January 2010

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: If you read nothing else this month, please enjoy President Kennedy's 1962 American Heritage article on the importance of studying history. It will get you off on the right foot for 2010. The piece appears in the January, 60th anniversary, edition of the magazine and can be found online (Here) There is nothing more important that I could present to you as an editor than a referral to this inspiring essay. MH

This Month's Internet Feature
Not Just Gallipoli
Anzacs on the Western Front

  • Overview--Anzacs on the Western Front

  • At Fromelles

  • Battle of the Somme

  • Passchendaele

  • Hamel: July 4, 1918

  • The Battle of Amiens

    The Real Deal

    Artillery Preparation, Exposed Section, Lorraine, January 1915 by André Dunoyer de Segonzac
    Learn More About
    Over the Top

    Online magazine of the
    First World War

    Next Issue:
    The Genesis of the Russian Expeditionary Force on the Western Front

    New at Our Own & Our Friends' Great War Websites

    Click on Title or Icon to Access

    Recommended by our film reviewer Andrew Melomet:
  • Imperial War Museum Film Collection
    Watch 150 hrs. of film online for free.

  • Imaginative Superweapons for WWI
    These must be seen to be believed.

    At Great War Society Sites
    Travel to the Western Front or Gallipoli in 2010. See details at TGWS Travel Page: At the WFA-USA

  • The First World War had its own Super Bowl! The divisions and large bases of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe had their own football tournament. The championship game between the 89th (Midwest Division) and the 36th (Texas-Oklahoma National Guard) divisions was played on March 29, 1919, before a crowd of 15,000 at the Paris Velodrome that included General Pershing. The 89th won the hard fought contest, 14-6. (read more)

    Notable WWI Ace at the Controls of His Sopwith Camel

  • Larger Than Life "Digger"
    Mont St. Quentin, Peronne, Somme Sector

    Memorial honors Australian 2nd Division, which captured the site September 1, 1918. See This Month's Internet Feature for more on the Anzacs on the Western Front.

    A Moderately Large Announcement

    As we mentioned last month, we will have started maintaining a consolidated calendar of all major forthcoming WWI events. With this issue of the Trip-Wire, we are making it available to our readers and event planners, so they can avoid scheduling conflicts. We have a month-by-month schedule for 2010 and a very tentative program for 2011. The document will be continually updated and corrected. You may wish to add this feature to your favorites or bookmarks list.
    (download calendar as Word document)
    WFA-USA & TGWS Joint Annual Seminar
    September 16-18, 2010

    National World War I Museum,
    Kansas City, MO
    Mark your calendar. Check back for details in 2010.
    Western Front Association
    U.S. Branch Chapter Meetings

    Check for Your Region
    Regularly Updated
    Great War Society Monthly Chapter Meetings

    Berkeley, San Francisco, and Palo Alto, CA
    Regularly Updated
    Upcoming Events at the National World War I Museum

    Kansas City, MO
    Regularly Updated
    Send additions/corrections:
    Email Response

    Media & Events

    The War Poetry Contest recently announced its eighth winner of its annual contest: Robert Hill Long of Eugene, OR, won first prize and $2,000 for his poems "Wolverine and White Crow," "Motivations," and "Insurrection and Resurrection." The competition is sponsored by Winning Writers. It seeks original, unpublished poems on the theme of war. Contestants may submit one to three poems, up to 500 lines in all. Submissions for the 2010 contest are accepted from November 15, 2009, through May 31, 2010. The prize pool is $5,000, including a first prize of $2,000. Entries are accepted online and by mail. The entry fee is $15. (more information)

    Trip-Wire Editor Mike Hanlon will be speaking at the luncheon of the Landmarks Council of California on "San Francisco in the First World War," 11:30 am, February 24, 2010, at McCormick and Kuletos Restaurant, 900 North Point. There is a $32 charge for the luncheon. Call President Esther Jennings for reservations and menu choices at: 415-751-7732.

    I came out in order to help these boys; directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a leader can.

