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Title: Winning a Cause
World War Stories
Author: John Gilbert Thompson and Inez Bigwood
Release Date: November 23, 2006 [eBook #19906]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WINNING A CAUSE***
We have kept faith, ye Flanders' dead,
Sleep well beneath those poppies red,
That mark your place.
The torch your dying hands did throw
We 've held it high before the foe,
And answered bitter blow for blow,
In Flanders' fields.
And where your heroes' blood was spilled
The guns are now forever stilled
And silent grown.
There is no moaning of the slain,
There is no cry of tortured pain,
And blood will never flow again
In Flanders' fields.
Forever holy in our sight
Shall be those crosses gleaming white,
That guard your sleep.
Rest you in peace, the task is done,
The fight you left us we have won,
And "Peace on Earth" has just begun
In Flanders now.
in the Calgary Herald
Lest We Forget, the first volume of World War stories, gave an outline of the struggle up to the time of the signing of the armistice, November 11, 1918, and contained in general chronological order most of the stories that to children from ten to sixteen years of age would be of greatest interest, and give the clearest understanding of the titanic contest.
This; the second volume of the same series, contains the stories of the war of the character described, that were not included in Lest We Forget,—stories of the United States naval heroes, of the Americans landed in France, of the concluding events of the war, of the visit of President Wilson to Europe, and of the Peace Conference. In a word, emphasis is placed upon America's part in the struggle.
This volume should be of even greater interest to American children than the first, for it tells the story of America's greatest achievement, of a nation undertaking a tremendous and terrible task not for material gain, but for an ideal.
No more inspiring story has ever been told to the children of men than the story of America's part in winning the greatest cause for which men have ever contended. President Wilson said in Europe, "The American soldiers came not merely to win a war, but to win a cause." Every child in every home and in every school should be made familiar with how it was won, and with the separate stories which go to make up the glorious epic.
The two volumes of the series give for children, in a way that they will comprehend and enjoy, through stories so selected and so connected as to build up an understanding of the whole, the causes, the conduct, and the results of the World War.
The thanks of the authors and publishers are hereby expressed to Mr. Edwin Rowland Blashfield for the permission to reproduce his poster, "Carry On"; to Mrs. Ella Wheeler Wilcox for "Song of the Aviator"; to George H. Doran Company, Publishers, for "Pershing at the Tomb of Lafayette" from "The Silver Trumpet," by Amelia Josephine Burr, copyright 1918; for "Where Are You Going, Great-Heart?" from "The Vision Splendid" by John Oxenham, copyright 1918; for "Trees" from "Trees and Other Poems" by Joyce Kilmer, copyright 1914; to Collier's for Lieutenant McKeogh's story of "The Lost Battalion"; to Mr. Roger William Riis for his article "The Secret Service"; and to Mr. John Mackenzie, Chief Boatswain's Mate, U. S. S. Remlik, for the facts in the story, "Fighting a Depth Bomb."
|1.||WHY THE UNITED STATES ENTERED THE WAR|
|2.||AMERICA COMES IN||Klaxton|
|3.||PERSHING AT THE TOMB OF LAFAYETTE||Amelia Josephine Burr|
|4.||AMERICA ENTERS THE WAR||David Lloyd George|
|5.||THE FIRST TO FALL IN BATTLE|
|7.||WHERE THE FOUR WINDS MEET||Geoffrey Dalrymple Nash|
|8.||THE SOLDIERS WHO GO TO SEA|
|9.||WHEN THE TIDE TURNED||Otto H. Kahn|
|10.||A BOY OF PERUGIA|
|12.||SONG OF THE AVIATOR||Ella Wheeler Wilcox|
|13.||NATIONS BORN AND REBORN|
|14.||"TO VILLINGEN—AND BACK"|
|16.||THE CALL TO ARMS IN OUR STREET||W. M. Letts|
|17.||THE KAISER'S CROWN||Charles Mackay|
|18.||THE QUALITY OF MERCY|
|19.||THE REALLY INVINCIBLE ARMADA|
|20.||"I KNEW YOU WOULD COME"||Rev. Ernest M. Stires, D.D.|
|21.||THE SEARCHLIGHTS||Alfred Noyes|
|22.||FIGHTING A DEPTH BOMB|
|23.||THE SECOND LINE OF DEFENSE|
|24.||U. S. DESTROYER OSMOND C. INGRAM|
|26.||BLOCKING THE CHANNEL|
|27.||THE FLEET THAT LOST ITS SOUL|
|28.||THE LITTLE OLD ROAD||Gertrude Vaughan|
|29.||HARRY LAUDER SINGS||Dr. George Adams|
|30.||THE THIRTEENTH REGIMENT|
|31.||WHERE ARE YOU GOING, GREAT-HEART?||John Oxenham|
|32.||THIS CAPTURE OF DUN|
|33.||BOMBING METZ||Raoul Lufbery|
|34.||THE UNSPEAKABLE TURK|
|35.||THE SECRET SERVICE||Roger William Riis|
|36.||AT THE FRONT||G. B. Manwaring|
|37.||A CAROL FROM FLANDERS||Frederick Niven|
|38.||THE MINER AND THE TIGER|
|39.||THE LOST BATTALION|
|40.||UNITED STATES DAY|
|41.||NOVEMBER 11, 1918|
|42.||IN MEMORIAM||Alfred Tennyson|
|43.||THE UNITED STATES AT WAR—IN FRANCE||General John J. Pershing|
|44.||THE UNITED STATES AT WAR—AT HOME|
|45.||A CONGRESSIONAL MESSAGE||Woodrow Wilson|
|46.||PRESIDENT WILSON IN FRANCE|
|47.||SERGEANT YORK OF TENNESSEE|
The United States was slow to enter the war, because her people believed war an evil to be avoided at almost any cost except honor. In fact, "Peace at any price" seemed to be the motto of many Americans even after two years of the World War.
President Wilson declared in a speech at Philadelphia on May 10, 1915, that there is such a thing as being too proud to fight. He was severely criticized for his statement, and yet it is very true, and for more than a generation it had been taught to American boys and girls. Peace societies had sent lecturers to the public schools to point out the wickedness of war and the blessings of peace. Prizes had been offered to high school, normal school, and college students for the best essays on Peace, How to Maintain the Peace of the World, and other similar subjects. To get ready for war by enlarging the army and navy was declared to be the very best way to bring on war. School reading books made a feature of peace selections, and school histories were making as little of our national wars as possible. These teachings and the very air of the land of freedom made people too proud to fight, if there were any honorable way of avoiding it.
It is said that "People judge others by themselves." So Americans, being peaceful, contented, and not possessed with envy of their neighbors, supposed all other civilized people were like themselves. Therefore they could not at first believe that the Germans were different and looked upon war as a glorious thing, because through it they might get possession of the wealth and property of others. Perhaps the Germans, judging other people by themselves, believed that the French and Russians and English, like the Germans, stood ready to go to war whenever through it they might gain wealth and territory; but the Germans did not think this of the people of the United States. They thought that they were a nation of traders and money-getters in love with the Almighty Dollar. As events proved, this idea was a fatal mistake on the part of the Germans.
In entirely different ways, both Americans and Germans were taught that they were the people above all other peoples in the world. The German insolently sang "Germany above All" while the American good-naturedly boasted his land as the freest, the noblest and best, leading all the other countries and showing them the way to become greater and better. The American people, however, did not intend to force their beliefs upon other nations. But the Germans were led by the idea that German Kultur would be a blessing for all mankind and that it was their destiny to conquer and improve all other nations.
Thor stood at the northernmost point of the world.
His hammer flew from his hand.
"So far as my hammer this arm has hurled,
All mine are the sea and the land."
And forward flew the giant tool
Over the whole broad earth, to fall
At last in the southernmost pool
To prove that Thor's was all.
Since then 'tis the pleasant German way
By the hammer, lands to win,
And to claim for themselves world-wide sway,
As the Hammer-god's nearest kin.
But the American does not go this far. While he is inclined to believe himself and his country better than any other people or nation, yet he is content to let others live in their own way as long as they are honest and do not interfere with him and his business. He is, to be sure, desirous of improving them, but by peaceful means, by building dams and railroads for them, and by giving them schools and sending them missionaries.
It was difficult therefore for Americans to realize that the Germans really planned and desired the war in order that they might rule the world. It took months and even years of war for the majority of Americans to come to a full realization of this truth. This should be remembered when the question is asked, not why the United States entered the war, but why she did not enter it earlier.
Americans are honorable and look upon the breaking of a pledge or an agreement as a shameful thing. It was almost impossible for them to believe that a nation, far advanced in science and learning of all kinds, could look upon a treaty as a scrap of paper and consider its most solemn promises as not binding when it was to its advantage to break them. Americans in their homes, their churches, and their schools had been taught that "an honest man is the noblest work of God." They had heard the old saying that "All is fair in love and war"; but they could not think for a moment that a whole nation of men and women had been taught that lies and treachery and broken promises were fair because they helped the Fatherland work out its destiny and rule the world.
They knew that Chancellor Bismarck falsified a telegram to bring on the war with France in 1870, and they learned to their dismay that Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg in 1914 declared the treaty with Belgium only "a scrap of paper" when Germany wished to cross that country to strike France. Americans kept learning that Germany's promises to respect hospitals and hospital ships, stretcher-bearers and the Red Cross, not to interfere with non-combatants, not to use poison gas, not to bombard defenseless cities and towns were all "scraps of paper." They discovered even the naturalization papers which Germans in America took out in order to become American citizens were lies sworn to, for the German who declared his loyalty to his new mother country was still held by Germany as owing his first fealty and duty to her. It must be said, however, that many Germans who became naturalized in the United States did not agree with these secret orders of their Fatherland; but many others did, and the rulers of Germany encouraged such deception.
It was many months after the beginning of the World War before the large body of American citizens would believe that the German nation and the German people made a business of lies and deception, and considered such a business just and proper when in the service of the Fatherland. But when Germany—after having promised the United States on May 4, 1916, that merchant ships would not be sunk without warning or without giving the crews and passengers an opportunity for safety—on January 31, 1917, informed Washington that she was not going to keep her promise and told the German people that she had only made it in order to get time to build a great submarine fleet which would bring England to her knees in three months—then the American people saw Germany as she was and in her shame.
Of all the peoples of the earth, the Americans are probably the most sympathetic and helpful to the weak and the afflicted. They are the most merciful, striving to be kind not only to people but even to animals. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, another for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the numberless Bands of Mercy show the feeling of the people of America toward the helpless. Americans supposed that other people were like them in this respect. They knew of the German pensions to the widows and to the aged, and they supposed that the efficient and enlightened Germans were among the merciful and sympathetic to the weak and dependent. The people of the United States knew, of course, of the Zabern incident where two German soldiers held a crippled Alsatian cobbler while a German officer slashed his face with his sword for laughing at him,—they knew that the German army officers were haughty and overbearing, but they thought this came from their training and was not a part of the German character. Americans had read the Kaiser's directions to the German soldiers going to China during the Boxer uprising to "Show no mercy! Take no prisoners! Use such frightfulness that a Chinaman will never dare look at a German again. Make a name for yourselves as the Hun did long ago." But the Americans, or most of them, did not believe that in the twentieth century a nation classified among the civilized nations could or would adopt Frightfulness as a policy. But when they read of the devastation of Belgium and northern France; of the destruction of Louvain; of whole villages of innocent men, women, and children being wiped out; of the horrible crimes of the sinking of the Lusitania, the Falaba, and the Laconia; of the execution of Edith Cavell; of the carrying off into slavery, or worse than slavery, of the able-bodied women and men from the conquered territory—when Americans learned these horrors one after another, they at last were forced to acknowledge that, like the brutal Assyrian kings who sought to terrify their enemies into submission by standing as conquerors upon pyramids of the slain, the modern Huns sought mastery by Frightfulness.
When most Americans came to realize that Germany was fighting a war to conquer the world, first Russia and France, then England, and then the United States—for she had written Mexico that if she would attack the United States, Germany and Mexico would make war and peace together—when they came to know the German nature and the idea of the Germans, that Might makes Right and that truth, honesty, and square dealing like mercy, pity, and love are only words of weaklings; that they were a nation of liars and falsifiers and the most brutal of all people of recorded history; when, added to this, the Americans realized that for over two years France and England had really been fighting for everything for which the United States stood and which her people held dear, for her very life and liberty, then America almost as one man declared for war.
Meanwhile Germany had declined to recognize the laws of nations which allowed America to sell munitions to the Allies. She had scattered spies through the United States to destroy property and create labor troubles. She had challenged the right of peaceful Americans to travel on the high seas. She had sunk the Lusitania with a loss of one hundred twenty-four American lives; the Sussex, the Laconia with a loss of eight Americans, the Vigilancia with five, the City of Memphis, the Illinois, the Healdton, and others. She had tried to unite Mexico and Japan against us.
Not until then, after the American people had become fully aware of the German character and purposes, did Congress on April 6, 1917, declare a state of war existed between Germany and the United States. On that day the outcome of the war was decided. Through her hideous selfishness, her stupidity, and her brutality, Germany, after having spent nearly fifty years in preparation, lost her opportunity for world dominion. The resources and the fighting power of what she looked upon as a nation of cowardly, money-loving merchants decided the conflict.
We are coming from the ranch, from the city and the mine,
And the word has gone before us to the towns upon the Rhine;
As the rising of the tide
On the Old-World side,
We are coming to the battle, to the Line.
From the Valleys of Virginia, from the Rockies in the North,
We are coming by battalions, for the word was carried forth:
"We have put the pen away
And the sword is out today,
For the Lord has loosed the Vintages of Wrath."
We are singing in the ships as they carry us to fight,
As our fathers sang before us by the camp-fires' light;
In the wharf-light glare,
They can hear us Over There
When the ships come steaming through the night.
Right across the deep Atlantic where the Lusitania passed,
With the battle-flag of Yankee-land a-floating at the mast
We are coming all the while,
Over twenty hundred mile,
And we're staying to the finish, to the last.
We are many—we are one—and we're in it overhead,
We are coming as an Army that has seen its women dead,
And the old Rebel Yell
Will be loud above the shell
When we cross the top together, seeing red.
They knew they were fighting our war.
As the months grew to years
Their men and their women had watched
through their blood and their tears
For a sign that we knew, we who could not
have come to be free
Without France, long ago. And at last
from the threatening sea
The stars of our strength on the eyes
of their weariness rose;
And he stood among them,
the sorrow strong hero we chose
To carry our flag to the tomb
of that Frenchman whose name
A man of our country could once more
pronounce without shame.
What crown of rich words would he set
for all time on this day?
The past and the future were listening
what he would say—
Only this, from the white-flaming heart
of a passion austere,
Only this—ah, but France understood!
"Lafayette, we are here."
AMELIA JOSEPHINE BURR.
I am in the happy position of being, I think, the first British Minister of the Crown who, speaking on behalf of the people of this country, can salute the American Nation as comrades in arms. I am glad; I am proud. I am glad not merely because of the stupendous resources which this great nation will bring to the succor of the alliance, but I rejoice as a democrat that the advent of the United States into this war gives the final stamp and seal to the character of the conflict as a struggle against military autocracy throughout the world.
That was the note that ran through the great deliverance of President Wilson. The United States of America have the noble tradition, never broken, of having never engaged in war except for liberty. And this is the greatest struggle for liberty that they have ever embarked upon. I am not at all surprised, when one recalls the wars of the past, that America took its time to make up its mind about the character of this struggle. In Europe most of the great wars of the past were waged for dynastic aggrandizement and conquest. No wonder when this great war started that there were some elements of suspicion still lurking in the minds of the people of the United States of America. There were those who thought perhaps that kings were at their old tricks—and although they saw the gallant Republic of France fighting, they some of them perhaps regarded it as the poor victim of a conspiracy of monarchical swash-bucklers. The fact that the United States of America has made up its mind finally makes it abundantly clear to the world that this is no struggle of that character, but a great fight for human liberty.
They naturally did not know at first what we had endured in Europe for years from this military caste in Prussia. It never has reached the United States of America. Prussia was not a democracy. The Kaiser promises that it will be a democracy after the war. I think he is right. But Prussia not merely was not a democracy. Prussia was not a state; Prussia was an army. It had great industries that had been highly developed; a great educational system; it had its universities; it had developed its science.
All these were subordinate to the one great predominant purpose of all—a conquering army which was to intimidate the world. The army was the spearpoint of Prussia; the rest was merely the haft. That was what we had to deal with in these old countries. It got on the nerves of Europe. They knew what it all meant. It was an army that in recent times had waged three wars, all of conquest, and the unceasing tramp of its legions through the streets of Prussia, on the parade grounds of Prussia, had got into the Prussian head. The Kaiser, when he witnessed on a grand scale his reviews, got drunk with the sound of it. He delivered the law to the world as if Potsdam was another Sinai, and he was uttering the law from the thunder clouds.
But make no mistake. Europe was uneasy. Europe was half intimidated. Europe was anxious. Europe was apprehensive. We knew the whole time what it meant. What we did not know was the moment it would come.
This is the menace, this is the apprehension from which Europe has suffered for over fifty years. It paralyzed the beneficent activity of all states, which ought to be devoted to concentrating on the well-being of their peoples. They had to think about this menace, which was there constantly as a cloud ready to burst over the land. No one can tell except Frenchmen what they endured from this tyranny, patiently, gallantly, with dignity, till the hour of deliverance came. The best energies of military science had been devoted to defending itself against the impending blow. France was like a nation which put up its right arm to ward off a blow, and could not give the whole of her strength to the great things which she was capable of. That great, bold, imaginative, fertile mind, which would otherwise have been clearing new paths for progress, was paralyzed.
That is the state of things we had to encounter. The most characteristic of Prussian institutions is the Hindenburg line. What is the Hindenburg line? The Hindenburg line is a line drawn in the territories of other people, with a warning that the inhabitants of those territories shall not cross it at the peril of their lives. That line has been drawn in Europe for fifty years.
You recollect what happened some years ago in France, when the French Foreign Minister was practically driven out of office by Prussian interference. Why? What had he done? He had done nothing which a minister of an independent state had not the most absolute right to do. He had crossed the imaginary line drawn in French territory by Prussian despotism, and he had to leave. Europe, after enduring this for generations, made up its mind at last that the Hindenburg line must be drawn along the legitimate frontiers of Germany herself. There could be no other attitude than that for the emancipation of Europe and the world.
It was hard at first for the people of America quite to appreciate that Germany had not interfered to the same extent with their freedom, if at all. But at last they endured the same experience as Europe had been subjected to. Americans were told that they were not to be allowed to cross and recross the Atlantic except at their peril. American ships were sunk without warning. American citizens were drowned, hardly with an apology—in fact, as a matter of German right. At first America could hardly believe it. They could not think it possible that any sane people should behave in that manner. And they tolerated it once, and they tolerated it twice, until it became clear that the Germans really meant it. Then America acted, and acted promptly.
The Hindenburg line was drawn along the shores of America, and the Americans were told they must not cross it. America said, "What is this?" Germany said, "This is our line, beyond which you must not go," and America said, "The place for that line is not the Atlantic, but on the Rhine—and we mean to help you roll it up."
There are two great facts which clinch the argument that this is a great struggle for freedom. The first is the fact that America has come in. She would not have come in otherwise. When France in the eighteenth century sent her soldiers to America to fight for the freedom and independence of that land, France also was an autocracy in those days. But Frenchmen in America, once they were there, their aim was freedom, their atmosphere was freedom, their inspiration was freedom. They acquired a taste for freedom, and they took it home, and France became free. That is the story of Russia. Russia engaged in this great war for the freedom of Serbia, of Montenegro, of Bulgaria, and has fought for the freedom of Europe. They wanted to make their own country free, and they have done it. The Russian revolution is not merely the outcome of the struggle for freedom. It is a proof of the character of the struggle for liberty, and if the Russian people realize, as there is every evidence they are doing, that national discipline is not incompatible with national freedom—nay, that national discipline is essential to the security of national freedom—they will, indeed, become a free people.
I have been asking myself the question, Why did Germany, deliberately, in the third year of the war, provoke America to this declaration and to this action—deliberately, resolutely? It has been suggested that the reason was that there were certain elements in American life, and the Hohenzollerns were under the impression that they would make it impossible for the United States to declare war. That I can hardly believe. But the answer has been afforded by Marshal von Hindenburg himself, in the very remarkable interview which appeared in the press, I think, only this morning.
He depended clearly on one of two things. First, that the submarine campaign would have destroyed international shipping to such an extent that England would have been put out of business before America was ready. According to his computation, America cannot be ready for twelve months. He does not know America. Second, that when America is ready, at the end of twelve months, with her army, she will have no ships to transport that army to the field of battle. In von Hindenburg's words, "America carries no weight." I suppose he means she has no ships to carry weight. On that, undoubtedly, they are reckoning.
Well, it is not wise always to assume that even when the German General Staff, which has miscalculated so often, makes a calculation it has no ground for it. It therefore behooves the whole of the Allies, Great Britain and America in particular, to see that that reckoning of von Hindenburg is as false as the one he made about his famous line, which we have broken already.
The road to victory, the guarantee of victory, the absolute assurance of victory is to be found in one word—ships; and a second word—ships. And with that quickness of apprehension which characterizes your nation, I see that they fully realize that, and today I observe that they have already made arrangements to build one thousand 3000-tonners for the Atlantic. I think that the German military advisers must already begin to realize that this is another of the tragic miscalculations which are going to lead them to disaster and to ruin. But you will pardon me for emphasizing that. We are a slow people in these islands—slow and blundering—but we get there. You get there sooner, and that is why I am glad to see you in.
But may I say that we have been in this business for three years? We have, as we generally do, tried every blunder. In golfing phraseology, we have got into every bunker. But we have got a good niblick. We are right out on the course. But may I respectfully suggest that it is worth America's while to study our blunders, so as to begin just where we are now and not where we were three years ago? That is an advantage. In war, time has as tragic a significance as it has in sickness. A step which, taken today, may lead to assured victory, taken tomorrow may barely avert disaster. All the Allies have discovered that. It was a new country for us all. It was trackless, mapless. We had to go by instinct. But we found the way, and I am so glad that you are sending your great naval and military experts here just to exchange experiences with men who have been through all the dreary, anxious crises of the last three years.
America has helped us even to win the battle of Arras. The guns which destroyed the German trenches, shattered the barbed wire—I remember, with some friends of mine whom I see here, arranging to order the machines to make those guns from America. Not all of them—you got your share, but only a share, a glorious share. So that America has also had her training. She has been making guns, making ammunition, giving us machinery to prepare both; she has supplied us with steel, and she has all that organization, and all that wonderful facility, adaptability, and resourcefulness of the great people which inhabits that great continent. Ah! It was a bad day for military autocracy in Prussia when it challenged the great republic of the west. We know what America can do, and we also know that now she is in it she will do it. She will wage an effective and successful war.
There is something more important. She will insure a beneficent peace. To this I attach great importance. I am the last man to say that the succor which is given to us from America is not something in itself to rejoice in, and to rejoice in greatly. But I do not mind saying that I rejoice even more in the knowledge that America is going to win the right to be at the conference table when the terms of peace are being discussed. That conference will settle the destiny of nations—the course of human life—for God knows how many ages. It would have been tragic for mankind if America had not been there, and there with all the influence, all the power, and the right which she has now won by flinging herself into this great struggle.
I can see peace coming now—not a peace which will be the beginning of war, not a peace which will be an endless preparation for strife and bloodshed, but a real peace. The world is an old world. It has never had peace. It has been rocking and swaying like an ocean, and Europe—poor Europe!—has always lived under the menace of the sword. When this war began two-thirds of Europe were under autocratic rule. It is the other way about now, and democracy means peace. The democracy of France did not want war; the democracy of Italy hesitated long before they entered the war; the democracy of this country shrank from it—shrank and shuddered—and never would have entered the caldron had it not been for the invasion of Belgium. The democracies sought peace; strove for peace. If Prussia had been a democracy there would have been no war. Strange things have happened in this war. There are stranger things to come, and they are coming rapidly.
There are times in history when this world spins so leisurely along its destined course that it seems for centuries to be at a standstill; but there are also times when it rushes along at a giddy pace, covering the track of centuries in a year. Those are the times we are living in now. Today we are waging the most devastating war that the world has ever seen; tomorrow—perhaps not a distant tomorrow—war may be abolished forever from the category of human crimes. This may be something like the fierce outburst of winter, which we are now witnessing, before the complete triumph of the sun. It is written of those gallant men who won that victory on Monday—men from Canada, from Australia, and from this old country, which has proved that in spite of its age it is not decrepit—it is written of those gallant men that they attacked with the dawn—fit work for the dawn!—to drive out of forty miles of French soil those miscreants who had defiled it for three years. "They attacked with the dawn." Significant phrase!
The breaking up of the dark rule of the Turk, which for centuries has clouded the sunniest land in the world, the freeing of Russia from an oppression which has covered it like a shroud for so long, the great declaration of President Wilson coming with the might of the great nation which he represents into the struggle for liberty, are heralds of the dawn. "They attacked with the dawn," and these men are marching forward in the full radiance of that dawn, and soon Frenchmen and Americans, British, Italians, Russians, yea, and Serbians, Belgians, Montenegrins, will march into the full light of a perfect day.
During the trench warfare, it was customary to raid the enemy trenches at unexpected hours, sometimes during the night, often during "the sleepiest hour," just before the dawn. In such a raid made by the Germans in the early dawn of November 3, 1917, fell the first American soldiers to die in the World War.
The Germans began by shelling the barbed-wire barrier in front of the trenches where the Americans were stationed for a few days, taking their first lessons in trench warfare. A heavy artillery fire was then directed so as to cover the trenches and the country immediately back of them. This prevented reinforcements coming into the trenches. Following the barrage a large number of Huns broke through the barbed wire and jumped into the trenches.
The Americans did not fully understand the situation, for it was their first experience with a trench raid. A wounded private said, "I was standing in a communicating trench waiting for orders. I heard a noise back of me and looked around in time to see a German fire in my direction. I felt a bullet hit my arm."
Three Americans were killed. They were the first fighting under the American flag to fall in battle on the soil of Europe. They were—
Corporal James B. Gresham, Evansville, Indiana.
Private Merle D. Hay, Glidden, Iowa.
Private Thomas F. Enright, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
On November 6, three graves were dug. On one side of them stood a line of poilus in their uniforms of horizon blue and red, and on the other a line of American soldiers in khaki. The flag-covered caskets were lowered, as the bugler sounded "taps," and the batteries fired minute guns.
Then the French officer in command of the division, amid the broken roar of the minute guns and the whistle of shells, paid a tribute to the dead.
"In the name of this division, in the name of the French army, and in the name of France, I bid farewell to Corporal Gresham, Private Hay, and Private Enright of the American army.
"Of their own free will they left a happy, prosperous country to come over here. They knew war was here. They knew that the forces battling for honor, for justice, and for civilization were still being checked by the forces serving the powers of frightfulness, brute force, and barbarity. They knew that fighting was still necessary. Not forgetting historical memories, they wished to give us their brave hearts.
"They knew all the conditions, nothing had been hidden from them, not the length and hardship of the war, not the violence of battle, not the terrible destruction of the new weapons, not the falseness of the enemy. Nothing stopped them. They accepted the hard life, they crossed the ocean at great peril, they took their places at the front beside us; and now they have fallen in a desperate hand-to-hand fight. All honor to them.
"Men! These American graves, the first to be dug in the soil of France, and but a short distance from the enemy, are a symbol of the mighty land that has come to aid the Allies, ready to sacrifice as long as may be necessary until the final victory for the most noble of causes, the liberty of peoples and of nations, of the weak as well as the strong. For this reason the deaths of these humble soldiers take on an extraordinary grandeur.
"We shall ask that the mortal remains of these young men be left here, left with us forever. We will inscribe on the tombs, 'Here lie the first soldiers of the Republic of the United States to fall on the soil of France for liberty and justice.' The passer-by will stop and uncover his head. Travelers and men of feeling will go out of their way to come here to pay tribute.
"Corporal Gresham, Private Hay, Private Enright, in the name of France, I thank you. God receive your souls. Farewell."
As the French officer wished, there they remain. Soon a worthy monument will be erected upon the ground where they fought and now lie asleep in death. Americans of this generation and of generations to come will stand in future days with bared heads before that monument and pay tribute.
The boche was chiefly what his masters made him.
He was planned and turned out according to specifications. His leaders and his enemies always knew just what he would do under any given circumstances, and he himself always knew just what he would do. He would do what he was ordered to do, if he understood the order and had been taught how to execute it; otherwise he would do nothing but stare helplessly. He was a machine built to order, according to plans and specifications.
"In critical moments the boche waited for direction instead of relying on himself. He could not vary a hairbreadth from an order given, even when the variation would have brought success. He was part of a machine army, a cog in a mechanism which needed a push to make it move; his actions must be dictated or he could not act; his very thoughts were disciplined and uniformed."
To the boche there was no chivalry in war. He fought as the barbarians would have fought, if they had had all his knowledge and equipment, but were still uncivilized. Women and children never called forth his pity or his mercy. He would defile and destroy a church or a cathedral with greater pleasure than he would a peasant's hut.
To him there were no laws of war. War meant to fight, to conquer, to kill, to gain the end by any means whatever. Dropping bombs on defenseless women and children and on Red Cross hospitals; torpedoing merchant ships without warning and sending all the passengers, even neutrals or friends, to death, or worse, in open boats far from land; firing on stretcher-bearers and nurses; using poison gas and liquid fire; poisoning wells and spreading disease germs; all are forbidden to civilized races by the laws of war. The boche regularly perpetrated them all and committed other atrocities much worse. He hoped to frighten the world by his cruelty and brutality, by making every man, woman, and child among his enemies believe that each boche was an unconquerable giant possessed of a devil.
To the boche war was simply a robbery, and he was one of a robber band. On the land, he was a brigand, on the sea, a pirate. He went about his business with no more mercy and chivalry than a New York gunman or a Paris apache. To him war was a business, an unlawful business to be sure, but, he believed, a profitable one. He went at it, therefore, as he had at manufacturing and commerce in the days of peace. He sought to do bigger things than any one else and to gain an advantage by any means, fair or foul. Why should he think about being fair or humane? He was a thief, not a judge.
And yet let it be recorded that while nearly all boches acted like brutes instead of men, there were some who were different and who showed the highest type of courage and died bravely as soldiers may die.
The soldier of France, the poilu, is a crusader. He is fighting to defend France, his great mother, in whose defense, centuries ago, the invisible powers called and sustained Jeanne d'Arc. In his love of country there is something almost religious, like that of the Mohammedan for Mecca and Medina. To serve France, to fight for her, to die for her—and every French soldier expects to die in battle—is a privilege as well as a duty. He fights for his country as an Englishman fights for his home. With the Englishman, his home comes first and is nearest and dearest; with the Frenchman, his country.
Philip Gibbs, who has written from day to day, from the trenches and the battlefields, letters that will never be forgotten because of their beauty and truth, says of the French poilu:—
"Yet if the English reader imagines that because this thread of sentiment runs through the character of France there is a softness in the qualities of French soldiers, he does not know the truth. Those men whom I saw at the front and behind the fighting lines were as hard in moral and spiritual strength as in physical endurance. It was this very hardness which impressed me even in the beginning of the war, when I did not know the soldiers of France as well as I do now. After a few weeks in the field these men, who had been laborers and mechanics, clerks and journalists, artists and poets, shop assistants and railway porters, hotel waiters, and young aristocrats of Paris, were toned down to the quality of tempered steel. With not a spare ounce of flesh on them—the rations of the French army are not as rich as ours—and tested by long marches down dusty roads, by incessant fighting in retreat against overwhelming odds, by the moral torture of those rearguard actions, and by their first experience of indescribable horrors, among dead and dying comrades, they had a beauty of manhood which I found sublime. They were bronzed and dirty and hairy, but they had the look of knighthood, with a calm light shining in their eyes and with resolute lips. They had no gayety in those days, when France was in gravest peril, and they did not find any kind of fun in this war. Out of their baptism of fire they had come with scorched souls, knowing the murderous quality of the business to which they were apprenticed, but though they did not hide their loathing of it, nor the fears which had assailed them, nor their passionate anger against the people who had thrust this thing upon them, they showed no sign of weakness. They were willing to die for France, though they hated death, and in spite of the first great rush of the German legions, they had a fine intellectual contempt of that army, which seemed to me then unjustified, though they were right, as history now shows. Man against man, in courage and cunning they were better than the Germans, gun against gun they were better, in cavalry charge and in bayonet charge they were better, and in equal number irresistible."
John Masefield, the English writer, says, "St. George did not go out against the dragon like that divine calm youth in Carpaccio's picture, nor like that divine calm man in Donatello's statue. He went out, I think, after some taste of defeat knowing that it was going to be bad, and that the dragon would breathe fire, and that very likely his spear would break, and that he wouldn't see his children again, and people would call him a fool. He went out, I think, as the battalions of our men went out, a little trembling and a little sick and not knowing much about it, except that it had to be done, and then stood up to the dragon in the mud of that far land and waited for him to come on."
But as soon as the British Tommy had reached the dragon's lair, he became the British player in a great championship game of the nations. He was the British sportsman, hunting big game; for in matters of life or death, he is always the player or the sportsman. That it was a hideous dragon breathing out poison gas and fire and destroying Christian maidens, made the sport all the more interesting and worth while. Philip Gibbs says of the English Tommy:—
"They take great risks sometimes as a kind of sport, as Arctic explorers or big game hunters will face danger and endure great bodily suffering for their own sake. Those men are natural soldiers. There are some even who like war, though very few. But most of them would jeer at any kind of pity for them, because they do not pity themselves, except in most dreadful moments which they put away from their minds if they escape. They scorn pity, yet they hate worse still, with a most deadly hatred, all the talk about 'our cheerful men.' For they know that, however cheerful they may be, it is not because of a jolly life or lack of fear. They loathe shell-fire and machine-gun fire. They know what it is 'to have the wind up.' They have seen what a battlefield looks like before it has been cleared of its dead. It is not for non-combatants to call them 'cheerful'; because non-combatants do not understand and never will, not from now until the ending of the world. 'Not so much of your cheerfulness,' they say, and 'Cut it out about the brave boys in the trenches.' So it is difficult to describe them, or to give any idea of what goes on in their minds, for they belong to another world than the world of peace that we knew, and there is no code which can decipher their secret, nor any means of self-expression on their lips."
The Tommy dislikes to show emotion or to brag or to be praised when he is present. To outsiders and to soldiers of other nations sent to help him, he likes to make the duties and the dangers seem as disagreeable, as horrible, and as inevitable as he possibly can, but when he has discharged a particularly tiresome and obnoxious duty himself or has met without flinching a terrible danger, he declares his act was "nothing."
"The poilu and the Tommy are vastly different. The Frenchman works himself up into a fanatical state of enthusiasm, and in a wild burst of excitement dashes into the fray. The Englishman finishes his cigarette, exchanges a joke with his 'bunkie' and coolly goes 'over the top.' Both are wonderful fighters with the profoundest admiration for each other."
The Tommy wants his tea and the officers like to carry their canes and swagger sticks with them "over the top" into battle. A brave, unpretending man, who likes his own ways and wishes to be allowed to follow them and who is willing to fight and die that others also may be free—such is the English Tommy. With him it is all a part of the game, the game of war, and the greatest game of all, the game of life. He must play his part and play it well.
The boche went into the war as a robber, the poilu as a crusader determined to save the sacred and holy things of the world from desecration and destruction, the Tommy as a player in a great game, and the Yank as a policeman whose job it was to "clean up" the affair.
To the American soldiers, the Yanks, and to the American people, the war was a job, a most disagreeable one, but one that must be done. No one else was ready and able to do it; so they went at it smilingly and "jollied" every one with whom they came in contact.
French children were asked to write descriptions of the "Yanks" for a New York paper. They nearly all said that they were big and handsome and quick, that they always smiled and were always hungry, especially for chocolate and candy. The French noticed the everlasting smile of the Yank, for after three years of war and suffering the French, even the children, had ceased to smile. It is said the children had even forgotten how to play, but they responded to the love in the hearts of the Yanks, as did the German children when the American soldiers crossed the Rhine. To the Yanks there were no enemies among the children; they loved them, French or German.
The Yank did not smile because he failed to realize the seriousness of his job, but because with him the harder, the more dangerous, and the dirtier the job, the more must he smile and "jolly" about it.
"They had come to France to do a certain piece of work. It was a bloody, dusty, sweaty, unclean, disagreeable one, and they proposed to finish it.… We are a people given to discounting futures, and the average American soldier, to put it bluntly, discounted being killed in action. If our Allies, whose fortitude was sustained in a dark hour by the way that our men fought, could have probed what was in the mind of these Americans, they would have found still further reason for faith in our military strength." So declares Major Palmer of General Pershing's staff.
Raymond Fosdick says the character of the American soldier was shown when a Y.M.C.A. secretary asked a large body of Yanks to write on little slips of paper distributed to them what they thought were the three greatest sins in a soldier. When the papers were passed back and examined, it was found that they agreed unanimously upon the first sin. It was cowardice. And almost unanimously upon the second. It was selfishness. And the third was big-headedness.
The Yank is wonderfully free from the sins he hates. Dashing, fearless, willing to die rather than to surrender, unable, as General Bundy said, to understand an order to retreat, he is always a "jollier." It is said one platoon of Yanks went "over the top" wearing tall silk hats with grenades in one hand and carrying pink parasols in the other. This may be only a story of what the Yanks would have done if permitted, but it is true to their nature.
The Yanks have written the noblest chapter of American history. They have honored their fathers and mothers, their churches, the American public school, and the land of Washington and Lincoln. Those who sleep beneath foreign soil have not died in vain.
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, "Thou must,"
The youth replies, "I can."
There are songs of the north and songs of the south,
And songs of the east and west;
But the songs of the place where the four winds meet
Are the ones that we love the best.
"And where do the four winds meet?" you ask.
The answer is ready at hand—
"Wherever our dear ones chance to be
By air, or by sea, or land."
So the sailor, keeping his midnight watch
'Mid icicles, snow, and sleet,
Can think of a village near Portsmouth town
As the place where the four winds meet.
And mother, perhaps, and sweetheart true
Pray hard for the North Sea Fleet,
And harder still for the boy who's gone
To his place, where the four winds meet.
And the man on guard at the "firing-step,"
'Mid star-shells shimmering down,
Can think of his home—where the four winds meet
In some sheltered English town.
And thoughts may fly to the distant trench,
Whatever its name or "street,"
For "Somewhere in France" seems far less vague
If we add, "where the four winds meet."
And the pilot steers thro' the trackless waste
While the engines throb and beat,
Flouting surprise, with the army's eyes
High up where the four winds meet.
And to those who mourn comes a cheering cry,
Which the angels in heaven repeat,
"Grieve not, brave hearts; we await you here—
Here, where the four winds meet."
There are songs of the north and songs of the south,
The east and the west complete;
But here is a song of the place we love,
Which is called, "Where the four winds meet."
GEOFFREY DALRYMPLE NASH.
Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun,
We have fought in every clime or place
Where we could take a gun—
In the snow of far-off northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job—
The United States Marines.
"If the army or the navy ever gaze on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded by United States marines."
So sing the soldiers who go to sea, commonly called the marines. The Germans after the battles of Belleau Wood and Bouresches called them "devil hounds," and the French named them the "green devils."
An English rhymester wrote to his home paper,
"You must not call them Sammies,
You should not call them Yanks.
And if you call them 'doughboys'
Loud laughter splits their flanks.
You will not call them Buddies,
And when on Kultur's track,
You need not call them forward,
You cannot call them back."
They know too that whenever trouble arises in any part of the world, they are the first to be sent to protect American interests. It is said that many of them believe the chief reason why the United States has a navy is for the purpose of carrying the marines to the points where they are needed. They are aware of the fact that marines may be landed and such landing not be considered an act of war. Therefore they look upon their service as much more important than that of the soldier.
The marine has been everywhere man has gone by land or sea or air, as one of their poets wrote:
"From the hills of Montezuma
To the gates of old Peking
He has heard the shrapnel bursting,
He has heard the Mauser's ping.
He has known Alaskan waters
And the coral roads of Guam,
He has bowed to templed idols
And to sultans made salaam."
"I am more than a sailor, for although I belong to the navy I fight on the land. I am more than a soldier, for I do all that the soldier does and at the same time I belong to the navy and go to sea." Thus the marine proves to himself that he is "it," as the soldiers and sailors would say.
"The marines get aviation, searchlight, wireless telegraph, heliograph, and other drill. They plant mines, put up telegraph and telephone lines in the field, tear down or build up bridges, sling from a ship and set up or land guns as big as 5-inch for their advance base work.
"It is a belief with marines that the corps can do anything. Right in New York City is a marine printing plant with a battery of linotypes and a row of presses. They set their own type, write their own stuff (even to the poetry), draw their own sketches, do their own photography, their own color work—everything. Every man in that plant is a marine, enlisted or commissioned. Every one has seen service somewhere outside his country."
Such a feeling of superiority, however, would soon be laughed down if it were not based upon something more than talk. The marines know this and try in every way to show that they excel the other branches. They are extremely careful of their dress, and their personal appearance, and of their conduct whether on duty or off. They try to sustain the reputation of their branch in every little way as well as in every great one.
As an illustration of this, they are not satisfied with a commonplace mascot. Soldiers and sailors, and marines too, must have a mascot. A cat, a dog, a goat, a parrot, a monkey, a pig, a lion cub, or a bear are among the commonest and most popular of mascots. Therefore the marines would usually disdain any one of these. If any of them should happen to be accepted as a mascot, there would be some wonderful story to explain why it was the most remarkable monkey, goat, or lion cub that ever lived.
A large and hideous snake, a young kangaroo, or an anteater are mascots more to the liking of the marines. They must have something like themselves, exclusive and distinguished. The anteater that one body of marines adopted when they were landed at Vera Cruz proved a very interesting and original mascot, and also that anteaters were not always exactly as they are described in school textbooks, for this anteater disdained to eat ants and greedily devoured anything from the food of the marines that they would give him, or that he could steal—bread, meat, pie, doughnuts, or eggs.
A writer telling about this anteater mascot says he was taught several tricks, one of which was to put out with his forepaws every lighted cigarette dropped near him and then to tear it into little pieces. Heywood Broun, the writer, goes on to say, "The marine who dropped a hundred franc note by mistake just in front of Jimmy says that teaching tricks to anteaters is all foolishness."
And how do they sustain the reputation of their branch in the great things? Here is where soldier, sailor, or marine must prove his superiority, for excelling here means greater service to his country. It would be difficult indeed to give the palm to any branch of the service. They have all endured hardship and met wounds and death with equal gallantry, each striving to outdo the other in devotion and sacrifice.
Secretary Daniels has told the inspiring heroic story of the fighting of the eight thousand marines who in June, 1918, were thrown into the open gap between the advancing Germans and Paris.
Although they were without proper artillery support and too small in numbers for the task, General Pershing in those dark days offered their services to Marshal Foch, saying, "If you have no other troops to use and the gap must be closed and the Germans stopped, they will do it." And they did! But out of the eight thousand, four thousand were missing, wounded, or killed. Read Secretary Daniels' story of this fight, called the battle of Belleau Wood, and be proud that you are an American.
This efficient fighting, building, and landing force of the navy has won imperishable glory in the fulfillment of its latest duties upon the battlefields of France, where the marines, fighting for the time under General Pershing as a part of the victorious American army, have written a story of valor and sacrifice that will live in the brightest annals of the war. With heroism that nothing could daunt, the Marine Corps played a vital rôle in stemming the German rush on Paris, and in later days aided in the beginning of the great offensive, the freeing of Rheims, and participated in the hard fighting in Champagne, which had as its object the throwing back of the Prussian armies in the vicinity of Cambrai and St. Quentin.
With only 8000 men engaged in the fiercest battles, the Marine Corps casualties numbered 69 officers and 1531 enlisted men dead and 78 officers and 2435 enlisted men wounded seriously enough to be officially reported by cablegram, to which number should be added not a few whose wounds did not incapacitate them for further fighting. However, with a casualty list that numbers nearly half the original 8000 men who entered battle, the official reports account for only 57 United States marines who have been captured by the enemy. This includes those who were wounded far in advance of their lines and who fell into the hands of Germans while unable to resist.
Memorial Day shall henceforth have a greater, deeper significance for America, for it was on that day, May 30, 1918, that our country really received its first call to battle—the battle in which American troops had the honor of stopping the German drive on Paris, throwing back the Prussian hordes in attack after attack, and beginning the retreat which lasted until Imperial Germany was beaten to its knees and its emissaries appealing for an armistice under the flag of truce. And to the United States marines, fighting side by side with equally brave and equally courageous men in the American army, to that faithful sea and land force of the navy, fell the honor of taking over the lines where the blow of the Prussian would strike the hardest, the line that was nearest Paris, and where, should a breach occur, all would be lost.
The world knows today that the United States marines held that line; that they blocked the advance that was rolling on toward Paris at a rate of six or seven miles a day; that they met the attack in American fashion and with American heroism; that marines and soldiers of the American army threw back the crack guard divisions of Germany, broke their advance, and then, attacking, drove them back in the beginning of a retreat that was not to end until the "cease firing" signal sounded for the end of the world's greatest war.
It was on the evening of May 30, after a day dedicated to the memory of their comrades who had fallen in the training days and in the Verdun sector, that the 5th and 6th Regiments and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion, United States marines, each received the following orders:—
Advance information official received that this regiment will move at 10 P.M. 30 May by bus to new area. All trains shall be loaded at once and arrangements hastened. Wagons, when loaded, will move to Serans to form train.
All through the night there was fevered activity among the marines. Then, the next morning, the long trains of camions, busses, and trucks, each carrying its full complement of United States marines, went forward on a road which at one place wound within less than ten miles of Paris, toward Meaux and the fighting line.
Through the town of Meaux went the long line of camions and to the village of Montriel-aux-Lions, less than four miles from the rapidly advancing German line. On this trip the camions containing the Americans were the only traffic traveling in the direction of the Germans; everything else was going the other way—refugees, old men and women, small children, riding on every conceivable conveyance, many trudging along the side of the road driving a cow or calf before them, all of them covered with the white dust which the camion caravan was whirling up as it rolled along; along that road only one organization was advancing, the United States marines.
