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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Historian Jim Leeke on Baseball and the Great War

In the WW1 Centennial Commission's News Podcast, Episode 93 (12 October), host Theo Mayer spoke with Jim Leeke, author of the book From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball in the Great War. In the interview, he answers a series of questions about the relationship between the major leagues, the players, and the war that changed the world. The following is a transcript:

Theo Mayer: In our historians corner, join us for a deep dive into one of the most American of pastimes, baseball. It's World Series season, and joining us to tell us more about baseball during World War I is Jim Leeke. Author of the book, From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball during the Great War. Jim, welcome. 
Jim Leeke: Thanks for having me.

Theo Mayer: So, Jim, when you look at the newspaper Stars and Stripes from 1918, or anywhere in that era, every single issue talks about baseball. How popular was the sport in the 1910s and what's different about the game then than it is today?
Jim Leeke: Well, back then it really was the national pastime. When America entered the war in 1917, they were the two major leagues of course, and there were 22 minor leagues. So it was a very healthy game.

Theo Mayer: For the second round 1918 military draft, unlike the film actors, baseball players were dropped from the draft exemption list and that caused the World Series to be played really early in September. Can you tell us about that Series?
Jim Leeke: The regular season ended on Labor Day and the World Series started right after that. It was the very famous 1918, Chicago Cubs/Boston Red Sox series. The big thing that came out of that series occurred in game one, which was September 5th, in Chicago. That was at Comiskey Park. The star of the day, if not the game was a young third baseman for the Sox named Fred Thomas, who actually was in the navy and was on leave from the Great Lakes to play in the game.

At the 7th inning stretch, a military band struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," which was not yet the national anthem, but it was a very famous and popular song nonetheless. The other players on the field turned to the flag and took off their caps, and put their hands over their hearts. Fred Thomas being in the service, snapped off a very correct military salute and this was noticed in the stands, and the fans began singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." It got louder and louder until it was this overwhelming and almost chilling rendition, and that really was the start of "The Star-Spangled Banner" being played at American baseball games. Not every game yet, but from then on, it was played at each World Series game and opening day. Then starting in World War II, it was played for every game.

The other aspect of the 1918 world series was the threat of a player strike. That was a very controversial thing. Their share of the World Series revenue had been cut really without their input, and they weren't happy. On the train from Chicago to Boston, the players got together and decided not to take the field until they got a better deal. They actually had an argument, but it wasn't an argument they could make in that time at that place. The fans were in the stands waiting, among the fans were a number of wounded American troops. The players were in a no-win position, and eventually cooler heads prevailed and they took the field, but they just got pummeled in the press. The players got pummeled, the owners got pummeled, the leagues got pummeled, and nobody came out of it well, which is almost entirely forgotten today. Nowadays, the 1918 World Series is remembered fondly, because the Red Sox won it and didn't win it again for 86 years. At the time, it was very controversial and tainted in a way.

Theo Mayer: Well now regardless of the draft, a lot of baseball players volunteered, right?
Jim Leeke: A number of players did volunteer. More often, they waited for the draft notice but there were quite a few who volunteered. The first active player to do that was Hank Gowdy. He was the catcher for the old Boston Braves and the world series hero for the 1914 "Miracle Braves." Hank signed up in June 1917 and reported for duty the following month and ended up as a color sergeant in the 42nd Division, the famous Rainbow Division, and he was in combat in France for quite a while. There were a number of former major leaguers who signed up as well, and a large percentage of those seem to end up in officer's training. Many of them went overseas as well. My favorite was a pitcher named Edward Doc Laffite, who had played for the Tigers and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in the Federal League, and was a dentist. He served in a plastic surgery unit in the army in France and England. He helped repair soldiers' ruined faces, a very admirable and worthwhile endeavor. 

Theo Mayer: That leads us to about 100 years ago this week, when Captain Eddie Grant was killed in action. Can you tell us about him and how America reacted to his death?

Jim Leeke: Yes. Captain Eddie Grant, called Harvard Eddie when he played. He played ten years in the big leagues. In fact, he was Harvard educated, he was a New York lawyer after he retired and he was one of the former players who signed up very early. He was in officer training by May 1917. He went to France with the 77th division, and I know you've dealt with this in previous podcasts. Harvard Eddie was killed in the Argonne forest attempting to rescue the Lost Battalion, which was commanded by a friend of his, Major Whittlesey. The newspapers called Eddy Grant baseball's first gold star, which wasn't accurate. He wasn't the first former major leaguer who died during the war, but he was certainly the biggest name. His death hit the headlines in probably every sports section in the country, and off the sports pages as well. An acquaintance of mine, the umpire Perry Lee Barber, not long ago tweeted out, "Eddie Grant lives." I'd use that myself, #EddyGrantLives, because I think it's true. You saw the fairly widespread publicity [earlier this month] on the centennial of his death. So it was one of the great, sad stories of World War I.

