Sons of Freedom

The Forgotten American Soldiers Who Defeated Germany in World War I


By Geoffrey Wawro

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The “stirring,” definitive history of America’s decisive role in winning World War I (Wall Street Journal).

The American contribution to World War I is one of the great stories of the twentieth century, and yet it has all but vanished from view. Historians have dismissed the American war effort as largely economic and symbolic. But as Geoffrey Wawro shows in Sons of Freedom, the French and British were on the verge of collapse in 1918, and would have lost the war without the Doughboys. Field Marshal Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, described the Allied victory as a “miracle” — but it was a distinctly American miracle.

In Sons of Freedom, prize-winning historian Geoffrey Wawro weaves together in thrilling detail the battles, strategic deliberations, and dreadful human cost of the American war effort. A major revision of the history of World War I, Sons of Freedom resurrects the brave heroes who saved the Allies, defeated Germany, and established the United States as the greatest of the great powers.



Kingdon Gould arriving with recruits at Camp Dix, NJ

Hindenburg, the kaiser, and Ludendorff, January 1917


Drafted men on the way to Camp Upton, NY

Forced patriotism in Massachusetts

Newton Baker at his desk

German U-boat on patrol

Doughboys training in a quiet sector

Douglas MacArthur and 42nd Division officers with French advisers during training, May 1918

Moaning minis: 25cm Minenwerfer ammo

African American soldiers at work

Doughs marching to the front past German POWs, June 1918

Doughs helping evacuate French refugees

Doughs in columns advance through a ruined village

Dead Germans in the Marne salient at Fère

General Clarence Edwards

Y-Men at an advance base serving the US 3rd Division at Condé-en-Brie, June 1918

Doughs shooting from behind cover, August 1918

Traffic jam in the Saint-Mihiel salient

Happy Doughboys drinking beer at Saint-Mihiel

German officers taken prisoner at Saint-Mihiel

President Poincaré visiting his ruined birthplace

Souvenir hunters

US tanks in the Argonne

New Yorkers in the Argonne Forest

Men of the US 79th Division with two captured German MGs and their crews

German-fortified ridge in the Meuse-Argonne

Doughboys in the Saint-Quentin tunnel complex

American 75mm field gun in action near Exermont

US 28th Division leaving the line

Section of the Kriemhilde Line at Bantheville

A teenaged German POW

“Wild Bill” Donovan

Wounded US officer receiving first aid

A straggler and a deserter


Western Front: The “Vital Pivot”

The “War Winning” Allied Plan for 1917

German Offensive Options in 1918

Operation Michael

Operation Georgette

Operation Blücher

Belleau Wood and Château-Thierry

The Second Battle of the Marne

The Hundred Days Offensive

The Battle of Saint-Mihiel

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive

Meuse-Argonne: Montfaucon-Exermont

Meuse-Argonne: Romagne

Meuse-Argonne: Barricourt to Sedan


THE SHEER VARIETY OF AMERICANS WHO WENT TO WAR IN France in 1917–1918 to defeat the Germans and “make the world safe for democracy” was striking. A short list includes professional athletes at the peak of their careers. Eddie Rickenbacker was a race car driver selected—in a rare case of the army fitting a man to his calling—to be General Pershing’s chauffeur. Finding that too dull, he transferred to planes and became the greatest American ace of the war, with twenty-six kills. Famous baseball players went, like Christy “Matty” Mathewson of the New York Giants, statistically still one of the top three pitchers to ever play the game. Branch Rickey, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, went, commanding the chemical warfare unit that killed Mathewson (accidentally) and employed other baseball stars, including Ty Cobb, who still holds the record for highest career batting average (.367), and “Gorgeous George” Sisler, whose record of most hits in a single season (257) endured until finally broken by Ichiro in 2004.

Phillies pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander—still in possession of the record for most wins by a rookie starting pitcher (twenty-five)—served in France in the field artillery and was gassed, shell-shocked, and rendered an alcoholic for the rest of his shortened life. George Halas served in the US Navy during the war, returning home to found the Chicago Bears and coach them for forty seasons. Seventeen-year-old Tommy Hitchcock Jr., one of the best polo players in America (and the model for Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby), dropped out of St. Paul’s School to fly planes in the war. Gene Tunney, who twice beat Jack Dempsey and was world heavyweight champion after the war, was a Marine during it and, hardly surprisingly, the US military’s best boxer.

