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

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Unique and Charming Details of the ABMC's Monuments and Cemeteries

Here's a selection of photos from my visits to the American Battle Monuments Commission monuments and cemeteries in Europe.  The seven cemeteries and 14 memorials overseas vary in size, but I learned after many visits that each of them have unique characteristics. These details reveal, I think, the, talent, dedication, and pride in their mission of the design team that General Pershing put together as the founding leader of the ABMC  Below are a representative sample of what I'm  talking about.  MH

Click to Enlarge Images

(Display=580px,  Enlarged=1200px)

Fountain, Meuse-Argonne Cemetery

Dedication Blanc Mont Memorial

France and the United States Joining Hands,
Château-Thierry Memorial

Army Branch Friezes, Mont Sec Memorial

Peristyle and Altar of the Oise-Aisne Cemetery
and Memorial

Tribute to Lafayette
Lafayette Escadrille Memorial

Fighting Doughboys, Aisne-Marne (Belleau Wood)
Memorial Chapel

Sundial, St. Mihiel Cemetery

Miss Liberty Atop the Montfaucon Memorial

Entrance, Somme Cemetery

Ceiling, Flanders Fields Cemetery Memorial Chapel

Doughboy Door Handle, St. Mihiel Cemetery

Frieze, Bellicourt (Hindenburg Line) Memorial

Entrance Detail, Meuse-Argonne Cemetery
Memorial Chapel

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Armored Trains Video

Indy Neidell and The Great War team do an outstanding job on this obscure, but fascinating, topic:

Tip of the Hat to Jerry Beach and Steve Miller

Friday, June 11, 2021

All About the Treaty of Trianon

         4 June 1920–Minister of Labor Auguste Bernard Leads the Hungarian Delegation at the Trianon Palace

The Treaty of Trianon was signed between the Allied Powers of World War I, and Hungary, which lost 72 percent of its territory within the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The treaty was signed on 4 June 1920. The Treaty of Trianon stated clearly that “the Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Hungary accepts the responsibility of Hungary and her allies for causing the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Austria-Hungary and her allies.”

The treaty was so unpopular that the Hungarian government had difficulty in finding anyone willing to sign it until Minister Plenipotentiary Alfred Detrashe Lazas and Minister of Labor Auguste Bernard agreed to do the task of agreeing to the breakup. A contributor to the Guardian called it "the most disastrous event in the long history of the ancient kingdom of Hungary was completed this afternoon in the long hall of the Grand Trianon at Versailles when her two representatives put their signature at the foot of the treaty."

The Hungarian delegation at Trianon argued for the case of self-determination as proposed by Woodrow Wilson, but the Allies mainly ignored this plea for the use of plebiscites. The city of Sopron was given a plebiscite as to whether the city wanted to remain in Hungary, which the population voted for. . . The Treaty of Trianon also stated that those Hungarians who now lived outside of Hungary’s borders would lose their Hungarian nationality within one year of the treaty being signed in June 1920.

Hungarian Territory Lost Through the Treaty

The new Hungary was a landlocked state and had no direct access to the Mediterranean Sea with its many ports. This had a major impact on her weakened economy as any trade that required to be moved by sea had to pay tariffs simply to reach a dock to enable it to be shipped abroad. Hungary’s army was reduced to 35,000 men with no conscription, and as a land-locked nation she was not allowed a navy. An air force was also banned.

The Treaty of Trianon ensured that the new Hungary would have minimal growth in her economic clout. This was, in fact, a deliberate policy. All the treaties signed by the defeated nations had at their core a desire to ensure that none of the Central Powers could ever become a threat to European peace again. Ironically, the unemployment that impacted Hungary in the interwar years was a primary reason for her association with Nazi Germany.

The anger of the Hungarian people over the Treaty of Trianon–both from those living within the new state’s borders and those forced to live outside of them–was long lasting. Inside Hungary, government buildings kept the national flag lowered to show their grievance, and it was not until 1938 that the flags were flown at a third mast after the Munich Agreement returned southern Slovakia to Hungary–an area that included 550,000 Hungarians who made up 85 percent of the area’s population.

Sources: C. N. Trueman "The Treaty of Trianon" at the Learning Center, Wikipedia, and the American Hungarian Federation (Map)

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Eleven Great Quotes from Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That, 1929

Robert Graves, 1915

1.  The objects of this autobiography, written at the age of thirty-three, are simple enough: 

an opportunity for a formal good-by to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that; 

forgetfulness, because once all this has been settled in my mind and written down and published it need never be thought about again; 


2.  James Burford, collier and fitter, was the oldest soldier of all. When I first spoke to him in the trenches, he said: "Excuse me, sir, will you explain what this here arrangement is on the side of my rifle?" "That's the safety catch. Didn't you do a musketry-course at the depôt?" "No, sir, I was a re-enlisted man, and I spent only a fortnight there. The old Lee-Metford didn't have no safety-catch." I asked him when he had last fired a rifle. "In Egypt in 1882," he said. "Weren't you in the South African War?" "I tried to re-enlist, but they told me I was too old, sir... My real age is sixty-three."

