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

Friday, August 31, 2018

Illustrator Correspondents at the Siege of Antwerp

View of the Antwerp Skyline During a Nighttime Bombardment

By Tony Langley

These drawings of the Antwerp siege on the left were produced by H.C. Seppings-Wright, a former British naval officer, who had been sketching war scenes since the end of the 19th century. He was an old Boer War hand and quite experienced at war and illustrating. Seppings-Wright's field drawings were so accomplished and detail-filled that they were often published "as is" by periodicals.

British Troops in Makeshift Trenches in Lier, During the Fight Along the Nethe Line

Newspapers and magazines of the period supplemented photography with action drawings that better
captured the panoramic scale of the battlefield while allowing the artist to highlight important details. Typically, these working drawings made by "illustrator-correspondents" were forwarded to the main office and there made more "artsy" by the in-house staff and then published fairly promptly.  Below is such a finished work submitted by correspondent Buck P. Richie.

Final Evacuation of Antwerp Across the Scheldt

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Remembering a Veteran: Corporal Jake Allex, 33rd Division AEF

Aleksa Mandušić (1887–1959) was known to his mates in the 33rd Illinois National Guard Division as Jake Allex.  A 1905 immigrant of Serbian ancestry, who had been born in Kosovo, he  displayed outstanding leadership, courage and initiative at Chippilly Ridge on 9 August 1918. The action was in support of  the British 58th Division on the second day of the battle of Amiens. His Medal of Honor citatiaion reads in part:

At a critical point in the action, when all the officers with his platoon had become casualties, Cpl. Allex took command of the platoon and led it forward until the advance was stopped by fire from a machinegun nest. He then advanced alone for about 30 yards in the face of intense fire and attacked the nest. With his bayonet he killed 5 of the enemy, and when it was broken, used the butt of his rifle, capturing 15 prisoners.

In researching this article, I discovered one sad postscript to Allex's story. He returned to Serbia after the war to start a family and eventually bring them to America. According to one report, he spent several years in King Alexander's Royal Guard during this period.  Despite his wartime achievements as of 1929 he was unable to bring his ill wife and their children to America because of immigration restrictions. He returned to Chicago to work, allowing him to send money to his family.  At the time of the article, he was working as foreman of a gang of concrete layers. He is buried at the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Saint Sava Libertyville, Lake County, Illinois.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Alpine Field Kitchens

The Troops Must Be Fed!

The Italian Army photograph above tells quite a story. It shows a field kitchen at 6,000-foot altitude in the Dolomite Alps. It is built cantilever-style on the side of a cliff. The latest meal has been placed in pails to be carried, suspended on each end of a pole, by the members of the ration party that's preparing to depart for mountaintop trenches, such as those shown below. 

Now consider this: both of these photos were taken in the summer. Using your imagination, superimpose snow, ice, wind, and shivering temperatures on these scenes. Even in that extreme environment, the food had to be cooked and delivered to the troops.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Lossberg's War
Reviewed by Terrence J. Finnegan

Lossberg's War:
The World War I Memoirs of a German Chief of Staff

by Fritz von Lossberg
Edited and Translated by Major General David T. Zabecki and 

Lieutenant Colonel Dieter J. Biedekarken
University Press of Kentucky, 2017

Original German sources covering World War I are a treat for the enthusiast, and Fritz von Lossberg's account is especially so. His service during the war was exceptional, for he covered all the major battles on the Western Front, including the Somme in 1916. As is stated in the translators' Introduction, "Lossberg during World War I never commanded anything." The reader instead gets a feast of insights to German command thinking throughout the war, clearly showing the evolution of military strategy and tactics that defined the era.

What makes the work so important for those evaluating military thinking at the core of operations is that the German side over the century has been woefully lacking by most English and American scholars. The German Reichsarchiv monumental 14-volume history Der Weltkrieg 1914–1918, published during the interwar years describing in detail the ground war, should be essential for all scholarship addressing World War I military operations. However, German natives who address the history are few and far between. Getting to the pure substance of German thinking is a major challenge.

Concern with Fritz von Lossberg's work is the original date of publishing. By 1938, most German military works were tainted with ideological bias from the National Socialist publishing community. One has to be sensitive to the exact discussions reflecting what his actual notes covered. If the final work is Fritz von Lossberg's insight at the time of the war, then the read is a pure delight for it is contemporary German in its essence. However, his 1939 Prologue carries the exhaltation "As an old soldier I watch with great excitement the rise of the Wehrmacht of the Third Reich." Perhaps this generated the prevailing bias for a generation of military scholarship to not seriously consider von Lossberg's amazing contribution to contemporary German military thinking.

The casual reader will find Lossberg's work to be worthwhile because the Zabecki and Biedekarken translation is a delight. There is a tendency for literal translation to reflect German grammar. German articles Der, Die, and Das are routinely replaced with "the." This is not the case here.

For this reviewer, the mention of intelligence and aerial reconnaissance reports aiding 5. Armee headquarters in formulating early September 1914 assessments on the enemy was substantiation that the Germans were wedded early on to aviation's role in developing operational strategies against the western Alliance. Analysis on artillery was equally illustrative for seeing the German assimilate data from their aviation sources.

