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

Monday, April 23, 2018

100 Years Ago: The Zeebrugge Raid

Damage to the Main Assault Ship, HMS Vindictive

Zeebrugge on the Belgian coastline was an outlet for German U-boats and destroyers based up the canal at Bruges, and the British planned to sink three old cruisers Iphegenia, Intrepid, and Thetis, in the channel to block it. These would have to pass a long harbor mole (a causeway or pier) with a battery at the end, before they were scuttled. It was decided therefore to storm the mole using another old cruiser, HMS Vindictive, and two Mersey ferries, Daffodil and Iris II, modified as assault vessels. Two old submarines were to be used as explosive charges, under the viaduct connecting the mole to the shore. 

The attack went in on the night of 22–23 April, under the command of Commodore Roger Keyes. Vindictive was heavily hit on the approach and came alongside in the wrong place. Despite much bravery by the landing party, the battery remained in action. One submarine did succeed in blowing up the viaduct, but the first blockship was badly hit and forced to ground before reaching the canal entrance. Only two (Ipheginia and Intrepid) were sunk in place. 

Two Block Ships, Intrepid and Iphigenia, in Place

Much was made of the raid. Keyes was knighted, and 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded. The Germans, however, made a new channel round the two ships, and within two days their submarines were able to transit Zeebrugge. Destroyers were able to do so by mid-May. 

Memorial at the Site (1990 Photo)

Sources: BBC Website and The Times History of the War, Photos from Steve Miller and Tony Langley

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The History of the Trench Coat

Donna G. Wagner

Despite its uniform-like military style that can remind one of the horrors of the Great War where it originated, the trench coat remains a popular, influential, and even symbolic item of apparel. It was adapted from an earlier design by the famous British designer, Thomas Burberry, to keep British military officers dry and warm in the trenches. He had previously patented a very tight weave of cotton gabardine using long fiber Egyptian cotton that was then treated with a chemical to withstand water. The diagonal weave also cut surface tension to further repel water. This fabric was extremely strong and did not tear easily, adding to its desirability for military wear. A gabardine coat from Burberry was worn by high-ranking generals during the turn-of-the-century Boer War in South Africa. When the Great War came, the British War Board authorized an updated version for the army's combat officers. British officers embraced the coat immediately, and its popularity spread to the Yanks when America joined the war. In Stars and Stripes an advertisement even appeared in 1918 for trench coats for women, made in America for the Donut Dollies, Hello Girls, and nurses. 

Burberry's new design, like military uniforms, featured epaulets (shoulder straps), a buckled belt with D-rings, and was double-breasted. A storm or gun flap on the right shoulder kept water from running inside when the officer raised a weapon. Cuff straps made the sleeves a tighter fit when needed or could hold a map. A rumor circulated that these or the D-rings were for carrying hand grenades, but most agree that that would not have been a safe practice.

Formerly, long ankle-length coats called great coats were also issued, but the trench coat was made shorter so as not to drag in the mud and water that prevailed in the trenches. The coat was excellent in cold weather with a woolen insert and also served as an emergency sleeping system. The trench coat quickly earned a high reputation for the protection and mobility it provided to the men fighting in the front lines. In World War II, the trench coat was issued in even greater numbers as part of the uniform to Americans, British, and Russians. Today the trench coat still serves in the world's militaries as weather protection for dress uniforms. 

The trench coat has never faltered in its popularity for both men and women in civilian fashion. Hollywood helped boost its appeal. In movies after the war, the trench coat symbolized mystery and adventure—it was the attire of secret agents and private detectives. Who can forget Humphrey Bogart in his trench coat in Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon, or Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire? For women as well, the wearing of the trench coat signifies allure and danger—recall Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Berman, and Joan Crawford in their great roles. 

The classic Burberry trench coat is still available today for about $2,000. Newer versions that are lighter and more flexible of microfiber and modern fabrics range from $200 to $500. London Fog still sells a classic double-breasted style with wide collars and button cuffs, but it no longer has the shoulder epaulets.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Remembering at Veteran: Sergeant Matej Kocak, USMC, Medal of Honor

Sgt. Matej Kocak (1882–1918) was born in Gbely, Slovakia (then part of the Kingdom of  Hungary). He emigrated to America in 1906 and enlisted in the Marine Corps the following year. He  served with the U.S. Marine Corps at Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914, followed by New Orleans, LA, and then Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 1917 he returned to the United States, where he joined the 12th Company at Quantico, VA. By December of that year he was in St. Nazaire, France, with the 5th Marines of the U.S. 2nd Division. In January 1918 he was promoted to sergeant.

