Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers

Before the age of email, instant messaging, texting, and even mass phone calls, communication from families to soldiers was much more difficult, as this 1917 article details:

“The time when the soldiers from the firing line did not get the home mail they were hoping for came at the end of one of the eighteen-day periods in which it was impossible to send any mail from America because there were no ships going over. There have been two such periods since our troops arrived in France.”

That was during World War I. My maternal grandfather delivered mail to the troops during the Korean War several decades later, and even then there were complications delivering the mail. Today, as you can imagine, the situation is significantly easier.

Interestingly, another excerpt from the article reveals the discrepancy between inbound and outbound letters: 450,000 letters per week to the troops, but only 376,000 letters per month from them — almost five times as many letters to the troops as from them.

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers: Every Week 450,000 Letters Go to France, and Lack of Ships Has Complicated the Postal Problem — Cantonment Service Systematized (PDF)

From Sunday, November 18, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 16th, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Posted in War

Why Stocks Tumbled in 1917 and Rose in 2017

In November 1917, the prices of most stocks were between 20 and 70 percent below where they had stood a year before. The plummet was so steep that rumors abounded that the Stock Exchange would be entirely shut down, permanently.

This article from the time interviewed former Director of the U.S. Mint George E. Roberts for his analysis of the stock market’s plummet. He laid the blame at four causes, quoting directly:

1.) The demands of the Liberty Loan. Every one [sic] has subscribed or has pledged to subscribe about all the spare cash he can must for the coming few months.

2.) The collateral demands of the war, the Red Cross, the hundred and one charities which reach forth on every hand to waylay the pocketbook.

3.) The vast needs for new and quick industrial investments to meet the munition and supply demands of the war.

4.) The uncertainty of the immediate future. Those who have available cash hesitate to invest it in stocks or bonds, even at the present ridiculously low prices. They would rather wait a bit and see what the Winter brings forth.

The market eventually self-corrected. In fact, if you had invested $1,000 in Coca-Cola stock during its original 1919 initial public offering, two years after this article was published, that stock would be worth $9.8 million today.

A century later in 2017, the opposite question is being asked: why does the stock market keep going up? Derek Thompson of The Atlantic recently wrote an excellent article analyzing this question after the Dow reached a new record high.

Thompson, like Roberts a century before him, laid out three or four reasons for the stock market’s performance:

1. It’s simple: Corporations everywhere are making a bunch of money.

2. A1 chaos doesn’t drive the business cycle.

3. There aren’t many obvious signs of bubbles, or causes for imminent corrections.

Thompson’s reason #2 in particular on its face may seem to contradict Roberts in 1917, since Roberts’ theory was that the page-A1 chaos of the time — namely World War I — was exactly what was driving the business cycle.

Then again, WWI truly consumed everything about the economy, politics, culture, and life. By contrast, Trump’s headline-driving tweet of the day usually generates more of a “Wasn’t that interesting?” response (or “Wasn’t that terrifying?” depending on who you ask) rather than proving transformative to the markets.

Usually… but not always. After Trump tweeted attacking their respective companies, Amazon’s stock market value dropped $5 billionBoeing dropped $550 million, and Toyota lost $1.2 billion in five minutes.

Why Stocks Tumbled: No Business Panic and No Prospect of One, Says George E. Roberts, Banker — Wartime Causes of Low Prices (PDF)

From Sunday, November 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 8th, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Business,War

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp

Decades before the USO tours started in 1941, a prototype version called the Liberty Theaters was started in 1917.

Marc Klaw, a member of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, was tasked with building 16 such theaters for up to 600,000 soldiers to view. “We will have eight companies on the road all the time, four dramatic and four vaudeville,” Klaw said. “Plays will be up to date, and only first-class performers will be engaged.” Irving Berlin was one of the first performers to sign up.

The modern version, the USO, has 160 locations around the world and has entertained an estimated 75 million Americans throughout its history.

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp: Soldiers in the Cantonments Will See Best Plays and Leading American Actors Each Week — Highest Ticket PRice Twenty-five Cents (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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Written by Jesse

November 3rd, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Theater,War

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army

If soldiers in WWI thought the Axis Powers were scary, they had nothing on chlamydia.

