Category: WWrite articles main
The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans, Post 1: Albert Camus
Writer-Resister Albert Camus. Image source: salon-litteraire.linternaute.com
This post is the first in the WWrite Blog series entitled, “The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans.” This week’s post focuses on Nobel Laureate, French writer, Albert Camus. Over the next few months, WWrite will take a look at other French resisters like Jean Moulin, Victor Basch, and Louis Aragon.
Almost 20 years after the Allied victory in WWI, which cost millions of French and German lives, France found itself at war with Germany again. This time, France couldn’t sustain the fight…at least at the beginning of WWII.
In 1940, the Nazis invaded France and months later, the French Army surrendered and the northern part of the country became German-occupied territory. The unoccupied south fell under the rule of Vichy, the French government that collaborated with Hitler. Vichy’s leader, le Marechal Pétain, was chosen for the role due to his status as a celebrated WWI figure. He was credited with victory, leadership, and courage in some of France's most important Great War battles. While he claimed he wanted to keep France independent from complete Nazi rule, he consented to help engineer discriminatory policies and mass deportations of Jews, Roma-Sinti, homosexuals, Communists, and other political dissidents.
Pétain shaking hands with Hitler. Image source:http://www.bild.bundesarchiv.de
Vive la France! Vive la Résistance!This was the call from General Charles De Gaulle, the leader of what was known as Free France, the exiled French government based in London that assisted the Allies by organizing the military in the colonies and coordinating Resistance movements on French soil. De Gaulle fought in WWI and was taken prisoner by the Germans at Verdun in 1916.
De Gaulle addressing Free France via radio from London. Image source: BBC
The patriotic pride shared between De Gaulle and Pétain in WWI took on radically different forms in WWII. Pétain wanted to defend a noncombatant, peaceful yet Nazi-collaborative France while De Gaulle defended the France that wanted to keep fighting.
The same observation can be made for WWI writers, artists, and intellectuals.
Some WWI French veterans, like Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Maurice Pujo, and Maxime Real del Sarte, were German sympathizers, Pétain supporters, and proponents of Anti-Semitism during WWII. Their patriotic vision of France was one of a return to the monarchy, racial purity, or collaboration.
Other writers, like Albert Camus, Jean Moulin, Louis Aragon, and Victor Basch, who took part in WWII Resistance, known as "The Army of Shadows," did so because they felt they owed a different kind of debt to the veterans of WWI. The fighters of the Great War included Jews, Communists, and men from the colonies, all of whom became victims of Nazism in the France they had defended just twenty years prior. While some today disagree about the exact historical role played by the Resistance, these writers defended a France free from fascism and dictatorship.
Albert Camus, a native of French Algeria, was too ill with tuberculosis to physically fight in the Resistance, but he edited the underground journal Combat alongside Jean-Paul Sartre. Camus’ father, Lucien Auguste Camus, was killed in WWI in 1914, not even a year after his son’s birth in 1913. He died of wounds from the Battle of the Marne at the Saint-Brieuc hospital. Camus never knew his father, but his posthumously-published novel, The First Man, reflects a lifelong quest to find out how Lucien Camus lived and died. Camus was killed in a car crash in 1960 at the age of 46 and this unpublished book was found at the accident site with his belongings. With the help of his daughter, Catherine Camus, The First Man was published almost thirty years later, in 1994.
In the collection of his Notebooks, he perhaps spoke of The First Man, declaring “The work is an avowal. I need to bear witness.” Through the narrator-character of the son, Jacques Cormery, the novel bears witness to the terrible butchery of WWI that takes the life of the father character, Henri Cormery.
