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

Thursday, July 25, 2024

What a Busy Little Farm!—Ferme d'Hurtebise Was the Site of Five Battles

Looking Toward Paris Today 
Ferme d'Hurtebise on the Chemin des Dames
(Also See Map Below)

I've driven by the little farm on the Chemin des Dames shown above maybe two dozen times, but I've always been in too much of a rush to stop here. There is just so much to see in the areamajor historical sites like the Caverne du Dragon, Plateau de Californie, and Craonne of the famous song. Of course, I also missed some big clues that should have triggered further historical research about what had transpired at the farm. There's a big statue of Napoleon about a mile to the east of here, and  there used to be a French tank from World War II overlooking the "Lady's Way" somewhere nearby that has since disappeared. What has kindled my new interest in Ferme d'Hurtebise is the discovery during a search for candidates for my "Lonesome Memorials" series of a significant monument adjacent to the farm. I'd never viewed it before since it's not visible from the main road. This led to more discoveries about what had happened at the farm. That turned out to be a much bigger tale than the monument's. 

Note the figures include a Napoleonic soldier and and World War I Poilu as well as the dates 1814 and 1914. This suggests, of course, that the farm was the site of significant fighting both years. A little focused research turned up surprising information on other battles fought on this same site in 1915, 1917, and 1940.  Why was this apparently insignificant little farm repeatedly a locale for major warfare?

Before discussing the five battles, let me share a little about the monument itself. The current monument was installed in 1927 to supersede the monument shown below that was dedicated in March 1914 on the centennial of Napoleon's partial victory in the Battle of Craonne. In that struggle his army opposed a combined army of Imperial Russians and Prussians led by the Prussian field marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. This first monument was destroyed very early in the Great War, probable during the September 1914 Battle of the Aise. By the end of the war, the farm was devastated and was later completely rebuilt.

Dedication March 1914

The Five Battles

1.  7 March 1814: The Battle of Craonne

See a discussion on this very complex battle and the role Hurtebise Farm played in the fighting at Napoleon-Empire.Net Needless to say, Ferme d'Hurtebise was on the front line. Bony managed to gain his final victory—abeit a controversial one—before his exile to Elba.

Napoleon Still Overlooks the Craonne Battlefield

2.  13–22 September 1914: First Battle of the Aisne

The German retreat from the Marne and following pursuit by the Allies led to a back and forth struggle for the heights overlooking the Aisne Valley.  Hurtebise farm (for reasons discussed below) became a key position. Violent fighting took place here 13–18 September with the 4th Zouaves taking the farm and the 12th IR defending. During these six days, the owners of the Hurtebise farm, the Adam family, took refuge in the cellar, refusing to leave their farm. They were eventually evacuated.  On 22 September German forces mounted a major assault on the position eventually taking possession of the farm which was on the front line for the remainder of 1915.

3. 25 January 1915: German Counteroffensive

After successfully defending against a French new year's offensive, the German army mounted a major attack to consolidate its dominant position on the heights, pushing back French troops towards the Aisne Valley below the Plateau de Californie. These battles were particularly deadly, with more than 2,000 killed (at least 850 Germans, 1,000 to 1,500 French.  Ferme d' Hurebise, now a pile of ruins, became a rear outpost until 1917.  Since Soissons to the west was also threatened, this period is sometimes known as L'Affaire de Soissons.

4. April–May 1917:  Second Battle of the Aisne (Nivelle Offensive)

The ill-fated French advance would reach Ferme d'Hurtebise again. The farm would pass from one camp to the other, with the armies never managing to stabilize their position on the highly coveted terrain. The 3rd Ludendorff Offensive of 1918 would be launched from the surrounding plateau.

5. 20 May 1940: Battle of France

During the French withdrawal a convoy of the 4th Armored Division was ambushed by a German Panzer column and virtually destroyed after intense fighting.

Post-WWI Destruction and Barbed Wire
Around the Original Monument

The Reason Why

In General

The Aisne heights, a commanding position, just 55 miles from the nation's capital, would be important to both invaders and France's defenders. But why so much action at this specific point?

The Specifics

Ferme d'Hurtebise is located at a unique geographical position. 

1.  It is on the major road along the Heights (the Chemin des Dames or D18 in today's system)

2. It is also on the only road that connects the Aisne Valley (southside) with the Ailette Valley on the northside.

3. As can be seen in these drone photos it sits on a plateau, something of a saddle, that can be turned into a strong position with clear views along the ridge and down into both valleys.

4.  It seems Ferme d'Hurtebise was simply destined to attract a lot of military attention should France ever go to war—as it did.

The Crossroads: Looking East Along D18 and
South into the Aisne Valley

Looking North into the Ailette Valley

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

End Game in the Sinai Campaign: El Arish, El Magdhaba, and Rafa

El Arish, Abandoned

Following the August 1916 defeat of the Ottoman advance at Romani, in accordance with his defense-of-the-canal-at-a-distance strategy, Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) Commaner General Archibald Murray ordered his forces to continue the advance eastward to the boundary of the Sinai Peninsula. This could only be achieved at the rate of construction of the coastal rail line and the parallel water pipeline given raids and spoiling tactics by the enemy. Leading the British advance was the "Desert Column" commanded by General Sir Philip Chetwode. Four months were required to complete the next 60 miles of infrastructure. By the end of November 1916, the EEF was positioned before the largest town on the Sinai, El Arish, where Turkish and German troops were dug in. It was time for organized fighting to resume.

On 20 December, General Murray gave orders to capture El Arish, planning to eventually push on from there to Rafah. The Turkish garrison there had noted the methodical advance of British infrastructure by aerial reconnaissance and knew that British naval dominance in the Mediterranean rendered them vulnerable from the sea as well. That same day, the Turks abandoned El Arish, with some heading back east toward Rafah and the Turkish border and others heading south and east toward Magdhaba, out of the range of British naval guns and water supplies. British planes spotted the evacuation, so the plans to capture the town by force were not needed. On 21 December, ANZAC cavalry units entered the town, and British engineers soon began improving the port to serve as an advance base for the British in the Sinai.

The Sinai Campaign

Magdhaba, an outpost 22 miles southeast of El Arish, was the scene of a subsequent action fought on 23 December 1916, when Turkish forces threatening the southern flank of the advancing EEF were attacked by Major General Harry Chauvel's ANZAC Mounted Division, which had the Imperial Camel Corps attached. The attack required a quick victory as Chauvel's men would be operating over 23 miles from the closest source of water.

