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by Bartee Haile

The “Tough ’Ombres” of the Ninetieth Infantry Division saw action for the first time on the bloody battlefields of France on Sep. 12, 1918. The Great War (no one imagined there might be a second) has all but faded from the national memory. Ask most Americans what they know about World War I, and they may mumble something about trench warfare, the Lusitania and the Treaty of Versailles.

Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican vote in 1912 with his Bull Moose candidacy, enabling Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidential election with only 45 percent. But support for the former college professor gradually grew due in large part to his hands-off policy toward the European war, which broke out in August 1914. Wilson described the horrific hostilities as “a distant event, terrible and tragic, but one which does not concern us closely.” Most Americans, Texans included, agreed and backed the president’s subsequent position that the United States “must be neutral in fact as well as name...we must be impartial in thought as well as action.”


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