During the war, the U.S. military lost more than 7 million “person-days” and were forced to discharge more than 10,000 men due to sexually transmitted diseases.

Mere months into the war, top official realized this could become a serious problem. William H. Zinsser, Chairman of Council of National Defense’s Sub-Committee for Civilian Cooperation in Combatting Venereal Diseases, said:

 “One nation, during the first year and a half of war, lost the services of more men through venereal disease than through death or wounds in battle. One regiment which participated in a furious attack in Northern France was sent back of the lines to recuperate, and there joined another regiment which had been encamped behind the front for some time and had seen no actual fighting at all. Will you believe that the latter regiment, the one that had not been in action, had lost the services of more men through venereal disease during its stay behind the lines than the one back from the firing line had lost in the attack?”

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army: For the First Time in History a Nation Takes Advance Steps to Avert an Evil Worse Than Battle Casualties (PDF)

From Sunday, October 28, 1917

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October 27th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Health,War

Immigration Tide May Turn from West to East

 

As this 1917 article correctly predicted, many European immigrants to the U.S. later moved back to Europe after the conclusion of World War I. By some estimates, that number was almost one-third of European immigrants to America. However, “relatively few” German-Americans returned back to Germany.

Immigration Tide May Turn From West to East: Millions of Our Foreign-Born Citizens Planning to Return to Europe After the War, Says Commissioner Frederic C. Howe (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 13th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Development,Life,War

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War

How should schools change their curricula during wartime? During WWI, New York State Education Commissioner John H. Finley attempted to answer that question.

“There is a twofold obligation on the teacher. First, it is essential that we defend the intellectual frontiers of our democracy. We must “dig ourselves into” their trenches and hold them. Second, the schools, public and private, teachers and pupils alike, must take an active part in helping the nation in the fight.”

Today, civics education in schools is on the decline — arguably during a period where Americans need it more than ever.

Finley defended the importance of schools amid a time of war, when others might suggest limiting education budgets or other similar measures in order to invest almost solely in the military:

“There are approximately as many teachers in the State of New York as there are New York men in the first contingent of the National Army; a teacher in the army of future defense for every soldier in the army of present defense. And what an army this is; this unseen mighty army which is helping to make a democracy worth saving by the other army! We who must remain at our posts of future defense cannot let these momentous days in the world’s history pass without doing our part to help bring in our own day that peace which will make the world a safe place hereafter for those whom we teach.”

Stirring words indeed.

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War: New York State Sets Example in Encouraging Teaches to Inform Pupils About America’s Aims — Lineup of the Colleges (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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Written by Jesse

October 12th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Education,War

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing

The War Department (later renamed the Defense Department) in 1916 placed “song leaders” in the training camps for the military. Why?

“‘A songless army,’ says Major Gen. J. Franklin Bell, commander of Camp Upton, ‘would lack in the fighting spirit in proportion as it lacked responsiveness to music. There is no more potent force in developing unity in an army than in that of song.'”

We eventually won World War I, though it’s hard to say how much if anything song had to do with that. Still — from “cadence calls” that cadets sing out in time to their steps as they go on runs, to USO tours which bring popular music performers to entertain the troops overseas, music has always played a part in the U.S. military.

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing: Organized Work Being Done Under Experienced Leaders in Camps All Over the Country — Difficulties of a Song Leader’s Job (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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Written by Jesse

September 30th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Music,War

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations

In one of the best examples of backhanded compliments ever, George MacAdam wrote in 1917:

“Women make good soldiers? Why not? Women are a great deal more combative than men. If you don’t believe me, ask any married man. A fighting woman is by long odds fiercer than a fighting man. If women had the physical strength and could be disciplined — (make a note of that) AND COULD BE DISCIPLINED — they would dominate the earth.”

President Obama allowed women in combat roles in 2013. Some predict that President Trump could reverse and once again ban women from combat roles, though he currently has yet to do so. (Although some fear Trump reversal of Obama’s policy allowing transgender soldiers could be an opening salvo.)

