Cincinnati Icon passes; championed for Black World War I Soldiers
By Howard Wilkinson
via the WVXU radio station (OH) web site
Carl Westmoreland, who was the senior historian at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the past 20 years, died March 10, two days after his 85th birthday.
I had known Westmoreland, who grew up in Lincoln Heights, since his days as a neighborhood activist in Mount Auburn in the 1980s. I have never encountered anyone with the breadth and depth of knowledge of African American history — both in this region and nationally — than this man.
A funeral service for Westmoreland will take place at noon Saturday, March 26, at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, 26 W. North Bend Rd., in Carthage. Visitation will be at the church from 10 a.m. until the time of services.
Below is a column about the extraordinary friendship between Westmoreland and Paul LaRue, a retired social sciences teacher at Washington Court House High School in Fayette County, about 70 miles north of Cincinnati.
Carl Westmoreland and Paul LaRue had one of the most unlikely friendships I have ever seen.
Westmoreland, who died March 10 at the age of 85, was a tall, stately Black man of a dignified demeanor, a man steeped in the rough-and-tumble of urban politics who devoted the final 20 years of his life to studying and preserving Black history.
LaRue, a hard-working social sciences teacher in Washington Court House, Ohio, a middle-aged white man, now retired, taught his small town and rural students to look beyond their own experiences and appreciate the culture and history of people from other times, other places.
They came together because of a passion they shared for making sure the Black men who took up arms to fight oppression in the Civil War and World War I were never forgotten.
And their passion brought them together in 2012 and 2013 at Beech Grove Cemetery, a plot of land on Fleming Road in Springfield Township, about halfway between Wyoming and Finneytown, where a number of Black veterans of World War I have been laid to rest.
LaRue had inspired his students, mostly white, to take part in an extensive search for the final resting places of Ohio's African American soldiers who served in the Civil War and World War I.
Waking Up to History: Putin’s War and the Historical Precedent of WWI
By Todd S. Gernes
via the EVN Report web site
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
A terrible beauty is born.
W.B. Yeats, 1916
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress, requesting a declaration of war against Germany. Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare against commercial and civilian targets, he claimed, was “a challenge to all mankind.” “We have no quarrel with the German people,” Wilson famously said. “We have no feeling for them but one of sympathy and friendship.” After excoriating “Prussian autocracy,” Wilson pointed to Russia as a beacon of hope: “Does not every American feel that assurance has been added to our hope for the future peace of the world by the wonderful and heartening things that have been happening in Russia?” The most enduring sentences in one of the most important American presidential speeches in US history have echoed—at times sincerely and at times hollowly—for more than a century: “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.” 1917, the height of the Great War, was also the year in which Ukraine briefly became a republic, independent of Russia. A headline in the New York Sun of Sunday, July 22, 1917, shouted, “Ukraine Reborn as a Nation after 263 Years in Serfdom.” Historical hindsight is so often tinged with irony.
Media commentators, analysts, pundits and historians have all scrambled to draw historical parallels to make sense of Putin’s most recent aggression toward Ukraine, but there have been relatively few nuanced references to World War I. At times, viewing Putin’s war in Ukraine is like glimpsing history through a postmodern kaleidoscope: early Ukrainian tribal origins, Tartar and Mongol invasions, Prince Vladimir accepting Orthodox Christianity, the Russian Empire, the birth of the Soviet Union, the rise of fascism, World War II, the creation of NATO, the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union, the horrific battles in Chechnya, and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula—historical reference points employed, somewhat randomly, to explain cause and effect or to assign blame. Putin went so far as to compare events in separatist-controlled Donbas with genocide and he justified his war in Ukraine as “denazification,” even as Russia proceeds to flatten entire cities, damage hospitals, a maternity ward, schools, town halls, apartment buildings, a nuclear power plant and even a Holocaust memorial site, marshaling crushingly asymmetrical firepower against a much weaker but more passionate volunteer army of born-again nationalists. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Nuclear Armageddon, seems always to lurk in the shadows.
