September 2006

Access Archives

TRENCH REPORT: Welcome to our first issue from our new platform at Trenches on the Web. I've been asked two questions the past month. First, "Will the Trip-Wire stop covering the Great War Society?" Answer: No. We will continue to have full coverage and linkage to GWS sites. That said, I plan to continue similar coverage of the WFA and conduct more outreach to readers and contributors from other WWI organizations like the Gallipolians, Eastern Fronters, Aviation Historians, Churchillians, etc. Second, can we provide a downloadable pdf version of the Trip-Wire? Answer: Yes possibly, but I would have to charge a fee for the users of this extra service [say $5/mos] and I feel I would need at least 30 subscribers to make the commitment of time worthwhile. Email me if this is of interest (email). . .I hope you will also send a recommendation to your fellow history buffs, enthusiasts, researchers, battlefield explorers to take a look at the Trip-Wire. Also, you might have noticed that I always try to include something for younger people. My impression is that they are starved for information, especially in America, for interesting information on their heritage. Please think of sharing the Trip-Wire with them. .By the way, Anzac Biscuits [Simply the best oatmeal cookie ever invented for dunking in coffee] are now available by mail order from the Vermont Country Store. Four percent of sales are donated to the VFW. (link) MH

This Month's Internet Feature
Forgotten Sector

  • War in Alsace

  • Charles Fair's Vosges Battlefield Guide

  • Memories of a German Veteran of Alsace

  • Battle of Mulhouse, 1914

  • Le Linge, Preserved Alsacian Battlefield of 1915

    The Real Deal

    Another in Our Popular
    Rat Catchers Series

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

    Click on Title to Access
    At Great War Society Sites At the WFA-USA

    Our friend Ace WWI Aircraft Modeler Ray Morrissette has had his efforts recognized by the local news in Gainesville, Fl. (link)

    Wilhelm Röntgen, discoverer of x-rays, had family in the United States (in Iowa) and in 1914 was planning to emigrate. Although he accepted an appointment at Columbia University in New York City and had actually purchased transatlantic tickets, the outbreak of World War I changed his plans. He remained at the University of Munich for the rest of his career.

    French Cemetery at Rossigol
    Site of August 1914 Battle
  • Uniform of BG Billy Mitchell
    Note: Combined 1st Army/Air Svc. Patch


    Verdun and Somme
    90th Commemorative Events

    Comprehensive Double Calendar

    Scheduled Throughout 2006 (link)
    WFA-USA Great Lakes Chapter Seminar

    Cleveland Gray's Armory
    October 21st (link)
    Representations of the Other in American and German Literature and Film on World War I

    UCLA, October 12-14, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA (email for details)
    WFA-USA New York/New England Chapter Seminar

    Hartford, Connecticut
    November 11th
    Armistice Day and the Great War Society

    Great War Poster Artists and Luncheons With our Friends Jean- Pierre & Cecile Mouraux
    Sonoma, California, November 11th

    Send additions/corrections:
    Email Response

    Memorable Event

    First Tanks Go Into Action
    During Battle of the Somme

    September 15, 1916

    Click on Image for More Information

    Media Events

    Speakers Bureau: Three of our favorite World War I Authors are going to be out on autograph/speaking tours in the next few months:
    • Stephen Harris, Duffy's War, [Interview Below] New York State Military Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY; Sat, Oct 14, Noon
    • Tom Phelan, The Canal Bridge,
      Full Schedule on Website (link)
    • Jacqueline Winspear, The Messenger of Truth,
      14 City Tour (link)
    The Buzz is building over the new Lafayette Escadrille film, Flyboys to premiere September 22nd. Here is a piece by Director Tony Bill on early viewer's responses. (link)
    There is also a computer flight simulator game now available (free demo)

    Just received an announcement for a conference on military aerial photography and archaeology in Ypres at the Flanders Fields Museum, 19-21 October. (link-pdf file)

