September 2, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

“The Soldiers Are Human” read an editorial in this day’s Statesman:

It isn’t wise to believe all the stories of wanton barbarity that come from the front. War is more hellish than ever, but only in the pitiless cruelty of the machinery that man has invented for destruction. In the personal conduct of the soldiery we may take it for granted that the present war will reveal less real inhumanity than any of the great wars of the past.

A civilized man does not deteriorate into a brute the moment was is declared. He tries to kill the enemy, according to the rules of the brutal game, because that is is his job. But it is a rare, man, be he French, German, English, Belgian, Cossack or Servian, who finds the killing a genuine pleasure. In the heat of combat, as in a private fist fight, there may come a blood-lust that is a species of temporary insanity; but mostly a soldier shoots without anger, and slashes or stabs with a shrinking soul. Ask any veteran.

However, the next edition of the paper reported the following:

Circus Manager Tells Sights in Austria
Servians Charged With Poisoning Wells Are Executed – Indians Are
Badly Mauled in Munich

London, Sept. 2 – William Arthur of Lauder, Wyoming, accompanied by numerous Indians who were attached to a circus which was performing in Trieste when the war broke out, reached London today after many exciting adventures.

In relating his experiences Mr. Arthur said that in crossing Austria he had seen many persons accused of being spies killed by infuriated mobs. Among them were some women. At one town he witnessed the arrest of 300 Servians who were charged with poisoning wells. They were lined up before walls and shot.

At Munich, according to Mr. Arthur, the Indians were arrested as spies and badly mauled by a mob before the police were able to afford them adequate protection

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September 1, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The first month of the war ended along the Western Front with the French and British holding back and beginning to turn the German attempt to swiftly defeat the Entente. In the east, Germany inflicted the first of two crushing defeats on Russian armies that had invaded Prussia. During September, the fronts, in Max Hastings’ words (Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War) congealed and would, for four years, oscillate in gains and losses measured in yards or a few miles.

During September, this congealing of the Western Front would take place over the first two weeks:

• September 4 – 10: The First Battle of the Marne stalls then halts the German invasion of France.

• September 7 – 14: After inflicting a crushing defeat on Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg, German forces inflicted a further defeat at First Battle of the Masurian Lakes.

• September 9 – 14: Often called The Great Retreat, German forces retreat back to the river Aisne. The retreat results in a major shakeup of the German command, which will be reflected in the headlines. Continue reading

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August 31, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

A Beta-Tested War or Cognitive Dissonance Avoidance?

British casualties, primarily at Mons, for the month of August were 14,409.

The French reported casualties of 400,000 for the months of August and September, of whom 313,000 were reported as “Morts sur le Terrain disparos et prisoniers.”

For August through November of 1914, the French reported 854,000 casualties, the British 84,575, and Germany 677,440.

Throughout the first fortnight of August, under brilliant skies the armies of France, Germany, Belgium and Britain marched from their detrainment points towards collisions with the enemy amid golden cornfields and wonder peasant spectators.

While the German and British armies had adopted uniforms of grey-green and khaki respectively, the French and Belgians retained the brilliant hues of the nineteenth century. Fantastically, the soldiers of France advanced towards the enemy’s fire beneath regimental colours, to the music of drums and trumpets. . . . All the belligerents were led into action by commanders armed with swords and mounted on chargers.

. . . Masses of men advanced against devastatingly powerful modern armaments in the same fashion as warriors since ancient times. The consequences were unsurprising, save to some generals. On 22 August 1914 the French army suffered casualties on a scale never thereafter in the war surpassed by any nation in a single day. Its commander-in-chief, Gen. Joseph Joffre, orchestrated a series of battles which, to a spectator, resembled those of the nineteenth century in all respects save the dearth of military genius. The conviction of French senior soldiers that spirit along – ‘cran’ – could overcome firepower was responsible for rendering more than a quarter of a million of their young countrymen casualties inside three weeks. . . (Max Hasting, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, 160-161)

The British were more grounded in common sense. However at Mons, Field Marshall Sr. John French, willfully ignored the evidence:

The little field-marshall remained buoyant about allied prospects. He knew there were Germans in the offing, but displayed a bizarre insouciance about placing his troops in their path. The BEF’s (British Expeditionary Force) highly highly competent chief of intelligence, Col. George MacDonogh, gave warnings based on air reconnaissance and messages from [the French], that three German corps were bearing down upon him. Sir John dismissed this threat, proposing to continue an advance towards Soignies. When he personally interviewed an RFC pilot who had gazed own on Kluck’s masses, the C-in-C revealed obvious disbelief and changed the subject to quiz the troubled young man paternalistically about his aeroplane. (Hastings, 203).

The war will proceed in this manner for several more weeks. The French will move their government to Bordeaux and the Germans will come close to encircling Paris. By late September all sides will have dug in and the war will take on the characteristics of trench warfare that we associate with the war. The course of the war will be measured in yards and thousands of dead.

Our goal is to describe how the war affected residents of Marion County. We have tried to show you how our great grandparents read about the war. We will continue to provide daily headlines and links wherever possible, but the focus now turns to how Marion County responded to war.

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August 30, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

Though residing in the United States, one’s citizenship could result in being called up for military service, as this article in the Statesman describes:

Many Drafted Are Claimants of U.S. Citizenship Continue reading

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August 29, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The month drew to an end with German armies threatening French and British forces in the west, while Russian armies continued to press from the east. The German plan to hold Russia at bay in the east while dealing fatal blows to the allies in the west seemed to be working, as the headlines attest:

Exhausted by Superhuman Efforts, German Army Stops to Breathe
Italy, Bulgaria and Greece All in Danger of Being Drawn Into the Conflict Continue reading

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August 28, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The German breakthrough threatens the French and British forces, while in the east, Russia is seen as “Paris’ Main Hope”:


Burning of City With Its Priceless
Treasures An Act of Wanton Vandalism
and Absolutely Unprovoked Continue reading

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August 27, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The headlines speak to the growing fears of the war. In the west, Paris prepares for a siege as German armies cross into France, and as casualties mount. In the east, Russia seems confident that Berlin will fall within weeks.

“ALLIES ARE VERY MUCH ALARMED” reads the headline. ”The allies plainly are alarmed today by developments on the Franco-Belgian frontier,” so concerned that the war offices withheld their usual daily statements about the progress of the fighting. Allied losses were described as “staggering” and it was reported that the French and British had lost 70,000 men killed, wounded, or captured.

“Nothing New From War At Coos Bay” followed up on an earlier story of rumors of a naval battle off the Oregon coast:

Although nothing indicating that a naval battle was in progress off Coos Bay was heard early today, verification of heavy firing yesterday afternoon apparently by warships reaching here from all along the southwest Oregon coast.

It was impossible to ascertain whether or not a naval engagement had taken place, and no wreckage was being washed ashore, but hundreds of citizens of this section, who heard the firing were positive that it was that of cannon.

The sea was overcast with fog today. If there were foreign war vessels in the offing, they could not be seen.

In Washington, Secretary of State Bryan urged Americans to leave Europe as speedily as possible. “‘War has its uncertainties,’ said Secretary Bryan, ‘and it is not advisable for Americans to stay longer in Europe.’”

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