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

Monday, October 22, 2018

So You Think You Know Your War Poets

Name the poet and the title of the work in which this memorable line appears:

1. There's some corner of a foreign field
 That is forever England

2. The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard among the guns below.

3. Here dead we lie because we did not choose
 To live and shame the land from which we sprung

4. A Garden called Gethsemane, in Picardy it was

5. And I to my pledged word am true,
 I shall not fail that rendezvous.

6. Where tongues were loud and hearts were light
 I heard the Ancre flow.

7. If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
 I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base

8. The young men of the world
 Are condemned to death.
 They have been called up to die
 For the crime of their fathers.

9. Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
 Your cosmopolitan sympathies.

10. Gas! Gas! boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,
 Fitting the clumsy helmet just in time;

11. What then was war? No mere discord of flags
 But an infection of the common sky

12. But how intolerably bright the morning is where we who
are alive and remain, walk lifted up, carried forward by
an effective word



1. Rupert Brooke, "The Soldier" Image A 

2. John McCrae, "In Flanders Fields" 

3. A.E. Housman, "Here Dead We Lie" 

4. Rudyard Kipling, "Gethsemane (1914–1918)" 

5. Alan Seeger, "Rendezvous" Image D

6. Edmund Blunden, "The Ancre at Hamel" 

7. Siegfried Sassoon, "Base Details" 

8. F.S. Flint, "Lament" 

9. Isaac Rosenberg, "Break of Day in the Trenches" Image C 

10. Wilfred Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est" Image B 

11. Robert Graves, "Recalling War" 

12. David Jones, "In Parenthesis," Part VII

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Ignominious Demise of SMS Ostfriesland

SMS Ostfriesland was the second vessel of the Heligoland class of battleships of the Imperial German Navy. Ostfriesland participated in all of the major fleet operations of World War I in the North Sea against the British Grand Fleet. This included the Battle of Jutland. After the German collapse in November 1918, most of the High Seas Fleet was interned in Scapa Flow during the peace negotiations. The four Heligoland-class ships were allowed to remain in Germany, however, and were therefore spared the destruction of the fleet in Scapa Flow. Ostfriesland was eventually transferred to the United States Navy as a war reparation. 

Ostfriesland  in 1915

The early rivalry between the U.S. Air Service and the Navy in the immediate post-Great War years was one of the very public and controversial projects of the irrepressible Billy Mitchell. His strategic thinking, truly reflecting the potential for air power in the 20th century, was yet another irritant he inflicted on the older, established military services.

Mitchell's tenacity in proving his belief in air power to the public and the U.S. government took shape in 1921 with the staged sinking by aerial bombing of the illustrious Ostfriesland. She was a noble foe indeed, enduring 18 hits from British guns and striking a mine on her way home after Jutland. In the war's aftermath she was sent to the U.S. to be destroyed. Her ultimate fate was to serve Mitchell's purpose in proving the superiority of aerial rather than naval coastal defense.

Ostfriesland Under Bombardment

The U.S. Navy, predictably, disagreed strongly with Mitchell's stance, and in due course something of a "bomb-off" contest was staged in the summer of 1921 in the Atlantic some 50 miles out to sea from the Chesapeake Bay. The contest was set up with "rules" and conditions that were intended to weigh the outcome heavily in favor of the Navy over Mitchell's bombers. Mitchell, not surprisingly, persisted with his Handley Page O/400s and the new Martin MB-2 biplanes and did indeed sink the Ostfriesland. The Navy unsportingly derided the value of the successful demonstration and claimed that Mitchell had violated the rules.  The entire squabble would appear childish were it not for its real importance in highlighting this necessary progress in military efficacy.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Arkansas, U.S.A., Mobilizes for War

The Arkansas Home Front

World War I had less impact on the state of Arkansas than did the Civil War or World War II. Still, World War I did deplete the young male population of the state for a time, brought new institutions into the state that continue to the present time, and gave many Arkansans a new view of the world and of Arkansas’s place in an increasingly connected world community. In the years leading up to the United States entering the First World War, Arkansas was an agrarian state slowly modernizing. The early 20th century found the state on the precipice of progress and industrialization. Cities and towns were growing, businesses were being established, and the state could see the promise of a bright future on the horizon. Nothing symbolized the state's rising economic power more than the new capitol building under construction in the center of Little Rock.  In 1910 a photographer snapped this image showing the skeleton of what would be the most recognizable part of the building. 

