Part 12 can be found here if you missed it...
In searching for anything in Carl Wanderer's war service that might shed on light on why he commited the crimes he did, I took a deep look at World War I and Carl's place in it. The Great War left me truly in awe on several fronts- the massive scale of the conflict and the new technologies that came of it as well as the amazing sacrifices made by men and women, soldier and civilian. Featured below are some of the significant turning points in the war and in a timeline like fashion, you'll see the horrors of the war and how Wanderer was largely able to avoid the majority of them.
This post, like the war, is rather long and, like Wanderer's war service, Carl is featured in a very small portion of it. But as we near the 100 year anniversary of the war's ending, I wanted to share some things I found interesting and hopefully give you the reader something to take away and think about over these next few months as more and more WWI celebration and remembrances occur.
June 28, 1914
While Carl Wanderer was in the U.S. Army and participating in the Occupation of Veracruz Mexico, the events outside a small café in Sarajevo, in what was then Austro-Hungary, would change the course of civilization for all on the planet. The first heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg had arrived in Sarajevo that day and while en route to a luncheon, were nearly killed when grenades were thrown at their open-air motorcar by would be Serbian assassins during a parade. While others in their party were injured, the Archduke and Duchess escaped injury and their driver was able to speed off to safety. Hours later, the Archduke and his Duchess were again being driven through Sarajevo when their driver made a wrong turn. They needed to turn around and in the midst of a multi-point turn, the open-air car stalled in front of a café. 19-year-old Serb, Gavrilo Princip, who was party to the earlier assassination plot, had stopped at the café after he had thought the plot was foiled with the prior unsuccessful grenade attack. The fortuitous Princip approached the car to a distance of about five feet before he fired his nine-millimeter pistol striking the Archduke in the throat and the Duchess in the abdomen. The car sped off but the royal pair would both soon be dead.
July and August, 1914
The dominos of nations, had long been lined up, through allegiances and treaties. All it took was Prinicp’s action to set them toppling over. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia, as an ally of Serbia, mobilized her troops for war with Austria-Hungary. Germany, an ally of Austria-Hungary, declared war on Russia, and then for good measure, Germany declared war on Belgium and France as well. Great Britain, had allegiances with both France and Belgium and came to their defense and would call on all her colonies to contribute to the defense of the crown; India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Rhodesia all sent troops where they were needed. A great, world war was underway.
The industrial progress of the 20th Century brought huge change to warfare. Throughout the war several innovations of death would make their appearance. This was not a war like anything any General or Commander had seen before and those slow to adapt incurred huge losses of men. In a conflict that few expected to last beyond a few months, the knee jerk reaction was to send more men to the front. The Generals had estimates of the troop levels of their enemies and like men on chess board, the Generals played the game.
August 22nd, 1914
Fighting much like Napoleon’s men did in blue wool coats, bright red trousers, with wool caps, and on horseback; 27,000 French soldiers die in a single day in an offensive east of Paris toward the German border. The famous French 75 artillery gun had been in service since 1897 and was soon found to be inferior in range and destruction compared to the Howitzer’s that the German army was using against the French. At this time, the German army had over 10,000 machine guns while the French had a couple hundred.
September 15th, 1914
The first trenches of the Western front are dug. With the trenches came new phrases; No Man’s Land, Trench Foot, Shell-Shocked, to name a few. The first trenches, dug in the fields of Flanders, would soon extend from the North Sea and the Belgian town of Ostend winding their way through the Belgian and French countryside’s nearly to the shared German, French and Swiss borders just beyond the Vosges Mountains. Multiple front lines, defensive, supply and communication trenches for both sides would stretch nearly 500 miles. Barbed wire had been used in warfare before but never on a scale seen during World War I, some estimates would say that a million miles of barbed wire would be used on the Western Fronts alone, enough barbed wire to circle the globe 40 times.
November 23rd, 1914
After about six months keeping order and performing civil service duties, the occupation of Veracruz came to an end. Wanderer boarded the steamship Kilpatrick and sailed back to Texas.
