Friday, March 31, 2017

Over the Top -- Chapter XXVI -- March 31, 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. 

From "Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches" by Empey:    
"Strafeing." Tommy's chief sport—shelling the Germans. Taken from Fritz's own dictionary.

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 XI -- Over the Top CHAPTER XII -- Bombing  
CHAPTER XIII -- My First Official Bath    
CHAPTER XIV -- Picks and Shovels
CHAPTER XV -- Listening Post
CHAPTER XVI -- Battery D 238
CHAPTER XVII -- Out in Front  
CHAPTER XVIII - Staged Under Fire CHAPTER XIX - On His Own 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
CHAPTER XXV - Preparing For the Big Push


AT Brigade Headquarters I happened to overhear a conversation between our G. O. C. (General Officer Commanding) and the Divisional Commander. From this conversation I learned that we were to bombard the German lines for eight days, and on the first of July the "Big Push" was to commence.

In a few days orders were issued to that effect, and it was common property all along the line.

On the afternoon of the eighth day of our strafeing, Atwell and I were sitting in the frontline trench smoking fags and making out our reports of the previous night's tour of the trenches, which we had to turn in to headquarters the following day, when an order was passed down the trench that Old Pepper requested twenty volunteers to go over on a trench raid that night to try and get a few German prisoners for information purposes. I immediately volunteered for this job, and shook hands with Atwell, and went to the rear to give my name to the officers in charge of the raiding party.

I was accepted, worse luck.

At 9:40 that night we reported to the Brigade Headquarters dugout to receive instructions from Old Pepper.

"All I want you boys to do is to go over to the German lines to-night, surprise them, secure a couple of prisoners, and return immediately. Our artillery has bombarded that section of the line for two days and personally I believe that that part of the German trench is unoccupied, so just get a couple of prisoners and return as quickly as possible."

The Sergeant on my right, in an undertone, whispered to me:

"Say, Yank, how are we going to get a'couple of prisoners if the old fool thinks 'personally that that part of the trench is unoccupied,'—sounds kind of fishy, doesn't it mate?"

I had a funny sinking sensation in my stomach, and my tin hat felt as if it weighed about a ton and my enthusiasm was melting away. Old Pepper must have heard the Sergeant speak because he turned in his direction and in a thundering voice asked:

"What did you say?"

The Sergeant with a scared look on his face and his knees trembling, smartly saluted and answered: "Nothing, sir." Old Pepper said:

"Well, don't say it so loudly the next time."

Then Old Pepper continued:

"In this section of the German trenches there are two or three machine guns which our artillery, in the last two or three days, has been unable to tape. These guns command the sector where two of our communication trenches join the front line, and as the brigade is to go over the top tomorrow morning I want to capture two or three men from these guns' crews, and from them I may be able to obtain valuable information as to the exact location of the guns, and our artillery will therefore be able to demolish them before the attack, and thus prevent our losing a lot of men while using these communication trenches to bring up reinforcements."

These were the instructions he gave us: "Take off your identification disks, strip your uniforms of all numerals, insignia, etc., leave your papers with your captains, because I don't want the Boches to know what regiments are against them as this would be valuable information to them in our attack to-morrow and I don't want any of you to be taken alive. What I want is two prisoners and if I get them I have a way which will make them divulge all necessary information as to their guns. You have your choice of two weapons—you may carry your 'persuaders' or your knuckle knives, and each man will arm himself with four Mills bombs, these to be used only in case of emergency."

A persuader is Tommy's nickname for a club carried by the bombers. It is about two feet long, thin at one end and very thick at the other. The thick end is studded with sharp steel spikes, while through the center of the club there is a nine-inch lead bar, to give it weight and balance. When you get a prisoner all you have to do is just stick this club up in front of him, and believe me, the prisoner's patriotism for Deutschland ueber Alles fades away and he very willingly obeys the orders of his captor. If, however, the prisoner gets high-toned and refuses to follow you, simply "persuade" him by first removing his tin hat, and then—well, the use of the lead weight in the persuader is demonstrated, and Tommy looks for another prisoner.

The knuckle knife is a dagger affair, the blade of which is about eight inches long with a heavy steel guard over the grip. This guard is studded with steel projections. At night in a trench, which is only about three to four feet wide, it makes a very handy weapon. One punch in the face generally shatters a man's jaw and you can get him with the knife as he goes down.

