Argonne Days in World War I
Horace L. Baker, Edited & Intro by Robert H. Ferrell University of Missouri Press, 2007 Library of Congress D545.A63B35 2007 | Dewey Decimal 940.436
When he took ship for France in the spring of 1918, Horace Baker was ill prepared for war. A private in the American Expeditionary Forces, the unassuming Mississippi schoolteacher joined the renowned Thirty-second Division and learned his soldiering skills from men who’d already fought in the Aisne-Marne offensive. Before long, he was to put those skills to use in the largest and most costly battle ever fought by the U.S. Army.
This poignant memoir recalls the great battle of the Meuse-Argonne, an epic conflict waged by well over a million men that saw casualties of 26,277 killed and 95,786 wounded. Many books have been written about General Pershing’s planning of the offensive; this one tells what happened to the soldiers who had to carry out his orders.
The Thirty-second was a shock division made up largely of National Guard units—farm boys from the Upper Midwest. But as casualties mounted, replacements were rushed into battle with little training—and devastating results. Baker knew friends and tent mates who were alive one day, dead the next, and he kept track of the battle in diary entries tucked into his Bible—and made evasively short in case of capture.
He shares his and his comrades’ thoughts about fighting in a harsh climate and terrain, relates their ongoing problems with short supplies, and tells how they managed to overcome their fears. It is a straightforward narrative that doesn’t glorify battle or appeal to patriotism yet conveys the horrors of warfare with striking accuracy. Historian Robert Ferrell’s new introduction puts Baker’s recollections in the context of the larger theater of war.
Baker fleshed out his diary in a book that saw limited publication in 1927 but has remained essentially unknown. Argonne Days in World War I is a masterpiece brimming with insight about the ordinary doughboys who fought in the European trenches. It conveys the spirit of a man who did his duty in a time of trouble—and is a testament to the spirit shared by thousands like him.
The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman
Edited with a New Introduction by Robert H. Ferrell University of Missouri Press, 2002 Library of Congress E814.A32 2002 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman is a compilation of autobiographical writings composed by Truman between 1934 and 1972. Taken directly from his own manuscript material, the volume presents the thoughts and feelings of the man himself. The book touches on details in Truman’s life from his days as a boy until graduation from Independence High School in 1901 to the vice presidency of the United States and beyond. There is also a memorandum written by Truman about the Pendergast machine in Kansas City telling how it was possible to work with the machine and not be soiled by it. The Autobiography concludes with some of the retired president’s thoughts about politics and the purposes of public life.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt's health deteriorated in the months leading up to the Democratic National Convention of 1944, Democratic leaders confronted a dire situation. Given the inevitability of the president's death during a fourth term, the choice of a running mate for FDR was of profound importance. The Democrats needed a man they could trust. They needed Harry S. Truman.
Robert Ferrell tells an engrossing tale of ruthless ambition, secret meetings, and party politics. Roosevelt emerges as a manipulative leader whose desire to retain power led to a blatant disregard for the loyalty of his subordinates and the aspirations of his vice presidential hopefuls. Startling in its conclusions, impeccable in its research, Choosing Truman is an engrossing, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the nation's thirty-third president.
During World War I, the Thirty-fifth Division was made up of National Guard units from Missouri and Kansas. Composed of thousands of men from the two states, the Missouri-Kansas Division entered the great battle of the Meuse-Argonne with no battle experience and only a small amount of training, a few weeks of garrisoning in a quiet sector in Alsace. The division fell apart in five days, and the question Robert Ferrell attempts to answer is why.
The Thirty-fifth Division was based at Camp Doniphan on the Fort Sill reservation in Oklahoma and was trained essentially for stationary, or trench, warfare. In March 1918, the German army launched a series of offensives that nearly turned the tide on the Western Front. The tactics were those of open warfare, quick penetrations by massive forces, backed by heavy artillery and machine guns. The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commanded by Gen. John J. Pershing were unprepared for this change in tactics. When the Thirty-fifth Division was placed in the opening attack in the Meuse-Argonne on September 26, 1918, it quickly fell.
In addition to the Thirty-fifth Division’s lack of experience, its problems were compounded by the necessary confusions of turning National Guard units into a modern assemblage of men and machines. Although the U.S. Army utilized observers during the initial years of World War I, their dispatches had piled up in the War College offices in Washington and, unfortunately, were never studied.
The Thirty-fifth Division was also under the command of an incompetent major general and an incompetent artillery brigadier. The result was a debacle in five days, with the division line pushed backward and held only by the 110th Engineer Regiment of twelve hundred men, bolstered by what retreating men could be shoved into the line, some of them at gunpoint.
Although three divisions got into trouble at the outset of the Meuse-Argonne, the Thirty-fifth’s failure was the worst. After the collapse, the Red Cross representative of the division, Henry J. Allen, became governor of Kansas and instigated investigations by both houses of Congress. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker testified in an effort to limit the political damage. But the hullabaloo gradually died down, and the whole sad episode passed into the darker corridors of history.