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations (PDF)

From Sunday, September 2, 1917

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Written by Jesse

August 30th, 2017 at 11:34 am

Posted in Debate,War

Tremendous Cost of War to the United States

Federal expenditures multiplied more than 10-fold after America entered World War I.

Even then, though, the drastically increased spending was still far less when adjusted for inflation than the federal government spends today. The 1917 spending was about $10.73 billion, which would be about $205.3 billion today. But this fiscal year will spend about $4.14 trillion, or about 20 times what we were spending in 1917.

Still, it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison.Three of the four biggest drivers of modern-day federal spending are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — none of which existed back in 1917.

 

Tremendous Cost of War to the United States: Estimate of the Total Expenditures for Year Ending Next June IS $10,735,807,000 — Last Year’s Outlay Was $1,041,635,116 (PDF)

From Sunday, August 26, 1917

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Written by Jesse

August 24th, 2017 at 11:39 am

Systematic Selection of Cooks for New Army

Once the draft was instituted for World War I in May 1917, the number of men in the American armed forces increased dramatically, prompting a comparably large percentage rise that you might not have even thought of: chefs.

It was said, without exaggeration, that “the honor of the profession was at stake.”

“M. Auguste Gay, chef of the Yale Club, and President of the Chefs de Cuisine, presided and told the men that the honor of the profession was at stake, that the crux of the situation was in their hands. He explained at length what an ill-fed army meant, how the health of the soldiers could not be trusted to raw recruits, who had never come nearer the kitchen than to inquire whether dinner was ready.”

The modern-day MRE — Meal Ready to Eat — consumed by American military personnel was not introduced in its modern-day form until 1963.

Systematic Selection of Cooks for New Army: Under Leadership of a New York Hotel Proprietor They Are Being Put Through Searching Tests by Competent City Chefs (PDF)

From Sunday, August 26, 1917

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Written by Jesse

August 23rd, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Life,War

Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front

Soldiers in boot camp preparing for entry into World War I had to confront a relatively new invention: poison gas. As this BBC World Service article notes, the first major gas attack ever used in warfare took place in January 1915, but actually killed comparatively few soldiers relative to the amount of fear it spread.

Still, soldiers had to be prepared:

“Gas also has become a contingency to which men must be accustomed during their training… They are passed through a dugout filled with asphyxiating gas, and the efficiency of the apparatus with which they are supplied is practically demonstrated. Gas is more dangerous to the morale of the troops than to their actual safety, and this demonstration of its harmlessness, if the right steps are taken to counteract it, through which every man going to the front must pass, does much to disarm the gas attack of its worst terrors.”

Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front: Outline of British Methods Shows How the American Soldiers Are Being Taught — Trenches Flooded With Gas for Practice (PDF)

From Sunday, August 5, 1917

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August 4th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in War

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business

Although we now usually associate the phrase “draft dodger” with Vietnam avoiders going to Canada, the phenomenon occurred on a lesser scale during World War I as well. (Though far less frequently, given the almost unanimous American support and patriotism for the war effort.)

This article on the subject begins in the second-person, being addressed to “you” — a form of writing almost entire unseen in the pages of the New York Times during this ear.

“A word with you, Mr. Would-Be Slacker. If you’re thinking of trying to dodge the selective draft by pretending physical disability when you get before the local examination board, here’s a bit of advice: Don’t. Since you are Mr. Would-Be Slacker there is no use preaching patriotism to you. But here is something that will influence you: If you try to dodge the draft and are caught, there is a heavy penalty, both fine and imprisonment; and you’re almost sure to get caught.”

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business: Scientific Methods for Detecting Malingerers Who Pretend Ailments of Eyes, Ears or Muscles (PDF)

From Sunday, July 29, 2017

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July 28th, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Health,War

‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as Nation’s Anthem

The Francis Scott Key song, though written in 1814, was not fully recognized as the American national anthem until patriotic fervor struck upon involvement in World War I in 1917. The Star-Spangled Banner would not be officially declared as the American national anthem until 1931, and would not even be played at a sports game for the first time until 1918.

As this article notes: “No theater audiences stood while it was being played in 1898, and, in fact, the general disposition at that period, at least in the Northeastern part of the United States, was to elevate ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,’ to the place of honor.”

