Reflections

Image courtesy of the Huff family used with permission, personal collection.

My time in the UMW History department has been well spent. The skills I acquired have made me a better reader, writer, and researcher. The faculty is exceptionally professional and the curriculum challenging.

The Great War has been my special area of interest and the projects I have accomplished allowed me to gain a rich knowledge of the conflict. It would be remiss if I did not thank Dr.’s Blakemore, Fernsebner, and McClurken for all the support and encouragement when I would dive “head first” into a particular topic.

I would like to especially give a shout out to the late Professor Susan Llewellyn. Susan was my teacher then later a friend who’s passion for all things history was infectious and it rubbed off on many students who truly loved her. She was so supportive when a shy 50+ year old slipped into the very corner seat of her classroom. Susan gave me the confidence to pursue a degree, she told me it was never too late.

My one wish has been to honor the incredibly brave souls that were subjected to such a horrible conflict. I could never have imagined that another terrible war would occur on the heels of a pandemic and yet, here we are. The phase that “history repeats itself” has come to pass as the Ukraine suffers under tyranny.

My heart breaks for the innocent victims of yet another senseless war. The most important thing I learned in all of my research was the futility, waste, and loss of life that dominates armed conflict. As I close out my major in History, my most fervent prayer is that the senseless killing will come to an end.

Whittlesey’s Lost Battalion

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The story of Major Charles Whittlesey and his “Lost Battalion” is one of unlikely heroes. The link below is for the American Heritage magazine’s synopsis. It is one of the most concise explanations of the events that occurred in the Charlevaux Pocket of the Argonne Forest in October of 1918.

https://www.americanheritage.com/lost-battalion

World War I VAD (Volunteer Aid Detachment) Nurses

The first time I read Not So Quiet it was quite a shock. While the work is fiction, Smith, who’s real name was Evadne Price, does not shy away from drawing on the emotional whirlwind that wartime nurses experienced. Price, an Australian who served in the Air Ministry from 1917-1918 expresses visceral and tragic feelings about the war in her prose.

Price’s use of nicknames for the various nurses is an excellent way of making her characters accessible as well as somewhat likable, with the exception of Mrs. B—-, of course! One of the best aspects of this work is its candor. The work opens with references to the food shortages, biting cold, and chronic sleep depravation. The portions about lice and the filth the nurses must deal with are shocking but rigorously authentic.

One of the most engaging things about Not So Quiet is how Price writes with such raw emotion. She is not afraid to tap into the hatred the protagonist feels for her parents and those at home in England who have no idea about the extent of human suffering happening just across the Channel. Helen’s resentment and anger over the harsh conditions is also something the author is very comfortable divulging to the reader.

While this work is fiction, it provided so much information about the real and true conditions that VAD nurses had to cope with during their active service. Many of the secondary source accounts do not include the very unpleasant side of this volunteer position.

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Voices of the Great War

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The trauma of World War I impacted people from all walks of life and left lifelong scars on many. How people handle the trauma of a global conflict is a highly personal experience with varied responses and long term implications. For many survivors the process of writing down their individual experiences proved to be quite cathartic while others chose to depict the horrors of this conflict in fiction. Whether in fiction or factual account, the literature of The Great War provided future generations with a wealth of information. These works enable us to form a greater understanding of what the world would come to call “The War to End All Wars.” 

The treasure trove of written information left to us about this fundamental moment in history is memorabilia we can all cherish. It serves as a reminder that:

“Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana, The Life of Reason

Here is a link to Goodreads comprehensive list of “must read” WWI texts: 

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/9427.The_Great_War

Paths of Glory – 1957 – Film Review

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The film Paths of Glory is based on a 1935 book by Humphrey Cobb. Cobb (1899-1944) 

an Italian-born, Canadian-American screenwriter and novelist had served in the World War I 

Canadian army at the age of 17. Cobb kept a wartime diary and utilized his recollections when 

writing Paths of Glory.[1] His disgust and disillusion are heavily reflected in the work. The title of 

the novel comes from Thomas Gray’s 1751 poem Elegy Written in a Country ChurchyardPaths

of Glory is based on the Souain corporal’s affair that occurred on March 17, 1915. The choice 

to set the novel within the French army was purposefully done by Cobb as he felt they had been 

“poorly led” by commanders and were needlessly slaughtered in futile quests for small patches 

of territory.[2] The “ant-hill” mentioned in the film is called “the pimple” in the novel. 

