Dark Lamps

Tuesday, July 29, AD 2014

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

Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary in 1914

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7 Responses to Dark Lamps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Polish independence day is November 11.

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

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

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

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

    Matthew 24:3-27

    Signs of the End of the Age

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

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

    The Abomination of Desolation

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

  • Tom Usher

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 15, AD 2014

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

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


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


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


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

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

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Foolish Thing in the Balkans

Saturday, June 28, AD 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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24 Responses to Foolish Thing in the Balkans

  • Everyone wanted war in 1914

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

  • “Everyone wanted war in 1914”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • MP-S

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

Joyce Kilmer and the Fighting 69th

Monday, May 26, AD 2014

I THINK that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

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

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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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • I reckon so.

Martin Treptow’s Pledge

Monday, May 26, AD 2014

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

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

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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:


  • 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:


    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:


  • 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.


    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.



    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:


    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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Veteran’s Day: Why We Remember

Sunday, November 11, AD 2012

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

World War I was a ghastly conflict with tens of millions of men slaughtered in all the horrors that war in the industrial age was capable of mustering.  After the War which ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Veterans Day was set aside on November 11 to honor those men who had fought with courage for their country.  In our country Veteran’s Day eventually came to honor all those who had served in the military.  As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “It is all together fitting and proper that we do this.”  Why it is important that we do that I will leave to Father Francis P. Duffy who served as a chaplain with the Fighting 69th in France in World War I.  You may read prior posts about him here and here.  Father Duffy was a man of faith and courage, so much courage that it was proposed that he be nominated for the Medal of Honor until he laughed at the idea.  His leadership skills were so valued that General Douglas MacArthur even briefly considered placing him, a chaplain, in command of the 69th, which would have been a first in American military history.  When the 69th got back to New York after the War Father Duffy wrote about its reception and why it was important to honor the men who had served, and, especially, the silent victors who remained in graves in France:

It was a deserved tribute to a body of citizen soldiers who had played such a manful part in battle for the service of the Republic. The appreciation that the country pays its war heroes is for the best interest of the State. I am not a militarist, nor keen for military glory. But as long as liberties must be defended, and oppression or aggression put down, there must always be honor paid to that spirit in men which makes them willing to die for a righteous cause. Next after reason and justice, it is the highest quality in citizens of a state.

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13 Responses to Veteran’s Day: Why We Remember

  • Your account of how General MacArthur wished to give Fr Duffy command of the 69th reminds me of another remarkable Allied chaplain.

    In 1939, Père Louis de la Trinité was Prior Provincial of the Paris Province of the Discalced Carmelites. He had served with distinction as a naval lieutenant during WWI and, as a member of the Reserve, he was recalled to the navy; members of religious congregations were not exempt from military service. After the Fall of France, he escaped to England and volunteered as a chaplain in the Free French Navy on 30 June 1940.

    Alas, such was the shortage of experienced officers that De Gaulle successfully applied to his superiors for him to take up the appointment of Chief of Staff of the Free French Naval Forces. He commanded the naval forces at the landings in Gabon and the combined operations at Dakar. Having undertaking several naval commands and diplomatic missions during the war, after the Liberation, he was sent to Indo-China as High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief.

    In 1947, Admiral Georges Thierry d’Argenlieu, Inspector-General of Maritime Forces, retired and finally returned to his convent at Avon-Fontainebleau.

    On a personal note, in 1955 he clothed me with the scapular of the Third Order of Mount Carmel.

  • I think it is more than fitting that the Gospel reading for the Mass today is from 12:38-44 about the poor widow who gave everything she had and that today is also Veteran’s Day. A fitting coincidence.

  • As I was holding my squirming 11 month old son, it was hard to concentrate on the Gospel. I took my family (despite my wife’s reluctance) to the Pittsburgh TLM this morning. I am tired of wishy washy Masses. I do not want to hear a Marty Haugen hymn ever again.

    One other significant thing to note – today, November 11, is Independence Day in Poland. As World War I concluded with the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary, independence was reestablished in Poland after 123 years. Poland fought several battles against Germany to reclaim the portion of Poland that Germany continued to occupy (Greater Poland) after WWI until about March 1919.

  • I’m old enough to remember when November 11 was “Armistice Day.”

    I read (I guess it’s true) there is no living WWI veteran: faded away.

  • “I read (I guess it’s true) there is no living WWI veteran: faded away.”

    Sadly correct. The last Doughboy, Frank Woodruff Buckles died last year at 110:


  • Another Catholic fact about 11 November. It seems it’s Martinmas, the Feast of St. Martin, which is commemorated by traditions in various European countries.

