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A Curious Trail to Canada’s Newfoundland Regiment in the Battle of the Somme

My wife and I are moving to another home, a home smaller than the other and that means a lot of stuff has to go.

Toward that end we’ve emptied two attics and one storeroom not to mention the rest of the house. Many of the boxes contained items from our son’s school days. He kept what he wanted and told us to dump the rest, some of which was packed in boxes that had not yet been opened.

So the other day as we sorted through the last of our son’s school memories my wife discovered a book titled Liberty’s Victorious Conflict-A Photographic History of the World War.

This one appears to be in much better shape than the one we found.

This one appears to be in much better shape than the one we found.

The world war in question is the First World War and the book was published by The Magazine Circulation Company of Chicago, publishers of Woman’s Weekly.

There are a couple of odd things related to this book.

One, it is the type of thing I would collect but how and why it got in my son’s grade school memory box I do not know.

Two, I have absolutely no memory of the book and am simply assuming I purchased it at a rummage sale.

Now the sad part. The book is in rough shape. The front cover is falling off and the first 8 pages are entirely missing. Other pages are torn and chunks of pages are missing. On other pages a child has used a red crayon to damage even more of the photographs.

My excitement at finding the book in the first place was dampened by realizing the considerable damage done to the book.

I quickly recovered and immediately began to think how I might salvage the pictures I could salvage. But first, I thought I’d research the book a little to find out when it was published and what it was worth if still available. (I had no intention of selling it unless it was worth a fortune in which case I’d think about it.)

I first went to Amazon and found that it was still available through a variety of sources. The price varied from around $6.00 to $45.00 which I assume meant finding one in pristine condition. I enjoyed finding the one I had in my possession so much I thought I’d order a complete one with minimal damage which I did for around $11.00.

My second step took me the Google Search Engine just to see what else might turn up.

To my surprise I found a digital copy at Memorial University’s Centre for Newfoundland Studies.

I was uncertain as to why a Canadian University would digitize a book marketed to Americans but I assumed it was somehow connected to a Newfoundland resident and they thought it worth preserving electronically. I am glad they did.

(as I noted previously my copy of the book is damaged so my observations from this point in are relevant to the digitized copy from Memorial University.)

I wanted to see what the missing pages looked like and found the below image on the inside cover page:

What an extraordinary picture!

The image is that of Lady Liberty vintage 1918. Three US Presidents are featured above the lady. George Washington occupies the center front position and he is flanked by Abraham Lincoln (President during the American Civil War) and President Woodrow Wilson on the other flank (President during World War One).

Lady Liberty is also flanked by a fleet of warships on her right side probably symbolizing the fact the US had to cross the Atlantic to fight in World War 1 and maybe to symbolize America’s growing naval strength. The fact that Lady Liberty’s right hand rests on a globe seems to indicate America’s emergence as a world power and the fleet of ships may represent the projection of that power.

USS Wyoming BB32 a dreadnought-served with the British Grand Fleet during WW1

USS Wyoming BB32 a dreadnought-served with the British Grand Fleet during WW1

On Lady Liberty’s left is the Statue of Liberty again symbolizing liberty. In her left hand she holds a staff crowned with an American eagle although it looks a bit Roman to me.

What is even more interesting are the fragments of three newspaper clippings pasted on the bottom of Lady Liberty’s portrait. I’m unsure at this point if they are covering anything up. We’ll see when I get my copy that is in better shape.

On the left is a curious clipping titled How King George III Prayed. King George III was King of England during the War for Independence and so again one has to wonder who owned the book and thought to include something regarding KG III and his prayer habits.

King George III-George was a Hanoverian German.

King George III-George was a Hanoverian German.

The prayer appears to have something to do with the king’s presence at St. James for religious services. If people wanted to observe the king apparently they had to pay a fee to watch him and/or join him in prayer. Why this was important to the owner of the book remains a mystery.

The middle fragment is the answer to a question given to the editor. The question is “Where is Westphalia?” The editor explains not only where the German State of Westphalia is but also its history dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. Again, why this clip was pasted into the book will be a mystery.