3.  I protested: "But all this is childish. Is there a war on here, or isn't there?"  "The Royal Welch don't recognize it socially," he answered.

4Cuinchy bred rats. They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. While I stayed here with the Welsh, a new officer joined the company... When he turned in that night, he heard a scuffling, shone his torch on the bed, and found two rats on his blanket tussling for the possession of a severed hand. 

5.  Having now been in the trenches for five months, I had passed my prime. For the first three weeks, an officer was of little use in the front line... Between three weeks and four weeks he was at his best, unless he happened to have any particular bad shock or sequence of shocks. Then his usefulness gradually declined as neurasthenia developed. At six months he was still more or less all right; but by nine or ten months, unless he had been given a few weeks' rest on a technical course, or in hospital, he usually became a drag on the other company officers. After a year or fifteen months he was often worse than useless.

6.  Patriotism, in the trenches, was too remote a sentiment, and at once rejected as fit only for civilians, or prisoners. A new arrival who talked patriotism would soon be told to cut it out.

7.  Anglican chaplains were remarkably out of touch with their troops. The Second Battalion chaplain, just before the Loos fighting, had preached a violent sermon on the Battle against Sin, at which one old soldier behind me had grumbled: "Christ, as if one bloody push wasn't enough to worry about at a time!"

8.  Opposite our trenches a German salient protruded, and the brigadier wanted to "bite it off" in proof of the division's offensive spirit. Trench soldiers could never understand the Staff's desire to bite off an enemy salient. It was hardly desirable to be fired at from both flanks; if the Germans had got caught in a salient, our obvious duty was to keep them there as long as they could be persuaded to stay. We concluded that a passion for straight lines, for which headquarters were well known, had dictated this plan, which had no strategic or tactical excuse.

Robert Graves, 1929

9.  Nancy [Annie "Nancy" Mary Pryde Nicholson was Graves's long-suffering wife, 1918-1949] and I were married in January 1918 at St. James's Church, Piccadilly, she being just eighteen, and I twenty-two. George Mallory acted as the best man. Nancy had read the marriage-service for the first time that morning, and been so disgusted that she all but refused to go through with the wedding, though I had arranged for the ceremony to be modified and reduced to the shortest possible form. Another caricature scene to look back on: myself striding up the red carpet, wearing field-boots, spurs and sword; Nancy meeting me in a blue-check silk wedding-dress, utterly furious; packed benches on either side of the church, full of relatives; aunts using handkerchiefs; the choir boys out of tune; Nancy savagely muttering the responses, myself shouting them in a parade-ground voice.

10.  Shells used to come bursting on my bed at midnight, even though Nancy shared it with me; strangers in daytime would assume the faces of friends who had been killed... I could not use a telephone, I felt sick every time I travelled by train, and to see more than two new people in a single day prevented me from sleeping.

11.  In the middle of a lecture I would have a sudden very clear experience of men on the march up the Béthune–La Bassée road; the men would be singing... These daydreams persisted like an alternate life and did not leave me until well in 1928. The scenes were nearly always recollections of my first four months in France; the emotion-recording apparatus seems to have failed after Loos.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Indian Army Arrives on the Western Front

Indian Memorial Ypres

By Dominiek Dendooven, Flanders Fields Museum

The Indian Army‟s involvement on the Western front started on 6 August 1914. That day, the War Council in London requested two infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade from the Viceroy's government to be sent to Egypt. The two selected infantry divisions were the Lahore Division (3rd India War Division) and the Meerut Division (7th Indian War Division). Together they formed the Indian Corps. The Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade was added later. On 27 August 1914 the British government decided that the Indian divisions had to be sent immediately to France, as reinforcement of the British Expeditionary Force, which had already suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Mons.

Part of the Lahore Division had since left. Its new destination was Marseille. It arrived in late September 1914. Along the way, the Lahore Division had left one of its brigades, the Sirhind Brigade, behind in the region of the Suez Canal. Because some of the units of the Jullundur Brigade did not leave India until the end of September, only the Ferozepore Brigade was at full strength.

To the Indians, Europe was a completely new and very strange experience. They did not understand the language, and the culture was completely different too. The Indians and the French or Belgians were puzzled by each other. Still, the Indians were given a friendly welcome by the French population, especially at the start of the war. From Marseille they traveled north via Orleans.

Arriving on Double-Deckers

In the meantime, the First Battle of Ypres had started. That battle—which according to official nomenclature would rage until 22 November—was the ultimate attempt by the Germans to end the war to their advantage in 1914.

On 22 October 1914 the Ferozepore Brigade entered the freshly dug trenches with the 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers—the British battalion that belonged to the brigade—first undergoing its baptism of fire. The first Indian battalion to be deployed in battle was the 57th Wilde's Rifles.

