Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Great War: Perspectives on the First World War

The Great War: Perspectives on the First World War (2003) edited by Robert Cowley is a collection of thirty articles taken from The Quarterly Journal of Military History. As a collection of articles, the book does not provide a chronological history, but instead provides a number of stories that the editor believes should be of interest to the reader. This certainly provides a bias that the editor wishes to impose upon the reader.

Unfortunately, the articles are written by historians, mostly college professors, who have never experienced combat and who were not veterans of WWI. As a result, they often make assumptions or draw conclusions that are questionable. The lack of footnotes and references throughout the book is a serious shortcoming for any reader with scholarly interest. It is quite surprising that articles from a Journal, mostly written by professors, would have such a glaring omission.

My Rating: Good (***). The advantage of a collection of articles put together by an editor is that they give the reader a good snapshot of the war. The disadvantage is the depth of each article is not enough to gain a thorough understanding or picture of an event or period.

Origination of Terms

"In 1921, Colonel Charles a Court Repington ... published his war diaries under the title The First World War" (p. xiv).

"The name seems to have originated in the deliberately misleading explanation given to the inquisitive who saw on of the secret machines under wraps and traveling by rail: 'It's a tank.'" (p. 352)

"... 'gone west' was the soldier's phrase" that someone was killed. (p. 477)

Poor Training

"...the British crews, in their determination to achieve the highest possible rates of fire in gunnery competitions, had removed anti-flash devices from the trunks without realizing that cordite flash in the turret labyrinth posed the gravest danger to dreadnoughts. A third of the British battle cruisers would be destroyed as a result." (p. 159).

"... only one pilot in every fifteen has a better than even chance of surviving his first decisive combat--but after five such encounters, his probability of surviving increases by a factor twenty. Only about 5 percent of fighter pilots become aces, and this tiny minority tends to run up large scores at the expense of their less gifted opponents." (p. 260)


"Russian General Aleksei Brusilov ... recognized that the bludgeoning tactics of the Western Front would not work here. He counted on deception and surprise. He would rush his reinforcements not to places where resistance stiffened but to places that showed weakness." (pp. 217-218) "... he picked men for their ability, not their position in society." (p. 219) "Brusilov sadly noted that 'In war, it is no new discovery that a lost opportunity never returns, and we had to learn this ancient truth by bitter experience.'" (p. 226)

"[A] general who had the initiative to see the frontline obstacles for himself--from the rear cockpit of an airplane, a first in the Great War." (p. 244)

"The system of defense from shell holes had the advantage that the enemy's artillery had no recognizable target in the isolated shelters and machine-gun nests. It had to batter a whole area of ground, using an immense quantity of ammunition, instead of a known and easily located trench-line." (p. 352)

"... the Italians, in their 1911-12 war with Libya, were the first to use the airplane as a military tool, primarily for reconnaissance." (p. 257)

"... a [German] reserve captain named Bernhard Reddemann ... began to design, build, and test a number of prototype flamethrowers. ... Richard Fiedler, an engineer from Berlin who had been working on a similar concept. ... Fiedler's designs were accepted by the German Army. " (p. 311)

"[General Erich] Ludendorff's plan called for a fluid, flexible offensive, like an onrush of water sweeping irresistibly forward, swirling past large obstacles to gain territory and maintain initiative. ... 'We chop a hole, the rest follows'." (p. 394) "The spearhead troops--called Stosstruppen, 'storm troopers' ... were instructed to use the contours of the terrain and rush forward in small groups. Command decisions were to be made by officers on the spot, not by some general ensconced miles from the action." (p. 395)

"... the 210mm Pariskanone, with its 118-foot-long barrel, was the most sophisticated weapon of the Great War. The gun put a man-made object into the stratosphere for the first time in history: In its three-minute flight, a shell would reach a height of twenty-five miles, or some 130,000 feet. By the end of the war, modified versions of the gun could reach a distance of 100 miles, a record not exceeded until the 1960s." (p. 405)

"German artillerists had solved the problem of aiming guns accurately at night without registering fire, which had previously announced offensives on both sides." (p. 422)

Poor Leadership

"German leaders at all levels, from the young men in charge of companies and batteries up to the silver-haired commanders of divisions and army corps, were able to out command, and thus outfight, their French counterparts." (p. 36)

"Ivan Bloch, in his work La Guerre Future, published in 1898, had forecast with amazing accuracy that the power of modern weapons would produce deadlock on the battlefield and that the resulting attrition would destroy the fabric of the belligerent societies. Bloch's thesis was widely known and much discussed in military periodicals. But since he was saying in effect that the military was now faced with a problem it could not solve, it was unlikely that many soldiers would agree with him." (p. 12)

"On November 18 [1914] a week after his offensive had shut down [Ypres], Falkenhayn visited the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. He announced that the war could no longer be won and suggested that Germany initiate peace overtures. Bethmann-Hollweg turned him down, in effect pronouncing the death sentence for a generation." (p. 39)

"Max Heinz, A German who served at Vimy (and lived to write about his experience), could not contain his anger: In those days even the simplest infantryman had the feeling that his life was being played with--I can find no other word for this insensate squandering of human lives--in a manner which cannot be sharply enough criticized. Or should we give another name to this kind of leadership which flings company after company into the front line during the most severe bombardment--hunting them to their death without sense or reason?" (p. 71)

"[French] General Charles Mangin ... at Verdun in 1916 his willingness to pitch his division into costly attacks would win him the nickname of 'the Butcher.'" (p. 82)

"... in its continued reliance on these murderous offensives, the French command nearly destroyed its own army." (p. 86)

"The codebreakers had by this time expanded slightly and taken up the quarters in the Admiralty Old Building that soon gave them their unofficial name: Room 40, OB. ...But some of Room 40's effectiveness was lost due to excessively tight control by the director of the operations division, Captain Thomas Jackson. Boorish and self-opinionated, Jackson distrusted civilians' ability to deal with naval affairs and was unpleasant to them." (p. 150)

"No British commander on the scene had the initiative to attack on his own when the position was ripe for plucking, and when Aylmer's headquarters behind the lines was queried by telephone, the orders came back: 'Stick to the program.'" (p. 211-213) Not allowing commanders on the field to make their own decisions led to the British defeat at Kut.

"[General Maurice] Sarrail bombarded his subordinates with messages insisting that fighting spirit would overcome barbed wire. He relieved one general who had the initiative to see the frontline obstacles for himself--from the rear cockpit of an airplane, a first in the Great War." (p. 244)

" ... in the BEF sector there was no doubt that the [Somme] offensive had lost very heavily, so that the overall casualty ratio was around seven to one in favor of the German defenders" (p. 327).

"[General] Haig and the BEF's high command over the years [forced] the infantrymen to walk slowly across no-man's-land while carrying seventy pounds or more, thus offering themselves as easy targets to be mowed down by German machine guns." (p. 330)

"... the most influential military historian [Basil Liddell Hart] of our time would spend the rest of his life elaborating on the original lessons of the Somme. In eighteen days he had seen enough of generals who bungled and missed chances by what he called the rigidity of their own inertia" (p. 348)

"Cavan even persuaded Rawlinson to take a look for himself. At dawn one morning the two generals actually trudged 150 yards or so beyond the frontline wire. Rawlinson agreed that a general attack was impossible. But Haig overruled him. The attacks--and the casualties--continued." (p. 358)

"General Sir Arthur Currie, commanding the Canadian Corps ... his precise, schoolmaster's mind forecast that the assault Haig requested would cost 16,000 casualties. ... the Canadian Corps [had] 15,634 killed and wounded, almost exactly the figure Currie had predicted" (p. 387)

"Haig was a stubborn, inarticulate man, insensitive to the sufferings of others." (p. 396)

"The Marines advanced in massed formations unseen on the Western Front since 1914. Incredulous German machine gunners mowed them down in windrows. ...The Marines eventually captured Belleau Wood, after the French pulled them back and treated the Germans to a fourteen-hour artillery barrage that smashed the place flat. Pershing rewarded Harbord for his incompetence (there were 50 percent casualties) by making him commander of the 2nd Division in place of Bundy, who had stood around during the battle without saying a word while Harbord and Brown made their bloody blunders." (p. 424)

Failure to Meet Obligations

"Italy, which had joined the Entente in May, initially accepted responsibility for protecting the delivery of food and medical supplies to the small Albanian ports where the refugees had congregated. But when it came to the crunch, Italy's admirals were unwilling to risk their ships.

