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

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Black Sox and the Great War

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

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

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

The 1919 White Sox in Happier Days

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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Great (and Free) Centennial Resource for Families: Fold3's Honor Wall

Fold3 is's military records subscription service for which they charge an annual fee. However, the have included a wonderful national resource as part of the site at no charge to visit or post information. The name of the service, "Fold3", refers to the triangular shape of the folded American flag with the stars of the blue field visible. 

Fold3's Honor Wall is an effort to create a searchable listing and, when possible, to allow the posting of photos, biographical data, anecdotes and tributes for every individual who has served in America's wars since the Revolution.  Here is a snapshot of the World War I homepage, note the search box and the collage of individual images, which is actually a constantly rotating carousel of photos:

To visit this page and search for WWI veterans, just click on:
(Click on the World War I icon.)

The best feature of the site is the capability to create galleries [albums] to honor any veteran listed on the site. Contributors are required to register (again at no charge), but this will allow the posting of a whole range of data and images to honor a specific veteran.  Here is one page from the gallery created for notable aviator Frank Luke of the 27th Aero Squadron.

This is one way families can record honor their service to the nation.  In a future posting we will discuss another way, provided through the Veteran's History Project of the Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sarajevo, 28 June 1914:
100 Years Ago
by Tony Langley

The Archduke's Vehicle About to Make a Fateful Wrong Turn
Note the Beer Bottle Sign

If ever it were justified to talk of a "shot heard round the world," then those fired by Gavrilo (Gabriel) Princip in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 would surely top the list. Two pistol shots fired by an underage Serbian nationalist killed the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife by morganatic marriage, Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg, setting off a chain of events and machinations that would ultimately cause the Great War of 1914–1919. Princip was part of a Serb nationalist conspiracy to assassinate the archduke during a state visit to Sarajevo. There were six active and mostly underage members who traveled 300 hazardous miles overland from Belgrade in Serbia to Sarajevo in recently annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, with concealed guns and bombs. All six had vowed to assassinate the archduke and commit suicide afterward to avoid capture.

A first attempt to kill Franz Ferdinand was by throwing a bomb into his moving car. This failed, and the bomb thrower, 19-year-old student Nedeljko Čabrinović after attempting suicide by ingesting cyanide powder, was caught by the police and arrested.

The royal visit was not aborted, and after continuing with the planned upon itinerary, by the greatest ill fortune imaginable, the open limousine containing the royal couple took a wrong turn and while attempting to back out of the street, came to a stop almost directly in front of the unsuspecting conspirator Gavrilo Princip. He took out his pistol and blindly shot twice into the car, mortally hitting both the archduke and the duchess.

Actual Site Shortly After the Assassination
Princip Had Just Purchased a Sandwich at the Delicatessen

Princip, too, took his non-fatal suicide potion and was prevented from using his own pistol to kill himself by a bystander. He was arrested on the spot and taken, vomiting from the cyanide, into police custody. Anti-Serb riots broke out in the city immediately the news was spread.

Eventually all six conspirators were arrested and brought to trial. Due to the complexities of Austrian law, all were charged with high treason and another 19 people as accomplices in varying degrees. No murder charge was brought. Unsurprisingly, all six main conspirators were found guilty and three were sentenced to death. The others, being under 20 years of age, were by Austrian law not subject to the death penalty. Nine of the lesser defendants were acquitted, though one of these was still in captivity at the war's end. Princip and two others received 20 years. The rest received lesser sentences.

This does not mean they were treated with any leniency or even much humanity. Far from it, for they were severely beaten and starved during their imprisonment, condemned to wear a ball and chain, to being handcuffed to walls, and to enhanced solitary confinement and fasting days every month, with additional hardships imposed on anniversaries of the assassination. Food was issued in five-day rations at a time so that it spoiled before new rations were brought. There was no lighting or heating in the cells. Reading matter was forbidden, as was anything but the most elementary medical care of bandaging wounds. In fact, because of their continuing beatings by guards and other ill-wishers, all prisoners developed large suppurating sores on their bodies and several died during captivity in 1916. Princip himself developed tuberculosis of the bones, had his left arm amputated after continued requests and died on 28 April 1918 in the fortress prison of Terezin, or Theresienstadt, which would during the Second World War be turned into a "model" concentration camp by the Nazi regime.

Naturally the events of 28 June 1914 were the subject of intense coverage by the media in all countries, and while several photos were made of events immediately after both assassination attempts, the actual shooting was not caught on photo. This meant that magazines, newspapers, and, later on, history books would commission illustrations and drawings of the shooting.