On the very same day, the first Indian casualty of war on the Western Front fell. He was “Naik Laturia, 57th Wilde‟s Rifles (F.F.)—55th Coke's Rifles (F.F.), son of Phehu, of Tikar, Hamirpur, Kangra, Punjab” and is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. The Indian troops continued to be brought in. Achiel Van Walleghem, priest in Dikkebus, writes in his diary that, for the whole night from 22 to 23 October, the Indian troops were brought in with English double-decker buses.

Marching to the Front

On 26 October 1914, a grey and foggy day, the troops of the Indian Army attacked the German trenches. It had been raining all night and the trenches were full of mud and water. Moreover, they were really not much more than shallow ditches, and there were large gaps in the defense line allowing infiltration by the enemy. The result of the attack on 26 October 1914 was a few hundred meters of land, but as the start position was better from all perspectives than the new line, the men had to retreat to their original positions—to the great incomprehension and even disappointment of the Indian troops.

After heavy fire on 30 October 1914, the Germans attacked the Indian troops. Indians and British were the minority and had little ammunition and little artillery support. Two companies of the 57th Wilde's Rifles retreated to the town of Messines, where they spread in the streets. Other units of the Wilde's Rifles also had to retreat.

A Sikh unit had to take up new positions in the proximity of a battery near the windmill east of the
Wytschaete-Messines road. One unit did not receive the order to retreat because all means of communication were cut off. When the message finally got through, it was already too late and they were surrounded by German troops. The Baluchis in the region of the chateau of Hollebeke, on the other side of the canal and the Ypres-Comines rail track had a particularly hard time to stay standing.

Quartered with British Troops

That night and in the morning of 31 October 1914, an action took place near Hollebeke for which Khudadad Khan of the 129th Baluchis would be awarded the Victoria Cross a few months later, the first Indian ever. On the night of 30 to 31 October the Baluchis lost their position in a farm because they could not distinguish German soldiers from the French. They therefore noticed too late that they were being approached by Germans—and not by the French who were fighting to their left. Khudadad Khan belonged to the unit that operated the two machine guns of the battalion. He was badly wounded later that day, while still operating the only remaining machine gun for as long as possible. Earlier the other machine gunner had been lost when a shell struck, the British officer had been wounded and the other five men of the unit were killed. As if by magic, Khudadad Khan managed to join his company after disabling his own machine gun.

The battle continued the whole day of 31 October 1914. After incessant fire overnight, Messines was attacked by nine German battalions. They overran the trenches of the 57th Wilde's Rifles. Various units of the battalion were killed to the last man: Jemadar Ram Singh was the only survivor of his group. Another Sikh, Jemadar Kapur Singh continued fighting until everyone was out of action, with the exception of one wounded soldier. Because he refused to surrender, he committed suicide with his last bullet. All the British officers of the 57th Wilde's Rifles located in that part of the front were killed. The 57th Wilde's Rifles suffered many losses in the two last days of October 1914: no fewer than 300 of the 750 men of the battalion were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. There were 240 losses in the 129th Baluchis.

Deployed on the Messines Ridge

During the events described above, another brigade of the Lahore Division, the Jullundur Brigade, was stationed just across the French border in the area of Neuve-Chapelle that would soon become the Indian sector. There too, the Indian troops were thrown into battle almost immediately. From 29 October the complete Meerut Division would arrive there too.

In early November 1914 the Ferozepore Brigade was also transferred to the Indian sector between Givenchy and Neuve-Chapelle (in France). On 7 December 1914, the Sirhind Brigade also arrived there from Egypt, together with reinforcements from India. The Indian 1st Cavalry Division had also arrived, in mid November, followed by the Indian 2nd Cavalry Division a month later. Those two divisions would stay on the Western Front after the rest of the Indian Corps left for Mesopotamia in late 1915. There was heavy fighting in the sector of the Indian Corps in December 1914, and on 10 March 1915 the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle was fought there, with unparalleled level of casualties for the Indian troops.

Winter 1914–15: the Joys of Trench Warfare

For the Indian military, the deployment in Ypres in 1914 and 1915 was very important. It had its baptism of fire during the First World War while simultaneously fighting for the first time on European soil. Probably even more important was the fact that the Indian Army faced brutal confrontation with war on an industrial scale in which heavy artillery played a decisive part and in which airplanes were used. In late April 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, the Indian military were among the first to be exposed to chemical warfare. The deployment in Ypres not only represents a symbolic important moment in the history of the Indian troops, it must undoubtedly also have been a hard learning curve.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

1915, Diary of S. An-sky: A Russian Writer at the Eastern Front — A Roads Classic

Translated from Russian by Polly Zavadivker
Indiana University Press, 2016
Michael P. Kihntopf, Reviewer