Then we had what we called our "come-alongs." These are strands of barbed wire about three feet long, made into a noose at one end; at the other end, the barbs are cut off and Tommy slips his wrist through a loop to get a good grip on the wire. If the prisoner wants to argue the point, why just place the large loop around his neck and no matter if Tommy wishes to return to his trenches at the walk, trot, or gallop, Fritz is perfectly agreeable to maintain Tommy's rate of speed.

We were ordered to black our faces and hands. For this reason: at night, the English and Germans use what they call star shells, a sort of rocket affair. These are fired from a large pistol about twenty inches long, which is held over the sandbag parapet of the trench, and discharged into the air. These star shells attain a height of about sixty feet, and a range of from fifty to seventy-five yards. When they hit the ground they explode, throwing out a strong calcium light which lights up the ground in a circle of a radius of between ten to fifteen yards. They also have a parachute star shell which, after reaching a height of about sixty feet, explodes. A parachute unfolds and slowly floats to the ground, lighting up a large circle in No Man's Land. The official name of the star shell is a "Very-light." Very-lights are used to prevent night surprise attacks on the trenches. If a star shell falls in front of you, or between you and the German lines, you are safe from detection, as the enemy cannot see you through the bright curtain of light. But if it falls behind you and, as Tommy says, "you get into the star shell zone," then the fun begins; you have to lie flat on your stomach and remain absolutely motionless until the light of the shell dies out. This takes anywhere from forty to seventy seconds. If you haven't time to fall to the ground you must remain absolutely still in whatever position you were in when the light exploded; it is advisable not to breathe, as Fritz has an eye like an eagle when he thinks you are knocking at his door. When a star shell is burning in Tommy's rear he can hold his breath for a week.

You blacken your face and hands so that the light from the star shells will not reflect on your pale face. In a trench raid there is quite sufficient reason for your face to be pale. If you don't believe me, try it just once.

Then another reason for blacking your face and hands is that, after you have entered the German trench at night, "white face" means Germans, "black face" English. Coming around a traverse you see a white face in front of you. With a prayer and wishing Fritz "the best o' luck," you introduce him to your "persuader" or knuckle knife.

A little later we arrived at the communication trench named Whiskey Street, which led to the fire trench at the point we were to go over the top and out in front.

In our rear were four stretcher bearers and a Corporal of the R. A. M. C. carrying a pouch containing medicines and first-aid appliances. Kind of a grim reminder to us that our expedition was not going to be exactly a picnic. The order of things was reversed. In civilian life the doctors generally come first, with the undertakers tagging in the rear and then the insurance man, but in our case, the undertakers were leading, with the doctors trailing behind, minus the insurance adjuster.

The presence of the R. A. M. C. men did not seem to disturb the raiders, because many a joke, made in an undertone, was passed along the winding column, as to who would be first to take a ride on one of the stretchers. This was generally followed by a wish that, if you were to be the one, the wound would be a "cushy Blighty one."

The stretcher bearers, no doubt, were hoping that, if they did have to carry anyone to the rear, he would be small and light. Perhaps they looked at me when wishing, because I could feel an uncomfortable, boring sensation between my shoulder blades. They got their wish all right.

Going up this trench, about every sixty yards or so we would pass a lonely sentry, who in a whisper would wish us "the best o' luck, mates." We would blind at him under our breaths; that Jonah phrase to us sounded very ominous.

Without any casualties the minstrel troop arrived in Suicide Ditch, the front-line trench. Previously, a wiring party of the Royal Engineers had cut a lane through our barbed wire to enable us to get out into No Man's Land.

Crawling through this lane, our party of twenty took up an extended-order formation about one yard apart. We had a tap code arranged for our movements while in No Man's Land, because for various reasons it is not safe to carry on a heated conversation a few yards in front of Fritz's lines. The officer was on the right of the line, while I was on the extreme left. Two taps from the right would be passed down the line until I received them, then I would send back one tap. The officer, in receiving this one tap, would know that his order had gone down the whole line, had been understood, and that the party was ready to obey the two-tap signal. Two taps meant that we were to crawl forward slowly—and believe me, very slowly—for five yards, and then halt to await further instructions. Three taps meant, when you arrived within striking distance of the German trench, rush it and inflict as many casualties as possible, secure a couple of prisoners, and then back to your own lines with the speed clutch open. Four taps meant, "I have gotten you into a position from which it is impossible for me to extricate you, so you are on your own."

After getting Tommy into a mess on the western front he is generally told that he is "on his own." This means, "Save your skin in any way possible." Tommy loves to be "on his own" behind the lines, but not during a trench raid.

The star shells from the German lines were falling in front of us, therefore we were safe. After about twenty minutes we entered the star shell zone. A star shell from the German lines fell about five yards in the rear and to the right of me; we hugged the ground and held our breath until it burned out. The smoke from the star shell traveled along the ground and crossed over the middle of our line. Some Tommy sneezed. The smoke had gotten up his nose. We crouched on the ground, cursing the offender under our breath, and waited the volley that generally ensues when the Germans have heard a noise in No Man's Land. Nothing happened. We received two taps and crawled forward slowly for five yards; no doubt the officer believed what Old Pepper had said, "Personally I believe that that part of the German trench is unoccupied." By being careful and remaining motionless when the star shells fell behind us, we reached the German barbed wire without mishap. Then the fun began. I was scared stiff as it is ticklish work cutting your way through wire when about thirty feet in front of you there is a line of Boches looking out into No Man's Land with their rifles lying across the parapet, straining every sense to see or hear what is going on in No Man's Land; because at night, Fritz never knows when a bomb with his name and number on it will come hurtling through the air, aimed in the direction of Berlin. The man on the right, one man in the center, and myself on the extreme left were equipped with wire cutters. These are insulated with soft rubber, not because the German wires are charged with electricity, but to prevent the cutters rubbing against the barbed wire stakes, which are of iron, and making a noise which may warn the inmates of the trench that someone is getting fresh in their front yard. There is only one way to cut a barbed wire without noise and through costly experience Tommy has become an expert in doing this. You must grasp the wire about two inches from the stake in your right hand and cut between the stake and your hand.

If you cut a wire improperly, a loud twang will ring out on the night air like the snapping of a banjo string. Perhaps this noise can be heard only for fifty or seventy-five yards, but in Tommy's mind it makes a loud noise in Berlin.

We had cut a lane about halfway through the wire when, down the center of our line, twang! went an improperly cut wire. We crouched down, cursing under our breath, trembling all over, our knees lacerated from the strands of the cut barbed wire on the ground, waiting for a challenge and the inevitable volley of rifle fire. Nothing happened. I suppose the fellow who cut the barbed wire improperly was the one who had sneezed about half an hour previously. What we wished him would never make his new year a happy one.

The officer, in my opinion, at the noise of the wire should have given the four-tap signal, which meant, "On your own, get back to your trenches as quickly as possible," but again he must have relied on the spiel that Old Pepper had given us in the dugout, "Personally I believe that that part of the German trench is unoccupied." Anyway, we got careless, but not so careless that we sang patriotic songs or made any unnecessary noise.

During the intervals of falling star shells we carried on with our wire cutting until at last we succeeded in getting through the German barbed wire. At this point we were only ten feet from the German trenches. If we were discovered, we were like rats in a trap. Our way was cut off unless we ran along the wire to the narrow lane we had cut through. With our hearts in our mouths we waited for the three-tap signal to rush the German trench. Three taps had gotten about halfway down the line when suddenly about ten to twenty German star shells were fired all along the trench and landed in the barbed wire in rear of us, turning night into day and silhouetting us against the wall of light made by the flares. In the glaring light we were confronted by the following unpleasant scene.

All along the German trench, at about three-foot intervals, stood a big Prussian guardsman with his rifle at the aim, and then we found out why we had not been challenged when the man sneezed and the barbed wire had been improperly cut. About three feet in front of the trench they had constructed a single fence of barbed wire and we knew our chances were one thousand to one of returning alive. We could not rush their trench on account of this second defence. Then in front of me the challenge, "Halt," given in English rang out, and one of the finest things I have ever heard on the western front took place.

From the middle of our line some Tommy answered the challenge with, "Aw, go to hell." It must have been the man who had sneezed or who had improperly cut the barbed wire; he wanted to show Fritz that he could die game. Then came the volley. Machine guns were turned loose and several bombs were thrown in our rear. The Boche in front of me was looking down his sight. This fellow might have, under ordinary circumstances, been handsome, but when I viewed him from the front of his rifle he had the goblins of childhood imagination relegated to the shade.

Then came a flash in front of me, the flare of his rifle—and my head seemed to burst. A bullet had hit me on the left side of my face about half an inch from my eye, smashing the cheek bones. I put my hand to my face and fell forward, biting the ground and kicking my feet. I thought I was dying, but do you know, my past life did not unfold before me the way it does in novels.

