6 Responses to January 31, 1917: Germany Announces the Resumption of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

Theodore Roosevelt and The Curse of Meroz

Monday, January 23, AD 2017



Theodore Roosevelt had long been a harsh critic of the neutrality policy of the Wilson administration.  On January 29, 1917 he gave a memorable response to the January 22, 1917 speech to the Senate of President Wilson in which Wilson called for Peace Without Victory:

“President Wilson has announced himself in favor of peace without victory, and now he has declared himself against universal service-that is against all efficient preparedness by the United States.

Peace without victory is the natural ideal of the man too proud to fight.

When fear of the German submarine next moves President Wilson to declare for “peace without victory” between the tortured Belgians and their cruel oppressors and task masters;  when such fear next moves him to utter the shameful untruth that each side is fighting for the same things, and to declare for neutrality between wrong and right;  let him think of the prophetess Deborah who, when Sisera mightily oppressed the children of Israel with his chariots of iron, and when the people of Meroz stood neutral between the oppressed and their oppressors, sang of them:

“Curse ye Meroz, sang the angel of the  Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord against the wrongdoings of the mighty.”” 

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7 Responses to Theodore Roosevelt and The Curse of Meroz

  • Were not the alleged atrocities the Germans perpetuated on the Belgians in WWI part of a propaganda campaign. Were they ficticious, or at least exaggerated? And what was the object of WW I, anyway? WW II I can understand; Hitler wanted to take over the world. But WW I, I can see what happened, but not why. It seems everyone involved used it as an excuse for some strategic advantage of their own.

  • “Were they ficticious, or at least exaggerated?”

    They were real enough, as the corpses of some six thousand Belgian civilians, men, women and children, slaughtered in reprisals by the German Army at the beginning of the War could attest.


  • Thanks for the clarification. What about the purpose of the war, or goal? never could figure it out.

  • Much ink and cyberspace has been spent on WWI.
    Granted that the Germans did not assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, I still blame Germany. The German nation was ruled by Lutheran Prussians and wanted an empire. Kulturkampf and their treatment of Poles were both rotten.

  • The purposes of the War varied among the belligerents:

    Great Britain-Free Belgium. Prevent Germany from dominating Europe.

    France-Get back Alsace-Lorraine. Prevent Germany from dominating Europe.

    Italy-Prevent Germany from dominating Europe. Get Tyrolia from Austria-Hungary.


    Russia-Protect Serbia. Stop Germany and Austria Hungary from dominating Europe.

    Austria Hungary-Destroy Serbia. Dominate the Balkans.

    Germany-Hold onto territorial conquests. Become dominant power in Europe.

    USA-Defeat Germany. Build new international order to make another World War impossible.

  • To mr. McClary. The best way for Serbia to survive was NOT to provoke Austria-Hungary to go to war. But Serbia was a very aggressive state, with a large and active irredentist faction that wanted just that and who expected Russia too come to their aid. Their war aim was the establishment of a south slave state dominated by Serbia. In other words, they wanted to become in the Balkans what Prussia had become in the German-speaking lands.

  • “The best way for Serbia to survive was NOT to provoke Austria-Hungary to go to war. But Serbia was a very aggressive state, with a large and active irredentist faction that wanted just that and who expected Russia too come to their aid.”

    Correct, and elements in Austria had long pined for the destruction of Serbia and the domination of the Balkans by Austria. The Chief of Staff of the Austrian Army had recommended a pre-emptive war against Serbia some 13 times prior to 1914. The first lesson of history in the Balkans is that no one has clean hands.

January 22, 1917: Peace Without Victory

Sunday, January 22, AD 2017


The United States was two months from entering the Great War when President Wilson addressed the Senate a century ago, calling for Peace Without Victory and laying out the beginnings of what would eventually be his Fourteen Points as the basis of peace:

Gentlemen of the Senate:

On the 18th of December last, I addressed an identical note to the governments of the nations now at war requesting them to state, more definitely than they had yet been stated by either group of belligerents, the terms upon which they would deem it possible to make peace.  I spoke on behalf of humanity and of the rights of all neutral nations like our own, many of whose most vital interests the war puts in constant jeopardy.

The Central Powers united in a reply which state merely that they were ready to meet their antagonists in conference to discuss terms of peace.  The Entente powers have replied much more definitely and have stated, in general terms, indeed, but with sufficient definiteness to imply details, the arrangements, guarantees, and acts of reparation which they deem to be the indispensable conditions of a satisfactory settlement.  We are that much nearer a definite discussion of the peace which shall end the present war.  We are that much nearer the definite discussion of the international concert which must thereafter hold the world at peace.

In every discussion of peace that must end this war, it is taken for granted that the peace must be followed by some definite concert of power which will make it virtually impossible that any such catastrophe should ever overwhelm us again.  Every love of mankind, every sane and thoughtful man must take that for granted.

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One Response to January 22, 1917: Peace Without Victory

  • I had never been happier in my life ! I had voluntarily enlisted eight days after graduating from High School; while some had tried everything they could think of to avoid the Draft. I even knew two guys, from High School, that had fled to Canada. But here I was, on the last leg of the flights that were taking me HOME ! I had been gone for nearly four long years, and was eager to see the faces of my loved ones again. I had disembarked and walked into the Terminal, when some hoodlum, who looked like a Manson follower, ran up and spit on my uniform ! Timothy Reed

October 8, 1918: Alvin C. York Renders Unto Caesar

Saturday, October 8, AD 2016



13And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and of the Herodians; that they should catch him in his words. 14Who coming, say to him: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and carest not for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar; or shall we not give it? 15Who knowing their wiliness, saith to them: Why tempt you me? bring me a penny that I may see it. 16And they brought it him. And he saith to them: Whose is this image and inscription? They say to him, Caesar’s. 17And Jesus answering, said to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Mark 12:  13-17

So you see my religion and my experience…told me not to go to war, and the memory of my ancestors…told me to get my gun and go fight. I didn’t know what to do. I’m telling you there was a war going on inside me, and I didn’t know which side to lean to. I was a heap bothered. It is a most awful thing when the wishes of your God and your country…get mixed up and go against each other. One moment I would make up my mind to follow God, and the next I would hesitate and almost make up my mind to follow Uncle Sam. Then I wouldn’t know which to follow or what to do. I wanted to follow both but I couldn’t. They were opposite. I wanted to be a good Christian and a good American too.

Alvin C. York

Drafted into the Army, serving in the All American division, Alvin C. York had a moral quandary.  A crack shot from years of hunting to feed his poverty stricken family in the hills of Tennessee, he was also a fervent Christian.  He loved his country but took literally the Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”.  Requesting a ten day leave to go home, which was granted, he prayed fervently to God for an answer to his dilemma.

“As I prayed there alone, a great peace kind of come into my soul and a great calm come over me, and I received my assurance. He heard my prayer and He come to me on the mountainside. I didn’t see Him, of course, but he was there just the same. I knowed he was there. He understood that I didn’t want to be a fighter or a killing man, that I didn’t want to go to war to hurt nobody nohow. And yet I wanted to do what my country wanted me to do. I wanted to serve God and my country, too. He understood all of this. He seen right inside of me, and He knowed I had been troubled and worried, not because I was afraid, but because I put Him first, even before my country, and I only wanted to do what would please Him.”

So He took pity on me and He gave me the assurance I needed. I didn’t understand everything. I didn’t understand how He could let me go to war and even kill and yet not hold it against me. I didn’t even want to understand. It was His will and that was enough for me. So at last I begun to see the light. I begun to understand that no matter what a man is forced to do, so long as he is right in his own soul he remains a righteous man. I knowed I would go to war. I knowed I would be protected from all harm, and that so long as I believed in Him He would not allow even a hair on my head to be harmed.”

In the fall of 1918, York’s regiment participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the largest American operation of the war.  On October 8, 1918, York’s regiment took part in an attack to seize German positions along the Decauville rail-line north of Chatel-Chehery, France.  The attack encountered savage German resistance as York noted in his diary:

The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from… And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out… And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.

Sergeant Bernard Early was ordered to take 16 men including York and work his way around the German position to take out the machine guns.  Early and his men overran a German headquarters, when German machine guns opened up killing six of the Americans, and wounding three others, including Sergeant Early.  York, the reluctant soldier, now found himself in command of the remaining seven soldiers.

And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a racket in all of your life. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush… As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting… All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.

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5 Responses to October 8, 1918: Alvin C. York Renders Unto Caesar

  • TCM aired this classic movie earlier this afternoon. Great movie! They don’t make them like that any more. After it they showed “Paths of Glory.”
    The Doughboys, by Laurence Stallings, if you can find a copy, has a good narrative of the action.

