Photo of Soldiers Going “Over the Top”


The handwritten notation on the back of this photograph reads: “an actual photo of our boys going ‘over the top’, thru a gas attack at Chateau Thierry (7/11/18). The chap without a mask is already ‘croaked’.” The photograph is one of a set of nine taken by Lieutenant Gordon E. Griffiths and sent by him from Treves, Germany on March 3, 1919, with an accompanying letter to Dr. Burton L. Pinkerton. The letter reads in part: “Enclosed are some pictures which will give you an idea of some of the things I have went through and seen. Nobody can realize what an H.E. (high explosive) shell can do except those who have been among them. I have seen more than I wished to see.” The Battle of Château-Thierry was an early part of the Second Battle of the Marne, fought along the Marne River in northeastern France from mid-July 1918. It was one of the first engagements in which United States Army and Marine Corps units were in combat against the German army. The date on the photograph—July 1918—marked the start of a largescale Allied counteroffensive against the Germans. About 270,000 American troops formed the spearhead of the attack along a 35-kilometer front between the Aisne and Marne Rivers. The photographs are preserved in the collections of the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans.

Last updated: November 14, 2017