Theo Mayer: Jim Leeke is a World War I era baseball expert and author of the book, From the Dugouts to the Trenches: Baseball During the Great War. Learn more from the links in the podcast notes, which include Jim's World War I baseball WEBSITE.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sons of Freedom: The Forgotten American Soldiers Who Defeated Germany in World War I
Reviewed by David F. Beer

Sons of Freedom: The Forgotten American Soldiers Who Defeated Germany in World War I

by Geoffrey Wawro
Basic Books, 2018

Men of the 102nd Field Artillery Awaiting Action

While reading this quite substantial book I found myself experiencing a whole gamut of reactions including surprise, shock, amazement, anger, suspense, hopefulness, and finally, pride. All this because Geoffrey Wawro has produced a detailed study of events I was less knowledgeable of than I thought and has done it with no holds barred. The story of the American involvement in the Great War is a complex one, both depressing and uplifting, and Sons of Freedom doesn't hesitate to show it.

The subtitle of this almost 600-page study initially gave me pause, thinking it wasn't a claim that would readily be accepted by the French and British. However, the author, who has several publications already to his credit including the noted A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire (2014), presents a powerful argument. By the end of the book I was convinced that despite its initial reluctance, uncertainty and disorganization, and many almost disastrous mis-steps, the United States did indeed very considerably affect the outcome of the war. Without the Doughboys the agony would have been prolonged and the human costs even more terrible.

Preceding the seventeen chapters of Sons of Freedom is an Introduction examining the great variety of Americans who went to war in 1917-1918. Included were professional athletes, baseball players, pitchers and coaches, many probably still remembered by some sports fans. Politicians and sons of politicians fought, as did noted musicians, professors, newsmen, authors, artists, and photographers. Eddie Rickenbacker, a race car driver who was to be General Pershing's chauffeur, soon transferred to aircraft and became America's top fighter ace. But above all it was the citizen-soldier-eventually in their millions-who provided the bulk of American strength and who in their enormous numbers went 'over there' to face the enemy.

This book is easy to read and the narrative proceeds in clear historical sequence. The first six chapters take us from America's initial non-involvement and the political debates surrounding the outbreak of the war in Europe to a nation "Too proud to fight" (Ch. 2), and on to recruitment, training, embarkation, and "Lafayette, we are here" (Ch. 4). Chapters 7 through16 detail specific American operations: Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry, Second Marne, and each of the Meuse-Argonne battles from Montfaucon to Sedan. The final chapter "Peace?" casts an ominous shadow over the future with its question mark while summing up the author's thesis: the British and French had depleted their fighting spirit and resources by 1918, and "without those vast American reserves and the American blows in the Aisne-Marne salient, Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne, the French, British, and Italians would have been unable to defeat the Germans in World War I"(p. 509).

Doughboys of the 42nd Rainbow Division During the
Second Battle of the Marne

Very little is left to the imagination in Sons of Freedom. The great masses of men, so often lacking in real training for combat and so often bogged down with vast mountains of supplies on roads that were scarcely tracks, slog their way to the front. There they do battle with tragically outmoded tactics: men with rifles and bayonets in rows, trudging stoically into the face of machine guns, artillery and gas. Thousands will fall, killed or often dreadfully wounded, while many others—the stragglers or "skulkers"—will make themselves scarce if they can, far back from the fighting. It won't be too unusual to be killed by friendly fire. Horses suffer terribly also, and many that are not worked to death starve from lack of fodder. Political and military leaders squabble, and General Pershing is always eager to replace or "blooeye" officers who are not aggressive enough or are too considerate of the lives of their men.

Divisions, brigades, regiments and battalions are carefully identified and followed during the action, as are some of the leading officers of distinction. Several black-and-white photos enhance the text. Only the maps in this book fail to add to the narrative. They are too small, lack captions, and often omit place names that we really need if we want to follow the precise geographical movements of the Doughboys—or "Doughs' as they are often called by the author.

