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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spy of the Century: Alfred Redl and the Betrayal of Austria-Hungary
Reviewed by Michael P. Kihntopf



Spy of the Century: Alfred Redl and the Betrayal of Austria-Hungary

by John Sadler and Silvie Fisch
Pen and Sword, 2017


1924 Movie Poster
One of the most enduring stories of espionage and betrayal resides in the tales about the Austro-Hungarian colonel Alfred Redl. He was a man of humble beginnings, raising himself from poverty to the pinnacle of his career as the chief of the espionage and counter-espionage departments of the Army General Staff. He was the confidante to many and hobnobbed with the Heir Apparent, Franz Ferdinand, and was personally noted by Franz Josef himself. He brought about the capture and prosecution of many spies, traitors, and nationalist separatists. Yet in May 1913 a self-inflicted gunshot to the head ended his illustrious career. The following day's newspapers carried a brief article that "one of our most driven and efficient officers of the General Staff" (pg. 2) had succumbed to mental instability.

To many journalists in Vienna at the time, this rather brusque description from army censors seemed to have something under it. The following day news broke that in searching Redl's apartments substantial sums of money had been found, as well as indications of abnormal sexual activities. Everyone began to ask who Alfred Redl was and what had he done? Over the next few weeks, stories surfaced about Redl's involvement with unspecified foreign powers and sexual relationships with men and women.

Since that May day, the case of Redl has exuded mystery. It has been the subject of numerous films, stage plays, and books, all of which have endeavored to plumb the mind of Redl as to his intentions, who he sold information to, and what his motivations were for betraying the country that had allowed him such an unparalleled rise to power and prestige. John Stadler and Silvie Fische have added to the plethora of works on the subject with this new book, in which the overleaf states that their overview is "based on information long hidden in Austrian and Russian archives."

To set the stage for explaining Redl's motivation, Stadler and Fische do an excellent job in their first two chapters of describing the pressures that the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and therefore Redl, was under at the beginning of the 20th century. These chapters also explore the personality of the empire's journalistic world which exposed much of Redl's life and, in some cases, went to great lengths to disparage it and embellish on it. Throughout these pages, the authors make very interesting comments as a way of deducing what Redl's motivation was in selling the most prized secrets of the General Staff. Very simply put, and not as a spoiler, he needed the money to support his lavish lifestyle, which included immaculately tailored uniforms, horses, automobiles, and supporting various lovers who ranged from gardeners to young officers.

With this in mind, the authors then try to find who Redl sold the secrets to and who else may have been involved. The speculation in this area is excellently laid out, but, as has happened with other works, it is non-conclusive. Those not familiar with Redl's story may ask at this point why there is such a lack of information. It was because Redl, after being discovered and on the verge of arrest, was given the right to suicide to avoid scandal, such was the esteem his colleagues held for him. He was never questioned nor were incriminating documents linking him with other powers ever discovered.

Spy of the Century is an excellent book for understanding the political and social environment in the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the early 20th century. It is also head and shoulders above R. Asprey's work of the late 1950s entitled The Panther's Feast which dealt with Redl. It is more factual, whereas Asprey's work bordered on sensationalism. As for revealing anything new, I would leave that up to the reader. Notably, neither the select bibliography nor the end notes contained any reference to information gleaned from the Russian and Austrian archives.

Michael P. Kihntopf

Monday, March 27, 2017

One Hundred Years Ago: Leon Trotsky Departs New York for Revolution

One hundred years ago, Leon Trotsky spent ten weeks in New York. From January to March in 1917, he and his family lived in a three-room flat at 1522 Vyse Ave. in the Bronx, where his children attended public school. Though Trotsky spoke little English, he instantly became involved in the American socialist movement, which included a significant number of Russian emigres. 

Leon  Trotsky with His Daughter in 1915
America, during those ten weeks he spent in New York, was going through rapid changes in its views on the war in Europe, testing the concept of freedom of speech, ultimately to the breaking point.  Trotsky enjoyed  the freedom he found working at as an editor at the Russian Socialist newspaper Novy Mir in New York. 

Some of his observations and reflections on his time in New York are still striking today.

Arrival

"Sunday, January 13: We are nearing New York.  At three o'clock in the morning, everybody wakes up.  We have stopped.  It is dark. Cold. Wind.  Rain.  On land, a wet mountain of buildings.  The New World!"

Here I was in New York, city of prose and fantasy, of capitalist automatism, its streets a triumph of cubism, its moral philosophy that of the dollar. New York impressed me tremendously because, more than any other city in the world, it is the fullest expression of our modern age.

"I must disappoint my American readers. My only profession in New York was that of a revolutionary socialist. This was before the war for “liberty” and “democracy,” and in those days mine was a profession no more reprehensible than that of a bootlegger".

Trotsky Uncovers the "Black Problem"

Trotsky's Former Apartment House
We rented an apartment in a workers’ district, and furnished it on the installment plan. That apartment, at eighteen dollars a month, was equipped with all sorts of conveniences that we Europeans were quite unused to: electric lights, gas cooking-range, bath, telephone, automatic service-elevator, and even a chute for the garbage. These things completely won the boys over to New York. For a time the telephone was their main interest; we had not had this mysterious instrument either in Vienna or Paris. The janitor of the house was a negro. My wife paid him three months’ rent in advance, but he gave her no receipt because the landlord had taken the receipt-book away the day before, to verify the accounts. When we moved into the house two days later, we discovered that the negro had absconded with the rent of several of the tenants. Besides the money, we had entrusted to him the storage of some of our belongings. The whole incident upset us; it was such a bad beginning. But we found our property after all, and when we opened the wooden box that contained our crockery, we were surprised to find our money hidden away in it, carefully wrapped up in paper. The janitor had taken the money of the tenants who had already received their receipts; he did not mind robbing the landlord, but he was considerate enough not to rob the tenants. A delicate fellow, indeed. My wife and I were deeply touched by his consideration, and we always think of him gratefully. This little incident took on a symptomatic significance for me—it seemed as if a corner of the veil that concealed the “black” problem in the United States had lifted.


