A Peregrine’s Path, Issue no. 3

TriopetraAt Triopetra on Crete’s south coast, I learned that its highest rock is the place from which Icarus took off on his mortal flight, too close to the sun. I also learned that, while Icarus fell into the sea, his father and wing maker, Daedalus, flew on to Sicily…

Issue no.3 of A Peregrine’s Path goes out to subscribers this afternoon. In this issue, you’ll read a rhyming excerpt from the next story in the Littlelot series, learn about a novel in progress, and see exclusive photos of a second-century Roman road.

A Peregrine’s Path
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The First Story of Littlelot

The First Story of
Littlelot

An Arthurian legend with knights and damsels and other action figures

In his game of make-believe, a boy must make a choice—break his oath to the king or break the heart of the woman who gave him the most meaningful gift.

Choose your own path...


Godspeed

“It happened on Monday, February 17th, that the units of the 35th were called out and formed on a wide level stretch of the Meuse Valley near Commercy. Here twenty-two thousand men of the division passed in review of the Commander-in-Chief and the ‘petit’ Prince of Wales, who was the guest of honor.” (Haterius 192)

Prince of Wales with General John Pershing inspecting troops of the American 35th Division between Vignot and Boncourt  17 February 1919Inspection by the Commander-in-Chief, February 17, 1919
Prince Edward of Wales (middle left in visor cap) and General John J. Pershing (center) inspect the troops of the 35th Infantry Division near Commercy, France.

Twenty-four-year-old Prince Edward, who would become Edward VIII, King of England, and abdicate the throne to marry an American divorcée, made small impression on the men of the 35th. Ted Powell, in his book King Edward VIII: An American Life (2018), writes:

“The doughboys [of the 35th] were in awe of ‘Black Jack’ Pershing, leading the inspection with a group of senior officers on horseback, but were disappointed by the Prince of Wales… the Prince went out of his way not to look like a ‘prince,’ for example refusing to wear the Croix de Guerre that the French had awarded him, on the grounds that he had done nothing to deserve it.” (29)

In their History book, the men of Ambulance Company Number 139 (collective authors) are more specific about the parade ground location, placing it north of Commercy between the villages of Vignot and Boncourt-sur-Meuse. “The field itself, located on a broad stretch of the Meuse basin, was mush-like with mire and patched with pools of water” (74).

They describe the inspection and passing in review:

“The columns of the Division were drawn up into platoon fronts… After riding around the Division, General Pershing and his party personally inspected each platoon, winding back and forth, asking questions of the company commanders and speaking with the men.

“Having completed the personal inspection, the General and his party took position in the reviewing stand on the right. At the command ‘Pass in Review’ by the Division Commander, each battalion executed successively ‘Squads Right,’ and swept down the field in a line of platoons. It was indeed a most impressive sight, and, although the sky was cast heavy with low-hanging clouds, the sun, as if to lend color to an already beautiful picture, broke through and shone for a few moments. Then, as each column swung out upon its own way home, the rain began again…

“Although participation in the great event required that the men wear full packs for almost nine hours without removing them, and undergo a hike of twenty kilometers in the rain, not a man regretted the experience. It will be long remembered with pride by those who took part.” (74)

Recognition from leaders is the soldier’s reward. He risks life and limb and suffers daily hardships, not for pay, but for country: its values and its purpose. His recompense is the country’s gratitude for duty done with honor. It marks the personal achievement, which each soldier, before it’s met, wonders in his heart of hearts if he can accomplish.

For the troops, the AEF commander embodied the country. The commander’s acknowledgment of a job well done set the laurel on their victory.

Later that day, in an address to officers, General Pershing announced the 35th’s imminent departure and “wished the officers and men of the division Godspeed on their homeward journey” (Haterius 193).

“When Pershing visited, Grandpa was one of two men that put new shoes on his horse. When the general was ready to leave, Grandpa held the horse’s reigns while he mounted.”

—Bruce Potts

 


History of Ambulance Company Number 139, Kansas City: E. R. Callender Printing Co. n.d.

Powell, Ted, King Edward VIII: An American Life, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018

 


A Very Muddy Place

My great grandfather, like many veterans, didn’t talk much about his wartime experience. His family has only his discharge paper and a few anecdotes.

One hundred years later, I’ve discovered a few documents that bear his name. From draft registration to discharge, I’m following the paper trail of B. F. Potts’s journey to the battlefields of the Great War in France and back home again.

