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

Benedict-XV 

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,
    Pedro

  • 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,
    Pedro

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  • 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

 

Camille_Pissarro_007

 

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.

    Alsace-Lorraine
    Kulturkampf.
    The Partition of Poland.
    Lebensraum.
    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.

DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES

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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15 Responses to Joyce Kilmer and the Fighting 69th

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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.

    http://bostoncatholicinsider.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/cardinal-omalley-should-resign-usccb-pro-life-post-for-honoring-john-kerry-at-bc-graduation/

  • 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.
    Peter

  • 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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99 Years Ago: The Week The World Caught Fire

Tuesday, August 6, AD 2013

Certain historical events are remembered in terms of a single event which, in the course of minutes or hours, ushered in a new era. People who lived through Pearl Harbor could remember exactly where they were when they heard about the Japanese attack, a point when the course of US history (and world history) changed in the course of a couple hours.

Ninety-nine years ago, as the world plunged into the First World War, the experience was different. Rather than a single sharp event which plunged the world into cataclysm, there was a long series of events, at first not much noted, which in late July and early August of 1914 plunged all the major European powers into war over the course of a week.

There’s a certain tendency to look, with historical hindsight, at the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 as an incident very likely to lead to world war. There were hints of such a possibility. German Chancellor Otto von Bismark famously observed in the late 19th century that the next great European war would start with “some damn fool thing in the Balkans”. When Archduke Ferdinant was assassinated, some people immediately worried that this would lead to a general war. (H. G. Wells was among those with the dubious honor of predicting a general war was coming after hearing news of the assassination on June 28th.) However, there had just been two full fledged wars in the Balkans during the last ten years, and neither had led to general war. Indeed, the great powers, for all their diplomatic entanglements, had been able to negotiate satisfactory (at least to themselves) peaces to both prior Balkan wars.

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18 Responses to 99 Years Ago: The Week The World Caught Fire

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  • Europe had not known lengthy wars since the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Wars after Napoleon had tended to be fairly brief. One or two major battles, albeit bloody, and the issue was decided. Most of the leadership and populations of the warring nations assumed that a swift resolution would occur again. They failed to reckon on technological improvements since the Franco-Prussian War and the ability of modern nations to keep in the field vast armies that could inflict and sustain huge casualties that in earlier times would have broken a nation in short order. The Great War was our Civil War on steroids. The heads of state of Europe would have done better to pay heed to our Civil War in its length and casualties, but that type of study seems to have been limited to the military academies of Europe and the civilian leadership in Europe was ignorant of the subject with the exception of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty at the beginning of the Great War.

    Europe sorely missed a statesman of the caliber of a Bismarck, a Metternich or a Castlereagh in 1914. The Sarajevo assassination was the signal that it was time for another European council. Diplomacy, with time for cooler heads to prevail, might well have been successful in forestalling a general European war.

  • Serbia, anxious to avoid war, agreed to all but one point of Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum, however Austria-Hungary (which had withdrawn its ambassador as soon as the ultimatum was delivered) was determined to put an end to Serbia’s role as a regional destabilizing force and declared the concessions insufficient.

    The clause that Serbia rejected would have allowed Austro-Hungarian investigators free rein to find and capture those responsible for the assassination. Had they been allowed to do so, they would have discovered that the main instigator was the Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence (as you yourself pointed out in a recent post). That revelation would, if anything, have made war even more inevitable and as it was, everyone involved understood Serbia’s refusal as a tacit admission of complicity.

    Given all that, characterizing Serbia as a “regional destabilizing force” is euphemism of the highest order. Whatever one means by those words, they should hot extend to harboring (however unwillingly) court officials who assassinate opposing heads of state. Very few at the time would deny that that kind of skullduggery amounted to a de facto declaration of war.

  • HA,

    Certainly, the Serbians were and remain bad news. (Just how bad is arguably underlined by the fact that the only military use of force the Vatican has actually supported in the last 30 years was against the Serbs — though there are arguably other reasons for that as well.)

    I’m not sure that there’s strong evidence that the wider Serbian government knew about the antics of their intelligence chief ahead of time — he was, after all, also running a secret society which had at times acted against the Serb government. But certainly, I would agree that the Austro-Hungarians were right to see the Serbs as a serious (if regional) threat, as demonstrated by the fact that the head of the Austro-Hungarian general staff had been pushing for war with Serbia for a quite a while (mostly held back, before his death, by Archduke Ferdinand.)

    At the same time, one can at least see why the Serbs saw having Austro-Hungarian representatives come into Serbia and help run the trails of those involved as being a violation of sovereignty — something the Serbs were pretty sensitive about since they were so newly independent and overshadowed by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

    All in all, though, I certainly don’t blame the Austro-Hungarians much for wanting to go to war with Serbia over the assassination. (The way they behaved when they actually got into Serbia, on the other hand, is a whole other matter.) And the ones who engineered that very regional conflict into a general European war were clearly the Germans. The Austro-Hungarians wanted a regional war just between them and Serbia which would, they hoped, allow them to solidify the situation in the area and put down a disruptive local power.

  • Translations of the ultimatum and reply for those interested:

    http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/austrianultimatum.htm

  • so newly independent and overshadowed by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

    By this time, Serbia had been independent for about half a century, but your point is a valid one. While people these days tend to forget the rank barbarity that was then normal for the region – a memory lapse that anti-Catholics continue to make use of when it comes to the matter of Croatian Ustashe in the following war, who simply took a page from the Serbian playbook — it is worth noting that Serbia’s dysfunction was in some sense inevitable. Arguably, one cannot survive and overcome four centuries of Ottoman oppression by simply playing nice.

    Also, whatever the blame Serbia bears for the war, her people suffered inordinately for the misdeeds of their rulers. If I recall, half the male population was dead by the end, though as in much of the rest of the continent, disease was as much of a killer as bullets and bayonets.

  • I had not understood why Germany was blamed for WWI. I vaguely remember high school lessons suggesting that Germany was blamed because history is written by the victors.

    I am embarrassed to say that I have never had much interest in the First World War. Lessons in school blitzed through that section and I never picked it up again.

    Have you a recommendation for a general history of the Great War?

  • For a long time the First World War was neglected a lot in histories, and there’s been a lot of bad history of the conflict done. It’s one of those unusual periods where the historical analysis has been getting much better as we get further from the event, in part because some of the key documents relating to it are only now being de-classified by the involved governments.

    For a fairly short and readable general history, I’d recommend Hew Strachan’s The First World War from ten years back. There’s a paperback version that’s in print now, but it’s worth getting the hardcover from the library (or used) as it has a really good selection of pictures.

    For the longest time, I was fascinated by WW2 but pretty much ignored WW1, but it’s now become my main historical fascination. I’m hoping that it gets increasing attention and analysis with the 100th anniversary coming up.

  • Ah, Donald beat me to it.

    Keegan’s book is the first one I read when I started getting interested in WW1 again, and it’s also quite good.

  • Wow, twice today I have been greatly informed about world wars. Thanks guys!

    (this was the other fount of info in case you’re wondering*)

    *(Yes I am aware that the video is humorous. I just thought a lot of you history nerds would probably laugh at even more jokes I missed.)

  • It’s one of those unusual periods where the historical analysis has been getting much better as we get further from the event, in part because some of the key documents relating to it are only now being de-classified by the involved governments.

    Dunno. IIRC, there was a great mass of documents released very early on due to the controversy spawned by the war guilt clause. I think there were many early twentieth century diplomatic histories composed in various languages – I’ve held dozens in my hands.

  • A must-have for anyone interested in the Great War (as it is still known in the UK, the Second World War being simply “the War”) is the 26-part documentary of that name, broadcast by the BBC in 1964 to mark the fiftieth anniversary and drawing on over a million feet of original film, hundreds of exclusive interviews with surviving participants and contemporary diaries, letters and reports. It is, and will remain, the definitive film account of that conflict. The series editor was John Terraine.

    Darwin’s remarks about the Serbs is apposite. They were regarded as semi-civilized at best. In June 1903 the ruling dynasty was replaced in a bloody coup. A mob, led by drunken army officers, went on a murderous rampage through the royal palace in Belgrade. They eventually found King Alexander and Queen Draga hiding in a cupboard in the queen’s bedroom. They were shot, stabbed and mutilated, and their naked bodies hurled out of a window. The chief plotter, Col. Dragutin Dimitryevich, later founded the Black Hand terrorist group which assassinated Franz Ferdinand.

    Regarding the “Curragh mutiny” touched on by Darwin in his post – this was a declaration by some officers that they would resign their commissions if they were ordered north to impose Home Rule on Ulster. There was no question of anyone, particularly the rank and file, refusing to fight, and in any case the government was not planning to send them to Ulster. The Anglo-Irish families traditionally well-represented in the officer corps (Wellington is a famous example) were not Orangemen and would not have taken kindly to being so described.