The blood was streaming down my tunic, and the pain was awful. When I came to I said to myself, "Emp, old boy, you belong in Jersey City and you'd better get back there as quickly as possible."

The bullets were cracking overhead. I crawled a few feet back to the German barbed wire, and in a stooping position, guiding myself by the wire, I went down the line looking for the lane we had cut through. Before reaching this lane I came to a limp form which seemed like a bag of oats hanging over the wire. In the dim light I could see that its hands were blackened, and knew it was the bcdy of one of my mates. I put my hand on his head, the top of which had been blown off by a bomb. My fingers sank into the hole. I pulled my hand back full of blood and brains, then I went crazy with fear and horror and rushed along the wire until I came to our lane. I had just turned down this lane when something inside of me seemed to say, "Look around." I did so; a bullet caught me on the left shoulder. It did not hurt much, just felt as if someone had punched me in the back, and then my left side went numb. My arm was dangling like a rag. I fell forward in a sitting position. But all fear had left me and I was consumed with rage and cursed the German trenches. With my right hand I felt in my tunic for my first-aid or shell dressing. In feeling over my tunic my hand came in contact with one of the bombs which I carried. Gripping it, I pulled the pin out with my teeth and blindly threw it towards the German trench. I must have been out of my head because I was only ten feet from the trench and took a chance of being mangled. If the bomb had failed to go into the trench I would have been blown to bits by the explosion of my own bomb.

By the flare of the explosion of the bomb, which luckily landed in their trench, I saw one big Boche throw up his arms and fall backwards, while his rifle flew into the air. Another one wilted and fell forward across the sandbags— then blackness.

Realizing what a foolhardy and risky thing I had done, I was again seized with a horrible fear. I dragged myself to my feet and ran madly down the lane through the barbed wire, stumbling over cut wires, tearing my uniform, and lacerating my hands and legs. Just as I was about to reach No Man's Land again, that same voice seemed to say, "Turn around." I did so, when, "crack," another bullet caught me, this time in the left shoulder about one half inch away from the other wound. Then it was taps for me. The lights went out.

When I came to I was crouching in a hole in No Man's Land. This shell hole was about three feet deep, so that it brought my head a few inches below the level of the ground. How I reached this hole I will never know. German "typewriters" were traversing back and forth in No Man's Land, the bullets biting the edge of my shell hole and throwing dirt all over me.

Overhead, shrapnel was bursting. I could hear the fragments slap the ground. Then I went out once more. When I came to, everything was silence and darkness in No Man's Land. I was soaked with blood and a big flap from the wound in my cheek was hanging over my mouth. The blood running from this flap choked me. Out of the corner of my mouth I would try and blow it back but it would not move. I reached for my shell dressing and tried, with one hand, to bandage my face to prevent the flow. I had an awful horror of bleeding to death and was getting very faint. You would have laughed if you had seen my ludicrous attempts at bandaging with one hand. The pains in my wounded shoulder were awful and I was getting sick at the stomach. I gave up the bandaging stunt as a bad job, and then fainted.

When I came to, hell was let loose. An intense bombardment was on, and on the whole my position was decidedly unpleasant. Then, suddenly, our barrage ceased. The silence almost hurt, but not for long, because Fritz turned loose with shrapnel, machine guns, and rifle fire. Then all along our line came a cheer and our boys came over the top in a charge. The first wave was composed of "Jocks." They were a magnificent sight, kilts flapping in the wind, bare knees showing, and their bayonets glistening. In the first wave that passed my shell hole, one of the "Jocks," an immense fellow, about six feet two inches in height, jumped right over me. On the right and left of me several soldiers in colored kilts were huddled on the ground, then over came the second wave, also "Jocks." One young Scottie, when he came abreast of my shell hole, leaped into the air, his rifle shooting out of his hands, landing about six feet in front of him, bayonet first, and stuck in the ground, the butt trembling. This impressed me greatly.

Right now I can see the butt of that gun trembling. The Scottie made a complete turn in the air, hit the ground, rolling over twice, each time clawing at the earth, and then remained still, about four feet from me, in a sort of sitting position. I called to him, "Are you hurt badly, Jock?" but no answer. He was dead. A dark, red smudge was coming through his tunic right under the heart. The blood ran down his bare knees, making a horrible sight. On his right side he carried his water bottle. I was crazy for a drink and tried to reach this, but for the life of me could not negotiate that four feet. Then I became unconscious. When I woke up I was in an advanced first-aid post. I asked the doctor if we had taken the trench. "We took the trench and the wood beyond, all right," he said, "and you fellows did your bit; but, my lad, that was thirty-six hours ago. You were lying in No Man's Land in that bally hole for a day and a half. It's a wonder you are alive." He also told me that out of the twenty that were in the raiding party, seventeen were killed. The officer died of wounds in crawling back to our trench and I was severely wounded, but one fellow returned without a scratch without any prisoners. No doubt this chap was the one who had sneezed and improperly cut the barbed wire.

