World War I: Biographies


Figure 1.--The spark that set off World War I was lit by Serbian terrorists who assasinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Bosnia. Here is the Archduke and his wife Sophie with their children shortly before the assasination (June 1914). In a little more than a month, Europe would be at war.

HBC has developed a number of biographies of some of the important people involved in World War I. It is quite a cast of characters. Our focus is of course their childhood and clothing, but we also provide some basic information on their adult lives. In many cases, their childhood played an important role in forming their chsracter and conduct of the War.

Edmund Allenby (Britain)

Lack of progress in the Palestinr campaign resulted in major changes to the British command. After the two failurea at Gaza, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George recalled Sir Archibald Murray and replaced him with Edmund Allenby, one of the most competent British commandr of the War and nicknaned 'Bloody Bull' (June 1917). He was ordered to capture Jerusalem by Christmas 1917. He was given substabtial reinforcements to accomplish this.

Herbert Henry Asquith (Britain, 1852-1928)

Herbert Henry Asquith was born in Morley, Yorkshire (1852). He was an important reformer as the leader of the Liberal Party, but his historical place is primarily centered unfavorably on his World war I war leadership. He had aestinguished parlinentarian career and rose to lead the Liberal Party. He served as Home Secretary (1892–95) and as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1905–08). As Prime Minister (1908-16) he ushered in imprtant economic. political. and socual reforms. The reforms included social insurance (old age pensions) and reducing the power of the House of Lords. Rather like President Johnson in the United States, his reform program was largely forgotten in the terrible carnge of World War I. It was Asquith that took Britain into World war I and ordered the British Expeditiory Force (BEF) to Belgium, an action that prevented a German victory (August 1914). But as the public came to see the war as a great mistake, this inevitably reflected on Asquith's popularity. Few people even tiday stop to think about the consequences of a German victory. He came to be seen as vacillating and not a strong war leader. There were trrible battlefield losses, most prominently the Somme (1916). Some historians looking back point out his administrative ability and innist that many of the major reforms which led to victory were formulated by Asquith. Even so, in the popular mind it was Asquith's replacement, Dabis Lloyd George, who was 'the man who won the war'. It was the military who persued the tactics that led to mass caualties, not Asquitr, but as the war primen minister, the public held him responsible. The rift that develooed between Asquith and LLoyd Gerorge contributed to the demise of the Liberal Party.

Alec William Campbell (Australia, 1898- )

Alec William Campbell was the son of a commercial traveller (salesman) and had a Scottish grandfather who had migrated to Australia. Alec was born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1899. He did his schooling at Scotch Oakburn College in Launceston from 1910-1915 where he was good at Aussie rules footy and cricket. He was a boyish looking 16 year old child when he lied about his age to join the Australian Infantry in June 1915. His mother farewelled the boy soldier at the dock but his dad was too upset to go off to a probable early death. Mrs. Campbell had lost a nephew in the same war. Alec was trained up and left with the 15th Battalion for the dreaded Gallipoli campaign.

Winston Churchill (England, 1874-1965)

British statesman and author, considered by most historians to be the greatest of all primeministers for his role in warning about the dangers of Germany' military buildup in the 1930s, and after being ignored, leading the seemingly hopeless resistance to the NAZIs during the darkest days of World War II when Britain stood alone. While best known for his World War II role, he also played an important role in World War I as well, serving as First Lord of the Admiralty. He was born at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire and had a trurbulent childhood. He was born into one of the most illustrious families in England, a descendent of the Duke of Marlborough. His father was a brilliant parlimentarian who considered his son slow and a disappointment. His mother was the beautiful American hieris, loving but tied up in the social swirl of the time. He was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy.

