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

Monday, August 20, 2018

Failure at Gallipoli: Krithia and Achi Baba, Cape Helles Sector

A. View of Cape Helles from Achi Baba

Image A was taken near the peak of a 600-ft. hill known as Achi Baba. Six miles in the distance are the invasion beaches of Cape Helles. The troops landing on those beaches were supposed to advance to this point and capture the nearby village of Krithia within a day of landing. Image A gives the impression that the advance would be made up a gently sloping rise.

B. Typical Terrain of the Battles for Krithia

Image B gives an up-close view of the undulating ground. The sector is further complicated by four cuts or ravines crossing it. The most famous of these, Gully Ravine, will be visited at the next stop.

Allied forces never reached either Krithia or Achi Baba. There were six attempts between 28 April and 12 July, the largest of which are known as the three battles of Krithia. The earliest of these attacks was met with incredibly fierce Turkish resistance and shattered the wishful thinking of the invaders that their opposition would simply dissolve before a determined assault.

C. Turkish Monument and Memorial at Cape Helles

Key Dates for the Helles Sector:

Apr 25: Initial Landings on Five Helles Beaches

Apr 28: First Battle of Krithia

May 6–8: Second Battle of Krithia

June 4: 3rd Battle of Krithia

June 21: French advance on right flank

June 28: Successful British advance on left flank (image B of Gully Ravine)

July 2–5: Series of strong but unsuccessful Turkish attacks at Helles

July 12–13: Final major Allied attack at Helles over 2km front

August: Suvla sector becomes main focus of Gallipoli Campaign

Oct 3: 2nd French Division leaves for Salonika

Dec 7: British Government orders evacuation of Gallipoli

Jan 9: Helles evacuation completed, marking end of Dardanelles/Gallipoli Campaign

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Flies of Mesopotamia

Poster for British Camps in Middle East

There are flies that bite like bulldogs everywhere. . . The flies are awful; one black web of them this morning; in one's hair and eyes and mouth, in one's bath and shaving-water, in one's tea and in one's towel. 

A wave of great heat has come and the air is black with flies. . . Nothing that I have ever seen or dreamed of came up to the flies. They hatched out until they were almost the air. They were in myriads. The horses were half mad. The flies were mostly tiny. They rolled up in little balls, when one passed one's hand across one's sweating face. They were on your eyelids and lashes and in your lips and nostrils. We could not speak for them, and could hardly see. 

We went into General Younghusband's tent. The flies, for some reason, stayed outside. He put a loose net across the door of the tent. They were like a visible fever, shimmering in the burning light all round. Inside his tent you did not breathe them; outside you could not help taking them in through the nose and the mouth. 

My eyes were bound, and I got on a horse that started bucking because of the torture of the flies. 

KUT, 1916
by Aubrey Herbert

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Representative Julius Kahn, the American Military's Biggest Booster in Congress

Julius Kahn (28 Feb 1861–18 Dec 1924) was a United States Congressman who was succeeded by his wife Florence Prag Kahn after his death. Kahn was born in Kuppenheim, in the Grand Duchy of Baden, in what would become Germany.

He immigrated to the United States with his parents, who settled in California in 1866. He initially made his living as a stage actor, but after studying law in San Francisco, he was elected a member of the State Assembly in 1892 and admitted to the bar in January 1894.

He was elected as a Republican to the 56th and 57th Congresses (4 Mar1899–3 March 1903) for California's 4th District. He was also elected to the 59th and to the nine succeeding Congresses and served from 4 March 1905 until his death in 1924.

During his time in the House of Representatives he was an advocate of military preparedness. He helped draft and secure the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916, the Selective Service Act of 1917, and the National Defense Act of 1920. He served as chairman of Committee on Military Affairs. 

At the time of his death, his wife, Florence Prag Kahn, succeeded him in Congress and served
until 1937. Both he and his wife were strong supporters of naval aviation and are credited with helping create the carrier task forces that were decisive in the Pacific Theater in WWII.

One hundred years later, Kahn has been in some political disfavor in San Francisco due to his sponsorship of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1902. An attempt is being made to remove his name from a City and County playground named in his honor.

Source: Kol Rinah Adult Education Committee of St. Louis

Friday, August 17, 2018

Landowski's ParisTribute to the French Army of 1914–1918

Paul Maximilien Landowski (1 June 1875–31 March 1961) was a French monument sculptor of Polish descent. His best-known work is Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He produced over 35 monuments in the city of Paris and 12 more in the surrounding area. His most famous First World War memorial is Les Fantomes, the French memorial to the Second Battle of the Marne which stands upon the Butte de Chalmont in Northern France.

However, in Paris in the Trocadéro there is an equally prestigious sculpture that most tourists to the area usually fail to notice. It is his tribute to the Gloire of the French Army national monument shown here.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Recommended: Colin Halloran's "F. Scott Fitzgerald and WWI: The 'Crack-up' Essays"

F. Scott Fitzgerald and WWI: The "Crack-up" Essays

 Fitzgerald in 1918 (top line, middle) at Camp Sheridan, Alabama, where he
served in the 167th Infantry, the Alabama Pioneers. Alabama State Archives

By Colin Halloran
Presented at the WWI Centennial Commission Website

Paul Fussell, in his seminal The Great War and Modern Memory, posits that “logically, one supposes, there’s no reason why a language devised by man should be inadequate to describe any of man’s works. The difficulty was in admitting that the war had been made by man and was being continued ad infinitum by them” (170).*

While there is much debate and discussion over the “official” definition and dates of Modernism, we cannot overlook WWI and the ways it changed literary language. Broadly, the Modernist movement sought to move away from traditionalism and towards originality, particularly focusing on a “non-logical, non-objective, and essentially causeless mental universe.”**

Because the war itself was non-logical. Even the innovative language and stylizations that propelled Modernist writings prior to the war were suddenly inadequate after the horrors the world now knew humankind was capable of.

Yet much of the poetry to come out of World War I was still focused on the collective “we” and the broader identifiers (things like “English,” “American,” “French,” “German,” “Home front,” “Trenches”), and non-fiction remained largely historical and fact-based (which is to say, external). Writers of fiction, on the other hand, delved into the internal workings of the individual brain. For example, Freud’s work with WWI veterans and dreams helped fuel the movement’s interest in the human subconscious and psyche, leading writers to approach their realities and experiences through metaphor, mythology, internal monologues, and even dream sequences, as in Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting.”

In addition, the Great War stripped young authors—many of whom would shape the Modernist movement of interwar literature—of their idealism. Included in this group was titan of the Twenties, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald, in spite of dropping out of Princeton to join the Army as a second lieutenant, never shipped out, a fact that he would later lament.  

