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Perhaps its most spectacular and stirring incarnation appears in the French shrine to the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of American aviators who served with the Allies prior to the American declaration of war. Located near Paris, the shrine features a series of enormous stained-glass windows that depict an American eagle, outlined in biplanes, crossing the Atlantic, soaring above Mont-Saint-Michel, and driving eastward toward the enemy in the skies above Chateau-Thierry and Hartmannswillerkopf.

The motif was also embraced by an organization whose memorializing efforts were of particular significance to the Cather family, namely the Society of the First Division, the regular army division with which G. Cather served until his death at the battle of Cantigny.

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Founded in by former field officers, the society sponsored reunions, supervised the construction of divisional monuments in France, and ultimately recorded the exploits of the "Big Red One" in an elegantly formatted book, the History of the First Division during the World War Here, as in the Lafayette Escadrille shrine, images of eastward movement abound: we see troopships resolutely pitted against the stormy Atlantic and, in one particularly evocative pen-and-ink drawing, a Gallic rooster encircled by the sunrise with an American flag waving in the background.

Another illustration, entitled the "The Chosen Corp," depicts an army of phantoms like the Angels of Mons marching ever onward in the clouds above a French cemetery figure 1. Even the dead, it would seem, moved east—despite the fact that American soldiers quickly adopted the British expression "gone west" as a euphemism for phrases like "blown up" or "machine-gunned.

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In addition to this relentless emphasis on eastward movement, One of Ours shares with the commemorative gestures of its day a distinct variety of medievalism. Given the belief, widely held in the s, that America had "come to the rescue" of civilized Europe and defeated a nation of barbarians who disregarded the rules of limited warfare, it is not surprising that chivalric motifs pervade the iconography of remembrance.

For example, the United States Victory Medal, awarded to every American participant in the Great War, displays on its face the image of Civilization, a winged, Valkyrie-like Amazon armed with a sword. Likewise, the official certificate given to veterans wounded overseas depicts the robed figure of Columbia knighting a kneeling soldier whose steel helmet adopted, ironically, to deflect such thoroughly modern projectiles as high-power bullets and shrapnel gives him a conveniently medieval appearance.

The rhetoric of the document matches the flamboyance of its visual image. In One of Ours Claude Wheeler first imbibes the romance of the Middle Ages and receives his first impressions of the country for which he will give his life through the legend of Joan of Arc. As a child Claude discovers an old picture of the Maid of Orleans dressed in her armor and learns the "essential facts" of her story, appropriately enough, from his mother, who subsequently parallels the medieval heroine by combining militancy with saintly faith when the Germans invade Belgium.

For remembrance: soldier poets who have fallen in the war/Chapter 5

Later, after momentarily escaping from Temple College to study European history at the University of Nebraska, Claude writes a thesis examining the Maid's testimony during her trial. Significantly, the project becomes "for a time. Throughout Claude's adolescence and early adulthood Joan of Arc stands literally at the center of his conception of France, a deeply romantic vision that Cather renders through a string of phrases linked by ellipses: "about [Joan of Arc's] figure there gathered a luminous cloud, like dust, with soldiers in it.

Joan of Arc's story also demonstrates, at least to Cather's protagonist, that "ideals were not archaic things, beautiful and impotent; they were real sources of power among men" As he prepares his thesis, Claude suddenly marvels at the way in which "a character could perpetuate itself. Yet Joan of Arc is an icon whose significance extends far beyond Claude's individual history and the parameters of Cather's text.

In fact, the Maid of Orleans played a significant role in the way grieving Americans looked back on the Great War, embodying both the spirit of France for which the doughboys fought, and in many cases sacrificed themselves, and the virtues of the chaste Christian soldier, a creature that the YMCA whose somewhat less than popular field canteens and wholesome entertainments the American army heartily endorsed had tried its best to manufacture in France. Once again, if we open the History of the First Division during the World War , we see that Cather's text shares an iconography that must have appealed to nostalgic veterans and bereaved family members alike.