Firsthand information about the Great War’s Eastern Front from a Russian perspective has always been at a premium primarily because of the illiteracy of the vast majority of the tsar’s soldiers. For years, researchers had only the writings of the various commanding officers such as Brusilov, Gurko, or Denikin to gain a picture of the hardships that existed from Riga to the Romanian border, but these works were a bit tainted by the sour grapes of defeat and revolution. Maria Bochkaryova, commander of the famous Women’s Battalion of Death, held one of the few front fighter’s views of the war, but it was still liberally salted with images that were too heroic. In this work we have something unique: excerpts from a diary of a Russian civilian engaged in dealing with the problems of civilians in the zones of war and occupation in 1915 Galicia when tsarist battalions were ascendant to Austro-Hungarian forces. Before I can continue the review, there are a few facts that I have to make clear in order to give the reader a better understanding of the demeanor of the times as well as stimulate curiosity for the overall story. I strongly recommend a little research along the areas briefly covered below. The translator provides copious notes explaining who people are and defines certain events as they relate to the text, but you can get lost without a little knowledge in brief.

S. An-sky (Third from Left) with a Group of Fellow
Jewish-Russian Intellectuals

First of all, there is the author: S. An-sky is a penname for Shloyme Zanvil Rapoport, a Jewish writer, ethnographer, and revolutionary who was born near Vilna in Lithuania in 1863. He was one of the few Jews afforded an education in tsarist Russia. He was exiled from Russia around 1899, during which time he traveled to Paris and Switzerland. In 1901 he was instrumental in establishing the Russian Social Revolutionary Party, or SR. In 1905, back in Russia, he began a lifelong project of recording and preserving Russian Jewish culture. He made numerous trips to the Jewish Pale in which he talked with residents about their lives and traditions. He was a proponent of establishing Yiddish as an official language, and at a later date, he tried to gather support among the Russian Jewish leaders for the Jewish League which was formed under British auspices to fight for the Allies in Palestine. He was exiled from Bolshevik Russia after the SR uprising in 1919.

Second, there is the Jewish Pale. As most know, tsarist Russia was very anti-Semitic. Starting with the reign of Catherine the Great, the tsars tried to drive the Jews out of Russia; however, the acquisition of portions of the kingdom of Poland in the 18th century vastly increased the Jewish population within the empire and made the task of exclusion near impossible. As a consequence, the tsars decided to limit the area in which Jews could live. This area was loosely defined as existing from the Black Sea in the south to the Gulf of Riga in the north and from the western Ukraine to the borders with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Within that area, Jews had no political rights and were excluded from living in most cities. Jews lived for the most part in small villages and were not allowed to move without special permission. This segregation from Russian society perpetuated Jewish culture, which remained somewhat unchanged for nearly 200 years; however, attitudes towards Jews began to change in the early 20th century. The old traditions were in danger of being tainted. The culture was disappearing because of forced deportations and the influx of non-Jewish colonists in the Pale who took the place of those who left. S. An-sky saw a need to document the age-old culture for future generations.

Third, in Austria-Hungary the Jewish population had equal rights with any other ethnic group,  including owning property and government involvement. In Galicia, nearly 11 percent of the population was Jewish, with a third living in the cities engaged in various mercantile ventures. In addition, the Jewish population found a niche in government. Nearly 58 percent of the province’s civil servants were Jewish. In September 1914, tsarist soldiers invaded Galicia and occupied the province as far as Gorlice-Tarnow. Those who did not flee with the Austro-Hungarian armies were stripped of citizenship rights and the right to engage in business under the Russian occupation laws. This meant that commerce between cities and villages came to an end and the civil government and all its facilities, which included aid to the poor, ceased to exist. Furthermore, army commanders enforced a Russification of administration, schools, and commerce. Overnight, the Russian language replaced any other language.

A Russian General Visits a Hospital in Occupied Galicia

S. An-sky was an observer, and above all else, he listened to those who spoke to him. In his diary are reports of atrocities committed by both sides during the conflict and occupation of Galicia but primarily by the Russians. He does not voice opinions or philosophize about the abhorrent behaviors in his entries, although he does add the grains of salt to reports on occasion to show that there is some exaggeration on the part of the reporter. The reader also sees that the author is very nationalistic. What we can glean from the pages is how hard living from day to day was in the occupied area, especially for the Jewish populations who went from equal rights to none at all and became the subjects of government-directed suppression and Russian soldiers’ discrimination.

Examples are: under the orders of Russian area commanders Jews were not allowed any government jobs; Jewish shops and farms were looted and destroyed without compensation or criminal prosecution; Jewish men, women, and children were jailed, beaten, and murdered; whole Jewish villages were burned to the ground because of suspected spying activities. Rape was so rampant that funds were raised in Petrograd to open facilities to take care of victims; Jewish leaders were held as hostages even though there were equally patriotic Poles and Ruthenians; and, worst of all, the majority of the population became homeless because of the looting, murders, and burnings. The list goes on and on. The reader very clearly gets a picture of a countryside devoid of law, a real aftermath of an apocalypse. S. An-sky launched himself into this mess as a purveyor of charity from Jewish agencies, which had government patronage, in Russia. He distributed money and coordinating the shipment of necessary clothing, medical supplies and food to destitute populations

The Diary of S. An-sky is short, not in the tradition of other Russian works of thousands of pages, and to the point. The first portion of the diary minutely portrays another level of the war that so many researchers and writers miss: the civilian experience. It also shows how the tsarist government was changing its attitude toward the Jewish population and the resistance to the changes by conservatives. It is well worth reading and considering in depth not only as a prelude to the Holocaust but for an understanding of the discrimination which existed in Eastern Europe. The second portion is less engaging since it deals with the author’s time in Petrograd trying to raise awareness of the Jewish problems in the occupied area and in inserting Jews into the political arena of the war government.

