An inside look at World War I, as revealed in a diary kept by an 18-year-old from Youngsville, Pa., who
served during the war in France, will be given by Bill Welch, editor of “Duty, Terror and Survival: The
World War One Diary and Art of Doughboy Cp. Harold W. Pierce,” in a public program he will give at the
annual meeting of the North East Historical Society.
The meeting and presentation at historical society museum at 25 Vine St., will be held on Thursday,
October 26 at 7 p.m.
Pierce compiled a 79,000-word diary of the war experience, with incisive observations of battles and the
horror that enveloped him. Welch, a retired Erie newspaper city editor and reporter, published the book
about Pierce, who enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard, which provided troops for General
Pershing’s 28th Division, in 2022.
“It’s a very compelling story,” Welch said of Pierce’s diary. “This is a guy who didn’t charge machine
guns, but he was there through six months of combat. He tells a very detailed and perceptive account of
what he went through, what he saw,” he explained. “It becomes something that you get pulled into.”
One critic described Welch’s book as “a remarkable editorial – or better – book packaging effort in
pulling together what turns out to be not just one Doughboy’s war account, but what I believe is a
tribute to all the men who fought in the ‘war to end all wars.’”
The critic goes onto say, “In his war diary, young Pierce is a great, sometimes almost clinically detached,
observer of the turmoil enveloping him as he goes about the day’s activities. It’s as if the reader is
placed in the cold, muddy, rat-filled trenches looking over Pierce’s shoulder, another critic wrote.
Pierce’s diary was later serialized in the former Titusville Herald in the 1970s and also kept in archives.
In his book, Welch also supplements the basic text of the diary with color plates of paintings depicting
the actions of the 28th Division that Pierce, who went on to become a noted artist, created, along with
maps, photos of the men in Pierce’s unit and well-written essays.
Welch has a longtime interest in World War I, having interviewed actual doughboys – the term in use
then to refer to servicemen – as a newspaper reporter in the 1970s. The men who met were all National
Guardsmen, as Pierce was, out of either A company that formed out of Corry or out of G Company.
Welch also tracked down several paintings by Pierce, including one that was hung in the Corry VFW, and
included these in his book.
“I realized, wow, I’ve got more to this guy than I thought. He’s actually an artist we well,” Welch
recalled. Welch, whose journalism career spanned almost three decades, also tracked down Pierce’s
daughter and grandson to gather additional information to include in his book.
Welch’s PowerPoint presentation will be a part of the historical society’s annual meeting. A few brief,
business matters will be addressed before the Pierce diary presentation.