Upcoming dates:

April 20—Easter Aboard the Manchuria

May 13—Homecoming

Previous articles:

The Butte of Vauquois

“Well, Daddy, what did you think about France?”
“It's a very muddy place.”

Continue reading "Godspeed" »

Choose your own path...


Alternate Scenario

A Very Muddy Place outlines a possible itinerary for B. F. Potts’s journey. But what if I’ve got it all wrong?

The enlistment record shows B. F. Potts in the Sommedieue sector from October 14 to November 6. It does not show the Meuse-Argonne.

An administrative oversight? Suppose, for whatever reason, the lieutenant scribe didn’t have the proper documents for Potts’s participation in the Argonne battle. The soldier on his way home, already putting the war behind him, may not care enough to insist. Even if he did, without the document his argument would lack conviction.

Or is it possible that Private Potts left the States on August 24 and didn’t join the 35th Division until mid-October? The following anecdote from Haterius suggests it is.

Amid the Armistice celebrations, a truck pulled up to the front, writes Haterius:

“Over the tailboard… there gazed a boy who had been drafted in the heart of America some six months before, and who with stop-offs for tedious training on the way, had slowly journeyed from his home to the Ardennes. It had taken him six months…” (184-185)

Furthermore, Haterius mentions the reception of “a large number of replacements” after the Argonne battle, on October 11 at a camp between the villages Benoîte Vaux and Récourt-le-Creux. “These men hailed from Camp Gordon. They were natives of the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi” (172).

That Haterius or any other chronicler doesn’t mention receiving replacements after coming out of the Vosges (“Rendezvous with the 35th Division”) is not surprising. The hundred men replaced among the three-and-a-half-thousand strong division would be hardly notable.

In any case, an alternative scenario is that B. F. Potts, after landing at a French port in early September, as described in “Rendezvous,” spent a month in a depot division (as did Clyde Brake—see “Nightmare at Sea”), before joining his unit on October 11.

Considering Grandpa Ben’s war stories, three concern the period in question:

  1. Entrained soldiers, stopped for the night on the tracks, might have burgled the bakery (“Rendezvous”) during the ride to the supposed depot division, or from it, to the rendezvous with the 35th.
  2. The nighttime bombardment of an empty building (“A Potts Family Day of Thanks”) could have happened during the march into the Sommedieue sector. However, none of our journalists mention any bombing on the way, including Haterius who goes into some detail about the movement. Of the night of October 11, he writes: “we commenced hearing the distant detonations of guns and saw occasional flashes off to the east and north…” (172). This seems an opportunity to include a nearby bombing if such had occurred.
  3. Lastly, “Encounter at Creek’s Edge” hints at Grandpa Ben’s presence in the Argonne battle. The scenario seems unlikely in the Sommedieue trenches, where the battle lines are firm. Neither soldier would wander across No Man’s Land, not alone, and not in daylight.

The reader may draw his or her own conclusions.

Choose your own path...


Discharge and Enlistment Record

Included here are Benjamin F. Potts’s discharge and enlistment record, two sides of the same paper, accompanied by a transcript, including that of stamps and pencil marks on the latter.

Based on the penmanship (in which I am no expert), the lieutenant, signatory of the enlistment record, seems to be the scribe.

In the transcript, handwritten text is shown in italics. Where the original is illegible, I have compared with other handwritten text in the document and with similar records to derive a probable text, which I enclose in brackets. Where this is impossible, I leave an ellipsis between brackets.

The following information about the form is given in the footer margins:

Form No. 525. A. G. O. [Adjutant General’s Office]
Oct. 9-18.
3—3164

Asterisks (*), daggers (†), and double daggers (‡) indicate footer notes on either side of the form. Bracketed numbers mark my own notes.

Honorable Discharge from The United States Army

TO ALL WHOM [IT] MAY CONCERN:

         This is to Certify, [That* Benjamin F. Potts]
3501865[1] Private Co “M” 137th Infantry
THE UNITED STATES ARMY, as a Testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service is hereby Honorably Discharged from the military service of the United States by reason of‡ Exp. Of Ser. Per Cir. 106 W. D. 12/3/18[2]

         Said Benjamin F. Potts was born in Slayden, in the State of Tennessee.
When enlisted he was 23 9/12 years of age and by occupation a R. R. Foreman.[3]
He had Blue eyes, D. Brown hair, Fair complexion, and was 5 feet 3 1/4 inches in height.

         Given under my hand at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga this 12th day of May, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen.

