The Stars and Stripes
was published in France by the American Expeditionary Forces
(AEF) of the United States Army from February 8, 1918, to
June 13, 1919. General John J. Pershing wanted a newspaper
written by servicemen for the soldiers on the battlefront.
On the front page of the first issue, Pershing endorsed the
newspaper and characterized its purpose and content: "In this
initial number of The Stars and Stripes, published by the
men of the Overseas Command, the Commander-in-Chief of the
American Expeditionary Forces extends his greetings through
the editing staff to the readers from the first line trenches
to the base ports. These readers are mainly the men who have
been honored by being the first contingent of Americans to
fight on European soil for the honor of their country. . .
. The paper, written by the men in the service, should speak
the thoughts of the new American Army and the American people
from whom the Army has been drawn. It is your paper. Good
luck to it."
newspaper's mission was to strengthen the morale of the troops
and to promote unity within the American forces, then widely
scattered and fulfilling many apparently unrelated functions.
The venture was immediately popular with the soldiers, quickly
selling out its first issue of one thousand copies. Although
designated as the "official newspaper of the AEF," its independent
editorial voice earned the confidence and affection of common
The Stars and Stripes,
published exclusively in France during its seventeen-month
run, used a layout typical of American newspapers of the day,
with wide columns, "all-cap" headlines, and lots of illustrations.
The editorial staff assigned to the newspaper was composed
mostly of enlisted men, including several career journalists.
Second Lieutenant Guy T. Viskniskki from the Wheeler Newspaper
Syndicate, New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott,
bibliophile John Winterich, and cartoonist Abian "Wally" Wallgren
of the Washington Post were among those who contributed their
experience and skill.
with an initial printing of one thousand copies, The Stars
and Stripes grew to a high-circulation newspaper, reaching
well over half a million readers by its one-year anniversary.
The newspaper's content contributed to its success, as did
its distribution system. By a feat of ingenuity and perseverance,
agents delivered the paper to the majority of the subscribers
on the date of publication. Captain Richard H. Waldo, who
had worked at the New York Times and Good Housekeeping before
his enlistment, devised a system by which soldier distributors,
or "field agents," at each Army Post Office coordinated distribution
by rail, truck, and automobile (including three Cadillacs).
French news dealers also delivered copies of the weekly to
field agents and to hospitality centers staffed by the YMCA
known as "YMCA huts." In addition, distributors mailed more
than two hundred thousand copies to military bases and individual
subscribers back home in the United States.
a pivotal period in world and American history, The Stars
and Stripes is a unique type of newspaper: a military newspaper
published by the United States government. Documenting the
experience of American soldiers during wartime, The Stars
and Stripes represents a remarkable achievement in twentieth-century
in The Stars and Stripes
every issue of The Stars and Stripes American companies and
organizations, as well as French eateries and shops, competed
for the attention of the servicemen with advertisements aimed
at enticing the doughboys (as American soldiers were called).
Although the advertisements exhibited considerable reserve
and decorum by today's standards, their content was intended
to appeal to the almost exclusively male audience.
Companies as diverse
as American Express, American Safety Razor, Gillette, Credit
Lyonnais Bank, and Brentano's Books, along with organizations
such as the YMCA, Christian Science Reading Rooms, the Harvard
Club of Paris, and the Jewish Welfare Board, courted the soldiers'
business. Wrigley's Chewing Gum was a regular advertiser,
that "even before American soldiers and sailors landed, the
British, Canadian and French forces had adopted Wrigley's
as their wartime sweetmeat"
truth-in-advertising regulations and product liability lawsuits,
tobacco ads, such as those claiming that Fatima cigarettes
were the brand smoked by the most important people in Washington,
appeared in almost every issue. Other products made excessive
claims, as well. Adams Chewing Gum, for example, was said
not only to relieve thirst, but also to prevent fatigue among
weary soldiers on the march. In advertisements such as these,
appearing throughout the pages of The Stars and Stripes, American
and French companies reveal what they imagined might allure
the doughboys, thereby offering insight into the popular culture
of American soldiers of the time.
in The Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes used illustrations to communicate ideas,
especially those aimed at justifying military goals and encouraging
the troops' adherence to the war effort. In the early issues,
editors reprinted cartoons from some of the most prominent
U.S. newspapers and magazines, such as Life, New York World,
and Philadelphia Press. The very first issue contained an
editorial cartoon by one of the most famous illustrators of
the day, Charles Dana Gibson. The cartoon, meant to inspire
the troops, was entitled "On Their Way" and depicted an American
soldier marching in step with a winged "Lady Victory," their
arms firmly locked.
In many cases,
the images selected by the editors would be considered propaganda
by today's standards.
Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge's cartoon "Then We Will Have Peace"
showed the empty throne of the Kaiser with a corpse in front
of it, his drawing "The Girl We're All Fighting For" depicted
a soldier gesturing respectfully toward an image of the Statue
of Liberty on the horizon.
editorial opinion, cartoons entertained the troops, offering
them humorous stories and images that satirized everyday life
in the military. Many of these spoofs, written in 1918 and
1919, remain relevant today. The most popular among the soldiers
were Private Abian A."Wally" Wallgren's cartoons and irreverent
"Helpful Hints," which poked fun at army conventions from
food to uniforms to rank. When a new issue of The Stars and
Stripes arrived, the soldiers scanned it first for the cartoons
by "Wally" Wallgren.