On the 22nd, as Chauvel was receiving his orders, the commander of the Turkish "Desert Force," General Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein visited Magdhaba. Though Magdhaba was now in advance of the main Turkish lines, Kress von Kressenstein felt required to defend it as the garrison, the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 80th Regiment, consisted of locally recruited Arabs. Numbering over 1,400 men and commanded by Khadir Bey, the garrison was supported by four old mountain guns and a small camel squadron. Assessing the situation, Kress von Kressenstein departed that evening satisfied with the town's defenses.

Captured Redoubt at El Magdhaba

When he arrived, Chauvel found that the defenders had constructed five redoubts to protect the town. Deploying his troops, Chauvel planned to attack from the north and east and to prevent the defenders from escaping, a Light Horse regiment. was sent southeast of the town. The 1st Australian Light Horse was placed in reserve along the Wadi El Arish. As the attack unfolded, it was met by surprisingly heavy artillery and machine gun fire. The frontal assault soon stalled with Chauvel's men pinned down on all fronts by heavy enemy fire. Lacking heavy artillery support to break the deadlock and concerned about his water supply, Chauvel contemplated breaking off the attack and went so far as to request permission from his immediate superior to break off the attack.

Nevertheless, the success in this hard-fought action was secured through a resolute assault with the bayonet by the 1st Light Horse Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Charles Cox, just as Chauvel ordered his force to withdraw. A mounted charge by the 10th Light Horse to secure vital water supplies nearby was also a vital contributory factor in the victory.

Encouraged by the apparent ease with which the garrison at Magdhaba had been destroyed, General Murray, and his staff now decided to mount a raid against the last significant Ottoman presence in the Sinai—the Ottoman garrison at Rafah. This involved much more risk than the attack on Magdhaba because Rafah was connected by road to Gaza, where the bulk of the Ottoman Fourth Army was gathering and the Sinai railway had not yet advanced far enough to allow large numbers of infantry to be brought across the desert from El Arish to attack Rafah. The British would once again have to rely on their mounted troops.

On 7 January 1917, the Anzac Mounted Division was ordered to assemble at Sheikh Zowaiid, 16 km from Rafah, to prepare for the attack. The commander of the EEF raiding force, General Philip Chetwode, also had at his disposal the British 5th Mounted Brigade, the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, and a small British armored car detachment. Against this force the Ottoman Turkish garrison could muster three battalions of the 31st Infantry Regiment, a mountain artillery battery (four guns), and small cavalry and camelry detachments—a total strength of just over 2000 men. These troops were well entrenched just southwest of Rafah village, occupying a large earthen fort complex known as "the Reduit" which was protected by a semi-circle of three separate trench systems. There was little natural cover in the approaches to these defenses and Ottoman machine gun nests were well sited with good fields of fire. The only positive feature from the attackers’ point of view was the complete absence of barbed wire surrounding them.

Ottoman Prisoners at Rafah

After two days of preparation and reconnaissance, Chetwode’s force was ready to launch its attack. In the early hours of 9 January, his troops moved out under cover of darkness. The basic plan called for the complete and rapid encirclement of Rafah by horsemen and cameleers, followed by simultaneous assaults from all sides. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was charged with carrying out the most daring part of this plan: sweeping around behind Rafah in a wide arc to cut it off from the road to Khan Yunis and Gaza, then attacking the Reduit from the rear.

Once all the mounted brigades were in position, the attack began at 0930. A half-hour artillery bombardment was followed by the first assaults on the Ottoman trenches. Most of the attacking troops had dismounted about 600 meters from the Ottoman lines. It quickly became clear that crossing this gap and overrunning the defenses would be no easy task. By midday, the attackers were more or less pinned down by the relentless artillery, machine gun and rifle fire. As the afternoon wore on the attackers made only slow progress in reaching and reducing the defenses, with the Ottoman Turks resisting fiercely. By now the danger that an Ottoman relief force would arrive from Gaza was increasing. Sure enough, just after 1600 hrs, scouts reported that Turkish infantry were advancing, Chetwode reluctantly decided that he had no choice but to call off the attack and retreat.

Just as Chetwode began to issue the order to retreat, the New Zealanders, who had swept through Rafah village that morning and been engaged in the fight for the Reduit and a small hill known as Point 265 ever since, finally broke through the Ottoman defenses. With two bayonet charges, they crossed the last of the open ground and captured both Ottoman positions after a brief hand-to-hand fight. This opened the way for the other attacking brigades to outflank and break into the rest of the Ottoman trenches. Chetwode quickly cancelled his order, and his brigade commanders renewed their assaults. Within an hour the Ottoman defenses had been completely overrun.

The last military threat in the Sinai had been removed for the EEF. The entire Sinai was now a safety buffer for the Suez Canal. This, however, was no longer a sufficient achievement. Due to the incredible losses being experienced on the Western Front, some of the British leadership, like David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill had begun once again to look to the east to gain strategic advantages over the Central Powers. Control of the Mediterranean, securing the lines to India, and access to oil, were now priorities. In 1917 the EEF would be asked to continue the pressure against the Ottomans by pushing into Palestine. In next month's Trip-Wire, we will examine the ensuing battles for Gaza and Beersheba, when the EEF broke through to Jerusalem.

Sources: Today in World War I; New Zealand History; Australian War Memorial; ThoughtCo; St. Mihiel Tripwire, Dec. 2021 

Tuesday, July 23, 2024

As We Were: the First World War; Tales from a Broken World, Week-by-Week

One Lucky British Soldier

Review by Dominic Sandbrook from The Times, 28 March 2021 

How do you tell the story of something as bewilderingly vast as the First World War? How do you convey the sweep of such an enormous global drama without losing sight of the human factor? And how do you capture the weight and pace of events, day after day of misery and bloodshed, without oppressing the reader with interminable detail?

These were the questions facing two retired teachers, David Hargreaves and Margaret-Louise O’Keeffe, in the summer of 2014, when they began an online project to tell the story of the First World War, week by week. For the next four years they kept it up, never missing a week. Their project became more ambitious: originally based largely on British newspapers, it became increasingly international, weaving together letters, diaries, and memoirs. And now they have turned it into four thick paperback volumes, handsomely self-published in a smart slipcase. If nothing else, it represents a tremendous feat of dedication.

