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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Western Front Virtual Tour— Stop 6: Ypres, Down the Menin Road

Throughout the war, the Western Front moved up and down the Menin Road. It was a focal point for action every year of the war. Please keep in mind that we can only feature a few of the sites to be seen in the vicinity on our virtual tour.

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Next Week: Ypres,  South of the Menin Road

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Did Dazzle Camouflage Work?

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British RN Troopship Walmer Castle

The father of dazzle camouflage,  Norman Wilkinson, was a marine painter  in the Royal Navy. His idea was not to make ships invisible, but to make it hard for U-boat skippers to precisely measure the speed, direction, and future position of any ships he was intending to blast with a torpedo. He convinced his superiors to allow him to test his idea. When the test went well, Wilkinson was told to proceed and hired Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth to be a port officer in Liverpool, England, and oversee the painting of the dazzle ships. 

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Pre-Dreadnought Battleship USS Nebraska

Over 4,000 British ships received the dazzle treatment.  In 1918 Wilkinson came to United States to share his dazzle schemes.  About 1,000 plans were developed through this partnership.

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SS Alabet (Note the Move Away from the Stripe Design)

Did it work? Dazzle and the convoy system were implemented about the same time, so it is hard to say. One Royal Navy postwar report was positive, stating that only 1 percent of the dazzle camouflaged ships (say, about 40 of 4000?) were sunk. However, there were no figures for non-camouflaged ships to compare results. 

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Hull of SS Everglades, First Ship to Receive Dazzle Treatment During Construction

Dr. Nicholas Scott-Samuel of the University of Bristol, however, recently expressed some skepticism about the benefits of dazzle — at least for ships. He  reported in the Public Library of Science that participants in a recent series of experiments were not fooled by slow-moving rectangles, nor by low-contrast ones. Fast-moving, high-contrast shapes like the designs on dazzle ships, however, did befuddle them. On average, observers underestimated the speed of  fast moving, jazzy rectangles by 7 percent. The point here is that oceangoing ships of the WWI period were not very fast and so the test results suggest the dazzle effect was not very helpful. The crews, however, were reportedly very proud of their flashy-looking ships.

Sources:  The Economist,

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Churchill Returns to the Cabinet, July 1917

Churchill on the Western Front, December 1915

In late May 1917 Churchill returned to the Continent, where he met Marshal Foch, Sir Henry Wilson, and Sir Douglas Haig, among others. One of the others was Lord Esher, liaison officer between the British and French War Offices and a pillar of the political establishment. A letter from Esher to Haig outlines the views that many had of Churchill at the time: "A true appreciation of Winston Churchill — of his potential uses — is a difficult matter. The degree to which his clever but unbalanced mind will in future fulfill its responsibilities is very speculative. He handles great subjects in rhythmical language, and becomes quickly enslaved by his own phrases. He deceives himself into the belief that he takes broad views, when his mind is fixed upon one comparatively small aspect of the question.

"The power of Winston for good and evil is very considerable. His temperament is of wax and quicksilver, and this strange toy amuses and fascinates L George, who likes and fears him ... To me he appears not as a statesman, but as a politician of keen intelligence lacking in those puissant qualities that are essential in a man who is to conduct the business of our country through the coming year. I hope therefore that he may remain outside the Government."

The prime minister, Lloyd George, wanted to bring his old friend Winston Churchill back into the Cabinet. Following the advice of Lord Beaverbrook that the anti-Churchill sentiment could be overcome, he appointed Churchill as minister of munitions on 17 July.

The response was as expected and was as intense in the government coalition as anywhere. The Morning Post warned that "neither the War Office nor the Board of Admiralty is likely to be safe from his attention" and both the First Lord of the Admiralty and the secretary for war threatened to resign. A delegation of Tory MPs demanded the intervention of Andrew Bonar Law but the Tory leader did not think it was worth risking the dissolution of the coalition. Churchill expressed surprise at the vehemence of the concerns, particularly because it came from more than his political opponents.

Supporters of Churchill's Return to Office:  Lloyd George and Beaverbrook

The Morning Post was the most outraged of the press. The appointment, it stated, "proves that although we have not yet invented the unsinkable ship, we have discovered the unsinkable politician." It still blamed the Dardanelles on Churchill, "whose overwhelming conceit led him to imagine he was Nelson at sea and a Napoleon on land."

At this time the Churchills changed residences. In London they moved back to 33 Eccleston Square and purchased an Elizabethan house called Lullenden, near East Grinstead in Kent. Churchill left his country home that summer only to campaign in Dundee in a by-election, required because of his ministerial appointment. He was re-elected by a margin of over 5,000 votes.

Clementine noted that the depression which had afflicted Winston since the Dardanelles quickly disappeared with the challenges of his new office. But the 12,000 officials of the Ministry of Munitions were not a sufficient challenge. Although he had promised that he would make weapons, not plans, he quickly threw himself into every aspect of the war, much to the expectations and consternation of his Cabinet colleagues.

He used his position to influence military strategy and tactics in a number of ways. When invited to the War Cabinet as an observer, he was never reticent in expressing unsolicited opinions and he directed the distribution of materials in a fashion to influence policy.

He visited the front and toured the devastation of the Somme. While his relations with General Haig were cordial, the British commander had "no doubt that Winston means to do his utmost to provide the army with all it requires, but at the same time he can hardly stop meddling in the larger questions of strategy and tactics; for the solution of the latter he has no real training, and his agile mind only makes him a danger because he can persuade Lloyd George to adopt and carry out the most idiotic policy."

