“The Thing on the Doorstep“, H. P. Lovecraft, 1937.
The Word War One content of this story is exactly the sort you would expect in a story set several years after the war and written by someone with adult memories of the war. The war years are just a casual background detail neither exotic or the focus of the story.
In the first part of the story, the narrator talks of his relationship with the doomed Edward Pickman Derby. The narrator, eight years older than his friend Derby, talks of his life when Derby is 25: “When the war came both health and ingrained timidity kept him at home. I went to Plattsburg for a commission but never got overseas.”
Of course, many people were rejected from military service on health grounds. Lovecraft himself tried to enlist, before the U.S. draft went into effect on May 18, 1917, into the Rhode Island National Guard. His mother and a family physician got him discharged on health reasons, not precisely detailed, shortly afterwards.
On a June 22, 1917 to his friend Rheinhart Kleiner, Lovecraft said,
I am feeling desolate and lonely indeed as a civilian. Practically all my personal acquaintances are now in some branch of the service, mostly Plattsburg or R.I.N.G. [Rhode Island National Guard]
According to Leslie S. Klinger’s annotation in The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, Camp Plattsburg (aka Camp Plattsburgh) was established in 1914 at Plattsburg, New York. It was part of a general movement to set up military training for volunteers after the Great War broke out .
The camp opened in the summer of 1915 with 1,200 trainees. At first it was known as the Business Men’s Camp (derogatively known as the Tired Businessmen’s Camp in the press). Some of its first graduates joined the Military Training Camps Association which lobbied Congress for government funding in 1917. After America entered the war, the civilian camp became an officers’ training camp.
Footage exists of the early days of the camp.
According to the figures I’ve seen about 3 million Americans were drafted in World War One. About 2.8 million were sent to France, so Lovecraft’s narrator is in the minority in not being deployed overseas.
World War One Content
- Living Memory: Yes.
- On-Stage War: No.
- Belligerent Area: No.
- Home Front: Yes.
- Veteran: No.