By focusing on a single event in history, Collapse at Meuse-Argonne offers a unique glimpse into one of the most critical battles of World War I. Historians, as well as the general reader, will find this new perspective on what really happened to the Thirty-fifth Division fascinating.
In this fascinating memoir William S. Triplet continues the saga begun in his earlier book, A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne: A Memoir, 1917-1918. After serving in World War I, Triplet chose to become a career military man and entered West Point. Upon graduation in 1924, his assignments were routine—to regiments in the Southwest and in Panama or as an officer in charge of Reserve Officers' Training Corps units or of men sent to a tank school. All this changed, however, when a new war opened in Europe.
From 1940 to1942, Triplet was assigned to the Infantry Board at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he engaged in testing new weapons and machines for the expanding army. He became a full colonel in December 1942. After leaving Benning he received posts with four armored forces: the Thirteenth Armored Division forming in the United States, an amphibious tank and troop carrier group training at Fort Ord, California, and the Second and Seventh Armored Divisions in Europe. His extraordinary abilities as a tank commander became evident in the Seventh Armored, where he took over a four-thousand-man unit known as Combat Command A. He was soon moving from triumph to triumph as he led his unit into Germany. Here was much room for professional judgment and decision, and the colonel was in his element. In the war's last days Triplet and his men fought their way to the Baltic, preventing many German troops from joining in the defense of Berlin against the advancing Soviet army.
Although Triplet was recommended for brigadier general, Dwight D. Eisenhower believed the U.S. Army had enough generals to finish the war; thus, the indomitable Triplet served out the few remaining years of his career as a colonel. After retiring in 1954, Triplet moved to Leesburg, Virginia, where he soon began to mull over his military experiences. Fascinated by the history he had witnessed, engaged by the attraction of writing about it, he recorded his memories with a combination of verve, thoughtfulness, and harsh judgments concerning ranking officers he considered incompetent— generals not excluded.
Through his annotations, Robert H. Ferrell provides the historical context for Triplet's experiences. Well written and completely absorbing, A Colonel in the Armored Divisions provides readers the rare opportunity to see firsthand what a real professional in the U.S. Army thought about America's preparation for and participation in the war against Germany and Japan.
Once again available is the critically acclaimed Dear Bess, a collection of more than 600 letters that Harry S. Truman wrote to his beloved wife, Bess, from 1910 to 1959. Selected from 1,268 letters discovered in Bess's house after her death in 1982, this extraordinary collection provides an inside look at Truman's life, his thoughts, and his dreams.
In this authoritative account, Robert H. Ferrell shows how the treatment of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's illness in 1944- 1945 was managed by none other than the president himself. Although this powerful American president knew that he suffered from cardiovascular disease, he went to great lengths to hide that fact—both from his physician and from the public. Why Roosevelt disguised the nature of his illness may be impossible to discern fully. He was a secretive man who liked to assign only parts of tasks to his assistants so that he, the president, would be the only one who knew the whole story. The presidency was his life, and he did not wish to give it up.
The president's duplicity, though not easily measurable, had a critical effect on his performance. Placed on a four-hour-a-day schedule by his physicians, Roosevelt could apply very little time to his presidential duties. He took long vacations in South Carolina, Warm Springs, the Catoctin Mountains, and Hyde Park, as well as lengthy journeys to Hawaii, Canada, and Yalta. Important decisions were delayed or poorly made. America's policy toward Germany was temporarily abandoned in favor of the so-called Morgenthau Plan, which proposed the "pastoralization" of Germany, turning the industrial heart of Europe into farmland. Roosevelt nearly ruined the choice of Senator Harry S. Truman as his running mate in 1944 by wavering in the days prior to the party's national convention. He negotiated an agreement with Winston Churchill on sharing postwar development of nuclear weapons but failed to let the State Department know. And, in perhaps the most profoundly unwise decision, Roosevelt accepted a fourth term when he could not possibly survive it.
In his final year, a year in which he faced crucial responsibility regarding World War II and American foreign policy, Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to serve the nation as a healthy president would have. Reading like a mystery story, The Dying President clears up many of the myths and misunderstandings that have surrounded Roosevelt's last year, finally revealing the truth about this missing chapter in FDR's life.
During American participation in World War I, many events caught the public’s attention, but none so much as the plight of the Lost Battalion. Comprising some five hundred men of the Seventy-seventh Division, the so-called battalion was entrapped on the side of a ravine in the Argonne Forest by German forces from October 2 to 7, 1918. The men’s courage under siege in the midst of rifle, machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire (coming both day and night), with nothing to eat after the morning of the first day save grass and roots, and with water dangerous to obtain, has gone down in American history as comparable in heroism to the defense of the Alamo and the stand at the Little Big Horn of the troops of General George A. Custer.
Now, in Five Days in October, historian Robert H. Ferrell presents new material—previously unavailable—about what really happened during those days in the forest. Despite the description of them as a lost battalion, the men were neither lost nor a battalion. The name was coined by a New York newspaper editor who, upon learning that a sizable body of troops had been surrounded, thought up the notion of a Lost Battalion—it possessed a ring sure to catch the attention of readers.
The trapped men actually belonged to companies from two battalions of the Seventy-seventh, and their exact placement was well known, reported by runners at the outset of the action and by six carrier pigeons released by their commander, Major Charles W. Whittlesey, during the five days his men were there. The causes of the entrapment were several, including command failures and tactical errors. The men had been sent ahead of the main division line without attention to flanks, and because of that failure, they were surrounded. Thus began a siege that took the lives of many men, leading to the collapse of the colonel of the 308th Infantry Regiment and, many believe, to the suicide of Major Whittlesey three years later.
This book grew out of Ferrell’s discovery of new material in the U.S. Army Military History Institute at the Army War College from the papers of General Hugh A. Drum and in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The Drum papers contain the court-martial record of the lieutenant of a machine-gun unit attached to the battalions, who advised Major Whittlesey to surrender, while the Seventy-seventh Division files contain full accounts of the taut relations between the Lost Battalion’s brigade commander and the Seventy-seventh’s division commander. By including this material, Ferrell gives a new accounting of this intriguing affair. Five Days in October will be welcomed by all those interested in a fuller understanding of the story of the Lost Battalion.
An exploration of the nuclear arms race and the dangers arising with the advent of “limited warfare”
After the development of the atomic bomb in 1945, Americans became engaged in a "new kind of war" against totalitarianism. Enemies and objectives slipped out of focus, causing political and military aims to mesh as a struggle to contain communism both at home and abroad encompassed civilians as well as soldiers. In matters relating to Vietnam, Central America, and the nuclear arms race, the domestic and foreign dimensions of each issue became inseparable. Policymakers in Washington had to formulate strategies dictated by "limited war" in their search for peace.
Contributors to this volume demonstrate the multifaceted nature of modern warfare. Robert H. Ferrell establishes the importance of studying military history in understanding the post-World War II era. On Vietnam, Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr., gives an intriguing argument regarding the U. S. Army; George C. Herring examines how America's decisions in 1954 assured deepened involvement; and Captain Mark Clodfelter uncovers new evidence concerning "Linebacker I." On the home front, Robert F. Burk analyzes the impact of the Cold War on the battle for racial justice; Charles DeBenedetti puts forth a challenging interpretation of the antiwar movement; and James C. Schneider provides perspective on the relationship between the Vietnam War and the Great Society. On Central America, two writers downplay communism in explaining the region's troubles. Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., fits the Nicaraguan revolution in the long span of history, and Thomas M. Leonard shows how the Reagan administration forced Costa Rica to side with the United States's anti-Sandinista policy. Finally, on nuclear strategy, Donald M. Snow offers a thought-provoking assessment of the "star wars" program, and Daniel S. Papp recommends measures to promote understanding among the superpowers.
These essays demonstrate that the making of foreign policy is immensely complicated, not subject to easy solution or to simple explanation. Despite these complexities, the central objective of policymakers remained clear: to safeguard what was perceived as the national interest.
Harry S. Truman: A Life
Robert H. Ferrell University of Missouri Press, 1995 Library of Congress E814.F46 1994 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
Few U.S. presidents have captured the imagination of the American people as has Harry S. Truman, “the man from Missouri.”
In this major new biography, Robert H. Ferrell, widely regarded as an authority on the thirty-third president, challenges the popular characterization of Truman as a man who rarely sought the offices he received, revealing instead a man who—with modesty, commitment to service, and basic honesty—moved with method and system toward the presidency.
Truman was ambitious in the best sense of the word. His powerful commitment to service was accompanied by a remarkable shrewdness and an exceptional ability to judge people. He regarded himself as a consummate politician, a designation of which he was proud. While in Washington, he never succumbed to the “Potomac fever” that swelled the heads of so many officials in that city. A scrupulously honest man, Truman exhibited only one lapse when, at the beginning of 1941, he padded his Senate payroll by adding his wife and later his sister.
From his early years on the family farm through his pivotal decision to use the atomic bomb in World War II, Truman’s life was filled with fascinating events. Ferrell’s exhaustive research offers new perspectives on many key episodes in Truman’s career, including his first Senate term and the circumstances surrounding the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. In addition, Ferrell taps many little-known sources to relate the intriguing story of the machinations by which Truman gained the vice presidential nomination in 1944, a position which put him a heartbeat away from the presidency.
No other historian has ever demonstrated such command over the vast amounts of material that Robert Ferrell brings to bear on the unforgettable story of Truman’s life. Based upon years of research in the Truman Library and the study of many never-before-used primary sources, Harry S. Truman is destined to become the authoritative account of the nation’s favorite president.
