The Great War, 1914-1918


“From Col. Thos. B. Williamson, Co. F, 15th Engre, A.E.F., To Mrs. W. A. Williamson,Douglas Ave., Nashville, Tenn.,” ca. February 1919 (2b9799fa09a9c2d326c98a0b0eb8b666)

“From Col. Thos. B. Williamson, Co. F, 15th Engre, A.E.F., To Mrs. W. A. Williamson, Douglas Ave., Nashville, Tenn.,” about February 1919, Library Photograph Collection, ID: 5161

European hostilities broke out between the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey) in 1914 after the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. With a few notable exceptions, the fiercest fighting took place in France and tiny Belgium.

In 1917 President Wilson convinced Congress to declare war on Germany after a series of outrages against the United States. Although American troops began arriving in France in 1917, they did not participate in any major action until 1918. General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing commanded the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.), which, at its largest, consisted of 4 million troops, some 2 million of them overseas. Over 100,000 Tennesseans volunteered or were drafted during the First World War, six of them winning the Medal of Honor.

The armistice of November 11, 1918, ended the shooting, but it was not until 1919 that the Treaty of Versailles formally ended the war. Germany was forced to assume sole responsibility for the war and to pay $438 billion (in 2010 dollars) in war reparations. Resentment of the treaty in Germany helped, in part, to fuel the rise of the Nazi Party there and led to World War II.

Germany made its final World War I reparations payment in October 2010.

Troops departing on a train, ca. 1918 2 (3081487634338b8101ab6e3ddf2b072c)

Troops departing on a train, ca. 1918 (8886b74ab0926f82817e4ffd16ef08d8)



LEFT: Troops departing on a train, about 1918, Library Photograph Collection,
ID: 5164

RIGHT: Troops departing on a train, about 1918, Library Photograph Collection, ID: 5152






Private Joe Gibson, ca. 1918 (36123b1757f4247bc277683d12df3b1f)

Unidentified American soldiers in Europe, ca. 1918 (73b730566db13bb1a529d8b99a43bb88)




ABOVE: Unidentified American soldiers in Europe, about 1918, Library Photograph Collection,
ID: 5163
LEFT: Private Joe Gibson, about 1918, Library Photograph Collection,
ID: 5140








Woman “scolding” Recruiting Service soldier, ca. 1918 (5e1a2646dc260207e6df8d436a5b2a57)

Third Baptist Church Honor Roll, 1919 (1e7f2d2ed9fcc854eca2f4db81f9d509)



LEFT: Woman "scolding" Recruiting Service soldier, about 1918, Library Photograph Collection,
ID: 5138

RIGHT: Third Baptist Church Honor Roll, 1919, Library Photograph Collection, ID: 5142





Sergeant Alvin C. York



Sergeant Alvin C. York at the grave of President Andrew Jackson, Hermitage, TN, ca. 1919 (fce9babf7d7ce937c07fecd6d81038ff)


Sergeant Alvin C. York aboard the S. S. Ohioan, 1919 (915ed9c8e3b0b1d1f40e4d3da068669b)





































LEFT: Sergeant Alvin C. York at the grave of President Andrew Jackson, Hermitage, Tenn., about 1919, Library Photograph Collection, ID: 29428

RIGHT: Sergeant Alvin C. York aboard the S.S. Ohioan, 1919, Library Photograph Collection, ID: 29426

Alvin Cullom York (1887-1964) was the most famous Tennessean to serve in World War I. Born at Pall Mall in Fentress County, York was drafted into the Army in 1917. On October 8, 1918, he was with a unit of nineteen soldiers who were ordered to capture the Decauville railroad. Misreading their French maps, the unit ended up behind German lines and was caught in withering machinegun fire. York was ordered to silence the German guns. His quick and effective actions led to the capture of 132 Germans by nine men. Although he never claimed to have acted alone, York was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and returned home to a hero’s welcome. After the war York pursued his dream of providing a practical education for the rural children of Tennessee, founding the Alvin C. York Institute in 1929 in Jamestown, Tennessee. The state took over funding of the school in 1937. York died at the Veterans Hospital in Nashville on September 2, 1964.





