World War I -- Life Histories/Section 019/John Wilmer Blue

From Wikiversity
Jump to: navigation, search
John Wilmer Blue
Born November 6, 1892
Efland, North Carolina
Died November 18, 1934
Fort Benning, Georgia
Nationality American
Occupation Captain in United States Army, equitation instructor, professional polo player
Known for Military service in Siberia, 1918-1920




Overview[edit]

John Wilmer Blue (November 6, 1892 – November 18, 1934) from Orange County, North Carolina served as a first lieutenant of the 31st Infantry Regiment of the United States Army. In addition to serving in the Philippines, Blue fought in the Siberian Intervention, which lasted from 1918-1920. While overseas, Blue wrote letters to his mother and three sisters. One of Blue’s sisters, Flora Blue, died during the 1918 flu pandemic.[1]

Biography[edit]

Early Life and Siberia[edit]

Born on November 6, 1892 in Efland, North Carolina, John Wilmer Blue was the seventh and youngest child of Malcolm James and Margaret Monroe. Although he did not graduate, Blue attended Roanoke College from 1913 – 1917, and Atlanta Dental College in 1917. At Roanoke College, Blue was a member of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and varsity football team. In letters of several friends and acquaintances, Blue was described as modest, well mannered, often shy, and highly athletic.[2]

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Blue enrolled in the Officers’ Training School in Fort McPherson, Georgia, where he received his first commission as second lieutenant. A year later, Blue was promoted to first lieutenant at Camp Kearny, California and sent to the Philippine Islands where he joined the 31st Infantry Regiment at Fort William McKinley in Manila.[3]

On August 9, 1918, Blue’s regiment received orders to serve in the Siberian Intervention of 1918 – 1920 to protect Allied interests.[4] One of Blue’s nephews recalled that, during his time in Georgia, Blue was “disappointed at not seeing action overseas in the war… and jumped at the chance to go to Siberia.” In a letter to his sister, Flora, Blue wrote that he was “[eager to] go across” and perform his duties as a commander of the Twelfth Company of the Third Battalion. Towards the end of the Siberian Intervention, Blue called the actions of the Russian Bolsheviks “far worse than the things the Germans did in France and Belgium.” Blue also described the Russian civilians, particularly “the better class,” as “very fine… well-educated [and] intelligent.”[5]

In April of 1920, one month after returning to Fort William McKinely in the Philippines, Blue received news of his sister Flora Blue’s death. Flora died of pneumonia and the 1918 flu at her home in Efland, at the age of 36.[6]

Later Life[edit]

During the decade after returning from the Philippines, Blue was promoted to the rank of captain. In 1932, after graduating from the cavalry school in Fort Riley, Kansas in June of 1931, Blue served as an equitation instructor in Fort Benning, Georgia. Blue also played polo, competing at the international level. Blue won many awards in horsemanship and golf, also earning the Edwin Howard Clark machine gunner’s trophy in 1929-1930. On November 18, 1934, Blue’s pony collided with an opponent during a polo game. Blue did not survive the resulting injuries, which included a broken spine and fractured skull. In the obituary, a fellow officer borrowed William Shakespeare’s quote, “A lovelier gentleman – the spacious world cannot afford.”[7]

Political and Social Issues[edit]

The 31st Infantry and U.S. Involvement in Siberia, 1918-1920[edit]

After the end of World War I, fighting continued in civil war-torn Russia. In August 1918, the 31st and 27th Infantry Regiments were dispatched to Siberia where a strong revolutionary movement of communist Bolsheviks had been gaining momentum.[8] The president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, wanted to protect a massive build-up of Allied war materials that had accumulated in the port of Vladivostok. According to one researcher, nearly “four hundred thousand tons of war material… valued at $1 billion had accumulated in the city’s docks."[9] Wilson also wanted American soldiers to protect Russian civilians from a small army of escaped German and Austrian prisoners[10] and give self-defense aid to the counter-revolutionary forces, non-Bolshevik Russians and White forces.[11]

One lieutenant in the 27th Infantry Regiment who served in Siberia noted, “… the experiences of all who served in Siberia were so similar on the whole that a narrative from any one person should give a fair picture of what many others did there."[12] In addition to protecting the military supplies in Vladivostok, the 31st Infantry Regiment guarded the Trans-Siberian Railroad in order to help facilitate the relief efforts moving through Russia.[13] Within a week, hostile encounters with bandits began.[14] A year later, on June 25, 1919, the 31st Infantry Regiment suffered the largest number of casualties out of all the Allied troops stationed in Siberia during a single attack instigated by anti-Kolchak forces. Fifty men were wounded, with twenty killed, as they defended the Suchau branch of the Trans-Siberian Railroad.[15] The incident later became known as the “Romanovka Massacre." [16] Frequent skirmishes such as these, along with months of harsh, frigid winter, gave rise to the 31st Infantry’s nickname and official insignia, “the Polar Bear regiment.”[17]