The idea of revising what is known of the past constitutes an essential procedure in historical scholarship, but revisionists are often hasty and argumentative in their judgments. Such, argues Robert H. Ferrell, has been the case with assessments of the presidency of Harry S. Truman, who was targeted by historians and political scientists in the 1960s and ’70s for numerous failings in both domestic and foreign policy, including launching the cold war—perceptions that persist to the present day.
Widely acknowledged as today’s foremost Truman scholar, Ferrell turns the tables on the revisionists in this collection of classic essays. He goes below the surface appearances of history to examine how situations actually developed and how Truman performed sensibly—even courageously—in the face of unforeseen crises.
While some revisionists see Truman as consumed by a blind hatred of the Soviet Union and adopting an unrestrainedly militant stance, Ferrell convincingly shows that Truman wished to get along with the Soviets and was often bewildered by their actions. He interprets policies such as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and support for NATO as prudent responses to perceived threats and credits the Truman administration for the ways in which it dealt with unprecedented problems.
What emerges most vividly from Ferrell’s essays is a sense of how weak a hand the United States held from 1945 to1950, with its conventional forces depleted by the return of veterans to civil pursuits after the war and with its capacity for delivery of nuclear weapons in a sorry state. He shows that Truman regarded the atomic bomb as a weapon of last resort, not an instrument of policy, and that he took America into a war in Korea for the good of the United States and its allies. Although Truman has been vindicated on many of these issues, there still remains a lingering controversy over the use of atomic weapons in Japan—a decision that Ferrell argues is understandable in light of what Truman faced at the start of his presidency.
Ferrell argues that the revisionists who attacked Truman understood neither the times nor the man—one of the most clearheaded, farsighted presidents ever to occupy the Oval Office. Harry S. Truman and the Cold War Revisionists shows us that Truman’s was indeed a remarkable presidency, as it cautions historians against too quickly appraising the very recent past.
In Ill-Advised: Presidential Health and Public Trust, now available in paperback, noted historian Robert H. Ferrell presents powerful evidence of frightening medical scandals in the White House. Malpractice, missing public records, and politically motivated cover-ups have hidden sometimes severe presidential illnesses from the American people. Ferrell traces these often shocking incidents--from Grover Cleveland's secret surgery for cancer to the questionable reporting on the health of both Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
Pierpont Stackpole was a Boston lawyer who in January 1918 became aide to Lieutenant General Hunter Liggett, soon to be commander of the first American corps in France. Stackpole’s diary, published here for the first time, is a major eyewitness account of the American Expeditionary Forces’ experience on the Western Front, offering an insider’s view into the workings of Liggett’s commands, his day-to-day business, and how he orchestrated his commands in trying and confusing situations.
Hunter Liggett did not fit John J. Pershing’s concept of the trim and energetic officer, but Pershing entrusted to him a corps and then an army command. Liggett assumed leadership of the U.S. First Army in mid-October of 1918, and after reorganizing, reinforcing, and resting, the battle-weary troops broke through the German lines in a fourth attack at the Meuse-Argonne—accomplishing what Pershing had failed to do in three previous attempts. The victory paved the way to armistice on November 11.
Liggett has long been a shadowy figure in the development of the American high command. He was “Old Army,” a veteran of Indian wars who nevertheless kept abreast of changes in warfare and more than other American officers was ready for the novelties of 1914–1918. Because few of his papers have survived, the diary of his aide—who rode in the general’s staff car as Liggett unburdened himself about fellow generals and their sometimes abysmal tactical notions—provides especially valuable insights into command within the AEF.
Stackpole’s diary also sheds light on other figures of the war, presenting a different view of the controversial Major General Clarence Edwards than has recently been recorded and relating the general staff’s attitudes about the flamboyant aviation figure Billy Mitchell. General Liggett built the American army in France, and the best measure of his achievement is this diary of his aide. That record stands here as a fascinating and authentic look at the Great War.
In the Philippines and Okinawa, the third volume of Colonel William S. Triplet's memoirs, tells of Triplet's experiences during the American occupations in the early years after World War II. Continuing the story from the preceding books of his memoirs, A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne and A Colonel in the Armored Divisions, Triplet takes us to the Philippines, where his duties included rounding up isolated groups of Japanese holdouts, men who refused to believe or admit that their nation had lost the war, and holding them until the time came to transport them back to Japan.
Triplet also had to reorganize his battalions and companies to raise morale, which had plummeted with the end of the war and the seemingly dull tasks of occupation. When he took over his assignment of commanding a regiment in a division, he was dismayed to discover the unmilitary habits of almost everyone, regardless of rank. A strict disciplinarian himself, Colonel Triplet, who had served in both world wars, at one time commanding a four-thousand-man combat group, brought his regiment of garrison troops back into shape in a short time.
Okinawa presented the new challenge of bringing order to an island that had seen the deaths of one hundred thousand civilians. Virtually every building on the island had been leveled, and tens of thousands of Japanese defenders had been killed. Triplet was also obliged to oversee the temporary burial of thirteen thousand U.S. servicemen, both soldiers and sailors.
