Thanksgiving Proclamation 1918

 

 

It has long been our custom to turn, in the autumn of the year, in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for his many blessing and mercies to us as a nation. This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice. God has, in His good pleasure, given us peace. It has not came as a mere cessation of arms, a mere relief from the strain and tragedy of war. It has come as a great triumph of right. Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day, as well, in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among the nations.

Our gallant armies have participated in a triumph which is not marred or stained by any purpose of selfish aggression. In a righteous cause they have won immortal glory, and have nobly served their nation in serving mankind. God has indeed been gracious. We have cause for such rejoicing as revives and strengthens in us all the best traditions of our national history. A new day shines about us, in which our hearts take new courage and look forward with new hope to new and greater duties.

While we render thanks for these things, let us not forget to seek the divine guidance in the performance of those duties, and divine mercy and forgiveness for all errors of act or purpose, and pray that in all that we do we shall strengthen the ties of friendship and mutual respect upon which we must assist to build the new structure of peace and goodwill among the nations.

“Wherefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-eighth day of November, next, as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and invite the people throughout the land to cease upon that day from their ordinary occupations, and in their several homes and places of worship to render thanks to God, the ruler of nations.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done in the District of Columbia, this sixteenth day of November, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eighteen, and of the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and forty-third.

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Published in: on November 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Bringer of Peace

 

Something for the weekend.  The hundredth anniversary of the armistice ending World War seems to call for Holst’s Venus:  The Bringer of Peace.

 

Published in: on November 17, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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November 11, 1918: Captain Truman Writes to Bess

 

Dear Bess:
November 11, 1918

I knew Uncle Samuel was holding out on me when your letter came not with Boxley’s and Brelsford’s. Two came this morning and I am of course very happy. We are all wondering what the Hun is going to do about Marshal Foch’s proposition to him. We don’t care what he does. He’s licked either way he goes. For my part I’d as soon be provost marshal of Cologne or Metz or Munich or Berlin as have any other job I know of now. It is a shame we can’t go in and devastate Germany and cut off a few of the Dutch kids’ hands and feet and scalp a few of their old men but I guess it will be better to make them work for France and Belgium for fifty years.

Their time for acceptance will be up in thirty minutes. There is a great big 155 Battery right behind me across the road that seems to want to get rid of all of its ammunition before the time is up. It has been banging away almost as fast as a 75 Battery for the last two hours. Every time one of the guns goes off it shakes my house like an earthquake.

I just got official notice that hostilities would cease at eleven o’clock. Every one is about to have a fit. I fired 164 rounds at him before he quit this morning anyway. It seems that everyone was just about to blow up wondering if Heinie would come in. I knew that Germany could not stand the gaff. For all their preparedness and swashbuckling talk they cannot stand adversity. France was whipped for four years and never gave up and one good licking suffices for Germany. What pleases me most is the fact that I was lucky enough to take a Battery through the last drive. The Battery has shot something over ten thousand rounds at the Hun and I am sure they had a slight effect.

I am returning the enclosure from the Kansas City Post. It is a good thing I didn’t censor Bill’s letter or I probably would have thrown it out. It was evidently not quoted correctly even as it is. He was promoted for bravery by me but he was not mentioned in orders. Of course the remark about his captain is pleasing but there are no vacant sergeancies now so he won’t get promoted for that.

It is pleasant also to hear that Mrs. Wells has adopted me as a real nephew and I shall certainly be more than pleased to call her Auntie Maud and I hope it won’t be long before I can do it.

You evidently did some very excellent work as a Liberty bond saleswoman because I saw in The Stars and Stripes where some twenty-two million people bought them and that they were oversubscribed by $1 billion, which is some stunt for you to have helped pull off. I know that it had as much to do with breaking the German morale as our cannon shots had and we owe you as much for an early homecoming as we do the fighters.

Here’s hoping to see you soon.

Yours always,

Harry

Published in: on November 16, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Requiescat In Pace: Stan Lee

( I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the comic mavens of Almost Chosen People might be interested in it.)

Stanley Martin Lieber, better known as Stan Lee, passed away today at age 95.  A World War II veteran, Lee  worked for virtually his entire adult life, except for his time in the Army, for Timely Comics, which became Atlas Comics and, by the early sixties, Marvel Comics.  After DC comics, the colossus of the comic book world at the time, met great success with its revival of superheroes in the mid fifties, Lee followed suit in the early sixties, but with a twist.  His superheroes had human frailties and wrestled with the type of problems that normal people deal with.  In short, he made superheroes more realistic.  He understood that such realism made his heroes and heroines more heroic, not less.  His strategy worked, and Marvel unseated DC, which was rather like Avis beating Hertz.  Lee assiduously also developed a loyal fan base.