The reader will have to do some research into political and literary personalities of 1915 Russia as well as understand the shift in the government’s view on the Jewish question to follow some of these entries. As stated before, the translator does provide copious notes to help the reader navigate, but not all of them are conclusive. As an aside: S. An-sky’s other book, The Enemy at his Pleasure, published in 1920 after the author’s death as The Destruction of Galicia, is a more filled-in version of the diary. It also includes problems encountered as the Russians retreated in 1916–1917 and includes the results of the scorched earth policy observed by the Russian army.

Michael P. Kihntopf

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Rip-Snorting Recruiting Speech of Will Crooks

Will Crooks, MP

Will Crooks (1853-1921) was an important British trade unionist and MP, remembered for his campaigning work against poverty and inequality as a member of the Fabian Society.  When war was declared, unlike pacifist colleagues in the Labour Party he supported the war efforts of the government. On 9 February 1915 he was invited to speak at recruiting meeting in the Market Hall at Abedare, Wales.  It was both interesting and entertaining, as well as thoroughly  rousing for the audience.  His talk was included in Sir Edwad Grey's anthology, Great Speeches of the War.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Final Exam—Am. Lit. 1918: The Doughboy's Contribution to American Literature

The American experience on the battlefields of Europe had a tremendous influence on the nation's literature for the rest of the 20th century. Name these literary notables from the AEF.  (Answers below, but don't peek. BTW, Hemingway was not a Doughboy, and Fitzgerald never made it to the battlefields, so I did not include them in this quiz. MH)

Back from the Fight, Townsend 


1. He served as an artillery officer with the 4th Artillery Brigade, 4th Division. He would later create the detective Mr. Moto and write satirical novels about the upper crust, including the award-winning The Late George Apley.

2. Another Doughboy artillery officer, he would win three Pulitzer Prizes for poetry and a play about Job, and would serve as Librarian of Congress.

3. A sergeant staffer on Stars and Stripes, he was already an established drama critic before the war and, later, when he was nationally known, his unique personality inspired one of America's greatest comedies, The Man Who Came to Dinner.

4. Wounded while serving with the 28th Pennsylvania Division in the Second Battle of the Marne, he wrote one of the greatest Doughboy memoirs, Toward the Flame. Then he dedicated himself to writing historical novels, most famously, the best-selling Anthony Adverse .

5. This sergeant with the 79th Division, who participated in the capture of Montfaucon, later became one of the founders of "hard-boiled" American fiction with such works as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity.

6. What about those Marines?! For some reason the Marine Brigade of the 2nd Division produced at least four notable authors of memoirs, novels, and plays about the AEF at war.

a. After losing a leg at Belleau Wood, he turned to writing. He collaborated on a famous play about the Yanks at war, What Price Glory?, and later wrote an anecdotal but comprehensive history of the American experience in World War I, The Doughboys.

 b. His innovative novel, Company K, includes the Unknown Soldier as a character. 

c. His novel, Through the Wheat, chronicles the psychological destruction of a young Marine.

d. A career Marine who was awarded the Navy Cross in the Great War, he chronicled the intensity of combat on the Western Front in Fix Bayonets!

7. A pioneering neurosurgeon who served with the British and American Medical Services, he wrote a great memoir of the war, From a Surgeon's Journal, and was later an award-winning biographer.

8. This authorial team were both veterans of the Lafayette Flying Corps and the U.S. Air  Service. Their most famous collaboration was the Bounty trilogy.


1. John P. Marquand

2. Archibald MacLeish

3. Alexander Wolcott

4. Hervey Allen

5. James M. Cain

6a. Laurence Stallings

6b. William March Campbell

6c. Thomas Boyd

6d. John W. Thomason

7. Harvey Cushing

8. James Norman Hall and  Charles Nordhoff

Source:  The Journal of the World War I Historical Society

Friday, June 4, 2021

Minnesota Goes to War

Minnesotans Overseas
YMCA worker Julia Swenson and Red Cross worker Julia Gray

Nationalism, military alliances, economic rivalry, and political pride had meanwhile thrust Europe into war in 1914. America declared war on Germany in April 1917 when efforts to stay neutral failed. Amid patriotic fervor, Minnesotans enlisted by the thousands and were soon joined by draftees. The Minnesota National Guard embarked for Camp Cody, New Mexico, to become part of a new Thirty-fourth Division, although its artillery regiment, re-designated as the 151st Field Artillery, went to the Forty-second “Rainbow” Division. A Minnesota Home Guard was organized to temporarily replace its National Guard. Most Minnesota draftees were sent to Camp Dodge, Iowa, where they were assigned to different units. Fort Snelling trained officers and became a processing center for inductees.