In the Philippines and Okinawa portrays the ever-changing, very human, and frequently dangerous occupation of two East Asian regions that are still important to American foreign policy. Any reader interested in military history or American history will find this memoir engaging.
The long reign of Kansas City political boss Thomas J. Pendergast came to an end in 1939, after an investigation led by Special Agent Rudolph Hartmann of the U.S. Department of the Treasury resulted in Pendergast's conviction for income tax evasion. In 1942, Hartmann's account was submitted to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., in whose papers it remained for the past fifty-six years unbeknownst to historians. While researching the relations between Pendergast and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Robert H. Ferrell came across Hartmann's landmark report—the only firsthand account of the investigation that brought down the greatest political machine of its time, possibly one of the greatest in all of American history.
Reading like a "whodunit," The Kansas City Investigation traces Pendergast's political career from its beginnings to its end. As one of America's major city bosses, Pendergast was at the height of his influence in 1935-1936 when his power reached not merely to every ward and precinct in Kansas City but also to the statehouse in Jefferson City and Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. It was during this time that the boss took a massive bribe—$315,000—from 137 national fire insurance companies operating within Missouri, opening him to attack by his enemies.
Early in 1938, an official in the Washington headquarters of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, a former Missourian, quit his job to accept private employment, but not without first tipping off a reporter from the Kansas City Star about Pendergast's bribe. The reporter immediately phoned Lloyd C. Stark, the governor of Missouri and a known enemy of Pendergast. Stark then went to Washington to inform President Roosevelt. Although the president had been a supporter of Pendergast, he now considered Stark a more important political ally. Roosevelt asked the Treasury Department to investigate Pendergast's income taxes. The intelligence unit of the Treasury Department put Hartmann, its best operative, on the case. Within a year, after the most minute of inquiries into checkbooks, serial numbers on currency, a safe-deposit box, and a telegraphed transfer of $10,000, Hartmann and his agents found enough evidence to convict Boss Tom.
More than a simple account of what the Roosevelt administration did to cause the collapse of the Pendergast machine, The Kansas City Investigation takes the reader through the ups and downs, twists and turns, of this intriguing investigation, all from an insider's perspective. More important, Hartmann's report provides historians and readers alike the opportunity to evaluate the machine era in American political history—an era that, according to the investigation, "proved the old axiom that `truth is stranger than fiction.'"
About two o'clock in the morning Col. Heintzelman, chief of staff of the corps, came out and he was much pleased with what the division had accomplished and with the way they had gone through. It was the division's first battle and it played a very important and creditable part. Certain things fell down. . . . The truth of the matter is the troops got away from the wire and it was impossible to keep the wire up through the tangle of barbed wire and woods. We captured 3,000 prisoners on our front alone and have lost 521.
November 1, 1918Considerable heavy artillery fire all night. The preparation fire went down promptly at 3:30, it was very heavy. . . . The barrage went down promptly at 5:30. Troops jumped off. At 7:30 thirty prisoners reported from Le Dhuy Fme., taken by the 353rd and 354th infantries. I don't understand what the 353rd Infantry is doing in there, as it is out of the sector. At 7:00 a.m. there was a distinct lull in the artillery fire. . . . I told Hanson at 8:05 to move his troops forward to parallel 86 immediately. He stated that he would get them going about 8:30, but actually did not get them started until about eleven o'clock. I sent for him on arrival and told him to hurry his men up. Before Lee left I had ordered the divisional reserve to move forward with its advance element on the first objective to maintain their echelonment in depth. Smyser came in at one o'clock and I ordered the divisional machine guns to the front to take position about one-half kilometer east of Dhuy Fme. At the time the reserves were ordered forward. I ordered Hanson to take his P.C. to Dhuy Fme. . . . Hanson has just arrived. I do not understand why he is always so slow. He seems to be inordinately stupid.
During America’s participation in World War I, 1917–1918, only a single commander of a division, William M. Wright, is known to have kept a diary. In it, General Wright relates his two-month experience at St. Mihiel and especially the Meuse-Argonne, the largest and most costly battle in American history. In the Meuse-Argonne, the Eighty-ninth Division, made up of 28,000 draftees from Missouri and Kansas and under Wright’s command, was one of the two American point divisions beginning November 1, 1918, when the U.S. First Army forced the German defenders back to the Meuse River and helped end World War I as the main German railway line for the entire Western Front came under American artillery fire. It was a great moment, and Wright was at the center of it. Robert Ferrell skillfully supplements the diary with his own narrative, making use of pertinent manuscripts, notably a memoir by one of Wright’s infantry regiment commanders.
The diary shows the exacting attention that was necessary to keep such a large, unwieldy mass of men in motion. It also shows how the work of the two infantry brigadiers and of the two supporting artillery brigades required the closest attention. Meuse-Argonne Diary, a unique account of, among other things, a singular moment in the Great War in which American troops ensured victory, will fascinate anyone interested in military history in general and World War I in particular.
