Book Review: WWI Journal

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Over There with Private Graham ~ The Compelling World War 1 Journal of an AMERICAN DOUGHBOY, by William J. Graham. Edited by Bruce A. Jarvis & C. Stephen Badgley. (ISBN: 978-0-998-80452-1. Badgley Publishing Company, Canal Winchester, OH.Available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble website. 8-1/2"x11", 472 pages, nearly 400 black-and-white photos, 2018, hardcover, $59.95; soft cover, $49.95; and Kindle, $24.95.)

Through a unique combination of skill, circumstances, and strong personal motivation, Private William J. Graham (Company B, 103rd Military Police Battalion, 28th Division/First Army) wrote a compelling, detailed, and real-time eyewitness account of his experiences during WWI and occupation of Germany.

A portion of this book was originally published under the title, Hell’s Observer. The work transcribed Graham’s amazingly detailed 660-page journal. In 2015, one of Graham’s descendents contacted the editor to inform him that she possessed Graham’s pocket diary covering the period of February through June 17, 1919. This resulted in an updated version of Hell’s Observer.

Circumstances led the editors to Graham’s great-granddaughter who provided another important segment: Graham’s journal of service from enlistment in 1917 up to when the journal transcribed in Hell’s Observer began. Now, as a result of this remarkable series of events, the entire of military service of an extremely prolific writer has been reunited, thus giving way to this all-new, heavily illustrated compilation edited and produced by Bruce Jarvis and Stephen Badgley.

Private Graham wrote his journal as events unfolded in front of him. And, he wrote with an ability to describe the life of a Doughboy on the Western Front in a way that engages the reader. This book, unlike many other published diaries and journals of the era, is literally, a “page-turner.”

Graham’s accounts are first-hand reports of actual events. In an earthy, ground-pounder tone, Graham creates the sense of “you are there.” Hundreds of original WWI images provide the reader with visual complements to Graham’s narrative.

Other than punctuation and some jarring grammatical corrections, the editors did not omit or change any of Graham’s original text. The result is a significant addition to the available primary sources about U.S. Army life during WWI. This edition will become an important foundation for anyone wanting to build an understanding or recreate the day-to-day lives of the common American soldiers in France during WWI and later, in the occupation of Germany.