Homefront Paper Drive

Minnesota citizens also mobilized. The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety declared the conflict to be “everybody’s war” and used its powerful authority to ensure an all-out, unified effort on the home front. But there was a dark side, too. Congress passed laws making disloyalty illegal, and the Commission heartily enforced them. It silenced dissent, vilified German immigrants, and encouraged neighbors to root out “slackers” and “enemy sympathizers” by reporting on one another. Minnesotans of German descent, who were the largest ethnic minority group in the state at the time, were required to register as alien enemies and carry their registration card with them at all times.  Many people were concerned that, because of the German Americans' ethnic heritage, they would side with the enemy power.

Minnesotans Overseas
The Gopher Gunners of the 151st Field Artillery

America’s timely infusion of troops and resources tipped the balance, bringing Allied victory in November 1918. By then, Minnesota had sent 118,500 residents into the armed services, with 57,400 of them overseas in France. The 151st Field Artilley—nicknamed the “Gopher Gunners”—was the only truly Minnesota combat unit to see action on the front, where it fought with great distinction. It received a tumultuous welcome upon returning home in May 1919. Sadly, 2,133 Minnesota servicemen didn’t live to make it home; of these, 60 percent died from disease, most stemming from the 1918 flu pandemic.

Minnesota's war experience yielded one of the world's most famous food products, SPAM.  The meat-packing company of George Hormel was based in Austin, Minnesota. George's son, Jay, was a determined supporter of the war and reported for duty with the Army as early as he could. Jay with his extensive experience with his father's business, was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps and was placed in charged of refrigerated warehousing in France. He wrestled long and hard with the problem of storing and preserving meat. Later, when he had taken charge of Hormel Meats—Jay led the development and delivery of a new meat product that would not need refrigeration. SPAM as first sold in 1937,  just in time for another war, which would make the new Hormel product world famous.

The war had not only demonstrated the lethal power of new weaponry, it also forever changed the social and political landscape. Monarchies fell. New countries were born. The U.S. emerged as a superpower. America’s economy (especially agriculture) thrived and manufacturing capacity grew, aiding unionism. Women’s involvement in the war effort helped them achieve suffrage in 1920. But the terrible war also bred disillusionment, undermining the international ideals espoused by President Wilson, and the nation reverted to isolationism. The army stagnated in the 1920s and 1930s, although Minnesota did open a new training site in 1931 for its National Guard at Camp Ripley.

Sources:, Minnesota Archives, Hormel Company

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Greedy Ambition: The Comical Kaiser Bill

The war's premier source of ridicule and derision—at least among the Allied nations and the U.S.—was Queen Victoria's grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, who morphed into "The Beast of Berlin," in good part due to his incorrigible habit of making provocative and belligerent statements. In this cartoon by American Orson Lowell from the Library of Congress collection, the Kaiser hangs by a noose which is attached to a plank of wood marked "Greedy Ambition." Figures representing other countries which fought Germany during World War I, such as Uncle Sam, John Bull, and Marianne, push a globe from under his feet using their arms and wooden levers. In the background, a man in a uniform stands alone, holding a ring labeled "Russia." A dove of peace is perched on the ring, symbolizing Russia's recent declaration of peace. The editors have overlayed several versions of a popular rhyme of the day about Wilhelm.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Bombing During World War I

The War's Earliest Bomber, the Voisin III

By Pamela Feltus

It is uncertain exactly by whom or when explosive devices were first dropped from airplanes. Certainly, however, the concept of the bomber aircraft predated the rise of fighter aircraft by several years. Before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the French, Germans, Russians, and Austro-Hungarians were developing aircraft specifically designed to carry and release bombs on a target. Great Britain also experimented with the possibility of dropping bombs from aircraft before the war but did not start building aircraft specifically for the task until after the beginning of hostilities. In addition, the Central Powers built a fearsome bombing force around zeppelin airships before 1914 and used them extensively early in the war.

Combatants used virtually all types of aircraft, including observation and fighter planes, for bombing operations at some time during the war. The British De Havilland 6, for example, could carry either an observer or bombs, but not both. The technological choice, however, was to develop large aircraft that could penetrate enemy defenses, defend themselves from aerial attack, and deliver massive amounts of bombs on a target far behind the battle front.