Detail from Lucien Camus' grave at Saint-Brieuc. Image source: forum.pages14-18.com
The novel begins as the narrator stands in front of his father’s grave in a military near Saint-Brieuc in the Marne region of France and realizes that he is older than his father was at the time of his death. Jacques recalls that the Saint-Brieuc hospital sent his mother (Lucie Cormery) the piece of shell that wounded his head along with his father’s last words: “The piece of shell that had torn open his father’s head was kept in a small cookie jar behind the same towels from the same dresser, with the cards written from the front whose words he could recite by heart in their dryness and brevity. ‘My dear Lucie. I am well. We are changing quarters tomorrow. Take care of the children. I love you. Your husband.’” Another note reads “I am injured. It’s nothing. Your husband.” He died a few days later. The nurse had added a note, which read “It’s better this way. He would have stayed blind or crazy. He was very courageous.”
Jacques then reconstructs the battles his father fought at the moment of his death:
The commander cried “Charge.” And then we went down, it was like a ravine full of trees. Someone told us to charge. There was no one in front of us. So we walk, we walk forward like that. And then suddenly machine gun fire started to hit us. We all fell on top of each other. There so many wounded and dead at the bottom of the ravine, there was so much blood we could have crossed it with a small boat . And then there those who screamed “Mother.” How it was terrible.
In another entry from his Notebooks 1937-1939, Camus writes of war and human relations, “The only fraternity possible now, the only one that is offered to us and is permitted to us is the sordid and sticky fraternity of facing military death.” While it’s obvious that Camus finds war abhorrent, he seems here to recognize the important reality of solidarity –even a sordid one– when facing the enemy. Camus’ father, Lucien, lived far from French native soil in French colonial Algeria. However, in his son’s eyes, it's possible he went to fight in WWI perhaps to affirm or claim the fraternity and sense of solidarity he felt with France, the motherland.
Despite the abuse native Algerian groups experienced under French rule, which Camus deplored and protested in his writings, his somewhat romantic desire to achieve solidarity among all those living in French territory, was part of what pushed him to join the Resistance.
In the months leading up to the liberation of Paris in 1944, Camus saw France as a whole united in the fight for total freedom. In August 1944, Camus, editorialist of Combat dreamt of a country regenerated by a democratic revolution, which he saw through the solidarity of the French Resistance. He writes in Combat, "It is only at this price that France will resume this pure face that we have loved and defended above all else." He opposes the newly-liberated France from 1944 to that of the one just prior to the beginning of WWII, which he calls "official France" of lasting monarchist ideals. The 1944 France is ideal and heroic France, which he calls the "people," a France for which the Resistance the vanguard.
Combat, the underground journal Camus edited during WWII
Did the WWII Resistance victory Camus celebrated help him reconcile with the death of his father in WWI? Did he owe his own fight to that of his father's? Camus said many times he would give his life for the France united by the solidarity of the Resistance ideals. He walked in his father's footsteps and survived WWII. Perhaps writing The First Man breathed life into his father's WWI sacrifice, made him live by telling the story. His father never walked with Camus during his lifetime, but he did accompany him in the author's death. The manuscript of The First Man was found alongside Camus' corpse at the site of the fatal car crash. In the last minutes of Camus' life, he was united with his father's story. The irony is tragic, but the solidarity between the two fighters–WWI father and WWII son–becomes more real.
Category: WWrite articles main
Sgt. Frank L. Carbaugh's 1918 Poem "The Fields of the Marne"
By Connie Ruzich
Battle of Marne (detail) by Harvey Dunn (Smithsonian)
About Connie Ruzich and the "Behind Their Lines: Poetry of the Great War" Blog
Connie Ruzich has gone where no one has gone before in her quest to unearth the faded poems of the Great War. While she is an expert in the famous WWI poetry of Joyce Kilmer, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon, she has become the go-to specialist for poems written by lesser-known poets. Her archival work has shown that poetry wasn't only for the more literary-inclined service men and women; writing poetry was seen as an essential and patriotic duty for surviving the front. In fact, as Ruzich, shows in a recent post, in November of 1918, America’s Poetry magazine proclaimed that the war had made “poetry...an essential industry.”
