James Carl Nelson tells the dramatic true story of five brilliant young soldiers from Harvard, a thrilling tale of combat and heroism
Five Lieutenants tells the story of five young Harvard men who took up the call to arms in the spring of 1917 and met differing fates in the maelstrom of battle on the Western Front in 1918. Delving deep into the motivations, horrific experiences, and ultimate fates of this Harvard-educated quintet—and by extension of the brilliant young officer class that left its collegiate and post-collegiate pursuits to enlist in the Army and lead America's rough-and-ready doughboys—Five Lieutenants presents a unique, timeless, and fascinating account of citizen soldiers at war, and of the price these extraordinary men paid while earnestly giving all they had in an effort to end "the war to end all wars."
Drawing upon the subjects' intimate, eloquent, and uncensored letters and memoirs, this is a fascinating microcosm of the American experience in the First World War, and of the horrific experiences and hardships of the educated class of young men who were relied upon to lead doughboys in the trenches and, ultimately, in open battle.
George C. Marshall, writing of the young officers who arrived in France in 1917, said he had "never seen more splendid looking men," and after the war lamented that he could not recall a single one surviving. Here, WWI historian and journalist Nelson (The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War) relates the heroic story of five former Harvard students who became combat leaders, inspiring the infantry "doughboys" of WWI. These five officers represented the spectrum of Harvard's Progressive Era student body: George Haydock, the quiet and hard-working recent graduate from a Quaker family; William Morgan, a romantic and idealistic undergraduate; Richard Newhall, a historian "repelled by all things military"; George Alexander McKinlock, the wealthy football hero; and George Redwood, a Baltimore journalist fascinated by war. Based primarily on the letters of the lieutenants, Nelson describes the men's maturation as leaders and their combat training in France. The book culminates with the battle of Cantigny in May 1918, where three of the friends became casualties. Writing with great knowledge of and sensitivity for his subject, Nelson ensures that the experiences, thoughts and aspirations of the young Harvard men of 1918 are not lost to future generations. B&w photo insert.
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Endearing account of idealistic young Americans preparing for and participating in the early battles of 1918. Often hard to follow due to the audience of characters, the book nevertheless holds up well with amusing and enlightening primary source materials. Overall very well done with strong ties to modern day American war experience. Certainly worth reading if you enjoy US History.