    The Home Rule Bill had been passed by June 1914, but the Conservatives maintained it was unconstitutional. The Liberals did not have an overall parliamentary majority and in fact had only one more seat more than the Conservatives (272 as opposed to 271) and with a lower share of the popular vote (43.9% as opposed to 46.3%). They relied on the support of the 71 Irish nationalists in Parliament. They had used the new and controversial Parliament Act to override the House of Lords. Such a fundamental change in the make-up of the United Kingdom, opponents argued, needed a far stronger mandate.

    Winston Churchill, whose father Lord Randolph had famously “played the Orange Card” against Gladstone at the time of the first HR Bill in 1886, and who in 1914 was First Lord of the Admiralty, threatened to use the fleet to bombard Belfast into submission. To this day, he is not held in much esteem by NI protestants.

  • <i?They were shot, stabbed and mutilated, and their naked bodies hurled out of a window.

    Well, to be fair, there was the matter of Draga’s sham pregnancy that supposedly led to Serbian humiliation at the Russian court, and also the rumour that her brother would be appointed the heir (the mob murdered him as well). In any case, the Sicilians (yet another tribe schooled in Ottoman micro-statecraft) had nothing on these people. There may have been even a pet direwolf there, too, somewhere, but don’t quote me on that.

  • Art Deco,

    Dunno. IIRC, there was a great mass of documents released very early on due to the controversy spawned by the war guilt clause. I think there were many early twentieth century diplomatic histories composed in various languages – I’ve held dozens in my hands.

    Certainly, there have been a huge number of histories trying to get at the causes and conduct of the Great War. And there was indeed a large release of documents right after the war by Germany in order to try to make their case against the accusation of war guilt.

    I think that makes a lot of the earlier historiography problematic is:

    – In the diplomatic arena, part of the problem is that right after the war the people writing had such a huge stake in particular interpretations of what happened. Plus, the German release of documents was selective and intended to move guilt away from them. Fritz Fischer’s Germany’s Aims in the First World War in 1967 was one of the first works to start to get at additional documentation which showed pretty clearly that far more than any other great power, Germany was gunning for a general European war in 1914, but that from the very beginning there was a systematic attempt by German leadership to obscure the causes of the war. So we have Bethmann Hollweg endorsing war as a response to mobilization even while acknowledging that Russian mobilization is not an existential threat for Germany because Russian mobilization is not the kind of launch-a-war mobilization that constituted German plans. But you also have him stating that in order to avoid problems with the Social Democrat’s, it’s essential to at all times represent Russia as the guilty party. (Fischer covers this and also Fromkin more recently in Europe’s Last Summer: Why the World Went to War in 1914.) So I’d argue that as the documentary record has become more complete, the diplomatic history writing has become a lot better.

    – On tactics and strategy, I think part of the issue is that shortly after the war a lot of the people writing had a very strong agenda. Brock Millman has a book out called Pessimism and British War Policy, 1916-1918 which makes the case that while Haig believed he could win the war on the Western Front, after the Battle of the Somme a lot of the politicians (including Lloyd George) became convinced that the war could not be won, and instead were focused on winning strategic resources in the East and the colonies which would allow Britain to be successful against a still-strong Germany when the war kicked up again after a 5-10 year armistice. (I suppose arguably they were right on the resumed war part, though off on the length of time.) As a result, they’d quietly made things harder for Haig and the Western Front. When Haig went and unexpectedly won, it became necessary to defend those decisions which might otherwise be seen as having extended the war, and so it became necessary to emphasize a claim that Haig’s leadership had been inept and wasted lives. This account in works by Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, along with the works by disaffected veterans like Sigfied Sassoon and Robert Graves, provided grist for inter-war pacifism and then for the more class based critique of the Great War which became current after WW2. That too is something I think we’re finally starting to get behind in the last 10-20 years of scholarship.

    John Nolan,

    I’d have to go look this up, as I was reading it several years ago in William Manchester’s massive three volume Churchill biography, but I seem to recall that there was moderately good evidence during the home rule crisis that Unionist organizations were making some rather significant arms purchases — possibly with help (or at least winking) from Unionist officers in the British Army.

    And as you say, Churchill managed to get himself into rather hot water with the NI, with at least a credible danger of assassination. So depending how much Manchester is being influenced by his subject’s view of things, perhaps that’s an overly biased source.

  • Both the Ulster Volunteers and the Irish Volunteers were gun-running in 1914; the former via Larne and the latter via Howth. Interestingly, the Ulster gun-runners landed their arms under cover of darkness and attempted to evade the authorities, whereas the southerners ran their shipment of Mausers in broad daylight, with a large crowd present and under the noses of the military. The soldiers were taunted into opening fire and three people were killed; this incident at Bachelors Walk on 26 July has now acquired mythological status in the somewhat overblown annals of Irish republicanism. During the Easter Rising of 1916 the rebels were suspected of using dum-dum bullets, but the truth was that the ‘Howth Mausers’ were obsolete black powder weapons which fired a lead slug.

    The term ‘Unionist’ had a different connotation in 1914 than it has now. Since the defection of the Liberal Unionists to the Tories at the end of the 19th century, the Conservative Party was officially called the Unionist Party and indeed referred to itself as the Conservative and Unionist Party until the 1970s. Only later was the term used to describe those who wanted the separation of the Six Counties from the rest of Ireland.

  • On this day in 1918 began the Battle of Amiens, an offensive by Sir Henry Rawlinson’s 4th Army (British, Australian and Canadian) which Ludendorff referred to as the German army’s “Black Day”, and which was the start of the Allied ‘advance to victory’. The battle is noteworthy for a number of reasons:-

    1. The element of surprise. Men and materiel were moved into position under cover of darkness and radio silence was maintained (except for misleading radio traffic to make the Germans believe the Canadians were being moved to Ypres).

    2. A combination of sound-ranging and aerial photography enabled nearly all of the German batteries to be located and neutralized by ‘predicted’ counter-battery fire, i.e. without preliminary ‘ranging’. The troops could advance leaning on a creeping barrage, and the use of an instantaneous fuze enabled artillery to cut wire.

    3. Over 500 tanks were deployed; in addition to the much improved Mk V heavy tank there were light Whippet tanks and armoured cars. Tanks and infantry were well co-ordinated.

    4. Tactical airpower was used effectively; the RAF employed some 1,900 machines including dive bombers and fighter ground attack. Continuous wave radio made ground-to-air communication possible. The aim was to keep the enemy off-balance.

    Even cavalry played a part. It was the all-arms battle. The lesson was not lost on the Germans – they used it in a later war. Ironically, Rawlinson is usually remembered in connection with the first day of the Battle of the Somme, two years earlier, rather than as a pioneer of Blitzkrieg.

    Attached to the British 47th (2nd London) Division was an American unit – the 131st Infantry Regiment.

Maybe World War One Generals Weren’t Idiots

Monday, July 22, AD 2013

I was interested to read this British opinion piece, making the case that British military leadership during the Great War was not the clutch of bumbling fools which has become the stereotype of the war.

In 1928, following the sudden death of Field Marshall Douglas Haig, more people took to streets to mourn his passing that had ever been seen previously or indeed since. The very public mourning as a result of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 was dwarfed in comparison to those that came out to pay respects to Earl Haig.

It took literature and some key individuals to change history. As one of my university lecturers once said to me, history does not happen, it is written, and that principle could not be applied more strongly to the case of First World War history.

With the publication of Alan Clark’s The Donkeys (1961) and the production of Joan Littlewood’s musical Oh! What a Lovely War (1963), a wave of popular history provided the foundation through which all subsequent knowledge of the First World War is filtered – precisely the problem with which we are now faced. Historians and thespians took the critical words of those men that had a grudge and an agenda to push, namely Lloyd George and Churchill, thus generating the idea that generals were both inept and callous.

But beyond the Blackadder episodes there is a raft of history that is desperate to break into the mainstream. No one doubts that there were a handful of poor officers at various stages of the command structure who made bad decisions that ultimately cost the lives of hundreds of men.

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30 Responses to Maybe World War One Generals Weren’t Idiots

  • Mud, Blood and Poppycock is an excellent revisionist history by Gordon Corrigan, who was a serving officer in the British Army:

    http://www.amazon.com/Mud-Blood-Poppycock-Everything-Paperbacks/dp/0304366595

    In World War I the British managed the considerable feat of raising a mass army for the first time in their history, bringing rapidly on line 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 especially 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.

    Haig never deigned to reply to his critics, but his victory dispatch I think is an eloquent defense of what he and his “contemptible little army”, as the Kaiser referred to the British Army at the beginning of the War, accomplished with their French allies:

    http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/haiglastdespatch.htm

  • Darwin

    Actually the military staff’s British, French, and German were highly competent. If they weren’t they could not have put those mass armies in the field and kept them fed, equipped and attacking for four years. But – Breaking the stalemate with technology at hand would have required a level of genius that can’t be guaranteed to happen in any generation or profession.