Churchill Visiting a Factory as Minister of Munitions

Churchill's encouragement of the production and use of tanks was later noted by a Royal Commission:"It was due to a receptivity, courage and driving force of the Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Churchill that the general idea of the use of such an instrument of war as the tank was converted into practical shape." In April the United States had declared war on Germany and all of Europe awaited the arrival of American troops — 48 divisions were heading for Europe. It was Churchill's challenge to produce many of the weapons they would require. In doing so he met the chairman of the United States War Industries Board, Bernard Baruch, who would become his lifelong friend.

Source:  The Churchill Centre (link)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Great Britain's Great War — Reviewed by Jane Mattisson Ekstam

Great Britain's Great War
by Jeremy Paxman
Published by London, Viking, 2013

Jeremy Paxman's highly readable study, which takes the form of a lively narrative history, recreates the conditions of World War One in vivid detail. It poses two important questions little addressed in historical studies of the war to date: Why did the British fight so willingly? And how did the country endure the war for so long?

Great Britain's Great War is based on a wealth of firsthand material in the form of letters, diaries, pictures, poetry, and extracts from magazines. It follows the day-to-day experience of the British over the course of the war, from generals, campaigners, politicians, and journalists to Tommies, pacifists, factory workers, nurses, wives, and children as it captures the mood and morale of all sections of the population. Life and identity were transformed forever during the war. With wit, humor, and penetration, Paxman demonstrates that courage, confusion, doubts, and dilemmas were the everyday and inescapable experience of many sections of the population.

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The BEF Arrives in France, August 1914

The fourteen chapters cover a variety of topics, including enlistment, early patriotism, pacifism, the war at sea, and the declaration of peace. Chapter Eight, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Wrecks the World," is particularly insightful, as well as humorous, in its analysis of the position of the pacifist in World War One. Paxman notes, for example, how "in Manchester, one whiskery old soldier asked how the meek could inherit the earth if there was no one to fight for them." In the same chapter he describes a young pacifist who appeared before a tribunal in the Home Counties and began to explain a passage in his Greek Bible. The chairman responded, "Greek? You don't mean to tell me Jesus spoke Greek? He was British to the backbone!" The working of the tribunals is described in considerable detail, thereby filling a gap in existing studies.

Letters from soldiers at the front form an important part of Paxman's study. Particularly moving is a letter from Private John Scollen of the Northumberland Fusiliers, the penultimate paragraph of which reads:

My Joe, Jack, Tina and Aggie not forgetting my little bonny twins Nora and Hugh and my last flower baby whom I have only had the great pleasure of seeing once since he came into the world God bless them . . . I have put a X on top of this missive so you will know that I died in God's holy grace . . . . Now my dear wife and children I have not anything more to say only I wish you all God's Holy Grace and Blessing, so Good bye, Good Luck and think of me in your prayers I know . . . hard words for you to receive but God's will be done.
From your faithful soldier Husband and Father

Six lines of kisses conclude the letter. The unedited nature of the letter underlines not only its authenticity but also its pathos.

Paxman's study includes a copious bibliography and detailed annotations for each chapter. The challenge in his final paragraph is provocative and succinct — and an excellent starting point for a new study:

Order Now
The war is the great punctuation point in modern British history, the moment when the British decided that what lay ahead of them would never be as grand as their past; the point at which they began to walk backwards into the future.

There is a sense in which, like desperate parents who could not believe their son was dead, the entire nation has been conducting a form of séance ever since.

Great Britain's Great War is a valuable study for all interested in the effects of World War One on the British people. Scholarly and yet entertaining, Paxman's book provides both insight and pleasure in equal measure. Once started, it is hard to put down!

Jane Mattisson Ekstam

Monday, January 27, 2014

Out of the Ordinary: Images from the Collection of Tony Langley

For the last decade I have been most fortunate to have Tony Langley of Antwerp, Belgium, as a contributing editor to all of my publications. Today we are sharing a selection of the interesting images he has sent us from his vast collection.

Hungarian Troops — Eastern Front

Advertisements with Soldiers Selling the Product
L: British Chocolate; R: German Cognac

L: A Hero from the Fighting Along the Chemin des Dames; R: Hessian Soldier with Gas Mask and Steel Helmet by Ernst Vollbehr

Ernst Vollbehr was born in Kiel in 1876 and studied painting at various academies in Germany. A born traveler, Vollbehr painted scenes during his many prewar journeys to such countries as Albania, Brazil, German West Africa, Cameroon, and Togoland. After the war he continued painting in what where then faraway and exotic lands such as India, Ceylon, Indonesia, Hawaii, California, and many others.

Enfants en Marche
From La France Illustree, No. 2201, 1917

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Centennial at the Grass Roots Series: Alabama Remembers

World War I and Alabama Remembers

From:  The Encyclopedia of Alabama

Alabama's involvement with the U.S. participation in World War I in many ways reflected the state's prewar culture, economy, society, gender and racial relations, and politics. Mobilization generated a frenzy of activity but engendered few permanent changes, other than acting as a catalyst for the Great Migration, as tradition yielded only slightly to modernism.

Young men aboard a train painted with a
Wartime Alabama

From its beginnings in August 1914, the European war created problems in Alabama. Trade disruptions beginning in 1915 and America's rapidly expanding efforts to supply the Allies affected Alabama's economy before and after the United States declared war in April 1917. Significantly, British industrial production shifted from making cloth to making war material, so its demand for southern cotton plummeted, depressing cotton prices and reducing traffic in the port of Mobile. There, city leaders tried to improve local dock facilities to attract deep-draught ships, which they hoped would make port in Mobile when trade resumed. Only a lack of capital and concerted political wrangling finally convinced the state to create the Alabama State Docks Commission, which took over dock construction in Mobile.

