By Douglas Taurel
This Veterans Day commemorates 100 years since the last shot of World War I was fired at the 11th hour on November 11th, 1918.
My hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey was the port that nearly all soldiers would pass through on their ways to and from the Great War—or “the war to end all wars,” as it was coined when it began in 1914. Imagine that, a war to end all wars. Approximately two million American servicemen passed through Hoboken between the spring of 1917 and the fall of 1918 when the United States entered the war.
“Heaven, Hell or Hoboken” became the national rallying cry for the boys, an expression of the hope that they be home by Christmas of 1917. However, the war actually did not end until November 11th of 1918, and thousands of the young lads gave their lives right up to the last hour.
I took these images to help us remember that the spirit of the boys is still with us, and I believe it still roams the cobblestone streets of Hoboken. The photos were shot in some of the oldest parts of Hoboken, which date back to before 1918. They were taken at the train station, the ferry terminal and in the alleys to help us imagine how it must have looked, and how it felt a hundred years ago as these brave boys were getting ready to ship off, some to never come back home. My hope is that these photos help us all imagine the courage it must have taken for these brave young men to leave home and fight in the First World War.
As our talents and powers grow in the world, we like to think that we live in special times and that we are very different from our past and from our fathers and mothers. I guess it’s because we see photos of the past in black and white, we assume that their world was in black in white. Obviously it wasn’t—the color of their sky was the same color as ours, and in some places, even brighter. We are not so different from them, and it is up to us to look back, so that we can see how to move forward.
Children of soldiers from the Great War are still alive today, and if we stop for a brief moment in our busy digital lives and think about it, a hundred years ago wasn’t that long ago at all.
An actor, writer, and producer, Douglas Taurel is the creator of the solo show The American Soldier, with which he tours internationally and has performed Off-Broadway; at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; and the Library of Congress, among other distinguished venues. The American Soldier was nominated for an Amnesty International Award and is being adapted into a webseries, Landing Home, in partnership with Thomas Edison State Military University. Taurel premiered his newest solo work, the World War I-themed An American Soldier’s Journey Home: The Diary of Irving Greenwald, in November 2017 at the Library of Congress.
Taurel can be seen on television and in films including Mr. Robot, The Americans, Person of Interest, Nurse Jackie, The Cobbler, The Kindergarten Teacher, and Into the Valley. His writing can be found on Backstage.com, Stage32.com, and The Daily Actor among other publications. Visit douglastaurel.com and theamericansoldiersoloshow.com to learn more, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.