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

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Fromelles Project

A Number of the Men Found Were from Company D, 31st AIF

In May 2008, after several years of painstaking research and investigation, a number of burial pits dating from the First World War were identified at Pheasant Wood, near Fromelles in northern France. In May 2009, archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology began to excavate the pits and by early September they had carefully removed the remains of 250 soldiers, mostly Australian, buried behind German lines after the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916. This discovery would lead to the eventual construction of the first Commonwealth cemetery to be constructed in over 50 years.

The battle of Fromelles was an Australian Imperial Force and British Army joint operation, fought on a 4,000-yard section of the German front line. It involved the British 61st and Australian 5th divisions, and, on the German side, the 6th Bavarian Reserve division. It was the first action that the Australian Imperial Force saw on the Western Front. The battle resulted in over 5,500 Australian and 1,500 British casualties, of which almost 2,000 Australian and over 500 British were fatalities. It was, and still is, the worst 24 hours in Australian military history.

Those who had fallen close to or in the German front line were gathered up by the enemy, and buried behind German lines in unmarked mass graves, including graves to the south of Pheasant Wood on the edge of Fromelles village. The graves went unrecognized for more than half a century until researchers, most notably retired Australian schoolteacher Lambis Englezos, identified them through historical research. When an evaluation confirmed their presence, the Australian and British governments announced a jointly funded program of excavation and recovery so that the soldiers could be reburied in individual graves.

Australian Prisoners Taken at Fromelles

With an international team of forensic and investigative professionals, Oxford Archaeology began excavating and recovering the soldiers in May 2009. Unlike traditional archaeology, where the goal is largely scientific, this was a humanitarian project in which the sole focus was on the recovery and identification of individuals with living families using DNA. The graves, eight of them in total, were excavated over a period of four months. Soil was meticulously removed, first by a small mechanical digger, and then using specialist hand tools, to expose individuals (all practically skeletonized) and artifacts. Teeth and bones were sampled for DNA, and all evidence was comprehensively recorded before being lifted and transported to the temporary mortuary. All the skeletons were in good or excellent condition, allowing a high level of biological and personal identification information to be obtained. As expected, the skeletons exhibited extensive wounding–blast, projectile, and sharp-force lesions were all recorded–from the battlefield.

As the project proceeded, construction began nearby in 2009 for a new burial site for the re-interment of the bodies in individual graves nearby just outside Fromelles. Named Pheasant Wood Cemetery, it was to be ready to receive burials by the beginning of 2010.

All the recovered evidence was collated into confidential case reports, one for each soldier, for the identification commission, which convened annually over five years, beginning in 2010. A data-analysis team collated this information with historical records, family trees, and DNA results from the deceased and their descendants. This was a fundamental part of the identification process, and employed a rigorous, repeatable methodology, free from bias and devised specifically for this project–the first attempt at historic identifications on a large scale.

The Last Burial at Pheasant Wood Cemetery, 19 July 2020

To date, a total of 166 Australian soldiers have been identified by name. Of the remaining 84 soldiers, 59 are considered to have served for the Australian Army, two for the British Army, and 23 remain "known unto God." [Statistics updated, 27 Dec. 19] While DNA has been a prime mover in these identifications, it has not been without its limitations. The use of DNA extracted from people who died almost 100 years ago can only use inherited markers associated with the maternal and paternal lines. This inevitably means lower levels of match probability compared with autosomal DNA analysis associated with modern-day scene-of-crime investigations.

The first and last burials to take place at Pheasant Wood Cemetery were marked by ceremonies held in January 2010 and on 19 July 2010. The latter ceremony was held on the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles and was a dedication service when the last–as yet unidentified–soldier was reburied. A new museum of the Battle of Fromelles was opened in July 2014 adjacent to the cemetery.

Sources: World Archeology, 19 July 2019; CWGC; Wikipedia

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Listen to a Soldier's Voice from Christmas 1914: Anzac Henry Miller Lanser


Henry Miller Lanser (1890–1916)

Contributed by James Patton

Henry Miller Lanser, a 24-year-old Australian soldier, found himself far from his family in New South Wales (NSW) at Christmas 1914.

His 1st Battalion Australian Imperial Force had left for Egypt on 18 October 1914 for training at the Mena military camp. Lanser, known familiarly as “Miller,” found a way back home through a “talking-machine shop” in Cairo, where in late December 1914 or early January 1915 he made what is believed to be the oldest surviving recording in the world of the voice of an ordinary soldier during wartime.

The three-and-a-half-minute recording was made on a 10-inch shellac by the Mechian Company, run by Armenian businessman Setrak Mechian. 

Miller had been a mechanic who traveled around NSW working on shearing equipment. Stephanie Boyle, a senior curator at the Australian War Memorial, believes his interest in machinery may have been one reason he took the “unusual and expensive step” of entering a recording shop.