Click on Image to Expand

Two Depictions of the Assassination from the Period and a Recent Photo of the Site

The two commercial illustrations were not really accurate renderings of the events. In the two shown above, there is a confusion about which side of the limousine Princip shot from and the setting (see current photo of the site) is not accurately captured. In one drawing the archduke is shot from the left and in the other from the right. In both drawings he is standing up, seemingly aware of the impending danger and thereby striking a more masculine and defiant pose. In reality the shots came unawares to the couple. In one of the drawings it appears as if the duchess was shot first and that the archduke is trying to protect her. In reality, he was shot first and instinctively fell over his wife, trying to protect her from bullets. This is just as commendable an action as that portrayed in the drawing, but somehow less heroic-looking. Moreover, Princip, when pulling the trigger, averted his head and turned away from the car, shooting blindly, and by the cruelest of circumstances mortally hitting both archduke and duchess with one bullet apiece. And so theatrical-looking heroics and determined villains end up trumping actual events.

Nevertheless, despite these consistent inaccuracies portraying the assassination, the image of a single assassin shooting into an open limousine has become an almost iconic and recognizable historic event.

Sarajevo images from the collections of Tony Langley and Steve Miller. This article was originally published one year ago on the 99th anniversary of the event.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Western Front Virtual Tour — Stop 24: Mametz Wood

Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood. . .
                                   Robert Graves, Poem

The 38th (Welsh) Division was recruited from battalions of the Welsh Regiment, South Wales Borderers, and Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1914. Lloyd George had a heavy hand in the raising of the formation, one of his sons being an officer in the division. It crossed to France in late 1915 and came down to fight on the Somme in July 1916. The first attack on Mametz Wood was on 7 July, when the division lost heavily in "Death Valley" during the advance on the "Hammer Head". The next attack went in on the 10th, and by 14 July the wood was cleared -- but at the cost of over 5,000 casualties in the 38th (Welsh) Division. A memorial was placed in Mametz Church in the 1920s, but this Red Dragon monument was placed here in the late 1980s on the wishes of a number of Mametz Wood veterans.

Text Source:  Paul Reed's Somme Battlefield Website:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

100 Years Ago: Quotes from June 1914

Pressure from the southern Slavs is bound to increase.
The Nation, 4 June 1914

Thunderstorm in London

The giant storm [of 14 June] that broke over South London was a phenomenon quite outside the previous experience of any who lived through it.  At high noon, day became night — illuminated by sheets of blood red lightning and accompanied by a racketting thunder seemingly orchestrate by a malevolent intent on an evil outcome to the excesses of Nature's power. . . In the area of Wandworth Common eleven people were struck by lightning. Seven of them died.
Newspaper Accounts

Released in Book Form June 1914


Long, steel guns,
Pointed from the war ships
In the name of the war god.
Straight, shining, polished guns,
Clambered over with jackies in white blouses,
Glory of tan faces, tousled hair, white teeth,
Laughing lithe jackies in white blouses,
Sitting on the guns singing war songs, war chanties.

Broad, iron shovels,
Scooping out oblong vaults,
Loosening turf and leveling sod.

I ask you
To witness--
The shovel is brother to the gun.
Carl Sandburg, published in Poetry Magazine, June 1914

We stand for the Reality of the Present — not for the sentimental future. . . We need the unconsciousness of Humanity — their stupidity, animal-ism and dreams.  We believe in no perfectibility except our own.
Vorticist Manifesto, Blast, No. 1, 20 June 1914

But it is too late. The attempts at the suppression of a feeble effort like THE WOMAN REBEL only add fuel to the fire, only strengthen our cause, create new interest, and rejuvenate the revolutionary spirit in women. It is altogether too late to attempt a suppression of this idea of free bodies among working women.

If THE WOMAN REBEL were allowed to publish with impunity elementary and fundamental truths concerning personal liberty and how to obtain it, the birth control movement would become a movement of tremendous power in the emancipation of the working class. The attempted suppression is thus primarily a blow at the entire working class of America, intended for no other purpose than to retard the economic and spiritual emancipation of working men, women and children. . . Nothing will cause the downfall of parasitic institutions like the Church, the State, and Big Business more than these attempts at suppression.
Margaret Sanger,  "Suppression," The Woman Rebel, Vol. 1, No. 4, June 1914

Published June 1914

The [recent economic] troubles are not political, but social. Human history and experience teach that things go around in circles. We are now in a part of the circle which I shall not endeavor to classify. We are troubled with an epidemic of emotion among people who don’t stop to reflect. Radical doctrines are merely a sign of the times. Some day there will be a further swing around the circle and then you will see a change.
Senator George Edmunds (Vermont), Interview, 25 June 1914

What is the good of your speeches? I come to Sarajevo on a visit, and I get bombs thrown at me. It is outrageous.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Sarajevo City Hall, 28 June 1914

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Coming Soon in America [I hope]: 37 Days

My correspondents in the UK have sent word that an excellent three-part docudrama on the July Crisis of 1914 has been presented on BBC2.  Titled 37 Days [28 June – 4 August 1914], it covers the period from the assassination of the Archduke to Britain's entry into the war. As one reviewer described it, "Judging by the unshowy casting, 37 Days isn't supposed to be the flagship drama of the BBC's centenary season, but it's terrifically well written, all the same. The dialogue, in particular, does an excellent job of conveying both the prevalent political mood and any diplomatic subtleties that might otherwise be lost on modern viewers."

