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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Remembering a Veteran: Lt. Béla Lugosi, 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry, K.u.K.

In Uniform
Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Lugos, Banat, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), the man we remember as Bela Lugosi  (1882–1956), was the youngest of four children of a banker. Just after the turn of the century, he started his career on the stage in mostly secondary roles in Hungary. When World War I broke out, he became an infantry and ski-patrol officer on the Carpathian Front for the Austro-Hungarian Army.  Bela was wounded three times and decorated for his service on the Russian front. 

He also lost his first wife during the war. In 1919, after finding himself on the losing side of the Hungarian Revolution, he moved to Germany to perform in postwar German cinema. Following the death of his second wife, he emigrated to the U.S. Between acting gigs, while working as a laborer, Bela was spotted for the lead in a stage version of Dracula. His memorable career as a film icon soon followed. I found an interesting video archive of of interviews he conducted over the years HERE.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

How the United States Paid for Its War Effort

When the First World War began in 1914, the U.S. economy was in recession. But a 44-month economic boom ensued from 1914 to 1918, first as Europeans began purchasing U.S. goods for the war and later as the United States itself joined the battle. "The long period of U.S. neutrality made the ultimate conversion of the economy to a wartime basis easier than it otherwise would have been," writes economic researcher Hugh Rockoff. "Real plant and equipment were added, and because they were added in response to demands from other countries already at war, they were added precisely in those sectors where they would be needed once the U.S. entered the war."

Entry into the war in 1917 unleashed massive U.S. federal spending which shifted national production from civilian to war goods. Between 1914 and 1918, [over] three million people were added to the military and half a million to the government. Overall, unemployment declined from 7.9 percent to 1.4 percent in this period, in part because workers were drawn into new manufacturing jobs and because the military draft removed many young men from the civilian labor force.

Rockoff estimates the total cost of World War I to the United States at approximately $32 billion, or 52 percent of gross national product at the time. He breaks down the financing of the U.S. war effort as follows: 22 percent in taxes, 58 percent through borrowings from the public, and 20 percent in money creation. The War Revenue Act of 1917 taxed "excess profits"—profits exceeding an amount determined by the rate of return on capital in a base period—by some 20 to 60 percent, and the tax rate on income starting at $50,000 rose from 1.5 percent in 1913–15 to more than 18 percent in 1918. The prevalence of patriotic themes created social pressure to purchase the "Liberty Bonds" (and, after the Armistice, the "Victory Bonds"), but in practice the new bondholders did not make a tangible personal sacrifice in buying war bonds, since the yields on the debt instruments were comparable to those on standard municipal bonds at the time. 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Research

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

WWI Crusaders: A band of Yanks in German-occupied Belgium help save millions from starvation as civilians resist the harsh German rule.

by Jeffrey B. Miller
Milbrown Press, 2018
Jolie Velazquez, Reviewer

Meals at a CRB Canteen

Looking at this one-and-a-half-inch thick book, ostensibly about another dreary aspect of the Great War, one would be hard pressed to realize that therein lies a fascinating adventure story as well as a detailed history of the largest humanitarian effort of its day.

The author spent years gathering details about Herbert Hoover, his creation of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, and the hundreds of people whom he relied upon or who tried to thwart him. The author was fortunate enough to have inherited a trove of materials from his grandparents (letters, journals, and photos) of the many colorful people in the CRB saga. Readers are lucky that Mr. Miller's love of historical fiction also taught him how to write an engrossing story. The narrative progresses like an action thriller at times and a lesson by an engaging history teacher at others.

CRB Distribution Site

Miller's chronicle comes to life by focusing on the people, lots of them, who helped the beleaguered Belgians and the antagonists who tried to stop them. We meet royals, politicians, generals, philanthropists, college students, patriotic civilians, and shopkeepers. We learn about the fabulous volunteer Bunge sisters and Eugene Van Doren, publisher of the underground newspaper that the Germans were never able to put out of business. Every time a new person is introduced we get to know them with biographical details which led them to this wartime moment. (One small irritation about this method is that the reader gets interested in many people who sometimes leave the scene much too soon. Miller has included an epilogue "What happened to them?" if it is nagging at the reader to find out.)

By sticking to the timeline as events occur, Miller keeps up the tension in his narrative. Aside from the monetary and structural complications of feeding millions of people in a war zone, Miller makes clear the political situation for all parties (especially in Belgium and northern France) and the resistance efforts carried on by civilians who often unwittingly endangered the process. One could easily recommend WWI Crusaders simply for the details about occupied Belgium and the German Army's treatment of occupied countries. There are elements of danger even for the Americans when they are treated like spies by German soldiers and petty bureaucrats.

The book ends when the Americans enter the war in 1917 and the CRB passes on its duties to another neutral country to administer. Of course, that was not really the end of the CRB, which continued to work in other countries as an American organization. Many of the CRB personnel went on to create permanent organizations dedicated to humanitarian relief, some into the modern era. A new title, The Big Show in Bololand by Bernard Patenaude, has just been published and covers Hoover and his veterans of the CRB providing aid to the starving Russians after the revolution and war. (I am looking forward to reading that one too.)

