When Veteran’s Day was Armistice Day

Contrary to current common observance, today was originally Armistice Day—celebrating the end of World War I.  The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
 
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
 

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

I can remember celebrating Armistice Day.  My earliest memory was standing along one of our town’s main streets with my family watching a parade of returning Korean War Veterans marching down main street accompanied by Tanks, bands and floats (tractor hauled wagons.) That changed by a proclamation by Dwight D. Eisenhower on October 8th, 1954 that designated November 11th as Veteran’s Day. 

All was well until 1968 when Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250) or the Uniform Holiday Bill. That bill was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.” — Department of Veteran’s Affairs.”

Under this law, Veteran’s Day was observed on October  25th causing much confusion.  President Gerald Ford moved Veteran’s Day back to November 11 by an order in 1975.

Considering all the wrangling over the holiday, one result of having Veteran’s Day on November 11th is that no one remembers that it was originally set aside to celebrate the end of the First World War.  Before the two holiday were merged, each had their own observances.  Veterans are also honored on other days such as Memorial Day, Flag Day and and even the Fourth of July. 

Personally, I think the WW1 vets have been robbed, if any are left.  My mother had a cousin who was a WW1 veteran (search the Court for Heinie Mueller.)

I would much prefer that Veterans have a holiday all our own. A day solely for us and not usurping a celebration intended for others.

Until that happens, however…Happy Veterans AND Armistice Day!  

War Warnings

The United States was involved in two major, world-spanning, wars in the 20th Century. We had warnings before the start of each war…and, for the most part, ignored them.

Newt Gingrich, in a CNN column, writes about the parallels between our current foreign situation and that prior to World War One. Gingrich, in addition to his political experience, is also a Historian. He is seeing the same parallels that I’ve written about in past posts.

The twin dangers of the Ukraine crisis

By Newt Gingrich, April 23, 2014 — Updated 2221 GMT (0621 HKT)

Ukrainian troops take position near burning tires at a pro-Russian checkpoint in Slaviansk following an attack by Ukrainian soldiers on Thursday, April 24. Ukraine has seen a sharp rise in tensions since a new pro-European government took charge of the country in February.

 

(CNN) — This year is the centennial of the First World War. One-hundred years ago this month, in April 1914, no one thought there would be a war. But war began, triggered by events in Eastern Europe, by the end of July. It came as an enormous shock, in retrospect almost like the Titanic hitting an iceberg.

In the end, it shattered Europe, cost tens of millions of lives, bankrupted countries and changed forever those who survived the horrors.

A century later, our focus is again on Eastern Europe, the site of a regional conflict that threatens to entangle the world’s leading powers.

The situation in Ukraine is a perilous one, much more so than our current debate acknowledges.

In Russia, we are dealing with the largest country in the world geographically, a country that possesses thousands of nuclear weapons, plenty of ballistic missiles and a ruthlessly determined leader motivated by nationalism and an imperial drive: a leader who also has an entrenched machine capable of keeping him in power for a long time.

In Ukraine, we are dealing with an ally that fought alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a nation now threatened with conquest by a much stronger neighbor against which it cannot defend itself.

In Europe, we are dealing with a continent that for more than half a century has relied on the United States to guarantee peace, security and freedom. We have kept that promise through NATO, the alliance that war in Eastern Europe threatens seriously to undermine.

And in the United States, we are dealing with a nation weary of war after more than a decade spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a public wary of more armed intervention abroad.

We need a national debate on what our policy is going to be. And then we need to engage our friends in Europe on what our policy is going to be.

As retired former NATO Commander Gen. Wesley Clark and his colleague Dr. Phillip Karber, a former Defense Department official, detail in their recent report from Ukraine, the Obama Pentagon has adopted a position of not helping that country with any offensive weapons. Offensive weapons including, for example, Kevlar vests, night vision equipment and aviation fuel.

So while the United States has sent thousands of meals ready to eat (Army rations) to a country that is an agricultural exporter, the administration has refused to send even nonlethal equipment that would help Ukraine defend itself and possibly avert war.

