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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Some interesting tidbits

Thomas Fleming's acerbic, but very readable and fascinating, history of Woodrow Wilson's part in World War I, is filled with delightful little pieces of trivia. For example:

1. The word "creeling" was synonymous with government lying, a situation that is not unknown today. George Creel was Chairman of the Committee on Public Information, i.e., the Wilson government's propaganda arm. He got caught in a big lie when he released all sorts of stories of how American troops sent over to fight against Germany had had to defend themselves against numerous U-boat attacks and other dangers. These were completely false, and soldiers who had been on the voyage laughed when asked about the trip by British journalists.

2. Progressives, perhaps the forerunners of today's liberals, were unstinting in their public morals campaigns, something associated today more with the right-wing. Wilson placed Raymond B. Fosdick in charge of military camp morals. Bars and brothels anywhere near a base were summarily closed down and some 15,000 prostitutes interned in detention centers, i.e. concentration camps, until 1920.

3. The British and French had a different approach, supplying the troops with approved brothels for their amusement. Clemenceau's gesture of solidarity was to offer to set up brothels for the newly arrived Americans. When Secretary of War Baker heard of this, he was overheard to gasp, "For God's sake. . . don't show this to the president or he'll stop the war."
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