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:
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Dennis Showalter for his “Instrument of War: The German Army 1914-1918″ (Osprey Publishing);
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Michael S. Neiberg for “The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America” (Oxford University Press), and
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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/

Here come the Yanks: April 6, 1917

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The U.S. Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, bringing America into the war that had consumed Europe and dragged in countries on every continent, including Japan.

The National World War Museum and Memorial will commemorate the anniversary today with a ceremony at the museum that will tell the compelling story of the U.S decision to enter into the Great War through a unique multi-media program including significant and representative American writings of a century ago, including selections from speeches, journalism, literature and poetry, as well as performances of important music of the time. Invited participants and guests include the President of the United States, international Heads of State and diplomats, military leaders, veterans’ organizations, and national and state elected officials.

President Donald Trump will not attend as he will be hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping today.

The commemoration will include flyovers by U.S. aircraft and Patrouille de France, the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force, as well as the U.S. First Infantry Division Band and Color Guard, Native American Color Guard, and Army and Air Force legacy units that served during World War I.

You can livestream the ceremony at https://www.theworldwar.org/april6.

 

 

 

Pack your little kit, show your grit!

Do your bit! It’s not too late to join up  — on the 2017 trip to the battlefields in France. From Meuse-Argonne.com:

Hello, readers!  Space is still available on the World War 1 Historical Association’s June 2017 Pilgrimage to the Western Front, but the deadline for reserving your seat is December 31, 2016!  So don’t put off your decision-making too long; and please share this post with your friends who might be interested in the tour!!  Details can be found at our website:  http://ww1ha.org/2017-ww1-battlefield-pilgrimage/.

Tour Guide’s Skill Set

This tour is being led by webmaster Randal Gaulke.  Many readers know that Randal has been traveling to the American battlefields of France almost annually since 1986.  In planning the 2017 tour he has been working with Paul Guthrie and John Snow, both directors of the WW1HA, to plan the tour.  Paul has organized / overseen seven tours for the WW1HA and its predecessor organization, and John Snow has traveled to the area frequently, too.  Randal has outlined his experience in an October 8, 2016, blog post that can be accessed here:  http://meuse-argonne.com/?p=1603.)

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Randal Gaulke gives a talk in 2007 on the map in the Mont Sec Memorial to U.S. troops in the St. Mihiel Salient. (Blogger’s note: That is Susan in the center of the photo with the suspiciously red hair.)

Endorsement From a 2017 Participant

Through this website, Randal also has the opportunity to help planning trips, including Valerie Young; who is booked on the 2017 tour.  She has written this endorsement:

Randy has been an invaluable resource to me this year in the planning of my personal journey to the Meuse-Argonne to bring to life the grandfather I never knew. His website was my initial introduction to his vast knowledge of the history and geography of the area. His recommendations for books, maps, other websites, and travel insights were tremendously helpful. We then had a lunch meeting where I shared my ideas about an individual journey; his great awareness and input validated my confidence and respect for him, his commitment to the Meuse-Argonne, and his desire to enable others to experience it as he has for so many years.

With Randy’s help, I was able to “follow in the footsteps” that my grandfather took nearly 100 years ago. Randy helped me find a guide/driver and accommodations, and provided important information on specific battlefield monuments and sites related to my grandfather’s infantry unit. His detailed knowledge of the area is essential to anyone planning a trip there. I am now writing about my grandfather’s military journey, and look forward to joining the tour in June 2017.

Making It Personal to the Participant

All of the organizing and presentation of history aside, there comes a time on a tour when a person is just struck by something that resonates with his / her soul–and that is why reading history or exploring Google Earth does NOT provide the same experience as a pilgrimage!

For the webmaster, one such occasion was listening to a Volksbund (German War Graves Association) employee talk about the last (annual) visit of an aging spouse to her husband’s grave at the cemetery.  She knew she would be meeting him again soon.

For two members of the 8th Kuerassier Regiment on the 2005 tour, it was touring Helly Ravine near Fort Douaumont.  Following their visit, they questioned whether reenacting was just playing cowboys and Indians; and they had a new-found understanding of the terrible conditions for the soldiers during the Verdun battle and during the Great War in general.

