Lecture looks at life of immigrant WWI soldiers

For Immediate Release:  March 16, 2015

BLOOMSBURG — Nancy Gentile Ford, professor of history, will discuss the training and treatment of immigrant soldiers in World War I during her lecture, “Americans All!  Immigrant Soldiers in the U.S. Army in the Great War.”

The lecture, part of BU’s Institute of Culture and Society Great War Series, will take place Thursday, March 26, at 7 p.m. in Centennial Hall 239.

With the outbreak of World War I, nearly half a million immigrant soldiers were drafted into the U.S. Army, making up almost 20 percent of the military force. These immigrants came from 46 nationalities, according to Ford’s book, “Americans All!: Foreign-Born Soldiers in World War I,” and challenged the military’s training techniques, as well as long-held cultural, linguistic and religious traditions.

While some historians would describe this experience as involuntary assimilation for the immigrant soldiers, Ford describes a period of respect and sensitivity to the traditions of the immigrants. The resulting challenge for military officials was to build American patriotism while also building individual morale.

Ford is the author of three books – “Americans All!: Foreign-Born Soldiers in World War I,” “Issues of War and Peace” and “The Great War and America: Civil Military Relations during World War I” – as well as numerous articles, essays and book reviews on World War I. She has been interviewed by Newsweek, BBC Public Radio and Voice of America as an expert on war and ethnicity.

Ford recently participated in the Princeton Conference, “Immigrants in the U.S. Military.” At BU, she teaches 20th century American military, cultural and political history and history of immigration to the United States.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

ICS Great War Centennial Series

  • Yahya Laayouni, assistant professor of languages and cultures, film and discussion, “France in the Great War,” Thursday, April 9, at 7 p.m., Centennial Hall 239
  • Tina Entzminger, professor of English, and students, poster presentations and discussion, “Hemingway and the Great War,” Thursday, April 16, at 7 p.m., Centennial Hall 239
  • Nogin Chung, associate professor of art and art history, and students, student colloquium “The Great War and Modernism in the Visual Arts,” Friday, April 24, at 11 a.m., Centennial hall 239

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 10,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.