Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, February 12, 2016

Solzhenitsyn on God and the First World War


More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008)
Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.

The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century. The first of these was World War I, and much of our present predicament can be traced back to it.

It was a war (the memory of which seems to be fading) when Europe, bursting with health and abundance, fell into a rage of self-mutilation which could not but sap its strength for a century or more, and perhaps forever.

The only possible explanation for this war is a mental eclipse among the leaders of Europe due to their lost awareness of a Supreme Power above them. Only a godless embitterment could have moved ostensibly Christian states to employ poison gas, a weapon so obviously beyond the limits of humanity.

Source: This is an excerpt from Solzhenitsyn's 1983 Speech,  "Men Have Forgotten God" in which he expands his theme to include the Second World War and the Mutual Assured Destruction Doctrine of the Cold War.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Just Where Did Those "Soccer Balls of the Somme" Get Kicked?

Last Saturday after morning chores and a shopping run to Trader Joe's, I decided to dedicate the afternoon to some detailed planning for my Somme battlefield tour this summer.  One of the activities I plan for our group is to visit the site where Capt. Billie Nevill's men of Company B of the 8th Battalion of the 2nd East Surrey Regiment kicked those four soccer balls across no-man's-land on 1 July 1916.

I hope our readers are familiar with the story—it's one of those glorious tragedies of the monumental, never-to-be-forgotten story of the First Day on the Somme. To reassure and, probably, to distract attention from the grim prospects of the coming battle—the unit was part of the 18th Division's assault on Montauban—Nevill purchased four soccer balls and promised rewards for the first man to kick one of them into a German trench. It began as intended, but like a lot of British units that morning, the East Surreys got hung up on the enemy's barbed wire. The good captain was killed along with 446 men of the East Surrey's. Two footballs were subsequently recovered, one held in Dover Castle (Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment & Queen's Regiment Museum).

Anyway, back to my recent quest, a job I thought was going to take me ten minutes consumed the entire afternoon.  I checked over a dozen Battle of the Somme maps, every Somme-related book on my shelves, and, of course, anything I could turn up online.  The problem was that no one source had a map with an arrow that said, "This is where it happened." My hours of research had generated a long list of clues, some of which were contradictory.  By triangulation and guesswork the sectional map and Google aerial view below show my results.  I open this to comment and correction from our readers, but absent any definitive correction, this is where I'm taking my group.




Wednesday, February 10, 2016

100 Years Ago: Wilson Loses Another Cabinet Member

By Keith Muchowski

Secretary of War Lindley M. Garrison resigned 100 years ago today. When he did, it was the second major resignation within the Wilson cabinet in less than a year; Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan had stepped down the previous June over differences with President Wilson over how to respond to the sinking of the Lusitania. Now Garrison was leaving the administration after Wilson withdrew his support for the secretary of war’s plan for expanding the military. What made Garrison’s resignation so dramatic—and public—was that the secretary and the president had once been of the same mind on the issue.

Lindley Garrison (1864–1932)
Garrison was an advocate of the Continental Army Plan, a proposal that would have expanded what was still a very small U.S. Army into a more ready force of nearly half-a-million men. Though Garrison and Wilson were never personally close—they were too much alike to get along—the president backed his war secretary on this issue in a number of public appearances. Wilson spoke to an enthusiastic dinner crowd at New York’s Biltmore Hotel on 4 November 1915 outlining Garrison's plan to expand the Army by 400,000 incrementally over the next three years. The Navy would expand too, the president duly noted. Less than a month later Wilson mentioned the plan again in his State of the Union Address, explaining to Congress that the nation must be made “ready to assert some part of its real power promptly and upon a larger scale, should occasion arise.” 

Many Congressmen were skeptical, so, facing opposition, Wilson did what he would do years later when confronted with resistance to the Treaty of Versailles—he went on the stump and appealed to the American people. In January 1916 he traveled throughout the heartland to pitch his administration’s vision for a Continental Army.

Mr. and Mrs. Garrison Take in a Horse Show

Opposition was indeed intense. It was an old-fashioned turf war in which the National Guard—and the Congressional and gubernatorial politicians who supported it—refused to give up state control over what they saw as their domain. By late January the plan was losing support from many sides. Major General Leonard Wood—former chief of staff, current commander of the Department of the East, and onetime Continental Army Plan backer—came out against it in a report to the Adjutant General. General Wood advocated conscription, not the voluntary reserve system Garrison's plan would have entailed. The House Military Affairs Committee, chaired by powerful Dixiecrat James Hay, was increasingly hostile. Many of the 48 governors were equally in opposition until finally Wilson succumbed to the inevitable and withdrew his support in early February. Garrison found this unacceptable and so had no choice but to tender his resignation. He stepped down on 10 February and left Washington immediately, taking a train to New York City without uttering a word. When a mob of reporters met him at Pennsylvania Station at 9:00 p.m. he still had nothing to say. That did not stop a scrum of photographers from snapping his picture. The political fallout was immediate. The New York Times declared Garrison’s departure “a distinct shock and a complete surprise.” Henry L. Stimson, a past and future secretary of war in his own right, called the resignation a “national calamity.”

Garrison with President Wilson in Happier Times

The Continental Army Plan never came to fruition, which may well have been for the best. Had it done so, the White House, Congress, and the Army itself would have had to overcome a number of logistical, financial, and other obstacles to put the plan into effect. What is more, Lindley Garrison, for all his positive qualities, was not the man to lead the U.S. military into war. He was an accomplished lawyer and capable administrator who would return to his lucrative private law practice after leaving politics. Despite his dedication and work ethic Garrison, was a bad fit for Washington’s political culture. He clashed frequently with senior military officers, Congress, and even President Wilson himself. Like Wilson, he did not always accept criticism well and often took it personally. Secretary Garrison's resignation 100 years ago today exposed strains within the Wilson Administration which would be even more apparent and tragic when the nation went to war 14 short months later.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Undertones of War
reviewed by Jane Mattisson Ekstam


Undertones of War
by Edmund Blunden
Folio Society, 1989


Edmund Blunden
Edmund Blunden was training as a volunteer with the Royal Sussex Regiment at the outbreak of war. As a temporary second-lieutenant, he crossed to France in 1916. Undertones of War is a very personal story of war. It was also a very popular one — first published in 1928, by February 1929 it ran into five impressions. Blunden addresses the tragedy of war, the profound grief over the death of brothers in the same battalion, the colors of German trench mortars, the clang of shrapnel, and the powdery glare of signal lights. Above all, however, Undertones of War is about the outrage at the violence done to man and nature. Blunden viewed the battlefield with a true countryman's eye: skulls are as plentiful as mushrooms, shrapnel is compared to crimson cloudlets, and the mist of evening is described as fit for a nightingale.