A Distaste for American Socialists

At an antiwar rally in Carnegie Hall, he wondered of the crowd: “How strong were these Americans? Did they have backbone like the Russians? Would they stand and fight when soldiers and police came?” 

"In ideas the Socialist party of the United States lagged far behind even European patriotic Socialism. In the United States there is a large class of successful and semi-successful doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, and the like who divide their precious hours of rest between concerts by European celebrities and the American Socialist party.

Their attitude toward life is composed of shreds and fragments of the wisdom they absorbed in their student days. Since they all have automobiles, they are invariably elected to the important committees, commissions, and delegations of the party. It is this vain public that impresses the stamp of its mentality on American Socialism. My first contact with these men was enough to call forth their candid hatred of me. My feelings toward them, though probably less intense, were likewise not especially sympathetic. We be longed to different worlds. To me they seemed the rottenest part of that world with which I was and still am at war." 

This notice in Novy Mir announced a meeting against the war.
It was held at Cooper Union, on 15 February 1917.
The first  speaker, listed in all capitals, is Lev N. Trotsky.

America and the War

On 3 February came the long-awaited break in diplomatic relations with Germany. "The volume of the chauvinistic music was increasing daily. The tenor of the pacifists and the falsetto of the socialists did not disrupt the general harmony. But I had seen the same thing in Europe, and the mobilization of American patriotism was simply a repetition of what I had seen before."

Trotsky accused President Woodrow Wilson of having “no interest in stopping the gravy train of rich wartime weapons contracts,” describing him as  “a smug, middle-class merchant who exploits the poor on weekdays and then goes to church on Sundays, piously asking absolution for his sins.” 

“The figures showing the growth of American exports during the war astounded me; they were, in fact, a complete revelation. And it was those same figures that not only predetermined America’s intervention in the war, but the decisive part that the United States would play in the world after the war as well.”

Revolution Calls

What is now happening in Russia will go down in history forever as one of its greatest events. Our grandsons and great-grandsons will speak of these days as of the beginning of a new era in the history of humanity.

As soon as word of the February Revolution reached the U.S., Trotsky  resolved to return to Russia and sailed on 27 March, telling the assembled crowd: “When revolution calls, revolutionaries follow.” His journey was financed by Jacob Schiff head of the New York investment firm Kuhn, Loeb and Co. Later in the year a New York daily would carry the headline "Bronx Man Leads Russian Revolution."

Sources:  My Life by Leon Trotsky; Trotsky in New York by Kenneth Ackerman, and Project 1917.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

"We Are the Don Cossacks—We Do Not Surrender!"

Contributed with Commentary by Tony Langley

The story was written for the Vienna Neue Freie Presse by Herr Roda Roda, the most prolific and brilliant of the Austrian war correspondents. It shows a high literary skill and a fine simplicity of feeling. Unlike most war correspondents, Herr Roda Roda can see both sides of the picture. He reproduces the real experiences of the men who do the fighting, throwing into relief their true humanity and their lack of hate, and it is out of such material that the true history of the war on its human side will have to be constructed. When the time for that work arrives, Herr Roda Roda will be rated as an invaluable authority.

 

I — A Night March With the Austrians

SUCH a silent advance into gloomy, unknown Russia has its own beauty. The night is still, hanging like a dark veil over the land. One sees nothing of the villages which lie to the right and left; one has no idea of the depth of the woods which open before him and then close again; one feels only the sand or the clayey soil under his feet, and has but one measure for everything—the passing of time.

For two days past we have been out of touch with the enemy. On the whole front our machine guns have driven him out of his invisible positions. He has vanished, and only the trenches are there in which he sought again and again to carry on a rear-guard fight. They stretch on both sides of the road which we follow. Deep, black and wavering, the line runs in the dirty gray of the half-melted snow. And on the tops of the low ridges a tender, silvery light glimmers. It is the new day which pierces through the darkness.

Our brigadier trots by with his staff. The tall, big-boned bay which he has ridden for the last four months throws in our faces for a second the foam of his flanks. The old gentleman sits bent forward in the saddle, as if that forward lurch would help him to see further into the blackness.

No sound anywhere. An icy breeze from the northeast blows in light puffs over us and whistles through the bare branches. Our men move along, silent and patient. Occasionally one lifts his head and scans the sky. Have the heavy clouds which have obscured the night broken at last and will the sun appear? For the sun—that is their greatest longing. They have dreamed of it when the rain beat for hours and hours on the tin of their eating utensils and they have sighed for it in the dampness of the cramped trenches.

To-day the sun is coming. With a pale, irridescent glimmer it announces its imminence on the horizon, gladdening with its first light hundreds of thousands of hard, beard-covered countenances.

Presently day breaks. Again around about the marching column lies the monotonous, melancholy, rolling country which in the last weeks its feet have trodden and into which its spades have dug. These are the same windmills which reach their shattered arms into the air, the same poor frozen birches on the roadside, and on the right hand the same black, cloddy woods which we have so often encountered.

Suddenly there comes a shot—a short, slight report. Not one of our people turns his head. Only one of the munitions train animals which trot behind the company in long teams pricks up his ears for a moment. The captain guides his horse up the left bank of the road and inspects the train. His square, creased face, which never smiles, extends to the men an unspoken morning greeting. Every day the company awaits that greeting. And evening never comes without the captain having looked for a second earnestly and curiously into the eyes of every one of his soldiers. His people know that and it makes them strong and tough.

Then the regimental adjutant comes on the jump. "Herr Captain, take over the command of the battalion! The first battalion will form connection with the tenth division. Clear the wood and drive the enemy eventually toward the northeast!"

Our captain nods and salutes. As he rides on he studies the map and gives his commands simultaneously wherever he goes.

Four scouting patrols separate themselves from the column and swarm over the white and brown patches of open fields to the right. Behind them the companies, bending low to protect themselves, seek their way. The captain has dismounted and leads. Again and again he signals "Down" with his riding stick to the neighboring detachments and looks through his field glasses. The other officers also inspect the wood's edge, which is now outlined sharply in the purple morning glow.

The patrols become smaller and smaller and vanish behind the first trees.

A minute of waiting and then we go ahead again. Almost at the same moment comes a short, sharp crackling from far ahead of us. The last report sounds like a sort of distant singing in the clear air. Then silence again.

"Forward," our commandant points with the riding stick. The first company spreads itself out. The others follow slowly in closer order. The situation is not yet cleared up. And again we are rooted for a quarter of an hour to the watery, slippery surface. The wet cold of the earth eats quickly into our bodies. A few of the men lie flat on their backs, using their equipment to protect them from the dampness.



II — "The Wood Is Full of Cossacks"

But the sun is now up. With slender, blood-red fingers it grips the tops of the fir trees and casts warm, shining rays over the brown, sun-starved land.

The first news comes back. A lance corporal, with a medal for bravery on his breast, falls flat on the ground before the captain.

"I obediently report: Cossacks. The whole wood is full of Cossacks—all of them dismounted."

"Good!"

Our commander breathes freely. Now we know where we are. We shall soon settle accounts with that pack. The attack on the wood begins. It is not prepared for by fire, since it is desirable to lose no time. We must strike as quickly as possible, keeping in contact with the neighboring division. And it is marching forward abreast of ours.

With long, hard strides we approach the black fir trees at the forest's edge. A sign from the commandant and the naked bayonets are adjusted to the gun barrels. Many of them have cast for a moment a reflected ray of sunlight into the darkened wood.

The soil clings thicker to our shoes and our pace gets hotter. The faces of the men redden. They know what that means—wood fighting. Either victory at the first dash or a long hand-to-hand struggle—work for clubbed muskets and fists. But the wood lies still before us, as if it is asleep. Only in the tree tops there is a slight rustling.

Our captain goes on ahead. Now the shadow falls like a curtain drawn behind him. The first company after him. The second in echelon. And still not a shot. My men rush, with necks bent forward, among the first trees. Tb :ir countenances are hard and merciless and drawn about the nostrils. Here and there a sharp red spot shows on either cheek.

Suddenly a shot cracks out, and then a volley. And there—opposite the first company—a second, a third volley.

A few soldiers fall groaning against the trees. Here and there one hears the last shriek of a dying man. We sink flat on the soft ground and arrange our front. Before us and both to the right and left of us is the enemy.

But is it the enemy? There some Cossacks shoot singly or in little groups behind the tree trunks and stumps. We see a flat, dirty, green cap appear and vanish again, aimlessly and at random—now very near us and now deep in the wood or sidewards in the thicket. Our captain gives the order: "Both wings bend backward. Fire at will!" And from our skirmish line comes the smothered beating of the Mannlichers—single and separate at first, then more and more concerted, and finally becoming one big volume, with a roaring echo, which envelops the trunks and the tree tops and floats out behind our back into the open.

The shots of our opponents sing over our heads and strike sharply into the timber. The enemy is now here, now there.

Our captain lies on the skirmish line. He has taken the gun of a wounded man and aims long and carefully before he pulls the trigger. Suddenly he springs up. For a moment we see his square, wrinkled face, stiff and impassive as ever; then he swings the rifle butt over his head and shouts: "Forward!"

The companies are in a narrow, closely concentrated line behind him. An iron rain greets us.

We dash over the first corpses of the enemy. From the soft bed of the fir needles long, bloodstained arms stretch after us—arms of men with yellowish, distorted faces.

Again we are forced to seek cover on the ground. Too many of our people have already fallen. And the enemy, whose front is not yet uncovered, bends around on both sides of us. We must have regard for the safety of our rear. Our first skirmish line takes the form of a shallow, widespread curve.



Ill — "We Do Not Surrender!"

On the wings the tumult breaks out anew. The captain crawls on his stomach along the front. His people must know that he is with them.

All at once he receives a start. There lies a Russian officer, among our soldiers. His youthful, handsome face is as white as the snow on the branches. His eyes roll and the pale lips try to form a word. The captain bends over him. A file leader says: "Breast and upper leg." They bandage the badly wounded man and give him something to drink.

Our captain wants to go ahead. Then the Russian says to him softly and in correct German, "Don't shoot!" The captain pushes his cap back on his neck and lifts his eyebrows.

"How so? Will you surrender?"

The other tries to smile. His big, fine teeth gleam white.

"We are Don Cossacks. We do not surrender. But we have had nothing to eat. It is four days already. The horses are dead. And the Russians are already far away."

"How many are you?" asks the commandant.

"We were strong, six sotnias [600], perhaps. But the woods, the woods! There we stick day and night. And fight and fight. Each for himself, each alone, each without hope."

Our captain presses the wounded man, who seeks to raise his upper body, softly back on the ground.

And while the wood right and left rings with the echoes of musketry he kneels hesitatingly beside the Cossack officer. For the first time something of a soft expression steals over his impassive countenance. There is a slight quiver about the curves of his mouth.

