PBS’s “The Great War”

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.


Highly recommended.


The Very Early Days Of CAD

I’ve been looking at computer graphics and engineering CAD systems for most of my life.  I’ve been a more or less continuous user of CAD systems for over thirty years now and I thought I knew most of how it came about.  There have been things I never really understood about how the way things worked in CAD as opposed to how a designer or drafter thinks, but I didn’t think to look into that very deeply.

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The Memorial Pictures Of WW1

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.

Roscoe Duthie

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.

Casualties Of War

I started a WW1 board on Pinterest and one series of pictures that kept turning up were pictures of the badly wounded, especially face wounds.  These were soldiers who were horribly disfigured by the shells, bullets and debris that struck them in the trenches. Pinterest is sort of a collector with algorithms. I started a board where I could store pics of WW1 tanks, guns and trenches for some posts here and then when the algorithm  figured out that I was looking for pics of WW1, pictures of soldiers showed, many of them on their way to the war. Some of the things in this post are going to be ugly and gruesome.  There’s no real way to color it over and I’m not even going to try.  History should be looked and read as it was, not as we would like it to be.

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