I'll be checking in on this thread now and then and hope I can answer any questions you may have.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor Tuesday to two World War I Army soldiers who may have been denied the top military honor in the past due to discrimination. "It's never too late to say thank you," Obama said.
Obama posthumously recognized Sgt. William Shemin, a Jewish soldier, and Pvt. Henry Johnson, an African-American serviceman, for their heroism rescuing comrades on the battlefields of France nearly a century ago.
"They both risked their own lives to save the lives of others," the president said.
Shemin's two daughters, Elsie and Ina, received the award on behalf of their father. New York National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Wilson accepted the medal on Johnson's behalf.
Shemin repeatedly dodged gunfire to pull wounded comrades to safety during three days of bloody battle. And Pvt. Henry Johnson rescued a wounded comrade from his all-black regiment while single-handedly fighting off a surprise German attack.
The award comes after tireless efforts by advocates for the two men led Congress to pass an exemption from Medal of Honor rules specifying that heroic actions have to have taken place within five years to be considered.
"It has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve and there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated," Obama said, adding that there is still work to do to ensure that the stories of all heroes are told.
"The least we can do is to say we know who you are, we know what you did for us, we are forever grateful," he said.
Elsie Shemin-Roth of suburban St. Louis worked for years to gather documents in support of the bid for her father. In the early 2000s, she learned of a law that reviewed the cases of Jews who may have been denied medals they earned in World War II and fought for passage of a law to provide similar review for Jewish World War I veterans.
"This was anti-Semitism, no question about it," Shemin-Roth, who is in her 80s, said in an interview in December when Congress passed the exemption for her father, who died in 1973. "Now a wrong has been made right and all is forgiven."
Johnson supporters pushed for the Medal of Honor for decades — with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer taking up the case. He was initially rebuffed for lack of documentation, but his staff picked up the case again years later when a trove of military records became available online. This included a communique from Gen. John Pershing describing Johnson's brave acts after coming under attack by at least 12 German soldiers while on night sentry duty on May 15, 1918.
"While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Johnson mounted a brave retaliation resulting in several enemy casualties," the White House said in a statement. "When his fellow soldier was badly wounded, Private Johnson prevented him from being taken prisoner by German forces. Private Johnson exposed himself to grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated."
Johnson, who worked as a train station porter in Albany, enlisted in the 369th, a New York National Guard unit based in Manhattan. The "Harlem Hellfighters," as the unit became known, served under French command because U.S. armed forces were segregated at the time.
Hobbled by his wartime injuries, Johnson died a destitute alcoholic at age 32 at a veterans hospital in Illinois in 1929.
Shemin was 19 when his platoon was involved in a bloody fight. "Sergeant Shemin left the cover of his platoon's trench and crossed open space, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue the wounded," the White House announcement said.
The young sergeant took shrapnel but survived. He led the platoon out of harm's way for the next three days, until a German bullet pierced his helmet and lodged behind his left ear. Shemin was hospitalized for three months and was left partly deaf. Shrapnel wounds eventually left him barely able to walk, although he earned a degree from Syracuse University and started a nursery business in the Bronx.
Never too late, thanks, Pellulo
The Latest: Day of remembrance at Tour de France
Britain's Christopher Froome, and Peter Kennaugh, lay a wreath at the World War I Arras Memorial as Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, watches prior to the start of the fifth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 189.5 kilometers (117.8 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Amiens, France, Wednesday, July 8, 2015.
The Arras Memorial commemorates 34,795 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died from the spring of 1916 until 7th August 1918, and who have no known grave.
AMIENS, France (AP) — The latest from the Tour de France fifth stage (all times local).
On a rainy and grey day on the battlefields of World War One in northern France, Tour riders paid tribute to the fallen heroes of the first global conflict of the 20th century.
Before the peloton started its 189.5-kilometer ride through the regions of Artois and Somme — where the Battle of the Somme claimed thousands of lives in 1916 — 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome and Sky teammate Peter Kennaugh laid a wreath on the Commonwealth Memorial at the Franco-British cemetery in Arras.