Sergeant Alvin C. York, Fentress County, TN, ca. 1919 (8f2ea18c9f0def038b8ece8a9fca8fcb)



Sergeant Alvin C. York, Fentress County, Tenn., about 1919, Library Photograph Collection, ID: 29432



Alvin York later in life



Alvin C. York, November 29, 1939 (c29b15265bc8e851925c2b365df0a746)

Alvin C. York, July 26, 1941 (46ec354803e21d2c7ece6d3ab240a0ba)

ABOVE: Alvin C. York, July 26, 1941, RG 82: Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, ID: 20840

LEFT: Alvin C. York, November 29, 1939, RG 82: Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, ID: 20823







Preview of film "Sergeant York" at the Knickerbocker Theatre, Nashville, TN, July 1941 (92be0e211642e131f3c32bbeea2ea404)

Alvin C. York Institute, Jamestown, TN June 1, 1967 (ef656867d2d626eac6889e1399fc9231)


LEFT: Preview of the film "Sergeant York" at the Knickerbocker Theatre, Nashville, Tenn., July 1941, Library Photograph Collection,
ID: 29430

RIGHT: Alvin C. York Institute, Jamestown, Tenn., June 1, 1967, RG 82: Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, ID: 15389



Grave of Alvin C. York, Pall Mall, TN, June 1, 1967 (c5fe461472592e143c97b430d47791e4)

Statue at the State Cpaitol, Nashville, TN, February 1, 1969 (f69c178a8a97fb4e56e367f3e50af86c)


LEFT: Grave of Alvin C. York, Pall Mall, Tenn., June 1, 1967, RG 82: Department of Conservation Photograph Collection,
ID: 19365
RIGHT: Statue at the State Capitol, Nashville, Tenn., February 1, 1969, RG 82: Department of Conservation Photograph Collection,
ID: 19382


African Americans in World War I



Wilkins Stonewall Jackson Banks ca. 1918 (382e7a9d99a8fe5d12bd6aa5c78c4d54)

Wilkins S. J. Banks (5be1c722cd4e54e4c36208b4fa2e8787)





LEFT: Wilkins Stonewall Jackson Banks, about 1918, RG 53: Gold Star Records

RIGHT: Wilkins Stonewall Jackson Banks Gold Star Record, RG 53: Gold Star Records

Roughly 350,000 African Americans served on the Western Front during World War I. Because the U.S. military was still segregated at the time, many of the African Americans who served were relegated to labor and stevedore units instead of combat units. One notable exception was the 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the "Harlem Hellfighters." The regiment arrived in France in January 1918 but was given only labor service duties until April, when it was assigned to the French Army. The regiment spent 191 days in combat, more than any other American unit, participating in the Champagne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. It was also the first Allied unit to reach the Rhine River in November 1918. All told, 171 of the regiment's officers and men received awards for bravery. The regimental band, led by James Reese Europe, is credited with introducing jazz music to Europe. Other notable members of the 369th were Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the tap dancer and actor, and Vertner Woodson Tandy, one of the founders (or "Seven Jewels") of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first African American fraternity.





Jim Granberry (7d30ad03b8577714594d88fff1bb25e6)

Jim Granberry, Roll of Honor (d04b8969518e14d255a6960c942d1448)




ABOVE: Jim Granberry Gold Star Record, RG 53: Gold Star Records
LEFT: Jim Granberry, about 1918, RG 53: Gold Star Records






"Our Colored Heroes"


Our Colored Heroes, 1918 (bef5c41c2693afc2088021bb369caea7)


"Our Colored Heroes" poster, 1918, Thomas Perkins Henderson Papers, ID: 33804

Sergeant Henry Lincoln Johnson and Private Needham Roberts were members of the 369th Infantry Regiment. As a result of their heroic actions, depicted in this lithograph, Johnson and Roberts were the first American soldiers to be awarded France’s prestigious Croix de Guerre medal during World War I.