    Lt. Wilfred Owen, MC,
    KIA November 4, 1918

    Page Two

    Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele

    From Tyne Cot Visitors Centre

    World War I Headlines
    in the
    21st Century

    Germany still paying reparations from WWI

        Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium Recommended for Partial Destruction

           Rockefeller, Thune, and Webb Introduce Legislation to Honor World War I Veterans

              New Book Claims Hitler's Hatred of Jews Stemmed from World War I

                 Extraordinary Historical Collection Donated to National World War I Museum

                    Farewell to WWI (Reflection on the passing of the last British veterans)

    Rare Image from the Caucasus Front

    Russian Troops in Armenian Mountains Advancing on Tblisi, March 1916
    (There They Would Confront the Most Successful Turkish Commander, Mustafa Kemal)
    Click Here to Visit the Website of Our Contributing Editor Tony Langley
    War in a Different Light

    (Click on image or email Mike Hanlon at greatwar@earthlink.net to request a brochure for Western Front tour or more details on the other trips)
    Subscribe to Our Online Magazine

    Page Three

    Interesting French Propaganda Map from the War
    (I'm Not Sure Why Austria-Hungary Ended Up With Both Ireland and Moscow)

    Four More from the Bruccoli Collection
    Reviewed by Len Shurtleff of
    Len's Bookshelf (link)

    The Joseph M. Bruccoli Collection at the Universities of South Carolina and Virginia was amassed by his son, the late Professor Matthew J. Bruccoli, Jefferies Professor of English at University of South Carolina. The senior Bruccoli, for whom the collection is named, was a wounded veteran of WWI who served in France. The collection contains over 4,000 items including 3,400 print materials such as military training manuals, wartime magazines, trench newspapers, novels, contemporary works of political science and history, novels, poetry, scrapbooks, postcards, memorabilia, recordings, motion pictures, and video. The poetry collection includes rare work by Isaac Rosenberg, as well as English and French editions of Alan Seeger. There are also 500 pieces of contemporary sheet music and some 175 posters from the U.S., England, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Austria.

    The University of South Carolina is also embarked on publishing a series of classic works of WWI literature from the Bruccoli Collection. Most of these are semi-autobiographical novels written by veterans of the conflict; one is a book of poetry. Our goal is to review all of these distinguished works in the Trip-Wire. In our September/October issue we presented the first three reviews from the series. In this issue, we present the final four.

    This Man's Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets
    by John Allan Wyeth

    First published in 1928, this represents the sole literary product of the author -- a Princeton graduate -- who served as an interpreter in the AEF's 33rd Division. Filled with Doughboy patois, these narrative poems are an autobiographical account of the author's experiences of modern war. These are marked both by historical accuracy and literary merit. Annotations provided by military historian [and friend of the Trip-Wire] B. J. Omanson briefly describe the actions and events setting the scenes referred to by Wyeth in his sonnets.

    This Man's Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets, John Allan Wyeth, South Carolina, 2008, 60 +ill. pages, photos, glossary, annotations, ISBN 978 1 57003 779 5, $21.95 paperback.

    Flesh in Armour: A Novel
    by Leonard Mann

    First published in 1932, this exploration of the lives of Australian soldiers from the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) to just before the Armistice. In all nearly 420,000 Australians enlisted for WWI with over half being killed, wounded, or captured. Mann work reflects a wry Australian sense of humor, as well as disdain for "Pommy" British staff officers. An introduction by Janet Turner Hospital of the Department of English at the University of South Carolina places this novel in the historical context of the Anzac campaign and Mann's military service.

    Flesh in Armour: A Novel, Leonard Mann, South Carolina, 2008, 349 + xvii pages, ISBN 978 1 57003 770 3, $21.95 paperback.

    Retreat: A Story of 1918
    by Charles R. Benstead

    This novel is based on the author's experiences as a Fifth Army artillery officer during the Ludendorff March 1918 offensive. It centers largely on the shattering experiences of Padre Warne, a British chaplain who finds his faith eroded by fear and is driven to madness. Juxtaposed to the Padre is Captain Cheyne, a battle-weary soldier who maintains his courage and devotion to duty in the face of defeat and retreat

    Retreat: A Story of 1918, Charles R. Benstead, South Carolina, 2008, 317 + xxvi pages, map, ISBN 978 1 57003 768 9, $21.95 paperback; with an introduction by British historian Hugh Cecil. First published in 1930.

