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

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting

By Chris Dubbs
University of Nebraska Press, 2017
Jim Gallen, Reviewer

Floyd Gibbons, Best Known American Correspondent
of the War

Soldiers and sailors fight wars. Journalists tell their stories. American Journalists in the Great War: Rewriting the Rules of Reporting is the storytellers’ story. It is a collection of tales of personalities over a variety of theaters. Their national status morphed from neutrals to belligerents.

Like the U. S. Army, American journalists gained experience during the Punitive Expedition into Mexico in search of Pancho Villa. With the withdrawal of the expedition, reporters followed the rising crescendo of guns emanating from Europe. As neutral citizens, American journalists were welcomed, tolerated, or expelled by Allies and Central Powers. American reports chronicled atrocities in Belgium. With the cutting of Germany’s cable, American journalists became the only avenue through which to get the war's story out, most importantly to neutral America. With America’s entry into the war, civilian garb was traded for the journalists’ uniforms of the American Expeditionary Force. Some would eventually report on the Russian Revolution and the Versailles Conference.

A few of the names may be recognizable: Richard Harding Davis, who exposed German brutality; Lowell Thomas, who told the saga of T. E. Lawrence of Arabia; Heywood Broun, who ran afoul of AEF authorities. Some would make news, such as John Reed, who became a spokesman for the Bolsheviks, availed himself of their protection, and is buried in the Kremlin. 

American journalists publicized some of the best-known Great War stories and changed the narrative of reporting. Madeline Doty assured that Germans were not “barbarians” but “just like ourselves, just folks, kindly and generous, deceived and browbeaten by a ruthless military group.” Suffragist Rheta Dorr drew inspiration from Maria Bochkareva and her Women’s Brigade, who offered to fight for Russia and spread their legend far and wide. Floyd Gibbons, who lost an eye at Belleau Wood, immortalized “Come on, you sons-of-bitches! Do you want to live forever?”

Reporting practices created heroes and left others in obscurity. News restrictions on frontline soldiers forced the spotlight on aviators, bestowing heroic status on the Lafayette Escadrille. Sleepless nights of Damon Runyon of the New York American and Thomas Johnson of the New York Sun immortalized the “Lost Battalion.” Sgt. Alvin York performed service above and beyond the call of duty, but Saturday Evening Post writer George Pattullo transformed York into an icon. Even the most famous American phrase of the war was a journalistic concoction, a blend of Gen. Pershing’s salute and staffer Col. Charles Stanton’s “Lafayette We Are Here,” which reporters eagerly attributed to Pershing.

War accounts reflected reporters’ divergent world views. The April 1915 issue of Metropolitan magazine included John Reed’s "In the German Trenches" and excerpts from Richard Harding Davis’s "With the Allies."  Whereas Davis used his brilliant descriptive powers to portray the German war machine as an evil threatening civilization, an evil against which America must prepare itself, Reed also described horrors and absurdities of war that dehumanized the working-class men who fought across the trenches.

Author Chris Dubbs has crafted an easy-to-read examination of the men and women who brought the Great War to America’s newspapers and homes. He provides a birds-eye view of his subject spiced by personal anecdotes. The many photos put faces to names, the index makes for easy reference, and the bibliography is a guide to further reading. I find this work to be an informative break from detailed accounts of individual battles. American Journalists in the Great War is an excellent choice for Roads readers seeking a different perspective on the war.

Jim Gallen

Monday, February 27, 2023

Recommended: Andy Belsey's Trench Section Models

 Click on Image to Enlarge

Visit this site to view 32 slides of Andy's various models like the example above. The level of authentic detail is amazing. British, French, and German approaches are included. One of my favorites shows how underground mining was conducted below the trench lines. There is a low-key commercial aspect to the site, but it focuses on how-to-do-it instructional products for serious modelers who wish to develop their own specimens.