Instead of sending military supplies to Ukraine, we hear talk of more sanctions. And yet, as I discuss in my podcast this week, I suspect it will be apparent very quickly that sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin are going to be irrelevant. He is a very tough man. He heads a very big country with immense natural resources. He can cause pain fully as much as his neighbors can cause him pain. He can block American shipments to Afghanistan from coming through Russia by the northern route. He can cut off natural gas flow to Western Europe. He has a veto at the U.N. Security Council, and can obstruct further sanctions against Iran.

This is a very difficult situation, and we are now in two enormous dangers. First, of the Obama administration doing too little, in which case the world will become less safe as we show weakness to our allies and the Russians seek to reconstitute the Soviet empire. And second, of doing things too clumsily, in which case, as one-hundred years ago, a bad combination of miscalculations, delusions, laws and alliances could land us in a war no one intends.

If you read popular history, you would believe that the US entered World War One because of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. What you may not remember is that the Lusitania was sunk on May 7, 1915. The US did not enter the war until April 6, 1917—nearly two years later.

The reasons for the delay were many—mostly due to the incompetence of Woodrow Wilson and his alliance with various ‘Peace’ groups. Wilson was finally convinced to sign the declaration of war after a number of events, such as the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Zimmerman letters that indicated the Axis powers were attempting an alliance with Mexico (an aftermath of Pershing’s pursuit of Pancho Villa) and other indications that the Axis powers would soon ignore the neutrality of the US and attack US assets and installations at home and abroad.

American Entry into World War I, 1917

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson cited Germany’s violation of its pledge to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and its attempts to entice Mexico into an alliance against the United States, as his reasons for declaring war. On April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate voted in support of the measure to declare war on Germany. The House concurred two days later. The United States later declared war on Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917. — Office of the Historian, US State Department.

The paragraph above is the official summary of our entry into WW1. There is a more extensive, and controversial, discussion on Wiki (accused of anti-German bias.)

What Gingrich’s article does is to compare parallels then and today. Is the Russian invasion of the Crimea similar to that of Austia-Hungary’s invasion of Serbia? Is the overthrow of Ukrainian President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, the parallel of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand?

Obama, in response to Putin’s actions in the Ukraine, is sending a few troops to Poland, a US and NATO ally. True, it’s only 600 Paratroops to participate in a joint exercise. Other Army companies will head to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Obama and others in the White House and in the Administration think these pittance of troops will block further aggression by Putin. Unfortunately, like those events leading to World War 1, those few troops could be a tripwire leading us into another war. And, like we were prior to those two world wars in the last century, we are, again, ill prepared to respond.

A Remembrance on Armistice Day

Before November 11th was known as Veteran’s Day, it was known as Armistice Day, the day World War ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. We remember our veterans this day, those few from World War II, those from Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Panama, Gulf Wars I and II, Afghanistan and all the little ones that many have never heard of that took lives of our military.

We remember those who are gone, those who were injured, baring wounds, scars and lost limbs…and those wounded who exhibit no scars. Here is a story about one just veteran of World War I, my distant cousin, Heinie Mueller. (I’ve posted the story of Heinie Mueller in past years, usually for Thanksgiving. This year, posting his story on Armistice Day seems more fitting.)

Heinie (Henry) Mueller was Grandma’s nephew. He served in the US Army during WW1 though most of the battles on the front lines. He was gassed twice, received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star plus some French medals.

Heinie was a character. He walked with a slight limp and cussed every third word. He didn’t care who he was with nor who heard him. If somebody didn’t like his language, it was just too bad. Usually, Heinie would send them on their way with a few choice words and phrases.

After the war, he married a lady named Irene and moved to Woodriver, IL. When I was small, they would drive down to visit us every few months—more often after we moved to the farm. Heinie liked to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and geese and he would frequently appear during hunting season. He, Dad and I would go hunting while the women-folk visited.

I don’t remember Heinie ever shooting much. He seemed to just like getting outdoors and walking in the woods. When we flushed some game, he would more than likely let Dad or me have the shot.

One year, Heinie and Irene came down for Thanksgiving. They arrived on Wednesday and Irene brought makings for oyster dressing. She and Grandma would fix Thanksgiving dinner the next day while Mom went to pick up my sister who was attending college. Heine, Dad and I planned to get up early Thanksgiving morning and go goose hunting.

We left the house early Thanksgiving morning, about an hour before sunup, and drove down to the Muddy River bottoms where Dad share-cropped corn on a ten-acre field. Dad built some hunting blinds along the edge of the field when Heinie announced he was coming.

The blinds were set up along a tree line with an open view across the corn field. The field had been picked late in the season and there was a lot of corn spillage to attract geese and an occasional deer.

It was cold. Ice had formed on the surface of the field and crunched as we walked across it towards the blind. It had been built out of salvaged two-by-fours and scrap sheet-metal for the roof with a covering of corn stalks for camouflage. Across the front was a tarp that would be dropped to allow us to step forward to shoot.

For whatever reason, the wind, or low hanging gray clouds or just general cussedness, the geese didn’t appear that day. Heinie had brought a hip-flask and would take a nip every so often. Dad was a Baptist and didn’t drink, but Heinie didn’t care.

By 11 o’clock, we decided that we’d give up hunting for the day. Dad started a fire to make some coffee and to fix a quick lunch hoping to sober Heinie up a bit before we went back to the house.

Heinie had been nipping steadily since we arrived and was feeling good. While the coffee was perking in an old coffepot, Heinie started talking about when he was in the Army. He had joined the US Cavalry in 1912 at the age of 17 and had gone down into Mexico with Black Jack Pershing after Pancho Villa.

After a bit, he talked about going to France to fight the Germans. Heinie was a Corporal by that time and had transferred from the Cavalry to the Infantry. After Mexico, he said, he didn’t want to ride or see another horse for the rest of his life.

Heinie was promoted to Sargent on arriving in France and took over a rifle platoon. He fought in a few battles and managed to survive with only some minor wounds. He was lightly gassed with chlorine a couple of times when his British-made gas mask leaked.

After we had finished our coffee and the fried egg and bacon sandwiches Dad had warmed over the fire, Heinie was silent for awhile. Then he began to talk about the Second Battle of the Marne and tears started flowing.

Heinie had been in charge of a rifle squad when they had left the US, first as a Corporal and then as a Sargent. Not long after arriving in France, he was made a Platoon Sargent and Company interpreter. Heinie had known many of the men in the platoon for several years, some from the excursion into Mexico.

Heinie’s grandparents had immigrated from Hesse, German in the early 1880s. They spoke both German and French. Heinie, born in Illinois, didn’t speak English until he entered school and retained a slight German accent the rest of his life.

Heinie’s company was in the front line trenches and preparing for battle. The Battle of the Marne had been going on for some time and the allies were preparing counter-attacks. An hour before the company was scheduled to attack, Heinie was sent back to the battalion headquarters. It had been decided that all interpreters would be held back and would not attack with their troops because they would be needed to help translate for all the prisoners that would be captured—so they assumed.

Heinie paused several times to blow his nose and wipe his eyes before continuing. The whistles blew and the troops attacked. After several hours, survivors began filtering back through the battalion headquarters area. It was later determined that out of Heinie’s company, he and seven others were the only survivors. None were from Heinie’s platoon.

Later, Dad told me that every year Heinie would get a bit liquored up and start talking and remembering. One of my uncles, Dad’s older brother, joined the Army just before WW1 but had spent the war in the Cavalry patrolling the Mexican border out of El Paso. Usually Dad wasn’t too tolerant of drunkenness but Heinie was different. Dad said it was a small thing to give Heinie an audience. It quieted his ghosts.

Heinie is long gone now. But every Armistice Day and Thanksgiving, I remember him.

Thanksgiving Remembrance

I hope you all are having a great Thanksgiving. As I am known to do, I repeat some selected posts on Holidays. Some Holidays trigger particular memories. Thanksgiving always triggers one for me about an older cousin of mine. My Grandmother’s nephew actually.

Here for your enjoyment is a tale of Heinie Mueller. I hope the story may trigger some memories of yours of those who have gone before us and left a memorial mark on our lives.

***

Heinie (Henry) Mueller was Grandma’s nephew. He served in the US Army during WW1 though most of the battles on the front lines. He was gassed twice, received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star plus some French medals.

Heinie was a character. He walked with a slight limp and cussed every third word. He didn’t care who he was with nor who heard him. If somebody didn’t like his language, it was just too bad. Usually, Heinie would send them on their way with a few choice words and phrases.

