The First World War, 1914-1918, was the first truly global conflict.  A result of militarism, alliances, nationalism, imperialism, and sparked by assassination, this war saw great strides in technology and efficiency--and a significant number of casualties.  From the ports of Africa to the trenches in France, WWI forever changed the face of modern warfare and the future of twentieth century politics.

M1915 "Adrian" helmets.  France was among the first nations in WWI to field a helmet to its troops for protection.  This offered good coverage of the head and neck, but the steel was thin and provided poor overall protection.  The French had different insignia on the helmet to denote branch of service.  Top row:  Belgian-issue helmet with lion crest, and French infantry officer's helmet with braided chinstrap.  Bottom row:  infantry helmet, engineers model, and artillery.  The artillery helmet was found at Pont-à-Mousson, France.

The French "Croix de Guerre" (Cross of War) for bravery, issued in 1918.  The bronze star on the ribbon indicates that this recipient was mentioned by name in regimental or brigade dispatches for heroism.

The Verdun Medal, as issued to French soldiers and its allies who fought in the vicinity of Verdun during the war.  Verdun was the longest battle of World War I, lasting from February to December 1916 and resulting in over one million casualties.  There are several different variations of this medal, two of which are shown here.

An example of the French WWI Victory Medal.  The ribbon has faded.

French postcards from the early 1920s commemorating the battle of Verdun.

A medic's armband, bearing the Geneva Cross.

Relic liter and half-liter canteens as issued to French soldiers.  These were recovered from a barn in Brittany and would have carried water and wine.

Standard issue cup of the French soldier.  These were often suspended from a canteen.

Lebel bayonets, M1886.  The top example is the original configuration, while the bottom version represents a change during WWI:  the hooked guard was removed due to catching on wire, and the steel used in the handle was replaced with brass.

Trench art souvenir from Verdun in 1918.  It is made from brass and a spent bullet with the French Croix de Guerre symbol on it. It was likely brought home by an American veteran.

GEW 98 Mauser rifle, in 8mm.  This was the standard battle rifle of Germany in World War I, and had a capacity to carry five rounds.  This example is dated 1917.

Leather "pickelhaube" helmet of the Germany army.  This example is dated 1916.

Iron Cross medal, 2nd class.  These were awarded for bravery.

German gas mask.  The body is made of oiled leather and fitted with a removable filter.

Medal group to a female nurse who served in WWI.  The Iron Cross has a colors-reversed ribbon to indicate bravery as a non-combatant; there are War Service and Red Cross medals, and the medal at far right is a "next-of-kin" Hindenburg Cross given to relatives of fallen soldiers.

Leather helmet for "Uhlan" cavalry units in the German army.

M17 steel helmet used by German troops in the late war years.  The shape gave better neck and face protection than any other helmet at the time, and the lugs on the side allowed for an armored brow plate to be attached.  This example was painted in a camouflage pattern for better concealment.

Enlisted man's belt buckle.  Its emblem reads "God is with us."

German belt buckle specially made for telegraph troops.  The brackets were designed to support a reel of telegraph wire and free up the soldier's hands.

Mounted medal group.  This veteran was awarded the Iron Cross, Hindenburg Cross, and a campaign medal for service in the Italian region of Tyrol.  The badge at right is the Black Wound Badge, indicating that he was wounded in combat.

German "Butcher" bayonet, named for its shape that resembled a butcher knife.  This was the standard mid-war bayonet for the German Army.

 The need for helmets quickly became apparent in WWI and each country developed their own models to lend protection to its soldiers.  The British Mark I helmet, above, was first patented in 1915 and saw widespread use beginning in 1916. It has a rubber ring in the crown for comfort and a rough textured finish for camouflage.  The United States would copy this design with their M1917 helmet, with major differences being the gauge of the steel, different rivet pins, and the omission of the rubber ring.

World War I medal issued for an Irish soldier who was one of the war's early casualties.  He enlisted in Cork, Ireland, at the start of WWI and served as a Private in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers.  He was killed on 21 December 1914 and is buried in Pas de Calais, France.

These are believed to be Commonwealth trench boots, likely private-purchase.  They were located in France and retain hobnail soles and evidence of boot black that would have been British regulation in WWI.

P.07 bayonet for the SMLE .303 rifle.

Large bronze memorial plaque given to the families of fallen soldiers. This one is named, but research suggests two casualties with this name gave their lives in the Great War.

World War I Victory Medals issued to Commonwealth troops.  These are named to veterans from the Royal Artillery.

Original photos of British Mark I tanks.  These were the first tanks in history to ever to see combat.

Army uniform and gear of the typical infantryman.  Over the wool uniform jacket is a cartridge belt, combat suspenders, and slung gas mask and grenade bag.  On the belt is a medical pouch, trench knife, and bolo knife.