Germany during WW1. Westphalia is in red. The blue areas represent Prussian provinces.

Germany during WW1. Westphalia is in red. The blue areas represent Prussian provinces.

The third fragment is too partial to make much sense of but it mentions St. Paul and seems to have something to do with Christian living in the home. The file notes indicate a connection with Quakers-a pacifistic sect. A little digging into Newfoundland’s history shows that many early colonists to Newfoundland were dissenters-meaning dissent from the Anglican Church. Some were Quakers. Since two of the three clippings have a religious bent to them it may be safe to assume that the book was owned possibly by a Quaker, but not necessarily from Newfoundland since the publication is American.

Notes on the bottom of the file page indicate there is a picture on page 121 of German soldiers who have surrendered at Beaumont Hamal. The notes state that the Newfoundland Regiment was decimated there at the First Battle of the Somme, July 1st, 1916 and it’s where a monument stands to the regiment. This footnote turned out to be the biggest clue as to why the university preserved the book.

My copy of the book shows a number of pictures of German prisoners on page 121 although the bottom third is torn off.

Of the four pictures I have three show prisoners under American guard and the other does indeed show prisoners guarded by Canadians that appear to be from a Scottish Regiment. The picture caption says they are British troops. Below is a copy from the university’s website.

getimage-real (3)

 Here’s a link to the Newfoundland Regiment’s history at the Battle of the Somme and some information on the Memorial.

My speculation at this point is that the university’s copy of the book was brought into their collection because of this picture. I’m guessing that some eagle eyed researcher came across the book at a yard sale, spotted the picture and recognized it as part of Newfoundland’s history. From there it went into the university’s archives where it was eventually digitized.

Here is link to the Newfoundland Monument and park at Beaumont, Hamal.

The Newfoundland Caribou monument is dedicated to the missing in action.

The Newfoundland Caribou monument is dedicated to the missing in action.

The inscription on the monument reads:

To the Glory of God and in perpetual remembrance of those officers and men of the Newfoundland Forces who gave their lives by Land and Sea in the Great War and who have no known graves.

A fitting tribute to the men who fought the war to end all wars.

Badge of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Canada

Badge of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Canada

I’ll be investigating more of the pictures that I discovered in Liberty’s Victorious Conflict.

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Two brave French aviators – Boelckes 5th victory

Bruce:

It was not unusual in WW1 to show respect to one’s enemies. This is an excellent example.

Originally posted on Gott mit uns - Historical Consultancy:

Boelcke2

This photo turns up in German albums once in a while. It shows a magnificent grave/memorial to/for two French aviators that were killed in action on 16 October 1915.
They were shot down by Germany’s first fighter ace Oswald Boelcke, a national hero during the war, and the youngest captain in the German air force. Decorated with the Pour Ie Merite while he was still only a lieutenant and with 40 aerial victories at the time of his death, he became known as the father of the German fighter force. His fifth aerial victory was scored over a French Voisin LAS two-seater of VB110 over Saint-Souplet-sur-Py. After crashing on German held ground the crew was buried with full military honors at Sommepy-Tahure communal cemetery. The burial and the memorial stone was paid for by Boelcke himself.

Boelcke40

For some reasons, maybe due to the condition of the bodies after the crash, the…

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Holocaust Remembrance Day_Ideas Matter

Yesterday Holocaust Remembrance Day began and it ends tonight. This link will take to you the history of the day as well as 20 facts associated with the Holocaust. Even a quick read will illustrate the magnitude of what the Holocaust was.

I was reminded of Holocaust Remembrance Day by an article in the New York Times. The article details how the leader (Mahmoud Abbas) of the Palestinian Authority, once a Holocaust denier, is now admitting there was a  Holocaust and 6,000,000 Jews died in it.

Personally, I’m a bit skeptical as to Mr. Abbas’ sincerity and suspect he may be saying things that he knows will resonate with gullible western leaders.

It seems weird that there should even be such a thing as a Holocaust denier. The proof is over whelming.

