December 2003

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: The News Media did a better than usual job this Armistice/ Remembrance/ Veterans Day and our A-1 Network of correspondents have sent lots of recommendations. Here are some of their favorites: Listen to an Interview with Belleau Wood Veteran, Gene Lee of the 5th Marines. (link) Did Airpower Play a Decisive Role in WWI? Yes, says Col. Walter Boyne in this interview. (link) Learn About the Crack in the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Lehrer News Hour. (link) Our Own Hundred Years' War [WWI to War on Terrorism] by Clark S. Judge. (link) . . . Columnist Andy Melomet says check out the Turner Movie Classics network for World War I films. Fifteen Great War movies are scheduled for Dec/Jan . . . Last, I'm afraid I spoke too soon last month. The BBC still loves the Great War Society website; it's just darn hard to find the page with the recommendation. (link)

Main Telephone Switchboard, Toul
Click to Read Michelle Christides's Tribute to Her Mother Oleda in Story of a Hello Girl

New at the Websites of the Great War Society and Our Friends

Click on Title to Access
At Great War Society Home
At Members Contributions
At La Grande Guerra At the Doughboy Center At WFA-USA At Scuttlebutt and Small Chow

British Reenactors Pershing's Doughboys at
Brookwood US Cemetery, Cambridgeshire,
Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day

The Black Cat:

While working in Prague on The Golem (1920), film director Edgar G. Ulmer heard the story of Fort de Douaumont. "There were some survivors who didn't come out for years. And the commander was a strange Euripedes figure who went crazy three years later, when he was brought back to Paris, because he had walked on that mountain of bodies. I thought it was an important subject, and that feeling was in the air in the twenties." . . . In 1934 Ulmer and screenwriter Peter Ruric (aka Black Mask mystery writer Peter Cain) wrote the story for The Black Cat based on this World War I legend. A young American couple on their honeymoon (David Manners and Jacqueline Wells), find themselves mere pawns in a mortal battle of good and evil, fought by Doctor Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi) and Engineer Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff). . . During the war Poelzig had turned traitor and allowed the Russians to take his fortress and slaughter his men. Werdegast, one of the few survivors, has returned for vengeance after 15 years in a Russian prison camp. Poelzig has built a gleaming Bauhaus Art Decco home over the mass graveyard of his former command. He is also a Satanist and necrophile who has married and murdered Werdegast's wife and then his daughter. . . The central characters are far removed from Hemingway's "Lost Generation." These survivors are both doomed and damned by the war. The horrors invoked of somnambulism, Satanism, necrophilia, sadism and torture are mere metaphors for the greatest horror of all -- war. . . Lugosi served in the Hungarian army as a lieutenant but was invalided out in 1916. He participated in the 1919 Communist Revolt but fled the country when it was overthrown. The Poelzig character played by Karloff, was based on the infamous Satanist Aleister Crowley. "Tank Prophet" J.F.C. Fuller was one of Crowley's chief disciples. . . The Black Cat is available on VHS and also airs on Turner Classics.

This Month's
Special Feature

Serbia at War

On Line Resources for Focused Topics

WWI Cartoon of the Month
Christmas 1919 [detail]
From German Magazine Simplicissimus
Can the Army win the war before the Navy loses it?
         Admiral Lord Fisher, Spring 1917

A World War I Christmas Memory

In early December 1918, almost completely recovered from his wound, my father, Sgt Albert K. Haas was able to return to his Division. From Vichy he went by train to Nevers and from there to 78th Division Headquarters in Semur and then on to the village of Genay. . . In Genay he shared a room in the home of Madame Laurent and her daughter. Two days before Christmas Madame misunderstood the logistics and billeting of men assigned to the village and subsequently gave their room to two others. My Dad later wrote: "After much discussion, we asked Madame's permission to sleep in the hayloft for the night.. She did not think it good enough for us, but we finally convinced her it was. She insisted on climbing the ladder to the loft and taking a couple of white pillows with her for our bed. All our protest against misuse of pillows was in vain and we slept in the beds as arranged. It was rather a unique place to spend Christmas Eve." . . . On Christmas Morning "Madame insisted they have breakfast in her home. It was the strangest breakfast I ever had, Beef soup, wine, bread and cheese." In the evening, an impromptu entertainment was given at the Y.M.C.A. hut and Ed and I took the old folks along. All civilians in the town had been invited to attend. They thought the perfectly rotten show was wonderful." That night he and Ed again slept in the hay loft before being assigned to the home of Madame Allured. Thus ended Christmas in Genay.

from Margaret Haas.

Read About the Christmas Truce of 1914


Sgt. Maurice Ravel
Driver with 13th Artillery Regiment, French Army

Notable Composer Who Served at Verdun

On Veteran's Day the VA issued a press release stating that only 44 American survivors of the Great War were still alive . . . The last known Nova Scotia-born veteran of the First World War Harold Radford has died at 106 in a Halifax hospital. In 1918-19 he took part in a little-known Canadian campaign in Siberia, serving with the Nova Scotia Regiment in Vladivostok. Mr. Radford, a widower, leaves three children, seven grand children and 10 great - grandchildren. . . Rev. Cyril Martin died in November, aged 103, reducing the already tiny band of Canadian veterans of the First World War. He was barely 16 years old when he was thrust into the bloody trenches of Flanders during the First World War, hauling ammunition and supplies through enemy fire and seas of mud to the frontline trenches. Rev. Martin went to Toronto Bible College upon his return to Canada and graduated in 1922, the same year he married his wife, Jessie. He went on to St. Andrew's College in Saskatoon and was ordained a year later. When the Second World War began in 1939, he joined the army as a chaplain. He was sent to the 17th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery and served in Italy at Ortona and Cassino. Rev. Martin had 17 grand children, 29 great - grandchildren and four great- great- grand children. His wife, Jessie, died in 1987. . . Three Royal Sussex soldiers and a Frenchman have also been identified from personal numbers etched on to bandoliers or cartridge pouches at an excavation in Flanders. The dig is taking place because of lobbying by the British all-party war graves and battlefield heritage group, which wants the Flemish authorities to make sure they know exactly what they are doing before allowing the A19 to carry on for the final 10 miles to Ostend.

Only two American warships were lost to enemy fire in the Great War:

  • Destroyer DD 61 JACOB JONES Sunk by German submarine U-53 off Scilly Island, 6 Dec 1917. Jacob Jones went down in 8 minutes taking 64 men with her and was the first US destroyer ever to be lost to enemy action.(article)

  • Armored Cruiser ACR 6 SAN DIEGO, formerly Pennsylvania Sunk by German U-156 off US East coast 19 July 1918 with 6 killed.(article)

Rickenbacker's Mom Welcomes Her Son Home
Click to read Captain Eddie's Memoir and other Doughboy Biographies


WFA - BC Chapter
Spring Meeting

March 12-14
Bay Street Armoury, Victoria BC
Great War Society
National Seminar

The Near East and the
First World War

Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, MO

April 23-25, 2004
WFA-USA National Seminar

State University of NY, Plattsburgh, NY
August 6-8, 2004
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Email Response

The following individuals are hereby thanked for their contributions to this issue of the Trip Wire: Chris Wattie, Duncan Aram, Susan Neeson, Frank Herron, Christina Holstein, Tony Langley, Andy Melomet, Len Shurtleff, and Alice Horner. The photo of Eddie Rickenbacker is from the Auburn University Archives. Michelle Christides and Margaret Haas are both preparing manuscripts on World War I subject. Michelle is writing a history of the Signal Corps Hello Girls and Maggie is producing an annotated version of her father's diary of his year in France. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.

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