Click Here to Connect:

Thanks to Kimball Worcester for the heads up.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

So, Kaiser Wilhelm Wanted a Navy

An 1894 Cruiser Design by Kaiser Wilhelm II

I had a peculiar passion for the navy. It sprang to no small extent from my English blood. When I was a little boy. . . I admired the proud British ships. There awoke in me the will to build ships of my own like these someday, and when I was grown up to possess a fine navy as the English.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, My Early Life

In the extra-large fantasy department of Kaiser Wilhelm's mind, he could muse over a fleet so magnificent and elegant his British cousins would turn emerald green with envy at the semi-annual naval review, while doing their gentlemanly best to hide their crushed self-importance behind stiff upper lips. I doubt, though, that he ever imagined that they would view his naval build-up as a threat to their national survival. Oddly, when the British Admiralty responded determinedly with its own building program and innovative ship design, that didn't seem to puncture the illusions of the Kaiser or his expert, Admiral Tirpitz, whose grandiosity reminds me a bit of a building-czar Robert Moses. They kept building until they ran out of money. In this issue of Roads, we tell the sad tale of the construction of Wilhelm's pretty "luxury" fleet, doomed to be scuttled one day.   

A recent paper by Wesley R. Hale at the University of Rhode Island nicely summarizes how Kaiser Wilhelm II was inspired (seduced?) into building his huge, but eventually inadequate and doomed, battle fleet.

At the beginning of the 20th century, England possessed the largest navy in the world, having established in 1889 a Naval Defense Act that formalized the "Two Power Standard" of parity with the next two naval powers, France and Russia." Kaiser Wilhelm II sought to earn prestige as a monarch by elevating Germany to a maritime power in the same manner his grandfather Wilhelm I had transformed the Prussian Army to unify Germany under one flag. Unlike his grandfather, whose reorganization efforts benefited from a long history of military institution, where the Prussian army was a fixture of society, Wilhelm II faced the challenge of developing a formidable navy in a country lacking a cohesive naval tradition.

Kaiser Wilhelm and his admirals envisioned [a battle fleet] elevating Germany to a maritime power in line with A.T. Mahan's notion of military strength. First published in 1890, Mahan's book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 argued that numerical superiority accounted for much of the maritime success of the major world powers against their enemies. While he highlighted several naval battles throughout history, Nelson's victories at the Battle of the Nile and Trafalgar were both particularly important to this argument and still relatively recent history. To that end, Mahan begins his introduction with a discussion of the basic tactics of those battles, which were "to choose that part of the enemy's order which can least easily be helped, and to attack it with superior forces." Mahan's work became one of the most influential geopolitical pieces of its time, eventually becoming recommended reading for every major world leader with global ambitions, including Theodore Roosevelt and Wilhelm II. His book became a manual that set the naval standard to which all major powers subscribed and to which Imperial Germany aspired.

Over the next half-decade, Wilhelm—being Wilhelm—fantasized, talked, consulted industrialists, pressured ministers, and gave endless pep talks to his family and entourage about the necessity for a world-class German fleet. As the illustration at the top of this article shows, he was even designing his own ships. His byword was "The Trident Must Be in Our Fist." However, at the time Wilhelm's "Trident" consisted of a navy of only 68 ships, compared to the Royal Navy's 330.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, and
General Helmuth von Moltke Aboard Ship

To turn his dream into a reality, he needed a naval man of great skill to lead the effort to get the fleet built. He found his man in a brilliant and politically savvy admiral named Alfred von Tirpitz. Born in 1848, Tirpitz enlisted in the navy as a midshipman at age 16 and quickly showed aptitudes for tactics and engineering. He rose through the ranks rapidly, becoming a rear admiral by 1895. The following year he was assigned to command a squadron of cruisers in the Far East when he caught the Kaiser's eye. For several years he had been writing memoranda for navy on the importance of building the nation's navy. An adherent of Mahan, the admiral's writings showed a clear understanding of the connection of political, economic, and sea power. Further, he pointed out, "If we intend to go out into the world and strengthen ourselves commercially then if we do not provide ourselves simultaneously with a certain measure of sea power, we shall be erecting a perfectly hollow structure." The Kaiser had found an admiral whose thinking perfectly meshed with his.

In June 1897, Tirpitz was appointed to the new position of secretary of state of the Imperial Naval office and given the job of challenging the Royal Navy's dominance. He immediately got to work, raised a staff, appointed committees, and set them to work—exploring the latest in ship design, gunnery, and shells; examining training programs; studying docks, shipyards, and the Kiel Canal. Maybe most important, he began a huge public relations campaign to win public support for the coming financial investment to build the fleet. He cultivated the press, organized public events, and funded a naval propaganda team that had a team of authors turning out novels, pamphlets, and school presentations. In just six months, Tirpitz put together a first-phase building program and had both the Reichstag and public opinion primed to support it.