On June 2, 2015, Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.


Honored as Heroes
Henry Johnson     Needham Roberts
Cited for Bravery and Receive
Croix De Guerre
Colored Man Is Eager to Show His Mettle and Do His Bit

General Pershing's Communique
Headquarters American Expeditionary Forces, May 19, 1918

"Section B — Reports in hand show a notable instance of bravery and devotion shown by two soldiers of an American colored regiment operating in a French sector. Before daylight on May 15, Pte. Henry Johnson and Pte. Roberts, while on sentry duty at some distance from one another, were attacked by a German raiding party estimated at twenty men, who advanced in two groups, attacking at once from both flank and rear.

"Both men fought bravely in hand-to-hand encounters, one resorting to the use of a bolo knife after his rifle jammed and further fighting with bayonet and butt became impossible. There is evidence that at least one, and possibly a second, German was severely cut. A third is known to have been shot.

"Attention is drawn to the fact that the two colored sentries were first attacked and continued fighting after receiving wounds and despite the use of grenades by a superior force."


Army Air Service recruitment poster, ca. 1918 (02a1c1bf0ffe40ebca084a66bb5f3539)

1st Lieutenant Morton B. Adams, 90th Aero Squadron, A. E. F., Nashville, TN, ca. 1919 (2e239ed800b2fe062088d416b82a9bb2)




LEFT: Army Air Service recruitment poster, about 1918, World War I Poster Collection,
ID: 43619

RIGHT: 1st Lieutenant Morton B. Adams, 90th Aero Squadron, A.E.F., Nashville, Tenn., about 1919, Library Photograph Collection, ID: 5118





Francis B. "Dolly" Warfield




2nd Battalion, 105th Engineers headquarters Brandhoek, Belgium, 1918 (d07af38617be3d27de2430110992d039)


2nd Battalion, 105th Engineers Headquarters, Brandhoek, Belgium, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers, ID: 33112

Francis B. "Dolly" Warfield arrived in France as a 1st Lieutenant in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 105th Engineers Regiment, 30th Infantry Division and ended the war as the Captain of the Headquarters Company in the same regiment. The 105th Engineers and the rest of the 30th Infantry Division took part in the fighting around Ypres, Belgium. During his career as an architect and engineer after the war, Warfield was involved with several notable projects, among them McTyeire Hall and Rand Hall at Vanderbilt, Westminster Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church, Bartholomew Episcopal Church, Two Rivers High School, Cheatham Place, the Coca-Cola Bottling Works in Columbia, Tennessee, and the Springfield Woolen Mills.





Recreation tent for men at Marolles, Brussels, Belgium 1918 (e8ee4551780de7b9a966b2de59992dfa)

"Twelve of the thirty five trucks used by regiment on road work", Belgium, 1918 (9d37af709c3685dc4d8b9683f14212a5)



LEFT: "Recreation tent for men at Marolles," Brussels, Belgium, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers,
ID: 30580
RIGHT: "Twelve of the Thirty five trucks used by regiment on road work," Brussels, Belgium, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers, ID: 30581






"The 'Patronage' at Marolles. Used as a theatre by regiment. The loft is a billet for 50 men.Supply Office and Carpenter Shop were in left end." Brussels, Belgiu...(72af7bff6c949452809cb7be694f22c8)

A 'Side Door Pulman [sic]' Over the top is St. Quintin [sic] and the Cathedral. St. Quentin, France, 1918 (cdc2dbbfd8566b1c22556151086f9d91)



LEFT: "The 'Patronage' at Marolles. Used as a theatre by regiment. The loft is a billet for 50 men. Supply Office and Carpenter Shop were in left end.," Brussels, Belgium, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers,
ID: 33116
RIGHT: "A 'Side Door Pulman [sic]' Over the top is St. Quintin [sic] and the Cathedral.," St. Quentin, France, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers, ID: 33117






First aid station Voormezeele, Belgium, 1918 (fa810081eff105e1ddea6dac2e23816c)