Ukraine gained a short-lived independence from the Russian Empire between 1917 and 1920 before it was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Novelist and scholar George Raffalovich (1880-1958), writing in the New York Sun in 1917, pinned his hopes for the Ukrainian future on an emergent internationalism, the foundation of which was peaceful coexistence, cooperation and individual state sovereignty. Raffalovich was a British national born in France of German-Jewish-Ukrainian extraction who was fiercely committed to Ukrainian independence. Because of his internationalism, political engagement and forthright advocacy in lectures and print, he was accused of having German sympathies and was exiled from Britain during the war. “There is now in Kiev a Ukrainian Parliament with a responsible Government which has complete executive power within Ukraine,” he wrote in the New York Sun in July 1918. “Ukraine elects her own representatives and controls her own Cabinet. The Ukrainian Ministry will discuss with Russia all points that need to be discussed. The peace, amity and cooperation will be strong. It is, in short, a partnership, but henceforth, Ukraine is to be a partner, not a subject.” Raffalovich argued idealistically that, although people (and empires) were resistant to change, Ukrainian independence from Russia represented a change for the better, not for the worse. “It means that, [in] having her liberty, Ukraine will take her part in the fight for worldwide liberty. The Allies should welcome this new proof of Europe’s liberation from a great nightmare.” Raffalovich went on to discuss the history, geographic features and ethnic composition of his homeland.
Musical from Princeton's Lewis Center About Women in WWI
via the Princeton University Town Topics web site
Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theatre presents the musical The Hello Girls at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center, 91 University Place, Friday and Saturday, March 25 and 26 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 27 at 2 p.m.
From New York to Paris, from ragtime to jazz, The Hello Girls chronicles the story of America’s first women soldiers. These heroines served as bilingual telephone operators on the front lines, helping turn the tide of World War I. They then returned home to fight a decades-long battle for equality and recognition, paving the way for future generations.
Music and lyrics for the show is by Peter Mills, and the book is by Mills and Cara Reichel, both Princeton alumni. Princeton senior Kate Semmens directs. Seniors Molly Bremer and Violet Gautreau, alongside a company of 12 student actor-musicians, are in the cast. Funding for this production has been provided in part by Princeton University’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.
Tickets are $12 in advance, $17 purchased day of performances, and $10 for students at mccarter.org. All guests are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to the maximum extent, which now includes a COVID-19 booster shot for all eligible to receive it. Guests to McCarter Theater must wear a KN95 mask and are also required to show proof of vaccination and a photo ID at the door (Princeton students, faculty and staff only need to show their PU ID card). The actors will be unmasked while performing on stage.
WWI in the Alps: An American Journalist on the Italian front lines
By E. Alexander Powell
via the Historynet.com web site
Edward Alexander Powell was born in 1879 in Syracuse, New York. After studying at Syracuse University and Oberlin College, he began his journalism career at the Syracuse Journal. In 1903 he moved to London to work as an advertising manager for the Smith Premier Typewriter Company, which was based in Syracuse, but within a couple of years he returned to journalism as a correspondent for publications in Britain and the United States. In 1914, after a brief stint as a consular official in Lebanon and Egypt, he became a roving war correspondent, covering World War I from both sides of the battle lines for various newspapers and magazines. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Powell joined the U.S. Army and was commissioned as a captain in military intelligence. An injury took him out of action the following September, and after returning to the United States he left the army with the rank of major.
Powell then switched from journalism to a highly successful career as an adventurer, lecturer, and author. Traveling widely around the world, he published more than two dozen books from 1920 to 1954, pausing briefly during World War II to work as a senior political analyst for the Office of Naval Intelligence. When Powell died in Connecticut in 1957 at age 78, the Boston Globe summed up his career in one sentence: “Held up by bandits, challenged to a duel, poking into insurrection in Crete, witnessing the eruption of Vesuvius and hobnobbing with national leaders, Mr. Powell progressed steadily around the world, surviving all disasters and busily producing copy.”
The following narrative, which has been lightly edited, is excerpted from Italy at War, one of Alexander’s half-dozen books about World War I, which was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1917.
The sun had scarcely shown itself above the snowy rampart of the Julian Alps when the hoarse throbbing of the big gray staff car awoke the echoes of the narrow street on which fronts the Hotel Croce di Malta in Udine. Despite a leather coat, a fur-lined cap, and a great fleecy muffler which swathed me to the eyes, I shivered in the damp chill of the winter dawn. We adjusted our goggles and settled down into the heavy rugs, the soldier-driver threw in his clutch, the sergeant sitting beside him let out a vicious snarl from the horn, the little group of curious onlookers scattered hastily, and the powerful car leaped forward like a racehorse that feels the spur. With the horn sounding its hoarse warning, we thundered through the narrow, tortuous, cobble-paved streets, between rows of old, old houses with faded frescoes on their plastered walls and with dim, echoing arcades.