Sources: Hale, Wesley R., "The SMS Ostfriesland: A Warship at the Crossroads of Military Technology"; The Dreadnoughts, Time-Life Books

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Indian Motorcycle's Contribution to the U.S. War Effort

The U.S. Army started using motorcycles from 1913, and most came from three manufacturers: Hendee Manufacturing (which later became Indian), Harley-Davidson and Excelsior.  When war came, Indian motorcycles would receive the most orders by far. This led to the company and its boosters to later claim it was  the motorcycle that helped the U.S. win the First World War. You certainly can’t blame the motorcycle itself. The military model was closely based on Indian’s famed Powerplus Big Twin, which had, according to sales literature, the “most powerful and economical engine ever fitted to a motorcycle.’’ The army loved the bike so much it bought nearly 50,000 of them during the war years. As a result, Indian devoted virtually its entire production to the war effort from 1917 through 1919. In hindsight, Indian didn’t realize the damage such a strategy would inflict on its civilian dealers, who were left with almost no motorcycles to sell.

Rigged for a Machine Gun

Hyperoble aside, this 61-cubic-inch (1,000cc) engine was a significant improvement over the previous generation F-head motor. Pumping out 18 horsepower, it could propel the machine to 60 mph and remain reliable. It was a package good enough for the legendary Cannonball Baker, who used Powerplus machines to set many of his endurance records for the Indian factory. Military versions of the bike shared the same three-speed transmission, rear-only brake, and leaf-spring front fork as the civilian model. They also sported rear suspension, a simpler gas headlight instead of electric and functional flat fenders instead of curved versions.

Pat Ware, a historian and the author of The World Encyclopaedia of Military Motorcycles, says: “During World War One, most U.S. military motorcycles remained in the USA where they were used for training, despatch rider, convoy escort, messenger, and scouting roles.

“Being heavy and often difficult to control, motorcycles were unpopular with riders due to the extreme fatigue they experienced when riding off-road.”

He added: “Small numbers found their way to the fighting in Europe where, with the addition of a sidecar, they also found themselves being used as machine-gun mounts, ambulances and even pigeon lofts!”

Apologetic Ad in Saturday Evening Post

Indian continued to supply the military into the 1930s, developing an updated version of the Powerplus (the M2)—and this was sold to the U.S. Army into the 1930s. The army also purchased examples of the Indian Scout and Chief models. Harley-Davidson also managed to tap into the military market and had become the main supplier of motorcycles to the U.S. Army by the late 1930s. 

Rigged as Stretcher Carrier

Sources: American Motorcyclist Association; Biker and Bike; Texas WW1 Commission

Friday, February 24, 2023

Memorarble Doughboy Personalities — A Roads Collection

Lt. Everett Dirksen Wearing the
Aerial Observer Wing


Future Senator: Lt. Everett McKinley Dirksen, 19th Balloon Company

Gangster, Doughboy, Hero: Monk Eastman of the 27th Division

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

Ernest Wrentmore, 5th Division: The Youngest Doughboy

Russian Immigrant Sam (Zalmon) Reuben Orlowsky, 319th Field Artillery

Major Raoul G. Lufbery, Lafayette Escadrille and 94th Aero Squadron

"One of the Bravest Men They Had Ever Seen", Private Louis Ziegra, Yankee Division

York Barbell Founder, Lt. Robert Hoffman

Lt. Robert Hoffman, 28th Division AEF, Fitness Guru and War Memoirist

Pvt. Troy E. Leach, Supply Company, 9th Infantry, 2nd Division

Future General: Colonel Troy H. Middleton, 4th Division

Medal of Honor Recipient PFC George Dilboy, 103rd Infantry, 26th Division

He Inspired a Movie:  Capt. Dean M. Gilfillan, Tank Corps

Major George Hamilton, USMC

Lt. Levi Lamb, 9th Inf., 2nd Div.

The 1912 Undefeated Penn State Squad; Levi Lamb,
3rd from left, Middle Row   


The Doughboys: The Story Of The AEF

Doughboys on the Great War; How American Soldiers Viewed Their Military Experience

A Reminder: This is a representative listing, not inclusive of all the articles we have published on this topic in Roads to the Great War.  To search our archives for other articles on this topic, or to explore other World War One interests of yours, take advantage of the site search engine at the top left corner of every page on Roads to the Great War.  MH

Thursday, February 23, 2023

After Delville Wood — The Ongoing Decimation of the South African Brigade

Early in September 1917, a soldier of the Transvaal Scottish sent his younger game-hunting brother in Vryheid a mock invitation from a billet along the Canal du Nord: "You really should stop shooting those poor springboks. Rather come across here and die yourself.It is such a thrill to mix your ashes into the soil of our country’s Flaamsche Forefathers."