Additional Information on the Guide

In addition to presenting the events and their significance, the battlefield tour guide must become quite proficient in logistics:  One has to schedule visits, hotels, bus timing, etc.  To do this, one has to know the region and its people and be able to speak the language.  One also needs to be organized, to be financially savvy and to understand how to model / consider risks.

Randal has all of these qualifications.  He has arranged many details  for the second half of the 2007 Western Front Association USA Branch’s tour and other tours.  Randal was the coordinator for the WW1HA’s 2015 Symposium in Lisle, Illinois; which featured eight speakers and almost 100 participants over two days.  Randal’s profession as a high-yield bond analyst and his work as Treasurer of the Great War Association, Chairman of the Finance Committee at his previous church and Treasurer of Troop 56 BSA Millington, NJ has also helped him develop the skills necessary.

Again, it needs to be emphasized that Randal worked with the WW1HA and its directors to plan the trip.

Take Action Today!

Please reserve your space today;  Please tell your friends about this opportunity;  and please contact Randal with any questions:  lavarennes@meuse-argonne.com or 908-451-0252.

 

Book review: “Ring of Steel”

Ring of Steel  by Alexander Watson  (2014)

Reviewed by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

British historian Alexander Watson has written a voluminous book on the history of Imperial Germany and the Empire of Austria-Hungary in the First World War.  He offer no excuse for their culpability in  starting the conflict and places clear blame on Austria-Hungary more than
Germany, whose backing sparked the war. His judgement is clear, both created and
convinced themselves the war was necessary and just.  Nevertheless, the war was one
of total illusions.  Austria-Hungary was totally unprepared for a modern war and her
reverses on the battlefield in the first six months devastated her martial ability through
unbelievable incompetence.  The result was a decent into the collapse of her empire.
Germany, as he states, bit off more than it could chew.  Even its military prowess was
incapable of confronting a two-theater war.  Brilliant in tactics, her strategy guaranteed
defeat.

What renders his study most fascinating is the effect of the war on the peoples in each
country.  To the Germans, Russia was the real threat with deep feelings of being overrun
by a barbaric hoard.  This fear galvanized the German people to support wholeheartedly
their military effort extending the support to the Western Front.  But the price was phenomenal. The war was not even a year old when food shortages became evident in both empires and grew progressively worse as the war dragged on.  Stubbornly, they persisted in the downward spiral to total exhaustion.  The Austro-Hungarian army, short of every valuable resource, became totally dependent on Germany.  Her internal disintegration undermined her resolve to be a competent ally.

Watson is very careful and detailed explaining how the lack of resources, especially food, became so critical in both areas. An urgent & vociferous cry to end the war became paramount and unstoppable.  He emphasizes how the last desperate and most blundering act when Germany allows unrestricted submarine activity brings in the United States & its failure ended any possibility of victory.  With over 118 pages of notes, Watson has created a formidable study how both in military and domestic areas intertwined in a catastrophic war.

News from the WW1HA seminar: The presentations

Presentation Abstracts

World War One Historical Association and League of WWI Aviation Historians

2015 Collaboration Symposium

Jack Tunstall – Eastern Front 1915 (With an Eye on Aerial Ops)

Kelley Szany – In the Shadow of War: Armenian Genocide 1915-1918

The genocide of the Armenians by the Turkish government during World War I represented one of the first genocides of the 20th century; almost an entire nation was destroyed.  The Armenian people were effectively eliminated from the homeland they had occupied for nearly 3000 years.  This annihilation was premeditated and planned and to be carried out under the cover of war.  Over one million Armenians died (estimated at 1.5 million) and their traditional homeland was depopulated.  A homogenous Turkish state- one people, one language, one religion, was created by the extermination of the original Armenian inhabitants.

