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In 1946, World War I veteran and self-described “buck private in the rear rank” Gerald Andrew Howell finished a memoir of the experiences of his squad from the 39th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and their “moments of horror, tragedy, humor, amour, [and] promiscuity” in Europe. This was “the old Army as it used to be,” Howell explains—the saga of the “down-trodden doughboy.” A few months later Howell was dead, his manuscript unpublished. Jeffrey Patrick discovered the memoir and the author’s correspondence with publishers and took on the task of bringing it to publication at last. Yesterday There Was Glory is an unpretentious account of men at war, from training camp to the occupation of Germany. It includes graphic descriptions of the battlefield, of shell fire, gas attacks, and lice. “Between the attacks the men would lay in their wet holes and pray for relief. But no relief came,” Howell remembers. He recalls much more than the horrors of combat, however, chronicling the diverse collection of heroes, professional warriors, shirkers, and braggarts that made up the American Expeditionary Forces. Howell and his comrades longed for wounds that would allow them to escape the war, but resolutely engaged the Germans in hand-to-hand combat. They poked fun at their comrades, but were willing to share their last can of food. They endured difficult marches, pursued “mademoiselles” and “frauleins,” and even staged a “strike” to protest mistreatment by their officers. They were as “ribald as any soldiery in any army,” Howell admits, but “underneath this veneer, they were really patriotic, steadfast and sincere.” Patrick provides an editor’s introduction and annotations to explain terms and sources in the memoir. Howell’s account preserves the flavor of army life with conversations and banter in soldier language, including the uncensored doughboy profanity often heard but seldom recorded.
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