The Stars and Stripes. Volume 2, Number 7, March 21, 1919


The Stars and Stripes was published in France by the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) of the United States Army from February 8, 1918, to June 13, 1919. General John J. Pershing wanted a newspaper written by servicemen for the soldiers on the battlefront. On the front page of the first issue, Pershing endorsed the newspaper and characterized its purpose and content: "In this initial number of The Stars and Stripes, published by the men of the Overseas Command, the Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces extends his greetings through the editing staff to the readers from the first line trenches to the base ports. These readers are mainly the men who have been honored by being the first contingent of Americans to fight on European soil for the honor of their country. . . . The paper, written by the men in the service, should speak the thoughts of the new American Army and the American people from whom the Army has been drawn. It is your paper. Good luck to it." The newspaper's mission was to strengthen the morale of the troops and to promote unity within the American forces, then widely scattered and fulfilling many apparently unrelated functions. The venture was immediately popular with the soldiers and quickly sold out its first issue of 1,000 copies. Although designated as the "official newspaper of the AEF," its independent editorial voice earned the confidence and affection of common soldiers. Published exclusively in France during its 17-month run, The Stars and Stripes used a layout typical of American newspapers of the day, with wide columns, "all-capital" headlines, and lots of illustrations. The editorial staff assigned to the newspaper was composed mostly of enlisted men, including several career journalists. Second Lieutenant Guy T. Viskniskki from the Wheeler Newspaper Syndicate, New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, bibliophile John Winterich, and cartoonist Abian "Wally" Wallgren of the Washington Post were among those who contributed their experience and skill. Private Harold W. Ross, later founder of The New Yorker magazine, was also on the editorial staff. The Stars and Stripes grew to a high-circulation newspaper, reaching well over 500,000 readers by its one-year anniversary. The newspaper's content contributed to its success, as did its distribution system. By a feat of ingenuity and perseverance, agents delivered the paper to the majority of the subscribers on the date of publication. Captain Richard H. Waldo, who had worked at the New York Times and Good Housekeeping before his enlistment, devised a system by which soldier distributors, or "field agents," at each Army Post Office coordinated distribution by rail, truck, and automobile (including three Cadillacs). French news dealers also delivered copies of the weekly to field agents and to hospitality centers staffed by the YMCA known as "YMCA huts." In addition, distributors mailed more than 200,000 copies to military bases and individual subscribers back home in the United States. All 71 issues of The Stars and Stripes are presented on the World Digital Library.

Last updated: September 30, 2016