The first genuine bomber to be used in combat was the French "Voisin" airplane, which bombed the zeppelin hangers at Metz-Frascaty on 14 August 1914. A pusher biplane, the Voisin was rugged and weather-worthy because of its steel airframe. Throughout the war it incorporated increasingly more powerful engines, moving successively up from engines that generated 70 horsepower (52 kilowatts) to those generating 155 horsepower (116 kilowatts). Its bomb-carrying capacity grew from about 132 pounds (60 kilograms) to 661 pounds (300 kilograms) by late in the war. The later Voisins also incorporated a 37mm cannon. The French Aviation Militaire began reorganizing its Voisins into bombardment squadrons in September 1914, which eventually numbered more than 600 aircraft. France used its Voison force after May 1915 to conduct a sustained bombing campaign against the Western Front.

Russia's Ilya Muromets

The French efforts were quickly followed by the Imperial Russian Air Service equipped with Igor I. Sikorsky's huge aircraft, the Ilya Muromets. The world's first four-engine airplane, the Ilya Muromets first flew on 13 May 1913. Its four engines each generated from 100 to 220 horsepower (75 to 164 kilowatts), its crew of five had sleeping compartments in the rear fuselage, and either three or four machine guns protected it from air attack by. The most advanced Ilya Muromets could remain aloft for five hours at an altitude of about 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) with a speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour). It could carry 992 and 1,543 pounds (450 and 700 kilograms) of bombs depending on other operational factors. It also enjoyed a 60 percent bombs-on-target rating because of its precise bombsights and excellent training of bombardiers.

Russian Major-General M.V. Shidlovski, commanding the Eskadra Vozdushnykh Korablei (Squadron of Flying Ships), equipped his unit with the rugged Ilya Muromets. Formed specifically to exploit the weakness from the air of the Central Powers on the Eastern Front, Shidlovski made his squadron into a self-contained force. He first used it in combat on 15 February 1915, when it left from its base at Jablonna, Poland, and raided a German base in East Prussia. Between that time and the November 1917 Russian Revolution, Shidlovski's unit made more than 400 bombing raids over Germany and the Baltic states.

The combatants all had different views on bombing strategy. The English, first through the Royal Naval Air Service and then the Royal Air Force, emphasized tactical and revenge bombing. The French were extremely reluctant to bomb behind the German lines, since the range of its bombers did not reach Germany and they did not want to drop bombs on German-occupied France. Also, unoccupied French cities and other targets were close to the front, and retribution bombing would have been easy. 

German Zeppelin Bomber

All countries used bombers in a tactical capacity since bombers could reach areas that ground artillery could not. When an offensive was being mounted, traffic increased in the back lines. Bombers could target these high-traffic areas. During the build-up to the Battle of Messines Ridge in the summer of 1917, the Germans struck the British munitions supply train. British artillery had to stop firing after three hours when they ran out of ammunition.

Industrial bombing targeted factories and mines that were supporting the war effort. The theory was that in destroying the sources of new weapons, the war’s progress could be slowed for a while. And some industrial bombing was simply motivated by revenge. In April of 1915, the Germans dropped chlorine gas on the Allied trenches. French intelligence linked the gas to a factory in Ludwigshafen, and bombers were dispatched to destroy the factory.

It was the Germans who first grasped the psychological implications of bombing a civilian population. Using mostly zeppelins in the early years, they instilled fear and panic in the people by flying over their cities. This became a regular practice and made the Germans seem much more powerful and omnipresent in the minds of their enemies.

The bombing of cities remained a moral issue throughout the war. But no one ever believed that cities were off limits for bombing; they had too many industrial sites and government offices that were potential targets. At times, the innocent would be hit by mistake. But the lure of military targets in cities, combined with the psychological power gained by urban bombings meant that they were inevitable. Nothing could make a government and an army look more helpless than to have enemy aircraft descending upon its capital buildings or castles.

Italy's Caproni Bomber

On 23 May 1915, Italy entered World War I on the side of the Allies, and while overall poorly prepared for war, it had a competent bombing force. A family of Caproni bombers, almost all of which were trimotors, were first adopted by the Italian military just before the war. The Ca 2, which had the range and reliability to cross the Alps and attack Austro-Hungary, flew the war’s first Italian bombing mission on 20 August 1915. The Ca 2s served as Italy's principal daylight bomber until the appearance of the Ca 3 in 1917. The Caproni Ca 5 series of bombers were the most advanced produced in Italy during the war. This biplane had one pusher and two tractor engines, each generating 200 to 300 horsepower (149 to 224 kilowatts) and capable of carrying a bomb load of 1,190 pounds (540 kilograms) for four hours at 94 miles per hour (152 kilometers per hour). It was susceptible to air attack, however, since it carried only two defensive machines guns. Used throughout the war, Caproni bombers had exceptional range and moderate bomb carrying capabilities. Many were converted to cargo and passenger operations after the war.

The British also building an effective bomber force early in the war. In December 1914, Commodore Murray F. Sueter of the British Admiralty's Air Department. He ordered the development of a "bloody paralyzer of an aeroplane" to bomb Germany. He asked for a two-seat, twin-engine aircraft with a speed of at least 75 miles per hour (121 kilometers per hour) and a carrying capacity of at least six 112-pound (51-kilomgram) bombs. The result was the Handley Page O/100, which went into service with the Royal Navy Air Service in November 1916 and was used at first for daylight sea patrols near Flanders. The plane could carry 16 112-pound (51-kilogram) bombs; used a crew of four; mounted machine guns in the nose, dorsal, and downward from the lower fuselage; and could have its wings folded to fit into standard hangars. Beginning in March 1917, however, they began to be concentrated for night bombing of German U-boat bases, railway stations, and industrial sites. It served effectively until the end of the war.