    I saw a review a modern biography of Gen Haig (I forget the title.) The author, was critical of Haig, felt it necessary to first debunk the criticism of him from the 1920’s as worthless, so he could build an honest picture and point out his real failings. Much of that criticism came from political leaders deflecting attention from their own bad decisions, often made against Haig’s advice.

    Modern research is showing that the political leadership was highly involved in the decision process, agreeing and sometimes directing with most every major strategic decision, sometimes considering domestic political issues to over come adction that would have saved the lives of some of their soldiers.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • Hank,

    Agreed. In case it wasn’t clear from the post itself: I am very much of the revisionist camp, not the “lions led by donkeys” camp.

    Don,

    From the author description: “The author was commissioned from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1962 and retired from the Brigade of Gurkhas in 1998. A member of the British Commission for Military History and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, he speaks fluent Nepali and is a keen horseman.” What else does one need to know! I’ll have to look it up. Philpott had a lot of great stuff attacking the census view, but in a restrained, scholarly kind of way. Corrigan simply sounds fun.

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  • Yes, i think it’s easy to make generals the scapegoats for what is usually politicians’ doing.

  • I agree with Jerry. The generals make an easy scapegoat. It’s the politicians who screw everything up. The so-called “Great War” was a war that should never have been fought in the first place.

    And the punitive “peace” that was imposed on Germany, as John Maynard Keynes foresaw in his work The Economic Consequences of the Peace (the subject of one of my Economics term papers in college), and as Churchill argued in the first volume of his 6-part history of WWII, created the conditions that led to another war that might have been avoided altogether had idiotic politicians not bungled the whole affair. Far be it for me to praise Keynes for anything, but he was correct in arguing, along with farsighted politicians like Churchill, that the reparations imposed on Germany following the Great War were a disaster in the making.

    When wars don’t go the way they should, and when the consequences thereof lead to undesired repercussions (see, e.g., the wiping out of long-established Christian communities in the Middle East following “democratization” efforts), it’s generally wise to look to the politicians for the blame, not the generals.

  • I think that the Great War is similar the US Civil War in that the generals were operating under principles and tactics that did not match the technological advances in arms and logistics.

    Plus, see Einstein’s defintion of insanity: doing over and over the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

  • Part of the reason WW1 generals have a bad reputation is the abject failure of WW1 strategies in WW2. France was well prepared to re-fight WW1, with their own corresponding WW1 heroes leading the preparation. As a result, it took Germany just over a month to completely defeat France.

  • It’s interesting how popular myth is virtually impervious to demonstrable truth. A lot of Americans still believe that the major cause of the Revolution was economic exploitation and oppression, which is utter nonsense. The (mostly expat) Irish still bang on about 800 years of English oppression whereas in fact Anglo-Norman influence didn’t extend beyond the Pale until the 16th century. The plantation of Ulster had exactly the same rationale as the plantation of Massachusetts, and with a similar disregard for the native inhabitants. One of the things that the Pilgrims gave thanks for at the end of 1621 was that 90 per cent of the indigenous peoples of New England had died of disease in the decade before their arrival, having – very considerately – tilled the land and buried stores of corn for the winter. As a result of massacre and introduced disease, the number of American Indians declined from an estimated 2 million in 1500 to a mere 325,000 in 1820. It doesn’t stop Irish-Americans from celebrating Thanksgiving.

    Another widespread American myth is that they were somehow victims of colonialism rather than colonialists par excellence. They colonized an entire continent, and whereas the Brits had the honesty to describe their efforts as imperialism, the Americans called it ‘manifest destiny’.

  • “It’s interesting how popular myth is virtually impervious to demonstrable truth. A lot of Americans still believe that the major cause of the Revolution was economic exploitation and oppression, which is utter nonsense.”

    The Revolution was all about the right of the Americans to rule themselves John, and that is always worth fighting for. Edmund Burke understood this:

    “Again, and again, revert to your own principles—Seek Peace, and ensue it—leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. I am not here going into the distinctions of rights, not attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not enter into these metaphysical distinctions; I hate the very sound of them. Leave the Americans as they antiently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. They and we, and their and our ancestors, have been happy under that system. Let the memory of all actions, in contradiction to that good old mode, on both sides, be extinguished for ever. Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it. Let this be your reason for binding their trade. Do not burthen them by taxes; you were not used to do so from the beginning. Let this be your reason for not taxing. These are the arguments of states and kingdoms. Leave the rest to the schools; for there only they may be discussed with safety. But, if intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of government, by urging subtle deductions, and consequences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in question. When you drive him hard, the boar will surely turn upon the hunters. If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. No-body will be argued into slavery. Sir, let the gentlemen on the other side call forth all their ability; let the best of them get up, and tell me, what one character of liberty the Americans have, and what one brand of slavery they are free from, if they are bound in their property and industry, by all the restraints you can imagine on commerce, and at the same time are made pack-horses of every tax you choose to impose, without the least share in granting them. When they bear the burthens of unlimited monopoly, will you bring them to bear the burthens of unlimited revenue too? The Englishman in America will feel that this is slavery—that it is legal slavery.”

    “The (mostly expat) Irish still bang on about 800 years of English oppression whereas in fact Anglo-Norman influence didn’t extend beyond the Pale until the 16th century.”

    The worst of the oppression occurred after the English Reformation, but I doubt if the English would have liked to put up with the type of invasions that the Irish had from the English from the time of Strongbow.

    “The plantation of Ulster had exactly the same rationale as the plantation of Massachusetts, and with a similar disregard for the native inhabitants.”

    Actually one of the main purposes was to introduce a large Catholic hating minority into Ireland. Mission accomplished.

    “One of the things that the Pilgrims gave thanks for at the end of 1621 was that 90 per cent of the indigenous peoples of New England had died of disease in the decade before their arrival, having – very considerately – tilled the land and buried stores of corn for the winter.”

    I would be careful John with accepting current demographic estimates of Indian populations based on no more than bad guess work. If the Indian population had declined so rapidly it had a wonderful rebound by the time of King Philip’s War

    “As a result of massacre and introduced disease, the number of American Indians declined from an estimated 2 million in 1500 to a mere 325,000 in 1820. It doesn’t stop Irish-Americans from celebrating Thanksgiving.”

    Same point as above John. Additionally, many Indians simply became part of the settler culture, including some of my Cherokee ancestors. There were probably around 600,000 unassimilated Indians in the continental US by 1820 around 250,000 by 1890. My Cherokee ancestors would not have been counted in 1890 since they were living in Illinois by that time, completely assimilated.

    “Another widespread American myth is that they were somehow victims of colonialism rather than colonialists par excellence. They colonized an entire continent, and whereas the Brits had the honesty to describe their efforts as imperialism, the Americans called it ‘manifest destiny’.”

    We live here John, instead of say the Brits claiming to own India back in the days of the Raj. A key difference.

  • General Haig isn’t remembered with much sympathy or kindness in this part of the world.
    Under his command, 5 NZ soldiers in WW1 were executed by firing squad for desertion when the poor buggers were so shell shocked, they didn’t know where they were. or even cognisant of the charges against them. One of the sad realities of NZ troops being still under the command of British officers.
    The Aussies were a bit better off. When the Australian troops were ordered to advance in the face of ridiculous overwhelming enemy forces and refused to, Haig wanted to line them up and shoot them for mutiny. Fortunately, the Aussies, after the debacle of being under the command of British officers in the Gallipoli campaign, had put their own command in place, their own officers denied Haig his wish, because they refused to allow volunteer troops to be executed. Fortunately, the NZ army adopted the same position after WW1, but too late to save the five volunteers executed by Haig.
    Its common knowledge down here, that Haig used the colonial troops as cannon fodder. To his amazement, the ANZACs achieved what his own forces could not, with only a fraction of the numbers.

  • I can understand why hard feelings still exist Don, but executions and Haig is another area where the reputation and the reality are at odds. British courtmartials handed down 3000 death sentences on the Western Front in World War I. They all had to be confirmed by Haig. He commuted all but 12% of the death sentences.

  • Don the Kiwi is in danger of perpetuating another myth, all too prevalent in Australia, and even to a certain extent in Canada. Incidentally “common knowledge” is almost invariably fallacious. The ANZACs were quite happy to serve under Sir William Birdwood until 31 May 1918 when he was promoted to command 5th Army and an Australian, Sir John Monash took his place. Birdwood toured Australia in 1920 to great acclaim, and would have been made Governor-General in 1930 had not the Australian PM, James Scullin, insisted on the post going to one of his political cronies.