Unlike many Modernist authors of the time who were pushing the boundaries of fiction with experimental forms and techniques, Fitzgerald and his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, kept their writing largely in the realm of realism that was so popular in the 19th century. However, Fitzgerald’s stylization, characters’ attitudes, and choice of themes place him firmly within the Modernist oeuvre. For example, while there is no question that Hemingway’s fiction is highly autobiographical, he was able to distance himself from his own experiences by assigning them to his various characters such as WWI ambulance driver Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms. This technique surely contributed to his success, as many of his readers recognized their own thoughts and experiences in the musings of Hemingway’s fictional narrators. Hemingway and his work embodied the values of stoicism and ambivalence that were to be expected from a world emerging from the devastation of war. Boys had become men and men had died doing their duty, serving their homelands, protecting what was right and good, as extolled in so many poems and media of the time. Detachment was viewed as strength, and strength was now expected.

Which is also why some lesser-known works by Fitzgerald are so important.

1945 Edition

I am referring especially to the so-called “Crack-up” personal essays published in Esquire in 1936. The first essay sets the fragmented, dismal tone of the collection; it begins “Of course, all life is a process of breaking down…"

Many of Fitzgerald’s contemporaries and friends recoiled at these autobiographical, emotional essays that chronicled his own personal postwar crisis. In fact, as if embarrassed for his friend, novelist John Dos Passos, wrote to Fitzgerald, “…most of the time the course of world events seems so frightful that I feel absolutely paralysed [sic]…We’re living in one of the damndest  tragic moments in history—if you want to go to pieces I think it’s absolutely O.K. but I think you ought to write a first rate novel about it…instead of spilling it in little pieces.”

Continue reading  Colin Halloran's essay at:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How the Analysis of Strategy Changed in WWI Because of the U-boat & Airplane

by William D. O’Neil, 
formerly Director of Naval Warfare, U.S. Department of Defense

A. Historical Background: The Classical Analysis of  Strategy

Navies have always been capital intensive. What is more, the capital goods most used by navies have always had extraordinarily long lives, at least so far as wear-out and obsolescence govern. Thus it was inevitable, when the industrial revolution began to engender rapid technological changes in capital goods generally, that those responsible for naval capital procurements should become deeply concerned about the impact of technology on naval forces. The events of the ensuing 150 years have done nothing to abate that concern.

How would naval warfare be shaped by steam propulsion? What about the ram bow, breech-loading guns, torpedoes, the dynamite gun, zeppelins, airplanes? Each invention was greeted by a claque, proclaiming that here at last was the ultimate weapon which would sweep all before it and change the
nature of war at sea beyond all recognition. Others, with equal certitude, scoffed that the invention was unworkable and would exert no positive influence.

Mahan and Corbett, and a few followers, attempted to divine the prospect for naval warfare through rational analysis: deducing the basic, unchanging principles of naval war through historical study and logical reflection and applying them to the mutable conditions. In general they were far more successful at deducing principles than at applying them in altered circumstances, frequently due to inadequate grasp of the technological possibilities. But this is not in itself an impeachment of the effort to apply rational analysis to the problem of predicting technology’s impact on naval warfare.
As for principles, the judgement of strategic theorists, naval and military, may fairly be summed by B. H. Liddell Hart’s aphorism: "The principles of war, not merely one principle, can be condensed into a single word–'concentration'." Practitioners have expressed the same view in different terms, as in Napoleon’s dictum that, "The art of war consists in always having more forces than the adversary, even with an army weaker than his, at the point where one is attacking or being attacked." In this classical analysis of strategy the principal determinant of victory was the relative strength of the forces at the point of contact; the business of the commander was to ensure that his strength was superior at the point of contact or, conversely, to ensure that contact occurred only where his strength was the greater.

B. The Modern Analysis: F. W. Lanchester

F. W. Lanchester
The classical theory served well enough (in the sense that it seemed to match the observed actions of talented and successful commanders) for most of the history of warfare. It was undermined when rapid technological change started to bring forces of unlike equipment into contact with accelerating frequency. Given unlike forces, how should strength be measured? Specifically, how might one rationalize numbers with firepower? For it seemed to most that the effects of technology were seen principally in the growth of firepower. The problem was by no means unprecedented: advances such as shock cavalry and individual missile weapons had posed it, in other forms, to previous generations. But the scientific revolution had brought new tools of analysis and in 1916 an English engineer and aeronautical theorist named F. W. Lanchester, seeking to rationalize the airplane’s place in warfare, applied them.

Lanchester analyzed two cases. In the first, it is assumed that two forces fight a general engagement in which each unit is able to direct its fire at any unit of the opposing force. Lanchester’s Square Law states that, under such conditions, fighting strength (measured by ability to inflict casualties) will be proportional to the product of the ratio of the fighting values (in essence, firepower) of the two forces and the ratio of the squares of their numbers. Thus if the two forces are of equal numbers but each unit of A’s force can deliver twice as much aimed fire as each unit of B’s then fighting strength will be 2:1 in A’s favor. But with equal unit fighting value, a force with twice the numbers will enjoy a 4:1 advantage. In the case of what Lanchester called the Linear Law it is assumed that circumstances permit only un-aimed area fire, or only one-to-one combats between individual units. Here, Lanchester showed, fighting strength is simply proportional to the product of the ratios of the fighting values and the numbers engaged. Thus in a Linear Law case an inferiority by, say, a factor of two in numbers could be made good by a like superiority in firepower per unit; in the Square Law case a two-fold inferiority in numbers could only be balanced by a four-fold firepower advantage.

Thus Lanchester found not a relationship between numbers and firepower, but two relationships, their
applicability depending upon the conditions of the combat.  Clearly the Square Law was the more dramatic and surprising result and it has ever since appealed to analysts as representing the way things ought to be. Indeed, Lanchester himself characterized the Square Law as representing the conditions of "modern" war (already in 1916), while stigmatizing the Linear Law as embodying the conditions of ancient combat.

Lanchester bolstered the credibility of his Square Law by applying it to Nelson’s tactical scheme at Trafalgar, showing that Nelson’s plans were precisely those of a commander trying to optimize under the Square Law, and that the results were entirely consistent with the theory. But Lanchester did not present any real statistical evidence to support his theory, and indeed, very little relevant evidence of any sort was available in 1916. Half a century later, however, with a considerable body of statistics about a broad  O'Neil Technology and Naval War  spectrum of land combats in hand, doubts began to spread. In truth, very few of these combats showed anything at all like Square Law behavior. To the extent that there was any discernible regularity in the data at all, the Linear Law seemed to provide the better fit. But neither model fitted well. These discoveries have been widely interpreted as discrediting the Lanchester theory of combat. Yet the theory can not possibly be wrong in the usual sense: Lanchester’s mathematics were, at least in this case, quite impeccable. What is wrong is the assumption that it will always, or even usually, be possible to achieve the kind of concentration of fire that lies at the heart of the Square Law.

C. A Reification of Lanchester’s Concepts, Taking Account of the Element of Choice in Fire Concentration

Horatio Nelson

That battlefields are confusing places is, of course, proverbial. For most combat units, opportunities for deliberate, aimed fire are infrequent. Under such conditions it is scarcely surprising that combat results do not conform to the Square Law. More surprising is that anyone ever supposed they would. Actually, Lanchester (who was an extraordinarily clever man) seems never to have entertained any illusions that the ordinary run of land combats would conform to his Square Law. It must have seemed very natural in 1916 to suppose that the clearer, cleaner arena of air combat would permit a great measure of concentration of fire; indeed, it still seems so to many people. 

