Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Wartime Christmas

A hundred years ago in December 1917, Captain Mike Hogg and his 250 men of Company D, First Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, 180th Brigade, 90th Division, spent the holidays learning how to shoot a rifle. This account is from a history of Company D:

                  The adjustment from civil to army life was a grinding ordeal to say the least, yet the spirit and cooperation of the men was such that it was evident Company D would prove of sterling worth when the time to meet the enemy arrived. On December 12th the Company marched to the Division Target Range where it received its first instruction in rifle firing In addition to target practice problems and maneuvres were carried out each day, and proved interesting as well as instructive. Classes of instruction in the use of the Browning, Lewis, Chauchat automatic rifles were also held. The Christmas Holidays were spent at the range, and the bitter experience of being away from the home fireside on festive days was an added test to the quality of the men. However, the new interest held sway. About three weeks were spent at Camp Bullis, then the Company moved back to its quarters at Travis.”
         --“History of Company D.
Excerpt from my book, The Smell of War: Three Americans in the Trenches of World War I (Texas A&M Press, 2017).

         Sometime after Christmas 1917 Mike wrote to Ima that the Red Cross had sent every man in his regiment a wool “trench sweater,” most of them hand-knitted. He wrote proudly of  “my lieutenants.”

         They would sail for France in June, 1918. In August, they would be in the trenches of the Western Front.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

99 Years Ago, an Armistice

On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., a cease-fire was declared in the trenches of World War I. On November 14, Captain Mike Hogg, Company D, lst Battalion, 180th Infantry Brigade, 360th Regiment,  90th Division, wrote to his sister.

. . . I am now only a few kilometers from where I was when we got the almost unbelievable news that there was to be a suspension of all hostilities at eleven o’clock. The Germans were only a few yards away and we were preparing to make a desperate attack that morning. I had already given up all idea of coming through. You should have seen the place where we spent the night—and such a night! Everybody and everything was frozen stiff.
We got the news at about ten-thirty. There was absolutely no demonstration. We could not make a sign or move, because of danger. Shells were still falling. At eleven, we heard the German bugles blow and the men shout. We then saw them get right up from in front of us and “beat it” back. All firing ceased. MY! But it was great. We were too tired and chilled, though, to realize what great luck we and the world in general were in. We have been through a great deal of fighting and I suppose are very lucky. . . .
Raymond came around in his car today, and we had a long and wonderful ride over the great battlefield. I took him to the very spot where my company and myself were waiting through the night to “jump off” in the morning.
He can tell you about my abode that night. , . .
You should see the town we are in. It is in better shape than most any around here and, at that, there is not a single house left whole. I am in one of the best and it has three rooms left. They are only baby rooms. I have a warm fire, just the same, and so have the men. We have all had a bath and have on warm and clean clothesalways get hot and good food after a fight. Sis, if she [the war] had not been over the day she was, you would have been minus one young brother. You know, there is a limit to everything, and I had reached mine. . . . No, I have not written very often, because it has been impossible to write at times. I have been on the front for almost four months and in places where it was not healthy to do any writing. . . . The Americans have had the hardest fighting of the war. You should see this region that we have hacked and carved our way through. It is, truly, a tragic sight. The last time I wrote you, I was some twenty miles in rear of where I now am. It is all the same—an enumeration would be a duplication. . . .
With much love—
Your brother,
P.S. I am enumerating a few of the things I saw one day. I am doing it on separate paper, so that if the censor does not like it, he can take it out.                          
Here is just an enumeration of things which I saw one day while we were on a hill in reserve, on the night we went up to relieve another outfit:
A marsh just below the hill, full of dead horses, torn-up wagons, and cannon. A road just beyond the marsh, winding up a hill in one direction to where a town once stood, but now nothing but white bricks mark the placein the other direction, the road stretched as far as the eye could see over almost level country. From the top of the hill to as far as could be seen, the road was chucked and blocked with trucks, troops, cannon, horses, ration and munition trains.
All along the slope of the hill where I was, torn helmets of Americans and Germans. Fresh American and German graves, old French graves, pieces of rifles, shreds of uniforms, packs, shoes, grenades, small holes in the ground all over the side of the hill where men had dug in.
A railroad track, just this side of the marsh, all torn to pieces. Old pieces of machine guns and ammunition belts of Germans, where they had tried to make a stand.
The top of the hill all around me covered with what used to be brush, but which was now chewed up by machine gun bullets and looked as if rats had been eating it. Three large observation balloons, one of which was brought down by a Boche [Allied slang for “German”]. The air alive with aeroplanes. Some were throwing propaganda, which looked like snow falling. Shells falling and knocking up the earth every few minutes. Our boys sticking close to the ground; cook stoves camouflaged and in full blast. Every hill in sight full of American Infantry or Artillery soldiers; litter-bearers going after someone just hit by a piece of shell.
These are a few of the things I saw from that one spot.