    Similarly the Canadians greatly admired their Corps Commander, Sir Julian Byng, who led them to their great victory at Vimy ridge in April 1917. In June of that year Byng took over command of 3rd Army and the Canadian Sir Arthur Currie took command of the Canadian Corps. After the war Byng was a very popular Governor-General of Canada.

    The idea that Dominion troops were used as cannon fodder is not just myth but pernicious nonsense. Haig had great respect for their fighting qualities, and for the ability of Monash and Currie, despite the fact that neither had been a regular soldier before the war (so much for DH being hide-bound). They certainly punched above their weight, but they did not win the war on their own, and ordinary British divisions which made up the bulk of the BEF were capable of performing equally well.

    Most of the 300-odd executions carried out after general courts-martial were for desertion, and If you examine them on a case-by-case basis, you do find some examples of a miscarriage of justice. In most cases, however, those shot did not have the sympathy of their comrades. Shell-shock was a diagnosed medical condition (wrongly attributed to concussion caused by bursting shells) and was treated by hospitalization. Military justice is different from civilian justice in that wider considerations apply. Before confirming a sentence Haig would not only have to look at the individual case, but also consider the state of morale in the offender’s unit. If it was considered shaky, then it was more likely that the sentence would be carried out.

  • There is a wider sense in which mythological history is corrosive and damaging. If people in Australia and NZ really believe the nonsense that Don the Kiwi claims to be “common knowledge” (and those who actually fought in the war thought otherwise) then it can poison relations between countries. By the 1930s the pacifist argument that the Allies had not won the Great War was grist to Hitler’s mill. Recently an article on the British Empire posted on the BBC’s education website peddled a left-liberal Marxist line made worse in that it was grossly oversimplified. This re-writing of history (worse than anything that Soviet Russia could come up with) is hardly likely to improve race relations.

    A further aspect of mythical history is its Manichean character – one side good, the other bad. Real history rarely allows this dichotomy. This applies as much to the American revolution (where the mythical version is still taught to schoolchildren and tourists, to the despair of serious historians) as to everything else. Irish historians have criticized a national identity based on “blame everything on the English; we may act like savages but it’s not our fault” and thankfully they have made some progress. Ironically the present Irish hierarchy has succeeded in virtually eradicating Catholicism in Ireland, something the English failed to achieve in four-and-a-half centuries.

    Regarding Strongbow, memo to 12th century Irish kings; enlisting the help of Norman robber-barons to sort out your domestic problems is probably a bad idea. Too late now.

  • It’s not confined to the Commonwealth.

    During the Civil War, certain NYC newspapers editorized that the Republicans used the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, etc. to kill Democrat Irishmen.

    Anyhow, if Good Quee Bess and her parliament decided to invade Upper Slobovia, will Autralia, Canada and New Zealand be required to send grunts?

  • John and Don.

    Those writing history in the cold light of past battles and records may indeed give a more accurate account of events. What I have repeated – that happened nearly 100 years ago – were related to me by my maternal grandfather Don Piper, and his brother-in-law, my Uncle Eustace Nicholson; who were on Gallipoli and in the trenches in France; also my father’s oldest brother (who was gassed in France) George Beckett.
    What they recounted may have been partly untrue, and part rumour. However, these were the men on the ground in battle, and to them, the perception was reality. Rightly or wrongly, what they recounted has gone into folk- lore for the period and is unlikely to change. As the generations pass, so will the story – fact mixed with myth.
    However, to say that these things never happened is to indulge in revisionist history, which is equally corrosive and damaging.

  • T Shaw
    The Dominions (which then included South Africa) were not ‘required’ to enter either of the World Wars; they did so of their own volition, although Imperial solidarity was more important then than now. Commonwealth troops who fought in Korea did so in support of the United Nations, and Canadian troops are in Afghanistan because Canada is a member of NATO. In 1982 NZ offered naval support (a frigate) in the Falklands War, although the important behind-the-scenes support was from the US and Chile.

    Australia and NZ sent troops to Vietnam, whereas Britain refused LBJ’s request for even a token force (he asked for the Black Watch, and the Jocks would have jumped at the chance, better than smashing up bars in Minden) but Harold Wilson knew that the Labour Party wouldn’t countenance it.

  • Jay Anderson wrote, “The so-called “Great War” was a war that should never have been fought in the first place.”

    I am old enough to have talked to veterans of WWI. They all thought it was a national necessity and they all spoke of the same things – the Saverne incident, the march of the Strasburg students past Kléber’s statue, the Alsatians who gathered, year by year, to watch the great 14 July review at Belfort and the thousands of young men in the lost provinces, who, at the age of twenty, left home and family behind, knowing they would not be allowed to return and crossed the frontier to perform their military service in France.

    Some of them recalled how, after the first impetuous advance after Charleroi, soldiers returning on leave brought back the hated red, white and black frontier markers and piled them before the tomb of Déroulède, whose funeral in February of that year had been the largest and most imposing since Victor Hugo’s.

  • In my earlier reply to Don the Kiwi, I fell into the common error of conflating the Australian experience with the New Zealand one, for which I apologize. The commander of II ANZAC Corps, who was also the commander of the NZ Expeditionary Force, Sir Alexander Godley, did not have the same rapport with his soldiers as Birdwood did. A good administrator and trainer (he arrived in NZ in 1910 and prepared the army for war) he had an aloof manner and tended to favour British over NZ officers when making appointments. He performed creditably as a divisional commander at Gallipoli, but some of his actions on the Western Front were criticized, in particular the failed attack, in bad weather, on 12 October 1917 during 3rd Ypres. Plumer’s Second Army, of which his Corps was part, had had a run of successful actions, culminating with the battle of Broodseinde, which led Godley to underestimate German morale.

    There was a feeling in NZ government circles, and probably among the general population, that their troops were shouldering an excessive burden and that the Australians and Canadians were not pulling their weight. This wasn’t the case, but led to increasing criticism of Godley and British command in general. In April 1917 the Australians were badly mauled at 1st Bullecourt, as a result of an over-ambitious plan, using tanks for support, authorized by Sir Hubert Gough, the youngest of the five Army commanders. The Australians’ enthusiasm for the commander of I ANZAC Corps, Birdwood, was not shaken and a month later a follow-up attack, using artillery support and a creeping barrage (itself a technological innovation) was successful.

    More than anything else, it was the scientific use of artillery which unlocked the Western Front, including the use from 1917 onwards of an instantaneous fuze which was capable of cutting wire. A few years ago I attended a talk given by Gordon Corrigan in which he compared the careers of Haig and Montgomery, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. He does tend to overstate his case, but the case is a sound one and has been argued by military historians since John Terraine fifty years ago.

  • Michael PS:

    Jay Anderson’s comment, “The so-called ‘Great War’ was a war that should never have been fought in the first place,” most likely refers to the common perception of how it was started. As we commonly read it, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand would probably have been a footnote in the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had not the various European powers locked themselves into specific reactions by several decades’ worth of treaties and alliances. This too is a revisionist interpretation that needs to be torn down.

  • Or, you could’ve just asked me what I meant. I would’ve told you that, in my opinion, “the war to end all wars” was a war that cost too many lives and accomplished too little other than to create or exacerbate the conditions for future conflicts, from the Bolshevik Revolution to World War II right down to the Bosnian Conflict of the 1990s.

    In the end, I just don’t see the point of the Great War, from either a European or American perspective. From a strictly American perspective, Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916 partly by promising not to get the country involved in the war, and then promptly did so less than 6 months after the election. And I am by no means a pacifist but, again, just don’t see the point of it all. But let us not forget that there was a great deal of opposition, pacifism, conscientious objection, and outright civil disobedience associated with the Great War. I’m certainly not the first person to express the opinion that the Great War was unnecessary, and, given that such opposition to the war existed contemporaneously, nor can such opposition be dismissed as being based strictly on revisionist interpretations.

  • Jay, I apologize for misconstruing your statement.

    From a strictly American perspective, we might have avoided direct involvement had we stopped trade with the belligerents, especially France and Britain; this might have kept American ships safe when the Germans decided to pursue unrestricted warfare against shipping. As it was, our “non-intervention” was pretty superficial, and Wilson’s re-election was by the narrowest of margins — not everyone viewed his having “kept us out of war” to be a good thing.

    While WWI did exact a horrendous cost and springboard future conflicts, I’m not convinced that it was evitable and unnecessary, except in the theoretical, optimistic way that war is always avoidable and never necessary. Nor am I ready to grant the opponents of war/intervention any kind of prescience. The growth of nationalism amid the Balkan and Central European cultures, the imperialism of the major powers, the effects of colonialism on Africa and the Middle East, religious and cultural tensions spread throughout half the globe — the First World War may have sparked by any number of incidents and taken on any number of shapes, but I don’t think it could have been put off forever.