Farming continued to be Arkansas's main source of wealth, however. In 1908, there were 232,604 farms in the state. Almost half of those were worked by tenant farmers, who would lease a farm and work it in exchange for a share of the crop. Here, tenant farmers pick cotton on W.F. Tate's cotton farm near Camden, Arkansas.

Little Rock, Arkansas, 1915

While agriculture remained Arkansas's main source of revenue, manufacturing increased over the first decade of the 20th century. The 1910 census recorded Arkansas manufactured products valued at $39,888,000 in 1899. The year before, manufactured goods in Arkansas soared in value to $74,916,000. Most manufacturing took place in the timber industry as lumber mills churned out furniture and building materials. Of Arkansas's 2,925 manufacturing establishments in 1909, 1,607 were involved in the timber industry. As the second decade of the 20th century opened, Arkansas had emerged as a strong New South state: Progressive, Democratic, and with rapid economic growth.

Zinc Mine near Buffalo City in Baxter County

While many Arkansans suffered the hardships of wartime rationing, others enjoyed an economic boom. The war brought increased demand for coal and other minerals, leading to an increase in mining activity in Arkansas. The need for aluminum led to an upturn in bauxite production.

The Women's Council of Defense

On 1 July 1917 Governor Brough issued a proclamation declaring the creation of the Women's Council of Defense, an organization designed to encourage women to get involved in the war effort.  Women proved up to the task before them.  In a single month, 70,000 women signed up to do war-related work. State chairman for the Arkansas Council of Defense Lloyd England wrote, "[The Women's Council of Defense] shows how volunteer workers rendered a service that could not be purchased - it reveals the benefits that are to come to the State from the active participation  in public affairs by women who have had the courage of proposing the adoption of the ideals and the practical ability of accomplishing them." In the same way that men throughout the country mobilized to fight in Europe, members of the council pledged to mobilize women to do war work at home.

Camp Pike

Camp Pike, situated eight miles northwest of Little Rock, AK, housed the National Army forces drawn from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and western Alabama. Here an up-to-date military city of 42,000 capacity had to be built virtually in the midst of a wilderness.  It was the training base for the 87th "Acorn" Division of the AEF.

Little Rock's Board of Commerce was influential in Camp Pike's establishment. The board met in May 1917 to discuss ways to attract an army post to central Arkansas. Their main concern was having enough money to purchase land and equipment for a proposed camp. Board members established the Army Post Development Company, which issued $25 shares to investors. Within weeks, the company had raised $233,000.

Ground was broken for the camp on 9 July. The site was almost entirely covered with second-growth timber, the nearest railroad was five miles away, and supplies had to be brought by truck from Little Rock over hilly highways. A vast deal of rock was encountered in ditching for water and sewer pipes—nearly 75 per cent of the total excavations, in fact.

Labor was scarce, as Camp Funston, Kansas, had an earlier start and had secured most of the available supply. But the contractors ranged far and wide, even into the Mexican states of Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi, with the result that all handicaps were overcome. This camp has little level ground, resembling Camp Ayer and Camp Gordon in that respect, and many heavy grades in the road system resulted. The 75 hospital buildings cover 47 acres of ground.

New Recruits Arriving at Camp Pike

For some recruits, barracks life was a surprise. Benjamin Franklin Clark, a schoolteacher from Enders, Arkansas, wrote to his friend, Flora Hamilton, and described a typical day at Camp Pike, saying, "We have to get up at 6:00 a.m. get in full uniform and line up for "Reveille" (roll call) at 6:18. And we have to hustle around for we have so much lacing to do. We have breakfast at 6:30, dinner at 12:30 and supper at 5:20. We stand for retreat at 6:00 p.m. after which we can do as we please. Our lights in the barracks go out at 9:00 but we may be out until eleven."

Sources:  Arkansas State Archives; The Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Friday, October 19, 2018

Wilson's October 1918 Naval Surprise

Battleship Division Nine Arriving at Scapa Flow, 7 December 1917
Taken from HMS Queen Elizabeth

During mid-October 1918, as Germany sought an armistice based on Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the Navy Department and Admiralty were already contemplating how the naval section of the armistice terms might affect their relative positions.