Tour de France organizers said they wanted to "honor the memory of Commonwealth soldiers, but also French and German soldiers who fell at the front."
Australian riders from the Orica-Greenedge team joined the tribute, wearing black armbands at the stage start in Arras.
"We are all very respectful of everything to do with that era, and I don't think they should be forgotten," Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford told The Associated Press. "If you remember what happened in the past, hopefully it serves as a deterrent for the future. It's not just great for what people did, but it's a reminder in this day and age, hopefully to find ways of resolving problems and leaving in peace."
French rider Nacer Bouhanni's bad luck continues as he is caught in a crash early into the stage and taken away in an ambulance.
The French sprinter was one of four riders from the French-owned Cofidis team caught in the collision shortly after the start of the fifth stage.
They all got back up except for Bouhanni.
One week before the start of the Tour, he crashed heavily toward the end of the French championships and almost missed the Tour because of damaged ribs.
Thanks AP, Pellulo
September 8, 1915: London Bombed, Lenin Calls for Revolution
Thanks to: The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 200th installment in the series.
Compared to the carnage on the Western Front, where the British body count was already approaching 100,000 by the beginning of September 1915, the German bombing campaign against England was a pinprick: over the course of the whole war Zeppelins carried out 52 raids, killing 577 people, and in the later part of the war German planes including the giant Gotha bombers carried out another 52 raids, killing 836, for a total death toll of 1,413.
But the raids had a disproportionate psychological impact, as most of the dead and injured were civilians; above all, they violated the British public’s longstanding sense of security, rooted in their collective identity as an island nation insulated from the turmoil on the Continent, even when Britain was at war.
The most successful Zeppelin raid of the war (in terms of economic damage) was the fourth, which took place on the night of September 8-9, 1915. Four giant airships – L9, L11, L13, and L14 – set out to bomb targets across England, but L11 and L14 were forced to turn back by engine trouble, so only L9 and L13 made it to their targets. As it happened only L13 (below), piloted by the legendary Heinrich Mathy, managed to get its bombs on target – a direct hit on central London (top, London lit up by searchlights on the evening of September .
Flying at an altitude of 11,000 feet, with its crewmembers bundled up in thick leather uniforms and wool long underwear against temperatures as low as -22°F in their non-insulated cabin, L13 dropped 15 high explosive bombs and 55 incendiary bombs on the Aldersgate area of London, setting fire to textile warehouses and hitting several buses, resulting in major casualties. Altogether L13’s raid killed 22 people, all civilians, and caused over £500,000 in damage – more than all the other Zeppelin raids over the course of the war combined.
Together with the three previous raids, the attack of September 8-9, 1915 provoked harsh criticism of the British Admiralty, which was at this time responsible for air defense through the Royal Naval Air Service, and spurred calls for stronger defenses, including more antiaircraft guns on the ground and new weapons for fighter planes to combat them in the air. Immediately following the September 8-9 raid, the Admiralty responded by appointing Admiral Sir Percy Scott to coordinate all these measures. However continued attacks resulted in all air defense responsibilities being transferred to the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps in February 1916.
The attacks brought the war home to British civilians in a way newspaper reports and stories from wounded soldiers and men on home leave simply couldn’t. This included British children, who in addition to losing fathers and older brothers now found themselves exposed to the nighttime menace of the strange silver shapes hovering in the darkness, even if the chances of actually being hit were quite slim.