I was on a mission trip in 2007 in Poland and one day we took a side trip to Auschwitz. The experience is hard to describe. It was overwhelming, heart breaking, sobering, mind numbing and extremely distressing all at the same time especially when one realizes that any ethnic group is capable of that kind of atrocity and it will probably happen again and again with the only difference being one of scale.

My trip to Auschwitz was a sobering experience and that's putting it mildly. Picture from Wiki Commons

My trip to Auschwitz was a sobering experience and that’s putting it mildly. Picture from Wiki Commons

Why?

Why are there holocausts? Why did Hitler murder 11 million in his holocaust? Why did Stalin murder over 20 million (mostly Ukrainians) in his? Why did Pol Pot murder millions? The list can go on and on the differences only being that of the scale of a holocaust and the duration.

I suppose there are many answers to the question of why but one rather obvious observation is an upside down morality.

For example, Germany during Hitler’s reign of terror (1933-45) Germany was supposed to be a Christian country as was most of Europe. Yet an ideology (racial superiority) replaced whatever Christian ideology Germany had. What would have been considered morally wrong at an earlier date was now considered morally right.

By the same token, the communists  who killed millions (some people just don’t fit into the collective) during Stalin’s reign of terror believed they were morally right to do so.

It’s why Saudi Islamic Terrorists (it’s right to murder infidels) could crash airplanes into buildings and kill thousands.

It’s why there are Holocaust deniers. It’s morally right to deny facts if it advances your ideology.

Someone once said ideas push men into action.

I think that is right. Ideas matter.

 

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Pen and Sword_Images of War_Book Review

I enjoy going to rummage sales, antique stores and second-hand book stores in the hopes of finding that rare jewel of a book that fits my interests and is a bargain.

Such was the case a week ago on a trip to Half-Price Books when I turned in three boxes of books for the princely sum of $36.00.

While the clerk was evaluating my three boxes of books I did what I always do and calculate what I might buy with my reward. By the time the clerk was finished I had my eye on three books published by Pen and Sword a British publisher.

The three books I found under the Images of War heading are:

1. Blitzkrieg Poland, caption text by Jon Sutherland and Diane Canwell

2. Retreat to Berlin, caption text by Ian Baxter

I cannot recommend this volume at full price. This one was on Ebay for $7.00 and I'd pay that rather than the $21.00 for new.

I cannot recommend this volume at full price. This one was on Ebay for $7.00 and I’d pay that rather than the $21.00 for new.

3. Final Days of  the Reich, caption text by Ian Baxter

All three new sell for approximately $21.00 US dollars each. I got them for $8.00 each and thought them a bargain.

The idea behind the books is to use rare photographs and give a brief history of the larger scale of events surrounding the photo topic. The main text is the captions that are given under each picture.

I was especially anxious to read Retreat to Berlin and Final Days of the Reich because both dealt with the German-Russian War of 1941-45, a particular area of interest to me but I exercised good self-control and started with Blitzkrieg Poland.

The strength of Blitzkrieg Poland is that all three sections contain rare pictures from private albums. In all three cases the pictures are from rear echelon type units, units that do not get a lot of attention in mainstream books about World War 2.

The first section in Blitzkrieg Poland comes from an unknown officer in the Signals Battalion ( Nachrichtenabteilung) of the German 1st Infantry Division. The pictures are truly unique featuring a vast array of soft-skin vehicles used by a Signals unit. But the pictures taken by this unknown officer were not limited to his own unit and the volume contains pictures of captured Polish soldiers, German engineers (called pioneers in the Wehrmacht) as well as a few Panzers and Armored Cars.

Sdkfz 232 early war German armored car

Sdkfz 232 early war German armored car

The second section is from an unknown medical officer’s album. Again, the pictures are unique featuring what a German medical unit looked like as well as well as pictures from the areas where the unit traveled. The text in this section is very interesting as it documents the German system of treating the wounded. The unit in question is motorized so the authors  surmise it was attached to a panzer or mechanized infantry division.

