John Allan Wyeth and the British War Poets: A Preliminary Comparison

2d Lt John Allan Wyeth

The most memorable poems of the First World War were, among other things, testaments to the catastrophic effects of war on the individual psyche. For all the shocking explicitness of their naturalism, they remained deeply subjective. In that sense, they were the literary correlatives of German Expressionist paintings: expressions of personal horror with a public purpose: to serve up slices of rank Flanders mud on the dinnerplates of the complacent bourgeoisie at home, between the carrots and choice cuts of beef. Such paintings and poems, nurtured by a suppressed festering rage, shook the homefront to the core.

So all-consuming was the day-to-day scrabble to survive in the bestial setting of the trenches that a broader, more objective perspective was out of the question. Unlike the greatest novels of the war, which did not appear until a decade after the fighting, the greatest war poems—by Sassoon, Owen, Rosenberg and Gurney, to name the most obvious—were written during the war itself. That they were written at all under such conditions, let alone with such originality and artistry by poets still in their youth, is little short of a miracle.

The Great War has been described as the burial ground of whatever vestiges remained of Romanticism, and the major poets of that war have been rightly credited with purging the language of its last romantic trappings. Yet, from the long vantage of a century, the poets themselves increasingly appear as Romantic figures in their own right: as individuals of obdurate defiance, refusing obliteration, emerging against all probability from the vast, inchoate backdrop of modern warfare. Whatever their services to the language of Modernism, the more permanent value of such poets lies in their irreducible individuality in the face of impersonal, all-consuming war—in their embodiment of the inextinguishable human spirit.

This paradigm, however, will not aid us toward an appreciation of John Allan Wyeth. Whatever anger or anguish his poems contain is so subdued as to be invisible, while his personality is constrained to the point of sublimation. He is in no sense a Romantic figure of defiance, or singular voice of anguish. What we find in Wyeth is an acute observer with the trained eye and ear of a intelligence officer who is also steeped in the arts and humanities. He is able to maintain a cooler, more objective perspective precisely because he is not in the thick of the fighting, and is never in the trenches. We do not go to Wyeth for memorable expressions of bitterness in the face of annihilation, but for perspective and precise detail, for subtlety and nuance. Such qualities, combined with a sophisticated mastery of form and technique, place Wyeth in a category all his own. They also go a long way toward explaining the eight decades of Wyeth’s neglect. Compared especially to Owen and Sassoon’s poetry of compressed outrage, Wyeth’s sonnets, for all their technical virtuosity, draw little attention to themselves. Even in their frank descriptions of destruction and death, they are coolly accurate and detached. There is irony, to be sure, and a good bit of humor in the overheard exchanges between enlisted men, but Wyeth’s sonnets, even at their bleakest, never grab the reader by the throat. 

By the time of Wyeth’s appearance in 1928, the canon of war poetry was more or less fixed. It was profoundly tragic and profoundly moving, the bitter fruit of four interminable years in the trenches. By comparison, the poetry of Johnny-come-lately Americans, who had seen six months of fighting at most, with none of it in the trenches, was vapid. This view of the difference between British and American war poets was all but unshakeable, because it was very largely the truth. No newly-discovered book of war poems by an American, especially one written ten years after the war, was going to change it. Wyeth’s sonnets never got the attention they deserved because their timing was all wrong. The British poets had seen a longer, grimier and more horrific war than any of their American peers, and by 1928 they had effectively said all there was to say on the subject. By 1928, no one was listening.

It was different for the novelists, because novels take longer to germinate and mature, and the greatest novels of the war all came out at about this time. No one expected great novels during the war. They may not have expected great poetry either, but from Sassoon and Owen they got it all the same. The biographies of both poets enhanced the effect. Owen’s courage under fire, for which he would posthumously be awarded the Military Cross, and his death in action just days before the Armistice— Sassoon’s single-handed raid against an occupied trench, his very public condemnation of the war effort, and his subsequent confinement in a psychiatric hospital (where he and Owen first met), lifted both poets into legend. The poets who came after them could not hope to measure up. The poems of Sassoon and Owen redefined war literature so fundamentally that no work to follow could escape comparison. The very criteria for evaluating war literature had been reset, and by such criteria Wyeth’s poems merited only scant notice—which is exactly what they received.