Von Lossberg's discussion on how First Marne resulted in victory for Entente forces was particularly insightful:

So far in the war the English had evaded any decisive fight to avoid losing their links to the Channel ports. For that same reason, the BEF's thrust into the gap between First and Second Armies was neither rapid nor energetic…It is not the courageous German Army that was to blame for the withdrawal from the Marne, but rather OHL and General von Moltke, who from the beginning of the war made one mistake after another…During the grave situation following 9 September 1914, the only important issue was the ability to assemble a superior force for the German right wing to attack with. Whether or not the right wing should have been pulled back farther was immaterial, because in a mobile war one does not fight for terrain, but for total destruction of the enemy.

Assignment to the Eastern Front in November 1914 provides another rarely seen view of the thinking of the command against the Russian adversary. There von Lossberg met with General von Hindenburg and Generalmajor Ludendorff—an introduction that increased his credibility in the years to come.

The assignment at the Somme is probably the most lucrative discussion from von Lossberg. He made many a personal reconnaissance of the region and provided in-depth views of the important battle. He saw the rolling terrain offering many possibilities for frontal and flanking observation and artillery fire. The Somme ground was also good for infantry defensive operations thanks to numerous solidly built-up settlements. Another insight was that the British and French had aerial superiority in this sector. They constantly flew over German-held terrain strafing infantry with machine gun fire from low altitudes and dropping bombs in the rear areas on any recognized movement. "Our flyers were powerless against this incredible superiority."

His superior work resulted in being awarded by the Kaiser the Orden Pour le Mérite, the first von Lossberg to be recognized with that honor from a long line of distinguished soldiers. On 11 April 1917, he was appointed by the Kaiser to be chief of staff of 6. Armee opposite British forces, followed in June 1917 to chief of the general staff of 4. Armee, facing British forces from the southern wing and French forces to the sea. It was then von Lossberg applied his depth to developing the defensive architecture with which he is credited.

Improvements in communications throughout the sector became the standard. From his army command post he could communicate with all the corps and divisional headquarters, the artillery groups, and the airfields. His praise for the German Army centers on the Battle of Flanders, where not a single German division failed and every piece of ground was fought for stubbornly. Insight after insight floods the reading and provides a rarely seen personal view from the German command. For the military student of the era, such revelations from a contemporary make for fresh reading and adds to a credible understanding of what is the rightful fascination of the Great War. Any future work that doesn't reference General der Infanterie Fritz von Lossberg's important observations should be considered incomplete.

Terrence J. Finnegan

Monday, August 27, 2018

An American Admiral Quells a Russian Mutiny

Black Sea Fleet Mutineers at Sevastopol

When Nicholas II abdicated on 15 March 1917, the creation of Provisional Government failed to stabilize the situation. A wave of political activity followed across Russia. Unsurprisingly, Sevastopol did not remain immune from such developments. On 19 March elections to a soviet (council) of deputies took place in the city. At the same time, sailors’ committees were formed on the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Alexander Kolchak.

The Bolshevik cause received a massive boost with the arrival of Vladimir Lenin in Petrograd to popular acclaim on 16 April 1917. He had returned from exile in Switzerland courtesy of a German sealed train. Under his leadership and alluring promises of "peace, land and bread," the Bolsheviks fomented popular concerns and anti-war protests—all carefully preparing the ground for their revolution later in the year. Kolchak sensed the impending catastrophe, predicting that he would soon have "to deal with the historical disgrace of a senseless mutiny during wartime." On 22 April Sevastopol witnessed mass crowds of people welcoming home former sailors released from either exile or prison, including those who had participated in the mutinies of 1905.

Bending to the demands of the crews, on 13 May Kolchak ordered the renaming of battleships with imperial names such as Imperator Alexander III, which became the Volya (Will). By the early summer, discipline within the Black Sea Fleet was fast breaking down. 

Rear Admiral James H. Glennon
On 20 June a delegation from the United States Navy, headed by Rear Admiral James H. Glennon, visited Sevastopol, an important port of call on a tour of naval bases to determine how best to support the Russian war effort against Germany.  Having inspected a number of coastal defense batteries and other shore installations, Glennon encountered ships "full of idle sailors in dirty white uniforms milling aimlessly around." A mutiny was already well under way. A Russian officer described what ensued:

Admiral Glennon had gone to a large public meeting attended by several thousands of seamen and soldiers…He told the men about the great American democracy, about the discipline in the American navy, about the traditions of freedom coupled with self-restraint which alone made democracy possible, called on them to desist from insulting their officers, urged that they return their weapons, and pressed upon them the necessity of accepting the rudimentary forms of discipline without which the Fleet would become worthless. He also spoke of Kolchak in terms of high praise, and pleaded with the men to be loyal to him. Glennon’s speech was superbly translated and made a deep impression on the meeting. Probably this was an instance unique in all naval history that a foreign officer made a speech that helped to quell a mutiny.

Although the American visitor, at great personal risk, intervened to save the lives of a number of Russian officers, Glennon could not restore them to their positions of authority. 

Two days later he departed Sevastopol by train bound for Petrograd. A dejected Kolchak, recalled by the Provisional Government for "failing to maintain discipline," made the same journey. He was lucky to be alive, having survived a violent confrontation with sailors aboard his headquarters ship, the Georgii Pobedonosets.

Sources:  Mental Floss and History Today

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Recommended: "Over Here" by Mark D. Van Ells

By Mark D. Van Ells
From the American Legion Website

A century ago, George M. Cohan’s song “Over There” rallied the American public behind the Doughboys in France during the Great War. Today, World War I centennial events are helping Americans rediscover their nation’s role in that titanic conflict. Memorials, museums and historic sites are a popular way to connect with the past, and thousands travel across the Atlantic to visit the battlefields of Europe. However, there are plenty of places “over here” in America where one can also walk in the footsteps of the doughboys. 

