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“Aux enfants, je leur dis et je leur répète: ne faites pas la guerre."
May 3, 2011 11:01 AM   Subscribe

The Last Two Veterans of WWI

Errata, from the author's website.
posted by zarq (38 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are photographs of the last few Revolutionary War veterans? Hot damn.
posted by Melismata at 11:27 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are photographs of the last few Revolutionary War veterans? Hot damn.

Photography was invented early enough to catch the oldest of the youngest to serve in that war. The last Civil War veteran died in the 1950s--a comparable length of time to the four score and seven in the Gettysburg Address.

When I was a wee thing, I actually knew an old man who was a Spanish-American War veteran.
posted by y2karl at 11:37 AM on May 3, 2011


There are photographs of the last few Revolutionary War veterans? Hot damn.

Yup. Right here.
posted by Floydd at 11:39 AM on May 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


When I was a wee thing, I actually knew an old man who was a Spanish-American War veteran.
Not first-hand, but I guy I know took trumpet lessons when he was a kid from a man who served as a bugler with the 7th Cavalry under Custer.
posted by MtDewd at 11:46 AM on May 3, 2011


A couple of those Revolutionary War veterans made it to the Civil War and don't seem to have been too happy to see it.
posted by tommasz at 11:47 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


What awards we can nominate this writer for? What an incredible piece.
posted by troika at 12:41 PM on May 3, 2011


Wow, definitely best of the web! Thanks for this.
posted by mosk at 1:02 PM on May 3, 2011


There are photographs of the last few Revolutionary War veterans? Hot damn.

An acquaintance of mine published a collection last year.
posted by Knappster at 1:03 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fantastic. Thanks for posting this. The video clip about Patch is incredible too... hard to watch.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:04 PM on May 3, 2011


I'm confused. How is any of this errata? I presumed that behind that link I'd find errors that had made their way into the piece that the author had corrected on his own site. But these seem to be supplementary materials, not errors and their corrections.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:26 PM on May 3, 2011


Ocherdraco, they're extras, not errata. Not sure how I made that mistake. Sorry about that.
posted by zarq at 2:12 PM on May 3, 2011


Excellent. thanks for the post.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:44 PM on May 3, 2011


Interesting post, although occasionally too overwrought. Citing Haig as having 2 million men die under his command is an error (2 million casualties, including wounded).

I do like the comments relating to the Revolutionary War veterans who lived to see the Civil War, and who were upset about the South's secession. As a historian, and as a rational person, I realize that they are not necessarily more qualified to make moral judgments about the Civil War than anyone else. Yet, part of wants to shove this in the faces of the people who claim that Confederates were the "real heirs" of the American Revolution and such.
posted by dhens at 3:04 PM on May 3, 2011


"Nothing but a plain old soldier. An old revolutionary soldier. But I handled a gun, where noble deeds were done, and the name of my commander was George Washington" -- lyric and melody by Stephen Collins Foster.
posted by Faze at 3:08 PM on May 3, 2011


Heh. It seems Evan noticed my comment. The link to the tag "wwierrata" now takes you to a page that says "Link fixed: For those of you coming here from MetaFilter, you’ll be looking for this," which links to the tag "extra."

Thank you, Evan, for indulging me my pedantry.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:37 PM on May 3, 2011


LOL. Ah ha! The tag would have been in the URL and that's what I used to create the link.

Evan if you're reading this, that was an incredibly good essay. Thank you for it.
posted by zarq at 3:59 PM on May 3, 2011


I'm surprised that Americans care at all about the Great War. Not like you were in it for very long, or lost many men. Thought you'd kinda forget about it by now. which isn't a fighty comment, I'm sure the contribution was very much appreciated at the time.
posted by wilful at 4:45 PM on May 3, 2011


The tide of AEF troops in 1917 broke the trench stalemate. War over little over a year later.

Never knew my Great-grandfather; but I do have pictures of him at the helm of his ambulance while he was in France. Black and white (more accurately grey and dark grey) photo (about 1.5" x 2") has a background landscape of what appears to be a horizon of mud; with a few clumps of what was presumably trees at one time.

