At the 11th hour in the 11th day of the 11th month of the year One thousand Nine hundred and Eighteen of the Common Era; the guns of the greatest slaughter of humanity by force of arms up until that time, went silent. Only the horrible memories of a tragedy which began in the late summer of 1914 remained, along with the emptiness left behind of the dead, and the suffering of the wounded.
What had begun as a misguided attempt to garner territory and prestige by the “Nobile elite” of Europe, who in the detachments from the reality of not only the plight of their own peoples but of the stability of the world in general, initiated a wholesale slaughter of epic proportions, consuming generations of the youth of the world. Producing economic disasters and global chaos, tens of millions died, hundreds of million injured, empires fell; and the misery inflicted upon the world would eventually produce an even greater devastating war.
One Hundred years have passed, seemingly an overly long amount of time, and true all that had participated in that great conflagration are now passed, yet we cannot forget, we dare not forget that unbelievable nightmare. We should never forget those that faced that challenge and gave their all, or those that suffered countless years after with agonizing wounds both physical and mental.
We must remember that the suffering was not confined to the individuals who endured the rigors of that “Great War” but also the families they either left behind or who bore witness to their suffering.
The American Expeditionary Forces arrived in France in June 1917, they would eventually total more than Two Million personnel culminating in 40 combat divisions with support. Of that number over 255, 000 would become casualties of war, with 52,997 battle deaths and over 50,000 non-battle.
Now a Hundred years later we can do little more than pay homage to dead, speak their name so that they shall always be remembered. Adorn their final place of rest and honor with bits of cloth the colors of which they so gallantly marched, fought and died to preserve.
AEF Strength (30 November 1918):
Total: 1,929,760 (80,004 officers; 1,849,756 enlisted)
Logistics Organization: Services of Supply (SOS)
Location: Tours, France
Strength (11 November 1918):
Casualties: AEF Casualties:
Killed in action: 37,171 (1,648 officers; 35,523 enlisted)
Died of wounds: 12,934 (559 officers; 12,375 enlisted)
Wounds not mortal: 193,602 (6,904 officers; 186,698 enlisted)
Total casualties: 243,707 (9,111 officers; 234,596 enlisted)
Troops at Sea: Killed in action:
370 (7 officers; 363 enlisted)
Dies of wounds: 0
Wounds not mortal: 5 (1 officer; 4 enlisted)
Total casualties: 375 (8 officers; 367 enlisted)
U.S. Army Non-Battle Deaths: 55,868
American Expeditionary Forces, Siberia:
Commander: Maj. Gen. William S. Graves
Approximate Size of Force: 8,400 (300 officers; 8,100 enlisted)
Length of Campaign: July 1918–April 1920
Purpose: To aid Russian and Czech-Slovak forces and protect war materiel
American Expeditionary Forces, North Russia:
Commander: Col. George E. Stewart (September 1918–April 1919) Brig. Gen. Wilds P. Richardson (April–August 1919) Approximate Size of Force: 4,500 (150 officers; 4,350 enlisted) Length of Campaign: September 1918–August 1919 Purpose: To support Czech-Slovak forces in Russia and protect war materiel
North Russia & Siberia:
Killed in action: 27 (1 officer; 26 enlisted) Died of wounds: 8 (0 officers; 8 enlisted)
Wounds not mortal: 52 (4 officers; 48 enlisted)
Total casualties: 87 (5 officers; 82 enlisted)
SOURCE: United States Army Center of Military History
I leave only this small token of my thanks and gratitude for their deeds with this poem from one of those heroes who fell for my freedoms. (E. T.)
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.
There lie many fighting men,
Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,
Touched his prey and left them there,
Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
And fled away.
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
The bugle sing:
“Go to sleep!
Go to sleep!”
Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them anymore.
Now at last,
Go to sleep!”
There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.
St. Michael’s sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
His stalwart sons; And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
The Gael’s blood runs.
And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,
From the wood called Rouge Bouquet
A delicate cloud of bugle notes
That softly say: “Farewell! Farewell!
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear,
Shield us here.
Author: Sargent Joyce Kilmer “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment U.S. Army (W.W. I-France) Killed in Action 30 July 1918; Second Battle of the Marne
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
AUTHOR: LT. Colonel John McCrea: Canadian Expeditionary Forces (W.W. I-France)
THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE®
CONTRIBUTOR: Eddy Toorall