[G. H. Blankenship][4]
Major 46th Infantry
Commanding
U. S. A.

 * Insert name, Christian name first: e.g., “John Doe.”
† Insert Army serial number, grade, company and regiment or arm or corps or department, e.g., “1,620,302”; “Corporal, Company A, 1st Infantry”; “Sergeant, Quartermaster Corps”; “Sergeant, First Class, Medical Department.”
‡ If discharged prior to expiration of service, give number, date, and source of order or full description of authority therefor.

Benjamin Franklin Potts - Honorable Discharge

Benjamin Franklin Potts - Enlistment Record

ENLISTMENT RECORD

Name: Benjamin F. Potts     Grade: Private
Enlisted, or Inducted, June 28, 1918, at Erin, Tennessee
Serving in First enlistment period at date of discharge.
Prior service: * None
Noncommissioned officer: [Never]
[Marksmanship, gunner qualification or rating: † None of record]
Horsemanship: [Not mounted]
Battles, engagements, skirmishes, expeditions: Sommedieue Sub-Sector Bouee Defense Oct. 14 - Nov. 6, 1918[5]
Decorations, Medals, Badges, Citations; None
Knowledge of any vocation: Rail Road Foreman
Wounds received in service: None
Physical condition when discharged: Normal
Typhoid prophylaxis completed: Aug. [] 1918
Paratyphoid prophylaxis completed: Aug. [] 1918
Married or single: Single
Character: Excellent[6]
[Remarks:] No A. W. O. L. [under] G. O. 31/12 or 45/14[7]
Soldier entitled to travel pay to Erin, Tenn.[8]
Served with the A. E. F. from Aug. 23, 1918 till April 23, 1919
Signature of soldier: Benjamin F. Potts

[W. C.] Thurman
1st Lt 46th Infantry
Commanding Casual Det[9]

* Give company and regiment or department, with inclusive dates of service in each enlistment.
† Give date of qualification or rating and number, date, and source of order announcing same.

On the enlistment record, lower left corner, are faded stamps in red and blue and a number in pencil. The red stamp, shown first, may well be three separate stamps, separated in the transcript by em dashes.

Stamp in red ink:

PAID IN FULL 89.05[10]
INCLUDING $60 BONUS
[PRO]VIDED IN SEC 140[6 REVENUE ACT]
OF 1918 APPROVED [FEB 24TH]
1919.[11] FT OGLETHORPE

MAY 12 1919

GEO. [H. CHASE]
CAPT [Q. M. C.][12]
FINANCE [OFFICER]

Stamp in blue ink:

TICKET OFFICE
MAY 13 19
CHATTANOOGA[13]

__________

[1] The numeral 1 here could be a 7. Other documents, like the Tunisian’s passenger list, show a 1.

[2] Expiration of Service per Circular 106 War Department, December 3, 1918. Circular 106 stipulates that a soldier must be discharged from the Army post closest to home.

[3] During his service, B. F. Potts was not promoted in military rank. He was, however, promoted from railroad trackman at induction to foreman.

[4] I made out some letters and guessed the rest. An Internet search reveals a Major G. H. Blankenship of the 46th Infantry signed other discharges at Fort Oglethorpe.

[5] No mention of the Argonne battle. See forthcoming article, Friday.

[6] Other discharge papers imply the Army honorably discharged only persons of “excellent” character.

[7] No Absence Without Leave under General Orders No. 31, War Department, 1912, or No. 45, War Department, 1914.

[8] The Army paid five cents per mile. The distance was near 200 miles, which would be $10.00.

[9] Casual Detachment. A “casual” is a soldier not assigned to a unit.

[10] The penciled number is the dollar amount the discharged soldier was paid. A private earned $30 per month. A prorated portion of the salary, plus the $60 bonus and approximately $10 travel pay would come to $89.05.

[11] Within days of the Armistice, the US Congress adopted Section 1406 as an amendment to the year’s revenue act, which was approved in 1919.

[12] Quarter Master Corps

[13] Boarding the train at Chattanooga’s Terminal Station, outside of Fort Oglethorpe, Ben Potts was already in his home state.

 


A Very Muddy Place

My great grandfather, like many veterans, didn’t talk much about his wartime experience. His family has only his discharge paper and a few anecdotes.

One hundred years later, I’ve discovered a few documents that bear his name. From draft registration to discharge, I’m following the paper trail of B. F. Potts’s journey to the battlefields of the Great War in France and back home again.

