Saturday, April 30, 2016

Over the Top -- Chapter XVII -- April 30, 2016

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war. With the 100th anniversary of the war, I thought it might be interesting to post his story. Empey later became a prolific pulp magazine author, a movie star and producer, and a playwright. 

From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:   
"Mills." Name of a bomb invented by Mills. The only bomb in which Tommy has full confidence, — and he mistrusts even that

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations
CHAPTER VIII -- The Little Wooden Cross


AFTER tea, Lieutenant Stores of our section came into the dugout and informed me that I was "for" a reconnoitering patrol and would carry six Mills bombs.

At 11.30 that night twelve men, our Lieutenant, and myself went out in front on a patrol in No Man's Land.

We cruised around in the dark for about two hours, just knocking about looking for trouble, on the lookout for Boche working parties to see what they were doing.

Around two in the morning we were carefully picking our way, about thirty yards in front of the German barbed wire, when we walked into a Boche covering party nearly thirty strong. Then the music started, the fiddler rendered his bill, and we paid.

Fighting in the dark with a bayonet is not very pleasant. The Germans took it on the run, but our officer was no novice at the game and didn't follow them. He gave the order "down on the ground, hug it close."

Just in time, too, because a volley skimmed over our heads. Then in low tones we were told to separate and crawl back to our trenches, each man on his own.

We could see the flashes of their rifles in the darkness, but the bullets were going over our heads.

We lost three men killed and one wounded in the arm. If it hadn't been for our officers' quick thinking the whole patrol would have probably been wiped out.

After about twenty minutes' wait we went out again and discovered that the Germans had a wiring party working on their barbed wire. We returned to our trenches unobserved with the information and our machine guns immediately got busy.

The next night four men were sent out to go over and examine the German barbed wire and see if they had cut lanes through it; if so, this presaged an early morning attack on our trenches.

Of course, I had to be one of the four selected for the job. It was just like sending a fellow to the undertaker's to order his own coffin.

At ten o'clock we started out, armed with three bombs, a bayonet, and revolver. After getting into No Man's Land we separated. Crawling four or five feet at a time, ducking star shells, with strays cracking over head, I reached their wire. I scouted along this inch by inch, scarcely breathing. I could hear them talking in their trench, my heart was pounding against my ribs. One false move or the least noise from me meant discovery and almost certain death.

After covering my sector I quietly crawled back. I had gotten about half-way, when I noticed that my revolver was missing. It was pitch dark. I turned about to see if I could find it; it couldn't be far away, because about three or four minutes previously I had felt the butt in the holster. I crawled around in circles and at last found it, then started on my way back to our trenches, as I thought.

Pretty soon I reached barbed wire, and was just going to give the password, when something told me not to. I put out my hand and touched one of the barbed wire stakes. It was iron. The British are of wood, while the German are iron. My heart stopped beating; by mistake I had crawled back to the German lines.

I turned slowly about and my tunic caught on the wire and made a loud ripping noise.

A sharp challenge rang out. I sprang to my feet, ducking low, and ran madly back toward our lines. The Germans started firing. The bullets were biting all around me, when bang! I ran smash into our wire, and a sharp challenge "'Alt, who comes there?" rang out. I gasped out the password and groping my way through the lane in the wire, tearing my hands and uniform, I tumbled into our trench and was safe, but I was a nervous wreck for an hour, until a drink of rum brought me round.

Next: CHAPTER XVIII -- Staged Under Fire 

New Cat #30 -- April 30, 2016

I took the photo on 09-April-2016.  I almost forgot to post the cat picture again this month.

Friday, April 29, 2016

News of the Week April 29, 1916 -- April 29, 2016

The 29-April-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"just a sample of preparedness at Fort Scott, California.  Infantry at drill before a Selig-Tribune camera."  Fort Winfield Scott was established within the Presidio of San Francisco to command the Artillery District of San Francisco. After World War II, Fort Scott became a sub-post of the Presidio.  My father was stationed here.  "Preparedness" became a popular term as events led towards the US entering the Great War.

"When the 'bos'un' pipes "Coal Ship" the boys get busy.  Caught at Guantanamo Bay by a Pathe man."  Coal burning warships were coaled (loaded with coal) by their crews.

"Fifteen automobile ambulances for service in the battle fields of Russia, the gift of the American Red Cross.  Pathe."  An Orthodox priest blesses the new ambulances.

"Uncle Same is make new arms and legs for the crippled soldiers in Europe.  British supervisor at work.  Universal."  The war led to much new development in the science and art of prosthetics. 

"How the Selig-Tribune gathers Chicago camera news for its semi-weekly.  Editor Jack Wheeler with driver."  Someone who knows more about autos could probably identify this one. 

"Unloading supplies from the States of the U.S.A. field headquarters at Cascas Grande, Mexico.  Mutual News."  The Punitive Expedition chasing Pancho Villa established its headquarters at Casas Grandes, Mexico. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shakespeare, 400 Years -- April 23, 2016

Today is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, on 23-April-1616. He wrote the plays. 

I had read some of the plays before, but I read his complete works one summer while in college. 

We had to memorize Richard III's opening monologue in high school.  I can still recite some of it.  

I played three parts in a high school production of As You Like It.  I can still remember some of my lines. 

Thank you, Master Shakespeare. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

News of the Week April 22, 1916 -- April 22, 2016

The 22-April-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"The good ship Jerome Jones taking to the water for the first time, at Bath, Maine.  Pathe News."  Jerome Jones, a five-masted schooner, was launched on 31-March-1916 by GG Deering.

"Raw! Raw! for Hawvahd! The crimson crew off for first spring practice, and Captain D. P. Morgan."  The Crimson crew went on to win the 23-June-1916 regatta against Yale. 

"The allies of Uncle Sam in the 'Mexican war.'  Troops of Carranza at a noontime pause.  Selig-Tribune." Venustiano Carranza was the leader of the Constitutionlists during the Mexican Revolution and President under the new constitution in 1917.

"Ambulance of Troop G, Eighth Cavalry, picking up wounded in Mexico.  Caught by a Mutual camera reporter."  The 8th Cavalry Regiment participated in the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa. 

"The triple train wreck near Amerst, Ohio, recently in which twenty-five persons were killed.  Pathe News."  On 29-March-1916, three New York Central trains ran into each other in a thick fog.  About 30 people died.  The trains included the Twentieth Century Limited.

"'Getting Villa' American cavalry working their way into the mountains of Mexico.  Hearst-Vitagraph Pictorial."  Pancho Villa withdrew to the mountains to avoid pursuing US cavalry.

Good Night Sweet Prince --

"HORATIO: Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:   
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

-- Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene ii

I sitting at work when a lady in the next aisle asked someone "Did you hear?  The Prince died."  He asked "Which Prince."  She said "You know, the Prince, the singer."

Moments later, a coworker whom I have known for many years instant messaged me from Arizona.  He said "Michael, James Brown, Rick James, now Prince.  All my idols are dying."  I said that at least JB lived to a good old age.  I thought Prince took better care of himself than Rick James.  This was a great shock.

Prince could sing, dance, compose, assemble and lead a band and play a number of instruments, particularly the electric guitar.  He is up there with Duke Ellington as an American composer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lafayette Escadrille 100 -- April 20, 2016
On 20-April-1916, the French Aéronautique Militaire formed the Escadrille Américaine, which was later called the Lafayette Escadrille,a squadron of American volunteer pilots with French mechanics and commanders. Norman Prince, who was already flying for the French, persuaded the French to establish the squadron.

The cover of the March, 1932 Aces features David Putnam, who served as a pilot for France in the Escadrille Lafayette and for the United States during World War One.He was shot down and killed on 12-September-1918.  He received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.
 The cover of the January, 1932 Aces features James Norman Hall, who served as an infantryman for Britain and a pilot for France in the Escadrille Lafayette and for the United States during World War One. He received the Croix de Guerre. Before he went down behind enemy lines and became a prisoner, Hall met fellow pilot Charles Nordhoff. After the war, Nordhoff and Hall wrote Mutiny on the Bounty and other books.

Friday, April 15, 2016

News of the Week April 15, 1916 -- April 15, 2016

The 15-April-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Not a submarine victim.  The wreck of the 'Herman Winter' off Boston.  From the Selig-Tribune News Films."  SS Herman Winter, carrying 800 bales of cotton, caught fire on 14-March-1916.

"Flyers are not so light on their 'feet.'  Freighting one of Uncle Sam's 'planes to Mexico. Pathe News."  The First Aero Squadron used Curtiss JN3s to perform liaison duties and aerial reconnaissance for the punitive expedition.

"Uncle Sam's boys receiving supplies on the troublesome Mexican border.  Scene from Hearst-Vitagraph News."  On 09-March-1916, Pancho Villa attached the town of Columbus, New Mexico:

"Rescue of an adventurous horse who plunged into a New York subway.  Taken from the Universal Weekly."  Sources say that the pavement had to be cut away to free the horse. 

"The first United States dirigible navy airshop, just previous to its first trials.  Pathe News."  This looks like the DN-1, which was based on the Parseval type, but it didn't makes its first flight until 1917.

"Specialists in the business of war.  Scene in the trenches at Solmka, from the Hearst-Vitagraph News."  In 1915, an Allied expeditionary force occupied the Greek port of Salonika to support the Serbians.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pete Rose, 75 -- April 14, 2016

Disgraced baseball star Pete Rose was born 75 years ago today, on 14-April-1941.  "Charlie Hustle" was an apt description for him.  I hated the Cincinnati Reds because they kept beating the Giants for a long period.  I respected most of the players, but Pete Rose seemed to enjoy rubbing people the wrong way.  He holds the all time record for hits, but he should never get into the Hall of Fame because he bet on games in which he played and managed. 

