We Are Going “Over There!”


President Woodrow Wilson asks Congress for a Declaration of War.

“It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it.

The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation.

We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.”

Mexico Could’ve Declared War on US in Exchange for Western States…

Today in History, February 26, 1917:

President Woodrow Wilson is informed of the “Zimmermann Telegram”.

German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann had sent the telegram to the German Ambassador to Mexico, Count Johann von Bernstorff, authorizing him to offer Mexico a great deal of money if they would become allies with Germany should America enter the war.

To top it off, Germany offered to give Mexico Texas, New Mexico and Arizona should they agree.

Wilson ordered American shipping to be armed and authorized the release of the telegram to the media. News of the treachery enraged the American public, who were already angry over German submarine attacks on American ships. By April 6th Wilson had asked for and received a declaration of war.

A Name Change

Today in History, July 17, 1917:

The British Royal family, previously know by their family name of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, linked with their cousins of the German and Russian monarchies, changed their name to Windsor, a specifically English surname.

The change was made because Britain was at war with Germany and were bombing England with a bomber named the Gotha.

“That Guy” Who Always Seems to be There…and Its Not Always the Glorious Jobs that Render Success…


Today in History, May 28, 1917:

300 miles south of Greenland, a few sailors aboard a US Navy “oiler”, the USS Maumee AO-2, made history with an act which would greatly affect history.

The logistics of keeping fleets supplied at sea was nothing new, but it did have extreme restrictions.  The Navy had tackled the problem in order to display its reach with the around the world tour of the Great White Fleet in 1907-1909, but that had been a task of loading enough coal on board to keep the ships moving.

The Maumee, when commissioned in 1914, was the Navy’s first diesel powered surface ship.  When the United States joined the fight in WWI, she was sent to a point off Greenland to do something which had never been done before…refuel ships while underway at sea.  Her first customers were six Destroyers on their way to England.  They performed the task successfully, and continued refueling ship that weren’t “log-legged” enough to make the trip.

I’ve written before about someone who always seemed to be mentioned when reading Army history about others during the 19th Century…General Nelson A. Miles.  Often he was the guy “cleaning up” an issue or who “also” played an important part.

Well, here is “that guy” for the US Navy in the 20th Century.  He became more famous, of course, but not for everything he should have.

When the Maumee was commissioned, a young Lieutenant was named her Executive Officer because he was an expert in her diesel engine technology.  He was still the Exec when she performed her ground breaking refueling tasks.  Chester Nimitz played an integral part.  Because of his expertise with diesel engines, Nimitz would also play a key part in the development of the Navy’s submarine fleet.

In 1938 the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William Leahy, ordered the commander of TF 7 to develop procedures for refueling larger ships, such as battleships, cruisers and carriers while underway at sea.  That, of course, was now Rear Admiral Nimitz.

When the US joined in WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor, they called Nimitz from a job in DC to command the Pacific Fleet.  Now he was in charge of taking the war to Japan.  A job that required a lot of logistics, including vast advancements in refueling huge fleets at sea.  The underway processes would be key in famous battles such as the Coral Sea, Midway, the Doolittle Raid and many others.  One of the first at-sea casualties in the fleet would be an oiler during the Coral Sea battle.

In 1944 another huge leap was made.  Admiral Raymond Spruance was tasked with performing raids on Japan to minimize air attack threats during the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  (His boss was Nimitz.)  He had a problem which had to be solved.  The Navy had underway refueling down to an art.  However his fleet of Aircraft Carriers would “shoot” through their on-board supply of munitions (bombs, torpedoes, bullets) in about three days.  After the three days, they would have to make a 12 day trip to Ulithi Atoll and back for resupply.  This would keep them on station and in the war only six days out of a month.

As Leahy had, Spruance ordered his staff to develop processes to resupply ammunition, food stocks, etc. while underway.  Which they did.  It was a dangerous undertaking, moving bombs across decks of moving ships and across winches between ships, but they did it.  Now, after spending their ammo, the fleet would sail overnight to meet the supply ships, refuel, re-arm and re-supply while underway from different supply ships while underway, and be back in the fight within two days.

After the war, inventive officers asked to design ships which could replenish ships underway using a “one-stop shop” method…where one supply ship would resupply fuel, ammo and other needed supplies in one pass.  The Navy’s new CNO approved heartily…of course…Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

The Navy has made huge advancements since, and in recent years has improved their resupply capabilities even more.  They have the massive Gerald Ford carriers to plan for.

The US military’s ability to reach out and touch someone anywhere in the world, would not be possible without the innovations which allow them to resupply on the move…anywhere.

We almost didn’t have “Chester” to help make all of these advancements for the Navy.  In 1907, young Ensign Nimitz ran his Destroyer, the USS Decatur, aground and was found guilty of hazarding his ship during the subsequent court martial.  As we have seen during recent events, this normally would mean a swift end to one’s Naval career.  Thank God the Navy brass saw fit to give Nimitz another chance.

Listen to the Professionals

Today in History, December 12: 1917 –

Rail disaster in the Alps. Between 1,000 and 1,200 French soldiers had Christmas leave from the Italian front, and boarded an overloaded train bound for France over the Alps.

The train’s engineer refused to begin the trip…the passenger cars did not have enough brakes to make the trip safely. He changed his mind when when a well-meaning French officer pointed a pistol to his head…intent on his troops seeing their families for Christmas.

As the train reached the bottom of a long grade near Modane, France, the engineer’s fears were realized…the brakes would not slow the train and when the train reached a wooden bridge it derailed, most of the passenger cars bursting into flames. At least half of the soldiers were killed in the horrific crash…over 500. Listen to the professionals.

Too Armed to Take

Today in History, March 1: 1917 – (2nd Amendment friends take note!) The Zimmermann Telegram is made public by the United States, on the authority of President Woodrow Wilson. The German government had sent the telegram to their envoy in Mexico City in January, in anticipation of beginning unlimited submarine warfare in the North Atlantic Ocean on February 1st. Germany wanted the United States, and her supply of men and materiel, to stay out of the war. And, should she enter the war, Germany wanted to limit her ability to assist Great Britain. And that is what the Zimmermann Note was all about. It was an offer to the Mexican government; if Mexico would open up a “second front” for the United States by siding with Germany, the Germans would provide monetary support and promise to return Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico. Germany hoped the second front would distract the Americans from shipping men and equipment to Britain, and that the sinking of what ships did venture forth by U-Boats would strangle the UK, forcing her to sue for peace. The Mexican government actually established a committee to study the proposal…things had not been good between the US and Mexico, what with Gen. John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing chasing Poncho Villa around Northern Mexico in recent years. Mexico decided against the offer…because America was too powerful, because she would anger her neighbors, and (I find this VERY important), because they considered the fact that the Anglo citizens in the suggested states WERE ALL ARMED. British intelligence managed to obtain a copy of the telegram and give it to the Americans. Our ancestors in the beginning of the 20th century shared our isolationist views and were not excited about involvement in a European War. The release of the Zimmermann Telegram and unrestricted submarine warfare against our shipping helped change public opinion…and we were soon headed “over there”.