Today, June 2nd 2015, President Obama will posthumously award Pvt. Henry Johnson for his valor in World War I. Johnson, who was African-American, served in the U.S. 369th Infantry Regiment, an all-black company which came to be known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” Another member of that company was Horace Pippin, pictured above, who went on to become a noted painter. His illustrated handwritten memoirs which describe his experiences in WWI are held in our collections, and are the feature of a recent washingtonpost article

Top: Horace Pippin, 1940 / Carl Van Vechten, photographer. Downtown Gallery records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Bottom: Horace Pippin memoir of his experiences in World War I, ca. 1921. Horace Pippin notebooks and letters, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Britain Announces Blockade of Turkey

June 2 1915, Lesbos–The British had effectively cut off Germany from all trade except with her allies and the neutrals which bordered her. The blockade had proven contentious for its blocking of all cargoes (regardless of its military uses or lack thereof) and the position of the blockading fleets–in the English Channel and between Britain and Norway, rather than off the German coast itself. These violations of commonly accepted blockade practices were largely accepted by the neutral powers (William Jennings Bryan’s protests notwithstanding), who reserved their protests for limits on shipping between neutrals (i.e. between the United States and the Netherlands). Furthermore, the blockade was generally overshadowed in the American press by the deadly nature of the German reaction, the U-boat war. 

On June 2, Britain declared a blockade on Turkey as well. Unlike the blockade on Germany, this was more limited in scope and conformed itself to pre-war notions of a blockade. Largely, this was a function of geography and the disposition of the Allied navies. Turkey’s entire coastline, stretching from Bulgaria to Egypt, could not be effectively blockaded (and searching all ships at Suez or Gibraltar would be neither worthwhile nor politically feasible); the blockade was limited to the stretch of Asia Minor from the Dardanelles to Samos. The bulk of the fleet supporting the Gallipoli landings was there anyway, harboring in the Greek islands just off the coast of Asia Minor; this was exceptionally true after the loss of the Triumph and Majestic the previous week. 

Sources include: Randal Gray, Chronicle of the First World War.

The inside of the Cathedral of Amiens during World War II.

Amiens, France became one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe when the head of St. John the Baptist was brought back from Constantinople by Crusaders. This impressive relic would be the principal source of revenue for the cathedral for years to come, enabling the construction of the grand Gothic cathedral that endures today.

During both world wars, extensive measures were taken to protect Amiens Cathedral: the stained glass windows were carefully removed and sandbags were stacked high in the nave (shown above).

One unexpected source of amusement for Sassoon at Craiglockhart were his fellow-patients. While he avoided making fun of the really severe cases, he derived some entertainment from the more mildly afflicted. His second room-mate, who came to replace the young Scots captain, was particularly good value, if Sherston’s Progress is to be believed. A tall, handsome man with iron-grey hair and a monocle, the ‘Theosophist’, as Sassoon dubbed him, was outwardly quite normal. It was only when he opened his mouth that his dottiness became apparent. In a good mood he would address Sassoon in stilted language reminiscent of Shakespeare or Rider Haggard. If Sassoon complained that the rattling bedroom window was enough to keep one awake all night, for example, he might respond: 'True, O King,’ or 'Thou hast uttered wise words, O great white chief.’ When Sassoon grumbled about the War and the general state of society one evening, his companion reassured him that we were 'all only on a great stairway which conducts us to higher planes of existence.’
—  Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Siegfried Sassoon

tirezaveclesdeuxmains if you can’t find it elsewhere, it’s on youtube in parts.


Remarkable Gallipoli Pictures Show The First World War Battlefield Then And Now

The small headland of Gallipoli, which juts out from Turkey’s western coast, witnessed some of the most extraordinary combat of the First World War. Between April 2015 and January 1916, troops from Britain and France battled Ottoman soldiers on their home soil, resulting in nine months of savage fighting turning the slender stretch of turf by the Aegean into a graveyard for many thousands of young men. See more of thes

(Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The other day I read a biography of Tennyson, which says he was unhappy, even in the midst of his fame, wealth, and domestic serenity. Divine discontent! I can quite believe he never knew happiness for one moment such as I have – for one or two moments. But as for misery, was he ever frozen alive, with dead men for comforters? Did he hear the moaning at the Bar, not at twilight and the evening bell only, but at dawn, noon, and night, eating and sleeping, walking and working, always the close moaning at the Bar; the thunder, the hissing, and the whining of the Bar?
—  from Wilfred Owen’s letter of 8 August, 1917