Gathered for the first time, Truman's private papers--diaries, letters, and memoranda--cover the period from his occupancy of the White House in 1945 to shortly before his death in 1972. Students and scholars will find valuable material on major events of the Truman years, from the Potsdam Conference to the Korean War.
Our Common Country is a collection of informal addresses, eighteen in all, given by Warren G. Harding as president-elect that defined his vision for the United States. What makes these addresses as relevant today as they were in 1921 is the unsettled mood of the country. Even though World War I is now a distant memory, today’s Americans have suffered through similar conflicts.
In 1917 when Americans went off to war, the red, white, and blue flew everywhere. Two million American soldiers went to France and fifty thousand of them died; the battle of the Meuse-Argonne was one of the costliest in American history. With the announcement by America’s allies that the United States’s contributions to the war were insignificant compared to their own, President Wilson’s leadership began to collapse. Also, the domestic economy’s boom was turning to a bust and the national debt was expanding. The general consensus of Americans was that “things had gone to hell in a handbasket.”
In an effort to ease the minds of troubled and confused Americans, President Harding tried to provide them with inspiration. Addressing different groups of the population—mothers, veterans, patriots, farmers, businessmen, the press—he sought to send a consistent personal message of reassurance. During his administration, he would bring a formal end to the war by signing the Treaty of Berlin and would limit strategic armaments through the treaties of the Washington Conference. He would also establish the Bureau of the Budget, thereby bringing order to the departmental and bureaucratic requests that had disgraced budget making for decades. He planted the seeds for a department of health, education, and welfare, which was finally realized thirty years later. Although the former president was much maligned after his death, his good works during his term of office speak for themselves and show concern for his fellow Americans. His warmth, strength of character, and intelligence are demonstrated throughout these addresses. Harding spoke to his own time, yet these addresses speak to our own confusing times as well.
Ever since the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, scholars have been in a quandary over how much they really know about our country’s presidents. Nixon, as is now understood, was unstable in personality. The signs appeared well before the discovery of the infamous Watergate tapes, an appalling example of what the presidency could come to. Many Americans have difficulty penetrating the public persona of their leaders. But to know the private side of such figures—the cores of their being—is important, because this side often governs what they do publicly.
In Presidential Leadership, Robert H. Ferrell examines four sometimes maligned, sometimes misunderstood presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry S. Truman. Along with these portraits, Ferrell incorporates comments on Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as key figures in each president’s administration. Also included in this volume is historian John A. Garraty’s interview with Ferrell on American foreign policy from 1919 to 1945.
As is his style, Ferrell draws from many sources previously untapped. In the case of Wilson, Ferrell relies on the diary of Colonel Edward M. House, who served under Wilson during his presidency. Ferrell uses White House physician Joel T. Boone’s diary to provide an insider’s look at Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. In dealing with these presidents, Ferrell debunks long-held myths and approaches the presidencies with fresh insights into what drove them to make the decisions they made.
Throughout the book, Ferrell emphasizes the personal styles of each president. He not only shows how they made their own determinations but also evaluates those whom they appointed to important positions. Scholars of American history will welcome this insightful look at the men who saw the United States through the first half of the twentieth century.
Perhaps the best known of all American five-star generals, Douglas MacArthur established his military reputation at the hill of Châtillon during the great battle of the Meuse-Argonne in World War I. The thirty-eight-year-old brigadier general in command of the Eighty-fourth Infantry Brigade boasted to a fellow general that he had inspired his troops by example, taking the hill and breaking the main German line in northern France. Ever since, historical accounts and biographies have celebrated his leadership and bravery.
That MacArthur’s forces prevailed is beyond question, as military historians have shown. Yet in all the annals of the Great War there is no detailed description of what happened at Châtillon, nor of what MacArthur had to do with it. Robert Ferrell examines those events and comes to a startling conclusion—one that will revise how we view this archetypal American hero.
After sifting through the inexact accounts of the battle found in regimental and divisional histories—and through the many biographies of MacArthur that assert his leadership at Châtillon but do not describe it—Ferrell has gone into Army records to determine if what MacArthur claimed was true. In a moment-by-moment account of the battle, he reconstructs the movements of troops and the decisions of officers to show in detail how MacArthur’s subordinates were the true heroes.
Ferrell describes how the taking of Côte de Châtillon could have been a disaster had the Eighty-fourth Brigade followed MacArthur's original plan, a bayonet charge at night. Wiser heads prevailed, and the attack of the Iowa and Alabama regiments was a great success.
Ferrell has completed a chapter in the history of World War I that has stood unfinished for years, showing in masterly fashion how MacArthur exaggerated his reputation at Châtillon. The Question of MacArthur’s Reputation will reward historians seeking to fill gaps in the record, engage readers who enjoy descriptions of battle, and startle all who take their heroes for granted.