Upcoming dates:

February 15—Alternate Scenario

February 17—Godspeed

Previous articles:

The Butte of Vauquois

“Well, Daddy, what did you think about France?”
“It's a very muddy place.”

Choose your own path...


Success, Freedom, and Castles in the Air

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

I’ve lived with this quote, the first sentence of a paragraph from Thoreau’s Walden, the past several months. Yesterday, I read the passage again. It goes on and ends with another familiar citation. Between, the text is more complicated and less quotable, though it is, in my experience so far, equally true.

“He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

View from a castle-in-the-airView from the parapet of a castle-in-the-air, foundation under construction

Choose your own path...


The Truman Encounters

In A Very Muddy Place, scenes told in present tense are fictional. Three such scenes recount Private Potts’s encounters with an artillery officer, who gives him permission for leave in the final meeting. In the first, the officer helps to pull a gun through the mud. In the second, we recognize the same officer setting up an observation post in a shell hole, not noticing that the troops are withdrawing.

While, again, the encounters are fictional, the first and second are drawn from actual events. Future president Harry Truman served in the Missouri National Guard’s 2nd Field Artillery Regiment as an enlisted man from 1905 to 1911. In 1917, as a first lieutenant he rejoined the regiment, which was later federalized, becoming the 129th Regiment in the 60th Field Artillery Brigade, 35th Infantry Division. Promoted to captain in July 1918, Truman was assigned command of the 129th’s Battery D.

D. M. Giangreco, 20-year editor at the US Army’s Military Review, studied Truman’s handwritten notes, extensive oral histories of the soldiers who served under his command, and records of other commanders in the 129th. He collated this information with battalion and division orders to derive a detailed timetable of the captain’s movements during the Argonne battle. Giangreco published his findings in the Journal of the Royal Artillery, Autumn 2003 (130:56-59), reproduced at Worldwar1.com’s “Doughboy Center.”

The initial encounter takes place September 26, the battle’s first day. Of the afternoon, Giangreco writes:

“Truman and his battery then followed the rest of his regiment across no man’s land and was often forced to pull his guns one at a time by double teaming—that’s 12 horses—in order to get them through the muddy, shell-torn German minefields.”

In the narrative, the second encounter takes place on the battle’s fourth day. However, Giangreco’s research puts Truman in the precarious position on the second day, September 27:

“Truman was again sent forward to observe and direct fire in support of the assault on Charpentry. And, again, was unable to link up with anyone from the infantry regiment’s HQ but did have a ringside—if rather hot—seat… above an unsupported tank assault into the German reverse-slope positions being shelled and the town.

“Unnoticed, however, some quote ‘shifting and straightening’ of the US infantry’s lines had begun. The result? Truman’s shell-crater OP ended up… some 200 yards in advance of the regiment it was to support. So intent had he and his small group been at observing fire and setting up wire communications, that they hadn’t recognized the full-blown pullback in the smoke and confusion, and disaster was prevented by one of the last infantrymen out who warned them of the move.”

Private Potts’s third encounter with the artillery officer is based solely on Grandpa’s anecdote.

Captain Harry Truman 1918Captain Harry Truman, France, 1918

 


D. M. Giangreco is the author of several books on military and sociopolitical topics, including two about Harry Truman: Dear Harry…: Truman’s Mailroom, 1945-1953 (Stackpool Books 1999) and The Soldier from Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman (Zenith Press 2009).

 


A Very Muddy Place

My great grandfather, like many veterans, didn’t talk much about his wartime experience. His family has only his discharge paper and a few anecdotes.

One hundred years later, I’ve discovered a few documents that bear his name. From draft registration to discharge, I’m following the paper trail of B. F. Potts’s journey from Tennessee to the battlefields of the Great War in France and back home again.

Choose your own path...


Cruel Days in Sampigny

With the ceasefire signed, the fighting was over, but the war wasn’t ended. Though the possibility diminished as the German army withdrew and gave up its equipment, hostilities might recommence at any moment. The Allies’ strong military position brought the Germans to Compiègne. Continued pressure, in the form of a military occupation, would keep them at the negotiating table. Furthermore, the vanquished enemy’s capacity to make war must be reduced.

He is not informed, nor does he care, about the greater military and political machinations. The soldier, once the job is done, turns his mind to home and family. Private Potts, with the 137th’s Third Battalion, was billeted in Ménil-aux-Bois, a village outside Sampigny in the Saint-Mihiel area. There, he awaited orders and fought the soldier’s fiercest enemy: boredom. Haterius calls it the Battle of Sampigny.