    It becomes ever more obvious that the First World War was the great trauma of modern civilization. Something huge cracked in the First World War and has never been repaired. Out of the First World War came a series of rebellions against liberal civilization. These rebellions were accusations that liberal civilization was not just hypocritical or flawed, but was in fact the single great source of evil or suffering in the world. . .Behind all the movements that made these proposals was a pathological fascination with mass death. Mass death was itself the principal fact of the First World War, in which 9 or 10 million people were killed on an industrial basis. And each of the new movements proceeded to reproduce that event in the name of their utopian opposition to the complexities and uncertainties of liberal civilization. The names of these movements varied and the traits that they displayed varied -- one was called Bolshevism, and another was called fascism, another was called Nazism. . .My argument is that Islamism and a certain kind of pan-Arabism in the Arab and Muslim worlds are really further branches of the same impulse.

    Paul Bergman, 2003 Interview

    Propeller Driven Snow Sled: Apparently Eastern Front
    We Welcome Any Information On Its Operational Service (email)
    Want to Visit the Battlefields?
    Click Here for News on Travel Opportunities
    Page Two

    Allen Dulles in the First World War

    by Mark Murphy

    (Found at the Central Intelligence Website)

    Dulles During the War
    In 1916, after passing the Foreign Service exam and finishing his master's degree at Princeton, 23-year old Allen Dulles left for his first posting, as third secretary in the US Embassy to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Vienna. It proved to be a short-lived assignment, however. On 6 April 1917, the US declared war on Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Dulles left for another posting at the US Legation in Bern, Switzerland.

    When Dulles arrived at the legation, no one knew what to do with the extra help, so the first secretary took him aside and said, "I guess the best thing for you to do is take charge of intelligence. Keep your ears open. This place is swarming with spies. And write me a weekly report."

    Dulles was elated. "I cannot tell you much about what I do," he wrote his father that night, "except that it has to do with intelligence."

    Two Painful Lessons

    Switzerland was swarming with spies-British, French, Italian, German, and Austro-Hungarian. In addition, Czech, Slovak, Slav, and Croat exiles were scheming and plotting to return home as soon as the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed. And then there were all the German and Russian emigres waiting for the war to end.

    In the midst of such intrigue, it took Dulles less than a week to flout one of the oldest rules of intelligence. He was at the office late one afternoon, finishing up as duty officer and looking forward to a tennis date, when the telephone rang. A man with a heavy German accent introduced himself as Vladimir Ilich Lenin and urgently requested a meeting for that same afternoon. Dulles assumed the caller was just another emotionally unstable emigre trying to get back to his homeland, looking for some sort of help. Dulles told him to stop by the next morning. "Tomorrow will be too late," Lenin replied impatiently, "I must talk to someone this afternoon." Dulles, however, was unyielding.

    Lenin, the Revolutionary
    The next morning, Lenin was on his way to Russia in the sealed train provided by German officials. On 16 April, he arrived at Finland Station in Petrograd, where he was greeted by a large crowd of workers, soldiers, sailors, and Bolshevik supporters. Shortly thereafter, in one of his first political declarations, he called for peace negotiations with Germany.

    Dulles later remarked that, following that episode, he decided he would see "all kinds of queer people, with and without beards." As DCI, he would often entertain new recruits with the story.

    During his first few months in Switzerland, Dulles also learned something about the harsh realities of espionage. He had been dating a young Czech woman, only to learn from British intelligence that the Austrians had blackmailed her into spying. Because of the information she provided, at least two Czech agents had been executed, and an important British source had been compromised. Dulles, following a British plan, took her out to dinner and then strolled into the old section of town, where two British officers were waiting to take her away.

    Dulles later remarked, "I never heard what happened to her. I learned that anyone can be blackmailed. And it is often the most patriotic citizen who is turned into a traitor."

    Following the surrender of German troops in November 1918, Dulles was assigned to the Boundary Commission at Versailles, where he went to work on the newly created nation of Czechoslovakia.

    Monument at CIA Headquarters
    In 1920, Dulles returned home and went from one diplomatic assignment to another: head of the Near East Department in 1922; working on the Dawes Plan to help Germany make good on its reparations payments from 1923 to 1924; and delegate to the International Conference on Arms Traffic in 1925 and the Disarmament Conference in 1926.


    September 1916:

    The Calm

    The Somme

    September 1916:

    Breaking the Deadlock

    Tavannes railway tunnel stretched from the battlefront to the French rear areas and was reached by a narrow cutting. This gave cover to the French troops approaching the front line, a degree of cover to the staff, storage for vast amounts of ammunition, and even a space to lie down.

    Tunnel Entrance
    It was a dark, utterly fetid existence, not helped by the absence of any sanitary facilities except for the track drainage ditches which ran beside the useless rails and which rapidly became stagnant. It was not a good place to spend time but at least it was cover from shellfire for some three thousand men.

    But on September 4th the ammunition in the tunnel blew up and the fire burnt for days. The French suffered a disaster similar to the German troops occupying Fort Douaumont in May earlier in the year. Officially 500 men died. In practice nobody knows the death toll.

    Click Here to See a Large
    Battlefield Map of Verdun

    The relative quiet on the battlefield continued but behind the scenes Petain's major offensive was taking shape. It included the introduction at Verdun of two massive 400mm howitzers, greater in performance than anything yet seen. A replica of the battlefield and of Fort Douaumont was constructed near Bar le Duc at the south end of the Sacred Way, and the assaulting troops trained and trained until they knew their exact instructions.

    The clock was ticking.

    Tanks! Haig had a problem.

    Click Here to See a Large
    Battlefield Map of the Somme

    Should he wait until 1917 to use these huge lumbering 27-ton monsters, or should he use them now in an attempt to break the ghastly deadlock on the ridges blocking his way to Bapaume, originally scheduled to be taken on the first day. That was a long time and many men ago.

    He chose to use them now and at the battle of Flers-Courcellette on September 15th they went into action for the first time. They were successful given their small numbers, but the Germans were quick to recognize their weakness which was their slowness on bad ground and, later, their weak armour plating. However the infantry losses in this battle were lighter than previous and it was thought to be a success.

    In this month a number of the woods and villages that had first been attacked in July now fell, including the infamous High Wood. (From High Wood you can see today, the various start points of the battle of July 1st and also the Butte de Warlencourt where the battle ended. It is a very little battlefield, providing you are walking upright along farmer's tracks in the summer, and providing nobody is trying to kill you!!)

    Villages were now mere brick stains on the churned soils and woods now mere piles of matchwood. The entire battlefield was a stinking abomination of desolation, without movement during the day and alive at night when men were relieved, the guns fed and supplies brought up. Of course both sides knew what was happening and the likely routes that men and transport would use, and the gunners of each side would commence firing at all known roads and tracks.

    In late August, Falkenhayn had been removed from overall German command by the Kaiser and sent to Roumania. He was replaced by Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff, both transferred from the Russian Front. [Continued on left below.]

    Somme-August continued:

    Both at Verdun and on the Somme they immediately ordered that the policy of counterattacking cease and although all German held ground was to be properly fought for if lost, a defence line should be constructed to the rear of that place instead.

    In the Mud at the Somme
    And so the battle lurched slowly and painfully across the fields of Armageddon at enormous cost to life, limb and sanity of all the participants. In Great Britain, the arrival of the telegraph boy was dreaded, with his notification of death, and the postman eagerly awaited with, hopefully, the brief small postcard confirming that the man of the house was still alive.

    On the Somme it began to rain.

    If you would like to visit these fields of memory for a detailed tour, please email Tony Noyes or Christina Holstein to discuss your requirements without obligation.