    Famously, St. Martin, as a Roman soldier, cut his soldier’s cloak in two to save a beggar from freezing. Again, appropriate to the “Widow’s Mite.”

    The WWI Armistice echoed Eurpoean Martinmas traditions.

    From Wikipedia (for what that’s worth): “In many countries, including Germany, Martinmas celebrations begin at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month. Bonfires are built, and children carry lanterns in the streets after dark, singing songs for which they are rewarded with candy.”

  • “I’m old enough to remember when November 11 was “Armistice Day.”

    Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day and was observed to recall the ending of that conflict on November 11, 1918 and to honor the American veterans who served in it. After World War II, veterans of World War I, many of whom had sons who served in World War II, spearheaded a move to change the name to Veterans Day to honor all Veterans. Legislation changing the name of the holiday was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954.

  • “Sadly correct. The last Doughboy, Frank Woodruff Buckles died last year at 110:”

    He will be voting next year in several blue states.

  • I believe 11 November is also Gen. Patton’s birthday.

  • “He will be voting next year in several blue states.”

    Here in Blue Illinois where the graveyards always vote Democrat, I imagine he is already registered to vote in ten Chicago precincts! 🙂

  • “I believe 11 November is also Gen. Patton’s birthday.”

  • Well, well, well. a Thomas C. Joyce from Buffalo, who I assume is the Thomas C. Joyce who teaches English Lit at Canisius, the Jesuit college located there, dropped by to unleash what I assume he thought was a clever stink bomb:

    “It is good to remember that war is good. There are many many wars in the Old Testament. When Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek, he meant as an individual in limited circumstances.

    God favored many wars up until the Gospels, and Revelation is the most honored book of all and it foretells furious war.

    We need namby pamby tree huggers to stop giving sermons and get back to the kind of slap in the face esthetics that General Patton preached.

    The left favors peace as part of their misunderstanding of Jesus Ministry. Jesus came to sow dissension, not to create a generation of sissies.

    Thanks for the old fashioned salute to War! Whether these are the “End Times” or not, a war on those who defile the Temple would be a very good fight to start.”

    Ah professor, I truly hope that you are not brain dead enough to be unable to distinguish celebrating war from honoring those men who risked their lives in service of our country. I know that you are an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. How do you balance your Peace Now! sentiments with his foreign policy? Do feel free to drop by whenever you are not too busy with your teaching duties and spreading the True Faith of liberalism among your hapless charges.

Kipling on Benghazi

Sunday, November 4, AD 2012

The fifteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here and here.


At National Review Online they had the superb idea of taking Kipling’s poem Mesopotamia and applying it to the Benghazi debacle.  The Mesopotamian, modern day Iraq, Campaign had been a disaster for the British in 1916 with a British army surrendering to the Turks at Kut.  British public opinion was outraged at the incompetence that led to the defeat.  When a report by the government on Kut was published in 1917, Kipling responded with his devastating poem.  (Ironically the British in 1917, under the able General Frederick Maude, had succeeded in capturing Baghdad by the time the poem appeared.)  The lines of the Kipling poem do seem to apply word for word to the Benghazi shame:

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4 Responses to Kipling on Benghazi

  • …but the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died…shall they thrust for high employments as of old? Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour….

    Donald. All of it fits unfortunately. Angry for an hour? So absurd that O uses ( revenge ) in his rousing the libs, yet washes his hands with video rubbish. I pray a tsunami of votes sweeps away the destructor.
    Thanks for this Kipling poem which parallels the disgrace in Benghazi.

  • Wow! Powerful then and still today.

  • From ‘Epitaphs of the War 1914 – 1918’
    R. Kipling


    “If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.


    “I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?”

    My main “issue” with the latter is the good statesman is not where the heroes’ souls repose.

  • T Shaw….that’s powerful!
    Life for all, born & unborn.

Angel of the Trenches

Wednesday, September 26, AD 2012

Joao Baptista DeValles was born in 1879 in Saint Miquel in the Azores.  At the age of 2 his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts.  His first name anglicized to John, he quickly proved himself a brilliant student, eventually being fluent in six languages.  Ordained a priest in 1906 he served at Falls River at Espirito Santo Church, founding the first Portuguese language parochial school in the United States while he was there.  He later served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in New Bedford and was pastor at Saint John the Baptist Church, also in New Bedford.

After the entry of the US into World War I, he joined the Army as a chaplain, serving with the 104th regiment, a Massachusetts National Guard outfit, part of the Yankee (26th) Division, made up of National Guard units from New England.  The Yankee Division arrived in France in September 1917, the second American division to arrive “Over There”.