The frontispiece, for example, portrays an American soldier on horseback flanked by medieval nobility, including Richard the Lion-Hearted whose tomb several of Cather's soldiers visit in Rouen ; to the soldier's right, hovering near his divisional banner and leading him forward with an inverted sword, is Joan of Arc figure 3. Another painting, entitled "The Gold Star" a reference to the ribbon pin that signified participation in a battle , also illustrates this frothy mixture of medievalism, martial regalia, and the militant Christianity associated with the French saint: here, beside the profile of a helmeted youth, a crucifix appears—superimposed on a medieval broadsword figure 4.

Like the stained-glass windows of the Lafayette Escadrille shrine, these paintings capture, at least for me, the spirit of Claude's war experience, as related by a narrator whose viewpoint often seems inseparable from the protagonist's—or at the very least extremely difficult to distinguish.

Through their heraldry and evocations of medieval heroes and heroine , they place the American soldier triumphantly within the traditions of Europe; in the same way, Claude discovers a sense of belonging, of connection, in the Old World that culminates in his idyllic afternoon with Mme Olive. The antithesis of Claude's born-again wife, who leaves him in order to join her missionary sister in China, Mme. Olive is also a modern Joan of Arc, still elegant and cultivated but exhausted by war. Claude's rapport with her is almost instantaneous. He becomes "almost lost to himself in the feeling of being completely understood, of being no longer a stranger" and concludes that "[t]wo people could hardly give each other more if they were together for years" Appropriately, it is shortly after this profound encounter that Claude contemplates the inscription on the graves of unknown French soldiers "Soldat Inconnu, Mort pour La France" and realizes the depth of his own devotion to France: "A very good epitaph, Claude was thinking.

Most of the boys who fell in this war were unknown, even to themselves. They were too young. They died and took their secret with them,—what they were and might have been. The name that stood was La France. How much that name had come to mean to him, since he first saw a shoulder of land bulk up in the dawn from the deck of the Anchises " By examining monuments and divisional histories I have argued that One of Ours , while shaped by Cather's unique imagination, also reflects a then-popular effort to establish a consoling mythology of the Great War.

Yet any consideration of imagery in One of Ours would be incomplete without acknowledging that the narrative sometimes lurches out of control and momentarily accommodates an ironic, even nihilistic, vision of the Great Crusade, the very thing that the iconography of remembrance sought to dispel. Perhaps the best example of this instability occurs when Claude and several fellow officers bathe in a shell hole. The scene opens innocently enough, as yet another display of the indomitable good humor and inevitable good looks that Cooperman found so offensive in Cather's crusaders.

But then Claude retrieves a grisly relic from the bottom of the makeshift swimming hole—a German helmet "coated with rust and full of slime. Claude has unwittingly "opened a graveyard" Yet the bathing scene in One of Ours is more sinister than these seemingly arbitrary instances of horror: as if lifted from one of Siegfried Sassoon's wartime shock poems or the pages of All Quiet on the Western Front , the episode ominously juxtaposes the naked physiques of young soldiers with corpses; [3] war, we see, is a matter of turning healthy young men into bloated cadavers at the bottom of a muddy hole.

And Claude's own body, though killed Hollywood-style with a bullet through the heart, will ultimately undergo the same corruption. As if to curtail such terrible implications, Cather ends the scene on a strained note of humor as Claude and his companions erect a sign that facetiously designates the shell hole "a Private Beach" In other places, however, the horror of the Great War enters the text with such force that the mythic structure collapses entirely.

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When Claude and Sergeant Hicks encounter a year-old English soldier, for example, they receive a chilling lesson in the realities of modern, industrialized warfare. The boy calmly describes how his Pals Battalion was massacred at the Somme: "We couldn't even get to the wire. We went over [the top] a thousand, and we came back seventeen" And finally, as Claude broods over the graves of the unknown soldiers, absorbed in his bittersweet contemplation of La France, the more down-to-earth Sergeant Hicks points to the absurdity of the war in a moving albeit implausible speech that seems to come from a different novel: "Somehow, Lieutenant, 'mort' seems deader than 'dead.

And over there they're all 'tod,' and it's all the same damned silly thing. Look at them set out here, black and white, like a checkerboard. The next question is, who put 'em here, and what's the use of it? As these disturbing and incongruous scenes suggest, there were clearly moments when Cather doubted the reassurance offered by her own iconography. Unlike Skaggs and other advocates of the ironic reading, however, I do not see these breakdowns in Cather's mythology as evidence of a sophisticated subtext that runs throughout the book; rather, they demonstrate the strain to which the notion of the Great Crusade was subjected as it attempted to explain a complex and, in many ways, puzzling episode in the nation's history.