When a machine gun nest halted the advance of Kocak’s battalion in the Battle of Soissons, he went forward alone and unprotected to rush the enemy position. With only his bayonet, Kocak drove off the enemy. Later that day, Kocak organized French colonial soldiers who had become separated from their company. He led them in an attack of another machine gun nest.

He survived the Battle of Soissons, and participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He was killed in action at the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge on 4 October 1918. For his actions at the Battle of Soissons, Kocak was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army.  He is buried at the U.S. Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, Plot D, Row 41, Grave 32. A prepositioned ship of the U.S. Navy Sealift Command today bears his name.

Source:  ABMC

Friday, April 20, 2018

100 Years Ago: The Seicheprey Raid and Its Lasting Significance

By Terrence J. Finnegan

On 20 April 1918, the 26th “Yankee” Division fought a short but intense engagement with German forces at the village of Seicheprey in the Woëvre Plain of the Lorraine region of France. Positioned 12 miles east of St. Mihiel, Seicheprey was in a quiet sector of the front in early 1918, and the Yankee Division had recently arrived in the area. The brunt of the attack fell on the division's 102nd Infantry Regiment, composed mainly of men from Connecticut.  Both sides suffered serious casualties in the one-day action. The German division that launched the effort reported 82 of their men killed and missing, 263 wounded, and 16 men suffering other injuries. Their casualty total came to 361. On the American side, an accounting of losses listed 58 killed, 145 wounded, and 231 missing, for a total of 434 U.S. casualties.

Stosstruppen of R.I.R. 259 After the Raid
Note Soldier on Right with Captured Klaxon Wearing a Doughboy's Helmet 

Seicheprey remains an unknown event for most present-day World War I students. Ironically, it became well known throughout the American Expeditionary Force that fought the war. The extremely well-planned combined arms operation with fast-moving infantry, massive firepower of Minenwerfer and artillery, complemented by aviation, which provided decisive targeting on enemy positions as well as extensive harassment of the enemy from above, gave purpose to modern tactics of 20th-century warfare. These tactics would culminate on the battlefields of Poland, Belgium, and France with the fast battle operations of Blitzkrieg. Equally significant was the Germans’ attention to detail in neutralizing and decapitating their enemy’s ability to plan and execute an operation. Employed were all avenues of modern-day intelligence, including aerial reconnaissance, wiretapping, espionage, and infiltration as well as the annihilation of critical communication lines by decisive artillery strikes and sabotage. Seicheprey was more than a raid across No-Man’s-Land. It was a definitive example of  an INFORMATION WAR that governs the way nations struggle in a 21st-century battlefield environment. 

The contemporary view of Seicheprey is well stated by the American correspondent Heywood Broun of the New York Tribune in his postwar recollection provided a succinct summary of the affair. “Seicheprey, the first big American battle, had every element of the World War in little [miniature]. Before the loss of the village...the troops defending it had fought from ambush and in the open, had fought with gas and liquid fire, with grenades, rifles, and machine guns. In the inferno the new troops were giving proof of valor that was to come out later and be scattered broadcast, as a measure of what America would bring. In and out of the streets of Seicheprey, in its little public square, from the yards of its houses, hundreds of American soldiers were fighting for their lives. France lay behind them, trusting to be saved.”

Yankee Division Troops Near Seicheprey

German combatants and staff summed up the soldiers battle in an eloquent way. “American resistance in front of the main line of resistance, in the main line of resistance and in the supporting positions in front of the village of Seicheprey, was stubborn. Every man had to be overpowered individually. The light machine guns of the Americans fired up to the last moment. Since the troops occupying the village did not want to come out of their dugouts but defended the entrances, individual combats, man against man, took place.” The final report from the German chief of staff in the region emphasized in all capitals to senior commanders: NOT ONE AMERICAN SURRENDERED WITHOUT A FIGHT. 

Seicheprey taught the U.S. Army that the total modern combat environment put everyone within range at serious risk. All combatants came to terms with the incessant destruction provided by never ending artillery, machine guns, and the relentless sniper. The appalling volume of shellfire at the front defined kinetic kill at its worse. The Seicheprey affair was sobering because the French practice of sacrifice positions—a procedure imposed on American military thinking by the French tactical command—was adhered to within the Woëvre. What worked was the demonstrated tenacity of the individual American showing  incredible courage and in many cases fighting to the death. This was what resonated with the German commanders. They now faced a fresh enemy with purpose. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Prelude to the Great War

By Diane Rooney

There is a ballet that will forever be associated with the Great War. It was not set on a battlefield, but it was certainly a premonition of the unbridled violence soon to come.