At last, their destination reached early on the morning of June 2, they disembarked, stiff and tired after a journey of more than seventy-two miles, but as they formed their lines and marched onward in the direction of the line they were to hold they were determined and cheerful. That evening the first field message from the Fourth Brigade to Major General Omar Bundy, commanding the 2d Division, went forward:—
Second Battalion, 6th Marines, in line from Le Thiolet through Clarembauts Woods to Triangle to Lucy. Instructed to hold line. First Battalion, 6th marines, going into line from Lucy through Hill 142. Third Battalion in support at La Voie du Châtel, which is also the post command of the 6th Marines. Sixth Machine Gun Battalion distributed at line.
Meanwhile the 5th Regiment was moving into line, machine guns were advancing, and the artillery taking its position. That night the men and officers of the marines slept in the open, many of them in a field that was green with unharvested wheat, awaiting the time when they should be summoned to battle. The next day at 5 o'clock, the afternoon of June 2, began the battle of Château-Thierry, with the Americans holding the line against the most vicious wedge of the German advance.
The advance of the Germans was across a wheat field, driving at Hill 165 and advancing in smooth columns. The United States marines, trained to keen observation upon the rifle range, nearly every one of them wearing a marksman's medal or better, that of the sharpshooter or expert rifleman, did not wait for those gray-clad hordes to advance nearer.
Calmly they set their sights and aimed with the same precision that they had shown upon the rifle ranges at Paris Island, Mare Island, and Quantico. Incessantly their rifles cracked, and with their fire came the support of the artillery. The machine-gun fire, incessant also, began to make its inroads upon the advancing forces. Closer and closer the shrapnel burst to its targets. Caught in a seething wave of machine-gun fire, of scattering shrapnel, of accurate rifle fire, the Germans found themselves in a position in which further advance could only mean absolute suicide. The lines hesitated. They stopped. They broke for cover, while the marines raked the woods and ravines in which they had taken refuge with machine gun and rifle to prevent them making another attempt to advance by infiltrating through.
Above, a French airplane was checking up on the artillery fire. Surprised by the fact that men should deliberately set their sights, adjust their range, and then fire deliberately at an advancing foe, each man picking his target, instead of firing merely in the direction of the enemy, the aviator signaled below "Bravo!" In the rear that word was echoed again and again. The German drive on Paris had been stopped.
For the next few days the fighting took on the character of pushing forth outposts and determining the strength of the enemy. Now, the fighting had changed. The Germans, mystified that they should have run against a stone wall of defense just when they believed that their advance would be easiest, had halted, amazed; then prepared to defend the positions they had won with all the stubbornness possible. In the black recesses of Belleau Wood the Germans had established nest after nest of machine guns. There in the jungle of matted underbrush, of vines, of heavy foliage, they had placed themselves in positions they believed impregnable. And this meant that unless they could be routed, unless they could be thrown back, the breaking of the attack of June 2 would mean nothing. There would come another drive and another. The battle of Château-Thierry was therefore not won and could not be won until Belleau Wood had been cleared of the enemy.
It was June 6 that the attack of the American troops began against that wood and its adjacent surroundings, with the wood itself and the towns of Torcy and Bouresches forming the objectives. At 5 o'clock the attack came, and there began the tremendous sacrifices which the Marine Corps gladly suffered that the German fighters might be thrown back.
The marines fought strictly according to American methods—a rush, a halt, a rush again, in four-wave formation, the rear waves taking over the work of those who had fallen before them, passing over the bodies of their dead comrades and plunging ahead, until they, too, should be torn to bits. But behind those waves were more waves and the attack went on.
"Men fell like flies"; the expression is that of an officer writing from the field. Companies that had entered the battle 250 strong dwindled to fifty and sixty, with a sergeant in command; but the attack did not falter. At 9:45 o'clock that night Bouresches was taken by Lieutenant James F. Robertson and twenty odd men of his platoon; these soon were joined by two reënforcing platoons. Then came the enemy counter-attacks, but the marines held.
In Belleau Wood the fighting had been literally from trees to tree, stronghold to stronghold; and it was a fight which must last for weeks before its accomplishment in victory. Belleau Wood was a jungle, its every rocky formation forming a German machine-gun nest, almost impossible to reach by artillery or grenade fire. There was only one way to wipe out these nests—by the bayonet. And by this method they were wiped out, for United States marines, bare chested, shouted their battle cry of "E-e-e-e-e y-a-a-h-h-h-yip!" charged straight into the murderous fire from those guns, and won!
Out of the number that charged, in more than one instance, only one would reach the stronghold. There, with his bayonet as his only weapon, he would either kill or capture the defenders of the nest, and then swinging the gun about in its position, turn it against the remaining German positions in the forest. Such was the character of the fighting in Belleau Wood, fighting which continued until July 6, when after a short relief the invincible Americans finally were taken back to the rest billet for recuperation.
In all the history of the Marine Corps there is no such battle as that one in Belleau Wood. Fighting day and night without relief, without sleep, often without water, and for days without hot rations, the marines met and defeated the best divisions that Germany could throw into the line.
The heroism and doggedness of that battle are unparalleled. Time after time officers seeing their lines cut to pieces, seeing their men so dog tired that they even fell asleep under shell fire, hearing their wounded calling for the water that they were unable to supply, seeing men fight on after they had been wounded and until they dropped unconscious; time after time officers seeing these things, believing that the very limit of human endurance had been reached, would send back messages to their post command that their men were exhausted. But in answer to this would come the word that the lines must hold, and, if possible, those lines must attack. And the lines obeyed. Without water, without food, without rest, they went forward—and forward every time to victory. Companies had been so torn and lacerated by losses that they were hardly platoons, but they held their lines and advanced them. In more than one case companies lost every officer, leaving a sergeant and sometimes a corporal to command, and the advance continued.
After thirteen days in this inferno of fire a captured German officer told with his dying breath of a fresh division of Germans that was about to be thrown into the battle to attempt to wrest from the marines that part of the wood they had gained. The marines, who for days had been fighting only on their sheer nerve, who had been worn out from nights of sleeplessness, from lack of rations, from terrific shell and machine-gun fire, straightened their lines and prepared for the attack. It came—as the dying German officer had predicted.
At 2 o'clock on the morning of June 13 it was launched by the Germans along the whole front. Without regard for men, the enemy hurled his forces against Bouresches and the Bois de Belleau, and sought to win back what had been taken from Germany by the Americans. The orders were that these positions must be taken at all costs; that the utmost losses in men must be endured that the Bois de Belleau and Bouresches might fall again into German hands. But the depleted lines of the marines held; the men who had fought on their nerve alone for days once more showed the mettle of which they were made. With their backs to the trees and bowlders of the Bois de Belleau, with their sole shelter the scattered ruins of Bouresches, the thinning lines of the marines repelled the attack and crashed back the new division which had sought to wrest the position from them.
And so it went. Day after day, night after night, while time after time messages like the following traveled to the post command:—
Losses heavy. Difficult to get runners through. Some have never returned. Morale excellent, but troops about all in. Men exhausted.
Exhausted, but holding on. And they continued to hold on in spite of every difficulty. Advancing their lines slowly day by day, the marines finally prepared their positions to such an extent that the last rush for the possession of the wood could be made. Then, on June 24, following a tremendous barrage, the struggle began.
The barrage literally tore the woods to pieces, but even its immensity could not wipe out all the nests that remained, the emplacements that were behind almost every clump of bushes, every jagged, rough group of bowlders. But those that remained were wiped out by the American method of the rush and the bayonet, and in the days that followed every foot of Belleau Wood was cleared of the enemy and held by the frayed lines of the Americans.
It was, therefore, with the feeling of work well done that the depleted lines of the marines were relieved in July, that they might be filled with replacements and made ready for the grand offensive in the vicinity of Soissons, July 18. And in recognition of their sacrifice and bravery this praise was forthcoming from the French:—
Army Headquarters, June 30, 1918.
In view of the brilliant conduct of the Fourth Brigade of the Second United States Division, which in a spirited fight took Bouresches and the important strong point of Bois de Belleau, stubbornly defended by a large enemy force, the General commanding the Sixth Army orders that henceforth, in all official papers, the Bois de Belleau shall be named "Bois de la Brigade de Marine."
DIVISION GENERAL DEGOUTTE,
Commanding Sixth Army.
On July 18 the marines were again called into action in the vicinity of Soissons, near Tigny and Vierzy. In the face of a murderous fire from concentrated machine guns, which contested every foot of their advance, the United States marines moved forward until the severity of their casualties necessitated that they dig in and hold the positions they had gained. Here, again, their valor called forth official praise.
Then came the battle for the St. Mihiel salient. On the night of Sept. 11 the 2d Division took over a line running from Remenauville to Limey, and on the night of Sept. 14 and the morning of Sept. 15 attacked, with two days' objectives ahead of them. Overcoming the enemy resistance, they romped through to the Rupt de Mad, a small river, crossed it on stone bridges, occupied Thiacourt, the first day's objective, scaled the heights just beyond it, pushed on to a line running from the Zammes-Joulney Ridges to the Binvaux Forest, and there rested, with the second day's objectives occupied by 2:50 o'clock of the first day. The casualties of the division were about 1000, of which 134 were killed. Of these, about half were marines. The captures in which the marines participated were 80 German officers, 3200 men, ninety-odd cannon, and vast stores.
But even further honors were to befall the fighting, landing, and building force, of which the navy is justly proud. In the early part of October it became necessary for the Allies to capture the bald, jagged ridge twenty miles due east of Rheims, known as Blanc Mont Ridge. Here the armies of Germany and the Allies had clashed more than once, and attempt after attempt had been made to wrest it from German hands. It was a keystone of the German defense, the fall of which would have a far-reaching effect upon the enemy armies. To the glory of the United States marines, let it be said, that they were again a part of that splendid 2d Division which swept forward in the attack which freed Blanc Mont Ridge from German hands, pushed its way down the slopes, and occupied the level ground just beyond, thus assuring a victory, the full import of which can best be judged by the order of General Lejeune, following the battle:—
France, Oct. 11, 1918.
Officers and Men of the 2d Division:—
It is beyond my power of expression to describe fitly my admiration for your heroism. You attacked magnificently and you seized Blanc Mont Ridge, the keystone of the arch constituting the enemy's main position. You advanced beyond the ridge, breaking the enemy's lines, and you held the ground gained with a tenacity which is unsurpassed in the annals of war.
As a direct result of your victory, the German armies east and west of Rheims are in full retreat, and by drawing on yourselves several German divisions from other parts of the front you greatly assisted the victorious advance of the Allied armies between Cambrai and St. Quentin.
Your heroism and the heroism of our comrades who died on the battlefield will live in history forever, and will be emulated by the young men of our country for generations to come.
To be able to say when this war is finished, "I belonged to the 2d Division; I fought with it at the battle of Blanc Mont Ridge," will be the highest honor that can come to any man.
JOHN A. LEJEUNE,
Major General, United States Marine Corps, Commanding.
Thus it is that the United States marines have fulfilled the glorious traditions of their corps in this their latest duty as the "soldiers who go to sea." Their sharpshooting—and in one regiment 93 per cent of the men wear the medal of a marksman, a sharpshooter, or an expert rifleman—has amazed soldiers of European armies, accustomed merely to shooting in the general direction of the enemy. Under the fiercest fire they have calmly adjusted their sights, aimed for their man, and killed him, and in bayonet attacks their advance on machine-gun nests has been irresistible.
In the official citation lists more than one American marine is credited with taking an enemy machine gun single handed, bayoneting its crew and then turning the gun against the foe. In one battle alone, that of Belleau Wood, the citation lists bear the names of fully 500 United States marines who so distinguished themselves in battle as to call forth the official commendation of their superior officers.
More than faithful in every emergency, accepting hardships with admirable morale, proud of the honor of taking their place as shock troops for the American legions, they have fulfilled every glorious tradition of their corps, and they have given to the world a list of heroes whose names will go down to all history.
These are soul-stirring days. To live through them is a glory and a solemn joy. The words of the poet resound in our hearts: "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world."
Events have shaped themselves in accordance with the eternal law. Once again the fundamental lesson of all history is borne in upon the world, that evil—though it may seem to triumph for a while—carries within it the seed of its own dissolution. Once again it is revealed to us that the God-inspired soul of man is unconquerable and that the power, however formidable, which challenges it is doomed to go down in defeat.
A righteous cause will not only stand unshaken through trials and discomfiture, but it will draw strength from the very setbacks which it may suffer. A wrongful cause can only stand as long as it is buoyed up by success.
The German people were sustained by a sheer obsession akin to the old-time belief in the potent spell of "the black arts" that their military masters were invulnerable and invincible, that by some power—good or evil, they did not care which—they had been made so, and that the world was bound to fall before them.
The nation was immensely strong only as long as that obsession remained unshaken. With its destruction by a series of defeats which were incapable of being explained as "strategic retreats," their morale crumbled and finally collapsed, because it was not sustained, as that of the Allies was sustained in the darkest days of the war, by the faith that they were fighting for all that men hold most sacred.
To those who were acquainted with German mentality and psychology, it had been manifest all along that when the end foreordained did come, it would come with catastrophic suddenness.
It is the general impression that the tide of victory set in with Marshal Foch's splendid movement against the German flank on July 18th. That movement, it is true, started the irresistible sweep of the wave which was destined to engulf and destroy the hideous power of Prussianism. But the tide which gathered and drove forward the waters out of which that wave arose, had turned before. It turned with and through the supreme valor of our marines and other American troops in the first battle at Château-Thierry and at Belleau Wood, in the first week of June.
The American force engaged was small, measured by the standard of numbers to which we have become accustomed in this war, but the story of their fighting will remain immortal and in its psychological and strategic consequences the action will take rank, I believe, among the decisive battles of the war.
I am not speaking from hearsay. I was in France during the week preceding that battle, the most anxious and gloomy period, probably, of the entire war. What I am about to relate is based either on authoritative information gathered on the spot, or on my own observations. In telling it, nothing is farther from my thoughts than to wish to take away one tittle from the immortal glory which belongs to the Allied armies, nor from the undying gratitude which we owe to the nations who for four heart-breaking years, with superb heroism, fought the battle of civilization—our battle from the very beginning, no less than theirs—and bore untold sacrifices with never faltering spirit.
On the 27th of last May the Germans broke through the French position at the Chemin des Dames, a position which had been considered by the Allies as almost impregnable. They overthrew the French as they had overthrown the British two months earlier. Day by day they came nearer to Paris, until only thirty-nine miles separated them from their goal. A few days more at the same rate of advance, and Paris was within range of the German guns of terrific destructive power. Paris, the nerve center of the French railroad system and the seat of many French war industries, not only, but the very heart of France, far more to the French people in its meaning and traditions than merely the capital of the country; Paris in imminent danger of ruthless bombardment like Rheims, in possible danger even of conquest by the brutal invader, drunk with lust and with victory! As one Frenchman expressed it to me: "We felt in our faces the very breath of the approaching beast."
And whilst the Hunnish hordes came nearer and nearer, and the very roar of the battle could be dimly and ominously heard from time to time in Paris, there were air raids over the city practically every night, and the shells from the long-range monster guns installed some sixty or seventy miles distant fell on its houses, places, and streets almost every day.
They were not afraid, these superb men and women of France. They do not know the meaning of fear in defense of their beloved soil and their sacred ideals. There was no outward manifestation even of excitement or apprehension. Calmly and resolutely they faced what destiny might bring. But there was deep gloom in their hearts and dire forebodings.
They had fought and dared and suffered and sacrificed for well-nigh four years. They had buried a million of their sons, brothers, and fathers. They were bleeding from a million wounds and more. They said: "We will fight on to our last drop of blood, but alas! our physical strength is ebbing. The enemy is more numerous by far than we. Where can we look for aid? The British have just suffered grave defeat. The Italians have their own soil to defend after the disaster of last autumn. Our troops are in retreat. The Americans are not ready and they are untried as yet in the fierce ordeal of modern warfare. The Germans know well that in three months or six months the Americans will be ready and strong in numbers. That is why they are throwing every ounce of their formidable power against us now. The Hun is at the gate now. Immeasurable consequences are at stake now. It is a question of days, not of weeks or months. Where can we look for aid now?"
And out of their nooks and corners and hiding places crawled forth the slimy brood of the Bolshevik-Socialists, of the Boloists, Caillauxists, and pacifists, and they hissed into the ears of the people, "Make peace! Victory has become impossible. Why go on shedding rivers of blood uselessly? The Germans will give you an honorable, even a generous peace. Save Paris! Make peace!"
The holy wrath of France crushed those serpents whenever their heads became visible. Clemenceau, the embodiment of the dauntless spirit of France, stood forth the very soul of patriotic ardor and indomitable courage. But the serpents were there, crawling hidden in the grass, ever hissing, "Make peace!"
And then, suddenly out of the gloom flashed the lightning of a new sword, sharp and mighty, a sword which had never been drawn except for freedom, a sword which had never known defeat—the sword of America!
A division of marines and other American troops were rushed to the front as a desperate measure to try and stop a gap where flesh and blood, even when animated by French heroism, seemed incapable of further resistance. They came in trucks, in cattle cars, by any conceivable kind of conveyance, crowded together like sardines. They had had little food, and less sleep, for days.
When they arrived, the situation had become such that the French command advised, indeed ordered, them to retire. But they and their brave general would not hear of it. They disembarked almost upon the field of battle and rushed forward, with little care for orthodox battle order, without awaiting the arrival of their artillery, which had been unable to keep up with their rapid passage to that front.
They stormed ahead, right through the midst of a retreating French division, yelling like wild Indians, ardent, young, irresistible in their fury of battle. Some of the Frenchmen called out a well-meant warning: "Don't go in this direction. There are the boches with machine guns." They shouted back:
"That's where we want to go. That's where we have come three thousand miles to go." And they did go, into the very teeth of the deadly machine guns. In defiance of all precedent they stormed, with rifle and bayonet in frontal attack, against massed machine guns.
They threw themselves upon the victory-flushed Huns to whom this unconventional kind of fierce onset came as a complete and disconcerting surprise. They fought like demons, with utterly reckless bravery. They paid the price, alas! in heavy losses, but for what they paid they took compensation in over-full measure.
They formed of themselves a spearhead at the point nearest Paris, against which the enemy's onslaught shattered itself and broke. They stopped the Hun, they beat him back, they broke the spell of his advance. They started victory on its march.
A new and unspent and mighty force had come into the fray. And the Hun knew it to his cost and the French knew it to their unbounded joy. The French turned. Side by side the Americans and the French stood, and on that part of the front the Germans never advanced another inch from that day. They held for a while, and then set in the beginning of the great defeat.
I was in Paris when the news of the American achievement reached the population. They knew full well what it meant. The danger was still present, but the crisis was over. The boche could not break through. He could and would be stopped and ultimately thrown back, out of France, out of Belgium, across the Rhine and beyond!
The aid for which the sorely beset people of France had been praying, had arrived. The Americans had come, young, strong, daring, eager to fight, capable of standing up against and stopping and beating back German shock troops specially selected and trained, and spurred on by the belief in their own irresistibility and the exhaustion of their opponents. The full wave of the hideous instruments of warfare which the devilish ingenuity of the Germans had invented, liquid fire, monstrous shells, various kinds of gases including the horrible mustard gas, had struck the Americans squarely and fully, and they had stood and fought on and won.
The French, so calm in their trials, so restrained in their own victories, gave full vent to their joy and enthusiasm at the splendid fighting and success of the Americans. The talk of them was everywhere in Paris. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers already in France, thousands coming upon every steamer, millions more to come if needed—and they had shown the great stuff they were made of! All gloom vanished, overnight. The full magnificence of the French fighting morale shone out again—both behind the lines and at the front. "Ils ne passeront pas!" "On les aura." 
And the Bolshevik-Socialists, Boloists, weak-kneed pacifists, and that whole noisome tribe slunk back into their holes and corners and hiding places, and never emerged again.
And, as the people of Paris and the poilus at the front correctly interpreted the meaning of that battle in those early days of June, so did the supreme military genius of Marshal Foch interpret it. He knew what the new great fighting force could do which had come under his orders, and he knew what he meant to do and could do with it. It is an eloquent fact that when six weeks later he struck his great master stroke which was to lead ultimately to the utter defeat and collapse of the enemy, American troops formed the larger portion of an attacking force which, being thrown against a particularly vital position, was meant to deal and did deal the most staggering blow to the enemy; and other American troops were allotted the place which from the paramount responsibility attaching to it, may be termed the place of honor, in the center of the line, in immediate defense of the approaches to Paris.
They made good there—officers and men alike. They made good everywhere, from Cantigny to Sedan. They made good on land, on the seas, and in the air; worthy comrades of the war-seasoned heroes of France and Great Britain, worthy defenders of American honor, eager artisans of American glory. When for the first time the American army went into action as a separate unit under the direct command of its great chief, General Pershing, Marshal Foch allotted them ten days for the accomplishment of the task set for them, i.e., the ejection of the German army from the strongly fortified St. Mihiel salient, which the enemy had held for four years. They did it in thirty hours, and made a complete and perfect job of it.
I have had the privilege of seeing these splendid boys of ours, in all situations and circumstances, from their camps in America to the front in France—the boys and their equally splendid leaders. The sacred inspiration of what I have thus seen will stay with me to my last day.
I confess I find it hard to speak of them without a catch in my throat and moisture in my eyes. I see them before me now in the fair land of France—brave, strong, ardent; keen and quick-witted; kindly and clean and modest and wholly free from boasting; good-humored and good-natured; willingly submissive to unaccustomed discipline; uncomplainingly enduring all manner of hardships and discomforts; utterly contemptuous of danger, daring to a fault, holding life cheap for the honor and glory of America. What true American can think of them or picture them without having his heart overflow with grateful and affectionate pride?
As I observed our army "over there," I felt that in them, in the mass of them, representing as they do all sections and callings of America, there had returned the ancient spirit of knighthood. I measure my words. I am not exaggerating. If I had to find one single word with which to characterize our boys, I should select the adjective "knightly."
A French officer who commanded a body of French troops, fighting fiercely and almost hopelessly in Belleau Wood near Château-Thierry (since then officially designated by the French Government as the Wood of the Marine Brigade), told me that when they had arrived almost at the point of total exhaustion, suddenly the Americans appeared rushing to the rescue. One of the American officers hurried up to him, saluted and said in execrably pronounced French just six words: "Vous—fatigués, vous—partir, notre job." "You—tired, you—get away, our job." And right nobly did they do their job!
 "They shall not pass!" "We will get them."
Almost every soldier who goes into battle leaves a letter to be read in the event of his death. Sturgis ("Spud") Pishon, a former famous college athlete, serving in the American air forces in Italy, before his fatal flight wrote this letter, so full of the strength and simplicity of a great soldier:
"What little I have to give to my country I give without reservation. If there ever was a righteous cause it is ours, and I am proud to have worked and died for it.
"Pray God this war will be over soon and that it will be the last war.
"I leave you with a smile on my lips and a heart full of love for you all. God bless you and keep you."
In the year 1500, Raphael was a boy of eighteen in Perugia working and studying with the master painter Perugino. Did the city itself, free on its hill top, looking afar over undulating mountains and great valleys, implant in the sensitive soul of Raphael a love of beauty and a vision that made him become one of the greatest painters of the world? Perugia can never be forgotten, for the boy Raphael once lived, worked, and studied there.
In the year 1915 Enzo Valentini was a boy of eighteen in Perugia. He was a high school boy and his father was mayor of the city. One of his teachers says he was an unusually brilliant scholar, with remarkable artistic gifts. Did the city and its beautiful surroundings open his soul to the vision of love and tenderness for his "little mother" and of the duty that called him while but a boy in the high school to serve and, if need be, die for his country?
When Italy entered the war, he gave up his studies, dropped his pen and his brushes, volunteered as a private, and was soon fighting with his countrymen in the Alps.
Certainly his soul was responsive to beauty in nature; for in the midst of war and war's alarms, he found peace of spirit in the wonderful Alpine country. He writes, "The longer I am here, the more I love the mountains. The spell they weave does not come so quickly as that of the sea, but I think it is deeper and more enduring. Every passing moment, every cloud, every morning mist clothes the mountains in a beauty so great that even the coarsest of our brave soldiers stop to admire it. It may be for only an instant but this is enough to prove that the soul never forgets its heavenly birth even though it be the soul of an uneducated peasant, imprisoned in the roughest shell. The days pass one after another calmly, serenely. It seems as if the autumn ought never to end. The divine and solemn peace of the nights is beyond the power of words to express, especially now that the moon is shedding its magic silver over all. There are hours in the day when everything is so filled and covered with light and when the silence is so impressive that at moments the light seems to be gone letting the silence blaze forth in the wonderful harmony of nature."
Enzo Valentini loved nature, loved his native land, and loved his mother. She understood him and knew that because of his love for her he was willing to die for Italy and the mothers of Italy. Shortly before his death he wrote her this beautiful letter:—
"Little mother, in a very few days I am leaving for the front lines. For your dear sake I am writing this farewell which you will read only if I am killed. Let it be my good-by to father, to my brothers, and to all those in the world who cared for me.
"My heart in its love and gratitude to you has always brought its holiest thoughts to you; and now it is to you that I make known my last wishes.
"Many have loved me. To each of them give some little thing of mine in remembrance of me, after you have laid aside all those that you care for most. I wish that all who have loved me should possess something of the friend that is gone to rise like a flame above the clouds, above the flesh, into the sun, into the very soul of the universe.
"Try, if you can, not to weep for me too much. Believe that even though I do not come back to you, I am not dead. My body, the less important part of me, suffers and dies; but not I myself—I, the soul, cannot die, because I come from God and must return to God. I was made for happiness and through suffering I must return to the everlasting happiness. If I have been for a short time a prisoner in the body, I am not the less eternal. My death is freedom, the beginning of the real life, the return to the Infinite.
"Therefore do not mourn for me. If you consider the immortal beauty of the ideals for which my soul is willingly sacrificing my body, you will not mourn. But if your mother heart must weep, let the tears flow; a mother's tears are forever sacred. God will take account of them; they will be the stars of a crown.
"Be strong, little mother. From the great beyond, your son says farewell to you, to father, to brothers, to all who have loved him—your son, who has given his body in the fight against those who would put out the light of the world."
So read the "little mother" of Enzo Valentini after the assault upon Sano di Mezzodi. When his platoon charged he was the first to dash from the trench giving courage to all who hesitated. Together they made the mountains ring with the old Italian war cry, "Savoia! Italia!"
Enzo Valentini fell pierced by five pieces of shrapnel. They carried him back to a grotto where the surgeons dressed his wounds.
A comrade says, "We laid him down on the litter in the grotto, among the great rocks, under the dark vault of the sky, his face upturned to the stars. He was exhausted, and asked for a drink, and fainted. Then they carried him to the hospital and I never saw him again. I have been told they carried him down Mount Mesola to the side of the little lake he loved so well, 'his little lake,' and that he sleeps there in death. But for his comrades he is still living in the glory of his youth, there on the Alps, waving his cap with an edelweiss in it, and crying, 'Savoia! Italia!'"
Wild wind! what do you bear—
A song of the men who fought and fell,
A tale of the strong to do and dare?
—Aye, and a tolling bell!
Italy, since 1860 at least, has cherished the dream that sometime all European territory with Italian-speaking inhabitants would be united under Italian government. When the World War began Italy was supposed to be an ally of Germany and Austria. She had agreed to fight with them in case they were attacked—in a defensive war.
At first she did not enter the World War. She perceived from the very beginning that Germany and Austria were the attackers and were not the nations attacked. Her people began to understand what victory for the Central Powers would mean and clamored for war on the side of the Allies. Then the cry went up to redeem the lost Italian provinces held by Austria and called "Italia Irredenta" or "Unredeemed Italy," and Italy entered the war May 23, 1915.
At first she declared war upon Austria but not upon Germany. She made no attempt to work in harmony with the Allies. It was a war of her own upon Austria to regain the lost Italian provinces of the Trentino and Trieste. Although she fought against tremendous obstacles in the mountain passes with wonderful courage and success, her entrance into the war was of assistance to the Allies only as it kept a certain number of Austrian soldiers from the eastern and western fronts.
In 1916, the Italians captured Gorizia and all Italy went wild and began to dream of a more wonderful development than had ever seemed possible before. In 1917, they fought on with seemingly great success and dreamed wilder dreams than ever, for Russia was out of the war and would have no claim to Constantinople and the straits. Italy in this year sent an army across the Adriatic into Albania to assure Italian control of that country.
And then the "castles in the air" were suddenly shattered. The Italian army had not been properly supplied and the country was very short of coal. The army had therefore not been able to follow up its successful attacks. The enemy had also caused great discontent among the common soldiers in the Italian forces by spreading lies among them. The collapse of the Russian armies had also made many of them believe Germany was unbeatable.
Then, too, it is said the Italian generals were too sure, "too confident," as athletic trainers would say, and had not properly protected their armies and their northern provinces against a reverse. Italy had declared war on Germany on August 27, 1916, and German shock troops set free by the downfall of Russia were sent against the incautious Italians and broke through their lines.
No prepared positions were ready back of the lines. The great bases were close up to the lines. Therefore when the Italian armies were obliged to retreat to prevent being surrounded and captured, they had to retreat so far that their army bases with all their supplies were lost and hundreds of thousands of Italian non-combatants were forced to leave their homes on scarcely a "moment's notice." 250,000 Italians and 2000 guns were captured by the enemy.
The greatest humiliation and the worst suffering followed, however, for the Italian people who were left behind in the provinces overrun by the victorious Austrians and Germans. The following proclamation by the Germans in the province of Udine is an excellent example of how the Huns treated conquered territory and conquered peoples.
PROCLAMATION issued by the Headquarters of the German Military Government at Udine to the inhabitants of conquered Italy.
A house-to-house search will be made for all concealed arms, weapons, and ammunition.
All victuals remaining in the houses must be delivered up.
Every citizen must obey our labor regulations.
ALL WORKMEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN OVER 15 YEARS OLD ARE obliged to work in the fields every day, Sundays included, from 4 A.M. to 8 P.M.
Disobedience will be punished in the following manner:—
(1) Lazy workmen will be accompanied to their work and watched by Germans. After the harvest they will be IMPRISONED for six months, and every third day will be given NOTHING BUT BREAD AND WATER.
(2) Lazy women will be obliged to work, and after the harvest receive SIX MONTHS' IMPRISONMENT.
(3) LAZY CHILDREN WILL BE PUNISHED BY BEATING.
The Commandant Reserves the Right to Punish Lazy Workmen with 20 Lashes Daily.
What a contrast to the proclamation of General Allenby when the English captured Jerusalem whereby the inhabitants were guaranteed protection in carrying on their business, and all homes and buildings were to be safeguarded. When following the armistice the American soldiers occupied German cities, the Germans were surprised to find that they were in no wise punished or prevented from going about their regular pursuits.
As a result of the World War, Italy recovered the unredeemed provinces, and just before the signing of the armistice, she redeemed herself in war by wiping out the memory of her humiliating defeat about a year earlier at Caporetto.
The Italian war office in its official report of this second battle of the Piave says in substance the following:—
"The war against Austria-Hungary which under the supreme direction of the king, the commander-in-chief of the Italian army, began May 24, 1915, and which since then, with inferior numbers and material, has been conducted with unflagging faith and constant valor for forty-one months has been won.
"The gigantic battle of October 24 is victoriously ended. Fifty-one Italian divisions, three British, two French, one Czechoslovak, and one American regiment fought against sixty-three Austro-Hungarian divisions.
"The Austro-Hungarian army is destroyed. It suffered very heavy losses in the fierce resistance of the first days of the battle, and in retreat it lost an immense quantity of material of all kinds, nearly all its stores and depots, and has left in our hands over 300,000 prisoners, with their commands complete, and not less than 5,000 guns.
"The defeat has left what was one of the most powerful armies in the world in disorder and without hope of returning along the valleys through which it advanced with proud assurance."
Church bells were rung all over Italy and parades and celebrations were held in all the large cities.
President Wilson sent on November 4 the following message to the King of Italy:—
May I not say how deeply and sincerely the people of the United States
rejoice that the soil of Italy is delivered from her enemies? In their
name I send your Majesty and the great Italian people the most
During the war, Italy called to the colors from a male population of only 17,000,000 nearly 5,500,000 men and suffered a loss of almost 1,000,000 of them. It is estimated that the nation's man power suffered a permanent loss of over half a million.
But serious as is this loss, Italy inflicted an even greater punishment upon the foe. In Austrian prisoners alone she captured over a million. The Austrian loss in killed and wounded was doubtless far greater than Italy's.
Over 2500 miles of roads were constructed on the mountains of Italy and Albania, and 1000 miles of aërial cable railroads were built to carry food, ammunition, and guns over deep ravines.
Italy's fighters and industrial workers accomplished their work with an inadequate supply of materials and food that meant real and continuous suffering such as probably was felt by no other of the warring peoples.
We will never bring disgrace to this, our city, by any act of
dishonesty or cowardice, nor ever desert our suffering comrades in the
ranks. We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city,
both alone and with many; we will revere and obey the city's laws and
do our best to incite a like respect and reverence in those above us
who are prone to annul or to set them at naught; we will strive
unceasingly to quicken the public's sense of civic duty. Thus in all
these ways we will transmit this city not only not less but greater,
better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.
The Oath of the Athenian Youth.
(This poem was written for an entertainment given by the Y.M.C.A. at an aviation barracks in a large camp in France. Mrs. Wilcox addressed five hundred aviators, and these verses were recited with great effect by Mrs. May Randall. After the entertainment there was a rush to obtain autographed copies of the poem.)
You may thrill with the speed of your thoroughbred steed,
You may laugh with delight as you ride the ocean,
You may rush afar in your touring car,
Leaping, sweeping by things that are creeping—
But you never will know the joy of motion
Till you rise up over the earth some day
And soar like an eagle, away—away.
High and higher, above each spire,
Till lost to sight is the tallest steeple,
With the winds you chase in a valiant race,
Looping, swooping, where mountains are grouping,
Hailing them comrades, in place of people.
Oh, vast is the rapture the bird man knows
As into the ether he mounts and goes.
He is over the sphere of human fear;
He has come into touch with things supernal.
At each man's gate death stands await;
And dying flying were better than lying
In sick beds crying for life eternal.
Better to fly halfway to God
Than to burrow too long like a worm in the sod.
ELLA WHEELER WILCOX.
In America, and in many other countries, people have listened with wonder and enjoyment to strangely beautiful music played by, probably the greatest of all pianists of today, Ignace Jan Paderewski. For years he has traveled from country to country and from city to city, playing the piano in a manner no other has been able to imitate, although Chopin's playing, it is said, had much the same effect upon the audiences. In Paderewski's playing as in his composition there is always an undercurrent deeply sad and weird. No one but a genius from the martyred land of Poland, or from some other that had equally suffered, could play as Chopin and Paderewski played or could compose music such as they composed. All the old glory of Poland in the ancient centuries, her grievous losses, the terrible wrongs done her, and the long-treasured dreams of a new and happier day for her people, live in the soul of Paderewski, and vibrate through his very finger tips as they move over the keys of his loved instrument.
Today the dreams of the Polish people are coming true. Hopes cherished since about the twelfth century are through the World War being realized in a new Poland.
The tenth century saw the formation of the first kingdom of Poland in central Europe to the east of the Germans. The country grew and prospered for two hundred years. Then, lacking kingly leadership, it became weak, and was finally divided into many principalities. At that time came the terrible Tartar invasion across Russia and into Poland, resulting in shocking desolation and ruin.
When complete destruction was threatened from hostile peoples, on the north and east, the Poles summoned aid from the Teutonic Knights, a German crusading order.
The Germans drove out the hostile neighbors, promptly taking control of their lands. Then Poland learned that she had even worse enemies to fear in those she had called to help her. She watched them build up military power to conquer her own lands. But by joining with the Lithuanians, she managed at length to defeat the Germans at the famous battle of Tannenberg in 1410.
For over three hundred years the kingdom possessed great power. But at last it again began to weaken, and the year 1772 "saw the beginning of the end." The three great nations, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, then joined against Poland and began to divide the kingdom among themselves. By 1795 Poland had ceased to exist as a nation.
The terrible misfortunes of the Polish people under these hostile foreign powers served really to bind them together with one common purpose—to win back the kingdom and to reëstablish a free country. This was their dream.
When the World War came, the Polish people in many lands, especially in the United States, volunteered for service on the French front. On June 22, 1918, the first division of Polish troops in France was presented with flags at a solemn ceremony, and listened to an address by the French president. Soon large numbers of Poles were fighting the Austrians and Germans in Italy and in Russia, although they knew that capture meant court-martial and death, since Austria and Germany considered them deserters, as they indeed were. The supreme commander of Polish forces, General Josef Haller, had been a colonel in the Austrian army. But he decided to desert the Austrian army to lead an "Iron Brigade" of Poles against the enemies of freedom.
Eighty-eight officers and twenty-six privates in his regiment were captured by the Austrians, court-martialed, and sentenced to death. When offered pardon by the Emperor Karl, they refused, saying, "We are soldiers of the Polish Nation. The Austrian government has no right to grant us pardon even as it has no more right to inflict punishment upon us than upon the soldiers of France and England."
Facing death, these men wrote to the Polish Parliamentary Club in Vienna, their reasons for desertion,—namely, the unfair treatment at the hands of the Austrians and their love for Poland. They had heard a rumor that the Polish organization was about to secure a more liberal sentence for them by agreeing to the cession of certain provinces of Poland. So the prisoners further wrote:—
"We value greatly the love of our countrymen and we were touched deeply by the generosity with which they thought of us, but we desire to protest most energetically against relief and concessions secured for us to the detriment of our country and the ancient rights of our nation.
"Do not permit our personal lot to weaken the united Polish front, for the death penalty can affect us only physically. The sufferings undergone by our grandfathers and fathers, we will continue to endure and with the sincere conviction that we are serving a free, united, and independent Poland."
A few days after they were condemned, the Polish National Committee sent a message to Italy declaring that representatives from all classes of the Polish people had met at Warsaw and proclaimed the union of all Poland.
Italy, France, and Great Britain formally recognized the Polish national army as independent and Allied, and on November 4, 1918, Secretary Lansing, in a letter, to a representative of the Polish National Committee, stated that the United States Government also wished to recognize officially the independence of the Polish army as a part of the Allied forces.
The people of the United States with those of other countries are hoping that Paderewski's great national family shall become united in one free and independent state. They now applaud this master of music as the first leader of free Poland. He will help destroy Bolshevism with its cry, "Death to the educated," which has resulted already in the death of hundreds of doctors, professors, engineers, and in one case, the extermination of all the pupils in a single high school. He will join the other great leaders in their belief that "Economic development, patriotism, and the ennobling of all human souls alone can lead to freedom."
To the south of Poland in the very heart of Europe is another new country, which already has set up a democratic government and elected as its president,—Thomas G. Masaryk, a former professor in the University of Prague, now the capital of Czecho-Slovakia.
Professor Masaryk spent some time in the United States conferring with officials at Washington. He was here when he received word that he had been elected first president of his newly formed country by a convention held in Geneva, Switzerland.
Great preparations for his return were made by the people. When at one o'clock on December 22, the booming of cannon told that the president's train was drawing in at the station, the hundred thousand people who had poured into the city of Prague were massed on every side to welcome him and sang, as only the Slavs can sing, their national song.
Soon President Masaryk's train, with its engine elaborately decorated, steamed in through the silent crowd. In complete silence, Masaryk, gray-haired and distinguished appearing, left the train and entered the station. There he saw groups of Czecho-Slovaks in French uniforms, some wearing the war cross, and groups who had been fighting in the Italian Alps. He saw also a group of university professors who had come to honor him.
In the tense silence, one of the leaders of the new republic came forward. He had for years conspired and worked with Masaryk for the freedom of their country, and now he greeted him by throwing his arms about him. After a further greeting from the government officials, and from the nation's aged and honored poet, Masaryk gave a brief speech telling of his hopes for the republic. He then passed out to the crowd who hailed him in a tumult of joy. One who witnessed Masaryk's return pictures the scenes on the way to the government buildings.
"There began a triumphal procession which took two hours to arrive at the Parliament house. Every window, every balcony and every roof was filled to overflowing, and every street lined on either side, twenty deep. All this multitude, most of whom had been standing for hours, had such joy written on their faces as has never before been seen and cannot possibly be described. Elders were holding children on their shoulders, all eyes were full of tears, all eyes smiling. The people kissed the flags of the Allies as they would kiss their babies.
"Since the proclamation, all the young ladies of Prague have taken to the fashion of peasant costumes, and several members of Parliament wore the old national dress. Searchlights playing on the spires and steeples of this most beautiful Slav city now again touch the great castle, henceforth the seat of government, where hundreds of windows are ablaze with lights, the first rejoicing it has known for three hundred years."
For three hundred years the peasants of Bohemia together with Slovakia which, with some smaller provinces, is now called Czecho-Slovakia, had tried every means to free themselves from Austria. On the north and west were the Germans and on the south the Austrians, both enemies, seeking only to get what they could for themselves out of the little country.
In their Declaration of Independence, given in Paris, October 18, 1918, the people have told the story of their past, as well as their purposes for the future.
"We make this declaration on the basis of our historic and natural right. We have been an independent State since the seventh century, and in 1526, as an independent State, consisting of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, we joined with Austria and Hungary in a defensive union against the Turkish danger. We have never voluntarily surrendered our rights as an independent State in this confederation. The Hapsburgs broke their compact with our nation by illegally transgressing our rights and violating the Constitution of our State, which they had pledged themselves to uphold, and we therefore refuse longer to remain a part of Austria-Hungary in any form.
"We claim the right of Bohemia to be reunited with her Slovak brethren of Slovakia, once a part of our national State, later torn from our national body, and fifty years ago incorporated in the Hungarian State of the Magyars, who, by their unspeakable violence and ruthless oppression of their subject races have lost all moral and human right to rule anybody but themselves.
"The world knows the history of our struggle against the Hapsburg oppression. The world knows the justice of our claims, which the Hapsburgs themselves dared not deny. Francis Joseph in the most solemn manner repeatedly recognized the sovereign rights of our nation. The Germans and Magyars opposed this recognition, and Austria-Hungary, bowing before the Pan-Germans, became a colony of Germany, and, as her vanguard, to the East, provoked the last Balkan conflict, as well as the present world war, which was begun by the Hapsburgs alone without the consent of the representatives of the people.
"We cannot and will not continue to live under the direct or indirect rule of the violators of Belgium, France, and Serbia, and would-be murderers of Russia and Rumania, the murderers of tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers of our blood, and the accomplices in numberless unspeakable crimes committed in this war against humanity by the two degenerate and irresponsible dynasties. We will not remain a part of a State which has no justification for existence.
"We refuse to recognize the divine right of kings. Our nation elected the Hapsburgs to the throne of Bohemia of its own free will, and by the same right deposes them. We hereby declare the Hapsburg dynasty unworthy of leading our nation, and deny all of their claims to rule in the Czecho-Slovak land, which we here and now declare shall henceforth be a free and independent people and nation.
"We accept and shall adhere to the ideals of modern democracy, as they have been the ideals of our nation for centuries. We accept the American principles as laid down by President Wilson; the principles of liberated mankind—of the actual equality of nations—and of Governments deriving all their just power from the consent of the governed. We, the nation of Comenius, cannot but accept these principles expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, the principles of Lincoln, and of the declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen. For these principles our nation shed its blood in the memorable Hussite Wars, 500 years ago; and for these same principles, beside her Allies, our nation is shedding its blood today in Russia, Italy, and France."
It is said that the Czech soldiers fighting on the French front received the news of the declaration with wild enthusiasm, rushed forward, and wrested from the enemy one of the most difficult positions on the Aisne.
The Czechs were also fighting in Italy, and in Russia, although they had been first forced into the Austrian army. One Czech battalion commanded by Austrians and ordered against the Russians, rushed forward, but killed their officers on the way and surrendered in a body to the Russians, asking to fight with them against the Austro-Germans. If the Russian soldiers had held together and followed the invincible Czechs, Germany would have been driven completely out of Russia.
But the Czechs did not deceive the Austrians. Their hopes and plans were not secret. They openly warned Austria of their desertion. They wrote in chalk on the outside of the cars: "With us the Monarchy will not win."
Upon seeing this declaration, it is reported, the German and Austrian officers ordered the trainload of men to stand in line, and then shot every tenth man.
But the rest went on, through terrible and thrilling experiences, fighting and dying by the hundreds for the sake of the new republic which at last was born.
The story of the passage through Russia and Siberia of the Czecho-Slovak troops, who were fighting with Russia against Austria and Germany, is one of the most remarkable and exciting stories of history. These troops probably saved Siberia for the Allies and were at last able to join in the fighting on the western front.
Still another new nation now called Jugo-Slavia, although it may finally be called Serbia or some other name, has risen south of Austria-Hungary and east of the Adriatic Sea. It lies across from Italy and is nearly the same size as the mainland of that country. Its story, too, is one of conquest by northern enemies, followed by the crushing out of all freedom. But since the beginning of the World War, the people of Jugo-Slavia, on July 20, 1917, have set up a new republic based upon the ideas of justice and democracy, united under one flag, and granting its three different races equal rights and privileges.
Across the sea, in Arabia, the country of Hedjaz has been freed from Germany's allies, the Turks. The people of Hedjaz also once enjoyed freedom and glory, their power in early history reaching all the way from France to China. Backed by the British in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Arabs revolted from the Turks, drove them out of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and at length broke their power completely. Mohammedans have always recognized the Mohammedan ruler who controlled Mecca and Medina, the birthplace and the burial place of the prophet, as their Kalif. If this custom is followed, the King of Hedjaz becomes the Kalif in place of the Sultan of Turkey.
Hedjaz has already arisen from the ruins of the Turks as an independent and separate state. Armenia, it is to be hoped, will do the same.
Each country needs only the will and the declaration of the people for freedom in order to secure the sympathy, aid, and recognition of the victorious Allied nations and the United States. As soon as they declare their independence and choose their own government, the greater nations at once rush to their relief. This was shown especially in the case of Finland.
For centuries Finland's fate was uncertain, resting now in the hands of Sweden, now in the power of Russia, and last, and worst of all, in the hands of Germany. But the people rose united, expelled their new rulers, who had been sent to them by the Germans, and declared their independence.