I can personally attest that being the singer for the national anthem before a sports game, as this column I wrote for my college newspaper years ago recounts:

‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as Nation’s Anthem: Only Since the Present War Against Germany Began Has It Been Generally Recognized — The Real Story of Its Origin (PDF)

From Sunday, July 15, 1917

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Written by Jesse

July 19th, 2017 at 7:31 am

Posted in History,Music,War

Professor Blames Beer for German Outrages

What was causing German atrocities during World War I? Harvard geology professor Reginald Aldworth Daly suggested a largely-unheralded factor may have been alcohol:

“The Germanic peoples are the only great group who feed alcohol to the babies or very young children of middle and upper classes. Just at the time of life when the nervous system should be specially protected against all poisons, vast numbers of German children are kept mildly charged with alcohol. If the baby has not already been prenatally damaged because of the beer drunk by his mother, he still runs the risk of poisoning from the alcohol-bearing milk of a drinking mother or wetnurse. The child grows to manhood, drinking alcohol and continually handicapped in his development of cerebral, and therefore moral, control.”

Daly concludes with a quote from von Moltke: “Beer is a far more dangerous enemy to Germany than all the armies of France.”

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, Germany today still ranks among the biggest alcohol-consuming nations in the world, with an average 11.4 liters of alcohol consumed per capita, for citizens age 15 or older. The global average is 6.4. The U.S. number is 9.3. Highest in the world is Lithuania at 18.2.

Professor Blames Beer for German Outrages: Cumulative Effect of “Mildly Alcoholic State” on the Minds of Men Who Have Imbibed National Drink Since Babyhood (PDF)

From Sunday, July 1, 1917

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Written by Jesse

July 2nd, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Health,Life,War

Orville Wright Says 10,000 Airplanes Would End the War Within Ten Weeks

Less than 14 years after Orville Wright became the first human being to ever take flight in an airplane, he had lived to see his invention was being used in World War I, the first major war to utilize the technology en masse. (His brother and co-inventor Wilbur Wright had passed away in 1912.)

In this article, Wright predicted that “10,000 airplanes [used by the U.S.] would end the war within ten weeks.” Alas, that prediction proved overly optimistic. The war continued for several more years despite U.S. manufacturers producing 12,000 airplanes per year.

Orville Wright Says 10,000 Airplanes Would End the War Within Ten Weeks: Building a Vast Aerial Fleet Is “the One Thing That the United States Can Do and Do Quickly” – Our Plants Equal to the Task (PDF)

From Sunday, July 1, 1917

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July 2nd, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Technology,War

Making Middle-Aged Men Fit to Help in War

The unprecedented manpower required for World War I fighting forces provoked worries that those men older than 45 might be required to fight, in a way that was previously unthinkable. Yale’s Mentor of Athletics Walter Camp suggested that “Each man should so order his own life as to put himself into proper physical condition.”

“At the bottom of his heart every man who feels the urge of his manhood wants to have an actual part in the actual game. He may be doing his full share in a dozen different ways, his services may be infinitely more valuable along civilian lines than they could be on the tented field, and yet the supreme call may come and he wants to be ready to answer. In the final clash, in the ultimate onslaught of the enemies of civilization, it is the reserves that will count, yes, even to the very last man. And you or I may be that man.”

In other words, get those jumping jacks in.

Making Middle-Aged Men Fit to Help in War: Walter Camp Urges Plan of Moderate Physical Training, on the Plea That Americans Over 45 Years Old May Yet Be Needed (PDF)

From Sunday, June 24, 1917

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June 21st, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Health,War

What the New Army Expects of Its Chaplains

As American involvement in World War I escalated dramatically, more and more chaplains were needed to provide religious guidance and support for soldiers.

“There are now sixty-six chaplains appointed to the regular army, representing every Christian denomination. The scheme of the General Staff for the new army provides one Chaplain with every new regiment ordered. This will mean that in six months, at the latest, about 300 clergymen will be called from their parishes to work with American troops at home and abroad.”