  • I think there were pretty clearly a lot of points after Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination and before it became a general war when the Great War could have been avoided — it certainly was not inevitable. Sure there’d been a huge arms build up and tensions were high in Europe, but we had that in the Cold War and there was never a general war between the US and USSR.

    – Austria-Hungary could have not attacked Serbia.
    – Russia could have let Austria-Hungary knock Serbia around for a bit without threatening to intervene.
    – Germany arguably bears the greatest blame, since it declared war against Belgium, France and Russia solely on the basis of Russia having mobilized (but not actually fired a shot.)

    – Belgium and France both arguably had virtually no choice in the war and had the clearest moral case for war. They were both given ultimatums that amounted to “allow Germany to invade peacefully or we’ll do so by force” and were simply trying to fight off occupation.

    – Great Britain was not itself attacked, so theoretically it could have sat things out on the sidelines. Arguably, Germany might then have ended up successfully beating France and Russia by 1916.

    Personally, given how bad German occupation of Belgium, France and Poland was, I think there was a very good case for opposing Germany rather than letting it become the permanent occupier in those areas. If we think that Versailles treaty was bad, it was downright gentle compared to the peaces imposed by Germany on Russia and Romania when they sought separate peaces.

  • “Personally, given how bad German occupation of Belgium, France and Poland was, I think there was a very good case for opposing Germany rather than letting it become the permanent occupier in those areas. If we think that Versailles treaty was bad, it was downright gentle compared to the peaces imposed by Germany on Russia and Romania when they sought separate peaces.”

    Completely agree. The Imperial Germans weren’t Nazis but life under the Prussian Eagle during World War I for those luckless enough to live in occupied territories was truly miserable.

  • Since the publication of Fritz Fischer’s ‘Griff nach der Weltmacht’ in 1961 the historical consensus is that Germany, and the German General Staff in particular, were mostly to blame. There was a perception that the window of opportunity for Germany to achieve her strategic aims (which could not be attained peacefully) would have closed by 1916. It was not so much a question of giving Austria a ‘blank cheque’ as keeping up the pressure on the ‘hawks’ in Vienna to declare war on Serbia after Serbia had accepted nearly all of the Austrian demands. Russian mobilization was intended as a warning to Austria, but the exigencies of the Schlieffen plan meant that as soon as Russia mobilized Germany had to declare war not just on Russia but on France as well.

    The international situation in 1914 was better than it had been in recent years. Britain and France had settled their colonial differences, and Britain had even reached a rapprochement with Russia. The Anglo-German naval race had been decided in England’s favour. The alliance systems, later much maligned, were essentially defensive.

    AS Layne has a point though – Ruth Henig in her 1989 book on the origins of the war identifies a feeling among most European governments by 1912 that war was probably inevitable, and perhaps even desirable. Whatever the cause, it was a disaster for European civilization.

  • It’s interesting to look at the kind of “peace without victory” terms that started being floated in 1915 and after by various parties (including Pope Benedict XV.)

    Peace advocates among the French and English were willing to accept a peace that didn’t involve beating Germany, but they insisted that it would only be fair that Germany fully vacate all conquered territory (and in some cases give back Alsace and Lorraine as well.)

    In other words, the peace terms proposed looked a lot like what the victory ended up looking like. Virtually no one on the allied side countenanced the idea of a peace in which Germany kept all its winnings.

    Similarly, German ideas for peace without total defeat of its enemies still involved Germany keeping many of its gains in both East and West.

    The Brits were the ones who had room for a pacifist stance of “let’s just go home”, but that partly just serves to underscore that it was very much a continental war.

  • In other words, the peace terms proposed looked a lot like what the victory ended up looking like. Virtually no one on the allied side countenanced the idea of a peace in which Germany kept all its winnings.

    Just to point out that by the Spring of 1916, Germany’s winnings included the loss of all overseas dependencies other than German East Africa.

    If we think that Versailles treaty was bad, it was downright gentle compared to the peaces imposed by Germany on Russia and Romania when they sought separate peaces.”

    Russia was compelled to convey a large bloc of territory inhabited by minority nationalities. However, I am not seeing anything about any indemnity, any contrived disarmament, or any insults like the war guilt clause.

    http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/government/foreign-relations/1918/March/3a.htm

    ==

    Although not a function of the treaty provisions itself, one might note that the Hapsburg dynasty lost its entire empire when all the subject nationalities departed (taking local German populations with them), not just their western march.

  • In the end, the Allies did not really have an option. A German army, undefeated in the field, (“unbesiegt im Felde” is the inscription on thousands of war memorials) was betrayed by cosmopolitan (and traditionally anti-Christian) elements at home, in an incident that historians call the “Dolchstoss im Rücken,” or “Stab in the back.” A compromise was inevitable.

  • The stab in the back myth is just that, a myth. The German army was thoroughly defeated.

    Wikipedia has a good run down on the myth:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stab-in-the-back_myth

    The Nazis made use of the myth later. They blamed Jews and socialists for the defeat of Germany. Jewish veteran groups noted that over 12,000 German Jews died fighting for Germany in World War I, a number in excess of what one would expect given the Jewish percentage of the population. Hindenburg and Ludendorff had been in effective control of the German state since 1916. They were the ones who laid the groundwork for German surrender when they became convinced that Germany was beaten in August 1918. After Ludendorff’s nervous breakdown, Hindenburg helped engineer the abdication of the Kaiser on November 9 and the coming to power of a civilian government to sign the armistice and to take the blame for the defeat of Germany. (Ludendorff and Hindenburg both seized eagerly on the stab in the back myth to avoid their responsibility for Germany losing the war.) Of course the truth and the Nazis were ever strangers.

  • Much as commentators like Liddell Hart in later years might have criticized the “continental commitment”, once that commitment had been made the British could not have unilaterally packed it in and gone home. Those who rush to criticize the British commanders tend to forget that for most of the war they were ordered by the politicians to comply with the demands of their French allies, who not surprisingly were unconcerned with British casualties. The Battle of Loos (September 1915) in which there were over 2,000 officer casualties, including three out of the six divisional commanders being killed, was fought over unsuitable ground, with inexperienced troops, a shortage of guns and shells, and against the advice of the C-in-C Sir John French and the Army commander, Sir Douglas Haig.

    In 1940 the British did indeed “go home”, but only after the collapse of their allies. Four years later they had to fight their way back in, fortunately alongside a more reliable partner.

99 Years Ago Today: The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and His Wife

Friday, June 28, AD 2013

On June 28th, 1914, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, fifty-year old Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo by a 19-year-old Bosnian-Serb nationalist. The assassination began an at first slow-moving diplomatic crisis which would result a month later, July 28th, in Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia.

The assassination plot itself was so badly botched that its success is one of the surprising events of history. A group of Bosnian-Serb nationalists (half of them teenagers) — who wanted Bosnia-Herzegovina to be independent from Austria-Hungary and integrated into a pan-Slavic state — had received bombs, pistols and cyanide pills from officers in the Serbian army sympathetic to their cause. They planned an assassination attempt against the Archduke and his wife and stationed themselves along the route which their open car would travel through the city. Several of the assassins failed to make any move when the car passed and another threw a bomb at the car, however the bomb bounced off the folded convertible hood, fell behind the car, and exploded, disabling the next car in the motorcade and injuring a number of bystanders. The assassin who had thrown the bomb bit a cyanide capsule and jumped off a bridge, but the cyanide only made him sick and the fall wasn’t far and the river nearly dry, so he was quickly arrest by police (though not before members of the angry crowd beat him.)

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22 Responses to 99 Years Ago Today: The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and His Wife

  • As Bismarck predicted, when the great European war came it was over “some damned foolish thing in the Balkans”. Ironically Franz Ferdinand had always believed in a cautious approach to Serbia, fearing that harsh action against the Serbs would lead to war with Russia and the ruin of both empires.

  • How beautiful and noble is the family of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

  • Both sons of the Archduke were sent to concentration camps during WWII. Their behavior was exemplary.

  • How beautiful and noble is the family of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

    Ironically, the Emperor was staunchly opposed to the marriage of his heir and a virtual commoner, despite the depth of their devotion, and only relented after international pressure on condition that the marriage would be morganatic and that their descendants would not have succession rights to the throne. Sophie would not share her husband’s rank, title, precedence, or privileges; as such, she would not normally appear in public beside him…[and]… not be allowed to ride in the royal carriage or sit in the royal box in theaters”

    Ironically Franz Ferdinand had always believed in a cautious approach to Serbia…

    The same Serbian military clique tried unsuccessfully to assassinate the Emperor three years earlier. The Archduke was their Plan B. op cit

  • There was more than enough blame to go around between Austria and Serbia. Field Marshal Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Chief of Staff for the Austrian Army, had been calling for years for preventive war against Serbia. Idiots, and I mean that descriptively and not pejoratively, in positions of authority in both Serbia and Austria, merrily lit fuses against each for a very long time before they finally got their war and took most of Europe over the cliff with them.

