December 2, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

Continuing William G. Shepherd’s reporting from the Austrian front, the headline read:

Shells Burst in Cholera Camp as Priest Gives Absolution to the Dying
So Gunners Point Guns as Told Against Enemy That Cannot Be Seen

Przemysl, Austria, Oct. 29. – (By mail to New York. – (Passed by censor.) – Napoleon never fought like the Austrians and Russians are fighting on this huge battle line.

He didn’t have the telephone, and of guns that would carry six miles he knew nothing.

But for 200 miles to the left of us and for 200 miles to the right this afternoon this same sort of a battle is going on. Here and there, along the front today, the Russian infantry and the Austrian infantry will come into clashes as one or the other tries to reach a battery of the enemy that seems to have been weakened and then you will have the sort of battle that Napoleon know about and fought – only a “battlet” in this twentieth century.

The Cholera Horror

We come to a cholera hospital along the road. It is an old farmhouse. The scene in the yard is indescribable. I have my pencil and paper in hand, but don’t know what to write. All about the yard, lying on straw under the trees through which the sunshine filters are inanimate men, sick of cholera. Here is a soldier priest, wearing his army shoes, a Red Cross band on his arm, and a heavy overcoat. He wears a gold apron over his coat. A soldier rises early from the straw to his knees. He folds his hands before him and the priest bends over him. This is absolution for the dying that this priest is granting. This muttering soldier who is still strong enough to kneel upright and to cross himself, probably will be dead by night, surely by morning. And after the priest goes the sider falls back weakly on the straw, pulls a dirty blue handkerchief from his pocket and sobs out his misery. But the Asiatic cholera will have its way with him before many hours.

Also on the front page, the paper reports French estimates of German strength:

Sizes Up Germany’s Strength and Its Probable Ability to Maintain It

The French today had revised their estimate of Germany’s field strength.

A fortnight ago they placed the total at 65 army corps, of which they said 50 were in France and Belgium and 15 were operating against the Russians.

In their latest statement the Gallic authorities increase the number of army corps to 73 1/2 – 52 in the western and 21 1/2 in the eastern theatre of war.

The exact number of troops included in an army corps on a war footing is concealed by all governments, as a means of confusing the enemy. It is probable, however, that the German corps have a minimum strength of 40,000 men each. This would give the kaiser a total field strength of 2,940,000.

In the Daily Oregon Statesman, the editor commented on how war in Europe will help tourism in the west:

The Tourists’ Money

One of the compensations of the war is the turning of the American tourist traffic away from Europe. Bankers estimate that the stoppage of foreign travel during the last four months has saved us at least $50,000,000 which normally would have gone to European railroads, steamship lines, hotels and merchants. This great saving resulted merely from the sudden termination of the summer tourist season, after the heaviest expenditures had been made. If the war lasts through the next year, the tourist money kept here at home may come to $200,000,000 or $300,000,000.

It is unnecessary to point out the significance of that, simply as a factor in guaranteeing us a satisfactory trade balance against Europe and keeping the money for domestic investment. But there is still a more pleasing side to it.

Tourists must tour. Americans will spend their leisure time and surplus funds in travel. And since Europe and most of the rest of the world is closed to them, there will be an immense stimulus to domestic travel.

The east will go to see the west. The west will travel in the east. The north will go south, and the south will go north. We may be sure that our people in one year will become better acquainted with each other and with the beauties and resources of their great country than they would ordinarily in five years.

The west will exert a specially strong pull on account of the Panama exposition in San Francisco. Panama and Alaska will attract tens of thousands. But the movement will be felt everywhere. And the railroads, hotels and merchants of our own land will profit accordingly.


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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