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tv   American Soldiers on the Western Front  CSPAN  August 31, 2018 9:37pm-10:41pm EDT

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delegations from around the state, from around the country. often they would be special interest groups, coal miners, wheat farmers, cotton farmers, whatever. they would, and harrison would give them a short speech, mostly to their own interest, but something that would resonate with people, generally. he had his own stenographer take down what he said and then he would go over what he said and make sure it was what he wanted people to read. they would give it to the associated press and the next morning it was in newspapers all over the country. up next on american history tv, military historian edward lengel on the experiences of american soldiers on the western front in world war i. he is the author of the book "tran30". the eisenhower
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national historic site in gettysburg, pennsylvania hosted this event. >> good afternoon and welcome to the eisenhower national historic site. this weekend is an opportunity for the public to learn about camp coal, which was a camp training program here at gettysburg national park. as well as world war i reenactors here at the eisenhower farm. next up is edward lengel, a professor in history . he received his phd from the university of virginia where he directed the washington papers project for many years. he served for the white house historical association until recently and he has written several books on both george
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washington and world war i. his latest book will be never in finer company: the men of the great war's lost battalion, which is published in september 2018. he writes regularly for military quarterly, american history, and other history periodicals. he has appeared on national public radio, fox news, history channel and other media outlets. he also appears on the world war i centennial commission's weekly podcast. ed, i want to introduce you and have you do your little talk. >> good afternoon to all of
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you. i want to make sure i have this in the right place, so that you can hear me. am i getting to the folks in the back? can you hear me all right? okay, i want to make sure i don't go over time. we are in distinguished company. i was talking to a gentleman over here who is the great grandnephew of calvin coolidge and a retired three-star general. great-nephew of calvin coolidge. and admiral sims, of course, we spoke about that, as well. i am something like an eighth or a ninth cousin of dwight d owes -- of dwight d eisenhower. i was joking with another gentleman that us pennsylvania germans are all related in one way or another. i have had a passion for the first world war for the past 30
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years. this passion originated in the study of history. i have always loved history. i have a little bit of a family connection. i had the honor of meeting his family a few weeks ago in tennessee. they are great, wonderful people, filled with respect. his grandson is a vietnam veteran, colonel. his great-granddaughter still runs the york site, there. his son and daughter-in-law were there, they are wonderful people. for me, the connection with the first world war really originates with a fascination with the human experience of warfare. the human experience of the unprecedented, the unfathomable, the on imaginable. -- the unimaginable.
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this was our entry into a century that brought terrible devastation. things we cannot even begin to understand. it is true that there were still many veterans of the civil war in the united states who were alive. they would've been in their 70s and 80s, who may be experienced trench warfare around richmond and petersburg, but even that paled in comparison to the experience of the first world war and how world war i destroyed, in many ways -- sorry i am swatting the flies away. they are part of the ambience, here. it destroyed a whole civilization, in many ways. at the very least, transformed it. i think i am going to have to point to tony, whenever i need to change the slide. world war i brought us into our
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first experiences of the modern age. we have the marines present here, as well as army and navy and other branches of the service. and people from different countries, reenacting germany, britain, france and all the rest. the marines were the first to experience this new kind of warfare at bella wood. -- at belleau wood. it was something we had no means of experiencing. if you look at the personal account, if you look at the mem wires and the diaries, you can begin to understand how, for men and women who were over there in europe, how they attempted to process this experience. this new experience.
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we have a mythology of world war i and what it was all about, that has been pervasive and that we are still struggling to deal with today. next slide please. this mythology is based on a very simple idea. it is the idea that, in 1914, and again in 1917, millions of young men as well as women entered the service, with naove and bold ideas that war was going to be a great adventure. a great testing ground. that it was going to be a grand parade. that they were going to be in berlin by christmas. or in paris by christmas, as the case may be. and that the war was going to
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be over. and that the experience of mass slaughter on the western front and the trenches on the western front crushed them. broke them. disillusioned of them and caused them to reject everything that they had once believed. it created the lost generation. the disillusioned or bitter generation that no longer believed in things like god, country, patriotism and all the rest. that is the mythology. it actually originates in europe, primarily. it originates in literature that was often produced by civilians, rather than active service soldiers. and it crossed the atlantic and continues to endure to this day. when i talked to
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excepted, generally americans who hadn't heard much about world war i. they know it happened and roughly when. they roughly know who was involved. they say, wow, that was one mass slaughter wasn't it? just guys getting into trenches and getting blown up by the thousands and they never really accomplished anything. then 20 years later, we had world war ii. doesn't that prove that world war i was a colossal waste? what is there to learn from that? i think that really gets to the root of why there is so little interest in so many people in world war i. they think they know the story. they think it is a simple story. it is a miserable, depressing, ugly story and there is just nothing to learn about it.