Where Lanchester may perhaps be faulted is on his failure to carry through fully with his theories. He had already hypothesized that Nelson, who probably did not know what differential equations were and almost certainly had not used them for tactical analysis, had nevertheless possessed a very perfect and exact understanding of the implications of concentration under Square Law conditions. Was it not reasonable to go on to assume that even a commander of lesser genius would see that to allow the enemy freedom to fire deliberately and selectively at his force would be undesirable, particularly if the enemy already had a numerical edge? And did this not imply that commanders would always seek to vitiate the essential condition for the operation of the Square Law by making it difficult for the enemy to concentrate his fire? 

A really clever commander, of course, may go a stage beyond this, arranging to permit his units to concentrate their fire while forcing the enemy to fire blind. This is the essence of a well-conducted ambush for instance. This is a case not analyzed by Lanchester, but his methods may be used to show that in such a mixed Square-Linear situation the larger force may easily be destroyed by the smaller. 

In extending Lanchester’s analysis to consider explicitly the whole range of possible relative abilities to selectively and deliberately direct fire at individual enemy units–and the impact of strategic and tactical choice upon those abilities—we cast the whole question of concentration in an entirely different light. In the classical view, what counted was numbers at the point of contact. Lanchester’s original formulation amended this to include firepower as well as numbers, with the relationship between them determined (from among two possible cases) by the circumstances of the combat. Now we can envision many possible relationships, chosen by circumstances much within the control of the commanders. Moreover, in certain of these circumstances it is possible in theory (as we know it to be in truth) for a force inferior both in numbers and firepower to defeat one superior. 

In one sense we have now come full circle to another doctrine of classical military thought: that everything depends upon the commander. But this extended Lanchester theory has important specific implications about the nature and limits of effective command. Specifically, the crucial task of the commander is to order things so as to minimize the enemy’s opportunities for accurate, selective fire and to maximize his own. With sufficient advantage in fire concentration he may overcome any given discrepancy in numbers and firepower. But the greater the discrepancy in numbers and firepower, the greater will be the advantage in fire concentration necessary to prevail, and the greater the penalty if the necessary advantage is not achieved. 

Lanchester’s methods can be used to give this argument a mathematical form. But the resulting equations, like Lanchester’s, contain parameters which can not independently be estimated for any particular combat. With the addition of an infinite range of possibilities for fire concentration, and with fire concentration entering as a dominant independent element, the possibility of statistical validation of the extended Lanchester theory seems to vanish. Pending a possible future quantification and independent measurement of the relative ability to concentrate fire, those who seek empirical confirmation or denial of this extended Lanchester analysis will have to content themselves, as Lanchester did, with examinations of particular cases. 

Source:  Technology and Naval War, Willam D. O'Neil, 1981

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Journey's End
Reviewed by Bryan Alexander

Journey's End

by R.C. Sherriff
Penguin Modern Classics, 2018

Journey's End (first published in1928) is a powerful play and an unusual take on the First World War. The conceit is simple. In 1918 a group of British officers wait in an underground shelter for the German Army to begin what was then the largest military offensive in human history. Two men who knew each other as friends before the war find their relationship, and their selves, radically altered. An older man tries to support both of them as they struggle with the war and each other.

1939 Presentation of the Play

At no point do we leave the dugout, not even to enter the war's notorious trenches per se, yet sounds of the war are heard throughout every scene. It's a claustrophobic, intense situation and story. Apparently Sherriff originally wanted to title it Suspense or Waiting, which are actually better titles in some ways.

As a WWI work, Journey's End depicts some key details. Our main character, Stanhope, reveals a man shattered by war in a good portrait of PTSD when it was only called shell shock. We see the British Army caught between moral burnout and hard-won professional expertise. The classic sense of commanders being out of touch and inhumane appears during the penultimate raid sequence. Comedy around squalor and bad food recalls veterans' black humor. And some of the plot involves planning for familiar military details, such as launching a raid across no-man's-land and preparing for a major attack. Act III includes a scene that encapsulates a great deal of class tensions, when Stanhope disciplines Raleigh for violating class expectations (yes, other things are involved, too).

And yet the play differs from many post-1914 works of WWI fiction, in that it is not clearly antiwar. Unlike, say, All Quiet on the Western Front (my reflections) or Wilfred Owen's poems, Journey's End is about men who, despite everything, insist on fighting. They are committed to the war, even if the issues (German aggression, etc.) never really appear. A key plot involves one officer, Hibbert, who seems to be faking an illness in order to get out of serving any longer. Stanhope, massively brutalized by the war, manages to convince Hibbert to stay, even at the point of threatening to kill him. This doesn't appear to be cynical, but heartfelt. It reminds me of Pat Barker's Regeneration (1991), which similarly resists condemning men for deciding to fight and likely die.

It is a minimalist play in some ways. Dialogue is brisk and concrete, lacking lyrical passages, brooding monologues, or detailed recaps of off-stage events. As I mentioned before, the setting is closely confined in space. I can imagine how good staging could heighten this.

The play has been filmed several times, and a new version has just appeared. I look forward to it and hope as well to see Journey's End on stage at some point.

Bryan Alexander

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ten Practical Lessons Learned in Delville Wood

The Sixth Day: Commemorative Panel at the Delville Wood Memorial
Depicting the Brigade's Survivors

The Battle of Delville Wood (14–20 July 1916) was described by Sir Basil Liddell-Hart as "the bloodiest battle-hell of 1916." Fought by the South African Brigade of the highly regarded 9th Scottish Division, it resulted in the capture of the majority of the nearly mile-square wood, which at the end had but a single tree remaining. Only some 750 of the 3153 officers and men that entered the wood mustered when the brigade was finally relieved on 20 July. 

Afterward the division commander ordered a review. Naturally most of the responses pertained to fighting in forested areas. Here are some of the key points from that review. 

1. Occupying woods by infantry exposes them to decimation by artillery fire. The carnage [at Delville Wood] could only have been avoided had the enemy lines been captured across a broad front. 

2. Consensus of opinion is that it is useless to attack in face of machine guns, even if there is no wire obstacle. 

3. In a wood the only reliable method of communication is by runner. Visual signaling was not reliable and telephone lines did not last long in the wood. 

4. Digging trenches of any depth in woods is almost impossible due to tree roots. Nevertheless, even the shallowest trench could provide some protection. However, there was shortage of spades and picks at Delville Wood. 

5. Bright identifying patches need to be done away with. [The South Africans had yellow squares on their haversacks.] "They form a splendid mark for hostile snipers." 

Inside Delville Wood
6. Heavy machine guns are cumbersome to move through forested areas and once spotted are targeted quickly for enemy artillery fire. The Lewis gun was preferable for the woods.