  • They were called doughboys because they were not old enough to be bread.

  • The term goes back to the Mexican War in the US and was in use in Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. The derivation of the nickname for infantry is obscure.

  • Thank you, Donald McClarey for giving a response to my comment. It is not lighthearted.

    Jesus Christ is the word of God and the Bread of Life. We, all sojourners on earth, are half-baked dough. Only Jesus and in Jesus, we, as sojourners on earth, may share in the Bread of Life.

    Infants are sovereign persons who have not yet learned to talk. Before Roe v. Wade, all persons under the age of majority, that is, emancipation were referred to as “infants” in a court of law. The court seizing, literally kidnapping, our constitutional Posterity declared that when a minor child found herself with child…(“pregnant” is not a word because there is no such thing as “pre-life”. Life is or is not, like virginity, there is no pre-virginity, only original innocence of the rational, human soul in the mind of God who is brought to earth by procreation as God waits upon His creatures’ will to procreate. There is life, scientific proof in DNA, or there is no life. There cannot, by any stretch of the mind, be pregnancy.)

    That being said, the court, to defend the greatest miscarriage of Justice in our generation decided that when a minor child found herself to be carrying another person, she is legally considered emancipated so that the minor child could avoid carrying her child, through abortion. The criminal intent of the court would be the evasion of the reality that the unborn child is a ward of the court.

    Ginsberg wrote that any fourteen year old female person had informed sexual consent. This decision actually disenfranchised the fourteen year old child of the civil right to be protected and acknowledged as a minor, un-emancipated person under our Ninth Amendment. SEE: Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s Life is Worth Living episode THE GLORY OF BEING AMERICAN” available at EWTN.

    Un-emancipated persons, who are infants in the sight of the law, are not allowed to vote, suffrage denied to emancipated fourteen year olds, drink, nor are they allowed into saloons, nor serve in the military unless they lie about their age. Fourteen year olds are emancipated by Ginsberg to be sex slaves and prostitutes and abortion mill fodder.

    I was married at the age of nineteen and my husband was twenty way back in 1959. My husband was a ward of the court. When he turned twenty one, my husband, already with our first-born was notified that he was to claim his inheritance from a deputy of the court. As a ward of the court, because he was orphaned, the man was not emancipated until he turned twenty one years of age. (I guess I married a legal “infant”. Cradle robbing? Wisdom comes with age)

    Our tax dollars at one time were being used to protect and to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our constitutional Posterity. Our schizophrenia increases, disenfranchisement and taxation without representation.

    Men like Alvin York, Audie Murphy, and our exorcists Malachi Martin and Gabriel Amorth and all priests are heroes, even while they may still be the dough of the Bread of Life.

  • ETC,,,Exodus 21:14
    Exodus 21: 14 “But should a man dare to kill his fellow by treacherous intent, you must take him even from my altar to be put to death.” The Jerusalem Bible. The murderer, in the first degree, chooses by his own free will to become an outlaw not covered by the law of sanctuary. “my altar” is compassion and mercy.

    “I have come to fulfill the law not to abolish the law. Not one jot nor tittle will be lost” my loose quote.

    In fulfilling the law, Jesus had no power over the murderer who rejected the law, God and the Son of Man. The murderer in the first degree becomes an outlaw subject only to himself and for all compassion and mercy remains an outlaw rejecting all compassion and mercy. In the murderer in the first degree, there is no fellowship, nor gratitude.

Hills Are For Heroes

Thursday, August 11, AD 2016


My favorite TV show when I was a boy was Combat!  In 152 grittily realistic episodes from 1962-1967, the experiences of an American infantry squad fighting in France in World War II were detailed.  Most of the cast members had served in the military, several in World War II.  The men were not portrayed as supermen, but ordinary men trying to survive while doing a necessary, dirty job.  The series won accolades from World War II combat veterans for its unsparing look at what fighting had been like for them.  The series hit its artistic peak on March 1, and March 8, 1966 with the two part episode Hills Are For Heroes.  Directed by Vic Morrow who starred in the series as Sergeant Chip Saunders, the episodes detail the battle of the squad and the platoon of which it was a part to take a vital hill.  At the end of episode two, after incurring heavy losses, they succeed, only to heartbreakingly having to abandon the hill due to a German breakthrough.  As they march away from the hill, Second Lieutenant Gil Hanley grimly tells his men to remember every feature of the hill for next time.  Television does not get any better than Combat!

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6 Responses to Hills Are For Heroes

  • Must be a metaphor

  • Another mostly-fair (given Hollywood’s widespread perversion to depict Vietnam soldiers as psychopaths, losers, or baby-killers) early 1980’s TV series is “Tour of Duty.” I catch it on rare occasions on a secondary cable network.
    Here’s a (unsolicited) book recommendation. A Shau Valor by Thomas R. Yarborough. The valley was famous/notorious throughout the VN war years for hill fights, sacrifices and uncommon valor. The movie “Hamburger Hill” comes close to getting it.
    Hemingway: “War is a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.” When you meet them, if you meet them, greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  • Thanks for the memories. One of my regular favorites, along with the “Victory at Sea” series.

  • Don,
    Agree on Combat!. I own the DVD series. Did you ever watch the 1990s series “Space — Above and Beyond”? I found it very enjoyable and it was often (fairly I think) compared to Combat!.

  • I have it on DVD Mike! I love that series.

First Day of the Somme

Friday, July 1, AD 2016



Enemy superiority is so great that we are not in a position either to fix their forces in position or to prevent them from launching an offensive elsewhere. We just do not have the troops…. We cannot prevail in a second battle of the Somme with our men; they cannot achieve that any more.

Generalleutnant Georg von Fuchs, January 20, 1917




One hundred years ago the British Army suffered the deadliest day in its long history.  Sixty thousand casualties on the first day of the 141-day battle of the Somme, twenty thousand of them killed.  Britain reeled from the casualties they incurred on the Somme, which would total in excess of half a million men.  The German Army however also reeled from the casualties they sustained, the British having commenced the grim, grinding war of attrition that would ultimately cause the German Army to be defeated in 1918.

In World War I the British managed the considerable feat of raising a mass army for the first time in their history, bringing rapidly online new technology of which tanks and fighter planes and bombers were only three examples, and slugging it out with the finest army on Earth. Mistakes were not uncommon in this process, sometimes grave ones, but they learned all the time and by the end of the War had a military force that was able to be the spearhead of the Hundred Days Offensive that broke the German Army in 1918.

I think Douglas Haig, the British Commander in Chief on the Western Front from 1915-1918, has been badly maligned. Portrayed as a blundering cavalry officer, he was actually an enthusiast for new technology, especially tanks. Considered a completely callous butcher he was anything but. Early in the War his staff had to stop him from visiting hospitals because the sight of wounded and dying British soldiers was too much for him emotionally. When a painter came to his headquarters to do an official portrait of him, he told him to paint the common soldiers instead, saying that they were the ones saving the world and they were dying every day while doing it. He refused to take a viscountcy from the British government after the War, resisting even lobbying from the King, until financial assistance was approved for demobilized soldiers. Without his stand, it is quite possible that the former soldiers would have been left to private charity. He spent the rest of his life helping the men who had served under him and forming the veteran’s organization, the British Legion, of which he was President until his death. When he died at 66 in 1928 endless lines of his veterans filed by his coffin to pay their last respects. British Legion halls almost always had a picture of Haig on the wall.

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May 31, 1916: Battle of Jutland Begins

Tuesday, May 31, AD 2016


It is often said that generals usually are preparing to win the last war.  That was certainly the case with admirals during World War I.  They imagined a clash of mighty battleships, dreadnaughts, and auxiliaries, that would prove decisive like the battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.  Of course little thought was given about what would happen if the weaker side did not obligingly steam their fleet out to be obliterated.  That is just what happened in 1914-1918 where the British Grand Fleet kept the German High Seas Fleet bottled up in its ports, a bystander to the War.  One hundred years ago however, the High Seas Fleet made its major sortie of the War and the world held its breath for two days as these two mighty antagonists came to blows.

Admiral Reinhard Scheer had commanded the High Seas Fleet only since January of 1916.  Scheer reflected the general German opinion that the defensive stance of the fleet had to change in order for it to play a productive part in the War.  He hit upon the scheme of having the fleet sortie into the Skagerrak  that lay north of the Jutland peninsula that made up most of Denmark.  He planned to sink or capture many British cruisers and merchant ships and then retreat back to port.  It wasn’t a bad plan.  The problem for Scheer is that the British knew all about it.  The British code breaking wizards of Room 40 had broken the German naval code in 1914, and the British could decipher intercepted German radio communications swiftly, and thus the Grand Fleet knew precisely what the Germans were doing.  Here was a brilliant opportunity for the British to inflict a decisive defeat on their adversaries.  It did not turn out that way.