The British pressed for harsh naval terms, including the surrender and destruction of the German surface fleet, leaving Germany with only a coastal defense force. Wilson and the Navy Department, in contrast, wanted lenient naval terms, because the destruction of the German fleet would leave Britain without a significant European rival, in which case the Royal Navy could “do with our new merchant marine as she saw fit.”

The Admiralty, for its part, now began considering the implications of the second of Wilson’s Fourteen Points: “freedom of the seas.” That aspiration enshrined the traditional U.S. position on neutral rights in wartime—the very issue that had provoked American entry into the war. The Admiralty took alarm at the thought of placing restrictions on Britain’s ability to conduct effective blockades. Was not the purpose of sea power to deny overseas communication to an enemy? The blockade was clearly an important factor in the approaching German defeat. The British Empire could not in future wars afford to trust its security to an untested international organization (Wilson’s League) or surrender the bulwark of sea supremacy, which had never failed it.

In its battle against freedom of the seas, the Admiralty had the unshakable support of Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Lloyd George insisted that Britain could not abandon its principal strategic weapon. In response, Wilson, resorting to brinkmanship, instructed diplomat Edward M. House to tell the Allies that they could either accept freedom of the seas or the United States would build “the strongest navy that our resources permit and as our people have so long desired.” House amplified the president’s message by pointing out the United States had more resources and money than they—that if it came to a contest, Britain would lose. Lloyd George held his ground, retorting that Great Britain would “spend her last guinea to keep a navy superior to that of the United States or any other power.”
However, anxious to avoid an open break over freedom of the seas yet determined not to surrender on the issue, Lloyd George offered to defer the matter to the peace conference; Wilson accepted that olive branch.

Disembarking USS  George Washington,Woodrow Wilson Arrives at
Brest, France, on 13 December  1918

In late October 1918 the Wilson administration raised the ante and asked Congress for a second three-year naval building program, a repeat of the 1916 program plus ten additional battleships and six battle cruisers. Wilson now had a bigger club, or bargaining chip, to use at the peace conference, as well as clear evidence for the American people that failure to endorse the League would mean expensive defense policies. In his annual message to Congress on 2 December 1918, Wilson declared that he took it for granted Congress would continue the naval building program begun in 1916. He implied that the new program was simply a continuation of the long-term development of the Navy and insisted that the building program should continue: “It would clearly be unwise for us to attempt to adjust our programs to a future world policy as yet undetermined.”

[Wilson's ploy resulted in an adversarial  posture with Great Britain at the Paris negotiations.] Ultimately Wilson’s threat to Britain’s naval supremacy, however artificial it may have been, proved counterproductive. Britain had manifested greater enthusiasm than any other European power for Wilson’s ideals. The only significant disagreement was over freedom of the seas, which Wilson abandoned early in the game. Wilson could have taken British support for most of his program for granted had it not been for the naval competition he sponsored.

Wilson’s conduct of the [subsequent Paris peace conference] negotiations was most unwise. While the threat of a naval race gave Wilson leverage at the conference, coercion came at the cost of damaged relations with a vital ally.

Source: "The Naval Battle of Paris," Jerry W. Jones.  Naval War College Review, Spring 2009

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Character of German Cemeteries (Soldatenfriedhöfe or "Soldier Cemeteries") on the Western Front

The German war graves commission, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (VDK), was finally allowed to intervene in German military cemeteries in France in 1926. Starting in 1919, the French War Graves Department demolished a large number of small cemeteries close to the front and concentrated the graves in larger cemeteries. At that time, these military graveyards were simple unfenced fields with wooden crosses, however, in areas of the front where the death rate had been particularly high.  The VDK decided to establish new cemeteries and one of these, shown above, was at Neuville-Saint-Vaast, the largest of them all with 36,000 graves [today with over 44,000]
A Section of Langemarck Cemetery North of Ypres

The Treaty of Versailles provided for German cemeteries to be placed under the guardianship of the French authorities (a state of affairs which lasted until 1966), which meant they had control over all the developments or permanent buildings undertaken by the VDK. The French authorities refused to return the bodies to their families. The German cemeteries were designed in the interwar years by architect Robert Tischler, a veteran of the Great War. He based his designs on two major principles: mourning and universal life. Due to the cramped nature of the concessions allocated by France, burials were carried out in large communal graves called "Comrades' Graves". Tischler took care to make the German cemeteries blend in with their environment, in particular fitting in with relief, as is clearly visible at Neuville-Saint-Vaast. Plants grow freely and trees are not pollarded. His choices were influenced by German mythology's concept of communion between Man and Nature. The architecture of these cemeteries is austere but leaves a lot of room for trees to "watch over the eternal rest of the soldiers."