7. The presence of officers invariably established confidence, especially after heavy bombardment.

8. A lack of flares for night fighting allowed the Germans to advance on the trenches under cover of darkness.

9. Considered that snipers should be given a free hand. The qualities of resource and daring are essential to make a good sniper; more so than being a crack shot.

10. It is not considered advisable, after taking a wood, to retain it, but to push out in front and consolidate in the open. Considered impossible to consolidate in the wood.

Source: South African Military History Society 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Centennial at the Grass Roots: Learn Your Local WWI Heritage

Local, Regional, and State Histories Are Coming Off the Presses

More and more publishers are turning out WWI titles focusing on states, regions, towns, and military installations. Here, I'd like to single out just one publishing collaboration: Arcadia Publishing and The History Press headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. Together they are the largest and most comprehensive publishers of local and regional books in the United States with a library of more than 12,000 titles. The two imprints publish a combined 900 books each year. Their full collection can be searched at:

Below are examples of two categories of their superbly illustrated World War I monographs. The first image shows their great selection on the training camps built for the Doughboys and were later used for WWII's GIs. While the authors take different approaches, they all cover the building of the camps, the sudden impact of tens of thousands of young men arriving in the area, and details about the particular units that trained on the bases. 

Click on Image to Enlarge

The second shows their volumes on how states, sections, and towns experienced the war. You own local library or historical society may already have published similar works on your area.  However, even as we write, other publishers are coming on-stream with WWI titles focusing on states and local libraries in the war.  Check online and at your local libraries for what is now available.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Saturday, August 11, 2018

What Is Meant by "Sapper"?

Sappers Working On a Trench

"He is a man [and now woman] of all work of the army and the public: astronomer, geologist, surveyor, draftsman, artist, architect, traveler, explorer, antiquary, mechanic, diver, soldier and sailor; ready to do anything or go anywhere; in short, he is a sapper. . . " Capt T.W.J. Connolly (1815-1885), Royal Engineer Historian

All students of the Great War know of the tremendous contribution made by combat engineers in the struggle from digging trenches and tunnels, to clearing mines, to building roads and field fortifications.  The British Army, especially, used "Sapper" to identify all the troops involved in such activities. Here is a little background on the term from the Canadian Army.

The term "sapper" has been associated with engineers for many generations. The origin of this term lies in the French word sape, meaning undermine and the Middle French word sap that was a spade or a hoe. The dictionary defines a "sap" as a trench that is prolonged by digging away the earth from within the trench itself.

Sappers Building a Plank Road

In medieval times, when armies laid siege to a fortification, one of the common methods of breaching the defenses was to dig a trench, or "sap," up to the base of the castle wall. A tunnel would then be dug under, or into, the wall. Prior to the introduction of explosives, a breach of the defensive wall would be accomplished by replacing blocks of stone with wooden supports. The supports would then be burned causing a section of wall to collapse. In the French Army, digging a trench under fire was known as "driving a sap" and the men who did this were known as sapeurs. Thus, the terms "sappers" became associated with engineers. After the discovery of gunpowder, an explosive "mine" was used to breach the wall. This task was, of course, also the responsibility of the engineers.

In 1813, the Royal Engineers officially adopted the title Royal Sappers and Miners, and, in 1856, the rank of the common soldier was changed from private to sapper. The CME has continued to use this designation and, just as privates in the artillery are referred to as "gunners," field engineers of the rank of private are referred to as "sappers." A sapper should always be addressed as Sapper Smith, not as Private Smith. The term may also be used to refer to a group of field engineers who are not necessarily of the rank of private: for example, "here come the sappers to breach the minefield." All ranks in field engineer units traditionally referred to themselves as sappers because other trades in the unit were first trained as field engineers. Today it is primarily combat engineers that are referred to as sappers.

Sources: Canadian Military Engineers, Royal Pioneers

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Roads Classic: The Black Sox and the Great War

Dissension in baseball's ranks started during the 1918 season.  The number of games had to be reduced because of the war and the emergence of the influenza pandemic, and this cut into every team's revenues. The World Series was played in September rather than October as was normally the case.

Facing a shortened season, baseball's team owners decided to save money by releasing all players from their contracts and saving themselves an estimated $200,000 in salary.  The owner's association further exacerbated matters by threatening to withhold part of players shares of the participating teams in the World Series, the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. A players' strike was just averted, but they felt cheated afterwards.

Players throughout baseball seethed over these moves over the winter, and when the 1919 season was again shortened  (reduced from 154 games to 140) — cutting into the owners' profits as well — many of the players were again given pay cuts. Such actions increased the players to deep resentment of the owners and set the stage for what happened in the 1919 World Series. 

The 1919 White Sox in Happier Days

Among the stingiest of the owners was Charles Comisky of the highly talented Chicago White Sox, who won their league's pennant. Gambler Arnold Rothstein, smelling an opportunity, decided he could make a major killing by fixing the outcome of the Series by bribing key players of the heavily favored White Sox to lose games. His plan succeeded and the White Sox threw the series, but the bribery was inevitably uncovered. It became the greatest scandal in American sports. The key players were banned from baseball for life and the 1919 White Sox became immortalized as the Black Sox.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Titanic's Sister and Cousin Ships in the Great War

1. The Titanic's sister ship Olympic carried troops in the war and had some notable adventures including rescuing survivors of the sinking British battleship HMS Audacious, which had struck a mine, and later ramming and sinking a German submarine

2.  During the Great War, the Titanic's slightly larger sister ship, RMS Britannic, was converted to HMHS Britannic—His Majesty's Hospital Ship. On her way to Lemnos to pick up 3,600 wounded men, she either struck a landmine planted by U-73 and U-103 on 24 April 1918 or she was torpedoed. At the time, many of her portholes were open. Scientists are certain that is why she sank in about 55 minutes. Besides Britannic, the White Star Line had six of its ships sunk and two damaged by U-boats during the Great War.

HMT Olympic

3. The Titanic's rescue ship, RMS Carpathia, was in a convoy in July 1918 when attacked and sunk by U-55. All of the 57 passengers were saved, and of the crew of 223 five died in the explosion caused by the second torpedo. America's Last Doughboy, Frank Buckles, had sailed for England on an earlier voyage of the Carpathia.

4. Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia during the Titanic rescue, later captained the Lusitania, and commanded the troopship Aulania at Gallipoli. He subsequently commanded a number of naval

HMHS Britannic

5. SS Californian, which missed the Titanic's rescue signal when only ten miles away from the stricken liner, was sunk 9 November 1915, while en route from Salonika to Marseilles by German submarine U-35, with the loss of one life.