The Original Disk at the Australian War Memorial

He was one of the original Anzacs who landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was twice wounded, the second time at Lone Pine on  6 August.   Subsequently he was commissioned and rejoined his battalion on the Western Front, fought at Pozières, and was killed at Flers on 5 November 1916. His body lay in no man’s land for months before being buried in Grévillers British Cemetery.

Ian Lanser, the son of Miller’s brother Basil, remembers his uncle’s voice ringing out of the gramophone whenever he visited his aunts Ethel and Edie.  “As a toddler I remember holding that record …. And they played it where my aunties lived, and at that stage my grandmother–Miller’s mother–was still alive,” Ian Lanser says.

He says the family received the record before his uncle landed at Gallipoli, and continued to play it and find solace in hearing his voice after the news of his death. Jennifer Selby of the Australian War Memorial worked on the restoration of the disc:

To have this voice of an Australian soldier, recorded before the landing at Gallipoli, when he was still having a good time, exploring foreign parts of the world that he’d never dreamed of seeing, is a really unique thing.

The original 10-inch shellac disc came to the Memorial with a chunk  missing, making it impossible to play completely.  However, they also had the metal master, which is a negative of the recording. “We managed to play back from the negative, taking the sound off the ridges rather than the grooves, the complete recording,” Selby says.

To listen to the Lanser Disc click

HERE (embedded)   or    HERE (for player) 

From The Guardian (Australia Edition)

Saturday, July 29, 2023

We Will Always Have Paris—The Birth of the American Legion

The Founding Paris Caucus, March 1919

By Leon Loupy

The Great War drew to a close. Many members of the American armed forces still training in the United States or in Europe awaiting shipment home began talking about creation of a veterans’ organization. They remembered that following the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic had flourished.

The subject was treated seriously by four soldiers of high rank meeting in late January 1919 on fashionable Faubourg St. Honore in Paris. Frontline officers who among them could count seven wound chevrons on their uniforms, the four were prominent and able to have their voices heard in important places. They were Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., member of the 1st Division and son of the just deceased former president; William J. Donovan, who had made his name with New York’s “Fighting 69th”; Eric Fisher Wood of the 88th Division; and George S. White from General Headquarters of the AEF in France.

The focus of their discussion was how to go about forming such an organization which would have a reservoir of over 2,000,000 young persons to draw from. At the least, it was reasoned, it would be a basis for fraternalism, and it was hoped that it could eventually make its presence felt in matters important to veterans and to America. A suitable name was bandied about: Liberty League, American Crusaders, Comrades in Service, or Legion of Honor. The suggestion of American Legion at first drew little favor.

Enthusiasm evident, presentation of the idea to General John J. Pershing was called for. The commander-in-chief was initially upset at having read an early mention of the plan in Stars and Stripes, which he regarded as a transgression of his rights as head of the American armed forces, but Pershing could not long ignore the makings of a runaway popular notion and gave his blessing to scheduling a prompt and wider treatment of the subject at a caucus at the Inter-Allied Officers’ Club.

That event in Paris held 13 to 15 March 1919 was so successful that the American Legion today celebrates those three days annually as its birth dates. Good formative business was conducted at the caucus with selected officers and enlisted personnel in attendance. Other distinguished names started to come aboard. Captain Ogden Mills was one; he would become prominent in the San Francisco Bay Area (the Mills Building, Mills Field, Mills Estate) and Secretary of the Treasury in the Hoover Administration. Hamilton Fish and Bennett C. Clark went on to the national political arena. San Francisco newsman Harold C. Ross would later found The New Yorker magazine. And adding to the atmosphere in a major way was the arrival of President Woodrow Wilson to participate in the treaty conference at Versailles. The list of attendees leaned heavily to Army officers and men with influence or connections beyond the military sphere. The Navy, alas, for whatever reasons, did not put in an appearance at the caucus.

A subsequent meeting was decided upon for St. Louis, Missouri, in May and by that time the name American Legion was adopted, leading to “Legionnaires” entering the American lexicon. President Wilson, who, like Pershing, knew a good thing when he saw it, gave his endorsement. Minneapolis was selected to be the site in November for the initial national convention,

The St. Louis Caucus with Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.,
Front and Center

Minneapolis inaugurated the series held annually at other cities, where Legion parades became a highlight that entertained the public and served as the nation’s most ambitious animated tableau of patriotism. San Francisco was an early host in 1923—the city, including this spectator, was provided a splendid show. A placard at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park commemorates the event. Legionnaire hijinks were at that time a part of things until the frivolities were regarded as unacceptable and harmful to the Legion’s reputation. The leadership initially was devoted to the promotion and safeguarding of veteran affairs. Then as the membership grew and more posts opened throughout America, the Legion was encouraged to portray a larger image in national affairs by dealing with matters of real importance. Education, land use, immigration and naturalization, public health and universal military training were primary causes on the agenda. Lobbying Congress and state legislative bodies to voice concerns became a must.

