Ran into a couple of sites that are not seemingly related, but actually are. Sometimes the drama of something distorts the real history and we lose the perspectives as time goes forward. Most of the stories you hear about the battles in the air during the Great War will concentrate on brave flying heroes and their flying machines. But the battles in their existed for a reason and it’s important to remember what that reason was.
The American Experience has run a series called the “Great War.” More appropriately it could be called “Woodrow Wilson and American Fascism.”
Creatively this is an excellent series. Whoever was responsible for getting footage did a great job. The writing, though had some rather drastic flaws. Far too much time was spent on what were, at the time, side issues, like racial politics and women’s sufferage. While Wilson’s racism is well known and his segregation efforts fairly well presented on other programs it did have some bearing on his actions. But were racial politics so important that they essentially crowd out the war itself? It’s not as if turn of the Century racism is a subject that is not touched on. Rather the opposite, if what I see in a typical Black history month is any indication. Yet dealing with various issues about African Americans absorbed about 1/4 or more of the airtime. The woman’s sufferage stuff was just wasted time that didn’t really deserve the time it got at all.
Especially when things like the lack of preparation on the part of the Army Ordnance Dept. got left out completely and only one sentence said anything about shortages of equipment. To me that was a far more important and not really discussed part of the history that had far more bearing on the war.
Then there was the outright take over of America’s rail system. That massive turn toward Progressive Socialism didn’t even get mentioned. To say nothing of the other takeovers and government operation of businesses. Add that to the fact that the government didn’t want give the railroads back to their owners after the war was over.
Frankly the program touched very little on the consequences of the war outside Wilson’s attempt to get the fourteen points as a basis for the peace. We saw nothing from the rest of the allies, the countries that had bled so much before the US even entered the war.
As documentary of America’s involvement in WW1, The Great War is at best middling. The footage and the presentations of people like Eddie Ridenbaker and other noteworthies who participated in the war was well done. As was were the parts about the Harlem Hellfighters and some of the other units. The use of propaganda and activities that can only be called Fascist on the part of the Wilson Administration was also well covered. For that the series gets a recommendation.
On the other hand the constant pounding of racial politic and the feminist movement are down check. Almost none of that should have been in a documentary about “over there.” Certainly not to lengths of which the show went. Too much time was spent going over and over how horrible white were and that cost minutes that really could have been spent on other things in a six hour miniseries.
If you are interested in more details about WW1 “The Great War” YouTube channel is doing a week by week summary of the war with frequent specials about who, what , where and why.
When I started to collect pictures of WW1 stuff from Pinterest, a pattern emerged. I kept seeing pictures of soldiers, usually taken in a studio, in uniform. I wondered what they were about when I found the picture taken of my great uncle Roscoe in an album and I realized what the pictures were for. Here’s Uncle Roscoe in his US Army Air Service uniform probably just before embarking for France.
These pictures were taken to be memorials for those left behind if the soldiers did not return home, as so many did not. I’ve seen memorial pics from all the combatants with the possible exception of the Ottomans. These are the faces of the men, sometimes boys and women who were going “over there” and knowing that they may not be coming back.
Here’s my Pinterest board of the Memorial pics I’ve found so far.
Here’s a Flikr album created by the Imperial War Museum.
And the page on the Imperial War Museum website.
More pics from the Australian War museum.
Another article with more pics.
One expression that seems to be on almost all the faces is anxiety. Even when it’s obvious that the men in the pictures are trying to exude a feeling of confidence and determination, they by and large fail. These are people trying to put a strong face on the fact that they know that they may not be back from “over there.” Yet there they are, going on regardless. That, to me makes them the heroes that they were.
April 6, 1917, the US declared war on Germany. Like it or not, the US had made the final step to becoming a player on the world stage. After this there could be no going back.
An item in a newspaper clip has led me to explore something than most people have probably forgotten. That is the humor create by and for the troops in the trenches. Many people know about Willy and Joe, Bill Mauldin’s long suffering GI’s in WW2, but how many know about the mustachioed Old Bill who haunted the trenches in WW1?
World War 1 saw great advances in the care of the wounded. Significantly that was probably because there were more wounded rather than slowly dying to take care of. That was because transportation advances, specifically the development of automobiles and trucks that could be reliable enough to stand up to military requirements enabled the wounded to get to treatment faster and thus survive.
If you look at artillery of the American Civil War and the Artillery of the First World War they are nothing alike. A typical field artillery piece of the American Civil war would be fully familiar in all respects to an artilleryman from the 18th Century and even the 17th Century or earlier. There would be some improvements in the carriage and fittings, but the basic piece and how it was fired would be something that the gunner from the army of Gustavus Aldolphus would have no problems with. Forty years later and that gunner would have no clues as how the gun was fabricated or operated.