Coincidentally, Pete Rose was born on the same day as beautiful British actress Julie Christie.  They don't have much in common. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Merle Haggard, RIP -- April 9, 2016

I sad to learn of the passing of Merle Haggard.  I was never much of a country fan, but his stuff was good, and my father, who had little use for music liked Hag's music. Haggard was born in Oildale and was a pioneer of the Bakersfield Sound, along with Buck Owens.  His parents migrated from Oklahoma and he grew up poor.  He did time at San Quentin.  He used all that in his art. Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers were big influences. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

News of the Week April 8, 1916 -- April 8, 2016

The 08-April-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Chubby little future Jess Wiilards being weighed at Chicago's Baby Week.  A scene from the Universal Weekly."  National Better Baby Week took place in March, 1916.  Jess Willard was the very large heavyweight champion.

"One of the many varieties of gas masks used in the European war.  Pathe News Weekly."  Gas warfare took place starting early in the war.  I'm not sure this is a soldier in a gas mask.  It may be a Red Cross worker spraying disinfectant. 

"Seminole Indians give the Sun Dance before a big society affair at West Palm Beach, Florida.  Selig-Tribune.  " The Seminole Sun Dance was a festival held in West Palm Beach from 1916 to 1923 to try to get people to come to Florida.

"The cause of the Mexican war of 1916.  Funeral of the Columbus raid victimes.  Hearst-Vitagraph News."  On 09-March-1916, Pancho Villa attached the town of Columbus, New Mexico:

"All aboard the 'Aero sled' and we're off at forty miles an hour.  From the Mutual Weekly."  Not long after World War One, an older uncle of mine and some of his friends put an airplane engine and propeller on an ice boat.  He said it was a wonder they didn't get killed.

"These mermaids of Long Beach, California, may look 'tired' but they're not.  The tires hold 'em up.  Pathé."  Bad pun.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Remembering The Castro Street Cable Car -- April 6, 2016

San Francisco neighborhood news site Hoodline ran an article by Shane Downing: "Remembering The Castro Street Cable Car", in honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of that line.  Shane Downing interviewed me for the article. He wrote a good story and found some excellent photos.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Herb Caen 100 -- April 3, 2016

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen was born in Sacramento on 03-April-1916.  He always claimed that he had been conceived in San Francisco when his parents visited the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  He loved San Francisco and he loved bad puns.  Herb Caen and Peanuts were reasons that I subscribed to the Chronicle for many years.  Restaurant and bar owners often did not like the way he demanded to be comped.  Businesses that made mistakes or treated customers badly hated to be mentioned in his column.  He kept writing until shortly before his death in 1997. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

News of the Week April 1, 1916 -- April 1, 2016

The 01-April-1916 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"The 'boys' at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, near Chicago, awaiting the order to entrain to Mexico.  Selig-Tribune."  These soldiers may have joined the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa.  Fort Sheridan closed in 1993.

"Looks like spring!  Larry Doyle, 'king of second baseman' of New York Giants, at early practice.  Mutual Weekly."  New York Giant Laughing Larry Doyle won the batting title in 1915. 

"A thousand dollars for a dress design.  J. A. Pugh presenting prize to (M)arguerite Johnson, after the Chicago dress-making contest.  Universal Weekly."  Commodore James Pugh put up a $1000 reward for the best American-designed gown.

"Hattie is a dainty girl, but she enjoys playing 'horse' in the snow with the keepers of Central Park, New York.  Pathe News."  It looks as if Hattie is pulling a snow plow. 

"This picture, from the Pathe Weekly, gives an idea of how Villa and his men put the '___l' in Columbus, New Mex."  On 09-March-1916, Pancho Villa attached the town of Columbus, New Mexico:

"This is said to be a good sample of the troops Villa has gathered about him.  Hearst-Vitagraph News Pictorial."

Confederate Heritage Month - April 1, 2016

Fort Pillow Massacre
I wish this was an April Fools' Day joke.  The Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, has declared that April is Confederate Heritage Month.

“Whereas it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and our successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage …”  Notice that the proclamation does not mention slaves or slavery.

To help celebrate Confederate Heritage in Mississippi, here is one of the high points of the Confederacy in that state, the Fort Pillow Massacre.  General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who later founded the Ku Klux Klan, captured the fort on 12-April-1864.  After the garrison of US Colored Troops surrendered and gave up their arms, Forrest and his cavalrymen slaughtered almost every one of them.  Many were castrated and lynched.  

I was happy to learn that the Mississippi NAACP has proposed that May should be Union Army Appreciation Month, to remember honorable men from Mississippi, black and white, who fought against treason: