Tag Archives: WWI

Two Pandemics and one Brown Jug

The Little Brown Jug

The Little Brown Jug has already seen one pandemic, and on a field in Minneapolis, Michigan and Minnesota will fight for it once again in the midst of a second pandemic.

The teams were already rivals in 1903, when Fielding Yost, and his Michigan Wolverines, left behind the 25 cent crockery. The Gophers painted the jug brown, and wrote the final score on it. The next time the two teams met, they agreed that the jug would make a nice trophy. Minnesota and Michigan have been battling for the jug ever since.

There was an eight year gap when Michigan left the Big Ten Conference, but the two teams were scheduled to restart their rivalry in 1918. That game never happened.

Minnesota had its first case of influenza in late September 1918. Within three weeks, there were over 1500 cases reported. Businesses were shut down, and gatherings banned by October 9. Like today, there were mixed reactions to the precautions. The University of Minnesota did not reopen until October 23.*

Sports across the country dealt with the pandemic, just like today. Alabama and LSU did not have a season. The World Series was played early, and the Stanley Cup was called off after 5 games because Montreal could not field a healthy team.**

It wasn’t the pandemic that kept Michigan from playing Minnesota in 1918, but the war effort. The Army had instituted a travel ban, so teams had to keep their games close to campus.

The two rivals did meet again in 1919. The Gophers won 34-7, with 1919 being the only year Yost finished with a losing record (3-4).

The Big Ten returns on Saturday, which many consider a good thing, and just as many probably do not. In any event, we have been here before, even though it predates the vast majority of us. We did get through it.

The very same 25 cent Jug will be up for grabs for the 104th time on Saturday in Minneapolis.

The Little Brown Jug at TCF Bank Stadium

*influenzaarchive.org

**Minneapolis StarTribune


Pioneer Air Museum

Fairbanks, Alaska

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Pioneer Air Museum

It had been several years since I ventured into the Air Museum at Pioneer Park.  Since they were experimenting with winter hours, I decided it was time to head back over there and see what was new.

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Under The Dome: Inside the Air Museum

The Pioneer Air Museum houses a fairly extensive collection of aircraft and other artifacts mainly pertaining to Interior Alaska and Arctic aviation.

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Ben Eielson Display

The first major display is on Ben Eielson, the famed aviator and Alaskan bush pilot.  Eielson learned to fly in WWI, with the U.S Army Signal Corps.  After the war, a chance run-in with Alaska’s territorial delegate to Congress, led to Eielson heading to Alaska to teach.  By 1923, Eielson had started the Farthest North Aviation Company.  Eielson was the first to fly air mail in Alaska, and the first to fly from North America over the North Pole to Europe.

In 1929, Eielson and his mechanic died in a plane crash in Siberia.  The cargo ship Nanuk was frozen in sea ice off North Cape, and Eielson was contracted by expedition leader Olaf Swenson to fly out personnel and furs.  The plane crashed in a storm, cruising at full throttle into the terrain.  A faulty altimeter is the suspected cause of the crash.  Parts of Eielson’s recovered aircraft is on display at the museum.

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1935 Stinson SR-JR

This bright red Stinson SR-JR, the Spirit of Barter Island, came to Alaska in 1940, and was flying the Interior out of Fairbanks in 1953 for Interior Airways.

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The Stinson in artwork

This SR-JR carries four passengers, has a  cruising speed of 110mph, and a range of 450 miles.  It was an Interior workhorse, and well known in the Fairbanks area.  The image, “I Follow Rivers”, can be found on t-shirts around Fairbanks to this day.

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Stinson V77: Peter Pan

The Stinson V77 is the Navy version of the SR-10 Reliant.  “Peter Pan” flew the Kuskokwim and Yukon River mail runs.  The Stinson Reliant was a favorite of bush pilots, as the aircraft was equally at ease landing on wheels, skis or floats.  In 1949, “Peter Pan” made the flight from Bethel, Alaska to Boston, Mass.  It is back in Alaska, on loan to the museum, from the bush pilot’s family.

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1943 P-39 Wreckage

The P-39 Airacobra was a common sight in Alaska’s Interior during WWII, as it was a mainstay of lend-lease aircraft to the Soviets.  This P-39 only made it to Fairbanks in pieces, as it was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft 60 miles east of Fairbanks.  Both pilots survived the crash.

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1942 ST Type Ryan PT-22

The PT-22 was used for flight training all over the globe.  Over 14,000 Air Corps pilots trained in the PT-22.  This particular PT-22 came to Fairbanks in 1956 after it was retired out of the military.

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The “Huey”

Manufactured by Bell Helicopter in 1966, this UH-1H “Huey”, saw combat in South Vietnam.  During a mission in 1969, this UH-1H was hit by a rocket propelled grenade while landing.  After the war, it came to Alaska, and was transferred around the Alaska Army bases, finally landing at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.  It was retired in 1993, and is on loan to the museum from the U.S. Army.  The “Huey” is still maintained by Army personnel.

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Thomas Ackerman photo

A visitor to the museum several years ago, recognized the Huey’s ID number as the one he flew during the Vietnam War.  Sgt Thomas Ackerman was a crew-chief and gunman on this UH-1H.  He supplied several photos of the Huey, during its time in Vietnam, to the museum, including the one above.  Thomas Ackerman died of Agent Orange related cancer in 2004.


