeatedly these weapons without any protection for their ears. we saw a soldier putting his fingers in his ears for protection. if you looked at their uniforms today, compared to the kinds of high-tech equipment we have, how much protection did they provide for the soldiers? mitchell: not a whole lot. they were thin material.
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a bullet, especially from machine guns, it penetrated very easily. they did not have bullet-proof vests. that is one of the reasons casualties were so high. susan: i'm sure the metal and -- in the helmets is nothing like we have today? mitchell: nothing like we have today. but it was certainly better. they developed throughout the war so they gave more protection. here we see the pontoon bridges being developed that they could cross rivers very easily. allison: and the gas masks, usually you see them in the front of their uniforms so they could access them easily. mitchell: a good scene of a devastated french village. americans would go through. once it was occupied, they would use it for headquarters and mobility. susan: look at that destruction. allison: europe had been at war for several years before this. by the time the united states got there, there was really not
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much left of many of these parts of france and belgium. this is a mobile field kitchen, i believe. here, they are sort of narrating the story of american engagements in the first world war. mitchell: going back to make sure equipment was in good order, lights were a huge problem. you can see the soldiers cleaning their uniforms, getting their hair cut. susan: shaved, actually. allison: yes. delousing stations. and that's one of the things the soldiers write about in their letters, complaining about the lice, complaining about the poor conditions they were living in, having wet feet. here, you see the salvation army. i think those were the
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doughnuts. the women were famous as doughnut dollies, serving the troops, trained to give them a little enjoyment. mitchell: the salvation army also saved paper. they encouraged soldiers to write letters home, which they did in droves. you could see that in various museums. the information and letters tens ds to not be that informative because, again, they were censored. if you mentioned something about, you know, 40 of the men in my platoon went out across this river, that probably would have been retracted. susan: this section is on the tremendous effort to resupply for the war. mitchell: it was tremendous, despite the fact the u.s. got into the war late. despite the fact that we had very little infrastructure, we built up tremendous -- we had base sections near various parts of the front where supplies came in on a daily basis, and were transported usually by rail at the front. here, you see hot loaves of
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bread being baked and then shipped out to areas of interest on the front line. susan: do you want to talk about general pershing as we get into this? mitchell: i think allison will agree with me on this. he was the ultimate commander for the americans. he was a good-looking guy. he was a micromanager. he had control over everything. for example, if you go to the national archives and research, often you will see little marks in the marginalia with his initials "jjp." he read just about everything. allison: and pershing was really adamant that the americans would fight under american command. he did not want the entire army to be commanded by the british for the french. -- or the french. mitchell: here, they are talking about -- it was the first time a full american army went on the offensive. this had been captured by the germans in 1914.
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pershing wanted to show what the americans could do as an independent army. allison: and the hill is the site of the memorial today that memorializes the service of the americans in the st. mihiel offensive. and there is also a cemetery nearby where many of the men who served are buried. susan: one million shells fired in four hours. mitchell: the germans suspected americans were in the area and there was going to be an attack. they did not exactly know when and where. they were starting to withdraw, but they were caught by surprise. these are french guns, 75's or 110's, that could hit the front of the lines or the rear area.
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and a lot of it was just morale, to shake up the troops on the other side. allison: one of the interesting things as you watch these artillery pieces, you can see they have automatic recoil. so, they go back on their own, as opposed to the earlier wars, people would have to move them physically. so then you would have troops in the front. they would carry clippers with them and they would clip their way through. >> through the wire. >> you can see there's no cover here at all. mitchell: these were tanks that the french provided the americans. although he was not in charge of the tank corps, the most famous anker was george s patton.
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susan: here again, there was no air force, this was the army air corps? how significant was their ontribution to the effort? mitchell: it really depended on the battle. as you can see, it was often cloudy in northern france. sometimes planes did not get up into the air because the cloud cover was so low. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016]] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] bombing was in its infancy, but planes would have been used more for reconnaissance alerting the troops. the artillery, where the enemy was, or where there was a large concentration of enemy rucks.