In early 1916, the South African Brigade, given its many men with desert experience from South West Africa, was sent to Egypt to help suppress the Senussi rebellion on the western frontier. In mid-April the brigade was shipped to France for the anticipated Somme offensive. Attached to Britain’s 9th (Scottish) Division where they emphasized a frontier fighting spirit by imitating Zulu war songs and dances, the South Africans occupied trench lines in May but were held in reserve until mid-July. 

After the Battle: A Treeless (Less 1) Delville Wood

After 1 July, the disastrous Somme offensive degenerated into a war of attrition and British attacks were concentrated on an arc of woods north of Montauban. On 12 July, Lukin was ordered to take Delville Wood from the Germans and hold it at all costs. At dawn on 15 July, 3,000 men of the South African brigade, led by Lieutenant Colonel William Tanner (1875–1943), captured most of Delville Wood. Almost surrounded by German positions, the South Africans were subjected to several days of determined German counterattacks and intense bombardment. Assaults by British units failed to relieve the pressure and British artillery support was ineffective, and sometimes shelled the South Africans. British troops finally broke through on 20 July, and the South Africans were withdrawn.

It was at Delville Wood that Private William Frederick Faulds (1895–1950), who twice exposed himself to shellfire to rescue wounded comrades, became the first South African to earn the Victoria Cross. There were 750 South Africans dead and 1,500 wounded, captured or missing. Of 3,150 members of the brigade who had fought, only twenty-nine officers and 750 other ranks answered roll call on 21 July.

Ongoing Decimation

Some 2,900 newly arrived South African troops reconstituted the brigade which spent the next year in and out of action at places such as Vimy, Butte de Warlencourt, Arras, Fampoux, and Menin Road. In May 1917, at Fampoux, the brigade suffered heavy casualties for a gain of just 200 metres: and dubbed themselves “suicide Springboks.” 

South African Scottish Relaxing a Few Days Before the Disastrous Attack at Fampoux

In September 1917, the South African Brigade joined the British offensive in Flanders, eventually known as the Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele, which envisioned a push to the coast to drive the Germans out of Belgium. Instead of the massed shoulder-to-shoulder advance of the Somme, British infantry formed small and fast attack parties to eliminate specific German positions. During the early morning of 20 September, the 3rd and 4th South African battalions, preceded by a creeping artillery barrage, advanced over muddy and cratered ground and took a series of objectives from surprised German defenders. In this operation, 1,250 South Africans were killed, wounded or missing out of an original 2,600. 

Another destabilising element for morale was the increased use of South African infantry companies in mass burial parties, prompting this reflection from a distressed officer in Flanders. For his men to have to endure a further battle round, "with the reek of death still in their nostrils … these memories would be distressing to even the hardest … this misuse of fighting troops was cruel and useless."

Spring 1918: A Stretcher Team with South African Dead

No less telling by August and September [1917] was a distinct dip in the tone of popular soldiering songs and doggerel verse: biting, sombre, homesick, yearning with desire for normal life. Thus, a Poperinghe training camp for the Ypres offensive was lit by a new chant, "Now where will my favourite girl be/To hell with France, Flaamsch and Blighty/They aren’t so mighty/ Africa’s the place for me."

At the beginning of 1918, the South African Brigade, now only 1,700 strong, was assigned to hold a defensive position at Gouzeaucourt, near Cambrai, in anticipation of a German spring offensive. On the morning of 21 March, artillery hammered the South Africans and German assaults overwhelmed their strongpoint at Gauche Wood. Over the next few days the brigade suffered 900 casualties, and the remaining 700 men were withdrawn north to escape encirclement. When the war ended, the South Africans were on the eastern point of a general Allied advance with each of the three battalions having only 300 men.

A Lone South African Soldier Manning a
Gas Alarm Post, Winter 1916–17

Returning to South Africa by August 1919, veterans of the Western Front were demobilized at camps in Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria, and Potchefstroom. A Demobilization Board and 50 “Returned Soldier Committees” in various towns were established to reintegrate white servicemen into civilian life, and many returned to jobs reserved by patriotic employers.