Jolie Velazquez

Monday, October 28, 2019

Worst Year of the War? 1917

Print by British Soldier-Artist-Poet David Jones

The year 1917 was the most important, the most historically influential, and the most horrible of the Great War. It's well understood that 1917 was a pile-up of disasters and miscalculations, from Germany's decision to implement unrestricted U-boat warfare in January to the Bolsheviks' triumph in the autumn, and with the ill-fated Nivelle, Kerensky, and Passchendaele offensives, plus the Italian collapse at Caporetto strung out in between. These events were the subjects of our issues earlier this year. But how, you might ask, can it be argued that 1917 was worse than other years of the war, some of which had higher death tolls? Or, to focus on one comparison as an example, how was Passchendaele (244,000 British casualties) worse than 1916's Battle of the Somme (416,000 British casualties)?

The answer to this has two dimensions: one physical, one of morale. That popular and highly quotable military philosopher, Sun Tzu, addressed the first of these: "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare." By the end of 1917 every one of the war's original belligerents had suffered horrendous casualties and had made debilitating expenditures of their nation's wealth. Anxiety over this was building on everyone's home front as shortages were experienced in factories and at dinner tables. On the battlefields, all the generals were growing deeply concerned about the fighting spirit and discipline of the men and about how they would replace the massive losses.

Accumulated physical losses were the lesser factor, however, in what happened in 1917. As another military authority, Napoleon Bonaparte, reminds us—[in war] "Morale is to the physical as three to one." In 1917, the morale of heads-of-state, citizens, and soldiers bottomed out. Futility, mindlessness, and tragedy started to be the defining aspects and heritage of the First World War, even while the fighting carried on. This burden of morale in the war is still with us. Something less tangible, in the area of mass psychology, lasting and open-ended, started coming into play during 1917, and it stayed around to shape the next century. Defeats like Caporetto, and failed, costly endeavors like the Allies launched on the Chemin des Dames, in Flanders, and Galicia, were felt no longer as mere setbacks but as national humiliations discrediting the governing classes and—for the troops—defining the war as purposeless, futile betrayals. MH

Originally presented in the December 2017 issue of OVER THE TOP.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

A World War One Love Story in the 21st Century

The Courtland Jindra and Melissa Angert  love story is one for the ages and one tied intimately to the Great War. It begins at a World War I monument situated on the top of a hill in Elysian Park, Los Angeles.

Newly Engaged Courtland and Melissa at  Armistice Centennial  at the American Legion Hollywood Post 43

Courtland, an avid World War I amateur historian and co-director of California's World War I Centennial Task Force, began corresponding online with Melissa just after Christmas in 2015. He shared his World War I interest with her almost immediately, (as they wrote each other he was reviewing a book, The Fall of the Ottomans, for Roads to the Great War), and after their first meeting on New Year’s Eve in downtown Los Angeles to ring in the new year, they decided to meet up again two days later, in a small area within Elysian Park called Victory Memorial Grove. Courtland was searching for a monument and plaque he discovered referenced in old Los Angeles Times articles, as he was particularly interested in documenting WWI monuments and memorials in Los Angeles County. Melissa was up for an adventure and a chance to discover something lost, as well as an opportunity to get to know this new guy a little better. They ultimately found the tablet, which turned out to be a large granite stone with an entirely different plaque affixed than the one mentioned in the Times.  This raised more questions about the history of the site. Also, the park, they discovered, had been neglected, and the monument itself was covered in over 40 layers of paint and graffiti.

Melissa and Courtland spent the next three-plus years not just falling deeply in love but also adopting the park and monument as a special restoration project. Enlisting the help of the Department of Recreation and Parks, their City Councilman’s Office, and citizens' groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Legion, and the Citizens' Committee to Save Elysian Park, they worked hard to improve the depressed state of the grove. For beautification, they planted trees, shrubs, and flowers and held park cleanups. Eventually city gardeners were assigned to take greater care of the grove, and they—specifically James Tye, a military veteran—took a liking to the park and dedicated much of their time to keeping it beautiful. 

After the Re-dedication of  the WWI Monument at
Victory Memorial Grove, 14 June 2017

The monument (as well as the historic flagpole) was professionally restored and protected with anti-graffiti coating. These efforts were honored by the National World War One Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Miltary Museum and Library’s 100 Cities–100 Memorials Program. Courtland and Melissa also began holding commemorative events there to honor the centennial period, such as on Flag Day and Veterans Day. 

They continued to research and learn more about the site and share their knowledge with others. This resulted in many delightful experiences. For example, they became acquainted with the granddaughter of Captain Walter Brinkop, who had planted memorial trees back in the 1920s in honor of the men who had fought and died under his command in the war. The community as a whole took greater interest in the grove, and today it is on the way to looking as magnificent as it was originally intended to be.

Courtship on the Western Front
At the U.S. Blanc Mont Memorial, October 1918

Victory Memorial Grove became so special to them that Courtland decided to propose to Melissa there on 3 October 2018. As they stood at the top of the hill near the granite stone, with butterflies flitting through the air around them as they enjoyed the flowers that had been planted, Courtland pulled out the ring and asked Melissa to be his wife. She said yes, and the next day they flew to France for a trip to visit, you guessed it, the U.S. WWI cemeteries and memorials "Over There."

