Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, May 29, 2017

New York's Con Ed Tower of Light World War I Memorial


New York, NY, Con Ed Tower of Light (NYPL)

By Mark Levitch, Founder and President
World War I Memorial Inventory Project

Consolidated Edison’s “Tower of Light”—as the New York power company dubbed it in its corporate literature—is a top contender for the title of “most impressive World War I memorial little recognized as such.”

Erected in 1929, the 26-story tower at the corner of East 14th Street and Irving Place was dedicated to the 3,053 Con Ed employees who served in World War I, especially the 74 who perished. Designed by celebrated architects Warren & Wetmore—best known for Grand Central Terminal—the tower was also intended to be an iconic symbol of one of the nation’s leading purveyors of power and light. 

Detail, Memorial Latern

The tower at first glance may not seem particularly memorial-like, but several elements of its decorative program at or near the top speak to its commemorative function.  The sculpted burning urns set on tripods that flank the clock faces, for instance, recall the Greco-Roman practice of cremation and the display of ashes. Above the clock, a bell chamber is treated as a colonnaded temple modeled on the Hellenistic Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the most famous funereal monuments of classical antiquity (and the model, too, for Indianapolis’s great World War I memorial building). Obelisks, which are widely associated with funerary monuments, frame a bell-capped roof, which in turn supports a colossal bronze lantern.

The dual role of the tower in symbolizing power and light and creating a memorial was also served by an elaborate program of nighttime illumination, first inaugurated on 3 July 3 1929. The lantern emitted a brilliant beam of light upward and, through its sides, horizontal beams that marked the cardinal points of the compass.  As one critic noted at the time, the lantern’s light program “beautifully expressed” the tower’s commemorative function, sending “to the heavens and to the four corners of the earth…its message of memory and inspiration.”

Con Ed Tower
(1939 etching, colored, by Carl Abel)

The Con Ed Tower is no longer as prominent a feature of the New York skyline as it was in 1929, but it is still plainly visible from many parts of lower Manhattan, and it is still dramatically illuminated at night (now with colored LEDs).

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fort de Leveau and the Siege of Maubeuge


In 1914 Fort de Leveau in Feignies was one of 11 fortified positions that constituted perimeter defenses of the fortified town of Maubeuge, a key defensive position on the Franco-Belgian border. Maubeuge was also of strategic importance because it was at the intersection of the Brussels and Liège railways that ran to Paris. The surrounding forts were designed by the military engineer General Séré de Rivières after the war of 1870–1871. Mauberge was originally built within the walls of a Vauban-designed citadel but by 1914 had expanded beyond them.

The Partly Restored Fort Today

On 27 August 1914 60,000 German troops besieged Maubeuge. The following day their artillery began bombarding the various fortified outworks which one by one were flattened by the explosive shells fired from long-range German guns. Fort de Leveau would be the last to hold out.

Equipped with outdated weapons, the French defenders had no real hope of resistance, and slowly but surely the German troops closed their grip on Maubeuge. On 7 September, Fort de Leveau was bombarded by 25 42cm projectiles and a number of 30.5cm rounds, heavily damaging the fort, with one shot hitting the barracks and killing up to 120. At 1400 hrs. on the 7th, French forces evacuated the fort, shortly before the general surrender of the Maubeuge fortress. General Fournier, the governor of the fort, announced the surrender of the French troops, which was completed by the following day. After occupying the fort, the Germans blew up an unfinished 75mm gun turret and other portions of the fort.

The Siege of Maubeuge lasted two weeks, the longest of its kind in the First World War, and provided the Germans with 45,000 prisoners; however, it did slow the invading troops in their advance towards the French capital. It also prevented them from taking part in the Battle of the Marne, which opened on 5 September.


Post-World War I Photo: Compare to the Image Above

In the 1930s France invested in the construction of the Maginot Line, which covered the eastern frontiers of the country. The frontier with Belgium was regarded as a lesser priority because France's war plan called for the French Army to advance into Belgium and conduct an offensive there. Belatedly, France began construction of a limited series of defenses around Maubeuge in the mid-1930s. These fortifications were individually assaulted and captured in the opening phases of World War II. The Leveau fortifications were attacked on 18 May 1940 and subdued that afternoon, with one defender dead. In 1944 the fort saw fighting between Resistance and German forces.

Sources: Bibliotheque nationale de France, Fort de Leveau and Remembrance Trails Websites.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Mission for the Cavalry: Convoying Prisoners


Anyone who has seen a police horse approach a crowd knows how intimidating a large equine with an armed rider can be, even to an energized group of people. The rider also has a great view of anyone or anything at ground level, and foot-bound individuals are further paralyzed by the knowledge that flight is futile since you can't outrun a horse. During the war, when the armies still contained plentiful cavalry units, they were natural candidates for the job of marching large groups of prisoners off the battlefield. Also, after the deadlock occurred on the Western Front something was needed to keep the mounted forces active. In the several views below, the most interesting is the one in the lower right. Note the large ratio of German prisoners to the small number of mounted Moroccan Spahis.