For the past few decades Lee has not been involved in the operations of Marvel Comics, contenting himself with being the public face of the company and with humorous cameos in the numerous films based on Marvel comic book characters.  His wife of 69 years died last year, and recent stories about him have focused on allegations that his daughter, or others, have been attempting to take advantage of him, the type of very sad conflicts that often seem to surround the very elderly with money. Unlike in comic books, happy endings are not assured in real life.

However, none of this can diminish the entertainment and inspiration that Mr. Lee gave to hundreds of millions over the years, including me during my boyhood.  Excelsior Mr. Lee, and may this quotation now stand you in good stead:

“There is only one who is all powerful, and his greatest weapon is love.”
Published in: on November 15, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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November 10, 1923: Woodrow Wilson Armistice Day Address

 

The things you find on the internet.  A radio address by former President Woodrow Wilson, just over a little more than two months before his death, on November 10, 1923.  This was the first remote, live, national broadcast, and was considered to be an example of the use of cutting edge technology at the time.  For Wilson, a man born prior to the Civil War, it must have seemed to sum up the technological marvels he had been witness to during his life.  The substance of the speech is rather predictable, Wilson deploring the rejection of the League of Nations by the US.  Here is the text of the brief address:

 

 

The anniversary of Armistice Day should stir us to great exaltation of spirit because of the proud recollection that it was our day, a day above those early days of that never-to-be forgotten November which lifted the world to the high levels of vision and achievement upon which the great war for democracy and right was fought and won; although the stimulating memories of that happy time of triumph are forever marred and embittered for us by the shameful fact that when the victory was won, be it remembered–chiefly by the indomitable spirit and ungrudging sacrifices of our incomparable soldiers–we turned our backs on upon our associates and refused to bear any responsible part in the administration of peace, or the firm and permanent establishment of the results of the war–won at so terrible a cost of life and treasure–and withdrew into a sullen and selfish isolation which is deeply ignoble because manifestly cowardly and dishonorable.

 This must always be a source of deep mortification to us and we shall inevitably be forced by the moral obligations of freedom and honor to retrieve that fatal error and assume once more the role of courage, self-respect and helpfulness which every true American must wish to regard as our natural part in the affairs of the world.

 That we should have thus done a great wrong to civilization at one of the most critical turning points in the history of the world is the more to be deplored because every anxious year that has followed has made the exceeding need for such services as we might have rendered more and more evident and more and more pressing, as demoralizing circumstances which we might have controlled have gone from bad to worse.

 And now, as if to furnish as sort of sinister climax, France and Italy between them have made waste paper of the Treaty of Versailles and the whole field of international relationship is in perilous confusion.

 The affairs of the world can be set straight only by the firmest and most determined exhibition of the will to lead and make the right prevail.

 Happily, the present situation in the world of affairs affords us the opportunity to retrieve the past and to render mankind the inestimable service of proving that there is at least one great and powerful nation which can turn away from programs of self­interest and devote itself to practicing and establishing the highest ideals of disinterested service and the consistent maintenance of exalted standards of conscience and of right.

 The only way in which we can worthily give proof of our appreciation of the high significance of Armistice Day is by resolving to put self-interest away and once more formulate and act on the highest ideals and purposes of international policy.

 Thus, and only thus, can we return to the true traditions of America.

Published in: on November 14, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Theodore Roosevelt: Remember Them

 

The men who have died of pneumonia or fever in the hospitals, the men who have been killed in accidents on the airplane training fields are as much heroes as those who were killed at the front, and their shining souls shall hereafter light up all to a clearer and greater view of the duties of life. The war is over now. The time of frightful losses among the men at the front and of heartbreaking anxiety for their mothers and wives, their sisters and sweet hearts at home has passed. No great triumph is ever won save by the payment of the necessary cost. All of us who have stayed at home and all the others who have returned safe will, as long as life shall last, think of the men who died as having purchased for us and for our children’s children, as long as this country shall last, a heritage so precious that even their precious blood was not too great a price to pay. Whether they fell in battle or how they died matters not at all, and it matters not what they were doing as long as, high of soul, they were doing their duty with all the strength and fervor of their natures. The mother or the wife whose son or husband has died, whether in battle or by fever or in the accident inevitable in hurriedly preparing a modern army for war, must never feel that the sacrifice has been laid “on a cold altar.” There is no gradation of honor among these gallant men and no essential gradation of service. They all died that we might live; our debt is to all of them, and we can pay it even personally only by striving so to live as to bring a little nearer the day when justice and mercy shall rule in our own homes and among the nations of the world.