And so into the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele—there is no more charming little square in Italy—with its fountain and its two stone giants and the pompous statue of an incredibly ugly king astride a prancing horse and a monument to Peace set up by Napoleon to commemorate a treaty which was the cause of many wars. At the back of the piazza, like the backdrop on a stage, rises a towering sugarloaf mound, thrown up, so they say, by Attila, that from it he might conveniently watch the siege and burning of Aquileia. Perched atop this mound, and looking for all the world like one of Maxfield Parrish’s painted castles, is the Castello, once the residence of the Venetian and Austrian governors, and, rising above it, a white and slender tower. If you will take the trouble to climb to the summit of this tower you will find that the earth you left behind is now laid out at your feet like one of those putty maps you used to make in school. Below you, like a vast tessellated floor, is the Friulian plain, dotted with red-roofed villages, checkerboarded with fields of green and brown, stretching away, away to where, beyond the blue Isonzo, the Julian and Carnic Alps leap skyward in a mighty, curving, mile-high wall.
You have the war before you, for amid those distant mountains snakes the Austro-Italian battle line. Just as Attila and his Hunnish warriors looked down from the summit of this very mound, fourteen hundred years ago, upon the destruction of the Italian plain-towns, so today, from the same vantage point, the Italians can see their artillery methodically pounding to pieces the defenses of the modern Huns. A strange reversal of history, is it not?
Again, Russia is at the Center of an American-Backed War for Democracy
By James D. Robenalt
via the History News Network web site
The idea of America making the world safe for democracy is now just over a hundred years old. Then as now, Russia is at the heart of the controversy.
The United States joined the Great War in April 1917, after a long struggle by President Woodrow Wilson to keep the nation “neutral in thought as well as deed.” Wilson in fact ran for and won reelection in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of war!” But just months later, when Germany declared the resumption of its brutal and unrestricted submarine warfare, the pressure for America to take sides became insurmountable.
Yet there was one event, not well understood, that finally allowed the idealistic president to call Congress to a special session to ask for a declaration of war against Germany, and that event took place in Russia. On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in the face of military defections and army mutinies, political unrest, bread riots, and labor strikes mainly in the Russian capital of Petrograd (today St. Petersburg), brought on by the privations and losses of a war that Russia helped to trigger in August 1914.
President Wilson’s low-key Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, had been pressing Wilson for months to react to Germany’s war on the seas by supporting the Allies, which included Great Britain, France, and Russia. And that was the problem—Wilson’s high-minded idea to make the war about something other than commercial disputes or territorial gains persistently ran into a conundrum. How could the Americans transform the war into one about making the world safe for democracy when one of the Allies included the autocratic Russia?
For over three-hundred years, the Romanov Tsars had ruled Russia, greatly expanding the empire. But as with any roll of the hereditary dice, the family had become increasingly weakened and corrupt. After early successes in the war, the Russian war machine faltered, and the nation’s backward economy began to collapse. During the truly pitiless winter of 1916-17, the Russian people wanted bread and peace—and revolution.
Secretary of State Lansing saw his opening to convince a vacillating Wilson that the sudden demise of the Russian ruler and his replacement with a provisional government that looked like a democracy, led by a nobleman and social reformer, Prince Georgy Lvoff, as its premier, was the opening for the U. S. to enter the war. Lansing spoke out on March 20, 1917, five days after the Tsar stepped down.
Together in life and death: The Cromwell sisters of WWI
via the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) web site
Buried side by side at Suresnes American Cemetery just outside Paris, lie the Cromwell sisters, who traded in a life of prominence in New York City to be frontline nurses during World War I.
The twin sisters survived the war, but overcome by what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), jumped to their deaths from the ship that was to take them home in January 1919.
The tragedy was covered extensively by the press in America, with multiple stories appearing on the cover of The New York Times, and ultimately exposed some of the trauma and anguish experienced by those who served in the Great War.
Dorothy and Gladys Cromwell were born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1885.
They inherited a large fortune from their father, who served as the trustee of the Mutual Life Insurance Company, and were living on Park Avenue in February of 1918 when they volunteered with the American Red Cross, according to The New York Times archive.
The “Misses Cromwell,” as they were sometimes referenced in newspapers, served food to soldiers at a canteen in then Chalons-sur-Marne and were never far from active warfare.
“For several months they were within range of the Germans guns and in the midst of constant airplane raids,” described one New York Times report from Jan. 25, 1919.
“They had been bombed at night by enemy planes, and heard the continuous firing day and night of the big guns while they served in the hospitals and saw our fine young American soldiers die,” explained Dr. C.L. Purnell of the American Red Cross, who accompanied the Cromwell sisters on the French steam ship, in another New York Times front page story from Jan. 29, 1919.
