Image: Sepia photograph of athletes competing on a field. Text: Entertaining the Troops

Entertaining the Troops

Exhibit Hall

“War is months of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”


As near as anyone can figure, this saying came out of the endless trench warfare of World War I, for good reason. But what to do about the boredom? And how to distract from the moments of terror? Soldiers of all nations and militaries turned to a wide variety of entertainment: from sports, gambling and card games, to music, food and drink, to organized performances and dances.

Entertaining the Troops gives a peek into the life of a WWI soldier beyond the battlefield, whether they were waiting for the enemies’ next move or partying in Paris.

Black and white photograph of a scrimmage line in a North American football game.

Football photograph

Signal Corps #153409. Written on back in pencil: "Interdivision football [...unreadable...] of 1918-1919."

Theater photographs

Black and white photographs from a theatrical performance at an unknown location with men performing the female roles.


Black and white photograph of nine people wearing nursing uniforms performing on a stage. The orchestra pit in front of the stage is full of musicians.

Troops facing long hours in the trenches might read, draw, write a letter – or play a game of cards (gambling optional). When away from the front lines and the chances of enemy assault, they might organize a game of soccer, football, or baseball, play in a band or attend a theater show (and they might be in the show if professional entertainment was scarce). Camp canteens offered food and drinks that weren’t available on the battlefield. Plus, there was always the opportunity to travel to nearby towns and cities, for a variety of both respectable and illicit entertainment.



Scan of a orange piece of paper with typewritten words on it. Text: U.S. Army v. U.S. Navy on Thursday, July 4th at 3 o'clock

Ticket stub

Ticket stub for the "London Baseball Association." Dated July 4, 1918.

Entry in the Online Collections Database


Baseball uniform

US Army Nurse Corps baseball uniform pullover. During the American occupation of Germany in 1919-1920, baseball teams were formed from the Army Nurse Corps and YMCA women volunteers. These teams barnstormed around Germany and in every venue they played were met by enthusiastic crowds.

Modern photograph of a brown and khaki-colored baseball uniform displayed on a dress form
Sepia photograph of a beach in the foreground with soldiers and other beachgoers sitting on the sand. In the water are small rowboats and sailboats. In the background is a palace that extends out into the water on elevated pilings.

Beach photograph

Five U.S. soldiers in uniform, relaxing on the beach at Nice, France, with the Palais de la Jetee in the background. Inscribed on the reverse: "American YMCA".

Entry in the Online Collections Database

Ink illustration of cartoonish soldiers gathered around a crate, throwing dice.

Gambling postcard

Illustration of American soldiers gambling. One throws dice down on top of a crate. Caption reads, "A.E.F. Pastime while in France —"

Entry in the Online Collections Database

Modern photograph looking down at a flat lay of a leather portfolio with various writing accessories.

Tooled leather writing kit

Contents: 1918 calendar, stamp holder book, address book, memorial card for soldier's death, letter from Colonel Taylor to his father.

Entry in the Online Collections Database

Keeping troops entertained was important for keeping morale high. When knee-deep in the muck, soldiers needed something to occupy their minds and spirits and have more to look forward to. Comradery, rest, reflection, reminders of who (and what) they were fighting for – entertainment was serious business in the Great War.



Scan of a watercolor painting depicting a stage with three people in trousers strumming on guitar-like instruments and one person in a dress singing or dancing.

"Everything is Peaches in Georgia"

Watercolor by Curtiney George Foote.

Entry in the Online Collections Database


Untitled watercolor

Watercolor by Curtiney George Foote. Caption on back of image: "The Trianon Theater."

Scan of a watercolor painting depicting a stage with a lone performer in the spotlight. The point of view is that of an audience member seated behind several rows of soldiers in uniform.
Scan of a double-sided four-fold postcard with cartoon illustrations of soldiers engaging in a variety of amusements.

Four-fold postcard

Cartoon shows soldiers playing various games and chasing each other during time away from the war. Text:

Sometimes we Ginger up.

Don't think we're always drilling,
Sometimes with gentle sports
We ease the day while on our way
To the Kaiser's German Courts.

Cartoon of soldiers in a hall playing die, cards, reading newspapers, singing and dancing. Text:

In lightsome vein - midst war's alarums.

We're all so lonesome, Jennie,
It all seems like the blues,
Perhaps in thru the smoke I see
Visions of home and youse.

Entry in Online Collections Database

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