Remembering all those who served their countries during 1914-1918


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.

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”?

Upcoming conferences

Here come the Yanks: April 6, 1917


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.




Visit the battlefields

What better way to remember those who fell in World War One than to book a battlefield tour!  The World War One Historical Association, working with Randal S. Gaulke of Meuse-Argonne.com, is offering an eight-day tour of the major American battlefields of WW1.  Tour dates are June 3-11, 2017.  Tour cost is $2,300 per person, assuming double occupancy.  The price includes most meals and costs, except airfare to France.  The tour will be by motor coach, and it will include two walks each day of moderate length over relatively easy terrain.

If you’ve visited these battlefields before, Randal hopes to be able to show you some new things.  If you haven’t visited the battlefields yet, be prepared for a moving experience. Our soldiers walked these roads, fields and forests. Many of them died there.

To some degree, there is flexibility to visit sites of importance to individual tour participants.  Please contact Randal regarding such requests.

You can find a full flier and terms and conditions on the http://ww1ha.org website; and you can contact Randal Gaulke with any questions at 908-451-0252 or lavarennes@meuse-argonne.com.

Sign up today to reserve your space!  Enrollment ends in late December.


Posted at Flickr by the National Library of Scotland: This image shows a British artilleryman demonstrating to a group of American soldiers. The gun, which is mounted rather precariously on a post, appears to be a Hotchkiss machine gun. This was a light, French-manufactured gun which was useful for its easy manoeuvrability.

Rudyard Kipling, in his poem, “The Ballad of the Clampherdown,” describes the sinking of a warship by a cruiser, “that carried the dainty Hotchkiss gun.”

[Original reads: “OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. A British machine gunner explains the working of his gun to American troops.”]

A personal note from Susan:

I strongly encourage you to make this trip. I have traveled with Randal Gaulke and can attest that he is knowledgeable — his particular interest is the German army, so he can give perspective from the enemy side as well as the Americans’ — and a good tour leader. You’re in France! Yes, you want to go over hill, over dale, you want to hit the dusty trail, but you also want to enjoy yourself. Like these guys.


Posted at Flickr by the National Library of Scotland: Six soldiers are standing looking into the camera. They are wearing American uniforms and hats but they are not armed or equipped. The background is mostly obscured by the soldiers and is also out of focus. Three soldiers stand in a line with a fourth just visible behind them. They are laughing and look relaxed. In front of this stands two more soldiers. The older of the two has bent his head round to talk to the younger, while his hand is round his mouth forcing him to smile.

Although there is no official caption with this photograph it does record a very personal and intimate moment amongst this group of friends. It also illustrates the strong sense of camaraderie experienced by soldiers in World War I across a very wide age range.


Book review: “War of Attrition”



By William Philpott 

Overlook Press, 400 pp

 Review by Sal Compagno, WW1HA President


The first world war has left its permanent mark on military fighting in both small and large campaigns.  That war was to change the nature of fighting ever since.  William Philpott has demonstrated the shift in military tactics in his recent study, War of Attrition.  A British author of note, he has investigated why the first world conflict of the twentieth century was significantly different from previous wars.  His focus is on the learning curve needed to end the struggle after four years of fruitless efforts.

 Philpott covers many theaters of the war, but concentrates mostly on the Western Front as this campaign defined the crucial change in military tactics.  He emphasizes the long and painful lessons learned in the first two years of the war leading to an acknowledgement of the different character fighting had changed.  The bloody battles of Verdun and the Somme and those of the  Eastern Theater were preliminary to a conscious awareness among military minds how the war underwent a new direction.  New tactics and weapons were increasingly introduced yet  progress was both slow and costly.

Throughout the writing, Philpott demonstrates how supply, manpower reserves and will eventually turned the tide in favor of the Allies and the weakness of the Central Powers who could not match them.  It took more than two years to build and change the waring nations to adopt a total war consciousness.  He extends great praise to Ferdinand Foch and Phillipe Petain for recognizing what was needed to defeat the German army.  The French expression grignotage —gnawing — the enemy strength was to become the modus operandi for the last six months of the war literally wearing the the opposition out.  But the price was equally harsh for both sides. Yet, Foch, who was supreme commander, realized the price had to be paid.

The author spares no one for mistakes and errors in judgment.  He notes how Ludendorff never grasped the full extent of collapsing morale of the German soldier even with the spectacular victory in the Eastern Theater.  It was the declining morale and the lack of men and the desperate shortness of supplies which Germany could not replace forcing their submission.  Men, supply and determination were the key to victory. 

 War of Attrition is a study not to be ignored by serious students of military history and is highly recommended for the average reader.  Phillpott investigation of the nature of fighting in the first global conflict will enlighten both the historian and for those who appreciate the importance of the war.





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