The author’s cannot identify the unit and surmise the photographer belonged to SS Motorized Infantry Regiment Der Fuhrer or SS Motorized Infantry Regiment Germania the only two SS units to take part in the campaign. One interesting picture shows the majority of the men wearing goggles and two of them wear the distinctive motorcyclist waterproof coat. It’s possible the unit was part of the motorcycle battalion of either of the two mentioned motorized infantry regiments.

The Germans used a lot of motorcycles (BMWs and Zundapps) in WW2 especially in the early part of the war. Most pictures show the riders with goggles.

The Germans used a lot of motorcycles (BMWs and Zundapps) in WW2 especially in the early part of the war. Most pictures show the riders with goggles.

The author’s further surmise that the pictures were taken after hostilities ceased given how many pictures feature destroyed or captured Polish equipment.

One interesting thing I noticed is the absence of the distinctive SS runes on the collars of the soldier’s pictures. If the authors had not said they were SS I would assumed they were Wehrmacht.

Blitzkrieg Poland was a good find and enjoyable read but I cannot say that about the other two books.

As I noted previously the other two volumes I found deal with the German-Russian War on the Eastern Front, a particular area of interest to me so I would be more inclined to spot error or a wrong identification.

I should have had a clue right off the bat with Retreat to Berlin. The cover of that volume features a Tiger I tank parked on a German street. A signpost in the foreground points to the German city of Aachen 28k away (see above picture).

I imagine the Tiger I is on the cover because Tiger tanks sell publications but this picture is misleading. Aachen was taken by the American Army in late 1944 and not by the Russians on the way to Berlin as the cover title implies.  Perhaps it is a small thing but it’s indicative of what would follow.

The previous owner of the volumes must have belonged to some sort of club because in the book I found a notification that corrected two captions. It was glaring correction frankly but to their credit they issued the correction but it also pointed to the rather poor editing in the volume.

Before I critique it further I do want to point out that the pictures are for the most part interesting and unique at least in my experience. I’ve seen many a picture of the German-Russian War and few of them I’ve seen before. From the point of view of collecting rare pictures the book is worth the price.

What bothered me is the grammar used in the background text and for the captions. At best the grammar is clunky and at worst nonsensical and almost always does not provide much information.

Here are some examples:

The caption under a Sd.Kfz.10 ( a modified half-track mounting a 2cm flak gun) reads “This vehicle mounts a shielded Flak crew.” It should read, “the flak crew is shielded by the shield of the 2cm gun” or something like that. As it is, it appears as if the author translated from the German and missed the differences between the two languages. An editor should have caught that and much more!

Here’s another example of what I call the clunky language used in a caption beneath the picture of a knocked out Stug III:

“Throughout the period of the war the StugG continued to prove its worth as an invaluable anti-tank weapon. Yet, in spite of huge losses, in a number of last ditch battles it showed it’s capabilities as a tank killer.”

The Stug III was built off the chassis of a Panzer III.   There are six return rollers on each side and that feature makes it easy to distinguish between Pz. III's and IV's as well as the assault guns built off each chassis.

The Stug III was built off the chassis of a Panzer III. There are six return rollers on each side and that feature makes it easy to distinguish between Pz. III’s and IV’s which have eight. Assault guns built off each chassis would therefore have either six return rollers or eight depending on which chassis the vehicle was built off of. Assault guns were effective, and easy to produce as the Germans tried to make up the numbers of AFVs. By late war they were not as effective as tanks.

What?

How those two sentences got past an editor I don’t know.

How about this?

During the later part of the war the Stug IIIG proved itself as an anti-tank weapon. End of story.

And as if that’s not enough the picture is not of a Stug III! It appears to be a Pz. IVh with turret ring armor and side skirts. On the other side of the page there is a Stug III correctly captioned and it seems the author just got lazy and assumed the two pictures were one and the same.

Panzer IVh with side skirts and turret ring armour. The Pz. IV made up roughly half of a Panzer Regiment by 1944 although assault guns were sometimes substituted.