In the official communique our trench raid was described as follows:

"All quiet on the Western front, excepting in the neighborhood of Gommecourt Wood, where one of our raiding parties penetrated into the German lines."

It is needless to say that we had no use for our persuaders or come-alongs, as we brought back no prisoners, and until I die Old Pepper's words, "Personally I don't believe that that part of the German trench is occupied," will always come to me when I hear some fellow trying to get away with a fishy statement. I will judge it accordingly.

Next: CHAPTER XXVII -- Blighty

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cy Young 150 -- March 29, 2017

Our Young People, July, 1905

Happy 150th birthday to Cy Young, the pitcher who won more games (511) and lost more games (316) than any other major leaguer.  Denton True Young was born on 29-March-1867.  He played in the major leagues from 1890 to 1911.  "Cy" was short for "Cyclone." 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon -- March 27, 2017

Fritzi at Movies Silently ( is hosting the Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon:

Fritzi says that "It’s time to give these talented women their moment in the sun and the Early Women Filmmakers Blogathon aims to do just that. This is a topic that is dear to my heart and I am just tickled pink to be hosting!"

My entry for the blogathon is on my movies-mostly blog, The Big V Riot Squad:
Dorothy Davenport: Her Life and Career

Dorothy Davenport, who was often billed as Mrs Wallace Reid, was an actress, director and screenwriter. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rufus Thomas 100 -- March 26, 2017
Happy 100th birthday to Rufus Thomas, the World's Oldest Teenager.  He was a disk jockey at WDIA, Memphis, who had great success in the south.  He made many hits at Stax Records, often with his daughter, Carla.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 World Baseball Classic -- March 23, 2017

I have been enjoying the World Baseball Classic coverage on the MLB Network.  The US made the finals for the first time.  They defeated Puerto Rico 8-0 in the final. 

Giants players like Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have done well.  Mark Melancon pitched once.  Ex-Giants like Sergio Romo and Nori Aoki have done well. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr 150 -- March 21, 2017

Flo Ziegeld, American impresario, was born 150 years ago today, on 21-March-1867.  Early in his career, he promoted strongman Eugen Sandow.  Then he brought singer and dancer Anna Held over from France.

Anna Held gave him the idea of producing a Broadway revue, the Ziegfeld Follies.

Ziegfeld hired major composers like Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert and Rudolph Friml.
Photoplay, March, 1930

Ziegfeld hired major comedians like Fanny Brice, WC Fields, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers.
Ziegfeld hired many female stars, like Marilyn Miller, Lillian Lorraine and Ruth Etting.
Ziegfeld hired many beautiful girls like Muriel Finley and Peggy Shannon to serve in the chorus.  They became known as Ziegfeld Girls.  The photos are by Alfred Cheney Johnston.
 And of course he married Billie Burke.  Lucky guy. 

The Follies ran every year from 1907 to 1931.  Ziegfeld also produced big musicals like Whoopee, Rio Rita, Show Boat and Sally.

The Great Depression ruined Ziegfeld.  He died in 1932, leaving Billie Burke with a young daughter, a mountain of debt and an elephant.  She went back to the movies to support her daughter and pay the debts.  I think she sold the elephant. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry, RIP -- March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry died.  He was influenced by Louis Jordan and T-Bone Walker.  He influenced everyone.  He kept going and going.  He has an album coming out this year.

Lots of people said he was a miserable sob to deal with, but amazingly talented.

Happy Saint Joseph's Day, 2017 -- March 19, 2017

Happy Saint Joseph's Day to my fellow Joes.

I miss having Joe Biden as our Vice President.  He has a big heart.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

James Cotton, RIP -- March 18, 2017

I was sad to learn of the death of blues harp player James Cotton.  I think I first heard him on a Muddy Waters album.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, 2017 -- March 17, 2017
Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone.

