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World Wars

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The Yank






The boche went into the war as a robber, the poilu as a crusader
determined to save the sacred and holy things of the world from
desecration and destruction, the Tommy as a player in a great game,
and the Yank as a policeman whose job it was to clean up the affair.

To the American soldiers, the Yanks, and to the American people, the
war was a job, a most disagreeable one, but one that must be done. No
one else was ready and able to do it; so they went at it smilingly and
jollied every one with whom they came in contact.

French children were asked to write descriptions of the Yanks for a
New York paper. They nearly all said that they were big and handsome
and quick, that they always smiled and were always hungry, especially
for chocolate and candy. The French noticed the everlasting smile of
the Yank, for after three years of war and suffering the French, even
the children, had ceased to smile. It is said the children had even
forgotten how to play, but they responded to the love in the hearts of
the Yanks, as did the German children when the American soldiers
crossed the Rhine. To the Yanks there were no enemies among the
children; they loved them, French or German.

The Yank did not smile because he failed to realize the seriousness
of his job, but because with him the harder, the more dangerous, and
the dirtier the job, the more must he smile and jolly about it.

They had come to France to do a certain piece of work. It was a
bloody, dusty, sweaty, unclean, disagreeable one, and they proposed to
finish it. . . . We are a people given to discounting futures, and the
average American soldier, to put it bluntly, discounted being killed in
action. If our Allies, whose fortitude was sustained in a dark hour by
the way that our men fought, could have probed what was in the mind of
these Americans, they would have found still further reason for faith
in our military strength. So declares Major Palmer of General
Pershing's staff.

Raymond Fosdick says the character of the American soldier was shown
when a Y.M.C.A. secretary asked a large body of Yanks to write on
little slips of paper distributed to them what they thought were the
three greatest sins in a soldier. When the papers were passed back and
examined, it was found that they agreed unanimously upon the first sin.
It was cowardice. And almost unanimously upon the second. It was
selfishness. And the third was big-headedness.

The Yank is wonderfully free from the sins he hates. Dashing,
fearless, willing to die rather than to surrender, unable, as General
Bundy said, to understand an order to retreat, he is always a
jollier. It is said one platoon of Yanks went over the top
wearing tall silk hats with grenades in one hand and carrying pink
parasols in the other. This may be only a story of what the Yanks
would have done if permitted, but it is true to their nature.

The Yanks have written the noblest chapter of American history. They
have honored their fathers and mothers, their churches, the American
public school, and the land of Washington and Lincoln. Those who sleep
beneath foreign soil have not died in vain.

*******************





Next: Duty

Previous: The Tommy



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