Clemanceau (France, 1841-1929))

Georges Clemenceau was the oldest individual to play a major role in World War I. He served as French primier twice (1906-09 and 1917-20). He was not premier when Germany invaded Belgium and France and launched the War, but he was in the final years of the War. He became known as 'The Tiger' in French politcs because of his fiery republicanism. He was an early opponent of Emperor Napoleon III. He trained as a medical doctor, but lived in United states working as a a teacher and journalist. He retuned to France (1869, just before the Franco-Prusian War and the demise of Napoleon III. Clemenceau played an importnt role in the War in that during his first premiership he importantly settled many diiferences with Britain making posible the close World War I relationship. Clemenceau succeeded Paul Painleve as premier (November 1917). At the time, Britain and France were bracing for a massive German offensive. The Germans having won on the Eastern Front were prepating to win the War with vicyory in the West. Americ had enterested the War, but the American Expeditionary Force was not yet fully armed and trained. He formed a coalition cabinet, reserving the post of minister of war for himself. Clemenceau worked tirelessly to revive French national spirit which had been adversrly affected by the terrible losses. The French Army in particular had been damaged. Importantly, he persuaded the Allies to agree to a unified military command under French commander Ferdinand Foch. He forcifully pursued the War to a forceful conclusion (November 1918). At the Paris Peace Conference Clemenceau insisted that Germany be prevented from ever launching another war. He advocated German disarmament and reparations. Historians have criticised him for this. It should ne rembered tht much of the War was fought in northern France which the Germans occupied at the onset of the War. Huge damage ensued while Germny itself was undamaged by the War. France also won back Alsace-Lorraine. He was disatisfied with the resulting Versailles Peace Treaty, clashing with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, whom he viewed as idealistic and timid.

Auguste Yvon Edmond Dubail (France, 1851-1934)

Auguste Yvon Edmond Dubail was an important French Army general during World War I. Dubail commanded the French First Army and Army Group East during World War I. When the Germans declared war and invaded Belgium, Dubail was given command of the First Army. Rather than taking a defensive posture and preoare to meet the Germans, the French rashly launched an offensive to begin to retake territory lost in the Franco-Prussian war. Dubail led the First Army against well-prepared Gernan defensive positions in an effort to retake Loraine. The effort was supported by de Castelnau’s Second Army. The Germans repulsed the French French and inflkicted heavy losses. As a result the First and Second Armies were in aeakened condition to help stop the German drive through Belgium and on to Paris. After the Fermans were stopped on the Marne, Dubail was promoted to commander of Army Group East occupying positions around Belfort and Verdun (1915). From this posdition he watched German reinfoircements and supplies floing into the position opposite his trenches. Dubail concluded thst the Germans were preparing a major offensive against Verdun. He requested reinforcements and heavy artillery and the new Allie tanks to defend Verdun sector. The rench commander-in-chief, Field Marshal Joseph Joffre, did not agree tht a German offendive was imminent and did not reinforce Dubail's Army Group East. When the Germans attacked in force (February 1916), Joffre criticized Dubail and dismissed him (March 1916). Dubail was humiliated and charged that he was being made a scapegoat for Joffre’s poor judgement. Dubail was ultimately given a new job, the military governor of Paris.

Erich von Falkenhayn (Germany)

German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, accurately concluded in 1915 that the key to winning the war lay not on the Eastern Front, but on defeating the French Army on the Western Front. Germany coud not dfeat all three of the Allies, but von Falkenhayn decided to focus on forcing one out of the War and thus disable the Allied alliance. Falkenhayn maintained that if France could be defeated in a major set-piece battle, Britain would have no other option than seeking terms from Germany. This of course is a strategy the Germans could have pursued in 1914. If they had attacked France directly instead of through Belgium, they would not have had to fight the Belgians and British and in all liklihood would have prevailed on the Western Front. Falkenhayn correctly assessed that the French would consider the defense if Verdun as a matter of honor. His plan was essentially to bleed the French white in the defense of Verdun. One historian claims this is what all commanders said after their offensives failed and that he was actually trying to achieve break through. [Strachan] He was largely succesful, the French Army was redered in capable of offensive oerations and almost broke. What von Falkenhayn did not calculate was the extent to which the German Arm itself would also be weakend in the process. Von Falkenhayn would be replaced by Hiddenberg and Ludendorf, the heros of the Eastern Front. He was then sent to Palestine to advise the Ottoman Army.

