Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Low Round Trip Fare to New Orleans Account Mardi Gras Celebrations -- February 28, 2017

Morgan City Daily Review, 20-February-1917
Happy Mardi Gras, everyone. The Southern Pacific Railroad offered inexpensive fares to Mardi Gras for people who wanted to celebrate.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Over the Top -- Chapter XXV -- February 27, 2017

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. 

The caterpillar tractors hauling artillery pieces were produced by the Holt Manufacturing Company, which later merged with the CL Best Tractor Company to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company.

I couldn't reproduce his map of the trenches.   

Empey is wrong when he says "There had been no raids or prisoners taken..."  

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

CHAPTER IX -- Suicide Annex  

CHAPTER X -- "The Day's Work" 

CHAPTER XX -   Chats With Fritz
CHAPTER XXI -  "About Turn"
CHAPTER XXII -  Punishments and Machine-Gun Stunts
CHAPTER XXIII -  Gas Attacks and Spies
CHAPTER XXIV - The Firing Squad


REJOINING Atwell after the execution I had a hard time trying to keep my secret from him. I think I must have lost at least ten pounds worrying over the affair.

Beginning at seven in the evening it was our duty to patrol all communication and front-line trenches, making note of unusual occurrences, and arresting anyone who should, to us, appear to be acting in a suspicious manner. We slept during the day.

Behind the lines there was great activity, supplies and ammunition pouring in, and long columns of troops constantly passing. We were preparing for the big offensive, the forerunner of the Battle of the Somme or “Big Push. ”

The never-ending stream of men, supplies, ammunition, and guns pouring into the British lines made a mighty spectacle, one that cannot be described. It has to be witnessed with your own eyes to appreciate its vastness.

At our part of the line the influx of supplies never ended. It looked like a huge snake slowly crawling forward, never a hitch or break, a wonderful tribute to the system and efficiency of Great Britain’s “contemptible little army” of five millions of men.

Huge fifteen-inch guns snaked along, foot by foot, by powerful steam tractors. Then a long line of “four point five” batteries, each gun drawn by six horses, then a couple of “nine point two” howitzers pulled by immense caterpillar engines.

When one of these caterpillars would pass me with its mighty monster in tow, a flush of pride would mount to my face, because I could plainly read on the name plate, “Made in U. S. A.,” and I would remember that if I wore a name plate it would also read, “Made in U. S. A.” Then I would stop to think how thin and straggly that mighty stream would be if all the “Made in U. S. A.” parts of it were withdrawn.

Then would come hundreds of limbers and “G. S.” wagons drawn by sleek, well-fed mules, ridden by sleek, well-fed men, ever smiling, although grimy with sweat and covered with the fine, white dust of the marvellousy well-made French roads.

What a discouraging report the German air men must have taken back to their Division Commanders, and this stream is slowly but surely getting bigger and bigger every day, and the pace is always the same. No slower, no faster, but ever onward, ever forward.

Three weeks before the Big Push of July 1st— as the Battle of the Somme has been called— started, exact duplicates of the German trenches were dug about thirty kilos behind our lines. The layout of the trenches were taken from aeroplane photographs submitted by the Royal Flying Corps. The trenches were correct to the foot; they showed dugouts, saps, barbed wire defences, and danger spots.

Battalions that were to go over in the first waves were sent back for three days to study these trenches, engage in practice attacks, and have night maneuvers. Each man was required to make a map of the trenches and familiarize himself with the names and location of the parts his battalion was to attack.

In the American army non-commissioned officers are put through a course of map making or road sketching, and during my six years’ service in the United States Cavalry, I had plenty of practice in this work, therefore mapping these trenches was a comparatively easy task for me. Each man had to submit his map to the Company Commander to be passed upon, and I was lucky enough to have mine selected as being sufficiently authentic to use in the attack.

No photographs or maps are allowed to leave France, but in this case it appealed to me as a valuable souvenir of the Great War and I managed to smuggle it through. At this time it carries no military importance as the British lines, I am happy to say, have since been advanced beyond this point, so it has been reproduced in this book without breaking any regulation or cautions of the British Army.