The AEF Fighting Ability

"The U.S. 6th Engineers, who had been building roads and bridges behind the lines at the start of the attack, dropped their shovels and picked up rifles to assist the British at Amiens, earning the dubious distinction of becoming the first American unit to engage the Germans on the Western Front." (p. 401)

"In the vanguard were American divisions, fighting under French generals. This little-studied Aisne-Marne offensive proved the courage of the American infantrymen ... over 90,000 Americans were dead or wounded." (p. 425)

"Too often, Americans found their flanks exposed by the failure of a French division to keep pace with their attack. ... The climax of this messy operation was on August 27, when an isolated company of the 28th Division was annihilated in Fismette, on the north bank of the Vesle River. Bullard had tried to withdraw the soldiers--they were the only Americans on that side of the river, surrounded by some 200,000 Germans--but [French General] Degoutte, now commander of the Sixth Army, had revoked the order." (pp. 425-426)

"The intelligence section of the German IV Reserve Corps filed a major report praising the valor of the Marines and predicting glumly that their tactical skill might soon match their heroism: 'The Second American Division must be considered a very good one and may even perhaps be considered as a storm troop. The different attacks on Belleau Wood were carried out with bravery and dash....The qualities of the men individually may be described as remarkable. ...They lack at present only training and experience to make formidable adversaries. ...the words of a prisoner are characteristic--We kill or get killed!" (pp. 446-447)

Questionable Conclusions

The author (Cowley) questions the truth of "The Massacre of the Innocents". (pp. 37-49). He presents some good points, and is probably accurate that the event had become a bit of legend rather than accuracy, and I am sure that the Germans needed the propaganda the event provided. However, his criticism of the event is relatively shallow and not scholarly. Cowley fails to establish enough support for his position. A qualified historian would have researched the event more thoroughly in Germany to acquire indisputable evidence.

Cowley also chides the accuracy of the numbers for the Langemarck Cemetery. I have been to that cemetery also, and suggest anyone in the area attend. I think it is well done as the Viet Nam War Memorial in the USA and there are some similarities. Cowley attempt to discredit the number of bodies buried by the fact it comes to "Nine men per square foot" in one area of it. His position is poorly thought out and contradicts the history of WWI. The vast majority of the victims were killed by artillery. Many were left of the battlefield for long periods of time, and therefore subjected to further ravages of the battlefield. The bodies were not originally buried at the Langemarck. They were buried at a number of cemeteries throughout the Ypres area. However, the residents of Belgium were quite angry with the Germans for invading their country and for the war, and they felt the numerous cemeteries were eyesores and lowered the value of their property. Therefore, they required the Germans to inter the numerous bodies into a few relatively small cemeteries, Langemarck being one of them. This was done over ten years after the war and the relative state of decomposition of the bodies had a long time to occur and well as the fact there were very few whole bodies. So while Cowley computes "Nine men per square foot" it probably a very conceivable number given the body parts recovered and over ten years of decomposition.

Cowley further questions the myth of "The Innocents" signing in battle and walking arm in arm. I don't think any serious student of military history would insist that green recruits would be brave enough to sing while walking into an artillery barrage and enfilade machine gun fire. They may have exited the trenches singing for confidence, but once the noise of the battlefield was upon them and the first members of their wave fell, it is obvious the singing would have stopped. So yes, it was an exaggerated claim so the focus of the massacre would not be on the stupidity of the commanding officers, but on the bravery of the young combatants.

Cowley uses the claim the "Innocents" walked arm in arm is false since "how could they carry a rifle" is totally missing the point. So what if they did not walk arm in arm. That is not relevant to the discussion of whether green recruits were naive in their introduction to battle and whether they were signing or not. Cowley also questions the number of "students" killed in the battle, stating "Recent research indicates that only 18 percent were". Of note is that the "Recent research" was not Cowley's, and similar to all of the articles, all facts and claims are devoid of footnotes and references, a minimum requirement for any scholarly publication.

The large number of casualties that occurred at Ypres is well documented. Even 18% of the total being students is quite a significant number. Without adequate reference and discussion about the 18% figure, it is impossible to determine what it included. Does it include only those soldiers who were in college or high school when they joined the army? How about those that recently graduated or dropped out of school. Officially, they are not students, but fall into the same age group. Cowley unfairly characterizes the 6,313 names of youth as only being about 1,000 students. A poor conclusion without adequate basis of fact.

The editor (Cowley) states "It is no accident that many of those responsible for the Holocaust were veterans of the trenches." (p. xiv). This statement shows the editor cannot be taken seriously as a historian. He is trying to justify German WWII atrocities. Hundreds of thousands of American troops had the same experience, but they did not commit atrocities. The editor made a totally irresponsible statement with no basis whatsoever.

The author states "we will never know" whether ground fire or another pilot killed the Red Baron. (p. 283). Unfortunately, the author does not watch the Discovery Channel which investigated all claims and scientifically proved that ground fire from a machine gun provided the lucky shot.

The author states "A speech his staff wrote for him to make at Lafayette's tomb on July 4, 1917, ended with the oratorical high note, 'Lafayette, we are here." Pershing crossed it out and wrote 'not in character' beside it. He let one of his staff officers who spoke good French say it instead." (p. 420) This is contradicted by other history books that state Pershing said he wished he thought of saying it. His staff officer was quite articulate and stole the show. The book, Over There by Byron Farwell (also in this blog) states on page 94: "Charles E. Stanton, a quartermaster lieutenant colonel, who was, as Pershing said, 'somewhat of an orator,' announced, 'Lafayette, we are here!' words later attributed to Pershing himself, who called it a 'striking utterance' and one he wished had been his. I am not sure which report is accurate, but without footnotes and references, it is difficult to support the author's position.