Franz Ferdinand (Austria, 1863-1914)

Francis Joseph's nephew Francis Ferdinand was made heir to the throne after the untimely death of Archduke Rudolf. I know little of his childhood or how he was dressed as a boy. Historians have written a great deal about Franz Ferdinand and very little of it has been very positive. Franz Ferdinand has been referred to as a miser, a bigot, and a spoiled child. He was shunned by the elite of Viennese society. One observer called "the loneliest man in Vienna". Francis Ferdinand appears to have lacked the two key elements for success in political life--charm and elegance. His Family life, however, appears to have been surprisingly better. His marriage to Countess Sophia von Chotkowa und Wognin, Duchess of Hohenburg in 1900 was called one of the world's great love affairs. Unfortunately the Emperor considered the Duchess a commoner and tried to convince Franz Ferdinand he was marrying beneath his station. They went through with the marriage against the Emperor's wishes but had to renounce rights of rank and succession for their children. In the years to come, Sophie would not be allowed to ride in the same car with her husband during affairs of state.

Foch (France)


Franz Joseph (Austria, 1830-1916)

Of all the Hapsburgs, one of the longest ruling was Francis Joseph I (1830-1916). He also proved to be end of the reining monarchs. By uniting himself with the conservative absolutist foces, he preserved the monarchy for over a half century. In the end, however, his refusal to allow basic democratic reforms would eventually lead tonthe end of the monarchy a few years after his death in 1916. Francis Joseph may indeed be the most tragic figure in the twilight of European monarchies. While he reigned for 7 tumultuous decades, his life was filled with tragedy. His brother Maximilian was executed in Mexico. His son Rudolf, a man of liberal ideals who might have saved the monarchy, commited suiside in a torrid love affair. His beloved wife Sisi was stabbed by an anarchist. His heir Francis Ferdinand was assasinated. His Empire had alrady begun to crumble in World War I, even before his death. Francis Joseph's rule was both magnificent and at the same time pathetic. The Austrian monarchy was one of the most prestiogious in Europe. The Emperor himself was the most long-lived soverign. Yet he lived to see Austria reduced to a second rate power by Germany, his loved ones die in tragic circumstances, and his Empire begin to desintegrate.

George V (England, 1865-36)

George V was crowned only a couple years before the war began. He was a national symbol during the War, but had less to do with the conduct of the War than other European monarchs because of changes in the British political system during the 19th century. He was forced to change the family name from Saxe-Coburg to the less German-sounding Windor. Prince George wore sailor suits as a boy. His father helped establish the sailor suit as a boys' garment. His children pratically lived in sailor suits.

David Lloyd George (Britain)


Prince Henry (Germany, 1862-1929)

Prince Henry and his older brother Wilhelm were very close as boys. Henry left the nursery 2 years after his brother to join him in the schoolroom iverseen by their titir Georg Hinzpeter. Their father taught them to swim and sail. The boys sailed a boat together with an American friend. It was said that this was the birth of the Kriegsmarina. This is more important than it may seem. Many in England had for several centuries viewed Prussia and the other German states as allies against England's mortal enemy--France. English kings since George I had been Germans. George I did not even speak English when he came to England. A variety of factors explain the gradual shift of British thinking to view Prussia and Germany as a foe rather than an ally. Perhaps no single factor was more important than Wilhelm's decission to build the Kriegsmarina into a force that threatened the Royal Navy. Henry was to become a Grand Admiral in the new Krirgsmarina. He mairred Irene of Hesse and the Rhine (1866-1953).

