Thursday, February 27, 2014

The War to End All Wars

Dead British Soldiers in World War I After Gas Attack
North Carolinian Dies in World War I Gas Attack
by Robert A. Waters

On May 8, 1919, the Lumberton Robesonian reported that “private George E. Galloway, son of Mrs. D. W. Galloway of Fairmont, is said to have been the first North Carolinian killed in the war with Germany.  He died in France on the 27th February, 1918, as the result of being ‘gassed’ by Germans in the French trenches the day before.  Private Galloway was 22 years old and volunteered 10 days after the United States entered the war with Germany.  He sailed from New York August 4, 1917, and was among the first American soldiers to see service at the front.  Young Galloway was a fine specimen of manhood and was something of an athlete.”
Galloway served in General John J. Pershing’s 1st army division.  According to the Robesonian, “[Galloway] entered the firing line in France in February, 1918.  He was injured in a surprise attack by the Germans a few days later on February 26, and died the following day.”
During the same attack, Helmer E. Royett of Harlan, Iowa, and Sid Coleman, of Cord, Arkansas, also died from exposure to mustard gas.  Several other American soldiers were severely wounded by the toxic fumes.
In 1919, the Fairmont, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce dedicated a tablet that read: “In Memoriam Private George E. Galloway, Fairmont, N. C. the first North Carolina soldier killed on the battlefields of France.”  At the top of the tablet was a gold star.
On July 30, 1934, Camp Galloway was dedicated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The story reminded me of a Wilfred Owen poem.  Owen, a British writer, fought in the trenches, engaging in hand-to-hand combat on several occasions. Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, just a week before the end of the war.  He was 24.
This poem is a response to those who see war as “glorious.”

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”

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