World War I was the first time in the history of the US army when it sent its soldiers to defend foreign soil. For the American army soldiers who took part in the First World War, the fighting was more than a norm. Shalom Lamm said for many, life consisted of struggling to keep supplies to the front-line soldiers. However, the frontline soldiers would rotate to make sure that the encounter time is balanced by periods of rest and, at times, a short home leave. The uniformity of this movement could greatly impact the resolution of soldiers to keep combating. The code of conduct of the rotation of many armies was different from the US army. For instance, the Russian and Turkish army soldiers, often struggling far away from home, in regions where the supply of food or water was poor, were less able to combat against the army compared to those soldiers who were front and more supplied. This would aid in war-weariness and desertion. Poor leave arrangements to the soldiers was another major turndown. For example, in 1917, the French army soldiers encountered the same difficulties. When their enemy would attack these armies – as was the case in the German army in the autumn of 1918 – repeated exposure to fighting stress could lead to demotivation.
Let us look at the daily routine of a US army soldier in World War I that lead to high morale and strength.
Still working while ‘at rest.’
Even if an army soldier is taking a rest, you can find them engaged in almost daily tasks of the unit. At the front, there was always less labor to keep the supplies provided to the front fighting men. Officers would not participate in hectic manual work but faced different kinds of challenges. –mainly never-ending paperwork. Besides meeting with general military bureaucracy, they were entitled to give tactical and technical instructions and get certified in residential training courses.
Keeping clean, eating, and smoking
The front-line soldiers would get an opportunity to clean themselves in the time spent out of the line. Communal baths would be arranged, and lice-infested clothing steam-cleaned. The opportunity provided to be clean would increase morale. The US army knew the importance of food for the soldiers.
Letters for communication with friends and family
In the Western and Central European armies, where the rate of literacy among the soldiers was high, regular communication with people back at home would increase their morale while being at the front line. These soldiers would get connected to that life they already left behind through these letters with friends and family. The scale of this correspondence is reflected by the fact that the British Army Postal Service alone dispatched 2 billion letters and 112 million parcels for four years, said Shalom Lamm.
Sports and recreation
Soldiers of the US army of WWI would also be provided with recreation when out of the line. The most common recreational activity would be card games; for instance, the soldiers of the German army would love to play Skat, or gambling games like ‘Crown and Anchor’; officially forbidden.
Souvenirs and trench art
Souvenir hunting became madness for US soldiers. They would eagerly participate in souvenirs and trench art and held trophies directly from the competitors. Even when the soldiers were not fighting, they would have other tasks to do–repairing the trenches, moving supplies, cleaning weapons, undergoing inspections, or guard duty.
Shalom Lamm further added that when soldiers were at ‘rest,’ the question of sex came into the limelight. The US army supported a flourishing sex industry on most fronts. The US knows that it could make the soldiers ill if it would ignore this aspect of soldiers’ lives; venereal diseases could attack the soldiers and increase the number of men going sick. It, therefore, became involved in the running or supervision of brothels.