6. On 14 April 1912 SS Amerika of the Hamburg line was several hours ahead of the Titanic on its
transatlantic run. The Amerika sent a Marconi system wireless reporting icebergs. Several hours later, Titanic struck an iceberg in the same area. In 1914, the Amerika was interned by the United States and later seized and converted to a troopship, USS America, for the duration. Her war service included an accidental sinking at her pier and her raising and return to service, which included a serious influenza outbreak on one voyage.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

100 Years Ago: The Battle of Amiens Opens

 8 August 1918: Amiens

Canadian Soldiers on the Attack, 8 August 1918

The origin of the Battle of Amiens was the German failure to capture Amiens during Operation Michael, the first of the German Kaiserschlacht offensives, which ended on 5 April 1918. The German Second Army under General Georg von der Marwitz (1856–1929) was left holding an overstretched salient to the east of the city. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig (1861–1928), commanding the British Army on the Western Front, began plans for a counterattack by his Fourth Army under General Sir Henry Rawlinson (1864–1925) in May. The French and Americans meanwhile halted and drove back the last German offensive in the Second Battle of the Marne 15 July–6 August 1918. The overall Allied plan on the Western Front, announced by Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851–1929) as Allied generalissimo, was for a general offensive (bataille générale) of repeated and relatively shallow attacks on different parts of the German line, allowing the Germans no time for recovery. At this stage, Foch and most other senior Allied figures expected the war to last well into 1919.

The Battle of Amiens

Under conditions of great secrecy, Rawlinson’s Fourth Army was almost doubled in strength to 14 infantry divisions, made up of British III Corps, the Canadian Corps, the Australian Corps, plus an American division in reserve, together with most of the Tank Corps and the Cavalry Corps. The British had over 2,000 artillery pieces, together with 342 of the latest Mark V and Mark V* heavy tanks to break through the German defenses, 120 supply tanks, and 72 of the new faster, lightly armored Medium A “Whippet” tanks for exploitation. To the south of British Fourth Army, the French First Army under General Marie Eugène Debeney (1864–1943) was placed under Haig’s command to play a supporting role in the battle, with its XXXI Corps and IX Corps attacking alongside the Canadians. The attack was also supported by over 1,900 British and French aircraft. The German Second Army under Marwitz had ten weak divisions (plus four in reserve) on a front of about 30 kilometers facing the British and French, with at most 530 guns and 365 aircraft. Even this disparity does not fully convey Allied superiority in numbers, equipment, and morale over the Germans by this stage of the war.

Support Tanks Moving Up

The British attack began in the fog at 4:20 a.m. on Thursday 8 August 1918 led by a creeping (or rolling) artillery barrage with no preliminary bombardment, achieving complete surprise. Lacking strong tank support, the French attacked at 5:05 a.m. after a short bombardment. The Allied attack broke through to capture the German first defensive lines by 7:30 a.m. In the center Whippet tanks, armored cars and cavalry then advanced at high speed to seize critical points on what was designated the Amiens Outer Defense Line, with more infantry divisions following up to join them. By mid-afternoon, the Canadian Corps and Australian Corps in the center had advanced almost 12 kilometers on a front of 22 kilometers. In other sectors the offensive did not fully succeed. A surprise small-scale German attack on 6 August had disrupted British III Corps plans, and its attack was stopped short of the difficult Chilpilly Spur. American troops of the 33rd Division would be called in to assist the British 58th Division in capturing Chipilly. The French First Army also captured its first objectives but then made only limited progress. 

The advance also suffered from the new problem of coordinating a mechanized breakthrough; co-operation between the tanks and cavalry failed, and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) focused on attacking bridges in the German rear rather than tactically supporting the attack. The British continued their attack the next day with the Canadian Corps gaining another five kilometers. This brought British Fourth Army’s advance onto the wasteland of the old 1916 Somme battlefield, while eight German divisions were arriving to reinforce the defense. The French First Army captured Montdidier on 10 August. The fighting continued until 12 August with little further Allied gains, by which time losses and mechanical failures had reduced the British tank strength to six working tanks. With the Germans holding a new line in front of Noyon and Peronne, Field Marshal Haig closed the battle down and began preparing for another attack farther north.


German Dead in the Field

Famously, General Erich Ludendorff (1865–1937) in his memoirs described 8 August 1918 as “The black day of the German Army (Der schwarze Tag des deutschen Heeres) in the history of this war." Chiefly this was because of the impact of the Allied breakthrough on German morale, with the recognition that the last German offensives a month earlier, widely known as the Friedensturm, had failed to defeat the Allies. The German High Command accepted shortly after the Battle of Amiens that it had lost the war on the Western Front, something that was not apparent to most opposing Allied commanders until early October. Disputed casualty figures for both sides suggest 20,000 British and 24,000 French casualties for the battle, about 30,000 German surrenders, and estimates of total German losses as high as 75,000. In retrospect, Amiens became for the British the decisive battle that began the “Hundred Days” campaign of successful attacks leading to victory on the Western Front. In terms of technology and the art of war, Amiens made a very strong contrast with the methods with which the Battle of the Frontiers exactly four years earlier had been fought by all sides. The contrast between the Fourth Army’s performance under Rawlinson at Amiens with the performance of the same commander and army at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 also showed the considerable improvements made in tactics, technology, staff work, and leadership at all levels by the British Army since 1916, and the extent of its superiority over the German Army by 1918.

Source:  1914-1918 Online
Contributor: Stephen Badsey, University of Wolverhampton

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Stomach for Fighting
Reviewed by Jane M. Ekstam, Østfold University College, Norway

The Stomach for Fighting: 
Food and the Soldiers of the Great War 

by Rachel Duffett
Manchester University Press, 2012

A Canadian Field Kitchen

"I eat therefore I am." Food, according to Duffett, is what made the unbearable bearable in World War One. At the same time, The Stomach for Fighting: Food and the Soldiers of the Great War destroys the myth that many soldiers from the working classes were better fed at the front than they were at home. While food was nearly always available, the private soldier's diet was monotonous and soldiers came to hate the bully beef that appeared at almost every meal. As Duffett demonstrates,

In static times, and this was to be the more usual experience of the soldiers, there was sometimes a surfeit of the unpopular tins of beef, which were put to use as flooring in dug-outs by men who preferred not to consume their contents (230).

The monotonous diet also caused digestive problems. As one private wrote to a friend from France in 1915, "It requires a much better digestion than Providence has blessed you with to stand the kind of food we get here...nearly everybody is suffering from some bowel complaint" (231). The focus of The Stomach for Fighting: Food and the Soldiers of the Great War is on the rankers' eating, primarily on the Western Front, though Mesopotamia and Turkey are also mentioned. It explores the challenges the army faced in feeding millions of men and the men's impressions of their diet. Duffett concludes that the importance of food during the war was not only calorific; food should be understood "as a medium through which the social and emotional experiences of military service were expressed" (2). The Stomach for Fighting also makes clear the difference in variety and standard between the private soldier and the officer's diet. In addition, it shows the importance of setting when eating: while private soldiers ate in trenches and sheds, officers usually ate in much more comfortable and congenial settings, which not only made the eating experience more pleasurable but also served to reinforce social differences.

