j St. Mihiel Trip-Wire: March 2019



Emperor Franz Josef and Archduke Franz Ferdinand
at a Prewar Review

Last month, I was guilty of not checking something before I published it here on the Trip-Wire. I presented a photo of a U.S. 5th Division marker near the village of Remoisville on the Meuse Heights and stated that it was located at the point of farthest advance of American forces in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918. Alas, had I taken a quick look at the ABMC map of the battle I would have seen that this was not the case. The honor of that deepest advance by the war's end belongs to the 79th AEF Division. There is another marker at the locale. It is the memorial to Henry Gunter of the division, last man to be killed in the war. He fell just yards from the Armistice line of 11 November 1918. MH

Henry Gunther Memorial

Mary Borden

Red Cross war nurse Mary Borden was an accomplished novelist, but today she is best and most deservedly remembered for her memoir about her time nursing, The Forbidden Zone. Various versions of the work include some of her poems, the best known of which is "At the Somme." This selection is from its section known as "The Song of the Mud." Learn more about Mary Borden's writings and her service to her nation in both World Wars HERE.

This is the song of the mud.
The pale yellow glistening mud that covers the naked hills like satin,
The grey gleaming silvery mud that is spread like enamel over the valleys,
The frothing, squirting, spurting liquid mud that gurgles along the road-beds,
The thick elastic mud that is kneaded and pounded and squeezed under the hoofs of horses.
The invincible, inexhaustible mud of the War Zone. . .
This is the hymn of mud-the obscene, the filthy, the putrid,
The vast liquid grave of our armies. It has drowned our men.
Its monstrous distended belly reeks with the undigested dead.
Our men have gone into it, sinking slowly, and struggling and slowly disappearing.
Our fine men, our brave, strong, young men;
Our glowing red, shouting, brawny men.
Slowly, inch by inch, they have gone down into it,
Into its darkness, its thickness, its silence.

America Demobilizes Her Wartime Forces

26th Yankee Division Arrives in Boston Aboard USS Agamemnon,
7 April 1919

The U.S. Army was utterly unprepared to demobilize its unprecedentedly huge army when the Armistice occurred. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, later wrote: "The collapse of the Central Powers came more quickly than even the best informed military experts believed possible." In fact, planning for eventual demobilization had begun only a month before hostilities ceased. The wartime American military had grown to 4.7 million with the largest part serving in the army, including 2 million men in France on 11 November 1918. The easiest group to deal with were the men in training camps stateside who had recently entered the service. Between the Armistice and New Year's Day, 690,000 men were mustered out of the Army. However, the much bigger issue was what to do about the men overseas and the forces ready to ship out had the fighting continued into 1919.

Taking the welfare of the nation as well as that of the Army into account, the demobilization planners considered four distinctly different ways of demobilizing the emergency troops: soldiers could be separated by length of service; by industrial needs or occupation; by locality (through the use of local draft boards); or by military units. For the Great War, length of service didn't make any sense. The first three possibilities offered insurmountable difficulties. Most of the combat forces had been overseas for less than a year. Compiling records for every soldier's occupational history and need for those skills in the peacetime economy would take an unacceptably long time. Finally, placing the load of mustering out military men on local draft boards was simply unworkable. The boards had no facilities for processing troops and they were semi-independent local entities making an effort to make the process uniform across the country futile. The Secretary of War described the implementation of the fourth option:

. . . the policy adopted was to demobilize by complete organizations as their services could be spared, thus ensuring the maximum efficiency of those organizations remaining, instead of demobilizing by special classes with the resulting discontent among those not given preferential treatment and retained in the service, thus lowering their morale and efficiency and disrupting all organizations with the attendant general discontent.

27th New York National Guard Division Marches Down Fifth Avaenue, 24 March 1919

Discharge of troops was largely accomplished at demobilization centers throughout the country, where camp personnel conducted physical examinations, made up the necessary papers to close all records, checked up property, adjusted financial and other accounts, and generally gathered up the loose ends. Many organizations remaining in the zone of interior were not immediately inactivated. Men were needed to man the ports of debarkation, the convalescent and demobilization centers, the supply depots, the base and general hospitals, and the garrisons along the Mexican border and bases outside of the United States. Accordingly, many men assigned to these duties were retained in service for many months.

