Happy Veteran’s Day: How Did Russia Get Invited?

By now pretty much everyone knows the Armistice between the fighting forces of WWI, of which the United States was one, took place on the eleventh day at the eleventh hour of the eleventh month 100 years ago. It is from that date we get Veterans Day.

From what I can tell leaders from countries all over the world who were involved in the war have been invited to Paris to celebrate the Armistice. Russia has also been invited. There is apparently going to be a big parade and I assume other ceremonies that take place commemorating the Armistice or honoring those who died in that bloody war.

The Armistice did not end the war. It did end the fighting. There would be other steps taken before the war was officially declared over. There was the meeting that took place in Versailles where the victors, if anyone was really a victor from this mindless slaughter when one side used 19th century tactics to fight the other side using 20th century equipment, dictated the terms on Germany which would eventually leave Germans so embittered that they were suckered into succumbing to the blandishments and threats of  Adolph Hitler.

The Americans got into this war very late. That is where we get the term Johnny Come Lately. The war started in 1914 and despite repeated outrages by the Germans on Americans we stayed out of it. The major reason for that was President Wilson’s fear that if he became involved in it before the election of 1916 the hyphenated Americans, the Irish and German Americans, as well as the newly empowered women in the western states, would not vote for him.

He came out of the convention where he was nominated for a second term with the slogan “he kept us out of the war.” Many of those he feared believed he intended to continue to do so and voted for this “peace” candidate. It didn’t work out that way for within a month of his taking the oath for his second term he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.

It took America a long time to bring the troops up to the level where they were trained and sent to Europe and were of a sufficient amount to create an effective fighting force. It was  called the American Expeditionary Force under the leadership of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. He refused to assign American troops to fight under the leaders of our allies, other than four regiments of black troops who were put under French command. The AEF did not wanting American black troops to intermingling with whites.

Because of Pershing’s attitude, the American were not ready to go into combat until sometime in the late spring of 1918 less than a half year before the Armistice. America would suffer the loss of over 100,000 troops during the war. The majority of these casualties were not combat related but were caused by the pandemic flu that broke out throughout the world.

Many of the combat deaths occurred when the Germans began their Great Spring Offensive which required the Americans to rush into combat to stop their pushing forward.  Here’s what one site says about the Battle of Belleau Wood where the Marine expressions “Retreat? Hell, we just got here” and “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” were uttered:  “In March 1918, with nearly 50 additional divisions freed by the Russian surrender on the Eastern Front, the German Army launched a series of attacks on the Western Front, hoping to defeat the Allies before U.S. forces could be fully deployed.  . . .  saw the Germans reach the north bank of the Marne River at Château-Thierry, 95 kilometres (59 mi) from Paris, on 27 May. On 31 May, the 3rd Division held the German advance at Château-Thierry and the German advance turned right towards Vaux and Belleau Wood”

The French and Marines held the ground at Belleau Wood. Aside from there the Germans pressed on other fronts and the Army was pressed into service and suffered losses. This was all because the Russians quit and entered into a deal with the Germans to stop fighting on their front and allow the Germans to shift forces to face the British, French, Americans and others in the west. That was the treaty of Brest-Litovsk  signed on 3 March 1918.

The allied forces were left in the lurch by the Russians. Many more died because they walked away from the fight. The Russians  had nothing to do with the Armistices, If they had their way, being then under the control of Lenin, they would have preferred it not have been entered into. They hoped that both the western allies and Germany would continue to slaughter each other. How then are they there in France for this 100 year anniversary of the end of the fighting?


5 replies on “Happy Veteran’s Day: How Did Russia Get Invited?”

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  2. “Dulcem et decorum est quo patria mori.” “A war to end all wars”. When you read the numbers at Verdun, Marne 1 and 2, Ypres and on and on and on, it is simply mind-boggling.

    For all those who served (and the friends, families, and loved ones who paid their own terrible price) a somber nod to your sacrifice.

  3. Were the Russians invited because of their major contribution to the war effort of WW2? If so it is understandable.

  4. Hi Matt,
    About 1.8 million Russians were killed in WWI. We honor them. We blame Lenin. I think the Vietnam War was a disaster, but we honor our servicemen and women in the same way as any other war the U.S. has fought in. Blame falls on LBJ, not the men and women who honorably served their country. By the way, Happy Veterans Day!