Finally, American troops in their overwhelming numbers do indeed make the difference. The Germans are appalled by these numbers, just as they are impressed by the fighting qualities—and sometimes brutality—of the best of these relative newcomers. The endgame is inevitable:

With the US First Army occupying both banks of the Meuse and commanding the rails at Sedan and the US Second Army scheduled to attack Metz on November 14, Hindenburg had no means to reinforce, withdraw, or provision his army in France. The Doughboys won the war by surrounding the German army in France and Belgium and compelling its surrender (p. 507).

Yet, after the war, the Allies (as Wawro points out), "vaunting their own great sacrifices" would deliberately minimize or simply ignore the American contribution to the war. This would sadly be reflected in a lot of histories. Thus, Sons of Freedom is a refreshingly solid correction for the record. I recall a few years ago chatting with a British Army captain who confessed he'd never realized the U.S. had taken part in World War One. I only wish I'd then had this excellent book to give him.

David F. Beer

Monday, October 29, 2018

100 Years Ago: Pershing AdvocatesUnconditional Surrender

Here is the correspondence in which General Pershing expressed his opposition to executing an armistice with Germany.  When he learned of this, President Wilson was greatly displeased.

PARIS, October 30. 1918.
TO: The Allied Supreme War Council. Paris


In considering the question of whether or not Germany's request for an armistice should be granted. the following expresses my opinion from the military point of view.

1. Judging by their excellent conduct during the past three months. the British. French. Belgian. and American armies appear capable of continuing the offensive indefinitely. Their morale is high and the prospects of certain victory should keep it so.

2. The American army is constantly increasing in strength and experience. and should be able to take an increasingly important part in the Allied offensive. Its growth. both in personnel and material. with such reserves as the Allies may furnish. not counting the Italian army. should be more than equal to the combined losses of the Allied Armies.

3. German manpower is constantly diminishing and her armies have lost over 300,000 prisoners and over one-third of their artillery during the past three months in their effort to extricate themselves from a difficult situation and avoid disaster.

4. The estimated strength of the Allies on the western front. not counting Italy. and of Germany [respectively], in rifles is:

Allies     1.563.000
Germany    1.134.000
An advantage in favor of the Allies of 37%.

In guns: 

Allies     22,413
Germany     16,495
Advantage of 35% in favor of the Allies

If Italy's forces should be added to the western front we should have a still greater advantage.

5. Germany's morale is undoubtedly low. her Allies have deserted her one by one and she can no longer hope to win. Therefore. we should take full advantage of the situation and continue the offensive until we compel her unconditional surrender.

Permanent Military Representatives to the Supreme War Council

6. An armistice would revivify the low spirits of the German army and enable it to reorganize and resist later on. and would deprive the Allies of the full measure of victory by failing to press their present advantage to its complete military end.

7. As the apparent humility of German leaders in talking of peace may be feigned. The Allies should distrust their sincerity and their motives. The appeal for an armistice is undoubtedly to enable the withdrawal from a critical situation to one more advantageous.

8. On the other hand. the internal political conditions of Germany. if correctly reported. are such that she is practically forced to ask for an armistice to save the overthrow of her present Government, a consummation which should be sought by the Allies as precedent to permanent peace.

9. A cessation of hostilities short of capitulation postpones if it does not render impossible the imposition of satisfactory peace terms, because it would allow Germany to withdraw her army with its present strength. ready to resume hostilities if terms were not satisfactory to her.

10. An armistice would lead the Allied Armies to believe this the end of fighting and it would be difficult if not impossible to resume hostilities with our present advantage in morale in the event of failure to secure at a peace conference what we have fought for.

11. By agreeing to an armistice under the present favorable military situation of the Allies and accepting the principle of a negotiated peace rather than a dictated peace the Allies would jeopardize the moral position they now hold and possibly lose the chance actually to secure world peace on terms that would insure its permanence.

12. It is the experience of history that victorious armies are prone to overestimate the enemy's strength and too eagerly seek an opportunity for peace. This mistake is likely to be made now on account of the reputation Germany has gained through her victories of the last four years.

13. Finally, I believe the complete victory can only be obtained by continuing the war until we force unconditional surrender from Germany. but if the Allied Governments decide to grant an armistice, the terms should be so rigid that under no circumstances could Germany again take up arms.

Respectfully submitted,
General, United States Army,
Commander-in -Chief,
American Expeditionary Forces.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Kalisz Poland: Destroyed in August 1914

Aerial View of Kalisz Today

In the second century A.D. Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemeus explicitly mentions a town Calisia in his "Geography Outline," and this town is identified with today’s Kalisz, which is believed to be the oldest town in Poland.