Most important, the processes of demobilization were to be as rapid as conditions would permit. Three groups–coal miners, railroad employees, and railway mail clerks–were discharged immediately; and instructions were issued specifying the order in which various organizations should be demobilized, beginning with the replacement battalions in the zone of the interior and ending with the combat divisions. It was General Pershing's job to say who should return from Europe and when.

When a soldier was discharged he received all pay and allowances due him, plus a bonus of $60. Each enlisted man was also given a uniform, shoes, and overcoat, if the weather was cold, otherwise a raincoat. It is interesting to note that men returning from overseas were allowed to retain their gas masks and helmets as souvenirs. When a soldier had been paid his allowance he was marched directly to a place where he could purchase a railroad ticket to his home.

363rd Infantry Regiment at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Just Before Mustering Out, 22 April 1919

The process proved chaotic–the term "madhouse" was occasionally invoked–and was subject to countless complaints, many well deserved. America's World War One demobilization, however, did work quickly. Within one year of the Armistice, the Army had sent 3.4 million officers and men back to civilian life.

Sources: History of Personnel Demobilization in the United States Army, U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps; Panoramic Photos from the Libary of Congress, New York from the National Archives


Austria-Hungary in the
First World War

Austria-Hungary was a declining imperial power when it helped instigate the war in 1914. Its hopes for revitalization were soon shattered by the compounding catastrophes of stupendous battlefield casualties and shortages at home. In the end, it was one of four empires deposited on the scrap heap of history as a result of the war. The details of Austria-Hungary's demise, however, makes for fascinating reading.

Austria-Hungary WWI Fact Sheet

Austria-Hungary, the Origins, and the First Year of World War I (Multiple Articles, PDF)

War Aims of Austria-Hungary

Hungarian War Aims During WWI (PDF)

Wikipedia Index on Austria-Hungary WWI Battles

The War Economy of Austria-Hungary

Last Offensive of Austria-Hungary on the Piave

The First World War and the End of the Habsburg Empire (PDF)

Treaty of Saint-Germain (Austria)

Treaty of Trianon (Hungary)

The Dual Monarchy's Approach to Mobilization

Historian Alexander Watson argues that the governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary started the war with different levels of preparedness and approaches to public support for the war. The two states’ techniques for mobilizing their armies and civilian populations in 1914 had consequences for not only their conduct of the war but also the outcome of the revolutions that followed from their defeat in 1918. The German government relied on popular enthusiasm as symbolized by the Burgfrieden, a political compromise between all the political parties in the Reichstag, including the Social Democrats.

The leaders of the Dual Monarchy, in contrast, were suspicious of popular mobilization. Their prewar plans eschewed civilian participation in favor of military control. Franz Joseph refused to recall the Austrian Reichsrat to cast a vote in support of the war. Instead, the Austrian Parliament building was turned into a military hospital. The Habsburg leaders came to embrace civilian mobilization along national and ethnic lines. This decision haunted them in the last years of the war. By 1918, the nationalities' support for the dynasty had flagged because of chronic food shortages and the political stalemate over constitutional reforms in both halves of the Dual Monarchy.
(From Matthew Lungerhausen's review of Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in WWI on H-Net)


If it is said that the war is won, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that there is a lull in the storm. At the very least, it is necessary to provide for all eventualities. Recent discoveries have enabled us to pierce the enemy's designs to a greater extent than hitherto. They were not merely a dream of military domination on the part of Prussia, but a definite conspiracy expressly aiming at the extermination of France. Industrially France is extremely difficult to reconstruct, whereas Germany has kept her factories intact and ready to start working efficiently forthwith. Indeed, industrially and commercially, as between France and Prussia, the victory is the latter's. . . the war debt of Germany is almost entirely domestic and can easily be repudiated, while that of France must be paid. In the immediate future we shall have to pay regularly abroad immense sums, by way of interest solely, out of our internal resources.