Naturally, I'm unable to find any plans to show the series in the U.S. — I've checked the "usual suspects", PBS and BBC America, but have not seen any announcement yet. Please let me know if you see something about its broadcast in the States and I will pass it on to the readers. Here are some stills from the series. The casting might have been "unshowy", as the reviewer put it, but — as is almost invariably the case in UK productions — the actors look perfect for their roles. [Except Churchill, middle photo far right,  looks a little too lean. Maybe he sounds Churchillian.] 

[Regular Contributor Steve Miller has pointed out that they got the seating positions incorrect here. Sophie was on the right side in all photos of the day. Good catch Steve.]

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World — reviewed by Jim Gallen

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World
by Greg King and Sue Woolmans
St. Martin's Press, 2013

The Assassination of the Archduke tells the history of the first family tragedy of World War I, affecting as it did both the family of nations and the family of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The family story is complicated. Franz Ferdinand was not born heir to the throne. He reached it through a series of misfortunes. The Emperor's son Rudolph, the heir, embarrassed the Imperial Family by committing suicide after murdering his mistress. That made Franz Ferdinand's father, brother of the Emperor, heir presumptive until his death in 1896, at which time the title of heir was assumed by Franz Ferdinand.

Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were star-crossed lovers who made their own way to their tragic end. As merely a countess and lady-in-waiting, Sophie was an unsuitable match for an heir to the Habsburg throne. Although the Emperor reluctantly gave his permission for a morganatic marriage, in which neither Sophie nor their children would hold royal titles, he and his court never lost an opportunity to enforce distinctions in rank between the lovers. Besides the problems of his marriage, Franz Ferdinand's relatively liberal political views made him an outsider among the Empire's ruling elite.

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Franz Ferdinand's position as inspector general of the army brought him to observe maneuvers near Sarajevo. His plans to make a low-key trip without a visit to the city were foiled by the insistence of Oskar Potiorek, governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the orders of the Emperor. All of the warnings were ignored. St. Vitus Day, 28 June, the Serb national holiday commemorating the 1389 Battle of Kosovo when the Turkish army reduced Serbia to vassal status in the Ottoman Empire, was a likely occasion for a demonstration by Black Hand Serbian nationalists.

Pamphlets denouncing the visit were circulated in advance. Leaving the train station, the motorcade passed several assassins along the route. The first threw a bomb that exploded under the following car. While speeding to the Town Hall the royal party passed three other assassins. At the Town Hall reception the Archduke expressed outrage over the bombing. Deciding to visit victims of the morning's bombing, the party headed toward the hospital. A wrong turn took them past the leader of the assassins, Gavrilo Princip, who fired one shot each into Franz Ferdinand and Sophie. Both were pronounced dead at the governor's residence.

Fanciful Depiction of the Assassination from Le Petit Journal

The authors point out that the assassination need not have ignited the firestorm that it did. Franz Joseph did not seem overly disturbed by the assassination of his troublesome nephew. The murder actually provided the opportunity Austria had been seeking to put the Serbs in their place. Kaiser Wilhelm advised Franz Joseph to deal with Serbia before any other powers could get involved. Ultimatums and responses flew back and forth between Vienna and Belgrade while Serbia consulted Russia. Within a month Europe was mobilizing and in its death waltz of war.

It is a multifaceted story. The art of authors Greg King and Sue Woolmans is to weave the threads into a tapestry that tells the tales: the story of a loving family pressed on all sides by an intolerant court, the intrigue of the Austrian courtiers, the plots of the Serbian nationalists, and the falling dominoes of the entangling alliances. The authors also raise questions that remain unanswered and, perhaps, unanswerable. Was the royal couple set up by their own monarch and court? Was the Serbian government involved in the plot? How would the empire and the world have been different had Franz Ferdinand lived longer, or if Franz Joseph had died sooner? We will never know, but readers of The Assassination of the Archduke will have a better grasp of what happened, some understanding of why it all happened, and, in the end, a sense of tragedy in which history is more moving than the finest fiction.

