Book Review: Pershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I


by Richard Faulkner

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017. Pp. xiv, 760. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700623736

The Doughboys and Their War

Inspired by the pioneering work of Bell Irvin Wiley on the military service and experience of Civil War soldiers, Prof. Faulkner (Command and General Staff College, Leavenworth), has produced an excellent account of the life and service of the soldiers and marines of the American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War. This is an impressive work, covering all aspects of the American military experience, both at home and at the Front.

Faulkner breaks the story of the Doughboys at war into two dozen chapters, each of which deals with a distinctive aspect of their experiences. So after an overview introductory chapter, we get chapters on how men came to enter the service, whether as volunteers or as draftees, their introduction to military life and training, rations, clothing and equipment, life in the training camps, shipping out, cultural encounters with the French and British people, their weapons and tactics, ethnicity, religious life, officer recruitment and training, relations with French and British troops at the Front, preparation for trench warfare, cultural encounters with the enemy, service in the rear, several chapters on the troops and the various arms of the service in combat, “Sex, Sin, and Temptation,” death and injury, and more, through the end of the war, with occupation duty in Germany, return to the States, and final discharge.

Unlike most earlier treatments of the AEF, which were usually laudatory, such as Laurence Stallings’ The Doughboys (1964), Faulkner is often critical, particularly about the American reluctance – notably expressed by Pershing and his staff – to believe the French and British knew something about war. This resulted in poor training and poor tactics, which coast cost lives. Faulkner is also more open about the often abysmal treatment accorded African-American troops.

Certainly the most comprehensive look at US troops in World War I, Pershing’s Crusaders, a volume in the excellent UPK “Modern War Studies” series, is an indispensable work for anyone interested in the conflict or the history of American mobilization.

Note: Pershing’s Crusaders is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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