On the morning of the ninth, I decided that we must open up a new avenue of evacuation, and started up to Beaumont through Nouart and Laneuville, along the Meuse, to see if the road was safe for ambulances. I warned my driver that we should probably have to run the gauntlet of some shelling on our way through Laneuville. As we emerged from some woods and came into clear view of the village and the river, I could see shells breaking on the road ahead, particularly where it curved to descend to the village. The enemy’s guns were on the heights across the river, about a thousand yards away.
There was no need to tell my driver to put on speed. He fairly stepped on the accelerator, and we raced at the corner. The road was strewn with broken branches and filled with craters, but these we took in our stride, and rounded the comer with no greater mishap than a couple of holes in the mud guards. We tore down into the village and out on the river road to the west, the shelling following us until we were out of observation in some
We followed the road up into Beaumont, and as a result of the reconnaisance I was able to evacuate wounded by this route after dark. It made a vast amount of difference, for the road was in excellent condition, except for several short stretches. The wounded went direct from Beaumont to the surgical hospital at Landreville.
I attempted that same afternoon to go back to Division Headquarters at Fosse by way of the dirt road running south from Beaumont, but returned because of a block. On my way back into the town I was held up by two ambulances, one of which was supplying the other with gas.
On the other side of the block was a battery of artillery, and riding at the head of it I recognized my brother-in-law, Kermit In the few moments of conversation that were permitted, we sounded one another on the possibility of an armistice, and both felt that it was very unlikely. When two days later it actually came, it was a good deal of a surprise.
I spent the night at Beaumont, and ordered Field Hospital One by telephone to move up to that town. Beaumont was but two kilometers from the river, but a dip of the land protected it from direct observation, and it had only been subjected to desultory shellng. There was a goodsized church and a theater, both of which lent themselves for use as a hospital.
Early on the morning of the eleventh I was sitting in the office of G3, writing out an order for some medical supplies to send to the rear, when the telephone rang, and the sergeant answering it announced that an armistice would go into effect at eleven o’clock that morning. A general telephone alarm had been sent out transmitting this message. I was completely stunned by the news, for while there had been persistent talk during the past few days that an armistice was imminent, I had not the slightest conception that it would actually occur. At twenty minutes of nine came official confirmation of the fact.
It was incredible that what had come to be our everyday life was thus suddenly to end. It was impossible at once to adapt oneself to the idea that there would no longer be a line of enemy out ahead as intent to kill you as you to kill them.
It was with thoughts like these pursuing one another through my mind that I jumped into my car, taking with me Boone and the Division Chaplain, and started for Beaumont. We went up by the river road through Laneuville, and where two days before I had run the gauntlet passing through the village, now all was peace and quiet. The stillness was oppressive.
The church at Beaumont was filled with casualties suffered during the crossing of the river, early that morning. As I moved about among them, talking to the men and watching the dressings, the church was suddenly filled with the peals of the organ, and under the leadership of Boone from the organ loft, we joined in the singing of “America.”
With the dying strains of the music, at a few minutes after eleven o’clock that November morning, the war became an incident of past history.
Excerpted from Wade In, Sanitary! by LtCol Richard Derby, Medical Corps, Second Division, AEF. (NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1919). Dr. Derby was married to Ethel Roosevelt, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt,
. . . Later that spring, on Memorial Day,
her father and other veterans marched
the length of a cedar-lined path to pay
respects to the local fallen. She thrilled
at how stern he appeared among the men,
at how smartly he bore himself, unmatched
in the curt retort and snap of his drill.
She shuddered to hear the synchronized crack
of volleys fired again and again
from a line of rifles slanted above
the white wooden cross of a soldier’s grave.
Observing the set of her father’s face,
like statuary, she pondered the lack
of expression, the marble stare into space.
—– Excerpted from the poem “Her Father’s War” by BJ Omanson, from his collection, Stark County Poems: War and the Depression come to Spoon River. “Her Father’s War” was first published in The Sewanee Review; later reprinted in Sparrow: A Yearbook of the Sonnet.
On this date, one hundred years ago— April 25, 1915— the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign opened (after a failed British and French naval assault) with a badly botched Allied landing on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Dardanelles strait, the objective of which was the capture of Constantinople. Against all odds, as they were exposed to expert Turkish artillery and machine gun fire, and were never adequately supplied, the tenacious British, Australian and New Zealand troops managed to hold on to their tiny beachhead for over eight months, before they were finally evacuated. In all that time, they were never able to make any significant advance against the Turkish defenders, though each side inflicted approximately a quarter-million casualties on the other.