Is it any good, though? That’s a slightly different question. After all, telling the story of the war in a weekly narrative makes it very hard to tease out underlying patterns. To some extent, this is history as one damned thing after another: men die, battles are won and lost, the wheel turns, the seasons come and go. And to their credit, the authors know it. “Nothing out of the ordinary this week, according to the archives,” begins a characteristic entry in June 1915. “No great offensives and certainly no breakthroughs, East or West.” So what, then?

Yet this apparently random entry perfectly captures the project’s strengths. The next paragraph tells the story of Lance Corporal William Angus, who won the Victoria Cross for bringing back his injured lieutenant under fire, suffering 40 separate wounds in the process. Then the poet and soldier Roland Leighton, engaged to the feminist Vera Brittain, writes home to ask for a large wooden rattle. He needs it, he says, because he and his men spend so much time in gas masks now, and he wants “to call the attention of respirator-swathed men” when he needs to give an order.

A few lines later, the prime minister’s wife, the vinegary Margot Asquith, complains that the Mail (“a foul paper”) has accused her of playing tennis with German prisoners of war. Then we are in the offices of Country Life, which has produced a special summer edition celebrating “the bird life of the fields and the flower life of the garden,” so that readers on the Western Front can be “wafted back in imagination to the fields and lanes of home.”

The entry ends with the troops at Gallipoli, clinging on under a blazing sun and punishing Turkish fire. “We set to work to bury people,” one survivor writes. “We pushed them into the sides of the trench but bits of them kept getting uncovered and sticking out, like people in a badly made bed. Hands were the worst: they would escape from the sand, pointing, beggingeven waving! There was one which we all shook as we passed, saying ‘Good morning’ in a posh voice. Everybody did it.”

In essence, then, this entry is the entire project in miniature. The arbitrariness, the unpredictability, the lack of pattern is the point. “Sometimes it is the pity of war that overwhelms, and sometimes the stoicism and loneliness,” another entry begins, a few weeks later. “This week, it was its randomness and folly.”

To Order the Set Click HERE

. . . Hargreaves and O’Keeffe’s labour of love has two outstanding qualities, which few academic histories can match. First, the week-by-week style gives a rare sense of total immersion. On and on the war continues, for hundreds and thousands of pages. You get a real sense of time stretching endlessly out, as day follows day in the trenches. Things happen, but often they have no meaning beyond the individual tragedy. And yet, as one entry puts it: “What is tragedy if it is not personal?”

And second, it is gloriously readable. All human life is here: courage and cowardice, heroism and horror. It may cost £100 [$120 USD, $65 Kindle], but it’s worth every penny.

Monday, July 22, 2024

It's 1914 and the Indian Army Is Fighting in France

Indian Soldiers Digging Trenches in France

It was decided in London by 6th August, just two days after the declaration of war, that India would send two divisions to Egypt, and mobilization in India commenced straightaway. Even before the BEF had embarked the destination of the Indian Corps was changed to France. The Corps filled an essential gap until the British Territorial Army began to arrive at the front in the spring of 1915 (just a few regiments came in 1914) and before the New Army (the volunteer army initiated by Lord Kitchener) was ready to take to the field.

When the German Army crossed the Belgian frontier on 4 August 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany, taking with it the member countries of the erstwhile British Empire. Britain’s small regular army, the “Old Contemptibles” that made up the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was exhausted and hard pressed by September 1914 when the Indian Corps arrived in France. In August 1914, apart from Britain, the Indian Army was the only trained regular army ready to take to the field in the entire Commonwealth.

The Indian Army Corps that arrived on the Western Front in the autumn of 1914 would be instrumental in checking the German advance toward the channel ports. The infantry element of two divisions served in France and Flanders till the end of 1915, while the cavalry stayed in France till 1918. Wounded Indian soldiers were treated in hospitals set up in the south of England. This was the first operational deployment of Indian troops in Europe. The exposure to European society had a significant impact upon the soldiers who served in this theatre of the Great War.

Arrival at Marseilles

Indian Soldiers Disembark at Marseilles on 26 September 1914

The Indians received a warm welcome from the inhabitants of Marseilles. The 47th Sikhs’ historian recorded that this “was the result of genuine feeling and not mere excitement over a novel sight.” When Vaughan’s Rifles arrived, the battalion “wended its way through streets lined ten deep with cheering inhabitants who offered a great welcome, and presented, indiscriminately, flowers, wine and tobacco to the men.”

The first to arrive, however, were only there for a few days, as on 30 September they entrained for Orléans, about seventy miles southwest of Paris, where an Indian advanced base camp was established. The large camp at Orléans remained in use throughout the stay of the Indian Corps in France.

Arrival at the Front

Indian Officers, 39th Garhwalis at Estaire, La Bassée Road

When the regiments of the Indian Corps moved up from Orléans to the front, they found themselves immediately thrust into the front line—and into battlewith no time to become acclimatized to shelling or even to learn their way around. The first Indian units to head north, in mid-October, were the 57th Rifles and 129th Baluchis when, at a most critical point in the First Battle of Ypres, they were sent to reinforce Allenby’s Cavalry Corps at Ypres.

Many regiments went into the line without time to reconnoitre their new positions. On 29 October the 2/8th Gurkhas marched up through Festubert to take over front line trenches for the first time. The troops endured almost unimaginable conditions: soaked with water and caked with mud they occupied waterlogged ditches and shell-holes. Because the trenches had been dug for taller men the diminutive Gurkhas could not see over the parapet to fire their rifles.

Under these conditions the Germans launched a series of more or less intensive bouts of shelling and several feint attacks during darkness. In the morning came a severe German attack, which was beaten off, then four hours of concentrated bombardment. German shells obliterated the front line trench, but the Gurkhas held on. Eventually, with Germans working around behind the positions and a grave shortage of British officers there was no option but to retire.

The 58th Rifles detrained near Hazebrouck on 28 October and marched to Gorre, near Béthune. Within 24 hours of its arrival at the front it was involved in the counterattack where the 2/8th Gurkhas had lost their trenches. At 2.30 a.m. on October 31, the 58th was called upon to pass through the troops in front and rush to the trenches. It was a pitch dark night in pouring rain, and no one in the battalion had ever seen the trenches or knew anything of the state of the ground, or how far they were from their objective, but their attack was successful.