Sources: "From Vryheid to Flanders: The Mixed Fortunes of the South African Brigade," by Bill Nasson: "Union of South Africa," 1914-1918 Online

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

When Lenin Authorized the Cheka to Deal with the "Insects"

Cheka Leader Felix Dzerzhinsky (Seated Center) and
Senior Staff

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn 

And even though V. I. Lenin, at the end of 1917, in order to establish "strictly revolutionary order," demanded "merciless suppression of attempts at anarchy on the part of drunkards, hooligans, counterrevolutionaries, and other persons"—in other words, foresaw that drunkards and hooligans represented the principal danger to the October Revolution, with counterrevolutionaries somewhere back in third place-he nonetheless put the problem more broadly. In his essay "How to Organize the Competition" (January 7 and 10, 1918), V. I. Lenin proclaimed the common, united purpose of "purging the Russian land of all kinds of harmful insects."

And under the term insects he included not only all class enemies but also "workers malingering at their work"—for example, the typesetters of the Petrograd Party printing shops. (That is what time does. It is difficult for us nowadays to understand how workers who had just become dictators were immediately inclined to malinger at work they were doing for themselves.) And then again: "In what block of a big city, in what factory, in what village ... are there not . . . saboteurs who call themselves intellectuals?"  True, the forms of insect-purging which Lenin conceived of in this essay were most varied: in some places they would be placed under arrest, in other places set to cleaning latrines; in some, "after having served their time in punishment cells, they would be handed yellow tickets"; in others, parasites would be shot; elsewhere you could take your pick of imprisonment "or punishment at forced labor of the hardest kind." Even though he perceived and suggested the basic directions punishment should take, Vladimir llyich proposed that "communes and communities" should compete to find the best methods of purging. 

Estonian Insects Exterminated by the Cheka

It is not possible for us at this time fully to investigate exactly who fell within the broad definition of insects; the population of Russia was too heterogeneous and encompassed small, special groups, entirely superfluous and, today, forgotten. The people in the local zemstvo self-governing bodies in the provinces were, of course, insects. People in the cooperative movement were also insects, as were all owners of their own homes. There were not a few insects among the teachers in the gymnasiums. The church parish councils were made up almost exclusively of insects, and it was insects, of course, who sang in church choirs. All priests were insects-and monks and nuns even more so. And all those Tolstoyans who, when they undertook to serve the Soviet government on, for example, the railroads, refused to sign the required oath to defend the Soviet government with gun in hand thereby showed themselves to be insects too. (We will later see some of them on trial.)

The railroads were particularly important, for there were indeed many insects hidden beneath railroad uniforms, and they had to be rooted out and some of them slapped down. And telegraphers, for some reason, were, for the most part, inveterate insects who had no sympathy for the Soviets. Nor could you say a good word about Vikzhel, the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Union of Railroad Workers, nor about the other trade unions, which were often filled with insects hostile to the working class.

Insects Quarantined in the Gulag

Just those groups we have so far enumerated represent an enormous number of people-several years' worth of purge activity. In addition, how many kinds of cursed intellectuals there were—restless students and a variety of eccentrics, truth-seekers, and holy fools, of whom even Peter the Great had tried in vain to purge Russia and who are always a hindrance to a well-ordered, strict regime.

It would have been impossible to carry out this hygienic purging, especially under wartime conditions, if they had had to follow outdated legal processes and normal judicial procedures. And so an entirely new form was adopted: extrajudicial  reprisal, and this thankless job was self-sacrificingly assumed by the Cheka, the Sentinel of the Revolution, which was the only punitive organ in human history that combined in one set of hands investigation, arrest, interrogation, prosecution, trial, and execution of the verdict. 

Source: The Gulag Archipelago, pgs 27-28

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

For King and Country: The British Monarchy and the First World War

By Heather Jones
Cambridge University Press, 2021
From Author's Interview, 4 October 2021

King George V Places a Wreath on the Coffin of the Unknown Warrior

It was the war for "King and Country." This First World War slogan appeared on postcards sent by men at the front to their families, on official war propaganda recruiting posters, even in commercial advertising. Most poignantly, these words remain today on countless war memorials all across Britain, often chosen by the war bereaved themselves to sum up what their loved ones had died for.