Jon Guttman – Through, Above, and Around: Arming the First Allied Fighters in 1915

Before the end of 1914, all combatants in World War I were taking the airplane seriously enough to seek control of the sky. After numerous encounters and experiments, 1915 saw the establishment of what became the definitive formula for an aerial weapon: a single-seater with a machine gun that could be aimed wherever the pilot pointed his plane. The problem of the year was how to do that without shooting off propeller off, which the Germans ultimately solved with mechanical interrupter gear and the Allies by several additional means, from wedge-shaped deflectors, raised gun mountings and repositioning the propeller behind the pilot.

Dick Church – The Kaiser’s U-Boats: Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, the Lusitania, and Will They Bring America into the War?

This presentation will cover U-Boat types and their missions in the War.  The topics will include: the major attacks by U-boats; the Lusitania sinking and ramifications in 1915; prominent commanders of the Great War; anti-submarine efforts by the Allies; unrestricted submarine warfare; and the final defeat of the U-boats and their return in WWII.

Steve Suddaby – Aerial Bombing 1914-1915: Crossing the Rubicon with Baby Steps

Pre-WWI attitudes against the bombing of civilians had been completely discarded by the time of WW2, which featured the near-eradication of enemies’ cities from the air. This presentation shows, through the events of 1914-1915, how the European powers “crossed the Rubicon” from one set of attitudes to the other. Other themes that will be explored include:

  • Immaturity of aviation technology;
  • Experimental nature of bombing aviation in WWI;
  • Evolution of air forces from general purpose to specialized units;
  • Role of naval aviation in advancing aerial bombing.

John Mosier – Western Front 1915

Lance Bronnenkant – Early German Aces & the Interrupter Mechanism

“Early German Aces and the Interruptor Mechanism” presents the story of how the development of a practical method of allowing machine-gun bullets to be fired through the arc of a spinning propeller changed the face of aerial warfare forever. A certain group of German airmen helped this nascent technology evolve into such a lethal and effective weapon that the period that followed its debut became known as ‘The Fokker Scourge,’ which in turn caused a chain reaction that led to the birth of fighter aviation as we know it today. The stories of those pioneer aviators, supplemented by numerous period photographs, are told as well.

Paul Grasmehr – The Naval and Aviation Aspects of the Gallipoli Campaign: Expeditionary Warfare in a Time of Emerging Doctrine

Update on the WW1HA Annual Seminar

Evacuation of our troops from the Peninsula. Barges conveyed them from transports to the Island. Photo (cropped, some digital retouching) of a black and white photographic print in an album titled Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17 held at the State Library of NSW. December, 1915.

Evacuation of our troops from the Peninsula. Barges conveyed them from transports to the Island.
Photo (cropped, some digital retouching) of a black and white photographic print in an album titled Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17 held at the State Library of NSW. December, 1915.

Here’s news of the seminar, Oct. 2-3, at the Hilton/Lisle in the Chicago suburb of Lisle, Ill. And here’s the link for more details and to register: http://ww1ha.org/2015-annual-conference/

Speakers

Jack Tunstall: Eastern Front, 1915 (with an eye on Aerial Ops)
Kelley Szany: In the Shadow of War: The Armenian Genocide 1915-1918
Jon Guttman: Through, Above and Around: Arming the First Allied Fighters in 1915
Dick Church: The Kaiser’s U-Boats: Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, the Lusitania, and Will They Bring America into the War?
Steve Suddaby: Aerial Bombing, 1914-1915: Crossing the Rubicon with Baby Steps
John Mosier: Western Front, 1915
Lance Bronnenkant: Early German Aces and the Interrupter Mechanism
Paul Grasmehr: Gallipoli

Also, 1st Infantry Div. Museum Tour, Friday pm
Modeling Contest, Re-enactors, Strategy Games and vendors

Program Outline

Friday, October 2
8:00 AM to 12 Noon: Seminars with breaks
Noon to 1:00 PM: Lunch
1:00 to 5:00 PM: Buses to Cantigny and Museum tour
6:00 PM: Cash bar before dinner
7:00 PM: Dinner

Saturday, October 3
8:00 AM to 11:30 AM: Seminars with breaks
11:30 AM to 12:30 PM: Lunch
12:30 to 3:15 PM: Seminars and briefings on WW1HA and League

Notre Dame de Lorette: Artois 1915

Notre Dame de Lorette 207

Steve Miller writes:

!00 years ago today, the Second Battle of Artois was underway. An excellent account can be found here (scroll down to the second article): http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/

Notre Dame de Lorette 400 View South
The largest French military cemetery on the Western Front marks the high ground, the Notre Dame de Lorette.
200 Notre Dame de Lorette
Notre Dame de Lorette Map-2
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The 2014 Tomlinson Prize

Dr. Paul Jankowski, Raymond Ginger Professor of History at Brandeis University, has won the 2014 Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. Book Prize for his book “Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War.”