In the early days the trenches were primitive and supplies rudimentary. Many of the troops were wearing lightweight khaki drill deep into the first winter of the war. The mud and water in hastily constructed trenches, many of which were adapted ditches, was almost knee deep: there were no duck boards. They were very narrow, with no fire step at first, and by day utterly isolated as there were no communication trenchesnor any latrines. There were frequent alarms and firing; supply arrangements were haphazard, despite the efforts of the Mule Corps. There  was certainly no hot food in the front line.

The First Battle of Ypres

Unloading Officers’ Chargers

The First Battle of Ypres in Belgium was the culmination of the famous “Race to the Sea.” At the most critical point in the battle, during the last week of October and the first days of November, British infantry were so heavily committed that the front from Zandvoorde south to Messines was defended only by Allenby’s Cavalry Corps, fighting dismounted in the fields east of the Ypres-Armentières road. The Cavalry Corps was in touch with probing German forces when two Indian battalions, 129th Baluchis and 57th Wilde’s Rifles, arrived as reinforcements. These battalions were quickly parceled out among the cavalrymen. The 129th Baluchis made the first actual attack by an Indian unit on the Western Front when, on 26 October 1914, they attacked German trenches east of Hollebeke. In this attack, under bleak and darkening autumn skies, two companies advanced side by side on a 600-yard front. Together they were to charge across muddy, open fields and cross a small watercourse before attacking the German trenches after a preliminary bombardment of ten minutes duration. Despite support from its own machine guns at Jardine’s Farm, the battalion could make no real headway and, under sustained rifle and machine gun fire, they were stopped about the natural line of the Roosebeke stream which offered them some protection. With dusk falling, orders were received to fall back to their original trenches. Casualties were seven killed and 40 wounded.

Not far away, at Jardine’s Farm the Baluchis’ two machine guns were eventually overrun by the Germans on 31 October after a very severe fight. The farm was smashed by shellfire, and was burning, when one gun suffered a direct hit and was put out of action. The men kept the remaining gun in action until the German assault swept over them, every man being shot or bayoneted at his post except Sepoy Khudadad Khan. Although severely wounded, Khudadad Khan continued to fire his gun until prevented from doing so. Feigning death, he waited until dark then managed to crawl back from the front to find his regiment. He received the first Victoria Cross awarded to an Indian.

Meanwhile, 57th Wilde’s Rifles was the first Indian regiment to hold its own front line trenches and take an active part in the Great War. When the big German attack came on the 30 October, Wilde’s were spread out on a line between Wytschaete and Messines, and all four companies fought hard and suffered severely. The remnants of the 57th regrouped with the 129th Baluchis at Westoutre on 1 November. Both regiments then returned to the Indian Corps in its own sector near Béthune.

Attack on Neuve Chapelle28 October 1914

On 26 October, the Germans advanced through the Bois du Biez and captured some of the British trenches northwest of the village of Neuve Chapelle, a small and straggling habitation which was to be the scene of a major battle in March 1915.

Two companies of the 47th Sikhs moved up to the front alongside the 9th Bhopals and the last reserves, the 20th and 21st Companies Sappers and Miners, were called in to complete the line by filling in gaps on either side of the Sikhs. These men were highly trained specialists not normally used as infantrymen. Their employment in the counterattack on Neuve Chapelle is indicative of the seriousness of the situation. The 47th Sikhs and the Sappers and Miners, charging shoulder to shoulder, had to cross about 700 yards of open ground to make their attack.

By the time the Indians reached the enemy trenches many of the Germans had already retreated and those left were either bayoneted or captured. The attackers quickly moved into the village where fierce hand-to-hand fighting took place. The fighting in Neuve Chapelle was bitter and disorganized and the Indians struggled to retain their hold on the main street through the village. Against great odds they recaptured the village, but without support had no option but to retire.

This attack showed how the élan of the Indian Corps was sufficient to overcome seemingly insuperable odds to gain an objective. However it also demonstrated that holding on to an objective required a level of manpower and firepower that the British Army simply did not possess at that stage. The Sikhs and Sappers’ appeals for reinforcements went unanswered and as a consequence their fate was sealed. 

Battle of Festubert,  November 1914 

Indian Machine Gun Section

Essentially a defensive action by the Indian Corps consequent on a severe German attack resulting in loss of trenches, it was significant in that it was the first time that they had fought together as a corps.

General Willcocks, recognizing the significance of this battle to the Indian Corps’ reputation, was insistent that trenches lost in the German attack should be recovered. Several counterattacks were launched, but while some portions of the trenches were regained a large part of the line remained in German hands by nightfall. The snow covered ground made the attacking troops very conspicuous and casualties were heavy.

By the morning of 24 November, the Indian Corps had recaptured their lost trenches and had emerged victorious in what the Indian Corps historians referred to as “the most important battle in which the Indian Corps as a whole had hitherto been engaged.” Whilst the battle had undoubtedly demonstrated the fighting prowess of the Indians and their skillful use of artillery, it had also demonstrated the serious shortfalls that existed in the tools of trench warfare.

Givenchy, 16–22 December 1914

18th K.G.O. Tiwana Lancers

In December 1914, the Indian Corps was ordered to adopt an offensive stance. In accordance with this the Ferozepore Brigade undertook an attack on the German lines northeast of Givenchy on 16 December. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the attack, by the 129th Baluchis, was pressed home doggedly and this was reflected in the high number of casualties.

Orders were received the following day for the Indian Corps to participate in a concerted attack with three other corps on the 18th December. Over a period of forty-eight hours on 18 and 19 December various regiments, notably the 2/3rd Gurkhas, 41st Dogras, 1/4th Gurkhas, 59th Rifles, as well as the Sappers and Miners, participated in offensive operations, often reaching and holding portions of the German trenches during fighting in atrocious conditions with heavy casualties.

On the 20th the Germans detonated a series of ten mines under the trenches held by the Sirhind Brigade around Givenchy. The mines were followed by a massive German attack. Vicious hand to hand fighting ensued in the 1/4th Gurkha trenches, with the Gurkhas making good use of their kukris in the confined space. However they were eventually overwhelmed by sheer numbers and superior weaponry and were forced to retire. Heavy fighting continued throughout the day and the Indian units were sorely tired. By the night of the 20th/21st December the Indian Corps had been fighting for some 30 hours and was badly in need of relief. The relief of the Lahore Division was complete by the night of 22 December, although the Meerut Division remained in the line until 27 December. 

Source: "India and the Great War: France & Flanders," Indian Ministry of External Affairs

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Mrs. Tietjens's View of War

Sylvia Tietjens is one of the most consistenly annoying literary characters I've ever run into since I checked out my first book at the Mission Branch of the San Francisco Public Library.  She is however, viciously insightful at times.

If her name does not ring a bell,  let me give her a little  introduction.  Sylvia is married to Christopher Tiejens, a serving British officer and the central character of Ford Maddox Ford's four-part World War I-based masterpiece Parade's End. Sylvia is a beautiful socialite who marries statistician Christopher Tietjens before the war because she is pregnant—although not necessarily with his child. She is selfish, manipulative, and cruel, yet also mesmerizing. Forever restless, Sylvia enjoys a stream of affairs, but she is secretly hurt by the fact that Christopher does not seem to notice her adulteries.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Christopher and Rebecca Hall (Perfectly Cast) as Sylvia in the BBC Production of
Parade's End

In this excerpt the author Ford opens up Sylvia's cranium and exposes her opinion of the nasty events distracting all her friends and her husband, Christopher.

The whole of this affair [the war], the more she saw of it, overwhelmed her with a sense of hatred... And of depression!... She saw Christopher buried in this welter of fools, playing a schoolboy's game of make-believe. But of a make-believe that was infinitely formidable and infinitely sinister... The crashing of the gun and of all the instruments for making noise seemed to her so atrocious and odious because they were, for her, the silly pomp of a schoolboy-man's game...Campion, or some similar schoolboy, said: 'Hullo! Some German airplanes about...That lets us out on the air-gun! Let's have some pops!'... As they fire guns in the park on the King's birthday. It was sheer insolence to have a gun in the garden of an hotel where people of quality might be sleeping or wishing to converse!

At home she had been able to sustain the conviction that it was such a game... Anywhere: at the house of a minister of the Crown, at dinner, she had only to say: 'Do let us leave off talking of these odious things...' And immediately there would be ten or a dozen voices, the minister's included, to agree with Mrs Tietjens of Groby that they had altogether too much of it...

But here!... She seemed to be in the very belly of the ugly affair... It moved and moved, under your eyes dissolving, yet always there. As if you should try to follow one diamond of pattern in the coil of an immense snake that was in irrevocable motion... It gave her a sense of despair: the engrossment of Tietjens, in common with the engrossment of this disreputable toper. She had never seen Tietjens put his head together with any soul before: he was the lonely buffalo...  Now  Anyone: any fatuous staff-officer, whom at home he would never so much as have spoken to: any trustworthy beer-sodden sergeant, any street urchin dressed up as orderly... They had only to appear and all his mind went into a close-headed conference over some ignoble point in the child's game: the laundry, the chiropody, the religions, the bastards...of millions of the indistinguishable... Or their deaths as well! But, in heaven's name what hypocrisy, or what inconceivable chicken-heartedness was this? They promoted this beanfeast of carnage for their own ends: they caused the deaths of men in inconceivable holocausts of pain and terror. Then they had crises of agony over the death of one single man. For it was plain to her that Tietjens was in the middle of a full nervous breakdown. Over one man's death! She had never seen him so suffer; she had never seen him so appeal for sympathy: him, a cold fiend of reticence! Yet he was now in an agony! Now!... And she began to have a sense of the infinitely spreading welter of pain, going away to an eternal horizon of night... 'Ell for the Other Ranks! Apparently it was hell for the officers as well.

The real compassion in the voice of that snuffling, half-drunken old man had given her a sense of that enormous wickedness... These horrors, these infinities of pain, this atrocious condition of the world had been brought about in order that men should indulge themselves in orgies of promiscuity... That in the end was at the bottom of male honour, of male virtue, observance of treaties, upholding of the flag... An immense warlock's carnival of appetites, lusts, ebrieties... And once set in motion there was no stopping it... This state of things would never cease... Because once they had tasted of the joy—the blood—of this game, who would let it end?...These men talked of these things that occupied them there with the lust of men telling dirty stories in smoking-rooms... That was the only parallel!

Source: No More Parades  (Part 2 of the Parade's End  tetralogy) by Ford Maddox Ford; BBC

Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Great White Fleet and the Great War — A Roads Classic

The decade following the Spanish-American War gave the generation of American officers destined to serve in command positions during the Great War a remarkable number and variety of missions to perform. For the Army and Marine Corps there were deployments all over the Pacific Basin and in the Caribbean. The Navy, of course, gained great experience in supporting all of these operations. But the Navy got its greatest preparation as a global force with one of the most unforgettable peacetime extravaganzas in American history — the round-the-world voyage of the 16 pre-dreadnought (and arguably already obsolete) battleships of the Great White Fleet. 

Near the end of his second term in the White House, President Theodore Roosevelt felt he needed to demonstrate in some concrete way America's know-how and growing military power to other nations. With the memory of the poor transit of the Russian Baltic Fleet to the Pacific and its subsequent annihilation by the Japanese still fresh in people's minds, Roosevelt chose to make a dramatic naval demonstration. Fleet pageants were a popular form of mass entertainment in those days, so the cruise was intended to win goodwill in foreign lands as well.

The flotilla's 43,000-mile voyage, which lasted from December 1907 to February 1909, was a spectacular public relations success. Although the American battleship fleet would play only a peripheral role in the Great War, many veterans of the cruise would become important officers in both World Wars, including future admirals Chester Nimitz, Raymond Spruance, John McCain (grandfather of the senator), Husband Kimmel of the Pearl Harbor disaster, and William Halsey. As a preparation for naval operations in the Great War, the cruise helped educate the Navy on the special problems of maintenance, resupply, and refueling during long periods at sea and the need for specialized combat and service vessels. That the Navy's accomplishment of its most important mission in 1917 and '18 — conveying the American Expeditionary Force to France — was a tremendous success was in part due to the experience gained with the Great White Fleet.

Further, the voyage provided valuable intelligence for any future wars in the Pacific.  It led to revisions in War Plan Orange, the contingency strategy for an American–Japanese war.   Pearl Harbor was surveyed and recommended as a suitable anchorage for U.S. battleships and Truk Lagoon was selected as an advance base to prepare for a decisive battle in Japan's home waters.  Ironically, Japan also had their eye on Truk and would put it to great use in the Second World War. The U.S. Navy due to the invention of floating dry dock technology would later decide the base was not needed.