With roots established at St. Louis, Minneapolis, and permanent national headquarters at Indianapolis, the American Legion was affected by attitudes of the warm, easy-going people of the Midwest. Included were the heartland feelings on foreign affairs that tended to favor isolationism and the avoidance of foreign entanglements. The numerous American individuals and groups who in the late 1930s crusaded for America First and non-intervention were a force right up until the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.

Sources:  The Doughboy Center; Publications and Websites of the American Legion

Friday, July 28, 2023

Remembering an American Small Town's Contribution to the War

Contributor to Roads Terry Finnegan sent me the above photo of the distinctive and informative roadside marker shown above.  It nicely summarizes the stresses endured, and the contributions and sacrifices of the good people of Wisconsin during the war.

Menomonie Back When

It is located at a highway rest stop in Menomonie, Wisconsin,  Seat of Dunn County, on Interstate 94. Menomonie is located in northwestern Wisconsin, closer to Minnesota than the Great Lakes. Its present-day population is nearly 17,000. Most notably, in 2012, Menomonie was ranked #15 in Smithsonian's "The 20 Best Small Towns in America"

Drafted Men Departing Menomonie

I was, however, unable to find out why this particular site was chosen to post this sign which remembers the experience of the entire state.  (I have not found anything comparable at any Wisconsin location, including the capital, Madison.)

Local Men Wounded in the Second Battle of the Marne

I decided to do some deep Googling about Menomonie to see if there was anything particularly notable about the wartime experiences of the town.  At the time of the Great War, the local population was about 5,000.  The local economy was apparently all of the small business character, including a lumber yard and a brick works and support for the surrounding farms.  There doesn't seem to have been much in the way of war industries.

The town's main involvement in the war was in providing manpower (and lives) for the AEF.  I would assume there were the ususal civilian expressions of support for the boys over there, but I haven't come across any articles about this online. 556 men served in the various military branches and 23 paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Although these are small numbers compared to the state or  the nation,  they do seem to show a significantly higher per-capita  participation in the war and—probably as an extension of that trend—a higher rate of losses among the town's young men. 

Lt. Mark Heller of Menomonie,
KIA in the St. Mihiel Offensive

I still can't say why the marker was placed in Menomonie, but it's pretty clear the town—despite the state's divisions mentioned in it—strongly supported the war.  In that, it was representative of Wisconsin and almost all of America, especially its small towns of the period.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Various Wisconsin and Monomonie Publications

Thursday, July 27, 2023

When the Egyptian Expeditionary Force Got a New Commander

On the Western Front, Lt. General Edmund Allenby
Describes Enemy Dispositions for King Albert of Belgium

On the Western Front, Lt. General Edmund Allenby's Third Army had minimal responsibility for 1916's Battle of the Somme. The following year, however, it had principal responsibility for the British portion of the main Allied initiative. Third Army was to drive east from Arras and hopefully hook up with the French forces of General Nivelle, which were to be concurrently attacking the Chemin des Dames and breaking through from the south.

His plans, however, were undermined by the German retreat to their new defenses along the Hindenburg Line. Allenby's superior, General Haig, refused his request for a delay to allow for re-planning the offensive

At first, though, the Arras offensive went well with the Third Army breaking through the German lines and advancing three-and-a-half miles in one day. However, the Germans reinforced the sector and sent staff officers with expertise in defensive tactics. There followed weeks of heavy fighting that deteriorated into trench-fighting positional warfare with heavy casualties to Third Army. Allenby and Haig mutually lost confidence in one another. Haig expressed the opinion that Allenby "was lacking in aptitude for high command." His time on the Western Front was not to extend much longer.

Allenby was dismayed by the criticism he was receiving, but his skills were better suited for open warfare than the trenches and no one appreciated this more than Chief of the Imperial General Staff William Robertson. Earlier in 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), under the command of Sir Archibald Murray, was having problems. It failed twice in its efforts to take Gaza. Murray's failure at Second Gaza left officials in London no choice but to replace him with a commander who could achieve much-needed results in an otherwise gloomy war effort. 

Prime Minister David Lloyd George initially offered command to Gen Jan Smuts, but the South African declined in the belief that he would not receive support from the War Office for a "sideshow" effort. Upon Chief of Staff Robertson's recommendation, command fell to General Allenby. He was relieved of command of the Third Army, awarded a fourth star, and sent to relieve General Murray.

After arriving in Egypt on 27 June 1917, Allenby kept up a vigorous pace his first few weeks in theater, visiting units, making corrections, and developing a general framework for his first campaign His temper and impatience soon became legendary. One division commander said, "What angered him was stupidity, negligence, and, most of all, disregard of orders." War correspondent Hamilton Fyfe described his arrival at his new assignment:

He found the Turks strongly entrenched, and our men entrenched just as strongly opposite to them—position warfare in its most tedious form. Headquarters had been in Cairo, 300 miles away, and it seemed as if stagnation might continue forever. With Allenby's coming the atmosphere changed. He declined to stay in Cairo. He trundled across the desert in a Ford car and set up his headquarters in a wooden hut ten miles from the front line. He set to work at once to organize railways and make roads. He commandeered all the beer in Egypt for his thirsty troops and road-makers. Over [the next] four months he prepared to strike a heavy blow.

Allenby with His EEF Staff

While logistical constraints such as water supplies dominated operational maneuver in Palestine, the desert offered opportunities not found on the exhausting Western Front. It would be a war of movement, the type of fighting Allenby was most suited for. His first challenge, however, was the same that had frustrated him at the Somme and Arras. Turkish defenders and their German advisers ensured there were at least some parallels to the fighting in the West. Around Gaza, the trench system that had defeated his predecessor at Gaza was still deadly and elaborate. How would Allenby choose to capture Gaza and clear the road to Jerusalem? We will address those questions in future postings on Roads to the Great War. (Spoiler Alert:  He would enter Jerusalem as a victor within six months.)

Sources: Over the Top, June 2010

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Recommended: Revisiting the Mental Health Fallout from the Unprecedented Horror of the First World War

First Presented at The Literary Hub, 14 June 2023
By Charles Glass

The men and boys who straggled back to their trenches had witnessed unprecedented horror. Close friends, in some cases their own brothers, had been cut to pieces before their eyes. It was more than many could bear.

All the armies in the Great War had a word for it: the Germans called it Kriegsneurose; the French la confusion mentale de la guerre; the British “neurasthenia,” and when Dr. Charles Samuel Myers introduced the soldiers’ slang into medical discourse in 1915, “shell shock.” Twenty-five years later, it was “battle fatigue.” By the end of the 20th century, it became post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In December 1914, a mere five months into “the war to end war,” Britain’s armed forces lost 10 percent of all frontline officers and 4 percent of enlisted men, the “other ranks,” to “nervous and mental shock.” An editorial that month in the British medical journal The Lancet lamented “the frequency with which hysteria, traumatic and otherwise, is showing itself.”

A year later, the same publication noted that “nearly one-third of all admissions into medical wards [were] for neurasthenia”—21,747 officers and 490,673 enlisted personnel. Dr. Frederick Walker Mott, director of London’s Central Pathological Laboratory, told the Medical Society of London in early 1916, “The employment of high explosives combined with trench warfare has produced a new epoch in military medical science.”

This development need not have surprised Britain’s military physicians. Major E. T. F. Birrell of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) had observed nervous breakdowns in surprising numbers while supervising a Red Cross medical mission to the Balkan Wars between Turks and Bulgarians in 1912 and 1913. The new heavy weapons that Germany’s Krupp and other European industrialists sold to both sides inflicted carnage that doctors had not witnessed before.

Modern science was creating modern war. Explosive rifle cartridges penetrated flesh more deeply than balls from single-shot muskets. High-explosive artillery shells released not only the shrapnel shards of old, but ear-shattering thunder, blinding light, and a concussion so fierce that it sucked the air away. The shells demolished the strongest ramparts, leaving no refuge. Rapid-fire machine guns mowed down hundreds of men in an instant. Hospital wards received, in addition to those who had lost arms or eyes, disabled soldiers without marks on their flesh. They suffered unexplained blindness, mutism, paralysis, shaking, and nightmares. A surgeon from Belgium’s Saint Jean Hospital, Dr. Octave Laurent, documented the Balkan wounds in his book La Guerre en Bulgarie et en Turquie. Laurent removed metal shards from broken bodies, but surgeons could not cure paralysis, trembling, nightmares, blindness, stammering, and catatonia.

Laurent posited physical causes for the symptoms. This accorded with medical and military doctrine of the day that fighting men did not become hysterical. Practitioners in the new field of psychiatry shared the view of Sigmund Freud in Vienna that hysteria, a word derived from the Greek for “uterus,” was a female condition. Laurent referred to the soldiers’ malady as la commotion cérébrospinale, a variant of what American Civil War doctors had called “windage,” undetectable molecular disruption of the spinal cord from the vibration of speeding bullets and shells. Concussion had caused some, but not all, of the neuroses. Laurent’s and the RAMC doctors’ denial of the emotional causes of physical disabilities would influence the military response to mental illness when Europe’s Great War began in the summer of 1914.

Continue Reading Here.