Dancers from the Original Production

On 29 May 1913 the ballet "The Rite of Spring" (Le Sacre du Printemps), premiered in Paris. It caused a riot. Igor Stravinsky's ballet, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, is set in pagan Russian times; the rite of spring is the ritual sacrifice of a maiden (The Chosen One) to ensure successful crops. The music, choreography, costumes, and staging were unlike anything ever seen before: discordant, irregular, and wild. At least 40 attendees were taken away by the police.

Scene from a Joffrey Ballet Staging

The premiere soon came to be seen as a cultural fracture point—evidenced by the breaking of the fourth wall, the lack of familiar music and dance structure, the public release of wild, even violent emotion, the display of ritual violence on stage, and the breakdown of established norms of behavior. Symbolically, it came to represent or foreshadow the unrestrained horrors of the Great War and the sweeping social and cultural changes that followed it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Diggers Introduce a Yank to No-Man's-Land

[In the summer of 1918 the newly arrived U.S. 78th Division was assigned to French Flanders near the village of Pradelles to train with the British Army. Sgt. Albert Haas's unit was placed with an Australian unit, which he does not identify in this account of the experience.] 

Sgt. Albert Haas
After a few remarks, the [Australian] captain asked us we would have a cup of cocoa with him. I had an idea he was joking, but knew that he was serious when he actually produced the beverage. It was about the last thing I had expected there. He explained that these little luxuries were furnished by the people in Australia through what was called "The Australian Comfort Fund." Then we were shown our position on the map and some aerial photos of the enemy trenches and those we were in. We were in the front line of trenches, although there were four outposts in advance of this line. 

A road separated two of the four outposts from the other two. It was necessary to cross this road in order to get from one outpost, or rather one group of outposts, to the other. There was no trench dug across this road. At night, the enemy swept the road with machine gun fire at varying intervals. The crossing was dangerous and had to be made very quickly. 

While in training at Camp Dix, we had spent considerable time and labor constructing trenches. Much care was taken to make them according to certain specifications. The trench should be a certain width at the top and a little smaller at the bottom. The ground removed in digging had to be placed in a certain manner, the sides revetted to prevent cave-ins and many other little details were extremely necessary in the construction of a good trench. Accordingly we had formed certain conceptions of trenches which were rudely shattered when we observed the real thing. Most of the trenches in this sector was little more than ditches, shallow ditches, connecting shell holes. Than they had been hurriedly made was evident. 

Returning from this little tour of inspection, we were introduced to a Sergeant Major who was to take us in charge for further instruction. He devoted a great deal of time to explaining and answering the many questions with which we plied him, many of which must have seemed foolish to him. We met many men, all of them friendly and sociable. They were willing to do all they could for us, answer all of our questions, and give us many little hints regarding trench warfare that were to be of use to us later. By this means we were able to profit from the mistakes they had made, without undergoing the same experiences in learning them. They were particularly glad to know that American troops were in France and said they expected a great deal from them. 

The Former No-Man's-Land at Pradelles (2003 Photo)

Just after dark, I was invited to go for a walk. Not knowing where or why, I consented to without question. But when I was told to put my rifle in working order and to take a few hand grenades with me, my enthusiasm was not quite so keen. But I said nothing about my feelings to anyone. I had never seen a loaded hand grenade and we knew nothing about its operation except what I had learned from our lectures. I did know one thing and that was if the pin was pulled out of the grenade, it was time to throw it away as I had no further use for it. 

I followed my two companions up and out of the trench into "No Man's Land," the area between the two front lines. At one time this area had been a prosperous farm. It was covered with wheat, now nearly ripe. While we moved along as quietly as possible, it seemed to me that the sound would be audible for miles. We proceeded until we reached a line of barbed wire in front of the Australian trenches and passed along the line until an opening was found, thru which we passed. Several times we were forced to remain perfectly still while a flare burned overhead. These flares transformed the night into day and while they burned for a comparatively short period of time, it seemed as though they would burn forever. When I heard the first machine gun bullets crack I wanted to get down on the ground, but followed the actions of the other two and remained standing. I soon learned that you could be reasonably certain that you could not be hit by a bullet that sounds that way. 