Aerial photograph of Vauquois Hill in the Meuse-Argonne sector France, 1918 (6431d32eab8139c9b8a9b4130e8fe81d)



LEFT: First aid station, Voormezeele, Belgium Brussels, Belgium, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers,
ID: 33110
RIGHT: Aerial photograph of Vauquois Hill in the Meuse-Argonne sector France, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers, ID: 30578




Ypres, Belgium




Ruins of the Cloth Hall and St. Martin’s Cathedral, Ypres, Belgium, 1918 (22b013b17b46ffa18cd005aab7c91822)


Ruins of the Cloth Hall and St. Martin's Cathedral, Ypres, Belgium, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers, ID: 30576



The Belgian city of Ypres (pronounced "eeper" and called "wipers" by British troops) was the scene of intense fighting throughout most of World War I and the city was extensively damaged as a result. The Third Battle of Ypres (July-November 1917) serves as an example of the appalling casualty rates suffered on the Western Front. In their push to capture the town of Passchendaele, roughly 140,000 British soldiers were killed to gain approximately 5 miles. That translates into one soldier killed for approximately every 2.25 inches of ground gained. During the Battle of Lys in April 1918, the Germans recaptured all of the ground that they had lost during the Third Battle of Ypres.


"Dead End," Yser Canal, Ypres, Belgium


"Dead End", Ypres, Belgium, 1918 (662ae45e47a86c9e7c5ca6af6269753f)

"Dead End," Ypres, Belgium, 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers, ID: 30575


"Dead End" Ypres

Officers Billets, Mess

and N.C.O.'s billets.

All comforts of home.

Roulette, Tea

and boating in the

afternoon.


With morbid humor, British troops nicknamed the terminus of the Yser Canal in Ypres "Dead End" because it continuously came under German artillery fire. The name was clearly also adopted by American troops.



Captain Henry H. George and "Fritz"



Captain Henry H. George and "Fritz", ca. 1918 (1b059d6fcde85d2d86fec068c2e4d780)


Captain Henry H. George and "Fritz," about 1918, Frierson-Warfield Papers, ID: 30579


Capt. George of

"C" Co. and "Fritz"
Fritz was captured

from the Germans

at Busigny [France]. Besides

his three service

stripes he has a

wound stripe for

a gassing.


Thousands of dogs served in World War I. Italy trained about 3,500 war dogs, France and England had about 20,000, and Germany had 30,000. Many World War I dogs served as "mercy dogs," and their task was to find and comfort the wounded. They were trained to find men under cover of darkness and bring them supplies or take them back to safety. Other dogs served as messenger dogs during battle.

Verdun and the Somme



The Battle of Verdun (February-December 1916) was the longest battle of World War I. While Verdun had relatively little strategic importance, it had a long history and was a symbol of French national pride. Knowing the French would ferociously defend Verdun, German General Falkenhayn’s objective in attacking it was not achieving an immediate breakthrough, but, in his own words, "bleeding the French Army white." Over ten months of fighting at Verdun, the Germans inflicted only marginally more casualties on the French Army (377,000) than they themselves suffered (337,000). With the French and Germans firing ca. 37 million shells at each other during the Battle of Verdun and the resulting explosions obliterating soldiers or burying them under mountains of earth, the remains of the ca. 100,000 missing French and German combatants are still being found to this day.

Before the Battle of Verdun began, the British had been planning a summer offensive along the Somme River. They decided to carry out the planned offensive, in part, to help relieve the pressure on the French Army at Verdun. The Battle of the Somme resulted in the single bloodiest day in British Army history. On July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the British suffered ca. 60,000 casualties, of which nearly 20,000 were killed (for comparison, 60,000 is roughly the population for the city of Franklin, Tennessee in 2010). After five months of fighting, the British had suffered nearly 420,000 casualties and the French just over 200,000 casualties in their quest to capture about 6 miles of territory from the Germans, who suffered approximately 465,000 casualties.