The 104th was a hard fighting outfit, serving in all of the major campaigns of the American Expeditionary Force.  For heroic fighting at Bois Brule in April, 1918 the French government awarded the regiment a collective Croix de Guerre, an unprecedented honor for an American military unit.  There were quite a few very brave men in the 104th, and among the bravest of the brave was Chaplain DeValles.  For his heroism in rescuing wounded, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Army.  Here is the text of the citation:

104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F. Date of Action: April 10 – 13, 1918 Citation: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John B. De Valles, Chaplain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Apremont, Toul sector, France, April 10 to 13, 1918. Chaplain De Valles repeatedly exposed himself to heavy artillery and machine-gun fire in order to assist in the removal of the wounded from exposed points in advance of the lines. He worked for long periods of time with stretcher bearers in carrying wounded men to safety. Chaplain De Valles previously rendered gallant service in the Chemin des Dames sector, March 11, 1918, by remaining with a group of wounded during a heavy enemy bombardment. General Orders No. No. 35, W.D., 1920

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5 Responses to Angel of the Trenches

  • Thank you for this, Donald. I probably would never had read about Chaplain De Valles otherwise.

  • He is unjustly obscure Spambot. A good recent look at him is in Joseph Persico’s 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour:


  • “John B. de Valles had been born in the Azores to Portuguese parents who had taken him to Massachusetts as a child. He had been ordained in 1906 and became a popular parish priest, first in Fall River and then in New Bedford. When America went to war, Father de Valles immediately joined the Chaplains’ Corps. His popularity transferred easily to the 104th. When a soldier found himself short before payday, the priest could be touched for a loan of a few francs—on one condition: he must promise not to use the money for what de Valles called “cohabitation.” His orderly kept a ledger in which the loans were recorded. But when payday came around, Father de Valles would tell him to tear out the page. The orderly was Connell Albertine, who looked upon the day the chaplain had chosen him as the luckiest of his young life.

    Albertine felt secure in the priest’s presence. The previous April, near Saint-Agnant, when Private Burns had been hung up on the wire in no-man’s-land, screaming in agony, Chaplain de Valles heaved himself out of the trench and began crawling toward the wounded man. The priest disentangled Burns from the wire, lifted him onto his back, and staggered to the trench as enemy machine-gun bullets tore into the ground around them.

    After bloody fighting at Commercy, de Valles had stood mutely watching a procession of carts haul the 104th’s dead from the field. Albertine heard Father de Valles curse through clenched teeth, “Kill them! Kill the bastards!” The priest later apologized to his orderly, but the words, he said, had tumbled out and felt right. The incident had bound Albertine more closely to the chaplain, making de Valles as humanly imperfect as his flock.

    Now, on this last day, the nightmare of raglike bodies, gas-seared lungs, and unholy shrieks from the wire, he believed, had to end.

    Colonel Cassius M. Dowell commanded another regiment of the 26th Division, the 103rd. That November 11, Dowell was in his dugout bent over a map, marking the point where his regiment could expect to end the war. At 9:45 a.m., his field phone rang. Colonel Duncan K. Major, the division’s chief of staff, was on the line informing him that the attack had been reinstated. Dowell was to send his men against German machine guns in a war that would end in a little over an hour. “Why?” Dowell asked. “The French compelled us to do it,” Major answered. The 26th was in fact under command of the French II Colonial Corps. Major had experienced his own disbelief when told that the canceled assault was now to go forward. He had checked with the operations chief of the French corps for confirmation. Major, his French imperfect, feared he had misunderstood. An American liaison officer serving with the French came on the line and informed Major that he had heard correctly. The assault was back on. This was the news that Major was now relaying to disbelieving regimental commanders of the 26th.

    Cassius Dowell, now in his sixteenth year in the army, was gruff, plainspoken, an officer who had risen from private to his present rank. He was not without compassion for his men, but was a soldier first. He too had learned unofficially from a friend on division staff that the armistice had been signed just after 5 a.m. He had not shared this information with his men “lest it might interfere with their advance during the attack that had been ordered for that day.” He had then received word that the assault, except for the artillery bombardment, had been called off. He could not, however, resist one last blow at the Hun. He warned that if any shells were left unfired at 11 a.m., he would court-martial the responsible battery commander.

    On learning that the attack had been fully reinstated, “I stood there a few seconds debating as to whether I should send my men forward, having told them that they would not have to go,” Dowell later recalled. “I expected my casualties to be very heavy.”