Events in other parts of the United States had an impact on Alabama as well. As industry began to supply the Allies with war material, more than 150,000 whites and approximately 85,000 blacks left rural Alabama for jobs in the north and in manufacturing centers elsewhere in the south. Landowners protested the resulting labor shortage and even sought to have labor recruiters from northern industries arrested, but these efforts could not stem the tide of out-migration. Birmingham suffered from a different problem shortly after the U.S. entered the conflict. Railroad traffic became snarled from New England to the Midwest, and with railcars sitting idle there, Birmingham's steel production slowed precipitously because of a lack of access to markets. Only after December did the jam clear.

Military mobilization engaged Alabama almost immediately after the United States declared war in April 1917. Powerful congressmen secured three training bases for the state.

The Thirty-seventh Ohio Division, known as the "Ohio
Ohio Boys at Camp Sheridan

The 37th Ohio "Buckeye" Division trained at Camp Sheridan, much to the delight of Montgomery's merchants, who prospered from the new business, while Army pilots from Taylor Field enthralled Montgomery's elite. Camp McClellan in Anniston hosted the 29th "Blue-Gray" Division from the mid-Atlantic region.

Alabama National Guard units, which had served in a military effort in Mexico against Francisco "Pancho" Villa's rebellion from October 1916 to April 1917, returned just in time to be mobilized for the European war. Initially, Alabama units protected public utilities and infrastructure, but in August they were mustered into federal service. The First and Second Alabama Infantry entered the Army's 31st Infantry Division, whereas the Fourth Alabama became the 167th Regiment of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division. The 167th fought in the 1918 Aisne-Marne Offensive, and the 31st remained at Camp Wheeler in Georgia.

The "Ohio boys," members of the Thirty-seventh Ohio
Ohio Boys at Camp Sheridan

In addition to providing 5,000 National Guardsmen and 7,000 other volunteers, Alabama contributed approximately 74,000 white and black draftees, called "selectmen," to the Army. Most black troops were assigned to labor battalions, but two black units that trained in Alabama, Maryland's First Separate Negro Company and Ohio's Ninth Battalion of Infantry Colored, saw action with the Ninety-third Division under French command. More than 2,500 Alabamians were killed fighting in the fields of France.

The state government prepared for war as well. Governor Charles Henderson established the Alabama Council for Defense as the local arm of the Council of National Defense and appointed administrators to state subsidiaries of various nationwide resource administrations, such as the U.S. Food Administration and the War Industries Board. The Alabama Council for Defense took more than a year to find its footing, but after reorganizing in June 1918, it coordinated the war service of more than a dozen agencies.

The Red Cross was a large part of
Red Cross Headquarters in Montgomery, 1918

Alabamians from all walks of life pitched in to help the war effort. Many joined voluntary organizations such as the Red Cross, the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense, the War Camp Community Service, the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Four-Minute Men and Women, which were groups of amateur orators who promoted the war effort. Others formed ad hoc service groups. Near Camps Sheridan and McClellan, women assisted soldiers' families, provided transportation to and from camps, and hosted social gatherings to draw soldiers away from prostitutes and saloons. Local communities, professors from Alabama State Normal School for Negroes, and women's clubs in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa organized canning factories to preserve Victory Garden produce and keep food affordable in their cities.

The war had a direct economic impact on state industry. Federal money poured into the Muscle Shoals area and led to the construction of what became Wilson Dam and two nitrate plants along the Tennessee River, although they did not contribute to the war effort. Similarly, federal contracts drove the building of ship yards near Mobile. Millions of dollars in wages flowed into both areas, but thousands of new workers encountered serious overcrowding. The war economy also improved demand for Birmingham's iron products as well as the state's timber, food, and fiber. Prices rose, and wages, job opportunities, and living standards improved.

Despite white mistrust as war fever spread across the state, black Alabamians continually demonstrated their full support for the war. Black spokesmen like R. R. Moton, G. T. Buford, Emmett Scott, and dozens of local leaders organized their segregated communities for patriotic rallies, Liberty Bond drives, draft registration, and send-offs for both black and white troop trains. Whenever possible, blacks ran parallel war services, including the Red Cross, ad hoc clubs, and even the men's and women's Four Minute speakers series.

Educator and author Robert Russa Moton (1867-1940) was
Robert R. Moton

On 11 November 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an armistice that effectively ended the war in which Americans had fought for only 19 months. World War I left a mixed legacy in Alabama. Though mobilization had demonstrated the efficiency of an expanded governmental role and had broken down some barriers to women and blacks participating in mainstream society, the war experience did not change Alabama's traditional conservatism. For example, the Alabama legislature refused to consider the Twentieth Amendment, so women in the state received the right to vote only after enough other states ratified it.

Black Americans were especially disheartened by the lack of change after the war. Believing that wholehearted participation on the home front and in the trenches would soften Jim Crow laws and practices, blacks quickly realized that their support had been in vain. Soldiers returned to segregation and inequality, and black leaders found their pleas for full citizenship ignored. In Alabama's race relations, only the memory of the hope for full rights remained.

