Though he died in 1921, his name can still conjure up controversy and not a little misunderstanding. His long career—in so many respects the quintessential story of a poor backwoods Ontario farm boy who made good by his own efforts—continues to exert a fascination that few other Canadian political figures could duplicate.
Even though there has never been a major scholarly study of Sam Hughes, historians and other writers have developed definite opinions about him, and they are held nearly as vigorously as those of his contemporaries. These vary from insisting that Hughes was mentally unbalanced to proclaiming him a genius. Hughes’ defenders have rarely been professional historians. Neither side have not produced an extensive or definitive literature on Hughes in proportion to other figures of a similar public stature.
Whatever side the studies have taken, the assessments are still incomplete because they have not examined the entirety of Sam Hughes’ public life. To a large extent these limitations have allowed the folk image of him to persist. But Hughes had fibre and substance beyond this. Since historical figures must be explained in terms of their environment, this study tries to redress the previous imbalances by examining Hughes’ public career. It is the only way his historical significance can be explained and reasonable judgments made.
Over There: A Marine in the Great War takes the reader on an almost two-year journey through his world as a young soldier in the war. Based on Brannen's memoirs recorded in the 1930s and photographs he took with a German camera as a soldier, this book describes day-to-day obstacles he and his fellow soldiers faced during Marine Corps training, movement to France, and mortal combat.
"As I jumped for protection into a ditch nearby, a fusillade of bullets caught me below the heart on the left side, through one lens of the field glasses, and against my bandoleer of ammunition. The best I remember, ten bullets in my own belt exploded, but they had deflected the enemy bullets, saving my life."
Brannen, though wounded in battle and in the hospital for three weeks, went on with 80th Company through the Meuse-Argonne campaign to the armistice on November 11. He pulled his months of
duty in the occupation of the Rhineland and, at its end, earned a place in the Composite Regiment of men selected to represent the American Expeditionary Forces in the many ceremonial events of 1919.
Complemented with a unique set of photographs by the author's son that retrace his father's military campaigns, Over There is a highly personal account, presented from an enlisted man's perspective of the battle fronts of Belleau Woods in the Ch�teau-Thierry sector, Soissons, Pont-a-Mousson, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont Ridge, and the Meuse-Argonne battle.
As a first hand commentary and a social document of life in the trenches during World War I, it is a useful contribution to military history. Brannen's personal accounts will touch and fascinate all those interested in World War I.