by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent
Headlines in the Sunday edition of the Daily Oregon Statesman for 6 September, 1914 reported what would be a turning point in the war:
RHEIMS TAKEN AND MAUBEUGE FORTS GIVE UP
Maugeuge Resists Terrific Bombardment From German Artillery
GERMANS LEAVE PARIS
Teuton Hordes Swarm Southeast Away From French Capital
Under “War Bulletins” is a brief note:
62,000 TAGS FOUND
London, Sept. 6 (2:40 a.m.) – A dispatch to the Observer from Antwerp says that a bag containing 62,000 aluminum identification plates of Germans who have been killed in the fighting has reached Brussels from France. These plates are destined for Berlin.
News from the eastern front reported that “Three Million Men Engaged On East Front.” The paper reported that the front covers three thousand kilometers and that Russia has an advantage over Austria.
The Statesman’s editorial “Warning to Germany” of September 4th brought a swift response from R. C. Hallberg:
I have read with interest and, I must confess, with considerable amusement, your editorial of September 4th under the heading: “Warning to Germany,” to which I cannot help taking exception. You speak with a degree of absolute certainty of the crimes and cruelties which are “reported” to have been committed by the German army in Belgium, referring mainly to the destruction of Louvain, the murdering the innocent people of that city; the dropping of bombs into Antwerp and the trespassing in general of the German army into neutral Belgium territory, as if you had been an actual eye-witness!
In reading an article of this kind, an innocent American public which is not posted on conditions as they exist on the continent, cannot help but get the idea that the German army consists of a lot of uncultured and uncivilized barbarians who seem to take delight in murdering, burning and pillaging, when in reality just the opposite is the case. I have seen service in the German army myself and am thoroughly familiar with conditions as they exist in the ranks of the German soldiers, and I know whereof I speak when I state that there is no army in the world which is better trained and better disciplined than the German army.
I could write pages of inconsistencies that have been reported in the daily press of this state. I mention only one. In today’s Morning Oregonian, on page three, under the heading of “Louvain Man Says He Saw Massacre,” is given the report of a Hollander who professed to be an eyewitness of the cruelties of German soldiers in Louvain. After making the statement that 300 men and boys had been murdered by German soldiers, besides the burgomaster, two magistrates, the rector of the university and all of the police officials, he goes on to state that when he left the whole town was burning and the the Church of St. Peter was in flames. If you will turn to the same issue of that paper you will find on page 1, column 1, the notice that neither the cathedral of St. Peter nor the town hall had been damaged nor destroyed. I mention this only to show the conflicting reports that are published daily and which make it almost impossible to arrive at the truth and the real state of affairs as they are existing on the continent at the present.
To come back to your editorial. In order to take this one-sided view of the situation over there, it is evident that you must have taken the reports that have come to you over English and French wires at face value and that you have never even taken the pains to withhold your opinion on these “reported” cruelties until you had an opportunity hear the other side of the story. Why is it that the dropping of bombs into Nürnberg and other places in Germany by French aviators, the landing of Japanese troops in neutral Chinese territory and the hideous cruelties which are reported to have been committed by the famous barbarous Cossacks at east Prussia are not even hinted at in your editorial?
Every man is certainly entitled to his own opinion and if you feel that the German soldiers are a lot of uncultured heathens and barbarians, I certainly do not want to endeavor to convert you from this belief, but on the other hand, if, as an editor of a leading newspaper of this city, you are taking pains to advise and warn the Germans in general, basing your arguments and opinions on conclusions you have jumped at and formed from unreliable reports coming to you from the enemies of the Germans, I feel that it is my duty as a German to take exception to your statements and to see that the other side is also properly presented.
As long as you are taking the position you have in this matter, you are not only showing your decided partiality but you are doing an injustice to the German nation and its government for whom you claim to cherish love and admiration.