Over two days, May 31-June 1, a confused series of clashes took place during which the British lost 6,094 killed, 674 wounded, 177 captured, 3 battle cruisers, 3 armored cruisers and 8 destroyers to German losses of 2,551 killed, 511 wounded, 1 battle cruiser, 1 pre-dreadnaught, 4 light cruisers and 5 torpedo boats.  The German loss in tonnage was just over half what the British was.  The German fleet retired to its ports with the British losing a good opportunity to intercept them.  Jutland was a clear tactical defeat for the Grand Fleet and the British held plenty of commissions in the months and years following to figure out what went wrong.

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4 Responses to May 31, 1916: Battle of Jutland Begins

  • Another factor as I recall was the internal arrangements inside the British battleships and battlecruisers, and their crews’ training on their use. The German designers reportedly made a better effort to give some physical separation between turrets and powder magazines, and their crews were trained to keep the flash curtains (which prevented travel between turrets and magazines)closed except when powder was actually transferred. The British crews tended to keep their flash curtains open more often during an engagement, which turned out to be a fatal mistake.

  • Beatty’s tactical handling of his ships was also much less than. He threw away his advantages early on, and the British were probably lucky it wasn’t worse.

  • Just saw the video. An excellent work. I only wish the small part played by each side’s air arm, especially the zeppelins, was mentioned.

  • This is a fascinating video of Jutland, and for me dovetails very well with the book,
    “Jutland 1916: Death in the Grey Wastes,” by authors Peter Hart & Nigel Steel (which, now the last few years is available in paperback, FYI). This latter book presumes however that one has some knowledge of the prior years of WWI naval events, esp. between the Brits and the German Navy. This 24-min re-enactment here however brings together in much better manner the constantly fluid changes that typified Jutland and the sequential chaos involved. I am going to view it again and again: the horror and the chaos of ultimate warfare is mesmerizing.

    The authors of “Jutland 1916” place a heavy blame on the inadequacy of British gunnery training when contrasted with HIpper’s and Scheer’s constant training of their crews. In that particular category, plus as Donald McC. points out (a fact I didn’t know) that the Brits had an inferior firing-solution technology, seemed key. I also didn’t know that the Brits had cracked the German Kriegsmarine codes in 1914 (Gee: you would have thought the Germans would have had a healthy concern about this in WW2, regarding Ultra and Bletchley Park..). Yet Hipper and Scheer essentially outmaneuvered Beatty and Jellicoe overall, despite greatly inferior numbers and range of their heavy guns.
    But worst of all, like the sub-title of “Jutland 1916” (“Death in the Grey Wastes”)—over 8600, mostly very young, men dead, in the most appalling conditions, freezing to death within minutes of exposure to the North Sea waters. This plus the Grim Reaper scythe of the trenches simultaneously going on in France. Verdun. The Marne. Ypres. The Somme.
    Even on a warm June day, it makes one shudder. England, France and Germany must have been a revolving mortuary and burial detail.

    “Religio Depopulata”; has Europe ever recovered from WW1 and WW2?

Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, December 31, AD 2015


The cheapest and most childish of all the taunts of the Pacifists is, I think, the sneer at belligerents for appealing to the God of Battles. It is ludicrously illogical, for we obviously have no right to kill for victory save when we have a right to pray for it. If a war is not a holy war, it is an unholy one — a massacre.

                                                                                  G.K. Chesterton, October 23, 1915

(Rudyard Kipling was born one hundred and fifty years ago yesterday on December 30, 1865.  To observe the date I am reposting this post from 2011.  On all that I have written about Kipling, and that is now a considerable amount, this is my favorite piece. I would observe in passing that both Chesterton and CS Lewis, although they differed considerably from Kipling’s views on many topics, were both fans of him as a writer.)

The eighth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here and here.   Kipling wrote quite a few poems during his lifetime.  Some are world-famous, most are not, and some are today almost completely forgotten.   The Holy War (1917) is today one of Kipling’s most obscure poems, but caused something of a stir when he wrote it in Advent during 1917.

A tinker out of Bedford,
A vagrant oft in quod,
A private under Fairfax,
A minister of God–
Two hundred years and thirty
Ere Armageddon came
His single hand portrayed it,
And Bunyan was his name!_

He mapped, for those who follow,
The world in which we are–
 ‘This famous town of Mansoul’
That takes the Holy War
Her true and traitor people,
The gates along her wall,
From Eye Gate unto Feel Gate,
John Bunyan showed them all.

All enemy divisions,
Recruits of every class,
 And highly-screened positions
For flame or poison-gas,
The craft that we call modern,
The crimes that we call new,
John Bunyan had ’em typed and filed
In Sixteen Eighty-two

Likewise the Lords of Looseness
That hamper faith and works,
The Perseverance-Doubters,
 And Present-Comfort shirks,
With brittle intellectuals
Who crack beneath a strain–
John Bunyan met that helpful set
In Charles the Second’s reign.

Emmanuel’s vanguard dying
For right and not for rights,
My Lord Apollyon lying
 To the State-kept Stockholmites,
 The Pope, the swithering Neutrals,
The Kaiser and his Gott–
 Their roles, their goals, their naked souls–
He knew and drew the lot.

Now he hath left his quarters,
 In Bunhill Fields to lie.
The wisdom that he taught us
Is proven prophecy–
One watchword through our armies,
One answer from our lands–
 ‘No dealings with Diabolus
 As long as Mansoul stands.

_A pedlar from a hovel,
The lowest of the low,
The father of the Novel,
Salvation’s first Defoe,
Eight blinded generations
Ere Armageddon came,
He showed us how to meet it,
And Bunyan was his name!_

At one level the poem is a fairly straight-forward paean to John Bunyan, the English writer who penned Pilgrims’s Progress, which every school child used to read back in days when schools spent far more time on academics and far less time on political indoctrination and fake subjects like “Consumer Ed”.  He also wrote quite a few other books and pamphlets, perhaps the best known of which is The Holy War, which portrays a war for the City of Mansoul between the good defenders and the evil besiegers.  I need not spell out the allegorical meaning of the work when the city’s named is rendered as Man Soul.  Kipling had been a devotee of Bunyan since his childhood, and I suppose that part of his motivation in writing the poem was to pay back a literary debt.

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11 Responses to Benedict XV, Rudyard Kipling, John Bunyan and G. K. Chesterton

  • I learned more history about WW I in this essay than I did in all my years of public schooling.

  • I too am a big fan of Kipling. An added benefit is that liberals’ heads explode when I mention his name.
    Not all liberals, tho. My father (old soldier, Kipling man) was still with us and able to attend my son’s US Army commissioning ceremony at the lovely chapel in Fordham U. We were all pleasantly surprised when, after Father President gave the benediction, another Jesuit priest (apparently he does this every year) did a fine reading of Kipling’s “Recessional.”

    Kipling’s short stories are valuable, as well.


  • It is hard to see how Great Britain could have seen WWI as anything other than a war that must be fought through to a just victory, a “holy war” perfectly valid against the Kaiser and his ruthless military leadership.

    Just for one point, it was the first use of senseless aerial bombing (both Zeppelin and early long-range bombers) against civilian population centers, needlessly killing hundreds and wounding hundreds more.

  • The irony is that Kipling did get his wish concerning German militarism, but only in 1945, and after Foch’s twenty year armistice.

  • (World War I) was the first use of senseless aerial bombing (both Zeppelin and early long-range bombers) against civilian population centers, needlessly killing hundreds and wounding hundreds more.
    Steve Phoenix

    Aerial bombing of civilian population centers was an easily anticipated response to Britain’s Starvation Blockade (yes, that’s what the British Government openly called it) barring all shipping, even from neutrals and even of food, to Germany. The other noteworthy response of Germany to Britain’s plan to starve civilians to death en masse was her submarine warfare against British shipping and other ships carrying war materiel to Britain. By the way, British practice was to mingle passenger ships within convoys of warships and armed merchant ships carrying war material to Britain. Think about that when the current heir to Wilson’s positions as Democrat party leader and US President complains about ISIS positioning its fighters among civilians.

    2016 is the 100th anniversary of Woodrow “He Kept Us Out Of War” Wilson’s re-election. Yes, the Democrat KKK-fanboy marched the USA right into war after his re-election. There were over 300,000 casualties of young American men, over 100,000 of which were deaths. (But to hear the feminist Mrs. Clinton tell it, women had it worse.)