The whole attack was rehearsed and rehearsed until we heartily cursed the one who had conceived the idea.

The trenches were named according to a system which made it very simple for Tommy to find, even in the dark, any point in the German lines.

These imitation trenches, or trench models, were well guarded from observation by numerous allied planes which constantly circled above them. No German aeroplane could approach within observing distance. A restricted area was maintained and no civilian was allowed within three miles, so we felt sure that we had a great surprise in store for Fritz.

When we took over the front line we received an awful shock. The Germans displayed signboards over the top of their trench showing the names that we had called their trenches. The signs read “Fair, ” “Fact, ” “Fate,” and “Fancy” and so on, according to the code names on our map. Then to rub it in, they hoisted some more signs which read, “When are you coming over?” or “Come on, we are ready, stupid English.”

It is still a mystery to me how they obtained this knowledge. There had been no raids or prisoners taken, so it must have been the work of spies in our own lines.

Three or four days before the Big Push we tried to shatter Fritz’s nerves by feint attacks, and partially succeeded as the official reports of July 1st show.

Although we were constantly bombarding their lines day and night, still we fooled the Germans several times. This was accomplished by throwing an intense barrage into his lines,—then using smoke shells we would put a curtain of white smoke across No Man’s Land, completely obstructing his view of our trenches, and would raise our curtain of fire as if in an actual attack. All down our trenches the men would shout and cheer, and Fritz would turn loose with machine-gun, rifle, and shrapnel fire, thinking we were coming over.

After three or four of these dummy attacks his nerves must have been near the breaking point.

On June 24, 1916, at 9:40 in the morning our guns opened up, and hell was let loose. The din was terrific, a constant boom-boom-boom in your ear.

At night the sky was a red glare. Our bombardment had lasted about two hours when Fritz started replying. Although we were sending over ten shells to his one, our casualties were heavy. There was a constant stream of stretchers coming out of the communication trenches and burial parties were a common sight.

In the dugouts the noise of the guns almost hurt. You had the same sensation as when riding on the Subway you enter the tube under the river going to Brooklyn—a sort of pressure on the ear drums, and the ground constantly trembling.

The roads behind the trenches were very dangerous because Boche shrapnel was constantly bursting over them. We avoided these dangerous spots by crossing through open fields.

The destruction in the German lines was awful and I really felt sorry for them because I realized how they must be clicking it.

From our front-line trench, every now and again, we could hear sharp whistle blasts in the German trenches. These blasts were the signals for stretcher bearers, and meant the wounding or killing of some German in the service of his Fatherland.

Atwell and I had a tough time of it, patrolling the different trenches at night, but after awhile got used to it.

My old outfit, the Machine Gun Company, was stationed in huge elephant dugouts about four hundred yards behind the front-line trench— they were in reserve. Occasionally I would stop in their dugout and have a confab with my former mates. Although we tried to be jolly, still, there was a lurking feeling of impending disaster. Each man was wondering, if, after the slogan, “Over the top with the best of luck,” had been sounded, would he still be alive or would he be lying “somewhere in France.” In an old dilapidated house, the walls of which were scarred with machine-gun bullets, No. 3 section of the Machine Gun Company had its quarters. The Company’s cooks prepared the meals in this billet. On the fifth evening of the bombardment a German eight-inch shell registered a direct hit on the billet and wiped out ten men who were asleep in the supposedly bomb-proof cellar. They were buried the next day and I attended the funeral.

Next: CHAPTER XXVI -- All Quiet (?) On the Western Front

Sunday, February 26, 2017

First Jazz Record -- February 26, 2017


100 years ago today, on 26-February-1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first known jazz record, "Livery Stable Blues" and "Dixieland Jass Band One-Step," at the Victor studios.  The members of the band were Alcide (Yellow) Nunez (clarinet), Nick LaRocca (cornet), Eddie Edwards (trombone), Henry Ragas (piano) and Tony Spargo (drums). 