The prize is offered annually for the best historical work on World War One by The World War One Historical Association. It consists of a check for $3,000 and a bronze plaque. For more information on the programs and publications of The World War One Historical Association, consult our website, ww1ha.org.

The winner is chosen by a panel chaired by Professor Dennis Showalter of Colorado College. Other members of the selection panel are Dr. Michael Neiberg of the U. S. Army War College and Amb. Leonard G. Shurtleff, a former WW1HA president.

Book Review: “German Assault Troops of World War I”

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From Len Shurtleff

German Assault Troops of World War I, Thomas Wictor, Schiffer, 2011, 339 pages, bibliography, index, appendices, glossary, illustrations, ISBN 978 0 7643 4036 9. $69.95 hb.

This profusely illustrated coffee table-size book is typical of the quality of Schiffer Military & Maritime publications.  It includes information on the organization, tactics, weapons, equipment, uniforms and orders of battle of the elite stosstruppen who formed the backbone of Ludendorff’s abortive offensives of 1918.  Several primary documents are included to illustrate how German tactics and Allied counter measures were developed.  The author does not attempt to decide which among the several claimants developed shock troop tactics.

Other Schiffer books in this series include volumes on British and French aircraft of the Great War, Italian and Russian aces, the Lafayette Flying Corps, and US Naval Aviation in WWI, as well as any number of volumes on Imperial German uniforms.

A fully illustrated catalogue is available from www.schifferbooks.com.

Book Review: “The Hidden Threat”

German fleet surrendering to the English. First German U-boat near the Towerbridge. London, England, 1918.

German fleet surrendering to the English. First German U-boat near the Towerbridge. London, England, 1918.

The Hidden Threat: The Story of Mines and Minesweeping by the Royal Navy in World War I, by Jim Crossley, Pen & Sword, 2011, 168 pages, charts, diagrams, photos, index, ISBN 978 1 8488 4272 4, $39.95 cloth.

Review by Len Shurtleff

Mines were first (unsuccessfully) employed in naval warfare during the American Revolution. They were far more effective during the American Civil War when mines (or torpedoes as they were then called) sank some 22 vessels. Mines were also used to protect German harbors during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Traditionally thought of as a defensive weapon employed by the weaker adversary, mines came into their own as an offensive weapon in Japanese hands against Russia in 1904-05. Their use was expanded significantly during World War I, first by Germany and Turkey, then by Great Britain

Employing speedy converted destroyers and armed passenger liners, Germany mined the approaches to British fleet anchorages and ports beginning in August 1914. Russia used mines to defend her main Baltic bases. The Germans developed several classes of mine-laying submarines some of which had enough range to reach American shores. Turkish-laid fields of mines in the narrows off the Dardanelles sank or badly damaged several British and French battleships in 1915.

Faced with the proven effectiveness of this silent weapon, the Royal Navy responded by creating a fleet of small minesweeping trawlers, drifters and paddle steamers manned by fishermen and other reservist crews. By 1916, they had also mounted a major mining campaign of their own along the German coast, in the Dover Straits and English Channel expanding these in 1917 and 1918 to the North Sea between Norway and the northern most Scottish islands. Most of the 70,000 mines in this Northern Barrage aimed at containing German U-boats were laid by the US Navy from converted civilian coastal liners.

Their effectiveness was disappointing. At the most the Northern Barrage sank six U-boats.

Mines laid in the eastern North Sea were far more effective in supporting the British Grand Fleet in pinning the German High Seas Fleet in its bases while the maritime trade blockade gradually eroded Germany’s ability to sustain a war of attrition on the Western Front.