August 1914 vs. Post-WWII
In the ancient times there was an amber route through Kalisz which connected the Roman Empire with the Baltic coast. And already then it was a trade settlement where the Roman merchants stayed on their way to the north looking for the Baltic amber. The traces of living in a place of today’s Kalisz are even older than the specification of Ptolemeus. They reach 8000 B.C. and—confirmed by archeological researches—keep the continuity till our times.

An Apartment Block Destroyed and Later Rebuilt

During the history the town has been worried by many pests, floods, fires, and turmoils of war. But it always revived, keeping its range and gaining in value. In August 1914 the Prussian Army shot at, bombarded, and then set fire to Kalisz for unknown reasons. As a result of this tragedy nearly the entire historical city center lay in ruins. The population that did not manage (or refused) to flee, was decimated, so that out of the almost 70,000 people at the end of the August 1914, a little over 5,000 were left in the city. Among the civilian population of Kalisz there were at least 250 casualties. When it comes to the material aspect, nearly 450 buildings were damaged in the city, and the total losses—reported during the war—were estimated to be over 33 million rubles.

St. Joseph's Square, Prewar and Mid-20th Century

Text: Kalisz, Poland, City Website; 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Wilson Supplements the Fourteen Points

Imperial Germany's Last Chancellor
Max von Baden

The German government of Chancellor Maximilian of Baden spent most of October 1918 attempting to work through President Woodrow Wilson, to negotiate an armistice based on his Fourteen Points.  Some historians hold the opinion that Germany's leaders didn't give the Fourteen Points a very close reading. In any case, they most certainly lacked familiarity with the Principles, Ends, and Particulars with which Wilson had supplemented his standards for peace throughout 1918.

President Wilson’s Four Principles, 11 February 1918

I.  Each part of the final settlement must be based upon the essential justice of that particular case and upon such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will be permanent.

II.  Peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game, even the great game, now forever discredited, of the balance of power.

III.  Every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned, and not as a part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival states.

IV.  All well defined national aspiration shall be accorded the utmost satisfaction that can be accorded them without introducing new or peculating old elements of discord and antagonism that would be likely in time to break the peace of Europe and consequently of the world.

President Wilson's "Four Ends" of 4 July 1918

I. The destruction of every arbitrary power anywhere that can separately, secretly, and of its single choice disturb the peace of the world; or, if it cannot be presently destroyed, at the least its reduction to virtual impotence.

II. The settlement of every question, whether of territory, of sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship, upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery.

III. The consent of all nations to be governed in their conduct towards each other by the same principles of honour and of respect for the common law of civilized society that govern the individual citizens of all modern states in their relations with one another; to the end that all promises and covenants may be sacredly observed, no private plots or conspiracies hatched, no selfish injuries wrought with impunity, and a mutual trust established upon the handsome foundation of a mutual respect for right.

IV. The establishment of an organization of peace which shall make it certain that the combined power of free nations will check every invasion of right and serve to make peace and justice the more secure by affording a definite tribunal of opinion to which all must submit and by which every international readjustment that cannot be amicably agreed upon by the peoples directly concerned shall be sanctioned.

President Wilson’s "Five Particulars" of 27 September 1918

I.  The impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just. It must be a justice that plays no favorites and knows no standard but the equal rights of the several peoples concerned.

II.  No special or separate interest of any single nation or any group of nations can be made the basis of any part of the settlement which is not consistent with the common interest of all.

III.  There can be no leagues or alliances or special covenants and understandings within the general and common family of the League of Nations.

IV.There can be no special selfish economic combinations within the League and no employment of any form of economic boycott or exclusion except as the power of economic penalty by exclusion from the markets of the world may be vested by the League of Nations itself as a means of discipline and control.

V.  All international agreements and treaties of every kind must be made known in their entirety to the rest of the world.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Centennial at the Grass Roots: Dave Lockard's Packard Truck

At the October 2018 Packard Truck Meet

David Lockard has been a  member of the Antique Automobile Club of America and The Packard Club for about 40 years. He has been inspired by several WWI veterans he has met over the years–especially a former Doughboy chef Joseph Conti, longtime operator of Casa Conti restaurant in Philadelphia. Mr. Conti's reputation was such that he was chosen to prepare a banquet for President Wilson during the Paris Peace Conference.

