Anecdotes

Here is a list of neat little stories I’ve heard or read over the years.  That being said, these may or may not be that— stories.  However, they’re still interesting, and offer a neat picture into life at that time.  And of course, these stories may very well be true (which is what I like tho think).  This list will be updated as I remember/hear/read the stories, so be sure to check back!

  • Towards the end of the war, German factories ran low on materials to produce timing and fan belts for their machines.  To remedy this, the factories would mandate that women working in the factories to cut their hair short, using the trimmings to produce timing and fan belts.
  • Germans wouldn’t take Senegalese prisoners because the Senegalese would often cut the ears off of captured or injured German soldiers.  Furthermore, it is rumored that the Senegalese would wear these ears as trophies.
  • It is said that in the West African campaign, the tornadoes would be so bad that both sides would stop fighting and even take cover together, waiting for the tornadoes to pass.  They would then start fighting again.
  • Apparently, a British soldier fighting in the Balkans during the war got wounded while facing Bulgarians (perhaps the Salonika front), who then captured him.  He had stayed in Bulgarian custody until the 1990s.
  • On the Romanian front, it is said that the Bulgarians were equally happy, if not more so, to capture a Romanian cow as they were a Romanian battle standard.
  • The Bulgarians really looked up to the Germans.  On one occasion, the Bulgarians were trying to cross the Danube river, but couldn’t due to their being afraid.  So they had to call the Germans in to cross it first, and then the Bulgarians decided that they could cross if the Germans were there (sorta like a kid and their parents, however that doesn’t mean the Bulgarians weren’t push-overs).
  • During the war, most of the Welsh soldiers would’ve spoken Welsh.
  • German U-Boats shelled the east coast of the United States in 1918.
  • Prior to the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, many Americans were supportive of the German cause in the war.
  • There were so many Italian-Americans in the U.S. Army at the time that the Germans thought that the Italians had sent many divisions to France.
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II was an avid fan of the American cowboys and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.
  • When the U.S. Army first declared war on Germany in the Spring of 1917, Teddy Roosevelt was upset that they would not allow him to re-join the army to fight the Germans.
  • The English soldiers were somewhat friendly with the Saxon soldiers.  When faced off against each other in the line, both sides were not very excited to shoot at each other, and would often converse from their trenches in English.  The Saxons didn’t really like the Prussians, who were meaner and aggressive, so the Saxons would warn the English when they were about to enter the line.  In turn, the English would warn the Saxons if the Irish were about to enter the line, since the Irish were more aggressive.
  • When the Germans pushed the fresh American soldiers back during the Seicheprey Debacle, the Germans were surprised to see that, when American soldiers were cornered, they would not surrender but just get angrier and fight harder, even if the Germans had killed their friends.  Furthermore, the Germans pushed the American soldiers back so far that they reached the American field kitchens.  The fight didn’t stop here, with a cook reportedly swinging his meat cleaver down on a helmeted German’s head and split it.
  • Officers, even senior-N.C.O.s, in the British army were required to have mustaches by military policy.  This tradition was ended when more and more of the older officers were killed, and the replacements were too young to grow full facial hair.
  • A German airman fled Tsingtao after it had fallen to the Allied Powers.  His taube shortly thereafter crashed into a rice paddy.  He then headed to Daschou by foot, where the local mandarin threw a party for him.  He then obtained a junk (a Chinese style of boat) and went down-river to arrive at Nanjing.  Here, he felt that he was being watched by the officials and was soon to be arrested, so he jumped into a rickshaw and fled to Shanghai by train.  Here in Shanghai, he met the daughter of a diplomat he knew back in Germany, who was able to give him a false Swiss identity.  After obtaining these items, he was able to sail from Shanghai to Nagasaki, then to Honolulu, and finally San Francisco.  From here, he traveled to New York City.  In New York, he found from a newspaper that the Germans had learned of what he was doing, and was dubbed the ‘famous aviator of Tsingtao’.  The article also said that it is believed that this aviator, Gunther Plüschow, was in New York City.  Luckily, a friend was able to get him travel documents to board a boat for Italy.  On approach to the Mediterranean Sea, a storm forced the boat to land in then British-controlled Gibraltar.  Here, the British captured Plüschow and quickly figured-out that he was the ‘famous aviator from Tsingtao’.  In 1915, he found himself in a prisoner-of-war camp in Leicestershire, where he escaped during the summer of the same year.  He had disguised himself as a dock-worker, and even took souvenir photographs of his time at the London docks.  Eventually, he was able to board a ferry heading to the Netherlands, and then on to Germany.  Once he arrived in Germany, he was initially arrested as a spy, since no one believed his story.  He is the only German prisoner-of-war from both World Wars to escaped a prison camp from the British Isles.  He then wrote many books and even made a few movies.  The book that he wrote that chronicles this story is My Escape from Donington Hall, first published in 1922.
  • The 1919 May Day riots in Cleveland, Ohio, started after a local pro-communist, Eugene V. Debs, was detained “unlawfully”.  This caused the socialists and communists of Cleveland to riot.  Meanwhile, a Liberty Loan rally was being held a few blocks away from the start of this riot, and at this rally many veterans of the war were there to garner support.  The soldiers caught wind of this riot, and so they decided to march there and confront the Reds, where a brawl ensued.  One particular man distinguished himself in the brawl, earning himself a section out of the local newspaper.  This man, a Marine who lost his arm at Château-Thierry, successfully fought-off three Bolshevik attackers with just his one arm.  When order was finally restored, it took multiple police officers and fellow servicemen to calm him down and hold him back.
  • Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia, was a veteran of the war.  Despite Yugoslavia consisting largely of Serbia, Tito fought in the Austro-Hungarian army.  During his service in the Austro-Hungarian army, he said that it was mandatory for the soldiers to memorize (and in some cases, recite) the lineage of the Austro-Hungarian kings.  Tito was also wounded during his service: he was stabbed through his chest by a Circassian (a Caucasian ethnicity whose lands were a part of the Russian Empire) cavalryman.  According to Tito, he successfully fought-off one Circassian but was caught off-guard by one coming up to him from behind.  Apparently, Tito turned around to face him but was met with a smiling Circassian who then drove his cavalry lance through Tito’s chest.
  • A rumor among some Ottoman soldiers during the war was that Kaiser Wilhelm II converted to Islam.  These soldiers took to referring to him endearingly as “Hajji Wilhelm” (hajji is a term of endearment amongst Muslims and is a title given if that person has successfully completed the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is called the Hajj.