Despite their extensive service in World War I, few members of the Kansas-Missouri 35th Division left lengthy memoirs of their experiences in the American Expeditionary Forces. But Ward Loren Schrantz filled dozens of pages with his recollections of life as a National Guard officer and machine gun company commander in the "Santa Fe" Division.
In A Machine-Gunner in France, Schrantz extensively documents his experiences and those of his men, from training at Camp Doniphan to their voyage across the Atlantic, and to their time in the trenches in France's Vosges Mountains and ultimately to their return home. He devotes much of his memoir to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, in which the 35th Division suffered heavy casualties and made only moderate gains before being replaced by fresh troops. Schrantz provides a valuable "common soldier's" view of why the division failed to live up to the expectations of the A.E.F. high command. Schrantz also describes the daily life of a soldier, including living conditions, relations between officers and enlisted men, and the horrific experience of combat. He paints literary portraits of the warriors who populated the A.E.F. and the civilians he encountered in France.
Schrantz's small-town newspaper experience allowed him to craft a well-written and entertaining narrative. Because he did not intend his memoir for publication, the Missourian wrote in an honest and unassuming style, with extensive detail, vivid descriptions, and occasional humor. Editor Jeffrey Patrick combines his narrative with excerpts from a detailed history of the unit that Schrantz wrote for his local newspaper, and also provides an editor's introduction and annotations to document and explain items and sources in the memoir. This is not a romantic account of the war, but a realistic record of how American citizen-soldiers actually fought on the Western Front.
Number 16: North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series