Duffett points out that the delivery and consumption of food in World War One have received little specialist attention, the primary focus to date being on strategy and tactics. The Stomach for Fighting is divided into six chapters: "Food and the war"; "Before the war"; "First taste: eating in the home camps"; "Feeding the men: army provisioning, the cooks and the ASC" (Army Service Corps); "Eating: the men and their rations"; and "Beyond the ration: scrounging, supplementing and sharing." The penultimate chapter, "Eating: the men and their rations," is particularly fascinating. It makes clear that food and warmth were the two most important things in the lives of both privates and officers. As one private remarked,

Your feelings only came to the fore when it was a special mate who had been killed or wounded and then it would quickly go away. Because what you really wanted to do was to go to sleep, get warm, get clean, and have a good hot meal (181).

Duffett concludes that because food brings the physiological and the psychological together, it can be used as a vehicle for physical as well as emotional experience. The difference between the private and the officer's rations (roast pork, for example, compared with bully beef) is a form of oppression. Food, argues Duffett, became a metaphor for the helplessness of the private soldier, who had little control over his environment. It was a key privation. Even if what was offered was acceptable, there was anger, fear, and resentment among private soldiers, who saw themselves as captives not only in the army but also in a society that differentiated between rulers and the ruled.

The procurement, preparation and consumption of food took on an emotional significance that it had not had in peacetime, because at the front, soldiers were distanced from their homes and familial affection: food is what brought the men together and helped them cope with the rigors and deprivations of war, physical as well as affective. That the diet of the private soldier, which was both monotonous and unlike the food offered at home, failed to fulfil these important goals is the main subject of The Stomach for Fighting.

Duffett's study, which started as a PhD thesis at the University of Essex, is the product of many years' careful research. Through the numerous references to food in letters, diaries, and memoirs, Duffett establishes the emotional reactions of soldiers to war. The Stomach for Fighting contains many references to archival material. It also includes photographs of men eating, how bread was made at the front, recipes, items made out of food, e.g. a picture frame made of biscuits, extracts from war magazines (e.g. The War Illustrated), and postcards showing food. (One sarcastic card is entitled "More German Atrocities" and shows a barrel of sauerkraut, limburger, and blutwurst, i.e. blood pudding.)

These Tommies Appear to Be Pleased with Their Rations

Some pictures are humorous but have no particular message, such as the one showing a British soldier on duty. He is watching a goose walk by. The caption reads, "His Christmas Goose. You wait till I comes off dooty!" The goose does not seem too worried! The cover picture, featuring John Singer Sargent's Thou shalt not steal is also humorous: it pictures two soldiers stealing fruit from trees. As both a sociable and productive activity that reminds soldiers of their lives at home, fruit picking is also an excellent example of the power of food to evoke memory and emotion.

Each chapter of this book is meticulously annotated. The bibliography is extensive, and divided into letters, printed primary sources, published diaries, published letters, published memoirs, other published primary sources, unpublished theses, and secondary sources. While The Stomach for Fighting is an academic publication, it is also highly readable and elegantly written. It is a valuable source of information for all those interested in what it meant to be at war, far from home, and a long way from the care of loved ones.

Jane M. Ekstam, Østfold University College, Norway

Monday, August 6, 2018

Politician and General: Adolph Messimy

Adolph Messimy (1869–1935) made his mark in both the political and military spheres of France during the war. At the start of the war he held the position of Minister for War for the second time in the administration of René Viviani. He had worked his way to the top as a professional politician after retiring from the army in 1899. Messimy, however, received some of the blame for the failure of Plan XVII and resigned before the month of August 1914 had ended. His had been one of the authorizing signatures on France's mobilization order.

He rejoined the army as a reserve captain and proceeded to serve with distinction in the Vosges sector where he was wounded. A colonel by 1916, he was again wounded at the Somme. His rise in grade continued throughout the war and he ended his military career as a general and divisional commander. Afterward he returned to his political career with mixed success. 

[In case you're wondering: yes, the editor did think General Messimy's image was a perfect Gallic match for General Ludendorff.]

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Remembering a Veteran: Corentin Carré , 410 R.I., French Army

By Christina Holstein

Jean-Corentin Carré
Visitors to Verdun who feel that they have seen the sights and wish to visit the wider area may like to spend a day in the open, rolling countryside to the south of Verdun, visiting such places as Nixéville or Landrecourt, which—sleepy and forgotten today—swarmed with men during the battle of Verdun. To my mind the most pleasant way of visiting this area is to drive along the Voie Sacrée, or Sacred Way. This is the great supply and evacuation route that saved Verdun at the beginning of the battle and worked non-stop throughout all the months of war. There are, of course, many military cemeteries in the area and in one of them lies Corentin Carré, the youngest French pilot of the Great War and possibly one of the youngest on the Western Front.

Among the men who rushed to volunteer when war broke out, Corentin Carré holds a special place. Born in Le Faouët, Brittany, France, on 9 February 1900, Corentin was 14 when war broke out. When his father was mobilised in August 1914, he tried to persuade the local authorities to let him sign up under the name of his half-brother. When this was refused, he took himself off to another part of France where he was unknown and signed up in April 1915 under the name of Auguste Duthoy, a native of a town in the Ardennes region which was then under German occupation. This made it impossible to check whether the name was correct and Corentin was posted, first, to the 41st Infantry and then the 410th Infantry, which had just been formed. After training, he was sent to the front in the Champagne sector in October 1915.

It was the start of an extraordinary career. Beginning as a private soldier, Corentin Carré, known as “le petit poilu," was promoted to corporal in February 1916. In June 1916 he was wounded. He was made a sergeant later the same month and, in November 1916, following various courageous exploits, he was cited in army orders and received the Croix de Guerre. 

By December 1916, however, Corentin Carré’s conscience had got the better of him and he wrote to his colonel to ask to sign on again under his real name, saying that he now had his father’s authorisation to do so. He was allowed to do so, although he temporarily lost the promotion to adjutant that—at 16 years and 10 months—he had already received. He soon recovered his rank and in June 1917 was once again cited in army orders.

But by now Corentin had other ideas: he wished to become a pilot. He began training on July 1917, received his pilot’s licence in October of the same year and in December was posted to S.O. 229 squadron, which was stationed at Lemmes—another little town on the famous Voie Sacrée. This squadron carried out photographic missions and artillery observation. On 19 March 1918 Corentin was carrying out an observation mission when he ran into trouble. According to the official version, his plane was attacked by three enemy aircraft, but no German plane appears to have claimed the victory and it is possible that his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He managed to bring it down and was taken, badly wounded, to hospital at Souilly, where he died on 22 March 1918. He had just turned 18. 

Corentin Carré was at first buried at Souilly but was subsequently reburied in plot 1510 in the military cemetery at Rembercourt-aux-Pots, Meuse, France. A monument to the famous “little poilu” stands today in the centre of his home town of Le Faouët. 

If you decide to drive south on the Voie Sacrée, spare a thought for this extraordinary young man. Turn west at Chaumont-sur-Aire and take the little road to Rembercourt. It is only a tiny place. The massive fortified church, a witness to the former rivalry between the Dukes of Lorraine and Bar, stands guard over a village composed of a café, a few houses, some farms and two military cemeteries. Far from his native Brittany, Corentin Carré, his spectacular career now largely forgotten, lies at rest with few visitors and only the larks for company. He was one of France’s youngest and finest young men; who knows what he might have achieved?  

Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Roads Classic: Dining with Rasputin

Should time travel ever be invented and you're contemplating inviting some interesting historical figures over for dinner,  you might want to think twice about extending an offer to Rasputin. Here is the report of Mr. Joseph Vecchi, restauranteur, who operated the French restaurant at the Astoria Hotel in St. Petersburg in the days of the last tsar. He served a party of society ladies celebrating the birthday of an unnamed princess one evening.

Throughout the evening the behavior of Rasputin was intolerable. Remember that he was an adventurer, possessed of undoubted powers of personal magnetism, a skilled psychologist, and was the secret power behind the Russian Court. Many of the ladies present had favors to beg from the Court which Rasputin was in a position to influence. Though his supporters vowed that he was a man of ascetic life, he was, nevertheless, a man entirely without principle...and he was surrounded by some of the loveliest and youngest women in Russia, only too anxious to court his favors. Such a compliment might go to any man's head, and it certainly went to Rasputin's. Strive as I will I can find no words to mitigate of excuse his disgusting behavior.When he ate it was like a beast using his long talon-like fingers in lieu of knife and fork, grabbling amongst the food on his plate and stuffing himself in a very vulgar way with no regard of the feelings of the cultured ladies who sat at table with him.  

Rasputin at His Most Photogenic and Sober

HE drank freely, but it didn't get the better of him. Rasputin was not a drunkard. No one could intimidate him. He used the most vulgar language in the presence of his hostess and ladies (and rumor said that he used it even at Court in the presence of the Czar), and none of them dared to utter a rebuke, or betray by as much as a hostile look or averted eyes how shocked they were. Yes, the party was gay, but I was disgusted, and felt sympathy in every nerve for the lovely women present who were dining with such a beast (though nobody could have told from their expressions and demeanor what they might have been thinking). They seemed to be enjoying the party thoroughly, and the feeblest joke on the part of Rasputin would send them off into peals of laughter...and the most vulgar ones did not bring a blush to their cheeks..or if they did, it went unnoticed.

Rasputin made a habit of leaving every party he attended before any of the other guests did. It was a favorable affectation of his, and no doubt copied from better men. This particular party was no exception to the rule;  but it wasn't until about 3:30 a.m. that he made his departure, quietly slipping away up the little staircase and unnoticed out of the hotel to his waiting carriage. After that the party lost its coherence, the ladies leaving in twos and threes, in an inconspicuous manner so that  they would not be observed, although it was unlikely that such a notability as Rasputin could be in the hotel and rumors and conjecture not fly about.

Source:  The full account of the evening can be found at the excellent Alexander Palace website, "The Home of the Last Tsar." (Link)

Friday, August 3, 2018

At London's Tate Gallery: Aftermath—Art in the Wake of World War One

John Moody, Margaret Sewell, 1927

Art was used in many ways in the tumultuous period after the end of the war, from documenting its destructive impact, to the building of public memorials and as a social critique.

Christopher Richard Wyne Nevison, Ypres After the First Bombardment 1916, Museum

Paul Citroen, Metropolis, 1923, Study Centre for Photography

This exhibition shows how artists reacted to memories of war in many ways. George Grosz and Otto Dix exposed the unequal treatment of disabled veterans in postwar society, Hannah Höch and André Masson were instrumental in the birth of new art forms dada and surrealism, Pablo Picasso and Winifred Knights returned to tradition and classicism, whilst others including Fernand Léger and C.R.W Nevinson produced visions of the city of the future as society began to rebuild itself.

​Now, through 23 September 2018

Sir William Orpen, A Grave in a Trench, 1917

Marcel Gromaire, The War 1925,
Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
Thanks to Kathy Compagno for the heads-up. Text and photos from the Tate Gallery Website.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Black Jack in Cuba, Part II

Black Jack in Cuba: 

General John J. Pershing’s Experience in the Spanish-American War, Part II

Theodore Roosevelt and Lt. John J. Pershing, Cuba, 1898

by Kevin Hymel, National Museum of the U.S. Army

Continued from yesterday's posting on Roads to the Great War

By 30 June enough troops had been landed to begin the advance on Santiago. The 10th moved with its division to within two miles of the city where it set up camp on a hill near the town of El Ponzo, waiting for the other divisions to arrange themselves. A half-mile northwest of his position Pershing spied his division’s objectives, “the dark lines of masked entrenchments and the mysterious blockhouses of the hills of San Juan.” Beyond that he could glimpse Santiago’s strong defenses. He knew the task laid out for the army would not be easy. No fires were allowed that night and pickets went out to watch for the enemy.

With dawn of 1 July came the crash of artillery, first American, followed by Spanish. For 45 minutes the duel continued with the Americans getting the worst of it. Their black powder guns poured smoke, revealing their positions, while the Spanish guns, using smokeless powder, remained hidden. Near Pershing, a Hotchkiss gun exploded, wounding two troopers. The frightened Cuban insurgents who were with Pershing fled.

As the barrage subsided, the Americans started down the ridge and moved forward along a jungle path. Colonel Ted Baldwin, the 10th’s commander, ordered Pershing to act as a guide for the regiment, making sure it found its objectives and kept an orderly advance. The task was difficult; artillery and rifle fire rained down as the men mixed with elements of the 71st New York Volunteers along clogged roads inadequate for such large numbers. Pershing could do little but sit on his horse and shout orders to the men. To make matters worse, an observation balloon was sent up next to the advancing column, drawing fire and revealing the American route of approach. The Spanish concentrated their fire on the area around the balloon, whose observer told the troops below that the Spanish were firing on them. Pershing considered this information obvious and entirely superfluous.

Pershing, along with three other officers from the brigade, was posted in a streambed where he dismounted to better urge the men forward. Standing in waist high water, he led one squadron after another forward through exploding shells and intense Mauser fire. As he ran back and forth bringing up squadrons, he spotted General Joseph Wheeler, the division commander, and his staff, mounted on their horses in the middle of the Las Guamas Creek. As Pershing saluted, a shell landed between the two men, drenching them both with water. Wheeler returned the salute, wheeled his horse around and left.

Enemy fire intensified and panic ensued as men fell everywhere. Eventually, by continually running back into the jungle, finding lost groups, and guiding them forward, Pershing managed to get the 10th over the creek. During the action he was continually exposed to enemy fire. One officer who appreciated Pershing’s efforts to organize the men under fire commented “the gallant Pershing...was as cool as a bowl of cracked ice.”