At once the United States and the Allies, with Food Administrator Hoover, planned a gigantic program for relief, which for Finland alone provided 14,000 tons of food. They further promised aid to all Russian provinces as fast as they should drive out the Bolsheviki, or at least deprive them of power. This meant a shipment in three months of 200,000 tons of food, clothing, agricultural supplies, and railroad equipment.
The world expects Russia to regain her equilibrium and reach the greatest heights of power ever known in her history. Her possessions will not be as large as they were before the World War, because of the loss of Finland, and of provinces in the west and south which are likely to become independent states.
In America the boys and girls scarcely realize what the blessings of freedom mean, as the children of the new countries do. But that America is indeed blessed with liberty and happiness is shown by the closeness with which the new nations have followed her as a pattern. Their appreciation of this country was clearly expressed in the Czecho-Slovak Declaration of Independence, and again when President Masaryk at the Hague, on December 30, 1918, spoke as follows:—
"Komensky's historic prayer has literally been fulfilled and our people, free and independent, advances, respected and supported by universal sympathy, into the community of European nations. Are we living in a fairy tale? Politicians of all countries are asking this. I put the same question to myself and yet it is all an actual reality.
"When the German victories seemed about to realize the Pan-German plan of the subjection of the whole of the Old World, America stepped out of its reserve, replaced weary and betrayed Russia and within a short time Marshal Foch dictated terms to beaten Germany and Austria-Hungary.
"President Wilson formulated the leading principle of democracy which is contained in the American Declaration of Independence, where, as in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, revolution triumphed and established that all political power comes from the people. And as Lincoln said, is of the people, by the people, and for the people.
"President Wilson proclaimed as the object of the war the liberation of all mankind. We Czechs and Slovaks could not stand aside in this world war. We were obliged to decide against Austria-Hungary and Germany for our whole history led us to democratic powers.
"In May of last year I was obliged to go to Russia whence in the beginning of March I went to Japan and from Japan to the United States,—a remarkable and unexpected journey round the world,—verily a propaganda journey, winning the whole world for our national cause.
"After seven months I returned nominated by our government as the first president of the Czecho-Slovak republic. I know not whom I ought to thank first. It is natural that the recognition by England and the United States, the greatest Allied Powers, has helped us greatly. The United States guaranteed from their wealth abundant help, and we have from them a definite promise for the future. President Wilson himself has devoted sincere attention to our question and we are obliged to him and the Allied Powers. They can always count on us.
"The real object of the war and peace is the reorganization of eastern Europe and the solution of the eastern question. The war was a culmination of many struggles to solve the eastern question in the broad sense of the word. German pressure eastwards was directed against a zone of small nations between Germany and Russia, beginning with the Finns and going as far down as Greece, making a series of eighteen small nations. German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian imperialism suffered shipwreck. The small nations are freed. The war's negative task is fulfilled. The positive task awaits—to organize east Europe and this with mankind in general. We stand on the threshold of a new time when all mankind feels in unity. Our people will contribute with full consciousness its part in the realization of this great and lofty task."
And for your country, boy, and for that flag, never dream a dream but
of serving her as she bids you, though the service carry you through a
thousand hells. No matter what happens to you, no matter who flatters
you or who abuses you, never look to another flag, never let a night
pass but you pray God to bless that flag. Remember, boy, that behind
all these men you have to do with, behind officers, and government, and
people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you
belong to Her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by Her, boy, as
you would stand by your mother.
EDWARD EVERETT HALE.
Very remarkable in the world struggle for liberty was the eagerness of the Allied soldiers to fight and to make the supreme sacrifice if necessary. The Americans, especially, brought cheer and courage to the tired French, Belgian, Italian, and British hearts, so daring and high spirited were they when going into battle. With a smile, a shout, or a song, they went over the top to meet the Huns, ready for anything except to be taken prisoners into Germany.
This was the one possibility dreaded by the soldiers all along the front. They knew that the Huns were not a pleasant company to meet; that they sang only when ordered to do so, and sang only what they were ordered to sing; that they laughed most and shouted loudest when cruelly torturing innocent, unprotected, and unarmed people. What life must be in a German prison at the mercy of German soldiers, they dared hardly imagine.
It is not strange therefore that our men wished rather to die than to be prisoners. Nor is it strange that, having been taken, they made the most desperate attempts to escape.
Naturally the easiest time to break away was while being carried from the front to the rear of the German lines. Once thrown into prison, the difficulties were much greater.
Often the captive was handed back from one company of guards to another, being made to work for the enemy on his way. Private Donahue was one who was sent back in this manner, after being captured in a midnight skirmish near Château-Thierry.
He was dropped unconscious on the ground outside a German officer's tent, and when he revived he found that all his belongings,—even letters and snapshots from home,—had been taken from him. A German stood over him and began questioning him, hoping to gather important military information.
When asked how many Americans were at the front, the prisoner said, "Thirty-two American divisions and forty French."
"Pigs!" shouted the German lieutenant, and the cry was caught up by the guards, who came at a signal and dragged Donahue away.
From early morning until nightfall, he worked with the camouflage men, masking the batteries and cutting leafy branches for screening the stores of ammunition heaped by the roadside.
The Germans gave him no blankets at night, and for food poured out for him a sort of tasteless gruel and tossed him chunks of coarse black bread to eat with it. Every day a different soldier took him in charge. Each night he was closely guarded. He knew from the distant sounds of the guns that he was being taken back into Germany.
On the seventh night, he lay on the ground with Germans sleeping all about him. His guard sat beside him, leaning against a tree, his rifle between his knees. Private Donahue wished that he were back in the American lines, when suddenly in the moonlight he could see the guard's head nodding and nodding. Now was his time to escape.
He stole away and began creeping through the woods. There were Germans lying all around and he stumbled over several of them. But they only grunted savagely, and he crept fearfully on.
Soon he reached the edge of the woods and crawled under a bush to think.
Above No Man's Land an occasional shell was bursting, by whose light he could dimly see the American lines, eight kilometers away. He crept along in the shadows, lying still whenever a soldier passed near him. When morning came, he crawled into a grain field and lay down so that no one might see him. Several times soldiers passed so close to him that he could hear them talking. Once he was nearly trampled under the hoofs of two horses, and twice a Red Cross dog threatened to disclose his presence in the field. But he lay still as death and the dog went off.
That night he was creeping up the side of a ravine when he was discovered by the sentry.
"Halt!" cried the guard.
Private Donahue had been fearing that he would hear that word. But now he recognized it as spoken by an American voice.
"I am an American!" he cried joyfully, springing to his feet.
Soon he was sleeping inside his own lines, under two old potato sacks. At dawn he ate a good breakfast at the field kitchen, then reported at headquarters.
He had kept his eyes open during his seven days' journey through the German lines, and had some important information to give at French headquarters.
But many times the captives had no opportunity to escape before they were locked in the prison camp somewhere in Germany. Then it demanded every bit of Yankee ingenuity to get away.
One of the most elaborate attempts, involving the escape of a great number of men, is told in the following story.
There were seventy Americans among the prisoners in a German camp at Villingen in Baden. Not all had arrived at the same time. Some were newcomers, others unfortunately had been detained there for more than a year.
The prison consisted of a barracks for the men, surrounded by a large stretch of land, all inclosed with two rows of high wire fencing, completely charged with electricity. The second fence, which was six or eight feet away from the first, was very strong and bent inward toward the top, so that if a prisoner by any possible means succeeded in getting over the inner fence, he surely could not climb the outer. Moreover, guards were kept on watch between the fences, and outside, sentinels were stationed about thirty yards apart. It seemed impossible for the prisoners to get away by daylight, and at night the barracks with their iron-barred windows were closely guarded.
The treatment of the prisoners, especially of those who had made any attempts to escape, was shameful and often cruel. The food, in general, consisted of sour black bread, soup made largely from tree leaves, and some sort of drink made from acorns and called coffee. Needless to say, the prisoners were half starved. Indeed, two American girls who were in Berne, Switzerland, working among the released prisoners, in a letter to America showed in what an awful condition they found some of the men. Their letter read:—
"We have gone to the station three times at four o'clock in the morning to help feed the English soldiers who were on their way home after being exchanged for German prisoners. We had the privilege of giving some of them the first white bread they had had in four years. The men who had been kept working behind the lines were in a pitiable condition. One such man happened to be at my table,—for they are taken off the train for two hours, given hot tea and roast beef and ham sandwiches,—and the poor fellow began taking sandwiches, eating a few bites, and stowing the rest feverishly away in his pocket. He couldn't realize that he was in a place where he would be fed."
All of the seventy Americans at Villingen wished themselves anywhere outside the prison camp, and most of all back on the firing line, helping to win.
So much did they wish this that a few more daring than the rest had twice attempted to escape together. Their attempts had ended in failure, but that had only led them to spend months in making still more elaborate plans to gain their freedom.
Not all could leave the camp, they knew. Many did not care to risk it, while thirty of the seventy Americans were doctors and thought they ought to stay and do what they could for their weak and sickly fellow prisoners. But in the final plan, sixteen men were to try this break for liberty.
One of the men was Lieutenant Harold Willis of Boston, an aviator in the famous Lafayette Escadrille. He had been captured after a battle in the air. Not even fourteen months in a German prison could kill the daring spirit of this young lieutenant. Instead, the cruel treatment of the prisoners, the daily contact with the stupid German guards, made him long once more to cut through the clouds and bring down another boche. Accordingly, he became a leader in carrying out the plans for escape.
Lieutenant Edward V. Isaacs, of Cresco, Iowa, an officer in the United States Navy, was another leader. He was crossing the Atlantic in the big American transport, President Lincoln, when it was torpedoed by the submarine U-90, on May 31, 1918. He went down with the ship, but came to the surface again and crawled up on a raft where he stayed until one of the lifeboats came by and the men took him off. But the boat had gone but a short distance, when the guilty submarine pushed its nose up through the surface of the water near by. Its commander ordered the lifeboat to draw near and the helpless oarsmen had to obey. When asked the whereabouts of the captain of the vessel, the men in the lifeboat answered that, as far as any of them knew, he had gone down with the ship.
Then the commander, probably noticing his uniform, singled out Lieutenant Isaacs, demanded that he come on board the submarine, and informed him that if he did not find the captain, he would take him instead to Germany.
Two days later, the U-boat carrying this American officer was sighted by two American destroyers. Immediately the destroyers made for the submarine and tried to sink it.
The U-boat quickly submerged and floated far below the surface while the destroyers circled about for several hours dropping many depth bombs, five of which exploded not three hundred yards from the submarine. So great was the shock of these explosions that, in telling of his experiences afterward, Isaacs said it seemed as if the ocean shook the boat much as a dog shakes a rat.
During this time not a word was spoken except by the watch officers, who were at their posts like the rest of the crew, and reported to the commander the directions in which the bombs were falling, thus enabling him to move the boat about in a safe course. The bombing continued until nightfall. Then the commander thought he was safe. But the next day, another American warship appeared, and the U-90 made for its home port as fast as possible.
Lieutenant Isaacs, more fortunate than many U-boat prisoners, was treated well by the officers and crew. He messed with the officers and heard them most of the time discussing why the United States entered the war. They told Isaacs that the only possible reason was that the United States had loaned so much money to the Allies that she was obliged to enter the war to make sure of being repaid.
But Isaacs had no intention of remaining in the U-boat. As it entered neutral waters about four miles off the Danish coast, it began running along above the surface.
Isaacs secretly left his room, hurried to the deck, and was just about to dive over into the water, hoping to swim ashore, when Captain Remy, the commander, caught hold of him. He had suspected Isaacs and had followed him from below. "Stupid fool," he exclaimed as he drew him away from the side of the boat and ordered him below.
On landing at Wilhelmshaven, Isaacs was questioned by German intelligence officers, and then sent to Karlsruhe where he was again examined with the hope that he would give out information which would be valuable to the Germans. Here with several other prisoners, he was held for three days in a "listening hotel" where dictographs had been strung about the room. The German officers hoped that, left without guards in the room, the prisoners would talk over military matters, not knowing that the dictographs were there to record all that was said and thus reveal all to the Germans. But the prisoners expected some trick, discovered the dictographs, and pulled out the wires so that they would not work.
Isaacs remained in Karlsruhe for some time, then was placed on a train with several officers and started for the prison camp at Villingen in Baden. At Karlsruhe he had been shamefully treated and he determined he should never arrive in Baden.
On the train he was put in the charge of two guards and so closely was he watched that he despaired of having any chance to escape. But within five miles of his destination, he noticed that one guard became drowsy, while the other had his attention on the passing landscape.
Then it was, with the train running forty miles an hour, that he jumped to his feet and dived through the little car window. He landed on his head and knees on the opposite track. Although badly stunned, he struggled to his feet and began to run. By this time the train had been stopped and the guards were pursuing, firing as they came on. Isaacs went some distance but could hardly run for he had badly injured his knees. A bullet whistled by his ear and he dropped and let the guard come up to him.
Mad with rage the German kicked him, and beat him with his gun until he broke it. The rest of the guards soon came up. Then they made Isaacs walk the five miles into Baden, beating him now and then on the way.
On reaching the camp he was first taken to the officers' quarters and threatened with death if he tried again to escape. After being plastered with paper bandages he was put into solitary confinement for three weeks. So poor was the prison food that had it not been for the nourishment furnished by the American Red Cross, Isaacs never would have recovered.
He had been threatened with death if he tried again to escape, but he began at once to make plans and would have gained his liberty much sooner than he did, had not the Russian prisoner attendants each time betrayed his plans before he could try them. And now he and Lieutenant Willis with fourteen other men decided to try again for freedom.
The prisoners were sometimes permitted to take walks with the guards about the country. In this way the men who were to escape were able to learn about the roads and the best hiding places. They managed to secure maps and compasses by bribing some of the Russian attendants.
But these would only be of help when once outside the camp, and how to get out was a serious question. Some believed that the best way was to get past the guards through the big gate. To climb over the two wire fences, so heavily charged with electricity, seemed entirely impossible.
But Isaacs discovered a way across that barbed wire.
He had seen two of the prisoners marking out the whitewashed lines on the tennis court where the German officers played each day. The lines were made by the use of two narrow wooden boards, eighteen feet long, fastened together by crosspieces, allowing a small space of about two inches between. While the boards seemed very light, they were so fastened together that they were really quite strong. They could be made even stronger by nailing on more cross-pieces. Then they would form a sort of bridge over which the men could crawl from the barracks' windows to the outer fence, where they could drop to the ground and run from the sentinels.
For months the men gathered their necessary materials together. Many of the prisoners, who were not to try to escape, were let into the secret and helped as much as they could. They drew the screws out of the doors and windows, and brought strips of wood from broken provision boxes with which to finish making the bridges.
Best of all they secured three pairs of wire cutters, one from a Russian prisoner, and a second from a Russian attendant. The third pair was made by one of the prisoners.
This secret collection was a constant source of danger, as the prisoners were searched nearly every day. It is said that one prisoner was given solitary confinement because a map was found sewn in the seat of his trousers. Therefore, much of the work, such as bringing the boards into the barracks and nailing the bridges together, was left until the last. A month before they were to escape, they were suspected and the guard was doubled. Still they worked on and hoped on.
Their plans were nearly completed when it was suddenly announced that the camp at Villingen would be used in the future as a prison for Americans only. All other nationalities would be transferred at once to some other camp. This, the prisoners knew, would mean first a thorough searching of every corner and crevice in camp. Thus it seemed necessary to break away at once before this careful inspection should be made, or they probably could not escape at all that winter.
For two days they worked steadily and carefully. Night was their best time to escape, but somehow the electric lighting system, as well as the electric current in the wire fences, must be shut off. To do this, it was necessary to find strips of wire for making short-circuiting chains. A few of these strips they cut from the fencing back of the tennis courts. Most of them, however, were taken from the steep prison roof where they were used to hold the slate tiles in place. Nearly all of these wires were drawn out, so that if a whirlwind had suddenly swept across the country, that roof would have been scattered in every direction.
All this had to be done very quietly. One or two would work at it while others attracted the attention of the Germans by creating some excitement in distant corners of the camp.
The night before the camp was to be inspected, the break was made. The sixteen men were divided into four groups of four each, one in each group acting as a leader.
The first group, with Lieutenant Isaacs leading, was to get over the two fences from the windows by crossing on the bridges. The second group, led by Lieutenant Willis, was to cut its way through the wire fences. The third had ready some ladders made of strong rope, by which they hoped to climb over the fences. The last group intended to rush out with the guards when they ran through the gates to catch those who were jumping from the bridges.
At 10:30 that night, a signal was given and everything followed like clockwork. One of the prisoners short-circuited the wires, shutting off the electric lighting system and the current in the wire fences. There was no moon, and the camp was left in utter darkness.
At first the guards did not suspect anything, thinking the affair just an accident.
But immediately Isaacs began cutting away the bars at the window. When this was done, the prisoners helped him and his companions to throw over their bridges. The first man got out upon this flimsy bridge and when he was half way over, the inner end of the board was pushed out farther and farther until it touched the outer fence. Reaching the end, the man sprang to the ground, the inner part of the bridge was drawn back in by the prisoners at the window, and another man crawled out. This was continued until the four men had gone. It had been decided that the lightest man in the company would try getting over the bridge first, and Lieutenant Isaacs being the lightest led his group across.
When he dropped to the ground, he landed on his hands and knees not six feet from two German sentries, both of whom fired but did not even touch him. Without waiting for the others he ran into the woods to a spot two miles from camp which he and Lieutenant Willis had chosen for a meeting place, if they should get away safely.
Unprepared, as always if taken by surprise, the Germans when they realized the meaning of the disturbance rushed wildly about, one officer shooting frantically straight up into the air.
Willis had started cutting a way through the wires; but when his group was fired upon, they decided to change their plans and dash through the gate with the last group as best they could. Willis knew that in the darkness he might easily pass for one of the guards, so carefully had he disguised himself. He wore an old raincoat, decorated with German insignia and numerals, and a large belt-buckle, all cut out of a tin can. He carried a dummy wooden gun, bundles of food, maps, and a compass; and he wore a German cap.
He expected that the gates would be opened at once, but they remained locked while the patrol went into the guardhouse to report. But as they marched back again, the gates were thrown open and Willis and the other men dashed out.
They sped past the camp toward the dense forest. Willis darted off across the fields to a steep hill up which he ran, the guards firing continually at him.
As he reached the summit, he turned into the forest and hastened in the direction he had agreed upon with Isaacs. He soon met him, and together they started off toward the southwest, guided by the compass they had brought with them. They did not see any of the other men, with the exception of one whom Isaacs had heard puffing and grunting past him as they ran from camp. In the darkness he had not been able to recognize him.
That night they traveled about twenty-five miles. Hidden in the brush, they slept by day and traveled on again at night. It was a perilous trip through the forest, lasting eight days. Often they could only push their way backwards for long distances, through the terrible thickets. It rained and they were cold and wet. But on the eighth day they found themselves on the top of a dizzy precipice just above the Rhine. There they lay hidden until nightfall, although they were in constant danger of being discovered by German sentinels and townspeople who passed near them. When darkness came, they crawled about for two hours, seeking to find a trail that would lead them down to the river. If only they could cross the river, they were sure of safety. But wherever there was a possible way of reaching the river, there was a German sentry. Once Willis kneeled on a dry twig which snapped. In a trice a German sentinel flashed a bright pocket searchlight—but in the opposite direction.
The hearts of the two men sank in fear lest having nearly gained their freedom they should again be captured. Then they decided that they must creep down by one of the little tributaries flowing into the Rhine. So they stepped into the little stream and crawled down it, feeling for loose stones that might rattle and attract the attention of the sentry.
After several hours they reached the water's edge, about two o'clock in the morning.
The water was freezing cold, as the streams flowing into the river come from the mountains where snow and ice are found nearly the year around. As they stood knee-deep in the water and looked across to the other shore, they doubted whether they could swim the long distance. Here the Rhine is about seven hundred feet wide. Moreover, there are many whirlpools in the river and the current itself is very swift. The men besides were tired and weak from lack of food. But they could not think of turning back, and there was no other way of getting across. So they removed their shoes and outer garments.
Isaacs stood talking softly with Willis, when suddenly there was no answer to one of his questions. He moved toward the spot where Willis had been standing, but his feet went from under him and he was carried by the current out into the river. Then he knew that the same thing must have happened to Willis, and that he had not called to him for fear of being heard by the sentry.
If the water was cold near the shore, it was colder in the river itself. The men had to fight hard against the current.
When about halfway across, Isaacs was caught in a whirlpool which spun him round and round until it left him nearly exhausted. Just as he was thinking that he would have to give up, he made one last mighty effort and reached the shore.
When he could gather himself up he discovered that he had landed on the Swiss shore, near Basel. Soon he found a family willing to get up in the middle of the night to give him food and a warm bed. One of the men started out to find Willis, but met a messenger who had been sent by Willis to find Isaacs. The messenger said that Willis had succeeded in reaching the Swiss shore, although some distance from the spot where Isaacs landed. The next day the men went on and finally walked into the French lines.
They received a welcome that would warm the coldest heart, and learned that another aviator, Lieutenant George Puryear, who was also one of the men to make the break with them from the prison camp, had arrived before them.
They told of the awful conditions in the German camps, of how the officers themselves did not seem to favor Prussia, and of many serious strikes which had occurred in that country, about which the Allies knew nothing.
Isaacs had been treated so badly and was so exhausted that he was soon sent to London to rest, and later to his home in the United States where he landed on the day before the armistice was signed,—the first U-boat prisoner to escape.
Willis was anxious to get into actual service again and make up for lost time, although he was joyfully informed that peace at last seemed near. He was obliged to wait in Paris until certain formalities were attended to, before he could fight once more. He then went to the front to study the latest improvements that had been made in airplanes during his absence, in order to take his place again in the fighting which, however, was drawing rapidly to a close.
On slight pretext, Germany in 1864 and in 1866 had made wars against Denmark and Austria that might easily have been avoided.
France took notice of the warlike ambitions of her neighbor and began to prepare for the war that she knew would soon come between her and Germany. The French emperor probably also desired this war, but the French people did not and France was not ready for it.
The Prussian chancellor, Bismarck, was a man of "iron and blood," for only by these two forces did he believe the Germans could advance.
In 1870, the Spanish Liberals expelled Queen Isabella II and offered the crown of Spain to a Hohenzollern prince. The offer was declined, but after Bismarck saw to what its acceptance might lead, he succeeded in having it renewed. Then the Emperor Napoleon informed King William that he would regard its acceptance as a sufficient ground for war against Germany. The Hohenzollern prince, however, rejected the offer and the matter might have ended here, had not Napoleon directed the French ambassador to secure from King William a promise never to permit a Hohenzollern prince to accept the Spanish crown.
King William who was at Ems refused to do this and declined to give the French ambassador another interview as he was leaving Ems that night. He telegraphed an account of the affair to Bismarck who realized that here was his chance to bring on the war he desired. He changed the wording of King William's telegram in such a way that when it was given out the next day, it gave the impression to Germans that their king had been insulted by the French ambassador and to Frenchmen that their ambassador had been insulted by the king of Prussia.
"There is little doubt," writes a German historian, "that, had this telegram been worded differently, the Franco-German struggle might have been avoided."
French pride would not now allow France to withdraw her request, and the war that Bismarck desired became certain—a war caused by a scrap of paper on which were written German lies signed by German leaders. After reading this story of the falsity of the greatest of all Prussian statesmen, Bismarck, it does not seem strange that another scrap of paper on which the Prussian government had written lies brought England into the World War and assured the defeat of Germany.
Poorly prepared, France could not stand long against the Prussian war machine. After a sharp conflict lasting about six months, the French National Assembly at Bordeaux was forced to ratify the unfair treaty which required her to pay a great indemnity in money and to give up the coveted provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, with the exception of Belfort. The beautiful country which had been the home of Jeanne d'Arc, the sacred heroine of France, was to be given over to rough and haughty bands of soldiers such as she had given her life to expel from her beloved France. But France had to choose between losing a small portion of the country, or meeting with complete destruction in war against greatly superior forces who had already destroyed the French military power.
One morning in that fateful year of 1871, a notice was posted in the towns and villages of Alsace and Lorraine telling the people that the next day these provinces would pass from French into German hands. In anticipation of this, petitions from these provinces had continually been sent both to France and Germany declaring deep loyalty only to France. For the last forty-eight years these glowing words have been true.
"France cannot consent to it. Europe cannot sanction it. We call upon the Governments and Nations of the whole World to witness in advance that we hold null and void all acts and treaties … which so consent to the abandoning to the foreigner all or any part of our Provinces of Alsace and Lorraine."
And their plea, drawn up and signed by the fifteen representatives to the Reichstag, is still kept at Metz. Some one has well said that it is "one of the scraps of paper against which the strength of the German Empire has been broken."
The Germans after hearing innumerable petitions became exasperated. They imprisoned many of the inhabitants, censored the press, and established such a strict system of passports that "a veritable Chinese wall was raised around the annexed country."
And more than this, although the Germans may not always have realized that they were doing so, they humiliated the people by degrading things looked upon by them as holy. For instance, the Kaiser had a statue of himself, upturned moustache and all, placed upon the cathedral of Metz. He wore a Biblical cowl and was pointing impressively to a parchment scroll. He was supposed to represent the prophet Daniel. This statue was found headless in December, 1918.
Despite the petitions, for all those years the policy of the government never varied. The chancellor, Bismarck, replied every time that Alsace-Lorraine was not annexed for the sake of the people. They could move to some section still under French control. The provinces were taken from France only to further the interest of the German Empire. "If this were a permanent peace," he said, "we would not have done it. So long as France possesses Strassburg and Metz her strategical position is stronger offensively than ours is defensively." There was going to be another war and Germany needed these provinces for military advantage!
But the German government did realize more and more how bitterly opposed to the annexation were these unfortunate people, and decided to crush out everything French in Alsace-Lorraine. The people were forbidden to write or speak the French language; even the signboards at the street crossings were changed to German. How the children spent the last day that French could be taught in the schools is told by a little Alsatian boy.
That morning I was very late for school, and was terribly afraid of being scolded, for M. Hamel, the schoolmaster, had said he intended to examine us on the participles, and I knew not a word about them. The thought came into my head that I would skip the class altogether, and so off I went across the fields.
The weather was so hot and clear!
One could hear the blackbirds whistling on the edge of the wood; in Ripperts' meadow, behind the sawyard, the Prussian soldiers were drilling. All this attracted me much more than the rules about participles; but I had the strength to resist and so I turned and ran quickly back towards the school.
In passing before the town hall, I saw that a number of people were stopping before the little grating where notices are posted up. For two years past it was there we learned all the bad news, the battles lost, and the orders of the commandant; so I thought to myself without stopping: "What can it be now?" Then, as I was running across the square, the blacksmith, Wachter, who was there with his apprentice, just going to read the notice, cried out to me:—
"Don't be in such a hurry, little fellow, you will be quite early enough for your school."
I thought he was making fun of me, and I was quite out of breath when I entered M. Hamel's little courtyard.
Generally, at the beginning of the class, there was a great uproar which one could hear in the street; desks opened and shut, lessons studied aloud all together, with hands over ears to learn better, and the big ruler of the master tapping on the table: "More silence there."
I had counted on all this commotion to gain my desk unobserved; but precisely that day all was quiet as a Sunday morning. Through the open window I could see my schoolmates already in their places, and M. Hamel, who was walking up and down with the terrible ruler under his arm. I had to open the door and enter in the midst of this complete silence. You can fancy how red I turned and how frightened I was.
But no, M. Hamel looked at me without any anger, and said very gently:—
"Take your place quickly, my little Franz, we were just going to begin without you."
I climbed up on the bench and sat down at once at my desk.
Only then, a little recovered from my fright, I noticed that our master had on his new green overcoat, his fine plaited frill, and the embroidered black skull-cap which he put on for the inspection days or the prize distributions. Besides, all the class wore a curious solemn look. But what surprised me most of all was to see at the end of the room, on the seats which were usually empty, a number of the village elders seated and silent like the rest of us; old Hansor with his cocked hat, the former mayor, the old postman, and a lot of other people. Everybody looked melancholy; and Hansor had brought an old spelling book, ragged at the edges, which he held wide open on his knees, with his big spectacles laid across the pages.
While I was wondering over all this, M. Hamel had placed himself in his chair, and with the same grave, soft voice in which he had spoken to me, he addressed us:—
"My children, it is the last time that I shall hold class for you. The order is come from Berlin that only German is to be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine from now on. The new master arrives tomorrow. Today is your last lesson in French. I ask you to be very attentive."
These words quite upset me. Ah, the wretches! this then was what they had posted up at the town hall.
My last lesson in French!
And I who hardly knew how to write. I should never learn then! I must stop where I was! How I longed now for the wasted time, for the classes when I played truant to go birds'-nesting, or to slide on the Saar! The books which I was used to find so wearisome, so heavy to carry—my grammar, my history—now seemed to me old friends whom I was very sorry to part with. The same with M. Hamel. The idea that he was going away, that I should never see him again, made me forget the punishment and the raps with the ruler.
It was in honor of this last class that he had put on his Sunday clothes, and now I understood why the elders of the village had come and seated themselves in the schoolroom. That meant that they were grieved not to have come oftener to the school. It was a sort of way of thanking our master for his forty years of good service, and of showing their respect for their country that was being taken from them.
I had come as far as this in my reflections when I heard my name called. It was my turn to recite. What would I not have given to have been able to say right through that famous rule of the participles, quite loud and very clear, without a stumble; but I bungled at the first word, and stopped short, balancing myself on my bench, with bursting heart, not daring to raise my head. I heard M. Hamel speak to me:—
"I shall not scold thee, my little Franz, thou must be punished enough without that. See how it is. Every day one says, 'Bah! There is time enough. I shall learn tomorrow.' And then see what happens. Ah! that has been the great mistake of our Alsace, always to defer its lesson until tomorrow. Now those folk have a right to say to us, 'What! you pretend to be French and you cannot even speak or write your language!' In all that, my poor Franz, it is not only thou that art guilty. We must all bear our full share in the blame. Your parents have not cared enough to have you taught. They liked better to send you to work on the land or at the factory to gain a few more pence. And I too, have I nothing to reproach myself with? Have I not often made you water my garden instead of learning your lessons? And when I wanted to fish for trout, did I ever hesitate to dismiss you?"
Then from one thing to another M. Hamel began to talk to us about the French language, saying that it was the most beautiful language in the world, the clearest, the most forceful; that we must guard it among us and never forget it, because when a people falls into slavery, as long as it holds firmly to its own tongue, it holds the key of its prison. Then he took a grammar and gave us our lesson. I was astonished to find how well I understood. All he said seemed to me so easy, so easy. I think, too, that I never listened so hard, and that he had never taken such pains to explain. One would have said that before going away the poor man wished to give us all his knowledge, to ram it all into our heads at one blow.
That lesson finished, we passed to writing. For that day M. Hamel had prepared for us some quite fresh copies, on which was written in beautiful round hand: France, Alsace, France, Alsace. They looked like little banners floating round the class room on the rail of our desks. To see how hard every one tried! And what a silence there was! One could hear nothing but the scraping of the pens on the paper. Once some cock-chafers flew in; but nobody took any heed, not even the little ones, who worked away at their pothooks with such enthusiasm and conscientiousness as if feeling there was something French about them. On the roof of the school the pigeons cooed softly, and I thought to myself, hearing them:—
"Are they to be forced to sing in German too?"
From time to time, when I raised my eyes from the page, I saw M. Hamel motionless in his chair, looking fixedly at everything round him, as if he would like to carry away in his eyes all his little schoolhouse. Think of it! For forty years he had been in the same place, in his court outside or with his class before him. Only the benches and the desks had grown polished by the constant rubbing; the walnut trees in the courtyard had grown up, and the honeysuckle, which he had planted himself, now garlanded the windows up to the roof. What a heart-break it must be for this poor man to leave all these things, and to hear his sister coming and going in the room above, packing up their boxes, for they were to go the next day—to leave the country forever.
All the same, what courage he had to carry out the class to the end! After the writing we had our history lesson; then the little ones sang all together their Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu. There at the end of the room, old Hansor put on his spectacles, and holding his spelling-book with both hands, he spelt the letters with them. One could see that he too did his best; his voice trembled with emotion, and it was so funny to hear him that we all wanted to laugh and cry at once. Ah! I shall always remember that class.
Suddenly the clock of the church rang for noon, then for the Angelus. At the same moment, the trumpets of the Prussians returning from drill pealed out under our windows. M. Hamel rose from his chair, turning very pale. Never had he looked to me so tall.
"My friends," he said, "my friends, I—I—" But something choked him. He could not finish the sentence.
Then he turned to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk, and pressing with all his might, he wrote as large as he could:—
VIVE LA FRANCE
The determination of the people of Alsace and Lorraine not to submit to the pressure of their conquerors was made evident even up to the very day that war was declared in 1914. Von Moltke had predicted that "It will require no less than fifty years to wean the hearts of her lost Provinces from France." Notwithstanding all their efforts, the German leaders in 1890 had said, "After nineteen years of annexation, German influence has made no progress in Alsace." When the German soldiers at the beginning of the World War entered the provinces, their officers said to them, "We are now in enemy country."
This remark seems all the more strange because the population of the provinces was largely German. Most of the French citizens had emigrated to France, and all the young men had left to avoid German military service and the possibility of being forced to fight France. Many Germans had moved in. Indeed if at this late day a vote had been taken, no doubt the majority would have expressed the desire to remain under German rule. But Germany still considered the country as an enemy. She knew the whole world disapproved of her seizing the provinces. Therefore it did not surprise the German government to learn that President Wilson, as one of the fourteen points to be observed in making a permanent peace for the world, gave as the eighth,—
"The wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871, in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years should be righted."
At the foot of the Vosges mountains near the Lorraine border, the American armies joined those of France. There in the Lorraine sector they fought valiantly and finally drove the enemy headlong before them through the Argonne forest, helping to make it possible for the peacemakers to gather again in the great council hall at Versailles where, nearly half a century before, France had seen the first German emperor crowned and then had been forced to sign the humiliating agreement that later became the Treaty of Frankfort.
But now the tables were turned; this meeting was in answer to the plea of a defeated Germany who was to agree to return her stolen property and to make good as far as possible the wrong she had done France and the world.
The statue of Strassburg in Paris had been stripped of the mourning which had covered it for nearly fifty years. Germany, as a victor, had indeed been a hard master, not caring in the least for the interests of the people in the conquered territories. How different was the spirit of the French as victors is shown in General Pétain's orders to the French armies after the signing of the armistice.
As a piece of military literature it ranks with the soundest and the most eloquent ever delivered. In the spirit of President Lincoln's second inaugural address, "With malice towards none, with charity for all," it emphasizes a contrast which will be remembered for generations, to the everlasting shame of Germany and the glory of France. To every true American patriot it means that our armies have been fighting with the flower and chivalry of France, not for revenge, but for the overthrow of oppression, the freedom of the oppressed, and for honorable and permanent peace.
To the French Armies:—
During long months you have fought. History will record the tenacity and fierce energy displayed during these four years by our country which had to vanquish in order not to die.
Tomorrow, in order to better dictate peace, you are going to carry your arms as far as the Rhine. Into that land of Alsace-Lorraine that is so dear to us, you will march as liberators. You will go further: all the way into Germany to occupy lands which are the necessary guarantees of just reparation.
France has suffered in her ravaged fields and in her ruined villages. The freed provinces have had to submit to intolerable, vexatious, and odious outrages, but you are not to answer these crimes by the commission of violences, which, under the spur of your resentment, may seem to you legitimate.
You are to remain under discipline and to show respect to persons and property. You will know, after having vanquished your adversary by force of arms, how to impress him further by the dignity of your attitude, and the world will not know which to admire more, your conduct in success or your heroism in fighting.
I address a fond and affectionate greeting to our dead, whose sacrifices gave us the victory. And I send a message of salutation, full of sad affection, to the fathers, to the mothers, to the widows and orphans of France, who, in these days of national joy, dry their tears for a moment to acclaim the triumph of our arms. I bow my head before your magnificent flags.
Vive la France!
 Translated from the French of Alphonse Daudet.
There's a woman sobs her heart out,
With her head against the door,
For the man that's called to leave her,
—God have pity on the poor!
But it's beat, drums, beat,
While the lads march down the street,
And it's blow, trumpets, blow,
Keep your tears until they go.
There's a crowd of little children
That march along and shout,
For it's fine to play at soldiers
Now their fathers are called out.
So it's beat, drums, beat;
And who will find them food to eat?
And it's blow, trumpets, blow,
Oh, it's little children know.
There's a young girl who stands laughing,
For she thinks a war is grand,
And it's fine to see the lads pass,
And it's fine to hear the band.
So it's beat, drums, beat,
To the fall of many feet;
And it's blow, trumpets, blow,
God go with you where you go.
W. M. LETTS.
The wind on the Thames blew icy breath,
The wind on the Seine blew fiery death,
The snow lay thick on tower and tree,
The streams ran black through wold and lea;
As I sat alone in London town
And dreamed a dream of the Kaiser's crown.
Holy William, that conqueror dread,
Placed it himself on his hoary head,
And sat on his throne with his nobles about,
And his captains raising the wild war-shout;
And asked himself, 'twixt a smile and a sigh,
"Was ever a Kaiser so great as I?"
From every jewel, from every gem
In that imperial diadem,
There came a voice and a whisper clear—
I heard it, and I still can hear—
Which said, "O Kaiser great and strong,
God's sword is double-edged and long!"
"Aye," said the emeralds, flashing green—
"The fruit shall be what the seed has been—
His realm shall reap what his hosts have sown;
Debt and misery, tear and groan,
Pang and sob, and grief and shame,
And rapine and consuming flame!"
"Aye," said the rubies, glowing red—
"There comes new life from life-blood shed;
And though the Goth o'erride the Gaul.
Eternal justice rides o'er all!
Might may be Right for its own short day,
But Right is Might forever and aye!"
"Aye," said the diamonds, tongued with fire;
"Grief tracks the pathways of desire.
Our Kaiser, on whose head we glow,
Takes little heed of his people's woe,
Or the deep, deep thoughts in the people's brain
That burn and throb like healing pain.
"Thinks not that Germany, joyous now,
Cares naught for the crown upon his brow,
But much for the Freedom—wooed, not won—
That must be hers ere all is done,—
That gleams, and floats, and shines afar,
A glorious and approaching star!"
"Aye!" said they all, with one accord,
"He is the Kaiser, King, and Lord;
But kings are small, the people great;
And Freedom cometh, sure, though late—
A stronger than he shall cast him down!"
This was my dream of the Kaiser's crown.
There is an old saying, "Like king, like people," which means that the king is usually not very different from the people whose executive he is. If this is true of kings, it surely must be true of American presidents. With this in mind, contrast the German Kaiser, William II, with Abraham Lincoln. The first constantly talked of himself and God as ruling the world. Boastfully declaring that he was the greatest of all men and that he ruled by divine right, the former German emperor brought upon the world the greatest evil that has ever befallen it through selfish ambition for himself, his family, and for the German autocracy; the other claiming to be a common man, a servant of men, seeking no riches, no throne, no personal power, entirely unselfish, gave his life at last to save a united democracy. Shall we not say that Lincoln served by the right of the divine qualities in him, while the Kaiser turned the world into a hell because of the selfish aims of his nature—aims that are just the opposite of divine?
During the American Civil War, Mrs. Bixby, a Massachusetts mother, lost five sons. President Lincoln wrote her the following letter:—
"I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."
During the World War, Frau Meter, a German mother, lost nine sons. Kaiser William wrote her the following letter:—
"His Majesty the Kaiser hears that you have sacrificed nine sons in defense of the Fatherland in the present war. His Majesty is immensely gratified at the fact, and in recognition is pleased to send you his photograph, with frame and autograph signature."
Is it necessary to add a word to make one who reads the two letters understand the difference between the two rulers and the two ideals they represent? God is man's highest ideal of good. Which represents this ideal, Lincoln or the Kaiser? The United States or Germany?
A poet says of the Kaiser's letter:—
"What bit of writing plainer tells
That neither love nor mercy dwells
Within his heart? What picture grim
Could better paint the soul of him?"
The Kaiser was reported to have said that no family in Germany had escaped loss. Perhaps he was "gratified" at this as he was at the fact that Frau Meter had lost nine sons. One family in Germany lost neither father nor any one of the six adult sons,—the family of Kaiser William II. Certainly no other family in Germany of such a size escaped loss. Would the Kaiser have felt equally "gratified" if his six sons had given up their lives in fighting Germany's war of plunder and conquest?
In the last days of the war, American soldiers found upon a German prisoner a postal card with a picture of Quentin Roosevelt lying dead beside his airplane. Below was printed in German the statement that America was so short of fliers, that she had to use her presidents' sons. Germans could not understand that in America the presidents' sons would be the first to offer their services and for work of the most dangerous kind. The sons of the Kaiser were carefully kept out of danger.
The northern coast of Scotland is about as far north as the southern point of Greenland and nearly all of Norway lies still nearer the pole. Across the stretch of ocean between Scotland and Norway, a distance of about three hundred miles, for over four years the English navy kept guard, summer and winter. After the United States entered the war, the entire distance was protected also by mines.
The hardships suffered by the crews of these blockading ships during the terrible winters in that northern latitude can never be fully appreciated by any one who did not have to endure them and overcome them. This called for courage of the highest order, and the British sailors proved again, as they have so many times in the past, that they possessed it.
For thirty to forty days, each blockading ship kept the seas and then returned to port for a short period of rest. When on blockade, the men were frequently on duty on deck for twenty hours at a time wet through to the skin; they then went below to their berths for a few hours' sleep, to be followed by twenty hours more of duty on deck. "Blow high, blow low, rain, hail, or snow, mines or submarines," said one of them, "we have to go through it."
A suspicious vessel is sighted, headed for Norway, Denmark, or Holland. She must be hailed, stopped, and boarded to make sure she is not carrying cotton or rubber, or other contraband of war intended for Germany. No matter how rough the sea or what the temperature, this duty must be done. "We have just crawled into port again," wrote an officer; "what fearful weather it has been, nothing but gales, rain and snow, with rough seas. Two nights out of the last four were terrible and for the last fortnight it seems to have been one incessant gale, sometimes from the east, and then, for a change, from the west, with rain all the time. The strictest lookout must be kept at all times, as with the rough seas that are going now, a submarine's periscope takes a bit of spotting, likewise a floating mine, the lookout hanging on to the rigging in blinding rain, with seas drenching over them for hours at a time, peering into the darkness."
W. Macneile Dixon gives the following vivid account of the work of the British navy. "So it goes, and none save these who know the sea can form a picture or imagine at all the unrelaxing toil and strain aboard these ocean outposts that link northern with southern climes and draw their invisible barrier across the waters. The sea, if you would traffic with her, demands a vigilance such as no landsman dreams of, but here you have men who to the vigilance of the mariner have added that of the scout, who to the sailor's task have added the sentry's, and on an element whose moods are in ceaseless change, today bright as the heavens, tomorrow murky as the pit.
"To this rough duty in northern seas what greater contrast than that other in southern, the naval bombardment of the Dardanelles? How broad and various the support given by the British fleet to the Allies can thus be judged. Separated each from the other by some thousands of miles, the one fleet spread over leagues of ocean, kept every ship its lonely watch, while the bombarding vessels, concentrated in imposing strength, attempted to force a passage through a channel, the most powerfully protected in the world. Unsuccessfully, it is true, but in the grand manner of the old and vanished days when war had still something of romance, and was less the hideous thing it has become.
"We have here at least a standard by which to measure the doings of Britain on the sea. For remember the attempt upon the Dardanelles, with all the strength and energy displayed in it, must be thought of as no more than a minor episode in the work of the navy, not in any way vital to the great issue. It was not the first nor even the second among the tasks allotted to it. For while, first of all, the great vessels under the commander-in-chief paralyzed the activities of the whole German navy, while second in importance, the cruising patrols held all the doors of entrance and exit to the German ports, still another fleet of great battleships remained free to conduct so daring an adventure as the attempt upon the Dardanelles. Nor was this all, for, when the unsupported fleet could do no more, another heroic undertaking was planned upon which fortune beguilingly smiled—the landing on the historic beaches of Gallipoli.
"Take, first, the attempt of the ships upon the Straits. In the light of failure no doubt it must be written down a military folly. Ships against forts had long been held a futile and unequal contest. But it was not the forts that saved Constantinople. In the narrow gulf leading to the Sea of Marmora no less than eight mine fields zigzagged their venomous coils across the channel. The strong, unchanging current of the Dardanelles, flowing steadily south, carried with it all floating mines dropped in the upper reaches. Torpedo tubes ranged on the shore discharged their missiles halfway across the Straits. Before warships could enter these waters a lane had to be swept and kept. Daily, therefore, the minesweepers steamed ahead of the fleet to clear the necessary channel. But when thus engaged they became the target of innumerable and hidden guns, secluded among the rocks, in gullies and ruins and behind the shoulders of the hills, in every fold of the landscape. To 'spot' these shy, retiring batteries was of course imperative, but when spotted they vanished to some other coign of vantage, equally inconspicuous, and continued to rain fire upon the minesweepers. The warships poured cataracts of shell along the shores and among the slopes, the sea trembled, and the earth quaked. Amid the devastating uproar the trawlers swept and grappled and destroyed the discovered mines, but almost as fast as they removed them others were floated down to fill their places. Ships that ventured too far in support of the sweepers, like the Bouvet and the Triumph, perished; the waterways were alleys of death. Progress indeed was made, but progress at a cost too heavy, and wisdom decreed the abandonment of the original plan.
"There remained another way. An army landed on the peninsula might cross the narrow neck of land, demolish the batteries, and free the minesweepers from their destructive fire. Could that be done, it was thought the ships might yet force a passage into the broader waters and approach within easy range of the Turkish capital. After long and fatal delay the attempt was made. What might have been easily accomplished a month or two earlier had increased hour by hour in difficulty. Warned in good time of the coming danger, the Turks converted Gallipoli, a natural fortress, into a position of immeasurable strength. With consuming energy, in armies of thousands, they worked with pick and shovel till every yard of ground commanding a landing place was trench or rifle pit or gun emplacement. An impenetrable thicket of barbed wire ran up and down and across the gullies, stretched to the shore and netted the shallow waters of the beach itself. Then when all that man could do was done, they awaited the British attack in full confidence that no army, regiment, or man could land on that peninsula and live.