Each week on her blog, she posts an impeccably researched article on a forgotten poet whose voice offers us new insight on the war and the essential role of writing. She reveals poetic trends, WWI idiomatic expressions, linguistic twists, startling images, and an innovative way of looking at the relationship between soldiers fighting on foreign soil and the homefront. The blog is a tremendous resource. This week, WWrite posts her article on Sgt. Frank Carbaugh's poem "The Fields of the Marne," which was published in The Stars and Stripes almost 100 years ago today on August 16, 1918. The end of the war was just three months away. Here's the compelling story of Sgt. Frank Carbaugh:
Sgt. Frank Carbaugh
Sgt. Frank L. Carbaugh. Image source: Behind Their Lines
Frank Carbaugh was an American doughboy from Greencastle, a small town in central Pennsylvania. A non-commissioned officer with the 7th Machine Gun Battalion, Carbaugh was wounded at the Second Battle of the Marne late in July of 1918. While in hospital, he wrote a poem that looks ahead to the war’s aftermath.
The Fields of the Marne
The fields of the Marne are growing green,
The river murmurs on and on;
No more the hail of mitrailleuse,
The cannon from the hills are gone.
The herder leads the sheep afield,
Where grasses grow o'er broken blade;
And toil-worn women till the soil
O'er human mold, in sunny glade.
The splintered shell and bayonet
Are lost in crumbling village wall;
No sniper scans the rim of hills,
No sentry hears the night bird call.
From blood-wet soil and sunken trench,
The flowers bloom in summer light;
And farther down the vale beyond,
The peasant smiles are sad, yet bright.
The wounded Marne is growing green,
The gash of Hun no longer smarts;
Democracy is born again,
But what about the troubled hearts?
—Sgt. Frank Carbaugh
The poem imagines a time when peace has returned to the world, yet so many French soldiers have died that women must continue to work in the fields. They till the land that has been fertilized by the bodies of the slain. At the site of the Battle of the Marne, snipers, sentries, and sounds of gunfire have been replaced by the song of night birds and the green of newly grown grass. Though wounded and scarred by battle, the land is healing, and Democracy rises like a phoenix from the ashes.
But there are some hurts that can never be healed – the broken hearts of those who mourn.
“The Fields of the Marne” was first published in The Stars in Stripes on August 16, 1918. A brief note under Carbaugh’s name simply stated, “Written while lying wounded inhospital; died August, 1918.” Franklin L. Carbaugh was twenty-two. Nearly three years later, in May of 1921, his parents met the train that brought their youngest son's body back to Pennsylvania for burial in the family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Franklin County.
An anonymous source has posted what appears to be an account of Carbaugh’s death and its effect on the men who knew him. The details of the story suggest that it may have been appeared in a newspaper or been sent to his mother by those who were with Frank during the last weeks of his life:
Sergeant loses his last fight.
Soldier wins admiration of comrades through cheerfulness in hospital.
He was game till the end.
Four operations were too much for strength of non-com who was wounded in action at Chateau-Thierry.
An American Hospital in France.
"No, they're not going to bring the sergeant back to the ward, boys."
These were exactly the words the nurse used. But the tone of her voice and the look in her eyes said more.
The little group in the ward, which had been playing cards on one of the beds to forget the tension they felt while the sergeant's operation was taking place, stopped suddenly, all attention, all hungering for good news.
"You don't mean the sergeant's gone, do you? exclaimed one.
"Yes, boys, the sergeant's gone. Four operations were just too much for his strength. He never regained consciousness."The little group of patients and the nurse were silent.
The chap with one leg gone had half a deck of cards in his hands. Dazed, he relaxed, and the cards fell to the floor, scattering over half the ward. The chap with one leg gone never noticed them.
"Gee, the sergeant's gone," he said huskily, "He sure was a game boy."
"He was the best fellow I ever knew," said another, "and the cheerfullest, too. I've seen them dressing his leg time and again, and gosh! but it hurt. But did the sergeant ever say anything? Not the sergeant--he never batted an eye.""Just to think," mused a third, "it wasn't half an hour ago when we saw him go out. I shouted, "Good luck, Sarge," when the stretcher was carried through the door, and he smiled and said, "Thanks, I'll be back in a few minutes with you."