Montgomery celebrated the return of Alabama troops and
Montgomery Victory Parade, 1919

Additional Resources

Amerine, William H. Alabama's Own in France. New York: Eaton & Gettinger, 1919.

Olliff, Martin T., ed. The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama in World War I. Tuscaloosa:        University of Alabama Press, 2008.

Scribner, Christopher MacGregor. "Progress Versus Tradition in Mobile, 1900-1920." In Mobile: The New History of Alabama's First City, edited by Michael V. R. Thomason, 156-180.         Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001.

Truss, Ruth Smith. "The Alabama National Guard from 1900 to 1920." Ph.D diss., University of   Alabama, 1992.

———. "The Alabama National Guard's 167th Infantry Regiment in World War I." Alabama Review 56 (January 2003): 3-34.

Martin T. Olliff

Troy University

Saturday, January 25, 2014

25 January: Happy Birthday Robert Burns

With Scotland's sons deeply involved in the war, the memory of Robert Burns was drawn upon for recruitment and inspiration. In 1787, Robert Burns had written the Address to the Haggis in celebration of Scotland’s national dish. It is traditionally recited before eating the Haggis on the occasion of Burns's birthday.  Scots-Canadian Robert Service, who drove an ambulance on the Western Front, contributed his own poem on the occasion of Burns's birthday that combines the trench experience with the eating of the Haggis.

The Haggis of Private McPhee
Robert Service

"Hae ye heard whit ma auld mither's postit tae me? 
It fair maks me hamesick," says Private McPhee. 
"And whit did she send ye?" says Private McPhun, 
As he cockit his rifle and bleezed at a Hun. 
"A haggis! A Haggis!" says Private McPhee; 
"The brawest big haggis I ever did see. 
And think! it's the morn when fond memory turns 
Tae haggis and whuskey--the Birthday o' Burns. 
We maun find a dram; then we'll ca' in the rest 
O' the lads, and we'll hae a Burns' Nicht wi' the best."

"Be ready at sundoon," snapped Sergeant McCole; 
"I want you two men for the List'nin' Patrol." 
Then Private McPhee looked at Private McPhun: 
"I'm thinkin', ma lad, we're confoundedly done." 
Then Private McPhun looked at Private McPhee: 
"I'm thinkin' auld chap, it's a' aff wi' oor spree." 
But up spoke their crony, wee Wullie McNair: 
"Jist lea' yer braw haggis for me tae prepare; 
And as for the dram, if I search the camp roun', 
We maun hae a drappie tae jist haud it doon. 
Sae rin, lads, and think, though the nicht it be black, 
O' the haggis that's waitin' ye when ye get back." 

My! but it wis waesome on Naebuddy's Land, 
And the deid they were rottin' on every hand. 
And the rockets like corpse candles hauntit the sky, 
And the winds o' destruction went shudderin' by. 
There wis skelpin' o' bullets and skirlin' o' shells, 
And breengin' o' bombs and a thoosand death-knells; 
But cooryin' doon in a Jack Johnson hole 
Little fashed the twa men o' the List'nin' Patrol. 
For sweeter than honey and bricht as a gem 
Wis the thocht o' the haggis that waitit for them.

Yet alas! in oor moments o' sunniest cheer 
Calamity's aften maist cruelly near. 
And while the twa talked o' their puddin' divine 
The Boches below them were howkin' a mine. 
And while the twa cracked o' the feast they would hae, 
The fuse it wis burnin' and burnin' away. 
Then sudden a roar like the thunner o' doom, 
A hell-leap o' flame . . . then the wheesht o' the tomb.

"Haw, Jock! Are ye hurtit?" says Private McPhun. 
"Ay, Geordie, they've got me; I'm fearin' I'm done. 
It's ma leg; I'm jist thinkin' it's aff at the knee; 
Ye'd best gang and leave me," says Private McPhee. 
"Oh leave ye I wunna," says Private McPhun; 
"And leave ye I canna, for though I micht run, 
It's no faur I wud gang, it's no muckle I'd see: 
I'm blindit, and that's whit's the maitter wi' me." 
Then Private McPhee sadly shakit his heid: 
"If we bide here for lang, we'll be bidin' for deid. 
And yet, Geordie lad, I could gang weel content 
If I'd tasted that haggis ma auld mither sent." 
"That's droll," says McPhun; "ye've jist speakit 
     ma mind. 

Oh I ken it's a terrible thing tae be blind; 
And yet it's no that that embitters ma lot-- 
It's missin' that braw muckle haggis ye've got." 
For a while they were silent; then up once again 
Spoke Private McPhee, though he whussilt wi' pain: 
"And why should we miss it? Between you and me 
We've legs for tae run, and we've eyes for tae see. 
You lend me your shanks and I'll lend you ma sicht, 
And we'll baith hae a kyte-fu' o' haggis the nicht."

Oh the sky it wis dourlike and dreepin' a wee, 
When Private McPhun gruppit Private McPhee. 
Oh the glaur it wis fylin' and crieshin' the grun', 
When Private McPhee guidit Private McPhun. 
"Keep clear o' them corpses--they're maybe no deid! 
Haud on! There's a big muckle crater aheid. 
Look oot! There's a sap; we'll be haein' a coup. 
A staur-shell! For Godsake! Doun, lad, on yer daup. 
Bear aff tae yer richt. . . . Aw yer jist daein' fine: 
Before the nicht's feenished on haggis we'll dine." 