Some interesting facts raised by the authors:

  • "A battalion of Greeks, complaining that they had enlisted to fight Turks, not Germans, had to be forced to attack by Algerian tirailleurs, 'riflemen,' with fixed bayonets." (p. 84)
  • The small German cruiser, the Magdeburg ran aground in the Gulf of Finland and had to be scuttled. Russian Lieutenant Galibin "searched the wreck of the Magdeburg. He found a locker in Habenicht's cabin and broke it open. Hidden deep within it was the German codebook, forgotten in the excitement of the catastrophe. Galibin removed it ... The Allies thus came into possession of the key cryptographic secret of the Imperial German Navy" (p. 149) "...new [German] foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann ... would distract America by getting Mexico to wage war on her. ... He put his proposal into code and cabled it on January 15 via Sweden to the Western Hemisphere. ...The British intercepted the message, and Room 40 deciphered it. [The British] had a propaganda weapon of the first water ... [and] gave it to the Americans. ...The story made headlines in papers all over the nation on March 1. ... Five weeks later President Wilson--who had been reelected just months earlier on the slogan 'He kept us out of war'--went up to Capitol Hill to ask Congress to 'make the world safe for democracy' by declaring war on Germany." (pp. 152-153).
  • Theodore Roosevelt sons, "First Archie, then Theodore, Jr., were badly wounded in the fighting along the river. Ethel's husband, Dr. Richard Derby, had a series of narrow escapes as he worked on the wounded in an aid station just behind the lines. ...Quentin [was shot down and killed] over the Marne ... with two machine-gun bullets in his brain." (p. 299-301) "For soldiers fighting to make the world safe for democracy, the death of a former president's son was symbolic proof that Americans practiced what they preached." (p. 302) "Ted Jr., also served in World War II, earning a Medal of Honor as a brigadier general at Utah Beach on D Day; he died of a heart attack in July 1944." (p. 303)
  • "... a Canadian, Dr. Gerald Bull, entered the international arms market in the 1970s. ... He developed a series of experimental guns ... which succeeded in shooting a projectile 112 miles into low space. ... On March 22, just outside his Brussels apartment, an unknown assassin shot him twice in the head" (p. 409).
  • "Pershing also decided to make an AEF division ... twice the size of an Allied or German division. ... Unfortunately, he did not double the size of the new division's artillery" (p. 419)
  • "General Summerall, by then the commander of the V Corps, [marched] the 1st Division across the front of the 42d Division to get there first. In the darkness and confusion, the 1st Division captured Douglas MacArthur, one of the 42d's brigadiers, who looked like a German officer because of his unorthodox headgear." (p. 431)
  • "I [was supposed to] lead the squad. I kinder think they almost led me." Medal of Honor winner, Corporal Alvin York, had a better idea of leadership than probably anyone in the AEF based on recent studies of successful leaders.
  • "The unreality was underscored by the way you found out that your husband or son had died ... If you were lucky, an official letter or telegram brought you the news. But sometimes you simply glimpsed the name of a loved one on a huge casualty list posted on a city wall, or your last letter to the front came back to you stamped 'Dead--Return to Sender." (p. 477)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Battle for Pusan: A Korean War Memoir

The Battle for Pusan: A Korean War Memoir by Addison Terry (2000) is the author’s experience during the early days of the Korean War while a member of the 27th Regiment (Wolfhounds) of the 25th Infantry Division and the 8th Field Artillery Battalion. The book was written when the author was recovering from gunshot wounds in an army hospital in 1951 so his experience was fresh in his memory.

The author was stationed in Japan during the post-WWII occupation when the surprise attack by the North Koreans occurred. The 25th Infantry Division was the second US division committed to the defense of South Korea. The press was forecasting a Korean Dunkirk, but the undermanned divisions held on until more troops and weapons could be deployed.

My rating: Very Good (****). A self-report by a 2nd Lieutenant on the front line. War told by a participant who was involved from almost the very beginning of action. Much more meaningful than a historian writing from researching a number of other books. Well-written and easy to follow—a great story about a war most Americans know little about.

Strategies or themes presented by the author were:

Old Equipment and Lack of Preparation.

“This set me to thinking of our army’s equipment in general, of which our secretary of defense Louis Johnson was so proud.” (p. 42)

“The jeep that my FO party now was assigned had come out of the ordinance depot in February 1942. This was the vehicle on which our lives depended day in and day out." (p. 42)

“The radio that our party was carrying had come out of a depot in 1943. It was an SCR 610, declared obsolete and replaced in 1946 by an SCR 619, a more compact and efficient model. We had not seen any of these, however. Incidentally, in sixty-two days of combat this particular radio worked for only one mission.” (p. 42)

“The heartbreaking part was that in spite of the competency of the gun crews and the fire-direction personnel, the howitzers were all so old that it was never unusual to have from fifty to two hundred yards’ dispersion.” (p. 42)

“… the guns [artillery] were truck-towed, and the situation called for self-propelled guns.” (p. 42)

“In reality, the forces we had in Korea at this time—the 24th and 25th Divisions were at two-thirds strength (two battalions to a regiment instead of three).” (pp. 42-43)

“This was the first time we were to have tanks. They were old Shermans, but they looked good to us.” (p. 48) Previously, they only had towed artillery while the North Koreans were breaking through with Russian T34 tanks. (p. iix)

Lack of Policy.

“Sunday, 25 June 1950. The North Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea with great force. Dean Acheson, secretary of state, had stated that Korea was beyond the strategic interest of the United States, as was Formosa. President Harry S. Truman
had made no statement about protecting South Korea. General Douglas MacArthur had no plans for the defense of South Korea” (p.3)

“For us in Japan during March and April of 1950, it seemed that the secretary of state’s
pronouncement that Formosa was not militarily and not politically important to our national
was an open invitation for the Communists to parade into French Indochina and Korea.” (p. 41)

“How only a few months before that we had been told at Officers’ Call that there probably would be a conflict in Korea, but that our State Department had decided we would not intervene. I was curious to know the circumstances leading to such obvious indecision in the State Department. I was indignant over the seeming nonchalance with which we were committed to this action. It seemed as though our entire Far East Command was being steered from one course of action to another on the individual whims of a small number of politicos in Washington.” (p. 40)

“The reversal in our State Department’s thinking concerning Korea seemed extremely late, and certainly most unnecessarily costly.” (p. 41)

“In the past, our armies knew what they were fighting for, or at least the individual soldier thought he knew what he was fighting for. In this case it was different. No one knew why we were here and, although the policy makers in Washington had published statements of policy that might be acceptable to the party supporters at home. I knew that the same statements would sound might hollow in this valley where the smell of death was so heavy.” (p. 179)

Inaccurate Information.

“After I had been in the thick of things a little while I learned to laugh at the stories of men from other outfits, but at this time I hung onto every word and noticed that the others in our column did likewise.” (p. 14)

“The Stars and Stripes had also said that the 1st Cavalry was winning the war in Korea … [but] their artillery had continually shot at us … [and they] left all of their equipment behind us so that our fighting withdrawal would be more difficult” (p. 113).

Defending Their Own Country.

“The place was stuffed with ROK troops. They were everywhere, cleaning weapons, smoking American cigarettes, eating C rations, and telling jokes. Their nonchalance made me mad. I always grew furious when I saw those little ne’er-do-wells sitting around behind the lines while GIs were getting their fannies shot off to save a country most of them had never even heard of before now.” (p. 81)

“The ROKs were literally loaded with captured rifles and burp guns, each man with two or three plus his own weapon. That was one thing that could be said in praise of the ROKs. They always brought back any enemy equipment they could get their hands on, while our troops were doing well to hang on to their own gear.” (p. 107)

“’Don’t worry about that, sir. It’s only the damn gooks getting tortured. …Oh, it’s not our people who are doing the dirty work, sir. It’s those dirty little ROK marines. Jesus, they are mean little bastards.’ Suddenly there was a blood-curdling scream from down the road that made everyone shiver, in spite of the heat. …’Oh, there are lots of good tortures,’ answered the kid on the truck, ‘but you should see the one they give with two EE8s. …you should see those bastards dance when the juice starts through’em.” (pp. 129-130)

Poor Decision-Making.