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they mentioned the barrage, the idea of the barrage was an artillery fire that provides some cover for the american troops. they would time it so the artillery would go ahead of the troops and move it forward. it did not always work out that way and you did have instances of friendly fire. allison: a lot of the battlefields we are seeing that the americans fought over in 1918 have been used already for years by the german and french before the united states got there. these are not just fresh fields. they have been devastated. they have already seen attle. many of these trenches are actually german trenches. susan: we talk about the advance of medical technology during world war i and the treatment of casualties. allison: they had a lot of sophisticated medical technology. the professionalization of nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapist, really trying to expand the use of triage and bringing casualties out of the front lines to hospitals, then later base hospitals where they could get more sophisticated
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treatment. you had a lot of university hospitals that would go over as a team. so you have skilled surgeons, doctors, and nurses that were used to working together and volunteer their services to go as a unit to europe. susan: a graphic showing the advance of the allied effort in that part of france. mitchell: saint-mihiel was a complete success for the americans. all of their objectives were captured in one day on september 12. this is the 13th, the next day where they are mopping up. this was a great morale boost for the americans. the other allied commanders were a little bit skeptical about the americans and how well they would do on their own. the fact that it was the american first army under pershing leadership that drove the americans out. the mascot dogs were quite frequent. two of the most famous were rags
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and sergeant stubby. this was a great morale booster. the only problem was, the next two weeks was going to be a greater offensive. allison: here you see some activity behind -- we saw the kitchen patrol, the doughboys interacting with french families, whoever is left. susan: and feeding the local opulace. mitchell: there were hundreds of french villages that had been occupied by the germans and the americans liberated them. the french were so thankful. there were accounts of french living and sellers for months, not having enough food, water, heat. susan: and german pows. mitchell: they were used to bring wounded to the rear. they were brought to camps. they called them cages. germans were allowed to read, watch theater, played instruments, sports. it really was not a bad situation once they were captured.
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usan: in addition to the american offensive, this is one here americans supported efforts by the allies. mitchell: they did. primarily americans with support from the french, plus the air power used by the germans -- i'm sorry, by the italians in british and french. here is a completely different theater, the so-called hindenburg line north of paris, where to american divisions have spent time with the british national guard, the 27th and 30th. they would attack one of the strongest german defensive positions late in september. susan: complemented by the australians. mitchell: by the australian core, yes. the australians love the americans. this also the kinship to hem.
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allison: looking at these roads, you get the sense of how much this landscape had to be manipulated to get anything across. the troop transports, trucks, pontoon bridges -- there was so much infrastructure and logistics that was just as much a part of world war i as the battlefields and trenches. mitchell: the canal is interesting grade the time of was built by napoleon in the early 1800s. when the germans built their defensive system in 1917 and increased it in, they used the tunnel for communications ability. a massive structure that still stands today. susan: now we are going into america's greatest battle. mitchell: it ultimately would be 47 days and more than one million american troops, the largest concentration of american soldiers in our military history. susan: you know the number of losses? mitchell: roughly 26,000 americans died during the
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battle. something like 100,000 were wounded. susan: and in the worst of conditions, it looks like. mitchell: if you have ever been to this part of france in the fall, the battle started on september 26. it rained almost every day. as allison pointed out, these roads had been used in previous battles numerous times. they were not in the best condition. you had engineers going out trying to fill in holes using lumber, stones from houses that had been decimated. really, horses were the best way to get transportation to the front. allison: they had massive tractive -- massive traffic jams. a lot of officers who are focused on how to get their men from one place to another. mitchell: this became an important part of the battle, transportation to the front, which ultimately bogged down for
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the americans. the americans had what they call a main fighting force of almost 28,000 officers and men, that was twice the size of both the british and french and even the germans. moving so many troops forward became a real problem.
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susan: can you imagine the job of being in a hot air balloon over an active battlefield? allison: no, and i really like how the film is showing these different technologies from the balloons to the airplanes. you sort of see the eclectic techniques used in the first world war. mitchell: here is american troops that are in french trenches, waiting for the initial jumpoff on the 26th. can you imagine how nervous they must have been? susan: and these again are 18-year-olds, 19 years old. mitchell: some of them had fought previously in the war, but a large majority had not seen service, or at least combat.
