April 2011

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: Many of our readers were alive in the 1960s when the last of our Civil War veterans died. Mr. Buckles's funeral was handled with great dignity and respect. To me, however, it did not seem to resonate with the same amplitude. Perhaps, there is just too much going on in the world. Nonetheless, as you will see on these pages, the Trip-Wire continue will do its best to see our Last Doughboy and his generation will always be remembered and honored. . .In March we also lost a valued friend of the Great War Society, Peter Wood of Stanford, California. For those of you who never had the pleasure of meeting Peter, let me share some details about him. He was a pioneering scientific researcher on HDL (the "good" cholesterol), a world and senior-class long distance runner, who once graced the cover of Runner's World magazine, and a deep student of the Great War. His mother was a V.A.D. nurse during the war; he had over 20 relatives who served in the trenches, including one, mysteriously remembered on both the Menin Gate and the wall at Tyne Cot Cemetery; and he was a great traveling mate on my first group tour to the Western Front. We will miss you, Peter. (Obituary from Stanford Medical School.) MH

This Month's Internet Feature

Coverage and Commentary on the Passing of the Last Doughboy

Frank Buckles death and burial was a major news story last month.

  • Obituary

  • Presidential Proclamation

  • Photos of Funeral Service

  • Commentary: "The True Tough Guys"

  • Commentary: "Gone But Never Forgotten"

  • Contrarian, But Respectful, Essay: "We Are the Dead: The Progressive Legacy of WWI"

    Learn More About
    Over the Top

    Online magazine of the
    First World War

    Next Issue:
    Tommy Goes to War

    All of our back issues with many special extra features on CDs can now be purchased individually or in sets on eBay (link).

    New at Our Own & Our Friends' Great War Websites

    Click on Title or Icon to Access

    Our friend AEF historian (and editor-in-chief of George Washington's Papers) Ed Lengel has contributed a great article to the January Military History magazine on a forgotten episode: At Great War Society Sites
    Major Articles on Volunteer Organizations in WWI
    At WFA-USA Sites

    One of the keys to the success of the trench coat as apparel both initially and long-term is the water-resistant nature of its material, gabardine, which is made from long-fibered Egyptian cotton. The garment was designed and distributed by Thomas Burberry, patent holder on gabardine.

  • In Memoriam
    Mr. Frank Woodruff Buckles
    1 February 1901 - 27 February 2011

    Watercolor by student artist and St. Helena High School (California) World War I Research Institute student Georgia McClain.

    A World War I Event Calendar

    We will continue to maintain our WWI Calendar. There is simply more information than we can display here on the Trip-Wire. We count on all of you who schedule WWI events to contact us with new and updated information. Next month we will publish the 2011 calendar available to all.
    (send an email with schedule information)
    National World War I Seminar
    The Soon to Be
    World War One Historical Assocation presents:
    War Art & the Art of War
    9-10 September, 2011

    Citi-Garden Hotel
    South San Francisco, CA
    Near S.F. International Airport
    (Download Program and Registration Form)
    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

    New Exhibits and Lectures Scheduled

    Regularly Updated
    Send additions/corrections for our master schedule:
    Email Response

    "The Ghosts of War: Famine, Anarchy, Plague",
    Harding in the Brooklyn Eagle, 1919

    It does not pretend to be impartial. I was fighting for my hand, upon my own midden. Please take it as a personal narrative pieced out of memory. I could not make proper notes: indeed it would been a breach of my duty to the Arabs if I had picked such flowers while they fought.

    Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Author's Preface,
    T.E. Lawrence

    Page Two

    Anzac Day Primer: The Who, How, What, and Where of
    25 April 1915 at Gallipoli?

    Landing at Anzac
    25 April 1915

    The Photos of Colonel Fred Waite, New Zealand Infantry

    Obsolete Battleship HMS London Provides Escort for Approach to Anzac

    The Troop Convoy Arrives off Gaba Tepe

    Destroyers and Lighters Towed Troop Barges to the Beach

    Buildup at Anzac Cove Led to Expansion of the Beach Head North

    First Trench Above Anzac at Russel's Top

    World War I Headlines
    in the
    21st Century

    60-year hunt for Russian Czars' missing Amber Room may be over

        Dutch Navy Find Sunk WWI Submarine

           Canadian First World War Soldier Buried in France l

              Heroic Nurse's Diary Being Auctioned

                 Review of New Book on the War Poets

    Officers Playing Chess in a Shelter
    by German military artist Theodor Rochell

    Click Here to Visit the Website of Our Contributing Editor Tony Langley
    War in a Different Light

    Subscribe to Our Online Magazine

    Page Three

    Flying the Sopwith Camel
    Accompany a Modern-Day Fighter Pilot on a Flight

    Click Here to See 8-Minute Video at

    Thanks to readers Jerry Beach and Steve Miller for finding this.