    French Cavalryman Just Before the Battle of the Marne

    Click Here to Visit War in a Different Light

    World War I Headlines
    in the
    21st Century

    The Pardons Controversy

    Ministry of Defense to Request Pardons for 306 Shot for Cowardice

        List of the 306

          Controversy stirred by posthumous pardons

            Lt. Poole: 1st Officer Executed

               Families welcome Great War pardons

                     Niall Ferguson: Empty gestures will do little to make war less monstrous [Commentary]

    Page Three

    Our Interview Series With Notable
    Great War Authors
    This Month Featuring AEF Historian
    Stephen L. Harris

    Stephen Harris
    Stephen Harris has just completed his third in a series of studies of regiments of the American Expeditionary Force having an association with New York City. His latest work features the Fighting 69th [165th Inf.; 42nd Rainbow Div.] and their beloved Chaplain, Father Francis Duffy. His earlier works studied the 107th Silk Stocking and 165th Harlem Hellfighters regiments.

    Some of Harlem's Finest Fighters Returning Home
    Click here to read our interview with Stephen.

    The Horror!

    By Dr. Esther MacCallum-Stewart

    Terry Deary's Horrible History series is a long running children's book sequence that threatens to give its reader 'history with the nasty bits left in'. Each book covers a period of British history with titles such as The Vicious Vikings, The Cut-Throat Celts and The Measly Middle Ages. The books are aimed at children aged 8-12 and tend to also coincide with the periods of history they may be being taught in schools as part of the National Curriculum. Each one contains a rough timeline, and a selection of gristly, puerile or simply odd facts about history, illustrated in by Martin Brown with cartoons, largely consisting of historical people expressing more facts, ideas or bad historical jokes.

    There is of course a version dedicated to World War One: The Frightful First World War. It claims to be 'So horrible that some boring old fogies think young people should not be told the whole, terrible truth'. This book came slightly late on in the series, when most other periods had been covered, and one can sense the hesitation about wanting to write what seems to be, on the surface, a flippant, cartoonish book about one of the most bloody (and indeed, truly horrible!) wars that has ever taken place.

    In fact, The Frightful First World War is one of the most interesting history books about the war that I have come across. Obviously, it is not particularly serious, but that's what makes it so interesting. It is also, like all of the other books in the series, ready to poke fun at almost anything it can. Finally, it professes to tell 'the whole, terrible truth', despite the fact that 'the truth is pretty nasty'.

    The Horrible History series has been a small godsend to schools and school libraries. By professing to tell the bits of history your teacher was afraid to, the books also throw in a good chunk of 'proper' history at the same time. Whilst readers learn the strange stories that soldiers told each other during the Battle of the Somme, they are also, of course, getting a good dollop of information about the Battle itself. What I like about the books is that although they show immense respect to the war, they do not sentimentalise it - either in terms of its horror or through literary visions. Indeed, the second page tells its readers the only way to understand it is by reading letters from people who were there.

    By Request!
    Without Hat
    At the same time, the fact that the book revels in telling readers that DORA made it illegal to whistle in the street after 10pm for a taxi, or that peeing on a sock was ordered as a preventative for early gas attacks, means that the war is presented as simply another historical period to be uncovered. The book, like so many other war books before it, professes to tell the 'truth'. However this time, it offers a series of facts which may be rather irreverent, but are nevertheless accurate. It does not tell the reader that they will never learn the truth, and the fact that it creates the overall impression that this is simply some of the history available also gives the reader the potential to go further. And finally, quite simply, the history in it is amusing, interesting, and often original.

    History has never been so horrible!

    Dr. Esther MacCallum-Stewart is a researcher at the University of Sussex and runs our favorite First World War weblog Break of Day in the Trenches.
    Click on the icon below to visit her site.

    The German Army on the Somme, 1914-1916

    Reviewed by Leonard Shurtleff
    Editor of Len's Bookshelf

    First published in 2005, this is a new look at one of The Great War's bloodiest campaigns, actually 12 battles extending over nearly five months from July to November 1916 and blending almost seamlessly into the ensuing Battle of the Ancre. More ink has probably been spilled in English on the Somme than on any other single campaign on the Western Front of 1914 to 1918. This time, however, the author examines the battles from the German point of view, drawing on surviving German archives and accounts. Each chapter is accompanied by detailed maps pinpointing the positions of the German units and participants whose recollections are quoted. This is a well-crafted monograph written by a former serving German-speaking officer, and based on solid scholarship.

