Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost Walks at Midnight

Tragic is the only word to describe the life of Vachel Lindsay.  Perhaps the greatest of the poets of Illinois, he deserves his appellation the Prairie Troubador, his life was haunted by mental instability and money woes.  He committed suicide at age 52 in 1931 by drinking a bottle of Lysol.  His last words indicated the paranoia that beset him at the end:  “They tried to get me; I got them first!”

A sad life, but a great talent.  In 1914, anguished by the outbreak of World War I, he wrote this haunting homage to Lincoln:


Published in: on October 31, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost Walks at Midnight  
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October 30, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Responds to the Fourteen Points



As the War was nearing its close, Theodore Roosevelt responded in the Kansas City Star with a blistering assessment of  the Fourteen Points that President Wilson was seeking to make the basis of the peace:


THE European nations have been told that the fourteen points enumerated in President Wilson’s message of January last are to be the basis of peace. It is, therefore, possible that Americans may like to know what they are. It is even possible that they may like to guess what they mean, although I am not certain that such guessing is permitted by the Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General under the new theory of making democracy safe for all kinds of peoples abroad who have never heard of it by interpreting democracy at home as meaning that it is unlawful for the people to express any except favorable opinions of the way in which the public servants of the people transact the public business. The first point forbids ” all private international understandings of any kind,” and says there must be ” open covenants of peace, openly arrived at,” and announces that ” diplomacy shall always proceed frankly in the public view.” The President has recently waged war on Haiti and San Domingo and rendered democracy within these two small former republics and has kept all that he has done in the matter absolutely secret. If he means what he says, he will at once announce what open covenant of peace he has openly arrived at with these two little republics, which he has deprived of their right of self-determination. He will also announce what public international understanding, if any, he now has with these two republics, whose soil he is at present occupying with the armed forces of the United States and hundreds of whose citizens have been killed by these armed forces. If he has no such public understanding, he will tell us why, and whether he has any private international understanding, or whether he invaded and conquered them and deprived them of the right of self- determination without any attempt to reach any understanding, either private or public.

Moreover, he has just sent abroad on a diplomatic mission Mr. House, of Texas. Mr. House is not in the public service of the Nation, but he is in the private service of Mr. Wilson. He is usually
called Colonel House. In his official or semi-official biography, published in an ardently admiring New York paper, it is explained that he was once appointed colonel on a governor s staff, but carried his dislike of military ostentation to the point of giving his uniform to a negro servant to wear on social occasions. This attitude of respect for the uniform makes the President feel that he is peculiarly fit to negotiate on behalf of our fighting men abroad for whom the uniform is sacred. Associated with him is an editor of the New York World, which paper has recently been busy in denouncing as foolish the demand made by so many Americans for unconditional surrender by Germany.

I do not doubt that these two gentlemen possess charming social attributes and much private worth, but as they are sent over on a diplomatic mission, presumably vitally affecting the whole country, and as their instructions and purposes are shrouded in
profound mystery, it seems permissible to ask President Wilson why in this particular instance diplomacy does not ” proceed frankly in the public view ” ?

This first one of the fourteen points offers such an illuminating opportunity to test promise as to the future by performance in the present that I have considered it at some length. The other thirteen points and the subsequent points laid down as further requirements for peace I shall briefly take up in another article. (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2018 at 11:50 pm  Comments Off on October 30, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Responds to the Fourteen Points  
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October 30, 1918: Pershing Opposes an Armistice






General John J. Pershing was not pleased at the idea of giving an Armistice and expressed his views strongly in a letter on October 30, 1918:


Paris, October 30, 1918.

To the Allied Supreme War Council, Paris.

Gentlemen: In considering the question of whether or not Germany’s request for an armistice should be granted, the following expresses my opinion from the military point of view:

Judging from their excellent conduct during the three months, the British, French, Belgian and American armies appear capable of continuing the offensive indefinitely. Their morale is high and the prospects of certain victory should keep it so.
The American army is constantly increasing in strength and experience, and should be able to take an increasingly important part in the Allied offensive. Its growth, both in personnel and material, with such reserves as the Allies may furnish, not counting the Italian army, should be more than equal to the combined losses of the Allied armies.
German man power is constantly diminishing and her armies have lost over 300,000 prisoners and over 1,000 piece[s] of artillery during the last three months in their efforts to extricate themselves from a difficult situation and avoid disaster.
The estimated strength of the Allies on the western front, not counting Italy, and of Germany, in rifles is: Allies, 1,564,000; Germany, 1,134,000; an advantage in favor of the Allies of 37 percent. In guns: Allies, 22,413; Germany, 16,495; advantage of 35 percent in favor of the Allies. If Italy’s forces should be added to the western front we should have a still greater advantage.
Germany’s morale is undoubtedly low, her allies have deserted her one by one and she can no longer hope to win. Therefore we should take full advantage of the situation and continue the offensive until we compel her unconditional surrender.
An armistice would revivify the low spirits of the German army and enable it to organize and resist later on and would deprive the Allies of the full measure of victory by failing to press their present advantage to its complete military end.
As the apparent humility of German leaders in talking of peace may be feigned, the Allies should distrust their sincerity and their motives. The appeal for an armistice is undoubtedly to enable the withdrawal from a critical situation to one more advantageous.
On the other hand the internal political conditions of Germany, if correctly reported, are such that she is practically forced to ask for an armistice to save the overthrow of her present Government, a consummation which should be sought by the Allies as precedent to permanent peace.
A cessation of hostilities short of capitulation postpones, if it does not render impossible, the imposition of satisfactory peace terms, because it would allow Germany to withdraw her army with its present strength, ready to resume hostilities if terms were not satisfactory to her.
An armistice would lead the Allied armies to believe this the end of fighting and it would be difficult if not impossible to resume [Page 171]hostilities with our present advantage in morale in the event of failure to secure at a peace conference what we have fought for.
By agreeing to an armistice under the present favorable military situation of the Allies and accepting the principle of a negotiated peace rather than a dictated peace, the Allies would jeopardize the moral position they now hold and possibly lose the chance actually to secure world peace on terms that would insure its permanence.
It is the experience of history that victorious armies are prone to overestimate the enemy’s strength and too eagerly seek an opportunity for peace. This mistake is likely to be made now on account of the reputation Germany has gained through her victories of the last four years.
Finally, I believe that complete victory can only be obtained by continuing the war until we force unconditional surrender from Germany; but if the Allied Governments decide to grant an armistice the terms should be so rigid that under no circumstances could Germany again take up arms.

Respectfully submitted. John J. Pershing, Commander in Chief American Expeditionary Forces.”


The “stab in the back” myth that the German Army had not really been beaten, and that Germany had been defeated by internal subversion, the single most important element in Hitler’s rise to power, makes Pershing’s arguments in favor of unconditional surrender appear prophetic.

Published in: on October 30, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 30, 1918: Pershing Opposes an Armistice  
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Baseball 1918


An interesting discussion of the impact of World War I on the baseball season by Indiana “Indy” Neidell, host of the internet week by week series on the Great War.  With the World War I series coming to an end, Mr. Neidell has commenced a week by week look at World War II.  Below is the first episode in the new series:


Published in: on October 29, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Baseball 1918  
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October 28, 1918: Lieutenant Kindley Scores His 12th Victory

The most famous member of the United States Army Air Service 94th Aero Squadron, the fabled Hat in the Ring Squadron, was Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace of Aces with 26 victories.  Another notable flier in the unit was Lieutenant Field Eugene Kindley.  He scored his last victory on October 28, 1918.  His most notable feat was shooting down, on August 13, 1918, Lothar Von |Richthofen, the brother of the Red Baron, Manfred Von Richtofen.  With 40 kills Lothar was a formidable pilot.  He survived the clash, but because of his wounds he never returned to combat flying.




In the above photo he is the man in the center, holding his dog Fokker.  During the War he earned two Distinguished Service Crosses:


The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Field E. Kindley, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Bourion Wood, France, September 24, 1918. Lieutenant Kindley attacked a formation of seven hostile planes (type Fokker) and sent one crashing to the ground.


The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Field E. Kindley, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Marcoing, France, September 27, 1918: Flying at a low altitude, First Lieutenant Kindley bombed the railway at Marcoing and drove down an enemy balloon. He then attacked German troops at a low altitude and silenced a hostile machine gun, after which he shot down in flames an enemy plane (type Halberstadt) which had attacked him. Lieutenant Kindley has so far destroyed seven enemy aircraft and driven down three out of control.