The first important critic to take notice of Wyeth, Dana Gioia, concentrated on the modernist aspects of Wyeth’s technique. Whether Wyeth proves significant in the history of modernist poetics is yet to be determined, but none of the established war poets has any prominence as a modernist. The first generation of modernist poets were all older, and all on the homefront during the war. The war poets themselves were consumed by the war just as they were coming of age. None of them had the leisure to pursue the major aesthetic questions of the day, and those who survived the war evinced little interest in the abstract issues of modernism which had so preoccupied the previous generation of Eliot, Pound and Yeats, or the up-and-coming generation of Auden and his circle. The British war poets—who were all essentially Georgians—were concerned with simpler, more basic verities, and their poetry was therefore more conservative and traditional. They had aged beyond their years, or been broken entirely. They were concerned with recovery and restoration, with salvaging what they could of the world as it had been before the cataclysm. Having endured battles of flesh and blood at inconceivable cost, they left the abstract battles of aesthetics to others.

Wyeth, as an American, came late to the war, and—shielded by his position on the general staff—escaped the sort of damage suffered by so many of his British compatriots. Yet he was far from a mere desk jockey. As a courier delivering intelligence to front-line units, he came close enough to endure aerial bombardment and shellfire, and to have his eyes singed by gas. On one occasion, within range of machine gun and artillery fire, he led a group of casualties to a field station across broken country in the darkness. As division interpreter, intelligence officer and courier, Wyeth saw his share of the war at first hand, as well as behind the scenes, and comprehended it more acutely than most.

Wyeth was an astute witness. His descriptions of everything from the sound of gas shells hurtling overhead, to the reckless banter of enlisted men playing craps, to the drifting perfume of dead men in a ruined village, are as sparkling and precise as any in the literature of war, and are evidence of the profound impression such particulars made upon him. 

Rats squeak and scrabble brusquely everywhere.
The night is almost blind . . . Something dispels
my stupor, wakes me with a squeamish thrill
to find my raincoat pocket eaten through.

~~~~~

My body swept throughout with a shattering spell
of fear—the fear that makes your heart like lead,
your gullet sicken and the bowels creep
and slide like live things in your abdomen.

Around the burnt plane, raking souvenirs,
a crowd, all raucous shouts and breathless smiles—
“Hey quit your shoving there.”

                                               —“I’ll say she did.” 

                                                                            —“It’s his first Heinie.”

—“Jesus Christ that’s hot!”

                                    —“I seen the bastard, sure—he’s under guard—
sixteen—he’s nothing but a goddam kid!”

~~~~~

Guns blaze and slam. The stars burn fever bright.

A low white ridge ahead, and the crumpled sound

of shelling.

                   “Jerry’s out—”

                                                A snarling croon
wheels over us—quick glittering tracers fly
down a pale searchlight, and along the ground
bombs blast into smoky yellow shot with light.

~~~~~

The Archies break out in a brute uproar.
We wait at the cellar stairs to judge the raid.
Frantic machine guns stutter, brusque shells blaze
in the light-swept clouds where, ominously near,
a beast wheels in the apocalyptic sky
and plunges through a stack of blinding rays.

~~~~~

Too dark and late for any bugle call . . .
a wakeful horse along the picket line
stamps obstinately in the squashy loam.

Sleep ripped apart in the shrilling blast of a shell
jerking me back into life—Dawn, and a dead
bleak silence split by a shrieking smash—one then,
every minute! Men run along the corridor—

Like the narrator in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, which appeared a year after This Man’s Army, Wyeth has no faith in abstractions or generalities. He offers no felicitous homilies, no proverbial observations, and no conclusions. Whatever his truths, they are never trotted out on stage; they are kept implicit in the meticulous detail of his descriptions.

— Reprinted from Before the Clangor of the Gun: The First World War Poetry of John Allan Wyeth (Monongahela Books, 2019), by BJ Omanson.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Published in: on December 28, 2020 at 1:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Maurice Genevoix enshrined in the Pantheon

World War I writer Maurice Genevoix was enshrined in the Pantheon on November 11, the 102nd anniversary of the Armistice. The ceremony was led by President Emmanuel Macron.