Sadly, the ODJB members went on to insist that jazz was invented by white people, specifically themselves.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

1953 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 5 (Berlinetta Aerodynamica Technica) -- February 23, 2017

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos. The 1953 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 5 (Berlinetta Aerodynamica Technica).  The B.A.T. 5, an aerodynamic concept car, was designed and built by Franco Scaglione and Nuccio Bertone.  Despite the number 5, it was the first of the B.A.T. series.  (051/dsc_0123)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Battle Stories -- February 21, 2017


The January, 1929 Battle Aces included the story "Lyons of the Cloud Patrol" -- good title.  Author Raoul Whitfield trained as a flier during World War One.  This issue included a story by Arthur Guy Empey, who turns up a lot in this blog. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Executive Order 9066 -- February 19, 2017

Seventy-five years ago today, on 19-February-1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which set up military zones in the United States and allowed for the internment of Japanese-Americans and for restrictions on German-Americans and Italian-Americans. 

When I grew up, many neighbors and parents of friends had been interned.  They generally did not want to talk about it. My Italian-American grandmother had to follow a strict curfew. 

When I was in college, we argued about whether this was necessary.  It was not.  There was Japanese spying and sabotage in Hawaii, but they didn't intern Japanese-Hawaiians because it would have destroyed the economy. 

Third Annnual Buster Keaton Blogathon -- February 19, 2017

Lea at Silent-ology is hosting the Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon:

My entry for the blogathon is on my movies-mostly blog, The Big V Riot Squad:
Buster Keaton: From Stage to Screen

 I write about Buster Keaton and his transition from the family act in vaudeville to making movies with Roscoe Arbuckle.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Book: Somme 1916 -- February 17, 2017

I read Paul Kendall's book Somme 1916, which takes a detailed look at the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.  Kendall writes from the British point of view, panning from the left end of the line where there was a diversion, to the left and center where there was hopeless slaughter, to the right where there was some success.

The book begins with an introduction to the British Army in the early war, explaining the distinctions among the Regular Army, the Territorials, and Kitchener's New Army.  It shows the conflicts that took place during the planning for the battle.  The first part concludes with the week-long preliminary bombardment.

Parts 2 through 7 cover the sector assigned to each corps.  The stories of young men, officers, NCOs and enlisted, getting mown down by German machine guns and artillery gets depressing.  Stories of individual bravery make it a bit easier to read.  One chapter is dedicated to the horrible Livens Flame Projectors, which were giant flamethrowers that had to be buried in the ground in No Man's Land.

Part 8 evaluates the battle.  Kendall feels that the effort, which helped lead to the later German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, was worth it. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Professor Irwin Corey, RIP -- February 15, 2017

I was sad to see that we have lost Professor Irwin Corey, the World's Foremost Authority.  He was only 102.  He played the hungry i in San Francisco. 

I wanted to create an act like his. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Al Jarreau, RIP -- February 13, 2017


I was driving to my mom's house Sunday morning and Keith Hines played "Something That You Said/A Remark That You Made" on KCSM; after he announced that Al Jarreau died that morning.

He had a beautiful voice.  He managed to cross over and have success as a pop artist.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, President Lincoln -- February 12, 2017

Saturday Evening Post, 12-February-1944

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 208th birthday. My favorite president.

"How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

The cover of the 12-February-1944 Saturday Evening Post.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wake Up -- February 11, 2017

Motion Picture World, 01-August-1914

In honor of the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rooster, here is the Pathé rooster, symbol of the second-oldest movie production company in the world.  Pathé Frères was founded in 1896 by Charles, Émile, Théophile and Jacques Pathé.

The San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade is tonight.   The parade has taken place since the 1860s. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Bark Carrolton Was in Trouble -- February 9, 2017

San Francisco Call, March 15, 1897

The drawing is from the 15-March-1897 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.  The Battleship Oregon was built by the Union Iron Works in San Francisco.  Oregon served in the fleet that destroyed the Spanish fleet at Santiago de Cuba. In 1915 she visited the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Starting in 1925, she was preserved at Portland, Oregon as a museum ship. When World War II broke out, she was scrapped.