For Blunden, nature had a consoling beauty; human nature is part of nature. As a result, Blunden's memoir is less grimly realistic than Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That. Paul Fussell has noted in The Great War and Modern Memory that Blunden's writing is characterized by archaism, both in language and landscape. Blunden's focus is on pre-industrial England. This is also true of his poetry. "Festubert: The Old German Line," where he describes the violence endured by man and nature, is a case in point: "Sparse mists of moonlight hurt our eyes/With gouged and scourged uncertainties/Of soul and soil in agonies." A selection of Blunden's poetry is to be found at the end of the Folio Society and University of Chicago editions of Undertones of War.


Order Now
Divided into 27 chapters, Blunden's memoir is introduced by a short "preliminary" beginning with the short and the deceptively simple question, "Why should I not write it?" Only a few will understand his memoir, writes Blunden, but that is not, he emphasizes, his fault. The implication is that only those who witnessed at first hand the events described can really understand. In the preliminary Blunden also addresses the vagaries of memory:

I know that memory has her little ways, and by now she has concealed precisely that look, that word, that coincidence of nature without and nature within which I long to remember. . . I must go over the ground again. A voice, perhaps not my own, answers within me. You will be going over the ground again, it says, until that hour when agony's clawed face softens the smilingness of a young spring day.

Blunden soon realized that war was endless: "no one here appeared to conceive any end to it," he writes. He expresses relief that he is an officer and can thus "plough [his] way back to the black hole under the Brickstack, and there imitate sleep with no greater defect than that of rats running over me." For private soldiers, however, long hours of huddling on the fire-step in the pouring rain awaited and there was "nothing but hope and a mackintosh sheet between them and the descent of minenwerfer shells."

Typically, however, Blunden also notes that "not all hours were poisonous. The summer afternoon sometimes stole past unmolested." His descriptions in Chapter Eight, "The Calm," of Lacouture and Cuinchy are almost idyllic and include such evocative phrases as "drowsy summer's yellow haze." Chapter Fifteen, "Theatre of War," however, tells the other and more obvious side of the story. The front line, for example, is described as "crude and inhuman," the cold is "foul" and the threat of ambush ever present.

Column of German Prisoners, Including Wounded, at the Somme, 1916

By 1917 Blunden had lost many old friends and he was tired of war. Not even the "huge old trees, the grass and herbs" could raise his spirits. Undertones of War shows how he longed for what he calls "the fragrance of ancient peace," as evidenced in the following lines:

Now to attune my soul if I can
To the contentment of this countryside,
Where man is not for ever killing man
But quiet days and quiet waters glide.


As time passes, Blunden increasingly sought the friendship of kindred spirits who, through art, could transcend the horror of war. In Chapter Twenty-five, for example, he describes Worley, a sketcher. It is with clear affection that Blunden writes, "He showed these drawings to very few persons, to me most, for he believed I knew about such matters. I loved him for this new expression of a simple but profound trust." The famous final sentence of Undertones of War reads:

No conjecture that, in a few weeks, Buir-sur-Ancre would appear much the same as the cataclysmal railway cutting by Hill 60, came from that innocent greenwood. No destined anguish lifted its snaky head to poison a harmless young shepherd in a soldier's coat.

Throughout the horrors, Blunden remained a poetic "shepherd." He was never a soldier at heart. He survived the war, left the army in 1919, and took up the scholarship to Oxford that he had won while still at school. A writer and countryman at heart, Blunden loathed war; at the same time, it was also the source of some of his most important works, including Undertones of War. The Folio Society edition contains not only the earlier mentioned poems but also the memoir that is the foundation of Undertones of War, namely De Bello Germanico, written directly after the war but never finished. Undertones of War is the story of a survivor who, remarkably, managed to retain the qualities of a shepherd amidst the unprecedented horrors of modern warfare. Blunden died in 1974.

Jane Mattisson Ekstam

Monday, February 8, 2016

How Greece Views the Great War

In 1918, even though the Macedonian Front occupied more than 1,000,000 men on its battlefields, its memory in Greece and Bulgaria today is in no way similar to the one of the Western or the Eastern Front held by the nations that also fought there.

For Bulgarians the First World War was a national disaster, and so was the definitive loss of Macedonia. In the case of Greece, the situation was different. The loss of Asia Minor (Turkish War) is for the Greeks what the loss of Macedonia is for the Bulgarians. The First World War was not the most important war. For most Greeks it was rather a break, an interlude between national wars (1912–1913 and 1919–1922). That is why it was recorded in the literature and in the collective memory not as the Great War but as the period of the National Discord, which has caused several problems to the political life in Greece for decades and is considered by many researchers the main cause of the in Asia Minor Disaster (1922).

Venizelos, Greek Prime Minister

For the Greeks the First World War is the least known war of the 20th century. It is the National Discord war caused by Prime Minister Venizelos’ insistence that Greece enter the war pairing with the Entente, as well as by King Constantine’s insistence that Greece remain neutral and thus favored by Germany. Eventually, Greece itself was divided in two states with two capitals, Thessaloniki and Athens. In fact, the Greek army, which had won in the Balkan Wars, pledged allegiance to Constantine, but when Venizelos prevailed with the Ententes’ help in 1917 most of the officers and the soldiers were discharged. Another army took its place with soldiers who came mostly from the New Greece (Epirus, Macedonia, Crete, Aegean Islands, and Thrace). The generals who were supporters of the king were persecuted. When Constantine was restored to the Greek throne, the supporters of Venizelos were persecuted, while the supporters of the king were restored to the army with all glory and honor.


Consequently, when monarchy was re-stabilized (1935) in Greece, the Balkan Wars period, during which Constantine was praised as commander-in-chief of the Army, came to the fore, while the First World War period was hushed up because it was associated with his failed political practices. Until 1974 the First World War and the Macedonian Front remained in the dark, as part of a political suppression of the responsibilities of monarchy itself.

A Greek Column Advancing on the Macedonian Front
The fighting involving Greece that Westerners associate with the First World War — The Macedonian Front — is honored only by the Entente’s veteran association on the last weekend of September with festivities in the Allied cemeteries in Stavroupolis, Thessaloniki, in the Axioupolis monument and in Doiran Commonwealth and Greek cemeteries, and on 11 November, the day of the Armistice, at the central Entente cemetery in Stavroupolis, Thessaloniki, and in the presence of very few dignitaries and common people.

From: The Great War and the Balkans: the Use of Memory in Bulgaria and Greece by Vlasis Vlasidis, University of Macedonia.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Maria Dolens: Bell of Peace of Rovereto


The picturesque hill town of Rovereto - City of the Ancient Oak -- lies in the Trentino region of Italy about halfway between Milan and Venice, and almost due north of Verona. It is located in the valley of the Adige River, on the route leading north to the Brenner Pass through the Alps. Now part of Italy, in 1915 it lay within Austria approximately 10 miles from the border and was fought over by both sides in attack and counter-attack. It is the site of Italy's War Museum and the most famous remembrance tradition of the Italian Front of the Great War. 

“Maria Dolens” ("Mary Grieving"), Rovereto’s monumental bell, tolls 100 times every evening at nightfall in remembrance of the fallen of all the wars, of all the nations of the world. It is the largest bell in the world to be rung regularly.

With My 2011 Italian Front Tour Group at Maria Dolens

"Maria Dolens" was the brainchild of the Roveretan Fr. Antonio Rossaro, to honor the fallen of all wars and to invoke peace and brotherhood among all the peoples of the world. It was cast in Trento on the 30 October 1924 with bronze from cannons donated by the nations involved in the First World War. It was inaugurated on 24 May 1925 with the name “Maria Dolens." Recast twice, the current bell  was blessed in Rome in St. Peter’s Square by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on 31 October 1965, then returned to Rovereto and placed on Miravalle Hill overlooking the town.

The bell’s dimension:

    * Height 3.36 m
    * Diameter 3.21 m
    * Weight 22.639 tonnes
    * Clapper weight 600 kilos
    * Weight of supporting beam 10.3 tonnes

Saturday, February 6, 2016

False Legend: The 66-lb. Pack at the Somme


All great events generate legends that magnify or distort the actual proceedings, and that is certainly true of the Battle of the Somme.  One of these involves the shoulder pack the British infantryman had to carry into battle as he went over the top and across no-man's-land.

Many sources, including the British Official History, suggest that soldiers who attacked on 1 July 1916 carried a pack weighing over 66 lbs (30kg).  Contemporary records, film, and photographs show that this was not the case.


Above, British infantrymen give a helping hand to wounded German prisoners near la Boisselle on 3 July 1916.  They are both wearing their equipment in "fighting order."  One has an additional bandoleer of ammunition, and each has an anti-gas PH (phenate hexamine) helmet in a small bag hung at the front.

If the weight carried by the soldiers affected their progress across no man’s land the men of 36th Ulster Division would not have been able to rush the Schwaben Redoubt, and General Congreve’s XIII Corps, which achieved considerable success in the southern part of the line, would surely have been hampered as much as the soldiers in the unsuccessful attacks further north.

Source:  Imperial War Museum

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Legendary Polygon Wood: The First Fight

By James Patton




Polygon Wood is a small forest in Belgium a few miles east of Ypres. In 1914 there was a racecourse and a Belgian Army rifle range located there. It was the site of three actions during the Great War. The first, which happened during First Ypres, was a battalion-sized fight in October 1914, and is the subject of this entry. The second, during Second Ypres, was in May 1915, when the British were driven out of the wood, and the last, the biggest and the most well known, occurred during Third Ypres at the end of September 1917.

All battles are important, certainly to those who fought them. Moreover, the first battle in Polygon Wood was noteworthy for two reasons. First, there occurred another of those fleeting opportunities for the Germans to push through a weak spot in the Allied forces, which they failed to exploit. Second, it was the first occasion where British Territorials were engaged in battle. 

Location of Polygon Wood East of Ypres

Polygon Wood was on the northern side of a small salient held by the British. On the morning of October 24th, the German XXVII Reserve Corps launched an attack to reduce the salient using four regiments of their 54th Reserve Division, supported by artillery, attacking the British 21st Brigade. The line south of Zonnebeke had been thinned due to movement of units of the 2nd Division to support a French counterattack to the west. This left just the 21st Brigade to defend Polygon Wood, just over two miles due east of Ypres and a few hundred yards south of Zonnebeke, and the only geographical barrier to a German assault on Ypres itself.

On the Reutel Spur, which runs parallel to the eastern face of Polygon Wood, the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment (recently arrived from garrison duty in Gibraltar), was holding the 21st Brigade line, at its junction with the 22nd Brigade — a point which had been heavily shelled on the previous day. Early that morning a company of the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, some 200 yards away on the right of the Wiltshires, was forced to give ground, and two companies of the 2nd Scots Guards (of 20th Brigade), who filled the gap on the other flank, were also driven back, but no word of this had reached either brigade headquarters or the Wiltshires. 

Depiction of 1914 Fighting at Polygon Wood

The two platoons forming the right of the Wiltshires defending the southern edge of Reutel were overwhelmed by attacks in their front, flank, and rear at about 8 a.m. Germans in the village of Reutel, on the right flank and even behind the Wiltshires, attacked in force, while the rest of the Wiltshires were fully engaged at the front, and shot their way down the trenches from right to left, capturing what remained of the companies, the casualties exceeding 450 men. Only the quartermaster, the sergeant-major, and 172 other ranks answered the roll call next morning, and over half of these men had not been in the line on the 24th. Before this disaster occurred,  however, Brig. Gen. Watts, commanding the 21st Brigade, had reported to the 7th Division headquarters the desperate straits of the Wiltshires and the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers (who had already fallen back). 