Wedding Ceremony at Victory Memorial Grove 3 October 2019

A year later to the day,  they returned to Victory Memorial Grove to exchange vows of matrimony. They had planned a small, intimate ceremony with a dozen close friends and family members. It was filled with subtle tributes to WWI. They stood behind the great granite memorial stone, which Melissa topped with cascading white and purple flowers, to say their “I Dos.” Their wedding officiant made mention of the place as a WWI memorial and talked of its significance to the couple during the short ceremony. 

The day before the wedding, one of the bride’s aunts had gifted them a special wedding present—an Infant Jesus of Prague pocket shrine, which was inherited from one of three ancestors in the family who had served during the Great War. The bride wrapped the pocket shrine in lace and tied it into her bouquet of flowers as her “something old” during the ceremony. Afterward, the bride and groom walked for photographs to a live oak tree they had sponsored for planting the year before, to replace a tree that had been planted in the 1920s for Coxswain Charles P. Stauffer. Instead of throwing rice, everyone in attendance threw a handful of poppy seeds. 

Honeymooning at the National World War One
Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, 8 October 2019

And for their honeymoon? Well, it had to be World War One-themed. Since they just visited the Western Front, they traveled to Kansas City, MO, to visit the National World War One Museum and General Pershing’s boyhood home in Laclede. A Jindra honeymoon wouldn’t be right any other way. 

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Courtland Jindra!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Remembering a Veteran: General Horace Smith-Dorrien

General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien (1858–1930) was born in Haresfoot, England. A veteran of the 1879 battle of Isandlwana and the Boer War, he assumed command of the II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force from August 1914 and the Second Army from December 1914 to April 1915. Well liked by his troops, he handled them with sympathy but, like his fellow corps commander Sir Douglas Haig (I Corps), he had little respect for the abilities of his commander-in-chief, Sir John French. This bad feeling was heartily reciprocated and would ultimately result in Smith-Dorrien's dismissal.

Junior Officer
Fighting along with the rest of the BEF against overwhelming odds in August 1914, Smith-Dorrien managed his command ably in defensive battles at Mons and Le Cateau. In the latter engagement, Smith-Dorrien was forced into the unenviable decision to fight with exhausted troops and open flanks against a numerically superior enemy force. To retreat, though not contrary to orders, would probably have turned the British withdrawal into a rout, possibly resulting in the destruction of the BEF. Heavy fighting in unprepared positions against three German divisions of von Kluck's corps resulted in over 8,000 British casualties but delayed the enemy advance long enough to permit resumption of the withdrawal.

After participating in First Ypres in October 1914, the II Corps was taken out of the line, and, in the reorganization of the BEF that followed, Smith-Dorrien was appointed to command the Second Army. He again led his troops well during the German attack at Second Ypres in April 1915. Repeatedly ordered into costly and seemingly senseless counterattacks, Smith-Dorrien halted the attacks on his own initiative and recommended the partial abandonment of badly exposed sectors of the Ypres salient. 

Sir John French, however, perhaps motivated by political considerations (Ypres had come to mean much the same to the British as would Verdun to the French a year later), and bearing little affection for his subordinate, relieved Smith-Dorrien. His capable replacement, General Sir Herbert Plumer, assessed the situation in much the same manner as had his predecessor; French was thus forced ultimately to accept most of what Smith-Dorrien had originally proposed. Smith-Dorrien himself, however, was never again to command in the field. 

At Retirement

He retired in September 1923, living in Portugal and then England. He devoted much his time to the welfare and remembrance of Great War soldiers.

Reference: Smithers, A.J. Smithers, The Man Who Disobeyed: Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien and His Enemies. London: Leo Cooper, 1970.

Source: The World War I Document Archive

Friday, October 25, 2019

Don't Miss the October 2019 ST. MIHIEL TRIP-WIRE

This month we present our usual dozen articles in our monthly newsletter, plus all our usual features. In our September issue we concentrate on the war in Flanders, especially the process of reclaiming the battlefield for normal, civilian life.

Maori Pioneers Building a Plank Road on the Western Front

  • Commentary: Meeting King Baudouin
  • The Homefront: Flanders After War
  • Gas Warfare in Flanders
  • A War Never Ends

This Month's WWI Classic Film Recommendation

  • Then and Now Feature: Hotel-de-Ville, Audenarde, Belgium
  • Authors Ralph Mottram and Henry Williamson on Returning to Flanders
  • Looking at the Iron Harvest: Nine Valuable Online Sources
  • Coming Events and Battlefield Tours

British gas barrage on Le Bizet Hamlet south of Ploegsteert
on 7 September 1918

  • Restoring the Cloth Hall at Ypres  
  • The Maori Memorial at Zonnebeke, Belgium
  • HMS Furious: From Battlecruiser to Aircraft Carrier
  • 100 Years Ago: President Wilson's Stroke

Visit the Full Issue Here:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Meet World War One Centennial Commissioner Monique Seefried, PhD, Part II

Commissioner Monique Seefried

Yesterday, we discussed how she became so deeply interested in the First World War with U.S. Centennial Commissioner Monique Seefried. That portion of the interview can be accessed HERE. In this issue of Roads to the Great War, we are going to discuss her  work as a commissioner with  Monique. MH

Interview Part II  
Monique Seefried on Her Work with the United States World War One Centennial Commission

A. MH: Your leadership of the Croix Rouge Memorial project, and its highly visible success, marked you as someone who combined a high level of interest in the war  with an ability to get things done both stateside and "over there" in France where the fighting took place and where much of the commemorative events would take place during the Centennial. Could you tell us how you were nominated or recruited for the Centennial Commission, and also, why you chose to accept the position of commissioner?