Born on 29 November 1890 at Decize, Nièvre as Maurice-Charles-Louis-Genevoix, Genevoix spent his childhood in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire. After attending the local school, he studied at the lycée of Orléans and the Lycée Lakanal. Genevoix was accepted to the Ecole Normale Supérieure, being first in his class, but was soon mobilized into World War I in 1914. He was quickly promoted to a lieutenant. He participated in the bloody battles of the Les Éparges hill as well as along the road of Tranchée de Calonne to the south east of Verdun-sur-Meuse in late 1914 and early 1915. On the 25 April 1915 he was severely wounded in action in his left arm and side in the Tranchée de Calonne sector and returned to Paris. The battle in the Meuse in which he participated, especially those at Les Éparges left a profound influence on him, and he wrote the tetralogy Ceux de 14 (The Men of 1914), which brought him recognition among the public.” ~~~Wikipedia

An English translation of Genevoix’s memoir, entitled ‘Neath Verdun, is available from Leonaur publishers.

Published in: on November 11, 2020 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

A new book on the American WWI poet, John Allan Wyeth

 

BeforetheClangoroftheGunless_cover The first full-length study of the recently rediscovered American poet of the First World War: John Allan Wyeth. Contains a wealth of new biographical information, plus several extensive essays on Wyeth’s technique and his relationship to the major British war poets.

C O N T E N T S

John Allan Wyeth: Lost Poet of the Lost Generation

Artistry & Authenticity in the War Sonnets of John Allan Wyeth

A Yank at the Battle of Amiens: The Chipilly Ridge Sonnets of John Allan Wyeth

Wyeth on Horseback

John Allan Wyeth and the British War Poets: A Preliminary Comparison

Poet, Painter, Spy: Did John Allan Wyeth report on Nazi Activities for British Intelligence during the 1930s ?

APPENDICES

~~Notes on the Friendship of John Allan Wyeth and Edmund Wilson

~~Notes on Wyeth’s Years in Rapallo

~~The Rediscovery of a Forgotten War Poet: A Personal Account

Published in: on February 13, 2019 at 3:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Armistice, 11/11/18

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Published in: on November 7, 2018 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

An inherited legacy of military service

31961410_10155612788843233_2659213290328031232_nAmerica has always been haunted by its wars—by a sense that the accumulated dead of all its past wars stand in moral judgement of our current state of affairs, as in the 1919 French film J’Accuse where the war dead literally rise from their graves and march on the towns and villages of France to stand in silent accusation of their friends and family who have betrayed their memory.

The dead of previous wars set an all-but-unattainable ideal of sacrifice for the living—an ideal most keenly felt by the young, who were possessed of a burning imperative to prove themselves, to measure their mettle against the hallowed example of their forefathers. In many cases this imperative was instilled and nurtured from childhood. Innumerable American doughboys of 1917-18 grew up sitting at their grandfathers’ feet, listening to tales of Shilo and Gettysburg—just as their grandfathers, as children, had listened to tales of Tippicanoe or New Orleans from their own grandfathers before them.  One can well imagine the shocking reality that awaited such soldiers on the Western Front, whose grand-fathers’ war stories could not have prepared them for long-range heavy artillery, chlorine gas, machine guns or aeroplanes, to mention only the most obvious aspects of the new warfare.1776_sm

Yet other aspects of 1914-18 were little changed from previous wars, and this was particularly true for Appenheimer and the many thousands of other soldiers from all nations who served in the supply units. Appenheimer’s primary duties of hauling rations and ammunition into the front lines by wagon and mule-team were essentially the same as they had always been. To be sure, the addition of heavy artillery, machine guns and strafing aircraft made hauling ammunition by wagon more perilous than in earlier wars—sufficiently perilous that he, and many other teamsters, were decorated for valor under fire. But the basic equipment—wagon, harness and mules—was more or less unchanged from the days of the Revolutionary War.

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Going to war for Americans had never been much removed from ordinary daily life, particularly on the frontier, where farming, hunting and fighting were all in a day’s work.  The farmer leaving his cabin to toil in his cornfield took his musket along with his hoe as a matter of course.  Similarly, for Alpheus Appenheimer—an ordinary farmer from Illinois—sailing off to a world war in Europe was not as exotic as he might have imagined. In the end he was still just doing what he had always done, and what his father and grandfathers before him had always done: harnessing a team of mules to a wagon and driving them down a country road.

And as for soldiers, so too for the women, who were as haunted by war as the men. Alpheus’ mother, Olive Witcher Appenheimer—who  as a small girl had grown up listening to the war stories of two older brothers and two brothers-in-law, all of whom served in the Union Army—sent her own two sons off in 1918 to fight in France. For such American mothers—who must have numbered in the tens of thousands, at least—the emotions of past and present wars would have been inextricably mingled.  Waiting by a window for a man or boy to return from war was very little changed in 1918 from what it had been in 1865, or in 1781.