The , lowering of height requirements as the war progressed was new information in an amazing article.
posted by buzzman at 6:12 PM on May 3, 2011


"I do like the comments relating to the Revolutionary War veterans who lived to see the Civil War, and who were upset about the South's secession. As a historian, and as a rational person, I realize that they are not necessarily more qualified to make moral judgments about the Civil War than anyone else. Yet, part of wants to shove this in the faces of the people who claim that Confederates were the "real heirs" of the American Revolution and such.:

I don't see how their comments do anything other than reinforce that the common view at the time in the north was that the Confederacy was simply engaged in an act of rebellion to be put down. Those who see themselves as putting down rebellions will always have a different perspective on the matter than those seeking independence. This is the classic "freedom fighter" vs. "terrorist" problem, is it not? I would expect an historian to have a better grasp of the delineation between the objective facts of history and what is simply perspective, the narrative that serves to frame and explain the objective data. There is thus no way to prove or disprove if the Confederates were the "real heirs" of the American Revolution because that is not something which can be known, it is only something that can be perceived. There is, therefore, nothing to shove in anyone's face on this matter.


The OP and supporting links have all been great.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 6:23 PM on May 3, 2011


"The tide of AEF troops in 1917 broke the trench stalemate. War over little over a year later."

Ouch. Let's just say that the Allies would have emerged victorious even without U.S. involvement and reducing the matter to such simplistic terms overstates the importance of the U.S. military contribution.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 7:03 PM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The trenches had been stalemated in the same give:take 500 yard zone for over a year. Attrition would have occured after some period of time, no doubt about that.

AEF, and the blunt influx of over a million additional troops; it wins. Pain over. No more ouch. Like a giant bandaid; AEF.
posted by buzzman at 7:19 PM on May 3, 2011


wow
posted by edmcbride at 7:24 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you about the WWI vet in my life.

My grandfather went to war at the age of 25. He was gassed at Meusse-Argonne, and spent the early part of 1919 in a field hospital in France. He came home in June of 1919.

He never spoke seriously of the war ever again. One of five brothers, he married a Canadian divorcee, (scandalous in the 19-teens!), worked hard his entire life, was a loving and cherished grandfather to my siblings and myself, and a devoted and caring husband to my grandmother.

My memories of him are all pretty tender ones, from his playful side to his habit of teasing my sister and I with hidden Butter Rum lifesavers (his favorite kind!). I made special trips to visit my grandparents in their retirement in Florida when I got older. He is of course gone now, passing away while I was living in Berlin in 1978.

That war won't be forgotten until I and the millions of others of my generation are gone; it was a real part of my and my family's history. I saw my grandfather going and coming from the VFW, and I knew what that meant from a very early age.

I tell you all this to make him a real person to you, my friends, and not just a monochromatic shadow in an old photo album.

The only tangible reminder I have of him is his Elgin pocket-watch, a graduation gift to him in 1905. It still runs, and sits on my desk as I type this. I can wind it up, hold it to my ear and listen to it tick, as he did in the trenches in 1918 to remind himself that he was still alive, and I can feel my soul connect to him over a century of time and space.

So, no, never forgotten.
posted by pjern at 7:40 PM on May 3, 2011 [137 favorites]


Great article, I have 30ml of Nyquil in me and I still had to finish...
posted by Locobot at 4:29 AM on May 4, 2011


pjern,

Thank you for a great comment worthy of an FPP in its own right. I loved the pictures and especially the one of the five brothers.

God bless your grandfather and all our veterans.

JG
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2011


My great-grant-uncle served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during WW I, seeing battle in Ypres, Vimy and Passchendaele. I never met him,even though he died after I was born. While he never spoke much about his experiences with the war, he did confide in my father, who recounted his stories to me. As for me, I made a song. So long as we pass the stories on to others, we keep their memories alive.
posted by LN at 2:02 PM on May 4, 2011


pjern, that was amazing -- thank you.
posted by scody at 2:42 PM on May 4, 2011


Not quite as impressive but still cool is the Waterloo veteran
posted by IndigoJones at 3:11 PM on May 4, 2011


pjern, I recently lost a grandfather, so thank you for that.
posted by yaymukund at 3:24 PM on May 4, 2011


The man believed to be the last living male veteran of World War I has died in Perth aged 110.
posted by wilful at 8:03 PM on May 4, 2011


.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:56 AM on May 5, 2011


My great-grandfather was an infantry sgt. in the Kaiser's army, serving throughout the entire war, 1914-1918. (How he survived four straight years of that hell I'll never know.) I have his medals, and a bracelet he made for his wife out of a 'potato-masher'-style hand grenade shell; it's rather nice, actually, for being a hunk of hand grenade!

Keep both sides in your memory; in their honor, let's try not to let happen much more.
posted by easily confused at 7:59 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aaaand Choules died yesterday, May 5th.
posted by Baldons at 4:25 PM on May 5, 2011


Amazing books to emerge from WW1:

Storm of Steel by Ernst JungerTrue from-the-trenches account of life in the trenches by a guy who survived. Totally against the odds. There is no such thing as not being willing to go into it, you fight or you die, like as not you fight AND you die. This guy was injured four times, and reading the story you can easily see he could/should have been injured or killed on four hundred other occasions, it's all a huge crap shoot out there, bombs and bullets and gas and knives everywhere, death and destruction at every turn, it truly is a storm of steel. An unreal story. Good writing, too.
All Quiet On The Western Front by Eric Maria RemarqueThis book told me the truth about war, fuck John Wayne and all of that jive, it's a horror show from start to finish, and everyone knows that their teachers and their preachers and everyone else lied to them, they knew it from the instant they step onto the battlefield. By then of course it's too late and now to survive, and try to help your friends survive, and you and all your friends know that the guys on the other side are just other people caught up same as you are but you've got to kill them or get killed yourself. The horrors of it all, not as explicit maybe as Junger's book, which just tells you what an amazing book Storm of Steel is.
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo -- You read this book and All Quiet On The Western Front and you will never, ever want one dime to go to the war machine, it's all sickness and hatred and sometimes you're luckier if you die rather than live, which is the case of the person telling the story in Johnny Got His Gun. I won't say more, don't want to put in a spoiler here, but read it with your comprehension dawning as does this characters, as you and he find out together the cost of his "service to his country." When my younger brother was considering joining the military after college, I sent him one or both of these books, not sure if it made any difference or not, I'm very grateful he didn't join in that death machine.

For all that I loathe war, hate it, despise it, I damn sure do understand that it's very, very human, it's a perfect fit for the human soul. And I am fascinated by it, a fascination which would almost certainly be cured by even two minutes in battle. More than anything, I think I am fascinated by the reactions of the people living it, and their stories. French and German people in WW1, Russians and Germans in WW2 know far, far better than any US citizen the real cost of war, both on their respective countries and on each individual comprising that country, the losses endured by all.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:40 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by lester at 7:47 PM on May 6, 2011


For anyone interested in individual experiences of trnech life in WW1, there are two in the excellent Forgotten Voices range. Forgotten Voices of the Great War and Forgotten Voices of the Somme.
posted by biffa at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2011


My great grandfather was awarded the Military Cross during the second battle of Ypres. In command of a mule train bringing ordnance to the front in support of the offensive, his wagons came under fire along an exposed section of road from a battery of German howitzers. Many of the men under his command were too afraid to go on through the shelling to reach the front, so my great grandfather personally took the leads of the wagon at the front of the convoy and led his unit through the bombardment from the fore. They awarded him the military cross for his example.

I will not forget.
posted by dazed_one at 8:16 AM on May 15, 2011


dancestoblue: "Amazing books to emerge from WW1:"

Goodbye to All That.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:27 AM on May 27, 2011


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