Yanks and Aussies Fought Side by Side in 1918

Once we had to get down and had to do it very quickly too! In doing so, one of the Australians encountered the putrid body of a dead German who had been there for some time. The stench from it was almost unbearable. The [Aussie] proceeded to hold a monologue in which he gave vent to his feelings with a series of oaths that would have made Satan himself blush. Without further excitement, we proceeded until we reached the enemy line of barbed wire. Passing along and examining it showed that there had been no gaps cut in the wire, which indicated that no action of any consequence was planned over the next few hours. 

We returned to our starting position again and sat down in the shelter of a small dugout to rest and await further developments. 

Sgt. Albert Haas, 309th Infantry, 78th Division, AEF

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

North Dakota Nurses Over There: 1917–1919
Reviewed by James Patton

North Dakota Nurses Over There: 1917–1919

by Grace E.F. Holmes, MD
American Legion Auxiliary, Department of North Dakota, 2017

Sabra Hardy, Died in Service
In 1934 the past presidents of the American Legion Auxiliary in North Dakota voted to undertake a project that was truly one for the ages. They asked their county units to ascertain the identities of all the women from the state who served their country during the First World War and to collect statements of service from each. In some cases they received lengthy and engaging accounts, with quotes taken from personal diaries (most of which are probably now lost). In some instances the response was short; the entire overseas service might be covered in a couple of sentences. Many of the responses were written by third parties, usually family members but sometimes fellow nurses. In a prescient move, at the conclusion of the project all of the responses were saved in the state archives at Bismarck.

In all, there were 271 respondents, of which 225 had served as nurses. The average age of these was 29, and 24 percent were foreign-born. The average term of service for the Army nurses was about a year. Five nurses died while in service, all from disease, three of them in France.

Nora Anderson Died in Service
Dr. Holmes selected material from 129 of the nurse respondents for inclusion in North Dakota Nurses Over There. Sixty-two of these nurses went overseas,  48 percent of the sample. Most of them served in the U.S. Army, a few in the Navy, but there were also some who served with the Red Cross. Several nurses were seconded to British hospitals and others served with North Dakota's Base Hospital No. 60, organized by Dr. Eric Quain, a surgeon at Evangelical Hospital in Bismarck, which was a remarkable accomplishment for a community of only 6,000 persons.

There are accounts of hard work and devotion to duty, of suffering, shortages, overcrowding, wading through mud, night bombing raids, never-ending streams of patients, bad wounds, and surprising recoveries.

There were life-changing experiences. They met colleagues and patients from many nations that they would never visit. They described their efforts to raise morale, fondly remembering holiday celebrations, and the deaths of the hopeless cases.

There were the long days and longer nights of the influenza pandemic, when so many were needed for duty at home, where they served at military hospitals in at least 14 states, and some were seconded to civilian hospitals as well. Several recounted their own battle with the disease, in some cases lingering for months due to complications.

North Dakota Nurses Over There: 1917–1919 can be purchased in either printed
or electronic format from the American Legion Auxiliary,
Department of North Dakota at their website:

There are stories of selflessness and great human drama, including nurses who went on to serve with the Red Cross in the Polish-Bolshevik War and the Greco-Turkish War.

There are stories of great adventures. Many described their ocean crossings in detail. These small-town women were dazzled by New York, London, and Paris. After the Armistice, many visited the old trench lines, and there is an engrossing account of nurses being trapped by German barbed wire.

There are stories of loss and consolation, including lengthy accounts of the deaths of Sabra R. Hardy (1891–1918) of Base Hospital No. 54, from Mercer County and Nora E. Anderson (1881–1919) of Base Hospital No. 68, from Grand Forks (photos above). Remember that the war had ended the last great Romantic Age, an era when people were religious, nostalgic, and melodramatic. Notwithstanding, even to a modern reader these accounts are poignant.

The book is well edited, topically organized, and an easy read, although sometimes repetitive. I finished it in two afternoons. Dr. Holmes has given us a remarkable glimpse at the service of these strong and dedicated women, all of them volunteers, and a good source of facts, firsthand accounts and insights, looking back from a 15-year perspective.