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Not that women in wartime had nothing better to do than to wait by windows. If a woman in 1917 were free of other obligations, she could serve in France in a number of capacities, whether in one of the armed services, or as a wartime nurse near the front. But rural women rarely possessed such freedom. Keeping a farm afloat in wartime, when the farmer himself was overseas, and especially if children were to be looked after, was about as much as any woman could manage.  Yet farm women across America found ways to assist the war effort in addition to their full-time responsibilities. Olive Appenheimer served as head of the local chapter of Women’s Relief Corps (a woman’s auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic) during the war, and her daughter-in-law, America, volunteered for the Red Cross.

Both Alpheus and America were descended from a long line of men and women who had fought in and lived through three centuries of America’s wars, from the 1630s 0s onward. Much of this warfare took place on America’s frontiers, and both Alpheus and America had personal ties to such frontiers themselves.  America was born in 1897 in a one-room log cabin near Wolf Creek, Kentucky, on land her family had homesteaded in the 1780s, not long after it was first opened up by Daniel Boone. As for Alpheus, he was born—as he liked to tell his grandchildren—in a woodchuck hole: a one-room sod dugout on the Kansas frontier in 1891.

To understand their individual responses to the declaration of war in 1917, it is necessary to know something of the legacy of war which each of them inherited. The possession of such a legacy was not unusual in 1917. Thousands of American boys sailing off to war in 1917-18 had fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and more distant ancestors who had fought in earlier American wars. Evidence of their bracing example on the young soldiers can often be found in their letters home, where a grandfather’s participation in a Civil War battle is often alluded to. The legacy of their forefathers established a mark to be lived up to (as well as not to fall below): it was, perhaps, a chief reason the green American soldiers tended to give such a good account of themselves when first coming under German fire in France.

Published in: on June 17, 2018 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

11, 11, 11.

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Published in: on October 23, 2017 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

One of the first to die at Passchendaele

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ledwidge2Among the first to die at Passchendaele, a hundred years ago today, was the Irish poet, Francis LEDWIDGE, born in Slane, County Meath, on 19 August 1887.   He was educated at Slane Board School, and was befriended by Lord Dunsany, who introduced him to other Irish literati. Ledwidge was a laborer, working on roads and in a copper mine.  He was, accordingly, a unionist, and one of the founding members of the Slane branch of the Meath Labour Union.

During the war, Ledwidge served with 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the Dardanelles in August 1915, during which time his battalion lost half its men in nine days fighting.  He served in Salonika in late 1915.

In December of that year, while in a six-day forced retreat under severe attacks from the Bulgarians, Ledwidge lost all his manuscripts save a few rain-soaked remnants.  If that were not enough, he suffered a severe inflamation in his back which caused his collapse and four months hospitalization in Cairo.  He was then sent to hospital in Manchester in April 1916, where news of the Easter Rising, and the death of his friend and fellow poet Thomas MacDonagh reached him, and upset him deeply.

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Ledgwidge was court-martialled and stripped of his rank in May for overstaying his leave and insubordination.  He spent next seven months in Ebrington Barracks, Derry.