Georges Clemenceau,
Interview, 9 February 1919

Despite my retirement from the business, there will still be possibilities for you to visit the battlefields of the Great War.


AEF Battlefields
From: Valor Tours, Ltd. / Mike Grams, Tour Leader
When: September 2019
Details: Request brochure via Email HERE.

27 April 2019, 10am: League of World War I Aviation Historians Meeting at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Details HERE.

To commemorate the Centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and to celebrate American philanthropy before and after World War I a Versailles Palace Dinner will be held in the palace's magnificent Hall of Battles on 28 June 2019. Proceeds from the event will be dedicated to building America's National WWI Memorial at Pershing Square. For information email HERE

Visit Our Daily Blog

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Looking Back: A Retrospective of the War
Part III

This is our third historic banner provided by the San Francisco War Memorial's World War I Armistice Centennial Commemorative Committee. Visit HERE to learn more about the commemorative exhibition being held in the City by the Bay.

A German Admiral Evaluates the
Prospect of America Joining the War

Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff
Author of the Memorandum

Announcing unlimited submarine warfare will once again force the government of the United States to answer the question of whether or not it wants to experience the consequences of the position it has taken on submarine warfare up until now. I am very much of the opinion that war with America is such a serious matter that everything must be done to avoid it. In my opinion, however, the aversion to this break must not lead us to shrink from using, in the decisive moment, the weapon that promises us victory.

In any case, one should plan for the worst and make clear to ourselves what influence America joining our enemies would have on the course of the war. In regard to shipping capacity, this influence can only be very small. It is not to be expected that more than a small percentage of the tonnage of Germany and its Allies in American or other neutral harbors could be quickly put into service for the trip to England. By far the largest part could be damaged in such a way that it would not be able to travel in the first months. The preparations for this have been taken. There would also be no crews for these ships at first. Just as little decisive impact can be attached to American troops–who, on account of limited freight capacity, cannot be brought over in considerable numbers–and American money, which cannot make up for insufficient technical supplies and tonnage.

The only remaining question is how America would respond to a peace such as England would be required to make. It is unlikely that America will then decide to continue to fight us alone, as America will have no means with which to harm us significantly, whereas its ocean traffic will be damaged by our submarines. On the contrary, it is to be expected that America will become a member of a peace treaty with England, in order to arrive at a healthy economic situation once again.

I, therefore, conclude that an unrestricted submarine warfare initiated soon enough to bring about peace before the world harvest in summer 1917– that is, before August 1– must hazard the consequences of a break with America, for no other choice remains to us. Despite the danger of a break with America, unlimited submarine warfare, begun soon, is the right means for ending the war successfully. It is also the only means to reach this goal.

A U-boat Is Resupplied with Torpedoes at Sea

Since the fall of 1916, when I declared that the moment had arrived to strike against England, our situation has fundamentally improved. The shortage in the world’s harvest, combined with the effect of the war on England, has once again given us the opportunity to bring about a decision in our favor before the next harvest. If we do not use this opportunity, which according to my calculations will be our last, then I do not see any possibility other than that of mutual exhaustion.

In order to achieve the necessary effect in time, it is necessary for unlimited submarine warfare to begin on February 1st at the latest. From Your Excellency I request a statement explaining whether the military situation on the continent, especially vis-à-vis those nations which are still neutral, will allow this. I need three weeks for the necessary preparations.

Source: Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff to Field Marshall von Hindenburg (22 December 1916)

Harry Moseley: Greatest Scientific Loss of the First World War

Moseley the Scientist

Henry "Harry" Moseley was an exceptional young English physicist in the years immediately before World War I. His work on the X-ray spectra of the elements provided a new foundation for the Periodic Table and contributed to the development of the nuclear model of the atom. Through his research and experiments in Oxford and Manchester–where he worked with the "father of nuclear physics" Ernest Rutherford–Moseley made significant and lasting impacts in both physics and chemistry.