"No more extraordinary venture than this British landing on a naked beach within point-blank range of the most modern firearms can be read in history or fable. It was a landing of troops upon a foreign shore thousands of miles from home, hundreds from any naval base. Without absolute command of the sea, it could not have been so much as thought of. Men, guns, food, ammunition, even water had to be conveyed in ships and disembarked under the eyes of a hostile army, warned, armed, alert, and behind almost impregnable defenses.
"To conceive the preposterous thing was itself a kind of sublime folly; to accomplish it, simply and plainly stated, a feat divine. Though a thousand pens in the future essay the task no justice in words can ever be done to the courage and determination of the men who made good that landing. Put aside for a moment the indisputable fact that the whole gigantic undertaking achieved in a sense nothing whatever. View it only as an exploit, a martial achievement, and it takes rank as the most amazing feat of arms that the world has ever seen or is likely to see. That at least remains, and as that, and no less than that, with the full price of human life and treasure expended, it goes upon the record, immortal as the soul of man. And nothing could be more fitting than that an accomplishment which dims the glory of all previous martial deeds, which marks the highest point of courage and resolution reached by Britain in all her wars, should have been carried through by British, Irish, and Colonial troops, representatives of the whole empire under the guidance and protecting guard, of the British fleet.
"At Lemnos, for the more than Homeric endeavor on Homer's sea, lay an assemblage of shipping such as no harbor had ever held. Within sight of Troy they came and went, and in the classic waters ringed round by classic hills waited for the day, a great armada, line upon line of black transports, crowded with the finest flower of modern youth, and beyond them, nearer the harbor mouth, the long, projecting guns and towering hulls of the warships. On April 24th they sailed, while, amid tempests of cheering, as the anchors were got and the long procession moved away, the bands of the French vessels played them to the Great Endeavor. There is no need to tell again the story of the arrival, the stupendous uproar of the bombardments, so that men dizzy with it staggered as they walked, the slaughter in the boats and on the bullet-torn shingle, the making good of the landings and all the subsequent battles on that inhuman coast. They will be told and retold while the world lasts. And now that all is over, the chapter closed, the blue water rippling undisturbed which once was white with a tempest of shrapnel, now that all is over, the armies and the ships withdrawn, and one reflects upon the waste of human life, the gallant hearts that beat no longer, the prodigal expenditure of thought and energy and treasure, there should perhaps mingle with our poignant regret and disappointment no sense of exultation. Yet it surges upward and overcomes all else. For our nature is so molded that it can never cease to admire such doings, the more perhaps if victory be denied the doers. And here at least on the shell-swept beaches, among the rocks and flowery hillsides of Gallipoli, men of the British race wrote, never to be surpassed, one of the world's deathless tales.…
"There are navies and navies. The old and fighting British navy, whose representatives keep the seas today against the king's enemies, has been heard of once or twice during the present war, but for the most part preserves a certain aristocratic and dignified aloofness from the public gaze. There is, however, another and an older navy which comes and goes under the eyes of all, as it has done any time these three or four centuries. On its six or eight thousand ships, to prove that England is Old England still, the Elizabethan mariner has come to life again, who took war very much as he took peace, unconcernedly, in his day's work. Needless to say no other nation on earth could have produced, either in numbers or quality, for no other nation possessed these men, bred to the sea and the risks of the sea, born where the air is salt, who, undeterred by the hazards of war, which was none of their employ, answered their country's call as in the old Armada days. From the Chinese and Indian seas they came, from the Pacific and Atlantic trade routes, from whaling, it might be, or the Newfoundland fishing grounds or the Dogger Bank—three thousand officers and some two hundred thousand men—to supply the Grand Fleet, to patrol the waterways, to drag for the German mines, to carry the armies of the Alliance, and incidentally, to show the world, what it has perhaps forgotten, that it is not by virtue of their fighting navy that the British are a maritime people, but by virtue of an instinct amounting to genius, rooted in a very ancient and unmatched experience of shipping and the sea. The Grand Fleet is only the child of this service which was already old before the word 'Admiralty' was first employed, which made its own voyages and fought its own battles since Columbus discovered America, and before even that considerable event. These travel-worn ships formed the solid bridge across which flowed in unbroken files the men and supplies to the British and the Allied fronts.
"Picture a great railroad which has for its main line a track four or five thousand miles in length, curving from Archangel in Russia to Alexandria in Egypt, a track which touches on its way the coasts of Norway, of the British Isles, of France, of Portugal, of Spain, of Italy, of Greece. Picture from this immense arc of communication branch lines longer still, diverging to America, to Africa, to India, knitting the ports of the world together in one vast railway system. That railroad system, with its engines and rolling stock, its stations and junctions, its fuel stores and offices, over which run daily and nightly the wagon loads, of food, munitions, stores for a dozen countries at war with the Central Powers, is a railroad of British ships. To dislocate, to paralyze it, Germany would willingly give a thousand millions, for the scales would then descend in her favor and victory indubitably be hers. For consider the consequences of interruption in that stream of traffic. Britain herself on the brink of starvation, her troops in France, in Egypt, in Salonica, cut off without food, without ammunition, unable to return to their homes. But for this fleet that bridges the seas, Britain could not send or use a single soldier anywhere save in defense of her own shores. India, Australia, Canada, all her dependencies would be cut off from the Mother Country, the bonds of empire immediately dissolved. Some little importance then may be attached to this matter of bridging the waterways, and some admiration extended towards the men who do it and the manner of the doing.
"If you ask what have the Allies gained, take this evidence of a French writer in Le Temps: 'If at the beginning of the war we were enabled to complete the equipment of our army with a rapidity which has not been one of the least surprises of the German staff, we owe it to the fleet which has given us the mastery of the seas. We were short of horses. They were brought from Argentina and Canada. We were short of wool and of raw materials for our metal industries. We applied to the stockbreeders of Australia. Lancashire sent us her cottons and cloth, the Black Country its steel. And now that the consumption of meat threatens to imperil our supplies of live stock, we are enabled to avoid danger by the importation of frozen cargoes. For the present situation the mastery of the sea is not only an advantage but a necessity. In view of the fact that the greater part of our coal area is invaded by the enemy the loss of the command of the sea by England would involve more than her own capitulation. She indeed would be forced to capitulate through starvation. But France also and her new ally, Italy, being deprived of coal and, therefore, of the means of supplying their factories and military transport, would soon be at the mercy of their adversaries.'
"On this command of the sea rested, then, the whole military structure of the Alliance. It opposed to Germany and her friends not the strength of a group of nations, each fighting its own battle, separate and apart, but the strength of a federation so intimately knit together as to form a single united power which has behind it the inexhaustible resources of the world. Thus the British navy riveted the Great Alliance by operations on a scale hardly imaginable, operations whose breadth and scope beggar all description, since they span the globe itself. As for the men and the spirit in which they work, let him sail on a battleship, a tramp, a liner, or a trawler, the British sailor is always the same, much as he has been since the world first took his measure in Elizabeth's days.
'Like the old sailors of the Queen and the Queen's old sailors.'
"A great simplicity is his quality, with something of the child's unearthly wisdom added, and a Ulysses-like cunning in the hour of necessity, an ascetic simplicity almost like the saints', looking things in the face, so that to that fine carelessness everything, all enterprises, hazards, fortunes, shipwreck, if it come, or battle, are but the incidents of a chequered day, and his part merely to 'carry on' in the path of routine and duty and the honorable tradition of his calling. Manifestly his present business is epic and the making of epic, if he knew it; yet not knowing it he grasps things, as the epic paladins always grasp them, by the matter-of-fact, not the heroic, handle. What better stories have the poets to tell than that of Captain Parslow, a Briton if ever there was one, who, refusing to surrender, saved his ship in a submarine attack at the cost of his own life? Mortally wounded as he stood on the ship, the wheel was taken from the dying father's hand by his son, the second mate. Knocked down by the concussion of a shell that gallant son of a gallant father still held to his post and steered the vessel clear. Or have they anything better to relate than the tale of the Ortega and Captain Douglas Kinneir, who, when pursued by a German cruiser of vastly greater speed, called upon his engineers and stokers for a British effort and drove his vessel under full steam, and a trifle more, into the uncharted waters of Nelson's Straits, 'a veritable nightmare for navigators,' the narrowest and ugliest of channels, walled by gloomy cliffs, bristling with reefs, rocks, overfalls, and currents, through which, by the mercy of God and his own daring, he piloted his ship in safety and gave an example to the world of what stout hearts can do. It is such men Germany supposed she could intimidate!
"These are but episodes in the long roll of honor. You will find others in the quite peaceful occupation of minesweeping, or the search for mines—'fishing' the navy calls it—that the impartial German scatters to trip an enemy, perhaps a friend, an equal chance and it matters not which, an occupation for humanitarians and seekers after a quiet life. On this little business alone a thousand ships and fourteen thousand fishermen have been constantly engaged. Take the case of Lieutenant Parsons, who was blown up in his trawler, escaped with his life, and undisturbed continued to command his group of sweepers. On that day near Christmas time they blew up eight and dragged up six other mines, while, as incidents within the passage of ten crowded minutes, his own ship and another were damaged by explosions and a third destroyed! Read that short chapter of North Sea history and add this, for a better knowledge of these paths of peace, from the letter of an officer: 'Things began to move rapidly now. There was a constant stream of reports coming from aloft. "Mine ahead, Sir," "Mine on the port bow, Sir"; "There is one, Sir, right alongside," and on looking over the bridge I saw a mine about two feet below the surface and so close that we could have touched it with a boat hook.… After an hour at last sighted the minesweepers, which had already started work.'
"One may judge of these North Sea activities from the record of a single lieutenant of the Naval Reserve who, besides attending to other matters, destroyed forty or fifty mines, twice drove off an inquisitive German Taube, attacked an equally inquisitive Zeppelin, twice rescued a British seaplane and towed it into safety; rescued in June the crew of a torpedoed trawler, sixteen men, also the crew of a sunk fishing vessel; in July assisted two steamers that had been mined, saving twenty-four of the sailors; in September assisted another steamer, rescued three men from a mined trawler, towed a disabled Dutch steamer and assisted in rescuing the passengers; in November assisted a Norwegian steamer, rescued twenty-four men, and also a Greek steamer which had been torpedoed and rescued forty.
"Some day it will all be chronicled, and not the least fascinating record will be that of men who, perhaps, never fired a shot but enlarged their vision of the recesses of the enemy mind in other ways and met his craft by deeper craft, or navigated African rivers, fringed by desolate mangrove swamps, in gunboats, or hammered down the Mediterranean in East Coast trawlers, boys on their first command, or saw with their own eyes things they had believed to be fables.
"'We travel about 1000 miles a week, most of it in practically unknown seas, full of uncharted coral reefs, rocks, islands, whose existence even is unknown. And by way of making things still more difficult we keep meeting floating islands.
"'I always thought these things were merely yarns out of boys' adventure books. However, I have seen five, the largest about the size of a football field. They are covered with trees and palms, some of them with ripe bananas on them. They get torn away from the swampy parts of the mainland by the typhoons, which are very frequent at this time of year.'
"The story of these things cannot be written here; it will fill many volumes. Here an attempt has been made to sketch merely in its broadest outlines some of the activities of British sailors during the greatest of wars. Whatever the future historian will say of the part they bore he will not minimize it, for on this pivot the whole matter turned, on this axis the great circle of the war revolved. He will affirm that, though in respect of numbers almost negligible compared with the soldiers who fought in the long series of land battles, the sailors held the central avenues, the citadel of power.
"If it be possible in a single paragraph, let us set before our eyes the work of the British navy and its auxiliaries during these loud and angry years. Let us first recall the fact, that, besides the protection of Britain and her dependencies from invasion, together with the preservation of her overseas trade, to the navy was intrusted a duty it has fulfilled with equal success, the protection of the coasts of France from naval bombardment or attack—no slight service to Britain's gallant ally. Behind this barrier of the British fleet, she continued to arm and munition her armies undisturbed. Recall, too, the French colonial armies as well as our own overseas troops, escorted to the various seats of war—more than seven million men—the vital communications of the Allies, north and south, secured; the supplies and munitions—seven million tons—carried overseas; 1,250,000 horses and mules embarked, carried and disembarked; the left wing of the Belgian force supported in Flanders by bombardment; the Serbian army transferred to a new zone of war; and last, if we may call last what is really first and the mastering cause of all the rest, Germany's immense navy fettered in her ports. Bring also to mind that fifty or sixty of her finest war vessels have been destroyed, besides many Austrian and Turkish; five or six million tons of the enemy's mercantile marine captured or driven to rust in harbor; her trade ruined, a strict blockade of her ports established which impoverishes day by day her industrial and fighting strength; hundreds of thousands of Germans overseas prevented from joining her armies; her wireless and coaling stations over all the world and her colonial empire, that ambitious and costly fabric of her dreams, cut off from the Fatherland and brought helplessly to the ground.
"When all this has been passed in review dwell for a moment on the matter reversed—but for the British fleet Germany's will would now be absolute, her emperor the master of the world."
We are all very proud that America was permitted to have a share in the holiest defensive war ever known. Then let us also remember that our share in it was largely made possible by England. While we hesitated, considered, debated, who was it that maintained the freedom of the seas and kept inviolate our coasts? The great, gallant, modest navy of Great Britain.
Despite her desperate need of us England uttered no reproaches, and she never seemed to doubt our final decision. It recalls an incident which I discussed with British officers as I stood with them in a concealed observation post on a summit of Vimy Ridge in September. On a dark night a raid on the German trenches was made, and in the party were two brothers, English lads. The raid was successful, but when the men returned one of the brothers was missing. The other pleaded for permission to return and bring him in. The colonel refused on the ground that the attempt would be both dangerous and fruitless. Finally, he yielded to the lad's passionate pleading, and the young soldier crawled out into No Man's Land, returning a half hour later with a machine gun bullet in his shoulder, yet gently carrying the brother, whose spirit rose to the ranks of the greater army just as they reached the trench. "You see, my boy," said the colonel, "it was useless, your brother is gone, and you are wounded." "No, colonel," replied the lad, "it was not useless. I had my reward, for just as I found him out there, he said, 'Is that you, Tom? I knew you would come.'"
This seems a fitting moment not only to thank God that we came in time to be of service, but to thank England for her patience and her confidence which have never failed. If after entering the war we are gratified at placing two million men quickly upon the battlefield, let us remember that nearly 1,200,000 of them were transported in British vessels and convoyed by British warships.
America is beginning to know England. We honored her before; we felt the tie of blood and speech; we were grateful to her for most of our best. But we never knew England as we know her now. That first hundred thousand that gladly flung their lives away for righteousness' sake; the happy lads of Oxford and Cambridge who gave their joyous youth that joy might not depart from earth; the colonials who came from the ends of the world that the old mother might live, and that honor and justice should not perish; these have added brighter pages to England's records of glory. Today one knows England better and one is very proud to be her ally. For the light which shines from England is steadfast faithfulness to plighted honor, to the safety of her children, and to those ideals of civilization of which she has for centuries been the chief and responsible custodian.
REV. ERNEST M. STIPES, D.D.
From The Churchman, N. Y.
Political morality differs from individual morality, because there is no power above the State.—GENERAL VON BERNHARDI.
Shadow by shadow, stripped for fight,
The lean black cruisers search the sea.
Night-long their level shafts of light
Revolve and find no enemy.
Only they know each leaping wave
May hide the lightning and their grave.
And, in the land they guard so well,
Is there no silent watch to keep?
An age is dying; and the bell
Rings midnight on a vaster deep;
But over all its waves once more
The searchlights move from shore to shore.
And captains that we thought were dead,
And dreamers that we thought were dumb,
And voices that we thought were fled
Arise and call us, and we come;
And "Search in thine own soul," they cry,
"For there, too, lurks thine enemy."
Search for the foe in thine own soul,
The sloth, the intellectual pride,
The trivial jest that veils the goal
For which our fathers lived and died;
The lawless dreams, the cynic art,
That rend thy nobler self apart.
Not far, not far into the night
These level swords of light can pierce:
Yet for her faith does England fight,
Her faith in this our universe,
Believing Truth and Justice draw
From founts of everlasting law.
Therefore a Power above the State,
The unconquerable Power, returns.
The fire, the fire that made her great,
Once more upon her altar burns.
Once more, redeemed and healed and whole,
She moves to the Eternal Goal.
All who have read of the sinking of the Lusitania, by a torpedo, shot from a German U-boat, realize the terribly destructive force of this modern weapon of war, but many do not know that the depth bomb is even more destructive and must be handled with much greater care to be sure that it does not explode accidentally or prematurely. The bomb usually contains from 100 to 500 pounds of tri-nitro-toluol, or T.N.T., as it is usually called, the most powerful of all explosives. The explosion of a ship loaded with it in Halifax harbor, December 6, 1917, caused almost as great a loss of life and property as a volcanic eruption.
When the 500 pounds of T.N.T. is exploded it changes suddenly into nearly 80,000 cubic feet of gas. Now this amount of gas will fill a room 160 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 20 feet high. When the bomb explodes under the water the gas must find room somewhere, and with tremendous force it pushes the water in all directions. If a hollow submarine is near the point of the explosion, its walls will give way easier than the water around it and it is crushed like an empty egg shell.
Only very swift boats should drop the depth bombs from their sterns, for the boat must be moving at a rate of at least twenty-five miles an hour to be sure to escape damage from the bombs dropped behind her.
John Mackenzie, the hero of this story, writes in regard to the converted yachts used for dropping depth bombs in European waters as follows: "Only destroyers made speed exceeding 25 knots. There were no converted yachts operating in European waters capable of making 25 knots. A very few made 15 to 18 and the majority about 12. Of course we had to take our chances in getting away safely, although we knew that the chances were about even. That is, we were in about as much danger from our depth charges as the enemy was." His statement shows the risks that American sailors were willing to take.
The bomb, of course, weighs over one hundred pounds. It is made with one end flattened, upon which it will stand, and in the early types its accidental discharge is rendered practically impossible by a sort of peg called a safety pin, which must be removed before the bomb is dropped. The use of depth bombs against the U-boats made fighting in the German submarines so dangerous and so much to be dreaded, that it is said, as the war drew to a close, all U-boat crews had to be forced into service, and that none of them expected ever to return and see their homes and friends again.
In the early days of the war the bombs were carried in cradles, and later in racks or run-ways. From most of the bombs the detonator, which would fire them, was removed; but some were kept ready for instant firing, near the stern of the ship. The early type of bomb was discharged by a length of wire attached to a float. The bomb itself sank, the float remained on the surface of the water and reeled off the wire until the pull upon it discharged the bomb. It can be readily seen that the depth at which the bomb was discharged would depend upon the length of wire attached to the float. Imagine what might follow if one of these bombs, set ready for discharge, should break loose from its case in a storm at sea.
Such a terrible accident did happen on the U.S.S. Remlik. The ship was groaning and tossing in a very heavy sea, for a severe storm was raging. She gave a lurch and pitched back with so much force that a wooden box, containing a depth bomb and securely fastened to the after deck, suddenly broke. The bomb rolled out of the box and began to bound back and forth across the deck as the ship lurched and pitched from side to side.
The crew seemed stunned, and no orders were issued for concerted action. The frightfulness of the situation was greatly increased when it was observed that the safety pin had dropped out. All expected the next time the bomb struck with force against the rail that the float section would be released and reel off enough wire to fire the detonator and utterly destroy the ship and all aboard.
But Chief Boatswain's Mate, John Mackenzie of the Naval Reserve Fleet, needed no orders. He saw what should be done and did not wait for some one to order him to do it. He could not pick up the bomb in his arms and throw it overboard, for it weighed too much, and even if he could this might be the worst thing to do. The ship was laboring and barely holding her own with no headway, although the engines were turning over for 8 knots, and the bomb would no doubt have exploded directly under the ship had it gone overboard.
Mackenzie had a plan, and the first step in it was to stop the bomb. He threw himself in front of it and tried to hold it by his arms and the weight of his body, but the weight and the momentum of the moving bomb were too great and he was pushed aside; but he had stopped its movement somewhat so that when it struck the rail on the other side of the deck it did not explode. He jumped for it as it bounded back from the rail and almost stopped it, but it seemed to those looking on that the hundreds of pounds of metal and explosives would roll over his body and seriously injure him. He escaped this, however, and slowed down the movement of the heavy bomb to such an extent that near the opposite rail he was able to grasp it, lying with feet and hands braced in the grating of the gun platform. Then to be sure that it did not escape him until help came, he turned it upright upon its flattened end and sat down upon the most destructive bomb used in war, on the deck, of a ship lurching at sea in a severe storm.
Then other members of the crew that had been watching him as if dazed ran to his assistance, and the bomb was soon placed in safety.
The commanding officer of the Remlik recommended that Chief Boatswain's Mate, John Mackenzie, be awarded the Medal of Honor. The report to the Secretary of the Navy was in part as follows:—
"Mackenzie in acting as he did, exposed his life and prevented a serious accident to the ship and the probable loss of the ship and the entire crew. Had this depth charge exploded on the quarterdeck, with the sea and the wind that existed at the time, there is no doubt that the ship would have been lost."
Mackenzie was awarded by the Navy Department the Medal of Honor, and a gratuity of one hundred dollars; but these awards are of little value compared with the greater reward which comes to him in the admiration and respect of all who read or hear the story of his heroic deed.
In Norwich, England, stands a memorial which will forever be visited and prized by travelers from every part of the world, and especially by the people of England and of Belgium. It is the statue erected to Edith Cavell, the British nurse who was wrongfully condemned to death for helping innocent women and children to escape from the terrible cruelties of the invading Huns. That her fine courage equals the bravery of any soldier is indicated in the sculptor's work itself. It represents a soldier of the Allies looking up toward her strong, kindly face, raising in his right hand a laurel wreath to place at one side of her, opposite the one already hung at the other.
The statue is a symbol of the glorious deeds and the beautiful spirit of the women of France, England, and America, during the awful conflict. It is difficult to realize the complete revolution which took place in the lives of the women of the world when they awakened to the need for their services in connection with the war.
In forsaken schoolhouses and barns, as well as in quickly erected hospitals, near the firing lines, they moved quietly in and out among the patients, administering needed medicines, bringing cheer and comfort to the long line of wounded soldiers. At unexpected moments the hospital was bombarded, making it necessary for them hurriedly to transfer their patients to some other building. During a bombardment of a large theater which had been turned into a hospital, several patients were too ill to be moved. So some of the nurses, wearing steel helmets, remained to care for these men while shells burst all around them.
Certain dressing stations in which the nurses cared for the most seriously wounded were so near the firing line that the men could be carried to them. Summoned, perhaps by a Red Cross dog, a nurse at times ventured out under the enemy's fire. In the fields or woods lay a badly injured man who must have constant care until darkness would permit bringing him in unseen by the enemy, for the Huns spared neither the wounded nor the Red Cross workers.
In the operating rooms, in hospital kitchens, on hospital trains and ships, the nurses gave no thought for their own safety but worked untiringly to save the wounded.
But even thousands of miles from the firing line, women were saving lives and winning the victory. There were the girls who assisted the police in the places of the men gone to fight. Gloriously they served during many an air raid over France and England, ready in the face of danger to do their full duty,—like those of Paris, who behaved so bravely that some one suggested they be mentioned in the Orders of the Day. But the commanding officer's reply only reflected the daring spirit of the girls themselves. "No," he said, "we never mention soldiers in orders for doing their duty."
There were the women and girls who went to work in fireproof overalls, stopping before entering the shop to be inspected and to give up all jewelry, steel hairpins, and anything else which might cause an explosion of the munitions among which they worked. They might be seen often with their hair hanging in braids as they hurried to and fro between the different sheds, over the narrow wooden platforms, raised from the ground to prevent them from carrying in on the soles of their shoes any particles of grit, iron, steel, or glass, that might cause a spark among the high explosives. So well did these women work that near the end of the war in many places more shells were made in two weeks than previously could be made in a year. The many women, willingly risking their lives in these shops, made this work possible. In England alone, where seventy-five out of every hundred men stepped out to fight, seventy-five out of a hundred women and girls left their homes and stepped in to work or to serve.
More tiresome were the long hours spent at machines in large closed factories where army blankets and clothing of all sorts were turned out for the use of the fighting men.
Out on the farms the girls could be seen in overalls, plowing furrows in long, sloping fields, and planting potatoes and vegetables to help feed the world. With hard work and small pay, they too helped win the victory. One girl tells how on arriving home from work one night, she found at the house a letter from a friend.
"How jolly it must be," she wrote, "and how you must be enjoying it!" That day had been particularly cold and wet and windy, but the girls had worked right through it. When they had finished, they were damp and weary and only glad that it was time for tea. "I don't feel a bit patriotic," said the girl, "and I don't care if I never plant another potato." She was an artist and found farm life very different from sitting in a quiet studio. But planting potatoes was more helpful to her country and so the next morning found her up early and ready to work again.
Like this artist many women, unused to common labor, gladly left lives of ease and good times to help win the war even by drudgery. In the case of English women this was particularly true, and would have been true in America if the war had continued much longer. As it was, the women of America responded to the call of service with the same spirit which sent millions of men to the colors. Besides those positions which, left open by men going into war, were filled by women, countless services were performed by them to add to the comfort and happiness of soldiers, sailors, and marines. Knitted articles were made for the needy in the service, and for the destitute in the ravaged war countries. Not a canteen in the whole United States but has seen the untiring devotion of weary workers who whole-heartedly sacrificed their time and household comforts. In Europe the Salvation Army "lassies" worked in the trenches themselves. Hospitals everywhere have been made more grateful sanctuaries by the tender reassurance of the American nurse. As if by one voice the fighters of the nation unite in praise and appreciation of all the women who by their help made the second line of defense.
If you were standing on the deck of a patrol boat watching for submarines and, looking down at the water, suddenly perceived a torpedo coming directly toward you and knew it would strike the boat beneath your feet in a few seconds, what would you do?
A bullet or a cannon ball moves so swiftly that it is not seen. If it is coming straight for you, you only know your danger when it is over and you lie wounded; or your friends know it when it is too late. But a moving torpedo can be seen, and for some seconds one may stand and know a terrible explosion and probable death are approaching him.
On October 14, 1917, the United States destroyer Cassin was on duty looking for German submarines. After many hours scouting, a U-boat was discovered five or six miles away, and the Cassin made all speed in its direction; but the U-boat perceived its danger and submerged. The Cassin cruised around for some time, for the U-boat could not be far away and might come to the surface at any moment; but no periscope was to be seen. The patrol boat kept steaming in zigzag lines so that the U-boat would find it more difficult to strike her with a torpedo.
Before an hour had passed, the commander of the Cassin discovered the wake of a torpedo, a moving line of white on the surface of the ocean, and knew that in a few seconds the torpedo would strike his boat amidships. To avoid this he ordered full steam ahead, hoping perhaps to avoid being struck at all, and at least not amidships. But he had not seen the torpedo soon enough and it was quickly apparent that it would strike the Cassin on the side and near the stern.
Ordinarily this would be less dangerous than if it struck amidships where it would very likely disable the engines and possibly explode the boilers, but in the case of the Cassin, avoiding one danger only brought another and a more serious one, for piled on the deck near the stern were boxes of high explosives which would be set off by the striking of the torpedo.
Some of the crew had been watching the approach of the torpedo. Most of them were forward and would escape the terrible danger at the stern of the boat.
But Gunner's Mate, O. C. Ingram, did not hurry forward; he rushed aft and began to throw overboard the boxes of explosives. He did not stop to see how near the torpedo had come and how much time he had; he simply set to work to save the boat and her crew. Just as he hurled the last box from his hand, the torpedo struck the Cassin with a terrible explosion, throwing Ingram far overboard into the sea.
The torpedo had struck the destroyer near the stern, and blew off about thirty feet of the boat. It disabled one of the engines, and the steering gear, but the after bulkhead kept out the water and the destroyer was later towed to port and repaired.
Had the explosives not been thrown overboard, the Cassin would doubtless have been sunk and few if any of her crew saved. As it was, Gunner's Mate Ingram was the only one to lose his life, for he drowned before help was able to reach him.
The Cassin did not attempt, even after this experience, to get to safety, but remained watching for the reappearance of the submarine. When the U-boat finally came to the surface, she was greeted with several shots from the Cassin and suddenly sank, or submerged. It is thought she was damaged and possibly destroyed.
The Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, sent the following letter to the commander, the other officers, and the crew of the Cassin:—
"The Department has received the report of the action between the U. S. S. Cassin and a German submarine on October 15, 1917, and notes with gratification the highly commendable conduct of yourself, the other officers, and the crew of the Cassin. The manner in which the Cassin was kept under way with her steering-gear disabled and practically at the mercy of the submarine, and opened fire on her when she appeared, is well worthy of the best traditions of the Navy."
Sometime later Secretary Daniels told the following story of the naming of a new and very fast destroyer:—
"Awhile ago I was asked to give a name to a new destroyer. I took up first the names of the great admirals, and then the great captains, and all the American heroes of the sea, and all were worthy. And then I thought of Osmond C. Ingram, second-class gunner's mate on the destroyer Cassin. I thought of the night when he was on watch and saw a U-boat's torpedo headed for his ship. He was standing near the place where the high explosives were stored, and the torpedo was headed for that spot. In a flash he was engaged in hurling overboard those deadly explosives, which would have destroyed the ship if they remained on board, and he managed to get rid of enough of them to save the lives of all the officers and sailors on board, but he lost his own life. So I named the newest and finest addition to the American navy the Osmond C. Ingram."
The first poet and author in the American army to give up his life for the cause of freedom was Joyce Kilmer. Like Alan Seeger, another American poet who fell fighting in the Foreign Legion of France, Joyce Kilmer greatly loved life. He loved the flowers and birds and trees. Probably his finest poem is one which he wrote about trees. He loved the people around him, impatient only with those who did not love and make the most of the life that God had given them. He loved children, and simple everyday things, as he shows in one of his latest poems, "The Snowman in the Yard."
"But I have something no architect
or gardener ever made,
A thing that is shaped by the busy touch
of little mittened hands;
And the Judge would give up his lovely estate,
where the level snow is laid,
For the tiny house with the trampled yard,
the yard where the snowman stands."
After his graduation from Columbia University in 1908, he became a teacher of Latin in the high school at Morristown, New Jersey, his home state. He seemed but a lad himself,—tall, with stern, dark eyes, a clear, musical voice, and a winning smile. Jovial, gracious, and gentlemanly in his manners, he made many friends both in his home state and in New York, where he soon took his wife and little son to live.
In college he had written some poetry. In New York he hoped to write more. He began his career there as editor of a journal for horsemen. But he did not remain at this work long. He became in turn a salesman in a large New York book store, an assistant editor, and then an editor. When the war broke out, he was a member of the staff of the New York Times. He had written several poems, and prose articles for popular magazines and periodicals. At the age of twenty-five he was widely known, enough of a celebrity, in fact, to have his name appear in "Who's Who in America."
He liked adventure, as does any American youth. He was always glad to visit a friend who had met with an accident or any other unusual circumstance. He found himself in what he considered an interesting and entertaining predicament when in New York he was struck by a train and had to be carried to a hospital. "Such things did not happen every day," he said, and he took the experience in good humor.
Soon after landing in France, he wrote a description of a long march made by his regiment. At the end of the march, the men were too weary even to spread out their blankets, but dropped down to rest on the floor of the loft in the French peasant home where they were billeted for the night. But even that experience was new and interesting. Later, when the men were somewhat rested, they missed one of their mates, and on going down stairs found him with his frozen feet in a tub of cold water furnished him by the peasant woman. The little girl of the home was on his knees, and the two boys were standing beside him—as Joyce Kilmer described them—"envying him" his frozen feet.
He also found interesting work at the front, in connection with the trench newspaper, The Stars and Stripes.
At the dawn of a dark and misty Sunday morning in July, his regiment was ordered to charge across the river Ourcq and take the hill beyond, from where the enemy's machine guns were pouring down a withering rain of bullets. His own battalion, he learned, was not to be in the lead. So he promptly asked and obtained permission to join the leading battalion.
Across the river they charged and for five days fought for the heights. But Joyce Kilmer was not there to witness the victory.
In the fiercest battles, the bravest officers often go before and lead their men into the fight, thus encouraging them more than if following them or charging at their side. The fight beyond the Ourcq was a fierce one, and the chief officer dashed on ahead of his men. Touching elbows with him was Sergeant Kilmer. When the battalion adjutant was killed, he served, although without a commission, as a sort of aid to the battalion commander.
To the very heights he rushed, and threw himself down at a little ridge where he might peer over and seek out the hidden enemy machine gun battery. It was there, lying as if still scouting, that his comrades found him, so like his living self that they did not at first think him dead.
They buried him at the edge of a little wood, called the Wood of the Burned Bridge, close to the rippling waters of the Ourcq, and at the foot of the unforgetable hill.
Deep and keen was the loss felt by his comrades and his officers. From their pockets many of the men drew forth verses written by the poet about some incident in the trenches or some comrade who had been lost.
One of the poems to a lost soldier was read over the poet's grave. A refrain, supposed to be sounded by the bugle, is repeated through the verses, and as these lines were read the sad notes of "taps" sounded faintly from the grove. On his little wooden cross were written the simple words: "Sergeant Joyce Kilmer," then his company and regiment, and "Killed in Action, July 30, 1918."
But Joyce Kilmer and his verses will long live in the minds and hearts, not only of his comrades in battle, but of all Americans.
Such a buoyant, happy life does not seem to have passed away. Some beautiful tributes to him, written by other American poets, express this thought.
One friend at the news of Kilmer's death was reminded of his poem, "Main Street."
"God be thanked for the Milky Way that runs across the sky;
That is the path my feet would tread whenever I have to die.
Some folks call it a Silver Sword, and some a Pearly Crown,
But the only thing I think it is, is Main Street, Heaventown."
Then the friend touchingly added, "Perhaps Seeger and Kilmer are strolling down Main Street together tonight."
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Bruges is an important city of Belgium made familiar to American boys and girls by Longfellow's beautiful poem, "The Belfry of Bruges." He describes what "the belfry old and brown" has seen.
"Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
'I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land.'"
What a terrible story the historian or poet will have to tell who narrates what the belfry of Bruges has seen during the fifty-two months of the World War, a year, we may call it, in which each week had become a month.
The port of Bruges, called Zeebrugge or Bruges on the Sea, lies not far from the city, at the mouth of a maritime canal. The entrance to this canal was protected by a great crescent-shaped mole thirty feet high inclosing the harbor.
The Germans in the shipbuilding yards at Antwerp built small warships and submarines and sent them over the canals across Belgium to Ostend and Zeebrugge, from where they went out to destroy Allied shipping.
The English determined to put an end to this and on the night of April 22, 1918, an expedition was sent to block the channel and to destroy as far as possible the mole which protected it. It has been said that it was "one of the most thrilling and picturesque of the naval operations of the war. To Americans it recalled Hobson's exploit with the Merrimack, at Santiago, while to Englishmen it brought back memories of Sir Francis Drake and his fire ships in the harbor of Cadiz." The fight lasted only an hour but the British lost 588 men, for the channel and the mole were so fully guarded with searchlights, machine guns, and artillery that such an attempt was looked upon by the Germans as foolhardy and doomed to absolute failure.
A British cruiser, the Vindictive, in charge of Commander Alfred F. B. Carpenter, with two ferryboats, the Daffodil and the Iris, were to escort six obsolete British cruisers filled with concrete and sand to the harbor mouths at Ostend and Zeebrugge and to sink them there in the channels. The ferryboats carried sailors and marines who were to attack and destroy the mole. It was thought that this attack would divert the attention of the defenders and make it easier to sink the concrete laden cruisers in the channel. Two old and useless submarines, filled with explosives, were to be blown up against the viaduct joining the mole and the shore.
A heavy protective curtain of smoke was essential to the success of the plan. Commander Brock, who was killed during the action, planned the smoke screen and carried it out so successfully that the Vindictive was able to get almost to the mole before being discovered. At Ostend the wind blew from such a direction that the smoke screen did not hide the boats and the attack there on that night was for that reason a failure. It succeeded better later, on May 9, when the battered Vindictive was sunk in the channel.
The following is the story of the action at Zeebrugge taken from the official report of the British Admiralty:—
"The night was overcast and there was a drifting haze. Down the coast a great searchlight swung its beam to and fro in the small wind and short sea. From the Vindictive's bridge, as she headed in toward the mole, with the faithful ferryboats at her heels, there was scarcely a glimmer of light to be seen shoreward. Ahead, as she drove through the water, rolled the smoke screen, her cloak of invisibility, wrapped about her by small craft. This was the device of Wing Commander Brock, without which, acknowledges the Admiral in command, the operation could not have been conducted.
"A northeast wind moved the volume of it shoreward ahead of the ships. Beyond it, was the distant town, its defenders unsuspicious. It was not until the Vindictive, with blue-jackets and marines standing ready for landing, was close upon the mole that the wind lulled and came away again from the southeast, sweeping back the smoke screen and laying her bare to eyes that looked seaward.
"There was a moment immediately afterward when it seemed to those on the ships as if the dim, coast-hidden harbor exploded into light. A star shell soared aloft, then a score of star shells. The wavering beams of the searchlights swung around and settled into a glare. A wild fire of gun flashes leaped against the sky, strings of luminous green beads shot aloft, hung and sank. The darkness of the night was supplemented by a nightmare daylight of battle-fired guns and machine guns along the mole. The batteries ashore awoke to life.
"It was in a gale of shelling that the Vindictive laid her nose against the thirty-foot high concrete side of the mole, let go her anchor and signaled to the Daffodil to shove her stern in.
"The Iris went ahead and endeavored to get alongside likewise. The fire was intense, while the ships plunged and rolled beside the mole in the seas, the Vindictive with her greater draught jarring against the foundations of the mole with every lunge. They were swept diagonally by machine-gun fire from both ends of the mole and by the heavy batteries on shore.
"Commander (now Captain) Carpenter commanded the Vindictive from the open bridge until her stern was laid in, when he took up his position in the flame thrower hut on the port side. It is marvelous that any occupant should have survived a minute in this hut, so riddled and shattered is it.
"The officers of the Iris, which was in trouble ahead of the Vindictive, describe Captain Carpenter as handling her like a picket boat. The Vindictive was fitted along her port side with a high false deck, from which ran eighteen brows or gangways by which the storming and demolition parties were to land.
"The men gathered in readiness on the main lower decks, while Colonel Elliott, who was to lead the marines waited on the false deck just abaft of the bridge. Captain Halahan, who commanded the blue-jackets, was amidships. The gangways were lowered, and they scraped and rebounded upon the high parapet of the mole as the Vindictive rolled in the seaway.
"The word for the assault had not yet been given when both leaders were killed, Colonel Elliott by a shell and Captain Halahan by machine-gun fire which swept the decks. The same shell that killed Colonel Elliott also did fearful execution in the forward Stokes mortar battery. The men were magnificent; every officer bears the same testimony.
"The mere landing on the mole was a perilous business. It involved a passage across the crashing and splintering gangways, a drop over the parapet into the field of fire of the German machine guns which swept its length, and a further drop of some sixteen feet to the surface of the mole itself. Many were killed and more wounded as they crowded up the gangways, but nothing hindered the orderly and speedy landing by every gangway.
"Lieutenant H. T. C. Walker had his arm shot away by shell on the upper deck, and lay in darkness while the storming parties trod him under. He was recognized and dragged aside by the commander. He raised his remaining arm in greetings. 'Good luck to you,' he called as the rest of the stormers hastened by. 'Good luck.'
"The lower deck was a shambles as the commander made the rounds of the ship, yet those wounded and dying raised themselves to cheer as he made his tour.…
"The Iris had troubles of her own. Her first attempts to make fast to the mole ahead of the Vindictive failed, as her grapnels were not large enough to span the parapet. Two officers, Lieutenant Commander Bradford and Lieutenant Hawkins, climbed ashore and sat astride the parapet trying to make the grapnels fast till each was killed and fell down between the ship and the wall. Commander Valentine Gibbs had both legs shot away and died next morning. Lieutenant Spencer though wounded, took command and refused to be relieved.
"The Iris was obliged at last to change her position and fall in astern of the Vindictive, and suffered very heavily from fire. A single big shell plunged through the upper deck and burst below at a point where fifty-six marines were waiting for the order to go to the gangways. Forty-nine were killed. The remaining seven were wounded. Another shell in the wardroom, which was serving as a sick bay, killed four officers and twenty-six men. Her total casualties were eight officers and sixty-nine men killed, and three officers and 103 men wounded.
"Storming and demolition parties upon the mole met with no resistance from the Germans other than intense and unremitting fire. One after another buildings burst into flame or split and crumbled as dynamite went off. A bombing party working up toward the mole extension in search of the enemy destroyed several machine-gun emplacements, but not a single prisoner rewarded them. It appears that upon the approach of the ships and with the opening of fire the enemy simply retired and contented themselves with bringing machine guns to the short end of the mole."
The story of the three block ships that were to be sunk in the channel at Zeebrugge, also from the report of the British Admiralty, is as follows:—
"The Thetis came first, steaming into a tornado of shells from great batteries ashore. All her crew, save a remnant who remained to steam her in and sink her, already had been taken off her by a ubiquitous motor launch, but the remnant spared hands enough to keep her four guns going. It was hers to show the road to the Intrepid and the Iphigenia, which followed. She cleared a string of armed barges which defends the channel from the tip of the mole, but had the ill fortune to foul one of her propellers upon a net defense which flanks it on the shore side.
"The propeller gathered in the net, and it rendered her practically unmanageable. Shore batteries found her and pounded her unremittingly. She bumped into the bank, edged off, and found herself in the channel again still some hundreds of yards from the mouth of the canal in practically a sinking condition. As she lay she signaled invaluable directions to others, and her commander, R. S. Sneyed, also accordingly blew charges and sank her. Motor launches under Lieutenant Littleton raced alongside and took off her crew. Her losses were five killed and five wounded.
"The Intrepid, smoking like a volcano and with all her guns blazing, followed. Her motor launch failed to get alongside outside the harbor, and she had men enough for anything. Straight into the canal she steered, her smoke blowing back from her into the Iphigenia's eyes, so that the latter was blinded, and, going a little wild, rammed a dredger, with her barge moored beside it, which lay at the western arm of the canal. She was not clear, though, and entered the canal pushing the barge before her. It was then that a shell hit the steam connections of her whistle, and the escape of the steam which followed drove off some of the smoke and let her see what she was doing.
"Lieutenant Stuart Bonham Carter, commanding the Intrepid, placed the nose of his ship neatly on the mud of the western bank, ordered his crew away, and blew up his ship by switches in the chart room. Four dull bumps were all that could be heard, and immediately afterward there arrived on deck the engineer, who had been in the engine room during the explosion, and reported that all was as it should be.
"Lieutenant E. W. Bullyard Leake, commanding the Iphigenia, beached her according to arrangements on the eastern side, blew her up, saw her drop nicely across the canal, and left her with her engines still going, to hold her in position till she should have bedded well down on the bottom. According to the latest reports from air observation, two old ships, with their holds full of concrete, are lying across the canal in a V position, and it is probable that the work they set out to do has been accomplished and that the canal is effectively blocked. A motor launch, under Lieutenant P. T. Deane, had followed them in to bring away the crews and waited further up the canal toward the mouth against the western bank.
"Lieutenant Bonham Carter, having sent away his boats, was reduced to a Carley float, an apparatus like an exaggerated life-buoy, with the floor of a grating. Upon contact with the water it ignited a calcium flare and he was adrift in the uncanny illumination with a German machine gun a few hundred yards away giving him its undivided attention. What saved him was possibly the fact that the defunct Intrepid still was emitting huge clouds of smoke which it had been worth nobody's while to turn. He managed to catch a rope, as the motor launch started, and was towed for a while till he was observed and taken on board."
A short time after the attack, the Kaiser visited Zeebrugge and gave out the statement that practically no damage had been done and that the channel was still clear. But then an Allied airplane flew over the channel and the mole and secured photographs showing two cruisers sunk in the channel just as had been planned, and effectively blocking it, and also a break in the viaduct sixty to one hundred feet in length. "Only another German lie, this time indorsed by the Kaiser," declared the British papers. A leading German daily said, however, "It would be only foolishness to deny that the British naval forces scored a great success. By a stroke, crazy in its audacity, they penetrated one of the most important strongholds over which the German flag floats."
Sailors and especially fighters on the sea have in all ages possessed the noblest and bravest of souls and the finest morale. This is why the British sailors have felt so bitter about the atrocities committed by the German U-boats. In case a ship is sinking, the members of the crew do not expect to leave her until all the passengers are in the lifeboats, and the captain is always the last man to leave. Sometimes he prefers to go down with his ship so that it may never be said that his soul failed him. For sea fighters in U-boats to disregard this traditional chivalry of the sea and to sink merchant ships without warning and without assuring the passengers of their safety seemed to the sailors of other lands like giving up the high ideals that had grown out of their dangerous calling—like poisoning their souls with deceit and violence.
Most naval officers would rather die than surrender. Captain Lawrence, fighting for America in the war of 1812, wounded and dying, cried to his men, "Don't give up the ship." To fight rather than to surrender even in the face of the greatest odds has been for centuries the idea of sea fighters.
Admiral Cervera at Santiago in 1898 knew he was outmatched by the American fleet waiting for him off the harbor; but he brought his ships out and made a brave fight in trying to escape. Lieutenant Hobson knew there were terrible odds against him when he and his little company went in under the guns of the forts and attempted to block the channel. In the Russo-Japanese War, the Russians in the Sea of Japan with their ships foul and barnacled after a voyage of thousands of miles were not afraid to face certain defeat. Brave men do not lose their souls in the face of tremendous odds or even in the face of sure death.
Did the soul of Private George Dilboy of Somerville, Massachusetts, faint in him when he charged alone the German machine gun? He had come with his platoon up a little rise to a railroad track at the top, when suddenly an enemy machine gun opened fire upon them at about one hundred yards distance. Dilboy did not throw himself on the ground to escape the bullets. No, he raised his rifle to his shoulder and standing in plain sight of the German gunners, began to fire at them. As they were partially hidden he was not sure of his aim. So he ran down the embankment and across a wheat field towards them. The machine gun was immediately turned upon him and before he reached it, he fell with one leg nearly severed above the knee by the rain of lead and with several bullets through his body. Half crouched on the only knee left him, he aimed at the gunners one after another until he had killed or dispersed them all, and then fainted and died. He had advanced in the face of certain death, but had saved the lives of many of his comrades, for the gun had to be captured to gain their objective.
