Remember me as you pass by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you shall be... goes a classic tombstone epitaph of the 19th century. Time has also taken the last of the surviving participants of what they once called the "Great War" leaving us with no one left alive to ask:
What was it really like?
"Lost" and forgotten for over 90 years, this book is the result of one street-wise and peace-loving but fiercely patriotic American soldier who went well beyond the typical censored letters, pocket diaries, and post-war memoirs to help answer that question for future generations. Through a unique combination of skill, circumstances and strong personal motivation, Bugler/Private William J. Graham (Company B, 103rd Military Police Battalion, 28th Division/First Army) delivers one of the most compelling, detailed, and true real-time eyewitness accounts of an American soldier’s W.W.I experience ever recorded and available in print now for the first time!
Over four thousand miles from his home, family, and work as a Philadelphia mounted policeman, thirty-nine year old William J. Graham found himself fighting as a detached field M.P. in war-devastated northern France as one of over two million men and women who made up the American Expeditionary Forces in the bloody latter half of 1918. Through his keen eyes and artful powers of description, it is not difficult to imagine yourself slogging through the muddy blood-spattered fields of the Western Front as the earth trembles and German shells scream overhead...where hunger, “cooties”, and death are constant companions. Private Graham’s uncensored journal of over 650 hand-written pages was penned by him - not from memory while resting comfortably by a warm fire in a stuffed chair ...but incredibly while the events he describes actually unfolded around him in France under raw filthy field conditions.
Generously illustrated with over 300 rare original and previously unpublished images, this book gives readers an authentic and powerfully moving description of the horrific sights and emotions of Americans at war with the German “Hun” in the world’s first-ever global conflict. This work is of unique value to the historian or student of the period serving as an accurate and superbly detailed description of what many U.S. soldiers experienced “doing their bit” while struggling to survive yet another day...“Somewhere in France”.
"This is one book that every American should read. I can tell you right now that Hell's Observer has received a "WOW! +” rating ...it just doesn't get any higher than this in a rating. A "WOW!" rating means that you have gone far and above what the customer was expecting. When the + sign is added, it means you have reached complete and total customer satisfaction. The customer will be in a state of total awe and wonderment like a child on Christmas Morning. Hell's Observer puts the reader right on the front lines with Private Graham! Does anyone have an extra gas mask? ...This is the best WWI book that I have ever seen! Period!"
Lone Star Book Review (Phoenix, AZ)
" Hell's Observer is one of the most fascinating and extensive memoirs of service in the AEF I have ever read. Graham's duties as an MP gave him incredible freedom to see the battlefields of 1918 across the frontlines and back into the rear echelons. A keen observer, his views of life in the AEF add much to our understanding of America's part in WWI"
Major (Ret) Stephen C. McGeorge,
U.S. Army Historian
"In Hells Observer: The Epic Wartime Journal of Private William J. Graham we get a different view of the American side of the Great War. Instead of the usual perspective given by the front line infantryman, writing from several years' distance and memory who spent his war hip deep in mud and blood and the absolute futility of it all, our observer was an MP serving just behind the front, helping direct troop movements and gather 'strays'. His job, therefore, allowed him enough time to properly record what all he saw and thought, as it happened/when it happened. From his unique position in the madness of war, Graham was able to see the troops moving up - eager and apprehensive; virile yet vague to wars realities - as well as the wreckage returning from the front - wounded and worn; stripped of any illusions of glory. Close enough to the trenches for his life to be in danger on a regular basis (most of his work brings him near enough to the front to be both shelled and gassed), he also spent some of his off time seeking wars realities and then recording the horror experienced by an "interested outsider". The results of his writings make for a well rounded and largely unbiased record of the war from one close enough to feel the heat of the flame, yet far enough away not to be burned by it. Almost until the end he retains an optimism and a belief in "The Cause". And while the war eventually breaks down some of his resolve, it never truly breaks him - nor diminishes the veracity of his writing.
Extremely well illustrated throughout with hundreds of photographs from the enormous collection of Bruce Jarvis - most never before seen - Hell's Observer makes an excellent, well-rounded addition to the shelf of both the serious student of the AEF's experience in France, as well as one just seeking a hell of a good read with plenty of fascinating photos. I devoured it in three days and almost immediately read it again; something I rarely have the time to do. I made the time here. It was worth it and I'm sure I'll be turning to the work again as a research tool. I commend Stephen Badgley and Bruce Jarvis for rescuing Graham's original manuscript and keeping it from fading into the oblivion of time. It has proven to be far too unique and valuable a record of the American experience in France to have been consigned to such a fate."
Robert J. Laplander
Author of Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumor's Myths and Legends of America's Famous WW1 Epic.
"Sunday, August 11th, 1918... A town above us is on fire. The roads are one mass of humanity marching toward the front. Shells are exploding all around us...the heavy crashes and the earth trembling. It’s a very trying ordeal on a man’s nerves and I know there will be many a boy who will be a nervous wreck if he lives through this hell."