    Captain Conan
    by Roger Vercel

    French novelist Roger Vercel (1894-1957) wrote numerous books including the maritime tales In Sight of Eden and Tales of Mont St. Michel. Captain Conan won the Goncourt Prize in 1934.

    This novel follows the exploits of a French commando unit fighting in Rumania and Bulgaria. Its commander, Conan, whose only loyalty is to his men, has lost all sense of patriotism. He and his troops have been brutalized by war and have lost all ideals of honorable battle while serving as occupation forces and fighting Bolshevik guerrillas after WWI is over. An introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ted Morgan places the book in the larger context of WWI combat literature.

    Captain Conan, Roger Vercel, South Carolina, 2008, 296 + xii pages, ISBN 978 1 57003 713 9, $21.95 paperback.

    These works can all be ordered at Amazon.com or through the University of South Carolina Press.

    From the Archives --
    Zeppelins in Film

    by Andrew Melomet

    The widescreen cinema was made for zeppelins. Images of the great silver skyships cruising majestically through azure skies and filling the screen are a lighter-than-air enthusiast's dream. The majority of the great zepppelin movies are currently available on DVD. However, some of the titles suffer from not being mastered in anamorphic widescreen, and their visual quality is not what it could be.

    In 1969 Paramount released The Assassination Bureau, directed by Basil Dearden and starring Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, and Curt Jurgens. Based on an unfinished novel by Jack London, The Assassination Bureau takes place in Edwardian England and Europe prior to the Great War. It deals with a secret organization of assassins for hire and concludes with a climactic duel aboard an Imperial German Navy zepppelin. The juxtaposition of the quaint method of selected assassination practiced by the Bureau and the wholesale slaughter of the coming World War is discussed, and the film features not just an attractive cast but also beautiful sets and an Art Noveau production design. The DVD from Paramount is $14.99 and is 16:9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. While not a great movie, it is still very entertaining, and the authentic-looking external reconstruction of the early model zepppelin is very interesting. I can't comment on the interior, but it does seem to have everything a zepppelin needs.

    1971 saw two airship movies released, Zeppelin and The Red Tent. Zeppelin was directed by Etienne Perier and stars Michael York, Elke Sommer, Peter Carsten, Marius Goring, Anton Diffring, Andrew Keir, and Richard Hurndall as the legendary "Blinker" Hall, Director of Naval Intelligence and founder of the famous radio interception and decrypt ion "Room 40." Michael York is Geoffrey von Richter-Douglas, half Scot and half German, who is recruited by British Intelligence in 1915 to defect to Germany where he is quickly brought into a nefarious scheme to raid a Scottish castle by airship and capture or destroy the Magna Carta. The German High Command feels this will break British wartime morale and help end the war. Elke Sommer is the best-looking aeronautical engineer the screen has ever seen. The plot is farfetched to say the least, but this is still a fun adventure film, and after watching it several times I'm convinced I know how to fly a zepppelin. It features a superb recreation of a zepppelin interior, and the exterior shots of the German airship sheds were actually filmed at the surviving British airship sheds constructed for the R100 and ill-fated R101. The scenes of the Scottish castle attack by German soldiers were filmed in Malta. The lovely cream-colored Malta is a giveaway for anyone who's been there. Unfortunately, Zeppelin was released on DVD only in Australia and is currently out of print.

    The Red Tent was an Italian-Russian co-production on the expedition of the N4 semi-rigid airship Italia to the North Pole. Peter Finch is Umberto Nobile, the famous Italian aeronautical engineer and arctic explorer. Sean Connery is the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Nobile's expedition ended in disaster, and The Red Tent covers not only the details of the tragic expedition (Roald Amundsen lost his life in the search effort) but also the decades of guilt felt by Nobile by being rescued and evacuated before more seriously injured crew members. The Red Tent is $14.99 from Paramount and is enhanced for 16:9 televisions.

