The Daily Review/Zachary Fitzgerald
Commandant Virginia Sutton of the Marine Corps League-St. Mary Detachment and Commander Lawrence Johnson of Carr-Roberson American Legion Post 589 present a tribute of flowers Thursday during the Blue Star Marker Memorial Service at Patterson Junior High School. Also participating in the tribute are Commander Sherman Whiting of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4222, right, and 1st Vice Commander Kenneth Lodrigue of W. L. Bernauer Jr. American Legion Post 242. The Patterson Garden Club and city of Patterson hosted the service honoring veterans.
From the Editor: We hear echoes of distant battles
A war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
We’ve heard the phrase so often we don’t think about it much, but it’s the reason Veterans Day is always on Nov. 11 and not observed on a Monday like Memorial Day or Labor Day.
Oddly enough, the first Nov. 11, the one in 1918, was a Monday. It was the day World War I ended 100 years ago.
Historian Barbara Tuchman’s “Guns of August” finally fell silent more than four years after they began raining shells on the more than 70 million soldiers who served.
World War I doesn’t grab the attention of history buffs the way the Civil War or World War II does. But it continues to affect us today in ways that, like Nov. 11 itself, we don’t often think about.
The war killed 16 million people in all, and 7 million of them were civilians — a sign of things to come.
About 110,000 of the dead were American soldiers, sailors, Marines and, for the first time, airmen.
The HonorStates.org website lists seven St. Mary Parish men who died in the war. Their names show that the parish was a melting pot even then: Alcide Hebert, Henry Higinbotham, Dave Fortinberry, Joseph A. Gregoire, Albert Hage, Thomas A. Boudreaux and Ike Bradley.
Boudreaux died 10 days before the war ended. Bradley passed away nearly four months after the armistice. Gregoire died July 19, 1918, when the Germans were retreating across the Marne River, spent and on the run.
Did you or a family member fight in Korea? Or Vietnam? Or did you serve in the Cold War military? Our adversary, the Soviet Union, was born in World War I.
The war killed not just people, but great empires: the kaiser’s Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman and the Russian Czarist empire. The latter gave way to a series of revolutions that led to the creation of the Soviet Union.
We struggled with Soviets from the end of World War II into the 1980s.
African Americans played a role in the fighting. An African American unit, the 369th Infantry Regiment from New York, was awarded the Croix de Guerre by France.
During their time in France, the black soldiers learned that Jim Crow didn’t live everywhere. When they got home, they helped build momentum for civil rights.
For more than half of the following century, a lawsuit would seek to integrate St. Mary schools and keep them integrated.
A former Patterson resident recently made a name for himself writing about an important but largely unknown American soldier. Lafayette attorney Steve Rabalais wrote “General Fox Conner, Pershing’s Chief of Operations and Eisenhower’s Mentor” in 2016. Conner, Rabalais writes, was a key player in the organization of America’s World War I American military.
Rabalais was invited to speak recently at the prestigious Pritzker Military Library in Chicago.
If you have a job, or had a job, in the oilfield, Saudi Arabia has had a big influence on your economic life. A Saudi-led oil embargo led to the sharp rise in energy prices in the mid-1970s, and the Saudi decision to lower oil prices in the 1980s turned boom into bust. We’re still in that feast-or-famine cycle today.
The nation of Saudi Arabia has its roots in the British attempts to unite Arabs against the Turks during World War I. That was Lawrence of Arabia’s job.
The Selective Service System, which created local draft boards that decided which of their neighbors would be conscripted into the military, began in World War I and lasted until the early 1970s. For the first time in our history, the draft operated even in peacetime just before World War II and from the end of the Korean War until Vietnam.
Ever hear news about the outbreak of a new epidemic? SARS? AIDS? Bird flu?
World War I helped give us the greatest killer since the Black Plague of the 14th century: the badly named Spanish flu.
The bug could have been called the Kansas flu, because one of the first cases appeared in 1918 in Fort Riley among soldiers being trained for World War I.
Farm boys from all over the world, many of whom had never been around large crowds, were packed together in barracks and troop ships and sent all over the world. The flu spread like fire. Before the epidemic ended, up to 100 million people were dead.
Do you like “Game of Thrones?” If you do, you’re part of a wave of popularity for fantasy fiction that began with the making of the “Lord of the Rings” movies beginning in 2001. The author of the original books, J.R.R. Tolkein, wrote about Hobbits, who were peaceful little rural folks dragged into a hellish landscape where men fought to the death against soulless multitudes.
Tolkein wrote the novels beginning in the 1930s. He’d lived in England and had seen a generation destroyed by World War I.
For America, the 1920s were a time of excess — flappers, short skirts, erotically charged dancing, speakeasies and bathtub gin. It was the Jazz Age version of “live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”
World War I made them feel that way.
More than 30 years ago, I had the honor of interviewing a World War I veteran.
His name was Pritchett. I can’t remember his real first name, but he was the father-in-law of a co-worker. She called him Nother Daddy.
Nother Daddy, already in his 90s, lived in East Prairie in the very, very rural part of Missouri called the Bootheel. Like other young men of his time, his life had differed in no significant way from the lives of farmers going back hundreds of years.
But Nother Daddy was snatched up from East Prairie and sent to a Europe where airplanes, machine guns, tanks, trench warfare and poison gas taught the world what modern war would be like.
He told me about being drafted and being trained, and told me about going to Europe on a ship. Then he talked about wandering around Europe, looking for something to eat.
It occurred to me that he sort of skipped over his actual wartime experiences. His family said he never talked about it.
But he did give me one little glimpse of what his war was like.
He called me Whiskers because I have a beard. At one point, he leaned forward in his chair.
“Whiskers,” Nother Daddy said, “you don’t want none of what I had.”
It all ended on Nov. 11, 1918, 100 years ago Sunday. But we would get plenty more of what Nother Daddy had.
Bill Decker is managing editor of The Daily Review.