Jim Gallen

Monday, June 23, 2014

Remembering a Veteran: Roland Garros, French Air Service

French pilot Roland Garros (6 October 1888 – 5 October 1918) of Escadrille MS 23 is one of the great figures of aviation history. He was a prewar aviation pioneer and was the first pilot to cross the Mediterranean. He gained aviation immortality after allowing his Morane Saulnier Type L to be equipped with deflector plates on the propeller. This enabled him to fire his Hotchkiss machine gun through the airscrew. Garros achieved the first-ever shooting-down of an aircraft by a fighter firing through a tractor propeller, on 1 April 1915; two more victories over German aircraft were achieved on 15 and 18 April 1915.

Subsequently downed and captured, he escaped after a long imprisonment but was eventually killed in action in the Champagne supporting an American operation a month before the Armistice. The French National Tennis Center is named for Garros, an amateur tennis champion.

Late addition:  Regular contributor Steve Miller just sent these images in. From his collection are these photos of Garros's grave at Vouziers, close to the sit of his fatal crash.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Preliminary Report: U.S. Centennial Commemoration Commission Event, 14 June 2014, Washington DC

On 14 June an event was held in Washington, DC, at the Jones Day law firm that brought together the U.S. Centennial Commemoration Commission,  national organizations, and grassroots organizations and individuals, all of whom are working on the remembrance of the war.  I was invited to make a presentation to the assemblage and chose to take the opportunity to offer all the outlets of both  to bring attention to their efforts and help them raise funds.  If there was one overriding concern shared by everyone, it was that everyone needed funding to do things properly.  In future postings here on Roads to the Great War and in the monthly St. Mihiel Trip-Wire, we will be focusing on individual projects, so our readers can judge their merits and choose to contribute if you wish.

In this article I'm presenting a selection of images from the conference that was billed as a "Trade Fair", but proved to be much more.  I had a great time meeting so many fellow enthusiasts, and I think you will agree that this breadth of the programs and projects that were represented was very impressive.

Mike Hanlon, Editor/Publisher

From the Top:  the Audience, Slides for a New Documentary and the Library of Congress's Forthcoming Book on the Great War, and a Selection of Displays and Kiosks

From the Top:  Commissioner Edwin Fountain Discussing the Pending Proposal for a National WWI Memorial in Washington, Kiosks for the Saving Hallowed Ground and Projects, Your Editor at the Podium, Mark Levitch of the National Gallery of Art Speaking on the WWI Memorial Inventory Project.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

French Politics After Verdun and the Somme

Verdun and the Somme, in 1916, added a further 350,000 Frenchmen dead and missing. The successful defense at Verdun was to permit the success of a major Franco-British offensive that would follow on the Somme, but that hope failed to materialize. From that point on, the fate of General Joffre was politically sealed. Prime Minister Briand elevated Joffre to the rank of Marshal of France and replaced him with General Nivelle, who had successfully recaptured much of the lost ground at Verdun, during the fall of 1916.

Nivelle and Joffre at Souilly, Late in the Battle of Verdun

General Nivelle proceeded to prepare a spring offensive in order to recapture the German positions on the Chemin des Dames, to the north of Paris. His efforts at convincing the French and British political leaderships overcame their skepticism. However, the French minister for war, General Liautey, resigned in order not to have his name attached to what he predicted would be a failure. A negative result was also predicted by Pétain. Prime Minister Briand also resigned at the same time. After much internal debate, however, the ill-fated Chemin des Dames  offensive went ahead on 16 April and quickly ground to a halt. The dead and missing between the period April to June 1916 in that sector alone mounted to well over 100,000 men.

It took this failure and mutinies affecting half the French Army, to bring Georges Clemenceau into the post of prime minister in November 1917. In contrast with the timidity of his predecessors, Clemenceau boldly increased civilian control over the military leadership, which now was in the hands of Pétain and Foch. Furthermore, he involved himself personally with the Allies to coordinate the applications of basic military strategies. Thus he found no major difficulties in convincing Lloyd George and President Wilson to accept Foch as overall military leader of the Alliance, in the spring of 1918. At the French military operational level, for instance, he pressed Pétain to move up French divisions to help Haig take the brunt of the Ludendorff Spring Offensive in April 1918. At a later date he also pressed Foch to request British divisional support in Champagne, after Ludendorff had shifted his assaults onto the French sector.

During the weeks preceding the 11 November armistice, another political debate involving the generals took place. Pétain agreed with the American position, expressed by Pershing, which advocated not to sign an armistice before Allied troops had penetrated into the Rhineland. As to Foch, he approved the British strategic goals, which had set as a priority the military liberation of Flanders and Belgium. Clemenceau, after convincing Lloyd George, ignored their advice and imposed the signature of an armistice immediately. By that date the French nation had lost nearly 1.4 million military personnel, dead or missing in action.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Western Front Virtual Tour — Stop 23: Devonshire Cemetery

Near the entrance of this small cemetery stands this marker:


1st July 1916
The 8th and 9th Devons
Suffered Very Heavy Casualties
As They Left Their Forward 
Trench to Attack

Later That Day
The Survivors Buried Their Fallen
Comrades in That Same Trench
And Erected a Wooden Memorial
With the Words Which Are
Carved in the Cross Above

The best known burial in the  Devonshire Cemetery is that of Lt. William Noel Hodgson. Shortly before the battle he wrote the poem "Before Action".  It is a tradition for visitors to the cemetery to recite the poem over Hodgson's grave.