VA Medical Center to celebrate 100-year anniversary next year
By Cathy Spaulding
via the Muskogee Phoenix newspaper (OK) web site
In a little more than one year, Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center will mark 100 years of serving veterans from atop Agency Hill.
The $500,000 state hospital opened on June 14, 1923, as Soldiers Memorial Hospital. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, 165 employees served 1,500 veterans within the first year.
The state initially leased the Muskogee hospital to the federal government to take care of World War I veterans in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.
During a 90th anniversary celebration, former Medical Center Director James R. Floyd said the hospital opened as a gift to veterans.
He said that while other states were awarding bonuses to World War I veterans, Oklahoma chose to give “a more lasting gift of free health care.”
Floyd said the original hospital had inpatient beds, a library, a large pool hall and a place for dancing.
According to historian Jonita Mullins, Congresswoman Alice Robertson helped bring the VA hospital to Muskogee.
The federal government took ownership of the 25-bed facility on March 6,1925.
That same year, the hospital received one of more than 150 mass-produced Spirit of the American Doughboy statues. The Muskogee statue was dedicated in Sept. 5. 1925, to honor Native American veterans of World War I, particularly those of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole nations.
The hospital has had numerous additions over the years.
Floyd said the hospital dedicated a $36 million replacement bed building in 1998 and a 15-bed inpatient mental health unit in 2006.
Also in 2006, the hospital was renamed for U.S. Navy Officer Jack Cleveland Montgomery, a Cherokee Nation veteran of World War II. Montgomery was awarded two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and the Medal of Honor for his actions. Montgomery, a graduate of the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, served in the 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in Italy.
The Great Books of the Great War
By David Hein
via the Intercollegiate Studies Institute web site
The life of Harry Patch, the last surviving British Army soldier to have served in the trenches of the First World War, remembered (2009); the death of the last American doughboy, Frank Buckles, widely noted (2011); the war’s centenary observed (2014–18); so that now, a hundred years on, we are at a good place to recall the time of the writers. This era, starting a year into the war in 1915 and peaking in 1929, was a period of intense literary productivity—poetry, novels, memoirs—in which men and women blended art and experience in a variety of attempts to transform horror, exhilaration, boredom, frustration, shell shock, anger, and grief into—what? Typically not into something grand or heroic, because the objective for many authors was to depict, often by way of modernist technique, the chaos, pretense, and purposelessness of what they had seen and heard, smelled, and touched.
Consequently, not a few of these figures played prominent roles in the massive interwar peace movements. As their efforts on speakers’ platforms or in print infused the public perception of the war’s reality, the most popular writings about the 1914–18 cataclysm became components of the larger experience of this conflict. Both memoirists and imaginative artists (the line between them not easy to draw) in effect transmuted history-as-what-happened into history-as-public-memory. And both personal recollection and public memory omit and distort.
In respect of the literature of the Great War, a distinction obtains between public memory and historical likelihood. If readers of Erich Maria Remarque’s bestseller All Quiet on the Western Front (1928; English translation, 1929)—or viewers of the film (winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, 1930)—came away from their experience believing that most soldiers in combat on the Western or Eastern front shared the trauma and pacifism of the main character, Paul Bäumer, an enlisted man in the German army, then they were probably mistaken. Most soldiers on both sides not only accepted privation and endured the terrible stress of combat, they also believed in the morality of their nation’s fight and were committed to prevailing over their enemies. Concentrating on the negative effects of the war while underrepresenting the motivations and resolve of its participants, the classic literature of World War I is historically unbalanced in tone and emphasis.
Its authors could be misleading in their details also. For example, for many years readers with no experience of the Western Front assumed the accuracy of Robert Graves’s portrayal of Church of England military chaplains as “remarkably out of touch with their troops” and reluctant to visit the most dangerous posts in the trenches. Clear-headed scholarship has demonstrated how wrong Graves was.
Reconsidered, some classic works of the Great War challenge our customary apprehension of the literature of this period. The war and the widespread disruptions of the years following it stirred up questions that were handled with insight and care in a number of these texts—questions about meaning and value, about ties between the past and the future, about the mystery and worth of the human person, about the relation of ends and means. These writers’ reckonings with such issues not only reward a re-examination of their works but also support an appreciation of them from a conservative angle.
