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Letters from the WWI Battlefield: Paul Eliot Green

In celebration of Memorial Day, Documenting the American South honors World War I veteran and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Eliot Green.

Green was a North Carolina native, born and raised in Harnett County, where he worked on his father’s farm. In 1916, he began attending the University of North Carolina, but left less than a year later to enlist in the army and fight in "The Great War." In letters he sent home from 1917 to 1919, he discusses his training, his concern for his enlisted brother, his appreciation for French culture, and, indirectly, the bloodshed he witnesses on the front. After returning to the university in 1919, Green began writing plays, many of which looked back to his farm days in Harnett County, and he became famous for producing his plays outdoors—preferring his eclectic "symphonic drama" to the restrictive conventions of the commercial stage. He became a professor at UNC in 1923 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1927 for In Abraham's Bosom.

Green's letters can be found in the "North Carolinians and the Great War" digital collection, which examines how World War I shaped the lives of different North Carolinians on the battlefield and on the home front. Readers interested in North Carolina’s contributions to military history should also browse, "The North Carolina Experience, Beginnings to 1940," which collects books, letters, reports, posters, artifacts, songs, and oral histories about North Carolina, its people, and its history. Green's wartime letters are part of the Paul Green papers housed in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Historical Collection.

Jennifer L. Larson