Just a few months before he jumped off with the first wave of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, Private Ralph John had been working on his family’s farm in McIntosh, South Dakota. His training as a soldier in the Great War consisted of two days’ practice with a rifle, and a short stint driving a bayonet into a mannequin. Then he was shipped out, handed a gas mask, and sent into battle. Filmmaker Stephen Ives tells the story of Ralph John, and the devastating effects of the war.
The Great War premieres April 10 on PBS.