In December 1916, he rejoined his Battalion in the village of Picquigny, north of Amiens. In early 1917, Ledwidge was drafted to “B” Company, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 29th Division, and sent first to Carnoy, then to a camp in Le Neuville, near Corbie. While there he began a correspondence with the Irish poetess, Katherine Tynan. The Battalion was in billets at Le Neuville in early March, 1917. In early April the 1st Battalion arrived in Arras; it moved to Proven in the Ypres area on 27 June, and served intermittantly in trenches for the next seven months. Ledwidge was killed on 31 July on the opening day of the third Battle of Ypres by an exploding shell.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A keen-edged sword, a soldier’s heart
Is greater than a poet’s art.
And greater than a poet’s fame
A little grave that has no name.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~ THE COMPLETE POEMS OF FRANCIS LEDWIDGE. With Introductions by Lord Dunsany.  (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1919) .  (First American Edition by Brentano’s of NY, 1919). 
~~~ Alice Curtayne, FRANCIS LEDWIDGE: A LIFE OF THE POET (1887-1917).  (London: Martin Brian & O’Keeffe, 1972).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Published in: on July 31, 2017 at 10:43 am  Comments (1)  

From the Log of a Battalion Surgeon attached to the Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood

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6 June, 1918:  The battalion was ordered to make the attack. At 1900 the companies moved out of the ravine and proceeded to the town of Champillon where they went into line northeast of the town at 0345. The battalion immediately attacked, and, soon after, wounded started coming into the battalion station, on the outskirts of the town of Champillon. Champillon has been under continuous heavy bombardment. As soon as the station was established, liaison between the regimental and First Battalion aid stations was made. Ambulances of the French sanitary unit came up bringing litters and supplies. Despite heavy shelling ambulances have been able to make the aid station. This simplifies evacuation of wounded. Hospital corpsmen went “over” with their companies and performed their duties admirably.

Advance dressing stations established just behind first line where wounded were collected and ambulatory sent to the battalion station. Litter cases transported a distance of about 500 yards. At the battalion station examinations and sorting done. Evacuated from battalion go through regimental aid station where a check on each case is made. Returning ambulances bring fresh supplies, litters and blankets, so at no time have we been short of these necessities. Some cases of diarrhea developing. Only a few evacuations because of sickness made. The Second Battalion station located in Lucy le Bocage. Their position enabled them to care for all casualties of their battalion in line. Lucy likewise was under heavy shellfire and gas. A direct hit made on this station set the building on fire, necessitating evacuation. A new station soon established in a cellar, and evacuations continued from this point. The Third Battalion, acting as brigade reserve, dug in in the nearby woods. During this engagement regiment suffered heavily from shellfire and gas, but forced enemy to give ground. Enemy losses obviously heavier. Enemy wounded and prisoners came through all stations in greater numbers than our own. Everything practicable was done for them.

The character of the wounds encountered here fall chiefly into the tearing, lacerating, crushing, and amputating types, accompanied by all degrees of fractures, hemorrhage, and destruction of soft tissue. Injuries of the extremities were most common, followed by those of the abdomen and chest. Despite massive injury, shock has not been common. This is probably due to early treatment, given by company hospital corpsmen, and undelayed evacuation through the regiment to field hospitals.

Great attempts have been made to control hemorrhage, immobilize fractures, secure adequate dressings on all wounds, give morphine, antitetanic serum, hot coffee, cover patients with blankets, and promptly evacuate them from the area. Prisoners recently captured were temporarily employed as litter bearers, facilitating treatment and evacuation which otherwise would have been delayed.

Arrangements were made by the battalion supply officers to get one cooked meal to the first line every night. This meal, with coffee, is brought up under heavy shellfire and rationed out to the men. In addition to this cooked meal, the men receive two iron rations. Water details supply the lines with fresh water (chlorinated) as frequently as possible, under the most difficult circumstances. As a whole, the men are standing up under these conditions well.

2–6 June: Repeated attacks by the enemy repulsed. Our men had seen little of active fighting until this time and had not realized the horrors of war. They have played with death during these first days of June. ––(They could not have realized the seriousness of the situation. It was not until later that they understood that during these days the fate of Paris and the Allied cause depended on them and that a second Marne, although less bloody but as momentous as that of 1914, was being fought. It was the turning point of the war. From this time until the Armistice, the Germans never went ahead again).

All medical personnel have been superb in meeting and disposing of the unprecedented tasks with which they have been confronted. Without thought of rest, relief, or restoration, devote themselves wholly to their gruesome labor.

The Marine brigade has undergone its first real baptism of fire.

The heroic acts that numerous hospital corpsmen have performed during furious assaults in the open and in the most advanced positions have thrilled the entire command, and, in no small way, contributed to the effort that has so far led to our military success.

A seriously wounded patient who came through this station told the story of a pharmacist’s mate, second class, Frank C. Welte, who died today.

Welte was attached to the Twentieth Company which was holding the first line lying between Le Bois de la Château and the town of Lucy le Bocage. His company, with the Forty-fifth and Forty-seventh, was ordered to attack the advancing German forces at 1500 today. The objective lay in a northerly direction, across a wheat field, and involved the southern section of the strongly fortified Bois de Belleau.

Bois de Belleau is an almost inpenetrable tangled forest with rock formations admirably adapted for defense. The surrounding country is dotted with woods and fields of ripening wheat, with red patches of wild poppy. The terrain, which favored the enemy, is generally level except for a few wooded hills. These afforded commanding positions for the enemy to sweep the roads and open country with shell and machine-gun fire.

The attacking troops, moying across the open wheat field, were subjected to murderous flanking fire from machine guns, and many men went down.

Welte was swamped with many wounded while in this open field, about 130 yards short of the woods.

He had dressed four wounded marines, calmly writing their tags, and had started on the fifth man when he was struck in the back and right heel, while kneeling over his patient. Fragments of a bursting high-explosive shell painfully wounded him. He continued dressing his patient and filled in the diagnosis tag when his head was pierced by a machine-gun bullet. He gave his book of diagnosis tags to his patient, asking him to “turn them over to the chief” when he arrived at the battalion station. With the delivery of the tags to the patient, Welte died. To the moment of death he thus carried out the last and most important detail of his duty, with coolness, deliberation, and devotion.

Hospital corpsmen have helped maintain the high morale of the troops. When a man’s mind is weakened by physical and nervous exhaustion, frequently it is the hospital corpsman who talks it over and boosts the weary one up, so that he can take new hold and continue his unpleasant task. A platoon was charging a machine-gun nest in Belleau Wood. Several unsuccessful attempts to take it had been made, with heavy losses. The handful of men left had drawn back prior to making another charge. The company hospital corpsman, with considerable blunt emphasis to add to the forcefulness of his demand, yelled out in the thick of the hand-to-hand fighting, “Get that gun! I’m here to take care of you!” The gun was captured shortly afterward in a deadly grapple.

A gallant Marine officer, with only a handful of his original platoon, captured the town of Bouresches—a key position of our front. He cited the hospital corpsman attached to his force, and pointing out the effect the hospital corpsman’s presence had on the morale of the men during the assault: “At a time when the losses threatened to prevent the success of the operations, the heroic conduct of this man steadied the lines and spurred the attacking platoons on through the barrage.”

In an aid station located in a little stone farmhouse, about midnight, there were a number of wounded lying about on straw or propped up against the walls waiting their turn for dressing and evacuation. The Boche was laying down a barrage between the station and the woods while attempting a counterattack. The orchard in the rear of the building and the courtyard in front were being plowed up by the raining shells. The old structure was swaying, and those laboring unceasingly within over the wounded had a secret conviction that their work would be suddenly concluded at any moment. The medical officer and several hospital corpsmen were setting a compound fracture in a Thomas splint and dressing other multiple wounds. No word was spoken; the closer the shells fell to the building the faster the group toiled under candlelight.

When morning broke the barrage had lifted. The station was untouched. The night’s grist of wounded had been cared for and sent back to field hospitals. Subsequently, the regimental chief pharmacist’s mate asked the medical officer if he had been aware of the proximity of the bursting shells during the night and the threatening death to those in the station. The medical officer replied that he had been acutely conscious of all that had occurred, but more important, he had realized that each hospital corpsman, although he knew the nearness of death, never showed the slightest sign of fear. He had observed them carrying on without hesitation, comforting and quieting the nerve. worn wounded, and the sight had filled him with pride and confidence in their ability.