Paul von Hindenburg (Germany, 1847-1934)

Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was the most famous German commander to emerge from World War I. Along with Ludendorff, he oversaw the brilliant German successes on the Eastern Front in 1914. The Russian offensive forced the Germans to transfer forces from the attavk on France. This saved Paris, but the victories at Tannenberg and the Pripet Marshes shattered whole Russian armies. It was the beginning of the demise of Tsarist Russia, although the Russians fought on until 1917. Hindenburg and Ludendorf oversaw the final German offensive tht failed in Spring 1918. He defeated Hitler in the Presidential election of 1932, but turned the country over to the NAZIs when he appointed Hitler Chancellor (1933). Hindenburg actually disliked Hitler, but did like the NAZI-promoted myth that the German Army was not defeated in 1918, but betrayed by politicians.

Adolf Hitler (Germany, -1945)

Hitler with the outbreak of World War I immediately enlisted in the Bavarain Army (1914). Thus while born in Austria, he wouund up serving with the German Army. The Bavarian Army was a kind of national guard reflecting the German Empire's still federal structure. He served on the Western Front. He advanced to the rank of corporal and was awarded two iron crosses. His primary assignmrent in the days before radio was to serve as a runner. Informnatin about his military service is sketchy. The principal available source is Hitler's own description in Mein Kmmpf. He paints a picture of valiantly carrying messages through enemy fire. He was in a military hospital at Pasewalk near Berlin, temporarily blinded from a gas attack when he learned of the Armistice. He wept at the news. This of course is hardly an unbiased source. Yet many historians, perhaps anxious to move on to his rise to power have accepted it uncritically. Yet it leaves unanswered questions. Why if he was such a decorated war hero did he not rise above the rank of corporol after 4 years of service? Men with leadership qualities did rise from the ranks, but Hitler never did. And however you view him, he certainly had leadership capabilities. And why were his war comrads not among those who flocked to his leadership of the NAZI Party. And why did they nor write books and articles about serving with him. Why gicven the often-described comradeship of the trenches were some of these men among his suppoters? We now know the answer to some of these questions. He did indeed receive two iron crosses, but his runner assignments were not dangerous ones and he lived in regimental headquarters behind the front lines. Many headquarters staffers got such awards as long as they did what they were told. The first one was ironically awarded by a Jewish commabnder. Front line soldiers referred to rear echelon men like Cpl. Hitler as Etappenschweine--rear pigs. Hitler apparently in the early years as he was buiklding the NAZI Party found little support from his old comrads. Apparently they did not like him. [Weber] He appears to have gone on and on about the glories of serving in the trenches--even though he lived safely behinf the lines. He never condemned the War like tge men who actually fought at the front. He was not adept socially and did socialize with his comrades. And many of the nen who actually served at the front were not enthusiastic about another war. Even so, Hitler, appears to have found fulfilment in the War. Although he was only promoted to corporal, it was the first time he found any success in life.

Herbert Hoover (America, 1874-1964)

It is said of Herbert Hoover that no one in history saved the lives of more European children. Some Americans might have added during the 1930s that few people did less to save the lives of American children during the Depression. One week before Hoover celebrated his 40th birthday in London, Germany declared war on France (1914). The American Consul General in London asked Hoover to help get stranded tourists home. Hoover's committee in 6 weeks helped 120,000 Americans return to the United States. Then Hoover turned to a far more daunting task, how to feed Belgium, which had attacked France through neutral Belgium and overrun most of the country. When the United States entered the war, President Wilson appointed Hoover head of the Food Administration (1917). Hoover succeeded in cutting consumption of foods needed overseas and avoided rationing at home, yet kept the Allies fed. Europe had been devestated by the War. The desestation and the battlefield losses significantly affected agricultural production. After the Armistice, Hoover, a member of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the American Relief Administration, organized shipments of food for starving millions in central Europe. He extended aid to famine-stricken Soviet Russia (1921). When a critic inquired if he was not thus helping Bolshevism, Hoover retorted, "Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!" This was the greatest exercise in international relief in world history. Had it not been for American food aid after the War, millions mostly children would have starved throughout Europe.

