The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month…

One hundred years ago – November 11, 1918 – an armistice treaty brought a cease fire to “the war to end all wars.” For the soldiers and other volunteers serving, and for the nations across the world, it wasn’t really an end, but a chance to begin the healing process as best as they were able. I can’t say it better than John McCrae, though I like to think now that the torch represents the freedoms bought for us by past generations:

In Flanders Fields (1915)

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.

Remembering the Lost Generation

I’m disappointed to see how little attention the media and local civic organizations are giving to the centennial of the US entering The Great War. The WWI generation has been called the Lost Generation, and with good reason. After enduring WWI and the Great Depression, this generation and “their” war were overshadowed by their children fighting in WWII and the horrors of that war.

Yet the WWI generation of Americans also answered the call to go to war, often as volunteers. Many of the women who volunteered had to pay their own way – sacrificing money, time, and sometimes even their lives to nurse, drive ambulances, entertain, and feed and care for soldiers. We might think of the men and women who volunteered as naive, but by the time America entered the war on April 6, 1917, the fighting had dragged on for almost three years, and many of the young people who served had at least an idea of the gruesome conditions that awaited them.

For a giveaway of No Peace with the Dawn, a novel about how World War I changed the lives of one group of young Americans, see my Facebook page.

I think this poem by British poet Rupert Brooke, who died in the war, is a fitting memorial to all those who lost their lives in the Great War:

The Dead (1914)

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.

WWIposter

Save

World War I Centennial Commemoration

The United States doesn’t make as much fuss about World War I as most European countries, but the “Great War” still had a lasting impact on the United States. April 6th will mark one hundred years since the US entered the war. Some museums and historical societies will be holding events to commemorate the centennial, and my co-author Jeff Bateman and I will be at the Utah State University Museum of Anthropology April 1st at 12:30 to talk about the impact of the war on Utah and Cache Valley specifically.

Though April 1st isn’t the exact centennial of America’s entry into the war, it’s significant in Utah, at least, because it’s also General Conference weekend – when members of the LDS faith gather from across Utah and the world to listen to advice from their church leaders. April 6, 1917 was also the Saturday of General Conference weekend. War was declared while LDS church leaders and members gathered in the historic Tabernacle at Temple Square. Though the speakers did not officially announce the war over the pulpit, they did talk about the conflict that Christian soldiers would face of trying to fight while maintaining charity toward all men.

The President of the LDS Church, Joseph F. Smith, said: “…I exhort my friends, the people of our country, especially of this intermountain region, to maintain above all other things the spirit of humanity, of love, and of peace-making … I want to say to the Latter-Day Saints who may enlist, and whose services the country may require, that when they become soldiers of the State and of the Nation that they will not forget that they are also soldiers of the Cross, that they are minister of life and not of death; and when they go forth, they may go forth in the spirit of defending the liberties of mankind rather than for the purpose of destroying the enemy.”

A lot has changed in the last 100 years, but that challenge – to stand up for causes we believe in without giving in to hate towards those who oppose us or hold a different view – remains a problem that we still struggle with today.

Makeshift music in World War I

The Great War epitomized the dark side of the modern, mechanical age, turning warfare into a grinding machine spitting out broken men and women in unprecedented numbers. A theme that emerges over and over from World War I is the attempt of individual soldiers, nurses, doctors, refugees, and others to keep their humanity intact in the face of such horror. One of the ways they did this was through music.

It’s hard to imagine many traditional instruments made it to the front or survived conditions there very long, but people are endlessly creative. The Museum of the Great War in Meaux, France, has these examples of homemade musical instruments used on the Western Front:

IMG_0558IMG_0557

They used helmets, canteens, and scrap wood – along with an impressive understanding of how to lay out the strings and frets – to make music in the midst of war. I like to think it helped them think of better times, past and future, and hold on to their humanity while the world around them fell apart.

Save

Japanese in World War I Utah

One of the reasons I’ll never run out of writing ideas is that every time I work on a project, I come across new awesome stories that don’t quite fit with the current project. The Japanese who fought in World War I are an example of that. As I was scanning lists of Utah veterans who fought in “The Great War,” looking for character names for No Peace with the Dawn, I came across one from Brigham City, Utah that stood out from the Williams, Johns, and even the Alonzos and LaMonds that pop up in Utah: Moichi Kuramoto.

My co-author Jeff Bateman and I were interested in including minorities as we wrote about Utah’s experience in the Great War, but Mr. Kuramoto didn’t quite fit with the story we were telling, so all he gets is a brief cameo. Still, here is what I was able to find about him, using census and war records, and general research on the Japanese who came to Utah.

