Wednesday, March 23, 2011
United Press Staff Correspondent
August 16, 1916
With the French Armies on the Somme. A thirty mile horseshoe of solid artillery fire, one of the most terrific shell blasting in the history of the world, is drawing a line of flame along the Somme battlefield
The artillery reached its greatest intensity as I arrived at the highest point on Dom Pierre plateau, southwest of Peronne. The day before the French had captured German third line positions from Hardecourt to Buscourt. At the precise moment of my arrival the French were employing all their great artillery strength to protect their newly acquired positions. The Germans were shelling even more desperately in an effort to dislodge the French and launch counter attacks.
The stupendousness of this great artillery struggle was indescrible. The curving line of fire extended from the French positions before Clery, north of the Somme, to St. Quentin, thence south to the region of Peronne. Shells of all calibers, both shrapnel and high explosives burst at every instant at every point along the entire front. With a rapidity which defied counting. For one lone interval, by a seemingly miraculous intervention. I was able to count off fifteen seconds when not a single shell exploded. Immediately thereafter, the tide was resumed with redoubled intensity.
Equally impressive as this thirty mile unbroken circle of artillery fire, was the thirty mile horse shoe of French observation sausage balloons over hanging at a great height the entire battle front. Their wireless instruments were directing the French fire.
At the same time innumerable French aero planes darted in and out among the sausages, crossing and recrossing the German lines every minute. From time to time as a daring aviator flew over the German positions half a dozen white puffs would suddenly appear with startling distinctiveness silhouetted against the clear blue sky, showing where the German anti aircraft gunners had sought to encircle the aero plane with shrapnel.
Yet despite this great activity of Frances air forces, not a single German aero plane appeared either for the purpose of chasing back the French, attacking the French sausages or for reconnoitering. Likewise not a single German sausage was visible to offset the unbroken thirty-mile semi circle of twenty six French sausages which I was able to count.
“BETTY” THE DOG SAVED THE LIVES OF 38 CREWMEN OF A TORPEDOED SHIP
By Wilbur S. Forrest UPI Correspondent.
London July 20, 1915.
Thirty eight members of the crew of the British cargo steamer Caucasian, torpedoed off the British coast, owe their lives to a diminutive Pomeranian dog.
The story was told today at headquarters of the National Canine Defense League where Captain Robinson of the Caucasian was awarded a silver medal for saving the life of the dog and consequently the crew.
The Caucasian was torpedoed after a submarine had pursued the vessel for an hour. While the crew was swarming into the boats Captain Robinson handed “Betty” his wife’s ten month old Pomeranian dog to the second mate directing that the animal be placed in a life boat. The mate handed “Betty” to a member of the crew who accidently dropped her overboard.
When the captain entered the boat he saw the little dog swimming toward the submarine. He immediately jumped into the water and swam about a quarter of mile. When he reached the dog he placed it on his shoulder and was surprised to find that he was within a few yards of the submarine. The German officer of the craft, standing on the deck, addressed him in imperfect English.
“I had made up my mind to blow up your lifeboats because you did stop your ship, but I will not do so as a reward for your brave swim to save your little dog.”
Captain Robinson swam back to his lifeboat and the submarine proceeded on its search for other victims.
The crew were picked by the British steamer Inglemoor but immediately were forced to take again to their own boats as the submarine returned and torpedoed the Inglemoor.
Captain Robinson with his dog, and crew, were finally rescued by another steamer and landed in Benzance.
Correspondent Wilbur S. Forrest is one of the London staff of the UPI bureau, he was in charge of the Cleveland bureau of the United Press up to the time of his transfer, early in 1915, to the other side. Forrest was the first American Correspondent to reach Queenstown after the Lusitanian was torpedoed and his graphic story gave the American press a splendid picture of that disaster.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Frank Woodruff Buckles
From the Telegraph:
Frank Woodruff Buckles was born on a farm near Bethany, northwest Missouri on February 1 1901, seven months before the assassination of President William McKinley. At the time of his birth the United States had five states and 220 million people fewer than it has today. Its army, in 1917, was about the 18th largest in the world, behind those of Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. Frank saw his first automobile aged five and his first aeroplane at the Illinois State Fair in 1907.
Buckles on joining up in August 1917
At 15 he delivered a string of horses to Oklahoma, landed a job at a bank and moved into a hotel. Though only 16 in 1917, when America entered the First World War, he was determined to enlist, succeeding at the fourth attempt after convincing an Army recruiting sergeant “on the family Bible” that he was 18.
Buckles was longing to see action and joined the ambulance corps as the fastest route to the Western Front. He sailed across the Atlantic in the Carpathia (the ship that had picked up survivors from the Titanic in 1912), docking in Glasgow in December 1917.
After some months as a general driver in Winchester he was shipped over to France, where he drove wounded soldiers to the nearest hospital. If he never made it to the front lines it was not for want of trying. After the war ended his unit escorted prisoners of war back to Germany. He returned to the United States in January 1920.
Buckles returned to Oklahoma for a while, then moved to Canada and eventually New York. There he found a job with a steamship company which took him around the world – to Latin America, China and Europe, including Germany, where in 1928 “two impressive gentlemen” told him: “We are preparing for another war.”
In late 1941, while in Manila on business, Buckles was captured by the Japanese. He spent the next three and a half years as a civilian internee in prison camps. “The bad part was the starvation,” he recalled, and he eventually emerged weighing less than seven stone.
After the war Buckles returned to the United States, married, bought a cattle farm in West Virginia and settled down to a life of contented obscurity. For most of the rest of his life not even his closest neighbours knew he had served in the First World War.
That was until 1999, when he was invited to Paris to be awarded the Legion d’honneur by French President Jacques Chirac, and American newspapers began to take an interest in what, in America, has often been called the “forgotten war”. In 2008, Buckles was honoured at a special ceremony in Washington by President George W Bush.
As the remaining veterans of the conflict succumbed to old age and illness, interest in Buckles’s experience grew. As of 2007, only three US veterans were still alive, and by mid-February 2008, Buckles was the only one left. When asked how it felt to be the last survivor he replied “I realised that somebody had to be, and it was me.”
In November that year, the 90th anniversary of the end of the war, Buckles attended a ceremony at the grave of the First World War General John Pershing in Arlington National Cemetery. He was also honorary chairman of a campaign to rededicate an existing First World War memorial, on the National Mall, as the official National First World War Memorial. About 18 months ago, aged 108, he returned to Washington to give evidence on the campaign to a Senate committee.
Lucid and fiercely independent into his 110th year, Buckles attributed his extraordinary longevity to good genes and daily callisthenics. He was vague about only one thing: What on earth was the First World War all about?
According to The Washington Post, only a 109-year-old Australian man and a 110-year-old British woman are now believed to survive from the estimated 65 million people who served in the 1914-1918 war.
Frank Buckles’s wife Audrey died in 1999. Their daughter survives him