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THE CONQUEST OF AMERICA
A Romance of Disaster and Victory: U.S.A., 1921 A. D.
BASED ON EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY OF JAMES E. LANGSTON, WAR CORRESPONDENT OF THE “LONDON TIMES”
AUTHOR OF “THROUGH THE WALL,” “THE BATTLE,” “CAREERS OF DANGER AND DARING,” ETC., ETC.
[Illustration: ABOUT NOON ON THE DAY OF CAPITULATION, MAY 25, 1921, A DETACHMENT OF GERMAN SOLDIERS MARCHED QUIETLY UP BROADWAY, TURNED INTO WALL STREET, AND STOPPED OUTSIDE THE BANKING HOUSE OF J. P. MORGAN & COMPANY.]
_Thus saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country; and a great nation shall be stirred up from the uttermost parts of the earth. They lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea, and they ride upon horses; every one set in array, as a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Zion_.
Jeremiah 6: 22, 23.
_They seemed as men that lifted up
Axes upon a thicket of trees.
And now all the carved work thereof together They break down with hatchet and hammers. They have set thy sanctuary on fire;
They have profaned the dwelling place of thy name even to the ground. They said in their heart, Let us make havoc of them altogether: They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land_.
Psalms 74: 5-8.
TO MY FELLOW AMERICANS
I. I WITNESS THE BLOWING UP OF THE PANAMA CANAL
II. AMERICAN AEROPLANES AND SUBMARINES BATTLE DESPERATELY AGAINST THE GERMAN FLEET
III. GERMAN INVADERS DRIVE THE IRON INTO THE SOUL OF UNPREPARED AMERICA
IV. INVASION OF LONG ISLAND AND THE BATTLE OF BROOKLYN
V. GENERAL VON HINDENBURG TEACHES NEW YORK CITY A LESSON
VI. VARIOUS UNPLEASANT HAPPENINGS IN MANHATTAN
VII. NEW HAVEN IS PUNISHED FOR RIOTING AND INSUBORDINATION
VIII. I HAVE A FRIENDLY TALK WITH THE GERMAN CROWN PRINCE AND SECURE A SENSATIONAL INTERVIEW
IX. BOSTON OFFERS DESPERATE AND BLOODY RESISTANCE TO THE INVADERS
X. LORD KITCHENER VISITS AMERICA AND DISCUSSES OUR MILITARY PROBLEMS
XI. HEROIC ACT OF BARBARA WEBB SAVES AMERICAN ARMY AT THE BATTLE OF TRENTON
XII. REAR ADMIRAL THOMAS Q. ALLYN WEIGHS CHANCES OF THE AMERICAN FLEET IN IMPENDING NAVAL BATTLE
XIII. THE GREAT NAVAL BATTLE OF THE CARIBBEAN SEA
XIV. PHILADELPHIA’S FIRST CITY TROOPS DIE IN DEFENCE OF THE LIBERTY BELL
XV. THRILLING INCIDENT AT WANAMAKER’S STORE WHEN GERMANS DISHONOUR AMERICAN FLAG
XVI. AN AMERICAN GIRL BRINGS NEWS THAT CHANGES THE COURSE OF THE MOUNT VERNON PEACE CONFERENCE
XVII. THOMAS A. EDISON MAKES A SERIOUS MISTAKE IN ACCEPTING A DINNER INVITATION
XVIII. I WITNESS THE BATTLE OF THE SUSQUEHANNA FROM VINCENT ASTOR’S AEROPLANE
XIX. GENERAL WOOD SCORES ANOTHER BRILLIANT SUCCESS AGAINST THE CROWN PRINCE
XX. THIRD BATTLE OF BULL RUN WITH AEROPLANES CARRYING LIQUID CHLORINE
XXI. THE AWAKENING OF AMERICA
XXII. ON CHRISTMAS EYE BOSTON THRILLS THE NATION WITH AN ACT OF MAGNIFICENT HEROISM
XXIII. CONFESSIONS OF AN AMERICAN SPY AND BRAVERY OF BUFFALO SCHOOLBOYS
XXIV. NOVEL ATTACK OF AMERICAN AIRSHIP UPON GERMAN SUPER-DREADNOUGHT
XXV. DESPERATE EFFORT TO RESCUE THOMAS A. EDISON FROM THE GERMANS
XXVI. RIOTS IN CHICAGO AND GERMAN PLOT TO RESCUE THE CROWN PRINCE
XXVII. DECISIVE BATTLE BETWEEN GERMAN FLEET AND AMERICAN SEAPLANES CARRYING TORPEDOES
ABOUT NOON ON THE DAY OF CAPITULATION, MAY 25, 1921, A DETACHMENT OF GERMAN SOLDIERS MARCHED UNOBSERVED UP BROADWAY, TURNED INTO WALL STREET, AND STOPPED OUTSIDE THE BANKING HOUSE OP J. P. MORGAN & COMPANY
AS THE GERMAN LANDING OPERATIONS PROCEEDED, THE NEWS OF THE INVASION SPREAD OVER THE WHOLE REGION WITH THE SPEED OF ELECTRICITY. THE ENEMY WAS COMING! THE ENEMY WAS HERE! WHAT WAS TO BE DONE?
THEN, FACING INEXORABLE NECESSITY, GENERAL WOOD ORDERED HIS ENGINEERS TO BLOW UP THE BRIDGES AND FLOOD THE SUBWAYS THAT LED TO MANHATTAN. IT WAS AS IF THE VAST STEEL STRUCTURE OF BROOKLYN BRIDGE HAD BEEN A THING OF LACE. IN SHREDS IT FELL, A TORN, TRAGICALLY WRECKED PIECE OF MAGNIFICENCE
THE PEOPLE KNEW THE ANSWER OF VON HINDENBURG. THEY HAD READ IT, AS HAD ALL THE WORLD FOR MILES AROUND, IN THE CATACLYSM OF THE PLUNGING TOWERS. NEW YORK MUST SURRENDER OR PERISH!
GERMAN GUNS DESTROY THE HOTEL TAFT
“YOU KNOW, MARK TWAIN WAS A GREAT FRIEND OF MY FATHER’S,” SAID THE CROWN PRINCE. “I REMEMBER HOW MY FATHER LAUGHED, ONE EVENING AT THE PALACE IN BERLIN, WHEN MARK TWAIN TOLD US THE STORY OF ‘THE JUMPING FROG.'”
AND ON THE MORNING OF JULY 4, TWO OF VON KLUCK’S STAFF OFFICERS, ACCOMPANIED BY A MILITARY ESCORT, MARCHED DOWN STATE STREET TO ARRANGE FOR THE PAYMENT OF AN INDEMNITY PROM THE CITY OF BOSTON OF THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS
“MY FRIENDS, THEY SAY PATRIOTISM Is DEAD IN THIS LAND. THEY SAY WE ARE EATEN UP WITH LOVE OF MONEY, TAINTED WITH A YELLOW STREAK THAT MAKES US AFRAID TO FIGHT. IT’S A LIE! I AM SIXTY YEARS OLD, BUT I’LL FIGHT IN THE TRENCHES WITH MY FOUR SONS BESIDE ME, AND YOU MEN WILL DO THE SAME. AM I RIGHT?”
THE CONQUEST OF AMERICA
TO MY FELLOW AMERICANS
The purpose of this story is to give an idea of what might happen to America, being defenceless as at present, if she should be attacked, say at the close of the great European war, by a mighty and victorious power like Germany. It is a plea for military preparedness in the United States.
As justifying this plea let us consider briefly and in a fair-minded spirit the arguments of our pacifist friends who, being sincerely opposed to military preparedness, would bring us to their way of thinking.
On June 10, 1915, in a statement to the American people, following his resignation as Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan said:
Some nation must lead the world out of the black night of war into the light of that day when “swords shall be beaten into plow-shares.” Why not make that honour ours? Some day–why not now?–the nations will learn that enduring peace cannot be built upon fear–that good-will does not grow upon the stalk of violence. Some day the nations will place their trust in love, the weapon for which there is no shield; in love, that suffereth long and is kind; in love, that is not easily provoked, that beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; in love, which, though despised as weakness by the worshippers of Mars, abideth when all else fails.
These are noble words. They thrill and inspire us as they have thrilled and inspired millions before us, yet how little the world has seen of the actual carrying out of their beautiful message! The average individual in America still clings to whatever he has of material possessions with all the strength that law and custom give him. He keeps what he has and takes what he can honourably get, unconcerned by the fact that millions of his fellow men are in distress or by the knowledge that many of the rich whom he envies or honours may have gained their fortunes, privilege or power by unfair or dishonest means.
In every land there are similar extremes of poverty and riches, but these could not exist in a world governed by the law of love or ready to be so governed, since love would destroy the ugly train of hatreds, arrogances, miseries, injustices and crimes that spread before us everywhere in the existing social order and that only fail to shock us because we are accustomed to a regime in which self-interest rather than love or justice is paramount.
My point is that if individuals are thus universally, or almost universally, selfish, nations must also be selfish, since nations are only aggregations of individuals. If individuals all over the world to-day place the laws of possession and privilege and power above the law of love, then nations will inevitably do the same. If there is constant jealousy and rivalry and disagreement among individuals there will surely be the same among nations, and it is idle for Mr. Bryan to talk about putting our trust in love collectively when we do nothing of the sort individually. Would Mr. Bryan put his trust in love if he felt himself the victim of injustice or dishonesty?
Once in a century some Tolstoy tries to practise literally the law of love and non-resistance with results that are distressing to his family and friends, and that are of doubtful value to the community. We may be sure the nations of the world will never practise this beautiful law of love until average citizens of the world practise it, and that time has not come.
Of course, Mr. Bryan’s peace plan recognises the inevitability of quarrels or disagreements among nations, but proposes to have these settled by arbitration or by the decisions of an international tribunal, which tribunal may be given adequate police power in the form of an international army and navy.
It goes without saying that such a plan of world federation and world arbitration involves universal disarmament, all armies and all navies must be reduced to a merely nominal strength, to a force sufficient for police protection, but does any one believe that this plan can really be carried out? Is there the slightest chance that Russia or Germany will disarm? Is there the slightest chance that England will send her fleet to the scrap heap and leave her empire defenceless in order to join this world federation? Is there the slightest chance that Japan, with her dreams of Asiatic sovereignty, will disarm?