The best place to begin exploring stateside World War I sites might be the Army’s 32 training camps where civilians became soldiers. They spanned the country, from Camp Devens, MA, to Camp Kearny, CA. Hastily constructed in the summer of 1917, the camps received the first troops that September, and by the time the war ended 14 months later roughly four million people had passed through their gates. 

Seventeen camps are still military property, and many have history museums that chronicle the Doughboy experience. Fort Jackson, SC, for example, is home to the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum. Fort Lee, VA, has two: the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum and the Army Women’s Museum. The Lewis Army Museum at Fort Lewis, WA, is in the old camp recreation center the Salvation Army built for trainees during the war. Though located on active military installations, these museums are open to the public. A civilian must obtain a visitor’s pass to see them, and photo ID and vehicle registration (if entering by car) are normally required. 

The fate of other camps varied considerably. Camp Logan in Houston is now Memorial Park—a welcome green space in that sprawling city. Camp Upton on Long Island, NY, is home to Brookhaven National Laboratory, a scientific research center. Like many training sites, Camp Taylor in Louisville, KY, is now a residential area. Single-family homes stand where barracks, mess halls, and warehouses once did. In recent years, the last World War I structures have been demolished, though the Camp Taylor Historical Society is working to preserve memorials and erect a museum dedicated to the Great War heritage of the neighborhood. 

91st Division Monument Located at Fort Lewis, WA (Now Part of
Joint Base Lewis-McChord), Where the Division Trained in 1917

Other training sites have also given way to suburbia. Strolling through certain neighborhoods in places like Montgomery, AL (Camp Sheridan), Fort Worth, TX (Camp Bowie), or Menlo Park, CA (Camp Fremont), the careful observer spots camp-related monuments, plaques, and historical markers in local parks or along the streets.  

Soldiers received specialized training at stateside posts, too. For example, the Great War saw the advent of the tank, and many doughboys learned to operate these fearsome new machines. One tank training facility, Camp Colt, was located right on the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, PA. Amid the lavish memorials to the Blue and the Gray are a few subtle reminders of World War I. Just off the Emmitsburg Pike, on ground Pickett’s men charged across in 1863, stands a lone pine tree marking the headquarters of Camp Colt’s commander, Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was Ike’s first command.

Continue Reading the Article at:

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Bombing Civilians: A World War I Heritage

General Giulio Douhet (1869–1930)

A plain-speaking Italian general saw it all coming out of the ashes of the Great War—the Blitz, strategic bombing, mutual assured destruction: 

Never, at any time during [World War I], was a death-blow struck—a blow which leaves a deep gaping wound and the feeling of imminent death. Instead both sides struck innumerable blows and inflicted many wounds; but the wounds were light ones and always had time to heal. Such wounds, while leaving the body weaker and weaker, still left the patient with the hope of living and recovering strength enough to deal to an equally weakened enemy that last pinprick capable of drawing the last drop of blood. . .There is no doubt now that half of the destruction wrought by the war would have been enough if it had been accomplished in three months instead of four years. A quarter of it would have been sufficient if it had been wrought in eight days. 

Bombing Antwerp, 1914

We need only envision what would go on among the civilian population of congested cities once the enemy announced that we would bomb such centers relentlessly, making no distinction between military and non-military objectives...The very magnitude of possible aerial offensives cries for an answer to the question, ‘How can we defend ourselves against them?' To this I have always answered, ‘By attacking'...The fundamental concept governing aerial warfare is to be resigned to the damage the enemy may inflict upon us, while utilizing every means at our disposal to inflict even heavier damage upon him…Mercifully, the decision will be quick in this kind of war, since the decisive blows will be aimed at civilians, that element of the countries at war least able to sustain them. These future wars may yet prove to be more humane than wars in the past in spite of all, because they may in the long run shed less blood. But there is no doubt that nations who find themselves unprepared to sustain them will be lost.

Giulio Douhet, The Command of the Air, 1921 

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Classic Great War Photo: Hawthorne Mine, 1 July 1916

Top—1 July 1916; Lower—20 Aug 2016

Photographer Ernest Brooks and cinematographer Geoffrey Malins recorded the most famous images of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 at 7:20 a.m.

In May 2016 I was able to visit the location where they observed the explosion. It is on a sunken road used by elements of the 29th Division as a jumping-off point that morning. The sunken road is immediately west of the village of Beaumont Hamel, just off road D163.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Germany's Comic Magazine Lustige Blätter

By Tony Langley

Lustige Blätter ("comic pages") was a satirical weekly published in Berlin that featured artwork by some of accomplished commercial artists of the day. The content of these satirical pages could be pro-military, anti-Allied, just plain social commentary, or something charming and saccharine. 

In the images on this page, there are sniveling Allied generals and politicians,  a commentary about the the Central Powers at long last turning John Bull into a mummy; a sentimental cartoon of German guards on the Belgian-Dutch border flirting with some improbable Dutch maidens anachronistically dressed as in the cheapest postcard;  and a rather vicious caricature of President Wilson speaking with a serpent's "forked tongue."