Politicians and the sons of politicians fought. Being a “senator’s son” in 1918 may have made your appearance in the trenches more, not less, likely. All four of former president Theodore Roosevelt’s sons went. Ted Jr., Archie, and Kermit served in the 1st Division; Ted Jr. and Archie were both severely wounded. Quentin, the baby of the family, joined the Air Service and was shot down and killed in the Marne salient at the age of twenty, a loss that hastened the death of his father. Hamilton Fish III, a Harvard All-American football star who would go on to a twenty-five-year career in Congress, chose to serve in the segregated African American 369th Regiment (the Harlem Hellfighters) to make the point that black soldiers were as good as white ones. Henry L. Stimson, who would serve in the cabinets of Hoover, FDR, and Truman and who had already been President Taft’s secretary of war, enlisted “for the duration” at age fifty and served in the field artillery in France.

Herbert Hoover, a forty-year-old Quaker when the war erupted in Europe, ran the US Food Administration during the conflict. To “Hooverize” meant to save food for the hungry Allies in Europe. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, assistant secretary of the navy during the war, insisted on going to France to inspect the 4th Marine Brigade, contracted the flu and pneumonia, and nearly died. Two of FDR’s future Republican opponents—Alf Landon and Wendell Willkie—served in the army during the war, as did Leverett Saltonstall, the future governor and senator from Massachusetts. The thirtieth vice president of the United States, Charles Dawes, went, rising from major to brigadier general in the supply service. Hugo Black served in the 7th Division’s field artillery before returning to a career in the Senate and a seat on the US Supreme Court. Thirty-four-year-old Captain Harry S. Truman, commanding a battery of field artillery in the Missouri National Guard, fought bravely in the Meuse-Argonne.

Everett Dirksen, the Illinois senator known for the saying “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money,” flew observation balloons over the Western Front. “Wild Bill” Donovan was wounded three times in the war, then went on to found the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—forerunner of the CIA—during World War II. New Yorker Fiorello La Guardia left a safe seat in Congress to become a major in the US Army Air Service in France and Italy. Frank Knox, who’d be Alf Landon’s running mate in 1936 and secretary of the navy under FDR, fought in France with the field artillery. Teddy Roosevelt’s secretary of state, Robert Bacon, served as chief of the American military mission at British headquarters on the Western Front. New York City’s thirty-eight-year-old progressive Republican “Boy Mayor,” John Purroy Mitchel, lost his reelection bid to the Tammany machine in 1917, joined the Air Service, went up on a training flight, fell from the cockpit, and plummeted five hundred feet to his death in a Louisiana swamp. Sam Ervin, who chaired the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, fought in the 1st Division—the storied “Big Red One”—and, like Ted Roosevelt Jr. and thousands of other Americans, was wounded at Soissons in July 1918.

Among the career soldiers, Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley didn’t make it to France. But most of the greats of World War II did, including George C. Marshall, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, and Mark Clark. James Van Fleet, who would lead the assault on Utah Beach in 1944 and command UN forces in Korea, was a captain commanding a machine-gun battalion in the 6th Division during the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne. Terry de la Mesa Allen and Clarence Huebner, who would overlap as 1st Division commanders in World War II, overlapped on the crowded roads of the Saint-Mihiel salient in 1918. Allen was shot in the face there; Huebner was the most rapidly promoted second lieutenant in 1918, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in a few months for conspicuous bravery and effective leadership. Courtney Hodges, whose First Army would bear the brunt of the German attacks at the Battle of the Bulge, commanded an infantry battalion in the 5th Division in 1918.

US airpower in the war suffered from infighting between its chief proponents, Billy Mitchell and Benjamin Foulois; they both served in France, usually at each other’s throat. A young lieutenant named Jimmy Doolittle served on their tumultuous staff. Captain Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, who would command US Strategic Air Forces in Europe in World War II, ran the army’s flying school in World War I. Lieutenant Lemuel Shepherd, who would command the 6th Marine Division at Okinawa, was wounded three times in World War I, twice in Belleau Wood and once in the Meuse-Argonne; John Lejeune, “the Marine’s Marine,” was his commanding officer. Troy Middleton, who would famously hold Bastogne against the Germans in 1945, fought with such distinction with the 4th Division at Château-Thierry and the Meuse-Argonne that he became the youngest colonel in the American Expeditionary Forces at the age of twenty-nine. Major Leslie McNair, who would be killed by friendly fire in July 1944 after organizing a US Army of ninety divisions, proved so indispensable in 1918 that he became the army’s youngest general at the age of thirty-five.

