World War I, Part 3: The American Expeditionary Forces and Prohibition

Editor’s Note: This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I’s outbreak. Today, contributing editor Nicholas K. Johnson brings us the third installment in a five-part series on alcohol, drugs, and the Great War. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

The experience of American soldiers and Marines with alcohol on the Western Front was fundamentally different than that of their allies from France, Belgium, and the British Commonwealth. Unlike the French and British armies, the men of the American Expeditionary Forces were not issued alcohol in the trenches. This would have been anathema to the powerful temperance movement on the home front. The temperance movement issued anti-alcohol propaganda during and after the war and connected it with the American cause.  Behind the lines, YMCA camps offered “wholesome” entertainment for American troops free from alcohol and other vices. However, the temperance movement and YMCA ultimately failed to prevent American troops from consuming alcohol during the war.

This image, published by the United Committee on War Temperance, emphasizes the "cleanliness" of temperance. Image courtesy The Ohio State University: https://prohibition.osu.edu/anti-saloon-league/dry-propaganda/world-war-i

This image, published by the United Committee on War Temperance, emphasizes the “cleanliness” of temperance.
Image courtesy The Ohio State University: https://prohibition.osu.edu/anti-saloon-league/dry-propaganda/world-war-i

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