As Reynolds points out, "[t]he unevenness of the text, the technical failures and clashing discourses, testify to Cather's difficulties in gauging the true 'national significance' of the war" Yet such problems were not simply Cather's; they pervade the cluttered, overly insistent imagery of American First World War memorials as well as the tortured, quasi-Masonic symbolism contained in the unit histories that sought to justify and to explain their "rolls of honor. Therefore, in closing, I would like to suggest something of the troublesome ambiguity that surrounded the American experience of the Great War, an ambiguity that Cather perhaps sought to dispel through myth but only succeeded in recreating.

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In the eyes of France, Great Britain and Canada whose combined casualties in the Great War numbered more than 6 million the lavishness of American war memorials, both at home and abroad, must have seemed disproportionate to the United States's actual achievements. After entering the conflict in its fifth act and suffering only a fraction of the casualties inflicted their allies, the Yanks apparently wanted more than their fair share of credit. When examined more closely, however, the memorials' gigantism and allegorical excess express not boastfulness but uncertainty, an uncertainty that has its origins in the contradictory realities of America's Great Crusade.

Indeed, almost everything about American participation in World War I defied assimilation into a tidy master narrative. Although 1 million American soldiers fought in the six-week battle of the Meuse-Argonne and endured a poison gas-filled hell equal in misery to the very worst campaigns of World War II, their contribution to the Allied victory in November remained questionable, even dubious. One historian, in fact, has described Pershing's exhausted army as "reaching the end of its tether" by the time of the Armistice Cooke For the real "Spirit of the Argonne" one need only peruse period photographs that depict mile-long traffic jams leading to the battlefield or consult the often hair-raising statistics tucked away at the back of unit histories: for example, by the end of its five-day stint in this terrible battle the th Infantry, a regiment of Kansas National Guardsmen, could assemble only 58 percent of its enlisted men and 53 percent of its officers Kenamore 48 ; the rest were either dead, wounded, or "missing" a category that included "stragglers from the lines," men who had basically run for their lives.

Equally revealing is the fact that G. Yet despite the grim odds faced by Americans unfortunate enough to experience combat, the war seemed, in many ways, anticlimactic. Only a quarter of the 4 million men inducted into the U. Army in and ever heard a hostile shot. Only 2 million ever reached France.

And then there was disease principally influenza , which, to the consternation of those wishing to view the war dead as evidence of American martial ferocity, claimed roughly the same number of lives about 55, as German bullets and shells Stallings Nor did the immediate aftermath of the Great War fail to shroud the event in contradiction and ambiguity. Woodrow Wilson's humiliating concessions at Versailles, where Allied statesmen made the Second World War inevitable, followed by the refusal of the American Congress to support the League of Nations, called into question whether the world would ever be made safe for democracy.

Yet you are not to imagine that these men took life sadly or half-heartedly or were one whit the less soldierly and fearless because such dark thoughts lurked at the backs of their minds and they sat now and then to fashion them into verse. Freston's more prevailing spirit is in his stirring sonnet ' On Going into Action ,' and the gladness that was behind all his acceptance of death shouts triumphantly in another sonnet, ' O Fortunati ':.

Oh happy to have lived these epic days! We have had our hearts' desire! Oh happy! Leonard Cook had won his M. Hamish Mann has met the fate he foresaw for himself when he wrote his 'Envoi' and told in another song of the dream that he would not rest now on some placid hillside of home, but in France within hearing of the guns Under whatever premonitions may have come to him, the one firm conviction Charles Masefield carried with him into the war, and that made him indifferent to what might happen to himself, was that. Born at Cheadle, he went from a preparatory school at Southport to Repton, in Derbyshire, where his tutor was Dr.

Furneaux, the present Dean of Winchester. Blagg, Son and Masefield.

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From his childhood he had divided his affections between nature and books, and in Blackwoods published a first book of his own, a novel on rather unorthodox lines called Gilbert Hermer.