Posted by: wrmcnutt | November 11, 2009

The Eleventh Hour of The Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month


Well, I’ve let time get away from me, and this was one that I didn’t want to be late.

Today is the day that the Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and Britons call “Remembrance Day” or “Armistice Day.”  Here in America, we call it “Veterans Day.”  It was originally designated as a day to both celebrate the armistice that ended World War I, or what the British refer to as “The Great War.”  In 1953 the US Congress expanded the holiday to celebrate all veterans, both living and dead, who served in peacetime or in war, in all conflicts.

With that in mind, I have a couple of Shout Outs that I would like to ask you to tolerate. Do please read them all.  A couple are surprising.  All are interesting.

  • Alexander McNutt (Boston City Militia) – Revolutionary War
  • “Doc” Garland Owen (CSA) – War Between the States
  • George Edgar McNutt (American Expeditionary Force) – The Great War
  • George Edgar McNutt Jr (US Army) – World War II
  • Green T. Whitley (USN) – World War II
  • Warren V. Hastings, (USAF), World War II
  • Ric Lichtwardt (US Army) – Korean War Vietnam Conflict (Philippines, limited duty in Vietnam.  Note: he did manage to get shot.)
    Ric sez he’s NOT eighty years old, which he would have to be to be a Korean War veteran.  He served in Korea, but later.  It was his Dad, Richard, who served in that conflict.)
  • William R. McNutt (USAF) – Vietnam Conflict
  • Floyd R. Rogers, (USAF) – Vietnam Conflict
  • John K. Knowles (US Army)- Vietnam Conflict
  • John Arlington Neal, aka Saher Faux  (US Army) – Cold War (And if you think nobody got shot at in that one, just ask him.)
  • James Kinstle (USN) – Cold War
  • Fritz Voss, aka Eberthart Von Dornberg  (US Army) – Pax Americana (lucky dude)
  • Rachelle Elwell, aka Brigid O’Connor  (US Army) – Pax Americana (also lucky)
  • Michael Peveto, aka Michael Lazarus (USMC) – Gulf War I
  • Robert Harris, aka Wolfgang von Dornberg Wustenberg (Ed. : I KNEW that) (US Army) Gulf War II, and currently deployed.  (Keep your head down, Wolfgang. I want to see that Hammer come October.)

Less specifically:

  • Larry Viles, aka Karl der Wanderer (USMC)
  • Phil Makrides, aka Valerian The Thunder-Rider (USMC)
  • Mary Ellen Fullam aka Fionnabar (USArmy)
  • Travis Bond, aka Tristram Jager von Bonn (USMC)
  • Linda Clair, aka Aoifa (USAF)
  • Christina Meyers
  • Lindy Pate, aka Lewellen Ap Alwen (something-Welsh)

Ladies and gentlemen – thank you for your service.

I am particularly grateful to the first name in the list – he made the ultimate sacrifice.  Everybody else got to come home.  For that I am also grateful, in an entirely different way.

The Shout Out complete, let’s remember for a moment, the specifics of Remembrance Day, before it became Veteran’s Day.  At eleven o’clock on November the eleventh, 1918, the Armistice Treaty was signed, formally ending hostilities on the Western Front.  As an American, World War I is listed among the victories I was taught in school, but I, like many Americans, don’t really have a grasp of the scope of the conflict.

In every city, town, and village in Great Britain, there is a War Memorial.  It’s so ubiquitous that in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Rowling doesn’t bother to explain what it is.  She just refers to “a War Memorial” that changes when Wizards approach it, to reflect a monument to Harry and his parents.  They are so common that directions in any town or village can start at “the War Memorial,” and everybody knows what you are talking about.  Every single one of them, no matter how small. They tend to be fairly uniform.  They are typically shaped like an obelisk.  At the start of the Great War, a fascination with Egyptology was fashionable in the British upper classes, and this found its way into the tombstone and memorial business.  Carved of stone, each one has a list of the honored dead of the town or village, with words like “Lost in the Great War.”  Around the side, usually in the same font, but carved by a different stonemason, you can find a different list, “Lost in World War II.”  No town, village, or hamlet was small enough to avoid losses in the conflict.

In that conflict, the United States lost 117,465 people, mostly military personnel, and mostly draftees.  That was about .13% of our then population.  Not 13%, zero-point-one-three.  We also had 205,690 wounded.  By comparison, Great Britain lost 994,138 or 2.19% of her population, and had 1,663,435 wounded.  Wow.

The “winner” in raw numbers of dead, though, comes from the Russian Empire, which lost 3,311,000 people, and had 4,950,000 wounded.  The Ottoman Empire had the highest percentage of deaths, with %13.72 of the population slain.  That’s more than one in ten.