Before Action

By all the glories of the day
And the cool evening's benison
By that last sunset touch that lay
Upon the hills when day was done,
By beauty lavishly outpoured
And blessings carelessly received,
By all the days that I have lived
Make me a soldier, Lord.

By all of all man's hopes and fears
And all the wonders poets sing,
The laughter of unclouded years,
And every sad and lovely thing;
By the romantic ages stored
With high endeavour that was his,
By all his mad catastrophes
Make me a man, O Lord.

I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say good-bye to all of this; -
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

21 June 1919: The Great Scuttling at Scapa Flow

This Saturday is the anniversary of one of the most memorable postscripts of World War I, the scuttling of the German surrendered fleet at Scapa Flow. Of the 77 ships interned, 52 were irretrievably sunk. In their rage, the British summarily executed a number of German sailors who posed no danger to them; nine were shot dead and many more wounded. Only a few cruisers, destroyers, and the 15"-gun battleship Baden were rescued; the remaining German fleet sank to the bottom, where seven of them remain to this day. It was the largest sinking of naval tonnage in a single incident ever — more than 400,000 tons.

German Submarine Sinking

On 21 June 1919, a party of schoolchildren from the town of Stromness was being taken on a trip around Scapa Flow to view the German Fleet. Little did they know when they left home that day what they were to witness.

The following is a piece written by one of the children, James Taylor, one of the pupils who witnessed the scuttling:

On Saturday June 21st 1919, I rose very early, as it would never do to be late for a school treat which was to take the form of a cruise on the Flying Kestrel to visit the surrendered German Fleet. The though of sailing up to them made us boys almost sick with excitement!

At long last we came face to face with the Fleet. Their decks were lined with German sailors who....did not seem too pleased to see us. Suddenly without any warning and almost simultaneously these huge vessels began to list over to port or starboard; some heeled over and plunged headlong, their sterns lifted high out of the water.

Battle Cruiser SMS Seydlitz Rolling Over

Out of the vents rushed steam and oil and air with a dreadful roaring hiss.

And as we watched, awestruck and silent, the sea became littered for miles round with boats and hammocks, lifebelts and chests....and among it all hundreds of men struggling for their lives.

As we drew away from this nightmare scene we watched the last great battleship slide down with keel upturned like some monstrous whale.

Sources:  Scapa Flow and City of Art Websites, U.S. Navy Archives

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Great Centennial Resource: The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress

Visit the Site at:

If you want to hear the story of the war in the words of the American soldiers, sailors, and Marines, this is the place for you. The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress has been serving as a depository for the personal accounts of American veterans for over a decade. On this website they have assembled some of the most authentic, eloquent, and moving memories from diaries, letters, and unpublished manuscripts of the nation's Great War veterans.

Here are few quotes I enjoyed. However, these one-liners are just samples. These and many more full manuscripts are available for you to read online.

“If I ever wanted to be about the size of an ant, it was when I crawled through that hell of shellfire and slid over onto that sunken road.” 
James Nelson Platt, 4th Division AEF

"Boy, these cooties are great; I don't think that they ever sleep, or if they do, they sure do leave a large detail awake to keep us busy."
John Joseph Brennan, 27th Division, AEF

"I had been scared several times in my life before, but now that I could hear these shells coming over I really began to know what fear was..."
Quiren M. Groessl, 1st Division, AEF

"Tonight a regiment marched by, each battalion playing its band and the men singing as they went up to the trenches. It was a most impressive thing to hear & filled one's mind with the wonders of war." (Last diary entry, April 10, 1918)
Gustav Hermann Kissel, Assigned to 43 Squadron RAF, KIA

"An infantryman cannot combat shells. All he can do is get away or be dug in so deeply that none will injure him."
Mark Lewis McCave, 89th Divison, AEF

"War is mostly work, partly like a 4th of July celebration; partly like a circus, and to anyone with ambition and life in him, extremely fascinating.... I would very much like to get into the an observer, or a range finder, and hope to see real action before the fighting is over."
Albert Lester Kleinecke, 29th Engineers, AEF

"Most of the men were drinking water out of shell holes, taking a chance, as most of the holes were full of gas."
Harry Frieman, 79th Division, AEF

"Those boys up there were still in that Hell, and the end wasn't in sight yet. Closing my eyes I could still see those mangled and bloody bodies of my buddies, and I began to wonder what it was all about." 
Morris Albert Martin, 91st Division, AEF