The son of an army officer, Conrad S. Babcock graduated from West Point in 1898, just in time for the opening of the Spanish-American War. Because of his father’s position, he managed to secure a place in the force that Major General Wesley Merritt led to Manila to secure the city. The Philippine Insurrection, as Americans described it, began shortly after he arrived. What Babcock observed in subsequent months and years, and details in his memoir, was the remarkable transition the U.S. Army was undergoing. From after the Civil War until just before the Spanish War, the army amounted to 28,000 men. It increased to 125,000, tiny compared with those of the great European nations of France and Germany, but the great change in the army came after its arrival in France in the summer of 1918, when the German army compelled the U.S. to change its nineteenth-century tactics.
Babcock’s original manuscript has been shortened by Robert H. Ferrell into eight chapters which illustrate the tremendous shift in warfare in the years surrounding the turn of the century. The first part of the book describes small actions against Filipinos and such assignments as taking a cavalry troop into the fire-destroyed city of San Francisco in 1906 or duty in the vicinity of Yuma in Arizona when border troubles were heating up with brigands and regular troops. The remaining chapters, beginning in 1918, set out the battles of Soissons (July 18–22) and Saint-Mihiel (September 12–16) and especially the immense battle of the Meuse-Argonne (September 26–November 11), the largest (1.2 million troops involved) and deadliest (26,000 men killed) battle in all of American history.
By the end of his career, Babcock was an adroit battle commander and an astute observer of military operations. Unlike most other officers around him, he showed an ability and willingness to adapt infantry tactics in the face of recently developed technology and weaponry such as the machine gun. When he retired in 1937 and began to write his memoirs, another world war had begun, giving additional context to his observations about the army and combat over the preceding forty years.
Until now, Babcock’s account has only been available in the archives of the Hoover Institution, but with the help of Ferrell's crisp, expert editing, this record of army culture in the first decades of the twentieth century can now reach a new generation of scholars.
In April 1917 a sophomore at Indiana University, inspired by his grandfather's service in the Union army during the Civil War, left school and enlisted with a National Guard unit in Indianapolis that became the 150th Field Artillery Regiment. Before long the young man, Elmer W. Sherwood, found himself fighting in France. Sherwood kept a diary of his time overseas, including his experiences in the army of occupation following the war's end. A Soldier in World War I: The Diary of Elmer W. Sherwood captures the words of the Hoosier as he wrote them on the front lines. The book also includes a shipboard diary Sherwood sent home from France shortly after his arrival, which appeared in his hometown newspaper.
Available for the first time in paperback, The Strange Deaths of President Harding challenges readers to reexamine Warren G. Harding's rightful place in American history.
For nearly half a century, the twenty-ninth president of the United States has consistently finished last in polls ranking the presidents. After Harding's untimely death in 1923, a variety of attacks and unsubstantiated claims left the public with a tainted impression of him. In this meticulously researched scrutiny of the mystery surrounding Harding's death, Robert H. Ferrell, distinguished presidential historian, examines the claims against this unpopular president and uses new material to counter those accusations.
At the time of Harding's death there was talk of his similarity, personally if not politically, to Abraham Lincoln. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes described Harding as one of nature's noblemen, truehearted and generous. But soon after Harding's death, his reputation began to spiral downward. Rumors circulated of the president's death by poison, either by his own hand or by that of his wife; allegations of an illegitimate daughter were made; and question were raised concerning the extent of Harding's knowledge of the Teapot Dome scandal and of irregularities in the Veterans' Bureau, as well as his tolerance of a corrupt attorney general who was an Ohio political fixer. Journalists and historians of the time added to his tarnished reputation by using sources that were easily available but not factually accurate.
In The Strange Deaths of President Harding, Ferrell lays out the facts behind these allegations for the reader to ponder. Making the most of the recently opened papers of assistant White House physician Dr. Joel T. Boone, Ferrell shows that for years Harding suffered from high blood pressure, was under a great deal of stress, and overexerted himself; it was a heart attack that caused his death, not poison. There was no proof of an illegitimate child. And Harding did not know much about the scandals intensifying in the White House at the time of his death. In fact, these events were not as scandalous as they have since been made to seem.
In this meticulously researched and eminently readable scrutiny of the mystery surrounding Harding's death, as well as the deathblows dealt his reputation by journalists, Ferrell asks for a reexamination of Harding's place in American history.
Truman and Pendergast
Robert H. Ferrell University of Missouri Press, 1999 Library of Congress E814.F483 1999 | Dewey Decimal 973.918092
No portion of the political career of Harry S. Truman was more fraught with drama than his relationship with Thomas J. Pendergast. In one of their earliest meetings, the two men were momentarily at odds after Truman, who was then presiding judge of Jackson County, gave a $400,000 road contract to a construction company in South Dakota, and Pendergast, the boss of Kansas City, wasn't very happy about it. He had someone else in mind for the contract. Their association thus had its disagreements, but their common interest in politics was enough to establish a long-lasting relationship.