December 25th, 1914
In one of the earliest examples of how the soldiers, particularly in the beginning of the war, held no animosity to the soldier in the opposing trenches, a Christmas truce was reached in several places on the front lines. Starting in some places as early as Christmas Eve, primarily British and German troops stopped to trying to kill one another and left their trenches to share a smoke or trade trinkets such as buttons and caps. Carols were sung while and good cheer was shared. Bodies that had been previously irretrievable in no man’s land were collected and buried. No matter their nationality, the men were able to make the best of their situation for a day before the resumption of hostilities were to begin anew December 26th. Generals and high command on both sides did not want fraternization with the enemy and thoroughly discouraged any future truces.
With war raging on two fronts and no sign of victory in sight, German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II finally agreed to expand the war by using German airships and Zeppelin’s in bombing raids over England. This was a tough decision for the Kaiser as the Zeppelins would eventually make their way up the River Thames to London bombing the home city of his cousin, King George V. The bombing raids would turn out to be more successful for the Germans as a psychological weapon more than anything; the Zeppelins were literally prone to the whims of the prevailing winds and were wildly inaccurate serving as a less than ideal weapon. The inability to precisely target military or industrial sites, the bombing raids would often incur civilian deaths and would in turn be used for British recruiting and propaganda efforts labeling the Zeppelins, and their hun pilots and commanders, as baby killers.
While Zeppelin’s did conduct bombing raids on the Eastern front, they were no where near the number of raids over Britain, nor did they threaten the home of another cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’s, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in St. Petersburg.
February 4th, 1915
After deciding to take the battle to the air, Germany also takes the battle to the sea. The Germans announce a blockade of the UK and warn that their Unterseeboot or U-Boats will sink any approaching ship, whether merchant ship or naval ship. Britain, up to this point, had the most powerful navy in the world but a Navy that was built on battleships, or dreadnoughts as they were termed. Another new age of warfare was upon everyone; a stealth assassin, the U-Boat.
April 22nd, 1915
Meanwhile in Belgium, the Germans were again upping the ante in new warfare in what would become known as the Second battle of Ypres. Along their own trenches, the Germans were finally getting favorable weather to uncork a new weapon, yet another one that would change warfare forever. Thousands of canisters were lined up and with the wind finally coming from an easterly direction the chlorine gas contained in them was pumped into no man’s land able to drift west towards the Allied troops. The dense green gas is heavier than air and was said to hug the ground in a ghoulish way as it wafted across no man’s land and down into the trenches burning eyes, nose, throat and lungs while leading to the suffocation of those exposed to it.
Over 5,000 French and British soldiers died in minutes as the gas opened a four mile break in the Allied lines. The German attack did not go exactly as they had planned however, their own troops saw the horror unleashed by the gas and many of their troops showed trepidation in completing their advance, even with gas masks, as had been ordered. The Germans also were surprised by the effectiveness of the gas and did not have adequate reinforcements to man their newly claimed gains. In what would be a common thread throughout the war, any land gained by the attack was soon given back up.
May 7th, 1915
On a clear day in the North Atlantic off the Old Head of Kinsale in southeast Ireland, the RMS Lusitania was sunk by German U-boat U-20. Of the 1,959 people on board the ship 1,198 passengers and crew would die. 128 Americans are included in the dead.
President Woodrow Wilson warns Germany that any further attacks would cause Germany to face, “strict accountability.” The German U-boat campaign of firing on passenger ships was halted for the time being as a result.
July 30th, 1915
Perhaps the most horrific weapon of the war would be used in trench warfare for the first time on this day. Outside the small village of Hooge, near Ypres, the German and Allied trenches were very close to one another, as close as 15 feet in places providing the Germans a perfect scenario for their new weapon, the flammenwerfer. A bit after 3 o’clock in the morning the German troops lit up the night sky with their flamethrowers. Jets of flames overtook the trenches setting both men and trench aflame. Most casualties would come not from the flames however, the psychological fear of being burned to death was enormous and men would flee the trenches in fear of flames neglecting the batteries of machine guns the Germans had lined up to fire on those that escaped the fire.