MS:  The work Rod Frazer and I did at Croix Rouge Farm, included inaugurating a WWI memorial to an American Division in France. It was especially noticed by French and American authorities as the inauguration took place on the day after President Sarkozy announced, on November 11, 2011 the launching of the French WWI Centennial. Jerry Hester, who had chaired the U.S. commemorations of the 70th anniversary and helped us connect with the U.S. Army before the inauguration of the Rainbow Division Memorial at Croix Rouge Farm, was instrumental in presenting my name to the office of the Speaker of the House when a seat became vacant on the newly created WWI Centennial Commission (WWICC). I was appointed to the commission in June 2014.

Commissioners of the WWICC Break Ground for the National World War I Memorial 
(Monique S. Second from Left)
I accepted the position as a high honor, one that would allow me to remember all those young Americans who came to save my country of origin twice in the 20th century. I was raised with an immense sense of gratitude for what Americans did in WWI and WWII, with a great respect for service in the military. Knowing men like General de Gaulle, who fought in WWI before becoming heroes in WWII, or someone like my godfather, General Louis Dio, who was the first French officer to rally to General Leclerc de Hautecloque in August 1940 in Chad, had definitely an enormous influence on me. My own father was in the Resistance, General de Gaulle’s deputy chief of cabinet from 1944 to 1946 and again his chief of cabinet from 1959 to 1961. Service to one’s country was essential in my upbringing, not only at home but also at school. I had the extraordinary good fortune to be taught 20th-century history by Lucie Aubrac, one of the greatest heroines of the French Resistance. With this service on the WWICC, I was given an extraordinary opportunity to serve my country of adoption and express my gratitude towards it.

I am extremely humbled to have been asked to serve the memory of those Americans who, 100 years ago, gave so much more than I can ever give them back. They deserve to be remembered, thanked and honored.

B. MH:  I've met most of the commissioners and each seems to have a niche, such as working on the National Memorial, remembering the aviation effort of the AEF, networking with veterans groups, and so forth.  How would you describe your scope of work as a commissioner? I'll be surprised if it did not turn out to be much broader than you were thinking when you were first appointed in 2014.

MS:   Without the slightest doubt.  I had not realized that it would become, especially in the past two years, an all-consuming activity on both sides of the Atlantic. When I came on the commission, I was asked to coordinate international affairs and represent the commission abroad, mostly in France. I also worked with Belgium and Italy and to a lesser degree with England as other commissioners didn’t have a language barrier there. I was very fortunate to have the support of the American Battle Monuments Commission and receive help from U.S. embassies in these different countries. I also worked with local villages and towns eager to honor the Americans who had liberated them 100 years ago.  

This is where my ability to communicate in French, and all the contacts I had in France, where most of the AEF fighting took place, became essential. I did spend much more time in France than I had expected and represented the WWICC on multiple occasions.  These events were wide ranging, from commemorations in cemeteries, battlefields or memorials, to music festivals, recitals, exhibitions, and school activities. Most of these events were organized by the French to honor Americans who served in the military or volunteered to help the local population, and it was therefore extremely meaningful to the organizers to have the United States represented. I had to give or translate multiple speeches, and I was always glad to be able to give a voice to those men and women who couldn’t speak for themselves anymore.   

I was also a representative of the national WWICC in some of the southern states, especially Georgia and Alabama, where I worked with their respective WWI commemorative bodies.  

Veterans Day, Atlanta, GA, 2017

And I enjoyed immensely the education role that accompanied all these activities, as well as the work I did with my fellow commissioner, Libby O’Connell, who lead the commission educational activities. We collaborated extremely actively with the National WWI Museum and Memorial, produced a newsletter, and organized a wide range of activities.

C. MH:  I know you consider yourself an educator and that you participated in many educational events over the last five years. What thoughts do you have on the general point of reversing the modernist trend of attempting to erase our historical heritage and eliminate the study of history in our schools? And specifically—using World War One as a case study—how can we reach young people and convince them of the importance of learning and connecting with their heritage?

MS:   You can well imagine that the elimination of history in our curriculum would be totally antithetical to all I stand for. I strongly believe only those who have a good knowledge of history will be able to shape the future. So many geopolitical mistakes have been made in the past by people who ignored history. Studying history is one of the best tools in education to learn critical thinking skills.  

This is also why I don’t believe that each generation should rewrite history according to the beliefs of the time, and I disagree, for example, with the destruction of Confederate statues.  They should stay and their context explained, or they should be moved to a location where one can still learn from them. New generations would be much better served by being told what they represent and the history surrounding them than to have them disappear and their history be forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind.  

Humanity is never far from repeating the same mistakes. I applaud and find so important all the schools’ visits of concentration camps like Mauthausen in Austria or Auschwitz in Poland so that young people never forget the horrors they represent. Authoritarian regimes have generally either stopped teaching history to cut people from their past and allegiances or taught a distorted version of history to manipulate people. History rigorously taught by trained historians is key to informed citizenship, especially in a time of fake news and unsubstantiated information available on the Internet.