David recently shared the story of how he came to be the operator of the Packard truck shown above:

I own 3 Packard trucks (1918, 1919 & 1920).  For the past 32 years we have had a 'Packard Truck meet' at our home in York Springs, PA just above Gettysburg.  October 14, 2018 marked the final Packard Truck Meet. The 1920 was bought in 1979 as a bare frame & engine needing everything for restoration. I bought that truck from a gentleman by the name of Ralph Gery of Mechanicsburg, PA, who was 90 years old at that time. Ralph had bought the truck in the 1930's in memory of his late brother Edward Gery who was KIA in France just days before cessation of hostilities on November 11, 1918. That was one factor that helped compel me to restore/recreate a WW-I Packard to honor this Centennial of WW-1.

Loading a Packard Truck with Rations from the States, 1918

Over a 14 year period from 1996 to 2010 a group of us were able to assemble a faithfully reproduced WW-1 3-ton Packard Army truck. That alone is quite a story I can share at a later time. Over time I learned the Packard Motor Car Company made over 40,000 trucks from 1905 to 1923 and during 'The Great War'  Packard supplied the US Army alone with 10,000 trucks. Many of our allies prior to the US entering the war purchased so many Packard trucks that in 1915 Packard made more trucks than cars!  

David Driving the Truck at a Centennial Event in Front of the White House

I have truly enjoyed having the Packard Army truck at a wide variety of venues this year to honor our Veterans from 'The Great War' who have now passed on.

Well done, Dave. Thanks for remembering the service of our WWI veterans like your old boss Joseph Conti.  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Found on WikiLeaks: It Was/Is the Elites That Fail

Failing elites threaten our future. Leaders richly rewarded for mediocrity cannot be relied upon when things go wrong

The Congress of Vienna 1815
Gathering of Elites to Deal With Napoleon

By Martin Wolf, the Financial Times

In 2014, Europeans commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. This calamity launched three decades of savagery and stupidity, destroying most of what was good in the European civilisation of the beginning of the 20th century. In the end, as Churchill foretold in June 1940, “the New World, with all its power and might”, had to step “forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

The failures of Europe’s political, economic and intellectual elites created the disaster that befell their peoples between 1914 and 1945. It was their ignorance and prejudices that allowed catastrophe: false ideas and bad values were at work. These included the atavistic belief,  not just that empires were magnificent and profitable, but that war was glorious and controllable. It was as if a will to collective suicide seized the leaders of great nations.

Complex societies rely on their elites to get things, if not right, at least not grotesquely wrong. When elites fail, the political order is likely to collapse, as happened to the defeated powers after First World War. The Russian, German, and Austrian empires vanished, bequeathing weak successors succeeded by despotism. The First World War also destroyed the foundations of the 19th-century economy: free trade and the gold standard. Attempts to restore it produced more elite failures, this time of Americans as much as Europeans. The Great Depression did much to create the political conditions for the Second World War. The Cold War, a conflict of democracies with a dictatorship sired by the First World War, followed.

The dire results of elite failures are not surprising. An implicit deal exists between elites and the people: the former obtain the privileges and perquisites of power and property; the latter, in return,obtain security and, in modern times, a measure of prosperity. If  elites fail, they risk being replaced. The replacement of failed economic, bureaucratic, and intellectual elites is always fraught. But, in a democracy, replacement of political elites at least is swift and clean. In a despotism, it will usually be slow and almost always bloody.

This is not just history. It remains true today. If one looks for direct lessons from the First World War for our world, we see them not in contemporary Europe but in the Middle East, on the borders of India and Pakistan and in the vexed relationships between a rising China and its neighbours. The possibilities of lethal miscalculation exist in all these cases, though the ideologies of militarism and imperialism are, happily, far less prevalent than a century ago. Today, powerful states accept the idea that peace is more conducive to prosperity than the illusory spoils of war. Yet this does not, alas, mean the West is immune to elite failures. On the contrary, it is living with them. But its failures are of mismanaged peace, not war.

Here are three visible failures [in the 21st century].

First, the economic, financial, intellectual, and political elites mostly misunderstood the consequences of headlong financial liberalisation. Lulled by fantasies of self-stabilising financial markets, they not only permitted but encouraged a huge and, for the financial sector, profitable bet on the expansion of debt. The policy-making elite failed to appreciate the incentives at work and, above all, the risks of a systemic breakdown. When it came, the fruits of that breakdown were disastrous on several dimensions: economies collapsed; unemployment jumped; and public debt exploded. The policy-making elite was discredited by its failure to prevent disaster. The financial elite was discredited by needing to be rescued. The political elite was discredited by willingness to finance the rescue. The intellectual elite—the economists—was discredited by its failure to anticipate a crisis or agree on what to do after it had struck. The rescue was necessary. But the belief that the powerful sacrificed taxpayers to the interests of the guilty is correct.