To put things into perspective for my fellow Americans, we are often taught that the Battle of Gettysburg, in the War Between the States, was one of the bloodiest battles of that conflict.  Counting the dead from both sides, America lost 46,286 men that day, and had 27, 224 wounded.  By contrast, the Battle of the Somme, in the Great War, cost a rough total of 1,220,000 lives.  That’s not a typo.  At the end of the battle, one million, two hundred ten thousand men were left dead in the field.  How many men is that?  Well, if you buried one and hour, and never stopped to rest, you would be burying for fifty-thousand, eight hundred and thirty-three days, or roughly 139 years. We Americans are really familiar with our money.  Maybe that will put it into perspective.  If you had 1,200,000 dollar bills and laid them end to end, they’d stretch about 119 miles.  I’m boggled.  If you stacked up 1,200,000 bills, you’d get a stack 427 feet high.  It occurs to me that using money as a metaphor for the lives of men is in questionable taste, but I’m just casting around for a handle to grab to get these numbers to make sense to me.  I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee, and used to be in the UT Pride of the Southland Band, so I’m intimately familiar with Neyland Stadium. It holds 102, 037.  From the Battle of the Somme, alone, the dead could fill Neyland Stadium almost twelve times.  Towns and villages lost every single one of their young men.  Brothers literally died next to each other.

I live in the shining city on the hill.  Last year, the Right Wing Nut Jobs stepped down, and the Liberal Weiners stepped up to govern this country.  Nobody had to die.  How rare is that in history?  And why is that the case?  I can’t answer in indisputable terms, but I believe it has a lot to do with the sacrifices made by our veterans, both here in the US, and across Western civilization.

On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly, a writer of better skill than I, drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  At 10:55 AM the store’s PA asked customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans of all conflicts, especially the Great War.. This is a custom of the Royal Canadian Legion. Terry was impressed with the store’s leadership role in adopting the Legion’s “two minutes of silence” initiative. When 11 o’clock came, an announcement was again made asking for the “two minutes of silence” to begin. Of all the customers, only one man, his young child, attempted to engage a cashier. Terry’s anger towards the father  for setting a bad example for his child and for the lack of respect in general resulted in  “A Pittance of Time“. Very moving.  Another memorable song is Two Recruiting Sergeants, a traditional song here voiced by Great Big Sea.  This one reflects the service of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at the Battle of the Somme.  780 men went forward.  The next morning, 68 men were available for roll call. Despite this 90% casualty rate, the Regiment remained in service, and, though understrength, went on to service with distinction at Arras, Cambrai, and Bailleul, to name just a few.

I am utterly awed by the service and the sacrifice.  Regardless of the motivations of nations and leaders, the willingness of ordinary men to answer the call of duty, and stand and fight when it would be safer to turn and run, moves me beyond words, and leaves me a little ashamed of myself, as the only man in my family to not serve in uniform in at least seven generations.

So I’m going to shut up now.  For two minutes, anyway.

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Responses

  1. All I can say is Wow. Your best ever. Ever.

    • Thank you. I hope to do better, next year.

  2. Thank you for putting the scope of WWI in perspective. I get the numbers tangled with the influenza deaths since they came so close together.
    I many fore-bearers who served either actively on the fronts of various wars – hot and cold- and who served on the home-front as well. My father’s parents were farmers who worked in a cotton mill during WWII and his mother was also a telephone operator with a security clearance because those were the days of the operator hearing the whole call.
    The peaceful transition of power that we experience every 2, 4, and 6 years here in the US is truly a gift. While names may be called and feelings hurt over an election, I don’t know *anyone* who has died because it one, here.
    We are blessed.

  3. If I may, I would add to your roll call:
    Warren V. Hastings, USAF, World War II
    Floyd R. Rogers, USAF, Vietnam
    John K. Knowles, Army, Vietnam era vet

    Thanks.

    p.s. It’s Wolfgang von Wuestenberg.

  4. I must add US Sgt. Samuel Avery to the list. Served on the front lines of WWI from the hot sands along the Rio Grande to the cold mud along the Meuse. http://worldwar1letters.wordpress.com

  5. The stadium analogy is the one that really got me. wow.

  6. I read this when it was new. I’m not sure now why I didn’t comment then. I’m not entirely certain how I stumbled across it tonight.

    I was moved to tears then, and I am again. Most of us really have no idea. Like Emma said, the Neyland Stadium Analogy is incredible; but how many of us can really comprehend that?

    I would add Ewing Baker Army Air Corps who gave his live over Mindanao — 4 of his brothers served in that war (daddy still maintains he only wore the uniform because he never made it out of Texas), but Ewing was the one that never came home.

    • All comments are welcome; all threads are open.

      Operators are standing by now!

  7. […] https://willstuff.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/the-eleventh-hour-of-the-eleventh-day-of-the-eleventh-mont… […]


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