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Extraordinary Color Photos From WWI Few Have Seen

Published 1 year ago on November 6, 2018
By Hugo

It has been just over 100 years to the day since WWI- one of the bloodiest conflicts in recorded history- came to an end. Millions of soldiers lost their lives on the battlefields, while countless others- be it innocent civilians, rescue workers and doctors- also perished.

But despite the end of WWI occurring nearly 100 years ago, few are aware of these rare colorized photos of the conflict. These breathtaking images offer us further insight into the lives and experiences of the officers and soldiers who shaped the outcome of one of the most important conflicts in human history. For American soldiers, this was also a significant war, despite their involvement lasting little over a year when they joined in 1917, a year before the conflict ended in 1918.

However, what we intend to do in this article is chronicle the American experience just as much as the allies who relied on Uncle Sam's intervention. WWI was argubally the most significant war Americans had fought in since the Civil War of 1861-1865, so it seems only right that we also take a look back at some of the earliest known color photos of the American war effort during the Great War.

Read on below as we detail a series of extraordinary color photos taken from WWI. 

1.  The United States Food Administration encouraged Americans to be practical with their food consumption

America's war effort on the home front wasn't as desperate and threadbare as it was in Europe. Still, the American government wanted to send out a message to their younger citizens that they were lucky to be living in a country where rations weren't in operation. So sparse was food in many parts of Europe that it wasn't until the next decade that rationing was eventually phased out. 

The United States Food Administration published the poster above. They were responsible for sending surplus food reserves to allied forces during the war effort. In another poster, the USFA encouraged Americans to consume less wheat, meat, and sugar so they could send more of those energy-inducing foods to allied troops. 

2. America declared war on Germany, 1917

The Great War was one of the first wars that opened people's eyes to the grim realities of combat. Photographers captured trench warfare as rats nested among footless soldiers. Letters were sent home via air mail to reveal the 'cannon fodder' they had soon become. And then there was the melee of artists who would go on to write about their experiences in the cafes and restaurants of Paris. To Ernest Hemingway, at least, they were the 'Lost Generation.'

This Lost Generation Hemingway wrote so eloquently of were all spawned from Woodrow Wilson's decision to enter the conflict in the latter stages of the Great War in 1918, as illustrated by this powerful painting of the April 2 meeting with Congress. 

3. The American public were ardent backers of the military effort

Throughout the years, war has reared its ugly head. If history has taught us anything, it's that the urge to fight and defend is primitive in all of us. Perhaps it's that mindset, then, that spawned two world wars in the space of only 21 years. And while the second is known as much for the brutal rise of Germany's Nazi Party as it is for its death toll, the Great War was a conflict that involved European nations coming together like never before to fight for two entirely different causes.

In America's case, they believed the sovreignty of Europe was best served in the hands of France, Britain and the other allied forces as opposed to that of Wilhelm Keiser's Germany.

4. Marching to the hum of propaganda

While American troops were not required to enlist, they were greatly encouraged to, so much so that by the end of the war, more than 4m soldiers enlisted. Of the 4m who served, 110,000 American deaths were recorded. However, the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic was responsible for over a third of all military deaths, with 45,000 American soldiers perishing because of it. 

The propaganda engineered by the government to attract troops ranged from patriotic posters to newsreels of soldiers in combat. In some cases, this included stirring up racial hatred in the south by American vigilante groups who prompted an anti-germanic agenda that wasn't only a driving force in recruitment. Tragically. it also led to a spate of lynchings in the south due to the false spreading of information that German forces were encouraging African-Americans to rise from their oppression. 

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