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces — reviewed by Peter L. Belmonte

The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces
by Richard S. Faulkner
Texas A&M University Press, 2012

When the United States Army expanded at the start of the Great War there was a desperate need for officers to fill the leadership positions at all levels, but especially in lower levels of command. How well the Army trained and developed officers would, in a large part, determine how well the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) would perform in combat. Richard S. Faulkner, in his book The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces, claims that the AEF failed to develop into a highly effective fighting force largely because of a failure in leadership among its junior officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

Faulkner suggests three main reasons for this failure: a poor officer training system in the United States and later in the AEF, misguided personnel policies that resulted in large numbers of men moved from unit to unit or dispatched to schools, and an incorrect view of the tactics necessary for victory on the battlefield.

After reviewing the immediate prewar state of officer and NCO training and the sudden need for a greatly expanded cadre of junior leaders, Faulkner begins a discussion of the various methods of wartime officer training. Faulkner contends that the training of officer candidates in schools in the United States was, overall, unsatisfactory. According to Faulkner, the officers schools devoted too much time to such subjects as bayonet training and flag signaling to the detriment of such topics as the proper use of auxiliary weapons.

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Personnel policies both stateside and overseas tended to hamper officer development. While in training stateside, men were shunted from unit to unit in order to fill manpower deficiencies. These transfers, designed "to enhance the overall institutional efficiency" of the Army, had the effect of hindering training, hurting unit morale, and dampening the efforts of officers and NCOs to create unit cohesion. (p. 134) Often NCOs were tapped for officer training against their will; thus many men who were not mentally or emotionally qualified to be officers languished in training schools. Overseas, AEF policy resulted in officers and NCOs yanked from their men and sent to various schools in what seemed to be a random manner. This had the effect of disrupting unit cohesion and training.

Faulkner believes that the relentless push for success, driven from the highest levels of the AEF, fostered a climate of fear that crippled overall officer performance. An officer who failed would very likely be relieved and sent to Blois, the AEF reclassification center in France. This climate, argues Faulkner, had at least one desired effect — it "pushed commanders to accomplish their missions and demand results from their subordinates." But, he continues, "it also encouraged them to micromanage their units, reduce the initiative of their subordinates, stifle the development of their junior leaders, and heedlessly push attacks after it was clear that such efforts were not worth the cost of the gain." (p. 194)

Officers in the AEF were bound to rifleman-based tactics that harmed their performance in combat. Faulkner contends that the official Army reliance on infantrymen with rifles and bayonets making frontal assaults against fortified positions was a cause of high casualties and low success rates. Although many junior leaders, such as platoon and company commanders, eventually overcame this and adapted their tactics to the actual situation on the battlefield, they did so, claims Faulkner, without AEF headquarters encouragement or guidance.

American Trench Raiders in No-Man's-Land

Faulkner recounts numerous examples of the failure of AEF officers and NCOs, each of which, of course, could have been matched with many counterexamples of competence and bravery. The reader should understand that Faulkner's emphasis is on examples of AEF failure. Although Faulkner is unstinting in his criticism of AEF performance regarding junior leaders, he comes very near to the crux of the issue when he writes: "Some of these problems were the result of the inherent realities of the Great War's battlefields that all the major combatants had to contend with during the conflict." (p. 319) Faulkner concedes: "For all of its problems, in the end the AEF accomplished its strategic goal. … [T]he doughboys' rather unskillful and costly attacks still wore down the strength and willpower of their Teutonic foes." (p. 327)

The book is thoroughly researched and very well written; this brief review cannot possibly touch on all aspects of the subject covered in the book. Faulkner's chapter on combat physics is outstanding, and his notion of attritional warfare will resonate with students of the Great War. Although readers may disagree with some of the author's emphases, the book deserves to be on the shelf of anyone who wants to learn more about the AEF and how it fought.

Peter L. Belmonte

Photos: U.S. Army Military History Institute

Monday, June 16, 2014

Question: Why Is the Symbol of the Salonika Campaign Society a Mosquito?

Visit the Society's Website at:

Answer:  In general, the front was a medical hellhole, especially with regard to malaria.

Serbian forces were hit with a lice-borne typhus epidemic originating in the unsanitary camps of their Austrian prisoners of war in the fall of 1914. Eventually 135,000 soldiers and civilians would die from infection. The Serbs passed on the disease to the invading Bulgarian army in similar fashion during the next year. One silver lining in the 1915 defeat of the Serbian army for the Allies was, however, that during its evacuation to Corfu, the Serbs underwent a thorough delousing regime.  Consequently, their forces that later arrived on the Salonika Front were essentially typhus-free.

