Write Again … But did you know?

Published 6:05 pm Monday, April 24, 2017

The Great War, 1914-18.

Arguably the most significant, horrific, catastrophic event the world had ever experienced, is also among the least known and understood portions of our nation’s — and the world’s — history. Millions died.

Many, if not most, Americans of the past several generations know little or nothing about that which later came to be called World War I, nor do they care. And yet that war, and its consequences, influenced so much of what was to come after.

The Old North State played its role in the Great War. “Nearly 100,000 North Carolinians wore the American uniform, including over 20,000 blacks. Of the total, 2,375 died, 833 of them killed in action or from battle wounds.”

U.S. participation in the war lasted only 19 months, and far less than that in actual combat.

Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, refused to agree to having his troops serve under French or British commanders — although this did happen in a few cases — nor would he commit them to combat until he felt they were properly trained and prepared. As it turned out, being properly trained and prepared for warfare as it was being waged wasn’t feasible. Plus, his desire to do things quite differently came to no avail, even when attempted. That’s another story.

Gen. Pershing’s first posting out of West Point was with the 6th Cavalry. As was mine, when I reported for basic training with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Armored Cavalry, at Fort Knox, where I was to spend the next seven months before being assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany.

I Company was Lt. John J. Pershing’s first active duty assignment, as it was for Private Francis B. Houston. And there ends any parallels. Obviously. All of which is of little or no interest at all to any but me, of course, and is an insignificant digression, anyway.

This column was prompted by the recent several nights’ airing of “The Great War” on PBS. It was masterfully done, educational, and shocking and troubling as well, even though I’ve been a reader about that period in our country’s history for a long time.

The other worldwide event of epic proportions was the “Catastrophic pandemic of Spanish influenza that swept the world, leaving an estimated 20 million dead.” Almost 14,000 died in North Carolina by the end of 1918.

Well. Enough of this. There are some of us who think our history is important.

Some of us.

Note – Information in quotations came from “North Carolina Illustrated, 1524-1984.”