  • In a course back in college, a professor traced the decline of Christianity in the West to WWI. If I still have my notes – one never know what odds and ends can be found inthe filing cabinets around this place – I’ll sketch it out the way he did.

    If memory serves, he explored the losses of life, particularly men, in Europe during the War, connected it to the number of fatherless children after the war, and the vaccuum this created for socialism and communism.

  • 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.
    2. Austria knew that, if she allowed herself to be humiliated by Serbia, she could not keep control of her minorities.
    3. Germany saw war with Russia as inevitable and wanted it before Russia completed her rail network and gained the ability to mobilise reserves quickly.
    4. 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 the bulk of her tax revenue was derived.
    5. 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.
    6. Italy wanted to incorporate Austria’s Italian provinces (Italia Irredenta).
    7. Tirpitz’s naval expansion and the consequent arms race with Germany was ruinously expensive for Britain.

  • Great post Darwin Catholic and excellent comments everyone. It is interesting to note as David points out that the Left saw the carnage as an opportunity (where have we recently heard those words–using crisis as an opportunity before) to push their Big Government anti -God system playing to the heartstrings of the suffering masses. The Church was viewed as too institutional by some and Modernism was already creeping into many seminaries (just as many pontiffs had warned.) What followed was the faithful looking to recent holy figures like St Therese of Lisieux and the mystical as in Fatima and numerous other apparitions (some approved by the Church, some not) to ease their sorrow.

  • I have always tried to discern God’s will during the First World War. Here are some of my theories:

    1. After the war, Germany, Austria and Russia ceased being monarchies, so the war was an indictment of Europe’s crowned heads.
    2. Since Napoleon’s time, France and Germany had been on each other’s throats – Prussia became resentful at France because of the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian War was Bismarck’s revenge on France, and the First World War was France’s revenge on Germany. So the First World War was punishment for France and Germany’s hard-heartedness. (But even then, the cycle of violence would not end, as the Nazis intended the Second World War to be their revenge on France. Maybe Versailles really isn’t an auspicious place for signing treaties.)
    3. The war was punishment for every nation’s greed.

  • There was more than enough blame to go around between Austria and Serbia.

    True, but then again, regicide instigated by the ruling circles of a neighboring power ups the ante by an order of magnitude, when it comes to the matter of blame games.

    Admittedly, the Serbian crown was not pleased with the assassination, and took measures to reign in the perpetrators, but without success. The history of Serbia and Royalist Yugoslavia is rife with examples of the crown being unable to control the crazy radicals in its midst (or else, getting deposed or assassinated themselves).

    Apparently, enduring and then ending centuries of Ottoman/Muslim occupation leaves deep scarring and trauma in a nation (assuming those scars were not there to begin with), as the Sicilians and Armenians have also learned. Come to think of it, the Irish (and a few people within America’s own borders) might have similar tales to tell.

  • How much of a “world” war was it, though? Europe usually has a major war twice a century, during which non-Europeans (particularly the Turks) take whatever advantages come their way. I’ve always thought that the Napoleanic Wars were the world’s first worldwide war, with the War of 1812 and Latin American independence being being part of the whole. I don’t see WWI as having a bigger scope than that – although there are theatres I don’t know much about. It definitely wasn’t as big as World War Two.

  • A lot of fighting in Africa, and the Middle East. Minor fighting in Asia. America sending millions of troops across the Atlantic. Clearly a world war but not as much of a world war as World War II. I would give the title of World War to the Napoleonic wars, the Seven Years War, the War of the Austrian Succession and the mammoth War of the Spanish Succession where Corporal John demonstrated a rare combination of superb military and diplomatic skills.

  • very interesting post. Some interesting semi- questions occur to me– I say semi-questions because they are not really formed but just related ideas.
    about national-ism and what that actually means compared with national self responsibility, national interest. Also local control, one world government, Christendom

  • World War 1 saw the end of the Age of Empire in Europe. The empires were doomed regardless of present day Catholic admiration for the Habsburgs.

    Prussia, Austria and Russia carved up Poland in the late 18th century and the Polish people revolted several times. The Poles were not the only people tired of the empires.

    I submit that the decline in Christianity in Europe began with the Protestant Reformation. the French Revolution advanced that decline and WWI added to it.

    As France was terribly wrecked by WW1, and they demanded reparations that Germany could not repay, all of the groundwork was laid for WWII. Germany assisted Lenin in getting Russia out of the war. I could go on, but it’s getting late and tomorrow is Monday.

  • Anzlyne

    The fall of the Ottoman Empire saw an Arab revolt against Turkish rule and a Turkish repudiation of Arab influence, (including the adoption of the Roman alphabet and of the Swiss Civil Code and the Italian Penal Code). In other words, national identity on both sides trumped religious identity, as witness the abolition of the Caliphate.

    Again, the fall of the Dual Monarchy saw a great revival of Pan-Germanism in its German-speaking regions. The Balkans, too, were, well, Balkanized

  • One way to look at Chistendom is as a fantasy of sorts, a necessary fairytale.

    Martin Luther ushered in a formal rebellion against authority already well underway. Christendom was already fracturing and, perhaps a better way to think of it, was always fractured. It was the external threat of rising Islam in Iberia and in the Balkans that made the idea of Christendom necessary. Once Europe was exhausted of the Crusades and successful in uniting Spain under a Christian monarch, her attention turned inward and outward, away from Islam.

    Christendom turned inward politically and outward, beyond North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Minor. Without the external threat, nationalism replaced a general sense of Christianity as the binding force for society and the legitimate authority for the Church in Civil Society. Rebellion against Church authority grew, both within and outside of the Church.

    Reformation and war were the natural consequences. These, in turn, drove nationalism and the establishment of stronger and stronger centralized national governments. That drove war, which drove nationalism, which drove stronger centralized government, and on, and on.

    Lost in the conversation were the many millions of poor, impressed to fight on the one side, taxed into oblivion, most landless, most illiterate, with little prospect for advancement… Fertile ground for new ideas that would elevate their condition to reclaim something of the dignity enshrined in the magnificent palaces built all about them.

    The Church was politically weakened and only a shadow of the civil society authority that she had been. She was driven inward and wisely turned to theology to heal herself. The Counter-Reformation entirely re-cast Christianity as an individual conversation with God through the Body of Christ. The ideas had been perculating for hundreds of years but the Chruch gave them voice. Those ideas were, in turn, applied to the political sphere through Protestant philosophers, leading to 18th Century revolutions in Europe and the rise of Communism.

    Boney was the last hurrah, not og Monarchy-as-such, but og strong, centralized authority focussed outward. Napoleon completed the turn of civil society in on itself, the concerns of others being their concerns alone. Tyranny from an external force became a relic, one that should be resisted by the common man. Thus, the explosion of war in 1917, was entirely different, precisely because it was the common man fighting the common man for an ideology that was personal and seemingly clear.

    In that sense, it was the first World War, not because of where it was fought or by which combatents but because it was individualized across all strata of society, everywhere in Europe. Thus, the destruction it wrought was individualized too, personalized, if you will, ushering in the ages we have now.

    We live in a time of Man abandoning formal social structure because it has failed us, generation after generation. Each articulation seemd to present an answer, only to fail. Thing is, Man is a social animal and, try as we might, we can never be ourselves alone. A new articulation will emerge but, until it does, chaos must reign.

    The Church will articulate the next structure under which Man lives. The question is whether She will be articulating a structure established by others or will establish the structure by articulating it.

  • David Spaulding

    The all-important fracture was not the Reformation, but the Great Schism. The emergence of Russia as the great Orthodox power and the natural guardian and protector of the Orthodox Slavs, convinced both Britain and France of the need to shore up, at all hazards, the decaying Ottoman power. For more than half a century before 1914, the great fear had been a Russian occupation of Constantinople and the emergence of Russian client states in the Balkans. This was also the reason for the protectorate in Egypt and the Sudan.

    Britain, in particular, anxious about her sea-route to India had actually welcomed the growing power of Prussia as a bastion against the Slav, only to realise, almost too late, that they had backed the wrong horse.

    Hence, too, the need to establish British and French spheres of influence in the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman power

  • I think David’s right, in a way. Christendom was an ideal. Compared to what’s followed it, it was a pretty good ideal. It was a norm – remember those? like faithful hetero marriage? – that people didn’t necessarily achieve, but everyone looked to with an understanding that we should try to attain it.

    It’s a truism that the strongest argument against monarchy is the actual guy who becomes king. The great states of Christendom, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Venice, et cetera, were always a poisoned beverage away from having a lousy ruler. Along with internal struggles, there was always competition between the states, and rivalry between the state and the Church. Or between the Church thinking it was a state and a state thinking it was the Church. And the heresies – Luther’s was bigger than most, but the Church was constantly in battle against them.

