Wisconsin Veterans Museum Logo

Archive for June, 2017

June 26, 1917 – The Life and Letters of World War I Aerial Observer Lt. Mortimer M. Lawrence

June 26, 1917.

 Dear Folks:-

 

Received your letter today with the pictures also the Citizens.  Thank you.

We are still getting busier every day, till I don’t know where it all will end.

This morning the Captain called several of us into the office and told us that we would probably have to appear before a board on account of not quite meeting physical requirements.  He had received no official notification so could give us no particulars, only a little advance tip.  I know that the only thing wrong with me is lack of weight.  Hope I won’t have any trouble.  But I am not worrying, for I’ll find out when the time comes.

This artillery work is very interesting and becomes more so every day.  So far we haven’t had any mounted drill and only an hour’s gun drill every day.  You see at present there is only the equipment for one battery here and not enough horses for that and as there are six batteries in the two training regiments we have to take turns.

The rest of the day is taken up with dismounted drill, physical drill, signalling with flag and buzzer and at least two conferences or lectures, most generally three.  Our lectures cover everything from training and care of horses (including shoeing, accidents, diseases) to care and use of guns.  Besides we have lectures on gunnery involving a good many mathematical calculations and formulae.

Some of the men expected to find this very easy because we were told we didn’t require any special knowledge of mathematics.  We really don’t as the formulae do not go beyond geometry and algebra but we do need a clear insight and understanding of those branches and I find my knowledge of math and physics is helping a lot in grasping the principles, also my surveying comes in fine.  The latter will help also when we get to military topography.

We had a quiz yesterday covering our work so far.  The marks ran from around 20 up.  My work of 91 was the highest in the battery, the next highest being 80.  Not so bad for a man out of school six years when some of the fellows are fresh from engineering schools.

We were paid last week for which I was thankful as it enabled me to buy another pair of shoes and have my first soled.  The Quartermaster didn’t have my size so I had to pay Marshall Field $7.50, but I think I have a good pair of shoes.

I have been going to buy some additional books but now will hold off till I see the examining board and find out where I stand.

Must stop now and get ready for bed.  Am feeling fine.

Love to all,

 

Mortimer.

 

Vaccination has disappeared entirely.  No go.

Reserve Officers Training Camp

3rd Bty. – 10th Prov. Reg’t

Fort Sheridan, Ill.

MMLJune26FB

June 19, 1917 – The Life and Letters of World War I Aerial Observer Lt. Mortimer M. Lawrence

June 19, 1917

Dear Folks:-

 

Just a line to let you know I got back O.K.  The train was late, so was the electric, and I didn’t get in till eleven, but it was O.K.  Had a fine time at the Lake.  Had company all the way down from Minnesota Junction.

 

Love to all,

 

Mortimer

Reserve Officers Training Camp

3rd Bty. – 10th Prov. Reg’t

Fort Sheridan, Ill.

This turn of the century postcard shows Fox Lake, Wisconsin, where Mortimer spent his short furlough. Image courtesy of  http://www.theshoresoffoxlake.com/area-information/.

This turn of the century postcard shows Fox Lake, Wisconsin, where Mortimer spent his short furlough.
Image courtesy of http://www.theshoresoffoxlake.com/area-information/.

A War By Invention

By Kevin Hampton, Curator of History

Commonly referred to at the time as the “War to End All Wars,” World War I was in fact not a “last” but a “first.” Innovations in technology, tactics, and equipment ushered in a new era of warfare that defined how wars were fought for the next one hundred years.

While most people associate World War I with the start of trench warfare, it was by no means a new strategy or idea. Employed at great lengths during the American Civil War, trench warfare was a siege tactic that had been around for centuries. So what then was “new” about World War I and how did it shape warfare in the 20th Century?

Trench photo

An American soldier poses with a German machine gun. (WVM Mss 15)

In terms of military tools and equipment, World War I saw the first use of aircraft carriers, flamethrowers, chemical weapons, tanks, and airplanes. Battlefield medicine also evolved with the introduction of guide dogs, x-ray machines to treat battlefield casualties, and established blood banks. Though there are many more “firsts” that were introduced during World War I, with the centennial commemorations of the outbreak of the war in July of this year, now is a great time to reflect on some of the more recognizable innovations.


Machine Guns

Employed for the first time en masse, machine guns ruled the battlefield and in many ways were one of the primary causes of the stalemate of trench warfare. By the end of 1914, with each side realizing the devastating combination of massed infantry assaults against fortified machine gun emplacements, the Allied and Central Powers both dug in for a long war. Despite knowing the lethality of this new battlefield technology, the European powers still stuck to their strategies of massed infantry assaults, leading to some of the most costly battles in military history.

Airplanes

In 1903, the Wright brothers made the first controlled, manned flight, staying aloft for 59 seconds. Ten years later, this new technology was being adapted for warfare. Daring pilots were almost more at risk learning to fly than they were in the dogfights in the skies of Europe. In the case of the famed Sopwith Camel, 413 pilots are documented as having been killed in action while 385 died in training accidents. As the war progressed, aerial dogfights took the war from a stalemate on the ground, to a highly maneuverable battle above the trenches.

Mask

Masks like this one protected WWI tank drivers from metal shards and fragments while they peered through narrow, unprotected view slits in their tanks. (K1971.505)

Tanks

Developed to break the stalemate of trench warfare, the “tank” was an incredibly influential innovation of World War I. Initially these slow, metal behemoths were mobile pillboxes that could advance and provide direct heavy fire support for an infantry assault. By the end of the war, the Allies had produced over six thousand tanks, while Germany had produced only about twenty. The lessons learned about the effectiveness of mobile warfare with this new piece of equipment were not lost on the Germans who would use it to introduce a new style of warfare twenty years later.