Cemetery Near Belleau Wood

The cemeteries often give the impression of being in a forest. They feature stone walls and wrought iron gates and, in many cases, large stone crosses. Communal graves are marked by engraved slabs often combined with rough stone crosses. In the 1920s the VDK used wooden crosses with a zinc plate, and sometimes stone slabs laid on the ground, to mark individual graves. In the 1950s the decision was taken to generalize the use of erect crosses to give a better visual portrayal of the extent of the slaughter, and for these to be made from durable materials (aluminum, cast iron, or stone). Each cross or headstone bears the surname, first name, rank, date of birth, and date of death of the soldier concerned. 

Cambrai Sector

It has often been suggested that it was the Treaty of Versailles which obliged the Germans to choose dark-colored crosses for their military cemeteries; however, if this was the case the rule was not strictly applied because in many cases white crosses were used. A more practical analysis suggests that the dark color of many of the crosses in German military cemeteries corresponds to the need to protect the original wooden crosses with tar-based paints. 

Vosges Mountains

Many of the crosses which can be seen today, made from stone or steel, were installed in the 1950s and 1960s.  As soon as Hitler rose to power the VDK was placed under official supervision. Remembrance of the Great War was a significant political issue for the new regime It shifted emphasis on to the heroism of the soldiers and any aspect of reconciliation was removed. Furthermore the architect Tischler made no attempt to hide his strong sympathy for the Nazi regime. During the Second World War the VDK was placed at the disposal of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and in 1941 placed, albeit implicitly, under the guardianship of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). 

The VDK was quickly reorganized after the chaos of 1945, and, in spite of his pro-Nazi stance, Tischler returned to his post. The German cemeteries which can be visited today are the fruit of structural work carried out in the 1920s, but the main "funerary objects"—the crosses—were for the most part designed after the Second World War. At the entrance to the largest graveyards stands a "memorial hall" which is in some cases decorated with sculptures or mosaics. In 1966 the emergence of the Europe Community and initiatives for Franco-German reconciliation led to an agreement between the two countries to suppress the application of Article 225 of the Treaty of Versailles, and this placed the upkeep of German military cemeteries under the sole responsibility of the VDK.  


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Remembering a Veteran: Lt. Philip Shoemaker, 107th MG Battalion, 28th Division, AEF


Philip C. Shoemaker was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, on 23 January 1896. In the spring of 1916, after studying agriculture at Pennsylvania State College for two-and-a-half years, he joined the Boal Machine Gun Troop, a militia unit privately raised and funded by Theodore D. Boal, a wealthy landowner from Boalsburg. Redesignated as Machine Gun Troop, First Pennsylvania Cavalry, the troop was mustered into federal service and sent to the Mexican border to join the Pennsylvania National Guard at Camp Stewart, Texas. In January 1917, the troop returned to Pennsylvania and was mustered out of federal service. It continued to train, however, and again was mustered into federal service in July 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson, war having been declared against Germany the previous April, called up the National Guard. Training at Camp Hancock followed, where Shoemaker's troop became Company A, 107th Machine Gun Battalion. Shoemaker, who had served as stable sergeant during the 1916 mobilization, was appointed a second lieutenant in the National Guard on 5 August 1917 and eight months later was promoted to first lieutenant.

He served with the division in the Second Battle of the Marne and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in which he was wounded.  In this letter, he describes in detail how he was wounded in October 1918 to his mother.

