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Thursday, September 21, 2017

World War I: Russian Women Muster For A Battalion Of Death

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“Russian women soldiers, who have cut their hair short, shown in their dormitory.”CreditInternational Film Service/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 23, 1917
“When at last in the fever of change the Russian Revolution made anything possible,” the Mid-Week Pictorial reported 100 years ago, “a band of girls of adventurous disposition and endowed with the high courage of youth came forward and joined a ‘Battalion of Death’ to try to infuse the Russian Army with a new desire for victory.”
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“Pope Benedict XV, who has issued an earnest appeal to all belligerents to negotiate terms of peace.”CreditInternational Film Service/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 23, 1917
Their commander was Maria Bochkareva (spelled “Botchkareva” by The Times). Already a decorated soldier, she met in May 1917 with Alexander Kerensky, the head of the provisional government. To solve the problem of rampant desertion she proposed the creation of all-women battalions that “would shame the men into continuing the fight,” Carolyn Harris wrote on Smithsonian.com in April.
“On May 21, Bochkareva issued a call to arms, stating: ‘Men and women citizens! ... Our mother is perishing. Our mother is Russia. I want to help save her. I want women whose hearts are pure crystal, whose souls are pure, whose impulses are lofty. With such women setting an example of self sacrifice, you men will realize your duty in this grave hour.’ The speech, which was reprinted in the newspapers the next day, attracted 2,000 volunteers. Only 500 met Bochkareva’s high standards during training. In her memoirs, she claimed, ‘I sent away 1,500 women for their loose behavior.’”
American women, too, were actively involved in the war effort.
“It has been found that there is absolutely no kind of work, skilled or unskilled, that women cannot do; and it has been amazing how they have learned in months trades which were formerly supposed to require years to learn,” the Mid-Week Pictorial said. “Politically, of course, the demand for votes for women is enormously strengthened.” Three years later, after ratification of the 19th Amendment, universal suffrage was a reality.
Pope Benedict XV was on the cover of The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial this week in 1917, as he had just issued a formal call for a cessation of hostilities to the “Leaders of the Belligerent Peoples.” In his appeal, the pope asked, “Is this civilized world to be nothing more than a field of death?” Two weeks later, President Woodrow Wilson responded that peace would be impossible with the imperial German government, “the ruthless master of the German people.”
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“An engine being cleaned and overhauled by women in the Erie Yards at Jersey City.”CreditUnderwood & Underwood/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Aug. 23, 1917
Times Insider is offering glimpses of some of the most memorable wartime illustrations that appeared in The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, on the 100th anniversary of each issue:
• French artists on the battle lines (Aug. 16)
• A graphic look inside a German bomber (Aug. 9)
• Raw recruits gather at Gettysburg (Aug. 2)
• A hellish battle scene captured by the camera (July 26)
• Feeding troops with a cumbersome kitchen (July 19)
• A phony battleship lures real sailors (July 12)
• Carrier pigeons in military duty (July 5)
• Fijians join the fight (June 28)
• A “dead town” in northern France (June 21)
• Immigrants among draft registrants (June 14)
• Terror on the high seas (June 7)
• General Pershing shows some vanity (May 31)
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World War I: Czar Nicholas Arrested And Doomed To Die

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Nicholas II was detained before he and his family were sent to Siberia.CreditCentral News Photo/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Sept. 6, 1917
It had come to this: His Imperial Majesty Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia, perched despondently on a tree stump under armed guard outside the palace at Tsarskoye Selo, where he had been detained by the provisional government after his abdication in March.
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“For the Honor of Old Glory: New York’s Farewell to the National Guard, Aug. 30, 1917.”CreditFrench Official Photo/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Sept. 6, 1917
By the time the photograph appeared in The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial 100 years ago, it was two months out of date. The imperial family had already been moved to western Siberia. Though they would not be killed until July 1918, this is believed to be one of the last pictures of Nicholas. (A clearer version can be viewed on the website of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) The photograph underscores the remarkable resemblance between Nicholas and his cousin, King George V.
The cover view paid tribute to the departure from New York of National Guard units bound for Europe. The Mid-Week Pictorial also featured some startlingly candid views of war, like the photograph below, showing German soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the French just before dawn.
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“This unique photograph was taken by a French soldier in a first-line trench at 4 o’clock in the morning, a time unfavorable for the camera to get good results. The silhouetted figures are German soldiers with their hands up, indicating that they were surrendering to the French who had taken a German position by surprise during a night attack.” CreditUnderwood & Underwood/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Sept. 6, 1917
Times Insider is offering glimpses of some of the most memorable wartime illustrations that appeared in The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, on the 100th anniversary of each issue:
• Flanders fields, flooded to stop the Germans (Aug. 30)• Russia’s all-woman “Battalion of Death” (Aug. 23)• French artists on the battle lines (Aug. 16)• A graphic look inside a German bomber (Aug. 9)• Raw recruits gather at Gettysburg (Aug. 2)• A hellish battle scene captured by the camera (July 26)
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World War I: The Awful Beauty Of The White War

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“A picturesque scene several thousand feet above sea level. Italian troops attending mass amid the alpine heights.” CreditCentral News Photo/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Sept. 20, 1917
The caption that appeared 100 years ago in The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial referred to a “picturesque scene” in the Dolomites, where Italian soldiers were defending the frontier against Austrian and German invasion.
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“On Guard: Watching the river at New York where seized German ships are berthed.”CreditAmerican Press Association/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Sept. 20, 1917
The moment captured by the camera was certainly beguiling. But the “White War” in the alpine heights of Italy was otherwise a dreadful episode.
“In subzero temperatures men dug miles of tunnels and caverns through glacial ice,” Brian Mockenhaupt wrote in Smithsonian Magazine. “They strung cableways up mountainsides and stitched rock faces with rope ladders to move soldiers onto the high peaks, then hauled up an arsenal of industrial warfare: heavy artillery and mortars, machine guns, poison gas and flamethrowers. And they used the terrain itself as a weapon, rolling boulders to crush attackers and sawing through snow cornices with ropes to trigger avalanches. Storms, rock slides and natural avalanches — the ‘white death’ — killed plenty more. After heavy snowfalls in December of 1916, avalanches buried 10,000 Italian and Austrian troops over just two days.”
The “White War” was little remembered until recent years, when frozen corpses began emerging in the mountains.
“As global warming has intensified over the past few decades, first soldiers’ personal affects like diaries and letters melted out of the ice, and now their bodies are following,” Kyle Chayka wrote for Time. “The cold has kept them perfectly intact, like frozen mummies. Bare bones are wrapped in the tattered remains of uniforms, gruesome reminders of now-distant violence.”
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“Although no cavalry is being sent to France, there is a great demand for horses and mules for artillery and supply trains. Most of the horses come fresh and untamed from the prairies of the West and give the men a strenuous time before they are broken into harness or saddle.”CreditInternational Film Service/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, Sept. 20, 1917
Times Insider is offering glimpses of some of the most memorable wartime illustrations that appeared in The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, on the 100th anniversary of each issue:
• D├ętente over a cigarette (Sept. 13)• Czar Nicholas II, arrested and doomed to die (Sept. 6)• Flanders fields, flooded to stop the Germans (Aug. 30)• Russia’s all-woman “Battalion of Death” (Aug. 23)• French artists on the battle lines (Aug. 16)• A graphic look inside a German bomber (Aug. 9)
Continue reading the main story