Thanks to reader Alan Kaplan for bringing this article to our attention.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Remembering Aviation Historian Peter Grosz

Peter Grosz with a Drawing by His Father

I never had the chance to meet Peter Grosz, but a surprising number of my friends from the Aviation sub-culture of WWI Land considered him the prime inspiration for their interest in the aircraft and aviators of the Great War.  I recently ran across an article mentioning that a museum dedicated to his father, the artist George Grosz, who was famous for his savage post-World War I caricatures of German society, opened last year in Berlin. Pere Grosz has been mentioned in several Roads articles in the past, but I was reminded that I have never given his son the attention he deserves. 
I found that one of the best pieces on Peter's life is his obituary from the New York Times. It does not discuss his aviation work to any extent, so I've included Amazon links to three of his best known works (out of dozens) at the bottom of the page.  MH

Example of the Many Aircraft
Monographs Produced by Peter Grosz

By Carol Vogel
Oct. 7, 2006

Peter M. Grosz, an engineer and authority on German aircraft from World War I who was also the son of the German Expressionist painter George Grosz, died on Sept. 29. He was 80 and lived in Princeton, N.J. The cause was brain cancer, his wife, Lilian, said.

In recent years Mr. Grosz also drew attention for a lawsuit he filed, as executor for the estate of his father, against Serge Sabarsky, a Manhattan art dealer, arguing that Mr. Sabarsky had deprived it of appropriate compensation for the sale of hundreds of Grosz works he had acquired. The lawsuit was settled two months ago, Mrs. Grosz said yesterday, but she declined to provide specifics.

George Grosz at His Berlin Studio

As a small boy growing up in Berlin, Peter Grosz spent hours looking at the Templehof airport from the fifth-floor window of his aunt’s apartment, eager to learn more about airplanes and how they worked, Mrs. Grosz said.

He emigrated to the United States in 1933, a year after his father moved to New York to teach at the Art Students League. He graduated from Harvard University in 1950.

Mr. Grosz worked as a consultant to an assortment of American companies, including the Ford Motor Company, helping them obtain patents and permissions in European markets. He was also an adviser to the aviation department of the German Technical Museum in Berlin and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Mr. Grosz wrote three books and hundreds of articles and monographs about early Central European aircraft. His first book, The German Giants, focused on the development and combat service of the multiple-engine, long-range bombers that struck London during World War I.

Last year he was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the German government in recognition of his work as an aviation historian.

Mr. Grosz was also immersed in the legacy of his father (1893–1959), who was best known for his harrowing depictions of life in Berlin in the aftermath of World War I and for portraits of grotesquely fat businessmen, soldiers, and prostitutes.

As the executor of his father’s estate, Mr. Grosz spent years assembling his archives, which he sold to the Academy of Art in Berlin in the late 1980s. [A large law suit over proceeds from sales of his father's work that occupied much of his time in his last years was only recently finalized.] Mrs. Grosz would give no financial details of the settlement, saying only that it was “settled to the estate’s satisfaction.”

Mr. and Mrs. Grosz had a son, Michael, and a daughter, Karin, who both died before him. In addition to his wife, Mr. Grosz is survived by his brother, Martin, of Philadelphia, who as Marty Grosz is a jazz guitarist and singer.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Destroyer USS Manley—Fighting Ship in Two World Wars

USS Manley, DD-74

The Caldwell-class destroyer, USS Manley (Destroyer #74) was built at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, and was commissioned on 15 October 1917, during World War I. Joining Battleship Division Nine the next month, she began escorting Allied ships at Queenstown, Ireland.  

On 19 March 1918, a depth-charge accidentally exploded on her fantail, killing 33 enlisted men and the executive officer.  On that morning, while Manley escorted a convoy, she rolled against the British auxiliary cruiser HMS Montagua, which caused the accidental detonation of Manley's depth charges. Her stern was practically destroyed, and 33 enlisted men as well as her executive officer, Lt. Comdr. Richard M. Elliot, Jr., were killed in the subsequent explosion. Fragments pierced two 50-U.S.-gallon (190 L; 42 Imp gal) drums of gasoline and two tanks containing 100 U.S. gallons (380 L; 83 Imp gal) of alcohol. The leaking fluids caught fire as they ran along the deck and enveloped the ship in flames that were not extinguished until late that night.

Manley Missing Much of Her Stern

Then the Aubrietia-class sloop HMS Tamarisk edged up to the shattered destroyer and unsuccessfully tried to put a towline on board. Manley remained adrift until British tugs Blazer and Cartmel took her in tow after daylight on 20 March. She reached Queenstown at dusk the following day with more than 70 feet (21 m) of her hull awash or completely under water.

Repaired that December in Liverpool, England, she served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean areas.  She got under way on 11 April 1919 to join U.S. Naval Forces in the Adriatic Sea transporting passengers, carrying mail, and performing diplomatic missions. In June 1919 she began carrying, mail, and members of the U.S. Food Commission among Turkish ports in the Black Sea. The destroyer returned from the Mediterranean to New York on 1 August 1919 and decommissioned at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 14 June 1922.

