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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

Movie: “The Devil Dogs”

New on Kickstarter:
My name is Jean- Christophe Labrunye and I’m the producer of an author documentary film project called “ The Devil Dogs”
This film is part of the centenary of the First World War. Its main subject is the first great battle the American Marines won in June 1918 at Belleau Wood, at only 90 km from Paris.
This battle was, without a doubt, the bloodiest in American Military History before the Second World War. It is considered as “The” battle that gave birth to the Marines Corps as we know it today.Is on this woods, after loosing 7000 of their men, that they became the “Devil Dogs”.
Since the beginning of this project, the feedback from the United States has always been really encouraging. On January 27 we were honoured to receive “ The United States World War One Centennial Commission” label. Every year, hundreds of Marines come to the Belleau Wood as a testimony of the importance of this battle in their own history.
We have also been given the « Mission centenaire 14-18 » french Label (ministère des anciens Combattants) in april 2014, the writing and documentary development Aid from the Picardie region in November 2014, and the « Aisne 14-18 » label from the the Aisne General council.
The film is currently in production, and we would like to begin spreading the word and getting people to talk and share our project. I invite you to visit our website where you will find a preliminary trailer: www.devildogs-themovie.com

Memorial Day 2013

More than any other modern war ’14-’18 lives in the memory as the ultimate example of a mismatch between what was at stake and the price that was paid. It is the war of the ‘lost generation’, sacrificed for a cause which, in hindsight, is difficult to pinpoint.”

Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Belgian historian and Associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University, quoted on http://messines1917.blogspot.be

ruins

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World War I National Seminar report

Here, in chronological order, are the notes I posted to Facebook on the talks presented at the seminar Sept. 8-9 at the Marine Corps Career Colleges in Quantico, Va.:

Friday: I’m at the World War One Historical Association’s national seminar at Quantico. Just heard Graydon (Jack) Tunstall’s talk on the Carpathian Winter War — the Carpathian Mountains are in the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, and Romania. I may have left out a few countries. During WWI, they were fought over by the Russians and the Austro-Hungarians. Jack’s book “Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915” is going to the top of my pile! — at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
Very interesting talk by Laurence Lyons on George Owen Squier and the development of American tactical radio. To be honest, I was afraid the topic would be too technical for me, but the speaker did a great job of explaining how wireless telephonic communication was invented and kept the human element in focus, too. His book is “Mixed Signals on the Western Front: How the Slow Adoption of Wireless Restricted British Strategy and Operations in World War I.” That is a lo-o-ong subtitle. But wireless communcation would have saved many, many lives on the Somme. Add it to the pile!
“The Myths of Belleau Wood,” presented by J. Mark Miller of the USMC Library: The importance of Belleau Wood was the impression it gave the Germans: that the Americans were there to fight. Morale was everything in the summer of 1918 and Belleau Wood gave the Allies a tremendous boost. (I’m paraphrasing.) Marines of today don’t want to let those guys down.
I wrote a post about our third talk, but my friend’s computer ate it. Marine archivist James Glincher gave a presentation on early Marine aviation that focused on five pilots who fought in the war. The best detail was the alligator that pilots training in Louisiana made their mascot — and, yes, they did give it a ride. War gator!
Marine college history professor Edward Erickson speaks on Mustafa Kemal, the Ottoman Empire army officer who stopped the ANZACs at Gallipoli on April 25-27, 1915, later the first president of the Republic of Turkey. (You might know him as Ataturk.) He was an excellent fighter and commander, and a hard drinkin’ gambler and womanizer, and an obnoxious loudmouth when it came to criticizing his superiors. This actually is a little over my head — my reading is too Euro-centric. (Stirling Rasmussen, a Facebook friend, added: “He also overthrew the Ottoman leadership, banned polygamy, changed the written form of Turkish from an Arabic to a Latin script that is so phonetically matched to the language that once learned, all could read, and set up what eventually became a democratic government. Oh, and he kicked the Greeks out of Turkey after the end of the war. To me, he was one of the great men of the 20th century.”)
Kevin Seldon, a former Marine and now a history teacher, presented a selection from his slideshow about the Battle of Belleau Wood told through the experiences of the men who fought there: face after face of those who were killed, gravely wounded or witnesses to terrible combat. In 2002, Seldon met and talked with the last survivor of the battle, then 105 years old.
Saturday. Last night Scott Stephenson, a professor of military history at the Army, gave a lively talk about the final days of the war and the poor guys who had to tell the Kaiser that he didn’t have the troops to march into the homeland and defeat the revolutionaries. And by the way, you just abdicated. Stephenson’s book is “The Final Battle: Soldiers of the Western Front in the German Revolution of 1918”; it won the 2011 WW1HA Tomlinson Prize for best book in English about the Great War.
Richard DiNardo, professor of national security at the Marine college, gave a lively talk on the German/Austro-Hungarian/Bulgarian attack on Serbia in 1915. Of course the Serbs were beaten back — Serbia suffered more than 70 percent casualties in the war. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians were set on getting a path through Serbia to get supplies to Turkey. The Serbs rereated, the attack was concluded — and Germany and Austria-Hungary began the squabbling that eventaully destroyed their alliance. DiNardo’s latest book is “Breakthrough: The Gorlice-Tarnow Campaign, 1915.” Top of the book pile!
Bradley Meyer is the dean of academics at the USMC school of advanced warfare. Here’s the best I can summarize of his fascinating talk. The Germans used stormtroopers to attack as fast and as far as they could, with covering fire from machine guns in their own lines. Then more troops moved forward to exploit the gaps the stormtroops created. A blitzkrieg is a combination of breaking through the enemy’s defenses and operational exploitation to surround and destroy enemy units. All the Germans needed to achieve blitzkrieg in WWI was motorization for more speed. (Facebook friend Philip Meluch added: “The operative word is “achieve”. The issue for the Germans was being able to sustain their breakthoughs. The Allies in the final year tailored their offensives to the means available.”)
Patrick Mooney of the National Museum of the Marine Corps speaking: We just suffered 83 percent casualties as the 1/5, 4th Marine Brigade, trying to capture Blanc Mont Ridge on Oct. 4, 1918. There’s a very beautiful monument on Blanc Mont to the Marines and the 2nd Infantry Division.
Geoffrey Rossano has written several books on Naval aviation including “Stalking the U-Boat: US Naval Aviation of World War.” He’s speaking about U.S. Naval aviators who served with the British in the WWI. Many interesting photos of airfields, planes and rosters.
Nic Galvan Gunnery Sgt has us all tasked with taking Hill 142. First we were the major, and now we’re Capt. Hamilton and our Marines are lying in a wheatfield getting their packs shot off their backs. He keeps barking, What are you gonna do, SIR? Well, we do eventually win the war, so I guess things will work OK (at least for some of us).
And that, sadly, was that — until next year!