    Lieutenant Harry G. Rennagel, released from the hospital just the day before, rejoined his unit of the 26th Division to find his men laughing, joking, talking more loudly than they ever dared in the trenches. They were “waiting for the bell to ring,” they told him, signaling the end of the war. “When the orders came to go over the top,” he remembered, “we thought it was a joke.”

    Albertine watched Chaplain de Valles move through the trench, deathly pale, comforting the men. An Italian private from Boston’s North End asked the chaplain to bless him and kissed the cross hanging from t… ”


  • His bravery is exemplary! I can’t even imagine the fortitude it would take to continuously expose oneself to the horrors of battle on the behalf of others as he did. Thank you for sharing his story.

  • Thank you Bekah. I write about chaplains like Father DeValles so that we may never forget these Heroes of Christ.

Father Francis P. Duffy: War and Humor

Wednesday, October 19, AD 2011

“If you want an example of how you ought to worship God, go over to the 69th.  You’ll see hundreds of sturdy men kneeling on the ground hearing mass.”

Father Francis P. Duffy in a letter to Cardinal Farley

A recent National Guard video on Father Francis P. Duffy.  I have written about Father Duffy here.  His courage as a chaplain with the Fighting 69th made him a legend in his own time.  However, courage was only one of his virtues.  Just as appreciated by the young soldiers he helped shepherd through the hell of trench warfare in World War I France was his sense of humor.  Here are a few samples:

Amongst the sturdiest and brightest of our recruits were two young men who had recently been Jesuit Novices. I amused one Jesuit friend and, I am afraid, shocked another by saying that they were exercising a traditional religious privilege of seeking a higher state of perfection by quitting the Jesuits and joining the 69th.

The newcomers are not yet accustomed to the special church regulations relieving soldiers of the obligation of Friday abstinence. Last Friday the men came back from a hard morning’s drill to find on the table a generous meal of ham and cabbage. The old-timers from the Border pitched into this, to the scandal of many of the newer men who refused to eat it, thus leaving all the more for the graceless veterans. After dinner a number of them came to me to ask if it were true that it was all right. I said it was, because there was a dispensation for soldiers. “Dispensation,” said a Jewish boy, “what good is a dispensation for Friday to me. I can’t eat ham any day of the week. Say, Father, that waiter guy, with one turn of his wrist, bust two religions.”

I asked one of the men how he liked the idea of going to confession to a priest who cannot speak English. “Fine, Father,” he said with a grin,  “All he could do was give me a penance, but you’d have given me hell.”

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Over There

Friday, August 19, AD 2011

When I was 12 or so, my father picked up a newly released album of World War One music entitled, after the most famous American song of the war, Over There. It is now long out of print (though still occasionally available used). As is sometimes the case with highly singable songs one heard as a youth, several of these songs had been on my mind lately, and so when the breakdown of the dishwasher the other night set everyone to washing and drying dishes, I put it on and we sang along to the oddly cheerful songs inspired by one of the world’s darker interludes.

“Over There”, written in 1917 by George M. Cohan (I didn’t like the historical versions I found on YouTube as much, so I made my own with the Feinstein rendition of the song.)

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Taps For The Last Doughboy

Thursday, March 10, AD 2011

It is hard to believe they all gone now, the millions of Americans who fought against the Kaiser in the American Expeditionary Force.  Frank Woodruff Buckles, 110, America’s last Doughboy, went to join his fellow soldiers on Sunday, February 17, 2011.  He lied about his age to enlist in the Army at age 16.  He served as an ambulance driver in England and France.  He left the Army in 1920, but that was not the end of his wartime adventures.  In World War 2 he endured three years as a guest of the Emperor, as a civilian POW in the Philippines.  God rest his soul.

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2 Responses to Taps For The Last Doughboy

  • RIP

    If you can find (my village Library doesn’t have one any more) a copy, I suggest reading The Doughboys by Lawrence Stallings. I see it on “Amazon” for about $50.

    And, Tears in the Dark is a personal account of the the Bataan Death March and POW camp/stravation/slave labor conditions in the Philippines in WWII. Then, they shipped to Japan some for worse.

    Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

    Even our younger WWII heroes are in their mid 80’s, now. All my WWII veteran relatives now have gone on to glory.

  • Both my grandfathers served in the military during WWI. They have both, of course, passed on to their rewards. My paternal grandfather (2-28-1899/1-10?-1998) was stationed in England. He served in the Canadian Army. And my maternal grandfather (1890-1954) served in the U.S. Army and saw combat.

    They were both immigrants. The former emigrated from England as a boy in 1910 or 1911. And the latter emigrated from Scotland just before the war I think. He was naturalized at Camp Lee in Virginia in 1918.