The brute is usually a coward at heart. The sinking of unarmed merchant ships and of hospital ships by the German U-boats, the bombing of undefended towns and hospitals, and the firing upon Red Cross workers were acts of brutes and cowards. So it is not strange that the great German fleet which all through the war, except at the battle of Jutland, had hidden in security behind the guns of Heligoland and the defenses of the Kiel Canal lost its soul when, as a last hope, it was ordered out to fight the Allied fleet. The German sailors knew the battle would really be a gigantic sacrifice and refused to fight it for the Fatherland.
There is always a very slight chance that through accident or some peculiar combination of unusual circumstances, a battle even against very great odds may be won. The German fleet had this chance—a very, very slight one, to be sure; and did not take it. The fleet had lost its soul.
Two weeks later, after the signing of the armistice, the German fleet surrendered to the Allies. It was the greatest, the most amazing, and some add, the most shameful surrender in the naval history of the world. It was also the greatest concentration of sea power and the most magnificent spectacle old ocean has ever witnessed.
The surrender was demanded by the terms of the armistice and was made on November 21, according to the program laid down by the commander of the British fleet. It was not the surrender of a foe beaten in a fair battle and yet recognized by his enemies as worthy of his steel. It was the surrender of a foe who declined to fight with the strong and the armed, but who had taken every opportunity to kill the weak and the defenseless. The British sailors could not forget, and they say they never will, the barbarous treatment of their brothers in the merchant marine by the German U-boats. There was therefore none of the sympathy and the fraternization that usually has accompanied a great surrender at sea.
On the afternoon of the day before the surrender the following notice was posted on all the Allied ships:—
"Let it be impressed on all—officers and men—that a state of war exists during the armistice. Their relations with officers and men of the German navy with whom they may now be brought in contact are to be strictly of a formal character in dealing with the late enemy, while courteous.
"It is obligatory that the methods by which they waged war must not be forgotten. No international compliments are to be paid, and all conversation is forbidden except in regard to the immediate business to be transacted.
"If it should be necessary to provide food for the German officers and men, they should not be entertained, but it should be served to them in a place specifically set. If it should be necessary to accept food from the Germans, the request is made that it be similarly served."
Later, notices were posted giving the hour when they were to meet the Germans and requiring every precaution to be taken against treachery.
"At 9:40 the Battle Fleet will meet the German fleet. Immediate readiness for action is to be assumed."
They would not trust the people to whom solemn treaties were but scraps of paper, and whose necessity made any act however treacherous appear to them to be a right one.
The Allied fleets were anchored on the night of November 20 in the Firth of Forth above and below its famous bridge. The United States was represented by the New York, the Florida, the Arkansas, and the Wyoming, and France by a cruiser and two destroyers. Ships from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were also in line. There were nearly four hundred warships in the Allied fleet, including sixty dreadnoughts, fifty cruisers, and over two hundred destroyers.
At four o'clock on the morning of Friday, November 21, the great Battle Fleet weighed anchor and one by one steamed out to sea. It was, even in the darkness, a wonderful and thrilling sight, an exhibition of sea power never before seen in the history of mankind.
Picture that scene in the gray darkness before the dawn. Mile after mile of mighty dreadnoughts and swift cruisers and destroyers weighing their anchors one by one until four hundred mighty engines of war slipped almost silently from their places, each leaving a trail of black smoke behind. As you imagine the scene as it would appear to the eye, can you realize its significance and what it all meant? Do the people of the United States fully understand that but for England's magnificent fleet their great coast cities would have been bombarded or obliged to pay a ransom; and that without the Grand Fleet the war would have been lost to selfish autocracy? Let us never forget England's service.
The German line, each ship flying the German naval flag at the main top, consisted of thirteen of the dreadnought or superdreadnought class, seven light cruisers, and fifty destroyers, and was over twenty miles in length. Each column of the Allied fleet was almost twice as long as this. Over them flew a British naval airplane.
The surrendered ships, guarded on both sides, steamed on towards the anchorage selected for them near May Island at the entrance to the Firth of Forth; and reached there about two o'clock in the afternoon. Admiral Beatty from his flagship, the Queen Elizabeth, issued the following signal to the fleet: "The German flag will be hauled down at sunset today. It will not be hoisted again without permission."
A little later Admiral Beatty sent the following signal:—
"It is my intention to hold a service of thanksgiving at 6 P.M. today for the victory Almighty God has vouchsafed His Majesty's arms. Every ship is recommended to do the same."
And to every ship he sent a message reading:—
"I wish to express to the flag officers, captains, officers and men of the Grand Fleet my congratulations on the victory which it has gained over the sea power of the enemy. The greatness of this achievement is no way lessened by the fact that the final episode did not take the form of a fleet action. Although deprived of this opportunity, which we so long eagerly awaited, and of striking the final blow for the freedom of the world, we may derive satisfaction from the singular tribute that the enemy has accorded the Grand Fleet. Without joining us in action, he has given testimony to the prestige and efficiency of the fleet which is without a parallel in history, and it is to be remembered that this testimony has been accorded to us by those who were in the best position to judge. I desire to express my thanks and appreciation to all who assisted me in maintaining the fleet in instant readiness for action and who have borne the arduous and exacting labors which have been necessary for perfecting the efficiency which has accomplished so much."
There's a breath of May in the breeze
On the little old road;
May in hedges and trees,
May, the red and the white,
May to left and to right,
Of the little old road.
There's a ribbon of grass either side
Of the little old road;
It's a strip just so wide,
A strip nobody owns,
Where a man's weary bones
When he feels getting old
May lie crushing the gold
Of the silverweed flower
For a long lazy hour
By the little old road.
There's no need to guide the old mare
On the little old road.
She knows that just there
Is the big gravel pit
(How we played in it
As mites of boys
In our corduroys!)
And that here is the pond
With the poplars beyond,
And more May—always May,
Away and away
Down the little old road.
There's a lot to make a man glad
On the little old road
(It's the home-going road),
And a lot to make him sad.
Ah! he'd like to forget,
But he can't, not just yet,
With chaps still out there. . . .
She's stopping, the steady old mare.
Is it here the road bends?
So the long journey ends
At the end of the old road,
The little old road.
There's some one, you say, at the gate
Of the little old house by the road?
Is it Mother? Or Kate?
And they're not going to mind
That, since "Wypers,"  I'm blind,
And the road is a long dark road?
 The Battle of Ypres.
Harry Lauder, an extremely popular Scotch singer and entertainer, gave his services to help cheer the soldiers on the western front.
The men went wild with enthusiasm and joy wherever he went. One day I was taking Harry to see the grave of his only child, Captain John Lauder of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, as fine a lad as ever wore a kilt, and as good and brave a son as ever a father had.
As we were motoring swiftly along, we turned into the town of Albert and the first sharp glance at the cathedral showed the falling Madonna and Child. While we lingered a bunch of soldiers came marching through, dusty and tired. Lauder asked the officer to halt his men for a rest and he would sing to them. I could see that they were loath to believe it was the real Lauder until he began to sing. Then the doubts vanished, and they abandoned themselves to the full enjoyment of this very unexpected pleasure. When the singing began, the audience would number about 200; at the finish of it easily more than 2000 soldiers cheered him on his way.
It was a strange send-off on the way that led to a grave—the grave of a father's fondest hopes—but so it was. A little way up the Bapaume road the car stopped, and we clambered the embankment and away over the shell-torn field of Courcelette. Here and there we passed a little cross which marked the grave of some unknown hero; all that was written was "A British Soldier."
He spoke in a low voice of the hope-hungry hearts behind all those at home. Now we climbed a little ridge, and here a cemetery, and in the first row facing the battlefield was the cross on Lauder's boy's resting place.
The father leaned over the grave to read what was written there. He knelt down, indeed he lay upon the grave and clutched it, the while his body shook with the grief he felt. When the storm had spent itself he rose and prayed: "O God, that I could have but one request. It would be that I might embrace my laddie just this once and thank him for what he has done for his country and humanity."
That was all, not a word of bitterness or complaint. On the way down the hill, I suggested gently that the stress of such an hour made further song that day impossible. But Lauder's heart is big and British. Turning to me with a flash in his eye he said, "George, I must be brave; my boy is watching and all the other boys are waiting. I will sing to them this afternoon though my heart break!" Off we went again to another division of Scottish troops.
There within the hour he sang again the sweet old songs of love and home and country, bringing all very near, and helping the men to realize the deeper what victory for the enemy would mean.
DR. GEORGE ADAMS.
Today the journey is ended,
I have worked out the mandates of fate,
Naked, alone, undefended,
I knock at the Uttermost Gate—
Lo, the gate swings wide at my knocking;
Across endless reaches I see
Lost friends, with laughter, come flocking
To give a glad welcome to me.
Farewell, the maze has been threaded,
This is the ending of strife;
Say not that death should be dreaded,
'Tis but the beginning of life.
The World War has shown clearly that all peoples are not alike, that they do not think alike, that they do not feel in the same way about the great things of life and death, and that they do not live alike. England felt very differently from Germany about invading a state whose neutrality both nations had guaranteed.
The difference is largely due to education in the home, the church, and the school; but it is also the result of heredity. Races seem to differ naturally in regard to these things. The Germans have always been cruel, hard, and unmerciful, while the French are tender and inclined to be too easy, even with wrongdoers. The Slav is dreamy, musical, and poetic, while the Bulgarians seek to gain their ends by deceit and brute force. In thinking of the nations and the peoples of the Balkan peninsula, we must be sure to distinguish clearly between them, for they are not at all alike.
Only at the beginning and at the end of the World War have we heard much of Serbia. At the beginning, two Serbians, who were, however, Austrian subjects, assassinated the Crown Prince of Austria, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, on June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, an Austrian province. Whether the war had been already planned or not, this assassination was used as a reason for Austria's attack upon Serbia.
General Putnik, a great commander, was put in charge of the Serbian troops. As General Joffre did in France, he retired before the greatly superior numbers of the enemy, until he was in a position to counterattack and win a victory. Joffre was thus able to save his country from being entirely devastated and defeated, but General Putnik was not. Instead the Serbian army disappeared as a determining force, until near the end of the war when it helped to bring Bulgaria to her knees.
The Serbians sing as they go into battle, for, as has been said, they are an imaginative and a musical people. The heroes of today are blended in their visions with the Serbian heroes of ancient days, and their battle songs are of them both, or first of one and then of the other.
As they went into their last victorious battles in 1918 against the brutal and lying Bulgarians, they sang a sad but spirited song, the words of which may be translated into English as follows:—
"Colonel Batsicht, the Austrians are a thousand to one, but what does it matter? You are only one, yourself, but you are Colonel Batsicht! Were the Austrians as many as the leaves in the forests and their rush to attack more violent than the flood of the Vardar in the spring time, you would even then be their equal, Colonel Batsicht!"
And the marvelous thing about the words of this wonderful battle song is that they are true, and that one man fighting for the right with the spirit and devotion of Colonel Batsicht is always the equal of thousands seeking to establish the wrong. In all the history of the world, nothing has proved this so fully and so clearly as the story of Belgium in the World War. Standing like one man against thousands, she saved the world and herself.
Colonel Batsicht was in command of the Thirteenth Regiment of Infantry in the Serbian army at the opening of the war in 1914. When the Austrians attacked in force, General Putnik decided upon a general retirement to save his armies.
On the evening of the 27th of November, 1914, while this retirement was being carried out, the commanding general sent the following orders to Colonel Batsicht, "If possible, hold your ground for twenty-four hours. If necessary, sacrifice your regiment to save the Serbian army."
Colonel Batsicht sent back word to the commanding general, "I have your orders and they will be carried out." Then he set about preparing to defend the heights which his regiment was holding.
At seven o'clock the next morning, sixteen battalions of Austrian infantry, ten batteries, and four squadrons of cavalry attacked the position. At the firing of the first gun, Colonel Batsicht looked at his watch and exclaimed, "The twenty-four hours for which we must hold our ground have now begun!"
The Austrians were ten against one and the battle was a furious one. Three times the Austrians were driven back; but from their great numbers and from reinforcements coming up, they soon reformed and renewed the attack and were finally successful in pushing back the Serbian right wing for a short distance. But Colonel Batsicht quickly rallied his forces, and they stood their ground. Then the left wing wavered and the colonel hurried to the left end of his line to reorganize it and encourage the men. He was wounded himself, but this did not stop him and his presence was enough to make his soldiers invincible. So all through the day, Colonel Batsicht directed and encouraged, and at evening the Thirteenth Regiment of Infantry of the Serbian army still held the line although most of their number had been killed and their colonel twice wounded.
The Austrians were much disturbed by the heroic resistance of the small body of Serbian soldiers and determined in the early morning of the next day to finish the matter quickly. At dawn they attacked and the Serbians gave way, first on one wing and then on the other, and at last in the center. The reserve was thrown in but could not prevent the Austrians from slowly advancing. It was six o'clock and the Serbians had held the line for twenty-three hours. The few officers that were uninjured urged Colonel Batsicht to order a retreat.
"It is no use to struggle longer," replied the colonel. "Order the men to retire."
"Come with us," said the officers.
"No," replied the colonel, "I cannot. I promised to hold this ground for twenty-four hours, and I must remain for one hour longer."
"But we cannot go without you," cried the officers.
"Obey my orders! Return to your troops and retire with them!" said the colonel sternly.
Military discipline permitted the officers to do nothing but obey.
The colonel was left with his orderly upon the top of the hill up which the Austrians were advancing. The orderly continued firing until the first platoon of the enemy were upon them, when he fell, and the colonel was left standing alone.
"Where is the Thirteenth Regiment?" asked the Austrian officer.
"I am the Thirteenth Regiment," replied the colonel with a smile.
"Then surrender," cried the officer.
"You insult me by asking me, a colonel in the Serbian army, to surrender," replied the colonel as he raised his revolver. But the Austrians were watching sharply and fired first, and the brave colonel fell mortally wounded.
He was carried back of the Austrian lines in an ambulance. When the Austrian general was told the story, he hurried to the hospital and found Colonel Batsicht still alive.
The Austrian told him that it was sad indeed to see such a brave man dying and that he was sorry the colonel had not surrendered.
"I am not sorry, General," replied the colonel.
A few hours later he died, and was buried with military honors.
The Serbian soldiers and the Serbian people will never forget him. He has now become one of their national heroes. Their imaginative and poetical natures see him now as one greater than a mere man, as a sort of superman with the attributes of a god. So they sing in the valley of the Vardar and in the meadows and mountains of Montenegro and Albania the sad but spirited song of which the words in English are:—
"Colonel Batsicht, the Austrians are a thousand to one, but what does it matter? You are only one, yourself, but you are Colonel Batsicht! Were the Austrians as many as the leaves in the forests and their rush to attack more violent than the flood of the Vardar in the spring time, you would even then be their equal, Colonel Batsicht!"
Where are you going, Great-Heart,
With your eager face and your fiery grace?—
Where are you going, Great-Heart?
"To fight a fight with all my might,
For Truth and Justice, God and Right,
To grace all Life with His fair Light."
Then God go with you, Great-Heart!
Where are you going, Great-Heart?
"To beard the Devil in his den;
To smite him with the strength of ten;
To set at large the souls of men."
Then God go with you, Great-Heart!
Where are you going, Great-Heart?
"To end the rule of knavery;
To break the yoke of slavery;
To give the world delivery."
Then God go with you, Great-Heart!
Where are you going, Great-Heart?
"To cleanse the earth of noisome things
To draw from life its poison-stings;
To give free play to Freedom's wings."
Then God go with you, Great-Heart!
Where are you going, Great-Heart?
"To lift Today above the Past;
To make Tomorrow sure and fast;
To nail God's colors to the mast."
Then God go with you, Great-Heart!
Where are you going, Great-Heart?
"To break down old dividing-lines;
To carry out My Lord's designs;
To build again His broken shrines."
Then God go with you, Great-Heart!
Where are you going, Great-Heart?
"To set all burdened peoples free;
To win for all God's liberty;
To 'stablish His Sweet Sovereignty."
God goeth with you, Great-Heart!
"Let it be your pride, therefore, to show all men everywhere, not only
what good soldiers you are, but also what good men you are, keeping
yourselves fit and straight in everything, and pure and clean through
and through. Let us set for ourselves a standard so high that it will
be a glory to live up to it and add a new laurel to the crown of
America. My affectionate confidence goes with you in every battle and
every test. God keep and guide you!"
After the Americans had cleared the Saint Mihiel salient, Marshal Foch gave them a task which was probably the most difficult and dangerous of the whole war. They were to move north and west along the Meuse River through the Argonne forest to Sedan. There they would cut one of the two main communication lines of the Germans, the loss of which would mean to them disaster and rout.
Just before the signing of the armistice on November 11, the Americans reached Sedan after fighting from September 26 over an almost impassable country with few roads and against the strongest forces the Germans could muster. For four years the Germans had been fortifying this part of the line in every possible way, for they realized the danger to them of a successful advance along the Meuse from Verdun to Sedan. The railroad through Mézières, Sedan, and Montmédy was called in a German order "our life artery." To cut it meant death to the German army.
The Argonne forest is a very dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a chain of hills running north and south. It is very difficult for a large army to advance and be supplied with food and munitions without good roads over which to move, and all the roads in this region are poor and, with very few exceptions, run east and west.
The Americans, twenty-one divisions or about 750,000 men, took part in the action. They were obliged to move through the valleys above which, on the hillsides, the Germans had stationed innumerable machine guns and light artillery.
"It was bitter fighting in the woods, brush and ravines, over a region perfectly registered and plotted by the enemy, where his guns, big and little, could be used with the greatest efficiency. The original nine American divisions in some cases were kept in the line over three consecutive weeks. The American reserves were then thrown in until every division not engaged on another part of the line had been put in action.
"It is a fact commented on with pride by the American commanders and complimented by the allies that seven of these divisions that drove their way through this hard action never before had been in an active sector, while green troops, fresh from home, were poured in as replacements.
"The Associated Press dispatches from day to day told what these men did; how the enemy was slowly pushed back from his strongest and most vital positions, through one defense system after another, using his finest selected troops, which had been withdrawn in many instances from other portions of the line, in an effort to hold an enemy which he derisively said last spring could not be brought to Europe, and if so would not fight, and even if he tried to fight would not know how to do so."
As they advanced, they were obliged to cross the Meuse and capture the town of Dun. This is a simple statement and might be passed over as not very significant, but in its few words, it contains a story of one of the bravest deeds of any army in any war.
The Germans knew, of course, that if they could prevent the crossing of the river at this point, the Americans could not capture Sedan and cut their line of communications. It may be that the Americans took them completely by surprise when they attempted the crossing here, and that if the Germans had in the least expected the attempt would be made, they would have been better prepared to defeat it. As it was, however, the Americans were met by a frightful and deadly fire from the enemy behind natural defenses so strong that they believed no army would think of attacking them.
The river at this point is about 160 feet wide. Beyond it lies a half mile of mud, and then a canal 60 feet wide with perpendicular walls rising several feet above the surface of the water.
On Monday afternoon, just one week before the war ended, the order was given to cross the river, the mud, and the canal and to occupy the west bank. The officers had hesitated to give the command for they realized what it meant in dead and wounded; but the privates also knew and they hoped they would be allowed to make the attempt, which with American soldiers means to succeed. They were there to bring the war to an end, and to press on against every danger was the sure way to end it quickly.
Those who could swim the river were first called out. Each one was given the end of a rope long enough to reach across the river; then they jumped in and swam exposing as little of their heads and bodies as possible. The German machine guns were so placed as to cover by their fire every foot of the east bank of the river, and the rifles also of hundreds of Huns across the canal attempted to pick off the swimmers. Many were killed and many others were wounded and left to drown, for it would not do to stop to rescue them. A story is told, however, of two chums swimming side by side. One of them was hit by a bullet in the neck and was saved by the other who swam on supporting him until they reached the opposite bank. Then he stopped long enough to bind up the wound and leave his chum lying flat in the mud while he advanced through the mud and across the canal. Both lived to return home with the victorious army.
When the swimmers were across, they held the ropes, which were fastened at the other bank, taut, so that those who could not swim could cross by holding on to them. Some attempted to cross on hastily built rafts and in collapsible canvas boats. More of these were lost than of the swimmers who, partially submerged, were not so good targets for the riflemen.
At the same time the engineers were building pontoon bridges and smaller foot bridges. After the first wave of men had crossed the river and the mud and were climbing up the further side of the canal, the engineers were not so greatly delayed by rifle fire and soon had a foot bridge ready over which the troops quickly rushed. The pontoon bridge was destroyed by enemy fire. Many were lost in the mud where progress was slow and where, obliged to stand erect, they made good targets.
Those swimmers who reached the canal jumped in, swam across the 60 feet of water, and climbed the opposite bank by using grappling hooks.
The Germans had not taken the precaution to build trenches beyond the canal, thinking that the river, the mud, and the canal at this point would offer protection enough. Therefore, when the Americans had succeeded in crossing the canal, the Germans hastily retreated. Probably there were fewer casualties among the Americans than if the attack had been made at what seemed a less dangerous point, for elsewhere along the river the Huns had intrenched themselves.
The action was one demanding skill and courage of the highest order. It was carried through successfully because the Americans possessed both of these qualities and realized they were fighting for the noblest cause for which men ever fought. They were willing to give up their today that others might have a secure and happy tomorrow.
The capture of Sedan forced the Germans to ask for an armistice and to accept whatever terms were offered. In studying the war and the masterly strategy of Marshal Foch, it should never be forgotten that in a few weeks, the armies under his command would have won the greatest victory ever recorded in history and that more than a million Germans would have been obliged to surrender with all their guns and equipment. A smaller minded or more selfish general than Foch might have declined to grant an armistice in order to gain the credit of such a marvelous victory; but Foch thought of the lives that might be saved by granting the armistice and did not think of his own glory. He has lost none of the credit that belongs to him by doing this, but has gained a higher place in the esteem of men.
Nor should it be forgotten that if General Pershing's army had failed in its almost impossible task, no armistice would have been asked for. The war with its suffering and death would have gone over into another year. The same would have been true if the British and French armies had failed. All did the duties assigned them nobly, heroically, and successfully, and the Hun realized that, as always, might was with the forces of right.
In January, 1916, I belonged to the Bombing Escadrille 102. One fair day a little after one o'clock, we were ordered to get ready for an expedition. Naturally, we were curious about where we were to go, but it is not usual to name the objective until ready to leave. From the amount of gasoline we were ordered to carry, we all guessed it would be the railroad station at Metz.
Forty planes were to take part in the raid, twenty from my Escadrille 102 and twenty from Escadrille 101, led by brave Commander Roisin.
At one end of the aviation field, the planes stand in a row facing the wind. The engines are carefully gone over by the machinists, the gunners examine the guns, the bombs are placed in their racks. I carry six bombs, others take eight, nine, and even ten, depending upon the size and condition of the airplane and its engine.
We stand ready and wait for the final orders. We are given maps on which the route we are to take is indicated. We all set our watches by that of the commander of the expedition. Fifty minutes after the first plane leaves, we must all be over Nichola-du-port and at an altitude of at least 6000 feet. From there, following the signals which would be given us by the commander, we were to go on; or return to the aviation field, if the weather, the wind, the clouds, or poor grouping of our machines made it necessary.
An engine at the end of the line on our left is purring. The plane starts and rolls along the ground and then takes to the air. A second follows it, and then a third. My machine is number seven. I ask my observer, Allard, if he is ready. He answers, "Yes." I start the engine, give it all the gas, like the others roll along the ground for a few seconds, and then take the air.
Just before leaving, Allard informs me that he will try to get a little sleep while I am reaching the proper elevation. He says he will be ready to study the map when we get beyond our trenches. As he can be of no service whatever to me in helping the machine rise, I see no reason to object to his going to sleep if he desires. I turn around and look at him several times while we are climbing up. His eyes are closed, but I doubt his sleeping. He surely has a perfect right to, for very soon he will need all his coolness and strength.
2:20 P.M. I am at the place named, exactly on time. I recognize the commander's machine by the little red flags at the ends of the wings. I get the signal to go on, and I proceed with the group.
After the trenches are crossed, the faster planes make a few spirals to allow the slower ones to catch up. The group is now more compact and we go on with the shrapnel bursting now and then around us. This troubles no one of us, however, for only by luck or chance would we be injured. A few or even many holes in the fabric do little or no harm.
I watch the country as it spreads out beneath my feet. To my right is the Seille River, its banks washed away by floods so that it looks like a great necklace of ponds. To my left is the Moselle and the canal beside it. They look like two beautiful silver lines which disappear at the north in a cloud of mist. And now I see that that which I call a cloud of mist is only the smoke from the chimneys of Metz.
As I get nearer, I can see through this smoke the houses and churches and the long buildings with red tile roofs, which are probably the barracks. A circle of green surrounds the whole. These are the forts; from above they seem quite harmless.
In a few minutes I shall be over my objective, the small freight house. The machines in the lead make a half turn so that those behind may overtake them. As my machine is a slow one, I make directly for my objective. I am the first to arrive.
The enemy must have expected us, for many of their machines are in the air moving around at different altitudes ready to attack us. One of them is coming to welcome me. I turn quickly to see if Allard, the observer, is wide awake. His machine gun is pointed at the enemy, his fingers are on the trigger. Good. All is ready.
At 150 yards, the boche biplane suddenly turns its right flank toward us to allow the gunner to fire. Today such a turn is not necessary, for such machines carry two guns, one fixed and one behind mounted on a pivot so as to fire in any direction. I keep my eyes on the enemy. The black iron crosses are very plainly seen on the rudder and the fuselage. The fight begins.
The machine guns spit fire, and the boche dives, seeming to have had enough. I do not follow him, for the way ahead is clear, and I have an important duty to perform. Through the opening in the floor at my feet I see the railroad junction, some trains moving and others standing. I can also see the depots for the freight and munitions.
Allard touches my left shoulder and signs for me to keep straight ahead. Another touch and I know he has dropped the bombs. It is done, and I have nothing to do but to turn about and make for home.
But now the boches seem to be thick about us. We must be very careful. But in spite of all, we are surprised and attacked by a Fokker fighting plane. He fires a volley into us and is gone before we can get a shot at him. Two or three short "spats" tell me that his aim was good and our machine has been hit.
The engine is certainly not injured for it roars on. Allard examines the gasoline tank, but it does not seem to have been struck.
The wind is blowing from the north and helps us get home quickly. In a short time, we are back above our trenches. I laugh aloud. Why, I do not know. I look around and see that Allard is also laughing. We are beaming and happy. Now that we are out of danger, we want to talk about it, but the roar of the engine drowns our voices. We have to be patient and wait until we land.
Slowing down as we descend, the plane glides sweetly over the Meurthe valley. We volplane gently toward the earth. Little by little things begin to look real. The beautiful green moss changes into forests, the black ribbons into railways, and the white ribbons into highways. What I had thought from a distance to be a huge curtain of black smoke, becomes the beautiful city of Nancy. We are only 800 feet above the field. One more spiral and we land.
I examine the machine at once. The fabric of the planes is full of bullet holes.
Many of the planes that went with us have not returned. We are told that some of them will not, for they were seen dropping into enemy territory.
But one by one, the white specks in the sky come in. At last all of our squadron have returned and the grave and worried look leaves the commander's face. He is indeed pleased and does not hide it.
But alas! It is not the same with all the squadrons. There is still time, of course, to find that we are mistaken. The missing planes may appear, but it is to be feared that this night at some of the messes, black bread will be eaten.
The British parliament recognized the brave work of the aviators in the following words:
"Far above the squalor and the mud, so high up in the firmament as to be invisible from the earth, they fight the eternal issues of right and wrong. Every fight is a romance, every report is an epic. They are the knighthood of this war. Without fear and without reproach, they have fought, for they have brought back the legendary days of chivalry, not merely by the daring of their exploits, but by the nobility of their spirit."
Although the great issues of the war were decided, and victory was finally won, by the fighting on the western front, the British campaigns in Palestine and in Mesopotamia were in no small way responsible for the final result. The fighting in this theater of the war was against the Turkish allies of Germany. The Turks were originally one of the Tartar tribes, dwelling in Asia, east of the Caspian Sea. Many of these tribes passed over into Europe, where they are now known as the Lapps, the Finns, the Bulgarians, and the Magyars or Hungarians. More of these Tartar tribes migrated to Asia Minor and adopted the Mohammedan religion. The Turks were one of these. They served first as hired soldiers, but were finally united by their leader, Seljuk, into a strong people called the Seljukian Turks. Their power grew rapidly and soon they captured the city of Jerusalem. They also invaded Europe and captured Constantinople, in 1453, where they have ever since been a menace to civilization.
Less than a year after William II became Emperor of Germany, the imperial yacht, the Hohenzollern, steamed through the Mediterranean into the narrow Dardanelles and, saluted by forts on both shores, passed on to Constantinople, the capital of the Moslem Kalif and the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid II.
The head of the Catholic church is called the Pope; the head of the Eastern church, the Patriarch; and the head of the Mohammedan, the Kalif. Just as Catholics, no matter of what country they are citizens, recognize the authority of the Pope in matters of religion, so Mohammedans, with few exceptions, are guided in these matters by the Kalif.
William II was accompanied by the Empress, his wife, and this was their first ceremonial visit to any of the crowned heads of Europe. Why did the German Kaiser select Abdul Hamid for this high honor?
The Germans were received with great joy. The entire city of Constantinople was decorated with the gorgeous display that only an eastern city makes. The visit was evidently greatly appreciated by the Mohammedan Kalif and the Sultan of Turkey; and his people, at his orders doubtless, made the Germans realize how proud they were at being thus honored by the Kaiser.
What attraction brought these two strange monarchs together? And why was the visit repeated nine years later in 1898? Did William II feel in 1889 that Abdul Hamid was a man after his own heart, more nearly so than any other ruler in Europe? And was he sure of it in 1898?
Certain it is, that while the greetings were cordial in 1889, they were much more so in 1898; for on this second visit, the Kaiser kissed the Kalif on both cheeks and called him "brother." Then after having made arrangements for the German building and the German control of the Berlin to Bagdad railway, William II went on to Jerusalem. There he stood in homage before the Holy Sepulcher, and afterward before the manger in Bethlehem. A few days later in Damascus, a chief Moslem city, he spoke to the Mohammedan officers then ruling the Holy Land, and in the course of his speech said, "His Majesty, the Sultan Abdul Hamid, and the three hundred million Mohammedans who reverence him as Kalif may be sure that at all times the German Kaiser will be their friend."
Abdul Hamid was a Turk, a Mohammedan, and a Sultan. As a Turk, he believed all other people were no better than animals; and that it was no more of a sin to kill a man, woman, or child of another race than it was to kill a dog or a rat. As a Mohammedan, he believed that killing a Christian gained merit in the eyes of Allah (which is the Mohammedan word for God). And as a Sultan, he remembered how he had lost Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Roumania. These Balkan states together with Bosnia were formerly a part of Turkey in Europe. Most of their inhabitants were Christians and were more progressive than the Turks. As they advanced in education and wealth, they revolted and gained their independence in 1878. As Turkey lost these, the Sultan feared he might lose Armenia, his last remaining Christian province. This was Turkey's Armenian problem. The Sultan attempted to solve it in true Turkish manner,—adopted later by the Huns in Belgium, but never carried out so relentlessly as in Armenia.
Between the two visits of Kaiser William II, Abdul Hamid had been able to put into effect some of the ideas in which he believed. First he made a plan to kill about two million of his subjects living in Armenia. Here it was that Noah is said to have landed with the ark on Mt. Ararat after the flood had partially subsided, and here was a people called Armenians and a country called Armenia long before the time of Christ. But the Turk said in the days of Abdul Hamid, "There is no such country as Armenia," and the Armenians were ordered never to use the word or to speak of their country for it had disappeared, and they now lived in a Turkish province. Abdul Hamid determined the people should also disappear.
It seems almost impossible for Americans in the twentieth century to believe that such a story can be true. They can easily believe it of a thousand years ago, but not of twenty-five years ago. Yet it is beyond doubt. Henry Morgenthau, American Ambassador to Turkey during the first two years of the World War, has written the story of the attempts by the Turkish government to massacre the Armenian Christians in 1895 and in 1915.
He writes: "Abdul Hamid apparently thought there was only one way of ridding Turkey of the Armenian problem—and that was to rid her of the Armenians. The physical destruction of two million men, women, and children by massacres, organized and directed by the state, seemed to be the one sure way of forestalling the further disruption of the Turkish Empire.… Yet Abdul Hamid was not able to accomplish his full purpose. Had he had his will, he would have massacred the whole nation in one hideous orgy."
In 1895-96 nearly two hundred thousand Armenians were put to death on one pretext or another, usually in the most horrible ways, and in many cases after the most terrible torture. The entire race would have been exterminated if Christian Europe and America had not risen in protest. But no word of protest came from Abdul Hamid's good friend, William II. Instead, the Kaiser visited, within two years after these terrible massacres, the monarch who was now called throughout Europe, "Abdul the Damned," and kissing him on both cheeks, called him brother!
Why did the Kaiser love the Sultan and Kalif so greatly? Perhaps because they were kindred spirits. It certainly could not be because of Abdul Hamid's knowledge and intellectual power, for he was very ignorant, and not at all the type of mind that would impress a German. He was very superstitious and suspicious, always fearing attempts upon his life. A lot of books on chemistry, imported by an American missionary, were seized by the Turkish customs officers because they claimed they were intended to injure the Sultan. When the missionary asked for an explanation, the officer opened one of the books and pointed to the expression H2O, which occurred very frequently in it. Now H2O is the chemical symbol for water and means that two atoms of hydrogen unite with one atom of oxygen to form one molecule of water. However, Abdul Hamid, or his officers, believed that H stood for Hamid, 2 for II, and O for nothing, and that H[subscript 2]O was a secret way of saying to the Christians in Turkey, "Abdul Hamid II is nothing."
It is also said that Constantinople was lighted only by gas long after electric lights were used in other large cities, because "the red Sultan," as he was also often called on account of his bloody deeds, would allow neither dynamite nor dynamos to be brought into the city where he lived. He knew of the destructive power of dynamite and could never be made to believe that a dynamo was not equally to be feared!
The German Kaiser was not charmed by the brilliancy and the intelligence of the "Great Assassin." He may have admired his deeds but he probably loved him for what he thought he could get out of him and his country. It seems clear now that even in 1889, at the beginning of his reign, William II began to plan a Greater Germany and possibly World Domination. Certainly he soon dreamed of a German Middle Europe reaching from the North Sea to the Persian Gulf and crossed from Berlin to Bagdad by a German controlled railroad. It seems too that he realized he must have Turkey as an ally and that to accomplish his ends, he might possibly be obliged to bring about a Holy War with all the Mohammedan world fighting the Christian. The Mohammedans considered the Kaiser one of themselves and referred to him as "His Islamic Majesty." In the World War he attempted to cause this Holy War but failed because the Mohammedans in Arabia did not recognize the Sultan of Turkey as Kalif. The two holy cities of the Mohammedans in Arabia are Mecca where the prophet, Mohammed, was born and Medina where he died. Whoever rules over these cities is the Mohammedan Kalif. When the Kaiser attempted to bring on a Holy War, the Arabians joined the Allies, founded the independent kingdom of Hedjaz, and recognized its king as the Kalif.
The "red Sultan" must have known that the Kaiser would not object to his massacres of the Armenians and the strengthening of Turkish rule, for these only aided the purposes of Germany. But Abdul Hamid was forced to abdicate by a revolution of his own people before the Armenians were exterminated and before the Kaiser's dream was realized. By 1915, however, the "Great Assassin's" power was in the hands of Turks who held the same beliefs and sought to carry out the same plans as he had in 1895. And now England, France, Russia, and Italy, all engaged in war, were unable to interfere, and the Turks felt very sure the United States would not trouble them.
Now Enver Pasha and Taalat Pasha, the real rulers of Turkey, determined that there should be no blunder or mistake; they would exterminate the nearly two million Christian Armenians, who were Turkish subjects, and thus remove a serious problem in the management of Turkey and all danger of the Armenians rendering assistance to the Allies.
One of the chief indictments of the German government, under William II, is that it uttered no protest while the Armenian men in the vigor of life were taken from the villages by the hundred and shot, or killed in more brutal ways, and the old men, women, and children obliged to march off to a distant desert part of Asia Minor, or to the malarial swamps of the Euphrates. Of course, they nearly all died on the way. About one million Armenians were exterminated in this way in 1915. The German government could have stopped it by a word. But how could they say the word? They had hardly finished their Belgian atrocities and were still deporting men and girls from Belgium and France. No protest came from the Kaiser, his ministers; or his people.
The Armenians dress very largely in red. A common costume of women and girls is striking even at a distance because of the amount of red in it. The same is true to a less degree of the men. The hordes of old men, old women, the sick, and the frail, with children of all ages marching mile after mile, often in cold and rain with no food except what they had been able to seize as they were driven on a moment's notice from their homes and villages, leaving their strong men brutally slaughtered, have been called "red caravans of death," and in truth they were caravans of victims seeking, desiring, praying for death, and marching on till death relieved them.
In 1915, the Turkish armies in Palestine, under German leadership, attempted to gain possession of the Suez Canal, in order to prevent supplies passing through on Allied ships. Although the Turks made several attempts to block the canal, they were all unsuccessful. After these numerous attacks on the canal, England realized that the only safe way to protect her Egyptian possessions was to gain Palestine. In 1916 a plan was made for an offensive into the Holy Land. The plan was first tried by General Maxwell and then by General Murray, but both attempts were unsuccessful.
In June, 1917, the English transferred General Allenby, then fighting on the western front, to the command of the Egyptian expeditionary forces. He immediately began to lay plans for an offensive into Palestine, with the city of Jerusalem as his main objective. The Turks were strongly fortified in southern Palestine, on a line extending from the coast city of Gaza to the inland city of Beersheba. Allenby's plan was to attack the left flank of the enemies' line, capturing Beersheba, where he counted on renewing his water supply. To aid the successful advancement of his main offense, he sent a small body of troops toward the city of Gaza, situated on the enemies' right flank. This was done to draw the Turkish reserves toward Gaza, where they would expect the main offense to take place. The British warships in the Mediterranean helped in this movement, by bombarding the town as the land forces approached it. The plan was put into effect on October 30. On the next day the city of Beersheba was taken by surprise, and the Turkish left flank was routed. After renewing his supply of water at Beersheba, General Allenby advanced on Gaza, which was captured with little resistance. Although greatly hampered by poor water supply and tremendous transportation difficulties, he drove the Turks north and by a successful engagement at Junction Station cut their forces in two.
By this time the Turks in Jerusalem were becoming greatly disturbed by Allenby's rapid advance. Enver Pasha, the famous Turkish commander, rushed to the city to rally his generals, but after studying the situation, he left the city the next day. Soon after Enver's hurried departure, General Falkenhayn arrived. Military supplies were moved north of the city and the Germans prepared to leave. The remaining Turks were under the command of Ali Fuad Pasha, who by proclamations and entreaties, tried to rally the people of the city.
Meanwhile General Allenby had moved north and captured the city of Jaffa, situated on the Mediterranean, a little northwest of Jerusalem. From Jaffa, by hard fighting he advanced through the Judean hills, towards the Holy City. Jerusalem was occupied by English troops on December 9, 1917, and General Allenby made his official entrance on December 11. Soon after the occupation of the city by the English, a proclamation was read, amidst great cheering, announcing freedom of worship.
Part of the proclamation is as follows. "Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore, do I make it known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred."
The capture of Jerusalem was hailed by the entire civilized world as one of the greatest accomplishments of the war. Although it was taken for strategical reasons, the fact that the Holy City was once more in the hands of Christians meant more to the world than the military advantage gained by its capture. Jerusalem is generally thought of only as a peaceful shrine of many nations; it is in reality a fortress more often contested, perhaps, than any other city in the world. Until captured by General Allenby, Jerusalem had been, except for two brief intervals, under Mohammedan control for almost thirteen centuries. Now that it is once more in Christian hands, it appears probable that it will remain so forever.
After capturing the city, the English began to strengthen its fortifications against counter-attacks. They also fortified the coast city of Jaffa which they had captured just previous to the advance on Jerusalem. The Turks made several attempts to recapture their lost ground, but all were unsuccessful. The English were unable to resume their offensive the following spring, because of the crisis which compelled them to send a large part of their forces to Europe to check the new German drive on the western front. It was not until September 18, 1918, that General Allenby started his next offensive. The object of this was the capture of Damascus, the capital of Syria. He started his advance on a line extending from Haifa on the coast, across Palestine to the Arabian Desert. Although strongly opposed by a Turkish army numbering at least 100,000 men, he advanced by remarkable forced marching and hard fighting on Damascus, which he occupied October 1, 1918. During the offensive on Damascus, he captured over 70,000 prisoners and 350 guns. Included in these figures were several Turkish commanders and German and Austrian troops numbering more than 200 officers and 3000 privates.
Damascus is the most beautiful city in Asiatic Turkey and is the oldest city in the world. There is a Turkish prophecy, many centuries old, made in fact when the Turks were at the height of their power, that some day they would be conquered and driven back to the place from which they came. The prophet said, "When the end is at hand, Damascus will be taken by the infidels. An Imam wearing a green turban and a green robe will ascend to the top of a green minaret with his last salavat. He will call all the faithful about him and they will all then start on a journey to the place from whence they came."
Because of this prophecy, there is a Turkish saying known to all Turks educated or ignorant, dweller in city or in obscure village, which reads, Evelli Sham, Akhuri Sham. Now Sham is the Turk's name for Damascus, Evelli means first, and Akhuri means last: and the meaning of the saying in English would be something like this, "Damascus is everything to the Turk, and when it falls all is lost." Probably the prophet had no idea that Damascus would or could be taken from the south by forces led across the desert as General Allenby led the English. If Damascus should be captured from the north, all of the Turkish dominion would have to be conquered before the foe reached there. So the Turks have repeated with a feeling of security, Evelli Sham, Akhuri Sham.
The capture of Damascus opened the way to Aleppo, situated on the Constantinople-Bagdad railroad about 180 miles to the north. The Turkish troops, routed by the rapid advance of the British on Damascus, gave very little resistance to Allenby in his drive on Aleppo. The English entered Aleppo on Saturday morning, October 26, and stopped Turkish traffic on the Constantinople-Bagdad railway at this point. On October 29, General Marshall's forces defeated the Turks at Kaleh Sherghat, cutting off their communications with Mosul. The combined victories of Allenby in Palestine and Marshall in Mesopotamia left the remaining Turkish forces helpless. Turkey signed an armistice October 30, 1918, which was virtually the same as an unconditional surrender, and meant the end of the "unspeakable Turk" in Europe.
The United States did not declare war till nearly three years after the war had begun in Europe. During most of that time the situation was this: Germany, to win at all, must win at once. The longer the Allies could stave Germany off, the more time they would have to collect arms and armies, powder, food, and ships, and the more certain they would be of winning in the end. Therefore they sent to America, which was rich and had many factories, for tremendous quantities of every sort of war provisions. Of course it was necessary for Germany to prevent the Allies from getting these supplies. It was in the effort to do this that the German spy system became so widespread in the United States.
The German government had always kept in direct touch with a number of Germans in America, and in indirect touch with a great many more. So when Germany needed help in America, she called on the German-Americans to hinder in every way possible the sending of aid to Great Britain and France. The United States could not allow any one to blow up American factories and railroads and start strikes among American workmen. Consequently the United States Secret Service and its fellow agencies set to work, and the great fight was on.
The opponents, the German Intelligence Office and the American Secret Service, were not so unevenly matched as one might imagine. What advantage the Germans lost by being in the enemy's country they made up by being prepared far in advance, and by knowing just what they wanted to do. And there is always an advantage on the side of the hunted animal. Let us see briefly just what each organization was like.
The German service in its heyday was a fearful and wonderful thing. Little by little, as spies were "shadowed," captured, and their papers examined, the whole far-reaching tangle was revealed. One can tell only a little here about this tangle—for to tell it all would take more books than one.
In the German system there were five or six names to be remembered. Count von Bernstorff, the German Ambassador and chief plotter; Dr. Heinrich Albert, his assistant and treasurer; Franz von Rintelen, reported to be a near relative to the Kaiser; Captain Franz von Papen, the military attaché; and his partner, Captain Boy-Ed, the naval attaché. From this group at the top, the lines spread down, through business men, doctors, editors, clerks, butlers, and every rank and class in America. "Big Bill" Flynn, for many years the clever chief of the Secret Service, said that he thought there were 250,000 men and women in this country who were working for Germany. Sad to say, not all of them were German by birth; a few, the most dangerous, were native Americans, although they were Germans at heart. Everywhere, in the most unexpected places, these German agents were found, always busily carrying out their orders with regular German blindness, and never questioning or knowing anything about the hideous acts of their superiors. The German machine was, in short, like a huge wheel, with the brains at the hub.
The United States fought this contemptible creation with several weapons. The Secret Service was of course the most active; but it was very greatly helped by the Department of Justice, the Naval Intelligence, and the Military Intelligence, as well as by the police departments in the various cities. In fact, one of the greatest troubles at times was that too many agencies would be working on the same case. They stepped on each other's heels.
All these branches grew in size during the war, but especially the Naval and Military Intelligence offices. As early as January, 1916, patriotic citizens were quietly serving their government, all unknown even to their own friends, and were collecting pieces of information and hints here and there that, in the end, were of great value. If the Germans had spies in every nook and cranny of our nation, so did we—business men, secretaries, cooks, doctors, and laborers. The Secret Service was everywhere. Again and again, when some devoted German was busily doing his duty to his Fatherland, an American Secret Service agent would lay a hand on his shoulder and show him a ticket to a prison camp. And then, so curious is the German way of thinking, nine times out of ten the German, intensely surprised and very cross at being caught in the act, would insist that he was doing nothing, and that he had a perfect right to do it!
