Shortly after American composer George Cohan heard that America had declared war against Germany, he wrote a song about the U.S. going to war.
The song, “Over There” became the best-known World War I song. It expresses the confidence Americans felt about going to war.
Hear a 1917 recording of the song by the American Quartet.
Most Tennesseans served in the infantry, but some served in the Navy and the Army Air Corps. Admiral Albert Gleaves of Nashville commanded the Navy’s transport fleet and was in charge of getting American soldiers to Europe. He later served as the commander of the Asiatic fleet.
Admiral William Caperton of Spring Hill was named commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet in 1916. His group was involved in naval operations in the Atlantic after the war began. World War I was the first war to involve air warfare. Several Tennesseans, including Captain Everett Richard Cook of Memphis, earned the designation of an ace, which meant he had shot down at least five enemy planes.
Tennessean Alvin C. York became the most decorated soldier of the war, receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions under fire. Other Tennesseans who received the Medal of Honor in World War I included:
- Joseph Adkinson, from Egypt, Tennessee, who rushed across open ground under machine gun fire and kicked the gun into the trench, capturing the three men who were manning the gun.
- Jesse Covington, from Haywood, Tennessee, who while serving as a ship’s cook , jumped overboard amid exploding powder boxes and pull an injured man back on board.
- James Karnes and Calvin Ward, click on above link.
- Edward Talley from Greene County, who rushed a machine gun nest and single-handed killed or wounded at least six of the crew, thus silencing the gun.
- Milo Lemert, who joined the army at Crossville, Tennessee, rushed a machine gun nest single-handed, killing the entire crew. He continued along the enemy trench and silenced two more guns. A fourth machine gun next opened fire on him, killing him.
- Soldiers from Company K, 117th Regiment Infantry, (formerly the 3rd Tennessee Infantry), 30th Division in Molaine, France. This photograph was taken October 18, 1918 and features the 30th Division preparing to stay the night after an advance. Tennessee State Library and Archive.
- Photograph of the 30th Division headquarters. This photo was taken on October 14, 1918 in Montbrehain, France and shows the heavy traffic caused by the transportation of British, American, and Australian war materials. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
- Photograph of T. E. Clayton and Cagle Sarne. The photograph was taken in 1917 and was probably taken in Germany in the city of Jever. The two soldiers are posed with rifles in their World War I uniforms. Cleveland Public Library.
- Photograph entitled, “Maryville Boys of Company B 117th Infantry.” This photo was taken in 1917 in Maryville, Tennessee. Blount County Public Library.
- Photograph entitled, “World War I, Tennessee Sharp Shooter.” Courtesy of the National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History.
- Photograph of the 117th Infantry in battle. Courtesy of the National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History.
- Photograph of German soldiers standing in front of a camp. Some soldiers are shown smoking and one is shown carrying his gun over his shoulder. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 8.399.2A
- Photograph showing World War I soldiers in a military trench. This photo is from the Chicago Daily News and shows soldiers preparing to eat a meal. Trench warfare uses a system of fortified dugouts near battle zones and was used extensively during World War I. Trenches could be used as living quarters, transportation routes, and as strategic fighting positions. The strong defenses and advanced weaponry used in trench warfare often resulted in a stalemate or deadlock between the opposing sides. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 79.87.4J
- Pvt. M. L. Hunley and soldiers from Company K, 117th Regiment Infantry, (formerly the 3rd Tennessee Infantry), 30th Division in battle. This photograph was taken October 18, 1918 and features the 30th Division fighting in a battle taking place in Molain, France. Tennessee State Library and Archive.
- Photograph of a World War I military tank. The caption reads, “107th infantry ahead of tanks in somme region, Sept. 6, 1918.” A symbol for the U.S. Signal Corps can be seen in the left corner. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 78.13.6D.
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