It was a quality publication, featuring many full color pages. Lustige Blätter was similar to the cultural magazine Jugend published in Munich, though Jugend was more artistically inclined in its content.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Fated for Assassination: Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson

Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson (1864–1922)

The central intriguer in the Curragh Mutiny had a varied career in the Great War—lackluster on the battlefield but somewhat influential in the back room. Politically, he eventually managed to get appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and his singular act of war leadership proved to be his facilitating the appointment of Ferdinand Foch as Allied Generalissimo. After his retirement from the Army in 1922, he was irresistibly drawn back to Ireland, quickly gaining election as an Irish Member of Parliament from County Down. Wilson subsequently played a role in defining the borders of what became Northern Ireland. This led to his assassination by the IRA after the dedication of a war plaque in London on 22 June 1922. He remains one of the lesser-studied senior generals of the war, his early death precluding even a memoir, and his diaries published in the 1920s were considered indiscreet and self-serving.

Great Eastern Railway War Memorial  at the Liverpool Street Station
Dedicated by Wilson Prior to His Death

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Over There: America in the Great War
Reviewed by David F. Beer

Over There: America in the Great War

by Robert J. Dalessandro and Rebecca S. Dalessandro
Stackpole Books (Stackpole Military Photo Series), 2016

Author Robert Dalessandro Discussing Over There on CSpan2's "Book Notes"

Plenty of books have titles beginning with "Over There", but this one is different. Having read many books (some too long) on the Great War, I found it relaxing yet engaging to look through the Dalessandros' collection of some 360 black and white photos plus a few maps and war art. Although I was already familiar with a handful of the photos, most were new to me, and despite a few captions being not quite accurate, the book as a whole is enjoyable and informative.

Nine chapters visually take us in chronological order through the American experience of WWI from conscription to eventual homecoming. Introductions to each chapter are concise yet detailed enough to refresh our memory of the course of events covered by the photos. Most pages contain two or three photos, but the book's first photo is a moving full-page one of the poet Joyce Kilmer's grave accompanied by his apt words:

At present I am a poet trying to be a soldier. To tell the truth, I am not interested in writing nowadays, except in so far as writing is the expression of something beautiful…. The only sort of book I care to write about the war is the sort people will read after the war is over-a century after it is over (iv).

From Chapter 1, "Doughboys, Gobs, and Devil Dogs," to Chapter 9, "Hello Miss Liberty," we follow a visual history of American recruits, Doughboys, Marines, airmen, sailors, medical workers, and a few German prisoners. Some photos I found fascinating included a group of Naval Reserve "Yeomanettes," a Doughboy peeling onions—gas mask on, a treatment room for gassed patients, a desperate attempt to escape a torpedoed vessel, and a rather tense American major high up in an observation balloon. One depicts a soldier perilously carried aloft by the giant Perkins man-carrying kite, while another shows an aerial observer trying his best to slide down a rope from his blimp. There are several scenes of roads hopelessly congested by men, munitions, horses, wagons, and artillery, including a painting by war artist George Matthews Harding.

Many portraits of soldiers, some known, some unknown, are included in this book. Several are of family groups or of husband (in uniform) and wife. Some are interesting "buddy" gatherings in different locations and involved in various activities or stances. Also, the authors are quite open about the discrimination practiced by American society and the military at this time, and present several photos of African-American soldiers in action or posing for portraits. The last two pages of the book give striking photos of smart, handsome African-Americans in uniform, the final being of Captain Elijah Reynolds of the 368th Infantry Regiment, who served 30 years in the regular army before he was finally commissioned.

One of the highlights of this book is an insert of several pages in color which allow some optic contrast from the abundance of black-and-white photos. Here we find informative captions and pictures of war posters, uniforms, insignia, and weapons, plus some excellent reproductions of war art. Notable among these are samples of the work of Samuel Johnson Woolf, who served as an artist-correspondent during both World Wars I and II. His paintings reproduced here are among the most effective examples of war art I have seen.

It's fitting that this collection was put together by the former chairman of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, Col. Robert J. Dalessandro, USA (Ret.), with the help of Rebecca S. Dalessandro. Colonel Dalessandro has an impressive background in military studies, having been director of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center and chief of military history at the U.S. Army Center of Military History. At the time of the book's publication he was also deputy secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Their presentation of Over There: America in the Great War is a fine example of how a photograph can be worth a thousand words. It is a worthy tribute to the men and women who in one way or another played their part in the First World War.

David F. Beer

Monday, August 20, 2018

Failure at Gallipoli: Krithia and Achi Baba, Cape Helles Sector

A. View of Cape Helles from Achi Baba

Image A was taken near the peak of a 600-ft. hill known as Achi Baba. Six miles in the distance are the invasion beaches of Cape Helles. The troops landing on those beaches were supposed to advance to this point and capture the nearby village of Krithia within a day of landing. Image A gives the impression that the advance would be made up a gently sloping rise.

B. Typical Terrain of the Battles for Krithia

Image B gives an up-close view of the undulating ground. The sector is further complicated by four cuts or ravines crossing it. The most famous of these, Gully Ravine, will be visited at the next stop.

Allied forces never reached either Krithia or Achi Baba. There were six attempts between 28 April and 12 July, the largest of which are known as the three battles of Krithia. The earliest of these attacks was met with incredibly fierce Turkish resistance and shattered the wishful thinking of the invaders that their opposition would simply dissolve before a determined assault.

