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Paul Eliot Green, 1894-1981
Paul Eliot Green Papers (#3693). Selected letters, 1917-1919
: Transcript of the manuscript, UNC-Chapel Hill, Southern Historical Collection, .


Paul Eliot Green (1894-1981) grew up on his father's farm in Harnett County, North Carolina. Green was an author, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, and humanitarian. He entered the University of North Carolina in 1916, but before completing his first year, he enlisted in the Armed Forces in April 1917 to serve in World War I. Joining the army at age 23, Green served with the 105th Engineers, 30th Division. His letters to various family members during his years of service date from the summer of 1917 until June 1919. The letters include detailed descriptions of training camp life while he was based both at Camp Greene and Camp Sevier, South Carolina. Green recounts his engineer's training, where he learned to build roads and bridges, and also describes the nasty process of using a gas mask. For months, his company awaited news of when they would embark for France. Green frequently expressed concern for his younger brother Hugh, who had also joined the Armed Forces. During the summer of 1918, while in combat in France and Belgium, Green's letters do not detail, but eloquently capture the horror he witnessed on the front. He described the bloodshed to his sister Erma: "the poor tired earth has drunk enough blood within the last four years as to be offensive in the sight of God." After the war, Green was stationed in Paris where he worked for the Engineer Purchasing Office and was also commissioned second lieutenant with the Chief of Engineers. He was particularly taken with life in Paris after the war, and his letters describe several French intellectuals who made a lasting impression on him.

Green returned to UNC in 1919 to finish his studies and begin his playwriting career. Green also met his wife, Elizabeth Lay, at UNC and married her in 1922. The next year, Green began a twenty-year career as a professor and writer at UNC. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1927 and other accolades followed. Green retired from teaching in 1944, but continued to write until his death.

Works Consulted: William Powell entry on Paul Green in Powell ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (University of North Carolina Press, 1996). See also Paul Green, Home to My Valley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970).

Amy Davis

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