North Dakota Nurses Over There: 1917–1919 can be purchased in either printed or electronic format from the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of North Dakota at their website:

James Patton

Monday, April 16, 2018

How To Get Wounded 14 Times and Win the Pour le Mérite to Survive to 102 and Become a World-Famous Author

The Great War Service of Ernst Jünger


It was [a preoccupation with issues of escape and autonomy] that led Jünger to abscond from school on 3 November 1913, head for Verdun and enlist in the French Foreign Legion. His plan was, apparently, to reach North Africa with the Legion, desert and make his way to what he imagined would be the primitive reaches of central Africa where he could lead some sort of grandiose life. In reality, however, he was bitterly disappointed to find North Africa thoroughly under the influence of its European colonists. Moreover, his attempts to [desert] from the Legion were foiled by the military police, and his father eventually managed to secure his Jünger had actually been too young to sign the enlistment papers...

"Kriegsausbruch 1914", a short piece that Jünger first published in 1934, gives a highly subjective account of his own experience of August 1914, colored, of course, by the experience of 20 intervening years. Jünger describes how he and two workers were working on the roof of the family house, with the magnificent Lower Saxon countryside spread out around them, when the postman passed by and informed them that mobilization had been ordered. In Jünger's reconstruction of the passions of 1914, he decided almost immediately to volunteer...In this text, the outbreak of war, the presence of the Lower Saxon countryside symbolizing Germany, and the overcoming of social divisions when all three went on to celebrate in the local pub combine to produce an idealized memory of August 1914.

Jünger volunteers at the outbreak of the war. He takes a Notabitur [early examination to gain release for service] and matriculates at Heidelberg University before undertaking basic training from October until December, when his recruit company joins the Füsilier-Regiment 73 at the Champagne front.

Jünger's unit remains in position around the area of Bazancourt. February and March are spent on a training course in Recouvrence. In April the regiment is deployed to Lorraine and Jünger is wounded for the first time at Les Éparges. Jünger recovers and spends the summer at an officers' training course at Döberitz, returning to the regiment as Fähnrich (ensign). There then follows an extended period [of positional war] round Douchy and Monchy in the Artois region. At the end of November he is promoted to lieutenant.

The Stellungskampf in Artois continues. In April Jünger attends another training course, returning to the front in June, where the regiment comes under increasing pressure in the buildup to the Somme offensive. In heavy fighting around Guillemont he is again wounded and evacuated, while his unit suffers almost total casualties. He returns to the front in November and is assigned to Divisional Intelligence as a reconnaissance officer and is wounded again near St. Pierre Vaast. He is awarded the Iron Cross, 1st Class. He returns to the regiment and again becomes a reconnaissance officer.

Jünger spends January on a company commanders course. From now on, Jünger is frequently appointed company commander of various companies within the regiment. In March he commands a patrol covering the German retreat from the Somme. At Fresnoy he commands an observation post. In May the regiment takes up positions on the Siegfried Line. In June a forward standing patrol commanded by Jünger has a violent encounter with British/Indian fighting patrols. The regiment then moves to Cambrai for training. Jünger is involved in training a Sturmtrupp. In late July the Regiment moves to Flanders and Jünger takes part in fighting round Langemarck, playing an important role in the defence of the Steenbach. In September he leads a fighting patrol against the French trenches at Regniéville, which ends disastrously. October sees him in Flanders again in the area around Passchendaele, once more as a reconnaissance officer. In late November the regiment is involved in the successful counterattack against the British tank offensive at Cambrai. This involves intensive trench fighting in the course of which Jünger is wounded and subsequently awarded the Ritterkreuz des Hausordens von Hohenzollern.

January, February, and March are spent in preparation for Ludendorff's MICHAEL offensive. Jünger's company takes a direct hit from a shell in the last stages of the move forward. Jünger takes part in an attack on a Scottish position by Écoust [closer to Vaulx]  and is hit twice. He rejoins the regiment in June in an exposed position around Puisieux-le-Mont, fighting British advances against the odds. In August, the regiment undertakes a desperate counteroffensive near Cambrai. Jünger is badly wounded but continues fighting and, despite being surrounded, manages to evade capture, a feat for which he was awarded the Pour le Mérite. The remainder of the war is spent in a military hospital. 

The above represents a summary of Jünger's war service based on In Stahlgewittern and is essentially an account of Jünger's service with the 73rd Füsilier Regiment, mapping neatly with independent accounts given in the two available regimental histories. What is particularly striking is that he served exclusively on the Western Front and that he saw action in the most intense battles of the war-—on the Somme, at Cambrai, at 3rd Ypres and the MICHAELoffensive of March 1918. In other words, he was involved in those battles which saw the highest casualties and the highest concentrations of firepower and thus also inflicted the greatest sense of anti-modern absurdity, chaos, and ambivalence. 