The original Life Magazine was a humorous weekly that was published from 1883 to 1936.  Here is the cover of their 16-March-1922 edition.  Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth -- March 15, 2017

This year, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is calling it quits after about 147 years. PT Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome was formed by Dan Castello in 1875, using Barnum's name and money. Later Castello and his partner William C Coup adopted the tagline "Greatest Show on Earth."The Ringling Brothers purchased the show in 1907 and combined it with their own circus in 1919. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen -- March 13, 2017

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos.They hosted a working reproduction of the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, the first automobile available for sale.  Karl Benz and his associates in Mannheim built the tricycle with a four-stroke, one-cylinder gasolene engine.  It has a single speed transmission with no reverse gear.

Karl's wife Bertha drove the car 106km to visit her mother, demonstrating that a woman, accompanied only by two children, could operate such a vehicle.  Benz sold about 25 Motorwagens.  Later models had reverse gears. 

Single cylinder engines need large flywheels. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Play Ball" in Mutual Weekly -- March 11, 2017

Moving Picture World, 24-March-1917

Here we see the Chicago Cubs taking Spring Training in Pasadena, California.  The players in the photo are pitchers Phil Douglas, Claude Hendrix and Hippo Vaughn. 

On 02-May-1917, in Chicago, Vaughn and the Cincinnati Reds' Fred Toney each gave up no hits for nine innings.  In the tenth, the Reds scored on a hit by Jim Thorpe.  Vaughn lost the game. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Destroyer -- March 9, 2017
With his devil's face, a skull logo on his chest and those awful striped tights, the Destroyer  looks like a bad guy, but you'll notice he is tearing down a swastika flag and attacking some Nazis, one of whom is whipping an old man.  American reporter Keen Marlow went to Germany in 1941 to investigate the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis.  He was locked in a concentration camp.  An elderly scientist who had resisted the Nazis gave Keen an injection which gave him super powers.  The scientist died and Keen broke out of the camp and took vengeance on the Nazis. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Count Zeppelin Dies Near Berlin -- March 8, 2017

Washington Evening Star, 09-March-1917
This article, from the 09-March-1917 Washington Evening Star, details the death of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, inventor and namesake of the rigid airship known as the Zeppelin.  The Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen was finally established in 1996. 

Famous Inventor of Dirigible
Victim of Lung Affection,
Says Berlin Dispatch.

By the Associated Press.
LONDON, March 9. -- Count Zeppelin is dead. according to a dispatch from Berlin received by Reuter's Telegram Company. A Berlin telegram transmitted by Reuter's Amsterdam correspondent says Count Zeppelin died yesterday in Charlottenburg, near Berlin, from inflammation of the lungs.

Count Zeppelin was suffering from dysentery for some time prior to his death and a complication of the malady necessitated an intestinal operation, according to a Berlin dispatch to Reuter's by way of Amsterdam. The operation was successful and his recovery was hoped for when mumps developed and later inflammation of the lungs. It was difficult for him to receive nourishment and his power of resistance was considerably weakened. The critical point in his illness was reached a few days ago, and he died at noon yesterday.

The morning newspapers today print long obituaries of Count Zeppelin, whose career is reviewed in most instances dispassionately and in some cases with tributes to his patriotism and perseverance. Justice is done by the writers to the remarkable development of the Zeppelin airship as a traveling  machine, although the achievements in aerial navigation associated with Count Zeppelin's name are ascribed to his engineers rather than to himself.

 Met Many Disappointments.

The reputed ambition of Count Zeppelin to lay London in ruin and his alleged confidence in the ability of his machines to achieve this object are recalled, while failure to realise such an ambition is regarded by some of the writers a sufficient ground on which to base the statement that Zeppelin's
career of strange vicissitudes ended in dissolution and defeat at one of the lowest points in his fluctuating fortunes. His least appreciative commentator says: "His chief feat is that he killed or wounded 1,500 British citizens, mostly non-combatants, by disloyal means and gave Germany her greatest disappointment of the war.

The vituperative vein, however, is inconspicuous in most of the reviews. In one of them it is contended that Count Zeppelin realized his ambitions to an extraordinary degree, and that, with the help of his engineers, he developed a machine which is unique in some respects and which, since the war, exploded the fallacy that the giant rigid airships are useless.

Count Ferdinand Zeppelin became famous at the age of seventy as the builder of the world's first practical dirigible balloon. On his seventy-fifth birthday he navigated his twentieth airship to celebrate the occasion. But before he had achieved fame he had devoted a half century of his life, exhausted his personal fortune of $750,000 and sacrificed a brilliant career as a German cavalry leader in conquering the air.