Even when not directly affected, children still witnessed traumatic events and tried to understand their importance, if only by observing adult reactions. One girl, J. Marriage, described the raid on September 8-9 in a report for school:
On Wednesday night at quarter to eleven I was woke up by my mother who said, ‘Dont be frightened, the Germans are here’. I jumped out of bed (and my brother fell out) and ran into the front room where my mother was dressing. She said to me go and get your clothes on, but as I was a big light like lighting rose before my eyes and before I knew where I was a mighty explosion and a huge flame lept in front of me. As I expected this I ran into the street and saw many people pointing towards the sky. I ran to see what was the matter and in the sky there was a silvery coloured thing in the shape of a cigar. Two powerful searchlights shone on it from end to end. It stood there for about five minutes dropping bombs and going in a circle for about two times and suddenly disapeared into the air. The searchlights looked for it but in vain it could not be found… A fireman named Green saved seventeen people. He went up again but there were no more people left and was cut off from retreat. The poor man was at the top of the house. To save himself from being burnt to death he jumped to the ground and died a few days afterwards… In Leather Lane there were a wife and two childen killed of a policeman and he has gone silly.
A boy, J. Littenstein, recalled the surprising interruption of his family’s Jewish New Year’s Eve celebration:
Baa-ang! There was another crash. “Bomb’s and zeppelins” said my aunt. She was cool but the other women were panic-stricken. They gave vent to shrieks and screams that would have done credit to a hyena. I was shivering like a jelly but I soon got over it… My aunt had snatched the baby from the bed in a blanket and had put all the lights but one. “The basement” she said putting out the last light, and we all ran downstairs… Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! The incessant ringing of the fire bell came to my ears and a moment later the fire engine came clattering along… Although it was midnight it was as light as day. There were a great many searchlights flitting about now.
Children At War
As these accounts demonstrate, British children were hardly insulated from the war – and their peers on the Continent were even more exposed, especially when they lived in or near the combat zones. Indeed, children who lived near the front witnessed death so regularly it became familiar and unremarkable. Edward Lyell Fox, an American war correspondent with the German armies on the Eastern Front, recalled seeing boys playing in a village after the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes in February 1915:
They seemed to be playing a game. A little fellow, whose round fur hat and brown pea jacket was typical of his chums, was poking at something with a stick. Greatly excited, he called the boys, who seemed to be looking for something across the road in the snow… And we saw that the youngster was poking the snow away from a big bearded man in a sheepskin coat. The game the boys of Suwalki were playing was hunting the dead.
Other observers recounted similar scenes on the Western Front, sometimes with an additional ghoulish detail, the search for souvenirs. Another American journalist, Albert Rhys Williamsm described encountering a gang of entrepreneurial Belgian boys:
Three boys who had somehow managed to crawl across the bridge were prodding about in the canals with bamboo poles. “What are you doing?” we inquired. “Fishing,” they responded. “What for?” we asked. “Dead Germans,” they replied. “What do you do with them--bury them?” “No!” they shouted derisively. “We just strip them of what they’ve got and shove ‘em back in.” Their search for these hapless victims was not motivated by any sentimental reasons, but simply by their business interest as local dealers in helmets, buttons and other German mementos.
Although French and Belgian authorities evacuated civilians from the frontlines and strongly encouraged others living nearby to leave voluntarily, with customary stubbornness many peasants refused to abandon their property and possessions, and kept their children with them too (below, a French family equipped with gas masks). As the war dragged on this resulted in some alarming juxtapositions, like the scenes described by J.A. Currie in northern France in February 1915: “It is wonderful how careless of danger people become… The German high explosive shells, or ‘Hiex’ as they were called there, were falling five or six hundred yards off, still the children were playing in the street and a bunch of little girls were skipping with a rope.”
More Awesome Stories
The war also exposed children to large numbers of foreigners, especially in the German-occupied areas of northern France and Russia, and along the British sector of the Western Front, where the British Expeditionary Force was a de facto occupation army (although a friendly one). In the latter case most French children seemed to like the foreign troops, if only because they were sources of food, candy, toys, and money. James Hall, an American soldier who joined the British Army, recalled some of the children’s strategies for extracting gifts from them:
Tommy was a great favorite with the French children. They climbed on his lap and rifled his pockets; and they delighted him by talking in his own vernacular, for they were quick to pick up English words and phrases. They sang “Tipperary” and “Rule Britannia,” and “God Save the King,” so quaintly and prettily that the men kept them at it for hours at a time.
