The Terror and Triumph of WWI in a Soldier’s Own Words… The Foster family of Wisconsin were vibrant and happy in the early years of the 20th century. Like many families in the area, they were descended from German immigrants and had a healthy appetite for hard work and beer. Barbara Foster, widowed early in life, created a loving home for her children Leo, Ottilia, Mary, and Kunigunda. They were all musicians, forming their own orchestra and playing in regional and local venues. But despite Woodrow Wilson’s promises, America found itself drawn into the Great War overseas, and Leo Foster, bugler for the Wisconsin National Guard, was sent to the front lines. Nearly a century later, this book reconstructs Leo’s World War I experience from letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs from Leo’s footlocker. Nothing compares to the immediacy of the war experience in a soldier’s own words. Notes from the Trenches follows Leo from stateside training to the horror of the Meuse-Argonne offensive and his battle-weary return home in May of 1919. Full of wit, good humor, and honesty, these letters provide a fascinating window into the War to End All Wars, with insightful organization and context from Leo’s grandson, Gary Foster.



“In recent years, our country has been referred to by members of our own government as arrogant, dismissive, and derisive. I took that as a direct insult to the men and women who had fought for freedom overseas and served our country over the years through major and minor conflicts. Members of my family have fought for this country, including myself, and it all began with my grandfather, Leo Foster, who fought in World War I.” – Prologue

“But like the other descendants of German immigrants, the uneasiness of the war in Europe gave her an unsettling feeling that her family would somehow be drawn into the conflict. Her hardened strength, mental toughness, courage, and common sense had prepared her for yet another tense period in her lifetime, when her son Leo went off to war “over there.” – Chapter 1