Remembering all those who served their countries during 1914-1918


All Hail the Chief!


Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, 1913-1921.

As Americans wait for a pair of speeches–concession and acceptance–that will end a long, bitter presidential campaign, we can look back on famous presidential words from the First World War.

Woodrow Wilson won reelection in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Three months after his inauguration, the United States joined the European War, and Wilson’s most famous line was that America’s involvement in the fight against Germany and its allies would “make the world safe for democracy.”

That’s a stirring phrase. It has a noble ring to it, doesn’t it? We’re not going in to kill as many people as we can before they kill us, we’re fighting for the good of the world.

It was a catchy, if pretentious, rallying cry, but the speech had much more to say. Here, Robert Lehrman, author and former chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore in the White House, offers an analysis of the speech for PBS’ “American Experience.”


His conclusion:

Can presidents risk honesty these days? Explain decisions in their complexity? Avoid vilifying the other side? Acknowledge the sadness in having to make a decision when all available options carry tragic consequences?

Believe it or not, yes. That’s what leaders must do. Whatever happened with his larger goals, Wilson succeeded with this speech. There was more to talk about than German subs. We should admire his approach in the last century — and hope it educates presidents in this one.”

Thoughts to reflect on, a distraction from our obsession, “Who won Pennsylvania”?

And so it began

It was April 6, 1917, that the United States finally entered World War I, after the Germans sent Mexico a telegram, in effect saying that they would provide military assistance to our southern neighbor so that Mexico could make another try at Texas.

The so-called Zimmerman telegram, intercepted by the British, might have been the final straw that turned the American people against Germany, but Germany’s return to unrestricted submarine warfare was costing American lives as well as tons of shipping, and opposition to war was wavering.

At the declaration of war, the U.S. Army had only 133,000 troops, but all of Europe knew to expect millions of American soldiers to join the fight. No one sat back and waited: In April, the French launched the murderous attacks on the Chemin des Dames that drove soldiers to mutiny, and in July the British wallowed into the horror of Passchendaele’s mud. The Russians collapsed into revolution in November. It was a series of disasters. The Americans were coming, but when?

North Carolina National Guard soldiers in July 1916. The men were in training at Camp Glenn in Morehead City, N.C., in preparation to fight Mexican troops at the Texas border.

Over hill, over dale in KC

Many of us can’t or don’t want to travel right now, but sometime soon, we hope, we can all get busy on Expedia.com and start planning trips.

Put Kansas City, Missouri, on your list of destinations. It’s the home of the National World War I Museum and Memorial at the Liberty Memorial in downtown Kansas City. The Liberty Memorial, with its 217-foot tower, was dedicated in 1926, but the site was dedicated in 1921 by the five supreme Allied commanders: Generals Pershing of the U.S., Jacques of Belgium, and Diaz of Italy; Admiral Beatty of Great Britain, and Marshal Foch of France.

The Tower itself is not open at present because of Covid-19 restrictions, but most of the main parts of the museum are open. Visitors must wear masks; public spaces are frequently cleaned, and exhibits are spaced to allow for social distancing. Because of occupancy restrictions, the museum recommends buying tickets online.

In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum presents unique exhibitions and presentations and many of them are available online. A discussion of “The Women of WWI” will be presented, free to all, on Zoom at 7 p.m. CST, Jan. 20, followed by “War Fare: Modern Food, Moral Food” on Zoom at 7 p.m. CST, Jan. 21.

“War Fare: From the Homefront to the Frontlines” also is an online exhibition. Other online exhibitions include “The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I,” about Americans who gave themselves to the war before The United States had even entered the conflict, and “Trenches of WWI,” which offers a tour of the museum’s trenches, country by country.

Another Zoom presentation coming up in January is “Manipulating the Masses,” about the U.S. government’s use of propaganda during the war. 7 p.m. CST, Jan.27.

“Silk and Steel: French Fashion, Women and WWI” is the current special exhibition, available to visitors for an additional admission fee.

The museum is open 10-5 Tuesday through Sunday.

Photo by JPELLGEN. WWI Museum & Memorial | Originally built as the Liberty Memo… | Flickr

The Rising Sun

This week the United States marked the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the U.S. into World War II. But what did Japan do during World War I?

According to 1914 1918 Online, Japan entered WWI in August 1914 at the behest of the British, with a goal of clearing Germany out of Asia (and establishing a foothold in China). Japan declared war on Germany on Aug. 23 and dispatched troops to capture the German base at Qingdao (also spelled Tsing-tao), a small peninsula in northern China. It attacked with naval guns, ground troops and planes launched from the world’s first aircraft carrier.

The Germans surrendered Nov. 7.