    World War I marked the end of the powerful monarchs, but not the end of the internally and externally powerful ruler. There’s very little about Castro and Stalin that couldn’t be found in the average caliph or inbred royal.

  • Pinky

    It is worth recalling Pascal’s defence of monarchy: “The most unreasonable things in the world become most reasonable, because of the unruliness of men. What is less reasonable than to choose the eldest son of a queen to rule a State? We do not choose as captain of a ship the passenger who is of the best family.

    This law would be absurd and unjust; but, because men are so themselves and always will be so, it becomes reasonable and just. For whom will men choose, as the most virtuous and able? We at once come to blows, as each claims to be the most virtuous and able. Let us then attach this quality to something indisputable. This is the king’s eldest son. That is clear, and there is no dispute. Reason can do no better, for civil war is the greatest of evils.”

  • The twists and turns od these discussions makes The American Catholic enjoyable.

    I never heard a defense of monarchy before. What an interesting idea.

  • “-national identity on both sides trumped religious identity-” seems like that would be true every time. it worked so well for Henry VIII.
    Although I would like to think religious sense precedes the geo political urge of a people, when National identity is formed around shared family/tribe/ and shared land or place It seems religion always gets subsumed into the state–

  • Even with the caesar/pope idea eventually the Caesar wins. Didn’t that Schism have more to do with cultural identity than actually with dogma- and having a very real shared outside enemy was not enough to heal that fracture-

Priest of the Lusitania

Monday, June 3, AD 2013

It was a great victory of the human mind which annihilated space and time, and circled the globe with telegraph wires.  But greater still is the victory which gives a man strength and courage to receive with equanimity over those wires a message telling him that all he valued in life has been taken from him.

Father Basil W. Maturin

Torpedoed by German U-Boat U-20 on May 7, 1915, the sinking of RMS Lusitania moved the United States closer to eventual war with Germany, 128 Americans being among the 1,195 passengers and crew lost.  Shrouded in controversy as to the amount of war munitions that the Lusitania was carrying, the sinking outraged American public opinion against Germany.

In our time of the Anglican Ordinariate, one of the passengers lost at sea commands our attention:  Father Basil W. Maturin.

Born in Ireland on February 15, 1847, he was a second cousin of Oscar Wilde.  His father was William Basil Maturin, an Anglican priest who was associated with the Oxford Movement.  Educated at Trinity College in Dublin, he followed in his father’s footsteps and was ordained an Anglican priest.  In 1876 he was sent across the Atlantic to be the rector of Saint Clement’s in Philadelphia.  A popular preacher at Saint Clement’s he was nonetheless sent back to England in 1888 when it became clear that he was beginning to lean towards Catholicism.  In England he was treated quite civilly by the Society of Saint John, Anglican mission priests to which he belonged, and was sent by that Society on various missionary activities including one to Rome, where it was hoped he could determine if he wished to remain Anglican or swim the Tiber.  After years of reflection and study, he converted in 1897 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1898.

Along with his priestly duties, Father Maturin wrote several books including Laws of the Spiritual Life (1908),  Self-Knowledge and Self-Discipline (1909), Christian Self-Mastery (1912) and  The Price of Unity (1912).   He was appointed the Catholic chaplain of Oxford University in 1913.  In 1914, very few students being left at the University after the outbreak of World War I, Father Maturin went to America to preach a series of Lenten sermons, something he had also done in 1913.  He returned to England on the Lusitania, and ate lunch with another Catholic priest shortly before the ship was torpedoed on May 7, 1915.

As the Lusitania sank, Father Maturin reacted with courage.  Described as pale but calm he was seen giving absolution to all who requested it.  He did not seek to board the life boats himself, instead handing a child into the last lifeboat with the request that the child’s mother be found.  When his body was washed ashore it was found to be without a life jacket, Father Maturin doubtless having given his to some other passenger.  England and Ireland were united in mourning his loss.

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Both World Wars Were A Catalyst For Religious Growth; What Future Tragedy Will It Take For Another Revival?

Sunday, December 16, AD 2012

Sadly it often takes tragedies for religious faith to grow. It seems an unfortunate part of our fallen nature. We have been hit by a spate of tragedies as of late; in its wake we often see churches full of worshippers seeking answers where once there were but a few. Following both world wars, there existed a religious resurgence that unlike the recent tragedies did not ebb and flow. It remained constant due in large part to the horrific loses of human life.

Modernism was alive and well and condemned by the likes of Pope Pius X even before the Guns of August began in 1914. The Catholic and Protestant churches were increasingly seeing relativistic elements entering their seminaries. However unlike recent times, they were quickly addressed. Though we are gaining the upper hand, it has been 40 years since Pope Paul VI lamented that “The Smoke of Satan” had entered the Church. In my just released book; The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I speak about the positive events occurring within the Church, as well as those movements who aim to do us harm. In addition, the book delves into how we got into this mess in the first place.

Following World War I there was a great return to religious devotions, especially those having to do with the Blessed Mother. The events of Fatima which had occurred during the war and were being followed closely around the Catholic globe. As I mentioned in my article on the Schoenstatt Movement, the likes of Father Josef Kentenich chastised theological authorities who were giving short shrift to these devotions as well as those who dismissed popular devotions to those who recently passed away like the future Saint Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower.) Father Kentenich reminded these scoffers that Jesus did indeed say that we must become like little children if we are to enter the Kingdom.

The well heeled of Europe and many American ex pats found their way to Paris to rebel against the religious side of the equation. On the whole, they were a gloomy lot who seemed to drown their sorrows in all matter of drink and sexual exploits which only made them more unbearable. Some even found their way to more exotic locales like Casablanca, as did the fictional Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in the epic film Casablanca.

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7 Responses to Both World Wars Were A Catalyst For Religious Growth; What Future Tragedy Will It Take For Another Revival?

  • In Spain, the Franco regime and its views led to pent-up hostility towards the Catholic church after Franco died.

    France began slipping away from the Faith at the time of the Revolution and not even the numerous apparitions of Mary have been able to return the French to her former status as Eldest Daughter of the Church.

    The unification of Italy in the 19th century unleashed hostility towards the Catholic clergy, seeing them as privileged (gross oversimplification).

    Germany, Holland, Austria….others know the reason for the decline better than I do.

    In the USA, I blame the turn in popular culture as well as the Kennedys. In the 1950s, during the beginnings of the Cold War, Hollywood made many movies based on Old Testament stories. Fr. Peyton and Loretta Young made Catholic themed programs and Bishop Sheen was popular.

    The 1960s…there was the heartwarming Dragnet episode where the little Latino boy returns the Baby Jesus to church before Christmas Eve Mass.

    The 1970s were indifferent to religion.

    Today, there is open hostility to religion from Hollywood and academia, and far too many young people eat it all up.

  • Dave.
    Fr. John Hardon, (d.2000) gave striking warnings of a future American landscape if Catholics didn’t return to the sacraments.
    Catholics because they are the privileged members of the Body of Christ.
    Fr. Hardon; “If American Catholics do not return to the true faith, return to frequent the sacraments, then they will experience the sufferings of First century Christians.”

    The battleground is Christian America.

  • Penguins Fan wrote

    “France began slipping away from the Faith at the time of the Revolution…”

    The “slipping away” began almost a century and a half earlier, in the aftermath of the Wars of Religion in France (1562-1598) and the Thirty Years War in Germany (1618-1648) These ended in a stalemate; the Reformation gained no new territory, but it proved impossible to restore the unity of Christendom. The all but inevitable result was the growth of scepticism: both sides could not be right, but they could both be wrong. Theology, as a science (a means of knowledge) was generally viewed as discredited. It was to such people that the Pensées of Pascal were addressed.

    On the eve of the Revolution, few of the middle classes went to Mass in the great towns, hardly any of the artisans. The faithful were a sincere though ill-instructed and dwindling minority. Nothing better illustrates the condition of the Church than that priests like the Abbé Sieyès and bishops like Talleyrand were not untypical. Acton notes that “Those among them who had been chosen by the Church itself for its supreme reward, the Cardinal’s hat—Rohan, Loménie de Brienne, Bernis, Montmorency and Talleyrand—were men notoriously of evil repute.” Maury, afterwards Cardinal and Archbishop of Paris, was a man whose character was below his talents.

  • ‘However, what price will it take for our hubris and narcissism to defer to God’s love, truth and reason?’

    Vital question. Something like pulling the plug or a ‘forty’ day or year span of character building or voices to balance the scale in culture.

    ‘In the USA, I blame the turn in popular culture as well as the Kennedys. In the 1950s, during the beginnings of the Cold War, Hollywood made many movies based on Old Testament stories. Fr. Peyton and Loretta Young made Catholic themed programs and Bishop Sheen was popular.’

    The 1960s…there was the heartwarming Dragnet episode where the little Latino boy returns the Baby Jesus to church before Christmas Eve Mass.