British Handley-Page Bombers

It was the airplane that the Germans developed in the autumn of 1916, however, that emerged as the most infamous bomber of World War I. The Germans longed to carry out a bombing campaign against England and worked to develop an airplane that could do it after the limitations of the zeppelin became apparent. Their solution: the Gotha G.V. bomber, had two Mercedes engines and a wingspan of over 77 feet (23 meters). It was strong enough to carry more than 1000 pounds (454 kilograms) of bombs and also had a firing tunnel—a hole through the bottom of the airplane that allowed the rear gunner to shoot the enemy below, a common blind spot.

On 23 May 1917, a fleet of 21 Gothas appeared over the English coastal town of Folkestone. On the deadliest day of bombing yet, 95 people were killed, and England began to panic. At noon on 13 June, another Gotha fleet dropped bombs onto London. For the next month, the daily raids on the capital city met with little opposition from the Royal Air Force, angering the population of London. Production levels within the city dropped. Citizens felt that their government was incapable of protecting them. They demanded that the military protect them and stop the bombs. They felt exposed and helpless, just as German military strategists had hoped they would.

Unfortunately for the Germans, the effect of the bombing was not a public uprising against Parliament but a strengthening of the Royal Air Force. In July, the large unwieldy Gothas were forced to resort to night raids so the darkness could shield them from Britain’s Sopwith Camels, light, maneuverable planes. By the war’s end, the raids had stopped entirely since the hits were not worth the German aircraft losses. In total, there were 27 Gotha raids. The English reported 835 killed and 1,990 wounded. Damage from the raids totaled £3,000,000, but the loss of production time from workers having to seek shelter in the middle of the day, or suffering exhaustion from having to leave their beds to seek shelter at night, had a far greater impact.

The true results of the Gotha raids are still debated today. But they formed the basis for most of the work of the theorists who addressed air power strategy after the war. More than any other function of the airplane in World War I, bombing created an area for debate and thought in the future.

Source: The United States Centennial of Flight Commission

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Best Books on the Great War in the Balkans: A Reading List

Contributed by Historian Richard C. Hall

Dr. Richard C. Hall is Professor of History at Georgia Southwestern State University. He has written prolifically about the Balkan theater. His latest work include: Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century &The Modern Balkans: A History

1. Flight in Winter

John C. Adams. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1942. This is a dated but still riveting history of the harrowing Serbian retreat across the Albanian Alps in 1915 and 1916 after the Austro-Bulgarian-German assault.

2. The Road to Sarajevo

Vladimir Dedijer. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966. Although in need of an update, this is the classic account of the steps leading to the Sarajevo assassination of 28 June 1914.

3. The Politics of Diplomacy: Britain and France in the Balkans in the First World War

David Dutton. London: Tauris, 1998. An academic study of the intricacies of the British-French relations during the First World War, this book provides details on the difficulties of coalition warfare.

4. Military Operations – Macedonia

Cyril Falls. Nashville: Battery Press: 1996, 2 vols. First published in 1935, this book remains the definitive account of the British effort on the Macedonian Front during World War I.

5. Balkan Breakthrough, the Battle of Dobo Pole, 1918

Richard C. Hall. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press 2010. An overview of the Bulgarian effort during the First World War and the specifics of the decisive battle that knocked Bulgaria out of the war ending the fighting in the Balkans in 1918.

6. The Balkan Wars 1912-1913, Prelude to the First World War

Richard C. Hall, London: Routledge, 2000. Examines the background to the fighting that ended in July 1913, sputtered off and on for a year, and then reignited for another four years.

7. Greece and the First World War: From Neutrality to Intervention 1917–1918

George B. Leontaritis. Boulder: East European Monographs, 1990. The complicated course of Greek politics during the First World War is presented here in an academic context.

8. Serbia’s Great War, 1914–1918

Andrej Mitrovic. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2007. A comprehensive account of the economic, military and political issues that Serbia faced during the First World War. (Translated from the Serbian.)

9. The Gardeners of Salonika

Alan Palmer. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965. Palmer presents a commanding accountof the Macedonian Front 1915–1918, primarily from the Entente perspective.

10. Armies in the Balkans 1914–18

Nigel Thomas and Dusan Babac. Botley, Oxford: Osprey, 2001. Good details on the national militaries active in the Balkans during the First World War.

11.  Romania and World War I

Glenn E. Torrey. Iasi: Center for Romanian Studies, 1998. Essays on Romania’s initially disastrous and ultimately triumphal participation in World War I.

Originally presented in the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of the World War One Historical Society