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Archive for the ‘World War I (1914-1918)’ Category

The last time I checked in, it was a hot and steamy Sunday evening.  Tonight, it’s a hotter and steamier Sunday evening.  And, according to the weather folks, “hotterer” and “steamierer” (I don’t think those are real words) are coming.  Monday and Tuesday will see us in the furnace, with a slow break beginning on Wednesday.

The only reason anyone knows about the RMS Carpathia is because almost everyone knows about the RMS TitanicCarpathia’s notoriety was born when the Titanic died in April of 1912.  She arrived on-scene and rescued Titanic’s survivors, plucking more than 700 from the frigid North Atlantic.

We know the Titanic’s fate…it’s one of the most famous shipwrecks in history.  But what of the Carpathia?

After Titanic, the Carpathia continued her duties as a passenger steamship.  When America entered World War I in 1917, she was pressed into war-time service, ferrying American soldiers across the Atlantic to Great Britain.  Shortly after midnight on July 17, 1918, she was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank 12 hours later.

Loss of life was limited to just five of the 280 passengers and crew.

And there were plenty of lifeboats for all…

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The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the last major battle fought in World War I.  In late September of 1918, the Allied forces (primarily British, French, Belgian, and American) began their offensive and, by the end of October, German resistance had pretty much crumbled away.

The success of British on the northern end of the front really made the difference, but the American sector (with 1.2 million green and largely untested soldiers) definitely played its part as well.  It was also in the American sector that one of military history’s most famous exploits took place.

On October 8, 1918, Alvin York, a 29-year-old Corporal from Tennessee, was part of a small team attempting to capture several machine gun nests.  After taking a number of prisoners behind enemy lines, the group was spotted by machine gunners on a ridge, who promptly turned their guns around and began firing.  Most all the officers in York’s team were killed.

With only 7 men left (including himself), York left the other 6 to tend to the prisoners, worked around to the end of the ridge, and began picking off machine gun nests one by one.  With men dropping all around, the German officer surrendered his unit.  When the action was over, York had killed 25 Germans and he and his company had captured more than 130 German soldiers.

Somewhat ironically, York had originally sought an exemption from the military as a conscientious objector, as his Christian views were pacifist.  However, because his church was so small and had no formal doctrine, his exemption was denied.  But amidst his discussions about the Bible with his commanding officers, he came to believe that his Christian views and warfare could be rationalized.

When the War ended, York held the rank of Sergeant and had become one of the most decorated soldiers ever, with a Congressional Medal of Honor among the numerous awards given him.

Sergeant York” (with Gary Cooper playing Alvin) is one of the most popular wartime movies.  I watch it anytime I can (it’s on almost every Memorial Day weekend).  While it’s true that the movie takes great license with York’s personal life, the military exploits are relatively accurate.  Still, it’s better to get the story from a writer than from a movie director.

Recommended Reading: Sgt. York: His Life, Legend and Legacy – The book.
Recommended Viewing: Sergeant York – The movie.

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Manfred von Richthofen may have been called “Little Manny” by his mother, but we all simply knew him as “The Red Baron“.  Like Santa, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, and Torgo, The Red Baron conjures up mystical images…albeit different mystical images than Torgo.  A foggy morning with dew heavy on the ground.  The bright red Fokker Triplane in the misty background.  The goggled young man standing there giving his love a last embrace…ok, even I’m about to gag.

Seriously, Richthofen has done it all.  He’s gone airplane-to-doghouse with America’s most loved beagle (a close second?…this beagle).  He’s had songs written about him, he’s had video games created in his honor.  He’s even got his own line of frozen pizzas, which aren’t too bad, especially the pepperoni when it’s hot from the oven with a little extra parmesan.  Not bad for a guy who died 30+ years before Snoopy darkened the newspapers’ whitespace and nearly 60 years before computer games hit the scene.

So who was this not-masked man?  The Red Baron was the greatest ace of World War I, shooting down 80 aircraft before being shot down and killed on April 21, 1918.  There is still mystery as to who gets credit for downing the Baron.  He was in enemy territory in pursuit of an enemy airplane, being pursued by another enemy airplane, and being shot at by numerous enemies on the ground.  But students of this famed final fight strongly agree that ground fire is what killed Richthofen, who was able to land his plane in his dying moments.

Legendary in life, and even more legendary in death…The Red Baron.

Recommended Activity:  Honor The Red Baron’s passing.  Read a book about The Red Baron that was written by The Red Baron.  Eat a Red Baron pizza or listen to the recording of that famous song about Snoopy’s fight with him…several times.  Better yet, get together with your neighbors and re-enact the Baron’s last dogfight on your front lawn…guns, airplanes, and artillery recommended but not required.  And don’t forget your helmet…

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