In 1954  November 11 became “Veterans Day” --to honor the veterans of all our wars.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Sailing "Over There," Summer 1918

Mike Hogg sailed for France on June 14, 1918, and wrote to his sister from aboard ship the next day.
                                                       Saturday [June 15, 1918]
Dear Sis:
I thought that when we got on here, there would be some let-up in our work, but not so. That seems to be the beginning and ending of everything. However, it is all right. No one is being hurt by it.
         Our trip, so far, has been ideal. Practically no one has been sick at all and the water has been as calm as I have ever seen it. I have seen no one who is a bit uneasy about U-Boats. I have questioned my men and not a one has admitted that he had the slightest uneasiness. I believe that if one put a torpedo into us, we would not be a bit alarmed, even then.
         We made an almost superhuman “get-away.” Ours was the record, so far.
         I wish there were more I could tell you, but it can’t be done. We are all well and the spirit throughout is wonderful.        
         With much love -

There was a war on: censorship was part of it, and so German U-boats (submarines), but Mike Hogg was always cheerful.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October 1917: Captain Mike Hogg describes his command.

On October 7, 1917, Mike's letter to Ima: 
Dear Sis:
            Here I am, at last, writing you a young letter. I started one several times, but quit before time.
            It is needless to say that I have been busy. Besides having to train my Company, I have been getting training. We are having French classes and military classes, one or the other, every night. All of the work there is not nearly so hard as Funston was. Things are going much easier.
            My Company had the first formal guard mount at Camp Travis yesterday. It just happened to be my day for guard and I was lucky that it was ordered to be formal. My Company behaved beautifully.
            The men of my Company come from East Texas -- Trinity County, Angelina, Walker, Montgomery, and Polk. I have only one man who is not a full-blooded American. That is very lucky. Most of the other Companies have Germans, Swedes, Mexicans, etc.
            The Camp is moving along in a wonderfully smooth manner. The Reserve Officers are doing things as if they had been in harness for years. Our Brigade took a nine-mile hike the other day and only twenty-one men out of the six or seven thousand dropped out. I never lost a man. . . .The class of men that we are getting is better than that of the regular army, however, they are not very literate. For instance, there are ten men in my Company who cannot read nor write, and the average grade is about the fifth. All of my men, except about eight, are farmers. You never saw a more willing bunch anywhere. Their spirit is great. You should have seen them when they came to me. They looked like scarecrows. Their hair was long and unkempt. As fast as they came, I had them shaved and their hair cut. They would not even know themselves. You could not believe that they ever looked like they have. They are a fine looking bunch. Lots of six-footers. My barracks is as clean as your music room. Scrub, scrub, scrub, all day long. That’s what it takes.
            I believe we will be here for five or six months yet. Will try to write every week from now on.
            With much love -

If he did write every week, all of his war letters have not survived. He would be writing to Ima until January 1919.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ima's brother's news

Ima's diaries are still in progress. Meanwhile, her brother Mike's WW I letters will be part of my new book, THE SMELL OF WAR: THREEE AMERICANS IN THE TRENCHES OF WORLD WAR I, out in December. More news later.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy 4th!

Tuesday's the 4th of July. Happy fireworks, concerts, etc. to all.
And remember the US (and Mike Hogg) entered World War I a hundred years ago.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Captain Mike Hogg of Company D

         On June 9 Mike wrote to Ima that “About two-thirds of those that came over at first will be sent home in the next week. I hope I have made good and won’t be in the bunch. I think I have.” He already knew how to shoot, from a boyhood of hunting with his father and his two brothers. Now he was aiming to hunt a different kind of game. On May 8, 1917, 3,000 men had begun 3 months of intensive training at Camp Funston; on August 15, 1,846 of them had graduated as second lieutenants. One was Lieutenant Mike Hogg. His older brother, Will, once described him as “not particularly studious,” but “fairly aggressive and industrious.”
         After a two-week leave in Houston, Mike Hogg moved on to Camp Travis, near San Antonio. There he was soon promoted: He was then Captain Mike Hogg, Company D, lst Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, 180th Brigade, 90th Division.
         He had four or five lieutenants under his command, and his total company ranged from about 200 to 250.
         In the trenches at the Western Front, they would be reduced to 115.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Remembering Memorial Park

I sent this letter to the Houston Chronicle on May 29, and it ran in “Letters” on June 2.
Just in case you missed it.