Panzer IVh with side skirts and turret ring armor. The Pz. IV made up roughly half of a Panzer Regiment by 1944 although assault guns were sometimes substituted.

And if that’s not enough the caption says a German grenadier is using the knocked out vehicle for cover. The soldier in question appears to be Russian in winter camo complete with a PPSH submachine gun slung over his back.

modern Russian soldiers in WW2 winter uniforms, probably for a May Day parade. Each has the distinctive PPSH sub-machine gun. It can be diffilcut to distinguish between Germans and Russians in winter camo but in the case of the picture in question the hoodie headgear is a Russian give-a-way.

Modern Russian soldiers in WW2 winter uniforms, probably for a May Day parade. Each has the distinctive PPSH sub-machine gun. It can be difficult to distinguish between Germans and Russians in winter camo but in the case of the picture in question the hoodie headgear is a Russian give-a-way.

One further complaint I have is using the same caption text for multiple pictures of the same thing. An example of this is how many times the author notes that the German halftrack developed into a fighting vehicle apart from being a mere transport. If you are going to say the same thing about similar pictures then why not group them and use a single caption. It just comes across as lazy and contributes little.

The third book, Final Days of the Reich by the same author is not any better than Retreat to Berlin although once again the pictures are very good in my opinion.

A final criticism of Final Days of the Reich has to do with the appendix on German organization. In the case of the Panzer Division the author states that a Panzer Division was supposed to have 90 Pz. IVh and another 90 Pz. V’s (Panthers). I have to assume that is a misprint or another case of the author not knowing what he is talking about. Pre-war German Panzer Divisions might have that number of tanks but no Panzer Division 1944-45 would even come close. Rather, a full strength Panzer Regiment of 1944-45 would have 80-100 tanks divided into two battalions. The irony of this mistake is the author notes time and time again how badly depleted the German forces were but then gives a fantastical paper strength for their forces in an appendix. Yikes!

When I first purchased the books I had thought I’d investigate Pen and Sword, Images of War more thoroughly and consider finding volumes I was interested in and paying full price for them. But having read through the three used book store finds I think I will limit myself to finding them at a bargain and simply use them for the pictures and ignore the text.

After writing my review I went to Amazon to see the reviews for Retreat to Berlin and everyone says the same thing. The pictures are good to very good, but the text and caption texts are terrible. I can only conclude that the editor let it all pass or did not know the subject.

 Pen and Sword-Images of War Web Page

 

 

 

 

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The Regulars are Coming Out_April 19th, 1775

One of the enduring myths about the American War of Independence is that Paul Revere and William Dawes rode through the New England countryside shouting, ‘the British are coming, the British are coming.”

Had they done so it would have been incomprehensible to to the average colonist who thought themselves British and indeed they were. According to Revere what he did say was, “the regulars are coming out.”

British Redcoat Regulars advancing in the movie the Patriot.

British Redcoat Regulars advancing in the movie the Patriot.

The regulars were part of the British Army’s garrison of Boston and “regulars” meant professional soldiers as opposed to the militia companies of the colonists.

Ordinarily there would not have been anything unusual about the regulars coming out. For training purposes and as a reminder to the colonists the King’s troops did often come out for route marches through the countryside. The intent of these marches was peaceful but at the same time meant to convey a show of strength to the more militant of the colonists.

By April, 1775 most of New England and especially Massachusetts was ripe for rebellion. The colony was home to Sam Adams and John Hancock and others, often described as hotheads, who stirred up the countryside against the King and his visible representatives, especially the red coated regulars.

The redcoats during their marches through the countryside endured much by way of insult from the population. The British officers, even though many held the colonists in contempt ordered restraint. General Gage in Boston commander of the garrison had no desire to create the circumstances that led to an incident similar to the “Boston Massacre” of 1773 where the regulars opened fire on a colonial mob.

As things continued to spiral out of control and King George III refused to negotiate with his rebellious subjects the American militia companies of the area began to stock pile more and more military supplies with the idea there would be an eventual fight with the redcoats. Orders came from England that Gage should seize these military stores which included cannon to disarm the rebellion before it began.