"You must surrender," he says, after a pause, curtly and decisively. "It is an unequal combat."

The Russian shakes his head.

"They will not; we will not. We are Don Cossacks."

"But you must."

The captain springs up and gives the battalion bugler the order, "Cease firing."

The signal is heard with the greatest difficulty amid the thousand-voiced tumult. But slowly it gets the upper hand.

Suddenly the fire ceases along the entire line. Only in the depths of the wood a few single shots still ring out.

Again the captain bends over the injured man.

"We will tell them, you and I. You will give the command to your people. You must give it. And I shall honor your heroes; for they are heroes."

Four men improvise a litter. The Russian is placed on it. He groans at every step of the bearers and his eyes wander from one of them to the other. Our captain goes, head erect, into the darkness of the wood. Behind him go the two bearers with the officer. We wait and wait, clinging breathlessly to the ground.

The sun creeps through the branches and spreads its soft, grateful warmth over us. And of a sudden we are strangely softened, overcome by the light of the day and by the gleam of humanity which, as from another world, for once falls into our hard, hard life.

The minutes pass, slow and noiseless, coming and going without fighting, without bloodshed, without horror.

As the sun mounts higher and higher, the Cossacks gradually gather in our neighborhood. They stream toward us from all directions. The first of them are distrustful and sullen, the last of them storming and hungry.

We are horrified at the nameless suffering in their lean, misery-smitten faces. Then we turn our bread sacks over—and we shudder at the bestial ravenousness with which men can eat.

Our captain and the wounded Russian come with the last group. Both smile a smile such as I have never seen before.

At midday we get in touch with the neighboring division. We bring in 540 Don Cossacks, prisoners.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Coming in 2018: Sgt. Stubby the Movie




Fun Academy Motion Pictures recently announced that Logan Lerman,  star of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, will headline the voice cast of SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO, an upcoming feature-length animated film based on the life and times of the United States Army's most decorated dog. Lerman will voice Robert Conroy, the American Doughboy whose life is forever changed when he found found the little mutt with a stub of a tale while he was training on the grounds of Yale University. He  joins a cast already featuring Helena Bonham Carter and Gérard Depardieu. 

The Real and Animated Pals, Robert Conroy and Stubby

Sgt. Stubby served throughout the entire campaign of the American Expeditionary Force in France with the 26th Yankee Division, one of General Pershing's most active units. For his keen instincts and fierce loyalty, Stubby became the first canine promoted to the rank of Sergeant in American history.

Sgt. Stubby in Full Regalia

Longtime readers of Roads to the Great War know that Stubby has been a favorite of our over the years. If you would like to learn more about  his service and heroics and his popularity when he returned stateside, check out our earlier articles.

http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2013/10/remembering-veteran-sgt-stubby.html

http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2015/01/sergeant-stubby-how-stray-dog-and-his.html

Sources: Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero Facebook Page

Friday, March 24, 2017

Other Impressive Monuments on the 1917 Arras Battlefield

My spring Western Front battlefield tour is coming up in May and  I'm  including visit to the 1917 Battle of Arras sites. Of course, the most famous of those is Vimy Ridge, with its spectacular Canadian monument. In pulling my notes together I've been reminded that there are other impressive memorials  in the area. Here are seven that are interesting-looking and represent a dramatic aspect of the fighting 100 years ago.


On the opening day of the battle, 9 April 1917 the 9th (Scottish) Division, advanced and took the German positions around Pont du Jour, east of Arras. This Scottish cairn, similar to one for the 9th Division on the Somme battlefield was moved from its original location to make it more accessible.


Nearby, in the sunken lane at Fampoux, is this monument to the Seaforth Highlanders who attacked Roeux 11 April 1917. 

The inscription reads:
IN MEMORY OF 
THE OFFICERS WARRANT OFFICERS AND NON-COMMISSIONED 
OFFICERS AND PRIVATE SOLDIERS OF 
THE SEAFORTH HIGHLANDERS 
ROSS-SHIRE BUFFS THE DUKE OF ALBANY'S 
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR KING AND COUNTRY 
IN THE GREAT WAR 
1914 – 1918


The Arras Memorial to the Missing in the Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery incorporates a monument to the British and Commonwealth aviators of the war. The ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL commemorates almost 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force, either by attachment from other arms of the forces of the Commonwealth or by original enlistment, who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave.


The Newfoundland Caribou Monument at Monchy-le-Preu is one of five on the Western Front. The most famous, of course, is at Beaumont-Hamel on the Somme battlefield.


The capture of Monchy-le-Preux is one of the notable achievements of the Battle of Arras. It was finally secured by the Newfoundland Regiment. The initial, and main, assault was made by the 37th Division. It's effort is commemorated in this unique three-figure memorial located on the hill that commanded the approaches. 


One of the fightingest divisions of the British Army was the 63rd Naval Division, which went into the line at Arras on the fifth day of the battle at the village of Gavrelle. There they engaged in desperate house-to-house fighting with the German defenders. When they cleared the village they discovered the enemy had covered any possible avenue of advance with machine guns. The monument is said to express the idea of the Royal Naval Division anchored within the ruins of the village.


To conclude, here's one that as of this writing has yet to be dedicated. This sculpture portrays an New Zealand sapper—note the lemon squeezer hat—under the earth. It will be placed at the museum of the Wellington Quarries in Arras. The vast tunnel system from Arras was in good part dug by the Kiwis.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Georges Scott: Portraitist of the Poilu

Georges Scott is one of the great illustrators of the First World War. His work is of the highest quality and in his battle depictions he captures the dynamic element of war better than any artist I know of. His drawings of the trucks on the Voie Sacrée and the U.S. Marines fighting through Belleau Wood are unforgettable. However, what has struck me about Scott is  his series of sympathetic individual portrayals of his fellow Frenchmen, in the trenches, the Poilus. Here are some of his illustrations from the collection of our contributing editor Tony Langley, the commentary is also Tony's.