Regarding Allyn West’s “Master plan aims to bring the memorial back to Memorial Park” (Page A3, May 29), it would be well to remember that the site of Camp Logan, the World War I military training camp, along with additional acreage, was bought in 1923 and 1924 by Houston’s Hogg family to preserve as a park. In an arrangement with the city of Houston, and with a donation of $50,000 by Will, Mike, and Ima Hogg, Memorial Park, named to honor the soldiers who fought in World War I, opened as a public park in 1925.  At 1,500 acres it is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. As we remember the Great War of a hundred years ago, Houstonians can thank the Hoggs for Memorial Park. 

Virginia Bernhard

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Mike Hogg, Soldier: 1917

       When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Ima’s brother Mike was one of the first to enlist. He was not unfamiliar with the military, having worn a uniform and learned to drill as a boy at the Carlisle School in Hillsboro, Texas. In fact, he had rather liked it. In May 1917 he found himself drilling for real at Camp Funston, He wrote the first of many letters to his sister, Ima, in Houston:
Wednesday [May, undated, 1917]
Dear Sis:
         This camp thus far, is the greatest experience I have ever had. We get up at 5:40 every morning and, from that time on till six P.M., we are on the “hop.”. Our equipment is the same as the regular army, and our duties are equally as severe.  Everyone is very enthusiastic and, of course, this adds to the interest. We have marching, lectures, music, swimming, and many other things of interest. . . .
                  Only a few minutes before called out.
                           With love -
         From spring 1917 until winter 1919, from training camp to the Western Front to the postwar Army of Occupation, Mike Hogg wrote letters home. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ima, the Enigma!

More to do on Ima's diaries and her mysteries, but work on my World War I book, The Smell of War: Three Americans in the Trenches of World War I (one of them was Mike Hogg) takes precedence for the nonce. Watch this space for updates. Fall publication.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ima's Diary Ends, with Questions Unanswered.

Ima and Mike continue their summer travels in Europe 1910.  

Off Friday morning [August. 12] 10:08.
Went by trolley then to Milverton

Arrived in Kenilworth 10:40.
Drove a mile and a half to the castle /6 d. These romantic and very beautiful ruins we saw to the best advantage, for after a walk about them, we drove on the way to the station, with the tilting ground, had a fine view of the whole castle, where the lake used to be. Merwyn Tower was the scene of Amy’s life in the castle.

 [Amy Robsart, wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, is the heroine of Walter Scott’s novel, Kenilworth, which Ima had just “reviewed” the day before.]

In Warwick, by the way, he & the Earl of Leicester are buried.

[No, Ima, Robert Dudley was the Earl of Leicester. Amy Robsart, his wife, is buried at St. Mary’s Church in Oxford.]

Left Kenilworth 12:25 noon.
After innumerable changes arrived in Ambergate at 4:30 P.M. to find that we should have to go farther in order to coach to Haddon Hall, & Chatsworth. We spent the time there until 6:18 P.M.--walked, drank tea and admired this promising beginning of the Peak--Bought tickets to Rowsley, but decided to get off in Matlock, 6:40 P.M. A mountainous and beautiful place--and a nice hotel--“New Bath”--with a pleasant garden.--So many of the lower classes seem to be traveling hereabouts--just tiny little journeys. There is a grand piano here in Matlock.--I am aching to touch it!

This was Friday, August 12, 1910. Here the diary ends rather abruptly.

The little notebook has more blank pages, but she did not use them.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ima's 1910 diary, continued.

Ima and her brother, Mike, continue their European travels in the summer of 1910, as recorded in her diary:

Thursday morning  [Aug. 11] 10:20
Stratford. It was warm and the town has not grown in my favor since 1907.

[On her July 12, 1907 visit to Stratford, Ima had a cold, and wrote in her 1907 diary: Reach S[tratford] sick, but walked to Trinity and out by the Avon- my only chance for I spent July 13- Stratford-on-Avon in bed.]

We visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and then his burial in the church. At the Golden Lion (starred in 1906 Baedeker) [Ima’s tattered copy of this standard tourist guidebook is preserved in the archives of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.] we had an insufficient and poor lunch @ 2/6 and in disgust with everything returned to Warwick on the 2:08 train. That afternoon we read and wrote. I reviewed “Kenilworth.” [Ima was a great reader. She knew
Sir Walter Scott’s 1821 romantic historical novel, Kenilworth, and she was about to visit Kenilworth Castle.]  After our delicious dinner, we walked out to the bridge near the castle. It was some sort of a holiday--a brass band was playing discords, and a happy, well-behaved crowd were running and pushing the poor performers along.

Next: A Visit to Kenilworth Castle