  • Great article, just correct:
    In 1907 Pope BENEDiCT….

    By the way, yeah on Pope Pius XIi, but he was silent too many times and the Second War was clearer where was the evil.

    Best regards,

  • Thanks for catching that Pedro. I have made the correction. During World War II nobody was criticizing the Pope for silences. Everyone knew where he stood.

  • “yes, that’s what the British Government openly called it)”

    No, that is what the Kaiser’s government called it as part of their propaganda. Germany imported food from the Netherlands and Scandinavia throughout the War. Due to their victories against Russia, they had access to the grain producing regions of Poland and the Ukraine during the latter part of the War. German food rationing, and stealing food from conquered areas, kept starvation from happening in Germany, hysterical Teutonic propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding.

    ” marched the USA right into war after his re-election.”

    The Republicans were much more eager for War against the Central Powers than Wilson. His hand was forced by the Zimmerman telegram in which Germany promised Mexico parts of the US in exchange for Mexican support of Germany in any war between Germany and the US.

  • You are always welcome.
    Yes everyone knew and he even plotted to kill Hitler, but the own Pius xii recognized his silence in his speeches as Pope.
    I recommend the excellent book “The church of spies” . Riebling clarifies.
    Best regards,

  • Pingback: Making Dogma Out of Unsettled Science, Art and the Embodiment of the Incarnate Word, and Much More! | The Guadalupe Radio Network
  • Yes, I agree that we should do something about our schools – voting comes to mind

Heia Safari!

Saturday, August 8, AD 2015


Something for the weekend.  Heia Safari!.   The lyrics were written in 1916 by noted German painter of African wild life Hans Aschenborn, and became immensely popular.  When Paul Emil von Lettow Vorbeck wrote his memoirs, he entitled the book Heia Safari (Hurray Safari).

Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck doubtless would have died an obscure retired German colonel but for the outbreak of World War I.  Taking command of the troops of German East Africa he made up his mind that he would help the German war effort by holding down as many Allied troops in Africa as possible.  This seemed like a large task for a man who commanded  2,600 German nationals and 2,472 African soldiers in fourteen Askari field companies.  The other German colonies in Africa were conquered swiftly by the Allies, but von Lettow-Vorbeck had a deep streak of military genius in him that had hitherto been unrecognized.

He defeated the initial Allied attempts to take the colony and expended to 14,000 his mostly native force.  He declared that “We are all Africans here.” and lived up to that claim by appointing native officers, mastering their language and treating his troops fairly, without loosening the strict discipline he applied to Germans and natives alike.  He proved a master of guerrilla war and improvisation, often arming, clothing and feeding his men from the stores of defeated Allied forces sent against him.  The Allies would pour 250,000 troops into a campaign that lasted the entire war.  He became a hero in Germany as news of his exploits spread, and the British grew to respect and admire a man who fought successfully against very long odds.

He ended the war undefeated, he and his men in northern Rhodesia, the only undefeated German force of the War.  He and his officers were given a tumultuous parade in Berlin in 1919.  Deeply conservative, he entered German politics after he retired from the Army in 1928 and served as a member of the Reichstag.  He fought against the rise of the Nazis and Hitler, who he despised.  When Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to Great Britain, knowing in what esteem the British held their old foe, the old soldier allegedly told Hitler to perform an anatomically impossible act.  (After World  War II a nephew confirmed this in substance, but mentioned to his British inquirer that he had heard that his uncle had not been quite that polite to Corporal Hitler.)

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One Response to Heia Safari!

  • Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck seems to have been a real man all in too short a supply today. My take from this however wrong I may be is that a person can be the enemy but does not have to evil.
    Sadly today’s effeminate liberal wimps are both the enemy and evil.

Two Nations Under Red, White and Blue

Tuesday, July 14, AD 2015

We will wait for the Americans and the tanks.

General Philippe Petain, 1917


Today is Bastille Day.  Our relationship with our oldest ally has been frequently rocky over the years, in spite of the aid France gave us in winning our independence and the fact that the US was instrumental in saving France in two World Wars.  As we commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Great War, it is good to recall a time when French and Americans fought so closely together that at times they seemed to be one army.

By 1917 the French Army was in a mutinous state.  Millions of Frenchmen were wounded and dead with little to show for it.  Petain, the victor of Verdun, was made commander in chief of the French army.  He constantly visited units and told them that wasteful, ill-prepared offensives were a thing of the past.  Petain had enjoyed a great deal of success with intensively prepared small scale offensives where he could mass overwhelming force against a small enemy section of the immense line of trenches that stretched from Switzerland to the North Sea.  He had these type of offensives on a grand scale in mind for a rejuvenated French army in 1918.  He also knew two other things:  Allied factories were beginning to produce massive amounts of tanks that could spearhead future offensives and America had entered the War:  the Yanks were coming!  At the conclusion of most of his speeches in 1917 he told his men that they would wait for the Americans and the tanks, a line that never failed to receive thunderous applause from the troops.  The average poilu was a brave man and he was willing to die, if need be, to win the War.  He was no longer willing to die in useless offensives that accomplished nothing, and Petain understood that.

American troops trickled in during 1917 and received a tumultuous reception from the French.  When Colonel Charles E. Stanton, nephew of Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, said at the tomb of Lafayette on July 4, 1917:  “Lafayette we are here!” both nations were electrified.

America sent over endless amounts of food in 1917 and 1918 that kept the French from starving.  The American Navy helped to master the U-boat threat.

By October 1917 four American divisions were deployed to France.  French combat veterans acted as instructors for the troops and much of the artillery was provided by the French.  This of course was only the first wave of millions of Americans training in the US to be shipped across the Atlantic in 1918.

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10 Responses to Two Nations Under Red, White and Blue

  • “Happy” Reign of Terror Day.
    I will commemorate the day, but not celebrate it.
    Lafayette’s mistake was to see the American Revolution as an actual “revolution” rather than the war for independence that it in fact was.
    He returned to France full of revolutionary zeal, hoping to replicate on the Continent what he had helped achieve in America. Unfortunately, Lafayette — who sought a moderate middle ground in the French Revolution vs. the more radical Jacobin elements led by Robespierre — did not foresee the Reign of Terror that would be loosed by his actions on that fateful July 14, which would all too soon turn its sights on him.

  • The reign of Terror was indeed terrible Jay and in many ways the French Revolution ushered in for a period the first totalitarian state. However, it also began a process that over time transformed France into a Republic, and I share Lafayette’s joy in that. As for our Revolution, it was both a War for independence and a Revolution, perhaps the only true Revolution worthy of the name in the history of Man, and one that is still ongoing.

  • I’ve been listening to the Revolutions podcast, which has so far covered the English and French revolutions and now winding up the French, it’s worth a listen during your morning drive: http://www.revolutionspodcast.com/

    Ironically, King Louis could probably have stayed on the throne if it weren’t for the fiscal crisis caused by sending millions of livres to support the American rebels.

  • French involvement in the American Revolution did not help its fiscal situation, but the real killers were a decline in French agricultural prices, reliance upon the peasantry to pay most of the taxes, an outmoded system of collecting taxes and four years of disastrous winters in 1785-89.

  • I appreciate this post- I always feel the French are so maligned today and I wish for more understanding of how the enlightenment (tool of the Devil) hit France so very hard. Mr McClarey’s favorite E. Burker addressed that somewhere…

    The revolution in France was not the same at the end as it was in the beginning– just as today people are carried along on the currents of time and events and suddenly late begin to recognize that they have gone a “bridge too far” ..
    For me, Jane Fonda made me realize “no-this is not what I meant” when I walked in an anti-war march– learning that I needed to turn around and look again at the issues and my own actions.
    Today I think some gays so eager to march and wave their flag at courthouses, will look around and see the destruction of our (their own) culture and say– “wait no–ALL of that is not what I meant— I have been a useful idiot… my earnest feelings of compassion and etcetera etcetera etcetera have been co-opted… “

  • When French republicans made Bastille day a national holiday, they were making a statement that they are on the right side of history, and French royalists are on the wrong side. When you think of France, what stirs your imagination? Is it King Louis IX, St. Joan of Arc, the University of Paris during St. Thomas Aquinas’s time, Notre Dame and Sainte Chappelle? Or is it Napoleon, the Impressionists, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre pyramid? One nation, two visions of what civilization ought to be – take your pick. (And these two visions can overlap – the French tolerate contradiction.)