    Sheldon adopts the style of Martin Middlebrook and Lyn Macdonald drawing heavily on the diaries and memoirs of German participants. He also includes useful appendices giving the German 1916 order of battle on the Somme, an explanation of German rank structure, a summary description of the organization and training of the conscript German Imperial Army of 1914 and its wartime evolution, as well as an essay on sources. Working chronologically, the author begins with a chapter outlining the shift from war of movement to static trench warfare in 1914, then traces the course of the 1916 battles and ends with analysis of the condition of the German Army as the battle wound down with both sides exhausted in October and November 1914.

    In all, the author sees the Somme battles as the beginning of the end of the German army in the West. German dead and wounded on the defensive nearly equaled those of the attacking BEF. The German high command can be faulted for maintaining an inflexible defense and for mounting repeated, costly and often unavailing counterattacks. Less able than the British to replace heavy casualties or train new recruits to the high standards of 1914 battleworthiness, Germany was after the Somme forced more and more to rely on desperate expedients such as unrestricted submarine warfare which simply contributed to ultimate defeat. On the other side, the BEF used the lessons of the Somme to improve its tactics and achieve in 1917 virtual parity with its adversaries and in 1918 victory in successive battles of attrition.

    The German Army on the Somme, 1914-1916, Jack Sheldon, Pen & Sword 2006, maps, appendices, bibliography, notes index, 432 pages, ISBN 1 84415 269 3, $31.50 cloth.

    Visit Len's Bookshelf for the Web's Largest List of WWI Books, Classics and New (link)

    Winsor McCay and the Sinking of the Lusitania

    By Andrew Melomet

    W. McCay
    Winsor McCay (1867-1934) is generally considered the greatest of the early animation filmmakers. J. Stuart Blackton's Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906) and Emile Cohl's Fantasmagorie (1908) preceded McCay's efforts. McCay's first cartoon was Little Nemo (1911) and this was the first animated film to feature newspaper-based comic-strip characters. McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland was a regular full page Sunday feature in the New York Herald.

    McCay was born on September 26, 1867. Accounts vary as to whether he was born in Canada or in Michigan. In any case, he grew up in Michigan and attended business school in Ypsilanti as teenager. During this time he took private art lessons from Professor John Goodison of Michigan State Normal (now Eastern Michigan University) and worked as a portrait artist in a dime museum. He worked in Chicago designing circus posters and then moved to Cincinnati where found work as a poster painter/publicist for the Vine Street Dime Museum, a permanent freak show in the city. He married fourteen-year-old Maude Leonore Dufour (1878-1949). Their son Robert was born in 1896 and their daughter Marion was born in 1897.

    In Cincinnati McCay was employed as an illustrator on the Commercial Tribune newspaper and the Cincinnati Enquirer where he in 1903 collaborated with George Randolph Chester (1969-1924) on creating a prototype comic page, A Tale of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle. Some of these early strips have recently been found and are in the collection of Ohio State University. He was then hired by the New York Herald where he worked on several comic strips before creating Little Sammy Sneeze and Dream of the Rarebit Fiend in 1904. His masterpiece, Little Nemo in Slumberland first appeared in 1905 and ran until 1911.

    On June 11, 1906 McCay began a vaudeville act as a quick sketch artist at Proctor's 23rd Street Theater in New York City. W.C. Fields was also on the bill. According to McCay at the orchestra rehearsal Bill Fields "reached into his bag and took out a bottle. . ."Here you are," he said offering me a haymaker. "A little scotch for my little Scotch friend. . ." The orchestra was playing my introductory music and I faintly heard the stage manager say, "You're on!" Bill clapped me on the back as I started for the entrance. "Lay 'em in the aisles, my little Scotch friend," he shouted after me." McCay's act was a success and he eventually performed it in vaudeville for the next decade.