In the case of WWI, the teaching of its history is extremely important, not only to understand most of the conflicts our country is still engaged in but also to learn about geography, science, economics, as well as about the impact the war had on new technologies, the arts, the role of women and many other aspects of our 20th-century history, not least the fact that its participation in WWI brought the United States to the world stage and started the American century.

WWICC Commissioner Monique Seefried, PhD, was designated an honorary member of the 16th Infantry Regiment by an order of the Secretary of the Army for her work to memorialize the 16th Infantry and the 1st Division in World War I

D. MH:  Please share with our readers your favorite moments as one  of the 12 U.S. World War One Centennial Commissioners.

MS:  Over the past five years, I have attended many events ranging from lectures, conferences and reunions of veterans associations to school presentations, plays, concerts, and movies as well as dedications of memorials and commemoration ceremonies, in Europe as well as in the United States. They have all been occasions to remember the men and women who participated, served or died in the Great War. All were very moving in one form or another, but I have to say that the events I remember with the most emotion are the ones including the participation of young people. My goal as a commissioner was always to pass on the legacy of the WWI generation to new generations so that they, in their turn, would not forget their sacrifices, as well as the causes and the consequences of this First World War.  

A few events remain etched for ever in my memory, like the commemoration in May 2016 of the battle of Verdun with French and German students arriving from the woods,  standing among the crosses in the cemetery of Douaumont, flanked on each side by a Jewish and a Muslim Memorial or commemoration of Soldiers of All Colors Walking on the Path of Peace. It was a two-day commemoration, in September 2018, including students from schools in France (Aisne), Morocco (Casablanca), and the United States (Chicago Military Academy and Martin Luther King High School, also in Chicago) who participated in concerts in Soissons and Laon, and ceremonies in Vauxaillon. I will never forget the beautiful concert in the Cathedral of Laon performed by these American and French students in collaboration with the French Air Force band. These two days were all about our common humanity.  Descendants of German soldiers were also present. 

I will also always remember some of the many commemorations involving the planting of trees.  Two stand out particularly in my memory. One was when descendants of soldiers of the Rainbow Division planted a tree by the Rainbow Memorial at Croix Rouge Farm in Fère-en-Tardenois on the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Ourcq. The other was when 1st Division young soldiers sang the Army song standing by some of 1700 young trees, planted in the shape of the coat of arms of their division. These trees remember the 1700 1st Division soldiers who died in the Argonne 100 years earlier, in October 1918. This was organized by the French National Office of Forestry.

Receiving the Secretary of Defense Medal for 
Outstanding Public Service

Finally, being able to share some of these commemorations with my grandchildren was also very special.  With their Austrian, German, French, and American heritage, I felt very moved to have some of them by my side during the commemorations of the Battles of Belleau Wood and of St. Mihiel. I will also never forget receiving at the Pentagon the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in front of my oldest grandson. He was 9 at the time. He will always remember it and never let his siblings and his cousins forget it.

My greatest pleasure in serving the commission has indeed been to pass on the legacy of the Great War to younger generations: soldiers, university students, and schoolchildren as well as my children and their own children.

E. MH:  What does the future hold for you, both specifically on American history and the First World War, and other projects you might be involved in?

MS:  As I answer you, I have just finished attending a two-and-a-half-day workshop on the new International Baccalaureate Organization (IB) Career Program at CASIE, the organization I founded in 1999 in Atlanta. I fully expect continuing to serve the WWICC until we build the National WWI Memorial in Washington, but I will be going back to the world of education, and the training of educators to serve new generations of American and international students and give them the critical thinking and rigorous learning tools as well as the  global perspective they need for this 21st century. The lessons of WWI will never be far away from my mind. 

Thanks again, Commissioner Seefried, for taking time to join with us for this interview and for your invaluable contributions to America's World War One Centennial Commemoration. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Meet World War One Centennial Commissioner Monique Seefried, PhD, Part I

Monique Seefried on a 2008 C-Span Presentation

Over the next two days, I would like to introduce our readers to someone who has been a dynamic and effective leader of America’s commemoration of our nation's effort and sacrifices in the First World War.  World War One Centennial Commissioner Monique Seefried, PhD, was born a French citizen in Tunisia.  Her father was highly active with the French Resistance in the Second World War and with Charles de Gaulle's government after the Liberation. Monique's godfather was the first officer to join in 1940 the Free French Forces of General Leclerc in Africa.  As a child, she met General  de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace several times and sat next to him when he visited her parents' Paris apartment for dinner. Monique studied history at the Sorbonne and has received many international honors as an educator. She has taught ancient archaeology and Islamic art, as well as serving a museum curator, at Emory University in Atlanta. She became a U.S. citizen in 1985 and eventually developed a deep interest in America's role in the First World War. For her work in honoring the service and sacrifice of her adopted land in the Great War Monique Seefried has been  decorated as a Chevalier of France's Legion d'Honneur and is a recipient of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

In this issue of Roads to the Great War, we are going to ask her how she came to be so focused on the events of 1914–1918.  Tomorrow, we will discuss her work as a Centennial Commissioner with Monique. MH

Interview Part I,  
Monique Seefried's Own Road to the Great War

A. MH:  Thank you for agreeing to this interview Commissioner Seefried. With your broad ranging background and scholarship, how did you come to focus your interest in the First World War and America's part in it?

