Yesterday There Was Glory
With the 4th Division, A.E.F., in World War I
Gerald Andrew Howell, edited by Jeffrey L. Patrick
University of North Texas Press, Denton, Texas, 2017, 464 pages
Book Review published on: July 20, 2018
Readers of military history will find Yesterday There Was Glory: With the 4th Division, A.E.F., in World War I very interesting. Gerald Howell’s manuscript gives a first-hand account of a soldier’s experiences during the First World War. Howell was a private in the U.S. Army, and although he wrote this afterward, it is apparent that he took many notes. There are numerous interesting details that enable readers to visualize where his experiences took place and the geographic orientation of his odyssey.
Howell’s book covers his entire experience of World War I from joining the Army to deployment and combat, occupation duties and redeployment, and return to home and civilian life. His descriptions of training and combat operations, and his brief experiences in the rear echelon and duties after the war provide a complete and detailed visualization of the entire experience of a doughboy.
As a private in the 39th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Howell experienced all of the major events of the United States’ participation in World War I—the Aisne-Marne Defensive, the Aisne-Marne Offensive, the St. Mihiel Offensive, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive—and his descriptions and experiences while participating in these momentous battles provided an excellent understanding. Additionally, his keen sense of situational awareness and his note-taking are especially valuable. Throughout the book, he enumerates many of the towns and cities he passes through or stays in. These details give an excellent understanding of the exact routes taken during offensive operations or areas defended. His detailed but not gratuitous descriptions of the violence and aftermath of these battles is very informative.
A great characteristic of this book is that Howell covers his experiences during a brief rest-and-leave period near the end of the war in addition to his recollections of combat. He also devotes three chapters to his experiences in the Army of occupation moving through Luxemburg into Germany. Howell describes many facets and experiences during the occupation of Germany in the vicinity of Koblenz. This part of the World War I experience is seldom written about particularly from the perspective of a private.
I recommend Yesterday There Was Glory to anyone who has an interest in World War I, especially if they are looking for a soldier’s first-hand perspective. The casual reader and historian alike will find Howell’s experiences enlightening. Taken in the context that it is not a scholarly work, I still found great value. Another unique feature of this book is the completeness of the experience covered. From enlistment through mustering out of the Army after the war, Howell’s book covers the entire experience in the first-hand thoroughly. It is a great book for everyone.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Thomas G. Meara, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas