|Dear Guns & Patriots reader,|
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, the war to end all wars, but for Americans our century meter does not really start running until May 7, the 100th anniversary of the German sinking of the Lusitania with 128 Americans losing their lives.
For me the most fun is the 1916 campaign slogan of President T. Woodrow Wilson: “He Kept Us Out of War.” It has to rank as one of the most ill-fated slogans of all-time. All through the campaign as former President Theodore Roosevelt called for America to join the fight against the Germans, Wilson said America was too proud to fight.
The punchline is that Congress passed Wilson’s declaration of war April 6, 1917, just over a month after he was inaugurated for the second term he won as his supporters chanted: “He Kept Us Out of War!”
Strange, is it not? We have a president, less than two years after winning a second term as the man who got our troops out of Iraq, who is putting our troops back into Iraq.
Just in time to prepare us for 100th anniversary of our joining the Great War comes “The Yanks Are Coming: A military history of the United States in World War I” by one of my all-time favorite authors, H. W. Crocker III.
Crocker is a wickedly supple storyteller, whose books include “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War” and “Robert E. Lee on Leadership: Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision” and “Don’t Tread on Me: A 400-Year history of America at war, from Indian fighting to terrorist hunting.”
I will have a full review of Crocker’s book next week, but suffice to say, I am thrilled by two things he has done. The first, is that Crocker exposes the lie that Wilson was in any way, shape or form a brilliant diplomat or actor on the world stage. He was an arrogant, self-satisfied fool, whose bumbling and hollow bluster stumbled us into the First World War. At the end of the war, those same qualities led Wilson to set the table for the Second World War.
Any time somebody suggests that American needs to be more Wilsonian, slap them upside the head until they come of their stupor.
The second thing about Crocker’s “The Yanks Are Coming!” is his crystal ball section “Young Lions.” In this section he discusses the role men, such as George S. Patton Jr., George G. Marshall, Harry S. Truman and William J. Donovan played in the First World War as prelude to their even greater roles in World War II. There are also visits with Matthew B. Ridgeway, Thomas E. Dewey and washed up First Lord of the Admiralty, never to be heard of again, Winston Churchill throughout the book.
Such a great read.
The other World War I anniversary I must mention is for the “Lost Battalion,” the 1st of the 308th Infantry Regiment led by then-Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey and chronicled in Robert J. Laplander’s book “Finding the Lost Battalion.” Laplander, of course, writes our Medal of Honor Roll Call column every week.
Whittlesey was given orders Oct. 1, 1917 to advance without regard for losses and flanks to Hill 198, then held by the Germans inside the Argonne Forest, where he would meet up with French troops on the left and Americans of the 307th on his right.
When Whittlesey arrived Oct. 2, there was no one on his left or right. Because he was given orders not to retreat from any advance, he camped on the side of the hill overnight to wait for the others.
In the morning, Whittlesey woke up surrounded by barbed wire and German machine guns positioned at every clearing. For the next five days, Whittlesey and his men held out until the American lines caught up his position—refusing to surrender, even after the Germans broke out the flamethrowers.
It is only fitting that this week, we replay Laplander’s Medal of Honor Roll: Charles W. Whittlesey.
It is also fitting, that I release you to enjoy this week’s Guns & Patriots roster.