Emperor William recently proclaimed Count Zeppelin to be "the greatest German of the twentieth century." As a token of appreciation he conferred upon him the exalted Order of the Black Eagle, the highest honor in the emperor's power.

Made First Ascension in U. S.

It was in the United States that Count Zeppelin made his first balloon ascension. It occurred while he was following Gen. Carl Schurz in the civil war as a military observer for the German army. A captive balloon, in use for military observations by Union troops, greatly interested the young German officer and he was taken up in it in 1863.

Scion of a wealthy family of ancient lineage, Count Zeppelin was born in Constance, Baden, in 1838. As a youth he was trained for a soldier's career. He fought through the Austro-Prussian and the Franco-Prussian wars, and is said to have been the first German soldier to cross the frontier into France in the last named conflict. Serving in the German cavalry for three decades, he rose to a rank of general at the age of forty-two. He retired ten years later, a distinguished soldier, to devote all his
time to the problem of aeronautics.

From a wealthy nobleman owning vast estates. Count Zeppelin was gradually reduced to an aristocratic mechanic living in an humble cottage on an allowance supplied by his friends. He met many narrow escapes from death, and disaster repeatedly overtook his airships.  These became so frequent that pert paragraphs began to appear in the German press in ridicule of his efforts.

Then in a day the tide turned. He electrified a skeptical world in 1908 by staying aloft for thirty-seven hours in the fifth airship he had built, and by sailing it in a straight course for a distance of nearly 900 miles. Emperor William, and all Germany in fact, hailed him as "the conqueror of the air."

Public Subscribed Fund.

This monster balloon, 465 feet long and of the rigid type and resembling a huge cigar, soon met with disaster as had its predecessors. Each wreck was a great financial loss, for Zeppelin's balloons were valued as high as $500,000 each. These disasters, however, also proved the affection in which the
German people held the aristocratic aviator. When one of his airships was torn from its moorings by a gale and wrecked, the public subscribed $1,000,000 to a fund, of which the crown prince was president, for the inventor.  The German emperor frequently helped him out of financial difficulties, and the German reichstag appropriated several hundred thousand marks for the purchase of his airships for the German army.

At the close of his remarkable career Count Zeppelin had retrieved a large part of the fortune ho spent in his conquest of the air. He trained his son, also an army officer, in the science of aeronautics and especially in his methods of building dirigible balloons.

He also made an accomplished aeroaut of his daughter, who has made more than a hundred flights in the airships her father fashioned.  In commemoration of Count Zeppelin, Friedrichshafen, the city from which most of his voyages began, has decided to establish a Zeppelin Museum.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Zeppelin Stories -- March 7, 2017
The cover of the April, 1929 Zeppelin Stories appears to show a Zeppelin attacking a city while fixed-wing airplanes attempt to intercept it.  Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the death of inventor Ferdinand von Zeppelin. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Samuel F Cody 150 -- March 6, 2017

Samuel Franklin Cody (born Cowdery) was born 150 years ago today, on 06-March-1867.  Cody was an American emigree who built and flew British Army Aeroplane Number 1 in 1908. This shows him with his wife, Maud Maria Cody. She does not look comfortable.

Cody died while testing a floatplane of his own design on 07-August-1913. 

The image comes from a wonderful resource, all issues of Flight magazine from 1909 to 2005:

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Slid Through the Water Like an Arrow Let Loose -- March 5, 2017

San Francisco Call, 20-April-1899

The drawing is from the 15-March-1897 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. Tug Fearless was built for John D Spreckels Brothers and Company by San Francisco's Union Iron Works.  The Spreckels company engaged in trade between the mainland United States and Hawaii. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Reaching the Stars by Aeroplane -- March 3, 2017

Aerial Age Weekly, 24-April-1922

ONE of the dreams of the average movie fan is to gain an interview with his or her favorite star; to sit down in a quiet little corner and ask all the intimate questions he or she has wanted to for a long time. But, to the layman, most of the screen lights are harder to reach than a bank president during a Bolshevik riot. Only in exceptional cases does the admirer of the silver sheet get a chance to get in personal contact with the luminaries of the silent drama.

One of the surest ways, figuratively speaking, of getting the ear of a star, is to mention aeroplanes. Almost the entire movie colony in Hollywood is aeroplane struck. Directors, stars, scenario writers, authors and even cameramen are aviation enthusiasts, many of them being licensed pilots.

