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The night the lamps came back on across Europe, 100 years ago

William Nicholson – Armistice Night, 1918.

And to remember this nearly forgotten generation who changed the map of the globe forever, here is the roll call of “the last” of the lost, courtesy of Al Nofi.

  • 1993 September 24: Danilo DajkoviÄ, at 98 the last known Montengran veteran.
  • 1995 September 6: Matsuda Chiaki, at 99 the last Japanese veteran of the war, in which he served as a naval cadet and then a junior officer, but did not see combat duty. In later life, he commanded the battleship Yamato and rose to rear admiral.
  • 1998 March 14: Zita of Bourbon-Parma, sometime Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary (1916-1918), 96, the last political figure from the war.
  • 1998 June: Saci Ben Hocine Mahdi, 100, in France, the last surviving tirailleur algerienne
  • 1998 October 11: Abdoulaye N’Diaye, 104, in Senegal, the last surviving tirailleur sénégalais.
  • 1999 April 11: Wallace Pike, 99, last veteran of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served at the Somme and the last Newfoundlander to have served in the war.
  • 2000 March: Norman Kark, 102, the last South African veteran.
  • 2001 June 22: Bertie Felstead, 106, formerly of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the last known English survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914.
  • 2002 January 12: Robert Francis Ruttledge, 103, the last British veteran of the Indian Army.
  • 2003 February 12: Bright Williams, 105, the last New Zealand veteran, of the 3rd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade.
  • 2003 March: George Blackman, 105, in Barbados, the last veteran of the West India Regiment
  • 2003 May 5: José Ladeira, at 107, the last Portuguese veteran.
  • 2003 August 9: Alois Vocásek, 107, the last veteran of the Czechoslovak Legion.
  • 2003 August 9: Charlotte Louise Berry Winters, 109, the last U.S. Navy “Yeomanette” and the last American woman veteran of the war.
  • 2003 October 9: Yod Sangrungruang, 106, the last veteran from Siam.
  • 2004 June 22: Aleksa Radovanović, at 105, the last veteran of the Serbian Army, and apparently the last veteran of the Salonika Front.
  • 2004 September 16: Cyrillus-Camillus Barbary, who died in the U.S. at 105, was the last Belgian veteran.
  • 2005 October 18: William Evan Crawford Allan, at 106, sometime Royal Australian Navy (1914-1948), the last Australian veteran to have seen active service in both world wars.
  • 2005 November 21: Alfred Anderson, 109, a veteran of the Black Watch, he was the last survivor of the Christmas Truce of 1914, the last Scottish veteran of the war, and the oldest man in Scotland.
  • 2006 March 4: August Bischof, 105, the last known veteran of the Austrian Empire.
  • 2007 January 9: Gheorghe Pănculescu, 103, the last Romanian veteran of the Great War, though he did not see frontline service; he later rose to general.
  • 2007 March 29: Lloyd Brown, at 109, the last US Navy veteran.
  • 2008 January 1: Erich Kästner, at 107 the last German veteran of the Great War and the last Central Powers veteran of the Western Front.
  • 2008 January 12: StanisÅ‚aw Wycech, 105, the last veteran of the Polish armed forces.
  • 2008 April 2: Yakup Satar, at 110 the last veteran of the Ottoman Army.
  • 2008 May 7: Franz Künstler, who died at 107 in Germany, was the last veteran from the erstwhile lands of the Crown of Hungary, the last Austro-Hungarian veteran, and last Central Powers veteran of the Great War.
  • 2008 March 12: Lazare Ponticelli, who died in France at 110, was the last French Foreign Legion veteran of the war (1914-1915), the next-to-last Italian veteran (1915-1918) and probably also the last “Boy Soldier” of the war, having enlisted at 16.
  • 2008 October 6: Delfino Borroni, at 110 the last know Italian Great War veteran, the last veteran of the Alpine Front, and at his death the oldest man in Italy.
  • 2008 November 20: Pierre Picault, at 109 the last French veteran of the war, and at his death the oldest man in France.
  • 2008 December 26: Mikhail Efimovich Krichevsky, who died in Ukraine at 111, was the last veteran of the Russian Imperial Army to have served in the war.
  • 2009 July 18: Henry Allingham, 113, the last Jutland veteran, the last veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service, the last original member of the RAF, and the oldest man in the world.
  • 2009 July 25: Henry John “Harry” Patch, at 111 “the Last Fighting Tommy”, the last known veteran of the Western Front, and the oldest man in Europe.
  • 2010 January 18: John Henry Foster “Jack” Babcock, at 109 the last known Canadian veteran of the Great War, though he had not seen combat.
  • 2009 June 3: John Campbell “Jack” Ross, 110, the last Australian to have served during the war, though he had never left the Commonwealth.
  • 2011 May 5: Claude Stanley Choules, who died at 110 in Australia, was the last known combat veteran of the Great War, the last veteran of the Grand Fleet, the last naval veteran of the Great War, and the last veteran to fight in both World Wars.
  • 2011 February 27: Frank Woodruff Buckles, at 110 the last veteran of the American Expeditionary Forces in the First World War, an ambulance driver.
  • 2012 February 4: Florence Patterson Green, who died at 110, was the last veteran of the Women’s RAF, 1918-1919, and the last person known to have served in World War I.