Americans sleeping in Surrey

Here’s a post on the Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial, near Brookwood, Surrey, and about 28 miles southwest of London.

http://graveyarddetective.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/brookwood-american-cemetery.html

Here’s a photo taken in November 2009:

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers stand at attention during a Veterans Day observance at the Brookwood American Military Cemetery on Nov. 8. The 7th Civil Support Command color guard participated in the event, which honored the 468 American servicemembers laid to rest here and the 561 Soldiers, sailors and Marines missing in action, or lost at sea with names inscribed on the Brookwood chapel wall. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Valerie Resciniti, 7th CSC Public Affairs)

and here are specifics about the cemetery from the ABMC:

http://www.abmc.gov/publications/VisitorBrochures/Brookwood.pdf

The Graveyard Detective also has other posts of particular interest related to the First World War.

“Over There” by Byron Farwell

I”m temporarily abandoning a book for a while. I never ever do that — with one notable exception — I usually just ditch them. Life is too short to read bad books.

But Farwell’s “Over There: The United States in the Great War, 1917-18” is really good. It’s just that I’ve gotten to the part when the 28th and 30th Divisions are about to attack on the Chemin de Dames, and I’ve realized what short shrift Farwell gives to Belleau Wood. We win that battle next Tuesday.

So now I’m all hot to read “Miracle at Belleau Wood” and any other account in my library.

Reviews to come!

Belleau Wood re-enacted

In 2009, real Marines staged and filmed a re-enactment of the iconic battle as part of an exhibit at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek:

http://vimeo.com/31482477

Here’s a link to the museum: http://www.usmcmuseum.com/index.asp

You can visit the museum when you attend the ww1ha’s National Seminar, “From Devil Dogs to Stosstruppen,” at Quantica, Va., in September. Here’s a link for more info:

http://ww1ha.org/2012seminar/

“First to Fight.” A group of U.S. Marines. US Marine Corps Recruiting Publicity Bureau., 1918. From the U.S. National Archives.