When the United States entered World War I in 1917, one-third of the nation’s population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant. At the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, nearly one in five American soldiers was foreign-born. Many of these immigrant soldiers – most of whom had been drafted – knew little of America outside tight-knit ghettos and backbreaking labor. Yet World War I would change their lives and ultimately reshape the nation itself. Italians, Jews, Poles, Norwegians, Slovaks, Russians, and Irishmen entered the army as aliens and returned as Americans, often as heroes.
In The Long Way Home, award-winning writer David Laskin traces the lives of a dozen men, eleven of whom left their childhood homes in Europe, journeyed through Ellis Island, and started over in a strange land. After detailing the daily realities of immigrant life in the factories, farms, mines, and cities of a rapidly growing nation, Laskin tells the heartbreaking stories of how these men – both conscripts and volunteers – joined the army, were swept into the ordeal of boot camp, and endured the month of hell that ended the war at Argonne, where they truly became Americans. Those who survived were profoundly altered – and their experiences would shape the lives of their families as well.
Epic, inspiring, and masterfully written, The Long Way Home is the unforgettable true story of the Great War, the world is remade, and the men who fought for a country, not of their birth, but which held the hope and opportunity of a better way of life.