Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Best Senior Thesis in History

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Jonathan Petropoulos

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This thesis explores the impact that service in the First World War had on three global leaders of the Second World War: Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, and Harry Truman. Through analysis of original documents from the Churchill Archive Center, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, and the archives of the National World War I Museum, this project contends that the years 1914-1918 became a common point of reference and reflection for these three leaders—especially in their private musings and public rhetoric during World War II. Additionally, primary evidence reveals that the personal narratives of wartime service that these three veterans crafted simultaneously shaped and reflected their countries’ national narratives of the conflict. Churchill played into and popularized the notion of the Great War bringing an end to the “glory” of the nineteenth century. Hitler doctored his reflections of the war in Mein Kampf to convey the Imperial German High Command’s “Stab-in-the-Back” myth accusing Jews and Marxists for German defeat in November 1918. In his written reflections, Truman noted that most Americans failed to remember their nation’s brief participation in the First World War—a sentiment that aligned with the idea of the conflict as America’s “Forgotten War.” Additionally, all three spoke of the two World Wars as a single, contiguous conflict. Examining these three people during the Great War thus reveals the role of shared experience in generational theory as well as the intersection between individual and collective memory.