August 28th, 1915
With his three year commitment to the Army up, Carl was given an honorable discharge as a private. He was discharged in Texas City, Texas and soon made his way back home to his family in Chicago and his life as a butcher.
September 5th, 1915
Despite having the largest army of the participants in the war, Russia was utterly unprepared for the hostilities. 4,000,000 men are of no use if you can’t get them to the front in a timely matter or feed, clothe and arm them for the war at hand. Early Russian battles were slaughters at the hand of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies. With losses mounting, Tsar Nicholas II takes command of the Russian armies. In taking charge, the Tsar would leave for the front lines from his palaces in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and Tsarkoye Selo. His wife, Tsarina Aleksandra, would be left behind to oversee the capital. Aleksandra, without her husband at her side, was decried in the streets as a German sympathizer to due to her German blood. With the Tsar gone, the Tsarina spent more time consulting the one man whom she believed could save her hemophiliac son, Alexei, and to an extent, all of the Motherland Russia; Grigori Rasputin.
February 21st, 1916
German General Erich von Falkenhayn begins the longest battle of the war, the Battle of Verdun. Situated on the Meuse River, Verdun and its 17th century citadel fort had long been a strategic position for France as well as holding national significance. Von Falkenhayn had determined that Verdun would serve as an ends to his means by draining the resources from France in this war of attrition. In a letter to Kaiser Wilhelm, von Falkenhayn said that after an attack on Verdun, the French would be, “compelled to throw in every man they have. If they do so the forces of France will bleed to death.” Knowing the French would defend to Verdun to their last breath and hoping they would send additional reserve troops in support, von Falkenhayn had his troops secure positions in the hills outside Verdun where they could rain artillery down on the fort. 2,000,000 artillery shells were fired down on Verdun the first week. The French losses at the beginning of the battle were staggering and were likened to meat going into a meat grinder so decisive the initial German offensives seemed.
March 2nd, 1916
Having always been a volunteer armed service, British troops were being killed faster than they could be replaced. Height restrictions were lowered and the maximum age allowed was raised but still recruitment numbers did not meet what the battlefields demanded. The Military Service Act of 1916 said that any man, single or widower without dependent children, was liable to be called up for military service.
July 1st, 1916
French and British forces begin an offensive known at the Battle of the Somme. The fighting would claim 57,000 allied casualties the first day. 1,000,000 would die or be injured by the battle’s end in November despite another new weapon being introduced- the tank. The weapon is praised for its armor and fighting capabilities but there were initially too few tanks and their unreliability did little to swing the battle in favor of the allies.
November 7th, 1916
With the war-cry of his campaign being, "He kept us out of the war" Democrat Woodrow Wilson was re-elected President of the United States.
December 31st, 1916
Poisoned, shot, and thrown in the Malaya Nevka River, the mystic and healer Rasputin is murdered by relatives of the Tsar.
1917 would be looked at as the turning point in the Great War. Huge casualty numbers were just the beginning of the story. While their natural resources were quickly depleted those at war also found themselves with ever growing debt. Morale both in the citizenry and the armies themselves were at all-time lows. Arming, feeding, and transporting huge armies had taxed the war participants. A war of attrition was well under way and all parties involved in the fighting were hurt by its effects.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy boomed as they supplied various armies various items while trying to remain a neutral party capable of mediating a peaceful solution to the conflict.
German high command sought to end the war as quickly as possible. They feared U.S. involvement in the war but knew it would probably take a year or so for America to call together troops, train and arm those troops before eventually getting them to Europe and on a battlefield. If the Germans could force the French, Russian or British governments to a surrender of some sort, they would be able to win the war before any American boots touched the continent. To that end, they decided to resume unbridled U-boat attacks without warning on any all ships regardless of their military value. The Zeppelin bombing raids had been more frequent and more successful until British defensive measures lessened their effectiveness. In response the German Gotha bomber was being developed with the intention of bombing primarily civilian targets in London in another move against the public psyche. The Germans believe that if they inflamed the populace against the war the populace would push the government to a truce.