~~~~~Lt. George G. Strott, Hospital Corps, USN.  The Medical Department of the United States Navy with the Army and Marine Corps in France in World War I.  (Washington, DC: U.S. Navy Department, June 1947), pages 46-8.

Published in: on June 6, 2017 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Two brothers

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(left): MARION SIMS WYETH (Princeton: Class of 1910).  Entered US Army October 30, 1917, Garden City, New.York, 1st lieutenant, Air Service; stationed Garden City, October 30, 1917 to January 7, 1918; Camp Servier, South Carolina, January 7 to February  18, 1918; Kelly Flying Field, San Antonio, Texas, February to May 1918; commanding officer, 238th and 244th Aero Squadrons, Waco, Texas.  May to June 1918;  commanding officer, Aero Construction Company, Garden City, June to August 8, 1918; sailed for England, August 1918; American Rest Camp, Knotty Ash, Winchester, England; American Aviation Camp, Emsworth, Sussex, England, September to November 14, 1918; returned to U.S., November 21; discharged January 1, 1919.

When Marian Sims Wyeth entered the service in 1917, he was already a distinguished architect, having studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was awarded the Prix Jean Le Clerc in 1913 and the Deuxième Prix Rougevin in 1914.  After the war he moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he founded the firm of Wyeth and King.  Among his most famous buildings are the Shangri-La mansion in Honolulu (currently a museum for Islamic art & culture), the Florida Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, and Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida.