C. Turkish Monument and Memorial at Cape Helles

Key Dates for the Helles Sector:

Apr 25: Initial Landings on Five Helles Beaches

Apr 28: First Battle of Krithia

May 6–8: Second Battle of Krithia

June 4: 3rd Battle of Krithia

June 21: French advance on right flank

June 28: Successful British advance on left flank (image B of Gully Ravine)

July 2–5: Series of strong but unsuccessful Turkish attacks at Helles

July 12–13: Final major Allied attack at Helles over 2km front

August: Suvla sector becomes main focus of Gallipoli Campaign

Oct 3: 2nd French Division leaves for Salonika

Dec 7: British Government orders evacuation of Gallipoli

Jan 9: Helles evacuation completed, marking end of Dardanelles/Gallipoli Campaign

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Flies of Mesopotamia

Poster for British Camps in Middle East

There are flies that bite like bulldogs everywhere. . . The flies are awful; one black web of them this morning; in one's hair and eyes and mouth, in one's bath and shaving-water, in one's tea and in one's towel. 

A wave of great heat has come and the air is black with flies. . . Nothing that I have ever seen or dreamed of came up to the flies. They hatched out until they were almost the air. They were in myriads. The horses were half mad. The flies were mostly tiny. They rolled up in little balls, when one passed one's hand across one's sweating face. They were on your eyelids and lashes and in your lips and nostrils. We could not speak for them, and could hardly see. 

We went into General Younghusband's tent. The flies, for some reason, stayed outside. He put a loose net across the door of the tent. They were like a visible fever, shimmering in the burning light all round. Inside his tent you did not breathe them; outside you could not help taking them in through the nose and the mouth. 

My eyes were bound, and I got on a horse that started bucking because of the torture of the flies. 

KUT, 1916
by Aubrey Herbert

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Representative Julius Kahn, the American Military's Biggest Booster in Congress

Julius Kahn (28 Feb 1861–18 Dec 1924) was a United States Congressman who was succeeded by his wife Florence Prag Kahn after his death. Kahn was born in Kuppenheim, in the Grand Duchy of Baden, in what would become Germany.

He immigrated to the United States with his parents, who settled in California in 1866. He initially made his living as a stage actor, but after studying law in San Francisco, he was elected a member of the State Assembly in 1892 and admitted to the bar in January 1894.

He was elected as a Republican to the 56th and 57th Congresses (4 Mar1899–3 March 1903) for California's 4th District. He was also elected to the 59th and to the nine succeeding Congresses and served from 4 March 1905 until his death in 1924.

During his time in the House of Representatives he was an advocate of military preparedness. He helped draft and secure the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916, the Selective Service Act of 1917, and the National Defense Act of 1920. He served as chairman of Committee on Military Affairs. 

At the time of his death, his wife, Florence Prag Kahn, succeeded him in Congress and served
until 1937. Both he and his wife were strong supporters of naval aviation and are credited with helping create the carrier task forces that were decisive in the Pacific Theater in WWII.

One hundred years later, Kahn has been in some political disfavor in San Francisco due to his sponsorship of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1902. An attempt is being made to remove his name from a City and County playground named in his honor.

Source: Kol Rinah Adult Education Committee of St. Louis

Friday, August 17, 2018

Landowski's ParisTribute to the French Army of 1914–1918

Paul Maximilien Landowski (1 June 1875–31 March 1961) was a French monument sculptor of Polish descent. His best-known work is Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He produced over 35 monuments in the city of Paris and 12 more in the surrounding area. His most famous First World War memorial is Les Fantomes, the French memorial to the Second Battle of the Marne which stands upon the Butte de Chalmont in Northern France.

However, in Paris in the Trocadéro there is an equally prestigious sculpture that most tourists to the area usually fail to notice. It is his tribute to the Gloire of the French Army national monument shown here.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Recommended: Colin Halloran's "F. Scott Fitzgerald and WWI: The 'Crack-up' Essays"

F. Scott Fitzgerald and WWI: The "Crack-up" Essays

 Fitzgerald in 1918 (top line, middle) at Camp Sheridan, Alabama, where he
served in the 167th Infantry, the Alabama Pioneers. Alabama State Archives

By Colin Halloran
Presented at the WWI Centennial Commission Website

Paul Fussell, in his seminal The Great War and Modern Memory, posits that “logically, one supposes, there’s no reason why a language devised by man should be inadequate to describe any of man’s works. The difficulty was in admitting that the war had been made by man and was being continued ad infinitum by them” (170).*

While there is much debate and discussion over the “official” definition and dates of Modernism, we cannot overlook WWI and the ways it changed literary language. Broadly, the Modernist movement sought to move away from traditionalism and towards originality, particularly focusing on a “non-logical, non-objective, and essentially causeless mental universe.”**

Because the war itself was non-logical. Even the innovative language and stylizations that propelled Modernist writings prior to the war were suddenly inadequate after the horrors the world now knew humankind was capable of.

Yet much of the poetry to come out of World War I was still focused on the collective “we” and the broader identifiers (things like “English,” “American,” “French,” “German,” “Home front,” “Trenches”), and non-fiction remained largely historical and fact-based (which is to say, external). Writers of fiction, on the other hand, delved into the internal workings of the individual brain. For example, Freud’s work with WWI veterans and dreams helped fuel the movement’s interest in the human subconscious and psyche, leading writers to approach their realities and experiences through metaphor, mythology, internal monologues, and even dream sequences, as in Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting.”