But, Second Lieutenant Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley (known to friends and family as Harry), was killed in action at Gallipoli, Turkey on 10 August 1915, aged just 27. Had he lived, the young Moseley was tipped to have been a prime candidate for one of the 1916 Nobel Prizes. Instead, as Isaac Asimov wrote, "in view of what [Moseley] might still have accomplished. . . his death might well have been the most costly single death of the War to mankind generally".

Harry had enlisted for officer training in the Royal Engineers in mid-October 1914 and trained as a signals officer at Aldershot and Salisbury camp. In February 1915, Harry’s unit was attached to the 13th Division of Kitchener’s New Army and Harry was allocated responsibility for the communications of the division's 38th Brigade. Harry and his unit assumed that they would be sent to France and the Western Front, but instead Gallipoli, Turkey was their destination.

Lt. Harry Moseley

In June 1915, Harry and his division arrived in Alexandria, where Harry wrote his will leaving everything to the Royal Society to support original scientific research. By July, these inexperienced soldiers of Kitchener’s New Army had arrived at Helles, at the southernmost tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. There they gained essential combat experience against Turkish troops before being sent to Murdos Harbor on the island of Lemnos, a staging area for the upcoming fresh invasion farther north near ANZAC cove.

Having landed up the coast at ANZAC cove in early August, the objective of the British troops and their allies was to take a precarious salient on Chunuk Bair in what became known as the Battle of Sari Bair. In the murderous four days that followed thousands of men on both sides died. After the landing, the 13th Signals Company of which Harry was a member was put to work to support this attack.

On 7 August, the 38th Brigade led by their brigadier C.H. Baldwin led a desperate attack against the northern portion of Chunuk Bair. The division did not reach its objective but instead became stuck in an area known as “The Farm” about 300 yards west of their initial objective. Despite leading an attack later that day (7 August), the division remained at Farm Hill and held it for 8-9 August but never reached the high ground at Chunuk Bair.

The Farm Sector Where Moseley Fell
(View from the Attacking Turkish Position.)

Early on the morning of 10 August, a Turkish counterattack took place. Machine guns fired down on the position of the 38th Division including Moseley while 30,000 Turks poured down over the summit of Chunuk Bair, attacking the Farm. Combat was hand-to-hand and was later described in a British record of the battle thus:

So desperate a battle cannot be described. The Turks came on, again and again, fighting magnificently, calling upon the name of God. Our men stood to it, and maintained, by many a deed of daring, the old traditions of their race. There was no flinching. They died in their ranks where they stood.

One of these soldiers killed that day was Harry Moseley. His body, like that of so many others, was never found, but his name is commemorated on the Helles Memorial.

Sources: "Dear Harry [Moseley]" Exhibit at the Museum of the History of Science; Oxford University, News and Events

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A World War One Film Classic

Howard Hughes produced and directed Hell's Angels, the most expensive film ever made by 1930. Set during World War I, Hell's Angels is the story of three Oxford buddies: two brothers (Ben Lyon and James Hall) and one German (John Darrow) with a shared love interest (Jean Harlow in her film debut). Its fabulous collection of aircraft and depictions of combat–including a Zeppelin raid–makes it a must-see for all WWI enthusiasts. [P.S. The Editor's dad and uncle were extras in the sequences flown over San Francisco Bay.]

Click on Title to Access Story
Trailer Out on Peter Jackson's Forthcoming Tolkien Film

Remembering the Halifax Explosion (Excellent Photos)

The Ridiculous Way British Sailors Were Ordered to Stop German U-boats

Herbert Hoover Recalls the Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson

Marie Marvingt: Athlete, Mountaineer, Journalist, Nurse, Aviator & Mother of Aero-Medical Evacuation

1919: Famine Spreads in Europe

The Daily Life of WWI Soldiers

Émile Cottin, Clemenceau's Would-Be Assassin

The Fovant Regimental Badges on the Chalk Downs of Wiltshire

Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until our next issue, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
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