Yet the role of the British monarchy in the 1914–1918 conflict–and what it meant to wartime populations in the then United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland–has been virtually neglected by historians. What was British monarchism in the First World War? And did it really matter at all to ordinary people – men in the trenches or women in munitions factories?

. . . As a specialist in First World War Studies, I began to wonder in what ways the lived experience of total war in 1914-1918 might have affected the monarchy. I found that the reign of King George V is often overlooked, in favour of focusing on the salacious scandal of the abdication crisis that followed his death. There is even a common perception in biographies that George V was rather boring, a royal stamp collector. Yet, as king, George V personally visited the Western Front trenches on multiple occasions, consoled thousands of wounded troops in hospital, and even visited the victims of aerial bombardment in the East End of London within hours of German Gotha planes devastating their homes in 1917. What was the impact of all this, on the king himself and on public perceptions of him and the monarchy? . . .

The result is my new book: For King and Country: The British Monarchy and the First World War. It is the first academic history of the monarchy and monarchism during the war. In the book I find that the wartime reign of King George V was foundational for the modern British monarchy and argue that the war ultimately sacralised and popularised the monarchy because of the multiple ways that it became associated with supporting the troops and the working classes and with commemorating the war dead. This helped what was a dynasty with German ethnic roots to survive both its problematic personal connections to the enemy and an age of wartime and post-war revolution.

I also discovered that the war saw the monarchy emphasize its image as a devoted family, as courtiers sought to present the king and queen in more human terms. The press endorsed this, depicting them as enduring the conflict like any other British parents, worried about their two eldest sons, Prince Edward and Prince Albert, who were serving in France and at sea in the navy respectively. This helped to create sympathy for the royals and make them seem more empathetic and relatable to their subjects, many of whom, particularly after the introduction of conscription, had loved ones at war. 

Far from the First World War ‘modernizing’ the monarchy, therefore, it actually enhanced its older image as a venerated, sanctified institution, one that was presented as distinctly and uniquely British and ancient and as supporting a specifically indigenous British form of democracy, embodied in a simply-living wartime royal family, accessible and relatable to its subjects. The image of the monarchy as a dutiful, hardworking, and religious family who epitomized all the best ideals of wartime Britishness was central to this.

[However,] If the war strengthened the monarchy in Britain, in Ireland it polarized unionists and nationalists around the idea of whether a monarch as head of state was acceptable or not. By 1922, the question of having an oath of allegiance to the king in the Treaty settlement between a newly independent Irish Free State and Britain even helped trigger civil war among Irish nationalists. The case of Ireland shows that the British monarchy’s survival was not inevitable in the First World War; it was the choices it made, to prioritise sharing in the public war suffering in Britain, eschewing luxury, reaching out to the troops and war bereaved, and presenting itself as a ‘moral’ family, that mattered. Victory in the war helped, of course, but it was a very long time coming after 1914: royal popularity was sustained against revolution until 1918 by the monarchy’s policy choices.

Note: For King and Country shared the Tomlinson Prize for outstanding book on the First World War published in 2021.

Adapted from the London School of Economics British Politics and Policy Website, 4 October 2021

Monday, February 20, 2023

Havoc: France's Destruction

Ten examples showing why France pushed so hard for reparations:

Train Station, Senlis

Vaux, Near River Marne

Town Square, Château-Thierry

A French Family Visits Their Home's Ruins

Central Lille

St. Gervais Church, Paris
91 Persons Killed by Paris Gun Shell, Good Friday 1918


Rodin Statue Recovered
It Was Stashed for Eventual Removal to Germany

Destroyed Coal Pit, Loos


Sunday, February 19, 2023

Messr. Clemenceau Presents Himself to the AEF

Major George Marshall in France

As Remembered by General  George C. Marshall

One Sunday morning at this time [early September 1917], M. Clemenceau appeared at our Headquarters, and said that he had been to Chaumont to see General Pershing, but had found him absent and so had come to see General Sibert. Clemenceau was not then Premier, but I imagine he was preparing for his approaching responsibilities.

One of the battalions of the Twenty-sixth Infantry was having a Field Day, and we took him there to get a look at our men under the most favorable circumstances. He was much pleased over the various competitions, particularly those between the machine-gunners. But it was not until he wa literally spattered with blood in his ringside seat during a particularly vicious boxing match that he registered enthusiastic appreciation of the American soldier.