[November 1918]
My dear Mother,

Following is the complete history of me from the time I was wounded up until [I entered the hospital]....Was riding in a Ford truck not far from the front line, and in all probability within view of the Boche artillery, and I know for a certainty within range for two or more shells dropped right along
side of us getting me in five different places. Can not express the feeling of being shot, except to say it is a very peculiar and anything but a pleasant one. I did not know I was hit until I saw the lots of blood. The car was stopped quickly I jumped off, fell, then managed to get behind some dirt and stones pulled up about 6 feet high. Behind this barrier I made myself as small as possible and prayed faster and harder than I ever prayed before; the shells kept coming over by the dozens and there was no time lost between the dozens. I kept on praying, each prayer was said faster than the preceding one. After a 1/2 hour of hard shelling and praying the Boche and I let up. Fortunately I found a first aid station not very far away. Here I was tagged and given first aid.  The two men-[George I.] Smithers and [George W.] Lauck who were with me were also fixed up here. Smithers got in the head-was the least serious. Lauck was wounded in the shoulder and chest not serious.

From here we were taken to a field hospital in the Ford, where we got the tetanus shot then we were loaded on an ambulance and sent to another field hospital where I was put in a church, the main idea to wait until they got an ambulance full. Here a Red Cross lieutenant took a liking to me and helped me out. I must of been there several hours, finally I was put on a stretcher, covered up and loaded on an ambulance, my stretcher was the top one. Over the worst road in the world went our ambulance, when the ambulance went up hill I slid down, when it went down hill, I slid up, most of my sliding was down to make matters worse the stretcher closed with me, making me just a bit more uncomfortable.  After the worst ride of my life we reached Evacuation Hospital No. 1. Here I was unloaded, and carried into the receiving ward, I was quickly undressed most of my clothes were cut off and my history taken....

After the war Shoemaker briefly worked in several jobs and then returned to the Boalsburg area to farm and operate a general store. "Now at last," as he wrote this editor, "I could grow many different kinds of vegetation, breed, watch and develop many different species of animals such as cows, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens and ducks. What I wanted most to do!" He passed away in 1991.

From "A Keystoner in the Great War the World War I Letters of Philip C. Shoemaker," Edited by John Kennedy Ohl, Pennsylvania History

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Military Intelligence and the Arab Revolt
Reviewed by Len Shurtleff

Military Intelligence and the Arab Revolt:
The First Modern Intelligence War

by Polly A. Mohs
Routledge Studies in Intelligence Series, 2008

T.E. Lawrence

This work examines the development and exploitation of intelligence in formulating Britain's strategy for supporting the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. In addition to a radical reexamination of T. E. Lawrence as an intelligence officer and guerrilla leader, the author looks at how modern intelligence techniques such as human, signals, and image intelligence were used in the Middle East with greater efficacy than elsewhere during the First World War. Most important, this study shows how Britain's intelligence community influenced the conduct of the campaign in The Hejaz, Palestine, and Syria.

The expertise and skill of the small group of Arab specialists—the Arab Bureau—at British headquarters Cairo was crucial to the success of the war in the Middle East. Indeed this small multi-disciplinary group of British Arabists more or less directed the campaign. At first, British civilian and military leaders in London and Delhi resisted calls for supporting the Arab independence movement led by Emir Feisal. They feared copycat insurrections in British colonies and already had plans with France to divide up the Ottoman Empire. However, frustration with mounting casualties and lack of progress on the gelid Western Front, coupled with recognition that the Arabs would not countenance foreign forces on their territory, led London to accept proposals to fund a guerrilla war.

At it turned out, the military results were near spectacular. The Arab irregular army led by Feisal and supported by British funds, arms, and intelligence effectively formed the right flank guard for Sir Edmund Allenby's advance on Jerusalem and Damascus. Unfortunately, we are still sorting out the political ramifications of the British-Arab victory of 1918.

Len Shurtleff

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Face of France

This magazine cover from Tony Langley's collection reminded me of the passage below from Civilization, 1914–1917, by Georges Duhamel—

A great brow, almost graceful in design, an expression at once profound and child- like, a dimpled chin, a proud mustache, a bitter gaiety about the mouth " I shall recollect you, face of France, even though it is only for the single second that I saw you, in the flare of a match.

The train that went from Chalons to Sainte Menehould, that autumn night, was on the way up again, with all lights extinguished. It was in 1916. The face of Champagne, calm just then, was sleeping at our left, the sleep of the craters, a sleep full of nightmares, sudden starts, and flashes of lightning. We cut through the darkness, making our way slowly through a wretched country which we could see was disfigured with the hideous raiment of war. The little train hobbled along, panting, slightly hesitant, like a blind man that knows his way.