And if the thing were conceivable, what a grim federation this would be of jealousies, grievances, treacheries, hatreds, conflicting patriotisms and ambitions–Russia wanting Constantinople, France Alsace-Lorraine, Germany Calais, Spain Gibraltar, Denmark her ravished provinces, Poland her national integrity and so on. Who would keep order among the international delegates? Who would decide when the international judges disagreed? Who would force the international policemen to act against their convictions? Could any world tribunal induce the United States to limit her forces for the prevention of a yellow immigration from Asia?
General Homer Lea in “The Valour of Ignorance” says:
Only when arbitration is able to unravel the tangled skein of crime and hypocrisy among individuals can it be extended to communities and nations, as nations are only man in the aggregate, they are the aggregate of his crimes and deception and depravity, and so long as these constitute the basis of individual impulse, so long will they control the acts of nations.
Dr. Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard University and trustee of the Carnegie Peace Foundation, makes this admission in _The Army and Navy Journal:_
I regret to say that international or national disarmament is not taken seriously by the leaders and thinking men of the more important peoples, and I fear that for one reason or another neither the classes nor the masses have much admiration for the idea or would be willing to do their share to bring it about.
Here is the crux of the question, the earth has so much surface and to-day this is divided up in a certain way by international frontiers. Yesterday it was divided up in a different way. To-morrow it will again be divided up in a new way, unless some world federation steps in and says: “Stop! There are to be no more wars. The present frontiers of the existing fifty-three nations are to be considered as righteously and permanently established. After this no act of violence shall change them.”
Think what that would mean! It would mean that nations like Russia, Great Britain and the United States, which happened to possess vast dominions when this world federation peace plan was adopted would continue to possess vast dominions, while other nations like Italy, Greece, Turkey, Holland, Sweden, France, Spain (all great empires once), Germany and Japan, whose present share of the earth’s surface might be only one-tenth or one-fiftieth or one-five-hundredth as great as Russia’s share or Great Britain’s share, would be expected to remain content with that small portion.
Impossible! These less fortunate, but not less aspiring nations would never agree to such a policy of national stagnation, to such a stifling of their legitimate longings for a “greater place in the sun.” They would point to the pages of history and show how small nations have become great and how empires have fallen. What was the mighty United States of America but yesterday? A handful of feeble colonies far weaker than the Balkan States to-day.
“Why should this particular moment be chosen,” they would protest, “to render immovable international frontiers that have always been shifting? Why should the maps of the world be now finally crystallised so as to give England millions of square miles in every quarter of the globe, Canada, Australia, India, Egypt, while we possess so little? Did God make England so much better than he made us? Why should the Russian Empire sweep across two continents while our territory is crowded into a corner of one? Is Russia so supremely deserving? And why should the United States possess as much of the earth’s surface as Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Japan all together and, besides that, claim authority to say, through the Monroe Doctrine, what shall happen or shall not happen in South America, Mexico, the West Indies and the Pacific? How did the United States get this authority and this vast territory? How did Russia get her vast territory? How did England get her vast territory?”
The late Professor J. A. Cramb, an Englishman himself, gives us one answer in his powerful and illuminating book, “Germany and England,” and shows us how England, in the view of many, got _her_ possessions:
England! The successful burglar, who, an immense fortune amassed, has retired from business, and having broken every law, human and divine, violated every instinct of honour and fidelity on every sea and on every continent, desires now the protection of the police!… So long as England, the great robber-state, retains her booty, the spoils of a world, what right has she to expect peace from the nations?
In reply to Mr. Bryan’s peace exhortations, some of the smaller but more efficient world powers, certainly Germany and Japan, would recall similar cynical teachings of history and would smilingly answer: “We approve of your beautiful international peace plan, of your admirable world police plan, but before putting it into execution, we prefer to wait a few hundred years and see if we also, in the ups and downs of nations, cannot win for ourselves, by conquest or cunning or other means not provided for in the law of love, a great empire covering a vast portion of the earth’s surface.”
The force and justice of this argument will be appreciated, to use a homely comparison, by those who have studied the psychology of poker games and observed the unvarying willingness of heavy winners to end the struggle after a certain time, while the losers insist upon playing longer.
It will be the same in this international struggle for world supremacy, the only nations willing to stop fighting will be the ones that are far ahead of the game, like Great Britain, Russia and the United States.
We may be sure that wars will continue on the earth. War may be a biological necessity in the development of the human race–God’s housecleaning, as Ella Wheeler Wilcox calls it. War may be a great soul stimulant meant to purge mankind of evils greater than itself, evils of baseness and world degeneration. We know there are blighted forests that must be swept clean by fire. Let us not scoff at such a theory until we understand the immeasurable mysteries of life and death. We know that, through the ages, two terrific and devastating racial impulses have made themselves felt among men and have never been restrained, sex attraction and war. Perhaps they were not meant to be restrained.
Listen to John Ruskin, apostle of art and spirituality:
All the pure and noble arts of peace are founded on war. No great art ever rose on earth but among a nation of soldiers. There is no great art possible to a nation but that which is based on battle. When I tell you that war is the foundation of all the arts, I mean also that it is the foundation of all the high virtues and faculties of men. It was very strange for me to discover this, and very dreadful, but I saw it to be quite an undeniable fact. The common notion that peace and the virtues of civil life flourished together I found to be utterly untenable. We talk of peace and learning, of peace and plenty, of peace and civilisation; but I found that these are not the words that the Muse of History coupled together; that on her lips the words were peace and sensuality, peace and selfishness, peace and death. I found in brief that all great nations learned their truth of word and strength of thought in war; that they were nourished in war and wasted in peace; taught by war and deceived by peace; trained by war and betrayed by peace; in a word, that they were born in war and expired in peace.
We know Bernhardi’s remorseless views taken from Treitschke and adopted by the whole German nation:
“War is a fiery crucible, a terrible training school through which the world has grown better.”
In his impressive work, “The Game of Empires,” Edward S. Van Zile quotes Major General von Disfurth, a distinguished retired officer of the German army, who chants so fierce a glorification of war for the German idea, war for German Kultur, war at all costs and with any consequences that one reads with a shudder of amazement:
Germany stands as the supreme arbiter of her own methods. It is of no consequence whatever if all the monuments ever created, all the pictures ever painted, and all the buildings ever erected by the great architects of the world be destroyed, if by their destruction we promote Germany’s victory over her enemies. The commonest, ugliest stone that marks the burial place of a German grenadier is a more glorious and venerable monument than all the cathedrals of Europe put together. They call us barbarians. What of it? We scorn them and their abuse. For my part, I hope that in this war we have merited the title of barbarians. Let neutral peoples and our enemies cease their empty chatter, which may well be compared to the twitter of birds. Let them cease to talk of the cathedral of Rheims and of all the churches and all the castles in France which have shared its fate. These things do not interest us. Our troops must achieve victory. What else matters?
Obviously there are cases where every noble sentiment would impel a nation to go to war. A solemn promise broken, a deliberate insult to the flag, an act of intolerable bullying, some wicked purpose of self-aggrandisement at the expense of weaker nations, anything, in short, that flaunted the national honour or imperilled the national integrity would be a call to war that must be heeded by valiant and high-souled citizens, in all lands. Nor can we have any surety against such wanton international acts, so long as the fate of nations is left in the hands of small autocracies or military and diplomatic cliques empowered to act without either the knowledge or approval of the people. Wars will never be abolished until the war-making power is taken from the few and jealously guarded by the whole people, and only exercised after public discussion of the matters at issue and a public understanding of inevitable consequences. At present it is evident that the pride, greed, madness of one irresponsible King, Emperor, Czar, Mikado or President may plunge the whole world into war-misery that will last for generations.
There are other cases where war is not only inevitable, but actually desirable from a standpoint of world advantage. Imagine a highly civilised and progressive nation, a strong prosperous nation, wisely and efficiently governed, as may be true, some day, of the United States of America. Let us suppose this nation to be surrounded by a number of weak and unenlightened states, always quarrelling, badly and corruptly managed, like Mexico and some of the Central American republics. Would it not be better for the world if this strong, enlightened nation took possession of its backward neighbours, even by force of arms, and taught them how to live and how to make the best of their neglected resources and possibilities? Would not these weak nations be more prosperous and happier after incorporation with the strong nation? Is not Egypt better off and happier since the British occupation? Were not the wars that created united Italy and united Germany justified? Does any one regret our civil war? It was necessary, was it not?
Similarly it is better for the world that we fought and conquered the American Indians and took their land to use it, in accordance with our higher destiny, for greater and nobler purposes than they could either conceive of or execute. It is better for the world that by a revolution (even a disingenuous one) we took Panama from incompetent Colombians and, by our intelligence, our courage and our vast resources, changed a fever-ridden strip of jungle into a waterway that now joins two oceans and will save untold billions for the commerce of the earth.
Carrying a step farther this idea of world efficiency through war, it is probable that future generations will be grateful to some South American nation, perhaps Brazil, or Chile or the Argentine Republic, that shall one day be wise and strong enough to lay the foundations on the field of battle (Mr. Bryan may think this could be accomplished by peaceful negotiations, but he is mistaken) for the United States of South America.
And why not ultimately the United States of Europe, the United States of Asia, the United States of Africa, all created by useful and progressive wars? Consider the increased efficiency, prosperity and happiness that must come through such unions of small nations now trying separately and ineffectively to carry on multiple activities that could be far better carried on collectively. Our American Union, born of war, proves this, does it not?
“United we stand, divided we fall,” applies not merely to states, counties and townships, but to nations, to empires, to continents. Continents will be the last to join hands across the seas (having first waged vast inter-continental wars) and then, after the rise and fall of many sovereignties, there will be established on the earth the last great government, the United States of the World!
That is the logical limit of human activities. Are we not all citizens of the earth, descended from the same parents, born with the same needs and capacities? Why should there be fifty-three barriers dividing men into fifty-three nations? Why should there be any other patriotism than world patriotism? Or any other government than one world government?
When this splendid ultimate consummation has been achieved, after ages of painful evolution (we must remember that the human race is still in its infancy) our remote descendants, united in language, religion and customs, with a great world representative government finally established and the law of love prevailing, may begin preparations for a grand world celebration of the last war. Say, in the year A.D. 2921!
But not until then!
If this reasoning is sound, if war must be regarded, for centuries to come, as an inevitable part of human existence, then let us, as loyal Americans, realise that, hate war as we may, there is only way in which the United States can be insured against the horrors of armed invasion, with the shame of disastrous defeat and possible dismemberment, and that is by developing the strength and valiance to meet all probable assailants on land or sea.
Whether we like it or not we are a great world power, fated to become far greater, unless we throw away our advantages; we must either accept the average world standards, which call for military preparedness, or impose new standards upon a world which concedes no rights to nations that have not the might to guard and enforce those rights.