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The Gallipoli Campaign. Wikipedia.
Gallipoli Centenary Research Project: Researching Gallipoli in the Turkish Military Archives. Macquarie University.
24 April 1915: Turkish government begins systematic extermination of Armenians with the arrest of 250 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople. The program of extermination will continue through the duration of the war and afterwards. The majority of able-bodied males will be executed or detained in forced labor camps. Women, children and the elderly will be forcibly marched hundreds of miles into the Syrian desert, while deprived of food and water and subjected to robbery, rape and murder along the way. From one million to one and a half million Armenians will die as a result of Turkish actions during this time.
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Many of the photographs in Army Nurse Edith MacDonald’s scrapbook (see The Scrapbook of an American Army Nurse in WWI: Part One), are of her colleagues (other nurses and medical officers) and her patients. Fortunately, most of these are labeled with names but, unfortunately, with few additional details. Moreover, many of the photos are in soft focus, making visual recognition difficult.
Nonetheless, publishing these pictures and names may prove worthwhile, if any of them are recognized by their families. If anyone can shed light on any of these individuals, please do not hesitate to leave comments and information. In this way, little by little, the history of Base Hospital 115, from the perspectives both of staff and patients, may be modestly expanded.
One hundred years ago, by the Spring of 1915, a full two years before America’s declaration of war against Germany, hundreds of young American men were already serving in or near the front lines— as infantrymen in the French Foreign Legion, as aviators in the Lafayette Flying Corps or Lafayette Escadrille, or as ambulance drivers with the American Field Service. These young men, many of them Ivy Leaguers from Harvard, Yale and Princeton, and other top universities, joined up of their own accord and at their own expense, putting their lives on hold for several years, for the privilege of defending someone else’s country. Their motives were both idealistic and personal, involving a love of French culture and the French generally, a hatred for what they saw as Teutonic militarism and aggression, and a degree of shame and impatience toward their own country, for failing to rise to what they saw as its moral responsibility to take its rightful place in the European War.
Though few in number, their influence on America’s decision finally to intervene in the war was significant. These young men were greatly admired in the United States and, because so many of them were from influential families and very well-connected, their letters home and articles in magazines, and the dashing figures they cut in the press, not only caught the popular imagination, but captured the attention of politicians and statesmen as well.
Yet today, a hundred years on, the American Volunteers are little remembered. I doubt that you will find even a passing mention of them in any American textbook.
For such reasons, it seems fitting to begin filling that void now, a hundred years on, one individual at a time. All the American Volunteers deserve to be remembered, but most of all those who died in the war, often before they could know that their sacrifice would prove instrumental in persuading their countrymen to rise to the occasion, and take up arms— or bandages— in the defense of France.
As often as time and opportunity permit, over the next three years, photographs and brief obituaries of individual Volunteers will appear here, beginning with three this evening, from the American Field Service, the French Service Aeronautique and the French Foreign Legion.
Born February is 1887, in Orange New Jersey. Son of Robert Bowne and Elizabeth Montgomery Suckley. Home, Rhinebeck, New York. Educated abroad, Phillips Academy, Exeter, and Harvard University, Class of 1910. In business, New York City. joined American Field Service, February 12, 1915; attached Section Three; Sous-chef, May, 1915 to September, 1916. Recruited for Field Service, in America, September to November, Commandant Adjoint Section Ten, November, 1916. Croix de Guerre. To the Balkans. Wounded by avion bombs , March 18, at Zemlak. Died March 19, 1917, at Koritza, Albania. Buried in Koritza.
Speaking by his grave the senior French officer present said: “Henry Suckley always joined to the highest qualities of a leader the humble patience of a soldier, believing that the best way to obtain obedience was himself to set an example in everything.”
And one of the directors of the Field Service wrote when he heard of his death: “Of the many hundreds of Americans who have come and gone in this organization, he was one of the three or four on whom we depended the most and who was the most liked and trusted by those who worked with him or for him.”