“Between my teeth I asked if the fire that had just gone over was the fire that had taken priority over mine. He said that it was. That’s when I really blew my top. Somebody had delayed the fire mission for at least ten minutes, taking it away from me and giving it to someone else who was to fire at the same target [but using the wrong coordinates and missing].” (p. 183)

“… the fire mission never did go out. In the interval, the enemy was plastering the hell out of the tanks and infantry … I waited and cussed. …he replied that the mission was unsafe due to the fact that friendly troops occupied the area of the coordinates I had given him. This was the crowning blow. I glanced at the map to make certain that I was not in error, and then I was insubordinate in the worst kind of way.” (pp. 188-189)

Some interesting items brought up by the author included:

  • “I was thoroughly disgusted with the lackadaisical attitude these people [GIs] a short distance off the front had concerning their security. In reality, they were just as prone to be overrun as anyone else in this war. No one was really safe, the front was everywhere.” (p. 73)

  • “The picture was good—a comedy with Abbott and Costello. We were just getting into the third reel when we heard a plane motor. There were two explosions to the west toward Masan. The North Koreans had bombed us? What a low blow. The picture was stopped and we were told to go back to our area. There would be no more pictures. I was furious. When morning came it was learned that the enemy had killed two pigs. There were no other casualties.” (p. 138)
  • “As we ate I felt an unusual fear grip me and felt like I had that first morning of combat. I wondered if it would be like this every time we went back to slaughter after a rest. The men were unusually quiet, too, and I rationalized that they probably felt as I did.” (p. 140)

  • “This was always the way. We would ride long enough for everyone to get good and cramped and then we would stop and fight like hell. After we had licked the North Koreans, some other outfit would come in and take over the quiet sector and we would be moved to another fire. Was there no justice?” (p. 140)

  • “There were two reasons why machine-gun belts were used to move the enemy dead:” bodies were sometimes booby-trapped and they were filthy and germ-infested so no Gi could stand to touch them. (p. 105)

  • Wounded officers were separated from enlisted men for treatment. “I sat there in silence … mentally kicking myself for not telling the sergeant that I was a lieutenant when he first sounded off in the tent. This was certainly no way to treat a wounded man. I made up my mind then and there that a sergeant in the medics was nearly as bad as a real-echelon M.P.” (p. 161)

  • “The article [Stars and Stripes] that most interested us concerned a bill being prepared in Congress to grant combat pay to the ground forces in Korea. … the air force was receiving flight pay and the navy sea pay while getting three meals a day and sleeping in clean beds. On the other hand, the army was suffering 99 percent of the casualties and living in the mud for the same pay the garrison soldiers were receiving safe in the States.” (p. 203)

Click below to buy "The Battle for Pusan."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Over There: The United States in the Great War, 1917-1918

Over There: The United States in the Great War, 1917-1918 by Byron Farwell (1999) covers the United States involvement and contribution in World War I. This book is excellent for Americans who may not want to read about the war from its start in 1914, but wish to concentrate on the US involvement in the war. It does not provide an in-depth analysis of the war, but does a very good job at keeping the reader engaged and educating the reader about American involvement in WWI.

My Rating: Very Good (****). As an American, I enjoyed the book tremendously since it covered the war from the involvement of the USA and not from its beginning. It provides a good summary of World War I for the American audience. It is well-written, interesting, and provides relevant aspects of the history of the war without trying to cover every aspect in great detail.

Some strategies and themes presented in the book include the following:

Twisting the facts to provide unified backing for the war.

The sinking of the Lusitania is often considered the single event that brought the US into the war. It was positioned a defenseless ocean liner attacked by the inhuman Germans. Of its 1,959 passengers and crew, 1,195 perished including 124 of the 129 Americans on board (including multimillionaire Alfred Vanderbilt, actor Charles Frohman, and author Elbert Hubbard). The facts were that the Lusitania carried six million rounds of .303 rifle ammunition, fifty-one tons of shrapnel shells, parts for mines, 200 additional tons of ammo, and sixty-seven British soldiers. The Lusitania had 12 six-inch guns and was classified as an auxiliary cruiser. The Germans had even published in several newspapers a warning to anyone planning to travel on the Lusitania that it was a viable target for the Germans. "Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan was one of the few who viewed the disaster realistically: 'Germany,' he said, 'has a right to prevent contraband going to the Allies and a ship carrying contraband should not rely upon passengers to prevent her from attack." (pp. 23-25)

"President Wilson revealed the Zimmermann note to the press. ...Alfred Zimmermann, German foreign secretary, sent a coded message ... proposing a defensive alliance with Mexico in case of war between the United States and Germany. It contained the proviso that 'Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona' ...British naval intelligence intercepted and decoded the message... Released to the public, it created a storm of outrage. Many now felt that war with Germany was inevitable." (p.34)

"Creel's committee [Committee on Public Information] soon developed into the United States' first propaganda ministry, disseminating Wilson's political views to every village in the country and eventually throughout the world." Creel used many channels including:

  • A corps of 75,000 Four Minute Men recruited to speak during theater intermissions, before clubs, or at any other place an audience was available.
  • Traveling salesmen were supplied with pamphlets and asked to speak with their customer base.
  • Immigrants were urged to speak English, salute the flag, and cultivate patriotism in their children.
  • Daily and sometimes hourly press releases proclaimed the enemy to be barbaric huns.
  • Exhibitions of military equipment were arranged.
  • Thirty propaganda bulletins and distributions were prepared in several languages and 75 million copies distributed.
  • Artist were asked to draw and produced 700 poster designs, 122 streetcar advertising cards, 310 advertising illustrations, and 287 cartoons. The most famous was the "Uncle Sam Wants You!" poster.
  • The motion picture industry produced "hate-the-Hun" films. (pp. 123-124)

"Americans grew suspicious of each other. Neighbor spied on neighbor and workers spied on their fellow workers. There developed a kind of national paranoia. ... Creel was later blamed for the hysteria. One critic observed that, 'Never have so many behaved so stupidly at the manipulation of so few.'" (p. 125)

"On 12 July the New York Times headlined a story with a dateline of the day before: OUR MEN TAKE BELLEAU WOOD, 300 CAPTIVES. This was not so. It was not even close." (p. 171)

"Colonel Stewart was ordered by the War Department to tighten censorship of letters that were 'most unsoldierly in tone and anti-British in sentiment'" in response to AEF discontent when serving in Northern Russia. (p. 282)

Elimination of Basic Rights of Citizens.

Many occurrences abused citizens without due process, including:

  • Between April and November 1917 thousands of suspected citizens were arrested, often without a warrant.
  • 1,200 were placed in internment camps.
  • Factories established their own FBI.
  • Federal troops put down strikes, raided unions, and arrested leaders.
  • The fifteen top leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World were sent to prison with sentences 0f twenty years.
  • The War Department listed 75 books as vicious German propaganda and they were removed from the shelves of libraries.
  • On April 6, 1917 Wilson authorized the seizure of radio stations.
  • The Espionage Act was passed.
  • The postmaster general was authorized to refuse mail advocating treason and cut-0ff mailing privileges of assorted foreign language newspapers and magazines, bankrupting many. (pp. 125-126)

The Economics of War.

"Not everyone was driven by patriotism. It was noticed that some people were making more money than they had before the war, some a great deal more."

  • "Paytriots," Secretary Daniels called them.
  • Pierre DuPont offered to manufacture much-needed smokeless powder--for a price (making 25-50% profit).
  • The assistant secretary of the treasury denounced the makers of American flags as unpatriotic profiteers.
  • Coal mining companies were found to be "as fine a specimen of war profiteering as I have ever seen" according to Secretary of Treasury McAdoo with profits of more than 1,000% in one year.
  • Bethlehem Steel increased its profits by more than 800%.
  • "The law of supply and demand has been replaced by the law of selfishness" said Herbert Hoover.
  • The number of millionaires doubled from the pre-war number.
  • A manufacturer made army raincoats that dissolved in the rain.
  • Labor wanted their fair share of the profits and resorted to strikes. (pp. 131-133)
  • "The British, French, and others who supplied ships were not eleemosynary; the American government paid for every soldier transported in a foreign vessel. The French made an attempt to charge for every man sent to fight for them as if he were a prewar passenger on a liner instead of a human sardine on a troopship. When the Americans refused to be gouged the price was reduced from $150 per man to $81.75." (p. 81)
  • "Except for small arms, almost all of the army's needs were supplied by Britain and France at exorbitant prices." (p. 104)
  • "Through it all [the movement from St. Mihiel to Argonne], the French officer in charge of the trucks insisted on counting the men in each and collecting receipts for their delivery, for the French charged the Americans by the head for transporting their soldiers to fight for them." (p. 222)
  • "Of the eight billion dollars loaned to the Allies, little was repaid. Only Finland paid in full." (p. 299)

Weak leadership during the War.

"Among the armies of the world, that of the United States ranked sixteenth, just behind Portugal." (p. 37)

"The punitive expedition of regulars and ill-trained and ill equipped National Guardsmen led by Brigadier General John Pershing against Francisco ('Pancho') Villa in 1916 had learned little that could be of value to them on the Western Front and their stumbling about south of the border illustrated all too starkly how unprepared the country was to fight a modern war. It had not even been able to suppress a Mexican bandit." (p. 37)

"Colonel McAlexander had narrowly escaped being sent home in disgrace. He had graduated near the bottom of his class at West Point ... a staff officer found him asleep in his dugout at 9:00 one morning. He was saved thanks to the pleading of his brigade commander ... explaining that McAlexander habitually spent his nights in the front-line trenches with his troops. McAlexander emerged from the war with the unusual distinction of having earned both the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal." (p. 179-180)

"The [French Army] mutinies were not against the war... They were a passionate protest against stupidity, incompetence and indifference, .... against fire-eating generals who threw away lives in futile stunts for the sake of la gloire." (p. 91)

"In July 1917 the country had begun production of the recently designed 8-cylinder Liberty engine, but Pershing asked for a 12-cylinder engine instead and 13,574 of the 12-cylinder Liberty engines were built ... but it was too heavy for pursuit planes. In May 1918 Pershing demanded the 8-cylinder plane again. ... Planning and organization remained in a state of flux. ... Much of the difficulty was the result of Pershing's continual changing of specifications. ... Thousands of changes in the details of planes were cabled by him, until manufacturers simply threw up their hands." (p. 199)

"General Charles P. Summerall, commanding V Corps, directed MacArthur: 'Give me Chatillon or a list of 5,000 casualties.' ... The hill was taken, but more than twenty-five years later MacArthur, reminiscing with General Robert Eichelberger, said, 'I have hated him ever since.'" (p. 230)

"George C. Marshall was taken aback to learn that the army that had fought at St. Mihiel was to be sent immediately to a new sector, for it was his responsibility to issue the orders for its transfer. 'I could not recall an incident in history where the fighting of one battle had been preceded by the plans for a later battle to be fought by the same army on a different front, and involving the issuing of orders for the movement of troops already destined to participate in the first battle, directing their transfer to the new field of action." (p. 221)

"President Wilson, attending the peace conference, made a grand tour of the European capitals but, although Chateau-Thierry was only an hour away from Paris, the commander-in-chief did not find time to visit it or any of the fields where his soldiers had fought and bled, nor did he see any of the military cemeteries. His neglect was noted." (pp. 264-265)

Inability to learn from experience.

"It seems not to have occurred to any general on either side that in a war of attrition the advantage lay with the defensive, that the attacker lost more men than the defender. It was a lesson never learned." (p.48)

"The marines attacked in waves, lines of men sometimes moving shoulder to shoulder, almost like a Civil War attack, without benefit of mortars or grenades, and German Maxim machine guns scythed them down. ... Belleau Wood proved a hard nut to crack. Fourteen days later it was indeed taken, but the marines sustained nearly 5,200 casualties, including 750 killed, more than fifty percent of its strength. One mile had been gained. It was the costliest battle in Marine Corps history and would remain so until the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943." (pp. 169-171)

"Parachutes were, however, used by observers in balloons, who jumped 116 times with only one fatality. ... Perhaps from bravado or perhaps from the belief that the falling plane would hit the parachutes before they could fall clear, pilots did not carry them until the last months of the war. (p. 194)


"In the first four months 2.7 tons of shipping had been sunk [by German U-boats]." US Rear Admiral William Sims asked if there was any solution. Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Britain's First Sea Lord, told Sims: 'Absolutely none that we can see now.' Sims devised and recommended "a convoy system--merchant ships assembled and traveling together under the protection of destroyers--be instituted, but the Admiralty rejected the idea out of hand, declaring it to be a waste of cruisers and destroyers." When it was finally implemented later in the war, "During the last months of the war convoys lost only about one percent of their ships" (pp. 71-72).

The British use of depth charges was that "The drums were simply rolled off the decks until American investors developed the 'Y gun,' a specially devised apparatus which hurled the huge charges with greater accuracy and less risk." (p. 72)

"... a submarine detection device device developed by forty-year-old Professor Max Mason, a mathematician then at the University of Wisconsin. It not only could detect the sound of submarines as far as twenty miles away, but also could reveal the direction of the sound." (p. 72)

".. the development by two Americans, Commander S.P. Fullinwider and a civilian, thirty-seven-year-old Ralph Cowan Browne, a roentgenologist, of an electrical system and mechanism that made possible an improved mine." (p. 72) "... the British Admiralty rejected the idea" but after the US deployed them in the Northern Sea "they wreaked havoc with the German submarines" and were considered "one of the wonders of the war." (p. 73)

"As the war progressed the value of [native American Indian] languages, unknown in Europe, was recognized and many were used as telephone operators, speaking in their native tongues." (p. 160)

"The guns had difficulty hitting small targets twenty miles away until Edwin P. Hubble, an infantry captain who knew something about the mathematics of moving objects through curved space and time, provided solutions. Dr. Hubble later won a Nobel prize and built the 200-inch telescope on Mount Palomar. His name was given to the first space telescope." (p. 209)


"Many arrived in France without ever having fired their weapon. ...When the 90th Division shipped out in June 1918 only 35 percent of its personnel had received more than four weeks of formal instruction." (p. 65)

"As disdainful as he was of French training, Pershing lauded the skill of French cooks." (p. 101)

"On 30 March 1918 Lloyd George, and on the following day Clemenceau, dispatched messages to President Wilson urging him to send more American troops, even untrained and unorganized troops, as rapidly as possible." (p. 118)

"Many of the American divisions were still not fully trained or fully equipped. ... Some [American soldiers] did not even know how to insert rifle clips and it was said that experienced soldiers were getting $5 apiece to instruct them." (p. 221)

Wrong Priorities.

"The winter of 1917-1918 was the most severe of the war and the snow was unusually heavy in eastern France. In the newly arrived troops of the AEF clothing was in short supply, even boots for marching. Urgent appeals to Washington were rejected 'owing to need for supply of troops in the United States.' Soldiers at war could not be clothed as long as soldiers at home needed uniforms. ... Major Frederick Palmer referred to this period as the Valley Forge of the AEF." (p. 98)

"No one seemed able to tell the troops why they were fighting Russians in Russia and many felt they had been forgotten and abandoned. ... 'we were fighting a people against whom war had never been declared and we didn't know why we were fighting them." (p. 283)

Double Standards.