Georges Scott (a French citizen in spite of the  English-sounding name) was the son of an engraver and illustrator. He started his career in the 1890s and worked as war correspondent for the news magazine L'Illustration during the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. When war broke out  in 1914 he was mobilized into the French Army and was able to continue his work as artist-illustrator for that same prestigious publication, producing many renowned and now famous works dealing with the Great  War .





Georges Scott worked from sketches and photographs and also illustrated many heroic accounts he read about in newspapers. At times he was not above creating a fictional, but heroic, war scene. He was an  illustrator foremost, producing work especially intended for the news media. As such, his images were deliberately patriotic and inspiring, with an element  of 1870s Franco-Prussian War dash and glory thrown in for good measure. Then, again, much of his later war work was highly realistic and accurate with regard to conditions at the front. He produced work in varied styles, using various media such as  watercolors, chalk and pastels, or oil paints. 






As with François Flameng, most of Scott's works were originally printed in lavish two-page color spreads in French magazines or as cover pages and were reprinted in magazines and books in many countries, both during and after the war. Even German magazines were not above reprinting his illustrations during the war, though with slightly less inspiring French patriotic captions.








He continued a long and successful artistic career  after the Armistice, still working as a war correspondent/illustrator for L'Illustration during the Spanish Civil War at the age of 65 and afterward during the early part of the Second World War as well. Many of his original works are now in the Musée de l'Armée  in Paris and are still  regularly exhibited.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Late Arriving, but the Men of the AEF's 40th Division Saw a Lot of Action


Shoulder Patch—40th "Sunshine" Division

The 40th Division of the AEF was composed primarily of National Guardsmen from California  and the nearby western states. It was initially formed up in August 1917 at Camp Kearney in southern California. However, its manpower was depleted by 8,000 men to fill  out other divisions in late 1917. The division was not brought up to full staffing until the summer of 1918, but the training regimen had not been completed when the division was ordered to France. Its most famous member when it departed was comedian Buster Keaton.

The Division Training at Camp Kearney

On 26 July 1918, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, followed by the different units, entrained for overseas duty, the entire 40th Division arriving in France during the month of August 1918, where it became the Sixth Depot Division or replacement division. As a unit, 40th Division saw no active service at the front, but its officers, and men formed parts of the First, Second, Third, Twenty-sixth, Seventy-seventh, and Seventy-ninth Divisions at St. Mihiel and in the Argonne. On 20 September 1918, a few days before [the Meuse-Argonne] drive an order reached the 40th Division Headquarters for 5000 infantry replacements, including officers, to be sent to divisions at the front. Of that number, 2500 were taken from the 159th and 160th Regiments. The 5000 officers and men of the 40th Division became part of the 77th Infantry Division during the Meuse-Argonne drive, and 100 men of Company G , 160th Infantry, were in the famous "Lost Battalion."  

Capt. Holderman
The Lost Battalion group included Capt. Nelson Holderman, who received the Medal of Honor for his part in the action. His road to the Argonne is instructive as to what service around the time of the Great War could involve for a National Guardsman. He had served in Company L [Santa Ana], 7th California Infantry Regiment during the Mexican Border Service and then in the 160th Infantry Regiment, until his company was reassigned in total as Company K, 307th Infantry Regiment.

All units of the National Guard that engaged in active service were present at the two  major offensives, the St . Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. By 11 November 1918, the 40th Division had processed over 27,000 replacements into the front lines, and ranked seventh among the combat divisions of the A.E.F. in casualties. Of the men who started out with the 40th Division 2,587 were killed in battle, 11,596 were wounded in action, 70 taken prisoner, and 103 died due to other reasons.With the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the units of the 40th Division returned to California and were discharged at Camp Kearney and the Presidio of San Francisco, their services being no longer required. The last unit of the California National Guard, Company A, 115th Field Signal Battalion, was demobilized 16 July 1919 .

Sources: History of the California National Guard and Naval Militia in World War I
1917-1919, and California and the Lost Battalion.  Thanks to Sgt. Major  Dan Sebby for letting us know about these resources.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Men in War
Reviewed by David F. Beer


Men in War

by Andreas Latzko
BiblioBazaar reprint, 2016. First published in 1917.


What was a man who lay gasping on the road to him? One man more or less. In the rhythmic regularity of the marching column, he had passed by thousands like him, and it had never occurred to his mind, dulled by weariness, that the grey spots thickly strewn over the fields, the heaps lining the roadway like piles of dung in the spring, were human beings struck down by death (p. 117).

Men in War is a psychologically penetrating scream against the horrors of World War One. Its six chapters stand alone as short stories or vignettes, each revealing what the war could do in one way or another to its participants. The author well knew what he was writing about: Andreas Latzko was a Hungarian Jew who served as an officer in the Imperial and Royal Wehrmacht of Austria-Hungary. When war between Italy and Austria-Hungary broke out he was sent to the front on the Isonzo River, where he contracted malaria. He was forced to fight on for some time before suffering severe shock during a heavy Italian artillery attack near Gorizia (or Goerz). He then spent eight months in hospital before going to Davos for more convalescence. During this period he wrote Men in War.

