A thought that constantly lingers in the back of my mind: I don’t pay nearly enough attention to things that are actually important. I don’t read or otherwise consume the news on a regular basis. I’m not big on holidays. As an agnostic I don’t have a weekly scheduled time to reflect on things bigger than myself like an observing religious person normally would. So this is an attempt to, for once, think about something important: the good ole US of A.
Lately I’ve been reading a bit on World War I. I’m not sure exactly how I got it into my head to go to the library to pick up John Keegan’s “The First World War”, but it was due at least in part to my love for the Men in Blazers podcast where Rog (Roger Bennett) often references his affection for WW1 poetry. In any case, the book was a fairly straight ahead recounting of the major events of the war with specific focus on military strategy. I suppose some of that exists in any retelling of a war, but a lot of the descriptions on military movements and tactics went straight over my head.
One thing the book conveyed to me very clearly is the heroic American entrance to the conflict. For those not up on their WW1 history, the US sat on the sidelines for the first years of the war with no intention of meddling in what Woodrow Wilson viewed as a European affair. But repeated German aggression (the Lusitania sinking, the Zimmermann telegram) coupled with a drastic underestimation of America’s fighting capacity and resolve led to the US eventually entering the war and drastically swaying the balance in favor of the Allies. And none too soon…at the time Russia was imploding from revolution which allowed Germany to consolidate gains there and concentrate power on the Western front, the French were struggling to keep troop morale from collapsing completely, and the British were trying to hold the line in the north while waiting for fresh conscripts to arrive.
At the outset of America’s entrance to the war, a small expeditionary force was sent to supplement and relieve French troops. At this point the French had suffered a series of defeats and Germany was drawing dangerously close to important French cities including Paris herself. The arrival of the first American expeditionary divisions, even the modest force that they were, provided a huge psychological boost. One of the best quotes from the book will make any American puff up with pride.
A famous saying is attributed to Captain Williams, who was serving as a company commander in the 5th Marines. When advised to withdraw by a French officer at the defensive line just north of the village of Lucy-le-Bocage on June 1, 1918, he is said to have replied: “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!”
A badass quote for a badass country. Happy Memorial Day.