The sergeant was Frank Carbaugh of Greencastle, Pa., a member of the Seventh Machine-Gun Sanitary detachment. No mother ever reared a braver boy. The sergeant, who was a mathematics teacher before the war, was wounded when his outfit was rushed into action near Chateau Thierry. None of his bunkies knew just how, because, as one of them explained, "The sergeant wasn't the kind of a fellow who'd talk of himself. You can bet he was wounded doing something for somebody, though."
They did know that the sergeant lay out in the open a long time after he was wounded. Medical records show that his left leg was badly slashed, and they operated at the first hospital he reached. But gangrene had set in, and four operations had followed in an effort to save him. They have had lots of brave patients that doctors and nurses and patients admired alike in that hospital, but never one just like the sergeant, who said little, was always joking and cheerful, and never had a complaint. The rest of the boys in the ward would do anything in the world for "the sarge."
The little group sitting on the cots, with the nurse, had been talking of the sergeant for a long time when one of the boys said, "You ought to write to his mother, Miss Cutter. The sarge thought the world of his mother." " I'm going to," replied the nurse. "You boys write out what you think of the sergeant, and I'll send that, too."
Maude Betterton visiting her son's grave. Image source: Behind Their Lines
The boys did, and here are a few lines from them:
Private Elmer Hyland wrote, "I was with him as soon as he came from the operation, and I cried when he went. He was a great boy--a clean fellow through and through. I wish my foot was so I could walk with him to the cemetery."Wagoner John Trask wrote: "Our sergeant is gone. Why, I loved that fellow like my own brothers. I've seen other fellows go, but I never felt like this."Sergeant Vincent Sauer wrote, "I never felt worse since I came in the night. He was game to the last; always cheerful, and when I called 'Good luck to you,' he answered, "Thanks, I'll be O.K. soon." We always had fun around his bed; he was so cheerful. He was one of the finest fellows I ever knew."Arthur Stein, who knew the sergeant better than the rest, the boys say because he and the sarge liked to dabble in poetry, wrote a poem to send the sergeant's mother.
They buried the sergeant in the little American graveyard in a pretty Lorraine valley with an American flag over the coffin, as 18 soldiers fired three shots over the grave and the bugler gave 'taps.' Then some of the boys whose injuries permitted their attending the funeral gathered flowers in the valley, and the nurses placed them on the grave with red, white, and blue ribbons around them.
Connie Ruzich is a University Professor of English at Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has published on aspects of language, culture, and identity, and has lived and taught in the U.S., Italy, and the United Kingdom. Ruzich was a 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholar at the University of Exeter, where she researched the use of poetry in British centenary commemorations of the First World War. Her blog, Behind Their Lines, shares lesser-known poetry of the First World War, providing discussion and research on international lost voices, poems written by those on the home front, and poetry that has been neglected in modern anthologies. Her research can also be followed through her twitter feed (@wherrypilgrim).
Category: WWrite articles main
WWI Navy Poster: “Join the Navy, the service for fighting men” by Richard Babcock
Jeffery Hess, author of Beachhead, Tushhog, and the short-story collection, Cold War Canoe Club, navigates us through one of the less familiar stories of WWI about the U.S. Navy and its formidable Dreadnoughts.
Florida and the Navy are as much a part of me as blood and bone. I’ve lived in the state all but the first four years of my life. But the only thing I find myself writing about more than Florida is the Navy. Having served aboard two ships, I’m endlessly fascinated by shipboard life—especially in times of war. I’ve written about Navy ships and submarines and populated them with people real and imagined. A few years ago, I was putting together a collection of Navy stories set during the Cold War. I had a good number of stories, but I always looked for the next idea, the next ship. The stories I had were heavy on the later portion of the era, so I began looking back.
I did some digging, took copious notes, and accidentally rediscovered the Dreadnoughts.
Read more: Of the Dreadnoughts - By Jeffery Hess