Second, in the past three decades we have seen the emergence of a globalised economic and financial elite. Its members have become ever more detached from the countries that produced them. In the process, the glue that binds any democracy—the notion of citizenship—has weakened. The narrow distribution of the gains of economic growth greatly enhances this development. This, then, is ever more a plutocracy. A degree of plutocracy is inevitable in democracies built, as they must be, on market economies. But it is always a matter of degree. If the mass of the people view their economic elite as richly rewarded for mediocre performance and interested only in themselves, yet expecting rescue when things go badly, the bonds snap. We may be just at the beginning of this long-term decay.

Third, in creating the euro, the Europeans took their project beyond the practical into something far more important to people: the fate of their money. Nothing was more likely than frictions among Europeans over how their money was being managed or mismanaged.  The probably inevitable financial crisis has now spawned a host of still unresolved difficulties. The economic difficulties of crisis-hit economies are evident: huge recessions, extraordinarily high unemployment, mass emigration, and heavy debt overhangs. This is all well known. Yet it is the constitutional disorder of the eurozone that is least emphasised. Within the eurozone, power is now concentrated in the hands of the governments of the creditor countries, principally Germany, and a trio of un-elected bureaucracies—the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The peoples of adversely affected countries have no influence upon them. The politicians who are accountable to them are powerless. This divorce between accountability and power strikes at the heart of any notion of democratic governance. The eurozone crisis is not just economic. It is also constitutional.

None of these failures matches in any way the follies of 1914. But they are big enough to cause doubts about our elites...

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

In the Doughboys' Own Words: First Action

From In Their Own Words at the Doughboy Center

In the Trenches

In the Trenches, St. Mihiel Sector

Our (first) trench was an old one and pretty well shot to pieces. The first night I was in it, it was verquiet; no artillery at all. The only thing that broke the silence was once in awhile a sniper would shoot at something, and the rats running around sounded like someone chasing after you ... Standing post at night is something—you see there is thirty feet of wire in front of our trench and the posts are put in very irregular. It is almost impossible to find a place where you could see clear through the wire, even in daylight, and at night, every post or broken tree looks like a man and if you look long enough the object seems to move.

The first night I stood post I imagined the trees were men and at times I saw them stoop down and climb over the wire, but after that I was used to it and learned how to tell a man from a tree. If you give a false alarm it means that the fellows who are sleeping in dugouts are wakened and have to come up and "stand to". At the best, the fellows get very little sleep, and if there are any alarms, they get none at all; so the wise Hun has all kinds of ways to coax an alarm, cats are used; and they have whistles that make moaning noises. You hear a cat on the wire and one of these whistles are blown, and you look out and think there is a man cutting the wire, and let her go...It rained only once while we were in and it was bad enough in dry weather, but when you have to stand in mud, it must be hell.

We were troubled quite a little by snipers, stick your head over and zip—they use a high power air gun and there is no flash, so they are very hard to locate.
Pvt. Sam Ross, 42nd Division

A Trench Raid

...The moon was bright but Lt. Holmes crawled up with his men, cut 12 strands of wire, and when the sentry looked out of the post, leaped on him himself. While Lt. Holmes was wrestling in the water in the trench with the first sentry, the second German shot at the lieutenant. Sgt. Murphy killed him with his bayonet. The prisoner was then secured, yelling, "Kamerade", and taken back over No Man's Land.
Reported by Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
Staff Report 26th Infantry, 1st Division

I want to say right now how I felt in advancing in a front wave for the first time in my life against an enemy...shells were shrieking ominously over our heads and their screams seemed to have a devilish joy in landing to kill some poor unfortunate mother's son...The whining of bullets was enough to make you wonder how long a person could be missed by them...I wiped my forehead and it was sweaty...cold sweat.
Corporal Joe Rizzi, 110th Engineers

An old story...The new recruit asks, "Hey, Soldier, tell me, is it really as rough up there as we are told?" The classic answer, "Yeah, they shot a man up there one day last week."
Pvt. Elton Mackin, USMC, 2nd Division

A Well-Known British Nurse Observes the Doughboys' Arrival

(One day) I was leaving quarters to go back to my ward, when I had to wait to let a large contingent of troops march past me...Though the sight of soldiers marching was now too familiar to arouse curiosity, an unusual quality of bold vigour in their swift stride caused me to stare at them with puzzled interest.

