World War I introduced the United States and the world to an entirely new way of war. The immense destruction of the Great War, the “war to end all wars,” had not been fathomed by participants on either side of the conflict. Though the United States did not join the fight until many countries had already seen devastation unknown in the modern world, Soldiers of the U.S. Army learned all too quickly the amplification of death and ruin brought on by new weaponry.
Visitors to the Nation Overseas Gallery will learn about the many ways in which this world war was like nothing American Soldiers had seen before. Amidst the displays of destruction, the “Doughboy Exhibit” will allow visitors to put names and faces to some of the millions who fought in the trenches across Europe. During the Great War, American infantrymen were referred to informally as “Doughboys,” but the term came to mean any American Soldier who served in the war. Having been shipped “Over There” to Great Britain and eventually France, many of these Doughboys were experiencing the other side of the Atlantic for the first time. New to war and far from home, Soldiers often sent picture postcards home to family and friends as a means of sharing their experiences in war-torn Europe.
The “Doughboy Exhibit” will be a curved wall on the exterior of the “World War I Immersion Exhibit” and will display period photographs of Doughboys sweeping through the space. The wall will feature over 250 photographs of Soldiers who served in the Great War. Some of the postcards will be landscape views while others will be portrait views. Together, the postcards add a personal perspective to a war in which the faces and stories often remain buried in the muddy trenches of Europe.
In addition to the smaller postcards, particular images will be enlarged in the exhibit to draw attention to specific Soldier stories through their personal postcards. These larger displays highlight Soldiers including Captain Paul E. Kittredge of Lowell, Mass. and Sergeant Donald M. Mackubin of Germantown, Pa., who both fought in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign; Sigurd Sandburg, who was serving with the 38th Infantry when it earned its nickname, the “Rock of the Marne;” Sergeant Symonds, whose regiment, the 11th Field Artillery, is credited with firing the last American round of the war; four Soldiers of the 90th Infantry Division who fought in the St. Mihiel offensive; Alex L. Wingo who served as a wagoner with the 2d Pioneer Infantry Regiment; and Theodore C. Banks, an African-American Soldier who served in a segregated pioneer infantry regiment and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for gallantry. The “Doughboy Exhibit” will provide visitors with the letters of individual Soldiers who fought during World War I through the images and stories sent home to their loved ones and will bring to light the personal side of World War I.