Why should we Americans hesitate to pay the trifling cost of insurance against war? Trifling? Yes. The annual cost of providing and maintaining an adequate army and navy would be far less than we spend every year on tobacco and alcohol. Less than fifty cents a month from every citizen would be sufficient. That amount, wisely expended, would enormously lessen the probability of war and would allow the United States, if war came, to face its enemies with absolute serenity. The Germans are willing to pay the cost of preparedness. So are the French, the Italians, the Japanese, the Swiss, the Balkan peoples, the Turks. Do we love our country less than they do? Do we think our institutions, our freedom less worthy than theirs of being guarded for posterity?
Why should we not adopt a system of military training something like the one that has given such excellent results in Switzerland? Why not cease to depend upon our absurd little standing army which, for its strength and organisation, is frightfully expensive and absolutely inadequate, and depend instead upon a citizenry trained and accustomed to arms, with a permanent body of competent officers, at least 50,000, whose lives would be spent in giving one year military training to the young men of this nation, all of them, say between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three, so that these young men could serve their country efficiently, if the need arose? Why not accept the fact that it is neither courageous nor democratic for us to depend upon hired soldiers to defend our country?
Does any one doubt that a year of such military training would be of lasting benefit to the men of America? Would it not school them in much-needed habits of discipline and self-control, habits which must be learned sooner or later if a man is to succeed? Would not the open air life, the physical exercise, the regularity of hours tend to improve their health and make them better citizens?
Suppose that once every five years all American men up to fifty were required to go into military camp and freshen up on their defence duties for twenty or thirty days. Would that do them any harm? On the contrary, it would do them immense good.
And even if war never came, is it not evident that America would benefit in numberless ways by such a development of the general manhood spirit? Who can say how much of Germany’s greatness in business and commerce, in the arts and sciences, is due to the fact that _all_ her men, through military schooling, have learned precious lessons in self-control and obedience?
The pacifists tell us that after the present European war, we shall have nothing to fear for many years from exhausted Europe, but let us not be too sure of that. History teaches that long and costly wars do not necessarily exhaust a nation or lessen its readiness to undertake new wars. On the contrary, the habit of fighting leads easily to more fighting. The Napoleonic wars lasted over twenty years. At the close of our civil war we had great generals and a formidable army of veteran soldiers and would have been willing and able immediately to engage in a fresh war against France had she not yielded to our demand and withdrawn Maximilian from Mexico. Bulgaria recently fought two wars within a year, the second leaving her exhausted and prostrate; yet within two years she was able to enter upon a third war stronger than ever.
If Germany wins in the present great conflict she may quite conceivably turn to America for the vast money indemnity that she will be unable to exact from her depleted enemies in Europe; and if Germany loses or half loses she may decide to retrieve her desperate fortunes in this tempting and undefended field. With her African empire hopelessly lost to her, where more naturally than to facile America will she turn for her coveted place in the sun?
And if not Germany, it may well be some other great nation that will attack us. Perhaps Great Britain! Especially if our growing merchant marine threatens her commercial supremacy of the sea, which is her life. Perhaps Japan! whose attack on Germany in 1914 shows plainly that she merely awaits favourable opportunity to dispose of any of her rivals in the Orient. Let us bear in mind that, in the opinion of the world’s greatest authorities, we Americans are to-day totally unprepared to defend ourselves against a first-class foreign power. My story aims to show this, and high officers in our army and navy, who have assisted me in the preparation of this book and to whom I am grateful, assure me that I have set forth the main facts touching our military defencelessness without exaggeration. C. M.
WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY, 1916.
I WITNESS THE BLOWING UP OF THE PANAMA CANAL
In my thirty years’ service as war correspondent of the London _Times_ I have looked behind the scenes of various world happenings, and have known the thrill of personally facing some great historic crises; but there is nothing in my experience so dramatic, so pregnant with human consequences, as the catastrophe of April 27, 1921, when the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal were destroyed by dynamite.
At that moment I was seated on the shaded, palm-bordered piazza of the Grand Hotel at Colon, discussing with Rear-Admiral Thomas Q. Allyn of the United States Navy the increasing chances that America might find herself plunged into war with Japan. For weeks the clouds had been darkening, and it was now evident that the time had come when the United States must either abandon the Monroe Doctrine and the open door in China, or fight to maintain these doctrines.
“Mr. Langston,” the Admiral was saying, “the situation is extremely grave. Japan intends to carry out her plans of expansion in Mexico and China, and possibly in the Philippines; there is not a doubt of it. Her fleet is cruising somewhere in the Pacific,–we don’t know where,–and our Atlantic fleet passed through the Canal yesterday, as you know, to make a demonstration of force in the Pacific and to be ready for–for whatever may come.”
His hands closed nervously, and he studied the horizon with half-shut eyes.
In the course of our talk Admiral Allyn had admitted that the United States was woefully unprepared for conflict with a great power, either on sea or land.
“The blow will be struck suddenly,” he went on, “you may be sure of that. Our military preparations are so utterly inadequate that we may suffer irreparable harm before we can begin to use our vast resources. You know when Prussia struck Austria in 1866 the war was over in three months. When Germany struck France in 1870 the decisive battle, Sedan, was fought forty-seven days later. When Japan struck Russia, the end was foreseen within four or five months.”
“It wasn’t so in the great European war,” I remarked.
“Why not? Because England held the mastery of the sea. But we hold the mastery of nothing. Our fleet is barely third among the nations and we are frightfully handicapped by our enormous length of coast line and by this canal.”
“The Canal gives us a great advantage, doesn’t it? I thought it doubled the efficiency of our fleet?”
“It does nothing of the sort. The Canal may be seized. It may be put out of commission for weeks or months by landslides or earthquakes. A few hostile ships of the _Queen Elizabeth_ class lying ten miles off shore at either end, with ranges exactly fixed, or a good shot from an aeroplane, could not only destroy the Canal’s insufficient defences, but could prevent our fleet from coming through, could hold it, useless, in the Atlantic when it might be needed to save California or useless in the Pacific when it might be needed to save New York. If it happened when war began that one half of our fleet was in the Atlantic and the other half in the Pacific, then the enemy could keep these two halves separated and destroy them one by one.”
“I suppose you mean that we need two fleets?”
“Of course we do–a child can see it–if we are to guard our two seaboards. We must have a fleet in the Atlantic strong enough to resist any probable attack from the East, and another fleet in the Pacific strong enough to resist any probable attack from the West.
“But listen to this, think of this,” the veteran warrior leaned towards me, shaking an eager fore-finger. “At the present moment our entire fleet, if massed off Long Island, would be inferior to a fleet that Germany could send across the Atlantic against us by many ships, many submarines and many aeroplanes. And hopelessly inferior in men and ammunition, including torpedoes.”
As I listened I felt myself falling under the spell of the Admiral’s eloquence. He was so sure of what he said. These dangers unquestionably existed, but–were they about to descend upon America? Must we really face the horrors of a war of invasion?
“Your arguments are very convincing, sir, and yet–” I hesitated.
“You speak as if these things were going to happen _right now,_ but there are no signs of war, no clouds on the horizon.”
The Admiral waved this aside with an impatient gesture.
“I tell you the blow will come suddenly. Were there any clouds on the European horizon in July, 1914? Yet a few persons knew, just as I have known for months, that war was inevitable.”
“Known?” I repeated.
Very deliberately the grizzled sea fighter lighted a fresh cigar before replying.
“Mr. Langston, I’ll tell you a little story that explains why I am posing as a prophet. You can put it in your memoirs some day–if my prophecy comes true. It’s the story of an American naval officer, a young lieutenant, who–well, he went wrong about a year ago. He got into the clutches of a woman spy in the employ of a foreign government. He met this woman in Marseilles on our last Mediterranean cruise and fell in love with her–hopelessly. She’s one of those devilish sirens that no full-blooded man can resist and, the extraordinary part of it is, she fell in love with him–genuinely in love.
“Well–it was a bad business. This officer gave the woman all he had, told her all he knew, and finally he asked her to marry him. Yes. He didn’t care what she was. He just wanted her. And she was so happy, so crazy about him, that she almost yielded; she was ready to turn over a new leaf, to settle down as his wife, but–“
“But she didn’t do it?” I smiled.
The Admiral shook his head.
“He was a poor man–just a lieutenant’s pay and she couldn’t give up her grand life. But she loved him enough to try to save him, enough to leave him. She wrote him a wonderful letter, poured her soul out to him, gave him certain military secrets of the government she was working for–they would have shot her in a minute, you understand, if they had known it–and she told him to take this information as a proof of her love and use it to save the United States.”
I was listening now with absorbed interest.
“What government was she working for?”
The Admiral paused to relight his cigar.
“Wait! The next thing was that this lieutenant came to me, as a friend of his father and an admiral of the American fleet, and made a clean breast of everything. He made his confession in confidence, but asked me to use the knowledge as I saw fit without mentioning his name. I did use it and”–the Admiral’s frown deepened–“the consequence was no one believed me. They said the warning was too vague. You know the attitude of recent administrations towards all questions of national defence. It’s always politics before patriotism, always the fear of losing middle west pacifist votes. It’s disgusting–horrible!”
“Was the warning really vague?”
“Vague. My God!” The old sea dog bounded from his chair. “I’ll tell you how vague it was. A statement was definitely made that before May 1, 1921, a great foreign power would make war upon the United States and would begin by destroying the Panama Canal. To-day is April 27, 1921. I don’t say these things are going to happen within three days but, Mr. Langston, as purely as the sun shines on that ocean, we Americans are living in a fool’s paradise. We are drunk with prosperity. We are deaf and blind to the truth which is known to other nations, known to our enemies, known to the ablest officers in our army and navy.
“The truth is that, as a nation, we have learned nothing from our past wars because we have never had to fight a first-class power that was prepared. But the next war, and it is surely coming, will find us held in the grip of an inexorable law which provides that nations imitating the military policy of China must suffer the fate of China.”
The Admiral now explained why he had sent for me. It was to suggest that I cable the London _Times_, urging my paper to use its influence, through British diplomatic channels, to avert another great war. I pointed out that the chances of such intervention were slight. Great Britain was still smarting under the memory of Americans’ alleged indifference to everything but money in 1918 when the United States stood by, unprotesting, and saw England stripped of her mastery of the sea after the loss of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal.
“There are two sides to that,” frowned the Admiral, “but one thing is certain–it’s England or no one. We have nothing to hope for from Russia; she has what she wants–Constantinople. Nothing to hope for from France; she has her lost provinces back. And as for Germany–Germany is waiting, recuperating, watching her chance for a place in the South American sun.”