Shortly after he added to his message that the enemy had succeeded in breaking through the line and had entered Polygon Wood, though as on other occasions when Germans got into woods behind the lines, this did not preclude all hope that the troops in front were still holding out. Gen. Capper immediately took from his cavalry reserve at Hooge the only unit available, the 1/1st Northumberland Hussars (known familiarly in the Army as "The Noodles") to check further enemy progress through Polygon Wood. 


Northumberland Hussars Cap Badge
The Norman keep is the "New Castle"
The honor is for South Africa 1900–02
Thus by accident or by twist of fate this yeomanry unit [see below] dating from 1797 became the first non-regulars to fight with the British Army in the Great War.  Advancing dismounted, they stopped the Germans long enough for the 2nd Warwicks, detached from the 22nd Brigade, to join them and this ad hoc force then drove the Germans back, suffering nearly 300 casualties, including the senior officer Lt. Col. WL Loring of the Warwicks. 

The regiment carried out the task assigned to it in a thoroughly effective manner, though this was its first serious action – indeed the first serious engagement of any Territorial unit. In combination with the 2nd Warwickshire, which was in reserve behind the 22nd Brigade north of the wood, the hussars definitely checked the German advance, and, after considerable fighting cleared the part of Polygon Wood which lay south of the racecourse. 
(Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1914, Volume II)

The Official Report added: "The Germans. . . were content to rest after achieving the objective that they had been given, or they did not know what to do next."

Thus the inexperienced German reservists had been unaware that they had opened a critical hole in Capper's 7th Division defenses, and an opportunity was lost. The next day, with the Germans still holding the northern half of the wood, the 1st Irish Guards and the 2nd Grenadier Guards, from 4th Brigade, 2nd Division, were ordered to clear them out. The scene was later described as "a slaughter-house." During the early hours of the 26th, these two battalions were reinforced by the 3rd Coldstream Guards, and all attacked again. However, the Germans held their ground and the action was over.

What Were the Yeomanry?

In the years after the Jacobite rising of 1745,  the attempt by Prince Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for the exiled House of Stuart, many counties formed irregular military units for local defense. Some, consisting of young "Toffs" with their own horses, became known as "the Yeomanry." They dealt with civil unrest and, once, a French incursion. The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907 incorporated all irregular units into the new Territorial Army, under the control of the War Office.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: David Sinton Ingalls, the U.S. Navy's First Ace


Lieutenant (JG), David S. Ingalls on 24 September 1918 scored his fifth victory in six weeks flying a Sopwith Camel with 213 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force. In so doing he became the U.S. Navy's first fighter ace.  He had learned to fly as a member of the "First Yale Unit."

Lt Ingalls During the War

His postwar accomplishments were even more impressive than his combat accomplishments during the Great War:

Between 1926 and 1928 he was a representative in the Ohio Legislature and co-sponsored the Ohio Aviation Code.

In 1929, while serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he guided the Naval Aviation Test and Development program.

He helped develop the Naval Air Transportation Service in 1942, supplying naval ships in the Pacific.

He was the Air Center Commander at Guadalcanal.

As a rear admiral he served as plans officer of the South Pacific and then commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station.

After World War II he served as vice president of Pan American World Airways and was a newspaper publisher and broadcasting executive,  actively promoting military, commercial, and private aviation as well as air safety.

Sources: National Naval Air Museum and the National Aviation Hall of Fame

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The German High Command at War
reviewed by Ron Drees


The German High Command at War:
Hindenburg and Ludendorff Conduct World War I
by Robert Asprey
William Morrow, 1991


German Command on the Eastern Front: Hoffmann, Ludendorff, and Hindenburg

After gaining a basic understanding of the ebb and flow of the war, one should read this book to learn about the personalities, clashes, successes, and failures from the German side as Robert Asprey describes them mercilessly. While many battles are discussed briefly, with hard-to-comprehend maps, this book is above all about German leaders of WWI and how they interacted — usually badly. Apparently the Duo, as the author calls them, of Hindenburg and Ludendorff were not concerned with national welfare but with obtaining unbridled power to conduct the war on their terms, regardless of how the nation suffered.

Asprey argues that Ludendorff was the worst of the Duo — egotistical, ruthless, irresponsible, intolerant, and at the end, a poor strategist who wasted the Army in a last ditch effort to win the war. Hindenburg was vainglorious, spending countless hours sitting for portraits larger than life size and worrying about the correct number of buttons on his coat. Each lied to the Kaiser, the chancellors, the Reichstag, and most of all to the German public who never knew — but who became ever more suspicious about how badly the war was going until the collapse at the end.

The Duo, Kaiser Wilhelm, the various chancellors, and staff members all ate the equivalent of a banquet every night while half-a-million Germans died of starvation. The Duo were politicians who forced out civilian members of the government who either opposed them or were standing in positions they wanted. The Kaiser had mood swings like a teeter-totter, was too weak to demand the truth but allowed himself to be steamrollered. The various chancellors were weak, enabling the Duo to run roughshod over the government.


Order Now
The Duo and others had to resign before the end of the war but continued to absolve themselves of the responsibility for losing the war. Hindenburg accused the German public of stabbing the Army in the back. Yet it was the public who allowed their sons to be sacrificed for nothing and tolerated the hardships of very short rations, no coal or oil for heating, no medical supplies for themselves or the Army, no clothing or shoes, and swallowed lies upon lies about the progress of the war. The Duo backstabbed the public by their conduct of the war and a second time by contributing to the rise of Corporal Hitler. Hindenburg, when reelected as president of Germany in 1932, appointed Hitler as chancellor. The corporal led Germany down the same path but to an even more horrendous ending. The world is still recovering from both catastrophes.

Although somewhat dated now, this double biography of Hindenburg and Ludendorff is well worth reading, particularly if you want to get an insight into one more aspect of the "German side" of the Great War.

Monday, February 1, 2016

An Unforgettable Russian Propaganda Poster

In World War One, whole nations and not merely professional armies were in mortal combat. Propaganda was global, with a clear message. Hate the enemy; our cause is just; support our soldiers; unite with our allies. In this pre-radio and television age, posters were one of the most important means of spreading propaganda. Governments invested heavily in posters that grabbed attention, and some of them became symbols of national resolve. 

