Today is the anniversary of the climactic moment of the Battle of Gettysburg–Pickett’s Charge. Having been unsuccessful in trying to break the Union Army on its flanks, Robert E. Lee attacked the middle of the line: and lost a whole infantry division, and the battle.
World War I was one of the grimmest catastrophes to befall the human race. Who knew it was really exciting and fun?
My brother gave me this book for Christmas–The Boy Allies with the Cossacks, or A Wild Dash Across the Carpathians, by Clair W. Hayes, a newsman who should have known better. This book came out in 1915, before America entered the war. It was part of a long series of wartime adventure novels featuring two American teenagers, Chester and Hal, who fight in just about every theater of the Great War.
In this one book alone, they kill more Germans and Austrians than you can shake a stick at. Although both of them are several times winged by bullets, clubbed over the head, or run through with swords, neither of them requires so much as a minute of medical attention. A little bit of on-the-spot first aid, and they’re as right as rain. Totalling up the body count for the whole series–which I am by no means inclined to do–I wouldn’t be surprised if they offed more Germans than Samson wiped out Philistines.
I am left with the impression that Mr. Hayes must have been quite mad. Gee, what fun these kids could’ve had, if only they’d been old enough to take part in Pickett’s Charge.
Was this wartime propaganda, intended to whet young Americans’ appetites for the trenches? It’s difficult to see what else it could have been. Is this a sane way to view the massive bloodletting of 1914-1918? Uh… no.
Reading fiction is a form of self-education–or, in this case, a grotesque form of self-delusion. What were the publishers thinking?