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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Captured Germans (British POW Camps in the First World War)
Reviewed by James Patton


Captured Germans 
(British POW Camps in the First World War)

by Norman Nicol
Pen and Sword Military Books, 2017

German Prisoners Before Transport to England

I selected Captured Germans to review because I knew absolutely nothing about the subject. Having grown up in the shadow of WWII, my childhood reading included the POW classics such as The Trojan Horse, The Great Escape, The Colditz Story, Maybe I'm Dead and The One That Got Away, to name some. I learned that the POW experience in WWI Britain was different. The camps were not nearly as big, many were country houses, schools, or old factories, and the populations numbered in the dozens rather than thousands.

The Preface is worth a read. Nicol relates how he got started on this project by trying to research a photograph of three German officers in the doorway of a building that turned out to be mislabeled.

Eventually he goes on to wax philosophical: "It is a dark side of history, and for reasons that have never been fully resolved, many of the locations used to intern civilians and combatants during the First World War have been lost in time." There is no one document that records every location that was used. The intention of Nicol's project was to record where these camps were.

It was never the intention to make comparisons how each country apportioned its benevolence … nor was there any intention … to judge how Britain treated those in internment, but one can never compile a document such as this without emotive issues being touched on. Without this, I was informed by an academic, my work would have no intrinsic value, as it would not contribute to the great historical debate. If my endeavours have not added anything to the 'academic argument', it will not cause me to have sleepless nights.

The 20-page introduction is a gem. Nicol begins with a fascinating recap of the history of POWs, a subject that I knew nothing about. He then explains how the detention scheme was organized in the UK and how it evolved from totally unprepared to highly complex. By 1918 there were 521 "camps" throughout the country, and this doesn't begin to tell the story, as there were hundreds of parties of POWs detached for farm or construction labor who were billeted in groups of a dozen or so in small communities. Last, Nicol gets into the statistics, of special interest to an analytically oriented person like me.

The rest of the book is a compilation, admittedly not complete, of the locations where Germans, Austro-Hungarians, Turkish, and Irish nationalists were interned in the UK. This list runs for 358 pages, and while a lot of it is just location data, there are some stories about the history of a site as well. One in particular that stuck with me involved three German officers who escaped and somehow managed to arrange to be picked up by a U-boat, only to have the navy botch the job.

Finally, Captured Germans is a reference book, useful to those who want to locate these sites, perhaps even visit them, but not suitable for a long weekend's read.

James Patton

Monday, November 12, 2018

Updated: World War I Commemorative Brochures from the U.S. Army Center for Military History


The Army has released three more volumes in their new series of WWI brochures that will eventually cover the entire war.  Here's a list of what is available now. The works are very informative and well illustrated, using Signal Corps photos and official U.S. Army artwork from the war. They  can be downloaded as PDF documents at no charge from the address at the bottom of the page.  Now available are the works covering the Punitive Expedition through the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Click on image to enlarge.






Sunday, November 11, 2018

In the Doughboys' Own Words: Armistice Day 1918




From In Their Own Words at the Doughboy Center

False Reports

. . . The night of November 8 was indeed a wild one. It was on this night that the first report, or rather the false report, of the signing of the Armistice was received. Parades formed immediately: Flags appeared from every window and from all balconies. The cafes and restaurants were crowed to capacity. Everybody seemed happy. The next morning, however, the real facts were learned and the spirits of the people somewhat damped.

Sgt. Albert Haas, 78th Division, 
In Vichy, France, recovering from wounds
Diary 

11 November 1918: The AEF's Happiest Day

Again stern orders were given to roll our packs for a final drive. It was now twenty minutes to eleven, November 11th, 1918. We fell in line and marched onward.

We had had no official word yet that the armistice was to be signed. In fact we had heard so often about Germany's peace talk that we paid no attention to wild rumors. 

Exactly at eleven o'clock, came the message from Marshal Foch's headquarters, the "Armistice was Signed." Instantaneously wild shrieks, shouts and yells of thousands and thousands of voices could be heard. The night had been a thing of horror! Daylight brought her joyful tidings to thousands of wearied fighters! Visions of home and dear ones, of transports homeward bound, waiting for the boys who answered the call of their country - the boys in khaki - the Yanks! 

Pvt. Mathew Chopin, 356th Inf., 89th Div
Letter

As noon approached, we became conscious of an unusual quietness all around us. Firing of all kinds had almost entirely ceased. The Germans were not firing even a machine gun, though our artillery continued to send over a shell now and then. The Germans occupied the crest of the ridge along the river, and if they had had sufficient numbers, could easily have cleaned us up. After eleven o'clock, all firing ceased entirely, not a sound any where. Soon everyone was talking about it. No word had reached us yet. 

A wounded fellow from our company was discovered, down near the river bank, where he had laid since before daylight. Getting a stretcher, McDermott and I went to him and dressed his wound. He was shot through the hip, and just about unconscious, as a result of his exposure to the cold. We wrapped him in a blanket, and laid him on the stretcher. 

While we were getting ready to take our wounded man to the rear, a runner appeared' with the official news that an Armistice had been signed. Most everybody let out a few healthy yells, but I did not. For one reason, didn't feel much like yelling. I had some difficulty getting three more fellows to help me carry the stretcher. The one I did get had to stop every few minutes and rest. I kept urging the necessity of getting the fellow under medical care as soon as possible, for he was badly in need of attention. As we had to go back along the river bank to where we had crossed during the preceding night, I had a good opportunity to see just what we had done, and the hazardness of our undertaking. 

Pvt. Clarence Richmond, 5th Marines, 2nd Division
Diary


On November 11, the authorities deemed it advisable to keep all men off the streets and accordingly issued orders that all patients were to be confined to their quarters. Across the street from the Globe Hotel was a large bulletin board. About noon, a large printed poster was hung there which soon attracted eager and interested groups of people. After reading, they gave vent to their feelings in various ways. Some wept; some shouted for joy; some tossed their hats in the air and embraced their comrades. Little children and older men and women ran along the streets shouting 'Fini La Guerre.' In the evening a band appeared and judging from the general appearance of of the instruments, they had not been usd for some time. It was also quite evident that those playing them had not had a great deal of preliminary practice. The band passed in front of the hotel and we were able to recognize, by use of a little imagination, that they were trying to play The Star Spangled Banner. We appreciated the effort and applauded. 