Another part of the redcoated mission was to seize Adams and Hancock and remove some of the more militant leadership of the imminent rebellion.

The red coated regulars of the time period were organized into regiments of ten companies. Rarely at full strength each company probably mustered between 30-40 men. Eight of the companies were known as “hat men” or battalion companies or center companies because of their position in a battle line. They wore the familiar three cornered hat which is why they were called hat men.

The other two companies of a regiment were something of an elite within the regiment. One company was the grenadier company and the second was a light infantry company.

British Grenadiers-a reenactment group at Lexington Green. http://mcnsclips.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/playing-the-redcoat/

British Grenadiers-a reenactment group at Lexington Green. http://mcnsclips.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/playing-the-redcoat/

The grenadiers were selected from the tallest and bravest of the regiment while the light infantry came from smallest men of the regiment but also from the best shots. The grenadiers were lead assaults while the light infantry were supposed to be the regiment’s skirmishers a talent that would be much in demand in the broken terrain of North America. Grenadiers were distinguish by their tall bearskin hats which made them appear even taller and more imposing than they already were. The light infantry wore a type of cap developed during the preceding French and Indian War. It was a roundish affair faced with rigid front plate of leather than was inscribed the regiment’s badge. Both types of companies thought of themselves as elites as did the colonists who faced them.

It was British practice to group the grenadier and light companies from the various regiments into provincial battalions to provide that extra punch during an expedition’s mission. Such was the case on April 19th, 1775 when the redcoats matched to Lexington to seize the military stores. The 700 regulars that set off from Boston were the men of grenadier and light companies. They were commanded by Lt. Colonel Francis Smith. A second group, sent to reinforce the first after hostilities broke out would consist of the “hat men” companies commanded by Brigadier General Hugh Percy.

Lexington Common, 19th of April 1775. Painting by Don Troiani. Parker had 77 minutemen compared to 250 British Regulars-that they stood their ground is quite remarkable.

Lexington Common, 19th of April 1775. Painting by Don Troiani. Parker had 77 minutemen compared to 250 British Regulars-that they stood their ground is quite remarkable.

 

The British historian Mark Urban is his excellent book, “Fusiliers” (the history of the 23rd Foot, Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the Revolutionary War) makes the case it was the redcoats that fired first in Lexington. His argument is based on surviving documents that show that at least on that occasion the usually disciplined redcoats were not. Urban’s argument seems to have merit given the hap hazard retreat back into Boston when harassed by thousands of irate American militia. Whatever the case the British Regulars soon regained their prowess and won more battles in America than they lost.

 

Captain Parker's words are no less meaningful today than they were in 1775. The Redcoats were coming to disarm the militia in much the same manner as our current government seeks to disarm law abiding citizens.

Captain Parker’s words are no less meaningful today than they were in 1775. The Redcoats were coming to disarm the militia in much the same manner as our current government seeks to disarm law abiding citizens.

 

 

 

 

 

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We Call Him Chesty

Bruce:

Have not had much time to blog recently so thought I’d reblog from one of my favorites. Excellent blog on Chesty Puller, US Marine General.

Originally posted on :

In my younger years, conventional parents and teachers encouraged boys and girls to read stories written about famous Americans.  I recall reading about William Penn, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, George Custer, Ulysses Grant, and Robert E. Lee.  They weren’t academically vetted manuscripts, of course —they were intended for elementary aged children, after all.  It is also true that some of these stories contained as much myth as fact, but it was the reading of these stories that gave children heroes —people who were, according to pre-communist educators, worthy of emulation.

VMI 1917I am not alone, apparently.  Another young man was exposed to these kinds of stories.  His name was Lewis Burwell Puller.  He was born in West Point, Virginia on 26 June 1898 —making him a little more than 8 years younger than my grandfather.  He grew up reading the same kinds of…

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A Brief History of the American_British Alliance

I’m not a particular fan of Twitter. I guess I don’t like counting characters.