“We now entered upon what was to prove a long, cold, dark winter of training. Doniphan* days over again. Although the armistice had been signed and hostilities had ceased, it must be remembered that we were still in a state of war, and the enemy was engaged, but in a somewhat different manner. All units upon foreign soil must ever remain in a state of preparedness. Efficiency and co-operation were still the watchwords. All during the cold, wet winter months the boys underwent daily drill out on the rain-soaked fields and roads. Close order drills, field maneuvers, tactical problems, simulated battles, rifle practice, and parades and inspections, constituted the curriculum. We were now resigned to the game of watchful waiting, and this proved far more unenduring than the game of war, so it seemed. It was a most disagreeable existence, and all in all, we hardly saw six days of sunshine during all the winter.” (Haterius 187)

*The 35th trained at Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma.

Colonel Ira L. Reeves, who had taken command of the 137th Regiment in the Sommedieue trenches, is credited with the establishment of an athletics program to replace part of the daily drill. Colonel Reeves also consented to theatrical performances and organized a school, which offered lessons in English, French, and history to the regiment’s officers and men. During this time, six issues of a regimental newspaper, The Jayhawkerinfrance, were printed on a local printing press. Thanksgiving and Christmas were observed with special menus and concerts by the regimental band.

A more devious foe in the Battle of Sampigny was the rumor. One day, embarkation for the States was imminent. The next day, the division was to be part of the occupation army and march to Germany. Haterius writes, “Brutus, those were cruel days.” (192)

 


A Very Muddy Place

My great grandfather, like many veterans, didn’t talk much about his wartime experience. His family has only his discharge paper and a few anecdotes.

One hundred years later, I’ve discovered a few documents that bear his name. From draft registration to discharge, I’m following the paper trail of B. F. Potts’s journey to the battlefields of the Great War in France and back home again.

Upcoming dates:

April 20, 1919—Easter Aboard the Manchuria

May 13—Homecoming

Previous articles:

The Butte of Vauquois

“Well, Daddy, what did you think about France?”
“It's a very muddy place.”

Continue reading "Cruel Days in Sampigny" »

Choose your own path...


For Whom the Bell Tolls

The church bell rang this Thursday morning. Long, measured strokes echoed through the neighborhood’s narrow, paved streets. Howling dogs answered.

I closed the door behind me as I left on daily errands. My neighbor stood on the terrace before her house, facing the street.

Marianna and I always exchange greetings. She doesn’t speak English, and she knows my Greek is limited. That doesn’t stop her, though, from smiling and talking at length about the cats, her husband, or the olives she crushes into paste. Catching what I can, I smile back, nodding, and say, “Nai,” which means yes.

“Kaliméra, Marianna!”

She turned toward me, blowing her nose into a tissue. Her eyes, wet.

My smile dropped. “Ti kánis?” I asked, How are you?, nearing the frontier of my proficiency in the language.

She gestured toward the house across the way and spoke. Among the words, I heard “fíli.” Friend.

I nodded and said, “Nai,” while Marianna went on talking between sobs.

At a pause, I opened my arms. Her head fell on my shoulder. Blubbers and murmurs. Eyes closed, I took a long breath and held it.

She pulled back and blew her nose again. “Efcharistó,” she said, Thank you.

I walked away, hand on heart, where wounds yet weep.

Choose your own path...


The Editing Voice

While editing, whether my work or someone else’s, certain refrains come to mind from long ago. They come in the voice of my high school sophomore English teacher.

When I use modifiers like “very,” “almost,” “about,” “some,” “little,” the voice says, “Don’t be wishy-washy. Be definitive.”

About a common or overused phrase, it says, “That’s trite.”

When colloquial words slip into the text: “You might say ‘backside’ but write ‘posterior.’”

If I over explain: “Don’t spoon feed the reader.”

And whenever I struggle with a task, I hear: “The good Lord said he’d give you a wagon; he didn’t say he’d put wheels on it for you!”

Thank you, Mrs. Davis. I paid attention. I remember. I learned what you taught, and I use it every day.

Choose your own path...


Armistice, or A Railcar in the Woods

The wood is primeval. Prehistoric relics indicate human presence in the area of the Compiègne Forest since time immemorial. Beech, oak, and hornbeam trees sheltered game in Roman times. Since then, the forest has been the hunting ground of kings and emperors, the playground of princes and princesses, as well as a battleground. Julius Ceasar fought the Gauls beneath its canopy. Merovingian kingdoms Austrasia and Neustria exchanged blows between its stout trunks.