In July 1920, Manley was designated as DD-74 and was decommissioned two years later.  Recommissioned in May 1930 as an experimental torpedo-firing ship, she served off both coasts and with Squadron T-40 in the fall of 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.  

Manley as AG-28 During WWII

 In November 1938, she was reclassified as AG-28 and began landing Marines for training.   Designated as the Navy's first high-speed transport, APD-1, in August 1940, she served in the Atlantic upon United States entry into World War II before departing for the Pacific.  Manley subsequently participated in the Guadalcanal Campaign in 1942, the invasions of the Marshall Islands and Saipan in 1944, the invasion force for Leyte, Philippines, in October, the landings of Lingayen Gulf in January 1945, and the Okinawa Invasion in April.   

Reclassified as DD-74 in June, Manley was decommissioned in November, struck from the Navy List in December, and sold for scrapping in November 1946. 

Sources:  U.S. Navy National Museum; Wikipedia; Destroyer History Foundation

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Five Things to Know About the Somme American Cemetery

The American Battle Monuments Commission’s (ABMC) Somme American Cemetery is located in the small French village of Bony, in the Hauts-de-France region. How well do you know this site? Here are five things you may not know about Somme American Cemetery.

Looking North, the cemetery sits where the 27th New York
National Guard Division fought in September 1918

The first exhumation

In late December of 1920, Somme American Cemetery was the first cemetery to exhume the remains of service members for repatriation. After the two world wars, the families of fallen American service members had the option to either repatriate the remains of their loved ones or lay them to rest at U.S. military cemeteries abroad under the eternal care of ABMC. Approximately 40 percent of families during World War I opted for their service member to be buried overseas, alongside their brothers-in-arms.

Five sets of brothers

Photo of the Vedder brothers’ headstones at Somme American Cemetery, one of the five pairs of brothers buried at this site. 

For many years, it was believed that Somme American Cemetery had only four sets of brothers buried within its grounds, but in 2022, a fifth set of brothers was discovered when a cousin of Pvt. William Dunlap and Pvt. Felix Dunlap came to visit them at the site and explained the relationship between them to the ABMC team. Three of the five sets of brothers are buried side by side.

A single rosette

Bronze rosette near Pvt. Dalton Ranlet’s name on the Wall
of the Missing to indicate his remains were recovered and identified. Pvt. Ranlet now has a headstone at the Cemetery.

There is only one bronze rosette on the Wall of the Missing at Somme American Cemetery. It indicates Pvt. Ranlet Dalton was recovered and identified. When it happened in 1955, his family was given the same options that were offered during World War I—they could either repatriate his remains to the U.S. or have him buried at an ABMC site. They chose to inter his remains alongside his fellow service members, making Dalton’s burial unique, as he has both a headstone at Somme American Cemetery and his name on the Wall of the Missing.

A tie to Gold Star Mothers

Looking south, beyond the Memorial and Chapel is the battlefield where the 30th Tennessee/Carolina
National Guard Division fought in September 1918

Many service members buried or memorialized at Somme American Cemetery were from Gilded Age families. Amongst them were 1Lt. George V. Seibold as well as MSgt. Harmon Vedder and Pfc. James Vedder. Their mothers, Grace Seibold and Effie Vedder, founded the Gold Star Mothers and pushed for the creation of the Gold Star Mothers’ Pilgrimage—a U.S. government program that paid the travel expenses to the grave sites for mothers and widows whose sons and husbands had died overseas. In addition, Effie Vedder also helped to rebuild the area around our site. 

One headstone, seven sets of remains

Of the more than 1,800 burials at Somme American Cemetery, 138 are unknown. One of these headstones is particularly noteworthy, as it is the final resting place of not one but seven unknown service members. It also happens to be the last burial at Somme American Cemetery in 1972.

About the American Battle Monuments Commission

The ABMC’s mission is to honor the service of the Armed Forces by creating and maintaining memorial sites, offering commemorative services, and facilitating the education of their legacy to future generations. It was founded in 1923 following World War I and its 26 cemeteries and 32 monuments honor the service men and women who fought and perished during World War I (WWI), World War II (WWII), the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, as well as some who fought during the Mexican-American War.

