Immediately after the declaration of war on April 6, 1917, the United States Secretary of War, Newton Baker was challenged with the task of developing American armed forces from a standing army. The forces would be developed using volunteers but mostly draftees of citizen-soldiers. The system for drafting the citizen-soldiers was established by the Selective Service Act of 1917, amended 1918 to register men between the ages of 18 to 45 for military service. By the war’s end, over 4.8 million Americans, volunteers and draftees were mobilized for the war effort.For some for the journey to the European battle fields began with departure from the port of Hoboken, New Jersey, into New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty. The photographer N(orbert George) Moser, who specialized in taking military and naval photographs captured the response of American troops on board a carrier leaving for Europe. The Moser’s photograph was made into a cardstock postcard copyrighted by I.F.S. INC in 1918. The postcard was given the caption “Their last glimpse of Old New York”. The greytone image of the Statue of Liberty, the vague and barely visible symbol of freedom in the misty background, focuses on the reaction of the men. Viewed from behind the crowd of soldiers on deck in the foreground, the image emphasizes their passing farewell to America on their way to the war.
The return to the United States from the horror of the battlefields of Europe is poignantly told in this emotional letter by a homeward bound soldier, Nelson Kling writing to his mother. Handwritten on lined Army and Navy YMCA stationary from Camp Mills, Long Island on March 15, 1919, he tells his mother about his reaction and the reactions of the other soldiers on board the inbound ship to their first view of the Statue of Liberty. He writes, “…it was a grand and glorious feeling when Miss Liberty first loomed up on the horizon….” He goes on to write:“When we first got a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty (there was close to two thousand men on board and every man on deck with his eye peeled) a cheer went out over the water and it seemed like the boat even came to attention. ‘There’s my sweet heart now’ and then everyone sang My Country [tis] of Thee and I’ll tell you Mother Mine there isn’t another spot in the whole world like this one and you’ll never realize it until you’ve seen (it) for yourself.”
Last updated: October 24, 2018