After the war, he married a lady named Irene and moved to Woodriver, IL. They would drive down to visit us every few months—more often after we moved to the farm. Heinie liked to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and geese and he would frequently appear during hunting season. He, Dad and I would go hunting while the women-folk visited.

I don’t remember Heinie ever shooting much. He seemed to just like getting outdoors and walking in the woods. When we flushed some game, he would more than likely let Dad or me have the shot.

One year, Heinie and Irene came down for Thanksgiving. They arrived on Wednesday and Irene brought makings for oyster dressing. She and Grandma would fix Thanksgiving dinner the next day while Mom went to pick up my sister who was attending college. Heine, Dad and I planned to get up early Thanksgiving morning and go goose hunting.

We left the house early Thanksgiving morning, about an hour before sunup, and drove down to the Muddy River bottoms where Dad share-cropped corn on a ten-acre field. Dad built some hunting blinds along the edge of the field when Heinie announced he was coming.

The blinds were set up along a tree line with an open view across the corn field. The field had been picked late in the season and there was a lot of corn spillage to attract geese and an occasional deer.

It was cold. Ice had formed on the surface of the field and crunched as we walked across it towards the blind. It had been built out of salvaged two-by-fours and scrap sheet-metal for the roof with a covering of corn stalks for camouflage. Across the front was a tarp that would be dropped to allow us to step forward to shoot.

For whatever reason, the wind, or low hanging gray clouds or just general cussedness, the geese didn’t appear that day. Heinie had brought a hip-flask and would take a nip every so often. Dad was a Baptist and didn’t drink, but Heinie didn’t care.

By 11 o’clock, we decided that we’d give up hunting for the day. Dad started a fire to make some coffee and to fix a quick lunch hoping to sober Heinie up a bit before we went back to the house.

Heinie had been nipping steadily since we arrived and was feeling good. While the coffee was perking in an old coffepot, Heinie started talking about when he was in the Army. He had joined the US Cavalry in 1912 at the age of 17 and had gone down into Mexico with Black Jack Pershing after Pancho Villa.

After a bit, he talked about going to France to fight the Germans. Heinie was a Corporal by that time and had transferred from the Cavalry to the Infantry. After Mexico, he said, he didn’t want to ride or see another horse for the rest of his life.

Heinie was promoted to Sargent on arriving in France and took over a rifle platoon. He fought in a few battles and managed to survive with only some minor wounds. He was lightly gassed with chlorine a couple of times when his British-made gas mask leaked.

After we had finished our coffee and the fried egg and bacon sandwiches Dad had warmed over the fire, Heinie was silent for awhile. Then he began to talk about the Second Battle of the Marne and tears started flowing.

Heinie had been in charge of a rifle squad when they had left the US, first as a Corporal and then as a Sargent. Not long after arriving in France, he was made a Platoon Sargent and Company interpreter. Heinie had known many of the men in the platoon for several years, some from the excursion into Mexico.

Heinie’s grandparents had immigrated from Hesse, German in the early 1880s. They spoke both German and French. Heinie, born in Illinois, didn’t speak English until he entered school and retained a slight German accent the rest of his life.

Heinie’s company was in the front line trenches and preparing for battle. The Battle of the Marne had been going on for some time and the allies were preparing counter-attacks. An hour before the company was scheduled to attack, Heinie was sent back to the battalion headquarters. It had been decided that all interpreters would be held back and would not attack with their troops because they would be needed to help translate for all the prisoners that would be captured—so they assumed.

Heinie paused several times to blow his nose and wipe his eyes before continuing. The whistles blew and the troops attacked. After several hours, survivors began filtering back through the battalion headquarters area. It was later determined that out of Heinie’s company, he and seven others were the only survivors. None were from Heinie’s platoon.

Later, Dad told me that every year Heinie would get a bit liquored up and start talking and remembering. One of my uncles, Dad’s older brother, joined the Army just before WW1 but had spent the war in the Cavalry patrolling the Mexican border out of El Paso. Usually Dad wasn’t too tolerant of drunkenness but Heinie was different. Dad said it was a small thing to give Heinie an audience. It quieted his ghosts.

Heinie is long gone now. But every Thanksgiving, I remember him.