In addition, the Great War stripped young authors—many of whom would shape the Modernist movement of interwar literature—of their idealism. Included in this group was titan of the Twenties, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald, in spite of dropping out of Princeton to join the Army as a second lieutenant, never shipped out, a fact that he would later lament.  

Unlike many Modernist authors of the time who were pushing the boundaries of fiction with experimental forms and techniques, Fitzgerald and his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, kept their writing largely in the realm of realism that was so popular in the 19th century. However, Fitzgerald’s stylization, characters’ attitudes, and choice of themes place him firmly within the Modernist oeuvre. For example, while there is no question that Hemingway’s fiction is highly autobiographical, he was able to distance himself from his own experiences by assigning them to his various characters such as WWI ambulance driver Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms. This technique surely contributed to his success, as many of his readers recognized their own thoughts and experiences in the musings of Hemingway’s fictional narrators. Hemingway and his work embodied the values of stoicism and ambivalence that were to be expected from a world emerging from the devastation of war. Boys had become men and men had died doing their duty, serving their homelands, protecting what was right and good, as extolled in so many poems and media of the time. Detachment was viewed as strength, and strength was now expected.

Which is also why some lesser-known works by Fitzgerald are so important.

1945 Edition

I am referring especially to the so-called “Crack-up” personal essays published in Esquire in 1936. The first essay sets the fragmented, dismal tone of the collection; it begins “Of course, all life is a process of breaking down…"

Many of Fitzgerald’s contemporaries and friends recoiled at these autobiographical, emotional essays that chronicled his own personal postwar crisis. In fact, as if embarrassed for his friend, novelist John Dos Passos, wrote to Fitzgerald, “…most of the time the course of world events seems so frightful that I feel absolutely paralysed [sic]…We’re living in one of the damndest  tragic moments in history—if you want to go to pieces I think it’s absolutely O.K. but I think you ought to write a first rate novel about it…instead of spilling it in little pieces.”

Continue reading  Colin Halloran's essay at:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How the Analysis of Strategy Changed in WWI Because of the U-boat & Airplane

by William D. O’Neil, 
formerly Director of Naval Warfare, U.S. Department of Defense

A. Historical Background: The Classical Analysis of  Strategy

Navies have always been capital intensive. What is more, the capital goods most used by navies have always had extraordinarily long lives, at least so far as wear-out and obsolescence govern. Thus it was inevitable, when the industrial revolution began to engender rapid technological changes in capital goods generally, that those responsible for naval capital procurements should become deeply concerned about the impact of technology on naval forces. The events of the ensuing 150 years have done nothing to abate that concern.

How would naval warfare be shaped by steam propulsion? What about the ram bow, breech-loading guns, torpedoes, the dynamite gun, zeppelins, airplanes? Each invention was greeted by a claque, proclaiming that here at last was the ultimate weapon which would sweep all before it and change the
nature of war at sea beyond all recognition. Others, with equal certitude, scoffed that the invention was unworkable and would exert no positive influence.

Mahan and Corbett, and a few followers, attempted to divine the prospect for naval warfare through rational analysis: deducing the basic, unchanging principles of naval war through historical study and logical reflection and applying them to the mutable conditions. In general they were far more successful at deducing principles than at applying them in altered circumstances, frequently due to inadequate grasp of the technological possibilities. But this is not in itself an impeachment of the effort to apply rational analysis to the problem of predicting technology’s impact on naval warfare.
As for principles, the judgement of strategic theorists, naval and military, may fairly be summed by B. H. Liddell Hart’s aphorism: "The principles of war, not merely one principle, can be condensed into a single word–'concentration'." Practitioners have expressed the same view in different terms, as in Napoleon’s dictum that, "The art of war consists in always having more forces than the adversary, even with an army weaker than his, at the point where one is attacking or being attacked." In this classical analysis of strategy the principal determinant of victory was the relative strength of the forces at the point of contact; the business of the commander was to ensure that his strength was superior at the point of contact or, conversely, to ensure that contact occurred only where his strength was the greater.

B. The Modern Analysis: F. W. Lanchester

F. W. Lanchester
The classical theory served well enough (in the sense that it seemed to match the observed actions of talented and successful commanders) for most of the history of warfare. It was undermined when rapid technological change started to bring forces of unlike equipment into contact with accelerating frequency. Given unlike forces, how should strength be measured? Specifically, how might one rationalize numbers with firepower? For it seemed to most that the effects of technology were seen principally in the growth of firepower. The problem was by no means unprecedented: advances such as shock cavalry and individual missile weapons had posed it, in other forms, to previous generations. But the scientific revolution had brought new tools of analysis and in 1916 an English engineer and aeronautical theorist named F. W. Lanchester, seeking to rationalize the airplane’s place in warfare, applied them.

Lanchester analyzed two cases. In the first, it is assumed that two forces fight a general engagement in which each unit is able to direct its fire at any unit of the opposing force. Lanchester’s Square Law states that, under such conditions, fighting strength (measured by ability to inflict casualties) will be proportional to the product of the ratio of the fighting values (in essence, firepower) of the two forces and the ratio of the squares of their numbers. Thus if the two forces are of equal numbers but each unit of A’s force can deliver twice as much aimed fire as each unit of B’s then fighting strength will be 2:1 in A’s favor. But with equal unit fighting value, a force with twice the numbers will enjoy a 4:1 advantage. In the case of what Lanchester called the Linear Law it is assumed that circumstances permit only un-aimed area fire, or only one-to-one combats between individual units. Here, Lanchester showed, fighting strength is simply proportional to the product of the ratios of the fighting values and the numbers engaged. Thus in a Linear Law case an inferiority by, say, a factor of two in numbers could be made good by a like superiority in firepower per unit; in the Square Law case a two-fold inferiority in numbers could only be balanced by a four-fold firepower advantage.