Click on Image for Full Size
Vrag roda chelovecheskago
[The Enemy of Humankind]

A vital function of the poster was to make the enemy appear savage, barbaric, and inhumane. All the belligerents in World War One employed such atrocity propaganda, using stereotypes largely developed in the period leading up to the outbreak of war. The enemy provides a target for attack to unite the people and offers a scapegoat to diverting attention from problems at home. 

This Russian poster is an example. The enemy of the people is personified by Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859–1941), the last German emperor and king of Prussia, whose policies had contributed to the outbreak of the war. He is caricatured as a cloven-footed, tailed devil, his spiked helmet barely able to conceal his pointed ears, and holding human skulls: an icon of greed, evil, and brutality. 

Found at the British Museum Website


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lt. Col. Edgeworth David, AIF: Geologist, Explorer, Mining Wizard


David (Center) at the Magnetic South Pole

Sir Tannatt William Edgeworth David was a Welsh-born and Oxford educated scientist, who  worked as a professor of geology in Sydney and in his early work discovered important coal seams and studied coral reefs in and around Australia. In 1907 he went with Ernest Shackleton on the first expedition to the South Pole during which he was among the first to scale 13,000 foot Mt. Erebus and was with the party that first discovered the magnetic South Pole. David enlisted in the AIF at the age of 58, having convinced the government to start the Australian Mining Corps, a band of geologists and miners to engineer trenches and tunnels. He was a lieutenant colonel on the Western Front during World War I and was knighted on his return in 1919. 

David During the War
David, despite his age, managed to enlist in the Australia Imperial Force and was commissioned major in the Mining Battalion on 25 October 1915. He left for France and the Western Front in February 1916 and provided valuable advice on groundwater and the siting and design of trenches and tunnels — valuable pioneering work on military geology. On 6 October he was seriously injured when he fell 24m when inspecting a well near Vimy Ridge; six weeks later he was back in action but never fully recovered. From June 1917, as chief geologist, he was attached to the inspector of mines at General Headquarters, British Expeditionary Force. By demonstrating the suitability of the clay of the Messines Ridge for tunneling,  he contributed significantly to the successful mining operation and the British Army's victory there in June 1917.  

Three times mentioned in dispatches, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. His son served with the British Army as regimental medical officer with the 6th Cameron Highlanders, winning the Military Cross, and his daughter Mary served as a motor driver with the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and Women's Legion.

His crowning scientific achievement was publishing  the first comprehensive record of the geology of Australia in 1932. Named in his honor, the Sir Edgeworth David Medal is awarded annually to a scientist under the age of 35 for distinguished contributions to Australian science.

Source: University of Newcastle, Australia

Saturday, January 30, 2016

American Monuments on the Western Front: 5 I've Missed


I have been traveling to the Western Front since 1990,  but when I was visiting the archives of American War Memorials Overseas, Inc., I discovered a number I must have driven past several times or have been close to.  Here are five interesting ones.

1. Pennsylvania Fountain at Belleau


A fountain, formerly the town's water supply, is now used as a planter. Above it there is a marble plaque above with French and English text, commemorating Pennsylvania's soldiers who fell in the area.

2. Fifth Division Monument at Cléry-le-Petit


Captured by Fifth Division, November 1918.

3. Lafayette and Pershing Columns outside Versailles


On both sides of the road on the D985 (Rue de Versailles) located between Ville d'Avray and Versailles. Partly completed in 1937, they were to bear equestrian statues of the two historic figures but were never finished due to the Second World War.

4.  Graffiti Rock of American Soldiers, Vosges Mountains


Deep in the woods halfway between Senones and Celles sur Plaine east of Baccarat, where several U.S divisions served in the line.  (This one I would have never found on my own.)

5. First Division Route Marker, Yoncq, Argonne


A tombstone shaped stele with the inscription "First Division, November 5th 1918"  The division was been moving through the area of Yoncq when they encountered German forces in early November 1918. After capturing the village and the surrounding woods the division was ordered north to help capture Sedan.

Visit the excellent website of American War Memorials Overseas, Inc. at: 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

After Gallipoli: Whither New Zealand?


New Zealanders Retrieving Bodies at Gallipoli During the May 1915 Truce

In the Middle East

In all, 2,779 New Zealanders had died at Gallipoli. Following the evacuation the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, which had fought at Gallipoli as infantry, joined Australian mounted units to form the ANZAC Mounted Division. This unit continued the fight against the Ottoman Empire, taking a prominent part in the Sinai–Palestine campaign of 1916–18. Some New Zealanders served in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq, then a Turkish province). New Zealand’s cruiser, HMS Philomel, was also deployed in the region, patrolling in the Red Sea. In 1916 the emphasis shifted to Europe. The Sinai–Palestine campaign cost 543 New Zealand lives.

But these operations against the Ottoman Empire became a sideshow in New Zealand’s war effort. 

To the Western Front

In preparation for joining the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), the New Zealand Division was formed, with citizen-soldier Andrew Russell as commander. Two additional infantry brigades were provided by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Brigade, formed from accumulated reinforcements in Egypt. The Māori contingent was incorporated in the division’s Pioneer Battalion (which in 1917 became an all-Māori unit – the (Maori) Pioneer Battalion). These changes raised the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) strength to about 25,000.

The Māori Pioneer Battalion Performing the Ceremonial Haka for Visitors

Non-divisional units

Some NZEF units, such as a mounted rifles regiment and the cyclist company, were not part of the New Zealand Division. They included the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, which was the first New Zealand unit to arrive on the Western Front (in France and Belgium) in early 1916. Many New Zealanders also served in British and Australian units, including the Royal Flying Corps (the precursor of the Royal Air Force). About 700 New Zealanders served as airmen during the war.

Conscription

The deployment of a division demanded an increased flow of reinforcements. With volunteering slowing, and some sectors of the public demanding equality of sacrifice, the government introduced conscription during 1916, with the first ballots in October. As a result 32,000 conscripts served overseas with the NZEF (alongside 72,000 volunteers) — together representing 42% of New Zealand men of military age (21–49). Of the dominions in the British Empire, New Zealand made the largest per capita contribution of its manpower.

