The Pacific Northwest Forum
Second Series Volume I, Number 1, Pages 2-3
Winter, 1988

Introduction to Special Issue: Pacific Northwesterners The Great War

It was called "The Great War," and until and even greater war erupted two decades later, it held the grim honor of being the bloodiest conflict in history.

For three years America stayed out of it. The country was preoccupied with a smaller contest along the Mexican border, the last of the frontier wars. Before General "Black Jack" Pershing led an army of two million men to France, he led several thousand soldiers into Mexico, chasing Pancho Villa.

Impatient to join in the Great War, many Americans fought as volunteers in the French Foreign Legion, the Lafayette Escadrille, and other organizations.

But other Americans wanted nothing to do with the European "madness." A popular song declared, "I Didn't Raise my Boy to be a Soldier."

Then in 1917 the Germans embarked on unlimited submarine warfare, sinking scores of American ships. A few months later the United States declared war.

The farms, villages, and cities of the Northwest sent thousands of men - and many women as well to serve in Europe. Some of them left letters and diaries, and a few are still alive today. This issue of the Pacific Northwest Forum tells their stories.

Their histories came to our attention in such unusual ways that we have sometimes felt that the muse Clio, who is said to watch over historians, must have played a role in this issue, bringing to our attention long forgotten tales of the war.

A research assistant, Ted Kisebach, visited the veterans hospital in Spokane and met the (3) Armfield brothers, whose story he tells in "Two Spokane Veterans and a Diary."

In Oregon William E. Duvall heard about the special issue and sent us a letter by "A Red Cross Nurse from Oregon."

We placed newspaper ads asking for help, and Phyllis Phiney called to tell us about her three uncles, the Burch brothers. Matt Jaroneski distilled their letters into the article, "Dearest Mother."

And a friend, Chris Rubicam, knowing of our interest in the Great War, gave us copies of his father's letters. We have published them verbatim, taking our title from the author's declaration that the doughboy's experience, was "like a deep personal trouble."

During the past few years I have been working on a book about Americans in the era of the Great War. I have read many of the standard autobiographical documents, and each one is interesting. But none captures better than these accounts from the Northwest the glory, adventure, brutality, and pathos of the Great War.

J. William T. Youngs