As the men of the division waited at the edge of a wooded area below the two American objectives, San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill, they began taking more fire. Spanish snipers, in their elevated position, had a clear shot at any cavalryman who stood. Casualties mounted, a half-hour passed and still no orders arrived to attack. Finally, Lieutenant Jules Ord of the 71st New York decided that he had enough. Shirtless, with a bayonet in one hand and a pistol in the other, he yelled to his men, “Follow me, we can’t stay here.” Ord’s charge energized the Rough Riders and parts of the 10th to join the attack. Pershing was amazed and proud at what he saw: “Each officer or soldier next in rank took charge of the line or group immediately in his front or rear and halting to fire at each good opportunity, taking reasonable advantage of cover, the entire command moved forward as calmly as though the buzzing of bullets was the humming of bees. White regiments, black regiments, regulars and Rough Riders, representing the young manhood of the North and the South, fought shoulder to shoulder, unmindful of race and color, unmindful of whether commanded by ex-Confederate or not, and mindful of only their common duty as Americans.”

The men waded across the San Juan River and rushed forward, slowed only momentarily by a barbed wire fence, which most chose to climb under. In the confusion the men of the 10th divided themselves between Ord’s 71st NewYork charging up San Juan Hill and Roosevelt’s Rough Riders attacking Kettle Hill. Pershing found himself with the Rough Riders, running up the exposed slopes of Kettle Hill. It was quickly taken. In the last push to the top he saw the Spanish fleeing their positions and heading for Santiago.

Pershing had a perfect view from Kettle Hill of the ongoing fight for San Juan Hill. Realizing how tenuous it was he, and the other men on Kettle Hill, rushed forward to assist. There they struggled against the worst fire Wheeler, a Civil War veteran, had ever seen. Despite the enemy salvos, the men pushed forward, assisted by the timely arrival of a few Gatling guns brought forward for the attack. A battle yell went up along the American line. After a final, brief American artillery barrage, the troops made a final lunge for the top. Ord, with the help of the 10th Cavalry, was the first American to reach San Juan’s summit where he was immediately killed by enemy fire.

The victory was not without its price. Dead and wounded men lay all over the hill. The 10th Cavalry lost half its officers and twenty percent of its men. Pershing came up on a wounded officer who asked him how badly he was hurt. “I don’t know,” Pershing replied, “but we whipped them, didn’t we?” Pershing also was witness to the moral character of his men when he saw a Buffalo Soldier stop at a trench filled with Spanish dead and wounded, gently lift the head of a wounded officer and give him the last drops of water out of his canteen.

Although driven from the heights of San Juan, the Spanish had not surrendered. At 3:00 a.m. their artillery again opened up on the American positions as small arms fire picked up. The men of the 10th manned their posts and waited for the expected counter attack, but none came. By 5:30 a.m. the firing began to slacken. Just before dawn, entrenching equipment and ammunition arrived, but no food for the hungry victors. As the sun rose Spanish snipers began firing at anything that moved. When a sniper bullet wounded the regiment’s adjutant, Colonel Baldwin promoted Pershing into the position. The rest of the day, while both sides traded fire, Pershing delivered messages to the front and ran the regiment in Baldwin’s absence. The conditions for the men were miserable. Some soldiers formed a bucket brigade from the front trenches to a watering hole a mile to the rear. Frontline soldiers tore off their heavy woolen shirts in the hot air, and soldiers who had a simple frying pan and fork became the envy of the regiment.

The fighting continued into the next day, but actions off the battlefield heartened the American soldiers. About 9:00 a.m. on 3 July, men heard sharper, heavier explosions to the south of Santiago. It was the guns of the U.S. Fleet routing the Spanish Navy. Without their navy, the Spanish army could neither flee nor survive. General Shafter sent a message of truce through to Santiago. The Spanish had until 10:00 a.m. on 4 July to surrender before American ground and naval artillery shelled the city.

U.S. Army victors on Kettle Hill about 3 July 1898 after the "Battle of San Juan Hill(s)."
Left to right is 3rd U.S. Cavalry, 1st Volunteer Cavalry (Col. Theodore Roosevelt center)
and 10th U.S. Cavalry. 

A similar picture is often shown cropping out all but the 1st Vol Cav and TR.

During the truce, the men of the 10th continued to strengthen their positions. While the men worked, Pershing read to them two messages: one from President McKinley and one from General Nelson Miles, the Commanding General of the Army, commending them. Miles said he would arrive soon with reinforcements. The men exulted in Miles’s promise. Soon after, Cuban refugees from the city, hoping to escape the expected bombardment, began to cross into the American lines. Pershing was moved at what he saw: “It was a pitiful sight; from daylight until dark the miserable procession trooped past. The suffering of the innocent is not the least of the horrors of war.”

The truce was extended. Shafter kept up the pressure on the Spanish while his men advanced their siege trenches and living conditions worsened. The rainy season began, drenching men and filling trenches with water. Even worse, men started coming down with malaria and yellow fever. Pershing was no exception. Soon he was wracked with malarial fever, but this merely slowed him down. Traveling back to a supply depot, Pershing bargained successfully for a wagon that gave him the means to bring his men food, bed rolls, tenting equipment, medical supplies and cooking utensils. Pershing was everywhere obtaining gear. He visited docks, depots and any place he thought he could find some comforts for his men. He made a special effort to bring up personal baggage to frontline officers.

On 10 July, with no Spanish surrender, the truce ended and Santiago came under fire. Soon the return fire from Spanish guns began to fade. Spanish authorities soon realized the situation inside Santiago was hopeless, and on 17 July 1898 the city surrendered. After the surrender ceremonies between Generals Shafter and José Toral, the American troops were drawn up in a line along their six miles of trenches to witness the raising of the Stars and Stripes above the governor’s palace in Santiago. At exactly 12:00 noon, a cheer went up from the American lines as artillery boomed a salute. The campaign was over.

1LT John Pershing had excelled in his role during the Cuban campaign. He led troops, filled in for fallen officers, braved enemy fire, and kept his men well supplied. Officers who witnessed his actions were quick to praise. Colonel Baldwin, his regimental commander, wrote Pershing: “You did some tall rustling, and if you had not we would have starved...I have been through many fights and through the Civil War, but on my own words ‘you were the coolest and bravest man I ever saw under fire in my life’ and carried out your orders to the letter no matter where it called you.” But the greatest praise Pershing received came from the Brigadier General Leonard Wood, newly appointed military governor of Santiago, who wrote Assistant Secretary of War Meiklejohn of Pershing’s accomplishments. The letter was passed to President McKinley who wrote on it: “Appoint to a Major, if there is a vacancy.” During the seven-day cruise, Pershing reflected on what he learned. He had found the fighting spirit of American soldiers excellent, even among the volunteers. As long as men were moving forward their confidence rose; sloth and disease set in only when the troops halted. Keeping units together instead of splitting them up also helped maintain esprit de corps. Pershing also realized that weapons had to be upgraded to include smokeless rifles and artillery and that old commanders would have to be replaced with younger, more agile men. The greatest problem facing the Army, however, was supply. If the Army could not keep supplies coming forward it could not succeed in battle. He came to realize that reliance on civilian staff, who lacked the competence needed in wartime, was the Army’s biggest problem. “Good commissary and quartermaster sergeants or clerks would have been infinitely better and more deserving.” Lessons Pershing learned during the Spanish-American War were invaluable. He would draw on them two decades later when he led the largest overseas American army into battle on the fields of France.