"He was lying on the ground," said his grandson, Robert Kilmer, "facing forward toward the enemy. And they thought he was alive. They went to announce themselves. His patrol went to say, 'Okay, Joyce, let's go,' then they found him dead."
Joyce Kilmer is buried in France, surrounded by the graves of other American soldiers killed in WWI.
Another poet wrote, "In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row."
The poppy has come to symbolize the soldiers on all sides who died -- some 8.5 million of them. More than 116,000 of those dead were American.
With Germany's surrender, in 1918, the map was redrawn. The Middle East, sliced and diced into territories being fought over to this day.
President Woodrow Wilson, who thrust the United States onto the world stage to make it "safe for democracy," failed.
Kennedy said a "deep disillusionment" set in. "And it deepens as the '20s and '30s go forward, when the American public looks across the Atlantic at the Europe they thought they were being sent into battle to redeem, and what do they get? They get fascism in Italy. They get Communism in Russia. They get Nazism in Germany."
Was it all a terrible waste? When it ended, World War I was known as "the War to End All Wars." Barely two decades later, World War II began.
For more info:
- Professor Sir Hew Strachan at All Souls College, University of Oxford
- "The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War: New Edition" by Hew Strachan (Oxford University Press); Also available in eBook format
- David Kennedy, Stanford University
- "Over Here: The First World War and American Society" by David Kennedy (Oxford University Press); Also available in eBook format
- National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, Mo.
- Joyce Kilmer Family (Rising Dove Fine Arts and Services)
- In Flanders Fields Museum, Belgium
- Somme Trench Museum, France