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usan: the first work to make night as hideous as the day. what are they saying here? mitchell: the artillery started around 1:00 a.m., so thousands of guns lit up the night sky. allison: the artillery barrage was such an important part of preparing the battlefield for the soldiers to start advancing. susan: they give homage to the teutonic preparedness, the german warmaking ability. mitchell: they certainly were the best troops in world war i. but the americans, as this battle would prove, came of age and really became first-rate fighters. have the battle not ended the way it did with an allied victory, the war would have gone on until probably 1919 and the americans would have been the main fighting force on that part of the front. susan: is this a credit to general pershing? mitchell: i think so. he is heavily criticized because of open warfare and throwing his troops piecemeal at the germans. but he felt that was the only way to break through.
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i agree, i think in reality, they learned how to use small tactics and get around some of the german positions. allison: it gives you a sheer size of the battlefield. looking at these very early tanks moving forward with the troops behind them. these battlefields are of such a scale, today you cannot really go around them in one day on foot, you have to drive to see the amount of space that the troops were crossing over the series of days. mitchell: it is open country. you can see that very clearly today, just massive fields where you are exposed. the enemy, the germans, are on the high ground on ridges. it is amazing that any success appened. susan: the filmmakers continue to narrate the days of the battle. again, 47 days in this one particular offensive. mitchell: they had no idea it
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was going to last that long. the other allied commanders, especially the french, thought it was going to go much longer, maybe as far as christmas before any breakthrough. 37 millimeter guns were smaller mobile artillery, kind of like mortars that were used for close range fighting. the enemy machine gun nests were a real detriment to the americans. the famous story of alvin york, who was able to capture 132 germans, most of them in machine gun nests in the argonne forest. allison: the americans are using french technology, weapons developed by other countries. mitchell: part of the other problem, you could see with all the smoke from the artillery,
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you had smoke plus fog plus rain. it was very difficult for soldiers to recognize where they were. compasses, which they were given, did not always work. what happens is soldiers became separated from their units and often end up with other units are get captured. the scene they just showed, high ground in the area that was very important for the americans to apture, took two days. once that was taken, it opened up a whole area the americans to advance and drove the germans from that particular part of the high ground. allison: i became a very iconic symbol of american progress, the argonne offensive, the site of a major memorial today. when you stand there, you can see the major benefits of capturing that hill. susan: american soldiers were referred to as doughboy? mitchell: there is some question about where the nickname started. it is believed it dates back to
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the mexican-american war, when americans became covered in dust, they looked like the adobe houses in mexico. i have heard other xplanations. susan: clearly an important battle, because this film take such pains to narrate the extent of it. mitchell: part of it is because it was the largest battle involving the americans. as we pointed out before, ultimately more than a million american troops. it became really the symbol of world war i for the americans. even though it took 47 days in the remastered casualties, the americans were able to break through the strong german positions, which forced the germans into an armistice. had the americans not attacked in this area, it is hard to imagine that the war would have ended anytime soon. and it might have ended in favor of the germans. susan: c in c? commander in chief.
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mitchell: yes, that is pershing. he went through a lot of pressure in battle. when things are not going well and into mid-october, the allied commanders were starting to call for his head and to have him sacked. he had also not only commanded the aes, but also the tactical unit first army. he recognized that was too much for him and steps down as first army commander. again, having the dogs as a ascot. allison: you can see the conditions these men were living in for 47 days, out in the woods, rotating in and out, walking all these huge fields. it is quite a burden on the body to participate in a conflict like that. susan: more pows. mitchell: they were brought to the rear, and the germans were starting to surrender in droves. they recognized the war was coming to an end and many of them had been in this area for at least a couple, maybe three
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years. susan: there seem to be a lot of people standing around. llison: i think also most of these people have probably never seen a movie camera before. to see someone filming would have been something that was a little bit rare, probably very exciting, and they wanted to get in on the action of the film. i think you see that when you watch them waving at the camera. mitchell: the decorations -- there were three main decorations during the war. the highest honor was the medal of honor. next to that was the distinguished service cross, probably what general pershing is placing on the soldiers. then there was the distinguished service medal. the silver star and purple heart were also awarded to world war i soldiers, but not until later on in the 1930's. they were made retroactive. so that is interesting. to see a lion in the front
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lines. allison: there were all sorts of animals in different mascots that the doughboys had. they would take these and other animals from the farms, but you could see a playful side of the doughboys as well. mitchell: knights of columbus providing welfare, similar to alvation army. you had entertainers who came over. he most famous was elsie janice, a stage and film star from new york, who came with her mom to entertain troops in the british sector. susan: i was wondering if these are men. mitchell: some of the new york soldiers have their own troop of actors. allison: a famous film director who did a lot of films in the 1930's, actually did entertainment overseas during world war i with the army.
