Thursday, December 25, 2014

Today -100: December 25, 1914: We no shoot and no work today

Bird dude John Muir dies.

A Louisville, Kentucky court rules that enforcing residential racial segregation, as a recent city ordinance requires, is the rightful exercise of a police power of the state and doesn’t violate the 14th Amendment or KY’s own Bill of Rights.  The article doesn’t state exactly what the particular negro in the case, Arthur Harris, was arrested for doing.

Headline of the Day -100:  The LAT reports that the 1910 census showed that there were 71,500 Chinese in the country, and 72,000 Japanese, and gives other information about their professions and whatnot.  The headline, because it’s the LA Fucking Times, is “The Yellow Peril.”

I mentioned that the British were supplying every soldier and sailor with a plum pudding.  The French military is sending one bottle of champagne for every four soldiers, Belgium is giving its soldiers 25 cigars each.

Headline of the Day -100:  “French Girl Sacrifices Her Hair For Soldiers.”  Yvonne Pusel, a “Lorraine peasant girl,” sent her hair to Paris to be sold to buy presents for the soldiers.  Only to find that all the soldiers had sold their guns to buy her a fancy set of combs, probably.

At many places along the front lines between German and British troops, a spontaneous Christmas Truce develops, in which enemy soldiers not only didn’t shoot, but joined in singing hymns, then cautiously venturing out and greeting each other – “We no shoot and no work today” some Germans reassured them – and exchanged halting conversation, cigarettes, food, alcohol, and presents.  With all the presents from home and from drives organized by newspapers and gifts from Queen Mary and the like, the soldiers had goods to trade in unusual quantities (also actual newspapers; there is one story of a German who asked for a British paper because German ones were full of lies).  An officer who wrote one of the first published accounts, possibly the first, in the London Daily News of December 30th, was given a photo of the Crown Prince of Bavaria.  He adds, “Of course, these men were Saxons – not Prussians.”  One British soldier got a haircut from a German who had been his barber before the war in London (that may be an exaggeration).  The London Daily News account doesn’t include football, but only because the Germans considered the ground too hard to join in.  Football matches, a favorite part of the myth that grew up around these events, were actually not a feature of more than a couple of the local truces, if any (it’s not like there were a lot of balls in the trenches). In the mythical versions the score was almost always 3-2.

There were incidents of fraternization between other armies pretty much everywhere, though on a smaller scale, even the French and Germans, which tend to be less well documented (French newspapers weren’t allowed to mention them).

A letter, just come to light, by a British general (who didn’t participate in the fraternization because he thought he might be too tempting a target) says one of his men “smoked a cigar with the best shot in the German army, then not more than 18. They say he’s killed more of our men than any other 12 together but I know now where he shoots from and I hope we down him tomorrow.”

There were much more scattered truces on Christmas of 1915 and 1916, but the army brass of both sides, embarrassed by the 1914 one, ordered Xmas artillery barrages to pre-empt any repetition – and ordered sentries to shoot anyone who tried to party with the enemy.  The 1914 truces, however, were far too widespread for the participants to face any punishment.  One German soldier, a Private Hitler, fumed at other soldiers who participated, “Have you no German sense of honor?”

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