But the children’s acquisitive impulses weren’t limited to sweets and knickknacks. Several foreign observers recorded their shock on discovering that working class children in France started smoking at a very young age. Thus Sarah Macnaughtan, a British nurse, noted in her diary in March 1915 that, “every child begs for cigarettes, and they begin smoking at five years old.” A Canadian soldier, Jack O’Brien, confirmed this habit in a letter home: “While we were at breakfast a lot of little French kids crowded around, and we were all amused at the little beggars. Their speech, half French and half English, was very funny. But say, you should have seen them smoke! Little kids hardly able to walk were smoking just like old men.”
The situation could be quite different – and dangerous – when children came into contact with unwelcome occupiers, for example when enemy troops were billeted with their families. Laura Blackwell de Gozdawa Turczynowicz, an American married to a Polish aristocrat, described her young son’s response to a German officer who celebrated a recent Russian defeat by shouting “Russki kaput!” (though it would be hard to say which was behaving more childishly):
I tried to teach the children something I did not myself believe, but a childish mind is not easily convinced. I told them they must be polite to the Germans or else Mammy would get shot too… but Wladek could not be made to feel the necessity of hiding his feelings… Wladek could at last stand it no longer. He went right up to the officer with his brother and sister by the hand, saying, “Nein, nein – German kaput!” The officer started after him furiously. Wladek tried to run still calling out, “German kaput.”
Children absorbed the resentment and hatred for the enemy expressed by adults, and drew their own conclusions based on personal observations of enemy soldiers. Yves Congar, a French boy living in occupied Sedan, vented his violent dislike of the Germans in a diary entry in December 1914: “Another poster has been put up: anyone caught trying to get food or other supplies from Belgium will be fined 1,200 marks or 1,500 francs. Very well, if they want to starve us then they’ll see when, in the next war, the next generation goes to Germany and starves them… I have never hated them so much.”
Even far away from the front, children found their daily lives turned upside down. In some places school was canceled or shortened when teachers were drafted or school buildings taken over for military uses; other times regular classes were canceled so children could help out with various war-related activities like agriculture, preserving food, collecting scrap metal and other materials, or raising funds for charitable causes like hospitals or groups sending soldiers extra food and clothes.
their zeal to help the war effort children sometimes clashed with their elders, whose patriotism was moderated by practical considerations. In March 1915, 12-year-old Piete Kuhr wrote in her diary about her efforts to help with her school’s metal collection: “I turned the whole house over from top to bottom. Grandma cried, ‘The wench will bankrupt me! Why don’t you give them your lead soldiers instead of cleaning me out!’ So my little army had to meet their deaths.”
Although children suffered from the same woes as civilian adults throughout Europe, including shortages of food, clothing, and fuel, life was particularly hard for tens of thousands of orphans who were left to the care of the state or private charities – never a pleasant existence, and even less so during a time of upheaval, when helpless children were low on the list of official priorities. Mary Waddington, a British woman living in France, recorded one situation related to her by friends in July 17, 1915: “They had been to see a colony of French and Belgian children, orphans. It seems there are thirty or forty babies of two years of whom no one – not even the two Belgian nuns who brought them – knows anything – neither their names nor parents”.
Some orphans lost their parents to fighting, while in the Ottoman Empire huge numbers of children were orphaned by the Armenian Genocide, many of whom were later adopted as raised as Muslims by Turkish families (often at a young age and without their knowledge). Others were orphaned by starvation or diseases like typhus, which killed millions of people in the Balkans and Russia during the First World War and Russian Civil War; according to one account Serbia alone had 200,000 orphans by the end of the war.