MS:  Indeed, my original interest in history didn’t focus on WWI.  Born in Carthage (Tunisia) and raised in Rome (Italy), I decided very early on that I would become an archaeologist.  And this I did, specializing in ancient Mediterranean archaeology and completing my PhD in history at the University of Paris Sorbonne before moving to Atlanta with my Austrian husband in 1977. We settled permanently in the United States, our three children were born there, and we became U.S. citizens. My passion for archaeology was unabated and quickly found a raison d’être in Atlanta when I discovered a museum at Emory University with a wonderful Near Eastern collection brought back to the university after WWI.  The museum was probably one of the most creepy museums in the country, so much so that John Huston had chosen it to film the movie Wise Blood from the Flannery O’Connor novel. I had come home telling my husband that I couldn’t raise my children in a city where such great archaeological treasures were so little appreciated and that I wanted to return to Europe.  His reaction, typical of the entrepreneur he is, was, “Instead of complaining, why don’t you try to change it.” I undertook to do so and was fortunate enough to be able to participate actively in the transformation of this museum into one of the best university museums in the country, known today as the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University. The core of its collections goes back to the American Scientific Mission to the Near East, when William A. Shelton, a professor of theology at Emory University accompanied the Egyptologist James Henry Breasted (the founder of the Oriental Institute in Chicago) to Egypt and the Near East in 1920 and brought back the collection of Egyptian and Mesopotamian antiquities that formed the core of the collection of the Emory Museum.

Curator Monique Seefried Discussing an Assyrian Relief for the 
Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta

Apart from what I learned in school and college about 20th-,century history, my knowledge of WWI was the knowledge of an average French person, growing up in a family with relatives who fought, were wounded or died in WWI and seeing WWI memorials on the main square of every French village or town.  My Austrian husband’s family was also very much touched by WWI, and the memory of WWI is still very present in many aspects of Austrian life.

Upon arriving in the U.S. and cataloging the Near Eastern collections of the Emory Museum, I felt like going back to the aftermath of WWI while looking at photographs and reading letters and travel diaries from American archaeologists traveling through the Near East in late 1918 and 1919. Dust and Ashes from Empires, from W.E. Shelton, the founder of the museum, depicted the insecurity that reigned in the region at the time. It was utterly fascinating for me to be reading firsthand descriptions by Americans of sites I had studied in French and British excavations reports, but this was the first time I read about the impact of WWI on these places. It made me feel as if I was traveling in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia.

In the following years, as president of the board of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IB), many of my speeches on education and the creation of the IB would go back to WWI, as it is a school curriculum born out of educators who, after having seen generations of men decimated by WWI, wanted to create an education that would promote peace and international understanding. 

Nimrod Frazer and Monique Seefried at a World War I Event

B. MH:  My first awareness of you was with your collaboration with Mr. Nimrod Frazer on his history of the Alabama (167th) Regiment of the Rainbow (42nd) Division and the subsequent project of building a memorial to the unit on the site of their first major action at Croix Rouge Farm north of the Marne river. Tell us how you came to work with him and how the decision was made to proceed with creating and installing a major monument that was essentially a private affair.

MS:  Amazingly enough, I met Rod Frazer through my curatorial work at the Carlos Museum.  In that capacity, I was asked to serve on the board of the Albright Institute, one of the branches of the American School of Oriental Research. Like many not-for-profit boards, it had scholars but also philanthropists interested in its mission to contribute to American archaeological studies in the Middle East. Some of the board members traveled to Syria, Jordan, and Israel. During this trip, in 1995, Rod told me about his childhood with an alcoholic father but also added that his father had been wounded in WWI. I was well aware of the traumas suffered by the men who fought in this terrible conflict and helped Rod realize the impact WWI may have had on his father’s addiction. Later, I was to learn that Rod himself was a decorated veteran of the Korean War.

Subsequently, he asked me to help him find the place where his father had been wounded. Digging out information was an easy task for an archaeologist! After going over books and maps, I told him I had found the battle site of the Croix Rouge Farm.  And as only an American would do, he wanted to buy this historical battlefield.

C. MH:  What was your role in completing the Croix Rouge project and what were your biggest challenges?

Dedication of the Croix Rouge Memorial

MS:  My role was in fact all encompassing except for what we call in French “le nerf de la guerre”, literally the nerve of war, the financial means needed to create this memorial. Rod provided the incentive and the funds to purchase the property and to commission the sculpture. Challenges were many, the first one was to find the three owners of the property and then to convince them to sell. This took several years, especially for one of the owners, who lives in Tripoli, Lebanon, and who only agreed to sell his parcel to an American when I told him it was to honor his father.

The second step was to find a sculptor, and finally Rod settled on the second artist I introduced him to, the first being Calyxte Campe, a young sculptor who is great nephew of the famous French sculptor Camille Claudel, a pupil and the mistress of Rodin. Rod’s choice settled on James Butler, a member of the British Royal Academy, today its oldest serving member. Rod and Jim were of the same generations and each had a military background. Rod has served in combat and earned a Silver Star in Korea, while Jim served two years in the Royal Signals of the British Army. 