(right) JOHN ALLAN WYETH, Jr. (Princeton: Class of 1915):  Entered US Army December 28, 1917, New York, New York, 2nd lieutenant, Corps of Interpreters; assigned 33rd Division, Divisional Headquarters, Camp Logan, Texas, January 3 to May 1, 1918; Camp Upton, N.Y., May 1 to 6, 1918; sailed for France May 1918; operations with British on the Somme until August 20, 1918, then at Verdun; Army of Occupation, Germany and Luxembourg; detached from 33rd Division and stationed at Paris, April 1919; returned to U.S. July 1919; discharged October 23, 1919.

JA Wyeth published a book of poems in 1929, entitled This Man’s Army: A War in Fifty-odd Sonnets, which soon vanished into obscurity.  It was rediscovered some sixty years later and was reprinted by the University of South Carolina Press, with extensive historical annotations.  Wyeth’s poems are currently giving rise to a growing body of serious academic scholarship, especially in England, where he is increasingly viewed as the most important American poet of the war.

JA Wyeth was part of the Princeton literary circle which included Edmund Wilson and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  After the war he lived for a time in the America colony at Rapallo, Italy, where he was friends with Ezra Pound.  He also spent time, during the Spring of 1932, with members of the Bloomsbury Group (Duncan Grant, Clive & Vanessa Bell) in Cassis-sur-Mer, and later spent part of each year, for six years, studying under the Cubist painter Jean Marchand at the Académie Moderne in Paris.

There is a sizeable body of circumstantial evidence which suggests that, throughout the late 20s in Italy, and through most of the 1930s in Germany, while pursuing his avocation as poet and landscape painter, Wyeth was simultaneously gathering intelligence on the Italian Fascists and German Nazis for the British secret service.  (A forthcoming essay will explore this hypothesis more fully).

Four new (old) books about Belleau Wood

20thCoA small independent press out of West Virginia, in time for the centennial of America’s entry into the Great War, has just released four titles relating to the Battle of Belleau Wood.

The first is a republication of a very scarce Marine Corps company history from the First World War:  A HISTORY OF 20th COMPANY, 5th REGIMENT, UNITED STATES MARINES, originally published in Germany in 1919.  In addition to original material, this reissue has new section introductions placing the company history in a context of the larger war, footnotes, and a number of previously unpublished field messages and operation reports.

78tall The next title is a facsimile edition of another scarce Marine Corps company history from the First World War: 78th COMPANY, 6th MARINES, SECOND DIVISION, ARMY OF OCCUPATION, also originally published in Germany in 1919.

The third title is self-explanatory: THREE EARLY BOOKLETS ABOUT THE BATTLE OF BELLEAU WOOD. These are reprints of three scarce booklets, originally published between 1918 and 1923, and now long out-of-print, which concerned the Battle of Belleau Wood, and the creation of the American Aisne-Marne Cemetery. The book includes thirty-one period photographs, plus a detailed field EarlyBookletsmap (displayed on 8 consecutive pages) of Belleau Wood, Belleau, Bouresches, Vaux and other nearby woods and villages.

~~~~~ When the Tide Turned:  The American Attack at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood in the first week of June, 1918 by Otto H. Kahn,
~~~~~  Bois-Belleau, Chateau Thierry:  Remembrance from France.  24 photographs by Marcel Delboy.
~~~~~ and Belleau Wood and the American Army: The 2nd & 26th Divisions (June & July 1918) by Captain R. Andriot of the French Army.
~~~~~ Also included are seven photographs of the Aisne-Marne Cemetery at Belleau Wood from the early 1920s.

SCP_coverFinally, there is STARK COUNTY POEMS: WAR AND THE DEPRESSION COME TO SPOON RIVER by BJ Omanson, a collection thirty-five years in the making of lyric and narrative poems in the regionalist/naturalistic tradition of American poetry.

Among these poems are several longer narrative poems pertaining directly to the experiences of a local farmer, Alpheus Appenheimer, who served as a muleskinner with the 6th Machine Gun Battalion of the 4th Brigade of Marines, 2nd Division, AEF at Belleau Wood.  In addition to the poems, there is an essay, “Effects of War: how one Illinois farm couple’s experience of the First World War inspired a cycle of regionalist poems” (first published in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly), which deals expressly with Appenheimer’s experiences at Belleau Wood, and the effects of those experiences on his family in later years.

All four books are paperbacks, published in 2017 by Monongahela Press.  The History of 20th Company is 8.5 x 11 inches, while the other three are 6 x 9.

Published in: on May 1, 2017 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment