“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken:” American Participants’ Understanding of their Involvement in World War I

  • Mark Meigs
Part of the Studies in Military and Strategic History book series (SMSH)


The different stages of neutrality, diplomatic mediation and of military preparedness that led the United States eventually into World War I are complicated but possible to reconstruct. Following the steps that lead individual people to rationalize their own participation in the war is more difficult. Historiography has neglected ideologies that motivated individual Americans during World War I for several reasons. First, the tortuous path the United States took towards war has seemed to provide no clear reason for individual Americans to have fought. Second, during World War I, Americans were saturated with ideological messages, provided by President Woodrow Wilson himself, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), and many other agencies. The means used by the CPI, through which all official war information was passed to the public, have since been regarded with suspicion and many of the messages themselves have proved hollow. Thus, to reconstruct the illusions of the war years looks like needless praise for propaganda. And third, the conscious ideological motivation for American soldiers has seemed a “non-subject,” since the publication of studies made of World War II soldiers, notably the four volumes of The American Soldier and the related work of Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall, Men Against Fire, first published in 1947.1


American Woman American Soldier German Immigrant Foreign Legion Military Preparedness 
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© Mark Meigs 1997

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  • Mark Meigs

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