Western Front 1916

Although the troops were [initially] deployed in a relatively quiet sector, at Armentières in northern France, they quickly became aware of the true impact of industrialized warfare. They were shocked by the scale of the artillery, which far surpassed that employed by Turkey at Gallipoli.

The Battle of the Somme

Service on the Western Front involved a steady flow of day-to-day casualties, from artillery bombardments, trench raids, or accidents. But the real bloodletting occurred when either side sent troops over the top to assault the opposing trench line. This was dreadfully apparent when the Anglo-French offensive on the Somme opened on 1 July 1916 — on that day alone the BEF suffered 60,000 casualties.

Longueval and Flers

New Zealanders in a Trench Near Flers, Somme Battlefield, September 1916

The New Zealand Division took part in the second major phase of the battle, attacking as part of a new "big push" near Longueval on 15 September 1916, an effort notable for the advent of tanks. The New Zealanders captured their objectives, though at heavy cost, and assisted in the capture of the village of Flers, but the offensive petered out. By the time the New Zealand Division was withdrawn from the line 23 days later, it had lost 2,000 men — a death rate far exceeding that experienced at Gallipoli.

Source: Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winning Design Announced for America's National World War One Memorial!

"The Weight of Sacrifice" conceived of by lead designers architect Joseph Weishaar of Chicago and New York sculptor Sabin Howard has won the international competition for the World War I National Memorial. We will have much more on their design and its progress through the review process, and we will also be sharing information with our readers on how you can contribute to the funding of this great venture. For now, here are some images of the memorial with some of the designer's views on their concept.

The idea that public space and public freedom are hard won through the great sacrifices of countless individuals in the pursuit of liberty provides the original design concept for this project. – Designers' Statement



Above all, the memorial sculptures and park design stress the glorification of humanity and enduring spirit over the glorification of war. These themes are expressed through three sources: relief sculpture, quotations of soldiers, and a freestanding sculpture. This is a moment frozen in time, captured in the darkened bronze form which has emerged from the soil to serve as a reminder of our actions. Along the north and south faces we see the emblazoned words of a generation gone by. One hundred thirty-sevenfeet long, these walls gradually slip into the earth drawing their wisdom with them. Around the sculpted faces of the monument the remembrance unfolds. The quotation walls guide visitors around the memorial through the changes in elevation, weaving a poetic narrative of the war as described by generals, politicians, and soldiers.  


The integration of a park around and atop the memorial alludes to the idea that public space and personal freedom are only available through the sacrifice of our soldiers. A memorial and a park built to represent this truth should pay homage to the loss incurred in securing these freedoms. The raised figurative walls visually express a narrative of the sacrificial cost of war, while also supporting a literal manifestation of freedoms enjoyed in this country: the open park space above. The urban design intent is to create a new formal link along Pennsylvania Avenue which ties together the memorial to Tecumseh Sherman on the West and Freedom Plaza on the East. This is achieved by lowering the visual barriers surrounding the existing Pershing Park and reinforcing dominant axes that come from the adjacent context.


The fall sun settles on a soldier's etched features (General Pershing himself), and above him 28 trees rise up from the earth, flamed out in brazen red to mark the end of the Great War. He stands on the precipice of the battlefield, surveying the rising tide which has come to call his brothers from their havens of innocence. The figures before him emerge slowly, at first in low relief, and then pull farther out of the morass as they cross the center of the wall. They all trudge onward, occasionally looking back at the life that was until they sink back in and down into the trenches. The raised form in the center of the site honors the veterans of the First World War by combining figurative sculpture and personal narratives of servicemen and women in a single formal expression. 


Upon this unified mass spreads a verdant lawn. This is a space for freedom built upon the great weight of sacrifice. The sculpture on the upper plaza, “Wheels of Humanity,” recreates the engine of war. These are soldiers tested and bonded by the fires of war to each other and to the machinery they command. For all of the courage and heroic stature they convey, each looks to the other for guidance and a signal to action. The bronze medium used throughout stands for the timeless endeavor we face in the universal pursuit and right of freedom.


The figurative relief sculpture, entitled “The Wall of Remembrance,” is a solemn tribute to the resilience of human bonds against the inexorable tide of war. The 23 figures of the 81-ft. relief transform from civilians into battered soldiers, leading one another into the fray. The central piece, “Brothers-in-Arms,” is the focus of the wall, representing the redemption that comes from war: the close and healing ties soldiers form as they face the horrors of battle together. The wounded soldier is lifted by his brother soldiers toward the future and the promise of healing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers
reviewed by Stephen L. Harris


African American Doctors of World War I: 
The Lives of 104 Volunteers
by W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley
McFarland, 2015


After listening to a presentation by authors W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley, Lieutenant General Earl Brown, a retired black officer with over 100 combat missions as a fighter pilot during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, lamented "This is my history and I knew nothing about it!" Because of the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen, Brown had been inspired to join the U.S. Air Force, yet his bittersweet statement was not about black fighter pilots, but black physicians who had served their country during the First World War — African Americans hailing from almost every state whose heroic service has long since been forgotten.

The Doctors Mobilizing  for War

Fisher and Buckley's presentation was the story behind their remarkable book African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers. As the preface points out, wherever they spoke more and more African Americans came up to them and made the same comment that General Brown had made. It was their history and they had not known about it.

Now they do. To me, that's what makes this book remarkable.

And what's equally remarkable is how Fisher and Buckley discovered these doctors and the years it took them to piece together their lives, collect rare photographs, and then write the biographies.

To them it was a quest!


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It began when Fisher was reading the diary, letters and reports written by his grandfather, a captain in the African American 92nd Infantry Division commanding the 317th Motor Supply Train. His grandfather wrote about the physician who took care of 500 soldiers in his Supply Train, Dr. Jonathan N. Rucker.

"What the man was able to accomplish in the Jim Crow South," Fisher stated, "was extraordinary."

Fisher then wondered about other black doctors and what they had accomplished during not only the war, but throughout their lives. He and Buckley teamed up, and one by one they hunted down other doctors. They caught a break while searching through documents at the National Archives. Here they came across an "ancient folder" buried among the U.S. Army Surgeon General records. "It was so old," they wrote, "that its identification tab had disintegrated." Inside the folder were dozens of sheets of fragile paper containing the names of 104 doctors, their backgrounds, hometowns, medical schools, when they graduated and how old they were when they entered military service.