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they envision trenches, they envision the mass slaughter, and i think, they think that is all there is. if, however, you take the time to hear the stories of the individuals. of the people. to look at the personal testimonies of the men, the women, from different perspectives. you see that there is no single war experience. that that stereotype of millions going off to war, being mass secured -- being massacred in huge numbers, being broken and disillusioned, it is really just that. a stereotype. every story is an individual story. every man and woman came to this war from a different perspective. carrying different values and experiences.
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they left this war carrying different lessons. if you look, broadly speaking, this applies not just to the americans, but the british, the germans, the french. if you look, broadly speaking at the experiences of those in the military and the conclusions when they came out, there are a good number on one side who say this was a terrible experience. i no longer believe in god. i no longer believe in my country. i no longer believe in any of this stuff. there were probably an equal number on the other side who generally, whose stories we don't listen to. who say, this were convinced me that my country is right and i believe in my country even more passionately than i did before and i believe in religion. i believe in traditional values even more passionately than i did before. there were many veterans who took away that sense. if you look at them, you can't
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say, oh, well the guys or gals, as the case may be, who left the war feeling more patriotic, they didn't experience the bad stuff. actually, if you look at it, they did, just as much as anyone else. the massive storm -- the mass of soldiers are somewhere in between. their conclusions usually were, yeah, this war was a terrible thing. it was a terrible experience. i saw things i can never forget. i saw things that i have trouble dealing with. that i have trouble communicating to my family, to my friends, when i come home. but i also forged friendships that no one else can understand. i learned the meaning of unity.
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i learned the meaning of cooperation. i learned how to have fun. a whole new world. when i look back at war and think about the possibility of another war, most of them say this. it is a terrible thing. we should avoid it if we can, but if i had to do it again, i would. that is, broadly speaking, the conclusions that most soldiers drew. so you think about that, how do you jive the idea of a one- dimensional mass slaughter where everybody dies. they all go, get blown up and die. with this broader perspective of men and women having very complex conclusions and ideas they bring back with them. i had the pleasure of speaking
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to some high school kids in virginia a few weeks ago. we approach the topic of world war i. i thought, okay, how do i approach this with you? it was a very diverse group. white, black, asian, all the rest. and you have family members who are veterans who came back from iraq or afghanistan. a good two thirds of them. i said, tell me about your family experience. tell me about your dad, your brother, your uncle, your cousin, as the case may be. tell me how he felt when he came back. every man or woman gave me a different story. i said every one of those stories i heard in one way or another, about coming back and attempting to readjust and living with their families. there is a personal connection
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here you can understand if you take the time to look at it. next slide please. how many of you have been to the battlefield? a good number. great. that is great. if you go over, you probably had experiences like this. i was talking to a young man at an exhibit over here, looking at a german potato masher grenade. i was talking about what it looks like when you find these things when the handle is rotted off. this one was only partially off. i was there, eight years ago, with my son. i told everybody, don't touch anything. my son says, hey dad, look at this 10 cup that i found. he immediately put it in my hand. this is not a picture of it,
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but it was like that. the top of a potato masher grenade. you can certainly see. not until everybody else in the tour group came and take it -- came and took a picture of me, i put it down. you can find canisters that are dangerous. boxes of grenades that were buried underground and are just coming up. cartridges. everything imaginable there. you get a sense of the immediacy. on the american battlefield in particular, which i've explored , is very much as it was at the time. you can see the trenches.
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you can see the pits. i went to the site of the lost battalion that i will be talking about. you can see the pits that the soldiers dug. i kicked away some leaves, i did not use a metal detector, but just kicked away some leaves and out rolled a cartridge. out came part of a flare pistol that they used the signal. imagine something like that on north america. of course they don't allow it on national park sites, rightfully so, but it is very difficult to find something like that. you go to the world war i battlefield and it is very immediate. you get the sense of what it was like to be there. the last group i lead, we found the remains of a soldier near a demolished bunker. he was either a german or an american soldier. my guess is, probably german. in this case it was probably a
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field burial. because it was a piece. a pelvis and a femur. probably the lower part of the body of someone who was hit by a shell, and they just buried that piece of the body there. you are still turning up things like that, all the time. the opportunity to go over there and see it is when you should never pass up. next slide please. however, and i am looking forward to going over there later this year, to see if things change during the centennial commission, however, for the most part with my experiences leading up to this year, americans don't visit these world war i sites. that is especially jarring at a place like the american cemetery , the largest american military
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cemetery in europe. it is larger than omaha beach. i am all for everybody at omaha beach, but it is bigger than omaha beach. about 14,000+ burials they are. they are all burials from american casualties in the first world war. when i have gone there, i have almost never seen americans there. i see people. i have seen schoolchildren going to these graves and leaving flowers. leaving wreaths. leaving other mementos. the schoolchildren are, almost without exception, german, french, british, belgian. and adults, also from the same countries. the one exception being that
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american military delegations do go over there and soldiers, marines on leave, do go over there and visit the cemeteries and pay respect. american civilians for the most part, don't. the former superintendent of the cemetery told me once, probably about a decade ago, that there is, generally, each american president issues a declaration on veterans day, which is to be read at american military cemeteries. which they do every year. he said one year, i came out to read this declaration and what i usually try to do is find an american in the audience to do it for me. he could not find a single american in the audience on veterans day to read this proclamation. to me, this is shameful. we are not talking about taking a flight to mongolia.
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we are talking about france. there is something in our memory that makes us resistant to this. next slide please. and yet, world war i has had a huge impact on american culture. another thing i often hear from people who want to explain away why they are not interested in the war, they will say it was too brutal, to bloody. there is really nothing to say about it. the next thing they will say, we were really only in it for a short time. it didn't really have any impact on us as people, did it. they will do, often, what my son's high school textbook will do. they will summarize it by saying, well, here is why congress declared war in april 1917. woodrow wilson, some rain
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warfare, and all the rest of it. then there is a lot of training and we sent our troops over there. we had more guns and tanks and planes and the germans lost in the war was over. then we had diverse side, so let's spend the next unit talking about bursae, because there is really nothing else to talk about. then maybe they will mention the bonus army march. we get into the great depression. the roaring 20s. the great depression, world war ii. the influence is pervasive through the culture. if you like hard-boiled detective novels. philip marlowe. world war i is present in all of these. often these are world war i veterans having trouble getting over this culture of violence.
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movies, one of my favorite movies, is the golddiggers of 1933. scene called, remember my forgotten man. it is really about, how can you have forgotten your veterans? they are talking about this in the early 1930s. how can you have forgotten your veterans. busby berkeley was, himself, not a combat veteran, but he served in the military in world war i. he took photographs and choreographed marches. military marches and displays which he translated into his movies. more poignantly, i often, since
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i have begun writing about world war i, i often come into contact -- contact with family members of world war i veterans. grandchildren, and in one case, i met the son of the youngest american serviceman in world war ii -- in world war i who saw combat. ernest matt moore was 13 years old. he served with the fifth division and saw combat. he was clearly traumatized by the experience. i met his son, ernest went more . he told me the effect that his father's experiences had on him and his family up to the present day. these things are passed down through generations. next slide, please.
