The American Soldier
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Irving Greenwald’s Diary

Irving Greenwald’s Diary

THe Diary

Greenwald, who served with the 308th Infantry Regiment during World War I, kept a detailed diary that is the centerpiece of the collection at the Library of Congress and of the play. The content of the diary is breathtaking. Greenwald wrote his entries in the tiniest of handwriting, eloquently relating his experiences in training, in combat, and in the hospital after he was wounded in October 1918. The diary was transcribed by his daughter and sister in the late 1930’s.

Read the blog post by the Library of Congress regarding the diary and the play.

 
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See Echoes of the Great War

Library of Congress

Irving Greenwald

Irving Greenwald

Irving Greenwald

He was a Hungarian Jew, who grew up on the upper east side of New York. Drafting into the United States Army in December of 1917. He fought in the Argonne Forest and was in E Compnay of the 308, part of the 77th Division. Famously knows as the Lost Battalion. The bloodiest, and most costly engagement in the First World War for our Doughboys.

Cut from their regiment for six days, and surrounded by Germans, and enduring intense fighting bombing in the Argonne Forest of France. Roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner before the 194 remaining men were rescued.  Food was scarce and water was available only by crawling, under fire, to a nearby stream. Ammunition ran low and they were even bombarded by shells from their own artillery.  In an infamous incident on 4th of October, inaccurate coordinates were delivered by one of the pigeons and the unit was subjected to friendly fire. The unit was saved by another pigeon, Cher Ami, delivering the following message,

“WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALLEL 276.4,  OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT!” 

See his official documents at the Veteran History Project’s Website.

 
 
 
I stand with bated breath waiting for the explosion of the shell. I imagine the toll of injury and death it takes. The cost of it. The futility of it. The war will never be won on the field of battle. Why not end it all and spare men and women.
— Irving Greenwald
 
 
 

Hoboken Museum Performance 2018

Audience reactions after my performance at the Library of Congress on Veteran Day

Audience reactions after my performance at the Library of Congress on Memorial Day

How I Created of the Play

Read my process in how I created the play with a color coding system, and see images of a few of my notes during early drafts.

The play is 85% of the diary of Private Irving Greenwald exact words, I took 465 days of his diary entries and condense them into a moving and thought provoking 60 minute play. From entrance into the service, his experiences in France, the intensity and terror of trench warfare, the jubilation of the Armistice and coming home, and his incredible love for his wife, Leah and soon to be born child, Cecile.


 
 

Images from Library of Congress performance

 

Hoboken Museum, Veterans Day

 

On November 11th, Veterans Day 2018 marked 100 years when the last shot was fired on November 11th, 1918 at the 11th hour. My home town of Hoboken, New Jersey gave me the honor to perform my World War I play to honor and remember the First World War. I was also honored to meet more of Irving Greenwald’s beautiful family members , his grandson and his niece. I can’t express the honor to read this mans diary, his experiences during the war and then to meet his family. It truly is a blessing that I will never forget as an honest.

Hoboken had approximately two million American servicemen passed through Hoboken between the spring of 1917 and the fall of 1918 when the United States entered the war. “Heaven, Hell or Hoboken” became the national rallying cry for all the boys that they be home by Christmas of 1917. However, the war actually did not end until November 11th of 1918.

 

Veterans Day is honored on November 11th because it marks the end of the Great War, and this Veterans Day will be mark 100 years when the last shot was fired on November 11th, 1918 at the 11th hour. My home town of Hoboken, New Jersey was the port that nearly all the soldiers would pass through both on their way to fight, and home from, the Great War. “The war to end all wars”, as it was coined when WWI started in 1914. Approximately two million American servicemen passed through Hoboken between the spring of 1917 and the fall of 1918 when the United States entered the war. “Heaven, Hell or Hoboken” became the national rallying cry for all the boys that they be home by Christmas of 1917. However, the war actually did not end until November 11th of 1918.

I took these images to help remember the spirit of the boys is still with us, and I believe still roaming the cobblestone streets of Hoboken. The photos were shot in some of the oldest parts of Hoboken that existed back in 1918. They were taken at the train station, the ferry terminal and in the alleys to help us imagine how it must have looked, and how it felt a hundred years ago as hese brave boys were getting ready to ship off, some to never come back home. My hope is that these photos help us all imagine the courage it must have taken these brave young men to leave home and fight in the First World War.

Photos were taken by Helen McGuire Photographie

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The American Soldier
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Douglas Taurel, Hoboken
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