Why does it feel like June 1914?

This train of thought was triggered by blogger friend, Tam.  She wrote a short post noting the similarities of the current world events with those in the months prior to World War I.

Like pre-World War I Serbia, the RIFs around the world are rioting. Supposedly the cause of the rioting is a 10 minute YouTube video that had around a thousand views before 9/11/2012.  The Obama White House jumped on this excuse with both feet to cover the fact that the real reason of the riots were a planned series of attacks by a renewed Al-Qaeda—a renewed Al-Qaeda that thrived in the vacuum created by Obama’s policy of Mideast appeasement.

The riots were aided by Obama’s state department orders that removed the Marines from Libya and disarmed the Marine guards in Egypt. Obama and Hilliary Clinton ignored warnings that could have protected the Americans in Libya but did not.

The First World War started due to a cascade of events that triggered the mutual assistance treaties of the initial participants: the  Triple Entente among the British, French and Russians and the Triple Alliance of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Italy on the other. Like our Gulf Wars One and Two, the First World War was preceded by the Balkan War of 1908, The Boer War of 1880 and1899 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

The ignition of that war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife. The assassination was preceded by months of protests and riots using the pretense of the earlier Balkan War of 1908. By coincidence, Britain’s Prince Harry may have been an unintended target recently during a Taliban attack on a NATO base where the Prince was assigned.

Here is where the similarities between now and WW I begin to emerge. Today’s Mideast riots were planned by Al-Qaeda.  They are nothing more than a continuation of the wars and war-like acts going back to the creation of Israel, the several Israeli-Arab wars, the two World Trade Towers attacks and Gulf Wars I and II. When you include the tension between China, Japan and the Philippine Islands over the oil rich islands and coral reefs of the South China Sea, the coincidences can be amazing.

The members of the Triple Alliance perceived a weakness among the members of the Triple Entente. They thought the Triple Entente signers would not honor the alliance. Likewise today, the US has mutual assistance treaties with Japan, Israel, the Philippine Islands and NATO. Our enemies see weakness in the US by the bunglings of Obama and Clinton. They see weakness in the economic disarray of the European Union, and, like the Triple Alliance of the last century, believe the current treaties will not be honored. The misperceptions of the Islamofascists, the Islamic Brotherhood and China could lead us to another global conflict that would rival the participants of World War I.

The election coming in November has an importance that extends far beyond our national borders. A Romney win and a repudiation of the Obama policy of Islamic appeasement could forestall another global conflict—one that could include tactical nukes if Iran completes her nuclear program or acquires a few nuclear weapons from Pakistan. The danger of a regional nuclear war is very real.

China has nuclear weapons as well. Japan has the knowledge and material to build nuclear weapons quickly if they perceived a real need.  Survival threats can easily overcome Japan’s nuclear phobia if the US does not stand as a shield against China.

We know the Islamofascists are not sane. We believe the Chinese leadership are sane…as long as they believe they can maintain their power. If China believes their need for resources, the oil fields of the South China Sea are such that the lack could endanger their position, they, too, may be willing to threaten to use nuclear weapons in a seizure of the contested islands and oil fields.

It is a perilous time. The Twentieth Century has been named, “The War Century” by some historians. The Twenty-first Century has the potential to be one as well.

A Thanksgiving Story

I’m being lazy this Thanksgiving . This is a repost from a couple of years ago about a cousin of my mother, Heinie Muller.  It’s a story about Heinie, but it’s also a story about Thanksgiving and the years I spent growing up on the farm.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do remembering the occasion.
***
Heinie (Henry) Mueller was Grandma’s nephew. He served in the US Army during WW1 through most of the battles on the western front. He was gassed twice, received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star plus some French medals.

Heinie was a character. He walked with a slight limp and cussed every third word. He didn’t care who he was with nor who heard him. If somebody didn’t like his language it was just too bad. Heinie would send them on their way with a few choice words and phrases.

After the war, Heinie married a lady named Irene and moved to Woodriver, IL. They would drive down to visit us every few months—more often after we moved to the farm. Heinie liked to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and geese and he would frequently appear during hunting season. He, Dad and I would go hunting while the women-folk visited.