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let me go over some of the more outstanding points of american percent -- participation in world war i and then come back to the main topic of why this matters to us. let's look through the lens of experiences of four americans. general john pershing, and to his right, journal -- general charles p summerall. he was a believer and and especially american way of war. this had a huge impact on the way we thought of war. pershing believed that europeans who had fought the war
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up to this time, 1917-1918, had become, and he used this word, corrupted, by trench warfare. that they had become corrupted and morally degraded. they had become dependent on sitting in their trenches and waiting for the heavy artillery and poison gas, using machine guns and grenades, and they forgot the great principle of the individual soldier with his rifle and bayonet and his will to achieve dominance on the battlefield. those of you familiar with the history of the war, you recognize that is not really a new idea. you can go back to the french in 1914. he said much the same thing. it did not end very well for them. pershing believed, however that may have been in 1914, what we have now is a situation where
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millions of men have died. we need to find a way to get beyond that. we need to return to open warfare. we need to return emphasis to the individual soldier, marine with his rifle and a bayonet. and, we need to get out of the trenches. it is almost as if he wishes away trench warfare. and that he assumes that we will simply, because we are american, i have friends who teach at west point , they'll have the same idea that americans are the only ones who know how to hide behind trees when they are fighting. that we are going to bring in this specifically american principal and get out of the trenches and return to open
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warfare. not this has a tragic impact in a lot of ways. you can see how simplistic it is. you can see how there is a refusal to learn from the belligerents who fought already. but, ironically, the more i looked at it, actually there are points when his idea works. next slide please. i love this particular slide. i show it in many of my talks. i found it in the national archives. these young americans who are receiving mask -- gasket -- gas mask training. i just love the look of the young man on the right. on the far side of the screen. he is like are you kidding me? do you really expect me to put that on and where to -- and where that in combat? >> we were entirely unprepared
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for this war. we were utterly, completely and entirely unprepared. we were unprepared physically, we were unprepared in terms of technology, we were unprepared psychologically. we were unprepared to face a war of this nature. we had no industry. no war industry. we had no effort among armed forces to try to learn the means of fighting a modern noir. so, when our troops went over there and they received some instruction, they were very reluctant to adopt what they learned. in fact, part of the problem comes from above. if you look at the official documents, the unpublished documents from the period, you see pershing and his generals
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writing back to each other saying, i don't know about this training that we are getting from the bread -- the french and the british. i am afraid our soldiers are listening a little too closely. they say this. they say come out we need to get them away from the british and the french because they are telling them things we do not want them to know. they will become corrupted by the same ideas. now, we enter into warfare combat on the western front. our first experience is in the autumn of 1917. we really begin to enter on a large scale in the late spring and early summer of 1918 as we are commemorating a whole number of different battles and engagement, right now. i will go them -- go through them. toward the end of july
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and early august, you have something called the advance where more and more american divisions were getting involved. our involvement develops to a crescendo in the fall of 1918. pershing wanted to create a single, american army, that would be under american command. they would be fighting in an american way. and practice, pershing and other americans, this is the first of this soundtrack -- i love it. in the spring of 1918, he had to
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break up american divisions and units into smaller formations and embed them on -- under french and british command. it really is only in the fall that we begin to fully command our own operations. the marines, as i was mentioning, are the first-and yes i know the army was involved, as well, the american army brigade the second division , deeply involved in bello would -- bello would. the marines can say, rightfully so, that they are the first branch of the united states service to experience modern warfare. -- modern warfare outside of north america.
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they acquire a reputation -- a reputation as double dots because of how they fight -- devil dogs because of how they fight. i could say a lot about this fight. suffice it to say, one of the interesting things about this from early june and through the month of june 1918, it was a brutal battle. it is remarkable for the fact that the marines who fought did so outside of command control. it was a woodland environment and saturated with poison gas. they could not see comrades, they could not communicate with their officers. they cannot
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communicate with the italian regiment, as the case may be. you had to make your own decisions. the marines take terrible catcher -- casualties at belleau wood. but, they demonstrate a number of things. one of them is fanatical aggressiveness. that really shocked the germans. sure, a lot of this stuff is publicity, but if you look at the german records, you do see the germans are shocked. i have read a number of contemporary german accounts that were not published and not intended for application. they say they would throw grenades right in the middle the group, several of them, and they would just keep coming. they would form into games --
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gang us as marines digest the germans would call them. they would walk into battles smoking cigarettes. they would make independent decisions and they would be learning very, very quickly. this was a characteristic of both army and marines throughout the first world war. the americans learned more quickly than the troops of any other country. how to adapt to these circumstances. they also learn how to use dirty tricks. one of the most interesting things about belleau wood, as i was studying it , is when the marines enter into belleau wood, the germans would use all kinds of dirty tricks on the americans. they would do things like, they would blow american bugle signals. they would blow the routine --
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the retreat. in the woods, when you cannot see anything but shadows and smoke and gunshots, retreat, move left, move right! the germans would shout this out to try to confuse americans. they would employ false surrenders. the green marines of the time would expose themselves to take the surrender. germans would then throw themselves down and machine guns would open fire. and yes, germans did, as a matter of course on multiple occasions, this is documented, they would put on american uniforms and infiltrate american lines. but guess what? you look at german records, and i'm not just getting these from published accounts, i'm getting these from german records and field reports at the time, within a couple weeks, the marines were doing exactly the
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same thing back to the germans, including putting on german uniforms and getting behind german lines. it is an indication of that product process of adept tatian, the process of learning. we have, however, one of the less wasn't aspect of our participation in this war. this is in one of the other stereotypes that you still have to fight against today. we developed this idea that the french were all cowards. and, that they were all running away, that when we arrived at the front, whether marines or army, the french were broken the germans were advancing on paris, that we entered into the conflict and we saved paris. unfortunately, you still see this many times. the french were fighting like lions. to suggest that what happened
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in 1940 can be kind of, you can look back and say, oh yeah, the french, 1940, they just surrendered. as soon as the germans showed up, they surrendered. the french, in world war i, fought with great talent, dedication and bravery. and we fight alongside them. there is a reluctance on the point of higher command that many times, and they purposely spread this idea that the french were all running away in order to emphasize the importance of our participation. to say that we saved paris. in practice, the french fought very well. we learned a lot from them. we fought side-by-side primarily with the french. and, we learned some very important lessons from them on how to fight. our participation in the war continues to build as i indicated.
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through the end of belleau wood , at the end of june, the army brigade captures -- at the beginning of july 1918. july 15, the last of the major german offensive actions that began in the spring takes place along the morrin river. the u.s. 28 division, which is one of my favorite divisions, experiences its first combat there along the morrin river, in company sized informations. 20th division -- 28th division troops embedded into french formations. the french pullout, not because
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they are broken, but they decide we are pulling out. the doughboys have been told to hold their position. they hold their positions and they are wiped out. it builds a lot of bad blood. through the end of july, the beginning of august, we begin to push back the german salience . multiple divisions become involved. in the autumn of 1918, we launched two major offenses. the american first army has been formed in the august 1918. we launch an offensive on september 12. that is quite successful in
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wiping out a german held salient . then, we launch the meuse argonne offensive on september 26. this was, and remains, the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of our nation. if you go to museums, libraries, you find almost no reference to them. you can look at documents but there is very little reference to the meuse argonne. i've been in major american museums that don't even mention the meuse argonne. in the first three weeks of the meuse argonne, from september 26 two about mid october 1918,
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26,000 americans are killed in three weeks. but is more than half of the combat did in coria and about half the combat did in vietnam in three weeks. this is an important battle. this is a defining battle in the history of our nation. it is people like this man, charles whittlesey, who formed the backbone of our participation in this battle. and, this is where i'm going to conclude my talk about our participation by looking at four men. they participated in the meuse argonne. and i'm going to try to look at four ways americans experienced this war and four different outcomes. whittlesey was an intellectual. he was a lawyer from upstate
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new york, from pittsfield, massachusetts and upstate new york. he became a practicing lawyer in new york city. he was very successful. he went to williams college and harvard law school. as you can see, you look at his eyes and see he is a very intelligent man. he is a man with a profound sense of civic duty. this is something that, frankly, we have trouble understanding today. but, it was something that so many young american officers, in particular, felt. it motivated them, civilians, to become officers and serve our forces in world war i. these are often men from better families. they are often men from privileged backgrounds men who served in professional trades of one type or another.
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they have this deep personal sense of responsibility toward their country. and then, as they entered the service, toward their men. charles whittlesey became a captain and then a major in the 77th division, united states national army, american expeditionary forces. he was recruited from greater new york city. many men came from the lower east side of manhattan places like hells kitchen or brooklyn. these are guys who had lived on the mean streets. many of them are actually gangsters. many, many, many of them were immigrants. many of them not naturalized immigrants. others who had been, first or second generation who had come over from ellis island.
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when they entered into the lines, german reports suggested that an italian division had entered into the front. they were convinced it must be an italian division because they were talking to each other in italian. so, you take a guy like whittlesey and put him in command of these troops with a mixture of ranchers and midwesterners, in a typical army solution, if you need to build up your unit with guys from new york city, let's get a bunch of guys from nevada and montana who are farmers and put them in there with them. george mcmurtry is charles whittlesey's comrade captain. millionaire stockbroker, irish- american family. his family owned mines in western pennsylvania. he
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becomes a stockbroker in new york city. the 77th division is placed in the meuse argonne forest. it is ordered to launch multiple attacks. i will not get into the technical details because i want to finish my talk. it is ordered to launch multiple attacks into the forest. much like belleau wood. deep, thick forest, difficult to see where you are going. the german defenders are very determined. in early october, whittlesey launches a battalion plus troops from another battalion, a machine gun battalion, parts of three battalions into the forest. they are cut off and surrounded. whittlesey, mcmurtry command this surrounded force.
