100 Years Ago October 1918
War’s End In Sight – Not So Influenza
Selected from the pages of the Evening Press and lightly annotated by Sally Haase
U.S. Fliers Shoot Down 100. With the American Army in France, Oct. 2, 1918: Over 100 German airplanes were shot down by American airmen in six days of the offensive west of the Meuse river, the censor now permits it to be stated. Nearly all of the German observation balloons that were destroyed fell victim to Lt. Luke of Arizona. American airmen have complete mastery of the air front where our men are fighting. American pursuit airplanes, flying in mass formation, 30 or 50 in a bunch, have swept the Germans from the air.
Our Colored Unit In Argonne. With the American Army northwest of Verdun, Oct. 2, 1918: A report specifically mentions a unit of our colored troops who had previously fought brilliantly under the command of the French in Argonne referred to their “ good work” in the advance near Bouconville. Several of these colored soldiers won the Croix de Guerre earlier.
Drastic Steps To Check Influenza. Washington, Oct. 3, 1918: The public health service has directed drastic steps be taken to fight the spread of Spanish influenza. While the disease is being checked in various military cantonments, it is steadily increasing among the civilian population. It is spreading westward in a manner that is causing apprehension because of the scarcity of physicians and nurses who were called for duty with the colors.
Retreat On the Western Front. International News Service, Oct. 3, 1918: The Germans have begun another great retreat on the western battle front. All of the great chains of defensive works erected by the Germans in Flanders are being evacuated. In Belgium the German lines are rapidly giving way, with the allies penetrating 25 miles into Belgium soil and menacing German submarine bases on the coast. The German troops facing the Americans between the Argonne forest and the Meuse river have been bombarding us heavily. Signs are there that this cannonading is to cover another flight. The Germans have been making violent counter assaults on the front, but everywhere these assaults were crushed by the allies.
Wilson To Order Uniform Wage. Washington, Oct. 3, 1918: President Wilson will order uniform wages for the different trades in war industries. The proposed action is said to have been prompted by labor turnovers and strikes in war plants.
Influenza Deaths Increase In Camps. Washington, Oct. 4, 1918: The number of influenza cases in the camps is showing a daily increase indicating that the peak has not been reached. On September 27th 39,945 cases of the disease in the camps had been reported. Camp Logan has 10,004 cases and Camp Syracuse 14,012 cases.
Prisoners For Farms. Washington, Oct. 4, 1918:Utilization of Germany’s prisoners on the farms of the northwest where there is a serious shortage of labor was suggested by Representative Young of North Dakota.
German Peace Request. Washington, Oct. 7, 1918: On October 4, the Imperial German Chancellor Prince Maximilian forwarded a note to President Wilson. The note said in part, “The German government requests the president of the United States to take in hand the restoration of peace, acquaint all the belligerent states of this request and invite them to send plenipotentiaries (representatives for those in Rio Linda) for the purpose of opening negotiation. It accepts the program of the president…as a basis for peace negotiations. With a view to avoid further bloodshed, the German government requests the immediate conclusion of an armistice on land and water and in the air.” [Feeling that Wilson was more indulgent, it is suggested that the peace proposal was sent to Wilson rather than to the allies.]
Quit Invaded Soil Is First Step to Peace. Washington, Oct. 8, 1918: President Wilson now has made it very plain that there is only one way to secure peace – withdrawal of all Germany’s armies within her own territorial limits and her undersea assassins from the lanes of the ocean, and free acceptance of the terms as already laid down by him(Wilson) and endorsed by the allies.
[Wilson note to Germany was to clarify the terms of the armistice proposal as it pertained to the 14th Points in his January 2018 peace proposal. Is their offer only to enter into negotiations regarding practical details of an armistice? Is the Chancellor speaking for the authorities who have conducted the war or for the German people?]
War Not Over Yet. Washington, Oct. 17, 1918: “The war is not over. This no time to slacken effort or fail to do our part here at home,” so says Secretary of State Lansing. “Our men in France are driving forward, “said the secretary. Our government is re-doubling its efforts to send men and munitions overseas.”
Response To Wilson. London, Oct. 21, 1918: [In response to President Wilson’s October 14 letter received from the German government] reported that Germany accepts all of President Wilson’s conditions, providing that assurances are given that the interests of the German people will be safeguarded. With the support of the German people, the offer orders troops to respect private property, insured orders to all submarines commanders to “preclude the torpedoing of passenger ships.” The offer accepts the principle that armistice procedure be left to “military judgment.”
Germans Wait for Terms. Washington, Oct. 26, 1918: The German War Cabinet recognizes the serious situation confronting its armies, while the Military and naval chiefs of the United States and the entente are in conference in France; Germany will be given the actual armistice terms by the allies. Meanwhile, the internal political situation within Germany grows more critical. The demand for the immediate abdication of the Kaiser is being voiced from every quarter of the empire.
Wilson Explains Free Trade Allusion. Washington, Oct. 28, 1918: The president’s position on free trade deems there should be no economic restrictions against some nations that did not apply to all nations. President Wilson explained that experience of the past “has taught us that the attempt by one nation to punish another, by exclusive and discriminatory trade agreement has been a prolific breeder of the kind of antagonism which oftentimes results in war and that if a permanent peace is to be established among nations, every obstacle that has stood in the way of international friendship must be cast aside.”
Allies Advance Continues. With the British army on the Western Front, Oct. 31, 1918: British and French troops began a new assault on the Flanders front this morning. Ghent is expected to fall shortly as a result. The Americans are meeting with desperate resistance north of Verdun, but are steadily advancing.
The end of October saw Turkey surrender to the Allies terms, the Allies run the Austrians out of Italy, the Czechs declaring independence from Austria, and Austrian accepting Wilson’s peace terms.
100 years ago, much has changed and, then again, nothing has changed.