You may not think of chaplains when they think of Americans deployed overseas in wartime, but 23 chaplains died during World War I while on active duty.

As for the reference to chaplains “representing every Christian denomination,” the first Buddhist chaplain was added in 2004 and the first Hindu chaplain in 2011. An effort to install the first atheist chaplain in 2015 was rejected by military lawyers, in a controversial decision.

What the New Army Expects of Its Chaplains: One of Them Outlines His Views Based Upon Years of Experience with Regulars — Preaching Only a Part of the Duties (PDF)

From Sunday, June 17, 1917

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June 17th, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Religion,War

Part Played by Doctors in Time of World War

Two years after this was published, Charles Mayo would found the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota-based nonprofit medical research center that is ranked was the best hospital in the nation last year by U.S. News and World Report. In 1917, though, he was the president of the American Medical Association. He had some thoughts on the role that doctors and the medical profession could play in World War I.

The benefit to our country after the present war in having some thousands of medical officers trained in sanitation, hygiene, and the prevention of disease will be incalculable. Through lax examinations of recruits and the natural effects of prolonged living and overcrowding in trenches and underground structures, tuberculosis will become a menace to our soldiers, as it is today in France.

The present war is one of remarkable proportions, and the medical service has assumed an importance such as it never had before. The old army hospital gangrene is a thing of the past. A knowledge of the care of infections, prevention of tetanus, vaccination for smallpox and typhoid, the cause and prevention of typhus, the old camp fever, also cholera, the plague, and fevers of all sorts, including the new trench form, is a training requirement of the army medical officers, and results in the restoration to duty of a high percentage of the injured.

Fortunately, smallpox has been eradicated from the earth. Other suggestions that Mayo mentioned in the article, such as changing the age at which an M.D. is received from 29 to 25 because “death overtakes the average physician at the age of fifty-eight” have not quite come to pass.

Part Played by Doctors in Time of World War: Dr. Charles H. Mayo’s Address on Country’s Educational Requirements, Prohibition, and Need of Physician in the Cabinet (PDF)

From Sunday, June 10, 1917

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Written by Jesse

June 7th, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Health,War

Ranks of Outdoor Sport Are Thinned by War

World War I was preventing athletic competitions from occurring as they normally would:

“For the first time in forty-one years the intercollegiate games, in which all the larger college teams of the East and many from the West have been participants, have been abandoned because of the fact that more than a thousand of the students who would under normal conditions have been training for the sports have either left college for the preliminary training camps or have given up athletics for the military drill which monopolizes the athletic fields. For the first time since the close of the war between the States there will be no big college regattas, nor any national rowing regatta. National golf and tennis championships have been declared off, either for good and sufficient sentimental reasons or because of ‘unnecessary hysteria’ over the sporting situation, as some of the followers of these sports declare.”

Read the mesmerizing Sports Illustrated cover story “The Week That Sports Stood Still” from their first issue after 9/11 for a more contemporary example of the same phenomenon.

Ranks of Outdoor Sport Are Thinned by War: Athletic Leaders in Camp, and Colleges Cancel Dates, But Government Is Trying to Prevent Stoppage of Healthful Recreations (PDF)

From Sunday, June 3, 1917

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June 2nd, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Sports,War

Marconi on the War Needs and Ideals of Italy

 

Guglielmo Marconi — in the above article given the Americanized first name William — invented the radio in 1895. Although it took a bit more time for the technology to become widespread and used en masse by the public, it had already earned him the Nobel Prize by 1909 and household name recognition by this article’s publication in 1917. In a fascinating story, Marconi was originally supposed to be on board the Titanic in 1912.

In this article, Marconi — by this point an Italian Senator — offers his thoughts on Italy and the war. Among other things, he explains why Italy’s original August 1914 declaration of neutrality could no longer stand, why Italy’s terrain and geography made it “the most difficult front in Europe,” and why Italians were forced to adopt two meatless days a week.

Marconi on the War Needs and Ideals of Italy: Wireless Telegraph Inventor Tells How America Can Help His Country — He Thinks Submarine Problem Still Unsolved (PDF)

From Sunday, June 3, 1917

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Written by Jesse

June 1st, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Technology,War