Establishing the American Way of Death: World War I and the Foundation of the United States’ Policy Toward the Repatriation and Burial of Its Battlefield Dead
Description: This thesis examines the policies and procedures created during and after the First World War that provided the foundation for how the United States commemorated its war dead for the next century. Many of the techniques used in modern times date back to the Great War. However, one hundred years earlier, America possessed very few methods or even ideas about how to locate, identify, repatriate, and honor its military personnel that died during foreign conflicts. These ideas were not conceived in the halls of government buildings. On the contrary, concerned citizens originated many of the concepts later codified by the American government. This paper draws extensively upon archival documents, newspapers, and published primary sources to trace the history of America’s burial and repatriation policies, the Army Graves Registration Services, and how American dead came to permanently rest in military cemeteries on the continent of Europe. The unprecedented dilemma of over 80,000 American soldiers buried in France and surrounding countries at the conclusion of the First World War in 1918 propelled the United States to solve many social, political, and military problems that arose over the final disposition of those remains. The solutions to those problems became the foundation for how America would repatriate, honor, and mourn its military dead for the next century. Some of these battles persist even today as the nation tries to grapple with the proper way to commemorate the nation’s participation in the First World War on the eve of the conflict’s centennial.
Date: August 2015
Creator: Hatzinger, Kyle J.