Kirk Douglas gives a stellar performance in the 1957 film as Colonel Dax. Stanley Kubrick, 

who would go on to become an acclaimed director of such films as “The Shining”, directs. 

Douglas’ 1988 bestselling autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, tells how he felt so moved by 

Cobb’s book that he provided thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to support the project. 

Kubrick, Jim Thompson, and Calder Willingham were all screenwriters working on the project 

which re-wrote the character of Colonel Dax with Douglas in mind. The novel has Dax as a 

minor character that equivocates in his support of the men but the film does not.  The novel 

also includes Colonel Etienne, who is the legal representative for the accused. Kubrick’s script 

eliminates him entirely. Another interesting fact is that Kubrick and his writers instigated 

further changes that had the film ending happily. The “happy-ending” script was vehemently 

rejected by Kirk Douglas which caused conflict with Kubrick. Douglas is said to have yelled: “I 

got the money based on the original script. Not this shit. We’re going to do the original script or 

we’re not making the picture”.  Douglas’ determination to portray the harsh reality of an 

injustice pays off in the emotionally charged finale which evokes tremendous empathy.

Adolf Menjou, the actor who plays General Broulard, was himself a World War I veteran 

and had misgivings about portraying the effete officer. George Macready, playing the part

of the sinister General Mireau, actually had a severe facial scar from an automobile accident 

while still in college. Macready’s badly damaged face was stitched  by the only available medical 

practitioner, a veterinarian. The only female actress in the film is Christiane Harlan, a German

singer and dancer who later became the third wife of Stanley Kubrick. They remained married 

for 40 years until his death in 1999.

            The film was shot in Munich in just 64 days and cost less than one million dollars to 

make. The choice to shoot this film in black and white enhances the main themes of despair 

and desolation. Paths of Glory was released in October of 1957 and enjoyed only moderate 

success in the United States. The most interesting thing about this film is its enduring message. 

The film has become a classic in its depiction of the ineptitude of French high command and the 

sacrifice enlisted men were expected to make without question. The mutinies of French soldiers 

in May of 1917 are an example of the average soldiers’ response to the incompetent military 

bureaucracy that was French high command. The film would be almost comical if it were not 

historically accurate.  Instead Paths of Glory is heartbreaking.

Adolf Menjou, the actor who plays General Broulard, was himself a World War I veteran 

and had misgivings about portraying the effete officer. George Macready, playing the part

of the sinister General Mireau, actually had a severe facial scar from an automobile accident 

while still in college. Macready’s badly damaged face was stitched  by the only available medical 

practitioner, a veterinarian. The only female actress in the film is Christiane Harlan, a German

singer and dancer who later became the third wife of Stanley Kubrick. They remained married 

for 40 years until his death in 1999.

            The film was shot in Munich in just 64 days and cost less than one million dollars to 

make. The choice to shoot this film in black and white enhances the main themes of despair 

and desolation. Paths of Glory was released in October of 1957 and enjoyed only moderate 

success in the United States. The most interesting thing about this film is its enduring message. 

The film has become a classic in its depiction of the ineptitude of French high command and the 

sacrifice enlisted men were expected to make without question. The mutinies of French soldiers 

in May of 1917 are an example of the average soldiers’ response to the incompetent military 

bureaucracy that was French high command. The film would be almost comical if it were not 

historically accurate.  Instead Paths of Glory is heartbreaking.


 https://www.military-history.org/articles/war-on-film-paths-of-glory.htm


[1] Humphrey Cobb, Paths of Glory (New York: The Penguin Group, 2010), xxv.

[2] Cobb, Paths of Glory, xx.

Literature Review Due 2/11/2022

                           HIS485 – Spring 2022

                                                      Literature Review

Students of World War I history need to be cautious when examining films that depict 

specific events and individuals. The screenwriters and directors have distinct artistic goals and 

financial objectives they wish to achieve and the film they craft may or may not be historically 

accurate. The reviewed secondary sources will help ascertain the authenticity of FlyboysPaths 

of GloryTestament of Youth, and The Lost Battalion.

 Secondary historical sources regarding World War I are abundant and contain the added 

benefit of objectivity. These texts examine the events and individuals depicted in the films from 

a much broader perspective, without the underlying bias of wartime emotional trauma. The

sources reveal many of the minute but important details about aviation, military discipline and 

justice, wartime nursing, and the strategic failings that occurred in the Argonne Forest. The 

secondary texts do not emphasize the emotionalism, patriotism, and bitterness as heavily as the 

accounts penned by persons who were personally touched by the horror of The Great War.

The most appropriate way to approach the question of historical accuracy in wartime

research is by utilizing a combination of primary and secondary sources. The “War to End All 

Wars” took the lives of an entire generation of young men and left deep scars on the survivors 

who documented their pain. The secondary studies are insightful and objective. By combining 

both primary and secondary sources, historians have the benefit of firsthand knowledge, ongoing 

perspectives, and evolving analysis. This combination of “old” and “new” encompasses the 

entire Great War experience for 21st century scholars.

Works Cited

Secondary Sources:

Crouthamel, Jason, and Peter Leese, eds. Psychological Trauma and The Legacies of The First      World War. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2016.

   Crouthamel and Leese provide an excellent set of eight essays written by specialists in the  

   history of WWI shell shock that highlights the nature of psychological trauma experienced by 

   war victims “in diverse social, political, and cultural contexts.”  This text has relevance as it 

   illustrates the deliberate effort of French officials and citizens to malign and marginalize 

   French soldiers afflicted with psychological trauma, a point of emphasis in Paths of Glory

   This informative work is the second collaboration for Crouthamel and Leese, both

   academics who are considered experts in the field of post WWI traumatic neurosis.

Flammer, Philip M. The Vivid Air: The Lafayette Escadrille. Georgia: University of Georgia 

            Press, 1981.

   Dr. Flammer (1928-1999) was a history professor and Air Force officer whose extensive 

   research is illustrated in this text. In the Foreword, Dr. Flammer notes that Admiral Edwin C.

   Parsons, a rather famous former Escadrille flyer, was an invaluable resource. This secondary 

   work also contains a lengthy chapter on the evolution of flight as well as origin and value of 

   aerial photography and reconnaissance. The legacy chapter also mentions the poorly received 

  1958 film The Lafayette Escadrille, directed by William A. Wellman, a former Escadrille flyer.

Flood, Charles Bracelen. First to Fly: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, The American 

            Heroes who Flew for France in World War I. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015.

   Flood’s text contains a great deal of Escadrille “trivia.” In the first chapter, he explains how the 

   book is not a linear history but a mosaic, or emotional portrait of the Escadrille pilots and the

   courage and ingenuity they displayed. This work is most helpful when attempting to verify the 

   details of the pilot’s many antics and rituals that are dramatized in Flyboys.

Greenhalgh, Elizabeth. The French Army and the First World War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge                University Press, 2014.

   This lengthy and extensively well researched text covers the French Army’s experiences 

   throughout the entire four years of the Great War. Greenhalgh’s work examines many aspects 

   of the French experience and the veracity of the film Paths of Glory is addressed in this text as 

   being an inaccurate portrayal of the army’s stance on cowardice. According to Dr. Greenhalgh, 

   the French executed an average of 7 or 8 men per month for the entire war, a number which 

   she claims is not entirely unreasonable in such a horrific conflict. The text also explains that 

   French military trials were, by necessity, strict applications of justice between 1914-1918.

Howard, Michael. “Condemned: Courage and Cowardice–Introduction: Royal United Services 

            Institute for Defense Studies.” RUSI Journal 143, no. 1 (02, 1998): 51-52. 

            https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/trade-

            journals/condemned-courage-cowardice-introduction/docview/212108994/se-

            2?accountid=12299.

   Professor Howard’s article tackles the issue of swift military justice and the death penalty for 

   WWI soldiers convicted of cowardice or desertion within the British Army. He argues that the 

   mentality of this generation was very different than our own and modern scholars need to take 

   into account such things as moral standards and the fact psychiatric medicine was still in its 

   infancy. Howard claims that within this limited purview, Britain was a remarkably humane 

   and compassionate society, a view emphasized in the film Testament of Youth.

Jablonski, Edward. Warriors with Wings: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille. Indianapolis:

            The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1966.

   Mr. Jablonski’s work is an overview of the Escadrille from a non-scholarly point of view. In 

   the preface Jablonski thanks Colonel ‘Carl’ H. Dolan, the last surviving Escadrille pilot. This 

   text is filled with references to what the pilots were feeling and thinking which reads like a 

   work of fiction, however, the photos are numerous and can be utilized to authentic small details 

   such as pilot insignias and uniforms. This book is best suited for the casual historian or aviation 

   enthusiast. 