Theodore Roosevelt, November 13, 1918

Published in: on November 13, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Why Do We Honor Veterans?

 

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today 

Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima

 

Sometimes simple questions can help illuminate great truths.   Why do we honor veterans?

 

One veteran of World War I, CS Lewis, perhaps can help us understand why we honor veterans.  Lewis served on the Western Front as a Second Lieutenant in 1917-1918 until he was  wounded on April 15, 1918.  Lewis, the future Oxford Don, was an unlikely soldier and he wrote about his experiences in the War with humorous self-deprecation.  However, he had immense respect for those he served with, especially the enlisted men under his command, for their good humor and courage under the most appalling circumstances.  His war experiences had a vast impact on Lewis, as can be seen in his Screwtape letters, where Lewis writes about war.

In the fifth letter Screwtape admonishes junior tempter Wormword not to allow the sight of human suffering in war to allow him to believe that the war makes Wormword’s task any easier.

For it has certain tendencies inherent in it which are, in themselves, by no means in our favour. We may hope for a good deal of cruelty and unchastity. But, if we are not careful, we shall see thousands turning in this tribulation to the Enemy, while tens of thousands who do not go so far as that will nevertheless have their attention diverted from themselves to values and causes which they believe to be higher than the self. I know that the Enemy disapproves many of these causes. But that is where He is so unfair. He often makes prizes of humans who have given their lives for causes He thinks bad on the monstrously sophistical ground that the humans thought them good and were following the best they knew.

Most of us dread death.  Members of the military in war time have to set aside their fear for causes greater than themselves.  It brings to the fore that very precious virtue:  courage.

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. The danger of inducing cowardice in our patients, therefore, is lest we produce real self-knowledge and self-loathing with consequent repentance and humility. And in fact, in the last war, thousands of humans, by discovering their own cowardice, discovered the whole moral world for the first time. In peace we can make many of them ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them in a guise to which even we cannot blind them. There is here a cruel dilemma before us. If we promoted justice and charity among men, we should be playing directly into the Enemy’s hands; but if we guide them to the opposite behaviour, this sooner or later produces (for He permits it to produce) a war or a revolution, and the undisguisable issue of cowardice or courage awakes thousands of men from moral stupor.

Lewis theorizes that the virtue of courage is perhaps why God created the world as dangerous as it is:

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

A gentleman I know was a Marine during the battle for Hue in 1968.  He told me that he was absolutely terrified throughout, often vomiting from fear, and regarded himself as a coward even though he was decorated for bravery after the battle.  Then he told me he read this passage in the Screwtape letters and truly understood courage for the first time:

I sometimes wonder whether you think you have been sent into the world for your own amusement. I gather, not from your miserably inadequate report but from that of the Infernal Police, that the patient’s behaviour during the first raid has been the worst possible. He has been very frightened and thinks himself a great coward and therefore feels no pride; but he has done everything his duty demanded and perhaps a bit more.

We honor veterans because for a time in their lives they risked, or potentially risked, their lives for us.  Not all veterans of course are heroes, old news for most veterans, and most veterans who serve never see combat, but the potential risk was always there during their service.  Most veterans at that point in their life personified the virtue of courage, the ability of we mere mortals to rise above our fears and terrors, and that always deserves to be honored.

Published in: on November 12, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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November 11, 1918: Captain Truman Writes to Bess

 

Dear Bess:
November 11, 1918

I knew Uncle Samuel was holding out on me when your letter came not with Boxley’s and Brelsford’s. Two came this morning and I am of course very happy. We are all wondering what the Hun is going to do about Marshal Foch’s proposition to him. We don’t care what he does. He’s licked either way he goes. For my part I’d as soon be provost marshal of Cologne or Metz or Munich or Berlin as have any other job I know of now. It is a shame we can’t go in and devastate Germany and cut off a few of the Dutch kids’ hands and feet and scalp a few of their old men but I guess it will be better to make them work for France and Belgium for fifty years.

Their time for acceptance will be up in thirty minutes. There is a great big 155 Battery right behind me across the road that seems to want to get rid of all of its ammunition before the time is up. It has been banging away almost as fast as a 75 Battery for the last two hours. Every time one of the guns goes off it shakes my house like an earthquake.

