April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I, which turned the tide for the Allies against the Germans.
Some criticize the U.S. war effort as ill-prepared and poorly planned, but I've always seen it as noble. Few things make me more emotional than hearing George M. Cohan's song "Overthere," or the American message to our French allies, "Lafayette, We Are Here."
When I visit New York City. I always feel an rush of pride when I walk to the Upper East Side's York Avenue, named for American World War I hero Alvin York, not the British York the city honors.
I have a special reverence for World War I because of the horrible sacrifices the soldiers made, and that it was such an intensely literary war. The poets like Wilfred Owen and writers like Robert Graves, whose "Goodbye to All That" is a classic, used the language of a highly developed civilization shattered by the war. The contrast between their Mandarin styles and the war's filth and wasted lives seems the ultimate in literary pathos.
Paul Fussell's "The Great War and Modern Memory" first introduced me to the brilliant British writers who told about their war experiences. Later, I discovered writers from other countries, including those of Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
We think of World War II as America's literary war, but the "Great War," which was promised to be the "war to end all wars," also haunted Hemingway, Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos and other American writers.
Margaret MacMillan in her "Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World," tells the tragic story of how the peace negotiations set the stage for World War II, making false the hope of the First World War's end.
But I'll always honor the American sacrifice. As flawed and ill-prepapred as the American effort was, they believed they were making the world safe for democracy.