January 19th, 1917
Knowing that the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare would likely bring the U.S. into the war, the Germans then made what some view as the biggest German blunder of the war. British intelligence had intercepted a coded telegram from German Reich Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to German Ambassador to German Ambassador to Mexico Heinrich von Eckardt.
German telegraph cables had been cut by the British early in the war but the U.S. had agreed to let the Germans use the American undersea transatlantic cable for diplomatic messages to the German Embassy in Washington. Normally the messages were uncoded as a stipulation of the agreement but the Germans were able to get Washington to allow them to send this one message through coded. Fortunately for the Americans, and conveniently the British and her Allies, the British were spying on the American cable and intercepting its messages.
February 24th, 1917
Over a month after they had intercepted the Zimmermann Telegram, the British finally shared it with the Americans.
February 26th, 1917
After verifying the veracity of the telegram, President Wilson would go before Congress to ask that American guns be armed on American ships. An anti-war filibuster in Congress would deny the request. Others lined up against Wilson for not formally declaring war against Germany.
March 1st, 1917
“U.S. Bares War Plot”
“German Plot to Conquer US with Aid of Japan and Mexico Revealed”
“Wilson Vouches for Authenticity of Note in Which Germany Plotted War on US”
Outrage topped the headlines on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. President Wilson and his staff had shared with the press the decoded Zimmermann telegram.
"We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace."
I’m sure that Jack London (post #12 if you missed it...) would have found it laughable that Mexico wage war against the United States and her mighty Army.
March 15th, 1917
The February Revolution swirls in Petrograd going from bread riots to a full scale attack on the Romanov Dynasty. With few forces left loyal to him Tsar Nicholas II abdicates power.
April 6th, 1917
After war had raged in Europe for nearly three years the United States declares war on Germany. The telegram might not have been a singular reason for joining the war but it was likely the straw that broke the camel’s back.
April 10th, 1917
Believing he could be an ally, the Germans facilitate the return from Switzerland to Russia of exiled Bolshevik, Vladimir Lenin.
April – June, 1917
News of the American’s entering the war was sweet music to the ears of the French. Morale was tanking as casualties piled up. The Nivelle offensive attack at Chemin des Dames in the Second Battle of the Aisne cost the French over 250,000 casualties in a couple weeks.
Mutinies happened up and down the front with as many as 500,000 French troops taking part. Hundreds of soldiers would be charged with mutiny but, to save face and to be able to continue to fight, French command viewed many of the mutinies as labor strikes rather than full mutinies.
May 18th, 1917
With a standing army of less than 100,000 men, the United States called up reserves and passed the Selective Service Act empowering the Federal Government to draft men for the army.
General John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing, who had been the commander of the Mexican Punitive Expedition before World War I, landed in France in June of 1917 and soon cabled back to US army headquarters that he would ideally have a force of 1,000,000 American men in France by May of 1918. After being in France for a little over a week he cabled back to Washington revising his forecast to most likely require 3,000,000 American men in Europe for the war effort.
July 3rd, 1917
The 1st Division of the American Expeditionary Force lands in France to cheers and are hailed as saviors by the public.
July 31st - November 10th, 1917
Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele, gets under way in some of the worst conditions seen on the Western front. Heavy rains and three years of artillery shells turned over the soil into soupy mud. Three years of dead bodies, not only of soldiers but thousands of horses and mules as well, that had been buried were exposed. Trenches and shell holes filled with a putrid mix of rain, mud and decay that only the rats and lice didn’t seem to mind. Not only would bullets and explosives take lives here now, some even drowned in the fields of Flanders. The battle would see 700,000 casualties for both sides.