Both Walter Short and Husband Kimmel, the general and admiral who would be overwhelmed by the Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941, participated in World War I, Short commanding the US Army’s machine-gun school at Chaumont and Kimmel serving aboard the USS New York with the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. Jonathan Wainwright, who would surrender the Philippines to the Japanese in 1941, was a staff officer with the 82nd Division in 1918, helping to locate the Lost Battalion in the Argonne Forest. Walter Bedell Smith, who would be Eisenhower’s chief of staff in World War II, was wounded leading a platoon of the 4th Division during the Second Battle of the Marne. Future admirals (like Kimmel) also cut their teeth in the war. William “Bull” Halsey commanded a destroyer in Ireland, escorting convoys and hunting German U-boats in the Atlantic. Marc Mitscher began work on naval aviation. Lieutenant Commander Harold “Betty” Stark led a flotilla of destroyers twelve thousand miles from Manila to Gibraltar to assist in the blockade of the Central Powers and the submarine war.

Famous professors fought, like the diplomatic historian William L. Langer, who asked to be an interpreter and was assigned to chemical warfare instead. Harvey Cushing Jr., the greatest neurosurgeon of the twentieth century, served in the Medical Corps. The astronomer Edwin Hubble crossed the Atlantic as an infantry officer with a division that never saw combat. In his spare time, he was rumored to have lent his doctoral expertise in curved space and time to help direct long-range artillery fire.

Musician James Reese Europe, the leading composer in the African American music scene in New York, fought and led the band in the Harlem Hellfighters. Writers like Ernest Hemingway, e. e. cummings, Robert Hillyer, and John Dos Passos served as ambulance drivers. Twenty-one-year-old William Faulkner—ever the Anglophile—left a dissolving love affair in Mississippi for Canada and joined the Royal Air Force. He joined too late and was still in flight school in Toronto when the war ended. Poet Joyce Kilmer was shot between the eyes by a German sniper near Château-Thierry. Archibald MacLeish, the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, drove an ambulance and then joined the field artillery. The novelist John Marquand served, as did the great sportswriter Grantland Rice, who popularized athletes like Bill Tilden, Babe Ruth, Knute Rockne, and Red Grange. Rice coined memorable phrases like the one describing Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen—“They were known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death; these are only aliases”—and served in the 37th Division’s field artillery.

Some famous newsmen covered the war and others chose to fight, like Captain Walter Lippmann, who served as an intelligence officer in Pershing’s headquarters and drafted Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Robert McCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, served as a colonel in the 1st Division’s field artillery. Frederick Palmer, America’s most famous war correspondent, who had covered wars in South Africa, the Philippines, and the Balkans, served as Pershing’s press officer during the war. Harold Ross and Alexander Wolcott wrote for Stars and Stripes and then went home to found the New Yorker.

Movie directors like William Wellman fought, as did artists like Horace Pippin, the greatest African American folk painter. Edward Steichen, the highest-paid photographer in the world, who made portraits of Rodin and J. P. Morgan, supervised the Air Service’s Photographic Section, which carried cameras aloft to photograph German trenches before an assault. Humphrey Bogart served in the US Navy, returning demobilized Americans from France to the United States. Walt Disney arrived in Paris late in the war and drove an ambulance at the front for the Red Cross. Rin Tin Tin was a puppy saved by Corporal Lee Duncan from German trenches near Saint-Mihiel. Buster Keaton went across with the California National Guard and later made a film called The Doughboy, a tribute to the US troops in the war, who called themselves “Doughboys” or “Doughs.” The nickname had circulated since the Mexican-American War seventy years earlier, possibly a corruption of Mexico’s ubiquitous adobe, whose dust clung to the “Doughboys,” or a reference to the sweaty, dusty appearance of the US infantry—like deep-fried doughboys rolled in sugar. Whatever its provenance, “Doughboy” caught on, and it would be the nickname of the American combat infantryman until World War II, when “GI” became the preferred moniker.

Wealthy executives and entrepreneurs went, men like Robert Lowell Moore, who would found the Sheraton hotel chain after the war, and Howard Johnson, who would go on to franchise the HoJo chain, with its twenty-eight flavors of ice cream. Stephen Bechtel, heir to the San Francisco construction business, served in an engineering battalion. Conrad Hilton, who would expand his father’s hotel chain after the war, commanded a labor battalion of the 79th Division. Kingdon Gould, grandson of the billionaire robber baron Jay Gould, served as an interpreter in the 79th Division and saw combat in the Argonne. Jay Hormel served in the 88th Division until his meatpacking expertise earned him a transfer to the supply service, where he saved space on supply ships by boning and freezing meat in the States before shipping it to Europe. Frederick Weyerhaeuser, who would run the family lumber company, flew bombing missions with Major Fiorello La Guardia on the Italian front.