Joffre (France)


Karl I (Austria, 1887-1922)

Charles Francis Joseph, Charles I or Karl I (Charles IV of Hungary) (1887-1922), was another of Francis Joseph's nephews. Karl replaced Francis Joseph when the Emperor died in 1916. Even before his death, Francis Joseph had planned to confer the rights of co-regent on Charles. Karl I was the last of the Hapsburg rulers. Although he was the eldest son of the Archduke Otto (and nephew of Francis Ferdinand), he was little known in Europe until he married Princess Zita of Parma. Durng the War he commanded an Austrian Army on the Transylvanian front (Romania), but returned to Vienna to rule after Francis Joseph's death. Both Otto and Zita favored a negotiated end to the War. He favored the French claim, for example to Alsace-Loraine. Their efforts at diplomacy to end the War, however, only allienated their German allies and bear no real fruits.

T.E. Lawrence (England)

T.E. Lawrence is one of the iconic figures of World War I. He not only played an important role in the War, but helped shaped the modern Middle East. He was an obscure academic before the War, sent to Egypt as a junior officer to work with British intelligence because of his language skills. He had no real military training, but managed to turn the disorganized Arab Revolt into a potent force. First he seqized Aqaba which the British though imoregnable. This provided a way of supplying the Arab Army. Using guerrilla tacgtics, Larence and the Arab Army attavled the Turks who had controlled the Arabs fir four centuries. They blew jup trains ans attacked isolated Turkish outposrs. The Turks were driven to distraction attempting to counter the hit and run tactics. One author suggests thst Lawrence's success was in avoilding personal glory and instead enpowered his followers. [Schneider]

Ludendorf


Prince Louis Mountbatten (Hesse/England, 1854-1921)

Prince Louis was actually a German who because there was no real German navy at the time came to England to persue a naval career. He rose to First Sea Lord when World War I began. He eventually had to resign because of his German origins. Like George V, he had to change his family name from Battenburg to Mountbatten. His son Louis wore sailor suits a boy and made a name for himself as Lord Louis Mounbatten of Burma in World War II.

Nicholas II (Russia, 1868-1918)

Tsar Nicholas II had perhaps the most difficult jobs in the world, ruling Russia. He was an absolute soverign in a Europe where liberal reforms had increasingly limited the perogatives of monarchs. He did no want a war with Germany, but saw no way of preventing it. While the Germans struck at France first, dreadful reverses in 1914 and 15 caused the Tsar to take command of the army. It was a mistake as the reslt was that he was personally blamed for the continuing losses. Like many European royals, he lost his crown in 1917-18, only he and his families were executed by the Bolshevicks. Nicholas wore sailor suits as a boy and his son Alexi is perhaps the most famous boy who ever wore sailor suits.

Orlando


John Joseph Pershing (1860-1948)

John Pershing was born in Laclede, Missouri (1860). His father was a railroad section boss. The family was of Alsatian origins. They originally spelling their name "Pfirsching". As an irony of history, Alsace would ve one of the major contributing causses of World War I. Pershing began to teach school, in part because of family finances devestated by the Depression of 1873. His first school was a black school in Laclede (1877). The children were only s decsade removed from slavery. He was still teaching when he saw a notice in the local news paper which caused him to look into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He proved to be a model cadet, selected as first captain of the Corps of Cadets. He commanded black soldiers on the Wesstern frontier, earning him the nick name of Black Jack Pershing. He served in Cuba with Col. Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish American War and was subsequently assigned to the Philippines. President Wilson chose him to lead the expedition into Merxico to find Pancho Villa. General Pershing after the United States entered World War I was selected to command the American Expeditionsary Force (AEF) to France during World War I (1917-18). Many of the leading American generals in World War II served under Pershing in France. After the war he had the honor of being promoted to general of the armies, a position previously held only by George Washington. In his later years he devoted himself to writing his memoirs--My Experiences in the World War. It waswidely aclaimed and won the Pulitzer Prize for history (1932).