Born July 23, 1895, in Orange, New Jersey. Son of Heman and Mary Loveland Dowd. Educated Asheville School, North Carolina, and Princeton University, Class of 1918. Plattsburg Camp, 1916. Joined American Field Service, November 11, 1916; attached Section One to May 3, 1917. Enlisted French Aviation, May 14th. Trained Avord and Pau. Attached French Escadrille guarding Paris, Sergent. Spad Escadrilles 152 and 162 to February 17, 1918. Transferred U. S. Aviation. Commissioned Second Lieutenant, April, 1918; attached 147th Aero Squadron. Killed in combat, October 26, 1918, near Dannevoux, north of Verdun. Distinguished Service Cross. Buried Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, Meuse. Remains later removed to the Lafayette Flying Corps Memorial near St. Cloud.
On October 26th, 1918, Dowd and three others of 147th Squadron were ordered to patrol the lines, but he was delayed on account of engine trouble and his companions got off without him. He decided to follow and continued alone to the adventure that was to be his last. His commanding officer, Captain James A. Meissner, filed the following official report which was later used as a basis for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross:
“Lieutenant Meredith L. Dowd, A. S., U. S. A. went on patrol over the lines on the afternoon of October 26, 1918, at about two o’clock. Over the Bois de Dannevoux he observed four German planes. According to the statement of Private M. M. Buckland, 305th Trench Mortar Battery, 80th Division, who saw the combat, Lieutenant Dowd first showed his markings to the planes as if they were Allied planes. As they did not answer his signal be attacked them immediately. The second time he attacked, one plane left the formation and headed for Germany. Lieutenant Dowd attacked the remaining planes three times, but the last time he drove on the formation, the plane which he had first driven off returned above him and shot him down. He fell in a steep dive and was dead when found by the French.”
HENRY WESTON FARNSWORTH
“… One young American volunteer in the Foreign Legion was killed in the battle for the Fortin de Navarin at the end of September, 1915. He was Henry Weston Farnsworth, of Dedham, Massachusetts, a graduate of Groton and of Harvard, of the class of 1912. His tastes were bookish, musical and artistic. Burton, Dostoievski, Tolstoi, Gogol, Ibsen and Balzac were favorites with him, although his studies in literature covered a much wider field—the English classics as well as the modern continental writers. After he was graduated he spent the summer in Europe; visiting Vienna, Budapesth, Constantinople, Odessa, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, revelling in the historical associations, the art collections and the music of these cities, and making odd friends here and there, as was his wont, and studying the people.
When the European War broke out Farnsworth was in the city of Mexico, whither he had gone when the United States Government sent troops to Vera Cruz. In the meantime he had had some experience as a newspaper correspondent and reporter for the Providence Journal and had published a book, “The Log of a Would-be War Correspondent,” describing his experiences and observations in the Balkan War in the autumn of 1912, the fascination of which he could not resist. Returning home from Mexico, he sailed for England in October, 1914, with no intention of taking active part in the war, but with the desire to become an onlooker, in the hope that he might write something about the great conflict that would be worth while. The air of London and Paris was full of military projects, and he was tempted in various directions. Finally, after a period of hesitation and uncertainty, he entered the Foreign Legion early in January.
In course of time Farnsworth’s regiment was moved to the front in northern France, and early in March he was writing from the trenches. The sector was quiet and little of importance happened except an occasional bombardment or some desultory rifle firing. He was often on night patrol in No Man’s Land. In one of these night expeditions Farnsworth and his companions succeeded in sticking some French newspapers announcing Italy’s declaration of war on the barbed wire in front of the German trenches. Pleased with their enterprise, their captain gave seven of them twenty francs for a fête.
In August Farnsworth’s regiment was in Alsace. In September, however, it was on the march and took part in the bloody battle in Champagne toward the end of the month. His last letter was dated September 16, 1915. He was killed in the charge that his battalion made on the 28th, before the Fortin de Navarin.
The Farnsworth Room in the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard, a large room for the leisurely reading of such standard books as Henry Farnsworth loved, was handsomely supplied with books, pictures and furniture by Mr. and Mrs. William Farnsworth, in memory of their son.”
~~ Edwin W. Morse
Gordon, Dennis. The Lafayette Flying Corps: The American Volunteers in the French Air Service in World War One. (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2000).
Morse, Edwin W. The Vanguard of American Volunteers (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918).
Seymour, James William Davenport, ed. Memorial Volume of the American Field Service in France, “Friends of France,” 1914-1917 (Boston: American Field Service, 1921).