More on the Armistice of Compiègne itself in the below special from France 24, and what became of Foch’s famous railway carriage.

The buck stops here

With the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I looming, it is only fitting that we take a look at the gun carried by the only President to see combat in the conflict.

While the former Spanish-American War veteran President Teddy Roosevelt (R/ Bull Moose) volunteered to return to service to fight the Kaiser in 1917, his offer was not accepted by President Woodrow Wilson (D). Further, although a career Army officer at the time, future President Dwight D. Eisenhower was stuck in training duties stateside and never made it to the frontline in France. One man who did go “Over There” was Missouri-native Harry S Truman, whose past jobs had included farmer and clerk.

Having served as a company clerk in a National Guard artillery unit for a few years before the war, Truman, then 33, reenlisted and was elected lieutenant. By 1918, he was in France with Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force as a captain in command of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 35th ID– in essence 200 Doughboys, four French 75mm guns and 160 horses to pull them and their shells.

Truman’s Battery fired over 10,000 shells in the course of their time on the Western Front, mainly during hard service in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Photo: Truman Library)

Post-Armistice, he brought his men home, B/129 losing none to combat, and opened a haberdashery in Kansas City, later getting into politics.

Since he elected to remain in the service, transferring to the Army Reserve (which he remained a member of until 1953) he kept the M1911 Colt .45ACP, serial No. 227577, issued to him in 1918 but did eventually turn it over to the federal government– to the Truman Presidental Library and Museum in 1957, where it, and his Great War uniform, are on display to the public.

Truman’s 1911 was made in January 1918 and was part of a batch of 4,000 guns shipped to Springfield Armory the next month. The Missourian kept it immaculate through an overseas war and 34 years of stateside service in the Army Reserve (Photo: NPS)

97 years ago today: Dewey’s flagship, bringing home the saddest casualty back from ‘Over There’

A colorized image of the Unknown Soldier’s casket being carried off of OLYMPIA, which is featured in the background. Via Independence Seaport Museum. You can see Gen. Blackjack Pershing to the right, commander of the AEF, and an honor guard of Marines in blues.

On this date, November 9th, 1921, cruiser OLYMPIA arrived at the Washington Navy Yard carrying the Unknown Soldier of the first World War, having brought the casket across the stormy Atlantic Ocean from Le Havre, France. It was at this time that the casket was transferred from the hands of the U.S. Navy aboard OLYMPIA to the waiting Army contingent, who would then carry the body to Arlington National Cemetery for interment where he rests at the Tomb of the Unknowns today.

Combat Gallery Sunday: A Dear Visit

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: A Dear Visit

Maximilian Franz Viktor Zdenko Marie Kurzweil was born 12 October 1867 in the small Moravian town of Bisenz (Bzenec)– then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire now in the Czech Republic– the son of a failing sugar manufacturer. Once the family business tanked altogether, young Max relocated to Vienna where he attended school and later, with an eye for painting, the esteemed Academy of Fine Art (Akademie der bildenden Künste), an institution that famously twice-rejected young Adolf Hitler for lack of talent.

Obligated to perform his military service to Kaiser Franz Josef, Max in 1891 enlisted in the Imperial Army as what was termed a “one-year-volunteer” or Einjährig-Freiwilliger. A curious practise at the time in Central Europe (also mimicked in France and Russia), such a volunteer– typically an educated young man of means– paid for their own room, board, uniforms and personal equipment while serving (for free) with an active duty regiment as a nominal cadet corporal, filling their spare time studying military textbooks. At the end of the year, providing they were found to be of officer material after a review and examination administered by a board, these volunteers would pass into the reserve as a subaltern.

Max was accepted as an EF with the famous k.u.k. Dragonerregiment Nr. 3, which dated back to 1768 and had covered itself in glory during the Napoleonic Wars. Based in Stockerau on the outskirts of Vienna, the German-speaking unit was typically referred to as the “Saxon Dragoons” (Sachsen Dragoner) due to the fact that the honorary colonel-in-chief of the unit was the king of Saxony. Serving from June 1891 to June 1892, Kurzweil passed his review and moved to the regiment’s reserve list as a lieutenant, fulfilling his obligation to the Kaiser by 1902, at which point his name was put on the retired list.

It was just after he left active duty that Max painted what I feel was his most endearing work. Ein Lieber Besuch (A dear visit), is an oil painting he finished in 1894 showing a young man, surrounded by Austrian dragoons which you take to be his comrades, in hospital being visited by what is perceived to be his warhorse. It was no doubt very familiar to the artist in many ways.

It was an early footnote in Max’s career, as he returned to Vienna, moved in the same circles as Klimt, summered on the Dalmatian coast and in Brittany, spent lots of time in Paris, helped found the Secessionist movement at Vienna’s Künstlerhaus, took a French wife, and fell in love with a pupil– Helene Heger.

Then came war.

At 46, Kurzweil, childless, listless and moody (his wife had been separated from him as she was in France when hostilities began) he was too old to lead a cavalry troop but was nonetheless recalled to active duty. Assigned to work on the Serbo-Montenegrin Front as a war artist, he returned to Vienna on leave in May 1916, where he met his lover one last time at his studio and entered into a suicide pact using his service pistol. He is buried in Vienna’s Hütteldorfer Cemetery.

A self-portrait

However, his simple but poignant horse painting had become a very popular postcard in war-torn Austria, surely evoking memories of love and loss to many.

As for the 3rd Dragoons, stationed in Krakow, then on the Austrian frontier, in 1914 as part of 3. Kavallerietruppendivision, they fought the Russians on the Eastern Front and, late in the war, lost their horses, converting to foot infantry. In 1919, they were disbanded, although, in 1967, Panzerbataillon 33 of the reformed Austrian Army adopted the old regiment’s lineage. Today, PzB 33 uses Leopard 2A4 tanks.

Ein Lieber Besuch since 1965 has been in the collection of the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna, who have several of Kurzweil’s works. He is considered today to be one of the most important Austrian artists of his era. Additionally, his art is in the American Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia

Thank you for your work, sir.

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018: One of the most unsung Boxers in the ring

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018: One of the most unsung Boxers in the ring

NH 85847

Here we see a 1908 postcard photo of brigantine-rigged training ship USS Boxer. At least the 4th in a long line of vessels in the U.S. Navy to carry the name and among the most under-recognized, which is odd because she had a very long and interesting career path that saw her on government service during both World Wars.

Constructed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in 1904 at a time when the Navy had for a generation been busy constructing steel and steam warships with rifled modern breechloading naval guns, Boxer was something of a throwback to an earlier time. Some 125-feet long with a displacement of around 350-tons, she was steel-hulled but, in something not often seen in the fleet in a purpose-ordered navy ship since the 1840s, was sail-powered only as she was meant to provide a floating school for the instruction of landsmen and apprentices at Naval Training Station, Newport.

The first Boxer in the Navy was technically His Majesty’s Brig Boxer, of 14 guns, captured in a storied close-combat naval battle during the War of 1812 with the USS Enterprise (12 guns) off Portland, Maine, on 5 September 1813 that left the RN ship “a complete wreck, all of her braces and rigging shot away, her main topmast and topgallant mast hanging over the side, fore and main masts virtually gone, three feet of water in her hold and no surgeon to tend to her wounded.”

On 5 September 1813, the schooner Enterprise, commanded by Lieutenant William Burrows, captured the brig HMS Boxer off Portland, Maine in a twenty-minute action that saw both commanding officers die in battle. Enterprise’s second in command, Lieutenant Edward R. McCall then took Boxer to Portland, Maine. USS Enterprise versus HMS Boxer in action off the coast of Maine. Artist, Dwight Shepler. Enterprise was commanded by Lt William Burrows. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 47013-KN (Color).

The prize was later sold in New England but the action was so fierce that a 14-gun brig constructed by C. and D. Churchill of Middletown, Conn. was commissioned as the USS Boxer in 1815. Finishing the war, she went to fight pirates in the Gulf of Mexico (Jean Lafitte, anyone) but was lost at sea off Belize in 1817. The 2nd and 3rd Boxers under the Navy Jack were a 10-gun schooner that served in the West Indies and African squadrons in the 1830s and 40s and a captured blockade runner flipped into federal service during the Civil War then disposed of in 1868.

A beautiful ship, the Boxer at the center of our tale was commissioned 11 May 1905 and sailed for Newport where she spent the next seven years on Narragansett Bay as relief for the old stationary training ship USS Constellation in her mission of schooling the bluejackets that the U.S. Navy would start the Great War with.

Naval Training Station, Newport, R. I. USS CONSTELLATION, USS BOXER and ferry boat INCA NH 116964

USS Boxer training brigantine, photo taken in May 1905. NHC 5918

Boxer Shown in May 1905. NH 2905

On 20 October 1912, she reported for duty at Annapolis, Md., to serve as a training vessel for Naval Academy midshipmen, a task she would complete in June 1914 that saw her take mids on a number of cruises in the West Indies that included at least one stop in the Panama Canal Zone.

Chopping back to Naval Training Station Newport, she would continue her duties in educating boots until she was declared surplus after just 15 years with the fleet.

On 14 May 1920, she was transferred to the Department of the Interior for use by the Bureau of Education in Alaska and would start a new chapter in her life. With a capacity of 500 tons, she would be used annually to carry supplies, equipment, teachers, and medical personnel to stations and distribution points along the coast of Alaska, to as far north as Point Barrow. During seasons when northern navigation was closed, Boxer served as a floating school to train local Alaskans in operating and maintaining the vessel and its equipment– what we would call STEM today.

U.S. Bureau of Education ship Boxer smothered in cargo

Equipped with an auxiliary 450 hp. diesel engine while keeping her sail rig, she was to make two (sometimes three) trips per season from Seattle to Alaska carrying supplies and educators to establish and maintain schools and hospitals in the growing but isolated land.

Put into service as the BIA Motor Vessel Boxer, she was often still just referred to as USS Boxer in correspondence.

While in Navy service her regular crew amounted to 64 but while working for Ed it was decreased to a dozen officers and men.


By 1924-25, she carried 18 crew, not counting passengers and medical staff, as noted by the book “Arctic Mood” by Eva Alvey Richards. Many of which were locally recruited.

S. T. L. Whitlam, Captain
O. J. Hansen, First Officer. (’24)
Arthur Friend, First Officer. (’25)
Elsworth Bush, Second Officer
Herman Selwick, Chief Engineer
Emil Holland, Second Engineer
Billy Woodruth (Eskimo), Asst. Engineer
Abraham McGamet (Eskimo), Asst. Engineer
Duff Barney, Steward (’24)
J. S. Clark, Steward (’25)
Alphonso Manuel, Asst. Steward
Carl Madsen (Eskimo), Asst. Steward
Harry Anakok (Eskimo), Asst. Steward

Eskimo Sailors and Deck Hands:
Ray Barster—from Barrow, Alaska.
George Porter—from Wainwright, Alaska.
Robert James—from Wainwright, Alaska.
Isaac Washington—from Kotzebue, Alaska.
Jack Jones—from Noatak, Alaska.
Dwight Tivick—from Wales, Alaska.
Roy Coppock—from Noatak, Alaska.
Sweeny Uluk—from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska.

During the summer months, doctors and nurses aboard Boxer held clinics wherever the ship anchored. In 1925, the staff treated 500 children in the region and noted the following issues:

Her schedule the first year in service shows how busy this work was:

By 1927, her efforts helped support 93 schools attended by 3,660 pupils.

As noted by the report of the Commissioner of Education to Congress:

“To may settlements, the annual visit of the Boxer furnishes their only means of communication with the rest of the world. Its passengers are the teachers, doctors, and nurses going to or returning from their voluntary exile. Its cargo includes lumber and hardware for use in constructing school buildings at places hitherto unreached by the bureau, the coal and food supplies required for a year and a year’s supply of books, furniture and equipment needed by the schools.”

Boxer, 1931

View of the USMS Boxer moored in a harbor in 1928.

Boxer had some issues in the poorly-charted territory and ran aground at least three times with the most serious of these being on White Cliff Island Reef in British Columbia, although she was no worse for wear. In turn, she rescued the crew of the lost schooner Arctic in August 1924 after that vessel was crushed in the ice just south of Point Barrow and later did the same that season for the crew of the smashed Canadian coaster Lady Kindersley.

Boxer high and dry near Ugashik Bay in 1935.

Boxer getting fresh water near Wainright 1931 UAA-hmc-0731-141

Remaining in active service with BIA through 1937, she also transported reindeer from one place to another (as well as reindeer meat and hides to market in Seattle obo small town vendors), and her crew installed a wireless station at the village of Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island.

It was that year that her skipper reported something strange:

“The weather bureau here [Seattle] said today [November 3) it received a radiogram from the Bureau of Education ship Boxer describing a violent volcanic eruption on Yunaska Island in the Aleutian chain west of Unalaska. The Boxer said it passed 15 miles northwest of Yunaska and that the island was in flames from the eruption. The disturbance seemed to be the most violent in the center, diminishing on the east and west ends.”

A UP article published in the Nevada State Journal states that Isak Lystad, captain of the Boxer, reported the eruption sighted on November 2, and that “explosions could be heard from hundreds of miles” and that “smoke, fire, and ashes were ballooned thousands of feet into the air.”

Largely sidelined by 1938, (replaced by the purpose-built and much larger wooden-hulled North Star) Boxer was snatched up along with 16 other vessels in 1941 by the Army for use in the World War II Alaska Supply Service, shipping supplies up from the lower 48 to the territory that was then under threat from the Japanese.

Ex-USS Boxer in Army service as a barge at Seattle, WA. Boxer apparently lost her mainmast and spars before the Army acquired her, leaving little evidence of the handsome brigantine she once was. Photo Corps of Engineers, Seattle District.
Photos and text from “U.S. Army Ships and Watercraft of World War II” by David H. Grover via Navsource

All 16 of these vessels were liquidated by the Army after the war, leaving Boxer‘s ultimate fate unknown.

Little remains of the vessel today other than her log books (both Navy 1905-1920 and BIA 1922-1937) in the National Archives

Boxer, of course, has been remembered in two much more high-profile follow-on vessels, the Essex-class fleet carrier USS Boxer (CV-21), which joined the fleet in 1945 and remained in service until 1969:

NH 97282. USS Boxer (CV-21) steams past the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay as she returned from her first Korean War deployment, November 1950 flew 59,000 sorties in Korea

And the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4), which has been on active service since 1995 and is going strong.

Specs:
Displacement (tons): 346
Length: 125.3 feet oa, 108.0 feet, wl
Beam: 29.75-feet
Draft: 9.2-feet mean, 16.7-feet full load
Rig: Sail, hermaphrodite brig rig as constructed
Propulsion (HP): 450 hp., diesel after 1922
Complement: 4 officers, 64 men. Could carry as many as 100 cadets
Armament: none designed, later mounted 4-6pdrs after 1910 (removed 1920)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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The Doughboy knuckle-sandwich

Via the U.S. Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center:

This Model 1918 Mark I trench knife was made in France by Au Lion in 1918 for use by US troops during World War I. The US also produced these knives during the war, but having a French contract allowed for expedited distribution to US troops already overseas. The knife has a 6.75” doubled edged steel blade and a bronze handle with cast spikes on each of the knuckles, and a distinctive 4-sided nut on the end. Stamped in the handle: U.S.1918. On the opposite side, engraved in the ricasso: [Au Lion logo] / AU LION. The Model 1918 Mark I knives were also distributed during World War II, though often modified, for example removing the knuckles.

100 years ago today, a man from Wichita

Here we see “The Highest Possible Courage,” by John D. Shaw, courtesy of the U.S. National Guard Bureau. It depicts the last moments of 2LT Erwin Russell Bleckley, the first of three National Guard aviators to receive the Medal of Honor during the 20th Century. They gave the medal to his family.

A Wichita bank teller by trade, Bleckly joined the Kansas Guard in June 1917, aged 22, and soon found himself attached to the federalized 130th Field Artillery, which was part of the newly-formed 35th Infantry Division. Volunteering to be seconded as an artillery observer to the 50th Aero Squadron once “Over There” in France, he was in the air in a DH-4 attempting to locate and resupply by air the famous “Lost Battalion,” some 554 men of the 77th Infantry that were trapped by German forces in the Argonne over the first week of October 1918.

Bleckley’s MOH citation:

2d Lt. Bleckley, with his pilot, 1st Lt. Harold E. Goettler, Air Service, left the airdrome late in the afternoon on their second trip to drop supplies to a battalion of the 77th Division, which had been cut off by the enemy in the Argonne Forest. Having been subjected on the first trip to violent fire from the enemy, they attempted on the second trip to come still lower in order to get the packages even more precisely on the designated spot. In the course of his mission the plane was brought down by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from the ground, resulting in fatal wounds to 2d Lt. Bleckley, who died before he could be taken to a hospital. In attempting and performing this mission 2d Lt. Bleckley showed the highest possible contempt of personal danger, devotion to duty, courage, and valor.

As noted by the Guard, “Goettler was dead when the French troops reached him. Bleckley died before the French could evacuate him to a medical aid station. However, his notes from the mission narrowed the search area where the trapped soldiers might be found.”

Of the Lost Battalion, only 194 walked out unwounded after a relief force linked up with them on October 8.

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