Category Archives: Western Front

A Devastated France and Her American Friends

Helping France

Wartime poster depicts a French widow and her child, and a wounded French soldier being helped by a woman in white, a personification of the American volunteers. In the background is a large American flag and beyond that scenes of war damage and devastation. family without a husband. On the right, is a peasant ploughing in the field. Approximately eight million acres of French land were devastated by the war.

These days it has become fashionable in the United States, especially among conservative media, to mock France as a nation of surrendering cowards who lack any sense of bravery or military toughness. This unfounded image is rooted somewhat in the French defeat during World War 2, but its roots are primarily in the fact that France wisely refused to join in the invasion of Iraq, and this angered During the height of the anti-French hysteria and backlash many conservative media personalities urged renaming French fries, “Freedom Fries” presumably because the disloyal French were not worthy of having their name associated with an American junk food stable.

But it was not always like this. There was a time, especially during the First World War, that Americans loved France and French culture. American politicians and the public acknowledged the debt they owed the French for helping them throw off British rule during the American Revolution. And so when France needed help, they volunteered, donated and fought to save France.

The poster above is for a charitable organization called the American Committe for the Devastated French Regions. This committee was formed by the youngest daughter of the American financier Jp Morgan, Anne Morgan (1873–1952) and her friend Anne Murray Dike (1879–1929), a medical doctor.

The organization worked hard to repair the severe damage done to France, which bore most of the fighting on its territory during the entire war. Armies of American volunteers were organized into a semi military organization. They lived in barracks, wore uniforms, and worked long hours. Volunteers had to pay their own expenses, typically about $1,500 a year ( a considerable sum back then).

Despite the rigors and hardships of serving in the Committee, thousands of Americans volunteered, including as many as 6,000 female doctors, who wanted to serve the war effort but who were not allowed to join the American armed forces.

 

The Trench Smasher

Huge Howitzer ArtilleryThis picture shows a group of Canadian soldiers cleaning their giant BL-15 Howitzer. This artillery piece was designed and built in Britain and was tasked with smashing deep German underground fortifications by dropping gigantic shells on the enemy. It had a range of about 6 miles and was used exclusively on the western front.

The shells were longer than a normal sized man. Below is a picture of a German soldier posing next to an unexploded shell that had landed near his trenches.

Unexploded Shell

American Tank With Unusual Triple Caterpillar Tracks

World War 1 American TankPhotograph of an American tank in 1917. Note the interesting triple tracks as well as the side windows for shooting and for navigation, which are protected by a metal flap. The main armament is a small gun located in a top turret. Also interesting is the height of this beast: it is nearly twice the height of the soldiers, which would have given it a high and therefore unstable center of gravity as well as making it harder to find cover behind natural terrain.

New Zealand Artillery Passing Through a Liberated Town in France During World War 1

Artillery Battery WW1A New Zealand artillery company passes through the newly liberated village of Bertincourt, in northern France on September 8, 1918 (exactly 97 years ago today).

The artillery piece is a BL 60 pounder gun, whose main role was counter battery fire, meaning that it was tasked with suppressing and destroying enemy artillery batteries.

 

The gun is being drawn by a large team of horses because it is so heavy. Some support troops are walking with the rest of the column. On the right there is a damaged building with the name of the town, testifying to the recent fighting.

 

Below are some magnifications and closeups of the picture, giving better detail of the cannon as well as the team of horses pulling it. Credit for the original picture goes to Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013580-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22901789

 

60 pounder gun

Closeup of the Horses Pulling the Artillery

 

Gas Attack Early Warning Station

gas warfarePoison gas was one of the more appalling weapons developed during world war 1. First used by the Germans, gas killed or maimed soldiers in horrific ways: it burned their lungs and eyes and those who survived suffered lifelong effects and disabilities. To avoid it, soldiers were equipped with gas masks but they could not be warn at all times, so survival depended on being able to put on the mask soon enough, to avoid lethal exposure.

The soldier in this photograph is manning an alarm station. At the first sign of a gas attack, it was his job to sound the alarm by cranking a loud siren which would warn his fellow soldiers that they only had seconds to get their gas masks on.

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