From the start, their bond was visible and it gave birth to incredible works of art, one which is still in the making, a sculpture to be inaugurated in Montgomery, AL, on 11 November 2020, entitled The Return from the Argonne, which will complete both men’s relationship as artist and patron. My own role will have been to chair the Croix Rouge Farm Battle Memorial Foundation, and to navigate the practical hurdles such projects entail, from the various contractors, to obtaining permits and getting the necessary endorsements from a variety of political and administrative bodies: military, local, and national. I can only here briefly recognize the extraordinary support I received from the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), the French authorities, from the elected local level to the French national administration and army, as well as the Federal and State (Alabama) governments. I want to insist on how supportive France and the United States were in this journey to honor the men of the Rainbow Division in France during WWI. One example should suffice—the French regional authority in charge of building and maintaining roads erected and sponsored more than 30 road signs to indicate the direction to the U.S. 42nd division Memorial for visitors to the region.

D. MH:  My understanding is that the sculptor of the Croix Rouge statue, James Butler, has created another version of the statue that stands now in front of Union Station in Montgomery and that another will be dedicated in Alabama soon. Please tell us about that.

MS:  On the hundredth anniversary of the departure of 3677 Alabama National Guard soldiers from Montgomery on 28 August 1917, a second casting of the Rainbow Division Memorial standing in France on the Croix Rouge Farm battlefield since November 2011 was inaugurated. It stands in front of Union Station, from where they boarded trains for training at Camp Mills, NJ, and combat in France.

A few months earlier, on 6 Apri 2017, another sculpture by James Butler, the Daedalus, had been inaugurated at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, to commemorate the role of the air service in WWI.

Artist James Butler with Daedalus at Maxwell AFB

A new sculpture by James Butler, honoring the Rainbow Division but also the state of Alabama service in WWI, will be erected in front of Union Station. It will feature a dead man, picked up from the battlefield after the capture of the Côte de Châtillon in the Argonne by Alabama and Iowa soldiers of the 84th Brigade. They were under the leadership of Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur, gaining a strong point on the Hindenburg line, a decisive victory of the AEF and the Rainbow Division.

E. MH:   I understand you now have a continuing role in remembering the Rainbow Division.  More than any other American formation it had a cross-section of America, almost uniquely including units that had fought on both sides of the Civil War.

MS:  Yes, I have been honored by the Rainbow Division and have become an honorary member of the division. I plan to continue to serve this division in any way I can.  It has undergone several iterations since it was created in 1917. Now the New York National Guard, the 42nd “Rainbow” division was made up during WWI of National Guard units from 26 states and the District of Columbia, and there was originally indeed a certain amount of tension between the children of Alabama Confederates and New York Union soldiers. As Father Duffy, the chaplain of the New Yorkers, wrote, they soon learned to rely on each other and to become first and foremost Americans and members of the Rainbow.  

Monique Seefried (foreground) at a 42nd "Rainbow" Division Commemoration 
Held at Croix Rouge Farm

In WWII, the division served in Europe and was also made up of units from all over the United States. After 9/11, the Rainbow Division was one of the first responders, and several of its units have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the following years, with other National Guard units from different states serving under Rainbow command. The Rainbow will again be deployed overseas in 2020 and stationed in the Emirates.

Part II of this interview, on Monique Seefried's work as Commissioner for America's Commemoration of the Great War, will be presented tomorrow, 24 October 2019. Part II can be read HERE.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Golden Cross to Bear: A Story of the 33rd Division in World War 1

By Kane Farabaugh & Jon Kassell
Kanestar Productions, 2018
Michael Hanlon, Reviewer

For those of you–like me–who felt shortchanged on the military part of America's experience in the First World War after watching last year's PBS Great War extravaganza, a team based in the Chicago area has produced a nearly perfect curative. A Golden Cross to Bear: A Story of the 33rd Division in World War I is not only endorsed by the National Centennial Commission and California's Centennial Committee but also won several awards including a TV Emmy after its showing on WTVP-TV, the PBS station serving Central Illinois.

Roger Amm Begins Learning About the 33rd Division and the AEF

The five-part documentary's driving narrative is the effort by local man named Roger Amm to uncover the story of how his grandfather Gustave managed to get himself gassed during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Gustave was a replacement rifleman in the 131st Infantry of the 33rd Division of the AEF, which was mostly composed of National Guardsmen from Illinois. He missed the division's earlier service with the British in the Somme sector but arrived just in time to participate in, arguably, the largest and costliest battle America ever fought. And he turned out to be part of that cost.

In the opening sequences, we meet grandson Roger, who needs to tap into our community of World War I researchers, historians, genealogists, and collectors, to gain knowledge about the experiences of individual Doughboys, like his grandfather, their units, and how the great battle was fought. I particularly enjoyed a lighthearted sequence in which a collector of WWI vehicles lets Roger drive some of them around his farm. Also, since Gustave was gassed, there is a strong focus on gas warfare. The 33rd Division, because of its vulnerability fighting uphill on the Meuse Heights in the last stages of its fighting, was one of the most gassed formations of the AEF.

Roger at Butte de Vauquois

A Golden Cross to Bear really takes off when Roger moves to France to walk in the steps of Gustave. Battlefield guides first take him to some of the best-preserved trenches and mining sites so he can get the feel of the front. Next, the superintendent of the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery briefs him on the battle and shows him where many of the men of the 131st Infantry are buried and how they are still honored and cared for. In the next episode, as happened with the division 100 years earlier, everyone crosses over to the east side of the Meuse River, where the 33rd Division fought its final action in October 1918. There on the heights overlooking the river, guide Randy Gaulke, current president of the World War One Historical Association, does a wonderful job of bringing Roger to the site where Gustave was wounded. To commemorate the visit, there's a ceremonial planting of red poppy seeds that wraps up Roger's quest perfectly.