    The Real Deal

    From Terrence Finnegan's Shooting the Front,
    Recommended in Last Month's Trip-Wire

    Two on Medical Aspects of the War

    Military Medicine and The Influenza Pandemic

    Before My Helpless Sight: Suffering, Dying and Military Medicine on the Western Front
    By Leo van Bergen

    Reviewed by Jolie Velazquez

    More than one historian has voiced the opinion that fiction is the best way to express the true horrors of war. Perhaps they envy the resonance that anti-war classics like Johnny Got His Gun has had compared to the short attention that even the best historical studies get from the public. Dr. van Bergen's work could perhaps be the ultimate non-fiction war deterrent if enough people could overcome their queasiness upon reading the subtitle.

    After a fairly crisp chronological summary of the war and the technical developments that led to new kinds of injuries, van Bergen (a medical historian) divides the content into sections on the physical consequences of combat, effects on the mental health of those involved, the techniques used to treat the afflicted, and then the problem of dealing with the ultimate sacrifice made by the dead. Using a massive amount of statistics and medical information, the author gives the reader the entire scope of medical needs and practices that took place at and behind the lines.

    Remarkably, we learn that even though great strides in medicine had taken place by 1914, such as the initial survival rate for bullet wound casualties, the fight against infection was little better than in America's Civil War. Childhood illnesses, relatively minor injuries, and nutritional deprivation were all exacerbated by the environment of the trenches. (Not being able to change one's socks could lead to gangrene.) And the advances in artillery resulted in bodily injuries far surpassing the damage expected from more personal forms of combat and in numbers that outstripped any other kind of casualty. Doctors were often forced to experiment with unorthodox treatments to keep their patients alive.

    Perhaps the best section is on the treatment of mental disorders, which they called shell shock. The general attitude of military doctors was often dismissive and skeptical of non-physical injuries. Affected soldiers were considered shirkers or worse, facing punishment as often as treatment. The influx of psychologists from civilian practice into the services changed the tenor, but the discipline was so new that effective methods were rare. The new doctors also fought again the practice of "fixing" the soldiers so they could be sent back into battle as soon as possible.

    The exhaustive descriptions of even simple physical discomforts would be numbing or dry after time, but van Bergen intersperses his text with excerpts from the diaries, memoirs and letters, of people on both sides of No Man's Land. Soldiers, doctors, care-givers, and civilians offer their poignant memories and make the personal connection so necessary to complete the experience. Van Bergen's pacing allows one to move smoothly through almost 500 pages of text, some gruesome illustrations, and casualty tables that can leave one staggered. If one can take the subject, this book is definitely worth the reading.

    The Great Influenza
    John M. Barry

    Reviewed by Dale Thompson

    The description found on the book's cover, by the Penguin staff, is complete:

    "In the winter of 1918, at the height of World War I, history's most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with the American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision between modern science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, The Great Influenza weaves together multiple narratives, with characters ranging from William Welch, founder of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, to John C. Rockefeller and Woodrow Wilson. Ultimately a tale of triumph amid tragedy, this crisis provides us with a sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon."

    The Great Influenza is significant to the students of WWI because the story it tells describes a killer pandemic that overlapped the war. John Barry states that between 21 and 100 million people died of influenza in 1918 and 1919. As a comparison, about nine million combatants died during World War I. The U.S. lost over 53,000 in battle but 63,000 to other causes, mostly influenza.

    Barry starts the story by reviewing the state of medical training in the United States after the Civil War and the advances that occurred from then until 1910. This reviewer was surprised to learn the ease with which mediocre students were able to attend and graduate from medical school during the 19th century.

    The exact origin of the influenza pandemic is still a matter of controversy. Barry found enough evidence for his well-researched book to show he believes it started in Kansas and spread (army camp to army camp in the U.S.), eventually crossing to Europe and throughout the world.

    The book's description of how influenza was received and fought in different jurisdictions provides the makings for a study in human reaction in the face of adversity. Philadelphia was almost completely shut down by the pandemic, but a non-understanding (or non-belief) of how influenza spread allowed the mayor to continue with a parade and rally to promote the sales of Liberty Loan bonds to help fund the war. In mid-crisis, New York City authorities stopped counting deaths at about 33,000, in part because the doctors and nurses were so overwhelmed that their services were unavailable to most of those who were ill.

    In September of 1918 the acting Surgeon General of the Army, Charles Richard, wrote General Peyton March, Army Chief of Staff, advising him to cease shipping infected units overseas. General March acknowledged the warning but did nothing. Under the enormous pressure on the War Department to send soldiers to Europe, the army continued to adhere to their established training and shipping plans.

    John Barry has clearly documented the medical research that went on at this time. The outcome was the discovery that influenza is a viral disease and the development of today's flu vaccines.
    Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until next month, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
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    (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