Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“And we won’t come back ’til it’s over, over there.”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on April 6, 2017

Someone mentioned on another forum that today is the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into what would become known as World War I. I’m a little embarrassed that I forgot about this date until being reminded of it (although I’m terrible at remembering anniversaries generally, as my wife will attest), and disappointed that it’s not getting more attention in the popular media. The Great War seems almost forgotten in the public’s mind now. The last American World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, passed on in 2011 at the age of 110.

This clip is from the 1942 film, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and purports to show how George M. Cohan created the song, “Over There,” that quickly became a pop hit and rallying cry for Americans at the time. I’m sure it’s heavily fictionalized — and it conflates the United States’ declaration of war with the Lusitania sinking, although those events occurred almost two years apart — but it still gives me chills.

“And we won’t come back ’til it’s over, over there.” That was another world, wasn’t it?



14 Responses

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  1. Meg Groeling said, on April 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Just finished reading Dead Wake by Eric Larson in honor of this. I don’t think it is legal, sort of, but I always wanted to have a set of American flags from history to fly on appropriate days.I’d fly a 1917 one today, and until it was over, over there, in remembrance.

    • Andy Hall said, on April 6, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      I have a bunch of different historical flags. I’d put out the 48-star flag, but it’s old and a bit fragile, unlike the others that are inexpensive replicas.

      It’s a great idea, really.

      • Meg Groeling said, on April 6, 2017 at 6:52 pm

        I really think flying historical flags is illegal–does anyone know for sure?

  2. David Bright said, on April 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    With my logistics focus, I have read several books about the status of French and British industry, French manpower, British shipbuilding, German food and industrial production, etc. It is clear from these works, and plainly stated in one of them, that it was only the hope and belief of the British and French that they could get the US into the war that gave those two countries the determination to continue the war — even when they saw no way to win it. Without the US hints that it would side with the Allies, it is quite likely that the war would have ended in exhaustion in early 1917.

    With a negotiated end to the war, with no “stab in the back” by German politicians, with no German revolution, with (perhaps) no Russian revolution (that the Reds took over), etc. there would have been no Hitler, no Stalin ….. What would have been the cause for a 2nd world war?

    So, in a real way, Wilson’s hinting of US support and the readiness to supply the Allies needs was a significant foundation for WW2, the Cold War …….. You won’t see this discussed, but its true.

  3. OhioGuy said, on April 6, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for posting this. It does bring chills to my spine as I listen to “Over There;” however, the rational part of my brain knows that the U.S. should not have become involved in this war. Woodrow Wilson, who in my mind ranks right up there with James K. Polk as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, was wrong on almost every count. He was an unreconstructed Rebel who set race relations back at least 50 years, and set the tone that allowed the Second Era KKK to emerge during his administration. His foreign policy was not much better. As David said above, if the U.S. had not intervened in this war it would have in all probability ended in some kind of stalemate, with Germany perhaps winning a little more territory. This would have led to no “November Criminals,” no Nazi Party, no Hitler, no “final solution.” One can only imagine how much better the world might be today.

    Let me end with a little personal story from my family. One of my uncles was a little boy during the Great War. He had toy soldiers that he positioned on a big map he’d roll out on the floor to represent almost every battle of that war as he read about them in the papers. That young boy was a grown man by WWII and a member of the famed 11th Field Hospital. In April of 1945 his unit helped liberate Dachau. I’ve inherited from him some of the most horrible photos you could imagine of what he saw at Dachau. I can’t help but think that if Woodrow Wilson had not been president my late uncle would not have had that fun with the toy soldiers and much more importantly would not have liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp because it never would have existed. 😦

  4. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on April 7, 2017 at 7:55 am

    It is unfortunate that the anniversary of US involvement in World War I has gotten so little press. I see the war as the defining event of the 20th century.

    It resulted in the collapse of four empires – German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman – the rise Communism in what would become the Soviet Union and later the rise of Fascism in Italy, the creation of numerous countries following the war, some of which were ill-conceived (hello, Yugoslavia) and would later erupt in conflict, major developments in warfare technology in areas such as submarines, airplanes, tanks and poison gas, increased involvement by European powers in Middle East, U.S. development as a world industrial power and, of course, the financial fiasco of the Weimar Republic, with the later rise of Hitler and the Nazis, and all that is associated with World War II (tens of millions killed, the Holocaust, atomic war, beginning of the end of colonialism, etc.)