Texas A&M Announces Discovery Of 15 Additional Aggies Killed In WWI
By Veronica Gonzalez Hoff and Lesley Henton
via the Texas A&M Today web site
Texas A&M University has announced the discovery of 15 additional Aggie veterans who died in the First World War. The additional names have been added to a WWI commemorative site on Simpson Drill Field in the center of campus, joining the 55 Texas Aggie Gold Stars who are all remembered with individual oak trees and plaques.
Recent research efforts by the Brazos County World War I Centennial Committee identified the additional Aggie veterans who died during the war, prompting a project to update the Simpson Drill Field memorial, a commemorative site since 1920. Now the memorial site accounts for all Aggies who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War I.
The new additions to the site are:
- Charles L. Beaty
- Robert R. Brown
- John W. Butts
- Herbert R. Florence
- John W. Fuchs
- Edmund J. Griffin
- John B. Laden
- Stephen A. Norwood
- Joseph Z. Sawyer
- Joseph L. Smith
- Ira W. South
- George W. Splawn, Jr.
- Alvin M. Stovall
- James L. Vance
- Charles M. Whitfield
View a full list of those honored at Simpson Drill Field on the Division of Student Affairs site.
“These additional trees and markers are a testament to our fellow Aggies who gave the last full measure of devotion to our country during World War I,” said Brig. Gen. Joe E. Ramirez, Jr., USA (Ret.), Vice President for Student Affairs. “We are grateful for their service and honor their service today with these memorial trees and plaques. We also appreciate those who gave us this opportunity to complete a project that began more than 100 years ago.”
Leading the discovery is John Blair ‘83, archivist for the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and his colleague Pam Marshall ‘80, honorary chapter regent for the Come and Take It Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in Bryan-College Station. They met when the Brazos County World War I Centennial Committee formed in 2017 as an all-volunteer group to coordinate the awareness, education and commemoration of the First World War.
What happened when the 1918 flu pandemic met World War I
By Dr. Howard Markel
via the PBS News Hour (TV network) web site
When it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is safe to say that no one wins if the conflict helps spread the coronavirus.
Before Russia’s forces began attacking its neighbor, both countries had just hit records in new daily cases, peaking at an all-time high in Ukraine in early February. On Feb. 24, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the assault, there were more than 25,000 new confirmed cases in Ukraine, according to the World Health Organization. While infections had begun to fall before Russia’s invasion, for multiple days in the past week the global health agency had reported no official data from the country – perhaps a reflection of the chaos and violence that has sent more than 2 million refugees to flee to other countries and scrambled its health infrastructure. No one has any real idea of how the virus may be spreading now.
“Low rates of testing since the start of the conflict mean there is likely to be significant undetected transmission,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing on March 2. “Coupled with low vaccination coverage, this increases the risk of large numbers of people developing severe disease.” Just 35 percent of Ukrainians are fully vaccinated against COVID, while 50 percent of Russians are – both below the worldwide average.
On every level, it is unwise to declare war during a pandemic. Infectious diseases have typically followed lines of humans engaged in travel, commerce and war. From the Civil War up until World War II, more soldiers died of infections than from bullets. Cholera, typhus fever, bubonic plague and other deadly microbes were all spread because germs also travel.
This was certainly the case with the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, which was one of the worst contagion crises in the history of humankind. Around the world, anywhere from 40 to 100 million people died, according to various estimates, with 500,000 to 750,000 deaths in the United States alone. It was a particularly virulent and novel strain of influenza that attacked young adults most severely, in contrast to seasonal influenza’s typical victims, the very young and the elderly.
90-year-old Gateway pillars in Lafayette deserve to be saved
By Susan Deans
via the Denver Post newspaper web site
You may have seen them.
The two reddish stone pillars stand near 9 Mile Corner, the intersection of U.S. 287 and Arapahoe Road (CO 7) in Lafayette. They have been battered by time and neglect, occasional reckless drivers, and relocations.
As huge commercial and residential construction projects proceed on all sides of the busy intersection, the 90-year-old pillars, built in 1928 and dedicated to those who served in World War I, may not survive. Few are aware of their history, including government agencies that should help guarantee their survival.
The Boulder Rotary Club and a coalition of other civic and veterans’ organizations have taken up the cause of saving the pillars from possible destruction. Bill Meyer, a retired Boulder attorney and past Rotary president, has researched their neglect.
For reasons not yet clear, when the permit was issued for major construction in 2021 that changed the alignment of the intersection where the pillars stand, no historic preservation review of the impacts of the pillars was performed, as required by Colorado law.