Clemenceau: Soldier of the Rear, Gutting the Defeatists

His great object at this time was to brace up the French morale and regenerate their offensive spirit. So the rugged fighting qualities displayed by our men were to him pleasing indications of our prospective power on the battlefield.

M. Clemenceau left that evening for another visit to Chaumont, but, as we learned later, he failed again to find General Pershing. who was absent on some inspection trip. The following day. about September 2nd, as I recall, he returned to [First Division HQ at] Gondrecourt. This time accompartied by General de Castelnau. and the latter's Chief of Staff. 

[Division Commander] General Sibert received the party in his small office and I was the only other person present.  Clemenceau made a short talk about the importance of the early entry into the line of American troops,and said that General de Castelnau would outline the arrangemets he proposed to accomplish this. The latter then described a sector of the line northeast of Luneville, a very quiet front, where he considered the opportunities for first experience in the trenches were unusually good. He explained how our troops would be brigaded with French troops and given every opportunity to secure actual front-line experience under the careful guidance of veterans and with a minimum of risk. 

Inspecting Doughboys Departing for the Italian Front

He asked General Sibert if the manner proposed for obtaining this first experience seemed salisfactory to him, and the latter replied that it appeared satisfactory. Then General de Castelnau remarked that he would return to the Headquarters of the Group of Armies of the East. at Mirecourt, and give the necessary instructions to arrange for our entry into the line about September 12th. 

This was "a facer" [an unexpected difficulty]. General Sibert immcdiately explained that he was not empowerecl to make any such arrangement; that such decisions rested entirely with General Pershing. 

Up to this moment everything had gone smoothly, though I thought I had noticed a very strained expression on General de Castelnau's face.  Now, however, Clemenceau rose from his chair and walking back and forth in the little room, made an impassioned statement in English regarding the seriousness of the situation and the absolute necessity of the immediate appearance of American troops in the trenches. 

Viewing Dead Germans at Château-Thierry
with American Soldiers

General Sibert had explained the status of the division as regards recruits and officers, and to this subject M. Clemenceau now addressed himself. He said it was not a question of our getting the division in perfect shape before committing it to the line. He said it was a question of losing the war; that the strength of the French soldier was exhausted; that his morale had reached its lowest point; that he had begun to doubt the good faith of the United States, because months had passed and no American troops had ever been seen in the line. He said he had tried to see General Pershing and had not found him and the matter was so vital that he had come to General Sibert direct, because the Americans must enter the battle and make some sacrifice to prove to the French soldiers that they meant business and were there to fight to a finish.

The situation was very embarrassing to General Sibert, and he tactfully replied that he thoroughly understood the feelings of M. Clemenceau, but that he was without power to take any action. Furthermore, however critical the existing condition of affairs, he thought M. Clemenceau and General de Castelnau would understand that for the Americans to commit their first organization to the line before it had had sufficient training to meet the enemy on equal terms would be taking a very grave risk, the unfortunate results of which would react as heavily against the French and English as against ourselves.  He called attention to the fact that the world assumed that the First Division represented the pick of the Regular Army, when, as a matter of truth, it was an entirely new organization and its ranks were filled with recruits. For the reputed pick of our Regular Army, on its first appearance in the line, to suffer a serious or possibly an ignominious reverse would have a calamitous effect on the morale of the American soldier and on the Allies as well.

Reviewing Troops with General Pershing at Chaumont GHQ
Their Relations Were Not Always Amicable

M. Clemenceau and General de Castelnau left immediately after the interview and General Sibert remarked to me that, while the plans of GHQ for our entry into the line set the date several months ahead, he felt sure that M. Clemenceau would bring sufficient pressure to bear to send us to the front in a very short time. We did not move on September 12th, but we did enter the sector northeast of Luneville on October 20th.

From:  Memoirs of My Services in the World War, 1917-1918 by George C. Marshall, 1976

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Remembering a Veteran: Lt. Colonel Elliott Joslin, MD, AEF Medical Service — Groundbreaking Diabetes Researcher


By James Patton

A Physician and Scientist

Elliott P. Joslin, MD (1869–1962) was born into a wealthy family in Oxford, MA. Following his education at Yale and Harvard Medical School, he opened a private practice in the Boston area. From the beginning he was especially interested in the treatment of Diabetes Mellitus (DM), possibly influenced by the incidence of DM in his own family. He was the first physician in the U.S. to specialize in DM, and he kept meticulous case notes and statistics, which he called his Registry. Over seven decades he became the world’s leading voice for DM management and education.

