The Texas State Library and Archives Commission marks the 100th Anniversary of the “Great War,” with its latest exhibit: “Texans Take to the Trenches.” The collection of photographs, documents, and dispatches commemorate the Texans who responded to Uncle Sam’s “I Want You” rally cry and showcases the individual experiences of Texans dealing with the war both at home and abroad.
More than 198,000 Texans answered the call to join the Allied Forces in an effort to defeat the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. Although many Americans favored neutrality, the details found in a top-secret, coded communiqué between Mexico and Germany, called the Zimmerman Telegram, hinted at a possible pact to regain lost territories in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The threat of German soldiers on southwestern soil was enough to provoke the United States to declare war on April 6, 1917. Before long, Doughboys were shipping off by the dozen to dig trenches and do their part “Over There.”
While the battle was raged on land, sea and air, the war effort was more than just mortar shells and mustard gas. Texans on the home front felt the ravages of war through rationing and the pain of missing their dearly beloved.
WWI Exhibit Home | Letters From Home | War Comes to Texas | The German-Texan Experience | Texas "Does Its Bit" for the War |
Texas Women in World War I | The Texas Soldier's Experience | Panoramas in World War I
“It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance.”
– President Woodrow Wilson, Special Session of Congress, April 2, 1917
Since 1914, war raged in Europe between the Allies (Great Britain, France, and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). America declared neutrality but “The Great War” had claimed American lives with the sinking of vessels crossing the Atlantic by German submarines.
According to Wilson, Germany exercised some restraint and gave passengers and crew “at least a fair chance to save their lives” but news reached him of Germany’s plan to forgo this policy. Germany planned to sink any vessel that approached a port controlled by its enemies. In his address to Congress, President Wilson laid before Congress the choice before the country: to sever diplomatic ties with Germany and declare war.
Four days later on April 6, 1917, Congress declared war. For the next 18 months, America would be a nation at war.
In Texas, citizens mobilized to support the war effort from home front activities to paying the ultimate price: their lives. This exhibit centers on the various ways Texans responded to the call to action.