"223 French-speaking American women, called 'Hello Girls', were imported to operate a cable and plug switchboard. "The 'Hello Girls' wearing the uniforms required by the army and drawing army pay, had assumed they were in the Army Signal Corps. They discovered they were not only when they were discharged and informed that they had been merely employees and were ineligible for the status and benefits of veterans. Not until 1979, after a campaign led by former Hello Girl Mrs Louise Le Breton Maxwell, did the army give honorable discharges, war medals, and veteran benefits to the few survivors." (p. 307)

"In the 42nd Division several officers, out of the line for a time, were discovered to have rented rooms in Baccarat and Badonviller which they shared with local women or prostitutes. They were court-martialed, deprived of pay, and given a stern lecture by Douglas MacArthur, who after the war was to do exactly the same thing himself--without, however, receiving reprimand or punishment."(p.146)

"There was a reluctance to give medals to blacks until after a reevaluation was begun in 1988. In 1991 a Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Corporal Freddie Stowers of the 93rd Division (Provisional) for leading an attack upon a machine gun nest." (p. 251)

Theodore Roosevelt was a proponent for the war and his youngest son, Quentin, was killed in action in a dogfight. He was a pilot. Teddy Roosevelt did not have a double standard for his own children, all of which would serve in WWI. "Pershing rote to [him]: 'Quentin died as he had lived and served, nobly and unselfishly, in the full strength and vigor of his youth, fighting the enemy in clean combat. You may well be proud of your gift to the nation in his supreme sacrifice." (p. 192)

"When the army received complaints from several YMCA women that their superior, Mr. O. K. LaRoque, sexually harassed them, he was ordered out but refused to leave and went unpunished." (p. 271)

"Comparatively few American medals were awarded during the war. The War Department failed to recognize their morale value and good job done and Pershing had originally believed that the knowledge a soldier had of a good job done and earning the respect of his comrades should be reward enough. ...The Rainbow Division submitted nine recommendations for the Medal of Honor, a list headed by Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur ... Pershing chose six, MacArthur was not one of them. ..."The days for brigadier generals to rush forward in the firing line waving their hats and yelling 'Come on boys!' are in actual warfare at least a thing of the past" ... [Patton] feared he would not receive the Distinguished Service Cross and considered resigning if he did not get it. ... The Silver Star medal was not instituted until 8 August 1932, but during World War I small silver stars were authorized to be worn on the campaign ribbons of those cited in orders for gallantry. Essentially these were what the British called 'mentioned in dispatches.' Douglas MacArthur, who earned seven of these in World War I, equated them with the new medal and awarded himself seven Silver Star Medals." (pp. 295-296)

Fighting Ability of the AEF.

"General Walther Reinhardt, chief of staff of the German Seventh Army which opposed the Americans in this battle, praised their elan and will to attack. 'They may not look good, but hell, how they can fight!' he said."(p.183)

"Corporal Pierre Teilhard de Chardin ... in the 1st Moroccan Division and a witness to the fighting. ... 'We had the Americans as neighbors and I had a close-up view of them. Everyone says the same: they're first rate troops, fighting with intense individual passion ... and wonderful courage. The only complaint one would make about them is that they don't take sufficient care; they're too apt to get themselves killed. When they're wounded they make their way back holding themselves upright, almost stiff, impassive, and uncomplaining. I don't think I've ever seen such pride and dignity in suffering." (pp. 183-184)

"The Germans had such a high opinion of the fighting abilities of the Indians, their impressions drawn from Wild West shows and from highly popular German books about them, that German newspapers tried to conceal the fact that their soldiers were fighting against them. During the St. Mihiel offensive the commanding officer of the German 97th Landwehr ordered snipers to pick off Indians when they could be recognized." (p. 160)

General Joseph Helle ... said of the Americans: 'We were quite unprepared for such fury in an attack.' So were the Germans. General Walther Reinhardt, chief of staff of the Seventh German Army, agreed with Helle and compared the fervor of the Americans to the German volunteers in 1914." (p. 184)

"Men in the rear areas who went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) from their units and made their way to the battleline where at least 3,170 were killed and 6,471 were wounded. The total number of men so eager to see combat is unknown, but the practice ws so widespread that General Pershing made special arrangements for those men who had done good service in the rear to have the opportunity to go on the firing line." (p. 265)

"By war's end Americans held 101 miles or 23 percent of the battleline." (pp. 265-266)

Winston Churchill wrote: "To fight in defence of his native land is the first duty of the citizen. But fight in defence of some one else's native land is a different proposition... To cross the ocean and fight for strangersd, far from home, upon an issue the making of which one has had no say, requires a wide outlook upon human affairs and a sense of world responsibility." (p. 285)

"Belgium's Cardinal Desire Joseph Mercier [had] come to the United States to thank Americans for their assistance to his country." (p. 287)

"British military historian Captain Basil Liddell Hart best summed up the American contribution: 'The United States did not win the war, but without their economic aid to ease the strain, whithout the arrival of their troops to turn the numerical balance, and, above all, without the moral tonic which their coming gave, victory would have been impossible." (p. 299)

Fighing Under French Command.

"The worst disaster to Americans was sustained by four rifle companies of the 28th Division, a National Guard unit from Pennsylvania that had been integrated into a French unit which retreated without warning, leaving them to be killed or captured." (pp. 178-179)

"The Americans took the ridge, but the French had failed to keep pace and the Americans were forced to defend their own flanks. As a result, 3 October 1918 was the bloodiest day in the division's history, but on the following day the French could with ease assume their places in the line. General John A. Lejeune, then commanding the 2nd Division, sent off an angry telegram to AEF headquarters saying he would resign his commission rather than again fight beside the French units." (p. 249)

Opinions of Europeans.

"... Americans objected to British rations and never learned to prefer tea to coffee. 'We don't like their blooming tea or their blamed pet cats,' wrote one soldier. 'They said it was rabbit, but we used our own opinion. We had tasted rabbit in the states and we knew.'" (p.245)

After the war "Relations between occupiers [Americans] and the occupied [Germans] were soon cordial. Many Americans found the Germans friendlier than the British or French." (p. 269)

"Ambassador William Graves Sharp in Pris remarked that, 'Many of the French seem to have forgotten that but for us the Kaiser and his nobles would be running France.'" (p. 272)

"Pershing complained that the French 'had never once said a word of thank or complimented the American troops on what they had done.' According to Haig, Pershing told him that Americans would never forget 'the bad treatment which they had received from the French and that it was difficult to exaggerate the feeling of dislike for the French which existed in the American army.'" (p. 272)

Some interesting facts presented by the author include:

  • "Because of the misuse of the word 'shrapnel' by several generations of ignorant journalists, many readers of World War i literature assume that the word 'sharpnel' meant shell fragments. But this was not the case. Shrapnel, invented by Major Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842) of the British Royal Artillery, was first used in 1804. " (p. 45)