Thus Lanchester found not a relationship between numbers and firepower, but two relationships, their
applicability depending upon the conditions of the combat.  Clearly the Square Law was the more dramatic and surprising result and it has ever since appealed to analysts as representing the way things ought to be. Indeed, Lanchester himself characterized the Square Law as representing the conditions of "modern" war (already in 1916), while stigmatizing the Linear Law as embodying the conditions of ancient combat.

Lanchester bolstered the credibility of his Square Law by applying it to Nelson’s tactical scheme at Trafalgar, showing that Nelson’s plans were precisely those of a commander trying to optimize under the Square Law, and that the results were entirely consistent with the theory. But Lanchester did not present any real statistical evidence to support his theory, and indeed, very little relevant evidence of any sort was available in 1916. Half a century later, however, with a considerable body of statistics about a broad  O'Neil Technology and Naval War  spectrum of land combats in hand, doubts began to spread. In truth, very few of these combats showed anything at all like Square Law behavior. To the extent that there was any discernible regularity in the data at all, the Linear Law seemed to provide the better fit. But neither model fitted well. These discoveries have been widely interpreted as discrediting the Lanchester theory of combat. Yet the theory can not possibly be wrong in the usual sense: Lanchester’s mathematics were, at least in this case, quite impeccable. What is wrong is the assumption that it will always, or even usually, be possible to achieve the kind of concentration of fire that lies at the heart of the Square Law.

C. A Reification of Lanchester’s Concepts, Taking Account of the Element of Choice in Fire Concentration

Horatio Nelson

That battlefields are confusing places is, of course, proverbial. For most combat units, opportunities for deliberate, aimed fire are infrequent. Under such conditions it is scarcely surprising that combat results do not conform to the Square Law. More surprising is that anyone ever supposed they would. Actually, Lanchester (who was an extraordinarily clever man) seems never to have entertained any illusions that the ordinary run of land combats would conform to his Square Law. It must have seemed very natural in 1916 to suppose that the clearer, cleaner arena of air combat would permit a great measure of concentration of fire; indeed, it still seems so to many people. 

Where Lanchester may perhaps be faulted is on his failure to carry through fully with his theories. He had already hypothesized that Nelson, who probably did not know what differential equations were and almost certainly had not used them for tactical analysis, had nevertheless possessed a very perfect and exact understanding of the implications of concentration under Square Law conditions. Was it not reasonable to go on to assume that even a commander of lesser genius would see that to allow the enemy freedom to fire deliberately and selectively at his force would be undesirable, particularly if the enemy already had a numerical edge? And did this not imply that commanders would always seek to vitiate the essential condition for the operation of the Square Law by making it difficult for the enemy to concentrate his fire? 

A really clever commander, of course, may go a stage beyond this, arranging to permit his units to concentrate their fire while forcing the enemy to fire blind. This is the essence of a well-conducted ambush for instance. This is a case not analyzed by Lanchester, but his methods may be used to show that in such a mixed Square-Linear situation the larger force may easily be destroyed by the smaller. 

In extending Lanchester’s analysis to consider explicitly the whole range of possible relative abilities to selectively and deliberately direct fire at individual enemy units–and the impact of strategic and tactical choice upon those abilities—we cast the whole question of concentration in an entirely different light. In the classical view, what counted was numbers at the point of contact. Lanchester’s original formulation amended this to include firepower as well as numbers, with the relationship between them determined (from among two possible cases) by the circumstances of the combat. Now we can envision many possible relationships, chosen by circumstances much within the control of the commanders. Moreover, in certain of these circumstances it is possible in theory (as we know it to be in truth) for a force inferior both in numbers and firepower to defeat one superior. 

In one sense we have now come full circle to another doctrine of classical military thought: that everything depends upon the commander. But this extended Lanchester theory has important specific implications about the nature and limits of effective command. Specifically, the crucial task of the commander is to order things so as to minimize the enemy’s opportunities for accurate, selective fire and to maximize his own. With sufficient advantage in fire concentration he may overcome any given discrepancy in numbers and firepower. But the greater the discrepancy in numbers and firepower, the greater will be the advantage in fire concentration necessary to prevail, and the greater the penalty if the necessary advantage is not achieved. 

Lanchester’s methods can be used to give this argument a mathematical form. But the resulting equations, like Lanchester’s, contain parameters which can not independently be estimated for any particular combat. With the addition of an infinite range of possibilities for fire concentration, and with fire concentration entering as a dominant independent element, the possibility of statistical validation of the extended Lanchester theory seems to vanish. Pending a possible future quantification and independent measurement of the relative ability to concentrate fire, those who seek empirical confirmation or denial of this extended Lanchester analysis will have to content themselves, as Lanchester did, with examinations of particular cases. 