Most of these men survived. Whereas 90 percent of Civil War soldiers served in combat, only 40 percent of the Doughs did. Most Americans served in relatively safe jobs behind the lines, as what the combat troops called “fountain-pen soldiers.” The 117,000 Americans killed in the war were not so fortunate. They were slain in their youth and rendered silent by a history that hasn’t given them their due. Why, exactly? Well, the war ended abruptly, a year sooner than expected, because of the German Empire’s internal collapse. Faced with mounting rebellion against the long war and its misery, the German fleet mutinied on October 30, 1918, and the German people, appearing in the streets, forced Kaiser Wilhelm II’s abdication and the appointment of a socialist government on November 9. The German army, still three million strong and defending positions in France and Belgium behind the Meuse River, decided to ask for an armistice, not because it had been beaten by the British and French—who seemed incapable of beating the Germans in 1918, or arguably ever—but because it was beaten by the Americans, who broke through the eastern bastions of the Hindenburg Line, advanced on both banks of the Meuse, and surrounded the German army in France. Field Marshal Hindenburg, Hitler, and the next generation of German soldiers were quite correct when they said that the German army in 1918 had been “stabbed in the back.” It had been—not by the communists, Jews, and other “November criminals” indicated by Hitler, but rather by a US Army that stabbed the Germans in the gut on one bank of the Meuse while stabbing them in the back on the other.1

Being a “senator’s son” or any other young man of privilege made your appearance in the trenches more, not less, likely in 1918. Healthy American men felt shame for not serving in France. Here, robber baron Jay Gould’s grandson Kingdon Gould—shown in slouch hat, carrying a bag—arrives with a cohort of recruits at Camp Dix, New Jersey. At the time, young Gould sat on the boards of Western Union and three Gould railroads and was a champion polo player. He’d be cited for bravery twice in the Meuse-Argonne. (National Archives)

The war had nearly ended in German victory in the spring of 1918, when the Germans had shattered both the British and French armies. American troops, entering battle in large numbers for the first time at Belleau Wood and Château-Thierry, stopped the German advance on Paris and commenced the long counterattack that pushed the Germans back to the Meuse. The British, commanded by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, spent much of their dwindling manpower breaching the Hindenburg Line in the late summer of 1918. The French, who had generally renounced the offensive after their army mutinies of 1917, followed the British advance cautiously, in many cases “conquering” ground that the Germans were abandoning to shorten their lines.

The Germans retreated in 1918 for many reasons. They’d exhausted their assault divisions in five offensives in the spring and summer of 1918; they needed to shorten their defensive perimeter; they needed to buy time to train school-aged recruits in Germany. But the principal reason they retreated was because of American pressure on their “vital pivot,” the narrow zone between French-held Verdun and German-held Sedan. There the German army’s main Western Front supply line had to be squeezed into a dangerously thin space just north of the Meuse-Argonne battlefield. This vital pivot was well known. The great bulge of German-occupied France and Belgium narrowed temptingly above Verdun, and the French, who’d lost the ground in 1914, had launched annual attacks to recover it until 1916, when they gave up attacking because the German defenses in the Meuse-Argonne—the eastern stretch of the Hindenburg Line—were too strong and the French casualties too high. Had the Americans not entered the war and deployed two million troops to France, the Allies would almost certainly have lost. They’d have lacked the will and manpower to drive the Germans back to the Rhine. Germany would have ended the war in possession of Alsace-Lorraine and much of northern France and Belgium. The global balance of power would have tipped heavily in Berlin’s favor.

The war’s abrupt and surprising end in November 1918 made it possible for the flagging French and British to claim that, after all, they’d won it, and that the American contribution had been marginal. Field Marshal Haig called the war’s successful conclusion in 1918 “a miracle,” as if the hand of Providence had rescued the Allies. But it was the hand of America. Naturally, the proud, scarred Allied governments and militaries couldn’t admit that. America’s war dead, after all, were less than a fifteenth of Russia’s, a tenth of France’s, an eighth of Britain’s, a quarter of Italy’s, and less even than Serbia’s. Total American casualties were just 1/55th of the total Allied loss.