August 18th, 1917
Carl, knowing that his prior army service would most likely entail in him getting called back to the army, re-enlists as a private and is assigned to Company D of the 52nd Infantry. In a nod to the time sensitivity, Carl is immediately sent off for training; Camp Forrest in Chickamauga Park, Georgia would be Carl’s new home for nearly a year of training.
November 7th, 1917
With the Russian economy still decimated and more unrest due to the war, Vladimir Lenin and the Communist Bolsheviks stage the October Revolution (on the Julian calendar, November on the Gregorian) and overthrow the Provisional Government that had taken power when the Romanov dynasty collapsed.
December 3rd, 1917
The new Russian government, represented by Bolshevik Foreign Minister Leon Trotsky, negotiates an armistice with Germany.
December 9th, 1917
For the first time in 400 years Jerusalem is under Christian rule as the British capture the holy city from the Ottoman Empire.
December 22nd, 1917
After a few months of training, Wanderer’s previous military experience showed through and impressed his commanders. Needing all the experience they could get, Wanderer was promoted to Sergeant and was transferred to Company D of the 17th Machine Gun Battalion.
March 3, 1918
In order to prevent any further German attacks Russia signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers. The terms were harsh to the Bolsheviks; they ceded their claims in Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania.
March 21st, 1918
With men and resources on the Eastern Front now freed up, the Germans begin the 1918 Spring Offensive, the first of several major offensives early in 1918. Germany knew that the war needed to be won quickly before American soldiers arrived in Europe. They hoped a push deep into French territory would lead to an armistice with France and claim the main battlefield before the Americans could come ashore. Their time was short.
March 24th, 1918
While war raged in Europe, the engagement notice below was printed in the Chicago Daily Tribune.
Announcement is made of the engagement of Miss Ruth Johnson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles J. Johnson of 3725 Maple Square avenue to Sergt. Carl O. Wanderer. Sergt. Wanderer is stationed at Camp Chickamauga Park, Ga.
April 21st, 1918
After 80 victories in dog-fights, Manfred von Richthofen, "the Red Baron" is killed by anti-aircraft fire from the ground.
May 23rd, 1918
The Germans have pushed far enough where their big guns can now fire artillery shells on Paris. The Germans hope the ensuing panic of the populace would push the French to an armistice.
May 31st, 1918
The continued push of the Germans is stopped by American forces at the Marne River outside Paris.
End of May, 1918
Eight million people die from influenza in Spain in the month of May. The Spanish Flu had a name and would begin to spread across the globe. The close quarters found in trenches, dugout fortifications, transport trains and ships would hasten the spread of the virus. Unlike most flu viruses targeting the elderly and the young, this particular strain focused on the presumably fit and healthy ages of young adults.
July 4, 1918
In a case of right place at the right time, Carl and most of the Sixth Division were given a 24 hour pass into New York City on to celebrate the Independence Day. In 48 hours they would sail for France.
July 6, 1918
Carl Wanderer and the Sixth Division sail for Le Havre, France. They were finally off to war.
July 17th, 1918
In the early morning hours in Yekaterinburg, Russia, the former Tsar Nicholas II, his wife former Tsarina Aleksandra, their dear son Alexei, their daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia and several of members of their entourage are led into the basement of the house they had been imprisoned in by their Bolshevik captors. The family is executed in a hail of bullets and bayonets ending the Romanov lineage.
July 22, 1918
A cheering crowd of French citizens greeted Carl and his shipmates as they docked in Le Havre, Carl is one of 300,000 AEF soldiers to arrive in France in July.
August 8th, 1918
The Allies began The Hundred Days Offensive in Amiens on the Somme River. Hundreds of tanks and airplanes are deployed in the battle by British, Canadian, and Australian forces on a weary German defensive force. Over 10,000 Germans, an unprecedented number at the time, surrender and are taken prisoner.