I don’t remember Heinie ever shooting much. He seemed more to just like to get outdoors and walk in the woods. When we flushed some game, he would more than likely let Dad or me have the shot.

One year, Heinie and Irene came down for Thanksgiving. They arrived on Wednesday and Irene had bought the makings for oyster dressing. She and Grandma would fix Thanksgiving dinner the next day while Mom went to pick up my sister who was attending college at SIU at Carbondale, IL. Heine, Dad and I planned our hunt. We got up early Thanksgiving morning and went goose hunting.

Early Thanksgiving morning, about an hour before sunup, we left the house and drove down to the Muddy River bottoms. Dan share-cropped corn on a ten-acre field. When Heinie announced he was coming, Dad built some blinds along the edge of the field. The blinds were along a tree line with an open view across the corn field. The field had been picked late and there was a lot of spillage to attract geese and an occasional deer.

It was cold. Ice had formed on the surface of the field and we crunched across it as we walked towards the blind. The blind had been built out of salvaged two-by-fours and scrap sheet-metal for the roof with a covering of corn stalks for camouflage. Across the front was a tarp that would be dropped to allow us to step forward to shoot.

For whatever reason, the wind, or low hanging gray clouds or just general cussedness, the geese didn’t show up that day. Heinie had brought a hip-flask and would take a nip every so often. Dad was a Baptist and didn’t drink, but Heinie didn’t care.

By 11 o’clock, we decided that we’d give up hunting for the day and Dad started a fire to make some coffee to sober Heinie up a bit before we went back to the house. The fire also gave us an opportunity to fix a quick lunch. Heinie had been nipping fairly steady since we arrived and was feeling good. While the coffee was brewing, Heinie started talking about when he was in the Army. He had joined the US Cavalry in 1912 at the age of 17 and had gone down into Mexico with Black Jack Pershing after Pancho Villa. Coincidentally, so had my Uncle Johnny.  The two never met during their years in the Army; not until decades later when Dad and Mom were married.

After a bit, he talked about going to France to fight the Germans. Heinie was a Corporal by that time and had transferred from the Cavalry to the Infantry. After Mexico, he said, he didn’t want to ride or see another horse for the rest of his life. He was promoted to Sargent on arriving in France and later took over a rifle platoon.

He fought in a few battles and managed to survive with only some minor wounds. Once, he was lightly gassed with chlorine when his British-made gas mask leaked. After we had finished our coffee and the fried egg and bacon sandwiches, Heinie was silent for awhile. Then he began to talk about the Second Battle of the Marne and tears started flowing.

Heinie had been in charge of a rifle squad when they had left the US, first as a Corporal and then as a Sargent. Not long after arriving in France, he was made a Platoon Sargent and Company interpreter. His grandparents had immigrated from Hesse, German in the early 1880s. They spoke both German and French. Heinie, born in Illinois didn’t speak English until he went to school and he retained a slight German accent the rest of his life. 

Heinie had known many of the men in the platoon for several years, some from the excursion into Mexico. His company was in the front line trenches and preparing for battle. The Battle of the Marne had been going on for some time and the allies were preparing counter-attacks.

An hour before the company was to counter attack, Heinie was sent back to the battalion headquarters. It had been decided that all interpreters would be held back.  They would not attack with their troops because they would be needed to help translate for all the prisoners that would be captured—so they assumed.

Heinie paused several times to blow his nose and wipe his eyes before continuing. The whistles blew and the troops attacked. After several hours, survivors began filtering back through the battalion headquarters area. It was later determined that out of Heinie’s company, he and seven others were the only survivors. None from Heinie’s platoon.

Later, Dad told me that every year, Heinie would get a bit liquored up and start talking and remembering. Usually Dad wasn’t too tolerant of drunkedness but Heinie was different. Dad said it was a small thing to give Heinie an audience. It quieted his ghosts.

Heinie is long gone now. But every Thanksgiving, I remember him.

Heinie Mueller, WW1 Vet.

Heinie (Henry) Mueller was Grandma’s nephew. He served in the US Army during WW1 though most of the battles on the front lines. He was gassed twice, received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star plus some French medals.

Heinie was a character. He walked with a slight limp and cussed every third word. He didn’t care who he was with nor who heard him. If somebody didn’t like his language, it was just too bad. Usually, Heinie would send them on their way with a few choice words and phrases.