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mitchell: don't forget about the influenza epidemic, which was in its second wave during this battle, which devastated the roops. talking about doctors -- the best doctors were brought over from the u.s. civilians, especially on the east coast, were suffering because there were not enough doctors. so many of them are in the army at this point. allison: looking at the footage, you can get a much better sense of how the influenza epidemic spread so quickly in conditions like this. mitchell: wet and damp. allison: not a lot of hygiene, people close together for long periods of time. mitchell: we mentioned before about the gas. often gas, once detonated,
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would stay on whatever plants were alive or on the ground because of the dampness and soldiers would get impacted, even much later on. susan: making the case of how they had to build the roads as they went along. allison: exactly. you can see the struggles they are having, trying to push whatever kind of vehicle that is stuck in the mud. mitchell: moving what looks like artillery forward. allison: in world war i, they would rotate the troops out so that you had troops going behind the line to communications trenches, to front-line trenches, so you would not get them as worn-out. it did not always work as intended, but that was the main oal. mitchell: for the most part, soldiers moved on foot. if they were going really long distances, they were transported by motor vehicle,
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often driven by indochinese drivers, who are led by the french. susan: you just wonder how they have energy to fight between the long distances they walked, the trenches and roads they build, then actually fight the battle. mitchell: that is a good point. exhaustion must've been terrible. you see planes leaving from the aerodrome's. susan: these are biplanes. do you know anything about the models used in the war? mitchell: they're must be french models used by the americans. susan: now strongly reinforced enemy. mitchell: by the early part of october, the germans had brought p a number of divisions. they were really holding their ground against the americans. the battle was starting to fall apart. i talked a little bit before about how pershing had to regroup. really it started in late eptember, early october, where
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the germans were preventing the americans from moving forward. susan: it really is quite stunning to look at these battle scenes between the germans, americans, french, and british and to think what strong allies we all are today. allison: that is the most interesting thing about looking back at these films. you can see the progression of history, but the people fighting in these wars did not know what was going to happen. today, we have a very sort of privileged way of looking back at it. mitchell: this is really the beginnings of coalition warfare. susan: could you speak more bout that? mitchell: today, we have nato. it is not unusual for american troops and french troops and
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troops from all other countries fighting together, analogous to the war against terrorism. but what where one is the first time on a large-scale basis that americans, french, and even british joined together and fought on the same battlefield and served under each other's armies. best sort of thing. susan: when you look at the extreme conditions these people fought under, today we are familiar with the terms of being shellshocked and having ptsd. we did not know much about that at the time. but imagine what their reentry was like after these kinds of battles. allison: it was very difficult, and i think a lot of people did recognize, even if they did not know what to call it or how to treat it. that is why you saw many veterans struggling after the war. especially after the great depression, many of them struggled even more. mitchell: the previous scene showed a field hospital in a church, a famous scene. i believe that was an area where there was heavy fighting between the first and 35th division. here you see the rebuilding of a bridge across a strategically important river.
