100 Years After The US Joined WWI, Photos From The Trenches Show The Horror Of War – And The Occasional Hard-Won Moment Of Levity

Although the war started in 1914 it was on April 16th, 1917, that the US joined the First World War by sending money, troops and supplies. The US had tried to stay out of the conflict but with repeated attacks from Germany on ships carrying American citizens, it became clear that they would need to join the fray to defend themselves and their people.

One of the events which led to the US joining in the war, was the attack in May 1915 on the British ocean liner, Lusitania, which was torpedoed, killing 1,198 passengers of the total 1,959. 128 of the people who were killed were American. Another Italian liner was sunk in November, killing 272 people, including a further 27 Americans. After this the US broke off relations with Germany, and joined in the war in 1917.

The Library of Congress has recently released this collection of photographs, relating to every aspect of the war. The collection shows pictures from the early days of the war, with American soldiers being sent to France, building their own trenches and adapting to the conditions at the time.

Pictured here are gas masks from America, Britain, France and Germany, left to right, for each country’s troops in the First World War. The first use of poison gas on the Western Front was in 1915 at Ypres, Belgium. After that, troops were given makeshift gas masks until masks like these were developed
Trench warfare was most common during the First World War, where soldiers dug out intricate trenches in the ground to protect themselves from enemy fire, though any space between the trenches was highly exposed and dangerous. Here, American soldiers are pictured in trenches in France
The United States formally joined the First World War after Germany continued to sink neutral American merchant ships. These American soldiers who were in the 1st Division are pictured with their supplies while they were traveling during the First World War. By the summer of 1918 about a million US troops had arrived in France. About half of those troops went on to fight on the front lines
Trenches were dug out by the soldiers themselves, like the men pictured here. The men were Princeton University students who had enlisted in military service. Here they are learning about trench construction by physically working on one themselves in France
This picture shows American soldiers reacting to a gas attack during the First World War. The soldier in the front has lost his gas mask and his helmet on the battle front. The image was likely taken for training purposes. 53,402 American soldiers were killed in combat during the war and even more died in service during the war from other causes such as illness or disease
Here an American Expeditionary Force doctor is caring for an injured American soldier behind the first trench line in France in 1919. During the First World War a total of 116,516 American soldiers were killed and 204,002 soldiers were wounded

The collection shows soldiers from the 1st division waiting to board the train to leave, we can see the various types of gas masks which were used in different countries. By 1918 over 1 million American troops had arrived in France, and over half of them went to fight on the front lines.

Some pictures are disturbing, showing soldiers in actual battle scenes, such as the one where the soldier has lost his gas mask and helmet during a gas attack. Other pictures show soldiers forging forwards over the bodies of some who have fallen.

These two American soldiers are pictured charging an enemy position during the First World War, carrying their rifles and other equipment on their backs. One soldier has fallen to the ground in front of them
Though the First World War was grueling, there was some time for relaxing on the front. These US Army soldiers are pictured playing baseball in France in 1917. Back home, Americans rallied together to support their troops by starting victory gardens and sending on food supplies, munition and money to the war effort
These soldiers are pictured around an outdoor kitchen in Hermitage, France on March 11, 1918. They are soldiers of the Machine Gun Battalion, Company G, Second Brigade
These two American soldiers, Corporal Howard Thompson and James H White, were part of a group that killed and captured several Germans in no man’s land, the space between enemy trenches, on March 7, 1918. Thompson, pictured right, is holding a pistol taken from a German soldier killed by White, pictured left. The soldiers are pictured in Ancerviller, France on March 11, 1918
Pictured is a group of US Marines standing in a line in France. In the Battle of Belleau Wood, American forces were tasked with keeping the Germans at bay and driving them out of Belleau Wood. US Marines led the attack and, backed by US Army artillery, continued to attack German forces for three weeks until they won, but at the price of nearly 10,000 killed soldiers
These American soldiers are pictured training with hand grenades. They are practicing throwing the grenades at enemy positions in Choloy, France on August 1, 1918

Some soldiers were pictured recovering in hospitals in places like Auteuil, Paris, while others were pictured boarding the liner Leviathan to return to the US, after the war ended.

On a lighter side, there are some photos of soldiers resting, or playing games such as baseball. There are shots of soldiers returning home at the end of the war, with their happy faces showing relief at arriving back to loved ones.

These American soldiers are pictured moving equipment along a dirt road in Saint-Ouen-les-Parey, France in February 1918. Some on the right are pushing their carts and others are the right appear to be pausing to smile for the camera
Pictured is an American gun crew from the Regimental Headquarters Company, 23rd Infantry. They are firing a 37mm gun as they advance against German entrenched positions
American troops are pictured marching down a French road during the First World War wearing their coats and carrying all their equipment. By November of 1918, 10,000 American troops were coming into France every day, giving the Allies a fresh boost
These two men are pictured in an American field hospital in Auteuil, Paris, France around 1915. A nurse attends to the soldier on the left and the man on the right is smiling for the camera beside two roses on his bedside table
These soldiers of the US Army 27th Division cheer as they arrive in New York City on March 6, 1919. They returned from France on the ocean liner Leviathan after the First World War
Another group of American soldiers are pictured returning to Washington, DC, after the First World War. The group of happy looking men are greeted by a group of women
Pictured is a parade of the US Army 27th Division in New York City after they returned from France. The 27th Infantry Division can be traced back to the New York Division, which was originally formed in 1908. It was originally the 6th Division, but was renamed the 27th Division in 1917

This is an iconic collection, showcasing life as it was during the war, with soldiers at rest, play and in battle. It gives us a glimpse into their world, where we can see their fears, frustrations and hopes.

While the US was only actively involved in the war for some 20 months, by the end of the war on November 11, 1918, 116,516 American soldiers died, 53,402 killed in combat. 204,002 were wounded.

Source: Daily Mail