Monday, October 8, 2018-
American voices from World War I- Thankfully, the voices of U.S. veterans from several wars are archived for all to hear through the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The voices of two WWI veterans, in particular, caught my ear during my research on the Great War. Arnold and Clara Hoke sat for audio interviews in 1971. Clara served as a nurse during WWI in France, working in a Paris hospital tending to some of the most severely wounded U.S. soldiers. Arnold served with the 42nd Rainbow Division in WWI. He saw heavy combat against German troops in several key American battles on the Western Front.
Arnold and Clara didn’t meet and marry until 1922. They recorded their WWI stories when Clara Hoke was 78 and Arnold Hoke was 79.
Clara Lewandoske Hoke had been a nurse for four years when the U.S. entered World War I. She wasted little time in enlisting in the war effort. As she recalled in her 1971 self-interview, she was assigned to combat field hospitals during the war and a huge hospital facility in Paris. There she spent time working in the “Jaw Ward,” whose facially disfigured patients were a grim reminder of the effects of the war’s high-powered weaponry.
Listen below to Clara’s description of the time WWI U.S. Commander General John J. Pershing came to visit the hospital where she worked and why “Black Jack” Pershing’s visit was so memorable to her.
In 1917, Arnold Hoke arrived in France with the 42nd Rainbow Division. Like many other U.S. soldiers, Hoke experienced trench warfare with little knowledge of what to expect and initially without a weapon. By the spring of 1918, Hoke was promoted to Sergeant and saw combat in the Aisne-Marne Offensives, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Listen below as Arnold Hoke describes hunkering down in the basement of an abandoned farmhouse during the battle of the Meuse-Argonne, unaware that it had been booby-trapped with explosives by retreating German troops.
Clara Hoke said German air raids and bombing attacks against Paris were fairly routine during her WWI days as a nurse. Listen below as she describes one German bombing attack and anti-aircraft fire that came dangerously close to the hospital ward where she worked in Paris.
Arnold Hoke died in 1971, three months after creating the audio recordings of his WWI memories. His straightforward descriptions of life during WWI included stories of fellow soldiers lost, as well as the randomness of those who lived and those who died. His audio recollections make for memorable lessons on the costs of war.
Listen below as Hoke describes a German artillery attack on his fellow soldiers who were eating dinner in a grove of trees when the enemy shells struck during the battle of the Meuse-Argonne.