The valleys of the Vardar and Struma, however, especially the latter, which was garrisoned by British forces for the entire period, were breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Men here had to be detailed for "mosquito strafing": clearing grassy mosquito-friendly fields, pouring creosote in ponds, and carrying stretchers on patrols for soldiers suddenly debilitated by a new bout of the illness. The troops received a regular quinine dose and wore muslin veils under their tin hats on night duty. 

British Troops Issued Quinine
Over 34,000 British officers and men were evacuated home for malaria. This is why the postwar association of British veterans, the Salonika Campaign Society (still existing), selected the mosquito as its emblem.

To the last, disease ravaged the Salonika armies. In September 1918 — just as the decisive battle was to be fought — the worldwide Spanish influenza pandemic arrived in the Balkans. An entire British brigade was withdrawn from the final offensive because of its impact. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Short, But Dramatic, War Service of SMS Emden

Emden Re-provisioning in Colombo

The German ship SMS Emden was a light cruiser that, at the start of the First World War, formed part of the German East Asiatic Squadron. She was detached to stalk the shipping routes across the Indian Ocean and quickly became the scourge of the Allied navies.

Between August and October 1914, the Emden captured or sank 21 vessels. In November 1914, nine Allied vessels were involved in the hunt for the Emden, and the threat she posed led to a particularly heavy escort of four warships being allocated to the first Australian and New Zealand troop convoy. Surprised by one of these escorts, HMAS Sydney, while in the process of destroying the British radio station on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Emden was destroyed on 9 November 1914.

Emden Under Attack by HMAS Sydney

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Remembering a Veteran: John Giles Farquhar, 25 Squadron, RAF

Dad in His Trench Coat with His DH-9A Aircraft and Air and/or Ground Crew

Contributed by His Son:  John W. (Jack) Farquhar, MD

My father, John Giles Farquhar, was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on 13 July 1897. He joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916 and was assigned  the 196th Infantry. By 1918 he had earned a lieutenant's commission and his pilot's wings with the RAF. He was assigned to 25 Squadron, flying a DH-9A on bombing and reconnaissance missions. He was shot down several times and survived, but on one mission his observer was killed.

After the war, he returned home, renewed his athletic career, and earned recognition as one of the finest hockey goalies of his era. His subsequent career also involved sports, both coaching and operating sporting businesses. His interests brought the family to the U.S., first at the University of Wisconsin, then Pasadena, California.

2nd Lt. Farquhar

He passed away in 1974.

My uncle Charles also served in the Canadian Army. He was four years older than my father and chose to stay in England after the war, where he became an exporter of Scotch whiskey.

Dr. Jack Farquhar is Professor Emeritus at the Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Western Front Virtual Tour — Stop 22: Lochnagar Mine Crater

The largest mine crater on the Western Front, this was one of several mines exploded under the German frontline positions on the Somme on 1 July 1916. A charge of 60,000 lbs (26.8 tons) of ammonal explosive was blown at 7:28 a.m., resulting in a crater 90 feet deep and 300 feet across. Englishman Richard Dunning now owns Lochnagar Crater, named after the trench from where the main tunnel was started. He saved it from being filled in 1978, and now each year on the 1st of July a ceremony is held here to remember men of all sides who fell on the Somme in 1916. Nearby is the site of the Glory Hole, which we will also visit. Units of the 34th Division attacked this area and the nearby village of La Boisselle on 1 July. This formation contained two whole brigades of "pals" battalions — the Tyneside Irish and the Tyneside Scottish. They suffered many casualties that day — five battalions losing over 500 men each. Indeed, the whole division lost 6,380 that day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Inside Belleau Wood Today

How the Wood Looked After the Battle
In June 1918 the Marine Brigade of the 2nd AEF Division was given the mission of seizing Belleau Wood, just northwest of Chateau-Thierry. It took 20 days to do the job and is today one of the legendary battlefields of the Corps. The nearby cemetery is a sacred place for Americans, but the wood on the plateau above is a moving and haunting place to visit. Here are some images from the heart of Belleau Wood.
The Marine Monument, Created by Sculptor Felix de Weldon, Stands in the Woods' 
Central Glade

Every Memorial Day the Marine Commandant or His Designee Lays a Wreath
at the Monument with a Senior French Officer

Here an Active-Duty Marine Raises a Flag Over the Wood

A German Machine Gun Post Protecting the Wood's East Flank
The Hunting Lodge — Captured Near the End of the Fighting

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Australians on the Western Front

2nd Australian Division "Digger" Monument, Mont St. Quentin

Historian Trevor Wilson has pointed this out, but some statistics back up his case. The Australian contribution on the Western Front was significantly greater in size and importance than it was in the Gallipoli Campaign. Here is a document I found in my old files. Compare the Western Front numbers vs. Gallipoli —

