Book Review: Yankee Division in the First World War: In the Highest Tradition


by Michael E. Shay

College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2008. Pp. xiii, 294. Illus., maps, tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $49.95. ISBN:1603440305

Composed largely of National Guardsmen from New England, the 26th Division was one of the first four American divisions to enter combat in France during World War I, and one of the most heavily engaged. Shay, a justice of the Connecticut Superior Court who has written extensively on the American experience in the Great War, gives the reader a comprehensive look at the division and its experience in the war.

The book opens with some background on the formation of the National Guard and the units became part of the division in 1917. It then follows the division to France, through training, and into the trenches for blooding, before taking part in the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne campaigns, and thence back to the U.S. after the Armistice. 

Shay is highly critical of the leadership of the AEF, and in particular of John J. Pershing's favoritism toward West Pointers, and the poor training that the Army provided, which has been supported by other recent work on the A.E.F.  Nevertheless, he also notes that some of the problems the division and the A.E.F. had were insurmountable, given the Nation's poor state of readiness upon entering the war.  

A good read for anyone interested in the Great War and the American Army.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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