After the war, he married a lady named Irene and moved to Woodriver, IL. They would drive down to visit us every few months—more often after we moved to the farm. Heinie liked to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and geese and he would frequently appear during hunting season. He, Dad and I would go hunting while the women-folk visited.

I don’t remember Heinie ever shooting much. He seemed more to just like to get outdoors and walk in the woods. When we flushed some game, he would more than likely let Dad or me have the shot.

One year, Heinie and Irene came down for Thanksgiving. They arrived on Wednesday and Irene has bought the makings for oyster dressing. She and Grandma would fix Thanksgiving dinner the next day while Mom went to pick up my sister who was attending college. Heine, Dan and I planned to get up early Thanksgiving morning and go goose hunting.

Early Thanksgiving morning, about an hour before sunup, we left the house and drove down to the Muddy River bottoms. Dan share-cropped corn on a ten-acre field. When Heinie announced he was coming, Dan built some blinds along the edge of the field. The blinds were setup along a tree line with an open view across the corn field. The field had been picked late and there was a lot of spillage to attract geese and an occasional deer.

It was cold and ice has formed on the surface of the field. We crunched across it as we walked towards the blind. It had been built out of salvaged two-by-fours and scrap sheet-metal for the roof with a covering of corn stalks for camouflage. Across the front was a tarp that would be dropped to allow us to step forward to shoot.

For whatever reason, the wind, or low hanging grey clouds or just general cussedness, the geese didn’t show up that day. Heinie had brought a hip-flask and would take a nip every so often. Dad was a Baptist and didn’t drink, but Heinie didn’t care.

By 11 o’clock, we decided that we’d give up hunting for the day and Dad started a fire to make some coffee to sober Heinie up a bit before we went back to the house and to fix a quick lunch. Heinie had been nipping fairly steady since we arrived and was feeling good. While the coffee was heating, Heinie started talking about when he was in the Army. He had joined the US Cavalry in 1912 at the age of 17 and had gone down into Mexico with Black Jack Pershing after Pancho Villa.

After a bit, he talked about going to France to fight the Germans. Heinie was a Corporal by that time and had transferred from the Cavalry to the Infantry. After Mexico, he said, he didn’t want to ride or see another horse for the rest of his life. Heinie was promoted to Sargent on arriving in France and took over a rifle platoon.

He fought in a few battles and managed to survive with only some minor wounds. Once, he was lightly gassed with chlorine when his British-made gas mask leaked. After we had finished our coffee and the fried egg and bacon sandwiches Dad had warmed over the fire, Heinie was silent for awhile. Then he began to talk about the Second Battle of the Marne and tears started flowing.

Heinie had been in charge of a rifle squad when they had left the US, first as a Corporal and then as a Sargent. Not long after arriving in France, he was made a Platoon Sargent and Company interpreter. Heinie had known many of the men in the platoon for several years, some from the excursion into Mexico.

Heinie’s grandparents had immigrated from Hesse, German in the early 1880s. They spoke both German and French. Heinie, born in Illinois didn’t speak English until he first went to school and retained a slight German accent the rest of his life.

Heinie’s company was in the front line trenches and preparing for battle. The Battle of the Marne had been going on for some time and the allies were preparing counter-attacks. An hour before the company was to counter attack, Heinie was sent back to the battalion headquarters. It had been decided that all interpreters would be held back and would not attack with their troops because they would be needed to help translate for all the prisoners that would be captured—so they assumed.

Heinie paused several times to blow his nose and wipe his eyes before continuing. The whistles blew and the troops attacked. After several hours, survivors began filtering back through the battalion headquarters area. It was later determined that out of Heinie’s company, he and seven others were the only survivors. None from Heinie’s platoon.

Later, Dan told me that every year, Heinie would get a bit liquored up and start talking and remembering. One of my Uncles, Dad’s older brother, had joined the Army but had spent the war in the Cavalry patrolling the Mexican border out of El Paso. Usually Dad wasn’t too tolerant of drunkedness but Heinie was different. Dad said it was a small thing to give Heinie an audience. It quieted his ghosts.

Heinie is long gone now. But every Thanksgiving, I remember him.