If you will allow me to inflict my great-uncle on you a few more times, I’d like to post a few things he copied, probably at the YMCA at Camp Lee, Virginia, where he most likely had access to newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Why did he copy these items? Was he simply trying to fill his time when he was free from training? Was he touched by these writings?
There is always a place to consider a soldier’s faith as he goes off to war. I’ve mentioned my great-uncle before, and clearly while he was in training at Camp Lee, Virginia, it was a part of his life. He copied a number of things down on Y.M.C.A. stationary, and among the things he saved was a sheet from the Army Y.M.C.A. which had the above title–“What God Says to His Soldiers.”
We have a few programs of WWI interest upcoming on C-SPAN3 and Turner Classics that may be of interest:
Beginning the New Year on January 1st C-SPAN3 is airing America Goes Over 1918. As of this post they are not offering any description of the program, but from its 59-minute length it must be the 1918 silent film described on the Internet Database (IMDB.com). This film was prepared by the U.S. Army Signal Corps to educate the American public about the causes of the war. Included are scenes with General John J. Pershing; Secretary of War Newton Baker; President Woodrow Wilson; and former President Theodore Roosevelt. IMDB indicates filming locations in France and Belgium. It airs for the first time at 3:00 p.m. CT on Sunday, January 1st; it repeats later that night at 1:00 a.m. CT.
Can you name all of the nationalities represented in the photograph? For extra credit, can you also identify each individual soldier’s country of origin?
Christmas post cards were popular in the British forces during WW1. This photograph is fairly well known, but this is the only example that I’ve seen of it printed on a post card.
Consider this post from the National World War I Museum and Memorial website: https://www.theworldwar.org/christmas-during-war
Merry Christmas to all!
Something is happening this weekend–I think it’s the Steelers – Ravens game on Sunday–but if that doesn’t take you away from your Christmas cheer, perhaps some WWI programming on C-SPAN3 will. There is one new WWI-era program and several repeats this holiday weekend that if you really need a WWI fix, it’s there.
After the First Battle of the Marne in 1914 the German Army withdrew to form a strong defensive line. In the sector south of the Ypres Salient and north of the Somme, in the ancient province of Artois, there are two massifs, located between the industrial cities of Arras and Lens in the Douai region. Using modern names, these were the Colline de Notre Dame de Lorette (Hill 165 on military maps) and Vimy Ridge. The French High Command placed a top priority on dislodging the Germans from these two bastions, and between September 1914 and October 1915 they mounted three assaults on Notre Dame de Lorette and two against Vimy Ridge. They captured the top of Notre Dame de Lorette but Vimy Ridge remained in German hands until taken by Canadian forces in April 1917 (more about this in a future post). These attacks cost the French about as many men as the battle of Verdun in 1916, but the success at Notre Dame de Lorette was the greatest achievement of French arms in 1915.
The outbreak of flu in 1918 was the most destructive disease to strike the world. 500 million people got the flu and 50 to 100,000,000 died. In the United States 675,000 people died. The flu easily killed more soldiers than the war.
Neither the Axis nor the Allied forces reported information on the flu. It was and still is very difficult to accurately determine just how the soldiers on both sides were affected. This information was secret, and neither side wanted the other side to know how weakened their military capabilities had become because of the flu. At the end of the war the U. S. Navy reported that 40% were inflicted with the flu virus, and the U.S. Army reported that 36% had the flu. But it seems likely that these figures are not accurate. Many flu victims never went to the hospital where they would have become a statistic. Some of these flu victims of the initial outbreak were probably not very sick.
My Great-Uncle Jack, apparently trying to pass the time away in camp, copied poems and other writings from the WWI era. Some of what he copied seems to be better-known than others, at least in cyberspace.
One piece that I like is “The Devil Resigns His Job,” which appears to have been written by a Civil War veteran named R.N. Percy in 1918. One source suggests Percy lived in Battle Creek, Michigan; clearly whoever wrote it, it became a favorite in army camps.
There are undoubtedly many accounts of Christmas in the army, and many better than the one I’m about to serve up. I’m even sneaking in someone who is not a Kansan.
That would be my great-uncle, Homer S. “Jack” Shaffer (1893-1973), who with few exceptions like World War I, spent his life in the coal mining community of Vintondale, Pennsylvania. Jack served in the Medical Detachment of the 305th Engineers, 80th Division–the Blue Ridge Division, with its motto, “Vis Montium”–“Strength of the Mountains.”