  • I’m a cafeteria Francophile, so I’ll select the good and pass on the rotten. As regards the Revolution, it went off the rails when the Jacobins and others turned on the Church and murdered the King. Nothing good could come thereafter, and nothing did until Napoleon imposed his own unique settlement. The sad truth is that if the Bourbons had been somewhat flexible, the monarchy (limited by a constitution) would have returned before the advent of Napoleon. Sure, it might be difficult to be flexible if you’d seen your predecessor beheaded. On the other hand, Charles II made it work in England, so…

    As an aside, I think a comparison of the Declaration of Independence with the Declaration of the Rights of Man probably shows in best measure the difference between the two Republics. The Creator and His natural law is at the forefront of the American statement, but more of an afterthought in the French issuance. That, and the unfortunate concept of “the general will” in the latter document is a source of much mischief.

    Nevertheless, the French still fascinate, and rightly so–the history of the Great Nation is a remarkable tale, and one that should be required reading.

  • The sad truth is that if the Bourbons had been somewhat flexible, the monarchy (limited by a constitution) would have returned before the advent of Napoleon.

    The monarchy might have been restored in 1873 had the idiot Comte de Chambord not insisted the tricouleur be junked.

  • I’m a cafeteria Francophile, so I’ll select the good and pass on the rotten.

    The language, the old architecture, the urban planning, the rail system, the civil service recruitment, the cafes, and the charming young women v. the irreligion, the sexual mores, the reds everywhere, the ineffectual police, the gross elite cynicism, the hyper-centralization, and Parisian manners.

  • Being a cafeteria Francophile is probably the best attitude to adopt. Just an observation. Pre-Revolutionary France gave us King Louis IX, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Joan of Arc. Post-Revolutionary France gave us St. Bernadette and St. Therese. There is a distinction between having a tailwind to lift you up, versus having no choice but to fly against a headwind.

The Old World in its Sunset Was Fair to See

Wednesday, July 30, AD 2014




Like many others, I often summon up in my memory the impression of those July days.  The world on the verge of its catastrophe was very brilliant.  Nations and Empires crowned with princes and potentates rose majestically on every side, lapped in the accumulated treasures of the long peace.  All were fitted and fastened—it seemed securely—into an immense cantilever.  The two mighty Europeans systems faced each other glittering and clanking in their panoply, but with a tranquil gaze.  A polite, discreet, pacific, and on the whole sincere diplomacy spread its web of connections over both.  A sentence in a dispatch, an observation by an ambassador, a cryptic phrase in a Parliament seemed sufficient to adjust from day to day the balance of the prodigious structure.  Words counted, and even whispers.  A nod could be made to tell.  Were we after all to achieve world security and universal peace by a marvelous system of combinations in equipoise and of armaments in equation, of checks and counter-checks on violent action ever more complex and more delicate?  Would Europe this marshaled, thus grouped, thus related, unite into one universal and glorious organism capable of receiving and enjoying in undreamed of abundance the bounty which nature and science stood hand in hand to give?  The old world in its sunset was fair to see.

Winston Churchill, The World Crisis

How quickly worlds can be shattered.  In this year of grace 2014 let us hope that future historians will not be putting down similar words about out age.  I doubt, in part, if they will, because the optimism that characterized Europe prior to the Great War is completely foreign to our time.  However, future historians dwelling upon the blindness of current leaders as we slide into another Great War, well, that would not surprise me at all.  Let us pray that my fears do not come to fruition.

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6 Responses to The Old World in its Sunset Was Fair to See

  • ‘ …Nations and Empires … A polite, discreet, pacific, and on the whole sincere diplomacy spread its web of connections over both. … ‘

    Politeness, discretion, and intellect are victims of an abortion – practically abandoned by art, education, entertainment, journalism, public service leaders, and most with forms of communication.

  • Maybe the sun hasn’t completely set on the old Catholic world… France is offering refuge to Iraqi Christians. Maybe the eldest daughter of the Church still has some of the old feeling.

  • Anzlyne

    The proud boast – La France, pays d’asile [France, the country of asylum] is not an empty one; that it is a matter of pride is in stark contrast to German (and British) attitudes.

  • I didn’t know they claimed that appellation, but I did know that the south of France is where some 1st century Jews become Christians fled to in escaping persecution. Mary Magdalena for one

  • Ironically, there are some roughly similar passages in “The Crisis” by Winston Churchill — not the Churchill mentioned above but a popular American historical novelist of the early 20th century (go here to read about him: http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/02/10/the-other-winston-churchill). Internet searches for this novel about the advent of the Civil War often turn up results for the British Churchill’s “World Crisis” due to the similarity of the titles and authors.

    In this passage the American Churchill describes the grand estate of a (fictional) St. Louis society family and the glittering party they hosted in the fall of 1860, just before Abraham Lincoln was elected president and the Civil War broke out:

    “An era of charity, of golden simplicity, was passing on that October night of Anne Brinsmade’s ball. Those who made merry there were soon to be driven and scattered before the winds of war; to die at Wilson’s Creek, or Shiloh, or to be spared for heroes of the Wilderness. Some were to eke out a life of widowhood in poverty. All were to live soberly, chastened by what they had seen. A fear knocked at Colonel Carvel’s heart as he stood watching the bright figures.

    “Brinsmade,” he said, “do you remember this room in May, ’46?”

    Mr. Brinsmade, startled, turned upon him quickly.

    “Why, Colonel, you have read my very thoughts,” he said. “Some of those who were here then are—are still in Mexico.”

    “And some who came home, Brinsmade, blamed God because they had not fallen,” said the Colonel. (The Colonel’s wife had died while he was away fighting in Mexico.)

    “Hush, Comyn, His will be done,” he answered; “He has left a daughter to comfort you.”

  • Maybe France is waking up, in some small way.

    Hot Air has a piece about the vicious anti-Semitic protests that have taken place in Germany and Italy. Conspicuous by is absence is….Poland. Poland, where so much carnage from both World Wars took place, where the SS built and operated so many death camps….

    Poland really does not have the economic means to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees – they haven’t allowed the descendants of Poles deported by Stalin to return (and I think they should) – but you are not seeing or hearing of any of that garbage there.

Dark Lamps

Tuesday, July 29, AD 2014

A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below on which we were looking. My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary in 1914

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7 Responses to Dark Lamps

  • Those lamps were the lamps of independence. In Europe, independence meant conflict, just like it did here in the states. We succumbed to central control first and then it was forced on Europe by America as a result of the war.

    I think that America was designed originally as it was because the founders looked at European history and realized that independent states would always be at war. They designed a system that was supposed to allow for a common governmental framework in which these conflicts could be defused without the loss of independence.

    It took less than one hundred yeas to find out that peace among independent states is not possible and that a little control with only the power of man as its basis won’t maintain it. Peace, or at least the fiction of it, can only be maintained through force of a more eternal kind.

    And that’s the real story of history. Who has the power to enforce peace and whether or not they do it with justice or terror. After the fall of Rome Europe became a place where subsidiarity was the rule. City states and small kingdoms all competed for power. Because there were many different actors and power was diffused a chaotic system kept any one group from holding too much power for too long.

    During the Middle Ages the system the American founders wanted actually existed, though to read modern historians one would never know it. The Catholic Church became the great arbiter, a clearing house for grievances large and small which kept most of Europe independent and from each others throat. Most rulers had an allegiance to the Church and the Pope which gave the Church the power to step in when needed and decide the issue at hand before war broke out.

    A perfect system? No. But a better one than the one that came into place after WWI. The American system of top down central control, developed after the Civil War, came into its own During the Roosevelt and Wilson administrations and at the same time as the rise of the other centrally controlled system, Communism. And Europe became the testing and battle ground for global central government.

    In the Middle ages Europe stayed relatively peaceful (at least for Europe) due to the fear of God. The limits imposed by the Church were shattered by the Reformation and the Age of Reason, culminating in the French Revolution and finally the force of government enforced through the fear of man and his arms after WWI. Nations no longer feared God. They looked to themselves for authority and the guys with the biggest guns had the most. So, with the governors off, with nothing apart from national force as the benchmark of truth, we entered into a century of global conflict, a tug of war on a global scale. An unnatural state of never ending warfare on a global and all consuming scale.

    That is the legacy of WWI and all that led to it. A war that has never been decided, a peace that can only be maintained through massive force which requires an expenditure of resources that cannot be maintained over time on a global scale never before attempted. Entropy writ large.

    We’re out of energy to apply to the false system of peace that was put in place at Versailles. The system is collapsing and a new one will rise in its place. We’re about to see why, on the biggest human scale ever, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not just a suggestion – it’s a law.