Moichi Kuramoto was born in Hawaii. His parents probably moved there to work in agriculture, then made their way to California in the early 1900s, where anti-Asian sentiments were burning hot. Some Japanese had already come to Utah to work on the railroads after the Exclusion Act prevented more Chinese from emigrating, and they were followed by their countrymen who wanted agricultural jobs. I would guess Kuramoto’s family was among these. Though nativism and racial prejudice were everywhere at this time, the Japanese seem to have not been discriminated against as severely as other groups in Utah, such as the Greeks.

Moichi Kuramoto was drafted from Perry, Box Elder Country, Utah, according to his draft registration card. His being drafted was illegal, since he would have been denied American citizenship at the time (this also affected other groups in WWI, such as some Native Americans who served). Nevertheless, he answered the call. He doesn’t seem to have gone overseas during the war, serving instead as a private in a Depot Brigade in New York, which helped to train and equip troops going “Over There.” Perhaps the army didn’t quite know what to do with Japanese draftees? They wouldn’t have served in segregated units at any rate, since those were reserved for African Americans – all other racial groups were integrated.

The 1920 U.S. Census shows that Kuramoto survived the influenza epidemic that ravaged the East Coast training camps, and was married and farming in Payson, Utah. Again following him through census records, he and his large family moved to California during the Great Depression (a very difficult time for all farmers in Utah), and were still living there in 1940. If, like me, you know the history of the Japanese in California during WWII, you probably feel the same sick sense of foreboding I did as I read through the records.

Kuramoto died in California in April 1941, early enough to miss Pearl Harbor, but his wife, Ichiyo, and his Utah- and California-born children were imprisoned in Rohwer War Relocation Camp in Arkansas. On one hand, I was relieved that this veteran was spared the ordeal of being imprisoned, but on the other, I hurt for his widowed wife and her children, who had to suffer doubly from his lose and the lose of everything else. At about the time his family was sent to live behind barbed wire as potential enemy aliens, his military veteran headstone was delivered to the Lodi Cemetery in California where he was buried.

Kuramoto’s wife and children returned to California after World War II to pick up what was left of their lives, but I can only imagine their thoughts toward the country that could illegally draft Japanese in one war and imprison them in the next. And while Kuramoto’s death saved him the humiliation of being declared an enemy of the country he had served, I wonder about other Japanese veterans of WWI who ended up in relocation camps.

The Battle of the Somme, Summer 1916

We’re not thinking much about World War I this weekend in America as we watch fireworks and enjoy our barbecues, but July 1st marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme in Europe. The U.S. didn’t know it in 1916, but they were less than a year away from being dragged into the horrors of the Great War themselves.

Over one million young men were killed or wounded in the summer of 1916 at the Somme. More than 19,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day alone. There were 25,000 British casualties on July 4th. These are such staggering numbers it might make us numb to the destruction, but each of those million men left behind love ones and hopes and dreams–one million homes in mourning, one million empty spots at dinner tables. The losses reached around the world, from Germany, France, and Britain, to South Africa, India, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

The Battle of the Somme mixed primitive tanks and cavalry charges (while the Red Baron circled overhead), machine guns and gas, trench warfare and bloody charges over the top, all in a fifteen mile strip of land. Through all this, in 141 days, the British lines advanced only seven miles. German officer Friedrich Steinbrecher said: “Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word.”

Vickers_machine_gun_crew_with_gas_masks

 

Westfront, deutscher Soldat
Photos courtesy of wikimedia

No Peace with the Dawn Cover Reveal!

We have a cover for No Peace with the Dawn (November 2016)! I really appreciate the work Michelle May Ledezma at Cedar Fort did on getting Reed’s U.S. Marine Corps uniform right. Marines don’t fight in their stylish blue dress uniforms, and in the Great War, they ended up having to wear Army uniforms in a lot of cases. Jeff will probably share more about this on his blog, but the Marines really got a raw deal from the U.S. Army when they went over to France, yet World War I–and the Battle of Belleau Wood in particular–ended up being pivotal in Marine Corps history and identity. It was a ridiculously nasty fight, but the Marines pushed the Germans back and stopped their march to Paris, possibly saving the city and the Allies’ war effort. Semper fi indeed!

Were there actually any Utahns at Belleau Wood during World War I? I’ve read a book that claims there were, but I’m not sure about the evidence for that. Maybe more research will turn up the answer, though if anyone knows–or had a family member who was there–I’d love to hear about it.

NoPeaceWiththeDawnCover