Just a few more things to mention. The whole series is beautifully photographed. As a stand-in for everyone who had a relative who served in the war and wants to learn about and honor their service, Roger Amm is a perfect representative—curious, respectful, and very well spoken.

How To Order
The Complete Set of DVDs Including Extra Features
Can Be Ordered HERE for $20.00

A Special Thanks to Courtland Jindra of the California Centennial Committee for championing A Golden Cross to Bear.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Virtual Anzac Day at Gallipoli

Readers of Roads to the Great War probably know that the Gallipoli Peninsula is pretty rugged terrain. Usually when you visit the battlefields there, though, you have the luxury of being driven to the highest elevations. That is not, however, the case every 25 April, the day of the annual Anzac Day Commemoration. The roads to the heights are all shut down for the day. Here is what you would be in for, step-by-step, if you are ever able to visit the site on some April 25th in the future and attend all the major events. 

Sunrise Ceremony at North Beach, Anzac Cove
(0530-0615 hrs)

The first event of the day honors the predawn landing of 25 April 1915. Tour buses are not allowed within 1 km of Anzac Cove. This will be your last motorized trip of the day until you depart the peninsula. After this initial event you need to start your hike for Lone Pine. Pack rations and lots of water.

Lone Pine Commemoration (1000-1045 hrs)

Site of a ferocious attack during the August 1915 Allied offensive, Lone Pine is the most hallowed of locations at Gallipoli for Australians. It is reached by a 3 km uphill walk about half of which is unpaved and very steep. Don't dawdle afterward, though—you, have another 1.2 km uphill march ahead of you and you will have to skedaddle to catch the the next event, the most important Turkish memorial of the day.

Turkish 57th Regiment Ceremony (1115-1200 hrs)

The 57th Regiment was the unit Turkish hero Mustafa Kemal ordered to die guarding the heights above Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. The unit was annihilated that day but held the heights, and they are honored with each Anzac day with their own ceremony. Afterward , you have one remaining 2.3 km stretch uphill to the peak known as Chunuk Bair to manage, and you have a full 30 minutes to do it.

Mustafa Kemal and New Zealand Memorials at Chunuk Bair
(New Zealand Commemoration 1230-1315)

Congratulations! You have climbed vertically about 860 feet since daylight and have made it as far as the entire Allied Expeditionary Force did in 1915. New Zealanders captured this high ground at Chunuk Bair, but their replacements could not resist the onslaught organized by the man of the hour, Mustafa Kemal, when he arrived on the scene. Kemal is the great hero of Gallipoli, personally directing the defeat of three Allied operations during the campaign and is remembered at this location and many other places around the battlefield. After the ceremony, however, your day is not quite done. Now you just need to walk back down to the beach the way you came to meet your bus.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The French Adrian Helmet

James Patton

Our Friend Olivier Pierrard in Authentic Kit,
Including the Adrian Helmet

In the early months of WWI all of the combatants were wearing headgear better suited for parade grounds rather than in artillery barrages. French soldiers wore a cloth cap, called the képi, which was actually a frenchized spelling of the German word kappe

It soon became clear that falling shrapnel and shell fragments from air-bursting indirect artillery fire were causing a large number of head wounds, even to soldiers in good defensive positions. The French were the first to respond to this crisis by issuing a steel skullcap called the calotte métallique, cervelière, to be worn under the képi, which was soon supplanted by a true helmet. 

Adrian Helmets Under Production

Medical concerns were subordinated to the determination to make the helmet look "military," so visors, a badge plate, and a Roman-like crest were added, the latter feature made the helmet somewhat resemble a German Pickelhaube (sans the spike). The holes necessary for mounting the crest made the helmet less strong.

Industry weighed in on this, too, wanting a design that was easy and inexpensive to make, so the helmet was made from mild steel and was of a lighter gauge than the foreign counterparts, weighing only 1.1 pounds. Eventually the helmet came with a cover to reduce reflectivity (soldiers had been coating their helmets with mud to address this problem), but it was then found that bits of the cover were infecting head wounds, so the reflectivity problem was addressed by using a rough finish instead. The helmet got the name Casque Adrian from General August-Louis Adrian, who was the officer in charge of the program, and was designated the M15.

The burning question is: How effective were these helmets? An answer: Data collected by the British showed a dramatic decline in the incidence of head wounds. 

An Adrian Helmet for Sale in Bulgaria

The Adrian pattern was the first protective helmet to be widely released, with deliveries beginning in mid-1915, and well over three million were produced. In addition to France, other combatant nations that used the Adrian were Belgium, Greece, Italy, Japan, Romania, Serbia, Siam, and in limited quantities Russia and the U.S. [The four U.S. segregated regiments assigned to the French Army wore the Adrian helmet.] In the postwar years at least ten other countries also bought Adrian helmets.

In 1926 France produced an updated model, the M26, which remained their standard until 1942, when the Free French forces adopted the U.S. helmet M-1941.

Originally Presented at the KANSAS WW1 Website, 24 February 2018