Friday, July 19, 2024

The 353rd "All Kansas" Infantry Regiment of the National Army, Part 10—Legacy

By James Patton

The following is an extract from the History of the 353rd Infantry Regiment 89th Division, National Army September 1917–June 1919 by Capt. Charles F. Dienst and associates, published by the 353rd Infantry Society in 1921. It has been extensively edited for length, style, and clarity.  

Commendation for the Regiment from the French Army

Song of the 353rd Infantry

At some point over the past ten weeks you’ve probably wondered why I chose to write about the 353rd Infantry. Was there a family connection? No. Was there a local connection? No, unless you count that I used to live in Kansas. Was there a service connection? No. It all started with the song. You remember that at the beginning I mentioned that the 353rd had a parlor song? While researching another article I came across this citation:

Kansas Hymn - Dedicated to the "All-Kansas Regiment" —353rd Infantry

Words and Music: Lillian Forrest

©March 4, 1918 by Lillian Forrest E 418751

Who, I wondered, was she and why did she write this song? More research found that Lillian Forrest (1869–1950) was a single, door-to-door salesperson living in Jewell, Kansas, (1920, pop. 805). She wrote articles for the weekly Jewell County Republican (named after the Republican River, not the party). She composed at least one other piece of music, "Under the Cottonwood Tree" © Nov. 18, 1927 E 678857. She wrote a history of Jewell County and was a life member of the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka. Jewell is about 100 miles west-northwest of Camp Funston. She seems to have had no personal reason to write this song, so the "why" remains a mystery. 

Apparently, at the time her song enjoyed local popularity, judging by this clipping from the Topeka Daily Capital, April 4th, 1918:  

"Kansas Hymn" to Be Sung at Native Sons and Daughters' Luncheon. The Kansas Hymn, words and music of which were written by Miss Lillian Forrest, a native Kansan, whose home is in Jewell City, will be sung by Mr. Glenwood Jones at the Native Sons and Daughters' luncheon at the Chamber of Commerce, at twelve-fifteen o'clock Saturday. The song is very patriotic in spirit and is dedicated to the 353rd infantry, "All-Kansas" regiment.


But that’s not the end of this story. Her song lingered in the public consciousness for several decades after the war. In 1915, Kansas governor Arthur Capper, who later spearheaded the campaign to build the 353rd regimental hall at Camp Funston, had begun the search for an official state song. This dragged on for over 30 years, and Lillian’s "Kansas Hymn" was in the running, competing with "My Golden Kansas," "Hymn to Kansas," "The Call of Kansas," and "My Western Home."  Here are the first two verses of Lillian’s song:

O Kansas, 'tis of thee,

Sunflower State so free,

I sing in praise;

State where brave soldiers fought,

State where homesteaders wrought,

For all thy domain sought,

In freedoms ways

Thy goal is starward still,

Upward through any ill,

Standing the test;

Thy faith when storms smite thee,

Or when wrongs dare to be,

Aimed at thy loved country,

To fight thy best.

The use of "starward" in verse two is a reference to the inscription on the Kansas State Seal “Ad Astra per Aspera” ("Strive for the Stars"), which was adopted in 1861. You can click HERE to read the rest of the verses and/or listen to a MIDI performance of the music.

In the last go-around, Lillian’s song didn’t stand a chance. In the 1930s, Hollywood had found "My Western Home," and with the title changed to "Home on the Range," it became the quintessential cowboy song. Recorded or performed on film by Bing Crosby (three times), Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis, Gene Autry, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Slim Whitman, Steve Lawrence, Willie Nelson, Sons of the Pioneers, and even Bugs Bunny (twice), "Home on the Range" was popularly proclaimed the Kansas State Song on 30 June 1947.

Men of the All Kansas

All Kansas

Was the 353rd really “All Kansas’? The answer is Yes. I’ve already said that it started out that way, with 2,974 draftees from Kansas. The roster of the 353rd as provided in the regimental history lists 412 officers and 6,252 soldiers who served in the 353rd at any point in time during 1917–19. Of these, 41 officers (10%) and 4,294 soldiers (69%) were from Kansas—all 105 Kansas counties were represented. The senior officers were regulars and most of the junior officers came from the Officer Training course at Ft. Riley. The Supply Company had the highest percentage of Kansans (77%), and “B” Company had the lowest at 49%. 

Was Kansas a typical state? It was certainly a "Mid-American" state. It lies literally in the middle of America. (The geographic center of the 48 states is in Smith County.) It’s a crossroads of railroads and highways, and statistically it sits in the middle of the rankings: number 16 in geographic size and number 36 in population. It’s fairly rural: number 40 in population density (66 counties have less than 10,000 people), but nearly half of the population lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, metropolitan area.

In 1910, Kansas had 2% of the national population (today it has less than 1%) and also 2% of the national income. It was quite rural, but the country was still rural; 70.9% of Kansans lived outside of cities (54.4% nationwide). In 1910, Kansas was a more typical state than it is today. 

Was the 353rd a typical National Army regiment? Many were formed around a geographic nexus. For examples, the 332nd was made up mostly of men from eastern Ohio, the 339th from southeastern Michigan, 354th from Missouri, and the 363rd from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Was the service of the 353rd typical? Maybe. It was typical in two ways: they were never broken up and they saw a fair amount of action. However, their service was also atypical in two ways: they belonged to one of only two National Army divisions in the occupation force, and they belonged to one of only three National Army divisions that participated in the St. Mihiel Offensive.

Corporal Kline Is One of the 353rd's Five Missing in Action Remembered on the Memorial Walls at US Cemeteries in France. One Hundred and Fifty-nine of Their Regimental Comrades Are Buried at the Same Cemeteries

The Record of the 353rd "All Kansas" Infantry 

First let’s consider sacrifice.  The official record lists 12 officers and 349 soldiers who died while serving with the regiment, 59% of whom were from Kansas. This doesn’t include transfers out of the 353rd who died while serving elsewhere. The total number of wounded were 35 officers and 1,425 soldiers; the severely wounded were 43% of the officers and 31% of the soldiers. The 353rd had the second highest number of casualties among the constituent units of the 89th Division. 

Let’s consider valor. The 89th Division received nine Medals of Honor (MOH), first among National Army Divisions (and second among all divisions) out of a total of 92 Army MOHs awarded thus far for WWI, and 148 Distinguished Service Crosses (DSC), third among National Army Divisions. The 353rd accounted for two of these MOHs and 44 of the DSCs (only 13 went to officers). Their personnel were also awarded 34 Division Citation stars (which became Silver Stars in 1932).  The foreign decorations awarded individually include four Chevaliers of the French Legion d’Honneur, four French Medaille Militáire (only bestowed on non-officers), 26 French Croix de Guerre, four Belgian Chevaliers de L’Ordre de Leopold and four Italian Croce di Guerra. 

