War has changed radically over the last century, and it all started with the first modern war, World War I. In April, the Press released the first in a series of publications, The Doughboy Series, commemorating this world-changing time.
WWI enthusiasts know that it can be a challenge to find something written during the war, about the war, by a WWI veteran. Over the Top is a wonderful exception. Guy Empey released his book only a few weeks after America declared war on Germany, making it an immediate hit. Little boys wanted to hear about the glories of battle, soldiers wanted to know what to expect from someone who had been there, and families everywhere wanted to find out more about what the men in their lives would be walking into.
Now we have live news and interviews from the center of any conflict around the world, and the average person can discover anything they might like to know with just a few taps on a keyboard. Every time I watch the news, I am amazed by how destructive humanity has become. Wars around the world kill two people every minute with their machine guns and bombs (BBC News). Over the Top is perceived differently than it was when it first came out a century ago. War was an overwhelming presence for Americans in the early twentieth century. It was unavoidable and looming on the horizon for years before America officially joined the conflict.
Whereas the American people then knew a fear of war, now we know a fear of terror. We now fear a senseless death that could be avoided if only we choose not to go to the mall, the supermarket, or even school. The times are different, and Over the Top can give readers a first-hand account of a time and culture that they may never be able to understand from personal experience.
When Over the Top came out, it was poignant and readable, but now it’s showing its age. David Scott Stieghan, the United States Army Infantry Branch Historian at Fort Benning, GA, has revisited this book to make it more accessible to the average present-day reader. He clarifies some outdated language, explains more about Empey’s life and his reasons for writing, and contextualizes the history and environment that surrounded soldiers at all times.
We at the Press know that you will love this 100th anniversary edition of Over the Top as much as we do, and we look forward to commemorating World War I together.