From: Writing and Rewriting the First World War: Ernst Jünger and the Crisis of the Conservative Imagination, 1914–25, Thesis Submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. John King, St. John's College, Trinity University, 1999.

Dr. King is the editor of the outstanding Ernst Jünger in Cyberspace website. Visit

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Remembering George Creel

George E. Creel was a journalist, politician, and author. His most famous role was as chairman of the Committee on Public Information during World War I, Creel sought to influence public opinion and gain support at home and abroad for the war effort.

George Creel was born on 1 December 1876, in Lafayette County, Missouri. He was the second of three sons born to Henry and Virginia Fackler Creel. The privileged son of southern slave owners, Henry Creel was unable to adapt to life as a farmer after the Civil War. He squandered his inheritance on failed attempts at farming and became an alcoholic. Virginia Creel ran a boardinghouse in Kansas City to support the family, but after it failed the Creels moved to Odessa, Missouri.

Years later Creel wrote in his autobiography, “Our poverty brought us close, for love was all we had to give one another, and the determination to justify [my mother’s] sacrifices and hopes developed ambitions and energies.” Creel’s admiration of his mother’s hard work and sacrifice led him to support women’s suffrage later in life because, he wrote, “I knew my mother had more character, brains, and competence than any man that ever lived.”

Even though he did not finish high school, Creel joined the Kansas City World as a reporter in 1898. He was later fired for refusing to write a story that would publicly embarrass a prominent businessman after the man’s daughter eloped with a family employee.

Creel briefly moved to New York City but returned to Kansas City when his friend Arthur Grissom suggested they publish their own paper, the Independent. Shortly after the paper launched in 1899, Grissom left and Creel became sole editor and publisher. He used the Independent to promote political reform and the rights of women and labor. In 1909 Creel sold the Independent and moved to Denver, Colorado, where he worked for the Denver Post and later the Rocky Mountain News as an editorial writer.

Just as he had in Kansas City, Creel pushed for reform in Denver. Mayor Henry J. Arnold appointed Creel city police commissioner, but Creel’s aggressive campaign to rid Denver of crime made many people upset and he was fired.

 A CPI Poster for the CPI's Speaker's Bureau

In 1912 Creel married actress Blanche Bates and the couple had two children, George, Jr., and Frances. Five years later, when the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson asked Creel to serve as chairman of the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a temporary independent federal agency.

The purpose of the CPI was to influence the American public’s views about the war through the use of propaganda in magazines, movies, newspapers, radio broadcasts, posters, press releases, and public speakers. By any measure, the output of the CPI was stupendous. Forty billion pieces of literature and art were produced. Creel claimed that his 75,000-man "Four Minute Men" speakers bureau delivered over 755,000  speeches to more than 314 million people. Creel and the CPI were criticized by journalists for releasing exaggerated accounts of events and for hiding bad or unflattering news about the war by censoring the press.

Censorship Board of the CPI, George Creel on Right

After World War I ended, the CPI was disbanded in 1919 and Creel returned to private life. He moved to California and wrote several books in the 1920s, including the story  of the CPI in How We Advertised America.

In 1934 Creel reentered politics with a failed run against author Upton Sinclair in the Democratic primary for California governor. The following year President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him chairman of the National Advisory Board for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Creel also served as the U.S. commissioner for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco and helped Mexico establish its own Ministry of Public Information and Propaganda.

After Blanche died in 1941, Creel married Alice May Rosseter. Creel continued to write books in retirement, including his memoir Rebel at Large: Recollections of Fifty Crowded Years. On 2 October 1953, he died in San Francisco, California. He is buried in Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence, Missouri.

Source:  Missouri Historical Society

Saturday, April 14, 2018

100 Years Ago: Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell Deliver the First U.S. Air Service Victories

Lts. Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell, 94th Aero Squadron

The first U.S. Air Service aerial victories by fighter planes in the American sector in France were by Lts. Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell, two pilots of the 94th Aero Squadron, which had just been transferred to the front. 