I thought of what had happened in the past two months, of what I had experienced in that short time and was swept by a peculiar and indescribable feeling. I was glad. Glad that the war was over, glad for those people who endured four years of misery and hardship, and who were now to know better conditions. I though of home and how the folks at home felt when they received the same good news; of other folks whose loved ones would not come home, and what the stopping of fighting meant to them. It was the end of the most terrible four years of warfare the civilized world had ever known.

Sgt. Albert Haas, 78th Division, 
In Vichy, France recovering from wounds
Diary 

GREAT DAY !!! THE WAR HAS ENDED !!! 
PEACE HAS COME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
While we were eating mess, a French soldier came running by waving a flag and yelling "Finis la guerre!" Later, an official communication affirmed the great news. We are all overjoyed ... 

Sgt. Edwin Gerth, 51st Artillery
Diary


On Monday at 11:30 am when the sound of cannon boomed the joyful news that the longed for peace had come ... The French seemed stunned at first--they couldn't in a moment throw off these four years of horror and grief. But [we in] the Red Cross turned out strong. [Outside, in the street], a drum appeared from somewhere ... and in a moment the crowd was singing the Marseillaise. So many people were crying that it was a little difficult. Then a procession formed ... If you could have seen me marching between a Tommy and a wounded Poilu, the latter helping me carry the flag with his good arm. A French boy scout carried the French Flag. The whole of Paris seemed to join in the parade. You never saw anything like it.

Elizabeth Ashe, American Red Cross
Memoir, Intimate Letters from France & Extracts from the Diary



Somebody came out waving a white flag. An American officer stepped forward to greet the German. Then the German kids started coming down. We celebrated that day with the German soldiers. They came down and we mixed all up. Some of them could speak English and we could speak German. . . They were glad to see it over with, too.

Gene Lee, USMC, 51st Company, 2nd Division
Interviewed at age 104, 7 November 2003

Nov 11: Fighting stopped.We hardly knew what to do with ourselves for a while it seemed rather queer to not hear the screech of a shell or the sharp reports of rifles and machine guns. Tents were pitched in a nearby field the farmers furnishing straw to floor them with and we could have fires, smoke or anything else after dark.

On the morning of Nov 17th we started on a hike for Germany with the French making about 15 miles to a place called Dikilvenue where the company slept in a brewery and in the morning started on another hike to Borsbeke where we stayed for two days. 

Pvt. Robert L. Dwight, 148th Infantry, 37th Division 
Letter

FINALLY CAME NEWS of the Armistice. Somehow we could not believe it was true the war was actually over. Then, on Dec. 7, we saw a beautiful sight. Here came a passenger train flying U.S. flags. We climbed aboard. We were leaving German territory. I had been in a prison camp only 58 days, but felt as if I had been there 58 years. 

Pvt. Charles Dermody, 132nd Infantry; 33rd Division
Prisoner of War at Rostatt, Germany, at time of Armistice

After the Armistice, those of us not involved in the Occupation were encouraged to seek educational opportunities. I studied French at the Sorbonne. Later on, this training led to Douglas MacArthur appointing me to the faculty at West Point. It changed my life completely.


Lt. Ralph Smith, 4th Division
                                                                                                                                                               1989 Interview
Letter 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

10 November 1918: Capt. Harry Truman's Letter to Bess


Capt. Harry Truman, Battery D., 129th F.A., 35th Division

[Somewhere in France]

Dear Bess:
November 10, 1918

. . . I am still holding down a place in a quiet sector and I'm getting fat on it. Also that helmet is not going to make me baldheaded, at least I don't think so.

The Hun is yelling for peace like a stuck hog, and I hope old daddy Foch makes him yell louder yet or throttles him one. Throttling would be too easy. When you see some of the things those birds did and then hear them put up the talk they do for peace it doesn't impress you at all. A complete and thorough thrashing is all they've got coming and take my word they are getting it and getting it right.

This has been a beautiful Sunday--the sun shining and as warm as summer. It sure made me wish for Lizzie and five gallons of gas with her nose pointed down Blue Ridge Boulevard and me stepping on the throttle to get there quickly. I wonder how long it will be before we do any riding down that road. Easter? Maybe, if not sooner. Heinie seems to be about finished. Just to make the day interesting one of their planes came over and shot down one of our sausage balloons and came near getting shot down himself. I shot away about five hundred rounds of high explosive shells myself. Not at the plane but at some Hun machine guns about seven miles away. I don't know if I hit them, but I have hopes as I laid the guns very carefully. A Hun plane dropped some bombs not far from my back yard last night and sort of shook things up. They made him run home in a hurry too. There is a big railroad gun about a kilometer behind me that shoots about every fifteen minutes and I heard one of the boys remark that "There goes another rolling kitchen over to pulverize Jerry." The projectile makes a noise like a wagon going down the road when it goes through the air, so the remark was very good.

Harry and Bess Were Married the Same Day the
Versailles Treaty Was Signed, 28 June 1919

I have been censoring letters today and it is some job. I had no idea that there were so many accomplished liars in any organization on earth as I have in mine. They are eternally trying to get by the censor with some big tale of their heroism and accomplishments in this war and they do it too, sometimes, especially if they put in something nice about their commanding officer and the part he took in the tale. Usually though I have to tear 'em up or send them back when they tell too much or stretch the truth even beyond literary license. Some of them write very good and very interesting letters and some of them do not. It is a job to censor them and when my lieutenants get too far behind I help them out.

I hope the base censor doesn't laugh at mine as I sometimes have to at theirs.

Hope I get that letter tomorrow. Also hope the Hun signs the peace agreement. Write as often as you can to one who thinks of you,

Always,

Harry

Source: Truman Presidential Library

Friday, November 9, 2018

How Finland Gained Its Independence



From "The Baltic States from 1914 to 1923: The First World War and the Wars of Independence,"  Lt. Col. Andrew Parrott, Baltic Defense Review, No. 8, 2002

The Eduskunta, Finland's Parliament, Was Weakened
During the Civil War

In the aftermath of the First World War five new states were created out of what had been Tsarist Russia on the shores of the Baltic Sea. In the north, the Republic of Finland emerged as an independent state after just over a century as the Grand Duchy of Finland.