There wis death and destruction on every hand; 
There wis havoc and horror on Naebuddy's Land. 
And the shells bickered doun wi' a crump and a glare, 
And the hameless wee bullets were dingin' the air. 
Yet on they went staggerin', cooryin' doun 
When the stutter and cluck o' a Maxim crept roun'. 
And the legs o' McPhun they were sturdy and stoot, 
And McPhee on his back kept a bonnie look-oot. 
"On, on, ma brave lad! We're no faur frae the goal; 
I can hear the braw sweerin' o' Sergeant McCole."

But strength has its leemit, and Private McPhun, 
Wi' a sab and a curse fell his length on the grun'. 
Then Private McPhee shoutit doon in his ear: 
"Jist think o' the haggis! I smell it from here. 
It's gushin' wi' juice, it's embaumin' the air; 
It's steamin' for us, and we're--jist--aboot--there." 
Then Private McPhun answers: "Dommit, auld chap! 
For the sake o' that haggis I'll gang till I drap." 
And he gets on his feet wi' a heave and a strain, 
And onward he staggers in passion and pain. 
And the flare and the glare and the fury increase, 
Till you'd think they'd jist taken a' hell on a lease. 
And on they go reelin' in peetifu' plight, 
And someone is shoutin' away on their right; 
And someone is runnin', and noo they can hear 
A sound like a prayer and a sound like a cheer; 
And swift through the crash and the flash and the din, 
The lads o' the Hielands are bringin' them in.

"They're baith sairly woundit, but is it no droll 
Hoo they rave aboot haggis?" says Sergeant McCole. 
When hirplin alang comes wee Wullie McNair, 
And they a' wonnert why he wis greetin' sae sair. 
And he says: "I'd jist liftit it oot o' the pot, 
And there it lay steamin' and savoury hot, 
When sudden I dooked at the fleech o' a shell, 
And it--dropped on the haggis and dinged it tae hell."

And oh but the lads were fair taken aback; 
Then sudden the order wis passed tae attack, 
And up from the trenches like lions they leapt, 
And on through the nicht like a torrent they swept. 
On, on, wi' their bayonets thirstin' before! 
On, on tae the foe wi' a rush and a roar! 
And wild to the welkin their battle-cry rang, 
And doon on the Boches like tigers they sprang: 
And there wisna a man but had death in his ee, 
For he thocht o' the haggis o' Private McPhee. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Western Front Virtual Tour— Stop 5: Ypres, North of the Menin Road

Western Front Virtual Tour —
Stop 5: Ypres, North of the Menin Road

This week we visit some of the most famous sites on the northern side of the Menin Road. The first three stops figured in the earlier battles of 1914 or 1915, and the last two in the later campaigns. Please keep in mind we are just showing a selection of the most impressive sites on the Western Front. The Ypres Salient has dozens of sites worth stopping at.

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Next Week: Ypres,  Down the Menin Road

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sites of the October Revolution in St. Petersburg
from Steve Miller's Collection

Finland Station

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The Finland Station  was built by Finnish State Railways as the eastern terminus of the Riihimäkt-St. Petersburg railroad. It was designed by Swedish architects and opened in 1870. The station formerly contained a special pavilion for Russian royalty. It is the site where Lenin first arrived in April 1917 from Switzerland and whence he fled in disguise in August 1917. Lenin is still remembered with a statue in front of the station.  Before dawn on Wednesday 1 April 2009 a bomb exploded in the statue of Lenin, creating an 80cm–100cm hole in the back of the statue.

About the Name of the City
 In 1914 the name of the city was changed from St. Petersburg to Petrograd, 
in 1924 to Leningrad, and in 1991 back to St. Petersburg.

Cruiser Aurora

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The armored cruiser Aurora was built in St. Petersburg at the turn of the century and survived the Battle of Tsushima, in which most of Russia's Pacific Fleet was destroyed. Early in WWI it patrolled the Baltic and served as a training vessel. During the October Revolution of 1917 Aurora gave the signal (by firing a blank shot) to storm of the Winter Palace. Members of the crew are believed (possibly this is a legend) to have participated in the attack at the palace.

Cruiser Aurora Interior and Commemoration

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Peter and Paul Fortress

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During the earlier February Revolution of 1917, Peter and Paul Fortress was attacked by mutinous soldiers of the Pavlovskii Regiment on 27 February and freed the prisoners. Under the Provisional Government hundreds of tsarist officials were held in the fortress. On 4 July when the Bolsheviks attempted a coup, the fortress garrison of 8,000 men declared for the Bolsheviks. They surrendered to government forces without a struggle on 6 July.

On 25 October, again the fortress quickly came into Bolshevik hands. Following the ultimatum from the Petrograd Soviet to the Provisional Government ministers in the Winter Palace, after the blank salvo of the cruiser Aurora at 21:00, the guns of the Fortress fired 30 or so shells at the Winter Palace. Only two actually hit, inflicting minor damage, and the defenders refused to surrender — at that time.

Winter Palace

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In 1905, the Winter Palace was the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre on Palace Square that marked the beginning of the end for the power of the Romanov dynasty. It saw the official opening of the first Duma in 1906 and the presence Nicholas II and Alexandra to accept the salute of troops departing for the front in 1914. During the war it was transformed into a temporary hospital for wounded soldiers.