With the names and hometowns and colleges they had attended more than 100 years ago, Fisher and Buckley were off on their years-long odyssey to gather enough material on these long-ago heroes of World War I. For the next five years, the quest took them not just to the National Archives, but to state, city, and small town historical societies around the United States, had them delving into local libraries, poring over old newspapers, and, finally, locating and interviewing family members —children and grandchildren, great nieces and nephews. Quite a journey.

Lt. Jonathan N. Rucker
317th Supply Train, 92nd Division
Reading the biographies, arranged alphabetically, I naturally skipped ahead to start off with Dr. Rucker, the book's catalyst.

Born in 1892, the grandson of a white plantation owner who when he died had left his property to his biracial children, Rucker went on to earn a medical degree as well as a degree in theology. He became not only a doctor of medicine but also a Baptist minister. Thus he actually served a double role for the motor supply train, ministering to the sick and wounded and providing spiritual needs to his fellow troops. After the war, he continued his medical profession in Tennessee and Mississippi, where he was born, served as Baptist minister in several local churches and, amazingly, was a high school principal.

Rucker's story is just one of an amazing collection of black war heroes brought back to life by Fisher and Buckley. Their book is an important piece of black history and well worth owning, not just for African Americans, but for all Americans.

In all fairness, Doug Fisher is a personal friend, but our friendship in no way influenced my review. I found African American Doctors of World War I a book of remarkable people, and the importance of their lives needed to be told.

Stephen L. Harris

Stephen Harris's work on the American Expeditionary Force in the Great War includes, Harlem's Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I, Potomac Books, 2003. His latest book is Rock of the Marne, Berkley Caliber, 2015.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Posting #1000: Douglas MacArthur's Tribute to the Doughboys

Today – on eve of the day that the design for the long-waited national World War One Memorial is to be announced – I thought this posting would be a suitable one, in the spirit of the moment and to mark the occasion of our 1000th posting on Roads to the Great War since May 15, 2013.  (Don't forget to use our search function at the top of the page or the archives listing in the right column to search for articles on your favorite topics.)

General Douglas MacArthur's Sylvanus Thayer Award Acceptance Address – his "Duty, Honor, Country" speech – included a wonderful tribute to America's Doughboys of the Great War.

12 May 1962
General MacArthur Reviewing the Corp of Cadets After the "Duty, Honor, Country" Speech

As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of  God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

Listen to the entire speech at:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Imperial Fabergé Red Cross Egg

Editor's Note: We presented brief article on this famous object in 2014, but I recently came across a much more thorough discussion of it from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. MH
_____________________

Greater love hath no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends.

So reads the gilt inscription from the Bible that fills the central band of this opalescent-white enamel egg embellished with two red crosses. A closer look at this treasure also reveals an intricate pattern underneath several layers of enamel, created by a decorative engraving technique known as guilloché.


This is the 24th Imperial Easter Egg that Faberge designed for the Romanov royal family. He created his first for Alexander III in 1885 after being appointed “Supplier to the Court of his Imperial Majesty.”

On top of the egg, is the Cyrillic monogram and crown insignia for the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna — Emperor Nicholas II’s mother; while the two red crosses are bordered at each corner by the dates 1914 and 1915.

It was in August of 1914 that Russia entered World War I by declaring war on Germany and Austria. In less than six months, over a million men were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. In the spring of 1915, Nicholas II presented this Imperial Easter Egg to his mother, who was president of the Red Cross. That same year he would travel to the front line to take personal command of the army.

The simplicity of design and austerity of materials — there are no gemstones used here — reflect the mood of the country. The Fabergé workshops were beginning to produce war supplies, and their London branch was closed down, but that didn’t prevent the House of Fabergé from creating a memorable and beautifully crafted surprise inside this egg.

A gold-trimmed folding screen contains five one-inch oval portraits topped by tiny red crosses. Each miniature painting is surrounded by panels of white guilloché enamel and backed by mother-of-pearl inscribed with the initials of five women who were near and dear to both Nicholas II and his mother. Dressed as Sisters of Mercy, they are from left to right, his sister Olga, his oldest daughter, also named Olga, his wife Alexandra, his second daughter, Tatiana, and his cousin Maria Pavlovna.

True to their cause, the Empress Alexandra and her two eldest daughters did tend the wounded and dying soldiers in a hospital she organized at the Imperial Winter Palace.

This Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg, which was confiscated by order of the Provisional Government in 1917 for safekeeping, was eventually acquired by Lillian Thomas Pratt in 1933.

Found at the Website of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: Kermit Roosevelt, British and U.S. Armies


Kermit Roosevelt (1889–1943), MC, was one of fours sons of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt who served in combat in the First World War.

British Officer in Mesopotamia
In 1909 Kermit, who shared TR’s passion for adventure, requested permission to join his father on his planned African safari. His father eventually consented to Kermit’s request, but only after challenging his son to demonstrate his appreciation of the opportunity by working all the harder in college after his return. Kermit honored this promise by completing Harvard’s course of study in less than three years. The pair set out again in 1913, this time in search of the source of the Amazon’s Rio da Dúvida (River of Doubt), later renamed Rio Roosevelt.   

American Officer in London


Impatient for American participation in the First World War, Roosevelt joined the British Army to fight in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). He was attached to the 14th Light Armoured Motor Battery of the Machine Gun Corps, and saw action at Tikrit and Baghdad. He was later awarded a Military Cross for his British service and wrote an admired memoir of this period, War in the Garden of Eden, in the interwar period. When the United States finally joined the war, Roosevelt was transferred to the AEF in Europe, relinquishing his British commission to serve as a U.S. field artillery officer. 

After the war he was a successful businessman and  writer despite fighting a lifelong battle with depression and alcoholism. His son, also named Kermit, was a notable operative in the early days of the CIA.