After Making a Picturesque Entry She Went Adrift.
Collided With the Battle-Ship Oregon, but Did Very Little Damage.

The American bark Carrolton made a most picturesque entry into port last Friday, but she did not look so well yesterday morning when she was afoul of the battle-ship Oregon. The red-stack tug Sea King separated the two vessels and the Carrolton is again at her anchorage. 

As the Carroiton was making the Golden Gate the moon broke through the clouds and showed her the way in. She was brought to an anchor off Folsom-street wharf, but during the night fouled her anchor. The turn of the tide set her adrift, and the first thing the crew knew about the accident was when she bumped up against the Oregon. Neither vessel was damaged to any extent and the Carrolton will dock to-day to discharge her cargo of coal.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Martin Bomber -- February 7, 2017

Aerial Age Weekly, 15-September-1919
The 15-September-1919 issue of Aerial Age Weekly featureda Glenn L Martin Company ad for the Martin Bomber.  The Martin MB-1 was the first American designed and built heavy bomber.  I have always liked its appearance.  The Army Air Service used 10 MB-1s and the Navy and Marine Corps used 10, designated MBT or MT, as torpedo bombers. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Killed the First Day of the Somme -- Gilbert Waterhouse -- February 5, 2017

On 01-July-2016, I missed the opportunity to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  More British soldiers died on that day than on any other day in history.  I thought to make up for it, I would write about some of the poets who died that day.  There were a lot.

Gilbert Waterhouse was an architect who served in the Second Battalion of the Essex Regiment.  He was reported wounded and missing on the first day of the battle.  His body was recovered after the battle.

I had trouble finding examples of his work. 

The image is from the movie The Battle of the Somme.


Coming in splendor thro' the golden gate 
Of all the days, swift passing, one by one, 
Oh, silent planet, thou hast gazed upon 
How many harvestings, dispassionate? 
Across the many-furrowed fields of Fate, 
Wrapt in the mantle of oblivion, 
The old, gray, wrinkled Husbandman has gone, 
Sowing and reaping, lone and desolate— 
The blare of trumpets, rattle of the drum, 
Disturb him not at all—He sees, 
Between the hedges of the centuries, 
A thousand phantom armies go and come, 
While Reason whispers as each marches past, 
"This is the last of wars,—this is the last 1"

Lieut. Gilbert Waterhouse.

Friday, February 3, 2017

US Breaks Relations With Germany -- February 3, 2017

Chicago Day Book, 03-February-1917

100 years ago today, the United States broke diplomatic relations with the German Empire after Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare.  


Gerard Is Recalled -- Swiss Minister Takes Charge of Teuton Affairs -- President Addresses Congress -- May Avoid Actual War Unless Germany Sink U. S. Ship --Navy Yards Guarded. 

Washington, Feb. 3. -- President Wilson told congress this afternoon he had instructed Secretary of State Lansing to break off diplomatic relations with Germany.

Ambassador Gerard and all American consuls have been recalled from Germany.

German Ambassador Von Bernstotff was handed his passports at 1 :57 this afternoon.

The Swiss minister has taken over all business of the German legation.

In view of the German declaration for ruthless submarine warfare, the president declared no course was left open except to break relations with Germany.

He declared all neutrals should follow the example of the United States.

War, said the president, was not an inevitable outcome of the severance of relations.

He hoped the German government would make no attack on American ships and seamen.

The United States, he saidy stood for right and justice.

The United States is not self seeking in its attitude toward Germany he declared.

Unless driven to it by Germany, force may still be avoided in maintaining the safety of U. S. ships and upholding American rights and ideas.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Happy Groundhog Day 2017 -- February 2, 2017

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone.  This groundhog does not look very happy.  For some reason he reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock.