March 21, 1917: Loretta Perfectus Walsh Enlists in the Navy

 

A bit of naval history was made a hundred years ago when twenty year old Loretta Perfectus Walsh enlisted in the Navy as a Yeoman F, becoming the first woman to be a member of the US military.  Some 13,000 women would serve in the Navy as Yeomen, or Yeomanettes as they were often unofficially called,  during World War I as clerical personnel, freeing up men for sea duty.  Walsh served her four year tour and tragically died of tuberculosis at age 29 in 1925.  She was buried in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in Olyphant, Pennsylvania.  Her tombstone bears the following inscription:

Loretta Perfectus Walsh
April 22, 1896–August 6, 1925
Woman and Patriot
First of those enrolled in the United States Naval Service
World War 1917–1919
Her comrades dedicate this monument
to keep alive forever
memories of the sacrifice and devotion of womanhood

 

Published in: on March 21, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 20, 1917: Lansing Memorandum

 

On March 17, 1917, President Wilson met with his Cabinet to consider the question of whether the US should enter the Great War.  Fortunately for historians of this period, Secretary of State Robert Lansing drafted a detailed memorandum of the meeting:

 

 

The Cabinet Meeting of today I consider the most momentous and therefore, the most historic of any of those which have been held since I became Secretary of State, since it involved, unless a miracle occurs the question of war with Germany and the abandonment of the policy of neutrality which has been pursued for two years and a half….

The corridors of the State Department and Executive Office swarmed with press correspondents seeking to get some inkling of what would be done from passing officials. It was through these eager crowds of news-gatherers that I forced my way at half-past two Tuesday afternoon under a bombardment of questions, to which I made no reply, and entered the Cabinet room where all the other members had arrived.

Three minutes later the President came in and passed to his place at the head of the table shaking hands with each member and smiling as genially and composedly as if nothing of importance was to be considered. Composure is a marked characteristic of the President. Nothing ruffles the calmness of his manner or address. It has a sobering effect on all who sit with him in council. Excitement would seem very much out of place at the Cabinet table with Woodrow Wilson presiding. (more…)

Published in: on March 20, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 12, 1917: Sinking of the Algonquin

 

The first American vessel sunk after the German government announced a return to unrestricted submarine warfare, the Algonquin, an unarmed merchant vessel, was sunk by the U-62 off the Scilly Islands on March 12, 1917.   The U-62 surfaced and fired four shots at the Algonquin, none of which hit.  The Captain of the Algonquin ordered his crew to take to lifeboats.  The U-62 skipper, U-boat Ace Kapitanleutnant Ernst Hashagen, sent a boarding crew to set bombs  on the Algonquin and sank her in that manner.  The crew of the Algonquin were unharmed, and after twenty-seven hours of arduous rowing reached Penzance in Cornwall.  On the same date, President Wilson ordered the arming of American merchant ships.

Published in: on March 12, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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World War I Day by Day

 

A century ago the US was on the cusp of declaring war on Imperial Germany.  A good time to take a look at this War courtesy of a map tracing areas of control by the Allied and Central powers day by day.

Published in: on March 10, 2017 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 5, 1917: Second Inaugural Address of Woodrow Wilson

 

A brief second inaugural address by President Wilson a hundred years ago during an odd time.  Everyone knew that war would soon exist between the United States and Imperial Germany but war had not yet been declared and the country was collectively holding its breath.  Wilson’s speech was all about the coming war in general terms and a defense of his policy of attempting to stay out of the Great War.  Here is the text of the speech: (more…)

Published in: on March 5, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 3, 1917: Zimmerman Telegram Confirmed

 

In the wake of the revelation of the Zimmerman telegram, President Wilson had a problem.  Large segments of the American population, most notably Irish-Americans and German-Americans, had doubts about the validity of the telegram.  The Hearst newspapers claimed it was a fake cooked up by British intelligence.  Incredibly in light of this, the German Foreign Secretary confirmed the validity of the telegram in an interview on March 3, 1917 when asked about it by an American journalist.  Overnight, American public opinion became almost unanimous that war against German was inevitable.  On March 29, 1917 Foreign Secretary Zimmerman in a speech to the Reichstag attempted to justify the telegram which only further enraged American public opinion, and solidified the status of the Zimmerman telegram as one of the greatest diplomatic blunders of all time:

 

 

I wrote no letter to General Carranza.  I was not so naive.  I merely addressed, by a route that appeared to me to be a safe one, instructions to our representative in Mexico.

It is being investigated how these instructions fell into the hands of the American authorities.  I instructed the Minister to Mexico, in the event of war with the United States, to propose a German alliance to Mexico, and simultaneously to suggest that Japan join the alliance.

I declared expressly that, despite the submarine war, we hoped that America would maintain neutrality.

My instructions were to be carried out only after the United States declared war and a state of war supervened.  I believe the instructions were absolutely loyal as regards the United States.

General Carranza would have heard nothing of it up to the present if the United States had not published the instructions which came into its hands in a way which was not unobjectionable.  Our behaviour contrasts considerably with the behaviour of the Washington Government.

President Wilson after our note of January 31, 1917, which avoided all aggressiveness in tone, deemed it proper immediately to break off relations with extraordinary roughness.  Our Ambassador no longer had the opportunity to explain or elucidate our attitude orally.

The United States Government thus declined to negotiate with us.  On the other hand, it addressed itself immediately to all the neutral powers to induce them to join the United States and break with us.

Every unprejudiced person must see in this the hostile attitude of the American Government, which seemed to consider it right, before being at war with us, to set the entire world against us.  It cannot deny us the right to seek allies when it has itself practically declared war on us.

Herr Haase [note: a German socialist] says that it caused great indignation in America.  Of course, in the first instance, the affair was employed as an incitement against us.  But the storm abated slowly and the calm and sensible politicians, and also the great mass of the American people, saw that there was nothing to object to in these instructions in themselves.  I refer especially to the statements of Senator Underwood.  Even at times newspapers felt obliged to admit regretfully that not so very much had been made out of this affair.

The Government was reproached for thinking just of Mexico and Japan.  First of all, Mexico was a neighbouring State to America.  If we wanted allies against America, Mexico would be the first to come into consideration.  The relations between Mexico and ourselves since the time of Porfirio Diaz have been extremely friendly and trustful.  The Mexicans, moreover, are known as good and efficient soldiers.

It can hardly be said that the relations between the United States and Mexico had been friendly and trustful.

But the world knows that antagonism exists between America and Japan.  I maintain that these antagonisms are stronger than those which, despite the war, exist between Germany and Japan.

When I also wished to persuade Carranza that Japan should join the alliance there was nothing extraordinary in this.  The relations between Japan and Mexico are long existent.  The Mexicans and Japanese are of a like race and good relations exist between both countries.

When, further, the Entente press affirms that it is shameless to take away allies, such reproach must have a peculiar effect coming from powers who, like our enemies, made no scruple in taking away from us two powers and peoples with whom we were bound by treaties for more than thirty years.

The powers who desire to make pliant an old European country of culture like Greece by unparalleled and violent means cannot raise such a reproach against us.

When I thought of this alliance with Mexico and Japan I allowed myself to be guided by the consideration that our brave troops already have to fight against a superior force of enemies, and my duty is, as far as possible, to keep further enemies away from them.  That Mexico and Japan suited that purpose even Herr Haase will not deny.

Thus, I considered it a patriotic duty to release those instructions, and I hold to the standpoint that I acted rightly.

Published in: on March 3, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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March 1, 1917: The Zimmerman Telegram Story Breaks

On February 20, 1917 British intelligence revealed to the US ambassador to Great Britain the contents of the Zimmerman telegram, go here to read about the telegram.  The Brits disclosed to the Americans the code breaking that they engaged in to read the message.  When the telegram was disclosed to the public, in order to protect British code breaking, it was alleged that British agents had stolen a copy of the telegram in Mexico.  The contents of the message was so fantastic that many Americans thought it was likely a fake produced by the British, which was the line taken by the mighty Hearst empire.  President Wilson was  faced with a dilemma as to whether to disclose that the British had decoded the message, and risk the ability of the British to read German messages, or to let the erroneous charges that the telegram was a fake remain unanswered. His dilemma would be shortly resolved by an unlikely source.

Published in: on March 1, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Games of World War I

 

 

 

For the next two years this blog will be focusing on the US role in World War I.  As faithful readers know I like to play games based on historical conflicts.  Last week I enjoyed reading two posts on World War I board games and World War I computer games.  Both posts were featured at the The Wargamer.  The post on board World War I games was written by Bill Gray:

Decision Games – Folio games series where in general you receive a 17 x 22” map, 100 counters and two four page rule books. The game is played at brigade level and each hex is three miles. Titles include Lettow-Vorbeck in East Africa, Loos the Big Push, Vimy Ridge, Meuse-Argonne, Massuria, Tannenburg, Suez 1916 and Gaza 1917. The price is $19.95 US each or $12.95 for Lettow-Vorbeck.

Decision Games – Over the Top! This is really a redo of the older SPI game Great War in the East Quad, but with new battles to include the Brusilov Offensive, Riga 1917, St Mihiel 1918 and Damascas 1918. The game is $50.00 US and contains rules, two 34 x 22“ maps and 560 counters.

Decision Games/SPW – Die Weltkrieg (the World War) This is not a single game but a series of hyper detailed, operational level games each with individual scenarios as well as a complete campaign game. Graphics for both maps and counters are spectacular and unique. The details for one of the games, The Eastern Front 1914 – 1917, include 1680 backprinted counters, four 34 x 22” maps, two 17 x 11” maps with a scale of 20 km per hex, four days per turn and brigade or division level units, all for $119.95 US. The rest of the series counts Tannenburg Intro Game ($19.95), Ottoman Front ($79.95), Western Front ($69.95), Italian Front ($49.95), the Grand Campaign (adds logistics and production, $79.95) and The Complete Series (all of the above, $399.75). Most games have updated editions, and yes, you can combine all the games into a single monster simulation.

GMT – 1914 – Offensive a outrance (Attack to excess) This monster game covers the Marne Campaign and Schlieffen Plan, costs $115.00 US and contains seven and ½ counter sheets and three full color map sheets. Scale is 8 km per hex, two to four days per turn with division and brigade size units. A sister game by GMT, 1914 – Twilight in the East, is currently out of print but still listed on the GMT Website.

Go here to read the rest.  The post on computer World War I games was written by James Cobb:

Hubert Cater of Fury Software and Battlefront entered the fray in 2010. The base game is derived from the popular Strategic Command series with its hallmarks: terrain is bland but functional while the 3D units are entertaining. The normal IGO/UGO turn system is here with clicks ordering movement and combat. A row of buttons gives entree to research, diplomacy and the like. Events, different weapons and even more emphasis on national morale set this game apart from its World War II stablemates.

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German forces mass for the 1918 offensive.

The British blockade eats away at Central Power morale while research allows simple growth in air, tank, infantry and gas tactics. Creating havoc to British supplies is made easier by clear convoy routes and silent sub modes. Domestic policy is handles abstractly. How players react to events can change the complexion of the game. The first campaign covers the entire war while adding two shorter campaigns, seven operations and even a World War II campaign. The 2012 expansion Breakthrough gibes spice to the game by providing am alternative 1914 campaign twist, a look at the First Balkan War 1912-1913 and the Franco-Prussian War, nineteen more operations and battles covering all theatres of the conflict. This game proved the breadth of the war could be captured with fairly simple mechanics. Available from Battlefront.com.

(more…)

Published in: on February 9, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Games of World War I  
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February 3, 1917: The US Breaks Diplomatic Relations With Germany

 

 

Germany’s resumption on January 31, 1917 of unrestricted submarine warfare made war with the US inevitable.  President Wilson recognized this fact on February 3, 1917 by advising a supportive Congress that the US had broken diplomatic relations with Germany: (more…)

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January 31, 1917: Germany Announces the Resumption of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

 

In a letter dated January 31, 1917 the German ambassador to the United States,  Count Johann von Bernstorff, informed Robert Lansing, the US Secretary of State, that Germany was resuming unrestricted submarine warfare: (more…)

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