    Little Nemo
    In October 1908, a Victor Herbert operetta Little Nemo based on McCay's comic strip opened in New York City. A post-Broadway tour began in January 1909 and ran until the winter of 1910. In April 1911, Vitagraph released McCay's first animated film Little Nemo. McCay would include a hand-colored film in his vaudeville act. In July 1911, McCay joined William Randolph Hearst's cartoon staff at the New York American. In 1912 McCay's second animated film, How a Mosquito Operates was completed and incorporated into his vaudeville act.

    In 1914, McCay's third animated film, Gertie the Dinosaur premiered in his vaudeville act at Chicago's Palace Theater. To animate Gertie McCay drew 10,000 images on rice paper. Each paper was mounted on cardboard and then the images where photographed a frame at a time. Gertie is considered to be the first cartoon with a storyline featuring a star with a personality. Gertie was a dinosaur with emotions that cried and danced and disobeyed. She interacted with McCay's commands and remarks during his vaudeville act. Audiences had never seen anything like it. It's a delightful cartoon and watching it reveals the origins of all the cartoon characters that have followed in Gertie's rather large footsteps.

    While on a summer vaudeville tour in Detroit in 1916, McCay revealed in an interview that he was working on a film which would show the sinking of the Lusitania. The Sinking of the Lusitania consists of 25,000 drawings produced on transparent celluloid "cels" instead of on rice paper. The "cel" technique allowed McCay to use the same backgrounds with redrawing each scene as had been done in Gertie. While more expensive than rice paper, using "cels" saved time and effort without sacrificing art. Even so, it took twenty-two months to complete and eight days to photograph the short film. As usual, McCay financed the film himself. It would net only $80,000 after years of theatrical distribution.

    The Sinking of the Lusitania was released on July 20, 1918 by Jewel Productions and was advertised as "the picture that will never have a competitor-will burn in your heart forever! Winsor McCay's Blood Stirring Pen Picture-the World's Only Record of the Crime that Shocked Humanity!"

    Lusitania Going Under the Waves
    There are some remarkable effects in this early masterpiece of propaganda. McCay uses his grasp of perspective as the ominous black conning tower of the U-20 grows in size as it approaches the camera. An underwater scene has two fish darting out of the way of the deadly torpedo. After the attack and subsequent explosion the twisting smoke coming from the funnels of the sinking liner billows out like gouts of spilled blood suggesting the destruction and horror within. The last image of a woman sinking beneath the sea trying to hold her baby up is still haunting. This type of artistic animated propaganda and dynamic camera angles would not be seen again until the Disney studio's work during World War II.

    McCay's contract with Hearst prevented him from further vaudeville tours and he spent the remaining years producing serious editorial cartoons for Hearst's newspapers. McCay did produce six more films using the "cel" technique. Three survive as fragments: The Centaurs, Flip's Circus and Gertie on Tour. The other three form the Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend series: Bug Vaudeville, The Pet and The Flying House.

    During World War I, McCay's son Robert and son-in-law Captain Raymond Moniz served in Europe with the 27th Division. Robert McCay was wounded, gassed and suffered from shell shock. He was awarded the British Military Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross. Raymond Moniz was promoted to major for his service with the AEF.

    Gertie on the Cover
    Winsor McCay died from a cerebral hemorrhage on July 26, 1934 in his home in Sheepshead Bay, New York. He is buried in Brooklyn's Evergreen Cemetery.

    Winsor McCay: The Master Edition is available on DVD from Milestone Film & Video. It includes all of McCay's existing films, the documentary Remembering Winsor McCay by John Canemaker and an extensive stills gallery. Canemaker also provides a very informative audio commentary on McCay's films. Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studios was released on DVD in 2002. It includes "The Story of the Animated Drawing" which recreates McCay's vaudeville act with Gertie.

    Andrew Melomet, Proprietor of Andy's Nickelodeon will answer your Great War film or video inquiry. He is also soliciting your recommendations for the WWI Filmography he is compiling for our readers. Just click HERE.

    The following are thanked for their contributions to this issue of the Trip Wire:Valerie Varos, Stephen Harris, Christina Holstein, Tony Noyes, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Nicoll Galbraith, Andy Melomet, Len Shurtleff and the highly informative CIA and Library of Congress Websites. 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, US Branch