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Europe's Last Summer — Reviewed By Ron Drees

Europe's Last Summer
by David Fromkin
Reprint of Knopf 2004 Editon

Fromkin is one in a long series of authors who attempts to explain the origins of the Great War, but he actually succeeds, mainly by benefitting from recent document discoveries, the work of other authors, and by discarding conventional thinking in providing a credible thesis. He begins in his prologue by listing 12 conflicts — ethnic, religious, military, political — that could have contributed to the beginning of the war.  These include 1) the 7th-century occupation of the Balkans by Slavs, 2) the Kaiser's firing of Bismarck, which changed alliances between Germany, Austria, and Russia 3) Serbia's murder of their pro-Austrian king and queen leading Austria to plan Serbia's punishment, and 4) German aggressiveness pushing Britain and France closer together.

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Historical background, its impact upon the rulers of nations in 1914, how those nations operated, and how our current thinking clouds our understanding are among the strengths of this book. The reader learns how Germany viewed Russia as a threat, felt surrounded and friendless, and thus considered that since war was inevitable, the sooner the better rather than later when their adversaries would be stronger.

After the Archduke's assassination, many nations were slow to realize where events were leading. Austria and Germany hid their intentions, not only in 1914, until the fighting began, but also later as part of the numerous countries that destroyed records to hide the truth forever.

Diplomacy did not fail because it never had a chance as the antagonists wanted to go to war and moved directly toward that objective. Yet, when Austria finally began their war of punishment, they were the ones taken to the woodshed: by 1915 Austria had suffered 1,268,000 casualties out of 3,350,000 mobilized — 38 percent with almost four years of war left. Oh, the ancient curse, beware of what you wish for. . .

Happy Austrian Troops Departing for the Front with Defeat Awaiting Them

Fromkin has provided a coherent, readable text that pulls no punches as he explicitly, painstakingly, identifies the guilty and the ramifications. He breaks down events on a day-by-day and nation-by-nation basis, enabling easy tracking by the reader. One of his more eye-opening thoughts is how this was two wars, where Austria's war with Serbia got switched out for the war Germany wanted to fight with Russia. Another striking point is that the conflict that Germany began on 1 August 1914 did not end until "…the last Russian soldier left German soil on 31 August 1994." Considering recent events in the Crimea, the Ukraine, and the behavior of the governments of China and North Korea, the guns of August 1914 still haunt us.

Read Fromkin's book for a credible understanding of "who did it" and then read McMeekin's July, 1914, reviewed earlier, for an update on relevant historical research and the counter-argument that Austria dragged Germany into war. This conflict between historians continues also.

Ron Drees

Monday, June 9, 2014

War Artist Fernand Léger

Léger in His Studio, Probably After the Great War

Fernand Léger (1881–1955) was an established French artist at the time war broke out. He had seen earlier national service and was recalled to the army in 1914 and was assigned to the Engineer Corps. He saw extensive service in the Argonne sector near Verdun for two years when he became a victim of mustard gas. His most famous war work, known as the "The Card Players" was created while he was recuperating. His style is described as a  naive, energetic modified form of cubism, with machine-like figures using flat tones of pure primary colors, black, white, and gray.

July 14, 1914
Last Work Before the Declaration of War

The Proof That the Man Descended from the Monkey, 1915

But how much of an effect did the war have on Léger? Any feelings of despair or cynicism provoked by first-hand contact with its carnage are markedly absent from the work. Léger was, in fact, invigorated by the contact with his “new companions” in the Engineer Corps—“the whole of the French people”. Then there was the “dazzling” sight of “the breech of a 75-millimetre gun which was standing uncovered in the sunlight: the magic of light on white metal.” World War One didn’t alter Léger’s take on the machine. If anything, it emboldened a sensibility already entranced by the machine’s regularity, precision, and power. Admittedly, a revived humanism did enter the work, if not always in imagery—Léger’s figures are always robots or symbols, never flesh-and-blood entities—then in spirit and reach. Compare Leger’s art with that of post-war contemporaries like Otto Dix, Max Ernst, or Max Beckmann, and Léger comes off as positively sunny. Not every artist who has experienced suffering has to suffer in the studio. Léger remained something of a utopian until the end of his days. You can’t help but think: More power to him.

Commentary by Mario Naves in his blog Too Much Art

The Card Party, 1917

The Plane Crash, ?

Léger consistently embraced an industrial style for the rest of his career. He took refuge 1940–45 in the USA, where he started to make compositions of divers, acrobats, and cyclists. Returning in 1945 to France, became a communist, and in his last years was active not only as a painter but as designer for the ballet and of polychrome sculpture in ceramic, mosaics, and stained glass. Léger died at Gif-sur-Yvette in 1955.

Disks, 1918
One of  Postwar "Disk" Series