“Germany managed well in the Geneva Peace Congress of 1919,” I said.
The veteran of Manila threw down his cigarette impatiently.
“Bismarck could have done no better. They bought off Europe, they crippled England and–they isolated America.”
“By the way,” continued the Admiral, “I must show you some things in my scrap book. You will be astonished. Wait a minute. I’ll get it.”
The old fellow hurried off and presently returned with a heavy volume bound in red leather.
“Take it up to your room to-night and look it over. You will find the most overwhelming mass of testimony to the effect that to-day, in spite of all that has been said and written and all the money spent, the United States is totally unprepared to defend its coasts or uphold its national honour. Just open the book anywhere–you’ll see.”
I obeyed and came upon this statement by Theodore Roosevelt:
What befell Antwerp and Brussels will surely some day befall New York or San Francisco, and may happen to many an inland city also, if we do not shake off our supine folly, if we trust for safety to peace treaties unbacked by force.
“Pretty strong words for an ex-President of the United States to be using,” nodded the Admiral. “And true! Try another place.”
I did so and came upon this from the pen of Gerhard von Schulze-Gaevernitz, professor of political economy at the University of Freiburg and a member of the Reichstag:
Flattered and deftly lulled to sleep by British influence, public opinion in the United States will not wake up until the ‘yellow New England’ of the Orient, nurtured and deflected from Australia by England herself, knocks at the gates of the new world. Not a patient and meek China, but a warlike and conquest-bound Japan will be the aggressor when that day comes. Then America will be forced to fight under unfavourable conditions.
The famous campaigner’s eyes flashed towards the Pacific.
“When that day comes! Ah! Speaking of Japan,” he turned over the pages in nervous haste. “Here we are! You can see how much the Japanese love us! Listen! This is an extract from the most popular book in Japan to-day. It is issued by Japan’s powerful and official National Defence Association with a view to inflaming the Japanese people against the United States and preparing them for a war of invasion against this country. Listen to this:
“Let America beware! For our cry, ‘On to California! On to Hawaii! On to the Philippines!’ is becoming only secondary to our imperial anthem!… To arms! We must seize our standards, unfurl them to the winds and advance without the least fear, as America has no army worthy the name, and with the Panama Canal destroyed, its few battleships will be of no use until too late.
“I tell you, Mr. Langston,” pursued the Admiral, “we Americans are to-day the most hated nation on earth. The richest, the most arrogant, the most hated nation on earth! And helpless! Defenceless! Believe me, that’s a bad combination. Look at this! Read this! It’s a cablegram to the New York _Tribune_, published on May 21, 1915, from Miss Constance Drexel, an American delegate to the Woman’s Peace Conference at The Hague:
“I have just come out of Germany and perhaps the predominating impression I bring with me is Germany’s hatred of America. Germany feels that war with America is only a matter of time. Everywhere I went I found the same sentiment, and the furthest distance away I found the war put was ten years. It was said to me: ‘We must settle with England first, but then will come America’s turn. If we don’t make war on you ourselves we will get Japan into a war with you, and then we will supply arms and munitions to Japan.'”
At this point, I remember, I had turned to order an orange liqueur, when the crash came.
It was terrific. Every window in the hotel was shattered, and some scores of labourers working near the Gatun Locks were killed instantly. Six hundred tons of dynamite, secreted in the hold of a German merchantman, had been exploded as the vessel passed through the locks, and ten thousand tons of Portland cement had sunk in the tangled iron wreck, to form a huge blockading mass of solid rock on the floor of the narrow passage.
Needless to say, every man on the German ship thus sacrificed died at his post.
The Admiral stared in dismay when the news was brought to him.
“Germany!” he muttered. “And our fleet is in the Pacific!”
“Does it mean war?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. Unquestionably it means war. We have been misled. We were thinking of one enemy, and we have been struck by another. We thought we could send our fleet through the Canal and get it back easily; but–now we cannot get it back for at least two months!”
AMERICAN AEROPLANES AND SUBMARINES BATTLE DESPERATELY AGAINST THE GERMAN FLEET
A week later–or, to be exact, on May 4, 1921–I arrived in New York, following instructions from my paper, and found the city in a state of indescribable confusion and alarm.
War had been declared by Germany against the United States on the day that the Canal was wrecked, and German transports, loaded with troops and convoyed by a fleet of battleships, were known to be on the high seas, headed for American shores. As the Atlantic fleet had been cut off in the Pacific by that desperate piece of Panama strategy (the Canal would be impassable for months), it was evident that those ships could be of no service for at least eight weeks, the time necessary to make the trip through the Straits of Magellan; and meanwhile the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Florida was practically unguarded.
No wonder the newspapers shrieked despairingly and bitterly upbraided Congress for neglecting to provide the country with adequate naval defences.
Theodore Roosevelt came out with a signed statement:
“Four years ago I warned this country that the United States must have two great fleets–one for the Atlantic, one for the Pacific.”
Senator Smoot, in a sensational speech, referred to his vain efforts to secure for the country a fleet of fifty sea-going submarines and twenty-five coast-defence submarines. Now, he declared, the United States would pay for its indifference to danger.
In the House of Representatives, Gardner and Hobson both declared that our forts were antiquated, our coast-defence guns outranged, our artillery ridiculously insufficient, and our supply of ammunition not great enough to carry us through a single month of active warfare.
On the night of my arrival in Manhattan I walked through scenes of delirious madness. The town seemed to reel in a sullen drunkenness. Throngs filled the dark streets. The Gay White Way was no longer either white or gay. The marvellous electrical display of upper Broadway had disappeared–not even a street light was to be seen. And great hotels, like the Plaza, the Biltmore, and the new Morgan, formerly so bright, were scarcely discernible against the black skies. No one knew where the German airships might be. Everybody shouted, but nobody made very much noise. The city was hoarse. I remembered just how London acted the night the first Zeppelin floated over the town.
At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor McAneny appointed a Committee of Public Safety that went into permanent session in Madison Square Garden, which was thronged day and night, while excited meetings, addressed by men and women of all political parties, were held continuously in Union Square, City Hall Park, Columbus Circle, at the Polo Grounds and in various theatres and motion-picture houses.
Such a condition of excitement and terror necessarily led to disorder and on May 11, 1921, General Leonard Wood, in command of the Eastern Army, placed the city under martial law.
And now on every tongue were frantic questions. When would the Germans land? To-day? To-morrow? Where would they strike first? What were we going to do? Every one realised, when it was too late, the hopeless inadequacy of our aeroplane scouting service. To guard our entire Atlantic seaboard we had fifty military aeroplanes where we should have had a thousand and we were wickedly lacking in pilots. Oh, the shame of those days!
In this emergency Rodman Wanamaker put at the disposal of the government his splendid air yacht the _America II_, built on the exact lines of the _America I_, winner of across-the-Atlantic prizes in 1918, but of much larger spread and greater engine power. The America II could carry a useful load of five tons and in her scouting work during the next fortnight she accommodated a dozen passengers, four officers, a crew of six, and two newspaper men, Frederick Palmer, representing the Associated Press, and myself for the London _Times._
What a tremendous thing it was, this scouting trip! Day after day, far out over the ocean, searching for German battleships! Our easy jog trot speed along the sky was sixty miles an hour and, under full engine pressure, the _America II_ could make a hundred and twenty, which was lucky for us as it saved us many a time when the slower German aircraft came after us, spitting bullets from their machine guns.
On the morning of May 12, a perfect spring day, circling at a height of half a mile, about fifty miles off the eastern end of Long Island, we had our first view of the German fleet as it ploughed through smooth seas to the south of Montauk Point.
We counted eight battle cruisers, twelve dreadnoughts, ten pre-dreadnoughts, and about sixty destroyers, in addition to transports, food-ships, hospital-ships, repair-ships, colliers, and smaller fighting and scouting vessels, all with their full complement of men and equipment, moving along there below us in the pleasant sunshine. Among the troopships I made out the _Kaiserin Auguste Luise_ and the _Deutschland,_ on both of which I had crossed the summer following the Great Peace. I thought of the jolly old commander of the latter vessel and of the capital times we had had together at the big round table in the dining-saloon. It seemed impossible that this was war!
I subsequently learned that the original plan worked out by the German general staff contemplated a landing in the sheltered harbour of Montauk Point, but the lengthened range (21,000 yards) of mortars in the American forts on Fisher’s Island and Plum Island, a dozen miles to the north, now brought Montauk Point under fire, so the open shore south of East Hampton was substituted as the point of invasion.
“There’s no trouble about landing troops from the open sea in smooth weather like this,” said Palmer, speaking through his head-set. “We did it at Santiago, and the Japs did it at Port Arthur.”
“And the English did it at Ostend,” I agreed. “Hello!”
As I swept the sea to the west with my binoculars I thought I caught the dim shape of a submerged submarine moving slowly through the black depths like a hungry shark; but it disappeared almost immediately, and I was not sure. As a matter of fact, it was a submarine, one of six American under-water craft that had been assigned to patrol the south shore of Long Island.
The United States still had twenty-five submarines in Atlantic waters, in addition to thirty that were with the absent fleet; but these twenty-five had been divided between Boston Harbour, Narragansett Bay, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, and other vulnerable points, so that only six were left to defend the approaches to New York City. And, of these six, five were twenty-four hours late, owing, I heard later, to inexcusable delays at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where they had been undergoing repairs. The consequence was that only the K-2 was here to meet the German invasion–one lone submarine against a mighty fleet.
Still, under favourable conditions, one lone submarine is a force to be reckoned with, as England learned in 1915.
The K-2 attacked immediately, revealing her periscope for a minute as she took her observations. Then she launched a torpedo at a big German supply-ship not more than a thousand yards away.
“Good-bye, ship!” said Palmer, and we watched with fascinated interest the swift white line that marked the course of the torpedo. It struck the vessel squarely amidships, and she sank within five minutes, most of the men aboard being rescued by boats from the fleet.
It now went ill with the K-2, however; for, having revealed her presence, she was pursued by the whole army of swift destroyers. She dived, and came up again two miles to the east, bent on sinking a German dreadnought; but, unfortunately, she rose to the surface almost under the nose of one of the destroyers, which bombarded her with its rapid-fire guns, and then, when she sank once more, dropped on her a small mine that exploded under water with shattering effect, finishing her.
As I think it over, I feel sure that if those other five submarines had been ready with the K-2, we might have had another story to tell. Possibly the slowness of the Brooklyn Navy Yard–which is notorious, I understand–may have spoiled the one chance that America had to resist this invasion.
The next day the five tardy submarines arrived; but conditions were now less favourable, since the invaders had had time to prepare their defence against this under-water peril. As we flew over East Hampton on the following afternoon, we were surprised to see five fully inflated air-ships of the nonrigid Parseval type floating in the blue sky, like grim sentinels guarding the German fleet. Down through the sun-lit ocean they could see the shadowy underwater craft lurking in the depths, and they carried high explosives to destroy them.
“How about our aeroplanes?” grumbled Palmer.
“Look!” I answered, pointing toward the Shinnecock Hills, where some tiny specks appeared like soaring eagles. “They’re coming!”
The American aeroplanes, at least, were on time, and as they swept nearer we counted ten of them, and our spirits rose; for ten swift aeroplanes armed with explosive bombs can make a lot of trouble for slower and clumsier aircraft.
But alas for our hopes! The invaders were prepared also, and, before the American fliers had come within striking distance, they found themselves opposed by a score of military hydroplanes that rose presently, with a great whirring of propellers, from the decks of the German battle-ships. Had the Americans been able to concentrate here their entire force of fifty aeroplanes, the result might have been different; but the fifty had been divided along the Atlantic coast–ten aeroplanes and five submarines being assigned to each harbour that was to be defended.
Now came the battle. And for hours, until night fell, we watched a strange and terrible conflict between these forces of air and water. With admirable skill and daring the American aeronauts manoeuvred for positions above the Parsevals, whence they could drop bombs; and so swift and successful were they that two of the enemy’s air-ships were destroyed before the German aeroplanes really came into the action. After that it went badly for the American fliers, which were shot down, one by one, until only three of the ten remained. Then these three, seeing destruction inevitable, signalled for a last united effort, and, all together, flew at full speed straight for the great yellow gas-bag of the biggest Parseval and for certain death. As they tore into the flimsy air-ship there came a blinding flash, an explosion that shook the hills, and that brave deed was done.
There remained two Parsevals to aid the enemy’s fleet in its fight against American submarines, and I wish I might describe this fight in more detail. We saw a German transport torpedoed by the B-1; we saw two submarines sunk by rapid-fire guns of the destroyers; we saw a battle-cruiser crippled by the glancing blow of a torpedo; and we saw the K-1 blown to pieces by bombs from the air-ships. Two American submarines were still fighting, and of these one, after narrowly missing a dreadnought, sent a troop-ship to the bottom, and was itself rammed and sunk by a destroyer, the sea being spread with oil. The last submarine took to flight, it seems, because her supply of torpedoes was exhausted. And this left the invaders free to begin their landing operations.
During four wonderful days (the Germans were favoured by light northeast breezes) Palmer and I hovered over these East Hampton shores, watching the enemy construct their landing platforms of brick and timbers from dynamited houses, watching the black transports as they disgorged from lighters upon the gleaming sand dunes their swarms of soldiers, their thousands of horses, their artillery, their food supplies. There seemed no limit to what these mighty vessels could carry.
We agreed that the great 50,000-ton _Imperator_ alone brought at least fifteen thousand men with all that they needed. And I counted twenty other huge transports; so my conservative estimate, cabled to the paper by way of Canada,–for the direct cables were cut,–was that in this invading expedition Germany had successfully landed on the shores of Long Island one hundred and fifty thousand fully equipped fighting-men. It seemed incredible that the great United States, with its vast wealth and resources, could be thus easily invaded; and I recalled with a pang what a miserable showing England had made in 1915 from similar unpreparedness.
[Illustration: AS THE GERMAN LANDING OPERATIONS PROCEEDED, THE NEWS OF THE INVASION SPREAD OVER THE WHOLE REGION WITH THE SPEED OF ELECTRICITY. THE ENEMY WAS COMING! THE ENEMY WAS HERE. WHAT WAS TO BE DONE?]
As the German landing operations proceeded, the news of the invasion spread over the whole region with the speed of electricity, and in every town and village on Long Island angry and excited and terrified crowds cursed and shouted and wept in the streets.
The enemy was coming!
The enemy was here!
What was to be done?
Should they resist?
And many valorous speeches in the spirit of ’76 were made by farmers and clerks and wild-eyed women. What was to be done?
In the peaceful town of East Hampton some sniping was done, and afterward bitterly repented of, the occasion being the arrival of a company of Uhlans with gleaming helmets, who galloped down the elm-lined main street with requisitions for food and supplies.
Suddenly a shot was fired from Bert Osborne’s livery stable, then another from White’s drug store, then several others, and one of the Uhlans reeled in his saddle, slightly wounded. Whereupon, to avenge this attack and teach Long Islanders to respect their masters, the German fleet was ordered to shell the village.
Half an hour later George Edwards, who was beating up the coast in his trim fishing schooner, after a two weeks’ absence in Barnegat Bay (he had heard nothing about the war with Germany), was astonished to see a German soldier in formidable helmet silhouetted against the sky on the eleventh tee of the Easthampton golf course, one of the three that rise above the sand dunes along the surging ocean, wigwagging signals to the warships off shore. And, presently, Edwards saw an ominous puff of white smoke break out from one of the dreadnoughts and heard the boom of a twelve-inch gun.
The first shell struck the stone tower of the Episcopal church and hurled fragments of it against the vine-covered cottage next door, which had been the home a hundred and twenty years before of John Howard Payne, the original “home sweet home.”
The second shell struck John Drew’s summer home and set it on fire; the third wrecked the Casino; the fourth destroyed Albert Herter’s studio and slightly injured Edward T. Cockcroft and Peter Finley Dunne, who were playing tennis on the lawn. That night scarcely a dozen buildings in this beautiful old town remained standing. And the dead numbered more than three hundred, half of them being women and children.
GERMAN INVADERS DRIVE THE IRON INTO THE SOUL OF UNPREPARED AMERICA
The next week was one of deep humiliation for the American people. Our great fleet and our great Canal, which had cost so many hundreds of millions and were supposed to guarantee the safety of our coasts, had failed us in this hour of peril.
Secretary Alger, in the Spanish War, never received half the punishment that the press now heaped on the luckless officials of the War and the Navy Departments.
The New York _Tribune_, in a scathing attack upon the administration, said:
The blow has fallen and the United States is totally unprepared to meet it. Why? Because the Democratic party, during its eight years’ tenure of office, has obstinately, stupidly and wickedly refused to do what was necessary to make this country safe against invasion by a foreign power. There has been a surfeit of talking, of explaining and of promising, but of definite accomplishment very little, and to-day, in our extreme peril, we find ourselves without an army or a navy that can cope with the invaders and protect our shores and our homes.
Richard Harding Davis, in the _Evening Sun_, denounced unsparingly those Senators and Congressmen who, in 1916, had voted against national preparedness:
For our present helpless condition and all that results from it, let the responsibility rest upon these Senators and Congressmen, who, for their own selfish ends, have betrayed the country. They are as guilty of treason as was ever Benedict Arnold. Were some of them hanged, the sight of them with their toes dancing on air might inspire other Congressmen to consider the safety of this country rather than their own re-election.
The New York _World_ published a memorable letter written by Samuel J. Tilden in December, 1885, to Speaker Carlisle of the Forty-ninth Congress on the subject of national defence and pointed out that Mr. Tilden was a man of far vision, intellectually the foremost democrat of his day. In this letter Mr. Tilden said:
The property exposed to destruction in the twelve seaports, Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Galveston and San Francisco, cannot be less in value than five thousand millions of dollars…. While we may afford to be deficient in the means of offence we cannot afford to be defenceless. The notoriety of the fact that we have neglected the ordinary precautions of defence invites want of consideration in our diplomacy, injustice, arrogance and insult at the hands of foreign nations.
To add to the general indignation, it transpired that the American reserve fleet, consisting of ten predreadnoughts, was tied up in the docks of Philadelphia, unable to move for lack of officers and men to handle them. After frantic orders from Washington and the loss of precious days, some two thousand members of the newly organised naval reserve were rushed to Philadelphia; but eight thousand men were needed to move this secondary fleet, and, even if the eight thousand had been forthcoming, it would have been too late; for by this time a German dreadnought was guarding the mouth of Delaware Bay, and these inferior ships would never have braved its guns. So here were seventy-five million dollars’ worth of American fighting-ships rendered absolutely useless and condemned to be idle during the whole war because of bad organisation.
Meantime, the Germans were marching along the Motor Parkway toward New York City with an army of a hundred and fifty thousand, against which General Wood, by incredible efforts, was able to oppose a badly organised, inharmonious force of thirty thousand, including Federals and militia that had never once drilled together in large manoeuvres. Of Federal troops there was one regiment of infantry from Governor’s Island, and this was short of men. There were two infantry regiments from Forts Niagara and Porter, in New York State. Also a regiment of colored cavalry from Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, a battalion of field artillery from Fort Myer, Virginia, a battalion of engineers from Washington, D. C., a battalion of coast artillery organised as siege artillery from Fort Dupont, Delaware, a regiment of cavalry from Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, two regiments of infantry from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, one regiment of field artillery from Fort Sheridan, Illinois, one regiment of horse artillery from Fort Riley, Kansas, one regiment of infantry and one regiment of mountain guns from Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming.
I may add that at this time the United States army, in spite of many efforts to increase its size, numbered fewer than 70,000 men; and so many of these were tied up as Coast Artillery or absent in the Philippines, Honolulu, and the Canal Zone, that only about 30,000 were available as mobile forces for the national defence.
As these various bodies of troops arrived in New York City and marched down Fifth Avenue with bands playing “Dixie” and colours flying, the excitement of cheering multitudes passed all description, especially when Theodore Roosevelt, in familiar slouch hat, appeared on a big black horse at the head of a hastily recruited regiment of Rough Riders, many of them veterans who had served under him in the Spanish War.
Governor Malone reviewed the troops from the steps of the new Court House and the crowd went wild when the cadets from West Point marched past, in splendid order. At first I shared the enthusiasm of the moment; but suddenly I realised how pathetic it all was and Palmer seemed to see that side of it, too, though naturally he and I avoided all discussion of the future. In addition to such portions of the regular army as General Wood could gather together, his forces were supplemented by infantry and cavalry brigades of militia from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, these troops being more or less unprepared for battle, more or less lacking in the accessories of battles, notably in field artillery and in artillery equipment of men and horses. One of the aides on General Wood’s staff told me that the combined American forces went into action with only one hundred and fifty pieces of artillery against four hundred pieces that the Germans brought.
“And the wicked part of it is,” he added, “that there were two hundred other pieces of artillery we might have used if we had had men and horses to operate them; but–you can’t make an artillery horse overnight.”
“Nor a gun crew,” said I.
INVASION OF LONG ISLAND AND THE BATTLE OF BROOKLYN
To meet this desperate situation and the enemy’s greatly superior forces, General Wood decided not to advance against the Germans, but to intrench his army across the western end of Long Island, with his left flank resting on Fort Totten, near Bayside, and his nine-mile front extending through Creedmore, Rosedale, and Valley Stream, where his right flank would be guarded from sea attack by the big guns of Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook, which would hold the German fleet at a distance.
Any military strategist will agree that this was the only course for the American commander to pursue under the circumstances; but unfortunately popular clamour will often have its way in republics, and in this case a violent three days’ gale–which arrived providentially, according to some of the newspapers–gave an appearance of reason to the general demand.
This gale interfered seriously with the German landing operations,–in fact, it wrecked one of their supply-ships,–and, in consequence, such strong political pressure was brought to bear upon the President that orders came from Washington to General Wood that he advance his army against the invaders and drive them into the sea. The General made a few remarks not for publication, and obeyed. As he told me afterward, it is doubtful whether the result would have been different in any event.
In throwing forward his forces, General Wood used the three lines of railroad that cross Long Island from west to east; and on May 17 his battleline reached from Patchogue through Holtsville to Port Jefferson. Meantime, the Germans had advanced to a line that extended from East Moriches to Manorville; and on May 18 the first clash came at daybreak in a fierce cavalry engagement fought at Yaphank, in which the enemy were driven back in confusion. It was first blood for the Americans.
This initial success, however, was soon changed to disaster. On May 19 the invaders advanced again, with strengthened lines, under the support of the big guns of their fleet, which stood offshore and, guided by aeroplane observers, rained explosive shells upon General Wood’s right flank with such accuracy that the Americans were forced to withdraw. Whereupon the Germans, using the famous hook formation that served them so well in their drive across northern France in the summer of 1914, pressed forward relentlessly, the fleet supporting them in a deadly flanking attack upon the American right wing.
On May 20 von Hindenburg established his headquarters at Forest Hills, where, less than a year before, his gallant countryman, the great Fraitzheim, had made an unsuccessful effort to wrest the Davis cup from the American champion and ex-champion, Murray and McLoughlin.
But that was a year ago!
In the morning General Wood’s forces continued to retreat, fighting with dogged courage in a costly rear-guard action, and destroying railroads and bridges as they went. The carnage wrought by the German six- and eleven-inch explosive shells with delayed-action fuses was frightful beyond anything I have ever known. Ten feet into the ground these projectiles would bury themselves before exploding, and then–well, no army could stand against them.
On May 22 General Wood was driven back to his original line of defences from Fort Totten to Valley Stream, where he now prepared to make a last stand to save Brooklyn, which stretched behind him with its peaceful spires and its miles of comfortable homes. Here the Americans were safe from the hideous pounding of the German fleet, and, although their losses in five days amounted to more than six thousand men, these had been replaced by reinforcements of militia from the West and South. There was still hope, especially as the Germans, once they advanced beyond Westbury and its famous polo fields, would come within range of the heavy mortars of Fort Totten. and Fort Hamilton, which carried thirteen miles.
That night the German commander, General von Hindenburg, under a flag of truce, called upon the Americans to surrender in order to save the Borough of Brooklyn from destruction.
General Wood refused this demand; and on May 23, at dawn, under cover of his heavy siege-guns, von Hindenburg threw forward his veterans in terrific massed attack, striking simultaneously at three points with three army divisions–one in a drive to the right toward Fort Totten, one in a drive to the left toward Fort Hamilton, and one in a drive straight ahead against General Wood’s centre and the heart of Brooklyn.
All day the battle lasted–the battle of Brooklyn–with house-to-house fighting and repeated bayonet charges. And at night the invaders, outnumbering the American troops five to one, were everywhere victorious. The defender’s line broke first at Valley Stream, where the Germans, led by the famous Black Hussars, flung themselves furiously with cold steel upon the militiamen and put them to flight. By sundown the Uhlans were galloping, unopposed, along the broad sweep of the Eastern Parkway and parallel streets towards Prospect Park, where the high land offered an admirable site for the German artillery, since it commanded Fort Hamilton from the rear and the entire spread of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
It was now that Field Marshal von Hindenburg and his staff, speeding along the Parkway in dark grey military automobiles, witnessed a famous act of youthful heroism. As they swung across the Plaza to turn into Flatbush Avenue von Hindenburg ordered his chauffeur to slow up so that he might view the Memorial Arch and the MacMonnies statues of our Civil War heroes, and at this moment a sharp burst of rifle fire sounded across Prospect Park.
“What is that?” asked the commander, then he ordered a staff officer to investigate.
It appears that on this fateful morning five thousand American High School lads, from fifteen to eighteen years of age, members of the Athletic League of New York Public Schools, who had been trained in these schools to shoot accurately, had answered the call for volunteers and rallied to the defence of their city. By trolley, subway and ferry they came from all parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Harlem, Staten Island and the Bronx, eager to show what their months of work with subtarget gun machines, practice rods and gallery shooting, also their annual match on the Peekskill Rifle Range, would now avail against the enemy. But when they assembled on the Prospect Parade Ground, ready to do or die, they found that the entire supply of rifles for their use was one hundred and twenty-five! Seventy-five Krags, thirty Springfields and one hundred and twenty Winchesters, 22-calibre muskets–toys fit for shooting squirrels, and only a small supply of cartridges. The rifles available were issued to such of the boys as had won their badges of sharpshooter and marksman, two boys being assigned to each gun, so that if one was shot the other could go on fighting.
“It was pitiful,” said General George W. Wingate, President of the League, who was directing their movements, “to see the grief of those brave boys as they heard the German guns approaching and realised that they had nothing to fight with. Five thousand trained riflemen and no rifles!”
Nearer and nearer came the flanking force of the invading host and presently it reached the outskirts of this beautiful park, which with hill and lake and greensward covers five hundred acres in the heart of Brooklyn. A few boys were deployed as skirmishers along the eastern edge of the Park, but the mass occupied hastily dug trenches near the monument to the Maryland troops on Lookout Hill and the brass tablet that commemorate the battle of Long Island. At these historic points for half an hour they made a stand against a Bavarian regiment that advanced slowly under cover of artillery fire, not realising that they were sweeping to death a crowd of almost unarmed schoolboys.
Even so the Americans did deadly execution until their ammunition was practically exhausted. Then, seeing the situation hopeless, the head coaches, Emanuel Haug, John A. C. Collins, Donald D. Smith and Paul B. Mann, called for volunteers to hold the monument with the few remaining cartridges, while the rest of the boys retreated. Hundreds clamoured for this desperate honour, and finally the coaches selected seventy of those who had qualified as sharpshooters to remain and face almost certain death, among these being: Jack Condon of the Morris High School, J. Vernet (Manual Training), Lynn Briggs (Erasmus), Isaac Smith (Curtis), Charles Mason (Commercial), C. Anthony (Bryant), J. Rosenfeld (Stuyvesant), V. Doran (Flushing), M. Marnash (Eastern District), F. Scanlon (Bushwick), Winthrop F. Foskett (De Witt Clinton), and Richard Humphries (Jamaica).
Such was the situation when Field Marshal von Hindenburg dashed up in his motor car. Seventy young American patriots on top of Lookout Hill, with their last rounds of toy ammunition, were holding back a German regiment while their comrades fled for their lives. And surely they would have been a martyred seventy, since the Bavarians were about to charge in full force, had not von Hindenburg taken in the situation at a glance and shouted:
“Halt! It is not fitting that a German regiment shall use its strength against a handful of boys. Let them guard their monument! March on!”
Meantime, to the east and north of the city the battle raged and terror spread among the populace. All eyes were fixed on New York as a haven of refuge and, by the bridge, ferry and tunnel, hundreds of thousands made their escape from Brooklyn.
The three great bridges stretching their giant black arms across the river were literally packed with people–fathers, mothers, children, all on foot, for the trolleys were hopelessly blocked. A man told me afterwards that it took him seven hours to cross with his wife and their two little girls.
Other swarms hovered about the tunnel entrances and stormed the ferry-boats at their slips. Every raft in the harbour carried its load. The Pennsylvania and Erie ferries from the other side of Manhattan, the Staten Island boats, the Coney Island and other excursion steamers, struggled through the press of sea traffic and I heard that three of these vessels sank of their own weight. Here and there, hardly discernible among the larger craft, were the small boats, life-boats, canoes, anything and everything that would float, each bearing its little group to a precarious safety on Manhattan Island.
Meantime, Fort Totten and Fort Hamilton had been taken from the rear by overwhelming forces, and their mortars had been used to silence the guns of Fort Schuyler and Fort Wadsworth. In this emergency, seeing the situation hopeless, General Wood withdrew his forces in good order under cover of a rear-guard action between the Uhlans and the United States colored cavalry, and, hurrying before him the crowds of fleeing civilians, marched his troops in three divisions across the Brooklyn Bridge, leaving Brooklyn in flames behind him. Then facing inexorable necessity, he ordered his engineers to blow up these three beautiful spans that had cost hundreds of millions, and to flood the subways between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Seen through the darkness at the moment of its ruin the vast steel structure of the Brooklyn Bridge, with its dim arches and filaments, was like a thing of exquisite lace. In shreds it fell, a tangled, twisted, tragically wrecked piece of magnificence.
GENERAL VON HINDENBURG TEACHES NEW YORK CITY A LESSON
On May 24, 1921, the situation of New York City was seen to be desperate, and most of the newspapers, even those that had clamoured loudest for resistance and boasted of American valour and resourcefulness, now admitted that the metropolis must submit to a German occupation.
Even the women among the public officials and political leaders were inclined to a policy of nonresistance. General Wood was urged to surrender the city and avoid the horrors of bombardment; but the commander replied that his first duty was to defend the territory of the United States, and that every day he could keep the enemy isolated on Long Island was a day gained for the permanent defences that were frantically organising all over the country.
It was vital, too, that the immense stores of gold and specie in the vaults of the Federal Reserve and other great New York banks should be safely transported to Chicago.
All day and all night, automobile trucks, operated under orders from William G. McAdoo, Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank, loaded with millions and millions of gold, passed unprotected and almost unheeded through the crowded section between Wall Street and the Grand Central Station. The people stared at them dumbly. They knew what was going on. They knew they could have a fortune by reaching out their hands. But at this moment, with their eternities in their eyes, they had no thought of gold. Hour after hour the work went on. Finally, subway trains and street cars were pressed into service as treasure-carriers.
By night $800,000,000 had started West and the next morning Chicago was the financial capital of America.
At midnight General Wood gave final orders for resistance to the last gun and the last man; and, when early the next morning the German general again sent officers with a flag of truce demanding the surrender of Manhattan Island, Wood’s reply was a firm refusal. He tried, however, to gain time in negotiations; and a few hours later I accompanied a delegation of American staff officers with counter-proposals across the East River in a launch. I can see von Hindenburg now, in his high boots and military coat, as he received the American officers at the foot of the shattered Brooklyn Bridge. A square massive head with close-cropped white hair, brushed straight back from a broad forehead. And sad searching eyes–wonderful eyes.
“Then you refuse to surrender? You think you can fight?” the Field Marshal demanded.
At which the ranking American officer, stung by his arrogance, declared that they certainly did think they could fight, and would prove it.
“Ah! So!” said von Hindenburg, and he glanced at a gun crew who were loading a half-ton projectile into an 11.1-inch siege-gun that stood on the pavement. “Which is the Woolworth Building?” he asked, pointing across the river.
“The tallest one, Excellency–the one with the Gothic lines and gilded cornices,” replied one of his officers.
“Ah, yes, of course. I recognise it from the pictures. It’s beautiful. Gentlemen,”–he addressed the American officers,–“I am offering twenty-dollar gold pieces to this gun crew if they bring down that tower with a single shot. Now, then, careful!…
We covered our ears as the shot crashed forth, and a moment later the most costly and graceful tower in the world seemed to stagger on its base. Then, as the thousand-pound shell, striking at the twenty-seventh story, exploded deep inside, clouds of yellow smoke poured out through the crumbling walls, and the huge length of twenty-four stories above the jagged wound swayed slowly toward the east, and fell as one piece, flinging its thousands of tons of stone and steel straight across the width of Broadway, and down upon the grimy old Post Office Building opposite.
_”Sehr gut!”_ nodded von Hindenburg. “It’s amusing to see them fall. Suppose we try another? What’s that one to the left?”
“The Singer Building, Excellency,” answered the officer.
“Good! Are you ready?”
Then the tragedy was repeated, and six hundred more were added to the death toll, as the great tower crumbled to earth.
“Now, gentlemen,”–von Hindenburg turned again to the American officers with a tiger gleam in his eyes,–“you see what we have done with two shots to two of your tallest and finest buildings. At this time to-morrow, with God’s help, we shall have a dozen guns along this bank of the river, ready for whatever may be necessary. And two of our _Parsevals_, each carrying a ton of dynamite, will float over New York City. I give you until twelve o’clock to-morrow to decide whether you will resist or capitulate. At twelve o’clock we begin firing.”
Our instructions were to return at once in the launch by the shortest route to the Battery, where automobiles were waiting to take us to General Wood’s headquarters in the Metropolitan Tower. I can close my eyes to-day and see once more those pictures of terror and despair that were spread before us as we whirled through the crowded streets behind the crashing hoofs of a cavalry escort. The people knew who we were, where we had been, and they feared what our message might be.
Broadway, of course, was impassable where the mass of red brick from the Singer Building filled the great canyon as if a glacier had spread over the region, or as if the lava from a man-made Aetna had choked this great thoroughfare.
Through the side streets we snatched hasty impressions of unforgetable scenes. Into the densely populated regions around Grand and Houston Streets the evicted people of Brooklyn had poured. And into the homes of these miserably poor people, where you can walk for blocks without hearing a word in the English tongue, Brooklyn’s derelicts had been absorbed by tens of thousands.
Here came men and women from all parts of Manhattan, the rich in their automobiles, the poor on foot, bearing bundles of food and eager to help in the work of humanity. And some, alas, were busy with the sinister business of looting.
Above Fourteenth Street we had glimpses of similar scenes and I learned later that almost every family in Manhattan received some Brooklyn homeless ones into their care. New York–for once–was hospitable.
In Madison Square the people waited in silence as we approached the great white tower from which the Commander of the Army of the East, unmindful of the fate of the Woolworth and the Singer buildings, watched for further moves from the fortified shores of Brooklyn. Not a shout greeted our arrival at the marble entrance facing the square, not even that murmur of expectancy which sweeps over a tense gathering. The people knew the answer of von Hindenburg. They had read it, as had all the world for miles around, in the cataclysm of the plunging towers.
New York must surrender or perish!
Scarcely three blocks away, the Committee of Public Safety, numbering one hundred, sat in agitated council at the Madison Square Garden, while enormous crowds, shouting and murmuring, surged outside, where five hundred armed policemen tried vainly to quell the spirit of riot that was in the air. Far into the night the discussion lasted, while overhead in the purple-black sky floated the two _Parsevals_, ominous visitors, their search-lights playing over the helpless city that was to feel their wrath on the morrow unless it yielded.
Meantime, on the square platform within the great Moorish building, a hundred leading citizens of Manhattan, including the ablest and the richest and a few of the most radical, spoke their minds, while thousands of men and women, packed in the galleries and the aisles, listened heart-sick for some gleam of comfort.
And there was none.
Among the Committee of Public Safety I recognised J. P. Morgan, Jacob H. Sehiff, John D. Rockefeller, Charles F. Murphy, Andrew Carnegie, Vincent Astor, Cardinal Farley, Colonel Jacob Ruppert, Nicholas Murray Butler, S. Stanwood Menken, Paul M. Warburg, John Finley, Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, James E. Gaffney, Ida Tarbell, Norman Hapgood, William Randolph Hearst, Senator Whitman, Bernard Ridder, Frank A. Munsey, Henry Morgenthau, Elihu Root, Henry L. Stimson, Franklin Q. Brown, John Mitchell, John Wanamaker, Dr. Parkhurst, Thomas A. Edison, Colonel George Harvey, Douglas Robinson, John Hays Hammond, Theodore Shonts, William Dean Howells, Alan R. Hawley, Samuel Gompers, August Belmont, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, the Rev. Percy Stickney Grant, Judge E. H. Gary, Emerson McMillin, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and ex-Mayor Mitchel.
Former President Wilson motored over from Princeton, accompanied by Professor McClellan, and was greeted with cheers. Ex-President Taft was speaking at the time, advocating a dignified appeal to the Hague Tribunal for an adjudication of the matter according to international law. Nearly all of the speakers favoured non-resistance, so far as New York City was concerned. With scarcely a dissenting voice, the great financial and business interests represented here demanded that New York City capitulate immediately.
Whereupon Theodore Roosevelt, who had just entered the Garden with his uniform still smeared with Long Island mud, sprang to his feet and cried out that he would rather see Manhattan Island sunk in the Bay than disgraced by so cowardly a surrender. There was still hope, he declared. The East River was impassable for the enemy. All shipping had been withdrawn from Brooklyn shores, and the German fleet dared not enter the Ambrose Channel and the lower bay so long as the Sandy Hook guns held out.
“We are a great nation,” Roosevelt shouted, “full of courage and resourcefulness. Let us stand together against these invaders, as our forefathers stood at Lexington and Bunker Hill!”
During the cheers that followed this harangue, my attention was drawn to an agitated group on the platform, the central figure being Bernard Ridder, recognised leader of the large German-American population of New York City that had remained staunchly loyal in the crisis. Presently a clamour from the crowd outside, sharper and fiercer than any that had preceded it, announced some new and unexpected danger close at hand.
White-faced, Mr. Ridder stepped to the edge of the platform and lifted his hand impressively.
“Let me speak,” he said. “I must speak in justice to myself and to half a million German-Americans of this city, who are placed in a terrible position by news that I have just received. I wish to say that we are Americans first, not Germans! We are loyal to the city, loyal to this country, and whatever happens here tonight–“
At this moment a tumult of shouts was heard at the Madison Avenue entrance, and above it a shrill purring sound that seemed to strike consternation into an army officer who sat beside me.
“My God!” he cried. “The machine-guns! The Germans are in the streets!”
VARIOUS UNPLEASANT HAPPENINGS IN MANHATTAN
I shall never forget the horror of that hoarse cry:
“The Germans are in the streets!”
What followed was still more terrifying. Somewhere at the back of the Garden, a piercing whistle cut the air–evidently a signal–and suddenly we found ourselves facing a ghastly tragedy, and were made to realise the resistless superiority of a small body of disciplined troops over a disorganised multitude.
“_Fertig! Los! Hup!_” shouted a loud voice (it was a man with a megaphone) in the first gallery opposite the platform. Every face in that tremendous throng turned at once in the direction of the stranger’s voice. And before the immense audience knew what was happening, five hundred German soldiers, armed with pistols and repeating rifles, had sprung to life, alert and formidable, at vantage-points all over the Garden. Two hundred, with weapons ready, guarded the platform and the Committee of Public Safety. And, in little groups of threes and fives, back to back, around the iron columns that rose through the galleries, stood three hundred more with flashing barrels levelled at the crowds.
I counted fifteen of these dominating groups of soldiers in the northern half of the lower gallery, and it was the same in the southern half and the same on both sides of the upper gallery, which made sixty armed groups in sixty strategic positions. There was nothing for the crowd to do but yield.
“Pass out, everybody!” screamed the megaphone man. “We fire at the first disorder.”
“Out, everybody!” roared the soldiers. “We fire at the first disorder.”
As if to emphasise this, an automatic pistol crackled at the far end of the Garden, and frantic crowds pushed for the doors in abject terror. There was no thought of resistance.
“Use all the exits,” yelled the megaphone man; and the order was passed on by the soldiers from group to group. And presently there rolled out into the streets and avenues through the thirty great doors and down the six outside stairways that zigzag across the building such streams of white-faced, staggering, fainting humanity as never had been seen on Manhattan Island.
I was driven out with the others (except the Committee of Public Safety), and was happy to find myself with a whole skin in Twenty-sixth Street opposite the Manhattan Club. As I passed a group of German soldiers near the door, I observed that they wore grey uniforms. I wondered at this until I saw overcoats at their feet, and realised that they had entered the Garden like spies with the audience of citizens, their uniforms and weapons being concealed under ordinary outer garments, which they had thrown off at the word of command.
We stumbled into the street, and were driven roughly by other German soldiers toward the open space of Madison Square. We fled over red and slippery pavements, strewn with the bodies of dead and wounded policemen and civilians–the hideous harvest of the machine-guns. At the corner of Madison Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street I saw an immense coal-carrying motor-truck with plates of iron covering its four sides, and through loopholes in the plates I saw murderous muzzles protruding.
