November 20, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The volume of war news on the front page of the Daily Capital Journal was limited to three articles:

GERMAN OFFICIALS ARE CONFIDENT OF VICTORIES IN EAST
Fighting Has Not Yet Reached Decisive Stage – Situation Satisfactory
THOUSANDS POURING ACROSS THE FRONTIER
Slavs Driven Back in Russian Poland But Are Fighting Desperately

TYPHUS ATTACKS FIVE THOUSAND IN LAST FIVE DAYS
Conditions Ideal for Spread of Epidemic and Situation Is Grave
TROOPS OF ALLIES SO FAR HAVE ESCAPED
Physicians Predict It Is Certain to Spread through All the Armies

HEAVY SNOWSTORM CAUSES BRIEF LULL IN GERMAN ATTACK

The editor lays out his frustration with the quality of news coming from the seat of war:

NEWS FROM THE SEAT OF WAR

Most of the war correspondents in Europe are sending stories to their papers in this country marked: “By mail to ——— to avoid the censor.” There is an unanimity of absolute nothingness in them so far as real war news is concerned that is remarkable. Either the letters so sent are thoroughly censored or the correspondents are afraid they might tell something. This they have strictly avoided doing up to date.

Now comes William Philip Sims, [see article published in the Thursday edition here] the American correspondent, and the only one given permission by the allies to visit the front, who writes at length and wearies the telegraph wires all over the United States with his experience at the front. He solemnly tells us that he saw a French depot of supplies and that there was plenty of them. He says he believes from talk with French officers the war will be a long one; that the wounded soldiers smile and want to go back to the front; that he saw commandant’s books and a splendid array of statistics which leads him to believe France is prepared for a long war. On top of this, the story is copyrighted both in England and this country.

Apparently there is a studied and successful effort to refrain from telling anything. One is reminded of Elijah Higgins, who visited the centennial at Philadelphia and who, asked by “the gaping rustics who gathered ‘round: on his return as to what he had seen, scratched his grizzled foretop for a minute or two and answered that he had seen “the goldarndest biggest pile of oyster shells behind a cookshop” he ever saw in his life.

If those hot-air correspondents were working on the Squeedunk semi-monthly and brought in the kind of news stories they are cabling from Europe, they would be fired for incompetency.

An example of the editor’s justifiable peevishness appears on page seven of the paper:

NO MAN LIVING WILL SEE THE CONDITIONS IN EUROPE NORMAL
Belgium Has Been Reduced to a Condition of Primitive Savagery
PEOPLE HAVE NOTHING BUT THE RAGS THEY WEAR
An Epidemic of Revolutions Expected When War Closes Due to Dire Conditions

The Hague, Nov. 1. – (By mail to New York.) – Not within the time of anyone now living will there be a return to anything like the normal in those parts of Europe which the war has affected directly, it is declared by men where who have visited the fighting zone or are otherwise well acquainted with the havoc the conflict has already wrought.

Indeed, a majority of them say conditions probably will never at any time be again as they were before the struggle began.

Nor, it is added by good authorities, will the change be confined entirely to the countries which have actually been devastated by the fighting or involved in the strife.

Practically all of Belgium, according to those who have traveled over it, has been reduced to a state literally of primitive savagery. Great numbers of non-combatant populations – such as remains – are homeless wanderers. They own nothing but the rags they wear. They hide at the sight of another human being. Conditions are reminiscent of the dark ages, where the only law was strength and no life was for an instant safe.

Reminiscing on the dark ages centuries before makes such comparisons plausible as the writer was no more present for the former than for the latter.  Atrocity propaganda appeals to emotions when reason flags. Four short months before Europe was at peace. Enthusiasm for war was based upon – enthusiasm. Few who thought about the war could fathom how or why an event at the end of June, in the Balkans, between Austria and Serbia, could or ever would involve the emotions of people in towns as far apart as, Wymondham in Norfolk or Broome in Australia, much less require them to fight and die in Belgium. Two and a half years later, Marion County, Oregon, would be drawn into the war.

On page eight, a shortage of cotton in Austria reports the appeal to Americans to aid wounded Austrian soldiers:

ASKS AMERICAN TO AID THE WOUNDED
Austria Cannot Get Cotton and Americans Are Asked to Send It to Hospitals

William G. Shepherd sends from Vienna the following stirring appeal to Americans, under date of October 17:

If Christmas means anything to you, here’s your opportunity.

It has nothing to do with war. It concerns humanity. It is neutral – as natural as pain and sympathy are universal.

For three weeks the hospitals here have been without cotton to dress the wounds of dying soldiers. The American Red Cross corps, which arrived yesterday, brought a small supply, and this was distributed immediately among the hospitals, but it will last only a few days, even with the most careful use.

Doctors and nurses are forced to use as a substitute of cotton small bags of thread. Everybody in Vienna who can help in no other way spends his spare time in unravelling small squares of cloth cut from sheets and handkerchiefs. These short threads are sewed into bags of gauze which are stylized.

With this rough, harsh material, the most delicate wounds must be dressed.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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