Crediting the Americans with victory would have diminished the achievements of the Allied militaries as well as the doleful culture of remembrance that evolved after the war to honor the massive casualties: forty-one million killed and wounded. It would also have given the United States—already making trouble with its empire-threatening Fourteen Points—too much leverage at the peace conference after the war, for if the Americans had been acknowledged to have won the war, they’d have had to be conceded the right to shape the peace. And so the great charade began—conjuring an Allied victory won by the Allies, not by America. Unfortunately for America, the charade was facilitated by its nebulous president, Woodrow Wilson, who tried to “change the world” at Versailles by substituting a League of Nations and a world army and navy for the instruments of national power that had actually secured the Allied victory.

Wilson wasn’t the man to emphasize America’s role in winning the war, because he was in such a hurry to outlaw war. He was not the man to cement America’s global mastery with new alliances and security arrangements, because he hated those vestiges of the “old diplomacy.” The “new diplomacy” of the League and one-world internationalism was everything to him. Handed this respite by an American president who was fuzzy on strategy to begin with and became fuzzier after a stroke in 1919, the Europeans shaped the postwar order with a revenge program of war guilt, reparations, annexations, and imperial expansion—the very things an increasingly distraught Wilson had vowed to prevent. The US Senate, far more practical than Wilson, tried to anchor the peace in something tangible—rejecting Wilson’s expansive vision of the League—but stalemated on the issue with an intractable White House.

Without presidential leadership, the United States drifted into the Roaring Twenties, forgetting its losses and lessons in the European war. Edward Streeter, who had composed the popular Dere Mable letters during the conflict—the Willie and Joe verse of the First World War—noted the speed of forgetting. It began the moment the troops returned from France in 1919: “And as the hobnailed feet clattered down the gangplanks, the cry arose ‘The war is over. The next duty of every patriot is to forget it.’” Streeter, who’d grown to love the Doughboys as a journalist, resented the speed of forgetting the war and its significance: “The great days of mud and filth and fatigue and laughter and death” were replaced by musings on “the Younger Set, Prohibition, raisin recipes, trans-Atlantic flights, the high cost of remaining alive, Russian vaudeville, hold-ups and the quaint spectacle of extravagant gaiety spending its idle hours enthusiastically censoring itself.”2

American isolationism was the inevitable response to this forgetfulness. Isolation battened also on renewed acrimony in Europe that struck Americans as little different from the acrimony that had ignited World War I. Faced with an incorrigible Europe, Americans looked inward. The Wall Street crash, the Depression, the Nazis, and the Second World War came on in a rush, effectively erasing memories of World War I by shifting attention to World War II and its aftermath.

Then came the historians. The history of 1918, of the “Hundred Days” that carried the Allies to victory in the summer and fall, has been largely interpreted as a British and French victory. From the classics to the newer accounts, the Doughboys are acknowledged but generally assigned marginal importance. It was the British, French, and Italians who won the war (and the two million Russians who had died on the Eastern Front). The Americans merely provided financial and economic aid and a “morale boost” on the battlefield. Other historians have argued that the Germans were defeated by their own bloody offensives in 1918, which left them with little to stem the Allied counteroffensive. And yet such a view neglects the fact that the Germans wouldn’t have launched those offensives if the Americans hadn’t intervened in the war. They’d have dug in even deeper in occupied France and Belgium—where they extracted most of the fuel they consumed in the war—and dared the demoralized, half-defeated French and British armies to attack their trenches and forts and drive them out. It never would have happened, as readers of this book will discover from eavesdropping on real conversations in the headquarters of the British and French commanders and in the war cabinets in Paris and London.

Even after the monstrous casualties the Germans suffered in their 1918 offensives, they would, in all likelihood, have stemmed the Allied counteroffensive if the Americans hadn’t outflanked the Germans at Sedan and severed their line of retreat. American histories have tended to focus on the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)—as the army sent to France was known—and its campaign in the Meuse-Argonne. British and French histories have tended to focus on their national armies. What’s been lost is the critical synergy that existed between the surging US Army and the crumbling British and French armies. It was generally acknowledged in 1918 that Haig was battling toward the Meuse with “Britain’s last army.” London either lacked or would not give—the War Cabinet always obfuscated the question—the manpower to replace Haig’s casualties. The French, with the highest per capita casualties among the great powers and a modest population, had already scraped the bottom of their demographic barrel. The French soldier, or poilu, had become defeatist and demoralized by 1918.