During three days in November 1918, the ancient forest served as secret meeting place for negotiators of two warring sides seeking peace. A delegation for the German Empire arrived November 8. The Allied delegation was led by the supreme commander, French General Ferdinand Foch.

Negotiations took place in a railcar, arranged for the purpose, positioned in a secluded glade near the French village of Rethondes, a hundred kilometers (60 miles) north of Paris. General Foch chose the site to keep journalists at bay and to avoid distractions.

Playing from a position of strength, Foch presented himself to members of the German delegation on the morning of the 8th, gave them a document listing the terms of a ceasefire, and told them they had 72 hours to sign it. He would return only once more.

The terms were strict: withdrawal of all German forces back to pre-war borders, plus evacuation of the Rhine Valley on Germany’s western flank; surrender of all military equipment (artillery, machine guns, ships, aircraft), including trains and trucks; renunciation of two earlier treaties with Russia and Romania, and restoration of booty taken from Russia, Romania, and Belgium. All infrastructure of evacuated territory was to remain intact, and the naval blockade of Germany would continue. The terms included no concessions by the Allies.

Hopeless as was their military position and with worsening social conditions at home, the Germans had no choice but to agree to the terms.

Between 5:12 and 5:20 a.m. on November 11, four members of the German delegation and a leading Allied representative signed the armistice. General Foch entered, examined the signatures, and, after adding his own mark to the document, departed for Paris. According to the conditions of the ceasefire, fighting would end within six hours.

In the Sommedieue sector, Carl E. Haterius, 137th Regiment Band, recorded the scene in his journal. Private Benjamin Franklin Potts, Company M, must have been within earshot. Through the journalist’s words, we may relive the moment with our ancestor:

“At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, hostilities came to an end from Switzerland to the sea. Early that morning from the wireless station on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, there had gone forth through the air to the wondering, half-incredulous line the Americans held from near Sedan to the Moselle, the order from Marshal Foch to cease fire on the stroke of eleven.

“On the stroke of eleven the cannon stopped, the rifles dropped from the shoulders, the machine guns grew still. There followed then a strange, unbelievable silence, as though the world had died. It lasted but a moment, lasted for the space that the breath is held. Then came such an uproar of relief and jubilance, such a tooting of horns, shrieking of whistles, such an overture from the bands and trains and church bells, such a shouting of voices as the earth is not likely to hear again in our day and generation. When night fell on the battlefield, the clamor of the celebration waxed rather than waned. Darkness? There was none. Rockets and a ceaseless fountain of star-shells made the lines a streak of glorious brilliance across the face of startled France, while, by the light of flares, the Front and all its dancing, boasting, singing peoples was as clearly visible as though the sun sat high in the heavens.” (Haterius 181-182)

 

The ceasefire was prolonged three times before the final agreement, which included a clause that placed the blame for the war and all its ramifications on Germany. The intent was to prepare a legal case for war reparations, but when Germany signed the treaty on June 22, 1919, it humiliated the German people as well. Ratified on June 28, the Treaty of Versailles would bring the first of the world’s two great wars to an end.

After a time in a museum at Les Invalides in Paris, the railcar in which the signing took place was moved back to the site in the Compiègne Forest, which became an historic monument and place of pilgrimage for tourists and survivors of veterans and war dead.

There, in the same secluded glade in the primeval forest, in the same railcar originally chosen by General Foch, another armistice would be signed twenty-two years after. June 22, 1940, Adolf Hitler chose the site for the formal surrender of France to Nazi Germany.

 

Reminiscences of the 137th US Infantry  Haterius - the 11th hourReminiscences of the 137th U. S. Infantry by Carl E. Haterius, Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1919

 


A Very Muddy Place

My great grandfather, like many veterans, didn’t talk much about his wartime experience. His family has only his discharge paper and a few anecdotes.

One hundred years later, I’ve discovered a few documents that bear his name. From draft registration to discharge, I’m following the paper trail of B. F. Potts’s journey to the battlefields of the Great War in France and back home again.

Upcoming dates:

December 22—Cruel Days in Sampigny

April 23, 1919—Return Aboard the Manchuria

May 13—Homecoming

Previous articles:

The Butte of Vauquois

“Well, Daddy, what did you think about France?”
“It's a very muddy place.”

Continue reading "Armistice, or A Railcar in the Woods" »

Choose your own path...