Those sites are a constant reminder of Gen. John J. Pershing’s promise that “time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

Appreciations to: Ashleigh Byrnes at ABMC; Somme American Cemetery team; Google Maps

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Friday, July 21, 2023

The Dissolution of Austria-Hungary

Independent Czechoslovak State Declared: 28 October 1918

The duality of the Habsburg monarchy had been underlined from the very beginning of the war. Whereas the Austrian parliament, or Reichsrat, had been suspended in March 1914 and was not reconvened for three years, the Hungarian parliament in Budapest continued its sessions, and the Hungarian government proved itself constantly less amenable to dictation from the military than had the Austrian. The Slav minorities, however, showed little sign of anti-Habsburg feeling before Russia's March Revolution of 1917. In May 1917, however, the Reichsrat was reconvened, and just before the opening session the Czech intelligentsia sent a manifesto to its deputies calling for "a democratic Europe…of autonomous states." The Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 and the Wilsonian peace pronouncements from January 1918 onward encouraged socialism, on the one hand, and nationalism, on the other, or alternatively a combination of both tendencies, among all peoples of the Habsburg monarchy.

Early in September 1918, the Austro-Hungarian government proposed in a circular note to the other powers that a conference be held on neutral territory for a general peace. This proposal was quashed by the United States on the ground that the U.S. position had already been enunciated by the Wilsonian pronouncements (the Fourteen Points, etc.). But when Austria-Hungary, after the collapse of Bulgaria, appealed on 4 October for an armistice based on those very pronouncements, the answer on 18 October was that the U.S. government was now committed to the Czechoslovaks and to the Yugoslavs, who might not be satisfied with the "autonomy" postulated heretofore. The emperor Karl had, in fact, granted autonomy to the peoples of the Austrian Empire (as distinct from the Hungarian Kingdom) on 16 October, but this concession was ignored internationally and served only to facilitate the process of disruption within the monarchy: Czechoslovaks in Prague and South Slavs in Zagreb had already set up organs ready to take power.

Revolution in Hungary, 31 October 1918

The last scenes of Austria-Hungary's dissolution were performed very rapidly. On 24 October (when the Italians launched their very timely offensive), a Hungarian National Council prescribing peace and severance from Austria was set up in Budapest. On 27 October, a note accepting the U.S. note of 18 October was sent from Vienna to Washington—to remain unacknowledged. On 28 October the Czechoslovak committee in Prague passed a "law" for an independent state, while a similar Polish committee was formed in Kraków for the incorporation of Galicia and Austrian Silesia into a unified Poland. On 29 October, while the Austrian high command was asking the Italians for an armistice, the Croats in Zagreb declared Slavonia, Croatia, and Dalmatia to be independent, pending the formation of a national state of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs. On 30 October the German members of the Reichsrat in Vienna proclaimed an independent state of German Austria.

The solicited armistice between the Allies and Austria-Hungary was signed at the Villa Giusti, near Padua, on 3 November 1918, to become effective on 4 November. Under its provisions, Austria-Hungary's forces were required to evacuate not only all territory occupied since August 1914 but also South Tirol, Tarvisio, the Isonzo Valley, Gorizia, Trieste, Istria, western Carniola, and Dalmatia. All German forces should be expelled from Austria-Hungary within 15 days or interned, and the Allies were to have free use of Austria-Hungary's internal communications and to take possession of most of its warships.

Postwar Central Europe, 1920

Count Mihály Károlyi, chairman of the Budapest National Council, had been appointed prime minister of Hungary by his king, the Austrian emperor Karl, on 31 October but had promptly started to dissociate his country from Austria-partly in the vain hope of obtaining a separate Hungarian armistice. Karl, the last Habsburg to rule in Austria-Hungary, renounced the right to participate in Austrian affairs of government on 11 November and in Hungarian affairs on 13 November. 

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Hindenburg & Ludendorff—First Meeting

In the predawn hours of 23 August 1914, German General Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934), newly recalled from retirement by Kaiser Wilhelm II, stood on the Hanover rail station platform awaiting a special train to take him to his new command, Eighth Army in East Prussia. He had joined the Third Regiment of Foot Guards in 1866, admitting him to the Prussian Officer Corps. Hindenburg fought in some of the key battles of German unification, which would later bolster his reputation as a symbol of national unity: Königgrätz in 1866 and Sedan in 1870. As a young adjutant, Hindenburg attended the ceremony at Versailles that formally unified Germany in 1871. 

After concluding his training at the Prussian Military Academy, he was admitted to the Prussian General Staff, eventually becoming an infantry general in 1905. His name was mentioned in discussions about Alfred von Schlieffen’s (1833–1913) successor as chief of the General Staff in 1906. Although he lost out to Helmuth von Moltke the Younger (1848–1916), Hindenburg’s career had thus been a thriving one prior to his retirement in 1911—but, with no war on the horizon, he chose to put his uniforms away instead.

Lt. Paul von Hindenburg, 1866

Erich Ludendorff (1865–1937) was born at Kruszewnia in the chiefly Polish-populated Prussian province of Posen. He was the son of an impoverished former cavalry officer. Educated in military schools, Ludendorff entered the German army in 1882 and in 1885 was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 57th Infantry Regiment, at Wesel. Over the next eight years, he saw further service as a first lieutenant with the 2nd Marine Battalion at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven and the 8th Grenadier Guards at Frankfurt (Oder). His service reports were of the highest order, with frequent commendations. In 1893 he was selected for the War Academy, where the commandant, General Meckel, recommended him for appointment to the General Staff. He was appointed to the German General Staff in 1894, rising rapidly through the ranks to become a senior staff officer with V Corps HQ in 1902–04.