I was coming back from a furlough. I was feeling ill and had stretched myself out on a "bench. In front of me three officers were talking. Their voices were those of young men; their military experience was that of veterans. They were on their way to rejoin their regiment.

"That sector,"said one of them, "is calm just now."

"That 's certain,"said another. "We shan't have any trouble there until spring."

A sort of silence followed, torn by the clatter of the rails under the wheels. Presently a keen,
youthful, laughing voice said, quite low :
"Oh ! They'll be sure to get us into some sort of tomfoolery before spring."

Then, without transition,the man who had just spoken added:
"This will be the twelfth time that I've gone into action. But I 'm always in luck : I have
never been wounded but once."

These two phrases have remained in my ears ever since, because the man who uttered them struck a match and began to smoke. The flare gave me a fleeting glimpse of a charming face.

The man belonged to a famous corps. The insignia of the highest honors that can be granted to young officers glittered on his light-brown jacket. His whole presence radiated a sane and tranquil courage.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Who Was Micheline Resco?

Micheline Resco

Micheline Resco (1894–1968) was a Romanian-born, Parisian portrait artist best known as the mistress and then second wife of John J. Pershing, Commanding General of the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War. In 1917, Resco was commissioned by the French Minister of War to paint a portrait of Pershing, and the two met for the first time at the Crillon Hotel in Paris. Resco and Pershing began a relationship that lasted over 30 years, until the general’s death in 1948.

Resco's 1921 Portrait of General Pershing

Resco followed Pershing to the United States a few months after he left France in 1919, where she split her residence between New York City and Washington, DC. Though their relationship remained secret to the general public, Resco corresponded with several members of Pershing’s family, particularly his son, Warren; brother, James F. Pershing; and sister-in-law, Jessie Jackson Pershing. Resco and Pershing were married by a Catholic priest at Walter Reed Hospital, where Pershing was recovering from a stroke, in 1946. After the general’s death at the age of 88, Resco returned to Paris. 

Source: Donald W. Smythe, SJ, Papers

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cantigny Park, USA — Updated

Cantigny Park at Wheaton, Illinois, has long been a wonderful resource for World War I enthusiasts.  The summer home of  Chicago Tribune publisher and 1st Division Veteran Robert McCormick, the centerpiece of the 500-acre complex has been the First Division Museum and its tank park. The complex underwent a major expansion and redesign in 2017, the 100th anniversary of the 1st Divisions mobilization for the Great War.

My friend and fellow battlefield traveler Dudley Heer recently visited the revitalized complex and shared his photos. Below is  a selection of his photos. Of course, this is a just a taste of what's available, try to visit  Cantigny on your own some day.

Doughboy Monument, an Identical Sculpture Stands at Cantigny, France

Renault, FT-17 Tank Used Widely by the AEF

Campaigns of the 1st Division

Doughboy Uniform

Dugout Command Post Scene

Life-size Battle of Cantigny Diorama

Detail of One of the Displays

French 75—Colonel McCormick's Battalion Was Equipped with These

German Uniform of 1918

Weapons Display Including a French Chauchat and a German Grenade Launcher

Friday, October 12, 2018

C’est la guerre

The widespread French phrase C’est la guerre was on the cover of
the 17 August 1916 issue of the French magazine
La Baïonnette (The Bayonet). 

By Paul Albright

The Armistice had been decreed two weeks earlier and the fighting had ceased. AEF Captain Francis Wolle of Boulder, Colorado, at last had time to comment on aspects of everyday life around him. After service with the 356th Infantry, Wolle had been reassigned to an intelligence unit (G2) of the 4th Army Corps based in the Moselle region of France, moving with his G2 unit to Luxembourg as part of the Allied occupation forces. 

On 26 November 1918 Wolle remarked briefly on the French phrase C’est la guerre that had attained widespread use in western Europe and the U.S.A. Today’s dictionary translation of the phrase is “That’s war,” or “Can’t be helped.”  Wolle, who was a longtime professor of English and theater at the University of Colorado after the war, placed the phrase in its wartime context.

"C’est la guerre is a peculiar French expression, or rather I should say it is a French expression with a peculiar effect and a peculiar feeling behind it,” Wolle wrote to his parents (then residing in Detroit, Michigan). “A shrug of the shoulders means the same thing; and they are used both together if anything goes wrong, if something unusual or out-of-the-way, or unpleasant occurs.

“It represents a sort of ‘sit down and take it’ philosophy, which the Americans helped to break up. If said laughingly it may make men cheerfully bear hardships and in that way is good. ‘I should worry’ is the nearest American equivalent.” 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Monument To Wartime British Nurses Unveiled At National Memorial Arboretum

Nurses who served in the two World Wars will be remembered with a new sculpture at the National Memorial Arboretum. The memorial carries the names of nearly 1,300 professional and Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses who died during or as a direct result of the conflict.

A service of dedication was held in June for the monument at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, attended by the Countess of Wessex. The event is the culmination of more than six years of campaigning by the Nursing Memorial Appeal, who have been fundraising for a permanent monument since 2011.

Barbara Hallows, Chair of the Nursing Memorial Appeal, explained to Forces News the concept behind the memorial:

"We thought we should have the hand of a nurse—and at that time they were women's hands—holding a world, in which we could put in their names around the lands in which they worked, reminding us of how many died in the two World Wars."

Sources: BBC and

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Remembering a Veteran: Lt. Walter Tull, 41st Division, British Army

Lt . Tull Has Been Honored with This 2018 Stamp from the Royal Mail

Walter Tull was one of English football's first black players and the British Army's first ever black officer to command white troops.He played as an inside forward and halfback for Clapton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Northampton Town and was the third person of mixed heritage to play in the top division of the Football League.

Tull enlisted with Middlesex Regiment, part of a Footballers Pals  Battalion that drew professional players from a range of clubs.He fought extensively in the war including the Somme and at one stage was sent home suffering from "shell shock"—what today would be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lt. Tull with Fellow Officers

He returned to the conflict, having been made an officer, and served on the Italian Front from November 1917 to early March 1918. It was here he was cited for his "gallantry and coolness" by Major-General Sydney Lawford, after leading 26 men on a night raid against an enemy position. He and his men crossed the cold River Piave into enemy territory before returning, all unharmed despite coming under heavy fire.

Returning to the Western Front, Tull was near Arras when the German Army launched its first Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918.  On 25 March, Tull was shot and fatally wounded.  It is reported Private Tom Billingham—a former goalkeeper for Leicester Fosse—attempted to drag Tull's body back to the British position so he could be buried. His efforts failed and Walter's body lay in the soil of northern France, like so many who fought and died in the Great War.  Tull's life is now commemorated at the Arras Memorial.

Sources:  BBC, Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

King, Kaiser, Tsar
Reviewed by James M. Gallen

King, Kaiser, Tsar

by Catrine Clay.
Walker Publishing Company, 2006

King Edward VII
The Great War in all its tragic proportions was, in some measure, a family feud: among its leaders, decision makers and victims were three cousins who knew each other, played together, and, ultimately, were among the war’s victims. King, Kaiser, Tsar is their story.

We should begin with the dramatis personae of this tragedy and their family trees. Two ancestors are prominent figures. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was grandmother of King George V of the United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Empress Alexandra of Russia. King Christian IX of Denmark was the father of Queen Alexandra of the UK, who was mother of George V, and Princess Dagmar who by marriage to Emperor Alexander III, became Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia and mother of Tsar Nicholas II. To simplify, the King, Kaiser, and Empress were first cousins through Victoria, and King and Tsar were first cousins through their Danish mothers.

This work begins with introductions to the early lives of its three subjects followed by examinations of their educations. Willy had a bad start with a rough birth from which his left arm was damaged and virtually useless. Though often spending time with his British relatives his antics generally made him disliked, so much so that excuses were sometimes made so as not to invite him to functions. His behavior, both private and governmental, was erratic and unpredictable.

Kaiser Wilhelm II
George, being the second son, pursued a naval career until the death of his older brother made him the heir apparent. He grew up as the son of a Prince of Wales who was largely excluded from affairs of state during Victoria’s lifetime. Surprisingly to some, George was raised without the sense of class that many expect of an upper-class Englishman.

Nicholas grew up in the embrace of his family but isolated from the country that he was to rule, partly because of seething revolution and assassinations that made intimacy with their people dangerous for the Imperial Family. Nicholas was small and weak compared to his father when thrust to the throne on the latter’s untimely death.