Hobart Amory Hare Baker

Revisiting Hobey Baker:


Hobey Baker in France during WWI

It was the centenary of Hobey Baker’s death on December 21. Considered the greatest hockey player of his era, Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1914. He was one of the first nine players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a charter member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The annual award for the top U.S. college hockey player, is known as The Hobey Baker Award.

In 1916, Baker joined the civilian aviation corps, and in the summer of 1917, he left for Europe and WWI. In August of 1918, Baker took command of the 141st Aero Squadron. On 21 December 1918, in a heavy rain, Baker took a test flight in a recently repaired Spad biplane, refusing his men’s pleas to take his own plane for the flight instead. A quarter of a mile out, and 600 feet in the air, the engine quit on the Spad. Baker turned the plane, in an attempt to get back to the airfield. The Spad lost altitude, and crashed nose first. Baker was quickly freed from the wreckage by his men, but died within minutes in the ambulance. His orders to return home were in his jacket pocket.

Princeton University’s hockey team recently played Penn State University. Both teams took a field trip to Philadelphia to pay respects to Hobart Baker. Several players left hockey pucks on his headstone. Baker was three weeks shy of his 27th birthday when he died in France.


141st Aero Squadron Insigne: A Princeton Tiger; Courtesy of the National Museum of the USAF

I’ve read several books on Hobey Baker over the years. A new one was recently published. Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review, by Tim Rappleye. I might have to check it out.

—The verse written on Hobey’s headstone:

“You seemed winged, even as a lad,
With that swift look of those who know the sky,
It was no blundering fate that stooped and bade
You break your wings, and fall to earth and die,
I think some day you may have flown too high,
So that immortals saw you and were glad,
Watching the beauty of your spirits flame,
Until they loved and called you, and you came.”


“They Shall Not Grow Old”

A rare movie review:

Director Peter Jackson has a new documentary out: “They Shall Not Grow Old”. In total, Jackson and his team restored over 100 hours of 100 year old archival footage from the Imperial War Museum. They narrowed that down into a colorized account of the British soldier on the Western Front. There is no narrator; recordings taken by oral historians from actual British soldiers who served in WWI take us through this journey of theirs. They tell us their own stories, in their own words. The result is a brilliant, visually impressive film, with more humor from the men than one would expect from those surrounded by war. Make no mistake, the film is also jarring, and brutal at times, as was the First World War. One person sitting near me, stood up and left during the artillery scene, and did not return until the shelling stopped.

I saw the film on Monday. There is a 3D version of the film being shown, but unfortunately, I was not able to see that. I originally went to the 3D showing, but this being Fairbanks, the version’s file was corrupted, so I had to come back for the 2D version.

After the end credits, Peter Jackson returns for a 35 minute discussion on how and why he made the documentary the way he did. It’s well worth staying for the behind the scenes look. Jackson is a man obsessed with detail, and that trait does him, and the film, great service. I’m not a fan of colorizing black & white films, but this is a little different. Black & White was used to film footage during WWI, because that is what was available at the time, color was not even an option. Cameras during that time period, were designed to advance the film by hand, so the various footage that Jackson & Company restored, were all at different frames per second, which certainly complicated the restoration. It really is an impressive undertaking, and I was caught up in the intense ride.

This is a documentary that is well worth seeing. In the U.S., “They Shall Not Grow Old” will be shown on the big screens, nation wide, one more time: December 27.


Armistice Day Centenary

November 11th is the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI. Dignitaries from around the globe, are in France this weekend to commemorate this event.


Scars from the Battle of the Somme

Scars of the First World War can still be seen across Europe.


Photo credit: Frank Hurley/Getty Images

70 million military personnel were mobilized during WWI. Some 9 million combatants, and 7 million civilians died as a direct result of the war. The 1918 influenza epidemic was exasperated by the mass movement of troops. Between 50 and 100 million people died due to the epidemic world wide.


A British soldier stands knee deep in spent shell casings, Front Lines, France


The WWI Cemetery, Verdun, France

The Battle of Verdun took place between 21 February – 18 December 1916. It was the longest and largest battle on the Western Front. French casualties were estimated at between 336,000 – 434,000 men, with 143,000 killed. German casualties were at 379,000, with 163,000 soldiers killed. The battle became known as Die Hölle von Verdun in Germany; The Hell of Verdun.


From: The National Museum of the USAF

Bulgaria was the first to sign an armistice on 29 September 1918. The Ottoman Empire did the same a month later on October 30. Germany signed the armistice at 5am on 11 November, on a railcar at Compiègne. A cease fire was declared at 11am on the 11th of November: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”


Christmas Truce

WWI Christmas 1914

This Christmas is the 100th Anniversary of the Christmas Truce of World War I.

An estimated 100,000 British and German soldiers unofficially ceased hostilities along the Western Front leading up to and including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1914.

Christmas greetings were exchanged, as well as food and souvenirs among the combatants. Even games of football broke out among the two sides in no-man’s land.

The truce was widespread, but far from universal, as at least 250 servicemen were killed from both sides on Christmas Day of 1914. By 1916, the bitter war, mounting deaths and introduction of mustard gas would eliminate any desire for a truce.

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