Lenin Calls for Revolution
As real war raged across Europe, a war of words was being waged on neutral ground. From September 5-8, 1915, dozens of European anti-war socialists (as opposed to mainstream socialists, who ended up supporting the war in 1914) met at the International Socialist Conference in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, where they debated the meaning of the war for their movement and the appropriate response. One of the most radical speakers was a Russian Marxist named Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his nom de guerre Lenin, who advocated revolution by the European working classes to end the war and overthrow the bourgeois order as soon as possible.
This put Lenin at odds with moderate socialists who wanted the peoples of Europe to bring domestic political pressure on their own governments to make peace. The moderates were skeptical whether the revolutionary movement could overcome the nationalist hatreds then dividing Europe: would the ordinary soldiers really abandon patriotism to rise out of their trenches and fraternize with their former enemies? Would civilians really welcome massive strikes that paralyzed the war effort at home? Wouldn’t they just be trading war on the borders for civil war at home?
Lenin shrugged off these concerns – the soldiers and civilians would come around when the time was right. As for civil war, there was no question that the revolution would be violent; the only question was whether the circumstances were favorable for it. An opportunist first and last, he advocated watchful waiting and readiness to move: “For the present it is our task to jointly propagandize the correct tactics and leave it to events to indicate the tempo of the movement…” He also urged the assembled delegates to combat rival ideologies that threatened to undermine socialist efforts to organize workers, especially anarchism.
As the leader of the militant Bolsheviks, Lenin was eager to overthrow the Tsarist regime in the hope that it would spark the wider revolution across Europe – even though the Russian proletariat (industrial working class) remained small and Russia still didn’t have a liberal bourgeois government, two factors Marx had identified as preconditions for a communist
revolution. To overcome these obstacles, Lenin theorized the need for a “vanguard party” that could, through its grasp of historical forces, lead Russia from a backwards, feudal society into the utopian future in one giant leap.
Lenin’s call for immediate revolution and his advocacy of a vanguard party also put the Bolsheviks at odds with Julius Martov’s Mensheviks, a rival socialist outfit which had split with the Bolsheviks in 1903 over the role of the party in organizing revolution. Now Lenin’s willingness to overthrow the Russian government without necessarily waiting for revolution in other countries brought him to the attention of German spies.
In September 1915 an Estonian revolutionary named Alexander Kesküla (codenamed “Kiwi”) met with the German consul in Berne, Count von Romberg, and urged German intelligence to shift their support from the Mensheviks to Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Romberg passed along Kesküla’s advice to Berlin, and in the meantime gave him 10,000 marks to pass along discreetly.
Separately another socialist secretly working for German, Alexander Helphand (“Parvus”), who met Lenin in Berne in May 1915, was also encouraging Berlin to support the Bolsheviks covertly. Although he doesn’t appear to have supported the revolutionaries directly at this time, Helphand was accused of funneling German money to Lenin during the later part of the war.
Francis Scott KeyDuring the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key and the American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner dined aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, as the guests of three British officers: Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, and Major General Robert Ross.
Skinner and Key were there to negotiate the release of prisoners, one being Dr. William Beanes. Beanes was a resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland and had been captured by the British after he placed rowdy stragglers under citizen's arrest with a group of men.
Skinner, Key, and Beanes were not allowed to return to their own sloop: they had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units and with the British intent to attack Baltimore.
As a result of this, Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombarding of the American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13 – September 14, 1814.
At dawn, Key was able to see an American flag still waving and reported this to the prisoners below deck. On the way back to Baltimore, he was inspired to write a poem describing his experience, "Defence of Fort McHenry", which he published in the Patriot on September 20, 1814. He intended to fit it to the rhythms of composer John Stafford Smith's "To Anacreon in Heaven", a popular tune Key had already used as the setting for his 1805 song "When the Warrior Returns," celebrating U.S. heroes of the First Barbary War. The earlier song is also Key's original use of the "star spangled" flag imagery.
