Part IV WW I Symposium 2018 Kansas City

John T Kuehn's picture

Afternoon sessions  - November 2-3 World War I 1918 Centennial Symposium

Commentary by John T. Kuehn

Robert Laplander

“Hell’s Half Acre – The True Story of the Lost Battalion”

This presentation was so animated and excellent that I took very few notes being so absorbed in the “performance.”   It was wonderful and the best kind of delivery to get the public interested in the AEF in WW II.  I will post the youtube video of it once it is available.


Second talk by Professor Adriane Lentz-Smith of Duke University on African-American experiences

“Jim Crow Shell Shock: African Americans and the Crucible of World War I”

– no pictures or slides, read her paper like one would see at a standard academic conference (or maybe not so standard anymore.).  Delivery aside,  she had some fascinating vignettes.

Too, many references to civil rights history and milestones were opaque, most Americans are NOT well-versed on civils right movement for African-Americans (AA) of early 20th century.  This is not her fault, it is the fault of the education system, but it is hard to make points when the context and key milestones and personalities are unknown outside certain academic communities---which is why pictures are so important in presentations like these.

Addressed how the Great War built AA political consciousness but the argument was somewhat abstract, however the talk was important,  and highlighted the irony of America’s participation in a war “for democracy” that only further solidified Jim Crow (the US system of AA and later Asian-American apartheid in the US after 1918)  in US military and society—although perhaps did lead to a more developed political conscious by AAs when WW II came and the civil rights struggle afterward.   The migration to northern cities and development of AA political voice needs more examination/popularization in scholarship—but not a strictly war-related thing, other things going on.


NOTE: I did not attend the talk by Michael Hankins of the Air Command and Staff College entitled “The Fighter Pilot with a Thousand Faces:  The Birth of the Knights of the Air” which followed Professor Lentz-Smith’s presentation.  Nor did I attend the dinner which also had a speaker.

First morning speaker of  November 3rd.

Brian Steed, CGSC,   Assistant Professor (ABD, University of Missouri Kansas City), LTC US Army (retired)

WW I Middle East (ME)

"Armageddon and the Modern Middle East"

Discussed ME narratives, defined narratives very effectively.  Narrative are about perceptions.

The narrative of hypocrites in Islamic world view (especially Salafism),  re: Islamic apostates.

Narrative of battle of Khaybar—narrative that Jews are oathbreakers.

Narratives of Infidel invaders.  All these narratives are buttressed by events during and after the Great War.

1924—Caliphate officially abolished, shocking event in Islamic history

The Nakba—the catastrophe—the creation of the modern state of Israel

Particularly telling quotation:  “I teach American officers, which means they are not necessarily well-schooled in history, which is kind of sad.”

WW I greatest most important war in history-4 empires destroyed. Fatal wounding of two other empires (France and Britain).  WW I creates the Middle East of today.Britain is the focus because they spend most resources on the anti-Ottoman project.

Mark Sykes—is a regional, cultural expert. French are viewed as Latin protectors of Christians in the region by Islamic narratives. British empire has three capitals:   London, New Delhi, and Cairo (becomes important because of Kitchener).

Sir Mark Sykes recognizes that there is a cultural mismatch, that the Ottomans are beating the British in the narrative fight.  Recommends creation of an Arab Bureau, buried in the intelligence office in Cairo (T.E. Lawrence comes from there).

Grand Strategy=It’s all about protecting India.  Winston Churchill always looking for a soft underbelly.  All of the soft underbellies (for the Ottomans) are all in the Middle East—Gallipoli,  Palestine,  Arabia, Mespotamia..

Three main families—Sauds, Rashids,  Hashemites  (Rashids stay loyal to Ottomans)

The British have the most Muslim subjects of any empire. WWI is a background event for a civil war in Arabia,  Saud is the insurgent, attacks Rashids and Hussein of Mecca.

Steed talked to the McMahon-Hussein correspondence—at odds with policy vis-à-vis Saudis

Sykes now meets with his French counterpart—Georges Picot.  Famous agreement 1916.

The Balfour Declaration—first Jew who is a PEER in Britain (Baron de Rothschild) influences this.  James Balfour agrees to a Jewish state.

None of these agreements are hard and fast,” set in stone” sorts of agreements when first made.

Allenby walks into Jerusalem, not on a horse, culturally sensitive. Allenby Proclamation we will protect ALL holy sites.   Syyid Qutb---“Kevin Bacon of Islamic extremist diaspora)

Recommended to the audience The Romance of the Last Crusade: With Allenby to Jerusalem, by a British junior officer—important book, but full of error.

The battle Meggido (Armageddon)—another narrative serviced by WW I events.

Lawrence of Arabia—if you want to work with Arabs, you have to study them unremittingly.   [[Reminds one of Clausewitz,  “Theory should be study not doctrine” (Book 2:2, On War), Kuehn aside]]

The National Pact, Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal) wants to go back to the Mundros armistice lines, Erdogan references the Mundros line in his foreign policy speeches.  The past is never past, it is ever present, especially in middle east.

Salafist correctives:

Ataturk is an apostate hypocrite (often labeled by Salafists as a “jew” and an oathbreaker.)

So are Indian Muslims

So is Hussein of Mecca.

Tied all the Islamic narratives together within framework of ISIS extremist flow of events today.  Emphasized how critical these events are today in the memory of the Arab-Muslim public.

Again, I will post the youtube video once it becomes available, another one worth watching.  These meager notes do it poor justice.

I always find it of interest that when discussing the conflict in the Middle East during the 1914-18 War, such as in :

Brian Steed, CGSC, Assistant Professor (ABD, University of Missouri Kansas City), LTC US Army (retired)
WW I Middle East (ME)
"Armageddon and the Modern Middle East"

Mention is made of Lawrence but nothing of the far more significant Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Leachman.
Recorded in the biography :

WINSTONE H.V.F. LEACHMAN: 'OC Desert.' The Life of Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Leachman DSO. Quartet Books, London, 1982.

With much of relevance also in his Letters of Gertrude Bell; and Captain Shakespeare; Bray, A Paladin of Arabia, and also his Shifting Sands; The Official Historian of the the Mesopotamia campaign, Sir Arnold Wilson in the two volume history gives him much credit in the two volumes.

Whilst in the late 1920's into the thirties, Blackwoods Magazine, The Army Quarterly and the Royal United Service Institute Journal also made much of his significance.

There is also the unpublished manuscript (1928) The Legend of Lijman, held by St Anthony's College Oxford, written by H. St j. Philby, which for a variety of reasons was never published, but, has been used frequently by other authors.

Presumably, this was St. John Philby, father of the infamous "super-spy" H.A.R.Philby. Father was instrumental in betraying British interests in Saudi Arabia to the Americans --after purchasing a Saudi slave girl. Like father like son.


Stanley Sandler

Leachman obviously didn't have TEL's aptitude for backing into the limelight - or the services of Lowell Thomas.


Jeremy Churchill

Thanks to all, this reminds me I have one more synopsis to post.

r John T. Kuehn