    The world we live in today was shaped dramatically by the First World War. In France and the UK in particular it is recognized as such; here, it gets about as much notice as the Mexican-American War.

  5. Meg said, on April 7, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Well! This is almost as entertaining as pretending Stonewall Jackson was at Gettysburg. We did enter the war, there was an “over there” over there, and then there was all the rest, and here we are today. America, for some unfathomable reason, seems to have little respect for history. The Mexican-American War is refought daily here in CA, and probably Texas as well. When I look down my street, there are as many flags of Mexico as there are US flags. It is enough to drive this historian to yet another can of diet root beer.

    • OhioGuy said, on April 9, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      “Well! This is almost as entertaining as pretending Stonewall Jackson was at Gettysburg.” Yes, it’s my favorite counterfactual. And, also the most melancholy.

  6. Msb said, on April 8, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Not a big fan of Wilson, but he did get the ball rolling for nationwide women’s suffrage, after considerable nudging from a lot of women. It only took 72 years after Seneca Falls …

  7. bob carey said, on April 8, 2017 at 10:43 am

    One of my favorite movies, Cagney is one of the all time greats.

    • Andy Hall said, on April 8, 2017 at 11:17 am

      One of Cagney’s long-forgotten films is Here Comes the Navy! (1934), in which he co-starred with Gloria Stuart (“Old Rose” in Titanic). Much of it was shot on U.S.S. Arizona, and while it’s forgettable as a film, it’s a visual treat for battlewagon buffs.

  8. Andy Hall said, on April 8, 2017 at 11:29 am

    By the way, if y’all liked that bit of Cagney dancing down the stairs, here he reprises his role as Cohan, with Bob Hope as Eddie Foy in The Seven Little Foys (1955):

  9. Meg Groeling said, on April 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Andy–you, good sir, are the best! Thanks!!

  10. Kristoffer said, on April 9, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I absolutely have to disagree with David and OhioFan on the origins of US involvement in WWI and ramifications.

    I would respond that the USA was already heavily involved in WWI prior to declaring war, as it was heavily involved in arms manufacturing for the Entente. The Entente knew this, and any desire for the USA to enter was primarily for manpower. The USA itself did not have a full set of military equipment for itself, and had to rely on French and British airplanes, French machine guns (Chauchat) and French tanks (Renault FT). Some American pilots flew Sopwith Camels as part of the RFC/RAF: if you ever wondered how Snoopy got to fly one of those…

    Pretending that the USA could have simply stayed out of WWI ignores what got the USA into the war to begin with. The first step was Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, which claimed several American merchant ships. The second step was the outrage caused by the Zimmermann telegram.

    Both of you wrongly believe that without the USA getting directly into the war, the war would have ended in stalemate. In reality, Germany was suffering severe food shortages from the Royal Navy’s blockade, and would have collapsed eventually, with some repeat of the “November criminals” being likely to happen anyway.

    Of course, as often is the case, the two of you bungle the Nazis’ history by assuming that US involvement in WWI made Hitler inevitable. One thing that I have noticed about Nazi Germany is that Hitler’s taking power was not inevitable:
    -If the Germans had listened to Hjalmar Schacht and not borrowed all of the money to wage WWI, leading to less devaluation, leading to less hyperinflation, leading to the Beer Hall Putsch not happening;
    -Or if the Germans had hauled Schacht in earlier to stop the hyperinflation;
    -If Hitler had never taken part in the short-lived socialist republic in Munich and had never testified so effectively to the Germany army about it, leading to them never making him a low-level political spy, leading to him never being sent to check out the German Workers’ Party;
    -If the judges trying Hitler after the Beer Hall Putsch had thrown him in the slammer for life instead of giving him five years and letting him out 8 months later;
    -If the loss of Reichstag seats the Nazis suffered in Weimar Germany’s final fair election had been more severe;
    -If Hitler himself had not played an all-or-nothing game in response to being offered lesser posts, and thus gotten stonewalled in a lesser post;
    -If the German conservatives had decided to not maneuver President Hindenburg into appointing Hitler to be Chancellor.

    That’s before we even consider that the Nazis never got a 50%+ majority in a single fair election, and couldn’t achieve it even in their first unfair election in March 1933. Any number of decisions or accidents of history could have stopped Hitler.

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