They looked larger than ordinary men; their tall straight figures were in vivid contrast to the undersized armies of pale recruits to which we were grown accustomed...Had yet another regiment been conjured out of our depleted Dominions? I wondered, watching them move with such rhythm, such dignity, such serene consciousness of self-respect. But I knew the colonial troops so well, and these were different: they were assured where the Australians were aggressive, self-possessed where the New Zealanders were turbulent.

Then I heard an excited exclamation from a group of Sisters behind me, "Look! Look! Here are the Americans!"

I pressed forward with the others to watch the United States physically entering the War, so god-like, so magnificent, so splendidly unimpaired in comparison with the tired, nerve-wracked men of the British Army. So these were our deliverers at last, marching up the road to Camiers in the spring sunshine!...The coming of relief made me realize all at once how long and how intolerable had been the tension, and with the knowledge that we were not, after all, defeated, I found myself beginning to cry.
Nurse Vera Brittain, V.A.D.


Wounded Doughboy at Cantigny

In front of Cantigny, in woods on hill. Valley in front with main road from Montdidier to Amiens running through valley. Boche on hill across valley and in town of Cantigny. Heavy shelling; gas day and night. Parks and Wynn killed by shellfire. Relieved Algerians. No trenches, they stopped the Boche there. We are busy all night putting up wire and digging in. The ground is like chalk, easy digging. I've had a patrol out every night, protecting the wire stringers.
Sgt. Tom Carroll, 1st Division

Into the village of Cantigny we go. There remained nothing but ruins. We passed on through to the other side of the village. Here we encountered barbed wire entanglements but it was our good fortune to get through these without any mishap. But once across I notice that the boys are falling down fast. A shell burst about ten yards in front of me and the dirt from the explosion knocked me flat on my back. I got up again but could not see further than one hundred feet. I heard someone yell "lay down." I knelt on one knee and wondered what would come next...

We laid down and started to shoot and it was our good fortune that the second wave reached the place at this time. About twenty Dutchmen came out of the holes, threw down their rifles and stood with their hands up. The doughboys didn't pay any attention to this but started in to butcher and shoot them. One of the doughboys on the run stabbed a Dutchman and his bayonet went clear through him...

The German artillery was in action all the time...I stopped at a strong point and asked the boy in the trench if there was room for me to get in. "Don't ask for room, but get in before you get your [!#%&] shot off," a doughboy said...

We stayed there all that night and the next day, being relieved at two o'clock the following morning, taking position in the first lined of reserve trenches. We ate a cooked dinner at eleven o'clock, that being the first meal we've had in three days.
Sgt. Boleslaw Suchocki, 1st Division
Unpublished Manuscript

We held [Cantigny] for three days before being relieved by another regiment . . . It was three days of h..l, and the third day was worst of all, as the dead had begun to decompose, and our strength was about gone. Twice I was covered up with dirt when shells would cave in the trench but my lucky star was in the ascending I guess. I've had quite a few narrow escapes; once a bullet went through the bandolier of ammunition and coat, but never touched me . . .
Sgt. Hobart McKinley Thomas, 28th Infantry, 1st Division

In late May, the 2nd and 3rd Divisions of the AEF are asked to stop the German Army at the Marne River town of Ch√Ęteau-Thierry

Belleau Wood

Marines After Belleau Wood

Retreat Hell, we just got here!

Come on ya sons of bitches, ya want to live forever?

I have every man, except a few odd ones, in line now. We have not broken contact and have held.

Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.
Various Marines

I was wounded while we were making the attack. I lay on the field three hours after I was wounded...I could not get up and leave without drawing fire, so I lay with the rest of the boys. After it got dark I went to the first-aid dressing station and had my leg dressed.
Anonymous Marine

The German Army Evaluates Their New Enemy

The condition of the [American] troops must be considered excellent. They are healthy, husky, physically well developed men of from 18 to 28, who temporarily merely lack the necessary training to transform them into really estimable opponents. The spirit of the troops is fresh and harmlessly confident. Quite typical is the expression of one prisoner, "We kill or get killed." Casualties of the Marine Brigade [at Belleau Wood] are considerable. One prisoner estimates them to be 30-40%.
German 87th Division
Intelligence Report