Ironically, these innovations developed to break the stalemate, and end “The War to End All Wars” were, in fact, the catalysts for a whole new modern era of warfare.

Many World War I battlefield innovations have defined new tactics that are still used today. Machine guns remain a staple on battlefields. Tanks have become the workhorse of ground troops. Airplanes, manned and unmanned, are now the primary strike force of any military operation.

So as we observe the 100th anniversary of World War I, let’s remember the modern innovations brought about by the Great War, as well as the brave Wisconsin men and women who played witness to an era of battlefield inventions.  Learn more about Wisconsin in World War I at http://bit.ly/Military_History_WWI_WVM

June 15, 1917 – The Life and Letters of World War I Aerial Observer Lt. Mortimer M. Lawrence

June 15, 1917

 Western Union Telegram

Received at Beaver Dam, Wis.

2 AU HK 24 NL

Ft Sheridan Ills June 15th, [1917]

Mrs T D Lawrence

Beaver Dam, Wisc.

If change to artillery in the morning on account of transfer may not be able to take five twelve but if you do not hear from me to the contrary tomorrow I will go direct to Foxlake on either the six fifty or nine fifty love.

Mortimer.

817 AM

170615FB

June 7, 1917 – The Life and Letters of World War I Aerial Observer Lt. Mortimer M. Lawrence

June 7th 1917.

Dear Folks:-

We have been so busy all the week that I simply haven’t had a chance to even drop you a card. This sure has been a humdinger as far as work is concerned and the weather has been very bad. It has been cold and raw since Sunday with frequent showers but not enough rain to interrupt our drills.

The registration board returned my certificates of registration today. I was #5 in our precinct in Beaver Dam. All of us sent our cards in from here last week.

Tuesday we took a hike to Lake Forest, total trip of about nine miles, made with heavy packs of 45#. We made the nine miles in three hours including halts and that is going some for the usual rate of marching is 2 ¼ to 2 ½ miles an hour including halts. Of course the populace and society turned out to see us.

Hope I will be able to get away to come home Saturday. Don’t worry about my having to get back before “Taps” because I can get special permission to get in later. I won’t have to leave till the 5:20 CM&StP.

I enjoyed the letters very much and am returning them before they are lost. Love to all,

Mortimer.

Lawrence also received mail. This letter from his Uncle Mort—his namesake—was also written on June 7.

Lawrence also received mail. This letter from his Uncle Mort—his namesake—was also written on June 7.

June 3, 1917 – The Life and Letters of World War I Aerial Observer Lt. Mortimer M. Lawrence

June 3rd

[1917]

Dear Folks:-

Another week gone by. Soon it will be time to split up into the different branches and have to work harder than ever.

Before I forget it, I want to broach a subject which may make you very angry, and if it does let me know and I’ll say no more about it. Do you think you could stand it to have me come home on the 5:12 P.M. C. & N.W. on Saturday June 16th and stay until 5:20 Sunday P.M.? I think I can get away Saturday at noon and not have to report until Sunday night, but don’t plan too much on it for it may fall through. Before I make any plans, I just wanted to know how you feel about it. In case Ruth’s sister is coming and they are planning on going to Fox Lake why can’t the whole family go up to the Lake too. I think I’d rather like to go up if the weather is good. If you decide you’d like to have me come home don’t let Ruth know about it.

We had some good news Friday. Our pay of $100.00 per month goes through and besides we have an allowance of 75¢ per day for mess and 3 ½ ¢ per mile for transportation down here. I don’t get anything back on my trip to Milwaukee, though. We have signed the payroll for the first half-month and expect to be paid in the course of ten days.

This has been a busy week even if we did have a holiday on Wednesday. It rained most of the day and was generally rotten. In the morning a few of us walked over to Highland Park in the rain just for exercise. I stayed around the barracks all the afternoon on account of the weather. In the evening three of us went to the movies at Lake Forest. We saw Douglass Fairbanks in “Manhattan Madness” and it was the best film I have seen in a long time.

Thursday was rainy off and on but we managed to get in most of our drills. Friday wasn’t so bad though it was pretty muddy.

Saturday morning we had our usual inspection and also a drill in pitching shelter tents of which each man carries ½ in his pack. It rained right up to the time of inspection and then stopped long enough for inspection and then started again as soon as we got back indoors. It stopped again at eleven and, so we had general permission to go off limits as long as we reported back by Taps, I decided to go to Chicago. I went to the Palace to see the N.Y. Winter Garden production the Show of Wonders. It certainly was fine. After the show I went to see a couple of fellows, then had a big dinner at the North American with some of the fellows from here and then came back.

Today has been such a nice day that I haven’t done anything special but just bummed around all day. Saw Mr. Coleman of Lincoln Park. He and his wife were out here looking around and I talked with them for a while.

Received the box O.K. Thank you for sending it. I may send my laundry home this week and if I do will have it in Beaver Dam Friday in time for next Monday.

Love to all,

Mortimer.

How is everything at the Lake? Has the victrola gone up yet. Those were some pictures. I am returning them as I am afraid I’d lose them here.

I am enclosing some films taken here. Please have Huebner finish one set and keep them for me. I will pay you when I get home.

 

Mortimer took this photo of a fellow soldier during training at Fort Sheridan.

Mortimer took this photo of a fellow soldier during training at Fort Sheridan.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs