Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thoughts From the Man Cave


Post-Script: I was given this worn copy of Collier's New Photographic History of the World's War some years ago, by a colleague at work. It was in dire need of restoration back then, and hasn't improved with age. I recently saw a copy in better condition at an antique store, but for some reason didn't purchase it, which I now regret.


This book isn't reportage or journalism, but rather a collection of propaganda images - "Photographs By the Official Photographers Accompanying Each Army" the cover reads. Here you won't see explicit dead corpses of once vital youth, though that was certainly a reality. There is instead a hint of the horrors, as we see troops wearing gas masks, and aerial photos of gas attacks from a distance and the flare of napalm - "liquid fire," as the caption reads.


The book's intent, as I see it, was a carefully trod path between mere nationalist patriotism and the horrible realities of industrial-scale warfare upon the fragile humanity of young soldiers. It hints at the unspeakable while honoring the dead with images of parades and brave youth, doughboys and bemedalled officers alike.

One eye-opening fact I gleaned from this book was the reliance upon draft horse in the logistics of the war. Page upon page of horse drawn wagons and carts seemed at first out of place with what I thought I knew about the conflict, until I stopped to consider the newness of motorized transport in the second decade of the new century. One wonders about the need for supplying feed, and care, to these armies of horses, and the carnage they inevitably must have underwent.

Another interest I've had in that conflict was the Zeppelin airships. Here we see the wreckage of the L49, which landed essentially intact and provided the allies with vital intelligence, later serving as a model for the U.S. Navy's U.S.S Shenandoah. It has been speculated by airship historians that the reason the Shenandoah later broke apart in a violent line squall over Ohio was because the L49 that she was patterned after was a so-called "height-climber" model, specially lightened so as to increase her ceiling but also rendered structurally weaker. The German pilots evidently knew how to fly her in the dense lower atmosphere to stay within safe structural limits, but perhaps the U.S. Navy was a bit more cavalier in their pilotage of the Shenandoah; at least, that is what is speculated by experts such as Douglas H. Robinson.


None of my immediate family served in the Great War; my great-grandfather was too old, and my grandfather was a rancher and thus exempt from the draft. Some years ago, there was a series on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) here in the States about the Great War, within which it was speculated that the remainder of the 20th century, up to and including the fall of the Soviet Union, was really aftermath, unsettled issues, arising as a result of the Great War. Perhaps. History is complex, more so than we can comprehend within the grasp of our limited purview. But it certainly was a foreshadowing of even greater horrors later in the century.

Though it was billed as "The War to End all Wars," it didn't live up to that title. Somehow, we've managed to sweep the horrors of previous conflict under the rug of today's new crises, along with the broken lives of past survivors, and concoct reason enough to engage in the next war.

PPS: On a brighter subject, I enjoyed typing with my recently acquired Royal Mercury, which remains in pristine condition - though it has a bit of a line slipping problem, perhaps caused by hardened pressure rollers. Which reminds me that there is no perfect typewriter, we just have to learn to live with a certain level of imperfection.

I'm sorry I was unable to attend the Phoenix Type-In today, as I couldn't get free time to depart on Saturday to get over to Phoenix in time for the event. But my best wishes remain with the Arizona contingent of the Insurgency, hoping you all had a great time.



Blogger Ted said...

Kinda feels like the next war will be a civil one rather than on other shores. I hope not, but I'm not entirely sure we aren't dumb enough to try. People are gonna be real surprised when it's not like a video game. If you ask me, the people may have been noble, but the war - any war, just never is. Might be unavoidable, but it's never good.

We missed you at the Type-In, sorry you couldn't make it. (:

3:22 PM  

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