  5. Note I sent to my boys after hearing Gerry Kirby had passed…thinking of him and you Matt, on Veterans Day..Thanks
    “I was convinced that, regardless which tag you put on it, there was a mental illness there and no justice would be served in prosecuting him,” said Gerald M. Kirby, a former assistant district attorney who handled the case. “Fortunately, nobody had been hurt.”

    Morning guys

    While walking Jerry yesterday, I bumped into a guy I knew from Norfolk County days. He told me that an old friend, Gerry Kirby, had passed this spring. I looked up his obituary when I got home.


    Gerry worked at the DA’s office and inherited me as the White Collar Crime Unit when he was transferred from the main office to head up that group which consisted of…me.

    He called me from court one day at the early part of our union. He asked “Are we subpoenaing a company in Illinois? Can we do that?” My answer was yes and no.

    The first directive Gerry gave me was based upon his once having worked for an insurance company. He announced that from now on the only insurance fraud cases we would do, would be against insurance companies! I agreed!

    After I left the office, Gerry undertook a joust at windmills trying to get a great judge elected as Plymouth County DA. Judge Henry H. Chmielinski ran as a Republican. Our family searched high and low for any Republicans but could only come up with Aunt Isabelle. Still Mom and Aunt Mary worked feverishly with Gerry hosting events and luring Dave McKenna into performing at one of those in a losing, but legitimate, cause.

    Gerry’s obit said he “he prosecuted many high-profile cases.” Oh yes he did. Gerry also prosecuted the most difficult ones that others would side step. He created a climate, by taking on those tough ones, where others followed his leadership. The worst cases, ones that HAD to be done because that was the right thing to do, became known as “Kirby Cases!” Would that today’s feds had been guided by Gerry’s thoughtful and fair practices.

    Perhaps his most famous case was one he chose not to take to trial. He was the first prosecutor in the nation to accept the Vietnam Syndrome Defense. His choice to do that may have been based on his own military experience as an U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel.
    I have excerpted from an article about the John Coughlin:

    A War Hero’s Lonesome Death : Vietnam Vet’s Plight Led to Recognition of Post-Trauma Stress
    March 13, 1988|GEORGE ESPER | Associated Press
    BOSTON — It was not yet dawn in the cemetery where Vietnam veteran John Coughlin was paying another visit to the graves of two friends. Suddenly, his mind flashed back to Vietnam, where he had flirted with death, where his legs had been torn by shrapnel, where he had earned three Purple Hearts.
    Though it was 1978, long after his return home from battle, he suddenly sensed that he was under attack. It was May 8, near the anniversary of a battle in which many of his friends had been killed, and suddenly the Viet Cong seemed all around again.
    He grabbed a shotgun from his car and fired 14 rounds, yelling insults at the imagined enemy. “I’m going to get every one of you that killed my buddies!” he shouted.
    Some of the shot struck the back of a police station across the street from the cemetery in Quincy, just south of Boston.

    As officers gingerly moved in to surround him, Coughlin called to them: “I don’t want any hassle. Just leave me alone. I want to die just like Billy and Jo Jo.”
    Died of ‘Broken Heart’
    John Coughlin died last Nov. 5, alone except for his war souvenirs and his American and Marine Corps flags. The medical examiner said he had taken an overdose of doxepin, an antidepressant, but friends say that he died of a broken heart. He was 42.
    His legacy was that tragic episode in the cemetery, which brought a new awareness to the plight of perhaps half a million Vietnam veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, delayed reaction to the trauma of combat.
    Coughlin was the first Vietnam veteran to make successful use of the syndrome as a defense against criminal charges.
    Charged with unlawful possession of the shotgun, he was allowed to serve two years on probation while under psychiatric treatment, and the charges eventually were dropped.
    “I was convinced that, regardless which tag you put on it, there was a mental illness there and no justice would be served in prosecuting him,” said Gerald M. Kirby, a former assistant district attorney who handled the case. “Fortunately, nobody had been hurt.”
    Although Coughlin was not a crusader for veterans’ rights, his attorney, Lawrence Siskind, said the court’s action helped to bring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder recognition as a serious mental illness.
    “This was a court that said there’s a problem,” Siskind said. “It wasn’t just peace groups or veterans groups marching on Washington anymore. Now somebody could say the VA should do something, because here it was accepted.”

    If you read the obituary, you will see what a fine person Gerry was. Dave Levy, another guy I worked with at Norfolk, sums Gerry up completely and sweetly:

    “There were very few people Gerry didn’t know and even fewer that he didn’t help.”

    Please say some prayers for Gerry’s family and for the Coughlin family too. He would want that to be done.


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