Medal of Honor Recipients

Lt. Hunter Wickersham & Lt Harold Furlong

2nd Lieut. John Hunter Wickersham (1890–1918). Familiarly called "Hunter," he grew up in Colorado and attended the first Officer’s Training Camp at Ft. Riley in the summer of 1917. After his commissioning he was sent over to the new 353rd.  Wickersham’s heroism on 12 September 1918 has been related in the St. Mihiel chapter. 

Lt. Wickersham Citation: Advancing with his platoon during the St. Mihiel offensive, he was severely wounded in four places by the bursting of a high-explosive shell. Before receiving any aid for himself, he dressed the wounds of his orderly, who was wounded at the same time. He then ordered and accompanied the further advance of his platoon, although weakened by the loss of blood. His right hand and arm being disabled by wounds, he continued to fire his revolver with his left hand until, exhausted by loss of blood, he fell and died from his wounds before aid could be administered.

At the time, he was also well known for the poem that he wrote in his last letter to home. It was titled The Raindrops on your Old Tin Hat and was first published on 31 October 1918 in the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co.’s Industrial Bulletin, a "house organ." It was a contribution from Wickersham’s mother, who was an employee. However, she neglected to get a copyright, so the poem subsequently appeared in many newspapers and poetry collections, especially the Fawcett Publications’ popular pulp magazines, including Captain Billy’s Whizbang. Wickersham isn’t known today as a great poet, but he grew up in a romantic age, when poetry was taught in schools and was a popular form of entertainment:

The mist hangs low and quiet on a ragged line of hills,

  There's a whispering of wind across the flat,

You'd be feeling kind of lonesome if it wasn't for one thing—

  The patter of the raindrops on your old tin hat.

An' you can't help a-figuring—sitting there alone—

  About this war and hero stuff and that,

And you wonder if they haven't sort of got things twisted up,

  While the rain keeps up its patter on your old tin hat.

When you step off with the outfit to do your little bit

  You're simply doing what you're s'posed to do—

And you don't take time to figure what you gain or lose—

  It's the spirit of the game that brings you through.

But back at home she's waiting, writing cheerful little notes,

  And every night she offers up a prayer

And just keeps on a-hoping that her soldier boy is safe—

  The Mother of the boy who's over there.

And, fellows, she's the hero of this great, big ugly war,

  And her prayer is on the wind across the flat,

And don't you reckon maybe it's her tears, and not the rain,

  That's keeping up the patter on your old tin hat?

Collar Insignia for the 353rd Infantry


1st  Lieut. Harold A.  Furlong (1895–1987) was a native of Pontiac, Michigan and completed officer training while a student at the Michigan Agricultural College, now Michigan State University. He was commissioned in June 1917 and subsequently was assigned to the 353rd.  

Furlong’s valorous actions have also been recounted previously. He was decorated in person by General Pershing on 9 February 1919. 

Lt. Furlong Citation: Immediately after the opening of the attack in the Bois-de-Bantheville, when his company was held up by severe machine gun fire from the front, which killed his company commander and several soldiers, 1st. Lt. Furlong moved out in advance of the line with great courage and coolness, crossing an open space several hundred yards wide. Taking up a position behind the line of the machine guns, he closed in on them, one at a time, killing a number of the enemy with his rifle, putting four machine gun nests out of action, and driving 20 German prisoners into our lines

He later earned an MD from the University of Michigan in 1924 and practiced Obstetrics in his hometown until his retirement in 1970. He created and headed the Maternity Unit at the Pontiac General Hospital, which was named after him in 1982. In 1921, Furlong joined the Michigan National Guard, from which he retired in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Called to active duty during WWII, he served as a surgeon in Europe.

In an interview given in 1959, Furlong downplayed his exploits: ″Personally, I’m just happy to be a doctor and would just as soon not be written up in the newspaper as a war hero.″ 

The Veterans of the All Kansas  

Let’s consider the legacy of the men of the 353rd Infantry. After the war, these sons of the prairie dispersed widely. Many became leaders in their communities and their chosen fields. While most went back to their hometown, which was frequently in Kansas, others decided to head elsewhere. They went on to  become doctors, a lot of lawyers (at least two were judges), plenty of bankers, teachers (and principals), scientists, politicians (including several mayors), business executives, engineers, retail merchants, auto dealers, civil servants, farmers and ranchers, managers, civic leaders, developers, entrepreneurs and inventors, generals (at least three), ministers, newspapermen, and a hereditary Indian chief. Along with the regulars, a few stayed in the Army, and others came back to serve in WWII. Sadly, several died young as a result of being gassed. 

Two who merit special recognition: Capt. Charles Dienst (1886–1980), who produced the regimental history. Trained as a teacher, in 1919 he became a high school principal and later was appointed the director of the Idaho Department of Labor. During WWII he returned to active duty and commanded a training battalion at Ft. Bliss, TX. 

Lieut. Colonel James Peatross DSC (1885–1952), previously mentioned several times in this series, rose from 2nd Lieutenant to command of the Second battalion in 13 months. He stayed in the army until 1929, serving as the commandant of R.O.T.C. at the Missouri School of Mines. Subsequently he was the superintendent of the Federal Soldiers Home in St. James, Missouri, and the tax collector for Phelps County, Missouri. During WWII he served as the commandant of the Florida Military Academy, St. Petersburg. For many years he ran the 353rd Infantry Society.

Lt. Col. Peatross Even Ran for Office

Other World War I veterans of particular note from the 353rd include:

Dr. James Adee DVM, Deputy State Dairy Commissioner, Topeka, KS

Major General Fred Boschen, Chief of Finance, U.S. Army 1938-42, Washington, DC

Major General Peter Cannon, Rhode Island National Guard, Providence, RI

Hubert Carpenter, Lawyer, Louisville, KY—Ran for governor of Kentucky in 1958

Walter Coolidge, chemistry professor, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

Floyd Couchman, Director & Chief Examiner Kansas Soldier’s Compensation Board, Topeka, KS

Fred D’Amour, Entomologist, Univ. of Denver, Denver, CO—Researcher on black widow spiders.

Chester Ensign, Founder of ESSCO (electrical parts manufacturer), Greensboro, NC

Thomas Gowenlock, personal aide to Col. Robert McCormick at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL

Ruby Hulen, lawyer and US district judge 1943–56, St. Louis, MO—Integrated public facilities in St. Louis in 1950

Dr. Herbert Laslett PhD (Stanford), psychologist, professor, Oregon State College, Corvallis, OR. (Dr. Laslett was also a member of the 89th Division football team that won the AEF championship after the war.)

Clockwise from Top Left: Charles Dienst,
Daniel Spurlock, Joe Speer (KIA) , and Floyd Fletcher

Harold Leedy, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City 1941–1961, Plattsburg, MO

Roley McIntosh, Hereditary Chief Muscogee Nation, Eufala, OK

John Newman, botanist, Denver, CO—Developed numerous iris hybrids

Boykin Paschal, editor, Savannah Daily News, Savannah, GA

Milton Portman, lawyer, Cleveland, OH—Great-uncle of former U.S. senator Rob Portman

Leonard Rice, lawyer, city attorney, Jefferson City, MO

H.H. Robertson, founder HH Robertson Co., Kenosha, WI—Leading maker of steel floor deck

Major General Maurice Rose DSC, Denver, CO—led the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions in WWII, KIA (1945), namesake of the Rose Medical Center in Denver and USNS Maurice Rose T-AP-126.  

James Scanlon, Indiana state representative, Boswell, IN

Robert Schutt, Founder of Schutt Sports, St. Louis, MO—Maker of athletic gear, especially football helmets. Schutt introduced the helmet with face guard in 1935.

Colonel Daniel Spurlock LOM, oil man, Shreveport, LA—Assistant Chief of Fuels, U.S. Army WWII. 

James Tucker, state auditor, Little Rock, AR—Father of former U.S. representative and Arkansas attorney general, lt. governor and governor Jim Guy Tucker, who succeeded Bill Clinton. 

Courtney Turner, Banker and Philanthropist, Atchison, KS—Said to have made the first car loans.

Albert Wheat, union-busting lawyer, Wheeling, WV

Errett Williams, aviation Pioneer, Wichita, KS

Let’s consider honors and memorials: As previously mentioned, the regiment was decorated by the French with the Croix de Guerre avec Palme on 4 May 1919. I have reviewed 578 war or veterans memorials in Kansas, none of which commemorates the 353rd Infantry. Below is a simple monument to the 89th Division that was erected in 1948 near the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, MO.

Nevertheless, names of men from the 353rd appear on war memorials throughout Kansas, thereby indirectly honoring the regiment. Of particular note are the memorials at the University of Kansas (KU) and the Kansas State Agricultural College, now Kansas State University (K-State), although it is important to note that most of these college men were volunteers, not draftees.

KU sent 598 officers and 1,883 soldiers off to the war, 818 of whom were undergraduates, and 129 of them died, including two women. To honor all of them the War Memorial Stadium was built in 1921 and the six-story Memorial Union building in 1926. Photographs of all who died are displayed on the top floor of the Union. 

Both facilities are still in use, although the stadium has been extensively modified and co-named twice. They were built by public subscription; a foundation called the Memorial Corporation oversaw the project, and it still owns and operates the Union, including its two branch locations, 19 other dining venues, and the bookstore. It also holds the FCC license for and houses the student-run radio station KJHK. 

Kansas State University's Memorial Wall Features
Four of the 353rd's Fallen in the Great War

K-State sent over 1,200 to serve and 48 died. To honor them, the War Memorial Stadium was built in 1922. Football was played there until 1967 when it was deemed too small; today it is used for club sports and band practice. Four 353rd dead are memorialized at K-State, all rural Kansans—Pvt. Floyd Fletcher from Waldo, Sgt. Lester Hamill from Tonganoxie, Sgt. Joe Speer from Muscotah, and Pvt. George Titus from Harper. 

There were poets at K-State, too, and this work seems fitting to include near the close the series. Royal Purple is the title of the yearbook:

Tribute to the fallen

Not unto ancient angry gods,

Nor unto earthly potentates,

We offer honor,

But unto those who lately went out from us, 

Being of our kind and kin

And representing us and this our college,

And who, being ours, died in our stead,

Pouring the blood of Kansas on the fields of France.

To them, our comrades now beyond

the veil,

We dedicate this Royal Purple,

The purple still more regal for

their sacrifice,

The pages brighter for their 

stars that rise.

— N.A. Crawford


The 3-353rd on Parade at Fort Polk, LA

The legacy of the 353rd isn’t just due to its distinguished service, sacrifice, valor, the memorials or the deeds of its members, because it’s still active.

In 2006, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions of the 353rd were reactivated as part of the 162nd Infantry Brigade, which assumed the combat advisory training mission of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division at Ft. Riley, KS. These battalions were badged to the 353rd because of the historical relationship of the 353rd to Camp Funston. In 2009 the brigade was re-assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at then-Ft. Polk, LA.

In 2019, as a part of a major mission shift, the 162nd was reduced to one battalion, the 3-353rd, which was assigned as the training component for the new Security Force Assistance Command (SFAC), which is a division-level activity that sends teams to train, advise, assist, enable and even accompany foreign nation military partners, operating in a host nation. The 3-353rd’s role concentrates on "regionally focused foundational and collective training to maintain the operational readiness of SFAC units to deliver tailorable and scalable training." Today’s army has been reorganized to minimize the need to commit American ground forces by encouraging and supporting foreign partners. 

Today the men and women of the 3-353rd continue the legacy of the regiment, writing new history and extending the heritage. 

James Patton


About Our Contributor

In 2011, our contributor for this series, James Patton, traveled with my battlefield tour to the Western Front.  At the U.S. Somme Cemetery he honored the memory of  fellow Cornell University graduate Lt. Oscar Hellquist of the 27th New York Division, KIA October 1918.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Jim on the completion  of his terrific series on the All-Kansas 353rd Infantry and thank him for the 122 (estimated) articles he has contributed to Roads to the Great War over the years.  Our regular readers know that, not only is he a prolific writer on the war, his range of interests—from the scientific aspects of warfare to interesting  personalities  to fascinating but forgotten episodes of the Great War—is remarkable. 

On behalf of the readers, our fellow editors and contributors, and myself, Jim,  Thank You for a great job.
Mike Hanlon, Edior/Publisher