Pétain (France)

Marshal Henri-Philippe Pétain was perhaps the oldest man to play an important role in World War II. He was one of the great heros of France. He played a key role in saving the French Army during World war I when it looked like in my crack in the face of the German onslaught. He led the heroic French defense at Verdun, the single-most horific battle of World War I. The French stopped a massive German assault. An elderly Pétain was voted premier of France by a fleeing French Assembly as the German Wehrmacht took Paris and poured into central France. He agrred to an armistace with NAZI Germany 8 days after becoming premier. Britain and France had an agreement that there would be no seprate peace. The British realized that the French Army was defeated, but Churchill did not expect the French to sign a peace treaty and colaborate with the Germans in the war effort. Pétain set up his government in Vichy, a resort city in the unoccupied zone of southern France. One historian described him as as becoming 'a despised puppet' of NAZI Germany. This was not the case at first. He was at first very popular with the French people during the first years of the occupation. Many French people believed he saved them from a horific German occupation. Pétain portrayed France's defeat as the fault of Communists, Socialists, and cosmopolitans, a code word for Jews. As far as the Communists and socialists are concered, this wa in part true, but the major cause was military incompetence. And Pétain was detrmined above all to protect the honor of the French Army. A military leader himself, he was not about to place the blame on the French Army, a still widely repected institution in France. Pétain sought to institute a social revolution with he called a National Rvolution, by focusing on patriotism and rooting out left-wing, cosmopolitan influences. Pétain like many French people saw the NAZIs as having won the war making resistance futile. If the poweful French Army could be defeated in weeks, how could anuone resist the NAZIs? Thus Pétain sought an accomdation with Hitler. After the British attack on the French fleet, he was willing to collaborate with the German war effort, he drew the line, however, at participating in and committing French soldiers to combatg and joining Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. When the Allies liberated France in 1944, the retreating Germans brought Pétain Germany. Pétains collaboration with the Germas probably did save Frenchmen some of the more brutal aspects of NAZI rule. But in doinf so it made it easier forthe Germans to loot the Frebch economy and allowed them ti use France t support the war economy. The major mistake that Pétain and his supporters made is assuming that the war-time occupation was as bad as it got. Not at all understading what hitler and the NAZIs had in store fir France after they won the War. After the NAZI surrender in 1945, Pétain was returned to France. He was tried and found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to prison for life rather than death because of his age and previous srvice to the nation. He died in prison 6 years later (1951).

Francisque Poulbot (France, 1879-1946)

Francisque Poulbot is one of the most famous French illustrators, especially illustrators of children. Poulbot is particularly known for his drawings of Paris street urchins. Poulbot loved to draw these children as shameless, and often malicious jokesters. Most of Poulbot's work was published in the 1900s-30 s. He died in 1946. Given his many anti-German drawings, I'm unsure what happened to him during the German occupation. Many of Poulbot's drawings were sharply aimed at the Germans (le bosch) during World War I (1914-18). Poulbot's drawings illustrate well and highlight the clothes worn by children in the early 20th century. A French reader mentioned that he like Pierre Jobert uses humor in his drawings.

Gavrilo Princip (Bosnia, 1895?-1918)

he Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 28, 1914, their 14th wedding anniversary, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. Gavrilo was a 19-year old teeager committed to the Young Bosnia Movement. As he was considered the least reliable, he was given a pistol rather than a bomb. The assasintion was to launch World War I. As Princip was a minor, he could not be executed under Austrian law and was instead sentenced to prison. He died a terrible death in prison, but the war he had helped launch though an act of terrorism had the desired effect. The great multi-ethnic empire empires were dismantled. Most were broken up into small states based on specific nationalities. As Pricipio had wanted, Serbia was expanded to include many Slavic populated areas of the Astro-Hungarian Empire and called Yugoslavia.