Andreas Latzko
Although the author describes background settings and events with evocative clarity, his real subject matter is the human mind and what war can do to it. The opening chapter, for example, describes an officers' hospital behind the front. A group of patients enjoys a warm evening outside by the fountain while in the distance the big guns growl. The conversation turns to what each felt was the worst thing about the war. Suddenly one of them, whose timid wife is visiting him, screams out: "What was the most awful thing? The only awful thing is the going off. You go off to war—and they let you go. That's the awful thing." He continues, "sputtering from his twitching lips with a fury that cast out the words like a seething stream," with a piercing attack on the wives and families who had betrayed them all by cheering them off to war, rather than holding them back at all costs from the horrors. Eventually this "crazy" officer is restrained and taken back to his bed. Evening becomes night, others go back to their wards where they still hear screams from their demented comrade. An old watchman outside clenched his fist, "and sent out a long curve of saliva from between his teeth, and muttered in a disgust that came from the depths of his soul: "Hell!"

Suffice it to say (not to be a spoiler), each chapter is centered on a specific event or circumstance that plumbs the depth of psychological and emotional torture brought on by the war. Many subtopics are familiar, such as ignorant or uncaring civilians, hideous and haunting deaths, the conditions of troops versus high-ranking staff, and the homecoming of the mutilated. These and other themes are all used to undergird the powerful emotions of anger, fear, and resentment that carry the book along, such as this from a soldier who has had his fill of what he refers to as "man salad."


Men come home with motionless, astonished eyes, still reflecting death. They walk about shyly, like somnambulists in brightly lighted streets. In their ears there still resound the bestial howls of fury that they themselves bellowed into the hurricane of the drumfire so as to keep from bursting from inner stress. They come loaded down, like beasts of burden, with horrors, the astonished looks of bayoneted, dying foes on their conscience-and they don't dare open their mouths… (p. 91).

Austro-Hungarian Amputees

Men in War is not a long book (124 pages in the reprint I have), and the translator has done an excellent job. It reads clearly and easily, without hesitation—but the subject matter gives us considerable pause for reflection and even shock. No wonder Latzko first published it anonymously, and although soon a great success, it was banned for some time by most of the countries involved in the Great War. It is certainly one of the most powerful antiwar books I have ever read.

David F. Beer

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Centennial at the Grass Roots: Doughboy-MIA



Lost Battalion Memorial
Author and historian Robert (Rob) Laplander, currently living in Wisconsin, has a lifelong passion for the study of American participation in the First World War, in particular the activities of the 1st Corps of the American 1st Army during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

His specific research into the "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Division spans 20 years and is by far the most extensive ever done on the battalion's behalf.  His book on the subject, Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors, Myths and Legend of America’s Famous WW1 Epic, has become the benchmark work on that event, for which he is recognized the world over.

Rob Laplander
Rob was also the driving force behind the Lost Battalion Memorial at Charlevaux Mills near the actual site of the heroic event in the Argonne Forest (shown on the left). Prior to its dedication in 2006, there was no on-site commemoration for the men who suffered the five-day ordeal.  Rob's body of work led to his being a featured figure in the upcoming PBS three-day television event, The Great War

He is also the founder  of Doughboy-MIA, a  project dedicated  to tracking down  all the missing service personnel from the war (HOMEPAGE).  It is the only one of its kind to deal exclusively with that subject. Here you find nothing on America’s other wars and their casualties. Instead here you will find only information, stories, and research tools designed to investigate the American lost of WW1 as well as the most accurate and up to date list of those American soldiers, sailors, and Marines still listed as Missing in Action from the Great War.

The Wall of Remembrance at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery 
Lists 954 American's Missing in Action During the Great War.
8 Men of the Lost Battalion Are Included and
They Inspired Rob Laplander to Start the Doughboy-MIA Project.

Rob was recently interviewed by Chris Isleib of the World War One Centennial Commission in which he described the mission and some of his thoughts about the effort.

No man's or woman's sacrifice in the cause of freedom should ever be forgotten, no matter how much time has passed or whether there are living memories of them or not. These people went Over There and lost their lives, then were largely lost to history. They have remained in a shadowy area between those who came back and those who did not and remained in France. True, they are there (or at sea), but their stories are open-ended—for their families closure was denied, and all that remained for them was a name on a wall. While that was better than nothing at all, today even the names are largely forgotten. As a country we go to great lengths to recover our dead. The DPAA sends teams out to work over recoveries from WW2 on up to today—but WW1 is outside of their parameters. They simply don't have the funding, personnel or the expertise in the era to do the work. That's where we at Doughboy MIA come in. Just because it happened 100 years ago now doesn't mean we should give up. Not when the possibility still exists, which it does. Remember: A Man Is Only Missing If He Is Forgotten. We won't let them be forgotten.

Support the Centennial
Purchase Rob's Book
Doughboy MIA is doing well.  We've submitted a report late last year to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) on a name that looks to have appeared on the list twice, and the wheels are turning on that right now. It also looks like, thanks to a reader who cares, that we've got a Navy fellow who was lost at sea very early in the war who was never placed on the list or commemorated on any of the Walls of the Missing in the cemeteries overseas or here at home. We're making our double checks now on that case before we submit it to the ABMC for consideration. And we're wrapping up the last bits on the case of a 1st Division sergeant whose remains went unlocated following the war that we've been investigating for about a year now. This is for the 1st Division Museum in Illinois. It looks as if there is the possibility that we might be able to locate him using some of today's technology. The initial report will be submitted on that early next week and at the beginning of April I will be consulting with a soil expert on the use of some of these technologies as per this case and possible others.  We still have not been able to locate the paperwork relating to the Unknowns buried overseas. Readers are encouraged to contact us if they think they may have an idea where that stuff might be, though be advised that we've combed through the "low hanging fruit" a long while ago, so what we're looking for isn't going to be in obvious places listed online. Remember: a man is only missing if he is forgotten.