Simply put, it was American power delivered to the battlefields in France that made it possible for Haig to risk “Britain’s last army”—much of which was killed and wounded in the Hundred Days—and for Pétain to take the offensive with an army that was frankly gun-shy. The synergy of the British and French offensives allied to the American offensive in the Meuse-Argonne ended the war, but not until the Americans surrounded the Germans at Sedan and delivered what British war correspondent Charles Repington called “the matador’s thrust.” Without that thrust, the German army would have stopped the British and French at the Meuse, or even south and west of it. This interpretation may surprise some historians as much as it surprised me. I began my research with standard accounts of 1918 in mind and only changed my thinking as I worked successively through American, British, French, German, and Austrian archives and began to appreciate what a muddy understanding we have of how World War I actually ended.

Sons of Freedom


  • "A stirring story and a careful work of military history."—Wall Street Journal
  • "Well-researched and engaging...Wawro offers intriguing reexaminations of a devastating conflict...Sons of Freedom shows how the U.S. moved itself from isolationism to world power with startling speed, mostly on the shoulders of its muddy and bloodied Doughboys."—Dallas Morning News
  • "As the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I approaches, a loud 'huzzah' is due Geoffrey Wawro -- one of the few historians bold enough to declare that American intervention was decisive in the conflict."—Washington Times
  • "[A] masterpiece of military history...Sons of Freedom will change the way you look at how the World War was won."—Washington Book Review
  • "Masterful...Based on extensive archival and secondary research, [Sons of Freedom] belongs on bookshelves everywhere."—Choice
  • "Wawro's ability to do research in the French and German languages, as well as English, makes him somewhat unique among American scholars who have written about the U.S. in World War I...[Wawro] reminds us of the important role played by Americans."—ARMY Magazine
  • "Geoffrey Wawro has written distinguished works of military history before, but this might be his most compelling. His tale of the Doughboys is gripping, his argument about their accomplishment is persuasive, and his enthusiasm for the era and the subject is irresistible."—H.W. Brands, author of The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War
  • "In this bold and bracing new history, Geoffrey Wawro argues that the American intervention in WWI was decisive, and that the Allies would not have won the war without it. What is more, the critical American contribution was not, as we are usually told, financial; nor even material or technological, as was the case in World War II. Rather, it was about raw infantry manpower. Surprising the Germans, American doughboys stormed heavily fortified German positions with little more than rifles, grenades, trench mortars, and bayonets, fueled by kill-or-be-killed grit and courage under fire. With Sons of Freedom, Wawro has rewritten the history of the Allied victory in 1918, bringing the last months of the war to gory, gas-choked and blood-soaked life, along with the forgotten Americans--of all races--who fought, bled, suffered and died to win it."—Sean McMeekin, author of July 1914: Countdown to War
  • "Geoffrey Wawro adds to his luster as one of America's leading military historians with the meticulously researched Sons of Freedom. He upends the conventional understanding of how World War I ended, showing that the military prowess of the American Expeditionary Forces was of critical importance in the defeat of Wilhelmine Germany even if the U.S. suffered far less than the other combatants. The Doughboys finally get their long overdue credit in this important work of revisionist history. Anyone who wants to understand what really happened in World War I must read this book."—Max Boot, author of The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam
  • "Sons of Freedom provides a wonderful description--warts and all--of the army that the United States sent to fight in France in 1918. Wawro's depiction of the battles is truly horrifying, and his analysis of the strategy and politics on both sides wonderfully clear. It is the best book yet about the Doughboys, and one of the most important I have read about the First World War."—Sir Michael Howard, Regius Professor of Modern History (emeritus), University of Oxford
  • "A definitive account of American intervention in the Great War...Wawro chronicles numerous military campaigns in detail...and does a particularly good job describing the brutality of the battles and the lasting effects on the survivors. Readers will sympathize with the soldiers and gain a better understanding of the sacrifices that millions of Americans made."—Booklist
  • "An appropriate tribute to the Americans of the First War."—New York Journal of Books
  • "The typical take on American participation in the First World firmly that of a supporting role...Geoffrey Wawro's explosive new book Sons of Freedom sets out in the course of 500 pages to interrogate every last detail of this standard view, and virtually nothing of it survives intact...Utterly convincing."—Open Letters Review
  • "Powerful...A refreshingly solid correction for the record."—Roads to the Great War

On Sale
Sep 25, 2018
Page Count
640 pages
Basic Books

Geoffrey Wawro

About the Author

Geoffrey Wawro is professor of history and director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas and the author of six books, including A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire. Wawro lives in Dallas, Texas.

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