World War I

An image of the painting "Gassed" by John Singer Sargent
Courtesy of David Lubin

World War I was called the "war to end all wars." And many artists expressed their frustration with or support of the war through paintings, sculptures, films and posters in the years following the conflict.

In his new book, "Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War" (Oxford University Press/2016), David Lubin shows two dozen artists' interpretation of World War I and how the war influenced popular media.

An imaged of the 'Lusitania.'
AP images

In many American history books, the sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, is documented as the primary catalyst for U.S. involvement in World War I.

But acclaimed author Erik Larson says that historical narrative leaves far too much out. His latest work of nonfiction "Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania" (Crown Publishing Group/2015) tells the story of the day the ship sank, and the people who were on it when it went down. 

Michael Keenan Gutierrez
Rebecca Ames

Neal Stephens is a photographer who returned to his hometown in Colorado after World War I to find another war raging in the little coal town: a conflict between union miners and Neal's uncle, Seamus, who runs the mine.


In the course of the labor fight, the local sheriff is found dead, and Neal stumbles across a larger conspiracy that could end his family's mining company and land him in prison for murder.


Universal Pops / Flickr Creative Commons


At the peak of the Great Depression in the 1930s, legendary Chapel Hill playwright Paul Green collaborated with composer Kurt Weill to create a socially conscious musical about World War I.

In fact, Johnny Johnson was a blend of comedy, tragedy and satire. The musical pits a pacifist American against The War to End All Wars.

The title character is thrust into it after his girlfriend threatens to leave him for lack of patriotism, but Johnny finds his lighthearted and joking nature does not mesh with the horrors of war. 

Reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a rite of passage these days. The novel is mandatory reading for many high schoolers across the country. 

The ArtsCenter

“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention, a kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene!”

That grand phrase introduces William Shakespeare’s war saga: Henry V. The verse instills raw patriotism but at the cost of bloody and brutal conflict. And that is one of the main themes behind a new play called Into the Breach.

A picture of the Diamond Shoal.
Public Domain

North Carolina used to have a floating light house. The Diamond Shoal bobbed in the water, warning ships about the dangerous sand shoals off the North Carolina coast.  The boat was in service for 21 years before it was sunk by a German U-boat in World War I.

That historic shipwreck is the subject of a new partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA. The two groups are jointly managing the site where the Diamond Shoal light boat went down after being attacked . 

Lauren Heesemann works for NOAA.  She says there are extensive plans for the wreck near Cape Hatteras:

Chapel Hill writer Terry Roberts goes back to his Appalachian roots with his new novel, "A Short Time to Stay Here" (High Country Publishers/2012). The book is a work of historical fiction that transports readers to the summer of 1917 with a character named Stephen, the proprietor of a luxury resort,