Fundamentally, Russia [by 1917] was weak. The collapse of the tsarist regime and the rise of the Bolsheviks provided a narrow window of opportunity for those wishing to escape from Russian domination. In the context of Eastern Europe at the time, Russia was weak but Germany was militarily strong. In a wider context, though, Germany was politically, militarily, and economically weak and the Allies were strong. At the end of the First World War, the Allies had no wish to allow the Germans, defeated in the west, to profit from their success in the east.

German weakness offered opportunities to the Baltic states. The growth of national identity in the Baltic states might be seen not so much as a strength but as a source of determination for exploiting the weaknesses and opportunities that arose. There is no doubt that the intervention of the Allies gave strength to the Baltic states, but this was essentially a by-product of other concerns. The Allies had no wish either to see the Russian Bolsheviks or Germany prosper. Generally it can be said that, exhausted after the First World War, the Allies had no wish to fight the Bolsheviks. They did, however, support the White Russians and others opposed to the Bolsheviks and in this circuitous way gave strength to the Baltic states.

As a Grand Duchy and not part of Russia proper, Finland enjoyed considerable autonomy, including the maintenance of its own military units, although as Finnish nationalism developed, the tsar sought to increasingly weaken Finnish autonomy and assert Russian control. The territory of the Grand Duchy of Finland was not directly involved in fighting during the First World War, and the impact of the war was mainly an economic one. 

Of course, Finland had no option but to follow Russia into the war, and while some areas of the economy suffered badly, others prospered. The forestry industry with export markets in the United Kingdom and western Europe was badly hit, but the metalworking, chemical, and textile industries all prospered in satisfying the demands of the Russian war effort. Thousands of Finns too were in the Russian armies, involved in the defense of Finland as well as more distant operations.

The February 1917 revolution in Russia caused the collapse of the Russian war effort, leading to economic hardship for many in Finland, and fueled the process of progress towards independence. The Russian Provisional Government believed they assumed the tsar’'s rights with respect to Finland, but a majority in Finland believed that with the abdication of the tsar the Russian Provisional Government could make no claim to being the supreme authority in Finland.

On 20 March 1917 the Russian Provisional Government proclaimed the restoration of Finland’'s constitutional rights, rights that over a long period of years had been increasingly ignored by an ever more authoritarian tsarist regime. The more liberal Mikhail Stakhovich replaced von Seyn, the much-disliked Russian Governor General, and many political exiles were allowed to return. Elections for the Finnish parliament, the Eduskunta, had taken place in 1916, but parliament was not allowed to meet until March 1917, when a new Social Democrat government was formed and took office on 27 March 1917. The new government was immediately confronted with both internal law and order problems and external problems regarding its relationship with the Russian Provisional Government. With regard to the internal problems in a number of towns, worker’s militias had formed and these sometimes found themselves confronted by civil guards recruited from among the bourgeoisie, often supported from Germany. In 1914 some in Finland had looked to Germany for support in the struggle for independence, and significant numbers of Finns had received military training in Germany during the course of the war.

On 18 July 1917 the Eduskunta approved an act making Finland independent in all respects except foreign affairs and defense. The Finnish cabinet was evenly divided on the issue but—controversially—Stakhovich, on the instructions of Kerensky, head of the Russian Provisional Government, voted against the measure, dissolved the Eduskunta and called new elections for October. The Social Democrats lost their overall majority in the October elections but did not accept the validity of the elections, regarding the Russian Provisional Government as having no right to dissolve the parliament. In the turmoil, exacerbated by the events of the October Revolution in Russia, a Central Revolutionary Council was formed on 8 November 1917 and called a general strike for 14 November 1917.

The strike and the violence that accompanied this strike alienated many Social Democrats. In the absence of any clear lead from Russia, the Eduskunta voted in a government headed by the champion of Finnish rights P. Svinhufvud, who presented to the Eduskunta a declaration of Finnish independence on 6 December 1917. Svinhufvud met Lenin in Petrograd on 31 December, and was told that Russia would recognize Finnish independence and the right-wing government in Helsinki. Finland slid toward civil war in January 1919.

In Finland the war of independence was more of a civil war than in the other states. The Russian Bolsheviks recognized Finnish independence at an early stage and did not openly play an active role in events in Finland. It was therefore left to Finnish Bolsheviks, who might or might not have sought a renewal of union with Russia, to dispute the style of government of Finland with the White Finns. Without doubt, the Germans contributed in large measure to the victory of the White Finns. Since the civil war in Finland took place before the end of the First World War, the Western Allies played, essentially, no role in the independence of Finland. The Finnish Civil War was fought between the socialist Reds and the non-socialist Whites, supported by Germany, in the newly sovereign state. The conflict lasted from late January until mid-May 1918 and resulted in a White victory. The war began as an offshoot of the October Revolution.

A Finnish aristocrat, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim served as
cavalry commander in the Imperial Russian Army during the
First World War. After the Russian Revolution, he commanded
Finnish White forces in the Finnish Civil War of 1918.
He served as the head of state of independent Finland in 1918–1919

On 18 January, General Mannerheim, charged by the government with establishing a military headquarters, left Helsinki for Vaasa to establish such a headquarters, since both Helsinki and Tampere were largely under the control of the Red Guards, as the worker’s militias had become. On 19 January the government asked Germany to return to Finland the Finnish Jaeger battalion that had been fighting for Germany. Five days later they demanded the removal of the 40,000 Russian troops on Finnish territory and requested help from those countries that had recognized Finland. The next day the government formally constituted the Civil Guards as the state force responsible for law and order. 

The civil war started on the night of 27 January when Red Guards formally took control of Helsinki and established a revolutionary government. By the beginning of February a front line ran north of Pori, Tampere, Lahti, and Lappeenranta with the Red Guards in control of all the major urban centers. The Whites, however, were better organized and equipped and more united.The Whites received significant reinforcement when the Finnish Jaeger battalion arrived back in Finland on 25 February 1918. The Germans also provided very significant assistance to the Whites. In March German naval units landed on and occupied the Aaland Islands. 

On 3 April a German expeditionary force commanded by General Count von der Goltz landed at Hanko on the southwest coast and started to advance on Helsinki. A few days later another German force landed at Loviisa and advanced north toward Lahti to cut the railway line between Helsinki and Petrograd. At around the same time, White forces advancing from the north captured Tampere. Helsinki fell to the German forces of General von der Goltz on 13 April 1918, and two weeks later prominent members of the Red Guards and leaders of the Revolutionary Government fled to Russia. On 16 May Mannerheim led a victory parade through Helsinki. On 18 May the Eduskunta met and appointed Svinhufvud as regent with the same powers as those previously vested in the tsar. Still expecting a German victory, Svinhufvud sought to create a monarchy for Finland from within Germany. These plans came to nought with the collapse of Germany and the withdrawal of German troops from Finland, and Svinhufvud resigned being replaced by Mannheim as regent in late 1918. Mannerheim had resigned in May in protest at the degree of influence being allowed to the Germans, and on being appointed regent had to be recalled from London where he had been engaged on an unofficial mission to improve relations between Finland and the Western Allies.

Execution of Finnish Reds, Losers in the Civil War

New elections to the Eduskunta were held in March 1919, and the Eduskunta elected Professor K. Stahlberg as first president of the Republic of Finland on 25 July 1919. In July 1920, Finland started peace negotiations with the Bolsheviks, once it was clear that the White Russians, who were opposed to Finnish independence, had been defeated. Agreement was reached at the Treaty of Tartu signed on 14 October 1920, and by the terms of this treaty the Petsamo district, giving Finland access to the Arctic Ocean, was ceded to Finland. Tsar Alexander II had promised this area to Finland in 1864, in exchange for two districts in the Karelian Isthmus that Finland had ceded to Russia. The tsar had not kept his word, though, and it was left to the Bolsheviks to honor the promise made by the tsar over half a century later.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Recommended: A Hundred Years After the Armistice, from the New Yorker





From: New Yorker, 5 November 2018
With Photos and Illustrations from Steve Miller

By Adam Hochschild

For millions of soldiers, the First World War meant unimaginable horror: artillery shells that could pulverize a human body into a thousand fragments; immense underground mine explosions that could do the same to hundreds of bodies; attacks by poison gas, tanks, flamethrowers. Shortly after 8 p.m. on 7 November 1918, however, French troops near the town of La Capelle saw something different. From the north, three large automobiles, with the black eagle of Imperial Germany on their sides, approached the front lines with their headlights on. Two German soldiers were perched on the running boards of the lead car, one waving a white flag, the other, with an unusually long silver bugle, blowing the call for ceasefire—a single high tone repeated in rapid succession four times, then four times again, with the last note lingering.

Monument Near La Capelle Where the Delegation Was Met—
"Here Triumphed the Tenacity of the Poilu "

By prior agreement, the three German cars slowly made their way across the scarred and cratered no man’s land between the opposing armies. When they reached the French lines, they halted, the German bugler was replaced by a French one (his bugle is in a Paris museum today), and the German peace envoys continued their journey. At La Capelle, flashes lit up the night as the envoys were photographed by waiting press and newsreel cameramen, then transferred to French cars. Their route took them past houses, factories, barns, and churches reduced to charred rubble, fruit trees cut down and wells poisoned by retreating German troops. “It appeared to me that the drive was intentionally prolonged in order to carry us across devastated provinces and to prepare us for the hardest conditions which the feelings of hatred and revenge might demand,” one of the German passengers later wrote. The envoys next boarded a railway carriage that had once belonged to Napoleon III, who was forced to surrender most of Alsace and part of Lorraine to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War.

This monument marks one of the most significant events of the
First World War—the place where the four cars carrying the German plenipotentiaries responsible for negotiating the Armistice arrived 

on 7 November 1918 at 8 p.m. and 20 minutes.

Finally, the train pulled into a clearing in the forest of Compiègne, near another train occupied by an Allied delegation headed by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Allied commander-in-chief...
(Photos from Steve Miller)

Read the full article here:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

100 Years Ago: The False Armistice

False Armistice
By William Bryk
Presented in the New York Sun, 10 November 2004


Published 7 November 1918
Few recall the premature celebration of victory in World War I, the False Armistice. By Friday, 7 November 1918, the war seemed nearly over, with newspapers reporting Allied advances. At 11:56 that morning, the New York agency of United Press—later known as United Press International—received a cable from France. Filed at 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, apparently signed by UP's president, Roy Howard, and its foreign editor, William Philip Sims, the message reported that Germany had signed an armistice.

This was untrue. According to A.J. Liebling, Howard had lunched with Vice Admiral Henry B. Wilson, commander of the American naval forces in France, on 7 November. Admiral Wilson told Howard that a friend in the U.S. Embassy had just telephoned him that an armistice had been signed. Under UP procedures, Sims had to approve and sign all cables from France, but Sims was in Paris. Howard was in Brest with, he believed, the scoop of a lifetime. He forged Sims's name and gave the message to the telegraphers who, assuming that Howard was a responsible newspaperman whose cable had been passed by the censors, transmitted it. In turn, UP general manager W.W. Hawkins in New York assumed Sims had seen and approved it. As Liebling observed, if Sims had seen it, Sims might have made Howard confirm his facts.

Hawkins submitted the cable to American military censorship, which assumed the story's veracity on the presumption that French military censors must have approved it and passed the cable within three minutes. Then it was released to the UP's subscribing newspapers, which began printing extras: GERMANY GIVES UP, WAR ENDS AT 2 P.M.

Roy W. Howard
(U. of Indiana Photo)
Before the papers hit the street, the news was picked up by stockbrokers on the Stock Exchange floor, where trading stopped around 1 p.m. The news spread as fast as telephone lines could carry it. Church bells rang, sirens sounded. At the Equitable Building, 120 Broadway, an anti-aircraft gun on the roof fired blank shells. Judge Learned Hand closed the federal courts, and the state and municipal courts never came back from lunch.

Department stores closed. On the doors of Brill Brothers was posted, "Too Happy to Work: Come Tomorrow" and at Rogers Peet "Who can work on a day like this? Gone to celebrate—open tomorrow." The streets were suddenly packed with wildly cheering people. Fifth Avenue was jammed from curb to curb from Washington Square to the Plaza Hotel and people linked arms into enormous snake dances up and down the street. Thousands crowded into St. Patrick's Cathedral, kneeling and weeping with joy as they offered thanks.

Up at Carnegie Hall, James Gibbons Huneker, long-time critic for the original New York Sun, was attending a concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Monteaux. Cheering suddenly exploded outside, and into the hall surged the news that the war was over. There was a shuffling of scores, Monteaux raised his baton, and the BSO burst into the national anthem and "The Marseillaise" as the audience rose to their feet and roared out the lyrics. After that, according to Huneker, Franck's Symphony in D minor and Schumann's Manfred Overture were something of a comedown.

At the Knickerbocker Hotel, Broadway and 42nd Street, the enormous crowd in Times Square drew a distinguished guest onto the second floor balcony. He waved an American flag at the crowd, which, recognizing him, began cheering. Then the day's greatest tenor flung back his head, and Enrico Caruso sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Many later remembered 7 November as a blur of people waving handkerchiefs and flags and total strangers shaking hands and embracing for sheer joy.

At the New York Evening Sun, the editors, unable to corroborate the story through their Washington and European reporters, mistrusted the UP's assurances "that there was no doubt of the authenticity of the news." They obtained an official denial of the story from Secretary of State Robert Lansing at 2:15 p.m., but no one in the street wanted to believe it. The UP even alleged that the State Department's information was stale. When the competing Associated Press, unable to confirm the rumor, denied it, an angry mob attacked the AP's offices at 51 Chambers St. In Times Square crowds destroyed copies of the Evening Sun and other newspapers that carried the official denial.

Published 10 November 1918

The following morning's Times called the UP's cable "the most flagrant and culpable act of public deception" in the history of journalism. The Evening Sun noted with quiet pride that it had not published the false report as fact.

Three days later, on 11 November 1918, the Germans really did sign an armistice, effective at 11 a.m., which some still commemorate with two minutes' silence. Howard survived this mistake to become one of the nation's major publishers; he took over the old New York Sun on 4 January 1950.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Voices from the Past: Armistice 1918
Reviewed by James M. Gallen


Voices from the Past: Armistice 1918

by Paul Kendall
Frontline Books, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books, 2017

Men of the 27th New York National Guard Division Celebrating

I have often thought that there are two ways to tell history: the big story gleaned from myriad sources and the little stories drawn from the memoirs of those who participated in events. Voices from the Past: Armistice 1918 effectively blends both techniques to take readers back to the last days of the Great War and its aftermath. Although mostly presenting the worlds of those who lived at the time of the Armistice, author Paul Kendall skillfully employs the narrative to lay the background and place the quotes in context.

This work is divided into four parts: The Path to Peace, Final Battles, Armistice, and Aftermath. "The Path to Peace" chronicles a more complex path winding from German proposals as early as 1916 followed by Pope Benedict XV's December 1917 initiative, Lloyd George's ten conditions, and Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. An analysis of the overlaps and differences makes for interesting reading. German interest in Wilson's Points and Allied reluctance reflect the shifting fortunes of war and domestic stability.

"Final Battles" is like the set-up pitcher in a baseball game—the offensives that caused the breakthroughs that weakened German lines, demoralized its armies and encouraged mutinies in concert with uprisings at home. This section makes clear that credit for the defeat of the German armies was shared among British, French, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and Americans.

Each reader is entitled to his or her own choice, but to me the most intriguing and tragic accounts are to be found in "Armistice." The period of negotiations was a roller coaster of emotions as reports of peace brought euphoria that retractions brought crashing down. The abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II is presented not as a condition requested by the Allies but as a response to revolution across Germany and within his army. Reports of a red flag being hoisted above the Brandenburg Gate compel readers to appreciate the very real possibility that the red wave that consumed Russia could have extended into Germany and beyond. Lists of the participants in the negotiations leading to the Armistice are stark in whom they did not include— representatives of the United States. Repeated references in official documents to the Allies and the United States emphasize America's status as an "Associated Power."

Market Street, San Francisco, 11 November 1918
(Note Anti-Flu Masks Enforced)

To me the most tragic stories are of the last-minute casualties. As news of the Armistice spread, orders that generally included prosecution of the war up to 11 a.m. for maximum gain were inconsistently followed. In some sectors quiet settled in before the specified time, whereas in others the guns roared to the last minute. Private George Ellison had been called to duty in 1914 and survived many major engagements before being killed around 9:30 on 11 November. He, the last British fatality of the war, is buried opposite Private John Parr who is recognized as the first British soldier killed in the war. The last of French fatalities was Private Augustin Trebuchon, who had enlisted in the French Army in 1914 and died at 10:45 on 11 November while carrying a message "Assemble for food at 11:30 hours."

Perhaps the most troubling tale is that of Private Henry Gunther of Baltimore. His German name had made him the subject of anti-German propaganda which made him reluctant to enlist, but he was eventually conscripted in April 1917. After being reduced from sergeant to private as a result of a censored letter in which he discouraged a friend from enlisting, Gunther seemed determined to redeem himself. Minutes before the Armistice, Gunther and his platoon were advancing when they came under German fire. The sergeant ordered the platoon to take cover, but Gunther continued toward German lines. The Germans fired warning shots and tried to wave him off but when he got too close killed him at 10:59.

"Aftermath" presents responses to the Armistice from the front lines, in lands evacuated by the Germans, and in the homelands of the belligerents. The transfer of German fleets to Allied control is one of the more bewildering events of the war.

Although I have read many books about the Great War, from this one I gained new understanding of the roads to the Armistice and how it was viewed by its contemporaries. Kendall places the contributions of the nations into perspective. I find the rapid evolution of what was initially a cessation of hostilities with a chance of their resumption into an Allied victory and German defeat to be intriguing. The roles of the United States in the final battles and Armistice negotiations leading to President Wilson's place in the peace conference are an evolving saga.

I close with two quotes from Voices from the Past: Armistice 1918, one somewhat humorous, the other despairing, from men whose destinies would cross in a later war:

Their time for acceptance will be up in thirty minutes. There is a great big 155 Battery right behind me across the road that seems to want to get rid of all of its ammunition before the time is up...I just got official notice that hostilities will cease at eleven o'clock. Everyone is about to have a fit...What pleases me most is the fact that I was lucky enough to take a battery through the last drive. The battery has shot something over ten thousand rounds at the Hun and I am sure they had a slight effect. Captain Harry Truman (p. 214–215).

The local pastor visited the hospital...I was in a fever of excitement as I listened to the address. The reverend old gentleman seemed to be trembling when he informed us that the House of Hohenzollern should no longer wear the Imperial crown, that the Fatherland had become a 'Republic,' that we should pray to the Almighty not to withdraw his blessing from the new order of things...A feeling of profound dismay fell on the people in that assembly, and I do not think there was a single eye that withheld its tears. As for myself, I broke down completely...Darkness surrounded me as I staggered and stumbled back to my ward and buried my aching head between the blankest and pillow...So all had been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations, in vain the hunger and thirst for endless months, in vain those hours that we stuck to our posts. Gefreiter Adolf Hitler (p. 286–287).

James M. Gallen

Monday, November 5, 2018

The AEF Purchased Its Guns and Ammo from the Allies


A Battery of 155mm Howitzers of the AEF at Soissons

The priority for the Allies was fresh manpower, and the available shipping was limited, so General Pershing's forces needed to purchase most of their weaponry and ammunition from the Allies. The figures involved are quite astonishing, however.  One of the unsung heroes of the war was future vice president Brigadier General Charles Gates Dawes, Chief Purchasing Officer of the AEF.

No American-made cannon or shell was used by the American First Army—except for four 14-inch naval guns, the First Army throughout its entire service at the front did not fire a single cannon or shell which was made in America.

No tank of American manufacture was ever used on the Western Front—all tanks operated by the U.S. Army in the war were of French or British make. American manufacturers were just beginning to produce tanks in quantity when the Armistice became effective.

Munitions which were provided by the Ordnance Department of the A. E. F.—an idea of the munitions furnished for the A. E. F. by its Ordnance Department is given by the following figures, which indicate the total number of articles furnished but do not include the equipment and supplies brought with the American units when they disembarked in France:
  • 600,000 rifles
  • 93,326 machine guns
  • 75,000 automatic rifles
  • 4,000 cannon
  • 10,000,000 rounds of artillery ammunition

Two Doughboys Man a French Hotchkiss Machine Gun

Partial list of munitions which were purchased in France by the A. E. F.:
  • 514 tanks
  • 1,190 155mm howitzers
  • 3,035 75mm guns
  • 9,592 Hotchkiss machine guns
  • 40,000 Chauchat automatic rifles
  • 2,909,200 trench-mortar shells
  • 3,000,000 bombs
  • 5,011,000 75mm shells


Partial list of munitions purchased from the British by the A. E. F.
  • 122 9.2-inch howitzers
  • 212 8-inch howitzers
  • 865 6-inch Newton mortars
  • 2,550 3-inch Stokes mortars

Instruction in the Chauchat Automatic Machine Gun

Ammunition expended by the A. E. F. in actual combat with the enemy:
  • 181,391,341 rounds, caliber .30 (rifle)
  • 120,901,102 rounds, caliber 8-millimeter (automatic rifle)
  • 21,385,164 rounds, caliber .45 (pistol)
  • 2 27 4 229 rounds, caliber 37-millimeter
  • 7,550,835 rounds, caliber 75-millimeter
  • 1,983,937 rounds, calibers greater than 75-millimeter
  • 2,724,067 grenades, all types
  • 362,911 bombs (Stokes mortar, etc.) 


Sunday, November 4, 2018

In the Doughboys' Own Words: Fighting the Big Battles


From In Their Own Words at the Doughboy Center

Second Battle of the Marne


Engineers of the 3rd Division Building a Bridge for Crossing the Marne

... Newly captured prisoners began to give real information - a grand offensive was to be made [where] the Marne was only about 50 yards wide ... We had 600 yards of [this] front all to ourselves ... [When it began] it seemed [the Germans] expected their artillery to eliminate all resistance ... French Officers attached to our Brigade stated positively there was never a bombardment to equal it at Verdun.

At 3:30am the general fire ceased and their creeping barrage started - behind which at 40 yards only, mind you, they came - with more machine guns than I thought the German Army owned ... 

The enemy had to battle their way through the first platoon on the river bank - then they took on the second platoon on the forward edge of the railway where we had a thousand times the best of it - but the [Germans] gradually wiped it out. My third platoon [took] their place in desperate hand to hand fighting, in which some got through only to be picked up by the fourth platoon which was deployed simultaneously with the third ... By the time they struck the fourth platoon they were all in and easy prey.

It's God's truth that one Company of American soldiers beat and routed a full regiment of picked shock troops of the German Army ... At ten o'clock ... the Germans were carrying back wounded and dead [from] the river bank and we in our exhaustion let them do it - they carried back all but six hundred which we counted later and fifty-two machine guns ... We had started with 251 men and 5 lieutenants ... I had left 51 men and 2 second lieutenants ... 

Capt. Jesse Woolridge, 38th Infantry, 3rd Division
Letter



I have never seen so many dead. I have never seen such a frightful spectacle of war. On the other bank the Americans, in close combat, had destroyed two of our companies. Lying down in the wheat, they had allowed our troops to approach and then annihilated them at a range of 30 to 50 yards. "The Americans kill everyone," was the cry of fear on July 15—a cry that caused our men to tremble for a long time.
Lieutenant Kurt Hesse, Adjutant, 
German 5th Grenadiers



We reached the front line exhausted but, without slowing up went immediately into battle at daybreak. We reached the line just in time to go over the top at the zero hour.

... A division of Americans [2nd] and a division [1st] on the left flank in the [initial] drive, while a division of Moroccans was attacking in the center. Much airplane fighting was going on, and several [planes] got shot down ... We must have gained seven or eight miles that day, driving toward Reims  on the left flank of the Marne salient. That night we stood by our guns to hold the gain, but we were tired and hungry.