Layout of gear as carried by the typical infantryman.  This includes cartridge belt, pack, entrenching tool, M1917 rifle, and bayonet.

M1917 steel helmets.  These were copied from the British design and designed to protect the wearer from falling debris.  The US, like most countries, entered the war wearing caps in the field, but trench warfare quickly made clear that head protection was necessary.

A nice example of a tailored officer's uniform jacket. This example is named to a Lieutenant in the 91st Infantry Division.  It is dated 1918 and the sleeve stripes indicate a year overseas.  Also displayed is a non-regulation Sam Brown belt--it was popular with overseas officers but never prescribed for official use.

A "Eagle-Globe-Anchor" (EGA) cap insignia of the United States Marine Corps.  Marines fought with distinction in France and would wear this emblem on their caps and attached to their helmets.

WWI-era US Marine Corps marksmanship proficiency badges

The US Victory Medal with three campaign bars.

Many towns and states issued their own commemorative medals to returning veterans.  This particular one is from the town of Alliance, Ohio.

Model of 1911 campaign caps as worn by US soldiers.  The top example has maroon and white cords for the Medical Department and the lower example has white infantry cords worn through 1917.

Wool uniform breeches worn by US soldiers.  They laced just below the knee and were worn with leggings or puttees to protect the lower leg.

Army-issued wool flannel undershirt.

A soldier has to eat!  Above is an assortment of items necessary for eating and as carried by each soldier.  At top is a condiment tin that would carry coffee, tea, and salt; at center is a bacon ration tin; at right is a canteen.  Lower item is the "meat can" (mess kit) with fork and knife.

Three variations of the M1917 trench knife, as issued to soldiers in the trenches.  

Body of a Mk I fragmentation grenade.  This was the first hand grenade developed by US forces in WWI and was used 1917-1918.

M1910 pistol belt and 1917-dated leather holster.

Lanyard for pistols.  This example is dated 1917.

Manual for fighting with the saber.  Cavalry were still issued with swords in WWI and up to the start of WWII.

A 1929 text commemorating the Lost Battalion.  The Lost Battalion, of the 77th Infantry Division, was cut off in the Argonne Forest in October, 1918.

US wool uniform jacket.  Collar discs indicated branch of service.  On the shoulder is the patch of the 91st Infantry Division.  Shoulder patches were first used in 1918.

Collar disc for a soldier of the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps.  This was the first Air Force of the United States.

A selection of US collar discs and a Quartermaster sergeant's stripes.

Patch and insignia from a veteran of the 91st "Wild West" division.  Raised from the west coast, they chose the pine tree as their unit emblem.

While enlisted men wore collar disc devices to distinguish their branch of service, officers had larger emblems that were not struck on discs.  The officer's device above is for the Quartermaster Corps.

WWI identity discs worn by soldiers.

US ten-pocket cartridge belts.  Each pouch held 5-round clips of bullets.  The belt at top has a pouch and first aid tin attached.

Various WWI garrison covers.  In 1918 piping started to be sewn on to denote branch of service, and this remains standard today.

M1910 entrenching tool.  This short shovel was carried as part of the standard infantryman's kit.

Bolo knife.  This massive implement was issued for cutting away brush and earth, and not intended as a weapon.

US gas mask and carrying pouch.  A rubber hose led from the face to a charcoal filter canister in the pouch.  This was worn high on the chest in the field, and slung across the shoulder when not in use.

Wool leg wraps, called "puttees."  These were worn in the trenches wrapped around the lower legs.  They kept dirt off the skin but were easily changed and replaced when worn out, wet, or damaged. Trousers at the time typically ended below the knee.

Grenade carrying bag with strap.  It could be slung around the body or attached to a belt with hooks.  This example is dated 1918.

Leather "jerkin" vest that added a layer of insulation and protection in the trenches.  This example is likely British-made.

Gas alarm rattle that was used to signal a gas attack.

"Sam Brown" leather belt (top) and saber hanger attachment (below, French-made).  While not US Regulation wear, officers often adopted these leather rigs from their British and French counterparts in Europe.

The two main bayonets carried by US troops in World War I.  At top is the M1905 bayonet for the Springfield rifle; this example was made by Springfield Arsenal and dated 1918.  The lower bayonet is the M1917, developed similar to the British P14, but intended for the Eddystone rifle.  This example is a 1917-dated Winchester.  The two notches in the handle are intended to distinguish it from its Commonwealth cousins. 

M1913 "Patton" saber.  Designed by George Patton, it is the last issued cavalry sword in US history.

1902-pattern officer's saber. This WWI-era example has a handle made from horn.

WWI Belgian Victory Medal

M1915 Belgian Adrian helmet.  This was similar to the French design but was painted khaki and featured a lion crest.

WWI Italian Victory Medal

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