Now watch the two forces at war. The German machine was working quietly along, now and then blowing up a factory and now and then being caught red-handed. It had already suffered a severe loss, for Captain von Papen, the military attaché, had been discovered in his work by the British and had been deported. When he reached Germany, by the way, he was given the Order of the Red Eagle by the Kaiser, who doubtless recognized in the bungling plotter a fellow spirit. Thanks to the information gained from von Papen's papers, the United States had a very good idea of what the other Germans in America were doing and began to make arrests.
Every afternoon at about five o'clock Dr. Albert, the ambassador's assistant, would leave his office at 45 Broadway, New York, and take the elevated railroad uptown to his luxurious rooms in the German Club. He always carried with him a brown leather dispatch case. The Secret Service men, who had been keeping an eye on him, determined to get that case, because they knew from the way the doctor always held on to it, that it must contain something important. A wise member of the Service was chosen to make the coup.
He watched the German closely for many days, and saw that the doctor took a train just at five o'clock every day; that, on the train, he read his evening paper very intently (possibly to see which one of his friends had been arrested last); and that he always walked through the same streets from the railroad to his club. Finally one day the agent decided that he was ready to try for that little brown case.
That evening a quiet, well-mannered gentleman, not noticeable in any particular way, took the seat next to Dr. Albert on the train. The doctor spread out his paper with true German disregard for the persons on each side of him, and began to read. Always he held the flat brown case clutched against his side. The train passed several stations and still the doctor hugged his case. Although the car was packed with people, the American carefully avoided crushing against the spy, for fear of alarming him. More stations were left behind, and the doctor had nearly finished his paper. The Secret Service man was getting worried; would he fail? And there were the papers, so close to him. Then the train stopped at the next to the last station. At the same minute Dr. Albert completed his reading, and for the fraction of a moment raised his arm to fold the sheets. With lightning quickness the agent slid the dispatch case away from the doctor's side and stood up. Two or three people jostled him, and he staggered against the doctor. Then he lunged for the door. The doctor finished folding his paper and felt for his case. It was gone. He jumped to his feet and glared around him wildly.
"Conductor!" he shouted, "My case! It is gone!"
The gates of the car clanged shut and the train started slowly. Down the stairs to the street went the American, quietly and confidently, with the brown leather case under his arm. On the train, Dr. Albert, white of face, was bitterly calling on his German Gott to find his case for him!
The next day, and the next, and for many days thereafter, a few modest lines of advertising appeared in New York papers, saying that a brown leather case had been lost on an elevated train and that a small reward would be paid for its return. The advertisement stated that the case was of no value to anyone but the owner. The poor doctor did not dare call attention to his loss by sounding too loud an alarm, for he knew what was in the bag.
"Of no value to anyone but the owner!" Not to ninety-nine people out of a hundred, perhaps; but the hundredth man had the case, and he and his chief knew what to make of it.
On a windy morning in April, 1916, two American secret agents, dressed, as always, in civilian clothes, were walking down Wall Street toward number 60. From information obtained through the capture of several spies, they knew that in an office at 60 Wall Street a big, polite German, Wolf von Igel, was running an advertising agency that was not an advertising agency. They knew further that Wolf was one of the chief plotters, and that he kept many of the most important German plans locked in a big burglar-proof safe, on which was painted the Imperial German seal. Lastly, and this explains why the two agents were walking to his office at exactly that hour, they knew that some especially important plans would be in the safe and that another dangerous spy would be talking to von Igel. This piece of knowledge had come through one of the many underground ways which so puzzled the Germans. It may have been a "tip" from some American agent who was secretly working with the Germans to spy on them.
The Americans pushed open the door, hurried right past the clerk in the outer office, and entered the inner room. Von Igel, who was bending over a packet of papers, looked up.
"I'll trouble you for those papers, von Igel," said one of the Americans, stepping up to him.
The startled German shoved him back, leaped to the safe door, and slammed it shut. But before he had time to give the knob a twirl, the Secret Service men were upon him. In rushed the clerk, and for a few minutes the four men wrestled and struggled madly all around the little room. But the Americans were powerful, and they had help at hand. They threw the Germans down and sat on them to rest, while the frightened Germans protested.
"You have no right to do this," panted von Igel. "This is the property of the Imperial German Government, and cannot be broken into this way!"
"That'll be all right," answered one American. "You see it has been broken into."
The papers, seventy pounds of them, were packed up and taken away,—with the Germans. As the men were leaving the office, they met the other spy, who was just arriving. It did not take much persuasion to make him go along too.
The German Ambassador, von Bernstorff, raised a frightful uproar over this, and claimed that the papers were his. This was a sad mistake on his part, because, when the letters were opened and the plans read, he was asked to remember that he had said they were his. There was enough proof in that seventy pounds to convince even a German. Among other things there came to light their conspiracies to undermine the citizenship of other countries. But now all this was made worse than useless, for its discovery not only laid bare the plot, but also told the names of all the men who were taking part in it. It was the biggest victory scored by either side, and the credit for it goes to our regular Secret Service.
Three of the heads of the German beast in America had now been cut off. There remained only von Bernstorff. He lasted nine months longer than the others. The government has not yet told the world all the details of the ambassador's last great defeat, but some were as follows—
Germany now knew that if she were to win at all, it must be immediately. So she decided to carry on her ruthless submarine warfare, and sink all the ships she could, no matter to whom they belonged. She realized that it would make America declare war on her, and in order to offset her coming in, she hit upon the idea of having Mexico attack her on the South, and if possible, Japan on the West. She did not stop to think (she had no time for that) that Japan was one of the Allies, and of course would not make war against her. Perhaps she believed Japan would not remain faithful to the Allies.
So the Foreign Office in Berlin wrote to von Bernstorff in Washington, and he in turn was to write to Mexico. The success of the whole scheme depended on secrecy. The arrangements must be made without the United States knowing anything about it. Once again a heavy responsibility was thrown upon our Secret Service. How did they carry it?
We have already seen that the Service had its agents in the most unsuspected places. One of the most unsuspected of them all must have gotten to work, for within a week the Service knew that something unusually mysterious was going on inside the German Embassy. Patiently the resourceful agents worked and worked, bit by bit, until at last—they won. They secured the most necessary document of the whole case, the one which Germany was most anxious to keep secret. When it was made public, it caused the greatest sensation of years. Here it is:—
"Berlin, January 19, 1917.
(To von Eckhardt, the German Minister in Mexico.)
"On the first of February we intend to begin submarine warfare unrestricted. In spite of this it is our intention to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.
"If this attempt is not successful, we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: that we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to recover the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. The details are left to you for settlement.
"You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico of the above in greatest confidence, as soon as it is certain that there will be an outbreak of war with the United States, and suggest that the President of Mexico on his own initiative should communicate with Japan, suggesting adherence to this plan. At the same time offer to mediate between Germany and Japan.
"Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico that the employment of ruthless submarine warfare now promises to compel England to make peace in a few months."
Alfred Zimmermann was the German Foreign Minister.
The German defense to this piece of absolute proof was what we have since learned to expect from Germans;—
"We were not doing it. And anyway, it was not unfriendly, and we had a perfect right to do it."
The once great German machine was now without its leaders, and all it could do was to carry on a number of small local agitations, with no directing intelligence. A very few months after the publication of the Zimmermann letter, the United States itself went into the war. Then the constant struggle between detectives and enemy-aliens became even more serious. A new problem faced the Secret Service and its co-workers. That was to keep the German spies over here from sending to Germany information that would be of value to her in a military way. No knowledge of the movements of troops, of fleets, or of supplies must be allowed to leave America. At all costs the war plans must be kept secret.
The spies tried to send information to Germany by many different ways, such as by cable to Denmark, Switzerland, or any other neutral European nation, and then by telegraph into Germany; or by telegraph to Mexico, and then by wireless to Germany; or by wireless to a neutral ship on the ocean, which would relay to Germany by her wireless. The first and most important thing for the spy in every case was to get his message out of this country.
To prevent this, the United States established censorships. There were telegraph censors, watching the wires into Mexico; there were postal censors, examining the mails; but the most interesting was the cable censor, who had to keep all the cables free from enemy use. Although cable censorship was done by the Navy Department, its work very often overlapped that of the Secret Service. Here is a typical example of how these two worked together, not correct in details but accurately showing the method followed in a great many cases:—
In June, 1917, some of General Pershing's first troops sailed from New York, in number about 15,000 men, in 13 transports. On that very day a Spanish firm in the city filed a cable to Spain, saying:—
"Quote 13 millers at 15 per cent."
The censor's suspicious mind, always on the alert for something unusual, saw that this message could easily be a code, which would mean to the man receiving it, "Sailed, 13 transports with 15,000 troops."
It was too probable to be an accident, thought the censor, and he decided to watch Mendez & Co. A few days later two more transports sailed, and Mendez filed three more cables, each containing the number 2, with other figures. The censor promptly put the detectives on the trail.
The merciless grasp of the Secret Service, which always "gets" its man, then settled about Mendez. The Spaniard could make no move, day or night, that was not immediately known to the Service.
In the dead of an autumn night, two agents opened the door of Mendez' office with a master key, and searched his desk. One man ran over all the papers, reading them rapidly in a low voice, while his companion, an expert stenographer, took down the words with lightning speed. This done, they placed a dictagraph in the inner office, working quickly and well. With a final glance around, they left, having completed the work in a remarkably short time.
The next day Mendez' telephone was tapped. Then his secretary left, and the new one he hired was a Secret Service agent. The Spaniard never guessed it, for the secretary brought the most trustworthy references. Every time Mendez held a meeting of his group of German agents and talked of how to send information to Germany, the secretary heard all they said, and at once reported it to his chief. Every time Mendez telephoned, a Secret Service agent listened to what he said. Every time he had a conference in his office, if the secretary by chance was not there, the dictagraph made a record of the conversation, and the Service knew about it.
Naturally such careful watching won in the end. Mendez, who had caught the German habit of believing that no one was so clever as himself, did not dream of the net that was being woven around him, and went on filing his cable messages which, of course, were not sent. All the information obtained by the Secret Service was sifted, arranged, and confirmed, and Mendez was arrested. With his departure, his whole following was helpless, and settled back to swear at the United States for its tyranny. The patient Secret Service had scored again.
So it went. For every German spy or would-be spy in America, there was an agent of the Secret Service, equally resourceful, and more likely to succeed, because, no matter how clumsy his adversary seemed, he never made the mistake of underrating him. "Stupid Yankees," von Papen had called us, while he went about his plotting with child-like faith in his skill at hiding. "Stupid Germans," the Secret Service might have retorted, as it skillfully uncovered all his plotting and sent him back to his Kaiser, where his stupidity was more appreciated.
But it took many months of patient, unceasing work, and far the greatest part of it was dull, hard, steady grind. Rarely was there any excitement for the industrious government agents, and more rarely was there any glory, for the work had to be kept secret. Trailing, watching, studying, thinking, always putting two and two together and often finding that they made five instead of four; through day and night, through sun and storm, the officers whose duty it was to catch the spy before he could harm America worked steadily on.
That is why America won at home just as she won abroad. Had not the silent army in the United States fought so unceasingly and so skillfully, the army in France would have been paralyzed. When you think of the Great Victory, remember those quiet, unknown men and women at home who did so much to help win it, and give full credit to the Secret Service.
ROGER WILLIAM RIIS.
What one soldier writes, millions have experienced.
At first the waiting for orders; the wonder of how to adapt one's nature to the conditions that lay ahead. The fear of being afraid. Many times in that last week in London, which now seems so far away, I did aimless, meaningless things that I had done before; wondering if I should ever do them again. Visiting old scenes of happy days, trying, as it were, to conjure up old associations, for fear the chance might not come again. Strange, perhaps, but many of the things I do are strange, and only those who know me best would understand. My good-by to you—and the curtain rose on the first act of the drama that I have been privileged to watch, with every now and then a "walking on" part. The first act was one of absorbing interest, learning the characters of the play, and my mind was filled with wonder at the plot as day by day it unfolded before me. I have tried to write of all the wonders of the Base; its organization and the mastery of an Empire to serve its ideal in its hour of need. The second curtain rose on the trenches, and it is my impressions of this life, rather than of its details, that I would now write. The first and greatest is the way the average man has surmounted the impossible, has brought, as it were, a power to strike that word from his vocabulary. Living in conditions which in previous years would have caused his death, he has maintained his vitality of mind and body. Healthy amid the pestilence of decaying death, of chill from nights spent sometimes waist deep in water; or chattering with cold as misty morning finds him saturated with its clammy cold. Facing death from bullet, shell, and gas, and all the ingenuity that devilish manhood can devise, yet remaining the same cheery, lively animal, wondering when it all will cease. A new spirit of unselfishness has entered the race, or perchance the old selfishness bred by years of peace has died, leaving a cleaner, nobler feeling in its place. Men who before cheated their neighbors, grasping to themselves all that came their way, have learned instinctively to share their little all. The message from Mars, "Halves, partner," has become the general spirit; and yet some say that there is no finer side to war! As for the officers, as a rule, no words for them can be too fine. For they have learned at once to be the leaders and the servants of their men, tiring themselves out for others' comforts. And the men know it; from them can come no class hatred in future years. If danger lies in that direction it must surely come from those who have stayed at home.
For myself, I am slowly learning my lesson; learning that death, which seems so near one, seldom shakes one by the hand. Learning to look over the "top" to encourage those whose duty makes them do so. Learning to walk out with a wiring party to "No Man's Land," or to set a patrol along its way. Learning to share the risks that others run so as to win the confidence of my men.
Now let me say a word of the demoralizing effects of dugouts: Often it takes a conscious effort to leave its safety or to stay away from it for the dangers of level ground, and this is what all officers must learn; for men can have no confidence in one who, ordering them out, stays underground himself. I am learning, but, oh! so slowly, for mine is not a nature that is really shaped for war. A vivid imagination is here a handicap, and it is those who have little or none who make the best soldiers. At last the "finished and finite clod" has come into his own. Stolid, in a danger he hardly realizes, he remains at his post, while the other, perchance shaking in every limb, has double the battle to fight. My pencil wanders on and I hardly seem to know what I write. Confused thoughts and half-formed impressions crowd through my brain, and from the chaos some reach the paper. What kind of reading do they make? I wonder.
I'm awfully tired, but this may well be my last undisturbed night this week, and I know how much letters must mean to you waiting and waiting for news in England. All afternoon I've been wandering about the front line, exploring, and learning to find my way about that desolate waste of devastation representing recently captured ground. One waded knee high amid tangled undergrowth dotted with three-foot stakes, and learned from the map that this was a wood. One looked for a railway, where only a buried bar of twisted metal could be found. One road we could not find at all, so battered was the countryside; and so after five and a half hours' wandering, we returned to a dinner of soup, steak, stewed fruit, and cocoa. Today I noticed for the first time the wonderful variety of insect life in the trenches; flies and beetles of gorgeous and varied color showing against the vivid white of the fresh-cut chalk. Past a famous mining village which for two years has been swept by shell fire, now British, now German, until nothing save the village Crucifix remains unbattered; iron, brick, and concrete, twisted by the awful destructive power of high explosives. Graves dating back to October, 1915, and up to the present time, lie scattered here and there, but each with the name of the fallen one well marked on it, waiting to be claimed when Peace shall come. As I walked the old lines flashed into my head—
"And though you be done to the death, what then,
If you battled the best you could?
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the critics will call it good!
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only, how did you die?"
Strange! but nowhere did I see a German grave other than those with the inscription in English, "A German Soldier killed in action." Dead Germans have I seen, but never a German grave.
There seems to be no bird life here, beyond a rare covey of partridges well behind the line, or a solitary lark searching for summer. One misses—oh, so much!—the cheeky chirp of the sparrow or the note of the thrush. We found a stray terrier about yesterday and have adopted it, but I don't think it will go into the front line: there's enough human suffering, without adding innocent canine victims that cannot understand. Here let me say a word for the horses and mules, exposed to dangers and terror (for mules actually come into the trenches to within 200 yards of the line), patiently doing their work, often terrified, often mutilated and never understanding why they have been taken from their peaceful life to the struggle and hardship of war. Much has been written, much is being done, but how few realize it from their point of view. The men are wonderful, their cheerfulness, their ability to work is nothing short of marvelous; but for the others, the animals, their patient slavery is more wonderful, still.
Coming over the ridge tonight I saw the distant hills against the after-glow of sunset; the moment was quiet, as one often finds it so; for those few seconds no guns were firing, no shells bursting, and not even the distant "ping" of a rifle was to be heard. It seemed so English, just as though we were on one of our September holidays in the car, looking towards the north hill country that I love so much. Then suddenly the guns started, and we were at war again. There is one of those strange feelings of expectation in the air tonight, as though there were great things pending, and yet all is normal as far as we know. Who knows, perhaps the end is not as far as we believe. A few more days of trial and we shall have earned our next rest.
I go to my so-called bed, to try and snatch a few short hours' sleep, lulled by the music of the guns that have started their nightly hate.
My love to you. Keep smiling.
Picture if you can a flight of twenty-four steps leading into the darkness of the underground. At the foot of this a room, if room it can be called, some thirteen feet by ten by seven high, the walls of tree trunks and railway sleepers, the roof of corrugated iron resting on railway lines; from this hang stalactites of rust, and large and loathsome insects creep about; above lives a colony of rats: such is our living-room, damp with a dampness that reaches one's bones and makes all things clammy to the touch. A couple of tables, a chair, and some boxes, such is our dining-room suite. From this a long, narrow, low passage leads to the kitchen, signalers' and 'phone room, officers' bunks and office. By day and night one stumbles among sleeping soldiers off duty, tired enough to find sleep on the boarded floor. My bed,—a couple of boards and some sand-bags,—is four feet from the ground, too narrow for safety, and yet I sleep. Men who previously grumbled at an eight-hour day, now do eighteen hours for seven days a week—such is war, and such is the spirit in which they take it.
Outside—or rather up above—a cold drizzle adds to the general discomfort, "pineapples" drop promiscuously about, but one can hear them coming, save when barrages are about, and the roar of gun and bursting shell drowns all else. One nearly got me this morning. I just ducked in time as it burst on the parapet behind where I was standing—a splinter caught my tin hat, but bounded off. In spite of all, this has been a cheery day. One learns to laugh at Fritz's efforts to kill one, and at the appalling waste of money he spends in misplaced shells; one laughs still more when they fall in his own lines from his own guns, and frantic cries of distress and protest, in the form of colored rockets, fill the air. LIFE, even with all its letters capitals, has its humors. Dire rumors of the postponement of our longed-for rest—but what is rumor, after all?
Half of another weary night has passed. I took a morning in bed (five hours, only disturbed twice) and so raised my sleep average to nearly four hours a day.
How unreal it seems to be writing with a loaded revolver by one's paper, and a respirator on one's chest. I bet the Huns are sorry that they ever invented gas. You make too much of what I did on Monday, it was nothing wonderful, and had I had time to think, I should probably have funked it. Instinct and training and the excitement of the moment—that is all, just my duty. I did see a brave act that morning, and one that required real pluck, not excitement. I must see a specialist about the injury as soon as I can get an appointment. Still smiling.
A long wooden box five feet by three feet "in the cold, dark underground." Here we move and sleep and have our being, under one of the famous battlefields of Europe, a captured German dugout, with German shells bumping on the roof from time to time. Had I but the ability I could paint you a word-picture that might bring to you the wonder of last night's events in their grandeur and their grimness. As it is I must do what little I can.
A long straying column along a road as darkness fell; turning westward one saw the splendor of a blood-red sunset where the crimson melted to gold, the gold to green, so often called blue. Against this the silhouetted outlines of slag-heaps and pits and houses, now ruined, now whole. By the roadside little huts some three feet square built by their owners, who gathered around little blazing fires now that their day's work was done. The low drone of homing planes filled the air as one by one they swooped down to earth, or rose on some perilous mission, while bursting shrapnel added golden balls of fire to the firmament of heaven, now a deep, deep blue. To north, to east, to south, yellow-green flashes of guns stabbed the darkness, and the redder glare of bursting shells came ever and anon. Across an open heath, along a road pitted with shell-holes to the skeleton of a shell-smashed town like some ghostly sentinel to the gates of war. Here the sweet smell of a September evening was every now and then rendered hideous by pungent odors through the dead town, where the smell of gas still clung to houses and issued up from cellars. Now trenches lay along the road, and the golden harvest moon turned to silver and flooded the scene, casting long, strange shadows on the ground. A deepening roar, followed by the whizzing scream of shells as hidden batteries poured death into the German lines. A whistle, a roar, a thud, a sudden check, and on as a couple of shells spattered the road ahead. "Halt, off-load the limbers"—on to a crater where our guides awaited us. Here the chalk molds and craters of the shattered German lines along which we walked looked like miniature snow-clad mountains in the moonlight. Destruction everywhere, but a destruction that was grand while it was dreadful. And so to dug-outs, and the night-time "hate" and gas—a doze, and the wonderful dawn of a perfect daybreak. Exploration of trenches, broken by pauses to look at aërial combats far up in the blue, where planes looked like bits of silver dust whirled about by the breeze. Interest covered and crushed every other emotion, and though many of the things that lie about seem loathsome in cold-blooded language, I found nothing of loathing there. Now a human skull with matted ginger hair, but with the top bashed in, now a hand or arm sticking up from some badly-buried body or shell-smashed grave, and everywhere the appalling waste of war—spades, shovels, German clothes, armor, ammunition scattered in a chaos beyond words.
Crash! bang! boom! and like rabbits to earth once more; we have been spotted, and whiz-bangs fall—a dozen wasted German shells.
Packed like sardines we lie and try to snatch some moments' sleep. With revolvers by our sides, and respirators on our chests, we live in the perpetual night of underground, coming to the surface to work or see a little of God's sunshine or explore, as shells permit and the spirit moves us. Time as a measure has ceased to be and our watches serve just as checks on our movements. I love life, and oh, how I hate it too!
G. B. MANWARING.
In Flanders on the Christmas morn
The trenchéd foemen lay,
The German and the Briton born—
And it was Christmas Day.
The red sun rose on fields accurst,
The gray fog fled away;
But neither cared to fire the first,
For it was Christmas Day.
They called from each to each across
The hideous disarray
(For terrible had been their loss):
"O, this is Christmas Day!"
Their rifles all they set aside,
One impulse to obey;
'Twas just the men on either side,
Just men—and Christmas Day.
They dug the graves for all their dead
And over them did pray;
And Englishman and German said:
"How strange a Christmas Day!"
Between the trenches then they met,
Shook hands, and e'en did play
At games on which their hearts are set
On happy Christmas Day.
Not all the Emperors and Kings,
Financiers, and they
Who rule us could prevent these things
For it was Christmas Day.
O ye who read this truthful rime
From Flanders, kneel and say:
God speed the time when every day
Shall be as Christmas Day.
On an October day in 1866, David Lloyd George, then a little lad of three years, came with his mother and younger brother to live with his uncle, Richard Lloyd, for his father had died leaving the family penniless. His uncle, a shoemaker and preacher, was educated though poor. In the picturesque little village of Llanystumdwy on the coast of Wales, Lloyd George grew up,—a leader among his mates, not only in his studies but in mischief as well. He was a good thinker and liked to debate with his uncle, and to be in his uncle's shop in the evening when the men of the village gathered to talk over questions of business and politics. As he grew older, he took part in their conversation and was acknowledged by them to have a good mind.
When he had finished his ordinary schooling, after which most boys were put to work, his mother and his uncle agreed that the lad ought to receive a good education; that such a capable boy should not all his life be obliged to work by the day at farming. But his mother was penniless, and his uncle had only a few hundred pounds which he had saved to care for himself in his old age. But, though he was often stern with the boy, he loved him, and decided to spend all that he had for his education. He could not know then that he was helping a boy who would be the greatest man in England at a later day.
Eagerly Lloyd George entered upon his work at the university, studying especially the subject of law. At graduation time, funds were too low to pay for the official robe which was accustomed to be worn in the profession. But Lloyd George left college and worked in an office until he had acquired the needed sum. Then he went back home and opened a law office.
He knew that his home people needed his help, for they were farmers who were continually being taxed or having portions of their land taken from them unjustly by the rich landowners. He knew, too, that the laborers in the Welsh mining districts were unfairly treated. Lloyd George undoubtedly had heard the men talk over their troubles in his uncle's shop. Now he was prepared to defend them, and soon had many clients, for they learned that he could not only sympathize with them, but could plead their cases well. Because he so strongly championed the rights of the miners, and because he himself lived for so long in the mining district, Lloyd George came to be called "The Miner."
More and more, renowned lawyers of the country began to hear of him. He carried cases to the high court of London where he won great admiration. Always he fought for the poor and downtrodden people. He began to speak everywhere—on street corners, in the market places, and in public buildings, with such feeling and force that even those who opposed him admired him. They liked his quick wit and good humor, and his honest, direct way of looking at things.
In the year 1890 he obtained a seat in the House of Commons. His reputation grew, as through one act after another he sought to make life easier and fairer for the nation's poor. His advance, step by step, to higher seats in the government was met with constant opposition from the rich lords and magistrates. But there was in him an almost unbelievable power for overcoming all obstacles. He was keen to see what was the right thing to be done, then went straight after it, making a new way, if necessary,—breaking down all barriers by means of his own wonderfully skillful schemes. Thus his policy came to be known as one of "make or break." Often the men who opposed him most bitterly at first were afterward his stanchest friends and supporters. No other premier, elected at the beginning of the World War, succeeded in holding the position until the end.
He served in many capacities, proving invaluable in all. It became natural for officials or people anywhere, having difficult problems at hand, to send for Lloyd George to settle them. Once 200,000 miners of Wales struck and refused to work again until certain conditions were granted by their employers. Lloyd George had really nothing to do with the case. But the labor officials spent a long time trying to arrive at some agreement, and failed completely. At last they sent for Lloyd George to assist them. He traveled down from London to the miners' camp and in one day reached a settlement and left the men in good humor back at their work again.
He was impatient at delay and slowness of action. So when the British soldiers went into the trenches to fight, he determined that they should have as many and as good guns and shells as the enemy. He decided that the government should have all the money it needed to back the great war; for building ships, airplanes, and countless other necessities.
With his characteristic straightforward manner, he brought the problems before the people, and thrilled and stirred them mightily by his powerful, searching speeches. He thus secured all that was desired. At the close of the war, he was the chief power in England and whatever he willed was done.
Yet Lloyd George was a warm-hearted Welshman who loved the people. Even in war time, he was a jovial, home-loving man. At the royal house, at 11 Downing Street, he lived in sweet companionship with his wife and two daughters, Olwen and Megan—one a young lady, the other a little girl of twelve years. His two sons fought in France. Nor did he forget his aged uncle now past ninety, who staked all that he had for the boy's education. As Premier of England, Lloyd George gladly welcomed him to his royal home. No other name in the past few years, save that of President Wilson, has been so often and so affectionately upon the lips of people in every land as has the name of David Lloyd George. He is a hero worthy of any boy's admiration and emulation. He has made some glorious pages in English history. At the peace table, in all his kindliness and power, he determined to see justice meted out to poor, unfortunate people in all lands.
Georges Clemenceau, Premier of France, is another who stands for justice and liberty. He has upheld these virtues with such fierce determination that he has come to be known in France as the "Old Tiger."
His father in the days of Napoleon III was a leader of the revolution and aided in the attempts to establish a republic in place of the kingdom. He was thrown into prison, but his son, Georges Clemenceau, became an even greater worker in the cause of freedom. As a young man he, too, was cast into prison because in the midst of an imperial celebration, he shouted on the streets of Paris "Vive la République." After he was released, he realized that he would be treated practically as an exile, and so he came to America. Here for a few years he was instructor in French in a school for girls. After marrying one of his students, he returned with her to France.
Through his writings and speeches, he became widely known in Paris for his democratic ideas upon all public questions. At one time a young military officer, Captain Dreyfus, was about to be condemned for high treason. Clemenceau believed him innocent, and proved that the trial was unjust. By his newspaper editorials, he so aroused the people of Paris—those of society as well as the working classes and university students—that a new trial was finally secured for the prisoner. The whole nation was interested in the Dreyfus case, and the youth of France especially hailed Clemenceau as a leader of justice.
He was first made premier in 1906, at the age of sixty-six. He served for three years and then again retired to private life. Often his voice alone was raised in objection to laws or regulations which to him seemed unfair. Even when no one shared his ideas, however, he forced the government and the people to listen to him, such a keen and stirring debater was he. For years he continued, as an editor of a newspaper, to struggle for justice for the common people. So unpopular was the "Old Tiger" with his cries of freedom for all, that he had to "tear and claw and bite" his way into society and to power in the government.
When the World War came, his daily paper, the Free Man, told the dangers and weaknesses of the government war measures. Like Lloyd George in England, he dared to propose new and gigantic means for winning the victory. He wrote much to keep high the courage of the French soldiers and the people, defending the just and righteous cause of their country. It is said that in the first three years of the war, he wrote over a thousand such editorials.
Then came the great crisis, when the Huns were planning a final drive that should win them the victory. Some one must be chosen who should be able to prepare the armies to strike hard at the enemy. Clemenceau was the man chosen. On October 17, 1917, he was once more made Premier of France, though he was now seventy-eight years old. But his eyes flashed keener, and his mind was more clever and daring than ever in his youth. The man who even in the titles of his newspapers,—Labor, Justice, Dawn, the Free Man,—had for years been shouting for liberty, now had a share in the command of the forces of the Allies which were to win the fierce struggle for democracy.
In the spring of 1918, when the French feared that they must lose the war, it was Clemenceau who cheered them and urged them on and on in their efforts to win, until at length he gave them the most cheering message of all, "Hold the line, for America comes!"
Overcoming all obstacles, he led the nation to victory. Down into the trenches he went, risking his life in the very front lines, that he might go among his soldiers to cheer them, and to let them know that he did not send his men where he would not go himself.
His behavior toward his would-be assassin, on February 19, 1919, was in itself a striking example of his daring, fighting spirit. As he rode home in his car from the Peace Conference, a man aimed and fired at him. Instantly Premier Clemenceau pushed open the door of his car, and, while the man continued firing, sprang upon him and grappled with him until the police reached the spot and seized the offender. Five bullets had been shot, only one of which lodged itself in the "Old Tiger's" shoulder, and did no great harm.
Even those who opposed Clemenceau's political policies, strongly denounced the attempt upon his life, which had been made by a supposed Russian socialist. Thus this keen, jovial, loyal defender of liberty has come into the love of all his people.
An unnamed poilu sent Premier Clemenceau his Croix de Guerre, with the following letter:—
"You have not been given the Croix de Guerre. Here is mine, bearing only two stars. You merit two palms."
Clemenceau is reported to have wept when he read the letter.
It gave him untold pleasure to serve as the nation's host during the visit of President Wilson—with whom, as representative of the great republic of the United States, he should further help to establish freedom throughout the world.
On December 24, 1918, Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Whittlesey of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was presented in the presence of 20,000 people on Boston Common by Major General Edwards with the congressional Medal of Honor, the highest tribute of valor the United States awards.
General Edwards presented the medal with these words: "Your heroic act thrilled the entire American Expeditionary Force. It was a piece of stout-hearted work that reflected credit upon the part of yourself and of the men who were serving under you. It sustained the best traditions of American arms and valor. It is a great pleasure to have the presentation assigned to me; I regard it as a sacred duty."
Lieutenant Colonel Whittlesey smiled, and straightening up to his full stature of six feet and four inches, simply said, "I thank you, General."
The medal was given to reward his courage and determination when with his "lost battalion" he was surrounded by the Germans in the Argonne forest.
On the fourth day of suffering in the cold and rain without food or blankets, when their ammunition was almost gone, an American who had been taken prisoner by the Germans was sent to Major Whittlesey—his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel came later—with a written message saying, "Americans, you are surrounded on all sides. Surrender in the name of humanity. You will be well treated."
Major Whittlesey's exclamation when he had read the message was very brief and very forceful. It made the Germans understand without further parley that the Americans would never surrender. Major Whittlesey's men cheered his reply. Not one of them, cold, hungry, and almost exhausted, thought for a moment of surrendering.
Several days before on the morning of September 26, they had entered the Argonne forest, as a part of the line of American attack. At five-thirty in the morning, they had gone "over the top" in a very heavy fog and behind their creeping barrage toward the German trenches. They had to force their passage through trees, shrubs, vines, and undergrowth grown all together so that it was almost impossible to advance and yet keep in touch with one another as they were ordered to do.
They reached the first German trenches which were named the Ludwig. The Huns named their trenches so as to identify them readily in orders and upon the maps. These trenches were empty and they went on to a row of fancy concrete and iron dugouts, called by the Germans Karlsruhe, where they made their headquarters for the night.
The next day they met stubborn resistance from artillery and nests of machine guns, but they were able to make progress. In the first mile they passed over twelve abandoned trench systems.
As they went forward they left men behind at regular intervals to keep them in touch with the regimental headquarters. Along this line of men, stationed near enough together to communicate easily with each other, orders, ammunition, and rations could be passed.
The Germans knew their plan and as the battalion in the next days gradually got ahead of the main American line and out of touch with it on the flanks, the Huns pushed through, killed part of the men on the line of communication, and surrounded it, placing machine-gun nests in the rear.
When Major Whittlesey discovered their predicament, he directed his adjutant, Lieutenant Arthur McKeogh, with two men to make an attempt to get back to regimental headquarters and inform the colonel of the situation. Lieutenant McKeogh has told the story of his success. It is intensely exciting and makes one shiver at the horror of men, who have no personal enmity but might be friends, killing one another, and also makes one thrill with pride and admiration for the courage that dares even to death—not the quick death of the glorious charge, but the slow death of thirst, exhaustion, and fatigue. It shows us the worst and the best of war, and that the worst is too great a price to pay for the best. Lieutenant McKeogh writes in an article in Collier's:—
I took Munson and Herschowitz, and on hands and knees, with drawn revolvers, we began a detour of the nests. I was keeping my direction by compass every foot of the way. We had been going a scant ten minutes when shots from a light Maxim and rifles broke out in front. I thought we had been spotted, but after a wait, when we started again, we crawled within a few feet of the real target, now lifeless; he was in khaki and apparently he had strayed from his outfit. During our wait we saw a boche passing through the trees. From the crackling of the brush there seemed to be others. With my lips I made the words "Don't fire" to my runners, and then covered him, in case he saw us. He went by. Realizing that we might have something of a time of it getting through, I motioned the runners to my side, read the messages to them in whispers and had them repeat. Then scooping out a little hole in the sodden leaves under my chin, I buried the messages, with several others from my map case, in fine pieces. Next I impressed upon them that our mission was not to fight unless forced to it, but to get back to the regiment, all of us, if possible; one, certainly. Consequently we would separate when it became necessary.
Half an hour's traveling brought us to a broad clearing, cleaving the forest as far as I could see, on a true north-south line. Our direction was south, and the trail down the center of the clearing meant real progress, although I knew trails to be dangerous. We were not long upon it, when suddenly, out of a side trail, two German officers appeared, fifty yards ahead.
The one in advance shouted something with "Kamerad" in it. But at the same time he was leveling his pistol at me, and I needed no interpreter.
We darted off the trail behind a bush at its edge. The boches fired into the bush as they came. We stretched out and waited. In front of me a bough ran low and parallel to the ground; upon it I rested my pistol, directing it upon the trail through the thin leaves underneath.
Presently Herr Offizier came creeping along, bent to the waist and peering through the bush. We looked squarely into each other's eyes as we fired, less than ten feet separating us. Being settled and ready for him, my gun had about a second the better of his. I aimed at his mouth, allowing for the rise of the bullet from the "kick." As he fired I actually felt the concussion against my face, we were so close; then a hot, sharp pain in my right forearm, as if some one had suddenly pushed a white-hot knife blade along under the elbow when I hadn't been looking.
Munson and Herschowitz fired too, and there seemed to be shots from the second boche. My own particular duelist dropped back limp after my first shot, although I got off four in quick succession.
Now we made for the thick of the woods. My resolution was to stick to them though they should be thick as fish glue. Under good cover Munson dressed my wound. My fingers had begun stiffening up a bit, and I worked them to keep the trigger finger in good trim, thinking at the time what a ludicrous shot I'd be with the left hand. A thought for soldiers in training: Are you ambidextrous? I've never fired a shot with the left.
The wound itself was a puzzler. Almost at once the arm swelled until it seemed that a duck egg had been inserted under the flesh. But, feeling around it, there was no hard substance beneath. The sleeve showed two holes within three inches of each other where the cartridge had gone in and out. What probably happened was that my shot had diverted his aim and his bullet had passed under my crooked elbow and armpit, merely searing the forearm in a caressing sort of way. The blood was negligible. Altogether, it was a "cushy blighty," as the Tommy puts it. We reloaded our revolvers to wait for nightfall. There was a bit of stale bread in the bottom of my gas mask, forgotten until now. I split it into three parts, about two mouthfuls for each, and dug out some half-soaked cigarettes.
"We'll have a smoke, Jack" (military rank is forgotten sometimes), "if it's the last," I said, and he agreed with a wan sort of smile. Herschowitz whispered that he didn't smoke, and dropped asleep as the words left his mouth.
None of us had water. And we were very thirsty. The boys had white, sticky saliva in the corners of their mouths, and, from the feel of mine, I knew that I had too.
To the inevitable monody of machine guns, we dozed until dusk came. Then with compass and revolver, one in each hand, I started again upon the eternal crawl. My arm had grown in circumference until the sleeve was tight upon it. Crawling added nothing to its comfort, for to do the crawfish stroke the elbows are pushed out ahead and upon them as anchors the rest of the body is then drawn up. As yet it was not necessary to go so carefully. But when, after hours, we came to a clearing as grateful as I was for the chance of unhampered movement, I dropped to hands and knees. Ten minutes of thus shinning passed without event. Then suddenly a boche voice called out, a little to our front: "Bist du Deutsch?" That much German I understood. We flattened. As it happened, we were at the foot of a tree at the base of which grew brush. We lay motionless. Again the voice, with its demand in intonation.
Then the bolt of a rifle clicked clearly and the owner of the voice fired. The flash was clear against the night. From the right and left of the flash, and close to it, came other flashes. The bullets whined harmlessly above us.
Was this a small, mobile party? If so, they would be slinking about. But during half an hour of their intermittent firing the position of the flashes never changed. That looked like funk holes! And if it was a case of funk holes, by all the nasty little elves of tough luck, we had stumbled right into a German position!
By watching the direction of the flashes I tried to determine their front. Cupping my hand over the radio-lighted dial of my compass, I studied it in connection with their bursts of fire. They seemed to be firing north. But north was our own battalion front, and theirs, according to the military logic of things, south, unless—unless they had swung in from our flank behind us and had dug in facing our rear!
No amount of juggling of the compass could satisfactorily account for the position of those bodies. So I settled down to waiting tactics. Clearly, it's wise to let your enemy think you have moved off while he is most on the alert for your movement. After that he relaxes vigilance, and you stand a better chance of getting away without foreign substances under the skin.
I whispered—oh, very softly—that we would stay here for some time. Possibly an hour. And then I fell asleep!
Munson woke me by gently pounding on my thigh. I don't remember the time. Must have been around midnight. The funk holes were quiet now, and we wormed away in a new direction without drawing fire. I recollect seeing the shiny hobnails and the horseshoe of steel on the runners' boots as I crawled back past them to take the lead. I wondered at what distance they were visible.
Occasionally my helmet would come afoul of a vine or small branch; and then like cathedral bells to my overstrained ears the edge of the helmet would make a little ringing sound. I berated myself for ever having removed its burlap camouflage, though it gathered all the sand in the world to deposit in my hair.
Once I heard Munson struggling to restrain a cough. We froze to the ground while he sputtered as softly as he could. And I was to know later what mental as well as physical torture the sensation is. For hours it seemed, painstakingly, inch by inch, we wormed our way out of those funk holes. Out, as I thought. But it was deeper into them that we went!
I was congratulating myself on leaving the hotbed, as I headed for a bush, when, just at the fringe of it, and almost out of its very leaves, came another demand in German.
This was a moment for quick action. It was time for the message to go back by three individuals on different routes. I heard the safety lock of a rifle snapped back. He would fire the next minute. Springing up, I shouted: "Separate!" to the boys, and ran as fast as I could, helter-skelter down the side of a gradual slope. I was making no effort at stooping now. Speed was my salvation, if anything was.
Rifles barked all around. For a moment or two I heard the runners crashing through the brush. Several shots hummed past me, but I was too preoccupied to notice them much. I knew I'd have to get cover soon—before they saw and dropped me. Just ahead, in dark outline, I spotted what seemed to be a providential bit of cover. I made for it full tilt, the sloping ground quickening my pace.
I hurled myself at it, legs first and spread apart, so as to land in a sitting position. It was so that I did land—right astride the shoulders of a boche. I had selected a German funk hole for cover!
As I landed, a second boche who like the first had been squatted down rose to his feet, slowly, it seemed, alongside me. We were both bereft of speech from the surprise; the fellow under me was incapable of locomotion as well, for while I felt him squirm a bit he stayed put.
My mind was racing like an overfed gas engine.
"What," I thought, "is the convention when one tumbles in upon a pair of Fritzes without the formality of being announced?"
I knew I had to gain time until the muscular paralysis from the surprise had passed. Subconsciously I must have been thinking that if only I could speak to him in his native tongue he might believe for the moment that I was one of his own.
I cudgeled my brain for a German expression. Then I remembered a masseuse, a very German woman, who has called at my home for years to dress my sister's hair. What was it she used to say so much? What was it? Ah, I knew!
"Was ist los?" I said triumphantly to my vis-a-vis as he rose to his feet.
Amusingly enough, I didn't actually know at the time that it meant "What's the matter?" I had an idea it was a liberal translation of "Who's looney now?" And that seemed pat enough for the occasion.
"Was ist los?" Fritz repeated with a strong, rising inflection on the "los." And at that he drew his overcoat, which apparently had been thrown across his shoulders, high above his head and down over it, as if he were cold. I can see the silhouette of that coat against the stars now. Of course I could have been in the hole no longer than fifteen seconds, but it seemed hours, and every move is deep limned upon my memory.
As he lowered the coat, his hands holding the collar at his cheeks, my wits became somewhat normal again. "You idiot!" I said to myself. "You've got a revolver in your right hand."
Sharply I brought the muzzle against his left breast and fired twice. Then, crooking my elbow, I reached down, sunk the muzzle into the back of the man under me, and again fired twice. I recall spreading my legs for fear of injuring myself. His body crumpled under me.
The first one had fallen backward, supported by the side of the funk hole. His hands seemed to be reaching blindly for something in his belt now. Both their rifles lay extended over the little parapet. He might be trying to get at his trench knife. So I fired again, and without waiting to see the effect of the shot, sprang up and ran wildly down the slope.
My breath was coming in gasps. I thought it was all up, for the whole camp—a bivouac of a company it surely was—went into an uproar of shouts and shots and flashes.
"Amerikaner!" I heard several times.
I don't know how far I ran. Not far. For I was expecting to be hit at any moment. Again I found a low-growing bush. And again half-anticipating finding myself with the enemy, I sprawled in under it. My breath was burning my throat. I was horribly thirsty. And my heart was pounding like a pile driver—and every bit as loud.
Little by little I squirmed in under the branches. Voices came from half a dozen directions. Some were drawing toward me. About fifteen yards to my right front, shots came steadily from what I knew to be another funk hole. I thought of the shiny hobnails on the runners' boots, and drew my legs up closer. My watch gleamed like a group of flares, and I twisted its face to the under side of my wrist.
The voices were very close now. It seemed to be a little party, beating the bushes for me. I saw one fellow's head and shoulders against the sky line. My first thought was of my gun. I knew there was but a single cartridge left. Softly I opened the clips on my cartridge pouch and reloaded.
I didn't like lying face down. It was too inviting to a shot in the back. I wanted to roll over and be prepared when they came upon me, to sit up into some sort of firing position. But my white face (and I'll wager it was unwontedly white!) might show up in the dark. So I clawed my fingers into the ground in the hope that I could apply some camouflage in the form of mud. But mud is perverse; it lies yards deep when you don't want it, and is miles away when you do. The ground was wet enough from the rains—so was I, for that matter!—but with spongy, dead leaves. I tried smearing some over the backs of my hands, but when I extended one to get the effect it was as lily-white as milady's; whereat I hastily tucked it back under my gas mask, worn at the "alert" upon my chest.
The searchers, meantime, were snaking around among the bushes. Their conversation was as audible as it was meaningless to me—now to my left, next close up, then withdrawing to my right.
All this time the "li'l .45" was ready if they got so near that discovery would be inevitable. I hadn't given up hope by any means, but I did let myself picture several boches taking my maps and message books (one of them full of carbon copies) into some dugout. Such odd little thoughts as how long it would take them to find a boche who could read English occurred to me. And from that I was whisked back to a Forty-second Street barber whose English was excellent and who had told me of his service in the German army. Many such reservists must have returned to the Fatherland. I wondered, too, if, in the anticipated exchange of shots, having wounded me, they would kill me outright in reprisal for my killing their two comrades.
Oh, it was a cheerful line of speculation! I was deep in it when, above the regular shots of the fellow in the funk hole nearest me, came a rattle of pistol explosions some distance away. "One of the runners," I thought. "Hope he was as lucky as I." Munson told me later that he had run into a boche near a railway track and had dropped him.
The chap in the near-by funk hole began to amuse me now. He kept up his shots at fifteen-second intervals for half an hour. I'm inclined to believe those Jerries were more frightened than we. May have thought it was a surprise attack in force. This fellow, for instance, was firing, I knew, at nothing in the world but atmosphere. And in his own mind he may have been bumping off a lot of Yanks lying in wait for the word to charge at his front—wherever in blazes his front was!
I got to feeling rather snug about the nervousness of this outfit. And pride cometh also before a cough. After three days of intermittent rain, without overcoat, I had acquired a cold. And now my throat tickled and my nose itched, and I was headed straight for a healthy bark. I sunk my teeth around my forearm—the good one—and let go. It was pretty well smothered and attracted no attention, for the fellow with all the superfluous ammunition remained quiet.
Seemingly secure from discovery, I was in no great rush to decide on future plans. But some sort of campaign had to be laid out, for dawn was not many hours away. I think it was about two-thirty, and before light I had to be out of those environs, if ever I was to get out. But at the moment it would have been suicidal to move. The night had become so quiet that I hardly dared raise my head for fear the edge of the helmet would scrape against something. Once, when my head dropped from sleepiness, the helmet brought up against the muzzle of my gun. It sounded like the crack of Doomsday to me.