Squadron Insignia
On Sunday morning, 14 April 1918, they were on alert at Gengoult Aerodrome near Toul, France. German planes were reported in the area and the two U.S. pilots, completely inexperienced in aerial combat, took off in their Nieuport 28s. Almost immediately they saw two German aircraft and attacked them directly over the flying field at less than 1,000 feet altitude, in full view of not only the Americans at Gengoult Aerodrome but also the French citizens of Toul. Winslow shot down an Albatross D.V and a minute later Campbell destroyed a Pfalz D.III. They were both  back on the ground in a matter of minutes. This initial fighter combat by the U.S. Air Service, although probably successful due as much to luck as skill, convinced the French people that the Americans were "super-human."

On 31 May 1918, Campbell became the first U.S.-trained pilot to receive official credit for his fifth victory, thus becoming an ace. Winslow was decorated for a later action but was shot down on 31 July, lost an arm and spent the remainder of the war as a POW.

Sources: USAF National Museum, Air and Space Museum

Friday, April 13, 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Centennial at the Grass Roots: Lost Altos [California] History Museum WWI Program

Today the Los Altos (CA) History Museum will open what appears to me to be a model WWI appreciation presentation, adaptable by communities around the country. It actually has three important elements. At the center is the photographic exhibit provide through the National Archives. Los Altos chose the "Over Here" program that examines the home front. A second program is available focusing on the action "Over There."

From "Over Here" — A Women's Committee of Food Conservation on Parade

A second dimension of the Los Altos approach is to bring in local experts to expand on the war and how things were influenced on the home front.

From "Over Here"— Men Who Have Just Registered for the Draft

The third part of the program will specifically look at how the war impacted Los Altos itself. The greatest influence came from nearby Camp Fremont, where the Army's 8th Division was training. Speaker Barbara Wilcox is the author of a book on the subject,  World War I Army Training by San Francisco Bay: The Story of Camp Fremont.

New Soldiers Training at Camp Fremont

You community can build a similar program using the the National Archives "Over There," and "Over Here" programs.  Here's contact information for you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Help Commemorate Armistice and Veterans Day 2018

Last year on behalf of the World War One Centennial Commission, we asked our readers to suggest inscriptions for the new National Memorial at Pershing Square. The response was tremendous and greatly appreciated by the Commission.  Once again we have been asked to help with the planning of  part of the commemorations of the war.  This time it's the 1918–2018 Armistice Day Remembrance which will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.  We are being asked to recommend musical selections, both hymns and period song, and suitable readings.

The National Cathedral

Here is some background information on the event the Commission has provided:

National Cathedral Interfaith Service

An Interfaith Service will take place the morning of Sunday 11 November 1918, at the National Cathedral  in Washington, DC. The ceremony itself will be an interfaith service with a special emphasis on WWI and will include original and period musical performances, hymns, and readings.

The National Cathedral will webcast this event. The Commission will, additionally, distribute a template for a WWI service that other organizations and institutions can distribute and/or use for a local WWI-themed 11 November service.

The ceremony will climax at 11am ET when the National Cathedral will toll its bells in honor of the commencement of the Armistice that ended the fighting in the Great War. This bell-tolling will kick-off of the National Bell-Tolling.

Examples (These are from your editor, not the Commission):

A.  Reading

This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice. God has in His good pleasure given us peace. It has not come as a mere cessation of arms, a mere relief from the strain and tragedy of war. It has come as a great triumph of right. Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day as well in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among the nations.

— President Woodrow Wilson, Thanksgiving Day Message, 1918 

B.  Music

1.  Period Music:  There's a Long Long Trail A-Winding

2. Hymn: Battle Hymn of the Republic

2017 Veterans Day Concert at the National Cathedral

How To Submit Your Suggestions:

There are  three ways to submit your recommendations. These can be done anonymously or with your name and  address or home town included. Submissions are needed by 1 October 2017.

1.  Through Roads to the Great War, just publish in the comments section to this page.

2.  Send it to me via email to:
(For methods 1 and 2 I'll aggregate them with your name and send them to Commissioner Edwin Fountain.)

3.  Send directly to Commissioner Edwin Fountain:

This is a chance for you to make a lasting contribution to the effort to honor the service and sacrifices of all those American who served in the war.

Please use you social media and connections to other organization to pass the message on. Submissions are needed by 15 May 2018.