August 27, 1918
After a month of training with French and British commanders on the ever changing tactics used in this war, the Sixth Division moves closer to the front. More training awaited the men in the southern Lorraine region in Remiremont. The few days spent there are to give the men an opportunity to see a doctor or dentist as well as get themselves and their clothing deloused before going to the front.
August 31, 1918
A little over one year after having re-enlisted in the Army, Carl arrived at the Western Front a Sergeant in the American Expeditionary Force. Wanderer’s Sixth Division continues into Alsace and occupies the Vosges Mountain resort town of Gerardmer. Situated on a beautiful lake, the town initially belied the horror that was happening all around. The persistent sound of distant artillery shells pulled one back to the moment before idyllic daydreams could manifest. Carl was part of the war.
September 2, 1918
While hundreds of miles of the Western Front were the now familiar fortified trenches buttressed with lumber, sand and earth separated by a no man’s land strewn with barbed wire, the front in the Vosges Mountains were more individual fortified defensive bunkers. The rough mountains and the rougher weather had relegated the Vosges theater to almost a stalemate. Both sides were dug into their own well defended positions and other than occasional small raiding parties, the opposing forces in the Vosges were content to lob shells at one another and hold out until the war is decided in the trenches elsewhere.
Carl and his machine gun battalion held a fortification from Lauch Creek to Weiss Creek in the Vosges. The near 15 mile front passed through the hills from town to town over mountain passes and through forests.
September 25, 1918
After over three weeks at the front, Carl’s Machine Gun Battalion returns to Gerardmer. His service on the front lines has come to an end; he is sent off for officers training back in Remiremont.
October 28th, 1918
German sailors are ordered to sail to the North Sea for a last push against the British Navy. Fearing the mission a suicide mission, over a 1,000 German sailors refuse the order and form a mutiny in their port. Word of the mutiny spreads and similar revolts begin to happen nearly daily.
October 30th, 1918
After Bulgaria signs an armistice with the Allies the Ottoman Empire is cut off from their overland supply routes with the Austro-Hungarian’s. Sensing the tide having turned, the Turks negotiate and sign an armistice of their own with the Allies.
The Central Powers are crumbling.
November 1, 1918
Wanderer and the Sixth Division start to earn the division's nickname, the ‘Sightseeing Sixth.’ With the Meuse-Argonne offensive underway, the Sixth Division holds a reserve battle position behind the front lines and marches from town to town plugging holes in the Allied Front where needed. The 'Sightseeing Sixth' would hike nearly 100 miles in a little over a week.
November 9th, 1918
As battlefield losses mounted, naval mutinies and civilian work stoppages continued until the point that German political confidence soured so badly that Kaiser Wilhelm II was left with no other option but to abdicate his throne.
November 10th, 1918
After various factions positioned themselves throughout the night, a monarchy is abolished and a German Republic is born.
November 11th, 1918
At eleven o'clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the war ends as Germany and Allies sign an Armistice. Wanderer’s unit spends the day marching near Champ-Mahaut, Meuse, France. The 2,000,000 AEF soldiers that had made it to France all thought about when they would go home.
April 28, 1919
Wanderer is promoted to 2nd Lieutenant Infantry. With a peace treaty still proving elusive the Division heads to Coblenz, Germany to protect a bridgehead at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhein rivers.
June 23, 1919
Nearly two years after re-enlisting, Wanderer is discharged from the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant from Camp Grant in Rockford Illinois.
June 26, 1919
Carl arrives home in Chicago.
June 28th, 1919
Exactly four years after a Serbian teen assassinated two Austro-Hungarians starting a war that would kill nearly 40,000,000 soldiers and civilians, German delegates sign the Versailles Peace Treaty in France.
Part 14 coming Friday, July 13 - Was Al Watson the Ragged Stranger?
This blog aims to fill in the gaps where there is unknown, correct false narratives that have branched away from the truth, and most importantly, to entertain and enlighten. It has been sourced from research for my upcoming book Kisses for Julia, Bullets for Ruth: The Mystery of Carl Wanderer & the Ragged Stranger.
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