I studied my compass to prevent drowsing. I was satisfied that whatever way I crawled—farther away from or closer to more funk holes—it would be a matter of pure guesswork, so I determined to hit out south when move I did. The sky was sown with stars. As I looked at them I thought of all the untroubled people they were shining upon; saw the theatre crowds on Broadway. "Old stars," I thought, "I wonder if ever I'll see you again." And then smiled at myself for finding time to wax sentimental when practical matters should be engaging me! Next I deplored my luck that there should be stars at all on this night. Wind and rain were what I wanted. Under their cover I stood a fair chance at weaseling off.
A visual reconnoissance of the ground immediately in front of me to the south showed, within reach, the stump of a sapling. I couldn't see whether it had been cut by shell fire or for camouflage. Wriggling forward a few feet, I extended my arm outside the bush. It was too clean a cut for shell fire, my fingers told me. Nothing but a sharp ax had severed it so smoothly. Here was one spot I'd circuit before going south—if I would avoid "going west."
The night was wearing on, and I caught myself half dozing several times. I kept looking at my watch and telling myself that I mustn't—mustn't sleep. The rawness of early morning did much to keep me awake in my muddy, soggy clothes.
At about four o'clock I noticed that the stars were thinning out. If only it would rain! I will always believe that there was something miraculous about the way the heavens were swept clear of those stars, as if a great hand had gathered them in. For soon a wind came up that tossed the tree tops and bent even the bushes. And with it, within a few minutes, a heavy, lashing rain. Nothing could have better suited my purpose.
I reached up and snapped off a few branches. No danger now of being heard. The wind was kicking up a delightful rustling. The twigs I inserted under my collar, their leaves thus giving some covering to my face and breaking the line of my helmet.
Without loss of time I began crawling, taking care merely to keep low. As I left, a German voice was traveling along what I assumed to be the line of funk holes, yelling "Posten!" every few seconds. I figured that it was their "Stand to," or the relieving of a guard, for a little earlier there had been the regular tramp of feet—maybe two squads, from the sound—along a plank walk to my rear.
Machine guns were clattering away at their matins in several places in the woods, but I was leaving them farther and farther in my wake—the only wake of mine that I wanted them to attend. Once more it was the struggle with the forest; once more the difficulty of keeping my bearings, constantly watching the delicate compass. But breasting the wilderness didn't matter now. I was hungry and thirsty and so tired that it was a real effort to plow my feet through the undergrowth. But at least, I was done with boche voices.
Then I came to a path in the exact center of which was a shell crater nearly full of clay-colored water. I almost fell upon the hole reaching back for my canteen. But as I leaned toward it, a strong smell of mustard gas rose. And I went on!
I hadn't gone far along the path when somewhere a boche shouted something, but he was not very near and must have been calling to a comrade. I darted into the woods again, resolved to stay in them if I dropped some place for good. I was awfully tired, and to my surprise found myself staggering.
Over fallen trees I climbed, so high that at times I was well above the young saplings. Dawn was breaking now, and it was easier to preserve a sense of direction. I came to another crater. While I took the precaution to smell, I would have drunk, I believe, even had the water been gassed. My mouth was terribly parched. Already I had resorted to shaking the rain-wet young trees over my upturned face; I had even pressed their wet leaves against my tongue. Now I drank—drank till I could hold no more. The water was almost as filthy as Gunga Din's—but it was wonderful!
Broad day had come when I reached another such wide clearing as that of our dueling exploit. I was timid of taking it, but it ran south; indeed, it may have been the same. The firing was faint behind me, and I decided to follow it. I was vexed because I could not quite control my steps. My gun was swinging listlessly in my hand, and for the first time in twenty-four hours I pushed it back into its holster.
Half an hour's going disclosed a broad road ahead. I was passing untenanted trenches. I heard voices ahead presently and sprang into the bushes at the side. Then I went ahead slowly, with ears keen. The voices grew more distinct; I caught syllables and—it was English, good old English!
I tumbled out and approached several Americans standing near a funk hole. I went up to one of them. He looked at me with some concern in his eyes.
"My God, but I'm glad to see you!" I said. They were of the Third Battalion, and my exclamation must have startled them, for, of course, I did not know them. "Tell me something in American," I added. My nerves were frayed, I guess, and my voice sounded curiously far-off.
"Is anything the matter, sir?" one of them asked.
"Nothing at all. I'm on my way back to regiment at Karlsruhe. Will this path take me?"
Then I learned that I had reached the Tirpitz trench, the reserve battalion's new position.
"Let me go back to the next runner post with you," said one, and made to take my arm. Which annoyed me, naturally.
The colonel was about to eat breakfast when I arrived at the fancy dugouts we had taken so many eons ago. I indicated my battalion's position on his map and told him the situation briefly.
Lieutenant McKeogh adds, "Relief was sent with ammunition and food on September 30, and on the following day the refreshed command started forward again—again to be cut off, this time for five days." The men in the battalion crouched in the rain and the cold in their shallow and hastily constructed trenches. The Germans kept a constant fire upon them from machine guns and attempted to reach them with their artillery, but fortunately they did not get the exact range.
There were machine-gun nests all about them and if a man showed himself ever so little or made any loud noise, he brought upon all of them volleys from the guns and from the trench mortars. At regular intervals all the machine guns would sweep the place with a rain of bullets. Snipers were also constantly on the watch for the exposure of the smallest part of a man's body.
They had carried little food with them, for they expected it to follow them along their line of communication. There was water in the swampy little creek in the ravine, but to attempt to reach it by day meant certain death. At night the enemy covered it with machine gun fire, making it almost impossible for the Americans to crawl down and back again. Many did make the venture, and some returned with their canteens full, which they shared with their comrades. Others were found afterward by the stream where they had fallen under the enemy's fire.
At regimental headquarters it was known, even before Lieutenant McKeogh got through, that the battalion was surrounded in the forest, unless it had been exterminated or had surrendered. So daily, American aviators flew over the forest attempting to locate the men. They dropped carrier pigeons in boxes hoping some of them might fall into Major Whittlesey's hands and that by them he might send his location to the colonel. They also dropped boxes of food, but neither the pigeons nor the food reached the "lost battalion."
Major Whittlesey had no rockets to send up to give his location, and his men could not yell loud enough to make the aviators hear them and locate them, but their yells did help the Germans to get better range for their trench mortars and machine guns.
As the days passed the Americans grew more and more exhausted, but their courage and hope continued strong. All would rather die than surrender. Their ammunition was getting so low that the Germans were able to come closer to them, for Major Whittlesey ordered his men only to fire when the Hun was near enough so that they were sure not to miss him.
After five days of this terrible exposure and strain, the battalion was rescued by a relief party. Of more than six hundred men at the beginning, three hundred and ninety-four survived at the end of the five days' fighting and suffering. All were completely exhausted, and many wounded. Many were so weak they had to be carried to the rear where warm blankets, warm food, and drink awaited them.
But more than this awaited them. Their comrades were waiting for them with happy smiles and proud cheers. A place in history among the valiant deeds of brave and daring men also awaited them. They taught a lesson in pluck and endurance that the world will not allow to be forgotten.
To those who read this story of The Lost Battalion, Colonel Whittlesey and Lieutenant McKeogh send the following messages:—
The most striking memory of one who returns from abroad is the memory
of the enlisted men, who bore the real hardship of the war and did
their work in a simple, cheerful way.
Charles W. Whittlesey.
America's greatest contribution to the World War was—the enlisted man.
His calm valor, his smiling self-sacrifice can never be told.
1st Lieut., Inf., U.S.A.
United States Day was celebrated in Paris on April 20, 1918.
On that day, exercises were held in the great hall of the Sorbonne; on April 21, a reception was given the American ambassador, and a great procession marched to the statue of Lafayette. The Stars and Stripes flew from the Eiffel Tower and from the municipal buildings on both days.
At the exercises in the Sorbonne on April 20, M. Millerand, president of the French Maritime League, ranked Wilson with Washington and Lincoln.
"Washington, Lincoln, Wilson—these are immortal types of the presidency of a democracy—men who, conscious of their responsibilities, assume the duty of guiding the people at whose head they have the honor to be placed, thus realizing the necessary harmony in human affairs between the principle of authority and the principle of liberty. Yes, history will assign to President Wilson a place among the great statesmen of all time, for he has been able to make clear the reasons why honor condemned neutrality and commanded war in order to assure to humanity the blessing of peace."
Following the speech, the American and French flags were held aloft, touching each other. Then a French poet, Jean Richepin, recited with great emotion and telling effect, a poem he had composed for the occasion, entitled, "The Kiss of the Flags." Ambassador Sharp saluted the great republic of France and her Allies.
In London, the American flag flew on April 20, 1918, where no flag except the British flag had flown in all history, at the top of the Victoria Tower over the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. A solemn and beautiful service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral. The King and Queen and England's greatest men and women attended.
These celebrations in Paris and London and elsewhere are of importance to America, because they proved that the world was beginning to realize that the people of the United States were more than money seekers looking only for selfish gain, and therefore weak and unreliable. When America entered the war, a leading German paper said,
"We do not think that America's intervention will have an essential effect on the results of the war. The Allies are going to have a momentary advantage, but they will soon be aware that America is like a stick that breaks when one wants to lean on it."
Another great German daily gave the following as America's reasons for joining the Allies:—
"First, the desire to have a place at the peace conference; second, the wish to weaken or destroy the love of different peoples for their native lands; third, the hope thereby to be able to increase her military and naval equipment; and fourth, the desire to build up a great American merchant fleet."
Because Germany saw in the United States only the love of power and of the Almighty Dollar, she made the terrible mistake that brought about her downfall. With the declaration of war with Germany on April 6, 1917, at least England and France saw the people of America more nearly as they are, lovers and defenders of the highest ideals man has yet felt and spoken. The American soldiers showed a little later at Belleau Wood and in the Argonne forest, that they loved these ideals enough to die for them.
The English writer, Hall Caine, described the celebration in London in beautiful and graphic language:—
American Day in London was a great and memorable event. It was another sentinel on the hilltop of time, another beacon fire in the history of humanity. The two nations of Great Britain and America can never be divided again. There has been a national marriage between them, which only one judge can dissolve, and the name of that judge is Death.…
Two lessons, at least, must be learned from the service of Friday in St. Paul's Cathedral. The first is that the accepted idea of the American Nation as one that weighs and measures all conduct by material values in dollars and cents, must henceforth be banished forever. Thrice already in its short history has it put that hoary old slander to shame, and now once again has it given the lie to it. The history of nations has perhaps no parallel to the high humanity, the splendid self-sacrifice, the complete disinterestedness that brought America into this war, with nothing to gain and everything to lose. It has broken forever with the triple monarchies of murder. To live at peace with crime was to be the accomplice of the criminal. Therefore, in the name of justice, of mercy, of religion, of human dignity, of all that makes man's life worth living and distinguishes it from the life of the brute, America, for all she is or ever can be, has drawn the sword and thrown away the scabbard. God helping her, she could do no other.
The second of the lessons we have to learn from the services of Friday is that, having made war in defense of the right, America will make peace the moment the wrong has been righted. No national bargains will weigh with her, no questions of territory, no problems of the balance of power, no calculations of profit and loss, no ancient treaties, no material covenants, no pledges that are the legacy of past European conflicts. Has justice been done? Is the safety of civilization assured? Has reparation been made, as far as reparation is possible, for the outrages that have disgraced the name of man, and for the sufferings that have knocked at the door of every heart in Christendom? These will be her only questions. Let us take heart and hope from them. They bring peace nearer.
It was not for nothing that the flags of Great Britain and America hung side by side under the chancel arch on Friday morning. At one moment the sun shot through the windows of the dome and lit them up with heavenly radiance. Was it only the exaltation of the moment that made us think invisible powers were giving us a sign that in the union of the nations, which those emblems stood for, lay the surest hope of the day when men will beat their swords into plowshares and know war no more? The United States of Great Britain and America! God grant the union celebrated in our old sanctuary may never be dissolved until that great day has dawned.
Sinners are said sometimes to repent and change their ways at the eleventh hour; and on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year of 1918, the Kaiser, and other German war lords, if they did not repent, at least changed their ways, for at that hour the armistice went into effect and the war was over, with Germany and her allies humbled and defeated.
November 11 has become one of the great dates in world history, but it was already great in the history of the nation whose entrance into the World War determined beyond question its final result.
In the State House Library in Boston, there lies in a glass case a very precious manuscript. It is the History of the Plymouth Plantation written by Governor William Bradford. It is often called The Log of the Mayflower, for it records the journey of the Mayflower carrying the Pilgrims to a land of freedom. It tells the story of the forming of an independent government by members of this little band, strong only in their faith and in their desire for liberty.
In the glass case the written manuscript lies open at the record of the solemn compact made in the cabin of the Mayflower in order that all who look may read and know the aims of these few courageous men and women in seeking a new world.
This was about 300 years ago, on November 11, 1620. Let us read again the compact of these brave and adventurous souls, who saw the vision of democracy, a dream not realized for the whole world until 298 years later, on November 11, 1918.
"In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith &c. having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland the eighteenth and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620."
It is safe to say that from this agreement which Senator Hoar called "the most important political transaction that has ever taken place upon the face of the earth," and from this band of Pilgrims, has come in the three centuries leading up to world democracy a greater influence for freedom and liberty than from any other single source in the affairs of men.
How singular that this compact and the armistice with Germany, which is without doubt the most significant transaction between men in all recorded history, should both have been signed on November 11! It has been suggested that hereafter November 11, instead of the last Thursday in November, should be set aside as Thanksgiving Day. It certainly should be forever a day of thanksgiving even if it is not made officially Thanksgiving Day.
Sunday night, November 10, the whole world waited in breathless suspense. The armistice conditions had been considered by the German government at a late sitting in Berlin on Sunday afternoon. Hard as they were, the government decided to accept them and telephoned instructions to Spa, the headquarters of the German army, authorizing the German delegates to sign the papers. The messenger was waiting at Spa to carry the information to the German representatives who were at Château de Francfort with Marshal Foch and Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, first lord of the British navy. He reached them at about two o'clock on Monday morning, November 11, and after some discussion the armistice was signed at five o'clock, to become effective six hours later.
Saturday and Sunday, November 9 and 10, the whole world stopped, looked, and listened. Nothing just like it had happened before in the history of mankind. The world is constantly growing smaller as men overcome the difficulty of getting quickly from place to place, and peoples are thereby getting nearer to each other, so that whatever happens to one is of immediate interest to all others. The following description of Sunday night and Monday morning in a newspaper office in a small Massachusetts city is a graphic and interesting account of scenes that were being enacted at the same time all over the world.
Not at once can the mind grasp the full significance of the wonderful event of Monday, and as time goes on, more and more will the world come to realize what the signing of the armistice which ended the war means to present and future generations. Events were moving so rapidly during the dying days of German military might that keeping pace with them was literally out of the question. That Germany was a mere shell, most people who had followed the course of the war believed; and that she must accept dictated terms of armistice from the allies, regardless of their severity, was growing clearer day by day.
Events of last Friday made it quite plain that the armistice offered by the allied nations through Marshal Foch was to be signed by Germany within the specified 72 hours. This position was strengthened Saturday afternoon when positive word came that the Kaiser had abdicated. It was the beginning of the definite end. It revealed a power in Germany greater than the power of the Hohenzollerns—the power of an outraged people rising after long years of oppression.
From that hour of mid-afternoon on Saturday when the abdication of the Kaiser was "flashed" to the Sentinel over its Associated Press wire, there was no relaxation in its plant. In the press room—which must be ready at a second's notice—men were on guard for every minute until the Kaiser's hour struck on Monday morning at 2.45 o'clock. It mattered not to them that a bed between two rolls of paper was the softest they could find, for couches and easy chairs are no part of a newspaper establishment. Sometimes the thought comes that "newspaper" is but a synonym for "slavery."
With the coming of Sunday morning, without the expected word, the vigil was taken up in other directions. The composing, telegraph, and editorial rooms joined in keeping guard. The wire began to tick off its code messages of riots in Berlin, further spreading of the "Red" revolt in the army and navy, the flight of the dethroned Kaiser to Holland, and the other numerous signs all pointing to positive assurance that Germany must sign the armistice terms read to its representatives by Marshal Foch, no matter how stern they might be. In mid-afternoon came a brief message plucked from the air—a Berlin wireless—that the signing of the armistice was expected momentarily. But the hours wore on into late evening, and then came through a dispatch from Washington saying that the delay of the German courier in crossing the line might result in an extension of the 72-hour limit. Cold water never had a chilling effect equal to that. One by one the afternoon papers began to click out "good night" to the main office until only a few remained with the morning paper operators.
Around The Associated Press New England circuit it must have been a great day for the tobacco trust, for pipes burn freely under pressure. From apples to dogs, from men who do little and make a big fuss about it to men who do much and keep still about it, goes the discussion between a bite at a sandwich and a sip at a mug of alleged coffee brought in from a lunch room. All the while the clock was moving along to the hour that was to say whether the answer was peace or more war.
It was during an argument, surely—for that's the stock in trade in a newspaper office—that it came. What the argument was, and who was winning it and who losing it, is forgotten now, for from the adjoining room of The Associated Press operator at 2.46 o'clock in the morning came the wild exclamation—F-L-A-S-H—The Associated Press signal, very seldom employed, indicating that something big has happened. Three jumps to the operator's side, and there on the paper in his typewriter appeared just three words: "Flash—Armistice signed." It was enough. Action replaced watchful waiting.
Not long afterward the bells began to ring and the whistles to blow. The assembling place for the celebration the mayor had ordered was right in front of the Sentinel office, the biggest and most available congregation park in the city. By that time the first Sentinel extra had gone to press, and there was a breathing spell. From the top floor of the Sentinel home everything happening below could be seen. First to arrive in the square was an automobile from Prospect hill, driven by the chairman of the committee on public safety, for he had been notified simultaneously with the mayor. Then another car came up Main street. Then men on foot began to arrive. At first they came in ones and twos and threes, up street and down street and around the corners, and then in droves and swarms. Automobiles increased in number, coming from all directions, with blaring horns and seemingly slight regard for their own safety, but also with much regard for the safety of others.
Soon the square was alive, and there will not in our time be another sight like it, for war of conquest is an unpopular business now. The flashing headlights of the motor cars, the screaming horns, the yelling men, women and children, combined to make a picture never to be erased from memory. It was great to have seen it, even though not an immediate part of it. Then the parade started, disappeared down the street, and in due time came back. Later in the day was another parade, and a larger and more formal one. But it was not like the early morning rallying of the "victory clans." Nothing again will ever be like it. A spontaneous celebration of the victorious ending of a terrible struggle that has rocked the world for more than four years has a place by itself.
While the city was still seething with jubilant excitement and the main street was getting more and more alive with people every minute, the darkness of night began to give way before the dawn of day. And it was a beautiful dawn, too. The eastern sky did not reveal itself in sullen shade, but in clear color, more calm than brilliant, more in keeping with a message of peace than of strife on earth.
These celebrations were in many cases of the strangest character, the chief aim seeming to be to march somewhere in some procession and to make as much noise as possible. In one of the large cities of Massachusetts, the first sight that struck the eyes of citizens rushing into the square was fifty or more of the most prominent business men, each in a tin wash boiler, being drawn by two men over the paved street while its occupant yelled at the top of his voice and beat its sides with a hammer. Auto trucks dashed up and down the streets as long as these were clear, then joined processions or dragged behind them over the pavements four or five empty galvanized ash cans. In New York at the premature celebration, which occurred November 8 when a false report was cabled from Europe saying the armistice was signed, and at the celebration on November 11, thousands of pieces of paper of all sizes were dropped from the windows of the great buildings, scrap baskets were emptied, catalogues, directories, and other pamphlets were torn up and dropped sheet by sheet until in some places the entire street was covered by this "paper snow storm." It is said that it cost the city $80,000 to clean the paper from the streets after the celebration was over.
The tolling of church bells all over the country in the very early hours of the morning not only announced to the people the signing of the armistice, but also announced in many places church services of thanksgiving.
Some cities and towns held two celebrations beside the so-called "fake" celebration on November 8. The Governor of Massachusetts early on Monday issued a proclamation naming Tuesday, November twelfth, as a legal holiday, but this did not deter the people from celebrating on the eleventh. In Boston all the talcum powder available was purchased and thrown on people's hats and shoulders. When it was brushed off in considerable quantities, it made the pavements look as if they were covered with snow and even more slippery. The chief spectacular feature of the celebration in Boston, however, was the burning on the Common, on Tuesday night, of twenty-five tons of red fire in one great blaze. Similar and perhaps more hilariously happy scenes took place in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco,—in every great city and hamlet in the country.
Soldiers and sailors marched, reviewed by mayors and governors and generals and admirals. Speeches were made and songs were sung. It seemed at times as if everyone had gone crazy. If a person could have ascended high enough in an air plane and could have had the vision to have seen the whole United States, he would have perceived a most wonderful sight—a hundred million people yelling and singing and parading in every nook and corner of this great country. Nothing shows better the horror and hatred of war that was felt by the American people than this wonderful joy at the knowledge that it was all over; and nothing shows better how much liberty and democracy meant to them than their willingness to enter upon war when they so detested it and so much desired to see it done away with forever.
Imagine the joy on these days in France and England and Belgium with their great cities lit up again after more than four years of darkness! What wonder that the Belgian boys and girls in Ghent marched up and down the streets singing, "It's a long, long way to Tipperary," the song which was probably the last they had heard on the lips of British soldiers as they were pushed back out of the city by the foe! Meanwhile the adults gathered in groups on the streets and in the cafés and sang "The Marseillaise."
No other war correspondent felt and described the war with as much sympathy and power as Philip Gibbs. His description of the rejoicing in Ghent on Tuesday, November 12, is a beautiful and touching story. He writes of the lights and the singing as follows:—
"For the first time in five winters of war, they lighted their lamps with open shutters, and from many windows there streamed out bright beams which lured one like a moth to candle light because of its sign of peace. There were bright stars and a crescent moon in the sky, silvering the Flemish gables and frontages between black shadows and making patterns of laces in the Place d'Armes below the trees with their autumn foliage.
"In these lights and in these shadows the people of Ghent danced and sang until midnight chimed. They danced in baker's dozens, with linked arms, men and girls together, singing deep voices and high voices, all mingling, so that when I went to my bedroom and looked out of the casement window, it rose in a chorus from all over the city, like music by Debussy.
"One song came as a constant refrain between all the others. It was 'The Marseillaise.' They sang it in crowds and in small groups of soldiers and students, and I followed one man, who walked down a deserted avenue and who, as he walked, sang the song of liberty to himself, brandishing his stick, while his voice rang out with a kind of ecstasy of passion."
Messages of congratulation passed from country to country and to armies and navies. Josephus Daniels sent by wireless the following tribute to all United States naval stations and ships:—
"The signing of the armistice makes this the greatest day for our country since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For the world there has been no day so momentous for liberty. I send greetings and congratulations to all in the naval establishments at home and abroad. The test of war found the navy ready, fit, with every man on his toes. Every day all the men in the service have given fresh proof of devotion, loyalty, and efficiency."
President Wilson cabled to King Albert on the day the king was expected to enter Brussels, the Belgian capital, the following message:—
"Never has a national holiday occurred at a more auspicious moment and never have felicitations been more heartfelt than those which it is my high privilege to tender to Your Majesty on this day."
"When facing imminent destruction, Belgium by her self-sacrifice won for herself a place of honor among nations, a crown of glory, imperishable though all else were lost.
"The danger is averted, the hour of victory come and with it the promise of a new life, fuller, greater, nobler than has been known before.
"The blood of Belgium's heroic sons has not been shed in vain."
The most terrible and bloody conflict in all history had ended, and the world was saved for the people. The struggle upward by the common people for over a thousand years was not after all to be in vain. Liberty and democracy were now assured to all; the danger of slavery and autocracy was over. It was not strange that a whole world seemed to have gone wild with joy.
 George H. Godbeer in Fitchburg, Mass., Daily Sentinel.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow—
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes and foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Adapted with a few omissions and changes in language from the report of General Pershing made November 20, 1918, to the Secretary of War.
Upon receiving my orders, I selected a small staff and proceeded to Europe in order to become familiar with conditions at the earliest possible moment.
The warmth of our reception in England and France was only equalled by the readiness of the leaders of the Allied armies to assist us in every way. We met and considered the best ways of working together.
The French and British armies could not be increased in strength and they had been unable to drive the enemy from his systems of trenches in Belgium and France. It was therefore necessary to plan for an American force large enough to turn the scale in favor of the Allies. The problem before us was one of the very greatest difficulty. The first step was the formation of a General Staff and I gave this my early attention.
A well organized General Staff to put into effect the plans of the Commander in Chief is essential to a successful modern army. However capable divisions, battalions, and companies may be as units, success would be impossible unless they worked together. A well organized General Staff trained for war has not hitherto existed in our army. Under the Commander in Chief this staff must carry out the policy of the army as a whole and direct all the details of its preparation, support, and operation. As models to aid us, we had the veteran French General Staff and the experience of the British who had formed a staff to meet the demands of a great army. By selecting from each the features that best met our needs and helped by our own early experience in the war, our great General Staff system was completed.
The General Staff is divided into five groups, each with its chief. G. 1 is in charge of the organization and equipment of troops, replacements, overseas shipment, and welfare associations; G. 2 has censorship, gathering and disseminating information, particularly concerning the enemy, preparation of maps, and all similar subjects; G. 3 is charged with all strategic studies and plans and the supervision of the movement of troops and of fighting; G. 4 co-ordinates questions of army supply, necessary construction, transport for troops going into battle, of hospitals and the movement of the sick and wounded; G. 5 supervises the various schools and has general direction of education and training.
It was decided that our combat divisions should consist of four regiments of infantry of 3,000 men each with three battalions to a regiment, and four companies of 250 men each to a battalion, and of an artillery brigade of three regiments, a machine gun battalion, an engineer regiment, a trench-mortar battery; a signal battalion, wagon trains, and the headquarters staffs and military police. These with medical and other units, made a total of over 28,000 men, or about double the size of a French or German division. Each corps consisted of six divisions—four combat and one depot and one replacement division—and also two regiments of cavalry. Each army consisted of from three to five corps. With four divisions fully trained, a corps could take over an American sector with two divisions in line and two in reserve, with the depot and replacement divisions prepared to fill the gaps in the ranks.
Our purpose was to prepare an American force which should be able to take the offensive in every respect. Accordingly, the development of a self-reliant infantry by thorough drill in the use of the rifle and in the tactics of open warfare was always uppermost. The plan of training after arrival in France allowed a division one month for acclimatization and instruction in small units from battalions down, a second month in quiet trench sectors by battalion, and a third month after it came out of the trenches when it should be trained as a complete division in war of movement.
Very early a system of schools was outlined and started which should have the advantage of instruction by officers direct from the front. At the great school centre at Langres, one of the first to be organized, was the staff school, where the principles of general staff work, as laid down in our own organization, were taught to carefully selected officers. Men in the ranks who had shown qualities of leadership were sent to the school of candidates for commissions. A school of the line taught younger officers the principles of leadership, tactics, and the use of the different weapons. In the artillery school, at Saumur, young officers were taught the fundamental principles of modern artillery; while at Issoudun an immense plant was built for training cadets in aviation. These and other schools, with their well-considered curriculums for training in every branch of our organization, were co-ordinated in a manner best to develop an efficient army out of willing and industrious young men, many of whom had not before known even the rudiments of military technique. Both Marshal Haig and General Pétain placed officers and men at our disposal for instructional purposes, and we are deeply indebted for the opportunities given to profit by their veteran experience.
The place the American Army should take on the western front was to a large extent influenced by the vital questions of communication and supply. The northern ports of France were crowded by the British Armies' shipping and supplies while the southern ports, though otherwise at our service, had not adequate port facilities for our purposes, and these we should have to build. The already overtaxed railway system behind the active front in Northern France would not be available for us as lines of supply, and those leading from the southern ports of Northeastern France would be unequal to our needs without much new construction. Practically all warehouses, supply depots and regulating stations must be provided by fresh constructions. While France offered us such material as she had to spare after a drain of three years, enormous quantities of material had to be brought across the Atlantic.
With such a problem any hesitation or lack of definiteness in making plans might cause failure even with victory within our grasp. Moreover, plans as great as our national purpose and resources would bring conviction of our power to every soldier in the front line, to the nations associated with us in the war, and to the enemy. The tonnage for material for necessary construction for the supply of an army of three and perhaps four million men would require a mammoth program of shipbuilding at home, and miles of dock construction in France, with a corresponding large project for additional railways and for storage depots.
All these considerations led to the conclusion that if we were to handle and supply the great forces deemed essential to win the war we must utilize the southern ports of France—Bordeaux, La Pallice, St. Nazaire, and Brest—and the comparatively unused railway systems leading therefrom to the northeast. This would mean the use of our forces against the enemy somewhere in that direction, but the great depots of supply must be centrally located, preferably in the area included by Tours, Bourges, and Châteauroux, so that our armies could be supplied with equal facility wherever they might be serving on the western front.
To build up such a system there were talented men in the Regular Army, but more experts were necessary than the army could furnish. Thanks to the patriotic spirit of our people at home, there came from civil life men trained for every sort of work involved in building and managing the organization necessary to handle and transport such an army and keep it supplied. With such assistance the construction and general development of our plans have kept pace with the growth of the forces, and the Service of Supply is now able to discharge from ships and move 45,000 tons daily, besides transporting troops and material in the conduct of active operations.
As to organization, all the administrative and supply services, except the Adjutant General's, Inspector General's, and Judge Advocate General's Departments, which remain at general headquarters, have been transferred to the headquarters of the services of supplies at Tours under a commanding General responsible to the Commander-in-Chief for supply of the armies. The Chief Quartermaster, Chief Surgeon, Chief Signal Officer, Chief of Ordnance, Chief of Air Service, Chief of Chemical Warfare, the general purchasing agent in all that pertains to questions of procurement and supply, the Provost Marshal General in the maintenance of order in general, the Director General of Transportation in all that affects such matters, and the Chief Engineer in all matters of administration and supply, are subordinate to the Commanding General of the Service of Supply, who, assisted by a staff especially organized for the purpose, is charged with the administrative co-ordination of all these services.
The transportation department under the Service of Supply directs the operation, maintenance, and construction of railways, the operation of terminals, the unloading of ships, and transportation of material to warehouses or to the front. Its functions make necessary the most intimate relationship between our organization and that of the French, with the practical result that our transportation department has been able to improve materially the operations of railways generally. Constantly laboring under a shortage of rolling stock, the transportation department has nevertheless been able by efficient management to meet every emergency.
The Engineer Corps is charged with all construction, including light railways and roads. It has planned and constructed the many projects required, the most important of which are the new wharves at Bordeaux and Nantes, and the immense storage depots at La Pallice, Mointoir, and Glèvres, besides innumerable hospitals and barracks in various ports of France. These projects have all been carried on by phases, keeping pace with our needs. The Forestry Service under the Engineer Corps has cut the greater part of the timber and railway ties required.
To meet the shortage of supplies from America, due to lack of shipping, the representatives of the different supply departments were constantly in search of available material and supplies in Europe. In order to co-ordinate these purchases and to prevent competition between our departments, a general purchasing agency was created early in our experience to co-ordinate our purchases and, if possible, induce our allies to apply the principle among the allied armies. While there was no authority for the general use of appropriations, this was met by grouping the purchasing representatives of the different departments under one control, charged with the duty of consolidating requisitions and purchases. Our efforts to extend the principle have been signally successful, and all purchases for the allied armies are now on an equitable and co-operative basis. Indeed, it may be said that the work of this bureau has been thoroughly efficient and businesslike.
Our entry into the war found us with little of the equipment necessary for its conduct in the modern sense. Among our most important deficiencies in material were artillery, aviation, and tanks. In order to meet our requirements as rapidly as possible, we accepted the offer of the French Government to provide us with the necessary artillery equipment of seventy-fives, one fifty-five millimeter howitzer, and one fifty-five G. P. F. gun, from their own factories for each of the thirty divisions. The wisdom of this course is fully demonstrated by the fact that, although we soon began the manufacture of these classes of guns at home, there were no guns of the calibres mentioned manufactured in America on our front at the date the armistice was signed. The only guns of these types produced at home thus far received in France are 109 seventy-five millimeter guns.
In aviation we were in the same situation, and here again the French Government came to our aid until our own aviation program should be under way. We obtained from the French the necessary planes for training our personnel, and they have provided us with a total of 2,676 pursuit, observation, and bombing planes. The first airplanes received from home arrived in May, and altogether we have received 1,379. The first American squadron completely equipped by American production, including airplanes, crossed the German lines on Aug. 7, 1918. As to tanks, we were also compelled to rely upon the French. Here, however, we were less fortunate, for the reason that the French production could barely meet the requirements of their own armies.
It should be fully realized that the French Government has always taken a most liberal attitude, and has been most anxious to give us every possible assistance in meeting our deficiencies in these as well as in other respects. Our dependence upon France for artillery, aviation, and tanks was, of course, due to the fact that our industries had not been exclusively devoted to military production. All credit is due our own manufacturers for their efforts to meet our requirements, as at the time the armistice was signed we were able to look forward to the early supply of practically all our necessities from our own factories. The welfare of the troops touches my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief to the mothers and fathers and kindred of the men who came to France in the impressionable period of youth. They could not have the privilege accorded European soldiers during their periods of leave of visiting their families and renewing their home ties. Fully realizing that the standard of conduct that should be established for them must have a permanent influence in their lives and on the character of their future citizenship, the Red Cross, the Young Men's Christian Association, Knights of Columbus, the Salvation Army, and the Jewish Welfare Board, as aids in this work, were encouraged in every possible way. The fact that our soldiers, in a land of different customs and language, have borne themselves in a manner in keeping with the cause for which they fought, is due not only to the efforts in their behalf, but much more to their high ideals, their discipline, and their innate sense of self-respect. It should be recorded, however, that the members of these welfare societies have been untiring in their desire to be of real service to our officers and men. The patriotic devotion of these representative men and women has given a new significance to the Golden Rule, and we owe to them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
During our period of training in the trenches some of our divisions had engaged the enemy in local combats, the most important of which was Seicheprey by the 26th on April 20, in the Toul sector, but none had taken part in action as a unit. The 1st Division, which had passed through the preliminary stages of training, had gone to the trenches for its first period of instruction at the end of October, and by March 21, when the German offensive in Picardy began, we had four divisions with experience in the trenches, all of which were equal to any demands of battle action. The crisis which this offensive developed was such that our occupation of an American sector must be postponed.
On March 28 I placed at the disposal of Marshal Foch, who had been agreed upon as Commander-in-Chief o the Allied Armies, all of our forces, to be used as he might decide. At his request the 1st Division was transferred from the Toul sector to a position in reserve at Chaumont en Vexin. As German superiority in numbers required prompt action, an agreement was reached at the Abbeville conference of the Allied Premiers and commanders and myself on May 2 by which British shipping was to transport ten American divisions to the British Army area, where they were to be trained and equipped, and additional British shipping was to be provided for as many divisions as possible for use elsewhere.
On April 26 the 1st Division had gone into the line in the Montdidier salient on the Picardy battlefront. Tactics had been suddenly revolutionized to those of open warfare, and our men, confident of the results of their training, were eager for the test. On the morning of May 28 this division attacked the commanding German position in its front, taking with splendid dash the town of Cantigny and all other objectives, which were organized and held steadfastly against vicious counterattacks and galling artillery fire. Although local, this brilliant action had an electrical effect, as it demonstrated our fighting qualities under extreme battle conditions, and also that the enemy's troops were not altogether invincible.
The Germans' Aisne offensive, which began on May 27, had advanced rapidly toward the River Marne and Paris, and the Allies faced a crisis equally as grave as that of the Picardy offensive in March. Again every available man was placed at Marshal Foch's disposal, and the 3d Division, which had just come from its preliminary training in the trenches, was hurried to the Marne. Its motorized machine-gun battalion preceded the other units and successfully held the bridgehead at the Marne, opposite Château-Thierry. The 2d Division, in reserve near Montdidier, was sent by motor trucks and other available transport to check the progress of the enemy toward Paris. The division attacked and retook the town and railroad station at Bouresches and sturdily held its ground against the enemy's best guard divisions. In the battle of Belleau Wood, which followed, our men proved their superiority and gained a strong tactical position, with far greater loss to the enemy than to ourselves. On July 1, before the 2d was relieved, it captured the village of Vaux with most splendid precision.
Meanwhile our 2d Corps, under Major Gen. George W. Read, had been organized for the command of our divisions with the British, which were held back in training areas or assigned to second-line defenses. Five of the ten divisions were withdrawn from the British area in June, three to relieve divisions in Lorraine and in the Vosges and two to the Paris area to join the group of American divisions which stood between the city and any further advance of the enemy in that direction.
The great June-July troop movement from the States was well under way, and, although these troops were to be given some preliminary training before being put into action, their very presence warranted the use of all the older divisions in the confidence that we did not lack reserves. Elements of the 42d Division were in the line east of Rheims against the German offensive of July 15, and held their ground unflinchingly. On the right flank of this offensive four companies of the 28th Division were in position in face of the advancing waves of the German infantry. The 3d Division was holding the bank of the Marne from the bend east of the mouth of the Surmelin to the west of Mézy, opposite Château-Thierry, where a large force of German infantry sought to force a passage under support of powerful artillery concentrations and under cover of smoke screens. A single regiment of the 3d wrote one of the most brilliant pages in our military annals on this occasion. It prevented the crossing at certain points on its front while, on either flank, the Germans, who had gained a footing, pressed forward. Our men, firing in three directions, met the German attacks with counter attacks at critical points and succeeded in throwing two German divisions into complete confusion, capturing 600 prisoners.
The great force of the German Château-Thierry offensive established the deep Marne salient, but the enemy was taking chances, and the vulnerability of this pocket to attack might be turned to his disadvantage. Seizing this opportunity to support my conviction, every division with any sort of training was made available for use in a counter offensive. The place of honor in the thrust toward Soissons on July 18 was given to our 1st and 2d Divisions in company with chosen French divisions. Without the usual brief warning of a preliminary bombardment, the massed French and American artillery, firing by the map, laid down its rolling barrage at dawn while the infantry began its charge. The tactical handling of our troops under these trying conditions was excellent throughout the action. The enemy brought up large numbers of reserves and made a stubborn defense both with machine guns and artillery, but through five days' fighting the 1st Division continued to advance until it had gained the heights above Soissons and captured the village of Berzy-le-Sec. The 2d Division took Beau Repaire Farm and Vierzy in a very rapid advance and reached a position in front of Tigny at the end of its second day. These two divisions captured 7,000 prisoners and over 100 pieces of artillery.
The 26th Division, which, with a French division, was under command of our 1st Corps, acted as a pivot of the movement toward Soissons. On the 18th it took the village of Torcy, while the 3d Division was crossing the Marne in pursuit of the retiring enemy. The 26th attacked again on the 21st and the enemy withdrew past the Château-Thierry-Soissons road. The 3d Division, continuing its progress, took the heights of Mont St. Père and the villages of Chartèves and Jaulgonne in the face of both machine-gun and artillery fire.
On the 24th, after the Germans had fallen back from Trugny and Epieds, our 42d Division, which had been brought over from the Champagne, relieved the 26th, and, fighting its way through the Fôret de Fère, overwhelmed the nest of machine guns in its path. By the 27th it had reached the Ourcq, whence the 3d and 4th Divisions were already advancing, while the French divisions with which we were co-operating were moving forward at other points.
The 3d Division had made its advance into Ronchères Wood on the 29th and was relieved for rest by a brigade of the 32d. The 42d and 32d undertook the task of conquering the heights beyond Cierges, the 42d capturing Sergy and the 32d capturing Hill 230, both American divisions joining in the pursuit of the enemy to the Vesle, and thus the operation of reducing the salient was finished. Meanwhile the 42d was relieved by the 4th, and the 32d by the 28th, while the 77th Division took up a position on the Vesle. The operations of these divisions on the Vesle were under the 3d Corps, Major Gen. Robert L. Bullard commanding.
With the reduction of the Marne salient, we could look forward to the concentration of our divisions in our own zone. In view of the forthcoming operation against the St. Mihiel salient, which had long been planned as our first offensive action on a large scale, the First Army was organized on Aug. 10 under my personal command. While American units had held different sectors along the western front, there had not been up to this time, for obvious reasons, a distinct American sector; but, in view of the important parts the American forces were now to play, it was necessary to take over a permanent portion of the line. Accordingly, on Aug. 30, the line beginning at Port sur Seille, east of the Moselle and extending to the west through St. Mihiel, thence north to a point opposite Verdun, was placed under my command. The American sector was afterward extended across the Meuse to the western edge of the Argonne Forest, and included the 2d Colonial French, which held the point of the salient, and the 17th French Corps, which occupied the heights above Verdun.
The preparation for a complicated operation against the formidable defenses in front of us included the assembling of divisions and of corps and army artillery, transport, aircraft, tanks, ambulances, the location of hospitals, and the molding together of all the elements of a great modern army with its own railheads, supplied directly by our own Service of Supply. The concentration for this operation, which was to be a surprise, involved the movement, mostly at night, of approximately 600,000 troops, and required for its success the most careful attention to every detail.
The French were generous in giving us assistance in corps and army artillery and we were confident from the start of our superiority over the enemy in guns of all calibres. Our heavy guns were able to reach Metz and to interfere seriously with German rail movements. The French Independent Air Force was placed under my command, which, together with the British bombing squadrons and our air forces, gave us the largest assembly of aviators that had ever been engaged in one operation on the western front.
From Les Eparges around the nose of the salient at St. Mihiel to the Moselle River the line was, roughly, forty miles long and situated on commanding ground greatly strengthened by artificial defenses. Our 1st Corps, (82d, 90th, 5th, and 2d Divisions,) under command of Major Gen. Hunter Liggett, resting its right on Pont-à-Mousson, with its left joining our 3d Corps, (the 89th, 42d, and 1st Divisions,) under Major Gen. Joseph T. Dickman, in line to Xivray, was to swing toward Vigneulles on the pivot of the Moselle River for the initial assault. From Xivray to Mouilly the 2d Colonial French Corps was in line in the centre, and our 5th Corps, under command of Major Gen. George H. Cameron, with our 26th Division and a French division at the western base of the salient, was to attack three difficult hills—Les Eparges, Combres, and Amaranthe. Our 1st Corps had in reserve the 78th Division, our 4th Corps the 3d Division, and our First Army the 35th and 91st Divisions, with the 80th and 33d available. It should be understood that our corps organizations are very elastic, and that we have at no time had permanent assignments of divisions to corps.
After four hours' artillery preparation, the seven American divisions in the front line advanced at 5 A.M. on Sept. 12, assisted by a limited number of tanks, manned partly by Americans and partly by French. These divisions, accompanied by groups of wire cutters and others armed with bangalore torpedoes, went through the successive bands of barbed wire that protected the enemy's front-line and support trenches in irresistible waves on schedule time, breaking down all defense of an enemy demoralized by the great volume of our artillery fire and our sudden approach out of the fog.
Our 1st Corps advanced to Thiaucourt, while our 4th Corps curved back to the southwest through Nonsard. The 2d Colonial French Corps made the slight advance required of it on very difficult ground, and the 5th Corps took its three ridges and repulsed a counter attack. A rapid march brought reserve regiments of a division of the 5th Corps into Vigneulles and beyond Fresnes-en-Woëvre. At the cost of only 7,000 casualties, mostly light, we had taken 16,000 prisoners and 443 guns, a great quantity of material, released the inhabitants of many villages from enemy domination, and established our lines in a position to threaten Metz. This signal success of the American First Army in its first offensive was of prime importance. The Allies found they had a formidable army to aid them, and the enemy learned finally that he had one to reckon with.
On the day after we had taken the St. Mihiel salient, much of our corps and army artillery which had operated at St. Mihiel, and our divisions in reserve at other points, were already on the move toward the area back of the line between the Meuse River and the western edge of the Forest of Argonne. With the exception of St. Mihiel, the old German front line from Switzerland to the east of Rheims was still intact. In the general attack all along the line, the operations assigned the American Army as the hinge of this Allied offensive were directed toward the important railroad communications of the German armies through Mézières and Sedan. The enemy must hold fast to this part of his lines, or the withdrawal of his forces, with four years' accumulation of plants and material, would be dangerously imperiled.
The German Army had as yet shown no demoralization, and, while the mass of its troops had suffered in morale, its first-class divisions, and notably its machine-gun defense, were exhibiting remarkable tactical efficiency as well as courage. The German General Staff was fully aware of the consequences of a success on the Meuse-Argonne line. Certain that he would do everything in his power to oppose us, the action was planned with as much secrecy as possible and was undertaken with the determination to use all our divisions in forcing decision. We expected to draw the best German divisions to our front and to consume them while the enemy was held under grave apprehension lest our attack should break his line, which it was our firm purpose to do.
Our right flank was protected by the Meuse, while our left embraced the Argonne Forest, whose ravines, hills, and elaborate defense, screened by dense thickets, had been generally considered impregnable. Our order of battle from right to left was the 3d Corps from the Meuse to Malancourt, with the 33d, 80th, and 4th Divisions in line and the 3d Division as corps reserve; the 5th Corps from Malancourt to Vauquois, with the 79th, 87th, and 91st Divisions in line and the 32d in corps reserve, and the 1st Corps from Vauquois to Vienne le Château, with the 35th, 28th, and 77th Divisions in line and the 92d in corps reserve. The army reserve consisted of the 1st, 29th, and 82d Divisions.
On the night of Sept. 25, our troops quietly took the place of the French, who thinly held the line in this sector, which had long been inactive. In the attack which began on the 26th we drove through the barbed-wire entanglements and the sea of shell craters across No Man's Land, mastering all the first-line defenses. Continuing on the 27th and 28th, against machine guns and artillery of an increasing number of enemy reserve divisions, we penetrated to a depth of from three to seven miles and took the village of Montfaucon and its commanding hill, and other villages. East of the Meuse one of our divisions, which was with the 2d Colonial French Corps, captured Marcheville and Rieville, giving further protection to the flank of our main body. We had taken 10,000 prisoners, we had gained our point of forcing the battle into the open, and were prepared for the enemy's reaction, which was bound to come, as he had good roads and ample railroad facilities for bringing up his artillery and reserves.