    Personally, I think that we’ll use the last of our rapidly dwindling energy reserves fighting to damn near global exhaustion this time and then we’ll see the injection of God into history. The power to rebuild has to come from the outside to keep the human system going or it will completely collapse and disappear. God uses nature and He pretty much follows the laws He designed.

    So buckle up. Those that make it to the other side of this will have stories that will need to be passed down through the generations as a warning to those that come after.

  • Repeat after me.
    Germany was to blame.
    WW1- Germany did not start it but Germany wanted it.
    WW2 – Germany started it AND wanted it.

    Germany is the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, Marxism and National Socialism. Germany wanted an empire at the expense of their neighbors for a century and a half.

    The Partition of Poland.
    Chemical weapons.
    Death camps.
    Oh,and the Zimmerman telegram.

    The Polish independence day is November 11.

  • “One thing is for certain: they will not say that Belgium invaded Germany.”

    Clemenceau’s response when asked how future historians would assess war guilt.

  • Very interesting Tom. Subsidiarity will make it’s come back! for those of us who make it through.

  • “Personally, I think that we’ll use the last of our rapidly dwindling energy reserves fighting to damn near global exhaustion this time and then we’ll see the injection of God into history. The power to rebuild has to come from the outside to keep the human system going or it will completely collapse and disappear. God uses nature and He pretty much follows the laws He designed. So buckle up.”

    Matthew 24:3-27

    Signs of the End of the Age

    3 “As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ 4And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”

    9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall awaya and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

    The Abomination of Desolation

    15“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

  • Tom Usher

    The fact is that in Europe the Middle Ages (taking it as the millennium between the Sack of Rome and the Fall of Constantinople) was a period of almost incessant warfare, between and within the “city states and small kingdoms.”

    It is no accident that there is one exception to the rule that the services by which a vassal held his feu are always specified in detail in his charter; that exception was military service or ward-holding, simply described as Servitia debita et consueta – Services used and wont. The clearest words were requires to exclude it – “and these for all other burden, exaction, demand or secular service whatsoever which can be any ways exacted for the lands and others foresaid, or any part thereof, in all time coming.” Likewise, the sword was everywhere the badge of a gentleman.

  • Michael I think the fact is that the history of the whole world was almost incessant warfare, between and within the “city states and small kingdoms.”
    Christendom was a gentle -ing of the world and it’s a shame to not recognize the progress that humanity was making during the spread of Christianity– too bad the lights provided by God, not recognized, and tossed in the ebb and flow in regular human sin, are in danger of being extinguished by the dark fervor and will of the anti-Christians. Christianity has been under attack for all these generations and we do not have gentlemen and ladies armed well enough to defend her.
    Leadership needed.

October 12, 1915: Theodore Roosevelt Addresses the Knights of Columbus

Tuesday, July 15, AD 2014

Death had to take him in his sleep, for if he was awake there’d have been a fight.

Remark of Charles Marshall, Vice President of the United States, upon hearing of the death of Theodore Roosevelt


On October 12, 1915, Columbus Day, that force of nature Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech to the Knights of Columbus in New York City.  Roosevelt packed so many lives into his 60 years: historian, reformer, rancher, politician, Undersecretary of the Navy, soldier, Governor of New York, President, explorer, naturalist, etc. In 1915 his crusade was to rouse America into readiness if it should become necessary to fight Germany and to instill in the American people a sense of unity and patriotism.  He wanted this nation of immigrants to understand that they were Americans and he wanted no talk of hyphenated Americans.  Many of the important issues of his day translate poorly to our time, and Roosevelt took positions which would inspire, and offend, virtually every segment of the contemporary American political spectrum.  This speech however does have a contemporary ring to it, and if I had been present I suspect that I would have come close to wearing out my hands madly applauding most of it. Here is the text of the speech:


FOUR centuries and a quarter have gone by since Columbus by discovering America opened the greatest era in world history. Four centuries have passed since the Spaniards began that colonization on the main land which has resulted in the growth of the nations of Latin-America. Three centuries have passed since, with the settlements on the coasts of Virginia and Massachusetts, the real history of what is now the United States began. All this we ultimately owe to the action of an Italian seaman in the service of a Spanish King and a Spanish Queen. It is eminently fitting that one of the largest and most influential social organizations of this great Republic, a Republic in which the tongue is English, and the blood derived from many sources, should, in its name, commemorate the great Italian. It is eminently fitting to make an address on Americanism before this society.


We of the United States need above all things to remember that, while we are by blood and culture kin to each of the nations of Europe, we are also separate from each of them. We are a new and -distinct nationality. We are developing our own distinctive culture and civilization, and the worth of this civilization will largely depend upon our determination to keep it distinctively our own. Our sons and daughters should be educated here and not abroad. We should freely take from every other nation whatever we can make of use, but we should adopt and develop to our own peculiar needs what we thus take, and never be content merely to copy.

Our nation was founded to perpetuate democratic principles. These principles are that each man is to be treated on his worth as a man without regard to the land from which his forefathers came and without regard to the creed which he professes. If the United States proves false to these principles of civil and religious liberty, it will have inflicted the greatest blow on the system of free popular government that has ever been inflicted. Here we have had a virgin continent on which to try the experiment of making out of divers race stocks a new nation and of treating all the citizens of that nation in such a fashion as to preserve them equality of opportunity in industrial, civil, and/ political life. Our duty is to secure each man against any injustice by his fellows.

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Foolish Thing in the Balkans

Saturday, June 28, AD 2014


Europe today is a powder keg and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal … A single spark will set off an explosion that will consume us all … I cannot tell you when that explosion will occur, but I can tell you where … Some damned foolish thing in the Balkans will set it off.

Otto von Bismarck,  said during the Congress of Berlin in 1878

One hundred years ago the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, setting off a chain of events leading to World War I, the rise of Bolshevism in Russia, the reshaping of the map of Europe, ultimately to the rise of Nazism and World War II.  The deadliest bullets fired in the course of history were those fired by Gavrilo Princip.

Looking back, one is struck by how slow contemporaries were to grasp where events were heading.  The general feeling was that this crisis would be ultimately resolved and that war would be avoided, perhaps by a meeting of the great powers.  Alas such was not to be.  Austria used the assassination as a pretext to militarily settle accounts with Serbia.  Kaiser Wilhelm, against the advice of wiser heads among his advisors, gave Austria a blank check.  Russia would inevitably enter the war on the side of Serbia, which would bring in her ally France.  Germany would quickly be fighting a two front war.  The German invasion plan of France required an invasion of Belgium which would bring Britain into the war.  All of these domino actions were clear enough at the time, but the powers that be in each of the Great Powers assumed that their adversaries would back down rather than risk a general war.  Such was not the case.

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, was preoccupied, as was the rest of the British cabinet, with the issue of Irish Home Rule, which threatened to lead to violent clashes in Ireland and a possible revolt by segments of the British Army in Ireland against Home Rule.  This was a major crisis and it was not until July 25, 1914 that Churchill grasped what was coming on the Continent.  After a long discussion on the issue of Home Rule in Ireland. the Foreign Secretary read to the cabinet the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia:

“We were all very tired, but gradually as the sentences and phrases followed one another, impressions of a wholly different character began to form in my mind.  As the reading proceeded it seemed absolutely impossible that any State in the world could accept it, or that any acceptance, however abject, would satisfy the aggressor.  The parishes of Fermanagh and Tyrone faded into the mists and squalls of Ireland, and a strange light began immediately, but by perceptible gradations, to fall and grow upon the map of Europe.”

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24 Responses to Foolish Thing in the Balkans

  • Everyone wanted war in 1914

    1. Ever since the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Austria and Germany had been determined to prevent Russian expansion in the Balkans. Austria knew that, if she allowed herself to be humiliated by Serbia, she could not keep control of her minorities.
    2. Germany saw war with Russia as inevitable and wanted it before Russia completed her rail network and gained the ability to mobilise her vast reserves quickly.
    3. With her prestige already damaged by her defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, Russia knew if she allowed her ally, Serbia, to be humiliated, she could well face revolt in her Western provinces, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, from which she drew the bulk of her tax revenue.
    4. With her stagnant birth-rate and Germany’s growing one, France knew she could not wait another generation, if she were ever to recover the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and avenge the defeat of 1870.
    5. Italy wanted to incorporate Austria’s Italian provinces (Italia Irredenta).
    6. Tirpitz’s naval expansion and the consequent arms race with Germany was ruinously expensive for Britain and, ultimately, unsustainable.