One of the things I do like is the incredible array of historical pictures one can find there through your follows.

This one below popped up in my feed today.

King George V decorates an American Doughboy, WW1

King George V decorates an American Doughboy, WW1

The picture symbolizes (to me anyway) the alliance the US and Great Britain have had since World War 1.

Many people may think it was always that way since both countries speak the same language and our systems of government have similarities. But that’s not really the case.

The US fought two wars against Great Britain (Revolutionary War and War of 1812) and nearly a third during the American Civil War. During the Civil War the Confederacy sought European help from Great Britain and France. The upper classes in Great Britain favored a divided US on the basis of a united US was too big of a trade rival. A number of instances resulted in saber-rattling and Great Britain actually reinforced the garrison of Canada either to invade the US in case of war or to defend Canada should northern forces invade it.

Cooler heads prevailed, the Confederacy lost their bid for independence and the US and Great Britain remained at peace but not exactly close friends.

In fact when the US did join the fighting in World War 1 General Pershing (commanding US forces) announced upon arrival in France, “Lafayette we are here” thus alluding to the more historical alliance between the US and France during the Revolutionary War.

American troops in London awaiting deployment to France. http://www.famhist.us/2011/03/28/wwiamerican-troops-in-london/

American troops in London awaiting deployment to France. http://www.famhist.us/2011/03/28/wwiamerican-troops-in-london/

Things were changing as symbolized by the picture. For the most part American forces served along side the French but it was British propaganda that propelled the US into the war.

Unrestricted submarine warfare that disrupted US shipping to Britain and France was the material cause of our involvement in the first war but the British has prepared the ground well with their depictions of the “hun” and the rape of Belgium as well as making hay out of the sinking of British ships that carried Americans. The US newspapers as a whole favored the British probably for more reasons than I just stated.

On the other hand Germany had no such propaganda machine active in the US probably because of the problem of common language. In fact, the Germans were somewhat clumsy even as they became desperate.

In 1917 the Germans offered a proposition to Mexico known as the Zimmermann note. The proposal was for Mexico to join the Central Powers in the event that the US join the Allied powers, a real possibility at the time. The note promised a restoration of the lands lost to Mexico during the Mexican War of 1847-48, The Mexicans wisely did not bite but when it became known the Germans were “scheming” Americans were outraged and by April, 1917 the US was all in.

War fever seized the US and the only reluctance to join in came from German-speaking communities in Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati and other communities that had significant German populations. The reluctance did not come from a sense of loyalty to the Kaiser but a reluctance to fight against one’s own relatives (at least that was true in my family)

The US was not prepared for war (we rarely are) and as a result much equipment came from France and Great Britain. The picture of the doughboy above is evidence as he has a distinct British appearance. His helmet is British and his rifle appears to be a British Enfield rather than our own Springfield which were in short supply.

Most historians believe that at the conclusion of WW1 the US emerged as a major contender on the world stage-a super power in the making, although it would take another world war to make that clear.

In the inter-war years it seems the alliance between the US and Great Britain grew, the old distrusts finally forgotten. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and Britain declared war President Roosevelt was unabashedly and actively pro-British (clearly a good thing given the horrors of Nazism).

Within a short period of time the US turned over 50 WW1 vintage destroyers to the Royal Navy to help ensure that Britain would not succumb to the WW2 version of unrestricted submarine warfare. Our own Navy helped escort convoys at least part way to Britain. A German submarine sunk an American destroyer (Reuben James incident) and the US nearly declared war on Germany months before Pearl Harbor.

During WW2 American planes, tanks, trucks, and all types of war material known as lend-lease flooded Britain and the Soviet Union in the war against Hitler. The alliance between the US and Britain would endure after the war as allies in the Cold War as both countries stationed large armies in W. Germany to stare down the Soviet bear.

It also worth pointing out that out of all our allies it has been Great Britain that has provided the most troops to Desert Shield, Desert Storm and the War in Afghanistan.

And it all began in WW1 when the two countries made common cause.

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