    The 1970s were indifferent to religion.

    Today, there is open hostility to religion from Hollywood and academia, and far too many young people eat it all up.’ –

    … to the point of Churches being locked due to the victimization.

    The violent insane seem to attack the defenseless, such as in schools, theaters, and gatherings. What provokes violent behavior are celebrated elements of the culture which have lost civility and balanced character traits of decent restraint.

    I think of some not funny comedians, the loss of board games to computer ones played alone, the gang phenomenon, the irony of the women’s liberation movement and the outrageous displays of today’s women, artisans becoming ‘artists’ of the useless, and more, and vaguely, electronic replacement of human activity/work. Mental inability and illness, loss of human care to gov. regulations and courts strangling progress.

    ‘On the eve of the Revolution, few of the middle classes went to Mass in the great towns, hardly any of the artisans. The faithful were a sincere though ill-instructed and dwindling minority.

    … a man whose character was below his talents.’ ***

    Education becoming unrelated to the character building of good judgement or virtue. Lifetimes given to learning from the inspirations and beauty of our Creator have value. So what will bring more than a temporary turn to religion in reaction to sorrowful tragedy is what M P-S wrote. Character. The culture of death is deterring religious growth and its strength of character; so maybe, simply accepting God’s gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love (in even horrible circumstances brought on by evil afoot) would serve to rebuild His recommended culture of life.

    People finding the great comfort of a more religious life, however found, will grow to see the discomfort in a solely material world and loss therein. Hunger and thirst for more works both ways.

  • I think this is a complete misreading of the past century.

    WWI saw the collapse of faith in state, royalty, race, and progress, which were the reigning beliefs in Europe. The facade of faith was slipping away, and France drifted into despair. Nihilism, drugs, and eventually existentialism did little to fill the void. Russia fell. The US won the war and retained its optimism or something like it, until the decadence of the 1920’s collapsed into the Great Depression. Germany went a different route, re-embracing race and progress in an awful way. By the end of WWII, the spirit of despair ruled most everywhere. European countries gave up their empires and gave in emotionally to the Soviets. America held together because of its devil rather than because of its god.

    There are little ripples throughout history which can make it seem like one decade is holier than another. And we are affected by (not controlled by) our culture, so I shouldn’t say that all of us within a given country move in lockstep. But the trendline for the past 100 years has been ugly. The wars led to loss of faith among millions.

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  • There are some great posts here. Yes, Penguins Fan when faith begins to slip it can fall in a hurry, much like someone climbing a mountain, a momentary slip can take the climber a great deal of time to return from where he momentarily slipped.

    Philip, Father Hardon was prophetic, he was fond of saying the modern rebellion began in the 1930s. I can’t remember exactly the date he was referring to but it had to do with a group of priests in pre- WWII (Belgium?) taking liturgical matters in their own hands. He saw the slipping away of reverance and the degree to which the sacraments were being dismissed as a harbinger of something awful to come.

    Michael Paterson Semour, yes few realize the true impact of the Reformation when it was put into the hands of men like Jean Calvin who saw to it that mystery was dismissed. In addition, Calvin saw to it that churches were closed during the week to prevent “superstitious rituals” like Marian Devotion and Eucharistic Adoration from continuing. Putting doubts in people’s minds certainly set the stage for the unholy terror that was the French Revolution. George Washington and Alexander Hamilton saw it for what it was but even thinkers like Thomas Jefferson were fooled into thinking that it was an Englightened event.

    PM, yes as I indicated in my article it is hard to believe that Hollywood helped the faith with many fantastic films, and it even had powerful messages in TV dramas as late as the 1970s. However, Father Peyton saw the troubling signs years before and tried to prevent the catastrophe which is now controlling our media culture. In the 1940s, Father Peyton believed Hollywood could evangelize the world through films, but he also knew it would also become a target of the dark side.

    Pinky, true we are responsible for our actions but wealth and prosperity have always been the tool to which the dark side lures societies going back to Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, Rome etc to walk away from God. However, tragedies have sobered people up long enough to see the error of their ways. For a decade starting in the mid 1990s, Poland was ordaining half of Europe’s priests. Look at the saints France gave us after the nightmare of 1789.

    It is important to note that we will be the last man standing so to speak. The faithful will come our way because Jesus predicted that it would happen (The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.) Let’s hope and pray that in the final showdown large segments of the populace see through the demonic disguise of the evil one.

The Schoenstatt Movement Nearly 100 Years Old

Saturday, December 15, AD 2012

I must admit a certain reticence to writing this article because I don’t think in one article I can truly do the Schoenstatt Movement justice, but the movement’s nearly 100 year old story and that of its founder Father Josef Kentenich really needs to be told. In 1914 a young German priest Father Kentenich started a movement that was so unique it took nearly 50 years before many would understand the groundbreaking effects it could have on the Church. This future saint would not only survive the suspicions of some on the theological left and right, but he would also survive Dachau. He died in 1968, the same year as another misunderstood priest, Saint Padre Pio.

When writing my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn,  even I was stunned about the new movements that keep cropping up within the Church, even as so many have written off the Church. Indeed this is the History of the Church, when one thinks she is coming under attack by the dark side, she only grows stronger in faith due to her burgeoning movements.

However, Father Kentenich left behind an amazing outlook which every believer should emulate and a perseverance that few could imagine. In a modern world full of individuals making millions of dollars on self help, pep talks and new age “spiritual guidance,” Father Kentenich reminded everyone that Jesus is our true Spiritual Guide and His Blessed Mother the model for us all to follow.

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7 Responses to The Schoenstatt Movement Nearly 100 Years Old

  • I do not share your optimism about the Catholic Church, but I am not saying it to look for a retort. However, feel free to make one if you so desire, although I will not reply to it.

    That being said, the following is not true:

    “However, the father doesn’t really show his until the baby is placed in his arms for the first time and his paternal instincts of protection and education immediately come to the surface,”

    I loved our children and understood my place and obligations long before each of them were born and in fact, from the moment I learned of their conception was praying for them, my wife and myself. The priest was very naive, to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was not a fitting quote and I wish you would disavow it. It sounds quaint but really is harmful and demeaning to fathers. I am sure it was not intended that way. It was a naive statement of his belief in that regard.

    I delivered our first child because the OBGYN had the perception to see my devotion and my capabilites.
    Years later, that child returned that little delivery favor and, literally, saved MY life, when she was about 12 or 13. No one placed her in my arms, I held her from the moment her precious head presented itself to my waiting hands. I am grateful to Dr. Hainje for having allowed me to deliver our first daughter. The older she gets, now a mother, herself, she and her siblings are growing aware that, one day, my life will be in their hands. That daughter knows well, she will, then, hold me as I once held her. There is not a doubt in my mind that her hands will lovingly care for me, saying goodbye, as mine did welcoming her.

    For that, I do not have sufficient words to thank God.

  • Karl, I will continue to write about the Church as being our last best hope. It is not my opinion or hope. If Jesus said it, I believe it. In my writings I have delved into the good happening in the Church, as well as the continuing attacks we are under and have always been under. It is what it is. We will be the last man standing so to speak. It doesn’t mean we will not go through a tremendous trial, but the faithful will come to us, because Jesus said it would happen. He also spoke about the everlasting consequences for those who think they don’t need God.

    Perhaps you misunderstood the words of Father Kentenich, I certainly hope so for he has been one of the smartest men to come our way in a long, long time. He was not saying that men don’t spend lots of time praying and thinking about their unborn children. He was simply making the case that for us it is different than it is for the woman. God made us different for a reason, which is substantiated scientifically, medically and theologically. I would hope you would reflect on this and see the true meaning in what he was saying.

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  • The paragraph beginning with “Following World War I” needs some editing. The first two sentences contradict each other.

  • My sister is a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary and I, myself, am a Third Order Carmelite. I had not realized our two religious directions were so linked, and I appreciate your article. Mys sister, Ann, (Sister M. Anna Astell) who is a Shoenstatt sister of Mary has always had a devotion to the Little Flower and I believe she is working on a book about Teresa of Avila. My sister teaches at Notre Dame in Indiana high level theology courses although her background is in Midieval literature. She is an example of Father Kentenich’s spirituality, being very simple and childlike despite a very brilliant career and writing a number of books, one on the Eucharist which I especially liked is titled “Eating Beauty” (I designed tje cover for that book). Schoenstatt spirituality is very down to earth and family oriented and while I was called to the Carmelites, I do feel a kinship with their movement and its great devotion to our Blessed Mother. The rosary movement has been a source of love and spiritual kinship for many.

  • Thanks for your kind words Mary, so glad to read of your personal testimony regarding your sister who is a Schoenstatt Sister. Father Kentenich was such an amazing man. Greg the Obscure, sorry to contradict your editorial advice, but no they don’t.

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