A belated CDOT study – confirmed by the state Historic Preservation Office – found that the recent construction severely impacted the physical integrity and historic significance of the pillars. Additionally, CDOT said the stranding of one of the pillars on a traffic island with cars passing on both sides adds a new and serious vehicular hazard.
The Gateway Monument that included the pillars was dedicated in 1928, part of a “Road to Remembrance” planned along Arapahoe Road, dedicated to the 1,000 or so men and women from Boulder County who served in the First World War.
The project was originated by the Boulder Lions Club and the American Legion, with involvement from Boulder city and county governments and other local organizations including Rotary.
The entrance was to be a triangular piece of land on Arapahoe between two curved lanes bringing turning traffic onto Arapahoe from north and south on U.S. 287 and marked by the pillars alongside the road. The pillars would be built of flagstone and “designed something like the walls and alcoves of the new University buildings,” their architect said.
Project planning started in 1924, with groundbreaking in April 1928. Stonemason Lee Roy Watson built the pillars in two months. The rest of the Road of Remembrance project faltered after that. Other amenities such as parks and tree plantings never materialized.
In World War One, A Clean Pair Of Socks Could Save Your Life
via the SOFREP web site
In a situation where people had to stand for what they believed in and at the same time run on their feet whenever needed, it is important to ensure that they are able to do so. In a war where weapons and tactics and how to defeat the enemies were the main focus, it was fairly easy to forget about the significance of small things like socks. As ridiculous as it might sound, a small detail as this one could dictate the fate of the soldiers in a war, and history had proved that to be true.
Before Socks Were A Common Thing
Before socks became widely available, the go-to of boots wearers were footwraps. Also called foot cloths, or foot rags sometimes, are rectangular pieces of cloth worn by wrapping them around the feet before wearing boots. They are around 16 inches on each side if square or 30 inches per side on its triangular variant. The Russian army used flannel during winter while they used cotton in the summer. These are used to avoid chafing, absorb sweat, and improve the foothold. Advantages of using footwraps are that they are cheaper, quicker to dry compared to socks, and are more resistant to wear and tear. Now, the major con is that any folds in the wraps can quickly cause painful blisters or wounds that the wearer will have to endure for a long time. The use of footwraps remained in the armies of Eastern Europe until the beginning of the 21st century.
It was during World War I that the importance of socks was greatly realized. The soldiers on the Western Front were enduring the terrible conditions in the trenches. The ditches were usually flooded due to the rainfall and lack of a drainage system. Their feet were constantly soaked in water and freezing during the winter season. The sores on their feet combined with their unchanged, damp socks were a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and soldiers began suffering trench foot.
An American Father-Daughter Story in World War I
By James Larrimore
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
On my mother’s death in 2001 at age 94, I came into possession of family records from the World War I era. My grandfather, Don Martin, whom I never met, had died in France while serving as a war correspondent; a poem written about him was titled “Soldier of the Pen.” I found original letters he wrote to his daughter (my mother) and letters from her to him. Also, there were my grandfather’s diaries for 1917 and 1918, and letters of condolence upon his death from Spanish influenza in October 1918, including from Commander-in-Chief John J. Pershing. My mother had told me little about this. I realized that I had to learn about the role my grandfather had played in World War I.
Don Martin was a well-known political journalist of the New York Herald in 1917, when he was assigned to cover the American Expeditionary forces in France. Once he reached the war zone in March 1918, he quickly became recognized as one of four leading American war correspondents, together with Floyd Gibbons of the Chicago Tribune, Martin Green of the New York Evening World and Ray Carroll of the Philadelphia Public Ledger. On learning of his death, former President Theodore Roosevelt wrote:
“Martin was one of the best and truest men with whom I have had relationships…He was of that sort that makes it quite worth while for a real man to do his best, efficiently, honestly and thoroughly.”
I had found that my grandfather was a role model and a hero.
With the WWI Centennial approaching, I decided to make public Don Martin’s reporting and writings on WWI. I set up a blog on which I posted daily, from December 2017 to October 2018, what Don Martin had written one-hundred-years before in his diary and in his war dispatches. It was exciting to relive his wartime experiences day by day, yet something important was missing - the story of the separation of a father from his 11-year-old daughter Dorothy by WWI and how their relationship was maintained through letters, handwritten one a week by Dorothy and sometimes even more frequently by her father. Collating all these sources to tell their story was a moving experience. This book, “In Their Own Words, Writings of war correspondent Don Martin and his 11-year-old daughter Dorothy. An intimate view of WWI,” is intended to be a further contribution to the Centennial of WWI.