The United States entered World War I in April of 1917. In St. Charles Parish, lives were turned upside down. Men were called away to duty and families were fragmented. However, the country’s involvement in the war was relatively short-lived. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 was just one of the peace treaties signed to end the war. Families were then reunited, and people tried to forget about the war and put behind them the shocking fact that over 100,000 Americans lost their lives. They sought out entertainment and attempted to benefit from the flourishing economy, which would eventually take hold.
Many servicemen returned home with money in their pockets and their purchasing power, limited perhaps before the war by few educational opportunities, was greatly enhanced. During the war, many blacks had been recruited by Henry Ford to work in his automobile factory. This migration was one of the most significant population shifts of that century. The war brought about profound changes in the cultural landscape. The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic occurred in the midst of the war and not only affected the troops, but also affected the lives of German Coast residents as over one-half million U.S. citizens died from the flu, five times as many people as were killed in the war.
When the United States entered the war, Germany became the enemy and in 1918 the Louisiana legislature passed Act 114 banning all expressions of the German culture and heritage, especially the spoken or printed word. Although the law was repealed three years later, the damage had already been done. On the German Coast and in other German communities in Louisiana, the German culture would remain suppressed for decades.
The American Red Cross made a significant contribution to the war by caring for the wounded and emphasizing the necessity for individuals to learn how to care for themselves and perhaps their animals, too.
This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.