These songs were originally sold domestically in the United States to promote the war and encourage enlistment. They were generally not songs sung by the troops.
They seem to fall into four broad categories:
Straight old fashioned flag waving patriotism - do your bit
Trivialization of the horrors of war - war is fun - join the party
Soldiers have the best romantic (sex) life - be a hero - get a girl
Others are making terrible sacrifices for the war - why aren't you?
These songs aren't about the real issues of the war they are pure emotion.
It was difficult to sell the war since many Americans had family ties to countries on the German side.
In fact President Wilson had just been re-elected in November 1916 on the platform "He kept us out of war". Suddenly on April 2, 1917 - we're in it.
Remember that there were no radios or televisions at that time and movies were still silent.
But people had phonographs and records could be mass produced.
These songs and many more like them helped turn public opinion toward the war.
After the opening months of the war in 1914, the western front in France bogged down into a continuous line of trenches stretching from Switzerland to the English Channel.
Defensive technology was superior to offensive technology and neither side was able to make any headway with out suffering enormus loss of life.
During the battle of Verdun, probably the longest battle of all time, (February 21 to December 16, 1916) the French lost over 160,000 killed in action and the Germans over 140,000.
The battle of the Somme, probably the worst battle of all time, (July 1 to November 18, 1916) cost the English nearly 100,000 killed in action (20,000 on the first day), the French over 50,000 and the Germans over 160,000.
Russia lost some 1.7 million dead on the eastern front with another 5 million wounded. Czarist rule collapsed into revolution in March 1917 and then the revolution collapsed into a communist revolution in October 1917. Russia sued for a separate peace with Germany in December 1917.
The United States remained neutral until April 2, 1917 when it entered on the side of the allies. Of course the US hadn't been completely neutral, American bankers had been lending the allies billions of dollars to buy muinitions from American industry. As near as I can figure out the main reason the US entered the war was fear that with Russia falling out the Germans might win and the loans would never be repaid.
Americas greatest battle in the war was called the Meuse-Argonne Offensive or more commonly the Battle of the Argonne Forest (September 26 to November 11, 1918). It was the bloodiest battle in American history costing 26,272 killed in action and another 95,786 wounded (Compare that with the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War which cost both sides combined 7,863 killed in action and 37,224 wounded).
Total American casualties for the war were 58,480 dead and 189,955 wounded.
The number of World War I casualties, both military and civilian, was about 40 million — more than 19 million dead and 21 million wounded.
These include 9.7 million military deaths and about 9 million civilian deaths.
The Allies (the US side) lost more than 5 million soldiers and the Central Powers (the German side) about 4 million.
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Thank you for your interest in these recordings.
(c) 2007, Thomas F. Swezey. All rights reserved.