The song has since become better known as "The Star Spangled Banner". Under this name, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, which had little effect beyond requiring military bands to play the War Department standard arrangement to be used by U.S. military bands. But it was not until the 1918 World Series that the song took hold of America during a game that almost didn’t happen.president-
America had been involved in World War One for a year. Out of respect for the soldiers, baseball officials wanted to cancel the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. When it became known, however, that American soldiers fighting in France were eager to know the Series’ results, the games commenced. To honor these brave men, the officials had the band play the Star-Spangled Banner during the seventh-inning stretch of the first game. Comiskey Park in Chicago erupted in song as the spectators and players stood and joined in. Soon it became tradition to play the Star-Spangled Banner at all baseball games and, eventually, nearly all sporting events.
Prior to this World Series game, there had been a push to make the song our official anthem. The push gained momentum after the World Series as citizens and legislators worked tirelessly to make it happen. Finally, after twenty years and forty bills and resolutions, it became a reality. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover, our thirty-first president, elevated the song to the highest level. He signed a Congressional resolution in 1931 making the Star-Spangled Banner the national anthem.
The long journey from a poem written on the back of a letter to our country’s national anthem took 117 years.
by Dr Matthew Seligmann BBC
A New Kind of Warfare
Of the 375 German submarines - U-boats - that set sail from German ports in World War One, 202 were lost in action. Most of them were destroyed by the Allies - mechanical failure and accidents accounted for others.
The German submarines terrorised Allied shipping, sinking around 2,600 vessels. Yet the sailors sent to serve in U-boats knew their chances of survival were low. Out of 17,000 men who served, more than 5,100 lost their lives.
Serving on a U-boat was one of the most dangerous occupations in the entire war.
The German U-boat was less than 150ft long and only 12ft in diameter. The crew of 35 were packed into a tiny space no bigger than a double decker bus.
Treacherous tin can
There was no escape if something went wrong on a submerged U-boat. There was no diving gear on board if it sank to the sea bed. Even if sailors managed to overcome the water pressure and force open the hatch and get out, they almost certainly drowned.
Early U-boats were designed to protect German ports and harbours but by the start of World War One ocean-going subs had a range of 8,000 nautical miles. They could spend around five days on war patrol but only had 72 hours’ air supply. What’s more, they could only be submerged for around two hours at a time because they had to switch from diesel engines to an electric battery-powered system.
Because of the limitations of their electric batteries, U-boats tended to leave port on the surface at night and only submerged when spotted by the enemy, or after conducting an attack. Once submerged, the electric batteries posed a real threat to the crew. Johannes Speiss, a first watch officer on the U-9, recalled: “The storage battery cells, which were located under the living spaces… generated gas… ventilation failure risked explosion, a catastrophe which occurred in several German boats. If sea water got into the battery cells, poisonous chlorine gas was generated.”
Outgunned & Outwitted
At the start of the war, U-boats employed old-fashioned rules of engagement: they surfaced, issued a warning of their attack and gave merchant crews time to escape. The main threat they faced was from being rammed by a battleship.
In response to the losses they were taking, the British changed tactics. They designed Q-ships – freighters with hidden guns – to lure out and ambush German subs. When the U-boats came to the surface to parley, the decoy ships uncovered their guns and fired at will. It was a brutally effective tactic. They sank 15 U-boats and damaged countless others.
Nowhere to hide
In 1916 the depth charge (known as the wasserbombe by the Germans) was invented and deployed.
The first confirmed U-boat to be sunk by a depth charge was the UC-19, which had sunk four Allied ships in the English Channel. In December 1916 the crew of HMS Ariel, a British destroyer, sank her 30 miles off the Belgian coast. There were no survivors.
In 1917 depth charges destroyed 12 U-boats and the following year 24. They not only wreaked havoc but also terrorised U-boat crews.
During the war U-boats were responsible for sinking a number of high profile allied ships including the Lusitania. Yet German submarines were fast becoming one of the most perilous places to be in World War One.
NOTE: WWII U-Boats lost were about 75% & actual number was about 750 of 1000 U-Boats, thanks, Pellulo
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