The morning of July 19, the second day of the battle and the third day without food, we formed our lines in a road through a cut or ravine and came out for a charge across a sugar beet field. The tanks were leading, with our lines right behind them. In trying to stop the charge, the Germans turned loose everything they had. It seemed to rain shells. One hit between me and the man on my left, Red Williams. It knocked a hole in the ground, half covered me with dirt, and left my hands and face powder-burned, but the shrapnel had missed [me]. Red was not quite so lucky and received his death wound. I left him writhing and groaning on the ground to continue the attack. . .[A day later the regiment had been nearly annihilated]

The surviving marines who left the battle line were a terrible looking bunch of people. They looked more like animals ... Late in the evening we survivors got a meal of slumgullion ... There were so many wounded in the attack that the ambulance service broke down ... the boys were more despondent than I ever saw them after this battle.
Pvt. Carl Brannen, USMC, 2nd Division 
Memoir

St. Mihiel Offensive


German Prisoners Captured the First Day of the St. Mihiel Offensive

Thurs. Sept. 12th, 1918. Hiked through dark woods. No lights allowed; guided by holding on the pack of the man ahead. Stumbled through and under brush for about half-mile into an open field where we waited in a soaking rain until about 10 pm.

We then started on our hike to the St. Mihiel Front arriving on the crest of a hill about 1am. I saw a sight which I shall never forget. It was the zero hour. In one instant the entire front as far as the eye could reach in either direction was a sheet of flame while the heavy artillery made the earth quake. The barrage was so intense that for a time we could not make out whether the Americans or Germans were putting it over. After timing the interval between flash and report we knew that the heaviest artillery was less than a mile away and consequently it was ours.
Corporal Eugene Kennedy, 78th Division
Diary 



Friday, Sept. 13th. A Great Day for the Americans. Our infantry is still pushing 'em back. Many prisoners are going by. We were at guns all morning, but had to stay in camp all afternoon. We are out of range and await orders to move up. Steady stream of men and material going up constantly. Two of our boys sneaked off and went up to the old Hun trenches and brought back lots of Hun souvenirs -- razors, glasses, pictures, equipment, etc.
Sgt. Edwin Gerth, 51st Artillery
Diary


I robbed every dead "Boche" I met where I thought I could get something, except at St. Mihiel where they were strewn like mown grass. I saw on this front without exaggeration, fifteen hundred on one field, also Yanks which were numberless. It was here we lost Paul J. Karney, our lieutenant of the second platoon, he was as fine a man as you could find in this A. E. F. He sure was a Prince, he was engaged to a Mount Holly girl, it sure did put a fighting spirit into us to see him get "picked off" . I helped to bury him under heavy shell fire and he lies buried in Vieville, 14 miles south of Metz. "Bump" O'Hara is buried here also. "Bump" was standing up straight and took off his helmet when a piece of shrapnel hit him across the forehead about one-half inch above his eyes. He never knew what hit him for he never regained consciousness. 
Pvt. F. Rueppel, 311th Infantry, 78th Division
Letter


Meuse-Argonne Offensive


A Machine Gun Squad of the 80th Division Carefully Advancing
in the Opening Stage of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

... After a tiresome, weary march through shelled road, devastated villages and destroyed forests, we advanced to the Argonne Forest, arriving and relieving the French at about three in the morning of September 26, 1918.

... Boy! Oh boy! What a beautiful sight just about dawn. It was light enough so that you could see for a hundred yards or so and stretched along was our first wave as straight as possible, skirmish formation advancing steadily as if we were on parade. Sergeants led about 10 paces ahead and spaced every 20 feet, lieutenants and captains a few paces more advanced with their automatic pistols in one hand and pistols in the other.
Sgt. Joe Rizzi, 110th Engineers
Memoir


Yesterday evening I started out with Captain Driscoll & Lt. Evans to set up an advance post -- but we found the former no man's land absolutely impassible except for foot and horseback, -- so we couldn't carry our equipment up. Roads were filled with supply and munitions trains which had the right of way.
Sgt. Sidney Adams, 91st Division
Unpublished manuscript


On October 15th, 1918, we were charging machine guns and men were being cut down like grass all around me. Then I was hit and fell, and couldn't get up. I laid there on the battlefield for three days and was assumed dead. Some man came by and said: Fields, what the hell are you doing laying there? The man picked him up, put him on his shoulder, and carried him three miles to the aid station.

Gangrene had already set-up, and they amputated my leg just below the knee. I was passing in and out of consciousness during the whole time and never recognized the man that carried me to safety. How he recognized me I'll never know because I was unshaven and was a mess. I've always regretted never knowing the man that saved my life.
Pvt. Clifton R. Fields, 32nd Division
Interview 



... A hundred and thirty-four of us had come back from Blanc Mont ridge. We had gone up a full-strength battalion, a thousand strong.

Pvt. Elton Mackin, USMC, 2nd Division
Memoir

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Remembering a Veteran: “The Angel of Siberia,” Nurse Elsa Brändström, Swedish Red Cross



Elsa Brändström

By James Patton

Elsa Brändström (1888–1948) is famous for her work to improve the conditions for Central Powers prisoners of war, who endured extremely harsh treatment while in Russian prison camps in Siberia during the First World War.

Elsa was born in St. Petersburg, where her father Edvard Brändström was serving as a military attaché.  When she was three the family returned to Sweden, as her father was given the command of the Första Livgrenadjär regiment in Linköping, where she was schooled until she entered a teacher training college at Stockholm in 1906. 

In that same year, Elsa’s father (now a general) was returned to St. Petersburg as the Swedish envoy. In 1908, after completing her course, she rejoined the family and became a member of the Swedish Society of St. Petersburg, of which her father was honorary president. During 1913 and 1914, after her mother died, she served as the hostess for the Swedish Embassy.

When war broke out in 1914, Elsa and her Swedish friend Ethel von Heidenstam (1881–1977) (who had also been born in St. Petersburg) signed up for a course in military nursing, while also serving at a military hospital which was funded by donations that Elsa had raised through the Swedish delegation. When the so-called exchange of invalids between the warring parties was organized, with Sweden as the intermediary, she was one of the Red Cross nurses who participated in transporting the wounded.

In 1915 Elsa was asked by the Swedish Red Cross to provide relief work in the large prisoner camps in Siberia and to inspect the camps as a representative of neutral Sweden and Denmark. She also traveled across Siberia delivering donated necessities to prisoners of war. Conditions in the Siberian camps were extremely bad. There was a dearth of winter clothes, blankets and mattresses, sanitary provisions were poor, and a lack of medicines and basic medical supplies led to repeated outbreaks of diseases, in particular typhus. Of the nearly 2,000,000 Central Powers prisoners of war in Russian camps during the First World War an estimated 700,000 died.