If you would like to help Rob and his Doughboy MIA team or have some information that may help them at their work (especially that missing paperwork), please contact them at:   308infantry@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sir Ernest Rutherford, Father of Nuclear Physics and Sonar


Sir Ernest Rutherford 
Detecting submarines under water was a major challenge during the Great War, tackled by a section of the Board of Invention and Research under Sir Ernest Rutherford. In 1915 Rutherford published a paper about a signaling system that would use sound waves beyond the range of human hearing. Rutherford and his colleagues performed secret experiments to test underwater microphones (hydrophones) in water tanks in labs at the University of Manchester. Later they used donated fishing trawlers to conduct full-scale tests at a research outpost on the south coast of Fife, Scotland.

The first practical device was the hydrophone, which, when lowered into the sea, could detect the sound of a submarine’s engine and the direction in which it lay. There was, however, no means of determining distance. In 1917 Rutherford traveled to the United States and formed an association with the American scientific community, which contributed to further research. Also, helpful was the research of French physicist Paul Langevin on echo-ranging. 

The Hydrophone in Concept



By 1918 a primitive means of detecting a submarine by use of a pulse of sound had been devised and the first set was at sea just before the Armistice. Known as “ASDIC” (Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee) until the term was superseded in the 1960s by the American “Sonar” (Sound Navigation and Ranging) this device was not fully operational until 1924. Other means of detecting submerged submarines, by the use of sea gulls and later sea lions, although tried, did not prove practical.

Source: New Zealand Naval Museum and Live Science Websites

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Key Failure of the Gallipoli Campaign: The Naval Assault of 18 March 1915

It is no longer possible to force 
the Dardanelles . . . 
Nobody would expose a modern fleet 
to such perils.
Winston Churchill, 1911


18 British and French Capital Ships 
Approaching the Straits on 18 March 1915

Obviously, Sir Winston changed his mind four years later, despite Horatio Nelson, greatest admiral of the Royal Navy, having advised against ships engaging fortifications. Lord Nelson had considerably more experience in such matters than the First Lord of the Admiralty. Nonetheless, the first phase of the Allied assault against the Dardanelles involved a major fleet effort to eliminate the numerous forts, open and mobile batteries, and old castles with modern artillery installed, all arrayed along the straits. Eighteen battleships with their enormous main batteries, supplemented at times by Marine landing parties apparently seemed sufficient to the naval planners for the mission. Also, the decision makers felt the mines planted in the straits were a solvable problem. However, it was the combination of the fort and the artillery that was to prove unsolvable.



Two Views of the Dardanelles
Below:  City of Çanakkale  at the Narrows, Entrance to  Straits to Far Left
Top: Narrows from Çanakkale,  Kilid Bahr Fortress Visible 

to Left on Shoreline 

These views, above and below,  give a sense of the distances involved and the tactical situation on 18 March.



Battleships, Minefields, and Shore Batteries
(Çanakkale Is the Large Square on the Right)


The Turkish guns were considered too old, too exposed, and of too small a caliber to threaten the heavily armored ships. However, I have visited many of the sites, and the positions were numerous and all very well sited, with commanding views of the straits.



Lower: Your Editor at Kum Kale on the Asian Side, 
Typical Turkish Shore Battery
Top: Kilil Bahr, Largest and Most Modern of the Forts, Today

The decisive blow against the British and French armada, though, came due to a passive defense—mines. Beginning where the width Dardanelles decreases from its maximum 7 km to 1.6 km at the Narrows, ten rows of naval mines were laid just below the surface perpendicular to the straits. The Royal Navy knew all about these. They just needed to be swept away to allow the fleet to advance. But the forts on shore prevented the mine sweepers from doing their work, so the battleships in rows of four were sent in to take turns pounding the forts. After firing, each row was to turn starboard toward the Asian side, where an indentation on the shoreline provided a turning basin for moving to the rear. 



Nusrat, the Most Famous Turkish Ship of the War, 
Views of the Minefield Area, the Turning Basin (Upper Right), 
and French Battleship Bouvet Sinking

Unbeknownst to the Allied naval command, however, was the work of the German-built minelayer Nusrat. On the night of 7/8 March  1915, with Capt. Hakki Bey in command, Nusrat ventured out in the silence and darkness from Çanakkale and parallel to shore laid the 26 remaining available mines (in what was to prove the fleet's critical turning area near the Asian shore). Naval and air reconnaissance failed to discover these mines. In quick succession here on March 18, the Royal Navy lost HMS Ocean and Irresistible and the French Navy the Bouvet. Three other battleships were seriously damaged from mines or in the exchange of gunfire. These undreamt-of losses utterly demoralized the naval staff, and a land campaign was initiated—one that the Turkish Army was confident it could defeat.




During my visits to Gallipoli I have discovered that the Turks have a completely different view of the 1915 campaign than that presented in English-language sources. They believe that after the main naval assault of 18 March failed they had defeated the Allies because they could subsequently deploy enough forces to Gallipoli Peninsula or the Asiatic side to foil any effort to control the straits or march overland on Constantinople. Enver Pasha declared this to be the case at the time, and, for once, his instincts were correct. "March 18, 1915" is Turkey's equivalent to Anzac Day—but a victory day, proclaimed as such in a large sign on a hill overlooking Çanakkale, and the name that is given to the local university.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Carl Sandburg: A.E.F. & Buttons

Carl Sandburg —Army Veteran, War Correspondent, Sentimentalist, Socialist, Populist, Globalist, Novelist, Biographer, and Poet. A man of so many parts it's probably impossible to list  them all. No  doubt he was deeply affected by the First World War. For a lot of Americans (as Sherwood Anderson wrote) "among all  the poets of America he is my poet." Here are two representative poems (I think) from his First World War  period.  Additions and opinions welcome in the comments section.

