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
 
 
 

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