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they show absolute dedication to the welfare of their men who are surrounded without food, without medical supplies of any kind. they did not have medics with them, period. they had to reuse bandages. they were being fired on from all directions. hit by fat -- friendly fire artillery barrage. you can imagine how demoralizing that is. whittlesey and mcmurtry, all through this experience, kroll from hole to hole. they are civilians. they talk to every individual man, tried to strengthen them, tried to give them courage. tried to give them hope. day after day after day. you can see, and this is a picture of mcmurtry returning back in 1919. if you want to know what they experienced, i have to do is
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look at his face. they are profoundly impacted by their experience in this pocket. after several days within the pocket, american forces, including the 28th division and the 82nd all-american division, including alvin c york lunch a flank attack into the argonne forest that ends up being called the lost battalion. but those that are liberated, they still carry the legacy within them. you can switch back to the sleep -- previous slide for a moment? look at whittlesey again. here he is emerging from the forest. then, go back to mcmurtry. you can see what they felt. and, when i gave this talk to the east tennessee veterans memorial association, there were a lot of veterans in the audience, they said all you
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have to do is look at his face and i know. they both carried a profound sense of guilt with them. survivors guilt, which is of course, pervasive in the military. they both received medals of honor. very deservedly so, for their bravery. george mcmurtry, who is known before the war as a genial, easy-going, successful man emma returns home to his family and cannot readjust. 's personality is changed. he has become very angry, very difficult to live with, but he finds peace in dedicating himself to the survivors. he takes over the lost battalion survivors association in new york city. year after year, up to his death in the 1950s. absolutely dedicates himself to that. charles whittlesey, this man is
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a hero. this man saved the lives of hundreds of his soldiers. he showed absolute dedication, but he cannot forgive himself. he cannot forgive himself for every single one of his men who died. and, he is tormented by nightmares after the war. he tries to devote himself personally to survivors, two men who are dealing with ptsd. but, in 1921, after the ceremony for the entombment of the unknown soldier at arlington national cemetary, he can't take it anymore. he and mike were trace it on the same put them together and whittlesey turns to mix marjory and says emma george, i should not have come. tonight, when i go to bed, i will hear the cries of my men in the pockets. and a few days later, he ends
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his life. he just steps off a steamer that is going to cuba and drowns himself. those are two outcomes. next slide, please. alvin york is another outcome. alvin york was involved in the action that liberated the lost battalion, again 82nd all- american division. he and other soldiers with him capture 132 germans in the action that actually liberates the lost battalion. he receives the medal of honor. he returns home and is treated, particularly by his native state of tennessee, you can look in his eyes, too, and see what he has experienced. as a celebrity and a hero, he knows it. he is a simple farmer. if you have seen the movie, you know the story of his trying to come to terms with fighting in this war and his personal,
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spiritual experiences in it. but, what york tries to do is very specific. he understands what is going to happen to him. he does not like it. he wants to go up to east tennessee back to his farm and return to his family. he decides to transfer that celebrity into serving the less fortunate. he founds the alvin york institute in east tennessee, with all the money that he gets from his celebrity, he puts it into the institute to help the less fortunate to learn farming, to learn business, including veterans, as well as young people. to establish themselves in everyday life. and, he finds peace, there. and finally, the fourth story is damon runyon. he is a great american journalist.
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he is a sportswriter. if you ever seen the musical guys and dolls, you will know something of damon runyon. he tells the story. he is there when the lost battalion emerges from the argonne forest. he interviews whittlesey and mcmurtry. and, he integrates their story into the american story. he is the guy who takes the story of all these immigrants, of all these misfits, mismatched soldiers, and he says look, these are part of the american tapestry. these are part of the american experience. he, too, is dedicated to their individual stories. he carries their stories with him as he writes about broadway, the great white way, new york city through the 20s and 30s. he takes their language and adds it to the american slang culture.
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when he dies of throat cancer in 1946, his final wish is that his ashes be carried by eddie rickenbacker and scattered over new york city, overtime square. in that act, emerges his love for new york city, his testimony, his experience of the war into the -- he merges his love for new york city, his testimony, his experience of the war into the american story. it is very powerful, even someone like him who is not a soldier, carries that within and wishes in some way to return it to the people. so, those were the doughboys. those were part of our experience. i feel that we have a duty, a responsibility, to try to return to them, and i don't want to neglect the women, as well, who served in one perspective or another as nurses
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, ambulance drivers, and very actively at the front. they are all part of our story. they all must be integrated into our memory. and especially, we must go to pay our respect this year, to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. and, thank you very much. >> we went a little bit overtime, but we still do have time for questions. yes sir, right here. >> i think we can wait for the microphone. >> two questions if i may. the first is kind of a sad commentary on our government. wasn't there an issue, when york was still alive, he was being persecuted by the irs for
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failing to pay income taxes? i find that unconscionable. >> york had, and that is a good point, york had a good number of financial problems. being chased by the irs for income taxes, also for debt. largely because he poured everything he had into the york institute. what is even more, i think, disheartening then that story, is that because he struggled with his finances, during this period right after the war, he somehow, for a period, he was no longer palatable to the public. we look at gary cooper and sergeant york that came out in 1941, in the 20s and 30s, york was, for many people considered , he's a hero, but he can't
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even manage his finances. when the ceremony of the unknown soldier took place, initially, most people assume, because pershing had to select one soldier to represent the army who would be regarded as america's greatest military here -- hero. most people had assumed up to that point he would choose york. he did not because york was no longer acceptable. he chose a guy, who was also a great soldier, samuel would feld to represent the army. all the newspapers could talk about was a look, he did not choose york and he did not choose whittlesey either. that means these guys are not really such great heroes as they are made out to be. they were kind of tossed to the side. it is very sad. >> if early in the war, before america got into the war, if some claude had done what he
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was supposed to do and moved to elect the support, do you think france would have fallen? had we allowed that gap to open up -- >> you are referring to the first battle in 1914? >> the battle of the marne? >> i think it is more likely than not, france would have fallen. it was a very close-run thing. the germans' plan largely worked. >> what if they had done what they were supposed to do. >> up to that point, exactly, yes. >> this was a very nice presentation, we thank you for it.
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there is an author by the name of bill walker. i do not know if you know bill walker, or not. >> he is a friend of mine. >> hero to an extensive book about the conflict between the 79th division and of course, bullard. i wondered what your thoughts were on that particular day. >> very briefly, is a book called the trail of little gibraltar. i highly recommend it. it is a reference digit has a reference at the very beginning to the battle of argonne . a general named robert bullard refused to make the movement that would have been necessary to cut off this route. it would have meant crossing divisional lined.
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he refused to do that. and, many men died because of it and the timetable for the meuse argonne was set way back. bullard, unfortunately, is, i hope there are no bullard family members here, not one of my favorite generals in the war. there was a tendency among some american military leaders toward glory seeking. bullard was a typical example of that. not all generals. my favorite american leader of the war was general hunter liggett, who was born in reading pennsylvania -- reading, pennsylvania. he was the guy who developed the movement to save the lost battalion. there are some very talented american generals. bullard was an example of the worst. that was not the only example. he was responsible for the
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annihilation of a portion of the 28th division, pennsylvania national guard, at a place in august 1918. he left them stranded in a bridgehead on the other side of the river and the germans wiped it out. which brings me, long way, a memoir, i highly, highly recommend, since we are in pennsylvania, we are in pence -- in gettysburg for those who want to take a personal look at an experience of the work, read a book called toward the flame, by her the -- harvey allen. he is a member of the 28th division and he describes the weeks leading up to the battle of fee met -- battle of the met when they were attacked by a
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german flamethrowers. it is very personal, beauty -- beautifully written. i highly recommend that but. okay, thank you very much. saturday night, on american history tv, colorado's state university professor -- teaches on abolitionism including frederick douglass. lectures in history at 8 pm and midnight eastern. right here on c-span 3. >> join us monday for a special labor day -- at 5 pm eastern, a profile on the book with editorial director with adam bello. also, a discussion with the librarian of congress. at 8:30,
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in-depth addition with -- watch on c-span 2 book tv. next, military historian, mark snell on his book, gettysburg's other battle. he explained how the famous civil war battlefield was used as a world war i training camp in 1917 in 1918. named camp cold, it's man -- commander was a young dwight eisenhower. at the eisenhower national historic site . we are here to commemorate world war i as well as to understa


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