Elsa with Patients in Siberia

Accounts of Elsa’s work in Siberia emphasize her effectiveness and initiative. She is considered to have saved tens of thousands of lives with very limited resources by organizing and streamlining medical care in the various camps she visited. The Stretensk camp in Siberia, which she visited in 1915, became the prototype for her approach. By separating the sick prisoners from the healthy ones, arranging hospital sections, and implementing sanitary water systems, she brought an end to the ongoing typhoid epidemics, which would otherwise have led to far higher mortality figures.

Following the peace of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, due to the civil war the situation worsened for the prisoners left in Russia. Czech prisoners who had been recruited by the Russians into the Czech Legion to fight for the independence of their homeland ranged around the country, often killing Hungarians and Austrians whenever they came across them, even some who were Red Cross personnel.

In 1918 Elsa was detained in Omsk under suspicion of being a Bolshevik spy. She was interned and threatened with execution but eventually released, as she had contracted typhoid. After her unexpected recovery she returned to Sweden in 1920, then moved to Germany in 1922. 

Elsa continued to support the cause of the German and Austrian prisoners of war long after the end of hostilities, founding the Siberian Prisoner of War Relief Association. Her activities were partly funded by the publication of her memoirs of the time she spent in the POW camps and by fees from a lecture tour through the U.S., as well as donations that she solicited. She purchased the Marienborn health resort in Saxony and converted it into a work and retirement home for former prisoners of war. Fulfilling a sacred promise that she made to dying POWs, she also established a children’s home at Neusorge Castle near Mittweida for those whose fathers had died in Siberia.

In the autumn of 1929 Elsa, at age 41, married the German academic Robert Ulich and they settled in Dresden, where, in 1932, their daughter Brita was born. Due to her fame arising from her work with the prisoners of war, Elsa’s support was courted by the new German chancellor Adolf Hitler, but she declined. Elsa and her husband disapproved of the manner of the Nazi takeover of power, and in 1934 the family moved to the U.S., where Robert had secured a lectureship at Harvard and Elsa worked to obtain residency permits for hundreds who were fleeing from Nazi Germany and later from occupied Denmark and Norway as well.

With regard to her humanitarian contributions, Elsa has been likened to her fellow Swede Raoul Wallenberg. Several biographies and other accounts mention that she was considered for the Nobel Peace Prize five times in the 1920s. 

1951 Stamp
Elsa was stubborn and psychologically resilient, an effective and perceptive organizer with a strong sense of social justice and strong leadership skills. It is clear that she left a strong impression on her environment, and she also had a remarkable talent for dealing with the media. Several short pamphlets and exhibitions, largely based on her own accounts and the 1932 biography written by her school friend and fellow Red Cross nurse Elsa Björkman-Goldschmidt (1888–1982), testify to the interest she generated among her contemporaries in Sweden. 

After the end of the Second World War Elsa was afflicted with breast cancer, and she died on 4 March  1948 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At her funeral in Sweden she was described by the Stockholm bishop Manfred Björkquist as “the fighting Valkyrie of mercy.” Coincidentally, the young Elsa once appeared dressed as a Valkyrie when laying a laurel wreath at the bust of the warrior king Gustav II Adolf at the Swedish Society of St. Petersburg’s annual celebration on 6 November 1910. Another account, referred to in one of her biographies, is more evocative in its duality—she accepted her tasks with the assured bravery of a soldier and the triumphant certainty of a ball queen.

In addition to a range of monuments dedicated to Elsa, several schools in Germany have been named after her, and there are over 130 streets and roads named for her in Germany, Austria, and Sweden.

Friday, November 2, 2018

American Money During World War I

(Click on Images to Enlarge)

U.S. $50 Gold Certificate

Alone among the major combatant nations, the U.S. was able to maintain the gold standard and stable dollar throughout the war. This was due to late entry into the war, massive U.S. armaments and agricultural export programs, insulation from the physical effects of the war, and the introduction of the Federal Reserve Bank system. Despite official neutrality, the U.S. supplied food and armaments to the Allies and by 1918 replaced Great Britain as the world’s greatest manufacturing and financial power.

1914 Saint Gaudens $20 Double Eagle




1917 Liberty Quarter Dollar






In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt initiated a collaboration with sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, beginning what is today known as the “Renaissance of American Coinage.” Starting with Saint-Gaudens’s famous gold double eagle in 1907, accomplished artists were tapped to redesign the complete series of U.S. coinage, ending in 1921 with the Peace Dollar designed to celebrate the end of World War I. 

1918 $2 Federal Reserve Note

U.S. paper money became more varied with the introduction in 1914 of Federal Reserve and Federal Reserve Bank notes to the existing series of Legal Tender notes, gold and silver certificates, and National Bank notes. American money was among the most beautiful and impressive in the world—and the standard global trade currency.

Source:  American Numismatic Association

Thursday, November 1, 2018

100 Years Ago: Turkey Capitulates


British Advances Against Ottoman Forces Shown with Shaded Areas

After the overwhelming defeats which the Turkish armies had suffered in Mesopotamia and Palestine in the fall of 1918, it became clear that the hour for surrender had struck for Turkey.

As soon as the Turkish authorities had decided that their cause was lost, they sent General Townshend, of Kut-el-Amara, who since the British debacle on the Tigris in 1916 had been their prisoner, to inform the British admiral in command in the Aegean Sea that they desired to open immediately negotiations for an armistice. Vice Admiral Calthorp, the British commander, replied that, if Turkey sent fully accredited plenipotentiaries, they would be informed of the conditions which the Allies had decided to impose upon Turkey before hostilities could cease.

The Turkish plenipotentiaries arrived at Mudros, on the island of Lemnos, in the Ægean Sea, on 27 October 1918. Three days were consumed in parleys, at the end of which the armistice was signed in the evening of 30 October 1918. It was to take effect at noon of the next day and involved, among others, the following terms: the opening of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, with Allied occupation of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus forts; immediate demobilization of the Turkish Army; surrender of war vessels in Turkish waters; right of the Allies to occupy strategic points; withdrawal of Turkish troops from Persia; surrender of garrisons in Hedjaz, Syria, Mesopotamia, etc., to the nearest Allied commander; Turkey to cease all relations with the Central Powers.

Source:  The Story of the Great War, Volume VIII