Luke Lea

Colonel Luke Lea, 114th Field Artillery, ca. 1918 (b4e09721287b9f2b965bc7b99ed2674c)

Colonel Luke Lea, 114th Field Artillery, about 1918, Luke Lea Papers, ID: 43529


Luke Lea was born in 1878, in Nashville, Tennessee. After his graduation from the University of the South and Columbia University, Lea began to practice law in Nashville in 1903. He was a successful lawyer, but he soon turned his attention to other enterprises. On May 10, 1907, Lea organized the Nashville Tennessean, which was to become one of the most influential newspapers in Tennessee.

Politically, Lea became prominent in 1908 as a result of a split in the state Democratic Party. At the 1908 State Democratic Convention, the Lea faction was able to gain control and secure the gubernatorial nomination for Malcolm R. Patterson, an ally of Lea. From that point until the election of Henry H. Horton in 1931, only one governor was elected without the support of the very powerful Luke Lea. Because of his great influence, Lea became known as the "maker of governors."

Lea was to reach the peak of his career in 1911, when he was overwhelmingly elected to the United States Senate, entering that body as the youngest man ever to hold a seat. However, during his first years in the Senate, the federal Constitution was amended to allow the election of United States Senators directly by the people. Lea was defeated the Senate race in 1916 by then-Congressman Kenneth D. McKellar, who held the senatorship for many decades afterwards. The Memphis-based "Boss" Crump machine was just beginning to feel its power and played a part in the first McKellar nomination. Thereafter, Lea was to wage almost continual warfare with the Crump machine.






Captain Gordon Browning, Colonel Luke Lea, and other officers of the 114th Field Artillery Regiment (891a69ba0950da0f0123029a6bcc6ec3)

Captain Gordon Browning (standing third from left), Colonel Luke Lea (seated in middle), Maj. Horace Frierson (seated second from left), and other officers of the 114th Field Artillery Regiment, 1919, Luke Lea Papers, 1826-1993, ID: 43527

Shortly after Lea's defeat in his bid for reelection, the United States entered World War I. Lea organized a volunteer regiment, later to become the 114th Field Artillery, and was commissioned a lieutenant-colonel and later a colonel in command of the regiment. This Tennessee volunteer outfit served ten months in France, and it fought in the Meuse-Argonne and St. Mihiel drives that helped break the Hindenburg line. For his role in the war, Lea was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Lea was also one of the founders of the American Legion in 1919. Gordon Browning, later Governor of Tennessee, served as a captain in 114th Field Artillery and was in command of Battery A.

Lea plunged into the publishing and political fields after the war, bringing into both activities a number of men who had served with him in France. He championed the cause of Austin Peay and helped him win three terms as governor against the opposition of the Crump machine. With the financial crash of 1929, however, Lea was to lose both political control and the business empire he had built. Within two years, Luke Lea and his son, Luke Lea Jr., were indicted along with several others in North Carolina in the failure of the Central Bank and Trust Company of Ashville, North Carolina.

The Leas were found guilty of violation of the banking laws of North Carolina and entered the North Carolina State Prison on May 10, 1934 to serve their terms. Lea was to serve 6-10 years, and his son was sentenced to serve 2-6 years or pay a $25,000 fine. Luke Lea Jr. was freed after several months imprisonment because of a serious condition requiring an operation. Lea the elder sought a pardon in 1935, but it was denied by the North Carolina governor, J.C.B. Ehrichaus. However, after serving less than two years, he was paroled April 1, 1936, and was later given a full pardon.

After his return, Lea lived in semi-retirement. He would never again achieve the success that he had known before the 1930s. Several attempts to repurchase the Tennessean failed, and other publishing ventures never realized their potential. Suffering from poor health in his later years, Lea died in a Nashville hospital on November 17, 1945.




Colonel Luke Lea, 114th Field Artillery, ca. 1918 2 (4317a43743359d00625f2eca597170e0)

Colonel Luke Lea, 114th Field Artillery, about 1918, Luke Lea Papers, ID: 45831