John Frederick Nash’s World War I Postcards

La Guerre Européenne 1914-1915: Aprés le Passage Des Allemands – Les Ruines, Série 2
(The European War 1914-1915: The Ruins after the Passage of the Germans

Source: DC053 – John Frederick Nash (1890-1958) Papers – World War I Postcards

Identity card for John F. Nash
American Expeditionary Forces Identity Card for John F. Nash

John Frederick Nash graduated from Davidson College in 1911. He also attended the North Carolina Medical College and studied in New York. He began practicing medicine in St. Paul, North Carolina in 1916. From April 1918, during World War I, he served active duty in Medical Corps first at Camp Greenleaf in Chicamauga Park, Georgia, and subsequently at Camp Upton in New York before being transferred to Camp Souge, France where he served after the end of the war in November 1918 until 1919 as a lieutenant in Evacuation Ambulance Company 80. After his return to Camp Upton in February 1919, Nash was relieved of active duty on March 13, 1919.

While abroad, Nash came to own a collection of postcards relating to the Great War, compiled into a booklet entitled La Guerre Européenne 1914-1915: Aprés le Passage Des Allemands – Les Ruines (The European War 1914-1915: The Ruins after the Passage of the Germans) which compiled twenty images used as postcards which illustrate the devastation that the Great War wrought upon France and Belgium during its first year and a half.


In the opening months of the Great War the Allied and Central powers engaged in a series of battles which historians have termed, collectively, “the race to the sea” a series of failed outflanking manuevers between Allied French, Belgian and British armies and the German and Austro-Hungarian armies which began near the Marne River in France and continued north until there was no more land on which to attack, at the North Sea.

The failure of the German Schlieffen Plan, a strategy which necessitated the swift and total defeat of France by way of Belgium before redirecting the mass of the German military against Russia, began the slow process of devastation which ultimately established the firmly entrenched Western Front. As the warring nations continued to engage one-another, trying desperately to break the stalemate, new engagements meant new sites of battle, which in turn led to more sites of devastation. In addition new technology of warfare, developed in the wake of rapid industrialization of the late 19th century, added to the destructive nature of the early months of the First World War.

The early months of the Great War, the “race to the sea” and the establishment of the Western Front had a devastating impact on the north of France, including the villages of Arras, Reims, Senlis, and Ypres, and the Belgian towns of Leuven, and Malines.

The booklet of postcards which Nash collected illustrate the devastation of north France and Belgium in a vivid and jarring manner, presumably to evoke anti-German nationalism in France and Belgium. The captions, which describe Les Allemands (the Germans) as sauvages (savages), are particularly telling regarding the sentiments these postcards are attempting to evoke. This booklet was likely produced in 1916 or later, by which time the war had stagnated, while also becoming increasingly destructive (as evidenced in the battles of Verdun and the Somme). Thus, one likely conclusion is that it was intended to serve as a reminder as to why German militarism had to be utterly stopped, in spite of the carnage the war had wrought.

View the postcard bookletLa Guerre Européenne 1914-1915: Aprés le Passage Des Allemands – Les Ruines, Série 2 in its entirety

Digital Exhibit created by: Jim Harris

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