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1918 War was mixed with a pandemic
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To the editor:

I enjoyed reading the article in the Great Bend Tribune: “Out of The Morgue: Armistice signed in 1918.” However, the article either missed a few key points or glossed over them. The article noted the “local time” in which the Armistice (which means ‘truce’ or ‘cease-fire’) which ended World War One. However, in an effort to avoid confusion and to insure uniformity, the hostilities were mutually agreed to end on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, in the year 1918. At that hour, the sound of guns and cannons halted.

When I was growing up, Nov. 11th wasn’t known by the widespread name of “Veterans’ Day” that it enjoys today. Both my parents each referred to the day as “Armistice Day”, almost until I was an adult.

My late mother Gloria (Riedl) Marples’s father was Adolph H. Riedl Sr., of Olmitz/Great Bend, who served in World War I as did several of his brothers and cousins. Likewise my dad had older cousins and two uncles who served in World War I. My dad’s uncle Roy White Sr. (1895-1968) was blasted in France, (and temporarily blinded) by a spray of mustard gas (which isn’t a “gas,” but generally a liquid). It is terribly caustic and immensely lethal. Various nations have attempted to outlaw it, since it is so terrible. My great-uncle Roy fought for the U.S. Army.

Few people realize that on Oct. 15, 1918, the notorious Adolf Hitler was a low-level German officer in World War I when he, too, was temporarily blinded and briefly lost his voice, by a blast of mustard gas lobbed at his unit by the Allies (precisely, by the British). During his recovery, Hitler became embittered and thus the seed of hatred germinated in his mind, setting the stage for an even more horrible World War Two.  

I am glad that after the Allied Victory in November 1918, Great Bend Mayor O.W. Dawson issued a proclamation which included: “In the light of this great event freeing the world from the greatest cataclysm in the history of mankind, I hereby declare this day a holiday in the City of Great Bend. Let all who can do so, close their places of business and join with one accord in a great patriotic celebration, giving praise to the Almighty and thanksgiving for the peace, long and enduring that may now bless the nations of the world.”

It is good that the Mayor gave “thanks to Almighty God.” Not only was the nation coping with the midst of a World War, but most of the entire globe was dealing with a worldwide pandemic: the misnamed Spanish Flu.

In our time, there are many good people helping others. Yet, realistically, there are people who are indifferent, divided, sowing doubt, polarization, rebelliousness and, yes, even denial. 

In 1918, I am glad there was joy. A grand procession of victory which left Great Bend for Ellinwood, Claflin, Hoisington, Galatia, Olmitz, Albert, Pawnee Rock and ended-up at Great Bend. 

It is known the St. Rose of Lima Hospital in Great Bend was treating Spanish Flu victims. It started from humble origins by a handful of Dominican Sisters in October 1902. It slowly expanded. The St. Rose Hospital Training School was established in September 1918, just weeks before the Armistice.  

As the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, may we be truly thankful every day.

And, incidentally, people wore masks during the 1918 pandemic. And, I wear a medical mask in public today.

James  A.  Marples.