Johnson, Thomas M., and Fletcher Pratt. The Lost Battalion. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of

             Nebraska Press, 2000.

   This text was originally published in 1938 and reprinted in 2000 University of Nebraska Press.

   The authors do an excellent job of presenting the events that occurred at the Charlevaux 

   Ravine. Johnson and Pratt did extensive research through interviews with survivors and an 

   extensive study of the official records in Washington DC and the Reichsarchiv in Potsdam. 

   They also interviewed German soldiers who were present at the Charlevaux Ravine and note in 

   the Foreword that the German sources “speak of the Lost Battalion in terms of admiration.” 

   This secondary source is well written and thorough, although not as impressive as Laplander’s 

   magnum opus.

Laplander, Robert J., and William Terpeluk. Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors,

            Myths, and Legends of America’s Famous WWI Epic. Waterford, WI: A.E.F. Services,

            2017.

   Author and historian Robert J. Laplander is considered one the foremost experts on the Lost 

   Battalion. This text is the 3rd edition of what some historians, including Dr. Edward Lengal, 

   consider the quintessential work on Major Charles W. Whittlesey and his men. These 700 

   pages of text are the product of 20 years of research and the work has a comprehensive 

   bibliography of 416 sources. This exhaustive volume covers every aspect of the ordeal at the 

   Charlevaux Ravine. This text was essential in verifying many of the details that are depicted in 

   the 2001 Rick Schroder film, The Lost Battalion.

Lengel, Edward G. Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion. New      York, NY: Da Capo Press, 2018.   

   Dr. Lengal, a University of Virginia alumni, has created a highly readable work which follows 

   the chronological events at the Charlevaux Ravine. Lengal emphasizes the fact that Major

   Charles Whittlesey was in no way responsible for the predicament that befell the 308th

   battalion in October of 1918. The work is well organized and has two interesting postwar

   chapters which go into detail about the fame of the battalion as well as the tragic fates of 

   several of the men, including Major Whittlesey, who were all severely traumatized by the 

   ordeal in the Argonne Forest.               

Lengel, Edward G. World War I Memories: An Annotated Bibliography of Personal Accounts 

            Published in English Since 1919. Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004.

   This work is an excellent starting point for students seeking primary sources and it is quite 

   helpful to those of us who cannot read a second or third language as Lengal has divided the 

   text by country for students that are anxious to delve into the translated memoirs of non-

   English writers. Lengel emphasizes in the foreword that the collection purposely excludes 

   literature and unpublished personal accounts as they are too numerous for his purposes. This 

   text was used to obtain primary sources about French support for the Americans in Argonne as 

   well as to locate French accounts of military discipline that have been translated into English.

LINDEN, STEFANIE. They Called It Shell Shock: Combat Stress in the First World War. Solihull, UK: Helion & Company, 2018. 

   Linden’s text is a complex mix of causes and effects of shell shock. The work begins with a 

   circuitous definition of the symptoms and then goes on to explore the history of the malady. 

   Dr. Linden, a psychiatrist, emphasizes that the medical history cannot be separated from the 

   military history as human reactions to stress and trauma do not have political or ideological 

   agendas. Linden then clarifies that it was a cultural agenda that defined the way these sick men 

   were represented in historical context. Ultimately Linden concludes that it was the agenda of 

   World War I culture to impugn shell shock victims because of the widespread fear and shame 

   that was associated with the disorder in that era. Linden believes shell shock, as a credible

   psychological malady, needs to be viewed with a fresh and compassionate perspective.

McEwen, Yvonne T. In the Company of Nurses: The History of the British Army Nursing

            Service in the Great War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

   The most interesting fact about this secondary source is that it was published from Dr. 

   McEwen’s doctoral dissertation. The work, dedicated to McEwen’s grandmother, is an

   excellent examination of the British Army Nursing Service during the First World War.

   This work, when examined through the lens of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, confirms

   much of the information Brittain conveys in her 1933 autobiographical classic

Murphy, T.B. Kiffin Rockwell, the Lafayette Escadrille and the Birth of the United States Air

 Force. North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2016.