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susan: once again, you get a sense of the distances these armies had to go to gauge in battles. the danger of transporting troops across open fields. mitchell: the hall -- the whole argonne was about 34 miles, which is quite large. allison: many of the rows are similar today, if you go to the battlefields and drive along them, you can follow closely maps that were created in the 1920's and 1930's. it is interesting to compare those landscapes. susan: so much as the american civil war battles are preserved, the world war i battlefields are preserved in france? allison: yes and no. and the american sectors, they are a lot less traveled and a lot less visitors, so it is more untouched. in other sectors where the french and british had a famous battles, they are preserved a little bit more in ways that are
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familiar with the torah spot. -- with the tourist spots. would you agree, mitch? mitchell: i would. the american battle monuments commission has done a good job of turning a battlefield into a civil war type battlefield, where they have markers and artillery guns, city can get a sense. but by and large if you visit the battlefields today, you have to use your imagination. and a good map to find out where the lines were, where the fighting was. susan: what happened to the french villagers displaced by these battles? i am sure many lost their lives. where did they go, how were they given care and comfort? allison: some of them never returned. other some villagers did return and some left for shelter, you could see many of these villages were wiped out with only women and children left. today, there are even remnants
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of villages that were never restored. mitchell: a lot of the french, as the germans started coming in, either vacated or went to southern france to get away from the war zone. some are captured and used as civilian labor by the germans, some even brought to germany. here, it points out that finally the americans have broken through. it is the end of october, beginning of november. behind the scenes, the germans are negotiating an armistice based on president wilson's 14 points. because they know that the war is pretty much done. but they're not ending it, not willing to give up unless they can get some sort of say in the peace discussion. so really, the fighting continues despite the fact that the americans are overwhelming the germans. they are still fighting back and it continues to be high casualties. allison: here they are talking
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about the french villagers. some people did say -- of course, these look like older men, women, families, people who have gone through a lot. susan: this is now late october 1918? mitchell: probably, the second phase. we are talking about the third week in october. susan: an armistice eventually declared november 11. mitchell: the main objective was a city important to the french, because they had lost it during the franco-prussian war. here they are talking about the november 11 armistice, which as t points out was a cease-fire, not necessarily a surrender. allison: you can see the joy on the soldiers faces. mitchell: they were still fighting up until the last minute. that meant soldiers were dying, even though they knew there would be an armistice. susan: did all fighting stopped on the 11th?
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mitchell: some of it lingered because word did not reach. there is general pershing. it was very critical of the americans for the most part, but there he was extremely happy. allison: these are french followed by americans in the background. people have been drawn through this horrible war and were so devastated and brutalized, the joy is almost difficult to imagine what they are feeling at he time. mitchell: there is american troops at the arc de triomphe parading triumphantly through paris. t took a while for the americans to come back home. it was not until early 1919 that they had enough troop transportation to get them back to the u.s. where there were massive parades in pretty much every city that welcomed the troops back
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home. susan: let's and where we began. the war is over, troops are coming home, what is america's reaction to what happened? mitchell: it is interesting you bring that up. at first, it is for a much enjoyed to see the troops come over. newspapers are posting special editions. there is praise everywhere. but slowly as the troops come home, a lot of them don't want to talk about the war. those that were in combat, especially in the argonne, and saw such horrible fighting and decimation, they don't want to talk about it. they just want to get back into ivilian society. slowly the americans start to forget about the war. even as they are trying to think about it, you have other things going on. you have the volstead act eventually, prohibition. the country has changed significantly.
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but so many of the soldiers just did not want to talk about war. they did not write about it until much later on, unlike the civil war, where you had soldiers writing their accounts in various magazines. allison: many of these soldiers and service members really struggled to adjust back to life in the u.s. once the war was over. it is interesting because it was mostly world war i veterans that crafted the g.i. bill that would help world war ii veterans readjust better. you see the men and women who supported them learning from their experience and seeing the tragedies they witnessed and trying to figure out better ways for the next generation of the military to cope with them. susan: our thanks to allison and mitch. this rare footage shot by members of the army signal corps during actual battle in world war i that we have been able to bring to you today on "reel america" on american history tv. mitchell: thank you. allison: thank you so much.
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19100 years ago on april 6, 17, president woodrow wilson signed a declaration of war against germany, entering the united states into world war i. more than 4 million american men and women would serve in uniform, and more than 100,000 americans died in the conflict. the influx of u.s. resources change the tide of the global war, bringing it to a close on november 11, 1918. to mark the 100th anniversary of what was then known as the great war, american history tv is live from the national world war i museum and memorial in kansas city, missouri. he will take you on a -- we will take you on a tour of the exhibits as we learn about the history of the u.s. role in the war. we are joined in the museum by the president and ceo of the


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