Winter Palace Interior

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In 1917, after Nicholas II's abdication and the February Revolution, the Winter Palace became the seat of the Provisional Government under Alexander Kerensky. On 25 October with the Provisional Government holding out inside the Winter Palace, the Bolsheviks captured the surrounding buildings in Government Square, one b yone. At 02:10 on the morning of 26 October the Winter Palace was taken by forces under Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, and the captured ministers were taken to the Peter and Paul Fortress as prisoners. Today it is part of the Hermitage Museum complex.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Remembering the Veterans: James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters Band

James Reese Europe and the
Harlem Hellfighters Band

by permission from Glen Watkins's 

Proof Through the Night: Music and the Great War

Lt. Europe and the Band Aboard Ship

John Philip Sousa . . . was not the only American bandsman to play a crucial role during the Great War . . . [I]n many ways the black musician James Reese Europe was equally consequential. Europe was born in Mobile, AL, in 1880, and when he was nine years old his family moved to Washington, DC, where they lived just a few doors from the Sousa residence. Sousa and the Marine Band claimed a long-standing relationship with the black community in Washington. Members of the band also taught promising black children. Among them was young James Reese Europe, who received instruction in piano and violin. 

In 1904 Europe went to New York, where he directed shows and, in 1910, organized a black musicians' union. Performances with his own symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall followed, and almost overnight Europe achieved professional notice as both composer and conductor . . . 

Noble Sissle
Bandmaster & Vocalist

In the summer of 1916, almost a year before America entered the war, a new all-black regiment of the New York National Guard was formed, and that September Europe enlisted as a private and was immediately assigned to a machine gun company. By this time Jim Europe had developed important associations with musicians like James Herber (Eubie) Blake and Noble Sissle, and Europe explained to the latter that, having lived in New York for sixteen years, he felt the need for an organization of Negro men that could "bring together all classes of men for a common good." Sissle enlisted shortly after Europe, and their commanding officer, recognizing the importance of music and parades in establishing morale, asked Europe to organize and develop the finest band in the U.S. Army. Initially Europe was reluctant, but when his requests for an expansion of the standard complement of twenty-eight musicians to forty-four and a handsomely increased budget were met, . . he relented . . . 

Jim Europe's growing sense of patriotism was especially remarkable in light of the persistent discrimination that he and all black American soldiers encountered. Following America's entrance into the war, for example, a request by the 15th Regiment for inclusion in the farewell parade down Fifth Avenue was rejected. This insult was compounded by a remark made to Europe as they marched off to join the Rainbow Division in France, to the effect that "black was not one of the colors of the rainbow." Shortly thereafter the announcement that the 15th Regiment would take up training at Spartanburg, SC, brought a warning from the town's mayor, dutifully reported in the New York Times, that "with their northern ideas about race equality, they will probably expect to be treated like white men." 

A series of racist incidents followed. Although the band's concerts were warmly appreciated by many Spartanburg residents, it was ultimately deemed best that the all-black regiment be transferred. Rather than indicate retreat by shipping them to another location in the United States, it was determined that the group should be sent to France to complete their training. Ultimately the regiment joined a convoy to France, arriving on New Year's Day 1918. They were the first black American combat group to set foot on French soil, and their band immediately struck up the "Marseillaise" in a rhythmically spirited rendition that French soldiers initially failed to recognize as their own national anthem. Orders came from General Pershing to proceed to a center where an engineering detachment was busy building facilities to support a multi-million-man force, and musical instruments were exchanged for pick and shovel. Assignments were made even more difficult by the traditional injunction against black soldiers serving with white ones. 

Eventually American entertainment organizers got word that Europe's band was in France, and when they heard the group in person they were completely won over. Orders followed from General Pershing to have them transferred to a location where they could entertain soldiers who were on a week's leave. In the period that followed, Europe and his band played in numerous places, and programs that featured Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "plantation" melodies and finished with "Memphis Blues" invariably brought down the house. "Jazz spasms" and "ragtime-itis," to use Sissle's words, worked the crowds into a frenzy. France, which had previously "gone ragtime wild" over performances by John Philip Sousa in 1900 now came down with a high fever. 

Europe the Musician

Repeated attempts to have the 15th Regiment reassigned to combat duty fell on deaf ears because of America's Jim Crow policies. The unit was given two choices: return to the United States and await assignment to a proposed black division, or accept immediate transfer to the French Army, which had already integrated French colonial troops into its ranks and was now in desperate need of reinforcements. The regiment's commanding officer accepted the latter proposal at once, and at the end of March Europe's regiment, carrying the colors of New York State, marched to the front and became the first American unit to join a French combat force. The 15th Infantry Regiment vanished and the 369th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, was born. 

The soldiers of the new Trois Cents Soixante-Neuvième, as they were dubbed, soon impressed the French as well as the enemy with their adeptness at throwing grenades and in hand-to-hand bayonet combat. Although the signs of bigotry typically encountered with American troops remained largely out of sight, numerous cartoons of the period emphasized that the Poilu was French and white, and portrayed black soldiers "as stupid and even savage." The Germans also bristled and charged that the Allies had "brought black troops to subdue European soldiers. . ." 

Nonetheless, genuine friendships developed between the French and black American soldiers, and the level of cooperation between the two forces seemed nothing short of miraculous in light of recent experiences in the U.S. Army. Here both sides needed each other. They were soon ordered to move closer to the front, and Lieutenant Europe turned over his responsibilities with the band and took charge of instructing his troops in the use of the French machine guns and protection from gas attacks. Europe was the first black American officer to lead his troops into combat during the Great War, and of that he was understandably very proud. During this period Europe gained firsthand experience with raids into No Man's Land, and in time so did his troops. Sissle remained behind with the regimental band, which continued to perform . . . 