   Murphy, a retired United States Airforce pilot, examines the Lafayette Escadrille with an 

   emphasis on Kiffin Rockwell, the first American Escadrille pilot to record a kill and the 

   squadron’s leader who did not survive the war. The work is well-indexed but has a rather 

   limited bibliography. The text is most valuable for the chapter on pilot training which is 

   something filmmakers emphasized in Flyboys.

Pickering, Jean. 1986. “On the Battlefield: Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth.” Women’s 

            Studies 13 (1/2): 75. doi:10.1080/00497878.1986.9978654.

   This article examines the dialectical relationship that Brittain’s autobiography has with the 

   such memoirs as Blunden, Sasson, and Graves. Pickering explains how Brittain was familiar 

  with these accounts and chose to write her story from a feminist perspective, seeing herself as

   the voice of a generation of young women who had endured the unimaginable with fortitude.

   This feminist perspective is emphasized in the 2014 film starring Alicia Vikander.

Sheffield, G. D. “The Shot at Dawn Issue–an Historian’s View: Royal United Services Institute 

            for Defense Studies.” RUSI Journal 143, no. 1 (02, 1998): 67-69. 

            https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/trade-journals/shot-at-

            dawn-issue-historians-view/docview/212102519/se-2?accountid=12299.

   Dr. Sheffield’s article is in complete agreement with the Howard article. He argues that 

   historians must make an extensive study of the standards of conduct during the Great War. 

   Sheffield feels that an impediment to understanding the Great War’s system of ideals and 

   values centers around the fact that the British public view this era through the medium of 

   literature rather than scholarly texts. Sheffield agrees with Howard about how the British 

   standard of justice during the war era was quite enlightened. Lastly, Sheffield states that the 

   extensive literary documentations of liberal “upper class indignation” ideals against military 

   executions have influenced the modern mainstream view and that the “working classes” of that 

   era found the prevailing military discipline completely acceptable. An intriguing supposition.

Smith, Leonard V. The Embattled Self: French Soldiers’ Testimony of the Great War. New York,          NY: Cornell University Press, 2014. 

    This recent scholarship delves into the subject of French Army discipline and Dr. Smith  

   rejects much of the conventional understanding of the war as great tragedy and its soldiers 

   as victims of many injustices, a view that has dominated scholarly opinion. Smith argues 

   against the long-held narrative that French soldiers were either victims or brutes. He uses the 

   testimonies of French combatants to establish a new narrative, one that depicts these men as

   complex individuals whose basic humanity was tested to extremes.

Sumner, Ian. They Shall Not Pass. South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2012. 

   The Introduction states that Mr. Sumner’s intention in writing this work is to “tell the soldier’s 

   story in his own words.” The text, written in English, is an excellent account of what French 

   infantrymen endured from 1914-1918. The bibliography is also quite comprehensive, utilizing 

   the often-overlooked primary source, trench newspapers. This 2012 work examines French 

   Army discipline and experiences but it is very much in contrast with the 2014 work of Leonard 

   Smith, as Sumner labels French infantrymen the glum victims of French Army bureaucracy.

The Crimson Field. Evans, David., Oona Chaplin, Kevin Doyle, Kerry Fox, et al., United 

            Kingdom: BBC films, 2014.

   This BBC film series is an excellent resource for information about the VAD (Volunteer Aid 

   Detachment) nurses and volunteers. The work is not based on any one particular event but does 

   an excellent job of depicting the conditions at an aid station in France several miles from the 

   Western front. The screenwriters seem to have relied heavily on such works as Not So Quiet

   the fictional account of front line nursing by Helen Zenna Smith (nee Evadne Price).

Thomas, Gregory Mathew. Treating the Trauma of the Great War: Soldiers, Civilians, and Psychiatry in France, 1914-1940. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2009. 

   Thomas has presented a well-researched text that illustrates the cruelty French physicians, 

   military commands, and civilians displayed towards the victims of shell shock. He outlines

   how the labelling of French shell shock victims as hysterical was a direct assault upon male 

   masculinity. Thomas explains how French commanders did not want the image of the French

  army to be tarnished by weakness and went to great lengths to censor accounts of shell shock in 

  the newspapers and any information disseminated to the public at large. Thomas explains how 

  the French propaganda machine was concerned that France’s fighting men not appear weak 

  when compared to their German counterparts. This text is very much in agreement with the 

  work by Crouthamel and Leese and provides context for the film Paths of Glory.

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