Thanks for your support,

Mike Hanlon, Editor/Publisher

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Wolf
Reviewed by Bruce G. Sloan

The Wolf:
The Mystery Raider That Terrorized the Seas During World War I

by Richard Guilliatt & Peter Hohnen
The Free Press, May 2011

SMS Wolf at Sea

As a feat of military seamanship, the voyage of the Wolf was so singular as to justify Admiral Holtzendorff's claim that it would never be repeated. Karl Nerger kept his ship at sea for 444 days and traveled more than 64,000 miles in one unbroken voyage, equivalent to nearly three circumnavigations of the earth, without pulling into any port. He traversed three of the four major oceans and evaded the combined navies of Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and the United States, while carrying out a military mission that sank or damaged 30 ships, totaling more than 138,000 tons. When he returned to port, he had lost only a handful of crew and prisoners and had maintained extraordinary discipline on a ship crowded at times with nearly 750 men, women, and children.

Over five years, the authors thoroughly researched the voyage of the Wolf, using official military archives of Britain, Germany, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. They tracked down descendants of the prisoners and crew that lived on the ship over 100 years ago and analyzed handwritten diaries, letters, faded black-and-white photographs, strips of silent film, memoirs, and books by the participants.

The Wolf was a warship disguised as a civilian freighter, sent to mine approaches to Allied ports and sink or capture Allied shipping. This is a human story of the crew and prisoners from a multitude of nations, thrown together for months at a time, and how they came to be close to one another, dislike each other, and in some cases, to exhibit racial hatred. They endured extreme mental and physical hardships during the voyage, and almost all survived.

The story is also about how easily the press and public can be manipulated by government secrecy and manipulation. Coupled with fantastical journalism, which also played its role, it is no wonder that the entire voyage was shrouded in mystery.

Even for those who have heard of the voyage of the raider Wolf, this book will be a revelation, as it appears to be the first unbiased account of Kapitän Karl Nerger's incredible odyssey, that of his crew, and the crew and passengers of the victim ships.

This reviewer highly recommends this volume.

Bruce G. Sloan

Monday, April 9, 2018

100 Years Ago: The Second Ludendorff Offensive, Operation GEORGETTE, Is Launched

German Forces Advancing Toward Mont Kemmel

The second major German offensive of spring 1918 was code-named Operation GEORGETTE. Operation MICHAEL had failed to decisively end the war and the Germans had suffered very heavy losses. With fewer soldiers available the original German plan called GEORG was reworked as a smaller attack, GEORGETTE. The Germans secretly massed 36 divisions in Flanders, east of the Belgian town of Armentières. Less than 20 miles away was the vital Allied rail hub of Hazebrouck.

British Battery Firing Against the Advance

At 4.15 a.m. on 9 April 1918 more than 2,250 German guns opened fire on some 25 miles of British front held by just 12 divisions. After four-and-a-half hours of bombardment, the German infantry advanced, overwhelming much of the lightly held British front and advancing over three miles in the first few hours. Heaviest hit was the 2nd Portuguese Division, which was virtually annihilated.

The next day the village of Messines, taken at great cost the previous year, was lost, despite a counterattack by the South African Brigade. By 11 April the situation seemed desperate. German units were just a few miles from Hazebrouck and to rally his men Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of British forces in Western Europe, issued an order of the day "…with our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each of us must fight on to the end."

French Reinforcements with a Tommy on Wire Detail

However, the tide was turning. Allied reinforcements were arriving and the 1st Australian Division took up positions in the forest of Nieppe to block further German advances towards Hazebrouck. In response the Germans turned their attacks on Mount Kemmel—a dominating geographical feature in West Flanders—where French reinforcements would play a critical role.

On 15 April the British were forced to reduce their line in the Ypres Salient, giving up virtually all of the gains made during the Third Battle of Ypres the previous year, but crucially holding on to Ypres itself. Mount Kemmel fell on 25 April, but it was the last German success of GEORGETTE. Fighting continued for several more days until German commanders finally called off the offensive on 29 April.

Offensive Halted at the Canal d'Aire, Robecq

This was one of the most critical periods of the war as a German breakthrough in Flanders, so close to the vital Channel ports, could have forced a British withdrawal from the continent. The British and French had held the line, but only just. British casualties were more than 80,000 and French losses were some 30,000. In 20 days of fierce fighting the German Army had again captured a large, but mostly unimportant, geographical area. They also suffered very heavy losses, and some 85,000 German soldiers were wounded, captured, or killed.

The first two German offensives of 1918 had fallen mainly on the British, but with the help of French reinforcements the Germans had been stopped. Knowing that this must have weakened the French line the Germans now prepared for a third offensive, this time against the French on the Chemin des Dames Ridge near the River Aisne. 

Source: CWGC Website