Joslin explored the connection between DM and diet with chemist Francis G. Benedict PhD (1870–1957) and carried out trials with DM patients studying the effects of fasting and feeding on the progression of symptoms. He became convinced that DM could often be managed with glucose control. Moreover, he believed that DM patients could do this themselves, with proper instruction and supervision. This approach became known as Diabetes Self-Management Education and is still the primary treatment strategy for DM today.

Joslin was dedicated to the idea that nurses could help DM patients self-manage their illness. Starting in 1908, working with the New England Deaconess Hospital, Joslin began the first training program in DM management for nurses. 

Drawing on the findings in over 1,000 of his cases, he wrote The Treatment of Diabetes Melitus, which was the first textbook on DM published in English and remained in print through 11 editions. Two years later he published The Diabetic Manual – for the Doctor and Patient, a "how-to" book rather than an instructional text, which has run to 14 editions and is still available under the title The Joslin Guide to Diabetes.

Service in the Great War

The Massive Mesves Hospital Complex, Where Dr. Joslin Served, Under Construction

At this point in Joslin’s career, America went to war. Although 48 years old, he decided to do his bit, and on 24 January  1918 he was commissioned as a major in the Army Medical Corps at Camp Devens, MA. Before the end of February he was in France, assigned to the Mesves Hospital Center at Mesves-Bulcy-sur-Loire, which consisted of eight Base Hospitals plus an Evacuation Hospital. With a total of 20,186 patients in November 1918, Mesves was the largest American hospital complex in France. Clearly Joslin wasn’t treating DM patients during his time there. 

While still at Mesves, on 23 October 1918 Joslin was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He remained on duty there until February 1919 and upon his return was released from active duty on 1 March 1919. He was awarded the Meuse-Argonne clasp for his Victory Medal. 

Shortly thereafter, in 1921 the "Toronto Group" of medical chemists isolated and successfully extracted insulin from animals. These researchers were Frederick G. Banting, MD (1891–1941), Charles H. Best, MD (1899–1978), and James B. Collip MD, PhD (1892–1965), who were working in the laboratory of the noted biochemist J.J.R. Macleod, PhD (1876–1935). Macleod and Banting were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923. 

Two of these men were also war veterans. Banting was a captain in the Canadian Medical Corps and received a Military Cross; Best served with the 2nd Canadian Tank Battalion, rising to the rank of acting sergeant major. 

Dr. Joslin's Legacy

The Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA

With the availability of insulin, Joslin expanded his DM practice, which attracted colleagues, eventually becoming the Joslin Clinic in 1952. Still in Boston and today called the Joslin Diabetes Center, it is the largest DM research center, DM treatment clinic and DM education center in the world. Dr. Joslin’s most quoted mantra is “The diabetic who knows the most lives the longest.”

In 1993, 30 years after Joslin’s death, a monumental ten-year study conducted by researchers at 27 sites in the U.S. and Canada concluded that Joslin’s approach to DM management showed a significant reduction in the progression of DM symptoms with no corresponding reduction in lifestyle.

Beginning in 1946, Joslin started a 20-year study that followed the incidence of DM in one Massachusetts community, which demonstrated that DM in the U.S. should be considered a public health problem and DM incidence classified as an epidemic. Statistics have borne this conclusion to be true up to the present.

Friday, February 17, 2023

The Mesopotamian Campaign — A Roads Collection

Prisoner Column After the Surrender at Kut

The Great War's Mesopotamian Campaign was India’s major  contribution to the World War I. Total Allied casualties were 92,501. Of these approximately 15,000 were killed, 13,000 died of disease, 51,000 were wounded, and 13,000 were taken prisoner or were missing. One event stands out above all the other action fought in that theatre between 1914 and 1918. A force of 13,000 British and Indian troops surrendered to a Turkish Army at Kut-el Amara, Mesopotamia, now Iraq, on 29 April 1916. No fewer than 7,000 of those captured were to die in captivity. This was arguably the worst military defeat that the British Empire had suffered since the surrender of Lord Cornwallis’s army in 1781 during the American Revolutionary War.