A. E. F.


There will be a rusty gun on the wall, sweetheart,

The rifle grooves curling with flakes of rust.

A spider will make a silver string nest in the darkest, warmest corner of it.

The trigger and the range-finder, they too will be rusty.

And so hands will polish the gun, and it will hang on the wall.

Forefingers and thumbs will point absently and casually toward it.

It will be spoken among half-forgotten, wished-to-be-forgotten things.

They will tell the spider: Go on, you're doing good work.


Buttons

I HAVE been watching the war map slammed up for
advertising in front of the newspaper office.
Buttons–red and yellow buttons–blue and black buttons–
are shoved back and forth across the map.

A laughing young man, sunny with freckles,
Climbs a ladder, yells a joke to somebody in the crowd,
And then fixes a yellow button one inch west
And follows the yellow button with a black button one
inch west.

(Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in
a red soak along a river edge,
Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling
death in their throats.)

Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one
inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper
office where the freckle-faced young man is laughing

to us?

~ Carl Sandburg 

Source: Smoke and Steel, 1920

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Executed for Cowardice


Rev Richard Griffiths served as a chaplain to the forces in the 24th Field Ambulance, Eighth Division, of the British Army in France. He was 49. He wrote about his experiences in a detailed journal. The extract below describes the execution of a deserter. 

3 June 1915: I received the shocking confidential information that one of the men was condemned for repeated desertion and cowardice and is to be shot. The message came late last night and I have been with him most of the afternoon. I sat on the edge of the dug-out talking, with him crouched on the straw. The bullets and shells did not matter, as this lad pleaded with me to do all I could for him, and I tried to bring him to truth, honour and God. Many thoughts weighed up. 

Pro: His youth, not yet 20. His circumstances—an only son and his mother a widow. His health—he repeated that his head troubled him, and he did not know what he was doing. 

Con: The selfishness of a man wishing other people to face dangers for him and unwilling to take his share. What right has any man to ask that? The falseness of some of his statements. The need of discipline—on two battlefields he had run away, after being warned. The assurance that every consideration must have been weighed by the Court Martial, the Brigadier, the General, the Corps Commander, the Army Commander and the Field-Marshal—and yet one’s last lingering wonder is whether penal servitude would not have answered the offence. Those responsible have decided not. 

Film Depiction of a WWI Execution


4 June 1915, 4.30 a.m.: It is all past—the hideous business. The actual agony was over in three minutes and the burial in another five. Everyone was assembled by 3.30 a.m. He was a man who had made many scenes, and it was thought I should not speak with him again, and I felt that that was right. The sandbag bank, the hollow in front of it with the stake. The long grass and oat stalks. The trench made for the purpose, along which were lined small detachments from other battalions. The firing party about 20 paces in front. The Provost Marshal, the Colonel, three or four officers, the doctor. I put on my black scarf and stood at the side, almost too stunned to pray. Behind came the prisoner, scarcely able to walk, pleading and groaning. As he turned the corner he suddenly dashed from his guard and ran wildly across the broken ground, stumbling, panting, able in his despair to reach an astonishing speed, and for the time, to outdistance the men, laden with their equipment. He was eventually caught, and as he came back facing us, he presented a pathetic figure. He was tied to the stake. His eyes were bandaged. "Past 4 o’clock," said the Colonel to the Provost Marshal. A sudden quick crack and the huddled earthly form was separated from the soul gone to the beyond. 

4 June 1915, later: The strain of this morning has been rather much. Other men have gone from us, so many now, good and gallant—known to be sinful, some of them, but redeeming so much by dying bravely. One likes to recall them at a time like this. That abject cry: "Can I have the bandage off, sir? I want to see the sky"—cut short with the sharp crack, the quiet thud, the absolute silence, the stillness. The quick "about turn" to the firing party. The swish of an enemy bullet in the long grass across the path — it was difficult to pray.

Published in the Guardian, 26 July 2014

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

100 Years Ago: Tsar Nicholas Romanov Abdicates the Throne



The Headquarters

To the Chief of Staff

In the days of the great struggle against the foreign enemy, which almost for three years has tried to enslave our country, God the Lord has seen it fit to send Russia a new ordeal. The arisen internal disturbances among the people will threaten to have a disastrous reflexion in the further conduct of the obstinate war. The fate of Russia, the honor of our heroic army, well-being of the people, the whole future of our dear Fatherland demand the war to be brought to the victorious end by whatever means. The cruel enemy is straining its last strengths and already close is the moment, when our valiant army together with our glorious allies will finally be able to break down the enemy. In these decisive days in the life of Russia WE have considered it to be the duty of conscience to facilitate for OUR people the close unification and rallying of all national forces, for the earliest reaching of the victory, and with the consent of the State Duma WE have considered it right and proper to give up the Throne of the State of Russia and to resign OUR Supreme Power. As we do not want to part with OUR son, WE pass OUR legacy to OUR Brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and bless Him to ascend the Throne of the Russian State. WE command OUR Brother to govern affairs of the State in full and inviolable unity with the representatives of the people in the legislative bodies on such grounds, which they will enact, and to make for that an inviolable oath. In the name of the warmly beloved homeland I call all true sons of the Fatherland to fulfill their sacred duty for Her by their obedience to the Tsar at a difficult moment of nationwide ordeals and help HIM, together with the representatives of the people, to lead the Russian State to the road of victory, prosperity and glory. 

May God the Lord help Russia.

Pskov
2 March 15 h 5 min. 1917 (old calendar)

Nicholas

Minister of the Imperial Court
Adjutant General Count Freedericksz