  • "58.51 percent of all battle casualties were caused by enemy artillery and mortar fire; rifle and machine gun fire accounted for 38.98 percent." (p. 46)
  • "Charles E. Stanton, a quartermaster lieutenant colonel, ... announced, 'Lafayette, we are here!' words later attributed to Pershing himself" (p. 94).
  • "When MacArthur was recommended for promotion to brigadier general, Pershing disapproved it, but MacArthur's mother so lobbied Washington that General Peyton March, the chief of staff, approved the promotion." (p. 98)
  • "Sauerkraut became 'liberty cabbage. ... German measles became 'Liberty measles." (p. 125) "As of January income tax was increased so that many now had to pay what was billed as a 'Liberty Tax.' The number of American taxpayers rose to seven million in 1918 from only 500,000 the previous year. (p. 290)
  • "General Pershing served as a first lieutenant in the 10th Calvary [a black regiment] from 1892 to 1898 and for his championship of black soldiers was called "Black Jack" Pershing. (p. 148)
  • "Marine John C. Geiger, who was in an attack on 10 July, later confessed that after he and others surrounded a German machine gun nest the crew wanted to surrender: 'But there's not much use taking as prisoners men who fire at you until they see they are overpowered. I don't remember any prisoners walking back from that crowd.' Private Carl Brannen of the 6th Marines claimed that, 'Machine gunners were never taken prisoner by either side.' ... Lieutenant van Dolson wrote that the soldiers from Alabama 'did not take many prisoners, but I do not blame them much for that.' A Georgia soldier wrote home: "All of you can cheer up and wear a smile for I'm a little hero now. I got two of the rascals and finished killing a wounded with my bayonet that might have gotten well had I not finished him' (p. 174).
  • "I never heard a man cuss so well or so intelligently, and I'd shoed a million mules ... The battery didn't say a word. They must have figured the cap'n could do the cussin' for the whole outfit." Private Paul Shaffer describing artillery Captain Harry Truman.
  • "Of the more than 15,000 pigeons trained to carry messages in France some 5,000 disappeared, perhaps some into French marmites. ... One pigeon returned with the message: 'I'm tired of carrying this God-damned bird.'" (p. 225)
  • "... Captain Frank Williams ... in the 82nd Division. He had been a sheriff in Montana and Wyoming and had performed as a fast-draw shooter with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Reconnoitering a hill north of St. Juvin on a foggy October morning he came upon five Germans escorting an American prisoner. Williams sauntered toward them, his pistol in its holster. Perhaps his empty hands put the Germans off guard, but when he drew near he pulled his pistol and shot four before they could raise their rifles. The survivor surrendered." (p. 228)
  • "German soldiers they encountered there readily raised their hands and called 'Kamerad!' but as soon as the Americans lowered their rifles, the 'prisoners' fell flat and an assault team burst through them and cut up the platoon. Lieutenant Dwight H. Shaffner ... cut down several men with his Chauchat, then drew his pistol and seized the German captain who had organized the ruse: Dragging him back, he forced him to divulge information about the German positions ahead. For his valor, and in spite of his disregard of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor." (p. 230)
  • "... novelist William Faulkner ... finished ground school on 13 November, two days after the Armistice, and never won the wings he nevertheless wore. Faulkner never flew solo or was sent to France or was injured in a airplane crash or was commissioned or did much else that he claimed; like Hemingway, he pretended to be what he was not and to have done what hedid not do." (p. 252)

  • "It was said that the Germans fought for territory, the British for the sea, the French for patriotism, and the Americans for souvenirs." (p. 269)
  • "March wrote: 'President Wilson only interfered twice with the military operations of the War Department while I was Chief of Staff, and both times he was wrong. The first of these was the Siberian Expedition; the other sending American troops to Murmansk and Archangel, in northern Russia." (p. 273) "General March called the Siberian expedition a 'military crime.'" (p. 284)
  • The AEF officers in northern Russia "routinely instructed their men 'to take no prisoners, to kill them even if they come in unarmed'" and in many cases this was done. (p. 283)
  • "Men who had left aid stations prematurely to return to the fighting discovered that they had no credit for their wounds." (p. 289)
  • "Over in France and in the occupied part of Germany the doughboys feel peeved that Prohibition has been enacted in their absence." (p. 290)
  • "The soldiers and sailors returned to a land of bootleggers, gangsters, speakeasies, and bathtup gin" (p. 290)
  • "In late May 1932 some 17,000 unemployed veterans from all parts of the country decended upon Washington and demanded immediate and full payment of the [veteran] bonuses. The 'bonus army' camped in ramshackle huts assembled by its members almost within sight of the Capitol. In June Congress voted down their demands and most of them returned from whence they had come. However, some 2,000 remained. When President Hoover ordered them removed, Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur, aided by Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, sent soldiers carrying bayoneted refles to burn their shacks and move them on." (p. 294)

Monday, January 8, 2007

You Can't Get Much Closer Than This: Combat with Company H, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Division

You Can't Get Much Closer Than This: Combat with Company H, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Division by A.Z. Adkins, Jr. and Andrew Z. Adkins, III (2005) is a first hand story of an 81mm mortar section leader who fought his way across France, Belgium, and into Germany. Adkins kept a journal of his daily experiences which was the basis for this book.

Adkins was a cadet at The Citadel when WWII started. He graduated in 1943 and immediately went to Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning. He would miss D-Day, but landed on Normandy about 2 months later.

My Rating: Very Good (****). A self report by a participate who kept a journal during the war so the experiences were freshly recorded and not dulled by a lapse of time.

Some interesting themes or strategies that the offer wrote about include:

  • Training. ".. there were too many officer candidates ... the fact that the Army had too many second lieutenants made matters worse, because they could run you into the ground and weed out those who couldn't make it." (p. 6)
  • Was this the smartest thing to do? Some claim the weeding out process for officers and also enlisted men (since the draft board immediately rejected many candidates after physicals and basic training did another weeding out) made the US Military comparable with the well-trained German and Japanese military. However, the number of front line officers quickly became a problem when a severe shortage occurred as casualties occurred. Would it have been a better strategy to have soldiers repeat a program rather than flunk out? That way, a pipeline of trained personnel would have been available.

    "There were now only two of the original thirty-seven line officers left in my battalion. The others had been killed or wounded." (p. 92)

  • Weapon Logistics. "The 81mm mortar ... weighed about 135 pounds, and it was usually carried by two men. ... There were two types of rounds used in the mortar: a high explosive (HE) round, weighing between seven and ten pounds was used to destroy enemy antitank guns, automatic weapons, mortars, and personnel; and a smoke round to screen the movement of troops during an attack." (p. 9)
  • First line supervisors: Non-coms. "I learned quickly that a good Sergeant is worth his weight in gold." (p. 10)

    "... we had some good sergeants as platoon leaders, and a good sergeant is worth two lieutenants any day in the week." (p. 162)

  • Learning from those before you. "We invited officers from one of the nearby hospitals to visit with us and tell us about the types of fighting men we would soon come up against." (p. 12)
  • Poor leadership. "Colonel Murray was relieved as our battalion CO and Maj. Jim Hayes, the regimental S-2, was made our new battalion CO. It seems that Regiment had been dissatisfied with the way Colonel Murray had been running his battalion. I wondered how they came to that conclusion. I had never seen any of them while the fighting was going on. Colonel Don Cameron, our regimental CO, was also relieved. Over his vigorous protest to attack an objective with his depleted regiment, he had the guts to tell the commanding general, 'What in the hell do you want me to take it with? My bare hands?'" (p. 66)

    "While we were at the CP, the S-3 had the balls to report to Regiment that everything was okay in Sivry when he had just heard a minute before from Crone that the ammunition was almost gone." (p. 85)

    "I'll never know why we were ordered to take that damn town. What possible benefit could we have derived from taking Sivry, without also taking the strategic and commanding Mt. Toulon and Mt. St. Jean? I guess when you're looking at maps from a comfortable position several safe miles to the rear, things look entirely different." (p. 91)

    "The men hadn't been too impressed with Major Hayes. Sure, he was a West Pointer ... The way both of those attacks had been ordered was not only useless, but foolish. That left a bad taste in the men's mouths. Then too, Major Hayes sported the Silver Star for 'personally leading his troops during an attack on Sivry.' ... The men couldn't quite understand that." (p. 108)

    "Hayes was trying to impress the gentleman from Division. After the artillery had fired, he reported over the phone to Regiment that the rounds had been effective. The gentleman from Division eyed Major Hayes. 'What the hell do you mean the artillery fire was effective?' he asked. The major just stared back. 'Were you at the target? How do you know whether the rounds were effective--or not?' It did my heart good to see the West Pointer try and wriggle out of that one." (p. 160)

    "I thought it was better to leave the mortars in position; I could observe from the attacking companies and when we had gotten out far enough, then I could move the guns forward. I wanted to do that because I knew it would be almost impossible for my own men to carry that heavy equipment over such terrain. The colonel overruled my suggestion. None of us liked the attack plan, but there was little we could do about it." (p. 134)

    "When Max started out he ran into some Kraut tanks and armored cars. A number of his men were hurt and couldn't move without help. ... Jerry Sheehan called Regiment and asked for tanks. Regiment told him there were no Kraut tanks in our area. About that time the Kraut tanks threw in a few rounds. Regiment still wouldn't believe there were tanks in our area! I often wondered why those so-called staff members never came up to see for themselves when the going was a little rough." (p. 141) "The refusal pissed off Sheehan, who then asked for a fifteen-minute artillery preparation before his men went in. He was denied artillery with the excuse that his troops 'were too close to the objective and our artillery fire would fall on them.' I wondered why some people didn't come up and look for themselves instead of looking at a damn map!" (p. 144)

    "General Patton had done well for himself in choosing a CP. His headquarters was in a palace with long wide corridors and spacious rooms." (p. 166) Yet Patton's MPs would not let soldiers from the front line walk around in Luxembourg City for rest and relaxation without helmets and helmet liners.

    "[The regimental CO] was sitting in his jeep behind a house. ... I thought to myself, 'You old bastard, these men of yours have walked all the way from Utah Beach, and the walk wasn't easy, but you're too damn lazy to walk a mile to let them see that you're at least interested in what they are doing.'" (p. 192)

    "One of my mortar jeeps came speeding down the road with six men in it. The regimental CO barked, 'Didn't you know know there was an order out saying that only five men were to ride in a jeep?' 'Yes, Sir,' I replied, 'but we need those mortars up fast.' 'That makes no difference,' the CO snorted. 'Don't you ever let me catch you with more than five men on a jeep again.' 'Yes, Sir.' I said, thinking, Why is it that we never saw your sorry ass back in the Ardennes or the Moselle River, when it was so cold? You could really chew butt the way we were violating uniform regulations, wearing anything we could lay our hands on, while trying to keep from freezing to death." (p. 206)

  • Diversified staff. "Every American outfit has someone who can speak German (or any other language that needed to be spoken)." (p. 83)

  • Maintain law and order. "We were given the mission of maintaining law and order in the city [Weimar]. ... Company H was given the mission of patrolling the town with its machine gun jeeps. ... Looters were breaking into stores and taking food and clothing. German civilians were helping themselves. It's funny how Krauts will rob their brothers. We had a hard job trying to stop them." (p. 200)

    "Our destination was Burglesan, a farm town composed of about twelve buildings, three fourths of which were barns. Our job was to maintain law and order and patrol the place. The war was about over now, but we did not know just when it would fold up completely." (p. 207)

    "[I] was given the mission of furnishing 24-hour motorized patrols with radios throughout the city [Nuremberg]. ...Our job was to maintain law and order, enforce military law, prevent looting, and continue our training." (p. 208)

Some interesting items the author wrote about included:

  • "... the townspeople of Martincourt [France] ... with tear-stained eyes, they lined either side of the road and sang the French national anthem, L'Marseille, as we moved on." (p. 20)
  • In Alsace-Lorraine: "The people were different here than they had been in Normandy. ... Here they more or less took us for granted and were very cool toward us." (pp. 33-34)
  • "The prisoners he had captured were perfect specimens of manhood. They were SS troops--all hand-picked men. ... We tried to get them to tell us how many German troops were to our front, but they wouldn't say anything, not even when we ground burning cigarette butts into their necks." (p. 50)
  • "A German medic came out of the hedgerow. In addition to a red cross on his helmet, he had a white apron with a red cross on it tied around his body. Our boys let him get to his wounded. Instead of treating him, the bastard reached in his aid bag, drew out a grenade, and hurled it at us! Two of our men were hit; one of them was a medic. The rifleman next to me drilled the Kraut medic several times, making sure he didn't treat any more wounded." (p. 60)
  • "... a Kraut came out into the orchard across the railroad tracks with a white flag. ...The Kraut just stood there. Quite a number of Company F's men moved into the orchard to close in on the town. Without warning, the Krauts started cutting loose on Company F with machine guns, burp guns, and rifles. The son of a bitch with the white flag ran for cover." (p. 71)
  • "The artillery observer was really enjoying himself. Every time a barrage would land he slapped his leg and said, 'Hitler, count your children.'" (p. 87)
  • During the Battle of the Bulge: "The engineers helped us with our holes. We'd shoot a couple of rifle rounds into the frozen ground, then use explosives to get down into the earth." (p. 120)
  • "Kad and I tried our French on the Luxembourgers. They were very nice to us. They considered it an honor to have American soldiers stay in their homes." (p. 145)
  • "She told me that she thought she would be raped and that her mother and father, who were also there, would be murdered. That's what Hitler had taught the German youth about the Americans." (p. 174)
  • "On the way up we could not decide between ourselves whether we would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or the Medal of Honor for capturing such a high-ranking officer. ... the major called his interpreter. ... The sergeant [interpreter] was laughing so hard he was wiping tears from his eyes. 'This is the chief of the fire department!'" (p. 187)
  • "They also took a few prisoners who told us that they had wanted to surrender, but their officers had shot several men who had tried to do so." (pp. 187-188)
  • "A woman up the street came running out of her house frantically pointed to her cellar. ... A Kraut was hiding there. The boys killed him. I guess the woman was afraid she'd be shot if she was caught harboring an enemy soldier. If so, she was right; we would have." (p. 193)
  • "Part of a squad from Company E had been caught in a house sitting out in the open. The circumstance was a bad one, and they had the choice of surrendering or being killed. They chose to surrender and came out with their hands up. Three of them had Lugers strapped to their belts; they had taken them from Kraut prisoners captured a few days earlier. Their SS captors didn't even question them. Instead, they put a bullet through each of their heads. ...These SS were part of the Hermann Goring Division. They were mean customers to deal with. We hadn't taken many SS prisoners, but we decided from now on that no SS troops would be taken alive." (p. 195)
  • "Lt. Mike Damkowitch ran into snipers and a Kraut killed one of his sergeants. The German ran out of ammunition and came out with his hands up. He took about two steps and had enough lead in him to make him weigh a ton. That was the dirtiest thing a Kraut could do: kill your men until he ran out of ammunition and then come out with a grin like it was all in fun and try to give himself up." (pp. 205-206)
  • "The civilians stopped us and told us that there was an SS trooper dressed in civilian clothes who was threatening to kill the civilians if they didn't fight the Americans. We found him cowering in a house. He wasn't so tough when there was someone there who could kick his ass." (p. 217)
  • "Fifteen thousand of them [Buchenwald inmates] had overpowered their SS guards at Buchenwald. They had taken their weapons and spread out to find and kill Krauts--particularly SS. Major Williams was a little skeptical. About that time, one of Company G's scouts brought up an SS soldier he had caught in the woods. The major pointed to the Kraut and told the Russians, 'Him SS.' One of the Russians said, 'Give him to me.' Then he kicked the SS man and told him to start running. The Russian took aim and let him have it. Before he had covered twenty yards he had more holes in him than a sieve." (pp. 197-198)
  • "Two of them [Russian concentration camp escapees] were infantry lieutenants who had been captured at Stalingrad. They wanted to stay with us and fight with the Americans until we met up with the Russians. When we got to Weimar, the major put them into GI uniforms. They were happy to take care of any SS troops for us. And they did." (p. 198)

    This contradicts the position of the author of "Behind Hitler's Lines" that paratrooper Joe Beyrle was the only soldier to fight for both the Russians and Americans on the Eastern and Western fronts.