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Serpents of War – An American Officer’s Story of Combat and Captivity in WWI

Saturday, November 11, 2023
7:00 pm8:00 pm

Serpents of War, the memoir of Pennsylvanian Major Harry Dravo Parkin, is a rare account of World War I as seen from the perspective of a battalion commander. As a mid-level officer responsible for the lives and welfare of over a thousand men, Parkin conveys the stress of command at a time when one innocent blunder could cost an officer his combat assignment, brings the inferno of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive to life in terrifying, gory detail, and recounts being taken prisoner by the Imperial German Army—a rare experience among American soldiers in 1918. In addition, Parkin provides a detailed account of the 79th Division’s attack on Mountfaucon, a military action that remains controversial to this day. This is a book by a brave soldier, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism on the battlefield, and a gifted writer.

Serpents of War is an abridged edition of a nearly 200,000-word World War I memoir that resides in Gettysburg College’s Musselman Library, enhanced by the contributions of two scholars of World War I and memory. Written in an unassuming but eloquent style, Parkin’s narrative seldom strains for effect. It possesses a strong sense of setting, a knack for capturing the chaos and strange exhilaration of battle, and a sharp eye for the interpersonal, social dynamics of military life—the personality clashes and simmering feuds, as well as the moments of comradeship and accord. Serpents of War is an absorbing memoir that holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end.

Speaker bios:
Steven Trout is professor of English, University of Alabama, and author of On the Battlefield of Memory: The First World War and American Remembrance, 1919–1941, and two other books.

Ian Isherwood is associate professor of war and memory studies, Gettysburg College, and author of Remembering the Great War: Writing and Publishing the Experiences of World War I.

Tickets are free for ACHS members and $10/general admission. Reserve your tickets here:

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