What may come as somewhat of a surprise to many movie fans is that Mary Miles Minter, one of the youngest and best known of the ingenues on the screen today, has qualified for a license as pilot. Miss Minter successfully passed the test over a year ago but parental objection has prevented her from taking advantage of her pilot's card. She is not permitted to ascend with the controls in her own hands.

Cecil B. DeMille, director-general of the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, is one of the pioneers of aviation in the motion picture center of the world. Mr. DeMille, for a long time, was part owner of a passenger aeroplane company which made regular trips from Hollywood to nearby cities. He is also one of the most prominent figures in aviation on the coast and often takes his "bus" out for a few dips and tail spins in order to forget the cares of his office. Mr. DeMille asserts that there is. no better tonic in the world for "that tired feeling."

Dorothy Dalton, star in Paramount Pictures, is another ardent advocate of the "travel by aeroplane" slogan. Miss Dalton's specialty is hydroplaning, for she much prefers the water route than the solid earth below.

A more recent addition to the ranks of the flying stars is Betty Compson, the girl of "The Miracle Man" fame. Although kept extremely busy out on the coast Miss Compson manages to find an occasional hour or so every few days to devote to the thrills of flying. Miss Compson has yet to win her pilot's license but hopes to secure the coveted card before she is many months older.

But perhaps the most enthusiastic, for aviation, of the movie people on the coast is Jeanie Macpherson, scenario writer for Paramount Pictures. Miss Macpherson has been flying for at least three years and is one of the most prominent aviatrices in California. She numbers among her acquaintances many of America's leading aviators, and she has participated in more "stunt" and "circus" flying than any other person connected with the motion pictures who is not paid for risking his or her neck. She has made a number of trips with Ormi Locklear, world famous "stunt" man, from whom she learned many of the finer points of the art of flying. The news of Locklear's tragic death some time ago came as a genuine shock to her. Speaking of Locklear, Miss Macpherson said, "Ormi Locklear was, to my mind, a natural flyer. His judgment in the matter of height, and in that of keeping the plane level, was uncanny. I remember one trip I took with him out on the coast in which he took me out to sea. We unexpectedly ran into a dense fog. I was frightened to death, as we could hardly see each other, but Locklear, without even bothering to consult his instruments, kept right on going, and when he thought we had gone far enough he turned his machine and headed back again.

"If I had had the machine there is no doubt that I would have been flying for Canada, Mexico or the open sea, but in a short time we were out of the mist and to my great surprise, and greater relief, found that we were headed straight for our own landing place. I believe Locklear, with that sixth sense of his, could fly his 'boat' in the dead of night, without a light to guide him, and get through safely. That's why I can't understand some of the reports which were circulated about Locklear losing control of his machine on a difficult loop."

Eddie Rickenbackcr, America's famous ace, is another close friend of Miss Macpherson's. In fact, Rickenbacker was Miss Macpherson's tutor at one time.

The writer knows of a little incident that shows Miss Macpherson's love for flying. Some time ago Miss Macpherson came East preparatory to sailing for Europe for a well deserved vacation. As is the case with all motion picture celebrities of the motion picture world, a great deal of Miss Macpherson's time during her short stay in New York City was taken up by interviewers from newspapers and magazines. One interviewer, who had been in the flying corps overseas, had been pumping Miss Macpherson on the cut and dried subject of scenario writing. The conversation was lagging when the gentleman in question suddenly looked at his watch and mentioned the fact that he would have to leave as he had an appointment with some one at the Aero Club. That proved to be the opening wedge for a conversation that lasted far beyond Miss Macpherson's dinner hour and incidentally, long past the time set for the appointment at the Aero Club. Needless to say, the subject discussed was aeroplanes and, much to the surprise of the ex-service man, Miss Macpherson spoke fluently upon the respective merits of aeroplane motors of foreign and domestic make. The writer can testify to the above fact, for he had to sit through many weary—-to him—-minutes of technical descriptions of the Hipsano Suiza, Liberty, etc. Than which, to the layman, there is nothing more complex.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Killed the First Day of the Somme -- Henry Field -- March 1, 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.

I can't find much information about Henry Field.

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

Above the shot-blown trench he stands,
Tall and thin against the sky;
His thin white face, and thin white hands,
Are the signs his people know him by.
His soldier’s coat is silver barred
And on his head the well-known crest.
Above the shot-blown trench he stands,
The bright escutcheon on his breast,
And traced in silver bone for bone
The likeness of a skeleton.