Doughboys in the Trenches
Because mutual defense agreements were in place that specified if one country was attacked, allied countries were bound to defend them when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, partially in response to a Serbian’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, setting off a domino effect. Russia came to the defense of Serbia and Germany came in to aid Austria-Hungary. France then entered on the side of Russia, Britain and Belgium stepped in to aid France, and Japan entered the war to aid Britain. The United States remained neutral until a German U-Boat sank the British ocean liner, the Lusitania, with hundreds of Americans onboard, and their submarines attacked American ships bringing supplies to the allies.
On April 2nd, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson came before Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany. Then, by the mere fact that the American Army Doughboys were coming to their aid, the western Allies were encouraged and some say that literally changed the course of the war.
In the front line trenches with French arms and untried commanders, the Doughboys quickly became a premier fighting force. The addition of the American troops broke the stalemate and pushed the German troops back to Germany, forcing them into the armistice that ended the devastation of the First World War, also known as the Great War.
In Washington D.C., the statue on the right of the main entrance to the National Archives bears the inscription, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. That saying, or any of its variants was well-known in the nineteenth century and has been credited to a number of famous figures.
Ultimately, it can be traced back to John Philpot Curran who said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”
The freedoms we continue to enjoy in America are not free. In WWI, our freedoms cost 116,516 American lives.
My Artist Statement
This quilt highlights the contributions of the U.S. Army’s Doughboys in trench warfare that was central to how this war was fought. Newer weapons used technology that removed the individual from hand-to-hand style close combat of older wars and resulted in extremely high casualty rates. The face of warfare would never be the same again.
I’ve represented the network of trenches above a yellow ribbon. In my quilt, the green area represents the ‘Reserve Trench’. The blue represents the ‘Support Trench’. Yellow represents the ‘Cover Trench’, and red represents the ‘Firing Trench’. Communication trenches are identified by the thin black lines and X’s show barbed wire in and around “no man’s land’.
The yellow ribbon shows America’s support of our troops who fought so bravely, and identifies the years America participated in the war and what it ‘cost’ America to preserve freedom.
Below the yellow ribbon are the colors of our nation’s flag. White represents purity and innocence, perhaps that of the young men that willingly take up arms to defend her. Red signifies the hardiness and valor with which they fight. Stars, painstakingly embroidered with military precision, represent our united states and float in a sea of blue that signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
Lastly, I floated a field poppy on the flag, representing the American Legion’s official symbol of remembrance for those who fought and died in WWI. Since then, poppies are worn by many on Memorial Day to remember the fallen. The remembrance poppy was inspired by the WWI poem, “In Flanders Fields”. In its opening lines, author John McCrae refers to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders, a region of Belgium.
Researched, designed, pieced, hand and machine appliqued, hand and machine embroidered, painted, and free motion quilted by Sue Hickman. Completed 11/7/2018.