A profile of the Tennessee serviceman of World War I.

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Watson, Griff
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Middle Tennessee State University
Approximately 80,000 Tennesseans served their country during World War I and of that number 4,000 made the ultimate sacrifice. This dissertation is a study of the social background of these men and their military experiences during America's participating in this conflict. Although little is known about these young men, they shared the same sense of duty to their country as the heroes who received the public accolades. They responded to the call of duty that took them away from small towns and farms in Tennessee to participate in the first world war of the twentieth century. The purpose of this study is to compare their experiences and backgrounds with those of soldiers from throughout the country.
The most valuable primary resource, and that which provided most of the information relative to this study, was Record Group 53, the Gold Star Records of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. This material consists of approximately 1,523 files of Tennessee servicemen, most of whom were casualties of the War. A second major source used was Fred Baldwin's 1964 dissertation completed at Princeton, entitled "The American Enlisted Man in World War I." The experiences and socio-economic background of Tennesseans gleaned from the Gold Star Records were compared with Baldwin's findings about American soldiers in general during the War. In addition, other traditional resources relative to this study were used.
The major findings of the dissertation reveal that the primary difference in servicemen from Tennessee and those from other states was the contrast in their socio-economic backgrounds. Those from Tennessee were generally poorer, not as well educated and a larger percentage of them were farmers and blacks. At this point, the differences end. Most soldiers from all over the country shared the same experiences in the military both at home and abroad. They generally believed in the cause for which they were fighting; they believed that an Allied victory was necessary to protect the innocent people of Europe and their own homeland from the evils of German militarism.