Trench Knives and Mustard Gas
With the 42nd Rainbow Division in France
Military History - World War I
6.125 x 9.25, 224 pp.
18 b&w photos., 4 maps.
Pub Date: 05/14/2004
C. A. Brannen Series
  cloth
Price:        $29.95

978-1-58544-290-4

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Trench Knives and Mustard Gas

With the 42nd Rainbow Division in France

By Hugh S. Thompson
Edited by Robert H. Ferrell

Trench Knives and Mustard Gas: With the 42nd Rainbow Division in France is the memoir of a soldier on the front lines of World War I. Hugh Thompson’s memoirs of his time in France demonstrate a keen eye for detail and a penchant for philosophy. Thompson combines the fast-paced prose of the jazz age and the passionate observations of an engaged intellectual. Originally serialized in the Chattanooga Times in 1934, this newly edited version allows the author to tell his story to a whole new generation. Thomspon takes the reader on an intense journey with the 168th regiment of the 42nd Rainbow Division through the villages, towns, battlefields, and hospitals of France. He points out the sights along the way and has a knack for compressing a complex reflection on life into a single sentence. Severely wounded in his arm and back, Thompson reassesses his situation after visiting comrades who lost arms or legs. “I went back to my tent,” he recalls, “almost ashamed of my own lucky wounds.” Homesick for the States during his first months overseas, Thompson discovers that his platoon has become his second family. He becomes increasingly estranged from his old one and accustomed to the war’s distortion of time and values. Friendships form and disappear in the hour it takes a stranger to die. When he is wounded, Germans serve as his stretcher bearers. And things never happen when they take place, but later when one learns of them from a letter or from a soldier passing through. War does not destroy the physical man. It leads to strange experiences. Trench Knives and Mustard Gas brings the front lines of World War I, the Great War, to the hearts and minds of its readers. The book is an indispensable guide into the past, told by a man who was there.

Editor Robert H. Ferrell received his Ph.D. from Yale University, and for many years he taught history at Indiana University in Bloomington. He is the author of Woodrow Wilson and World War I and Harry S Truman: A Biography. He currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

What Readers Are Saying:

“. . . provides unique insight into one of the American Army’s more celebrated World War I units, the 42nd ‘Rainbow Division.’ Bob has located a rare source that will make a fine addition to the World War I books previously published by Texas A&M University Press.”--Mitchell A. Yockelson, Archivist

“. . . provides unique insight into one of the American Army’s more celebrated World War I units, the 42nd ‘Rainbow Division.’ Bob has located a rare source that will make a fine addition to the World War I books previously published by Texas A&M University Press.” --Mitchell A. Yockelson, Archivist

“Vivid, insightful, and very strongly recommended reading, this memoir (Thompson died in 1961) is an enduring tribute to the hardships and horrors, comraderie and dedication, that were so characteristic of life and death on the western battlefields of World War I.” --The Midwest Book Review

“Thompson’s graphic and heart-wrenching narrative of combat and life in the trenches ranks among the best American eyewitness accounts of the ‘War to End All Wars’”. --Military Trader

“In vivid detail and well-crafted prose, Thompson chronicles his military service. . . a master of introspection and description, Thompson has written a grim and realistic account of an infantry platoon leader in action in World War I. . .” --Military Heritage

“[Ferrell] is a skillful, experienced historian . . . Texas A&M Press and Robert Ferrell have made a significant contribution to the literature of World War I, one that gives us authentic details of the human dimension of modern warfare. . . . it will be most useful for specialists eager to understand how combat in the Great War affected the doughboys of Uncle Sam’s expeditionary army.” --Military History

“As he accounts his service, Thompson captures, in lucid and compelling prose, the grimness of trench warfare, the agony of becoming a gas casualty, and the myriad challenges faced by a small unit leader. . . . provides some insights into the issues of performance and training.” --On Point

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