Europe and his machine gunners came under heavy German artillery fire during the third week in June 1918, and Europe, the victim of a gas attack, was transferred to a field hospital. When Sissle arrived at the gas ward to check on him, Europe was propped up in bed with a notebook in his hands. As Sissle approached, Europe announced that he had just completed the chorus of "On Patrol in No Man's Land," based on the bombardment the night before. It was to become one of the band's most popular hits after the group's return to the United States. 

On Patrol in No Man's Land

What the time? Nine?
Fall in line
Alright, boys, now take it slow
Are you ready? Steady!
Very good, Eddie.
Over the top, let's go
Quiet, lie it, else you'll start a riot
Keep your proper distance, follow 'long
Cover, brother, and when you see me hover
Obey my orders and you won't go wrong
There's a Minenwerfer coming —
look out (bang!)
Hear that roar (bang!), there's one more (bang!)
Stand fast, there's a Very light
Don't gasp or they'll find you all right
Don't start to bombing with those hand grenades (rat-a-tat-tat-tat)
There's a machine gun, holy spades!
Alert, gas! Put on your mask
Adjust it correctly and hurry up fast
Drop! There's a rocket from the Boche barrage
Down, hug the ground, close as you can, don't stand
Creep and crawl, follow me, that's all
What do you hear? Nothing near
Don't fear, all is clear
That's the life of a stroll
When you take a patrol
Out in No Man's Land
Ain't it grand?
Out in No Man's Land

Europe the Warrior

Jim Europe was sent to Paris for a few weeks to recover from the gas attack, and then, in August, his band was ordered back to Paris to give a concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. The program, dominated by national airs, was ecstatically received. In the fading months of the war Europe's group played countless concerts that held Allied audiences spellbound. . .Europe could report that although his band. . .played to 50,000 people, at least, and, had we wished it, we might be playing yet." 

A few weeks after the Armistice the "Hellfighters" of the 369th Infantry Regiment were awarded the Croix de Guerre. And when the final tally was made, it was discovered that the 191 days the regiment had spent in action was the longest stretch served by any group of American soldiers, black or white, during the Great War. Yet they had always fought attached to a foreign service and had never been attached to an American brigade or division. 

The regiment arrived back in the United States on SS La France on 12 February 1919, and five days later they held a joyous victory parade up Fifth Avenue and home to Harlem. The less pleasant memories of the regiment's departure in the fall of 1917 were momentarily erased, and the denial of permission to black troops to join in the victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, following the Civil War was all but forgotten. . . 

Jim Europe was discharged from active duty on 25 February 1919, and he immediately set about making plans for a national tour with his 369th Hellfighters. It was launched on March 16 with a performance in New York. . . Four recording sessions were held during this period,. 

The Glorious Return Home of the 369th Infantry

After so recently escaping death at the front, Europe was fatally stabbed in Boston on 9 May 1919, only two days after the fourth recording session, by his drummer, Herbert Wright, following a professional reprimand. James Reese Europe's promise had been prematurely stilled . . .

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dark Invasion: 1915 — 
Reviewed by James Gallen

Dark Invasion: 1915 — 
Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America

by Howard Blum
Published by Harper, 2014

Studies of America's involvement in World War I usually focus on unrestrained submarine warfare, the Zimmerman Telegram, Theodore Roosevelt's drumbeat for war, and President Wilson's reluctance to get involved. Dark Invasion shows that the story began much earlier, shortly after the opening shots of the war.

Author Howard Blum lifts the veil from Germany's covert war against the country that, although officially neutral, was a major supplier of war materials to the Allies. Its goal was to disrupt the supply of materials flowing to the Allies from the U. S. and Canada by working in conjunction with the U-boats plying the North Atlantic, all while remaining clandestine so as to avoid driving America into belligerency. It was a war ordered by authorities in Berlin and fought between a network of German spies and the New York City Police Bomb and Neutrality Squad led by Captain Tom Tunney.

Captain Tom Tunney, NYPD

Broad in scope, this war included an aborted attempt to disable the Welland Canal, attacks against the Canadian Pacific Railway, delayed action "cigar" incendiaries placed amidst sugar shipments (sugar is flammable), bombs aboard ships, germ attacks against "war horses" destined for shipping to the Allies, the instigation of labor strikes, a bombing of the U. S. Capitol, and an assassination attempt against one of Britain's prime American financiers, J. P. Morgan, as well as German overtures toward Mexican officials, in and out of power. The results of the covert war did not end with the end of World War I itself, but linger on in responses to the crises including the founding of the Bureau of Investigation, predecessor of the FBI, enhanced requirements for passports and the criminalization of spying.

Order Now

Dark Invasion portrays Germany as viewing America as an enemy long before declarations of war. Neutrality was national policy, but private Americans executed their own policies to aid both the Allies and Germany. True, Germany as well as the Allies could buy American goods, but the Royal Navy control of the seas prevented their delivery. Crews of German vessels stranded in the U.S. by the blockade provided recruits willing to fight for the Fatherland in the land of their exile. While the stories of the fires aboard ships, the bombing of the Capitol, and the shooting of Morgan were reported in the press, their association with Germany was of necessity covered up to permit the continued resistance to the pressures for war. White House meetings had to balance the need to defend American interests without giving the jingoes an issue with which to build an irresistible demand for war.

Although the word "terror" is used in connection with the German operation, I think it is not totally appropriate. Terror attempts to achieve its goals through terrorizing the population, not by the direct results of the actions themselves. The German goal was to prevent the delivery of war supplies to the Allies by sinking ships, poisoning horses, eliminating a source of credit and creating labor unrest, not by frightening the American people into inaction. While the methods were similar to later Homeland Security challenges, Germany's war against America involved more direct means.