In 1934, after considering fourteen other men, Pendergast sponsored Truman for the Senate. Although Truman had often cooperated with Pendergast on patronage issues, he had never involved himself in the illegalities that would eventually destroy the Pendergast machine. In fact, Truman had no idea how deeply the Boss had engaged in corruption in his personal affairs, as well as in managing the government of Kansas City. When the Boss was sent to Leavenworth for tax evasion in 1939, Truman was astonished.
Despite Truman's honesty, his relationship with Pendergast almost caused his defeat during the Missouri senatorial primary in August 1940. The main challenger for Truman's Senate seat was the ambitious governor of Missouri, Lloyd C. Stark, who after destroying Truman's sponsor, the Pendergast machine, denounced Truman as "the Pendergast senator." Behind the governor was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom Stark turned against Truman. Roosevelt wanted Missouri's electoral votes in his forthcoming bid for a third term, and he believed that Stark could give them to him.
Because of the stigma of Truman's Pendergast connection, the 1940 Democratic primary was the tightest election in his entire political career. He won by fewer than eight thousand votes. In Truman and Pendergast, Robert H. Ferrell masterfully presents Truman's struggle to keep his Senate seat without the aid of Pendergast and despite Stark's enlistment of Roosevelt against him. Ferrell shows that Truman won the election in his typical fashion—going directly to the people, speaking honestly and like one of them.
As assistant press secretary to President Harry S. Truman, Eben A. Ayers brought with him twenty-six years of experience as a newspaperman. He knew when he had a good story and knew how to record it. His private diary, which he kept unbeknownst to his associates, tells the inside story of the Truman White House clearly, colorfully, and with an acute sense of history.
For nearly one hundred years, the 92nd Division of the U.S. Army in World War I has been remembered as a military failure. The division should have been historically significant. It was the only African American division of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Comprised of nearly twenty-eight thousand black soldiers, it fought in two sectors of the great battle of the Meuse-Argonne, the largest and most costly battle in all of U.S. history. Unfortunately, when part of the 368th Infantry Regiment collapsed in the battle’s first days, the entire division received a blow to its reputation from which it never recovered.
In Unjustly Dishonored: An African American Division in World War I, Robert H. Ferrell challenges long-held assumptions and asserts that the 92nd, in fact, performed quite well militarily. His investigation was made possible by the recent recovery of a wealth of records by the National Archives. The retrieval of lost documents allowed access to hundreds of pages of interviews, mostly from the 92nd Division’s officers, that had never before been considered. In addition, the book uses the Army’s personal records from the Army War College, including the newly discovered report on the 92nd’s field artillery brigade by the enthusiastic commanding general.
In the first of its sectors, the Argonne, the 92nd took its objective. Its engineer regiment was a large success, and when its artillery brigade got into action, it so pleased its general that he could not praise it enough. In the attack of General John J. Pershing’s Second Army during the last days of the war, the 92nd captured the Bois Frehaut, the best performance of any division of the Second Army.
This book is the first full-length account of the actual accomplishments of the 92nd Division. By framing the military outfit’s reputation against cultural context, historical accounts, and social stigmas, the authorproves that the 92nd Division did not fail and made a valuable contribution to history that should, and now finally can, be acknowledged. Unjustly Dishonored fills a void in the scholarship on African American military history and World War I studies.
A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne is a firsthand account of World War I through the eyes of an enlisted soldier. William S. Triplet was a seventeen-year-old junior in high school when, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked for a declaration of war. Passed by Congress and signed by the nation's chief executive four days later, this declaration stirred the superintendent of schools in Triplet's hometown of Sedalia, Missouri, to make an emotional plea to all eligible students to join the armed forces. "Any student who felt called upon to fight, bleed, and die for his country could receive his graduation diploma upon his return from the war." Triplet was eighteen months short of being of legal enlistment age, but the army didn't check birth certificates. The appeal of military benefits—room and board, travel, adventure, and fifteen dollars a month, plus knowing he would receive his high school diploma—was too much for the young Triplet to pass up. Thus began William S. Triplet's remarkable career in the U.S. Army, in which he served until his retirement as a full colonel in 1954.
In A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne, Triplet covers the early years of his service in Company D, 140th Infantry Regiment, 35th Division, from shortly after the time of his enlistment in 1917 to his honorable discharge in 1919. During those months he participated in several actions, most notably the battle of the Meuse-Argonne. With both elegance and a touch of humor, he masterfully portrays the everyday life of the soldier, humanizing the men with whom he served. His vivid depictions of how soldiers fought give the reader a much clearer view of the terrifying experiences of combat. He also touches on the special problems he encountered as a sergeant with an infantry platoon composed of soldiers from many different walks of life.
In writing this memoir, Triplet relied heavily on a detailed diary that he kept while he was in France in 1918. Through his annotations, Robert H. Ferrell provides the historical context for Triplet's firsthand experiences. The result is a compelling memoir that offers insight into the lives of the soldiers who served during World War I. Anyone with an interest in World War I or military history in general will find A Youth in the Meuse-Argonne of great interest.