Webmaster’s note: It’s great to see young Americans show an interest in WW1 and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. This includes Ben Allen, a Senior at the University of Mary Washington, who chose to write his senior thesis on that battle. The following paragraphs introduce Ben; and a .pdf file of his senior thesis, “The Greatest Battle Never Told: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, 1918,” follows the introduction.
Born in San José, Costa Rica, Ben Allen likes history, but he loves military history. While he has gaps in his knowledge, he strives to study the topic and subtopic broadly, not be bound by a certain period or region. If he does specialize in anything in military history, it is the study of uniforms, weapons, and equipment through the ages (yes, Osprey books take up a huge shelf in his room). Naturally, as he lives in the United States, his strengths include the major wars of the country’s history all the way up to the Second World War—all of them in which Lieutenant Dan Taylor’s ancestors died, plus the Mexican War.
Of course, included in this list of expertise is the First World War. Growing up in Alexandria, Virginia, interest in that conflict started at a very, very early age when around five years of age he and his Dad started to frequently visit the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. He was particularly captivated by the Great War exhibit, and repeatedly watched the video show it has, with scenes from the Hollywood flicks of the interwar years, particularly The Dawn Patrol versions. It also helped that he got issues of Aviation History magazine, with its many paintings of aerial combat, from which he drew inspiration as a budding artist. (His costume for Halloween 2001 was a Great War aviator with a cardboard plane strapped to his shoulders.)
It was through the flight simulator Red Baron 3D that the U.S. dimension of the war started to dawn on his young mind. What really got him interested in the topic was when, in the fall of 2005, he picked up a book on the U.S. involvement in the Great War, devouring it until he was roughly halfway finished. He had never been taught anything about this in school before, and he realized that this subject was largely forgotten in the U.S. He took up his newfound interest with a passion.
When researching the Meuse-Argonne, he noticed that he could not, at first, find a detailed, comprehensive study about the battle. If there was more written about it than a mere summary, it revolved around Alvin York and the Lost Battalion. Even Edward Lengel’s To Conquer Hell was almost completely from the AEF perspective. It was mostly the need to rectify this problem that caused him, as a history major at the University of Mary Washington, to choose the Meuse-Argonne Offensive as the topic for his senior thesis.
When he graduates in 2016 he plans on thinking small, getting a job at a museum, historical site, or the Civil War Preservation Trust, before getting a teacher’s license and a graduate degree in history, probably a Masters. However, at UMW and in middle and high school, he has also taken numerous theatre and art courses. Ultimately, he wants to get into acting and movie making. If he becomes a director, he wants to buy the rights to To Conquer Hell.
(Note: The .pdf file is almost 2.5 megabytes, so the download can take more than a few seconds.)