Wanted Poster for German Agent

The attraction of a book is not just the story it tells but also the way it tells it. This history is presented in the form of a "whodunit" mystery. The maneuvering between German agents, British intelligence, and the Bomb and Neutrality Squad maintains suspense for those who do not know what happened and how it will end. The cast of characters helps follow the narrative that shifts from the viewpoint of Tunney and his antagonists. This work is the result of extensive research with quotes from and copies of original documents and photos. Even the title is derived from Dark Invader, the memoirs of Franz von Rintelen, the German spy network's chief operative in America in 1915. For me it placed the early phases of the war and debates over American involvement in an entirely new light. I recommend this to anyone interested in America's road to the Great War.

James Gallen

Monday, January 20, 2014

D'Annunzio's Flight to Vienna

Eyewitness: D'Annunzio's Flight to Vienna, 
9 August 1918

D'Annunzio and His Pilot, Capt. Palli, Before the Mission

Gabriele D'Annunzio, poet, propagandist, and already a war hero, took command of Italy's First Air Torpedo Squadron in March 1918 and subsequently set up the San Marco Squadron that bombed Pola. He decided to wage psychological war on the Austrian public with a spectacular aviation feat. On his third attempt, D'Annunzio succeeded in leading a squadron of eight aircraft to Vienna and dropping 400,000 propaganda pamphlets written in Italian and German. The remarkable feat involved a 621-mile trip, twice crossing the Alps at 10,000 feet. His account of the flight:

D'Annunzio Preparing for takeoff

When we left at 6 o'clock in the morning the weather was splendid, but we soon were enveloped in a thick mist. We kept at a height varying from 8,000 to 11,000 feet. In crossing our former frontier I was deeply affected at looking down upon Cividale and the wide stretches of our country that have been held for the last nine months by the enemy. 

We reached Vienna about 8 o'clock in the morning and descended to within 1,500 feet. The people in the streets were at first terrified and fled in panic until they saw that we were throwing out only manifestoes. Then crowds assembled and watched in intense curiosity. I particularly wished to approach close to the museum that contains the authentic image of St. Catherine of Alexandria, and made a detour which permitted observation of this point.

The weather became bad on our return trip, and we experienced dangerous air currents while crossing the Alps. We also were attacked by hostile artillery fire and a fleet of hydroplanes, but came through safely by noon of the same day.

The Manifesto authored by D'Annuzio himself:

People of Vienna: You are fated to know the Italians. We are flying over Vienna and could drop tons of bombs; on the the contrary, we leave a salutation and the flag with its colors of liberty.

We Italians do not make war on children, the aged, and women. We make war on your Government, which is the enemy of the liberty of nations—on your blind, wanton, cruel Government, which gives you neither peace nor bread and nurtures you on hatred and illusions.

People of Vienna: You have the reputation of being intelligent; why then, do you wear the Prussian uniform? Now you see the entire world is against you. Do you wish to continue the war? Keep on then, but it will be your suicide. What can you hope from the victory promised you by the Prussian Generals? Their decisive victory is like the bread of the Ukraine—one dies while awaiting it.

People of Vienna, think of your dear ones, awake!

Long live liberty, Italy and the Entente!

New York Times article
11 August 1918 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

100 Years Ago: Quotes from January 1914

Headline, Bible Students Monthly, January 1914

Our relations with Germany are infinitely more friendly now than they have been for years. . . Never has the sky been more perfectly blue.
David Lloyd George

Suffragists, New York City, January 1914

Today's tendency is for peace in Europe, also exists in the Russian empire.
Count Frigyes Szapáry de Szapár, Austria's Ambassador to Russia

I rather agree with you that the draft report /on Britain's finances if war disrupted North Sea trade] is pessimistic, but I have endeavored throughout to interpret the general feeling of the subcommittee, which, I fear, is rather on the pessimistic side.
Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence

Where beauty murmurs to the soul asleep:
And I shall know the sense of life reborn
From dreams into the mystery of morn. . .
Siegfried Sassoon, Idyll

We have,decided upon and at once put into effect through all the branches of our industries the five day week. Hereafter there will be no more work with us on Saturdays and Sundays. These will be free days, but the men, according to merit, will receive the same pay equivalent as for a full six day week. A day will continue to be eight hours, with no overtime.
Henry Ford

I never knew the beautiful word youth.
Adolf Hitler

The way to stop financial joy-riding is to arrest the chauffeur, not the automobile.
Woodrow Wilson

War Alarm Scares Berlin.  Active Week Ends in Gloom Through Balkan Unrest
New York Times

Well, [Crown Prince] William is no diplomat, I will admit, but I believe the fellow has got marrow in his bones.  He will turn out our Moltke yet.
Kaiser Wilhelm II

Mona Lisa, Stolen from the Louvre in 1911, Returned, January 1914

London Mark Buoyant—Paris Prices Firm—Berlin Shows Great Strength
The Times

What indeed is the army?  it is termed the people in arms. . .No. When the army is spoke of, something entirely differenct is meant — it is the caste of officers, who consider themselves the army, the upholders of the defense of the nation.  As a matter of fact, there is deep a line of demarcation running through the army as that which has been created in agricultural life between the great owner of the materials of production and the "have-nots."
Karl Kautsky, Editor of Neue Zeit