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Poised to become a significant player in the new world order, the United States truly came of age during and after World War I. Yet many Americans think of the Great War simply as a precursor to World War II. Americans, including veterans, hastened to put experiences and memories of the war years behind them, reflecting a general apathy about the war that had developed during the 1920s and 1930s and never abated.
In Remembering World War I in America Kimberly J. Lamay Licursi explores the American public’s collective memory and common perception of World War I by analyzing the extent to which it was expressed through the production of cultural artifacts related to the war. Through the analysis of four vectors of memory—war histories, memoirs, fiction, and film—Lamay Licursi shows that no consistent image or message about the war ever arose that resonated with a significant segment of the American population. Not many war histories materialized, war memoirs did not capture the public’s attention, and war novels and films presented a fictional war that either bore little resemblance to the doughboys’ experience or offered discordant views about what the war meant. In the end Americans emerged from the interwar years with limited pockets of public memory about the war that never found compromise in a dominant myth.