After the War he command the 94th.  Tragically he died on February 1, 1920 at age 23.  Like so many pioneering aviators he died young in a crash.   Flying a simulated dive bombing mission, in preparation for a visit by General Pershing the next day, he pulled up on the stick to avoid a group of enlisted men who had wandered into the area.  The engine stalled and  wing  cables snapped, sending the SE-5 hurtling to the ground from 100 feet.  A time when daring exceeded the technology of the day, a somber fact that all aviators of the day knew and accepted as the price to fly.


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Would You Rather Be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken On Your Knee?


Something for the weekend.   Would You Rather Be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken On Your Knee?  The American involvement in World War I produced an immense amount of music, much of it ephemeral.  Thus it was with this briefly very popular tune, before it fell into deep obscurity, which claimed that privates had more fun in the Army than colonels, a tell tale sign that the lyricist, Archie Gottler, did not serve as a private in the Army.  “Chicken” was 1918 slang for a young lady, a term that would later be shortened to “Chick”.

Published in: on October 27, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Would You Rather Be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken On Your Knee?  
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October 25, 1983: Operation Urgent Fury Begins


It is strange to realize that events one has lived through are part now of the tapestry of history.  So it is  for me with Operation Urgent Fury, the US invasion of Grenada, which is now 35 years in the past.   Arising out of a murderous factional dispute in the New Jewel Movement, which had ruled Grenada since 1979, that led to the murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and some of his cabinet on October 19, 1983, the invasion was a symbol that the US had recovered from its post Vietnam malaise, and was willing to use military force.  The Grenadian army imposed martial law and placed Governor-General Paul Scoon under arrest.  The Organization of East Caribbean States and Barbados and Jamaica appealed for assistance.

The Reagan administration was happy to oblige, eager for the excuse to root out Cuban influence from Grenada, Cuba and the New Jewel Movement being firm allies.  The invasion began on October 25.  Initial resistance was fierce from Cubans, but the massive superiority in troops and firepower of the 7,300 US and allied invasion force swiftly defeated all opposition.  Fidel Castro when interviewed about the invasion was asked what he would do, and admitted there was nothing the Cubans could do.

Cubans captured on Grenada were repatriated to Cuba.  US forces withdrew from Grenada by December 15, 1983.  The date of the invasion, October 25, is celebrated as a national holiday in Grenada which has been a democratic nation since that time. (more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2018 at 11:00 pm  Comments Off on October 25, 1983: Operation Urgent Fury Begins  
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Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War



(Off topic.  I originally posted this on The American Catholic back in 2011, and I thought our Almost Chosen People readers would enjoy it on the 603rd anniversary of Agincourt.)

In the comments to  my post last week, Henry V Times Four, which may be viewed here, and which had four versions of the immortal “band of brothers” speech, commenter Centinel posed a very interesting question to me:

Mr. McClarey,

I’ve come to respect your knowledge of history and your insights. I just wanted to get your honest opinion on oneissue. As I understand it, Catholic doctrine would say that wars of aggression are not justified (most of the time). Though I enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, it bothers me that Henry V was fighting a war of aggression – hence, an unjust war.

From Henry V’s point of view, the war was about his (legitimate?) claim to the French throne. But from the point of view of the French peasantry, whichever dynasty sat on the French thronedid not really make any difference in their lives. They were merely caught in the middle; the longer the war lasted, the greater the collateral damage to French civilians. Besides, Henry V already had the Kingdom of England. Hence, it was just pure greed driving Henry V to claim the French throne.

I would appreciate your opinion on this.

My response:

Centinel thank you for very kind words and for inspiring a forthcoming post! The more I thought about your question the more complicated my answer became and only a post length reply, which I will attempt to do in the next week, will do it justice. The short answer is that Henry V, by the just war analysis of his day, had a defensible claim to be fighting a just war, while under the just war analysis of our day his war would be unjust. However, there is much more to say than that, and I will attempt to do this intriguing question justice in my forthcoming post.

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time. (more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Brazil and World War I


Unlike World War II where almost all of Latin America would join the US in declaring war, of the large nations of Latin America only Brazil would declare war on Germany.  Brazil participated in the War with naval patrols and allowing other Allied nations port facilities.  Brazil would be the only nation in Latin America to send troops abroad, to the Italian theater, to fight in World War II.  Go here to read a good look at the participation of other Latin American nations in World War I.  Although most Latin American nations remained neutral, the neutrality tended to be friendly to the Allied cause.  Latin America throughout the War was important to the Allies for resources and good, resources and goods that they could access due to Allied control of the seas, and which the Central Powers could not.

Published in: on October 24, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Brazil and World War I  
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October 23, 1918: Wilson Responds to the German Note of October 20, 1918

The Secretary of State to the Swiss Chargé (Oederlin)

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 22d transmitting a communication under date of the 20th from the German Government and to advise you that the President has instructed me to reply thereto as follows:

Having received the solemn and explicit assurance of the German Government that it unreservedly accepts the terms of peace laid down in his address to the Congress of the United States on the 8th of January, 1918, and the principles of settlement enunciated in his subsequent addresses, particularly the address of the 27th of September, and that it desires to discuss the details of their application, and that this wish and purpose emanate, not from those who have hitherto dictated German policy and conducted the present war on Germany’s behalf, but from Ministers who speak for the Majority of the Reichstag and for an overwhelming majority of the German people; and having received also the explicit promise of the present German Government that the humane rules of civilized warfare will be observed both on land and sea by the German armed forces, the President of the United States feels that he cannot decline to take up with the Governments with which the Government of the United States is associated the question of an armistice.

He deems it his duty to say again, however, that the only armistice he would feel justified in submitting for consideration would be one which should leave the United States and the powers associated with her in a position to enforce any arrangements that may be entered into and to make a renewal of hostilities on the part of Germany impossible. The President has, therefore, transmitted his correspondence with the present German authorities to the Governments with which the Government of the United States is associated as a belligerent, [with the suggestion that, if those Governments are disposed to effect peace upon the terms and principles indicated, their military advisers and the military advisers of the United States be asked to submit to the Governments associated against Germany the necessary terms of such an armistice as will fully protect the interests of the peoples involved and ensure to the Associated Governments the unrestricted power to safeguard and enforce the details of the peace to which the German Government has agreed,] provided they deem such an armistice possible from the military point of view. Should such terms of armistice be suggested, their acceptance by Germany will afford the best concrete evidence of her unequivocal acceptance of the terms and principles of peace from which the whole action proceeds.

The President would deem himself lacking in candour did he not point out in the frankest possible terms the reason why extraordinary safeguards must be demanded. Significant and important as the constitutional changes seem to be which are spoken of by the German Foreign Secretary in his note of the 20th of October, it does not appear that the principle of a Government responsible to the German people has yet been fully worked out or that any guarantees either exist or are in contemplation that the alterations of principle and of practice now partially agreed upon will be permanent. Moreover, it does not appear that the heart of the present difficulty has been reached. It may be that future wars have been brought under the control of the German people, but the present war has not been; and it is with the present war that we are dealing. It is evident that the German people have no means of commanding the acquiescence of the military authorities of the Empire in the popular will; that the power of the King of Prussia to control the policy of the Empire is unimpaired; that the determinating initiative still remains with those who have hitherto been the masters of Germany. Feeling that the whole peace of the world depends now on plain speaking and straightforward action, the President deems it his duty to say, without any attempt to soften what may seem harsh words, that the nations of the world do not and cannot trust the word of those who have hitherto been the masters of German policy, and to point out once more that in concluding peace and attempting to undo the infinite injuries and injustices of this war the Government of the United States cannot deal with any but veritable representatives of the German people who have been assured of a genuine constitutional standing as the real rulers of Germany. If it must deal with the military masters and the monarchical autocrats of Germany now, or if it is likely to have to deal with them later in regard to the international obligations of the German Empire, it must demand, not peace negotiations, but surrender. Nothing can be gained by leaving this essential thing unsaid.

Accept [etc.]

Robert Lansing
Published in: on October 23, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 23, 1918: Wilson Responds to the German Note of October 20, 1918  
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