In the chill rain of dark nights, our engineers had to build new roads across spongy, shell-torn areas, repair broken roads beyond No Man's Land, and build bridges. Our gunners, with no thought of sleep, put their shoulders to wheels and drag ropes to bring their guns through the mire in support of the infantry, now under the increasing fire of the enemy's artillery. Our attack had taken the enemy by surprise, but, quickly recovering himself, he began to fire counter attacks in strong force, supported by heavy bombardments, with large quantities of gas. From Sept. 28 until Oct. 4, we maintained the offensive against patches of woods defended by snipers and continuous lines of machine guns, and pushed forward our guns and transport, seizing strategical points in preparation for further attacks.
Other divisions attached to the Allied Armies were doing their part. It was the fortune of our 2d Corps, composed of the 27th and 30th Divisions, which had remained with the British, to have a place of honor in co-operation with the Australian Corps on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 in the assault on the Hindenburg line where the St. Quentin Canal passes through a tunnel under a ridge. The 30th Division speedily broke through the main line of defense for all its objectives, while the 27th pushed on impetuously through the main line until some of its elements reached Gouy. In the midst of the maze of trenches and shell craters and under crossfire from machine guns the other elements fought desperately against odds. In this and in later actions, from Oct. 6 to Oct. 19, our 2d Corps captured over 6,000 prisoners and advanced over thirteen miles. The spirit and aggressiveness of these divisions have been highly praised by the British Army commander under whom they served.
On Oct. 2-9 our 2d and 36th Divisions were sent to assist the French in an important attack against the old German positions before Rheims. The 2d conquered the complicated defense works on their front against a persistent defense worthy of the grimmest period of trench warfare and attacked the strongly held wooded hill of Blanc Mont, which they captured in a second assault, sweeping over it with consummate dash and skill. This division then repulsed strong counter attacks before the village and cemetery of Ste. Etienne and took the town, forcing the Germans to fall back from before Rheims and yield positions they had held since September, 1914. On Oct. 9 the 36th Division relieved the 2d, and in its first experience under fire withstood very severe artillery bombardment and rapidly took up the pursuit of the enemy, now retiring behind the Aisne.
The allied progress elsewhere cheered the efforts of our men in this crucial contest, as the German command threw in more and more first-class troops to stop our advance. We made steady headway in the almost impenetrable and strongly held Argonne Forest, for, despite this reinforcement, it was our army that was doing the driving. Our aircraft was increasing in skill and numbers and forcing the issue, and our infantry and artillery were improving rapidly with each new experience. The replacements fresh from home were put into exhausted divisions with little time for training, but they had the advantage of serving beside men who knew their business and who had almost become veterans overnight. The enemy had taken every advantage of the terrain, which especially favored the defense, by a prodigal use of machine guns manned by highly trained veterans and by using his artillery at short ranges. In the face of such strong frontal positions we should have been unable to accomplish any progress according to previously accepted standards, but I had every confidence in our aggressive tactics and the courage of our troops.
On Oct. 4 the attack was renewed all along our front. The 3d Corps, tilting to the left, followed the Brieulles-Cunel road; our 5th Corps took Gesnes, while the 1st Corps advanced for over two miles along the irregular valley of the Aire River and in the wooded hills of the Argonne that bordered the river, used by the enemy with all his art and weapons of defense. This sort of fighting continued against an enemy striving to hold every foot of ground and whose very strong counterattacks challenged us at every point. On the 7th the 1st Corps captured Châtel-Chênéry and continued along the river to Cornay. On the east of Meuse sector, one of the two divisions, co-operating with the French, captured Consenvoye and the Haumont Woods. On the 9th the 5th Corps, in its progress up the Aire, took Flêville, and the 3d Corps, which had continuous fighting against odds, was working its way through Brieulles and Cunel. On the 10th we had cleared the Argonne Forest of the enemy.
It was now necessary to constitute a second army, and on Oct. 9 the immediate command of the First Army was turned over to Lieut. Gen. Hunter Liggett. The command of the Second Army, whose divisions occupied a sector in the Woëvre, was given to Lieut. Gen. Robert L. Bullard, who had been commander of the 1st Division and then of the 3d Corps. Major Gen. Dickman was transferred to the command of the 1st Corps, while the 5th Corps was placed under Major Gen. Charles P. Summerall, who had recently commanded the 1st Division. Major Gen. John L. Hines, who had gone rapidly up from regimental to division commander, was assigned to the 3d Corps. These four officers had been in France from the early days of the expedition and had learned their lessons in the school of practical warfare.
Our constant pressure against the enemy brought day by day more prisoners, mostly survivors from machine-gun nests captured in fighting at close quarters. On Oct. 18 there was very fierce fighting in the Caures Woods east of the Meuse and in the Ormont Woods. On the 14th the 1st Corps took St. Juvin, and the 5th Corps, in hand-to-hand encounters, entered the formidable Kriemhilde line, where the enemy had hoped to check us indefinitely. Later the 5th Corps penetrated further the Kriemhilde line, and the 1st Corps took Champigneulles and the important town of Grandpré. Our dogged offensive was wearing down the enemy, who continued desperately to throw his best troops against us, thus weakening his line in front of our Allies and making their advance less difficult.
Meanwhile we were not only able to continue the battle, but our 37th and 91st Divisions were hastily withdrawn from our front and dispatched to help the French Army in Belgium. De-training in the neighborhood of Ypres, these divisions advanced by rapid stages to the fighting line and were assigned to adjacent French corps. On Oct. 31, in continuation of the Flanders offensive, they attacked and methodically broke down all enemy resistance. On Nov. 3, the 37th had completed its mission in dividing the enemy across the Escaut River and firmly established itself along the east bank included in the division zone of action. By a clever flanking movement troops of the 91st Division captured Spitaals Bosschen, a difficult wood extending across the central part of the division sector, reached the Escaut, and penetrated into the town of Audenarde. These divisions received high commendation from their corps commanders for their dash and energy.
On the 23d, the 3d and 5th Corps pushed northward to the level of Banthéville. While we continued to press forward and throw back the enemy's violent counter attacks with great loss to him, a regrouping of our forces was under way for the final assault. Evidences of loss of morale by the enemy gave our men more confidence in attack and more fortitude in enduring the fatigue of incessant effort and the hardships of very inclement weather.
With comparatively well-rested divisions, the final advance on the Meuse-Argonne front was begun on Nov. 1. Our increased artillery force acquitted itself magnificently in support of the advance, and the enemy broke before the determined infantry, which, by its persistent fighting of the past weeks and the dash of this attack, had overcome his will to resist. The 3d Corps took Ancreville, Doulcon, and Andevanne, and the 5th Corps took Landres et St. Georges and pressed through successive lines of resistance to Bayonville and Chennery. On the 2d, the 1st Corps joined in the movement, which now became an impetuous onslaught that could not be stayed.
On the 3d, advance troops surged forward in pursuit, some by motor trucks, while the artillery pressed along the country roads close behind. The 1st Corps reached Authe and Châtillon-sur-Bar, the 5th Corps, Fosse and Nouart, and the 3d Corps, Halles, penetrating the enemy's line to a depth of twelve miles. Our large-calibre guns had advanced and were skillfully brought into position to fire upon the important lines at Montmédy, Longuyon, and Conflans. Our 3d Corps crossed the Meuse on the 5th, and the other corps, in the full confidence that the day was theirs, eagerly cleared the way of machine guns as they swept northward, maintaining complete co-ordination throughout. On the 6th, a division of the 1st Corps reached a point on the Meuse opposite Sedan, twenty-five miles from our line of departure. Their strategical goal which was our highest hope was gained. We had cut the enemy's main line of communications, and nothing but surrender or an armistice could save his army from complete disaster.
In all forty enemy divisions had been used against us in the Meuse-Argonne battle. Between Sept. 26 and Nov. 6 we took 26,059 prisoners and 468 guns on this front. Our divisions engaged were the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th, 26th, 28th, 29th, 32d, 33d, 35th, 37th, 42d, 77th, 78th, 79th, 80th, 82d, 89th, 90th, and 91st. Many of our divisions remained in line for a length of time that required nerves of steel, while others were sent in again after only a few days of rest. The 1st, 5th, 26th, 42d, 77th, 80th, 89th, and 90th were in the line twice. Although some of the divisions were fighting their first battle, they soon became equal to the best.
On the three days preceding Nov. 10, the 3d, the 2d Colonial, and the 17th French Corps fought a difficult struggle through the Meuse hills south of Stenay and forced the enemy into the plain. Meanwhile, my plans for further use of the American forces contemplated an advance between the Meuse and the Moselle in the direction of Longwy by the First Army, while, at the same time, the Second Army should assume the offensive toward the rich coal fields of Briey. These operations were to be followed by an offensive toward Château-Salins east of the Moselle, thus isolating Metz. Accordingly, attacks on the American front had been ordered, and that of the Second Army was in progress on the morning of Nov. 11 when instructions were received that hostilities should cease at 11 o'clock A.M.
At this moment the line of the American sector, from right to left, began at Port-sur-Seille, thence across the Moselle to Vandières and through the Woëvre to Bezonvaux, in the foothills of the Meuse, thence along to the foothills and through the northern edge of the Woëvre forests to the Meuse at Mouzay, thence along the Meuse connecting with the French under Sedan.
Co-operation among the Allies has at all times been most cordial. A far greater effort has been put forth by the allied armies and staffs to assist us than could have been expected. The French Government and Army have always stood ready to furnish us with supplies, equipment, and transportation, and to aid us in every way. In the towns and hamlets wherever our troops have been stationed or billeted the French people have everywhere received them more as relatives and intimate friends than as soldiers of a foreign army. For these things words are quite inadequate to express our gratitude. There can be no doubt that the relations growing out of our associations here assure a permanent friendship between the two peoples. Although we have not been so intimately associated with the people of Great Britain, yet their troops and ours when thrown together have always warmly fraternized. The reception of those of our forces who have passed through England and of those who have been stationed there has always been enthusiastic. Altogether it has been deeply impressed upon us that the ties of language and blood bring the British and ourselves together completely and inseparably.
There are in Europe altogether, including a regiment and some sanitary units with the Italian Army and the organizations at Murmansk, also including those en route from the States, approximately 2,053,347 men, less our losses. Of this total there are in France 1,338,169 combatant troops. Forty divisions have arrived, of which the infantry of ten have been used as replacements, leaving thirty divisions now in France organized into three armies of three corps each.
The losses of the Americans up to Nov. 18 are: Killed and wounded, 36,145; died of disease, 14,811; deaths unclassified, 2,204; wounded, 179,625; prisoners, 2,163; missing, 1,160. We have captured about 44,000 prisoners and 1,400 guns, howitzers, and trench mortars.
The duties of the General Staff, as well as those of the army and corps staffs, have been very ably performed. Especially is this true when we consider the new and difficult problems with which they have been confronted. This body of officers, both as individuals and as an organization, has, I believe, no superiors in professional ability, in efficiency, or in loyalty.
Nothing that we have in France better reflects the efficiency and devotion to duty of Americans in general than the Service of Supply, whose personnel is thoroughly imbued with a patriotic desire to do its full duty. They have at all times fully appreciated their responsibility to the rest of the army, and the results produced have been most gratifying.
Our Medical Corps is especially entitled to praise for the general effectiveness of its work, both in hospital and at the front. Embracing men of high professional attainments, and splendid women devoted to their calling and untiring in their efforts, this department has made a new record for medical and sanitary proficiency.
The Quartermaster Department has had difficult and various tasks, but it has more than met all demands that have been made upon it. Its management and its personnel have been exceptionally efficient and deserve every possible commendation.
As to the more technical services, the able personnel of the Ordnance Department in France has splendidly fulfilled its functions, both in procurement and in forwarding the immense quantities of ordnance required. The officers and men and the young women of the Signal Corps have performed their duties with a large conception of the problem, and with a devoted and patriotic spirit to which the perfection of our communications daily testifies. While the Engineer Corps has been referred to in another part of this report, it should be further stated that the work has required large vision and high professional skill, and great credit is due their personnel for the high proficiency that they have constantly maintained.
Our aviators have no equals in daring or in fighting ability, and have left a record of courageous deeds that will ever remain a brilliant page in the annals of our army. While the Tank Corps has had limited opportunities, its personnel has responded gallantly on every possible occasion, and has shown courage of the highest order.
The Adjutant General's Department has been directed with a systematic thoroughness and excellence that surpassed any previous work of its kind. The Inspector General's Department has risen to the highest standards, and throughout has ably assisted commanders in the enforcement of discipline. The able personnel of the Judge Advocate General's Department has solved with judgment and wisdom the multitude of difficult legal problems, many of them involving questions of great international importance.
It would be impossible in this brief preliminary report to do justice to the personnel of all the different branches of this organization, which I shall cover in detail in a later report.
The navy in European waters has at all times most cordially aided the army, and it is most gratifying to report that there has never before been such perfect co-operation between these two branches of the service.
As to the Americans in Europe not in the military service, it is the greatest pleasure to say that, both in official and in private life, they are intensely patriotic and loyal, and have been invariably sympathetic and helpful to the army.
Finally, I pay the supreme tribute to our officers and soldiers of the line. When I think of their heroism, their patience under hardships, their unflinching spirit of offensive action, I am filled with emotion which I am unable to express. Their deeds are immortal, and they have earned the eternal gratitude of our country.
JOHN J. PERSHING.
American Expeditionary Forces.
When any nation declares war, it immediately brings upon itself unusual problems and difficulties, but probably no other nation ever had such problems to solve and such difficulties to overcome as the United States, immediately after Congress declared a state of war existed with Germany. The United States was not ready for war. She had been a peace loving nation, and although possessed of great natural resources, she had never developed them, to any extent, for the purpose of carrying on war. The cosmopolitan people of the United States had never been put to the severe test of war conditions, and whether or not they would stand together as one great nation was yet to be proved. This meant that when war was declared the United States had to start right at the bottom and build up a mighty fighting nation. This had to be done as quickly as possible, for Germany's plan was to crush her enemies before the United States could bring any help.
The first thing that the country was called upon to do was to raise an army. Under ordinary circumstances, the government would call for volunteers. In this way an army could be provided which would be sufficient for usual conditions. The war with Germany, however, was by no means a war in any way like that Americans had taken part in before. The government knew this and realized that the United States would have to raise an army that numbered in the millions. To do this, the volunteer system was found entirely inadequate. So a system of drafting men was worked out for which the government passed the draft law, compelling all men between the ages of 21 and 31 to register for military service. This plan was accepted with great favor by the people, and consequently, the day after registration the government had ten million men in the prime of life from which to pick her army. The draft system was in charge of General Crowder who, as a result of long study on the subject, had devised a system which was not in any way influenced by political pull and was equally fair to both the rich and the poor. Local boards were established for examining the drafted men, and those selected were soon on their way to training camps.
To house this great army, the government had to build a great system of army camps. Contracts were given out soon after war was declared and the camps began to spring up almost overnight. The government built 16 draft army camps and 16 national guard camps. There were also numerous other military zones where smaller bodies of troops were trained. The draft army camps were located so as to house the men from different sections of the country, as a glance at the list of camps will show:—
Camp Devens, Massachusetts; Camp Upton, New York; Camp Dix, New Jersey; Camp Meade, Maryland; Camp Lee, Virginia; Camp Jackson, South Carolina; Camp Gordon, Georgia; Camp Sherman, Ohio; Camp Taylor, Kentucky; Camp Custer, Michigan; Camp Grant, Illinois; Camp Pike, Arkansas; Camp Dodge, Iowa; Camp Funston, Kansas; Camp Travis, Texas; Camp Lewis, Washington.
These great cities were built in less than four months. If all the buildings of the sixteen cantonments were placed end to end, they would make a continuous structure reaching from Washington to Detroit. Each one of these camps housed between 35,000 and 47,000 men. The sixteen cantonments were capable of providing for a number equal to the combined population of Arizona and New Mexico. The hospitals of these camps were able to take care of as many sick and wounded as are to be found in all the hospitals west of the Mississippi in normal times. Each camp covered many square miles of land which had to be cleared of trees and brush before buildings and roads were completed.
To keep these cantonments clean and fit to live in, large numbers of sanitary engineers, medical officers, and scientific experts were kept busy planning and installing the most modern sanitation systems. To command this great army, the government built officers' camps where men best fitted were trained to be officers, and were then sent to the cantonments to help in changing the American citizen into a soldier. War was declared in April, and by the hot weather of summer America was sending troops by the tens of thousands to Europe. The wonderful way in which American shipbuilders had made it possible to transport these soldiers is told later. But before leaving the subject of raising an army, let us first see by means of figures just what the United States had accomplished in this work. In August, 1918, the overseas force alone was seven times as large as the entire United States army sixteen months before, at the declaration of war. In this time she had transported a million and a half troops overseas and had the same number on this side, with the numbers always increasing. In September, 1918, she had another draft and registration, calling men between the ages of 18 and 45. This gave thirteen million more men.
The colleges of the country had suffered a great deal because of the two draft laws, as practically all men of college age were liable to military service. To overcome this difficulty, the government established in the fall of 1918, the Student Army Training Corps. This plan allowed all students of military age, who were physically fit, to enlist in the army and receive military training, and at the same time obtain a college education. From these men the government planned to choose future officer material. Although the war came to a close before the plan could be fully carried out, it gave every promise of being a success.
It must be evident that perhaps even a greater problem than raising the army was how it was to be transported to Europe. At the beginning of the war, the United States had no ships to use for her necessary task of transporting men and supplies. The ships that were sailing from her ports were all doing their capacity work and could not be used for the new demands. The Shipping Board immediately looked around for yards to place orders for new ships; but there were no yards to fill the orders, as the few the United States had were all overburdened with work. The only remaining solution of the problem was to build new yards. America did it.
The United States went into the war with something like thirty steel and twenty-four wood shipyards, employing less than eighty thousand men. In a little over a year's time, there were one hundred and fifty-five yards turning out ships and employing over three hundred and eighty-six thousand men. These men turned out more tonnage every month than the United States had ever turned out in any entire year before the war. Of the new yards, the greatest was the famous Hog Island yard. On what was once a swamp on the Delaware River, just below Philadelphia, the United States built this yard which is the largest in the world. The demand for speed in building resulted in the plan of fabricating the steel before sending it to the yards. By this method the steel is cut and punched before going to the yard where it is then assembled. Thus steel mills at long distances from the shipyards could be doing a very considerable part of building the ships. Perhaps the great increase in shipping can be best stated by a few figures. In the month of January, 1918, America produced 88,507 tons. Six months later in July she produced 631,944 tons. Before the war the official estimate of America's annual shipping production was 200,000 tons. The estimated production for 1919 was 7,500,000 tons.
The United States navy at the time of the declaration of war was unprepared for the task ahead of it. It was efficient but not nearly large enough for the tremendous amount of work it was called upon to perform. The troop and supply transports needed convoys. There were hundreds of miles of coast to be patrolled. Merchant ships must be armed with men and guns. All this had to be done, besides the work of aiding the Allied fleets in European waters. The government was not long in seeing the need of a great increase in the naval force and was soon making plans to bring this about. New yards were constructed immediately for the building of warships, and the capacity of the old yards was increased. These yards were soon busy turning out destroyers and battleships at a remarkable speed. The special work of patrolling the coasts for submarines called for a great many small and speedy submarine chasers. Motor boat manufacturers all over the country immediately began to make these swift little craft which were popularly called the "mosquito fleet." Even the great factories of Henry Ford, although already busy turning out thousands of motor cars, found room to build these chasers at their inland factories. They were built on specially constructed flat cars, which were then drawn to the coast, where the ships were launched.
As the number of ships increased, the man power was accordingly increased. The navy established a new record by placing a unit of five 14-inch naval guns mounted on specially built railway cars for land duty in France. These guns were the longest range guns in France and were out-distanced only by the great German super guns, the destroying of which was one of their objects. The German super gun fired a small shell for a distance of from sixty to seventy miles. The naval 14-inch guns fired a 1400 lb. shell about twenty-five miles. Although this was a new departure for the navy, it met with the same success which had crowned all of the other war work of this branch of the service.
In figures the work of the navy stands out prominently. At the time war was declared, the navy had 65,777 men in the service and 197 ships in commission; when the armistice was signed, the navy consisted of 497,030 men and about 2000 ships, out of which 75,000 men and 388 ships were on duty in foreign waters.
While army and navy preparations were going on, the business of obtaining munitions and supplies was being very carefully attended to. Before the war there were very few firms making supplies for the government. This meant that the government would have to turn to the great private concerns for its material. These firms dropped all their pre-war work and attended strictly to government orders. The result was that at the end of the summer of 1918 the government was doing business with over 3,000 firms and had over 12,000 contracts in operation. Even small plants invested heavily in increasing their capacity so as to be able to turn out more and better work for the government. The organizing and manufacturing genius of the American people came to the front with a result that the American overseas forces were almost entirely supplied by American products, thereby taking little strength away from the foreign manufacturers.
A few facts concerning the production of motor vehicles will give an idea of the immensity of America's manufacturing program. The automobile industry as a whole expended one billion three hundred million dollars in order to expand its factories to fill government orders. By the month of October, 1918, 70,000 motor trucks had been sent overseas. At the end of the war, 5-ton and 10-ton trucks were being built at the rate of 1000 a day, and all trucks, at the rate of shipment then prevailing, would have in a year's time made a procession 300 miles long.
If critical persons were to try to point out any weakness in America's preparedness program, they would probably take the production of aircraft as an instance where the government had failed. Although America was slow in producing airplanes, it must be taken into consideration that this was almost entirely a new departure for American manufacturers. The delay in airplane production was due to the fact that there was too much red tape to be unrolled before actual work was begun. The government soon realized this and appointed one man to have entire charge of aircraft production. Under his management the red tape was thrown aside and business-like methods took its place.
The combined ability of the automobile engineers of the country produced the Liberty motor which proved to be one of the best airplane engines ever developed to lift great weights. The DeHaviland and Handley-Page, bombing and reconnaissance planes, were immediately equipped largely with the new Liberty. 3180 of the former and 101 of the latter were produced in this country in the year before the armistice was signed. Out of this number 1379 had been shipped overseas. In the meantime the production of planes had been far outstripped by the enlisted and commissioned personnel of the air service. Thousands of cadets and officers were delayed in the ground schools, at the flying schools, and at Camp Dick, Texas, the concentration post for aviation, because of the ruinous shortage of planes, just when the American forces newly brought into the battle zones needed the efficient help of a great fleet of aircraft. Airplanes are rightly called "the eyes of the army." It is unofficially stated that less than 800 American aviators ever saw service over the German lines, and these men, not having American scout planes, used largely foreign models equipped with the famous French Gnome, LeRhone, and Hispano-Suiza motors. American-made machines, whether for bombing, observing, or scouting, went into action for the first time in July, 1918.
The American people before the war were the most wasteful people in the world. This was probably due to the fact that the people had never been confronted by a real necessity for economizing. However, when war was declared the government immediately demanded that the people conserve their food. The result was that Americans were soon observing wheatless, meatless, and porkless days with great patriotic fervor. 12,000,000 families signed pledges to observe the rules of the food administration, and hotels and restaurants joined in the great conservation effort. War gardens sprang up by the millions. The country was soon conserving millions of pounds of foodstuffs that would ordinarily have been wasted. A food "hog" was considered in the same light as a traitor!
On the same plan as the food administration, the government conducted the conservation of coal. The result was that the essential industries received coal first and the people could get only what was absolutely necessary for heating their homes. Lights were turned out in cities early to save fuel. The "daylight saving" plan from April to November turned the clocks ahead one hour. As a result of all these precautions, the factories were kept going, the ships were not hindered for lack of coal, and America's great preparedness program was carried on without hindrance or delay.
It is difficult to realize what gigantic efforts America was putting forth. An illustration from the manufacture of ordnance will help such an understanding. In the fall of 1918, the United States government was spending upon the making of ordnance alone, every thirty days, an amount equal to the cost of the Panama Canal, and it was spending as much or more in several other departments. What a terrible loss war brings to the world!
To finance these tremendous preparedness projects, the government called upon the people to lend their money by buying government liberty bonds. This was an entirely new thing for the American people of any generation, but they responded in a manner that showed the government that the people were backing it to the last inch, and that they were out to win as quickly as possible, regardless of cost, or other sacrifices they were called upon to make. The government conducted great loan campaigns. Each one met with greater success than the one preceding it. The bonds were bought by all classes of people, and a man without a bond was like a dog without a home. Of course the great banks and corporations bought millions of dollars worth of bonds, but the great number of small denomination bonds bought by the wage-earning classes was what spelled the success of the loans. The total amount raised by the five loans was approximately twenty-two billion dollars.
Besides these great loans, the American people contributed $300,000,000 to two Red Cross funds inside of a year. There were also enormous contributions to the Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus, the War Camp Community Service, the Salvation Army, and allied funds.
Although a great deal of credit for the remarkable success of America's preparedness program is due to the fact that she had such wonderful resources, the true underlying reason for her success is the magnificent spirit of the American people. Germany thought that, because of the cosmopolitan make-up of the people and the immensity of the country they occupied, they would not unite as one great nation. The United States has proved for all time that she is one solid indivisible nation with ho thought of anything but the progress and liberty of her country and the world, of the unsullied honor and unquestioned defense of her flag, and of all for which it stands.
It was not his olive valleys and orange groves which made the Greece of the Greek; it was not for his apple orchards or potato fields that the farmer of New England and New York left his plough in the furrow and marched to Bunker Hill, to Bennington, to Saratoga. A man's country is not a certain area of land, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle. The secret sanctification of the soil and symbol of a country is the idea which they represent; and this idea the patriot worships through the name and the symbol.…
We of America, with our soil sanctified and our symbol glorified by the great ideas of liberty and religion,—love of freedom and of God,—are in the foremost vanguard of this great caravan of humanity. To us rulers look, and learn justice, while they tremble; to us the nations look, and learn to hope, while they rejoice. Our heritage is all the love and heroism of liberty in the past; and all the great of the Old World are our teachers.
GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS.
GENTLEMEN OF THE CONGRESS: The year that has elapsed since I last stood before you to fulfill my Constitutional duty to give the Congress from time to time information on the state of the Union has been so crowded with great events, great processes, and great results, that I cannot hope to give you an adequate picture of its transactions or of the far-reaching changes which have been wrought in the life of our nation and of the world. You have yourselves witnessed these things, as I have. It is too soon to assess them; and we who stand in the midst of them and are part of them are less qualified than men of another generation will be to say what they mean or even what they have been. But some great outstanding facts are unmistakable and constitute, in a sense, part of the public business with which it is our duty to deal. To state them is to set the stage for the legislative and executive action which must grow out of them and which we have yet to shape and determine.
A year ago we had sent 145,198 men overseas. Since then we have sent 1,950,513, an average of 162,542 each month, the number in fact rising in May last to 245,951, in June to 278,760, in July to 307,182, and continuing to reach similar figures in August and September—in August 289,570 and in September 257,438. No such movement of troops ever took place before across 3000 miles of sea, followed by adequate equipment and supplies, and carried safely through extraordinary dangers of attack—dangers which were alike strange and infinitely difficult to guard against. In all this movement only 758 men were lost by enemy attacks—630 of whom were upon a single English transport which was sunk near the Orkney Islands.
I need not tell you what lay back of this great movement of men and material. It is not invidious to say that back of it lay a supporting organization of the industries of the country and of all its productive activities more complete, more thorough in method and effective in results, more spirited and unanimous in purpose and effort than any other great belligerent had ever been able to effect.
We profited greatly by the experience of the nations which had already been engaged for nearly three years in the exigent and exacting business, their every resource and every executive proficiency taxed to the utmost. We were the pupils, but we learned quickly and acted with a promptness and a readiness of coöperation that justify our great pride that we were able to serve the world with unparalleled energy and quick accomplishment.
But it is not the physical scale and executive efficiency of preparation, supply, equipment and dispatch that I would dwell upon, but the mettle and quality of the officers and men we sent over and of the sailors who kept the seas, and the spirit of the nation that stood behind them. No soldiers or sailors ever proved themselves more quickly ready for the test of battle or acquitted themselves with more splendid courage and achievement when put to the test. Those of us who played some part in directing the great processes by which the war was pushed irresistibly forward to the final triumph may now forget all that and delight our thoughts with the story of what our men did.
Their officers understood the grim and exacting task they had undertaken and performed with audacity, efficiency, and unhesitating courage that touch the story of convoy and battle with imperishable distinction at every turn, whether the enterprise were great or small—from their chiefs, Pershing and Sims, down to the youngest lieutenant; and their men were worthy of them—such men as hardly need to be commanded, and go to their terrible adventure blithely and with the quick intelligence of those who know just what it is they would accomplish. I am proud to be the fellow countryman of men of such stuff and valor. Those of us who stayed at home did our duty; the war could not have been won or the gallant men who fought it given their opportunity to win it otherwise; but for many a long day we shall think ourselves "accurs'd we were not there, and hold our manhood cheap while any speaks that fought," with these at St. Mihiel or Thierry. The memory of those days of triumphant battle will go with these fortunate men to their graves; and each will have his favorite memory. "Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember with advantages what feats he did that day!"
What we all thank God for with deepest gratitude is that our men went in force into the line of battle just at the critical moment when the whole fate of the world seemed to hang in the balance and threw their fresh strength into the ranks of freedom in time to turn the whole tide and sweep of the fateful struggle—turn it once for all, so that thenceforth it was back, back, back for their enemies, always back, never again forward! After that it was only a scant four months before the commanders of the Central Empires knew themselves beaten; and now their very empires are in liquidation!
And through it all, how fine the spirit of the nation was. What unity of purpose, what untiring zeal! What elevation of purpose ran through all its splendid display of strength and untiring accomplishment. I have said that those of us who stayed at home to do the work of organization and supply will always wish that we had been with the men whom we sustained by our labor; but we can never be ashamed. It has been an inspiring thing to be here in the midst of fine men who had turned aside from every private interest of their own and devoted the whole of their trained capacity to the tasks that supplied the sinews of the whole great undertaking! The patriotism, the unselfishness, the thorough-going devotion and distinguished capacity that marked their toilsome labors day after day, month after month, have made them fit mates and comrades of the men in the trenches and on the sea. And not the men here in Washington only. They have but directed the vast achievement. Throughout innumerable factories, upon innumerable farms, in the depths of coal mines and iron mines and copper mines, wherever the stuffs of industry were to be obtained and prepared, in the shipyards, on the railways, at the docks, on the sea, in every labor that was needed to sustain the battlelines, men have vied with each other to do their part and do it well. They can look any man-at-arms in the face and say, "We also strove to win and gave the best that was in us to make our fleets and armies sure of their triumph!"
And what shall we say of the women—of their instant intelligence, quickening every task that they touched; their capacity for organization and coöperation, which gave their action discipline and enacted the effectiveness of everything they attempted; their aptitude at tasks to which they had never before set their hands; their utter self-sacrifice alike in what they did and in what they gave? Their contribution to the great result is beyond appraisal. They have added a new luster to the annals of American womanhood.
The latest tribute we can pay them is to make them the equals of men in political rights as they have proved themselves their equals in every field of practical work they have entered, whether for themselves or for their country. These great days of completed achievements would be sadly marred were we to omit that act of justice. Besides the immense practical services they have rendered, the women of the country have been the moving spirits in the systematic economies by which our people have voluntarily assisted to supply the suffering peoples of the world and the armies upon every front with food and everything else that we had that might serve the common cause. The details of such a story can never be fully written, but we carry them at our hearts and thank God that we can say that we are the kinsmen of such.
And now we are sure of the great triumph for which every sacrifice was made. It has come, come in its completeness; and with the pride and inspiration of these days of achievement quick within us we turn to the tasks of peace again—a peace secure against the violence of irresponsible monarchs and ambitious military coteries, and made ready for a new order, for new foundations of justice and fair dealing.
On December 14, 1918, President Wilson arrived in Paris. He had by leaving North America done something never done before by an American president; but he was never afraid to establish a new precedent if he believed his duty called upon him to do so. Very rarely have the presidents gone in person before Congress to read their messages, but Woodrow Wilson revived the custom. In leaving the continent, however, he was not reviving an abandoned custom but establishing an entirely new precedent.
He sailed on one of the huge American transports, the George Washington, and was wildly welcomed upon his arrival at Brest, the American base in France.
In Paris, at a great dinner given in his honor, he was welcomed by President Poincaré in the following words:—
Mr. President: Paris and France awaited you with impatience. They were eager to acclaim in you the illustrious democrat whose words and deeds were inspired by exalted thought, the philosopher delighting in the solution of universal laws from particular events, the eminent statesman who had found a way to express the highest political and moral truths in formulas which bear the stamp of immortality.
They had also a passionate desire to offer thanks, in your person, to the great Republic of which you are the chief for the invaluable assistance which had been given spontaneously, during this war, to the defenders of right and liberty.
Even before America had resolved to intervene in the struggle she had shown to the wounded and to the orphans of France a solicitude and a generosity the memory of which will always be enshrined in our hearts. The liberality of your Red Cross, the countless gifts of your fellow-citizens, the inspiring initiative of American women, anticipated your military and naval action, and showed the world to which side your sympathies inclined. And on the day when you flung yourselves into the battle with what determination your great people and yourself prepared for united success!
Some months ago you cabled to me that the United States would send ever-increasing forces, until the day should be reached on which the Allied armies were able to submerge the enemy under an overwhelming flow of new divisions; and, in effect, for more than a year a steady stream of youth and energy has been poured out upon the shores of France.
No sooner had they landed than your gallant battalions, fired by their chief, General Pershing, flung themselves into the combat with such a manly contempt of danger, such a smiling disregard of death, that our longer experience of this terrible war often moved us to counsel prudence. They brought with them, in arriving here, the enthusiasm of Crusaders leaving for the Holy Land.
It is their right today to look with pride upon the work accomplished and to rest assured that they have powerfully aided by their courage and their faith.
Eager as they were to meet the enemy, they did not know when they arrived the enormity of his crimes. That they might know how the German armies make war it has been necessary that they see towns systematically burned down, mines flooded, factories reduced to ashes, orchards devastated, cathedrals shelled and fired—all that deliberate savagery, aimed to destroy national wealth, nature, and beauty, which the imagination could not conceive at a distance from the men and things that have endured it and today bear witness to it.
In your turn, Mr. President, you will be able to measure with your own eyes the extent of these disasters, and the French Government will make known to you the authentic documents in which the German General Staff developed with astounding cynicism its program of pillage and industrial annihilation. Your noble conscience will pronounce a verdict on these facts.
Should this guilt remain unpunished, could it be renewed, the most splendid victories would be in vain.
Mr. President, France has struggled, has endured, and has suffered during four long years; she has bled at every vein; she has lost the best of her children; she mourns for her youths. She yearns now, even as you do, for a peace of justice and security.
It was not that she might be exposed once again to aggression that she submitted to such sacrifices. Nor was it in order that criminals should go unpunished, that they might lift their heads again to make ready for new crimes, that, under your strong leadership, America armed herself and crossed the ocean.
Faithful to the memory of Lafayette and Rochambeau, she came to the aid of France, because France herself was faithful to her traditions. Our common ideal has triumphed. Together we have defended the vital principles of free nations. Now we must build together such a peace as will forbid the deliberate and hypocritical renewing of an organism aiming at conquest and oppression.
Peace must make amends for the misery and sadness of yesterday, and it must be a guarantee against the dangers of tomorrow. The association which has been formed for the purpose of war, between the United States and the Allies, and which contains the seed of the permanent institutions of which you have spoken so eloquently, will find from this day forward a clear and profitable employment in the concerted search for equitable decisions and in the mutual support which we need if we are to make our rights prevail.
Whatever safeguards we may erect for the future, no one, alas, can assert that we shall forever spare to mankind the horrors of new wars. Five years ago the progress of science and the state of civilization might have permitted the hope that no Government, however autocratic, would have succeeded in hurling armed nations upon Belgium and Serbia.
Without lending ourselves to the illusion that posterity will be forevermore safe from these collective follies, we must introduce into the peace we are going to build all the conditions of justice and all the safeguards of civilization that we can embody in it.
To such a vast and magnificent task, Mr. President, you have chosen to come and apply yourself in concert with France. France offers you her thanks. She knows the friendship of America. She knows your rectitude and elevation of spirit. It is in the fullest confidence that she is ready to work with you.
President Wilson replied:—
Mr. President: I am deeply indebted to you for your gracious greeting. It is very delightful to find myself in France and to feel the quick contact of sympathy and unaffected friendship between the representatives of the United States and the representatives of France.
You have been very generous in what you were pleased to say about myself, but I feel that what I have said and what I have tried to do has been said and done only in an attempt to speak the thought of the people of the United States truly, and to carry that thought out in action.
From the first, the thought of the people of the United States turned toward something more than the mere winning of this war. It turned to the establishment of eternal principles of right and justice. It realized that merely to win the war was not enough; that it must be won in such a way and the question raised by it settled in such a way as to insure the future peace of the world and lay the foundations for the freedom and happiness of its many peoples and nations.
Never before has war worn so terrible a visage or exhibited more grossly the debasing influence of illicit ambitions. I am sure that I shall look upon the ruin wrought by the armies of the Central Empires with the same repulsion and deep indignation that they stir in the hearts of the men of France and Belgium, and I appreciate, as you do, sir, the necessity of such action in the final settlement of the issues of the war as will not only rebuke such acts of terror and spoliation, but make men everywhere aware that they cannot be ventured upon without the certainty of just punishment.
I know with what ardor and enthusiasm the soldiers and sailors of the United States have given the best that was in them to this war of redemption. They have expressed the true spirit of America. They believe their ideals to be acceptable to free peoples everywhere, and are rejoiced to have played the part they have played in giving reality to those ideals in coöperation with the armies of the Allies. We are proud of the part they have played, and we are happy that they should have been associated with such comrades in a common cause.
It is with peculiar feeling, Mr. President, that I find myself in France joining with you in rejoicing over the victory that has been won. The ties that bind France and the United States are peculiarly close. I do not know in what other comradeship we could have fought with more zest or enthusiasm. It will daily be a matter of pleasure with me to be brought into consultation with the statesmen of France and her Allies in concerting the measures by which we may secure permanence for these happy relations of friendship and coöperation, and secure for the world at large such safety and freedom in its life as can be secured only by the constant association and coöperation of friends.
I greet you not only with deep personal respect, but as the representative of the great people of France, and beg to bring you the greetings of another great people to whom the fortunes of France are of profound and lasting interest.
This meeting of the American and the French presidents at a banquet in the French capital is a remarkable incident in the history of the world. The statement of the likelihood of such a meeting would have been ridiculed before the war.
As we read the speeches, however, and grasp their full meaning, we understand that the most remarkable fact about the historic meeting is that the leaders of two great republics met with minds and hearts set upon justice. They were determined that the weak who had suffered unimaginable wrong should not fail to secure justice because they were weak and they were equally of a mind that the high and mighty who were responsible for these wrongs should not escape justice because they were high and mighty.
Many times in the history of the world, meetings of the great have been remembered because of the show of Might, on every hand. The meeting of President Wilson and President Poincaré in Paris on December 14, 1918, will never be forgotten because it was the greatest demonstration the world has ever seen of the power of Right.
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.
People will always differ as to what was the most remarkable exploit of the World War. Major General George B. Duncan, one of the American commanders who helped to drive the Germans out of the Argonne forest, has said that Corporal Alvin C. York, a tall, red-headed, raw-boned mountaineer from Tennessee distinguished himself above all men in the achievement of the greatest individual deed in the World War.
Because of his brave acts, Corporal York was made Sergeant York, was given the Croix de Guerre with a palm, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. His own state has made him a colonel for life on the Governor's Staff.
Before the officers of York's division, the 82d, Major General C. P. Summerall, a soldier not given to over-praise or exaggeration, commended him in these words:
"Corporal York, your division commander has reported to me your exceedingly gallant conduct during the operations of your division in the Meuse-Argonne battle. I desire to express to you my pleasure and commendation for the courage, skill, and gallantry which you displayed on that occasion. It is an honor to command such soldiers as you. Your conduct reflects great credit not only upon the American army, but also upon the American people. Your deeds will be recorded in the history of this great war, and they will live as an inspiration not only to your comrades, but also to the generations that will come after us. I wish to commend you publicly and in the presence of the officers of your division."
Corporal York was about thirty years of age, six feet tall, and weighed a little over two hundred pounds. He would not be called handsome, although he was really a fine looking man, with keen gray eyes that could become hard and penetrating when he was greatly moved. He was a gentle man with a soft, quiet voice and a Southern drawl. He was very religious and was the Second Elder in the Church of Christ and Christian Union when he was called to the service of his country.
The church to which he belonged did not believe in war. Like the Quakers, its members were "conscientious objectors." It was supposed that Alvin C. York would ask exemption as a "conscientious objector"; but he did not, although his friends begged him to do so. He reported for duty at Camp Gordon, Georgia, on November 14, 1917.
He was often troubled however with the feeling that to kill men, even in a righteous war to ensure liberty to all the world, was contrary to his religion and the teachings of the Bible. He finally came to realize that in this belief he was wrong, and that it was his duty, and the duty of every brave man, to meet armed oppression by arms, and when no other way was left, to kill those who would by force take away the life and liberty of others.
He was an expert pistol and rifle shot, as are almost all Tennessee and Kentucky mountaineers. In a shooting match with a major of his division, York is said to have hit with his automatic pistol at every shot a penny match-box over one hundred feet distant. His coolness and courage in the face of danger and his skill with the pistol and rifle enabled him to do the impossible—or at any rate, what every one would have declared impossible, before Alvin C. York accomplished it.
All through the Argonne forest, from Verdun almost to Sedan, the Americans were obliged to advance between hills, and often over hills covered with dense tangles of shrubs, vines, and trees, among which the Germans had hidden machine-gun nests.
Corporal York, on the morning of October 8, 1918, with his battalion was attempting to get behind the machine-gun nests on a hillside and to destroy them. The hill was then only known by number; it is now called York Hill.
They were to climb the hill and come down over the crest, as in this way they would get behind the German machine-guns. Sergeant Bernard Early with sixteen men was ordered to undertake the task. Corporal York was one of the men. At the start they were observed and were caught by German fire from three directions. Six of the small company were killed and three wounded, leaving Corporal York with seven privates to advance up the hillside.
They succeeded in reaching the crest of the hill, although machine-gun bullets were constantly whipping about them, usually however over their heads in the branches. They came upon an old trench and followed it over the brow of the hill, when suddenly they saw two Germans ahead of them. They fired on the Germans; one ran and escaped, the other surrendered. Going on, they soon discovered a couple of dozen Germans gathered about a small hut beside a stream which ran through the valley below. The Americans opened fire. The Germans dropped their guns, threw up their hands, and yelled, "Kamerad! Kamerad!" This meant they had surrendered. Among them was the major in command.
Some of York's seven men were assigned to guard the prisoners and had assembled them, when a hail of machine-gun bullets came from the hillside directly in front of them and across the brook. Every one, Germans included, fell flat on the ground. The Americans had indeed come over the hilltop down behind the German machine-guns, but the gunners had now turned them squarely around and were sending a rain of bullets upon the Americans. They avoided firing upon their German comrades and thus the American privates guarding them were comparatively safe. Corporal York was on the hill above the prisoners and it was difficult for the gunners to hit him without killing or injuring some of their own men. A well-aimed rifle or pistol shot might have done it, however.
He had fallen into a path and was somewhat protected by the rise on the side toward the German guns. From here, lying flat upon his face, he coolly aimed his rifle and picked off German after German, after every shot calling upon those left to come down and surrender.
His comrades could not assist him, for those who were not with the German prisoners were so situated that to show themselves meant instant death.
Seeing York must be taken at any cost, a German lieutenant and seven men sprang up from behind one of the machine-guns, only about one hundred feet distant, and charged upon the red-headed American who was fighting a whole company. The officer who ordered the Germans to charge knew of course that some of them would be killed, but he was sure the remaining ones would capture or kill the American; but York, the man from Tennessee, who was not sure at one time that it was right to fight, did not lose his coolness, his courage, or his skill with the automatic pistol, and a German lieutenant and seven German privates fell before his unerring aim.
Then the German commander offered to surrender, and Corporal York and his seven American privates escorted one hundred and thirty-two German prisoners back to the American lines. About forty of these were added to the original number by the capture of another German machine-gun nest on the way back.
Corporal York showed the extreme modesty which is characteristic of very brave men, in not mentioning his exploit when he reached his own battalion headquarters. The prisoners had been delivered at another, and it was only by accident that York's superior officers learned of it later.
When Sergeant York returned to America, he was received with great pride by the Tennessee Society of New York City, and was granted his first wish to talk over the long-distance telephone with his old mother in Tennessee. He was taken to see the New York Stock Exchange where business was suspended for half an hour while the members cheered him. Thousands of persons on the streets recognized him and crowded around the automobile in which he rode so that the police had to clear a path for the car.
At the banquet given in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, generals, admirals, noted bankers, and members of Congress united in his praise. During the dinner, Sergeant York was unanimously elected an honorary life-member of the Tennessee Society.
From New York, he went to Washington, where he was similarly received because of these and other acts of heroism which distinguish him as one of the great soldiers of the World War. After being honorably discharged, he returned to the Tennessee Mountains to marry the girl who had been waiting for him to return from the war. The wedding which took place in a humble mountain home was attended by thousands of people from all over the state. The Governor of Tennessee, a former judge of the district, performed the ceremony, after which York and his bride were his guests at the Executive Mansion in Nashville, where a public reception was given in his honor.
Through these tributes to Sergeant York the people of the United States attempted to show their true appreciation and admiration of the courage and fortitude of the non-commissioned officer.
[Transcriber's note: Because of the quantity of Unicode characters in these four pages, it was decided to just display them as images. Also, some of the "characters" on these pages are composite, e.g. the double-oh in the Abdul Hamid pronunciation, and not present even in Unicode.]
When the last gun has long withheld
Its thunder, and its mouth is sealed,
Strong men shall drive the furrow straight
On some remembered battlefield.
Untroubled they shall hear the loud
And gusty driving of the rains,
And birds with immemorial voice
Sing as of old in leafy lanes.
The stricken, tainted soil shall be
Again a flowery paradise—
Pure with the memory of the dead
And purer for their sacrifice.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WINNING A CAUSE***
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