Rasputin (Russia, 1864/72-1916)

Grigori Efimovich Rasputin was an uneducated Siberian mystic healer. He is one of the most picturesque figures of the 20th century. Virtually nothing is known about his childhood and early adult life. He was born in Pokrovskoe to a peasant family. The date of his birth is unknown, but there are many varied estimates (1864-72). This was a small, rural village in Tiumen Oblast. Pokrovskoe is in western Siberia on the Toura River near the foothills of the Ural Mountains. Pokrovskoe had only a few unpsaved streets. It was dominated by a large white church with a guilded dome. The gleaming church in the middler of a drab villsage must have affected the boys in the village. It certainly did young Grigori. Little is known about his education. Many Russians at the time received little or no education. Rasputin's education must have been very limited as he was illiterate. At a young age he developed a reputation for debauchery. Rasputin in Russian means the 'debauched one'. He also developed a reputation as a mystiqe and faith healer. And it it this reputation that unbelievably brouht him from Siberaian peasant poverty to the Tsar's household in St. Petersburg to save the Tsarevich Alexis.

Eddie Ricenbcher (United States)

Eddie Rickenbacker was a true American original. His father died when he was only 12 years old. He thus had to quit school and begin working. He took a correspondence course in mechanchics. He developed into a crack mechanic which led to racing. Automobile manufacturers at the time marketed their cars by racing them. So Eddie became a race car driver, eventually. His skill soon made his famous and rich. When America declared war, he tried to interest the war Department in a squadron of pilots made up as race car drivers. There was no interest. So he enlisted and was quickly made Gen. Pershing's driver. While in France, he was recruited by General Mitchell as an engineering officer for the fledgling Army Air Corps. While at the Anerican Training Center he got interested in flying. He stood out among American pilots who wee mostly college graduates and from well-to-do families. His skill soon earned their respect. He became the leading American fighter ace in World War I--the American Ace of Aces.

Franklin Roosevelt (United States, 1882-1945)

The great World War II leader, Franklin Roosevelt, like Winston Churchill had a role in World War I, although a much smaller one. Of all the important World war I and World war II leaders, it was Roosevelt who had the most expereience in Germany and he convinced himself that he was an expert on Germany, although he did not speak German or ever studied the country academically. The Roosevelt family made several trips to Europe, including Germany, primarily so Franklin's older brither could pursue a technical education. German universities were among the most respected in the world at the time. The family, inclusing Franklin, even met the Kiser. Even so, the family was staunchly into-German. His mother Sara was known to treat the Germans with disdain and this rubbed off on Franklin who recounted tales of his conflict with 'boorish' Germans. This began as a boy. While in Germany, his parents enrolled him in a German primary school, hoping he might pick up a little German. It was the firsrt school he ever attnded. In later years he claimed the boys talked of war and conquering other countries. We suspect that this like his other German stories were embellished. We are not sure that Franlin learned enough German to understand what the boys were saying. He also told storis aboutencounters with rude Germans. The most often recounted story occuured on a train and the final version was that Franlkin as a young man almost came to blows with a sword-carrying Prussian officer. Like his nephew Theidore, Franklin was appointed as Assistance Secretary of the Navy, a post he held during the War. At the end of the War he complained about occupation policy, such as flying the American flag over U.S. military posts in the Rhineland. He also thought it wasa great mistake not to occupy Germany so that they knew they had been defeated. This conviction was the genesis of the World War II Unconditional Surrender policy and the military occupation of the country.

Theodore Roosevelt (United States, 1858-1919)

Many American presidents have served in the military or as president overseen wars. Most except for Polk have taken the country to war reluctantly. Few had any romantic notions about war. Theodore Rosevelt did have such notions and he wrote glowingly of war. After World War I broke out in Europe, Roosevelt became pasionate advovate for America entering the War on the Allied side. He called President Wilson a "coward" for keeping America neutral. When America finally entered the War, Roosevelt tried to enlist, but Wilson refused to let him participate in any official capacity. All his sons enlisted and served with destinction. Teddy Jr, Archibald, and Kermit were all wounded. Teddy Jr joined up again in World War II and died after leading the Utah Beach operation at Normandy. Quentin was a fighter pilot. Tragedy struck the Roosevelts as so many families, however, when Theodore and Ethel learned that Quentin,their youngest who the president called "dear little Quiliacans", had been shot down in France.