The three monarchs knew each other from summers in Denmark, racing at Cowes, and visits to each others’ lands during which they exchanged honorary military commissions. The relationships formed during the reign of Edward VII when his nephews, Willy and Nicky, were already on their thrones, evolved with the ascent of George in 1910.

Tsar Nicholas II
The roles of the three royal cousins in the Great War varied because of the nature of their countries’ constitutions. As King in a constitutional monarchy George’s role was limited to that of cheer leader and rallying point. Wilhelm and Nicholas, as absolute autocrats, had much more authority as their nations contemplated going to war and its prosecution. It was they who issued the ultimatums, peace proposals and orders to their armies. Willy and Nicky were most involved in the origins of the war as it was Willy’s support of Austria-Hungary and Nicky’s determination to protect Serbia that set the wheels of war in motion. Wilhelm would approve actions of his country and Nicky would assume command of Russia’s Armies, tying his prestige to their performance.

Their ends were in accord with the fates of their nations. As Russia’s armies recoiled in disaster and hardship crept across the land Nicholas lost his throne, the world he knew, and, ultimately, his life and those of his family. With the recognition that victory would elude Germany, Wilhelm’s power slipped away to his generals as he became less and less their master and more and more their puppet. He would be forced to abdicate and spend his remaining years in exile in Holland, a bitterly disappointed man until his death in 1941. Through the war, George shared the privations of his people, wore the uniforms of his warriors, and would emerge from the war, as would his country, diminished in power, but loved by his people more than ever.

So how did the relationships of these cousins, anchored in consanguinity, survive the war? Very poorly. After the wedding of Wilhelm’s daughter in 1913 they never saw each other again. Hard feelings of their nations, if not themselves, prevented George from ever reaching out to Willy—who was in no position to open channels to his conqueror.

The one issue on which George did exert his influence was to discourage his government from extending asylum to Nicholas and his family. Fearing for his own throne if the arrival of the Romanovs set off waves of protests, George encouraged his government to withdraw its offer of asylum, thereby leaving the fate of Nicholas and his family to the revolutionaries who held him prisoner.

King, Kaiser, Tsar is an excellent triple biography of lives that were intertwined in rivalries and which made and shared the tragedies of their times. Its pages are enhanced by family photographs taken in happier days. The tale of the Great War is comprised of those who lived and suffered through it, died in it, and lived in its shadow. King, Kaiser, Tsar is the tale of those who wore the crowns.

James M. Gallen

Monday, October 8, 2018

100 Years Ago: 8 October 1918 — The AEF's Busiest Day

Click on Panels to Enlarge

Medal of Honor figures do not include 5 related to the Lost Battalion incident. The Lost Battalion was relieved on 7 October 1918.

Besides the operational issues, some of the great legends of the AEF were created around this time: Sgt. York's Medal of Honor episode in the Argonne Forest  and the first Indian Code Talkers from the Choctaw Nation were involved in the fighting for St. Etienne

No member of the AEF fighting this day would have believed the war was a little over a month from its conclusion.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

100 Years Ago: The Lost Battalion Evacuated from the Pocket

Lost Battalion Survivors—Major Whittlesey at Far Left

For [five days, the Lost Battalion]  repulsed over two German attacks a day. [On scene commander Charles] Whittlesey refused to withdraw and leave his casualties behind and by 6 October food was gone and ammunition was almost exhausted.

Alexander and the 77th Division did not save Whittlesey. Major General Hunter Liggett, who then commanded the I Corps, did that on the morning of 7 October by turning a brigade of the 82d Division east and threatening the Germans with encirclement. [The attack plan was drawn up by future WWII notable Lt. Col. Jonathan Wainwright.] When elements of the 77th Division moved forward, the Germans were already withdrawing and out of roughly 500 Americans who had been caught in the treacherous brush and barbed wire filled ravines, 146 walked out.

The Pocket, Visible in the Distant Center, from the Present-Day Memorial

In the wake of the relief, the blame game began. Reputations had to be protected, scores had to be settled, medals had to be awarded. Liggett, as was his habit, remained silent. Whittlesey later committed suicide. However, the story never lost its momentum. The officers and men of the 307th and 308th Regiments of the 154th Brigade of the 77th "Liberty" Division of the A.E.F., the "Lost Battalion," like "The Battling Bastards of Bastogne," became part of the American military pantheon.

Daniel R. Beaver, Society for Military History