In the field, June 11, 1918

Forgive me that I am answering your letter at such a late date, but I could not do so before. We have Americans opposite us who are terribly reckless fellows. In the last eight days I have not slept twenty hours. My company has been reduced from 120 to 30 men. Oh, what misery!
Private Hebel, German 237th Division

Doughboys' Impressions of France

Doughboys with French Civilians

There are so many women [in France] wearing black and the other [women] show what a strain they have been thru. There are scarcely any young men seen except those who have returned minus some part of their anatomy or else in such a physical condition that they are almost helpless. All the men working are over fifty and then there are lots of boys...
Pvt. Allan Neil, USMC, 2nd Division

Talk about a dead town ! Verdun is it.

It appears much as San Francisco did after the fire. Some houses intact, even whole blocks only casually damaged and then—great areas in utter ruins.

For blocks, silence is supreme. Most furniture has been removed but here and there a piano or some such cumbersome article stands had crushed under the weight of a toppled wall.
Pvt. Otis Briggs, 1st Division
Unpublished Manuscript, A COMMON SOLDIER

[In Paris] Went to Notre Dame Cathedral...luckily heard the grand pipe organ. Thence to Hotel St. Anne where military police checked my pass; then to the Madeline - another beautiful church like Notre Dame...Dinner at a French Restaurant, high priced. Visited Place Vendome [and saw the] bronze cannons captured in the Napoleonic Wars. Crossed the Seine over the Alexander III Bridge.

Went through the Louvre with the YMCA. Then visited the Garden of Tuilleries...It started raining... paid 4 francs to stand in foyer of Follies Bergere—quite like our high class burlesque—the lower foyer is a grill and it's some live place. At 10 pm went to bed which was provided by the Red Cross.
Corporal Eugene Kennedy, 78th Division

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Meuse-Argonne 1918: Breaking the Line
Reviewed by Peter Belmonte

Meuse-Argonne 1918: Breaking the Line

by Maarten Otte
Pen and Sword, 2018

130th Field Artillery Deploying at Varennes in the I Corps Sector

Disclaimer: This book is primarily a travel guide, and although I’ve researched and written about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, I have never visited the battlefield.

The centennial of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive has sparked interest in this massive, costly battle. This year must surely have seen a record number of tourists at the Meuse-Argonne battlefield. Many visitors will have read about the battle ahead of their visit, and many, no doubt, will use some sort of tour guide to help them get the most of their visit. Maarten Otte’s book is the latest tour guide in Pen and Sword’s Battleground series. The author lives in the area of the battlefield, “and he has thus been able to live his passion of over twenty five years of studying the AEF [American Expeditionary Forces] and its battlefields in the Great War” (p. vi). Otte’s knowledge of this topic, and his appreciation of its place in history, comes through on every page.

Otte has organized his book to cover the entire American order of battle, in order from west to east, for the first two phases of the offensive, the narrative history thus ending at the end of October 1918; Pen and Sword is planning another volume to cover the rest of the battle. The author examines each division and corps in turn; their actions, usually not down to the small unit level, are described in relation to neighboring units. In this way the reader will form a good foundational picture of the battle. Interspersed in the narrative are Otte’s detailed description of four car tours and five walking tours of the battlefield.

As is befitting a travel guide there are 38 maps scattered throughout the text. Some of these maps are reproductions of the American Battle Monuments Commission maps, and others are geared for each car or walking tour. There are dozens of photographs throughout the book, many of them from the author’s personal collection; some of the photographs might be appearing in print for the first time. Especially helpful and interesting are present-day photographs of areas of the battlefield, including some monuments. There are also small illustrations of most units’ insignia and some medals

For each walking tour the author gives an approximate duration and a distance. He also includes helpful hints about whether the terrain is difficult for hiking and what type of shoes to wear. Otte includes cautions and warns of places one can visit “at your own risk.” All of the tours are accompanied by GPS coordinates of significant points and helpful tips about points of interest to visit along the way. These include places to eat, private museums, and other tours. Appendices consist of a First Army order of battle, a brief discussion of the composition of American divisions, and, by the series editor Nigel Cave, a brief but even-handed appraisal of the AEF. Otte concludes with a small section of advice to travelers. There are no footnotes, and the select bibliography extends to about a page and a half.

This book is certainly up to the high standards of Pen and Sword books. It is a fine introduction to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and it would be a worthy companion for anyone touring that battlefield.

Peter L. Belmonte

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