Source:  Technology and Naval War, Willam D. O'Neil, 1981

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Journey's End
Reviewed by Bryan Alexander

Journey's End

by R.C. Sherriff
Penguin Modern Classics, 2018

Journey's End (first published in1928) is a powerful play and an unusual take on the First World War. The conceit is simple. In 1918 a group of British officers wait in an underground shelter for the German Army to begin what was then the largest military offensive in human history. Two men who knew each other as friends before the war find their relationship, and their selves, radically altered. An older man tries to support both of them as they struggle with the war and each other.

1939 Presentation of the Play

At no point do we leave the dugout, not even to enter the war's notorious trenches per se, yet sounds of the war are heard throughout every scene. It's a claustrophobic, intense situation and story. Apparently Sherriff originally wanted to title it Suspense or Waiting, which are actually better titles in some ways.

As a WWI work, Journey's End depicts some key details. Our main character, Stanhope, reveals a man shattered by war in a good portrait of PTSD when it was only called shell shock. We see the British Army caught between moral burnout and hard-won professional expertise. The classic sense of commanders being out of touch and inhumane appears during the penultimate raid sequence. Comedy around squalor and bad food recalls veterans' black humor. And some of the plot involves planning for familiar military details, such as launching a raid across no-man's-land and preparing for a major attack. Act III includes a scene that encapsulates a great deal of class tensions, when Stanhope disciplines Raleigh for violating class expectations (yes, other things are involved, too).

And yet the play differs from many post-1914 works of WWI fiction, in that it is not clearly antiwar. Unlike, say, All Quiet on the Western Front (my reflections) or Wilfred Owen's poems, Journey's End is about men who, despite everything, insist on fighting. They are committed to the war, even if the issues (German aggression, etc.) never really appear. A key plot involves one officer, Hibbert, who seems to be faking an illness in order to get out of serving any longer. Stanhope, massively brutalized by the war, manages to convince Hibbert to stay, even at the point of threatening to kill him. This doesn't appear to be cynical, but heartfelt. It reminds me of Pat Barker's Regeneration (1991), which similarly resists condemning men for deciding to fight and likely die.

It is a minimalist play in some ways. Dialogue is brisk and concrete, lacking lyrical passages, brooding monologues, or detailed recaps of off-stage events. As I mentioned before, the setting is closely confined in space. I can imagine how good staging could heighten this.

The play has been filmed several times, and a new version has just appeared. I look forward to it and hope as well to see Journey's End on stage at some point.

Bryan Alexander

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ten Practical Lessons Learned in Delville Wood

The Sixth Day: Commemorative Panel at the Delville Wood Memorial
Depicting the Brigade's Survivors

The Battle of Delville Wood (14–20 July 1916) was described by Sir Basil Liddell-Hart as "the bloodiest battle-hell of 1916." Fought by the South African Brigade of the highly regarded 9th Scottish Division, it resulted in the capture of the majority of the nearly mile-square wood, which at the end had but a single tree remaining. Only some 750 of the 3153 officers and men that entered the wood mustered when the brigade was finally relieved on 20 July. 

Afterward the division commander ordered a review. Naturally most of the responses pertained to fighting in forested areas. Here are some of the key points from that review. 

1. Occupying woods by infantry exposes them to decimation by artillery fire. The carnage [at Delville Wood] could only have been avoided had the enemy lines been captured across a broad front. 

2. Consensus of opinion is that it is useless to attack in face of machine guns, even if there is no wire obstacle. 

3. In a wood the only reliable method of communication is by runner. Visual signaling was not reliable and telephone lines did not last long in the wood. 

4. Digging trenches of any depth in woods is almost impossible due to tree roots. Nevertheless, even the shallowest trench could provide some protection. However, there was shortage of spades and picks at Delville Wood. 

5. Bright identifying patches need to be done away with. [The South Africans had yellow squares on their haversacks.] "They form a splendid mark for hostile snipers." 

Inside Delville Wood
6. Heavy machine guns are cumbersome to move through forested areas and once spotted are targeted quickly for enemy artillery fire. The Lewis gun was preferable for the woods.

7. The presence of officers invariably established confidence, especially after heavy bombardment.

8. A lack of flares for night fighting allowed the Germans to advance on the trenches under cover of darkness.

9. Considered that snipers should be given a free hand. The qualities of resource and daring are essential to make a good sniper; more so than being a crack shot.

10. It is not considered advisable, after taking a wood, to retain it, but to push out in front and consolidate in the open. Considered impossible to consolidate in the wood.

Source: South African Military History Society 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Centennial at the Grass Roots: Learn Your Local WWI Heritage

Local, Regional, and State Histories Are Coming Off the Presses

More and more publishers are turning out WWI titles focusing on states, regions, towns, and military installations. Here, I'd like to single out just one publishing collaboration: Arcadia Publishing and The History Press headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. Together they are the largest and most comprehensive publishers of local and regional books in the United States with a library of more than 12,000 titles. The two imprints publish a combined 900 books each year. Their full collection can be searched at:

Below are examples of two categories of their superbly illustrated World War I monographs. The first image shows their great selection on the training camps built for the Doughboys and were later used for WWII's GIs. While the authors take different approaches, they all cover the building of the camps, the sudden impact of tens of thousands of young men arriving in the area, and details about the particular units that trained on the bases. 

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The second shows their volumes on how states, sections, and towns experienced the war. You own local library or historical society may already have published similar works on your area.  However, even as we write, other publishers are coming on-stream with WWI titles focusing on states and local libraries in the war.  Check online and at your local libraries for what is now available.

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