Lt. Erich Ludendorff, 1882

In 1905, under von Schlieffen, he joined the Second Section of the Great General Staff in Berlin, responsible for the Mobilization Section. By 1911 he was a full colonel. Growing anxious about the army's preparedness and funding for war, he became a behind-the-scenes political operator, using retired generals to pressure the Reichstag. This led to pressure, particularly from the largest party, the Social Democrats, to remove Ludendorff from the capital, which—in turn—led to his dismissal from the General Staff in January 1913. Consequently, on the eve of war, his career prospects seemed to have taken a downturn.

In January 1913, Ludendorff became commander of Niederrheinsischen Füsilierregiment Nr. 39 in Dusseldorf. In April 1914, he was promoted to Major General (Generalmajor) and received command of the 85th Infantry Brigade, based in Strasbourg. They say that fortune favors the bold, and Ludendorff found fortune within the first days of the war. While his Rhenish commands had been a form of exile from Berlin, his superiors at the GGS had clearly not forgotten him. Immediately upon the outbreak of war orders arrived, sending Ludendorff to join the Second Army, commanded by General Karl von Bülow at Aachen, where he would be attached to General Otto von Emmich, commander of X Corps. All German forces would have to be funneled through the relatively narrow strip of territory between the Ardennes and Holland. Liège and its 12 subsidiary fortresses sat astride that meager gap. It had been one of Erich Ludendorff's tasks while on the peacetime General Staff to solve the problem of Liège by any means necessary.

Initially, Ludendorff was designated an observer without command authority for the 14th Brigade, charged with capturing bridges and infiltrating the city. However, when the brigade commander was killed, he took command of the force and quickly occupied the city, subsequently demanding and receiving the surrender of the citadel. Ludendorff was one of Germany's first heroes of the war. Called back to Berlin, he received orders for a new assignment and was decorated by the Kaiser with the Order Pour le Mérite on 22 August. The next day, he was aboard a train heading east.

The 66-year-old Hindenburg had grown portly during retirement, and his outmoded blue Prussian uniform had required quick alterations by his wife before his departure. Now, as he waited on the platform, a single locomotive with two coaches steamed into the still-dark station. Major General Erich Ludendorff, a trim 49-year-old in a crisply tailored, regulation field-gray uniform, hopped off the train. The two men exchanged salutes and handshakes, and Ludendorff introduced himself as Hindenburg’s newly appointed Eighth Army chief of staff. The most famous partnership of the Great War had been formed.

Sources: Encyclopedia 1914-1918; HistoryNet, 11 April 1917

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Albion: The War's Most Successful Amphibious Operation—A Roads Classic

German Troops Approaching the  Baltic Sea
Island of Saaremaa

In the fall of 1917, the German Army and Navy conducted an amphibious assault in the Baltic Sea. The operation was code named Albion. The goal of the operation was ambitious—to convince Russia to sue for peace by seizing several islands protecting the Gulf of Riga. Seizure of these islands would pose a direct threat to the Russian capital of Petrograd.

General von Hutier
The Germans had no significant experience with amphibious operations, nor did they have any doctrine for their conduct. In spite of this, the operation was planned in approximately a month, and the German landings and subsequent operations ashore were a tremendous success.

The Germans put the commander of the Eighth Army, General Oskar von Hutier, in charge of organizing the operation. Von Hutier was an extremely shrewd general best known to history for his later involvement in the 1918 offensives on the Western Front. He made the commander of the landing force and the commander of the Special Fleet coequals for planning. If there were any disagreements they could not work out themselves, they could then seek out the general for a decision.

Operation Albion was extremely successful. The Germans secured the islands of Ösel, Moon, and Dagö in little more than a week. For an operation of its size, the booty was immense. The Germans captured more than 20,000 Russian soldiers along with machine guns, artillery, and other impedimenta. The Russian Army had been dealt a blow and the troops’ morale and confidence in their government reached its nadir.

German Troops Boarding a Transport Ship,
October 1917

The Bolshevik Revolution occurred only two weeks after the conclusion of Albion. Although negotiations with the Russians would continue into early 1918, it soon became clear that the Russians wanted an end to the war. The Germans began to transfer troops to the Western Front.

2023 Addition:

Readers of the original article informed us that German films of  Albion are available on YouTube. It's crudely spliced together but is well photographed and has the feel of a Germanic Victory at Sea without the music of course. Here is that interesting video.

Source: Joint Forces Quarterly, Fall 2010