The 1918 Flu Pandemic[edit]

On April 20, 1920, John Blue received the news of Flora Blue’s death from the 1918 flu pandemic.[18] This pandemic resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million people, roughly 6% of the world’s population.[19] Most of the casualties were age 20 to 40 years.[20] One article concisely explains this phenomenon, stating “their immune systems essentially overreacted, destroying [the younger victims’] lungs in an attempt to get to the virus."[21] Despite an unusually high death toll, most newspapers kept coverage to a minimum during the Great War. To keep morale high, Allied countries such as Britain, France, and the United States, all of which were severely affected by the flu epidemic, restricted news reports of the number of fatalities caused by the disease. Neutral Spain was the only country publishing reports of deadly virus outbreaks, causing the strain to be dubbed, incorrectly, as the “Spanish flu."[22] Flora Blue’s death was one of 675,000 in America, a count far exceeding the number of American soldier causalities during the Great War.[23]

References[edit]

  1. Blue, John Wilmer. Blue Family Papers, 1913-1934, 1982-1984. #04955, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 27 Feb. 2015.
  2. Blue, John Wilmer. Blue Family Papers, 1913-1934, 1982-1984. #04955, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 27 Feb. 2015.
  3. Blue, John Wilmer. Blue Family Papers, 1913-1934, 1982-1984. #04955, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 27 Feb. 2015.
  4. Putnam, Christine L. "AEF Siberia." AEF Siberia. WorldWarI.com, 2000. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  5. Blue, John Wilmer. Blue Family Papers, 1913-1934, 1982-1984. #04955, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 27 Feb. 2015.
  6. Blue, John Wilmer. Blue Family Papers, 1913-1934, 1982-1984. #04955, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 27 Feb. 2015.
  7. Blue, John Wilmer. Blue Family Papers, 1913-1934, 1982-1984. #04955, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 27 Feb. 2015.
  8. Smith, Erik Allen. "Partisans and Polar Bears: The Story of the 31st United States Infantry Regiment in Siberia, 1918-1920." Order No. 1353061 San Jose State University, 1993. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. p.35-36
  9. Smith, Erik Allen. "Partisans and Polar Bears: The Story of the 31st United States Infantry Regiment in Siberia, 1918-1920." Order No. 1353061 San Jose State University, 1993. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. p.9
  10. Special to The New,York Times. "GRAVES TO LEAD OUR SIBERIAN ARMY." New York Times (1857-1922): 1. Aug 08 1918. ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  11. Graves, William Sidney. America's Siberian Adventure. New York: J. Cape & H. Smith, 1931. HathiTrust Digital Library. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. p.5-10
  12. Kindall, Sylvian G. American Soldiers in Siberia. New York: R.R. Smith, 1945. HathiTrust Digital Library. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. p.13
  13. Putnam, Christine L. "AEF Siberia." AEF Siberia. WorldWarI.com, 2000. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  14. Smith, Erik Allen. "Partisans and Polar Bears: The Story of the 31st United States Infantry Regiment in Siberia, 1918-1920." Order No. 1353061 San Jose State University, 1993. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.p.42,44
  15. Special to The New,York Times. "REDS KILL OR WOUND FIFTY AMERICANS." New York Times (1857-1922): 8. Jul 01 1919. ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  16. Smith, Erik Allen. "Partisans and Polar Bears: The Story of the 31st United States Infantry Regiment in Siberia, 1918-1920." Order No. 1353061 San Jose State University, 1993. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.p.130
  17. The 31st Infantry Regiment Association. "The Insignia." The 31st Infantry Regiment Association. The 31st Infantry Regiment Association, 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  18. Blue, John Wilmer. Blue Family Papers, 1913-1934, 1982-1984. #04955, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 27 Feb. 2015.
  19. Taubenberger, Jeffery K., and David M. Morens. "1918 Influenza: The Mother of All Pandemics." Emerging Infectious Diseases 12.1 (2006): 15-22. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  20. Billings, Molly. "The 1918 Influenza Pandemic." The 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Stanford, Feb. 2005. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  21. Galvin, John. "Spanish Flu Pandemic: 1918." Popular Mechanics. Popular Mechanics, 30 July 2007. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  22. Valentine, Vikki. "Origins of the 1918 Pandemic: The Case for France." NPR. NPR, 20 Feb. 2000. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
  23. Billings, Molly. "The 1918 Influenza Pandemic." The 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Stanford, Feb. 2005. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.