I just got official notice that hostilities would cease at eleven o’clock. Every one is about to have a fit. I fired 164 rounds at him before he quit this morning anyway. It seems that everyone was just about to blow up wondering if Heinie would come in. I knew that Germany could not stand the gaff. For all their preparedness and swashbuckling talk they cannot stand adversity. France was whipped for four years and never gave up and one good licking suffices for Germany. What pleases me most is the fact that I was lucky enough to take a Battery through the last drive. The Battery has shot something over ten thousand rounds at the Hun and I am sure they had a slight effect.

I am returning the enclosure from the Kansas City Post. It is a good thing I didn’t censor Bill’s letter or I probably would have thrown it out. It was evidently not quoted correctly even as it is. He was promoted for bravery by me but he was not mentioned in orders. Of course the remark about his captain is pleasing but there are no vacant sergeancies now so he won’t get promoted for that.

It is pleasant also to hear that Mrs. Wells has adopted me as a real nephew and I shall certainly be more than pleased to call her Auntie Maud and I hope it won’t be long before I can do it.

You evidently did some very excellent work as a Liberty bond saleswoman because I saw in The Stars and Stripes where some twenty-two million people bought them and that they were oversubscribed by $1 billion, which is some stunt for you to have helped pull off. I know that it had as much to do with breaking the German morale as our cannon shots had and we owe you as much for an early homecoming as we do the fighters.

Here’s hoping to see you soon.

Yours always,

Harry

Published in: on November 11, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Uber Alles?

Something for the weekend.  The day after the date which commemorates the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Fall of the Berlin Wall the song could only be Das Lied der Deutschen, the national anthem of Germany since 1922.  A magnificent people, the Germans have not infrequently found themselves in the forefront of events disastrous for the West and for them. 

 

 

 

Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,
But that couldn’t happen again.
We taught them a lesson in 1918
And they’ve hardly bothered us since then.

Tom Lehrer, The MLF Lullaby

On the other hand, there is much to say in favor of a people whose national anthem celebrates wine, women and song!

Although the verse that celebrates these magnificent aspects of life, and the first verse with uber alles, are not part of the official national anthem that contains only the third verse.

1. Germany, Germany above all
Above everything in the world
When, always, for protection and defense
Brothers stand together.
From the Maas to the Memel
From the Etsch to the Belt,
Germany, Germany above all
Above all in the world.

2. German women, German fidelity,
German wine and German song,
Shall retain, throughout the world,
Their old respected fame,
To inspire us to noble deeds
For the length of our lives.
German women, German fidelity,
German wine and German song.

3. Unity and right and freedom
For the German Fatherland;
Let us all strive to this goal
Brotherly, with heart and hand.
Unity and rights and freedom
Are the pledge of fortune grand.
Prosper in this fortune’s glory,
Prosper German fatherland.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on November 10, 2018 at 3:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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November 9, 1918: Abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II

 

You [recruits] have sworn loyalty to me. You have only one enemy and that is my enemy. In the present social confusion it may come about that I order you to shoot down your own relatives, brothers or parents but even then you must follow my orders without a murmur.

Kaiser Wilhem II, November 23, 1891

Ah, Kaiser Bill.  In World War I he became a monstrous figure in Allied propaganda, a bloodthirsty ghoul thirsting for world conquest.  The reality was rather different.  This grandson of Queen Victoria, who spoke English fluently with only a trace of an accent, fancied himself an autocrat of supreme genius to be feared and obeyed.  Actually he was a weak-willed man of limited intelligence, easily dominated by those around him if they were craftier than him, which was not a high bar to clear.  His tendency to give blood curdling, tough guy utterances, was the dismay of ever German government during his reign.  Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor who made the German Empire, and who the young Wilhelm II dismissed, had the measure of his sovereign, who he regarded as a blundering young idiot who would lead Germany to ruin.  That was an accurate assessment.  The Kaiser was the worst type of fool, one who regarded himself as a genius and had no clue as to his limitations.  During World War I the Kaiser became a sad, pathetic figure, as the Army increasingly ran Germany, paying only lip service to him as Supreme War Lord.  Lusting for conflict throughout his reign, he was dismayed as millions of German youth died in the war that he so long had wished for.  In his long years of exile in Holland, he died in 1941, he continually blamed the Jews and the English for his downfall, and never demonstrated any insight at all as to the dismal role he played in propelling Germany down the path that led to Hitler, a man who had nothing but contempt for the man in whose Army he had served.

Published in: on November 9, 2018 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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