By Riley Hubbard
World War I was fought between the years of 1914-1919. The war was long and devastating, the most devastating the world had seen. Germany and Austria-Hungary initially fought against France and Great Britain before the United States entered the war with a majority of the war fought on the continent of Europe. Soldiers from the United States went to Europe in full force in late 1917 and early 1918. For more on World War I, check out America and World War I.
Einer Smestad was part of the 4th Wisconsin National Guard infantry. The information on Smestad comes from his scrapbook of the war. Smestad’s scrapbook is a mixture of photographs, postcards and other documents. Pictures included those of him individually and with his unit along with things he saw throughout his journey. The postcards show the beauty of the places he visited but also pictures of the destruction that happened. The scrapbook is his memories from the war, although some pictures added are clearly ones that have been mass produced for either soldiers or for the general public. These pictures include clear captions and are not about his unit. It can be presumed that the postcards were bought while he was overseas, due to the German printed on them.
It is unknown when Smestad made his scrapbook, but it can be known that it has been added to. Off the front cover are newspaper articles from 1977. The memories from this book most likely meant something to him. But it does leave the question of when did he make the scrapbook? Looking through the book, it can be assumed that he made the scrapbook after he returned home from the war. Out of the 92 pages, only the first 30 seem to be his personal pictures and page 34 contains the most information about him. This page has a five-page detailed outline of Smestad’s unit’s movements throughout the war. The details include when he was at camps and when he was traveling, as well as his discharge from the National Guard.
Questions about his scrapbook still can’t be answered. Who are the men in the pictures with him? They are men from his unit but are they friends or were the pictures posed for another reason? Why did he choose the pictures he did? Do the massed produced pictures hold a meaning to him?
The timeline made through Knightlab’s TimelineJS, brings together the events of World War I and the events of Einer Smestad’s life as a soldier. Pictures included are mostly from Smestad’s scrapbook, as it provided many different pictures and postcards from the war. By using his pictures, his scrapbook is used in a different way to show the war.
While looking at the timeline, there can seem as though there are large gaps of time where nothing in the war happen. This is untrue, much happened during this period, however the United States did not partake. The goal of the timeline was to give the mains events that led to the United States joining World War I and the major events after the United States entered. The choice to stick to the overall major events was to allow the inclusion of some events from Smestad’s life and show some of the wonderful images from his scrapbook.
Remembering the War
America’s part in World War I was years shorter than their European counterparts, however, their experiences were no less important. Smestad was only in Europe for a little over a year while other countries had been involved for four years before he stepped foot on European soil. Smestad’s unit was not the first United States soldiers to arrive in Europe nor were they the last. However, even through the fighting and devastation faced in the war, Smestad chose to keep some memories from his time overseas.
Remembrance of World War I has continued every year in many countries. In America, November 11, the official end of World War I is remembered every year as Veterans Day. In the United Kingdom, the same day is Remembrance Day. World War I was to be the war to end all wars. Only a short 20 years later, the world would enter yet another world war. But this first war hit the world so hard, that people felt the need to remember it.
As the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I approaches, people still look to remember this great war. The War to end all wars did not happen; the world is still fighting wars. But the remembrance of this war from a soldier’s point of view isn’t necessarily one of destruction and devastation. Smestad’s scrapbook shows that he intended to remember his time in France and Germany during the war.
United States Department of State. “U.S. Entry into World War I, 1917.” Accessed November 15, 2015. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/wwi
United States Army Europe. “WWI.” Accessed November 14, 2015. http://www.eur.army.mil/organization/history.htm
BBC. “Word War One: The Global Conflict that Defined a Century.” Accessed November 14, 2015. http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zqbhn39
U.S. History. “America in the First World War.” Accessed November 10, 2015. http://www.ushistory.org/us/45.asp
Villanova Digital Library. “The Scrapbook of Einer Stemstad.” Accessed November 28, 2015. http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:392606