In the Second World War, he similarly served in both nation's armies before his suicide while posted in the Aleutians.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Response Poems


Sometimes the works of the war poets, especially from the early Sacrifice and Remembrance School did not sit well. Sometimes readers were stirred to make a response.  Here are two examples:


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Wartime Legend: Mte. Cengio and the Grenadier's Leap


Site of the Grenadier's Leap
In 1916, scenic 4,400-ft.-tall Mte. Cengio, which has breathtaking views of Venice and the Adriatic, was a "back door" to the Asiago Plateau or "Altipiani" and the Italian position that had been stabilized after the spring 1916 "Strafexpedition" of the Austro-Hungarian Army. It would be the scene of ferocious fighting in mid-1916 with attempts to penetrate the Italian defenses from the rear by their opponents. Had the Austrian forces been able to clear the Altipiani and move down on to the Veneto, they would have been in the rear of both Italian Armies on the Isonzo, the major battle sector at the time. Consequently, Mte. Cengio was for a period of the greatest strategic importance. 

The summit (wartime photo on left) was defended by the 2nd Regiment of the Sardinian Grenadiers. In June 1916 the Grenadiers found themselves with their ammunition exhausted and engaged in furious hand-to-hand fighting at the edge of a precipice. Exhausted, yet still determined not to surrender, an unknown number of the Grenadiers wrapped their arms around their opponents and jumped, dragging their enemies off the cliff, to their mutual deaths.


Grenadier Memorial at the Site of the Leap, Mte. Cengio
Your Editor (right) with My Friend and Guide Rebeschin Fausto 

Today, the haunting metallic statue above honors the 2,000 Sardinian Grenadiers who perished on the mountain in 1916, some of whom died taking an opponent with them in the "Grenadier's Leap." Afterward, sensing it was a weak point in their defensive line, the Italian Command turned it into a major defensive position. A series of galleries were built for artillery and observation posts and mule paths (mulaterria) were constructed to supply them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

World War I from Local Perspectives: History, Literature and Visual Arts. . .
reviewed by Jane Mattisson Ekstam


World War I from Local Perspectives: History, Literature and Visual Arts. Austria, Britain, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Poland and the United States
by Miroslawa Buchholtz and Grzegorz Koneczniak (eds.)
Peter Lang, 2015


World War I from Local Perspectives offers a new perspective on the process of recollecting World War One, advocating that we take into consideration subsequent experiences of humanity on its way to what the editors call "dehumanization" (9) as we assess the effects of the war on individual lives and careers. Such experiences include World War Two, the Cold War and the so-called Cyber War. The local sources referred to in World War I from Local Perspectives are not part of the canon of war or postwar literature or art. They have been selected to demonstrate the relative insignificance of class, gender, or ethnicity when evaluating human suffering during the war; such differences are indeed arbitrary, argue the contributors. Texts written by a wide variety of writers are discussed: servants and aristocrats; women on the home front who wrote poetry as well as made masks for facially disfigured soldiers; Jews, Poles, and Russians in Central and Eastern Europe; Germans, Italians, English, and Irish in Western Europe; and Jews and Americans across the Atlantic.


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The texts range from letters to spoken accounts, travel writing to literary texts, and theatre performances to visual arts. The titles of the 12 chapters reveal the diversity of material discussed: 1. Henry James and Burgess Noakes: the evolution of an employer/servant relationship during World War I; 2. Lord Dunsany's war tales: realism and fantasy; 3. Poems from the home front: Marian Allen and Vera Brittain; 4. History Today: Ireland and the Great War; 5. The Abbey Theatre in the context of the Great War and its centenary: The past and the present; 6. Echoes of the Great War in Italian literature and theatre of the First World War and the interwar period; 7. Eccentric contemporaneity: Gustav Meyrink's views on the Great War; 8. Jews and Poles in the German-occupied East: Two scenes form the First World War; 9.American Zionism in the World War I years: Between academic discourse and pragmatic approach; 10. Recollections of the First Word World War by the Old Believers living in Poland; 11. Fates of the suppressed: Social criticism against the background of the First World War in Miroslav Krleža's The Croatian God Mars; and 12. Disfigurement and defacement in (post) World-War-One art: Francis Derwent Wood, Anna Coleman Ladd, Hannah Höchm and Kader Attia.

American readers may find Katie Sommer's chapter on Henry James and Burgess Noakes particularly interesting. The chapter discusses the letters written by Noakes to his employer, James (Noakes was James's valet and served at the front in the early months of the war, until he was wounded). James's answers are also discussed. Both sets of letters are housed at the Center for Henry James Studies at Creighton University, U.S.A. James demonstrates a parental concern for his valet. His letters are encouraging, designed to keep up Noakes's spirits and to assure him that his old job awaits him at the end of the war. Indeed, James is instrumental in ensuring that his valet will gain a leave of absence (from which he will never return). As Sommer notes, Noakes never forgot the kindness of his employer. The story is a moving one and especially poignant as it involves a well-known writer as well as an obscure servant.

Boženna Chylinska's chapter on American Zionism is also particularly fascinating as it elucidates the decisive role played by American Jewry during the war. Thanks to the war, important changes took place in the Zionist movement as it addressed the problems and hardships of Diaspora Jews. As Chylinska demonstrates, "the mass following which Zionism gained during the war years resulted from the strong hope that the war would bring a solution to the Jewish questions" (157). It became both necessary and possible to unite all American Zionists into one organization, culminating in the creation of the Zionist Organization of America in 1918.

The Remarkable Work of Francis Derwent Wood

World War I from Local Perspectives lives up to its editors' promise that it will present a new view of the war that enables the reader to better understand the effects on the individual heading toward dehumanization. Resisting the temptation to focus on trauma, as many recent studies have done, World War I from Local Perspectives seeks to "disentangle the many threads of the frayed tapestry brought to global attention thanks to the human fascination with numbers" (10). War is not about how many people died; it is an individual tragedy in which differences of class, ethnic allegiance, and gender are arbitrary. This, above all, is what the varied accounts discussed in World War I from Local Perspectives demonstrate so amply and convincingly. The editors have made a fine job of bringing together texts that have never been discussed before but whose value for our understanding of the impact of war on the individual is very clear. World War I from Local Perspectives bears witness to the value of painstaking studies in archives and arduous field studies. It is to be hoped that it will stimulate further studies of local collections that have not yet seen the light of day.

Jane Mattisson Ekstam