Private Cyrus Baldridge
was also prolific, contributing many cartoons and illustrations
such as "The Owner of the Stars and Stripes," a front page
"portrait" of an American soldier. After the war ended, Wallgren,
Baldridge, and others published compilations of The Stars
and Stripes cartoons and illustrations that had lightened
the hearts of the doughboys.
Authored Material in The Stars and Stripes
the seventeen months of its publication, The Stars and Stripes
dedicated a significant amount of space to soldier-authored
material. In the first issue an advertisement asking soldiers
for their contributions read: "If You Are a Writer: Send Us
Copy. If You Are an Artist: Send Us Pictures".
editors appreciated the poetry and sentimental ballads typical
of the period. Poetry appeared in every issue of The Stars
and Stripes. Although the newspaper occasionally published
reprints of the poetry of famous poets, the soldiers themselves
wrote most of the poems. "The Army's Poets" column was inaugurated
May 3, 1918 and swiftly became the most widely read column
in the newspaper. Soldiers submitted more than seventy-five
thousand poems for possible printing in The Stars and Stripes.
Many of those poems not selected for publication by the newspaper
were published after the war.
Through their poetry,
soldiers commented on life in the trenches, homesickness,
patriotism, and the comradery essential
for wartime success. The humor of the AEF doughboys tended
to be a product of everyday experience, and their poetry reflects
the hardships the men endured, so far from home. For example,
Franklin P. Adams's "A Cootie's Garden of Verses" relates
a soldier's battle with lice:
In winter I get
up at night,
and have to scratch by candle-light;
In summer, quite the other way;
I have to scratch the livelong day.
A soldier boy should
When coots are in his underwear,
Or underneath his helmet label--
At least, as far he is able.
The trench is so
full of a number of coots,
I'm actually growing quite fond of the brutes.
and the War Effort in The Stars and Stripes
War I was the first war in which American women were recruited
to serve in the military. Women were already present in France
as members of the American Red Cross and as canteen workers,
but for the most part, French and Belgian women staffed American
military offices. In October 1917 the new American Expeditionary
Forces (AEF) telephone system was put in place, but the American
soldiers and the French women working as telephone operators
were unable to communicate. The need for bilingual telephone
operators precipitated the recruitment of American women.
When General Pershing,
commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, mounted
an advertising campaign for bilingual telephone operators
for the Army Signal Corps, more than seven thousand women
responded and more than two hundred were recruited. These
Bell Telephone System operators, known as "Hello Girls," worked
in France from March 1918 to the end of the war. The Stars
and Stripes reported their activities in several articles,
announcing their arrival with the headline "Uncle Sam Presents
'Hello, Girls!'" and describing their work in the article
"Six Hello Girls Help First Army".
also served a symbolic function for the fighting men. Women
were the subjects of sentimental poetry; poems to sweethearts
at home or to French mademoiselles appeared in several issues.
The protection of women was held up as an honorable justification
for the war. An article entitled "German Brands Young Mother
with an Iron" that appeared in the first issue of The Stars
and Stripes typifies the manner in which sentimental and protective
feelings towards "womanhood" were aroused to encourage the
soldiers to fight: "It is in accordance with other stories
of the prostitution of womanhood which the Kaiser is forcing
in order to repopulate the German Empire. The rapid British
advance at Cambria, in November, when towns which the Germans
had occupied for three years were captured before the latter
could deport the civilian population into Germany as is their
custom, disclosed the latest effort of the German army. French
women and girls had been made the victims."
The article then
quoted an American officer: "Among the refugees who passed
along the roads making their way southward farther into France
after we made our first big advance were scores of women and
girls, each marked on her breast by a cross in red paint.
. . . the cross indicated that German soldiers were the fathers.
The crosses had been painted on them, the women explained,
to show that their children would belong to the German Government.
. . . Thank God, America, by coming into the war, will help
to stamp out this beastly 'kultur' from the world and make
it a safe, clean place to live in for your womenfolk and mine?-our
mothers, our sweethearts, our wives, and our daughters".
In keeping with
the concept of honoring womanhood, The Stars and Stripes encouraged
the doughboys to write letters home to "Mom." In support of
their intensive Mother's Day campaigns, the newspaper published
heart-wrenching cartoons depicting a forlorn mother waiting
for the postman or tearfully reading her son's letter. Editorials
and headlines touted the millions of letters sent back home
by dutiful soldiers. The newspaper also promoted the War Orphans
Project, in which companies and officers "adopted" French
war orphans by pledging to provide them with financial support.
Articles promoting the effort were often accompanied by images
of little girls and descriptions of the orphans' plight.
much more in this fascinating 71 week publication run of Stars
is a must have collection for any World War I history buff!