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Great War's 101 Defining Events: Numbers 1–10


1–10

(click on image to enlarge)

This series will run every Friday on Roads to the Great War through its completion.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The U.S. Navy and the Battle of Jutland, Part II

From:  Naval War College Review, Autumn 2016,  David Kohnen, with contributions from Nicholas Jellicoe and Nathaniel Sims

Part II


1917, Sims—Now an Admiral—Would Lead U.S. Naval Forces in Europe During the War

Jellicoe maintained regular correspondence with Sims, which provided unique means for the U.S. Navy to evaluate the broader significance of the Battle of Jutland. During the summer of 1916, while at sea off the American east coast supervising shakedowns as skipper in USS Nevada (BB 36), Sims again employed the War College afloat method. Sailing off the Virginia Capes for gunnery exercises in August 1916, he organized Jutland war games in Nevada’s wardroom.  Sims wrote of his observations about Jutland to his protégés Pratt and Knox, now at the Navy Department, and encouraged them to gather newspaper accounts, personal letters from their foreign contacts, and U.S. naval attaché reports from London, Paris, Rome, and Berlin.

Given the political stakes involved, USN studies of Jutland had significant strategic ramifications for the future of American naval policy. Following Sims’s lead, the faculty and students at the Naval War College took great interest in the battle. Sims pooled his information with that of his Naval Academy classmate Captain Albert P. Niblack, who was completing studies at the College. Niblack shared the information Sims supplied with Lieutenant Commander Harry E. Yarnell and Lieutenant Holloway H. Frost, among others. Using the Sims's material as a basis, Niblack, Yarnell, and Frost amassed additional information from other sources. They then conducted a war game to replicate the Battle of Jutland in September 1916.

Naval War College War Game of Jutland, September 1916
As with their Naval War College studies of Civil War battles, U.S. naval professionals recognized that the scope and complexity of Jutland offered useful foundations for examining transcendent questions of command, the answers to which would have application to future operations. The pioneering methods of McCarty Little, whose service on the Naval War College faculty began in the 1880s, inspired Sims and his associates to recognize that “tactics is the servant of strategy [and] every tactical problem should have a strategic setting, or at least keep in view the master idea which it is intended to subserve [sic]. That is the reason why tactics left to develop by itself is like servants without a master.” In examining historical battles such as Trafalgar, McCarty Little had emphasized the importance of evaluating decisions made in combat by first considering the strategic context to gain a holistic understanding of the tactical details. 

Seeking to attain an objective, firsthand understanding of historical wars, McCarty Little used nautical charts and tiny model ships to replicate situations faced on the battlefield. The curious practice of war-gaming past battles appeared trite to some—at first glance. Similarly to many Naval War College graduates, Ernest J. King joked about the practice of using “toys” and “play things” in the serious studies involved with decision analysis and war-gaming. 

Nonetheless, in the fall of 1916 faculty members and students at the Naval War College played out the Jutland scenario with toy ships, chalk, and measuring sticks. Drawing on newspaper accounts and naval attaché reports, the Naval War College undertook one of the earliest detailed studies of the Battle of Jutland. In September 1916, Sims and Knox traveled to Newport to assist the students and faculty at the College, whose members included their close associates Niblack, Yarnell, and Frost. Working together, they adapted one of the historical battles already in use within the Naval War College curriculum—they used the rules for the battle of Trafalgar of 1805 to reconstruct the more recent Battle of Jutland of 1916.

Following the war game reconstruction of Jutland, Frost took the lead in producing an official Naval War College report on 26 November 1916. Coincident with the strategic study of Jutland at the College, Sims received orders to testify about the battle before Congress.

In 2016, the Naval War College Reenacted the Original Jutland War Game

At that time, Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske also told Sims of the latter’s tentative selection for promotion to rear admiral. “They could not have done otherwise,” Sims understood, “without precipitating a storm that would have wrecked the keeping of selection in navy hands.” Under restrictions established by Congressional appropriations, Sims now stood 31st on a roster limited to 30 rear admirals; according to the Naval Register, his status was “awaiting commission” in the rank of captain. Given congressional interest in the Battle of Jutland, Sims recognized that his opportunity to discuss the subject in Congress constituted a unique opportunity to make a lasting impression and thereby to secure a fruitful assignment in the rank of rear admiral in the near future. 

On 19 December 1916, Sims explained to Congress the strategic consequences of Jutland. In answering queries about the tactical role of battleships and battle cruisers in the context of that particular engagement, Sims more broadly outlined the potential influence of wireless communication, intelligence, submarines, and aircraft on naval warfare. When discussing the strategic priorities of the U.S. Navy, Sims specifically referred to the Naval War College report about the battle.

“There is a typewritten copy of an analysis made at the Naval War College,” Sims explained in testimony, “simply compiled from official and semiofficial published reports.” 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jutland and the U.S. Navy, Part I

From:  Naval War College Review, Autumn 2016,  David Kohnen, with contributions from Nicholas Jellicoe and Nathaniel Sims

Part I

Capt. Wm. Sims, 1910
While the United States remained neutral, the war dominated strategic discussions at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. U.S. naval professionals monitored the conflict from afar, using the innovative “chart maneuver” methods of Captain William McCarty Little and information from all available sources to reconstruct battles. Following the earlier battles of the Falkland Islands and Dogger Bank, the epic battle of Jutland of 31 May and 1 June 1916 particularly sparked major debate within the ranks of the U.S. Navy about the future of naval warfare. This article is the first to analyze the USN studies of the Battle of Jutland that were conducted within weeks of the actual battle in 1916.

Battleships remained the predominant focus within the Navy Department, but Captain William S. Sims advocated for the continued development of a “balanced” American fleet.  He believed the U.S. Navy also required more lightly armored battle cruiser designs that offered firepower similar to that of battleships, combined with speed and endurance.

Yet the British battle cruisers had suffered withering losses at Jutland. The poor performance of British battle cruisers prompted Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels to consider cancelling further American investment in battle cruisers. Sims strongly disagreed, warning Daniels to avoid drawing false conclusions from newspaper accounts about Jutland. Sims acknowledged having “read carefully the American press accounts of the action” but claimed special insight gained from a “considerable number of clippings received from England which give a much fuller account.”

Sims applied Naval War College methods of analysis to reconstruct the Battle of Jutland in detail. He then offered a strikingly accurate assessment of the strategic consequences of Jutland in an 8 July 1916 report to Daniels. Sims also enjoyed unique access to information provided by his longtime friend Royal Navy admiral Sir John Jellicoe—the commander of the Grand Fleet during the Battle of Jutland. Shortly after the battle, in June 1916, Jellicoe sent a packet to Sims that included an advance copy of his official report, appended to another study of the battle by British journalist Arthur Pollen. Few outside the Admiralty had access to such information at the time. These documents enabled Sims to begin framing the basic chronology of the Battle of Jutland.

The body of information Sims compiled in the summer of 1916 demonstrates the importance U.S. naval professionals placed on the battle at the time. However, after the publication in 1942 of the only comprehensive biography of Sims, Admiral Sims and the Modern American Navy by Elting Morison, these particular records fell into general obscurity within the historiography.

Yet it was over the course of this half a year—from the time of the Battle of Jutland to the end of 1916—that domestic and external events and the efforts of Sims (and others) combined to set precedents for naval officer education, historical and strategic study, USN fleet organization, and concepts of combined and joint command that informed American naval strategic thinking through the Second World War and into the Cold War era. A century ago, Sims and his associates set the course that led to the U.S. Navy of the 21st century.

Jellicoe, as commander of the Royal Navy Grand Fleet at Jutland, had faced a difficult decision—to seek a smashing victory akin to Trafalgar or to ensure the preservation of the Grand Fleet so as to maintain the ability to fix the German High Seas Fleet in place. During the action in the North Sea approaches to the Skagerrak, British battle cruisers under Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty had charged ahead of the Grand Fleet, into the teeth of the battleships of the High Seas Fleet—and sustained heavy losses. Heroic accounts of the British battle cruiser action at Jutland made it appear comparable to the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava or the dramatic last stand at the Little Bighorn; at Jutland, battle cruisers seemed to have been completely inadequate compared with battleships.

Within minutes of Beatty making contact with the German battle cruisers, under Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper, the Germans sank two battle cruisers under Beatty’s immediate command. As the Grand Fleet under Jellicoe closed with Beatty and the remaining battle cruisers, and as the Germans maneuvered to the sanctuary of port, the latter continued inflicting heavy damage on the former.

While the Germans lost one battle cruiser, four light cruisers, one pre-dreadnought, and five torpedo boats at Jutland, the British lost three battle cruisers, three armored cruisers, and eight destroyers. Within 72 hours, an estimated 2,551 Germans and 6,094 British sailors were killed in the battle of Jutland.

The Grand Fleet at Jutland ultimately achieved its actual mission—forcing the Germans to withdraw from the battlefield. Jellicoe successfully maintained the integrity of the Grand Fleet, ensured Royal Navy superiority in European waters, and retained for Britain the strategic advantage at sea. But the German High Seas Fleet remained a potent threat after the battle. Critics castigated Jellicoe for being indecisive, while his subordinate Beatty blamed the Grand Fleet for failing to support the battle cruisers at Jutland. British newspapers also highlighted the losses the Royal Navy had sustained under Jellicoe, which seriously damaged his reputation as a “future Nelson.”  Facing the media, Jellicoe fueled perceptions of a Pyrrhic victory at Jutland. He emphasized the strategic necessity of preserving the superiority of the Royal Navy so as to keep the German High Seas Fleet in check. Jellicoe also believed that Beatty had acted on his own initiative, charging headlong with the Battle Cruiser Fleet into the mist.

Jellicoe was frustrated by the severe price he paid in the popular media for failing to deliver a spectacular victory akin to that at Trafalgar. While he grappled with that imperfect victory, Jellicoe turned to his old American friend, Sims. Additionally, from the British perspective, Jellicoe recognized the importance of fostering ties between the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy.

On the other side of the Atlantic, reports of the stunning losses of the British battle cruisers inspired members of Congress to make official inquiries. Within the Navy Department, Secretary Daniels considered the option of cancelling construction of USN battle cruisers because of the British losses at Jutland. Learning of these discussions, Sims warned Daniels to avoid making false assumptions about the lessons of Jutland.  As early as 8 July 1916, Sims applied Naval War College methods of analysis to construct a detailed study of what actually had happened during the battle of Jutland, which he then submitted to Daniels. By refuting Daniels’s assertions about battle cruisers, Sims sparked even greater interest within Congress to understand the consequences of Jutland. Congress launched an official inquiry to determine whether the U.S. Navy should continue constructing battle cruisers. In response, Sims produced two highly detailed reports in July 1916.

SMS Koenig at Jutland

First Sims provided an astonishingly accurate account of the battle of Jutland, suggesting that “the action in question was in reality a skirmish.” He then defended Jellicoe’s actions by placing responsibility for the ambiguous results of the encounter squarely on Beatty’s shoulders. In a six-page report, Sims suggested that of course the Germans knew that Admiral Beatty would come after them with his battle cruiser squadrons. Doubtless, also, they assumed, from his supposed reputation for impetuosity and ambition for distinction, that he would attack at once and try to head them off at their base. He apparently did so, and the battleships came up and pounded him between the two forces, with the inevitable result that he got the worst of it until the British battleships [of Jellicoe] came to his support and forced the Germans to retreat.

Evaluating all available evidence, Sims concluded on 31 July 1916 that Jellicoe had acted correctly and Beatty had mishandled the battle cruisers at Jutland by ignoring the “fundamental principle that involves bringing against the enemy a greater force than he has at [emphasis in original] the point of contact.” Sims argued that Jellicoe had acted in the better strategic interests of the Royal Navy, whereas Beatty had violated the basic rule of using “just plain common sense unrestricted by any sentimental fool traditions of the glory type.” Sims concluded that “control of the sea is accomplished when the enemy’s fleet is defeated or ‘contained’; and the German fleet has been contained since the beginning of the war, is now contained, and doubtless will remain so.”

Sims strongly cautioned American policy makers against abandoning the construction of battle cruisers. “There is nothing,” Sims argued, “in the incidents of the [Jutland] fight to justify any argument against the necessity of battlecruisers.” According to Sims’s conclusions, Beatty had employed his battle cruisers improperly. Sims also rushed to the defense of his friend Jellicoe. By implication, Sims argued that Jutland actually resulted in as decisive a British victory as that of Trafalgar more than a hundred years earlier.

To prove these points, Sims used war-gaming and chart-maneuver methods to produce objectively detailed studies of the Battle of Jutland. Fighting the separate battle for the future of professional education within the U.S. Navy, he also organized a war-game study of Jutland at the Naval War College. This took place a short two months after the actual battle, in September 1916.

Part II, in which this early war-gaming of the Battle of Jutland is discussed, appears tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Woodrow Wilson & World War I: 1917–1921
Reviewed by James M. Gallen


Woodrow Wilson & World War I: 1917–1921

by Robert E. Ferrell
Harper & Row, New York, 1985

Woodrow Wilson will always be associated in American minds with World War I. Thus in Woodrow Wilson & World War I: 1917–1921, Robert Ferrell examines Wilson's role in the war and the war's influence on his career. The book actually has more to say about the war than it does about Wilson.

President Wilson Visits General Pershing and the Troops
Christmas Day, 1918

The narrative begins in April 1917 when the president of the United States abandons neutrality and takes his war message to Congress. It continues with a recitation of the strengths of a nation that had grown so in numbers and economic power since Wilson's Southern boyhood during the Civil War and its aftermath. The developments in Europe that created the conflagration into which Wilson led his country are also considered. The saga then turns to the soldiers and cabinet members who organized America's great effort. Readers are introduced to Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge who amended the draft bill, the men with whom the draft filled the ranks, war secretary Newton Baker, who had to reform his department, and Chief of Staff Peyton who organized a greatly expanded Army to be ready for the unprecedented demands of the war.

The U.S. Army had no effect on the war until it was transported "over there". That required convoys to carry the American Expeditionary Force across the Atlantic, on which so much Allied shipping had fallen prey to German U-Boats. This task fell to the Navy, who performed it without losing a troopship. Then there are sections about the AEF itself, its leaders, its men and the equipment they used, the mobilization that produced the weapons and munitions with which the Army fought, and the campaigns in which the AEF was involved.

Mobilization of industry was on a much more modest scale than that of World War II, for which the Great War served as a model. The description of the expansion of shipping to replace Allied losses demands admiration, as does the explosion of domestic railroad capacity. Financing of the war, through the American government and in loans to Allied nations, was the daunting task of Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo. Once the U.S. entered the war as an "associated" power, the need to cooperate with allies became a consuming interest for Gen. Pershing and President Wilson, working through his aide, Col. House.

After the entry of the AEF into combat, the German war effort collapsed and diplomacy moved to the fore. Initial German peace feelers were directed to Wilson, rather than to European players, and Wilson used his position to advance the Fourteen Points that he proposed to form the basis of a peace settlement. The many issues involved included the dismemberment of the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, the status of Poland, the place of the Bolshevik government of Russia in the new world order and, most important to Wilson, the establishment of the League of Nations.

The war could never be separated from domestic politics and the restoration of peace brought them to the surface. The peace treaty had to be submitted to the Senate for ratification, and that set off a confrontation into which Wilson threw his heart and soul and, ultimately, his health in an unsuccessful appeal to the people to demand ratification of the treaty. Demobilization drove millions of men back into the workforce right as the nation was facing rising demands by women for suffrage and other Progressive Era reforms. Throughout and after the war the civil rights of Americans were debated and, by the standards of later days, abridged for German-Americans and those suspected of Bolshevik leanings. Race riots erupted in cities across the land. Finally, all must be submitted to the people, and the Democratic ticket of 1920, which gave some support to Wilson's postwar program, suffered a crushing defeat that was taken as a repudiation of his stewardship of the White House.

I found Woodrow Wilson & World War I to provide insights into America's involvement in the war and Wilson's role in it that I had not gathered in other reading. I had never read that submariners who survived a depth charge attack were shell shocked for days to the point that they could not function effectively. Americans were urged to voluntarily endure meatless and wheatless days and clean their plates. This book was originally copyrighted in 1985, so it does reflect the judgment of a different time, a time when the war was still a living memory for some. Wisdom was not invented in the 21st century. A balanced appreciation of history requires a distillation of many viewpoints gathered by historians over a span of time. This book has much to add to our understanding of its subject.

James M. Gallen

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mte Lagazuoi: Mine Warfare in the Dolomite Alps


Monte Lagazuoi, 16 September 1917

On 23 May 1915 when the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, their opponents set up a line of defense from the Stelvio Pass along the Dolomites to the Carso and the Adriatic Sea. Cortina, which had belonged to Austria since 1511, was abandoned by the Austrian troops, who strengthened their positions at the Tre Sassi Fort in the Valparola Pass and on Mte Lagazuoi, in order to bar access to the Badia and Pusteria valleys, which were the Italian objectives in this sector. 

Location of the Mountain
In the early months of the war, the Italian assaults on the Austrian defense positions in the Valparola Pass were unsuccessful despite the Tre Sassi Fort being immediately knocked out of action by the Italian artillery firing from the Cinque Torri (Five Towers range) on the southwestern edge of the Cortina basin. Complete control of commanding Mte Lagazuoi became a priority for both armies. 

They then began to tunnel Mte Lagazuoi to seek shelter for troops and guns, transforming it into a new, 20th-century fortress. They soon found that the only way to conquer the enemy positions was by blowing them up. Five charges of dynamite exploded on the mountain, changing its appearance radically. The explosion captured in the photo at the top of the page is an Austrian mine detonated on 16 September 1917. 

Lift to the Peak Today

Fearing an Austrian counterattack, the Italians prepared a defense line at Cinque Torri, where the Italian artillery headquarters was based. The positions where Italians and Austro-Hungarians fought have been restored, thanks to international collaboration and funds from the European Union, and can be visited in a great open-air museum. On Lagazuoi, visitors can walk through the long galleries under the mountain and see the Italian and Austrian frontline positions; at Cinque Torri there are the Italian defense lines and positions and artillery headquarters while, at the Tre Sassi Fort, there is a museum with exhibits recalling events of the Great War in the Dolomites. 

View from Galleria on Lagazuoi

These three museums are about 15 kilometers west of Cortina on SS 48 delle Dolomiti and are located within a radius of five kilometers. They illustrate the different aspects of mountain warfare during the First World War: the defense of the Alpine valleys in the Austrian fort, the front line in the mountains and mine warfare on Lagazuoi, and the Italian defense line and artillery headquarters at CinqueTorri. 

Your Editor (Blue Shirt) Atop Mte Lagazuoi with His 2011 Battlefield Tour Group

Lagazuoi and Cinque Torri may be visited during the summer by walking up the mountain paths or using the cable car or chair lift. In the winter, cableways should be used to get to the museum area and then the entrenchments can be seen using skis or snow shoes, preferably with a mountain guide. The Tre Sassi Fort, on the road through the Valparola Pass, is accessible all year round. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Loss of Coast Guard Cutter USS Tampa


By James Patton


On 26 September 1918 the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (operating as the USS Tampa under wartime rules) was lost with all hands, a total of 131 men. This was the greatest combat loss taken by the U.S. naval forces during World War I as well as the greatest loss of life incurred by the U.S. Coast Guard in its entire history.


Coast Guard Cutter Tampa Before Hostilities

The Tampa’s short story began on 9 August 1912 when the U.S. Revenue Service Cutter (UCRC) Miami, built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Corp., was commissioned at Arundel Cove, MD. The ship was named for the Miami Indian tribe rather than for the then little settlement in south Florida. At the time, several revenue cutters were named after Indian tribes. The Miami was 190 ft. long, with a 14.6-ft. draft and a displacement of 1,181 tons. Her normal crew complement was 70 officers and men, she carried three quick-firing six-pounders and various small arms, and she could do 13 knots. 

The Miami’s first duty was with the International Ice Patrol, operating out of Halifax and looking for icebergs. Subsequently she was based at Tampa, Florida, and developed a relationship with the city. 
In January 1915 the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-saving Service were merged and re-named the U.S. Coast Guard. It was then decided that the Indian tribal names were to be phased out, so in February, 1916 the Miami was renamed the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Tampa.

Soon after war was declared on 6  April 1917, according to law the U.S. Coast Guard was transferred to the U.S. Navy for the duration of the war. Three days later, the USS Tampa, along with the former USCGC Tallapoosa, seized the Austrian merchant ship Borneo, the first overt action by Coast Guard ships in the war.

At the time the USCG had 23 cutters capable of ocean service, which were sent to east coast Navy yards where they were up-gunned and outfitted with depth charges. In August and September 1917 the cutters Ossipee, Seneca, Yamacraw, Algonquin, Manning, and Tampa left for European service. They were designated as Squadron 2, Division 6 of the Atlantic Fleet's patrol forces (the flagship was the slightly larger gunboat USS Paducah PG-18), and the squadron was based at Gibraltar. These cutters escorted hundreds of vessels convoying between Gibraltar and UK and also performed escort and patrol duty in the Mediterranean.

Outfitted for War at Gibraltar Harbor

On the evening of her loss, USS Tampa was detached from escorting Convoy HG-107 in the Bristol Channel with orders to proceed to Milford Haven, Wales, to discharge passengers. At 8:45 p.m. an explosion was noted by a hydrophone operator in the convoy. Subsequently the Tampa failed to arrive at her destination and a search was made for her by U.S. and British patrol craft.  A small amount of wreckage identified as belonging to the Tampa and two unidentified bodies in naval uniforms were found. Two other bodies later washed ashore. Losses were 111 U.S. Coast Guard, four U.S. Navy, eleven Royal Navy, and six civilians. 

The British Admiralty notified Rear Admiral William Sims, USN, commander of the U.S. Navy in Europe:

Their Lordships desire me to express their deep regret at the loss of the U.S.S. Tampa. Her record since she has been employed in European waters as an escort to convoys has been remarkable. She has acted in the capacity of ocean escort to no less than 18 convoys from Gibraltar comprising 350 vessels, with a loss of only 2 ships through enemy action. The commanders of the convoys have recognized the ability with which the Tampa carried out the duties of ocean escort. Appreciation of the good work done by the U.S.S. Tampa may be some consolation to those bereft and Their Lordships would be glad if this could be conveyed to those concerned.

The German U-boat UB-91 claimed credit for sinking the Tampa. Her captain, Kapitänleutnant Wolf Hans Hertwig, wrote in his service log that he had spotted the Tampa while he was running on the surface and submerged and fired the torpedo from the stern tube at a distance of 550 meters, which hit the Tampa amidships. 

Clearly UB-91 wasn’t spotted by any lookouts on the Tampa, which took no action or countermeasures whatsoever. From the reported distance at the time the UB-91 launched her torpedo, the ships had been quite close together. Why did Hertwig submerge? With his 105mm deck gun he had the Tampa out-ranged. He could easily have fallen back and engaged Tampa with his gun, which would have saved a torpedo.


Some of the Crewmen Lost in the Sinking

Hertwig was a very new U-boat commander in a new craft; the UB-91 had been commissioned in April. He had spent nearly all of the war with the High Seas Fleet, having served at the Battle of Jutland on SMS Westfalen, had only recently graduated from the U-boat training program, and his first patrol had no results. How did an inexperienced U-boat commander and crew pull off a tricky stern shot at very close range so flawlessly? In any event, the official U.S. Coast Guard history doesn’t concede that UB-91 sank the Tampa

The men of the USS Tampa are commemorated at the Brookwood ABMC Cemetery and Memorial in Surrey, UK, and also on the U.S. Coast Guard memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

General Henri Gouraud at Gallipoli


Gouraud with Captured Turkish Artillery
Henri Gouraud (1867–1946) was one of the most honored French generals of the Great War but is mostly remembered for the campaign of 1918. He had begun, however, to demonstrate his capabilities earlier in a forgotten element of the Gallipoli operation. After commanding a division in the Argonne in 1914, in May 1915 Gouraud was sent to Gallipoli —where early French efforts had been highly criticized—to assume command. Charged with anchoring the right side during the effort to break out of the Cape Helles beachhead, the French colonial troops had not fared well in their attempts to seize the high ground, consistently leaving the British troops on their left exposed, ultimately preventing any advance. Gouraud arrived in May, but on 4 June saw his troops again fail. 

He proceeded to galvanize the French contingent, starting with a meticulously planned operation to capture a trench section the Turks had reinforced with two redoubts. By using artillery to greater effect, he eased the burden on his infantry. The operation went as planned for the French troops, but once again, his colonial troops had problems. Gouraud, however, would simply not accept failure; he insisted on a final push by the Regiment de Marche d'Afrique. The second line of trenches was captured and the Allied line was advanced. In this successful attack, his forces suffered 2,500 casualties but inflicted over 6,000 on their Turkish adversaries. The French deployment at Gallipoli had finally begun to be a positive asset for the Allies, but this would not last long. 

On 30 June 1915, Gouraud became one of the highest-ranking officers of the war to be wounded. He lost an arm and broke both legs as a result of being hit with numerous fragments from the explosion of an artillery shell. The effectiveness of the French forces around Cape Helles diminished noticeably after his evacuation when he was replaced by a general of lesser caliber. 

French Soldier at Gallipoli
15,000 French and Colonials Killed Are Buried at Cape Helles

Later in the year he was given command of Fourth Army in the Champagne but was rotated to Morocco soon afterward. Gouraud returned to the Western Front, though, to command Fourth Army in time to defeat the last of the German offensives east of Reims in July 1918. Just before the Armistice he was given the honor of retaking Sedan for the Allies. His remains are interred today in the monument at Navarin Farm in the Champagne. The monument honors the French sacrifices in the sector throughout the war as well as the American troops that fought under his command in 1918. 