It appears that shortly after midnight, at the height of the debate, four of these armoured cars came lumbering toward the Garden from west and east, north and south; and, as they neared the four corners of the immense yellow building, without warning they opened fire upon the police, which meant inevitably upon the crowd also. In each truck were a dozen soldiers and six machine-guns, each one capable of firing six hundred shots a minute. There was no chance for resistance, and within a quarter of an hour the streets surrounding the Garden were a shambles. On Madison Avenue, just in front of the main entrance, I saw bodies lying three deep, many of them hideously mutilated by the explosive effects of these bullets at short range. As I stepped across the curb in front of the S.P.C.A. building, I cried out in horror; for there on the sidewalk lay a young mother–But why describe the horror of that scene?
With difficulty I succeeded in hiring a taxicab and set out to find General Wood or some officer of his staff from whom I might get an understanding of these tragic events. Who were those German soldiers at the Garden? Where did they come from? Were they German-Americans?
It was four o’clock in the morning before I located General Wood at the plaza of the Queensborough Bridge, where he was overseeing the placing of some artillery pieces. He was too busy to talk to me, but from one of his aides I learned that the soldiers at the Madison Square Garden were not German-Americans and were not von Hindenburg’s men, but were part of that invisible army of German spies that invariably precedes the invading forces of the Kaiser. Arriving a few hundred at a time for a period of more than three years, 50,000 of these German spies, fully armed and equipped, now held New York at their mercy. More than that, they had in their actual physical possession the men who owned half the wealth of the nation. That New York would capitulate was a foregone conclusion.
After cabling this news, I went back to my hotel, the old Brevoort, for a snatch of sleep; and at half-past eight I was out in the streets again. The first thing that caught my eye was a black-lettered proclamation–posted by German spies, no doubt–over Henri’s barber shop, and signed by General von Hindenburg, announcing the capitulation of New York City. The inhabitants were informed that they had nothing to fear. Their lives and property would be protected, and they would find the Germans just and generous in all their dealings. Food and supplies would be paid for at the market price, and citizens would be recompensed for all services rendered. The activities of New York would go on as usual, and there would be no immediate occupation of Manhattan Island by German troops. All orders from the conquering army in Brooklyn must be implicitly obeyed, under penalty of bombardment.
I could scarcely believe my eyes. New York City had capitulated! I asked a man beside me–an agitated citizen in an orange tie–whether this could be true. He said it was–all the morning papers confirmed it. The immense pressure from Wall Street upon Washington, owing to the hold-up of multimillionaires, had resulted in orders from the President that the city surrender and that General Wood’s forces withdraw to New Jersey.
“What about John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan and the other hostages?” I asked.
“The _Sun_ says they have been taken over to Brooklyn where the German army is, and they’ve got to raise a billion dollars in gold.”
“A billion dollars in gold!”
“Sure; as an indemnity for New York City. You’ll notice we could have bought a few defences for that billion,” sniffed the angry citizen.
Things moved rapidly after this. All the shipping in waters about the island metropolis, including ferry-boats, launches, pilot-boats, everything that floated, was delivered over to the Germans. The Sandy Hook defences were delivered over, and the rivers and bays were cleared of mines. All motor-cars, supplies of gasolene, firearms, and ammunition in New York City were seized and removed to Brooklyn. The telephone service was taken over by the Germans and operated by them, chiefly for military purposes. The mail service ceased. The newspapers were ordered not to appear–with the exception of the _Staats-Zeitung_, which became the official organ of the invaders and proceeded to publish editions in English as well as German.
“What will happen if we go ahead and get out the paper in spite of your order?” inquired the city editor of the _Evening Journal_ when a youthful Prussian officer informed him that the paper must not appear.
“Oh, you will be shot and William Randolph Hearst will be shot,” said the officer pleasantly.
About noon on the day of capitulation, May 25, 1921, a company of German soldiers with two machine guns, two ammunition carts and a line of motor trucks landed at the Battery and marched quietly up Broadway, then turned into Wall Street and stopped outside the banking house of J. P. Morgan & Co. A captain of hussars in brilliant uniform and wearing an eyeglass went inside with eight of his men and explained politely to the manager that the Germans had arranged with J. P. Morgan personally that they were to receive five million dollars a day in gold on account of the indemnity and, as four days’ payment, that is twenty million dollars, were now due, the captain would be obliged if the manager would let him have twenty million dollars in gold immediately. Also a match for his cigarette.
The manager, greatly disturbed, assured the captain that there was not as much money as that in the bank, all the gold in New York having been sent out of the city.
“Ah!” said the officer with a smile. “That will simply put you to the trouble of having it sent back again. You see, we hold the men who own this gold. Besides, I think you can, with an effort, get together this trifling amount.”
The manager vowed it was utterly impossible, whereupon the captain motioned to one of his men, who, it turned out, had been for years a trusted employee of J. P. Morgan & Co. and had made himself familiar with every detail of Wall Street affairs. He knew where a reserve store of gold was hidden and the consequence was that half an hour later the German soldiers marched back to the Battery, their motor trucks groaning under the weight of twenty million dollars in double eagles and bullion.
“You see, we need some small change to buy eggs and chickens and vegetables with,” laughed the officer. “We are very particular to pay for everything we take.”
An hour later the first show of resistance to German authority came when a delegation of staff officers from General von Hindenburg visited the city hall to instruct Mayor McAneny as to the efficient running of the various municipal departments. I had the details of this conference from the mayor’s private secretary. The officers announced that there would be no interference with the ordinary life of the city so long as the results were satisfactory. Business must go on as usual. Theatres and places of amusement were to remain open. The city must be gay, just as Berlin was gay in 1915.
On the other hand any disorder or failure to provide for German needs in the matter of food and supplies would be severely dealt with. Every morning there must be delivered at the foot of Fulton Street, Brooklyn, definite quantities of meat, poultry, eggs, butter, vegetables, flour, milk, sugar, fruits, beer, coffee, tea, besides a long and detailed list of army supplies.
“Suppose we cannot get these things?” protested the mayor. “Suppose the train service to New York is cut off by General Wood’s army?”
“Hah!” snorted a red-faced colonel of artillery. “There are two and a half million Americans on Manhattan Island–and we’ll see that they stay there–who will starve within one week if General Wood cuts off the train service. I don’t think he will cut it off, Mr. McAneny.”
“Besides, my dear sir,” drawled a slender English-looking officer, wearing the iron cross, “if there should be any interference with our food supply, remember that we can destroy your gas and electric lighting plants, we can cripple your transportation system and possibly cut off your water supply with a few well directed shots. Don’t forget that, Mr. McAneny.”
The trouble began as these German officers walked down Broadway with a small escort of soldiers. Whenever they passed a policeman they required him to salute, in accordance with published orders, but a big Irishman was defiant and the officers stopped to teach him manners. At which a crowd gathered that blocked Broadway and the officers were insulted and jostled and one of them lost his helmet. There was no serious disorder, but the Germans made it a matter of principle and an hour later the _Staats Zeitung_ came out with a special edition announcing that, inasmuch as disrespect had been shown to five German officers by a Broadway crowd, it now became necessary to give the city an object lesson that would, it was hoped, prevent such a regrettable occurrence in the future. That evening five six-inch shells would be fired by German siege guns in Brooklyn at five indicated open spaces in Manhattan, these being chosen to avoid losses of life and property. The first shell would be fired at seven o’clock and would strike in Battery Park; the second at 7.05 and would strike in Union Square; the third at 7.10 and would strike in Madison Square; the fourth at 7.15 and would strike in Stuyvesant Square; the fifth at 7.20 and would strike in Central Park just north of the Plaza.
This announcement was carried out to the letter, the five shells exploding at the exact points and moments indicated, and the people realised with what horrible precision the German artillery-men held Manhattan island at their mercy.
The newspapers also received their object lesson through the action of the _Evening Telegram_ in bringing out an extra announcing the bombardment. My own desk being in the foreign editor’s room, I witnessed this grim occurrence. At half-past five a boyish-looking lieutenant sauntered in and asked for the managing editor, who was sitting with his feet on a desk.
“Good-evening,” said the German. “You have disobeyed orders in getting out this edition. I am sorry.”
The editor stared at him, not understanding. “Well, what’s the answer?”
The officer’s eyes were sympathetic and his tone friendly. He glanced at his wrist watch. “The answer is that I give you twenty minutes to telephone your family, then I’m going to take you up on the roof and have you shot. I am sorry.”
Twenty minutes later they stood up this incredulous editor behind the illuminated owls that blinked down solemnly upon the turmoil of Herald Square and shot him to death as arranged.
NEW HAVEN IS PUNISHED FOR RIOTING AND INSUBORDINATION
Meantime the United States from coast to coast was seething with rage and humiliation. This incredible, impossible thing had happened. New York City was held by the enemy, and its greatest citizens, whose names were supposed to shake the world–Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, Vanderbilt,–were helpless prisoners. General Wood’s defeated army had been driven back into New Jersey, and was waiting there for von Hindenburg’s next move, praying for more artillery, more ammunition, more officers, and more soldiers. Let this nation be threatened, Secretary of State Bryan had said, and between sunrise and sunset a million men would spring to arms. Well, this was the time for them to spring; but where were the arms? Nowhere! It would take a year to manufacture what was needed! A year to make officers! A year to make soldiers! And the enemy was here with mailed fist thundering at the gates!
The question now heard in all the clubs and newspaper offices, and in diplomatic circles at Washington, was, which way would von Hindenburg strike when he left New York? Would it be toward Boston or toward Philadelphia? And why did he delay his blow, now that the metropolis, after a week’s painful instruction, was resigning itself to a Germanised existence, with German officials collecting the New York custom house revenues and a German flag flying from the statue of Liberty? What was von Hindenburg waiting for?
On the 3d of June these questions were dramatically answered by the arrival of another invading expedition, which brought a second force of one hundred and fifty thousand German soldiers. What cheering there was from Brooklyn shores as these transports and convoys, black with men, steamed slowly into the ravished upper bay, their bands crashing out “Deutschland Ueber Alles” and their proud eagles floating from all the mast-heads!
“This makes three hundred thousand first-class fighting-men,” scowled Frederick Palmer as we watched the pageant. “What is Leonard Wood going to do about it?”
“I know what von Hindenburg is going to do,” said I, taking the role of prophet. “Divide his forces and start two drives–one through New England to Boston, and one to Washington.”
As a matter of fact, this is exactly what the German general did do–and he lost no time about it. On June 5, von Hindenburg, with an army of 125,000, began his march toward Trenton, and General von Kluck, who had arrived with the second expedition, started for Boston with an equal