In 1917, the Japanese answered a further call for help from the British and sent destroyers and a flagship cruiser to the Mediterranean Sea. Based at Malta, the task force’s main mission was to defend British ships against German submarines. Japan Times reports that by the end of the war, the Japanese had  been dispatched on 348 escort missions, escorting 788 Allied warships and transport ships and about 750,000 personnel around the Mediterranean.

In June 1917, an Austrian U-boat sank the Japanese destroyer Sakaki, with a loss of 59 lives. These sailors are among those Japanese remembered on a Commonwealth War Graves memorial on Malta.

Japan Times reports that according to writing by Tomoyuki Ishizu of Japan’s National Institute of Defense, the lessons learned by the navy in the Mediterranean, especially submarine and anti-submarine warfare, were neither properly learned nor implemented as policy by the navy as a whole.

“Hence, the Second World War in the Pacific,” Ishizu writes.

The going down of the sun

Photographed along the road in France, where a soldier’s remains were found in the 2000s.

It’s Veterans Day, a day dedicated mostly to the fallen and marked by tributes to the Unknown Soldiers of each nation. The French have a tomb at the Arc de Triompe in Paris. The American Unknown soldier is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was laid to rest on Nov. 11, 1921.

The British buried their Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey on this date in 1920. He was chosen from among four sets of remains, brought from various battlefields. Crowds gathered at each railway station to see the train carrying his remains from Dover to Victoria Station. The ceremonies of the day included a dedication of the Cenotaph, the upside-down, coffin-shaped memorial in Whitehall. Here’s a video from the BBC made on Remembrance Day in 2018.

Welcome again!

The World War One Historical Association blog went dark three years ago because of a shuffle, and now I have shuffled back. I am Susan Hall-Balduf, daughter, granddaughter, etc., of a citizen soldier family going back to the American Revolutionary War. My brother received a Bronze Star for Valor for his actions in Vietnam, and my nephew — his son — fought in Fallujah, Iraq, as a Marine. (Our only Marine. None of us knew what to make of that.)

My Great-Uncle Elmer fought in France with the 35th Division, which was organized at Camp Doniphan, Okla., in August 1917 from units of the Kansas and Missouri National Guards. The Division fought in the St. Mihiel Campaign and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, where on Sept. 29-30, 1918, it was virtually destroyed in the village of Exermont, northwest of Verdun. Great-Uncle Elmer was shot through the throat and gassed in that battle, one of 6,006 casualties. The 1st Division took the town on Oct. 1.

Here’s a link at Doughboy Center’s website to an excerpt from Robert H. Ferrell’s book Collapse at Meuse-Argonne: The Failure of the Missouri-Kansas Division that describes why the 35th had such a hard time. Here’s more on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from the website of WW1HA President Randal Gaulke: https://meuse-argonne.com/

Here’s a link to images of Exermont then and now, from Andrew Pouncey’s website War Untold.

The WW1HA blog will wander through the First World War as I continue my own research. I hope I touch on subjects you are particularly interested in. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

New WWI memorial

From the (American) World War I Centennial Commission:

On Thursday Nov. 9 at 11m. (Eastern), the @WW1CC will host a small ceremonial groundbreaking event at Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park, to thank our partners and supporters.

The event will feature distinguished leaders, well-known guest speakers, and music from the U.S. Army’s Pershing’s Own brass quintet. Our shovels will turn earth that came to us from the World War I battlefields of France.

The event will be streamed via Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/ww1centennial

To see the latest designs and support the construction of America’s World War I Memorial, please visit ww1cc.org/memorial. #CountdownToVeteransDay

Upcoming conferences

The 2016 Tomlinson Prizes

The World War One Historical Association (WW1HA) annual Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., prize for 2016 for the best work of history in English on World War One (1914-1918) has been awarded to three exceptional historians:
Dennis Showalter for his “Instrument of War: The German Army 1914-1918″ (Osprey Publishing);
Michael S. Neiberg for “The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America” (Oxford University Press), and
Graydon Tunstall for “Written in Blood: The Battle for Fortress Przemysl in WWI” (Indiana University Press).
This is the second time that multiple books won the Tomlinson prize. Three 2010 titles shared the award presented in 2011. For the books published in 2016 the editors of WW1HA’s publication, World War One Illustrated, chose the three winners since all three authors have served in the past as judges on the Tomlinson award committee and recused themselves for 2016.
The prize consists of a cash award and original bronze plaque sculpted by Andrew L. Chernak, a U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran whose sculptures are installed at Arlington Cemetery and state and private parks:
It is made possible through a grant from Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., Director-emeritus of The Western Front Association – United States Branch. (WFA-US became the World War One Historical Association in 2011.)
Previous Tomlinson award winners, World War One centennial events and projects, and much more can be found at https://ww1ha.org/lens-bookshelf/the-tomlinson-book-prize/
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