Friday, May 19, 2017

Fighting Socialist: Adolphe Messimy



Radical socialist, Dreyfusard, and Saint Cyr graduate, Adolphe Messimy (1869–1935) made his mark in both the political and military spheres of France before and during the Great War. At the start of hostilities he held the position of minister for war for the second time in the administration of René Viviani. Despite his volatile personality, he had worked his way to the top as a professional politician after retiring from the army in 1899 over the Army's handling of the  Dreyfus Affair. Messimy, however, received some of the blame for the failure of Plan XVII, which he had defended against more defensive strategies, and resigned before the month of August 1914 had ended. His had been one of the authorizing signatures on France's mobilization order.

Before the war he had recommended a series of reforms that were controversial at the time but would prove prescient.  He had recommended larger artillery for French divisions, specifically 105mm pieces, but most French generals thought them defensive weapons and a hindrance to offensive operations. Most famously, he was an opponent of the rouge pantaloons. After visiting the Balkans and seeing the advantage held by Bulgarians in their inconspicuous uniforms, Messimy also proposed replacing the red kepi and pantaloon rouge (red trousers) worn by the French Army since 1830 by a grey-blue or grey-green uniform (the British Army had recently switched from scarlet to khaki and the Germans from blue to field-grey). This plan was blocked by French generals and politicians. Messimy later wrote of the “blind and imbecile attachment to the most visible of all colours.”

Messimy (Second from Left) with Joffre at Prewar Maneuvers

He rejoined the army as a reserve captain and proceeded to serve with distinction as an intelligence officer and in the Vosges sector where he was wounded. A colonel by 1916, he was again wounded at the Somme. His men liberated Colmar at war's end.  His rise in grade continued throughout the war and he ended his military career as a general and divisional commander. Afterward he returned to his political career with mixed success.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Roads Classic: Twenty Surprising Doughboys

This is a non-comprehensive list of individuals who served in the AEF and went on to prominence in other fields of after the war. We've left out the generals, battlefield heroes, and most political types. Separate lists are being assembled for the Navy and volunteer groups. If you happen to have photos of any of these individuals please send them along.  (email) We will be featuring them on the Doughboy Center website in the future.

Grover Cleveland Alexander 
322nd Field Artillery
Baseball Hall of Fame






Hervey Allen 
28th Division
Author: Toward the FlameAnthony Adverse

Edwin Armstrong 
Signal Corps
Father of FM Radio

Steven Bechtel 
20th Engineering Battalion
Mega Construction Comp. Leader

Walter Brennan
101st Field Artillery; 26th Div.
Multiple Academy Award-Winning Actor

James M. Cain 
HQ Company, 79th Div.
Author: The Taking of MontfauconPostman Always Rings Twice

Meriam Cooper 
Air Service
Produced Movie King Kong

Dr. Harvey Cushing, Jr.
Medical Corps, 5th Base Hospital
Neurosurgeon, Biographer of Osler



Everett Dirksen 
69th Balloon Observer Company
U.S. Senate Minority Leader

Conrad Hilton 
304th Labor Btln, 79th Div.
Hotelier

Jay C. Hormel 
Ice Plant Company 301
Company Produced Spam

Edwin Hubble 
343rd Infantry, 86th Division
Astronomer 



Buster Keaton 
159th Infantry, 40th Div.
Entertainment Great



Fibber McGee
(James Jordan)
122nd Engineers
Radio Entertainer

Horace Pippin 
369th Infantry Regiment
Artist: John Brown






Harold Ross 
RR Engineers, Stars and Stripes Editor
Founder, New Yorker magazine



Edward Steichen 
Photographic Section
U.S. Air Service
Photo Artist



Henry Stimson 
31st and 305th Fld. Art.
Secretary of State & War

Gene Tunney 
USMC, Svcs of Supply
Heavyweight Boxing Champion




DeWitt Wallace
139th Infantry, 35th Div.
Founder of Reader's Digest

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Seen in Flanders: New Things and an Old Favorite


I'm just back from my Flanders – 1917 battlefield tour and have begun sorting through the photos I've started gathering from our tour members.  Here are photos of some of the new things I've never seen before, others I've somehow managed to miss in my 27 years of visiting the Western Front, and one old favorite.

The Wellington Quarry in Arras



The hiding place for an incredible 24,000 soldiers the week before the 1917 Battle of Arras, the visit to the Wellington Quarry (one of four) was rated the top stop on our trip by some of our participants. Our group (shown above) was fitted out with authentic tin hats for the visit to the vast underground caverns, which retain much evidence of its habitation by British troops 100 years ago.


Changes at Langemark



We made two striking discoveries at Langemark Cemetery in the Ypres Salient.  Above is shown the new location of the famous four-figure statue by Emil Krieger.  Formerly, when you entered the cemetery, what was apparently a party of eternal mourners seemed to greet you from the distant far side of the huge cemetery. The effect was quite arresting.  However, you did not realize that the work depicted four German soldiers attending the funeral of one of their mates.  They have been moved to the site shown, with their backs to the shelter at the cemetery's entrance.  The soldiers (their identity is clear when you are near them) are now standing over a mass grave of nearly 25,000 of their mates.


Discovery two, is titled the "Langemark Cenotaph".  Dedicated in 2016, the new memorial is enhanced by the winning entries in a worldwide competition amongst blacksmithing artists.  The individual pieces are both representational and somewhat abstract.  We will show more of these in future postings on Roads.  

Great New Visitor's Center at Flanders Fields American Cemetery




Another stop that will get a lot of attention in future postings is the small but superbly done Visitor's Centers at Flanders Fields Cemetery. Shown here is  the panel for a typical Doughboy killed in Flanders, Francis Clear of the New York 27th Division.  For me the highlight was the 10-minute orientation film that managed to capture the spirit of the American involvement in WWI better than the recent 6-hour PBS production.


Creative 63rd Royal Naval Division Memorial at Gavrelle




I thought this monument to the very active Royal Naval Division for their work at the Battle of Arras deserved an "A" for imagination.  It tells the story of the action by representing the division with an anchor caught in the ruins of a town.  After the tough fight to capture Gavrelle, the division had a tougher time breaking out of the town as the Germans surrounded it with traps and ambush spots.

My Favorite British Lion on the Western Front, Hyde Park Corner, Plugstreet




Just love this guy!

Chateau Rumbeke, Roesalare




This was Richthofen's Quarters During Bloody April 1917


Kiwi Statue, Messines




A Kiwi Soldier at Messines Town Square reminds visitors that it was the New Zealand Division that liberated the village on 7 June 1917.


At the Passchendaele Memorial Museum




Although, I had seen photos of it, I had never seen the haunting "Falls the Shadow" by New Zealander Helen Pollock in person before.  Its impact is almost over-powering.  The artist's father served in Flanders during WWI.

Below is a tour guide's delight — a cross section of the Passchendaele battlefield.  It clearly conveys information that is most difficult to express verbally.  Which in my mind makes it great graphic art.



Gurkha Soldier, Ypres Ramparts




A recent addition where the Ramparts meet the Menin Gate.

Lego Menin Gate, Hotel Ariane, Ypres




I thought Lego models were meant to be parodies and didn't know you could achieve such accuracy and show such serious intent.

U.S. Ohio Bridge between  Eine and Nederename, Schelde River, Belgium




At the 2 November 1917 river crossing by the 37th Ohio National Guard Division, the Ohio Bridge is actually the third of the post WWI period, but the four American bison guarding the approaches are the originals.

St. Eloi Crater




Created by the  largest of the 19 mines blown on 7 June 1917, the St. Eloi Crater is now a pretty village picnic and fishing spot.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Victory on the Western Front
Reviewed by David F. Beer


Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918

by Michael Senior
Pen and Sword, 2016

By the end of the Great War in 1918 there were almost two million British troops on the Western Front. Few—if any—were remnants of the initial BEF force of 125,000 who had left England for France over four years earlier, and just as their numbers had grown drastically over the years of fighting, so, the author argues, had tactical and technical innovations gradually been developed and improved. In this book, Michael Senior identifies and analyzes these developments and shows how they led to the British Army becoming an infinitely more efficient force by 1918 than it was in 1914.

1918: British Artillerymen with the Look of Victory

Although written in an impressively lucid style, this is not a quick read. The author is meticulous in assembling his evidence, refers to numerous political and military figures, and analyses details scrupulously. The army's gradual transformation was never a foregone conclusion, but, as Senior shows, was often a case of muddling through to improvement:

The development of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) between 1914 and 1918 was extraordinary. Its growth was rapid and largely unplanned and its composition and character evolved piecemeal through the course of the war. Altogether, it was an outstanding, and eventually successful, masterpiece of improvisation (p. 7).

The first "improvement" of course was to get enough men to fight this war. Britain's 1914 army was insignificant compared to the German and French armies—and half of it was stationed in the colonies. The tremendous recruiting efforts that took place right away are the topics of the book's opening chapters, including the difficulties of finding enough experienced officers and NCOs, uniforms, and rifles. Even seasoned generals lacked the experience the new situations demanded, hence their learning curve was steep (and sometimes hindered by rivalries, feuds, resentments, intrigues, and hostility).

Most of the book consists of chapters devoted to technical improvements within the Royal Flying Corps, munitions, trenches, tanks, artillery—all combat elements that were to adapt in various ways as the war developed. One thing that didn't change until it was too late for innumerable souls on all sides was the traditional idea that an outright "offensive spirit"—the courageous frontal attack with guns and bayonets—was the only way to win the war. Not the best of ideas in the age of the machine gun. But as Senior shows, even this concept was reworked by the last year of the war when "bite and hold" tactics combined with careful aerial and artillery coordination came into use.

You will meet a lot of British politicians, industrialists, and generals in Victory on the Western Front, including many whose names are not much remembered today. All played a part in developing the British Army into the complex and efficient organization that it became by 1918. One caveat: although the author doesn't ignore French or American efforts, or even the Portuguese (they were "of doubtful morale and fighting capability" (p. 181) there's a danger, I think, of a reader unfamiliar with the truly global nature of WWI coming away from the book with the impression that this war was primarily Britain's war. This can be remedied of course by reading one of the full histories of the war.

Ultimately, Victory on the Western Front is a convincing antidote against the popular "Lions led by Donkeys" attitude toward the Great War that has sometimes been in vogue. It's a well-written and well-organized book of seven chapters, introduction and conclusion, notes, bibliography, index, and an appendix listing the main events of the war. The seven maps at the front of the book are clear and will be useful to some readers. Four pages of "plates" contain 24 black-and-white photos of significant people and scenes.

All in all, this book is an excellent read for those whose WWI interests include the workings of the British Expeditionary Force from 1914 to 1918.

David F. Beer