Skip to content
Chronological Reasoning and Causation

Private First Class E. Daniel Williams

  1. Load Private First Class E. Daniel Williams, c. 1917 in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load Private First Class E. Daniel Williams' Biography, c. 1919 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Short biography and photograph of E. Daniel Williams of the 306th Machine Gun Battalion, 27th Division, A.E.F. during World War I.

Historical Context
World War I was a devastating conflict that left millions dead and tens of millions wounded on both sides.  However, injuries and deaths caused by wounds in battle were not the only effects of the war.  As in other conflicts before and since, World War I also took a huge mental toll on those involved.  While all participants and witnesses reacted differently to the stresses and horrors of war, no one who was touched by the conflict was ever the same again.
The term “shell-shock” was used during World War I to label the effects that combat and gruesome realities of everyday life during wartime had upon an individual’s mental health.  The condition was not as well understood at the time as it is today.  Depending on the circumstances that brought about the symptoms, a soldier suffering from “shell-shock” may have been classified as “wounded” or “sick.”
“Shell-shock” is a trauma disorder closely related to post-traumatic stress disorder.  Though it affects the mind, such stress disorders also show both mental and physical symptoms.  Victims of “shell-shock” may, for example, have difficulty concentrating on simple tasks, or conversely, pay too much attention to insignificant details of tasks.  In addition, shaking, nightmares, irregular heartbeat, an empty “thousand-yard stare,” and depression are also among possible symptoms.  While sufferers of this condition vary in both the symptoms they show and the severity of their cases, some, like Private First Class E. Daniel Williams, survived the war but never recovered from its aftermath.

Essential Question
How are soldiers affected by war?

Check for Understanding
Summarize E. Daniel Williams' military experience using evidence from the document.

Historical Challenges
How are modern veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan affected regarding their mental health?

Interdisciplinary Connections
Health: Research and report on a stress-related disorder.