    The Hindenburg was released in 1975. Directed by Robert Wise, it features a cast headed by George C. Scott, Anne Bancroft, William Atherton and Roy Thinnes. Albert Whitlock, the noted matte artist gets credit for the special visual effects of bringing the Hindenburg to life on the screen. This film effectively captures the visual grandeur of the great airship from a searchlight-lit nighttime launch to its inevitable end. There are beautiful scenes of the Hindenburg flying over icebergs and the 1937 skyline of lower Manhattan. Inside the airship, the surround sound kicks in with all the structural groaning of girders and mechanical sounds of the flight. Contemporary critics faulted Robert Wise's low-key approach to the drama aboard the airship as Scott's character looks for a saboteur and time bomb, but in retrospect his subdued depiction of the disaster is far more appealing than the anything-goes style of Pearl Harbor. It's a pity this title is not available in an anamorphic edition and has not been restored and remastered. The DVD is $14.99 from Universal.

    In 1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery featured a daring escape from the fictitious LZ-138 by the Joneses. They make their way into a plane carried by the zepppelin (similar to those carried by USS Akron and USS Macon, the U.S. Navy airships) and drop away to eventually land. Actually, the German airship service never used parasite aircraft or developed the flying aircraft-carrier concept. The scenes of the airship launch were filmed at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The surviving Art Deco buildings from the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition became the structures at the German airfield. Astute Indiana Jones fans also know that the Short Solent Flying Boat used in Raiders of the Lost Ark is also in the Bay Area. It's part of the collection of the Oakland Aviation Museum (formerly the Western Aerospace Museum). Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is available separately or as part of The Adventures of Indiana Jones collection from Paramount. It is widescreen enhanced and packed with special features.

    In 1991 Walt Disney Pictures released The Rocketeer, based on Dave Stevens's comic book character. Taking place in a recreated 1938 Los Angeles, it includes a fiery climactic battle aboard a Nazi zepppelin over the Hollywood Hills. Unfortunately, the $14.99 DVD is non-anamorphic and does little justice to the lovingly detailed production design, special effects, and beautiful period airplanes. Fans of the Rocket Man Republic Pictures serials will immediately recognize the homage to the original character.

    2004's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was written and directed by Kerry Conran. Set in an alternative 1939 when the civilized world is under attack from giant flying robots, it was one of the first movies to be shot with the cast on a virtual back lot in front of a green screen. Sky Captain opens with a highly atmospheric docking of the fictitious zepppelin Hindenburg III at the mooring mast on the Empire State Building during a snowstorm. Of course, although a mooring mast was part of the Empire State Building's design, no passenger airship ever docked there. This Paramount title is only $9.98 on DVD or $29.99 on HD DVD or Blu-Ray DVD.

    Zeppelin! was a 2005 German release directed by Gordian Maugg. The story follows the grandson of a Hindenburg airship crewman investigating his grandfather's life and 1937 death at Lakehurst. Unfortunately, this title is not available on DVD in the United States or Europe.

    The most recent movie to feature a zepppelin is Flyboys, from 2006. Loosely based on the Lafayette Escadrille, Flyboys includes a major air battle during a daylight zepppelin raid. The $29.99 DVD from MGM is well-produced and is also available as a $39.99 Blu-Ray DVD. My October 2006 review of the theatrical release of Flyboys can be accessed from the archives.

    Perhaps the most interesting of all the widescreen zepppelin movies is one that never made it out of preproduction. Hammer Films' Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls would have told the story of Allied prisoners escaping from a German POW camp in a stolen zepppelin. Eventually the airship drifts into a lost world where it is attacked by a pterodactyl. After crash landing, the crew encounters prehistoric creatures and humans. Only the evocative poster survives from this mind-boggling concept.

    Click here to download the 2004-2008 Index for the Nickelodeon
    with Updates on Availability of Films and Videos in the U.S.
    Check the Archives for 2009's reviews.

    Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
    (Or send it to a friend)
    (Or send us a comment on the TRIP-WIRE)

    For further information on the events of 1914-1918 and membership information visit the Directory Pages of:

  •      The Great War Society

  •      The Western Front Association, U.S. Branch

  •      Over the Front -- League of WWI Aviation Historians