(Original Caption) Hoboken, NJ: Soldiers arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey. Undated photograph.

Watch Your Step When You Reach Debarking Port (1919)

(Coming Back/March 21, 1919) In fairness to the Army and yourself, be on the watch when you return to America. This sounds like the ordinary, or common garden variety of advice, made to order as you will, but there’s a heap more to it.

No soldier will ever forget the word “morale.” He’s heard about and read about it so much that he’s almost learned to understand it in all its devious paths. But morale means a lot when the soldier hits his home port and lack of morale has been playing hob with a good many gold-stripers from whom the public expected the ‘nth degree of expression of military discipline and intelligence.

Our collection, America and World War I: American Military Camp Newspapers, addresses a topic and period that continues to be of the widest interest and importance to scholars, students, and the general public – America in the World War I Era. Camp newspapers make important original source material—much of it written by soldiers for soldiers—readily available for research.

The easiest thing in the Army, at first glance, that a returning soldier can do is to go A. W. O. L., let down on discipline and run to the newspapers with a lot of anonymous complaints about superior officers. It’s not so easy, however, when the Army catches up with the offenders, and while this advice—which isn’t a bit sugar-coated for tender palates—may not seem to refer to the particular reader, bear this in mind:

Maj. Gen. David C. Shanks, commanding the great port of debarkation at New York City, has had to call upon the newspapers to give publicity to just such a plea to prevent men’s morale cracking.

Maj. Gen. Shanks states that officers and men have been neglecting discipline and duties in their eagerness to get home or to explore the beauties of Broadway and adjacent highways. Others are complaining about mustering out problems which they couldn’t handle themselves if they had the entire army to command.

A number of officers are now facing court-martial in Hoboken for just such breaches of discipline. This makes a sad twist for the officers who went over the top with that well known phrase, “Heaven, Hell or Hoboken!” etc. It’s a poor ending to a glorious career. Enlisted men in the same straits are also probably kicking themselves for their folly, but it’s too late for them.

Soldiers who have yet to come back, however, can profit by their examples.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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