Wilhelm II (Germany, 1888-1941)

Wilhelm II is perhaps the best known of the German Kaisers and Kings of Prussia--and the greatest failure. This was not preordained. He was a handicapped child that through strength of character became a capable horesman and marksman. Kaiser Wilhelm's upbrining and family background equiped him ideally to play the kind of peace keeping role played by his uncle Edward VII. However this role was not to his liking. He rejected the liberal leanings of his parents and instead the belicose leanings of the Prussian Junkers appealed to him. The result was to be disastorous for Germany, Europe and the Hohenzollern dynasty. While not the monster portrayed in British war-time propaganda, the bombastic, unstable Kaisser proved until Hitler to be one of the most disatrous rulers in German history. It was said ofWilhelm that he was a man who wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. Many historians trace his narcisistic personality to his hanndicap and childhood. It is not because of his parents, more than his predecessors, Wilhelm grew up in a loving family. Edward VII, a perceptive judge of character, said of his nephew, "the most brilliant failure in Europe". Certainly he became the most hated man in Europe, although today's historical judgement after Hitler and the Holacaust now sees Wilhelm as less sinister than he was viewed after World War I. In many ways, however, it was Wilhelm who made Hitler possible.


Figure 2.--The European public after the War greeted President Wilson as few individuals before or since. Here London school girls draped in the American flag shower Wilson with carnations, I think at a railroad station. King George V is escoring him to Buckingham Palace. The reception in Paris was eve more tumultuous than in London. Allied leaders, however, looked on Wilson with considerable trepedidation. Source: National Archives

Woodrow Wilson (United States, 1856-1924)

Like Theodore Roosevelt before him, Woodrow Wilson regarded himself as the personal representative of the people. "No one but the President," he said, "seems to be expected ... to look out for the general interests of the country." He developed a program of progressive reform and asserted international leadership in building a new world order. Wilson had seen the frightfulness of war as a young boy in the South during the Civil War and tried to keep America out of the War. Herman provocations, especially the reintroduction of "unrestricted submarine warfare" finally brought America into the War. Wilson in 1917 proclaimed American entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world "safe for democracy." Wilson was perceived in Europe as a savior, much to the distain of Allied leaders. Woodrow Wilson tried in vain to bring the United States into the League of Nations after the War.

York, Alvin (United States, 1887-1964)

Alvin York was the most lauded American hero of World War I. He was born in the backwoods of Tennesse. He grew up on a hard-scrabble farm near Pall Mall. He had to leave school after the 3rd Grade to help out on the family farm. The family hunted to put food on the table. His father taught him to be a crack shot. He became a teenage rabble rousr and drinker until he got religion. When he was drafted he declared himself to be concientious objector (1917). This was difficult to establish as he belong to a small Church was based on his own personal reading of the Bible. He was assigned to the 82nd Division and during training his character and markmanship impressed his officers and other men. His batallion commander took an interest in him and convinced him that he had an obligation to the country to fight. The Division was transported to France (June 1918) and participated in the 100 Days Campaign that won the war. York was promoted to corporal. His company was on a hill near Chatel-Chehery (Octoner 1918). They faced a well contructed German hill-top position defended with macxhine guns. The company was ordered to take the German position. Half way acroos the valley, the company befan taking casualties from the German machine gun fire. With the officers and other non-coms killed or wounded. York told the men to take cover and personally took on the Fermans. He proceeded to kill 20 Germans with both his pistol and rifle and take 130 more prisoner. What was left of hisshot-up company ,marched them back to the astonished Americans in Chatel-Chehery . [Mastriano]

Sources

Mastriano, Douglas V. Alvin York: A New Biography of the Gero of the Argonne (2014).

Schneider, James J. Guerrilla Leader: T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt (2011), 368p.

Weber, Thomas. Hitler's First War (Oxford University Press: 2010), 450p.







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