The Poison of War

On this day in 1915 in World War I history, Germany first makes large-scale use of poison gas in warfare in the Battle of Bolimów against Russia.

Some three years later, my grandfather was hit with poison gas. He barely survived and lost a lung in the process.

The following is an excerpt from my script Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy, based on my grandfather’s World War I diary.

Both mustard and phosgene gases were used at Meuse-Argonne, one causing internal and external blisters. The other had soldiers coughing up pieces of their lungs.

The night of September 28th and 29th were the most disagreeable I had ever spent in my life.

It rained all night and a very cold wind blew. Shells were falling everywhere. As we were coming out of the trenches just east of Montfaucon we received orders to go in support of the 79th division just north of Bois de Montfaucon. We pulled over in a field to prepare supper. Jerry had a good observation and sent over lots of shells.

Some of the shells made a direct hit on a hospital nearby and some landed in the field where we were.

In her commentary my aunt wrote:

Although my father’s diary makes no note of it, this was the time he was gassed. I’m certain that he was wearing his gas mask, otherwise he would have had even more serious complications.

Still the masks were not too effective and were crudely made. They consisted of a pair of goggles with a nose cone attached from which protruded a hose that connected to a metal canister. The idea was to recycle the wearer’s own breath and since their oxygen was soon used up they sometimes had no recourse but to snatch the mask off and many of them were blinded, or even killed.

My grandfather survived, but thousands didn’t. Those who did survive had their live changed forever.

By the Fireside

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was born on this day in 1882. He died in office on April 12, 1945, just weeks before World War II ended.

Roosevelt is remembered for many things, including an expansion of government through many of his programs. But he was also known for his fireside chats, a series of 28 evening radio addresses given between 1933 and 1944.

In those addresses he spoke about the Emergency Banking Act in response to the Banking Crisis, the recession, New Deal initiatives, and the progress of World War II.

In times of national despair and uncertainty, Roosevelt was the voice of assurance and comfort.

A list of the addresses with either the transcript or the audio, can be found at this link on Wikipedia.

On this day in 1916

Crater of a Zeppelin bomb in Paris, 1916

On this day in 1916, Germans first bombed the City of Paris from zeppelins.

The Zeppelin was an airship named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. They were first formulated in 1874.

During World War I, these German airships were operated by the Army and Navy. The missions flown against Paris killed 23 people and injured another 30. But the aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire and crashed during the return journey.

Modern Zeppelins are still in use today, but they’re not to be confused with Led Zeppelin.