  • “Everyone wanted war in 1914”

    Disagree. The Brits clearly didn’t want it, and absent the invasion of Belgium I doubt if they would have gotten involved on the continent, restricting themselves to a naval war against Germany. The Serb government accepted almost all the demands of the Austrians in an attempt to avoid war. Inept, doomed Nicholas II, the last Tsar, did not want war and did his ineffective best to try to avert it. Even blockheaded Kaiser Bill, who did so much to bring on the Great War, had moments of panic and regret during the Sarajevo crisis when he realized the Great War that had been predicted for so long was really about to begin. One of the saddest aspects of Sarajevo is how few actual villains there were and how much miscalculation piled on wishful thinking there was. Easier to accept great disasters brought about by villains like Hitler, instead of great disasters brought about by bumbling mediocrities.

  • Donald M McClarey
    Ever since 1886, people like General George Boulanger, the Ligue des patriotes led by Paul Déroulède and supported by Maurice Barrès, Godefroy Cavaignac, Marcel Habert and Barillier had been campaigning relentlessly for war with Germany – « La Revanche. »

  • Yep, and they had been ignored, as the time between 1886 and 1914 would indicate. French desire for revenge for Alsace and Lorraine had not overcome realization that in a one on one fight they would doubtless be trounced by the Germans again. It was fear, and not desire for revenge, that led France into its alliance with Russia.

  • particularly Poland and the Baltic states, from which she drew the bulk of her tax revenue.

    About 11% of the population of Tsarist Russia resided in Poland or the Baltic states. Some how I tend to doubt the revenue generating potential in those provinces exceeded that of the rest of Russia by a factor of 8 or more.

  • “Cum enim dixerint pax et securitas tunc repentinus eis superveniet interitus sicut dolor in utero habenti et non effugient.” Prima Epistula Sancti Pauli ad Thessalonicenses, Caput V, Versus III.
    I have a feeling that the First World War never ended, but had mere brief lulls of low-level fighting and bloodshed. What Putin is doing in addicting Europe to natural gas while it de-nuclearizes itself and welcomes in Muslim immigrants is a setup for another powder keg.

  • The total death toll in all 20th century wars prior to Sarajevo was 1.5 million, or about 100,000 persons a year. If the assassination in Sarajevo never happened and the course of the 20th century was different, one could extrapolate that the 20th century would have killed about 10,000,000 persons (of course, one cannot really say that the trends of 1900-1914 would have continued indefinitely. Perhaps it would have gone the other way, Irish Home Rule would have been granted and become the pattern for the rest of the century, with even less conflict and death as a result).

    Instead we got Sarajevo, and the number dead “by human decision” amounted to at least 231,000,000. People who read the Apocalypse of St. John should realize that the Horsemen have been riding for quite some time already.

  • The total death toll in all 20th century wars prior to Sarajevo was 1.5 million, or about 100,000 persons a year.

    I’d be quite skeptical of these sorts of contentions. Follow the citations rearward and see if they come to a serious piece of historical demography. One minor personal project I’d like to undertake is to find out the origins of the seven digit death tolls attributed to King Leopold’s troops in the Congo Free State.

  • I have a feeling that the First World War never ended, but had mere brief lulls of low-level fighting and bloodshed.

    The principals in the 1st World War were Britain & her Dominions, France, Germany, the Hapsburgs, Italy, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, the United States, and Japan. I am trying to figure who among them you anticipate will be fighting whom. The bloodshed of note in Europe in the last 60-odd years has been confined to Yugoslavia (bar the brief intramural violence in East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), and Roumania (1989). Latin America has seen one interstate war since 1895. There has been horrendous bloodshed in the Far East since 1945, but it’s hard to see much of that as derivative of the World War I era conflicts.

  • Casualties in war are notoriously squishy, and the closer you examine them the squishier they get, often involving fairly loose guestimates. A prime example is our Civil War, studied more than any other conflict, with the exception of World War II. For over a century, fatalities were accepted as around 640,000. Recently a higher death toll is being bruited about of 750,000. I have always thought the death toll of 640,000 was probably too low, based on the large amount of skirmishes and raids fought where record keeping was none too good, and general problems with the destruction of a fair amount of Confederate records during and immediately after the War. However, the new estimate is largely based on demographic extrapolations from the 1860 census, and that puts us squarely in guestimate territory.

  • I sometimes wonder what would have happened, if Germany had gone to war with France in June 1905, during the Morocco crisis.

    The Anglo-Russian Entente was not concluded until 1907 and Britain might have stood aloof. The Schlieffen plan might well have produced a German victory within weeks.

    In 1914, even with the BEF in place, scouting parties of cavalry from von Kluck’s army reached the outskirts of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés – That is just over 11k or 7½ miles from the centre of Paris.

  • “I’d be quite skeptical of these sorts of contentions.”

    Yes, we should be Art. It would probably be better to express these numbers in min-max range due to uncertainties over deaths due to war-related disease and famine, especially civilian. The estimate of 1,500,000 deaths in the 1900-1914 period (another issue: is 1900 in the 20th century?) is the best I could find on short notice, especially considering these numbers:

    Second Boer War: 44,000
    Philippine revolt: 226,000
    First Balkan War: 448,000
    Second Balkan War: 34,000
    Russo-Japanese War: 157,000
    Italio-Turkish War: 18,000
    Total: 827,000

    The Russian numbers from the Russo-Japanese War are the maximum values. The minimum are half that. The Philippine insurrection likewise has a good deal of uncertainty. But these are among the best numbers we have.

    The numbers above bring us to over 50% of the 1.5 million estimate above, so the numbers are within the same order of magnitude. I’d have to do more work to better the accuracy.

  • I sent one fellow into apoplexy by turning up a scholarly article by a military historian on the Philippine war which included some casualty estimates (the upper bound being a good deal lower than your quotation above). The notion that a modest expeditionary force was willing or able to inflict that level of carnage strikes me as incredible.

    My initial efforts at finding the source of the estimated death tolls in the Congo Free State were unsuccessful. It would not surprise me in the least if that number were just a castle in the air.

  • There are some Philippine insurrection numbers floating around of 1,000,000 or more. Obviously we have some problems here. U.S. troops did commit some atrocities there – we know because some Americans were disgusted and complained about it, or went to the media. Camps were built and many civilians were interned in them, and disease took many lives. People were motivated to exaggerate these deaths in both directions depending on which side they were on.

    One fact that goes against the larger numbers for the Philippine insurrection is the rather harmonious relationship between the Filipinos and the Americans in the 1910-1945 timeframe. Real bitterness does not seem to have entered the picture. Perhaps it was Christian forgiveness in action, or perhaps it was just that there was less to be bitter than some accounts maintain.

  • Thank you all for the history. Learn so much here. I wonder what they will be writing about America one
    Hundred years from now. I wonder what they will be writing about the Catholic Church? I also wonder if there will be my one left to write, or, any books to research from…..

    So sorrowful that so many died……so very sorrowful…..so many Mothers’ hearts were broken…..

  • In a sense, World War I was a continuation of the Franco-Prussian War and the Russo-Japanese War, as well as the Polish uprisings.

    The Hapsburg Empire was not something that could have lasted much longer. The Ottoman Empire was dying. The Russian Empire was fragile and led by the weak Nicholas.

    It was some “damn fool thing in the Balkans” because there have been few times when the Balkans have been at peace with each other. Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims have always been at each others’ throats.

    Germany, the Habsburgs and Russia weren’t about to cede an inch of their empires. In the end, they all lost them.

  • If the Kaiser had experienced a momentary flash of sanity, ignored von Moltke (and therefore Schlieffen,) decided to not invade France through Belgium but simply stand firm againt the French in the west and then send the three northern divisions eastward against Russia, how different would the world be? Certainly Poland, the Baltic States, White Russia and most if not all of the Ukraine would have become German, since that has been the Teutonic Dream since ol’ Red Beard himself.
    An Imperial Germany that stretched from the North Sea to the Gulf of Finalnd and then south to the Black Sea would have precluded a Nazi Germany born of vengeance and desperation, but would it have been any better in the long run? An eventual naval showdown with Britian, who would not have entered the conflict, was a surety, as well as continued global colonial competition. Would France have temporarily granted Britain overseer status to its holdings in SE Asia, or would Japan have begun expanding earlier than it did?
    Always an interesting speculation.

  • Yes, very interesting WK
    Hard to say that your White Russia-Ukraine scenario would have played out that way, at least immediately. The Japanese question is the more intriguing. Would they have joined with Russia and gone after Germany’s Pacific possessions or joined Germany and gone after Manchuria and Siberia? Without digging into the motives of particular Japanese leaders of the day it seems hard to answer. The obvious observation is that if Japan had joined Germany then your White Russia-Ukraine scenario would have been more likely, and Germany would have retained its Pacific possessions and thus Pearl Harbor would likely not have happened.
    Of course, a Kaiser who could have said no to von Moltke could have said yes to gentlemen’s agreements to coordinate Anglo-German fleet operations and to ending the colonial competition.
    The whole idea though begs the question: would France have stood by in a Phony War had Germany attacked only Russia?

  • Pan-Slavism and the determination of the other Great Powers to curb Russian influence in the Balkans meant it would be the flash-point for any conflict.

    It was only the naval arms-race that convinced GB of their folly in seeing Russia as the prime threat, ever since the Crimean War. The policy of HMG was well, if crudely, summed up in the words of the popular song
    “We don’t want to fight but by jingo if we do,
    We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, and got the money too!
    We’ve fought the Bear before and while we’re Britons true
    The Russians shall not have Constantinople.”

  • “Of course, a Kaiser who could have said no to von Moltke could have said yes to gentlemen’s agreements to coordinate Anglo-German fleet operations and to ending the colonial competition.” Perhaps, but then again, maybe avoiding conflict with England while taking land in the east would have been solely to ensure a greater ability to do so after accomplishing that goal – and employing the coal, iron and industrial expansion it afforded. Then perhaps a Hapsburg-Hollenzollern merger?
    A “Zweites Reich” that had close to half the size of the US in land mass? A Mediterranean port would have emerged within a decade and pretty soon that sea would have been be a German lake. Then, accord with whatever cousin sat on King Edward’s Chair would have been at Willie’s whim. Or not . . .
    “The whole idea though begs the question: would France have stood by in a Phony War had Germany attacked only Russia?” That’s a good one. Whether the French would have breathed a sigh of relief when no spiked helmets came tromping towards Metz, or would have found the opportunity to attach an otherwise-distracted Germany too much to resist is a great 3- or 4-round tavern talk.

  • W K Aitken asks, “would France have stood by in a Phony War had Germany attacked only Russia?”

    France would never have missed a heaven-sent opportunity to retake the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.

    One has only to think of the public reaction to the Saverne incident, of the march of the Strasbourg students past Kléber’s statue, of the crowds that flocked to the frontier to watch the Bastille Day parades at Belfort and of those young men, who, year by year, left home and family behind them to perform their military service in France, knowing they would be forbidden to return.

  • “France would never have missed a heaven-sent opportunity to retake the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.”
    Actually, TomD posed the precipitating query earlier and I’d replied, basically, “Good question.”
    That said, I think our host Don puts the other side of that debate nicely when he posits, “French desire for revenge for Alsace and Lorraine had not overcome realization that in a one on one fight they would doubtless be trounced by the Germans again.”
    At least three rounds at the tavern, I’m sure.

  • WK Aiken
    “French desire for revenge for Alsace and Lorraine had not overcome realization that in a one on one fight they would doubtless be trounced by the Germans again.”
    Of course, but a war between Germany and Russia would have been the signal for an attack and France, with her 30,000 km of railways could mobilise her massive reserves much more quickly than Russia. That was the whole rationale of the Schlieffen plan: Germany knew that war with either France or Russia inevitably meant war with both and that she needed to knock out France quickly, before Russia could mobilise, in order to move her forces eastwards.

  • MP-S

    “That was the whole rationale of the Schlieffen plan: Germany knew that war with either France or Russia inevitably meant war with both and that she needed to knock out France quickly, before Russia could mobilise, in order to move her forces eastwards.”
    Indeed. The Plan was devised to pull a quick “one – two” in the west and then be in place in the east by the time the cumbrous Bear finally gained any traction.
    One of the “cheats” in the speculation of counterfactual history is that we know what really happened, and so we can compare that against our own imaginations – an advantage that real people in their own times do not have. So we know the right flank was not strong enough and Moltke’s implementation fell victim, ironically, to his uncle’s dictum: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” This means we can see that it was Moltke der Jüngere who caused the whole mess. Willie wanted to go east on the promise of British neutrality absent a German attack on France, but the general would not have any of it. Yet how close did it come?
    If Kaiser Bill had shown a shred of kingliness, stood up to Moltke Jr, gone east with the bulk of the German offensive forces, grabbed as much territory as possible before the Russians responded while simply holding the line in the west against the inevitable French attacks, taking advantage of superior German firepower entrenched in the naturally defensive geography along the French border and knowing that the French Plan XVII depended upon a then-nonexistent British intervention . . . it is to wonder. “For want of a nail . . .”

Joyce Kilmer and the Fighting 69th

Monday, May 26, AD 2014

I THINK that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

That poem written by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, better known as Joyce Kilmer, in 1914 is, unfortunately, all most Americans remember today about Kilmer which is regrettable, because he was a devout Catholic and an American patriot and he deserves better than relative historical oblivion.

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  • I cannot thank you enough for this about Joyce Kilmer, Donald McClarey. All i ever knew was TREES and that Kilmer died in WWI.
    Joyce Kilmer realized that God loved him and his family more than he, as a man, could know to love. Kilmer trusted God.

  • I wish here to make a comment, but will wait and see if I be accepted

  • ok I guess this went thru. fr. duffy was my mother’s pastor in NYC and her brother james was very close to him. fr. duffy gave him his gold watch so he could enter the seminary. fr. duffy and my mom’s dad both died in 1932 then james entered the army and died on the leopoldville ship, Christmas even 1944. this ship with the loss of 800 was kept a secret for near fifty years. the men were from every state in America with the exception of two states, but the biggest figure came from NYC

  • Pat, which parish in Manhattan?

  • The link at the end describes what I think that this poet universally expressed for many souls.

    “The Robe of Christ”

    At the foot of the Cross on Calvary Three soldiers sat and diced, And one of them was the Devil And he won the Robe of Christ.
    When the Devil comes in his proper form To the chamber where I dwell, I know him and make the Sign of the Cross Which drives him back to Hell.
    And when he comes like a friendly man And puts his hand in mine, The fervour in his voice is not From love or joy or wine.


  • Pat: “The link at the end describes what I think that this poet universally expressed for many souls.
    “The Robe of Christ”
    At the foot of the Cross on Calvary Three soldiers sat and diced, And one of them was the Devil And he won the Robe of Christ.
    When the Devil comes in his proper form To the chamber where I dwell, I know him and make the Sign of the Cross Which drives him back to Hell.
    And when he comes like a friendly man And puts his hand in mine, The fervour in his voice is not From love or joy or wine.”
    Joyce Kilmer taught us how to exorcise the devil.

  • Don:
    Beautiful and timely remembrance of Kilmer who may be best known for “Trees” and for his name being appended to a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop near where he lived. He deserves to be known for much more. Thanks for this. I am trying to pass it on to many more viewers.

  • Thank you Pete! I first became aware of his war record watching as a kid reruns on TV of the 1940 Pat O’Brien-James Cagney classic The Fighting 69th:

  • Thank you, Donald. Being a bit long in tooth, I know of Joyce Kilmer but now more, including, “I may not lift a hand to clear My eyes of salty drops that sear. (Then shall my fickle soul forget Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?), the part somehow missed when memorizing the rest of “Prayer of a Soldier in France”. The bride of my youth and Mr. Kilmer share a first name, providing a joyful reminder of this saintly soldier.

  • Every time I hear or read Trees by Joyce Kilmer I think: Oh, oh, mixed metaphors. A tree cannot have a mouth, hair, and bosom and at the same time “leafy” arms. But I am being picayune…and I am glad the poem has survived this shortcoming.

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  • Kmbold: “Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.”

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  • I reckon so.

Martin Treptow’s Pledge

Monday, May 26, AD 2014

Martin August Treptow was a barber from Cherokee, Iowa.  Enlisting in the National Guard, during World War I his unit was called up and Treptow found himself in the 168th Infantry, part of the 42nd Division, called the Rainbow Division by Major Douglas MacArthur, who would rise during the War to eventually command the division, because it consisted of National Guard units that stretched across the country like a rainbow.

July 30th, 1918 was a hard day for the division.  Participating in the Second Battle of the Marne which stopped the last major German offensive of the War and saved Paris from capture, the division was attempting to take Hill 212 on La Croix Rouge Farm and incurring heavy casualties.  A message from Treptow’s unit needed to be taken to another platoon.  Private Treptow did not hesitate, but grabbed the message and ran off with it.  As he neared the platoon leader to deliver the message, Treptow was cut down by a burst of German fire.  He was twenty-five years old.  Sergeant  Joyce Kilmer was killed on the same day, in the same battle, a little bit later.  Go here to read about him.

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