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Presents
Volume 1169

EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
and
THE GREAT WAR

 
Edgar Rice Burroughs had a life-long interest in the military. His father had been a major in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Ed had received schooling in military academies, had attempted to enroll in West Point, served in the U.S. 7th Cavalry in Arizona, tried unsuccessfully to join Roosevelt's Rough Riders and a number of foreign mercenary armies, became an officer in the Illinois Militia during WWI, wrote many novels and articles with military themes, and finally worked as the oldest war correspondent in Pacific Theatre of WWII.

The US declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917 -- the same day that the Burroughs family moved into their new three-story brick house at 700 Linden Avenue in Oak Park. Ed immediately looked for some way to serve in the war effort. His age and family opposition prevented him from enlisting in the regular army so he mades plans to join the reserves. He complained to friend Bert Weston: that militia work was "the only military activity which Emma will permit me to indulge in...." 

In response to his request for a military recommendation from one of his old commandants at  Michigan Military Academy, Ed received a letter from William H. Butts, Assistant. Dean, University of Michigan 

“I recommend Mr. Edgar Rice Burroughs as a member of the Officers' Reserve Corps. Mr. Burroughs has all the qualifications of a graduate of the Michigan Military Academy, Orchard Lake, Michigan. He left the school one week before graduation on account of ill health. Otherwise, he would now have a diploma from that institution. The school has disbanded and for that reason it does not seem possible to give him a diploma at this date. However, I can recommend him as fully equipped and able to do entirely satisfactory work as an officer. He showed himself very capable as a commissioned officer in the Academy." 

On July 19 he received an appointment in the reserves: Captain, Company A, Second Infantry. He was later promoted to the rank of Major in the Illinois Militia (see "Prominent, Popular Oak Park Man Honored").  A great deal of his time and effort, during the months of American involvement in The Great War, was spent training recruits. He even formed the Tribe of Tarzan club for boys whose duties included selling Liberty Bonds and working in the Red Cross Thrift Stamp Campaign. 

Ed found time, however, to continue writing. Much of his writing was filled with patriotic and anti-Germen themes: "The Lost U-Boat" and the two other novelettes later published asThe Land That Time Forgot), "The Little Door," and Tarzan the Untamed.

These titles are still in print (see ERBzine 0889 for eText editions). But much more obscure and hard-to-find wartime writings are the steady stream of patriotic articles, poems, speeches and letters he produced at that time:  "Do Boys Make Good Soldiers?" "Came the War" ~ "To the Mother" ~ "To the Home Girl" ~ "To the Woman on the Town" ~ "Wanted: Good Citizens" ~"Patriotism by Proxy" and "Who's Who in Oak Park" (both published in Oak Leaves) ~ "Home Guarding for the Liberty Loan" (a speech) ~ "A National Reserve Army Proposed" (published in Army-Navy Journal)~ "Go to Pershing" ~ "Peace and the Militia," ~ "Little  Ol' Buck Private" (poem), "For the Victory Loan" (poem).~ "Home Guarding for the Liberty Loan"  (a speech delivered at Flag Day exercises, Oak Park, June 14, 1918) ~ "What is the Matter with the US Army" ~ "Peace and the Militia."

He even submited a plan to the Department of Justice in which he proposed to alert the public to the menace of communism by writing fiction showing what the world in the future would be like under Bolshevikism. The plan was rejected but the idea resurfaced in the story "Under the Red Flag" writtin in April/May 1919 and later included in his novel, The Moon Maid

We present below two of the 400-word open letter articles he submitted to newspapers around the country in 1917 and 1918.  Dale Broadhurst discoved, "To The Mother" in the archive files of  "New Oxford Item" of New Oxford, PA, Dec. 6, 1917. An ERBzine reader, "skull_roses", submitted the second one: "To The Home Girl."

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TO THE MOTHER
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
From "New Oxford Item" of New Oxford, PA, Dec. 6, 1917
A Rare WWI Newspaper Article from 1917
Unearthed by Dale Broadhurst

One Saturday afternoon a boy in uniform came up to Chicago from Camp Grant, on leave.  It may be that he was your boy -- I do not know.  He was a stranger in Chicago.  he went to a movie show and then he walked the streets searching for something, for anything to relieve the gnawing ache of the homesickness in his heart. He could not enter a saloon and to drink if he had so desired, for he was in uniform; but there were other, more alluring deadlier forms of vice that were not denied him. They offered him human companionship and a substitute for love -- however sordid and mercenary a substitute it might be. 

He stood on a street corner and watched thousands pass, and never in all his life before had he felt so alone and lonely. 

Then a woman accosted him.  She was a handsome, well-dressed woman, and she awed the boy a little, so that he shuffled his feet, and stammered, and blushed, but he went with her.  They boarded a car together and went to her home. The boy thought it quite the most beautiful place he had ever seen. The woman called a young girl down from an upper floor. "This is my daughter," she said, as she introduced the boy, "and I want you to come in here now and meet my husband.  Our only son is in France. There is nothing that we can do that we would not do for any boy who wears that uniform. The French mothers have been good to my boy, so, if for no other reason, I could not do less than be good to the boys of my own country."

They kept him for dinner that night, and all night and all day Sunday until his train left for Rockford.  He went to the movies with them, and to church, and for an automobile ride, and now he goes there whenever he is on leave. 

Suppose another sort of woman had accosted him? -- and may be he was your boy. You can do the same for some other boy in uniform.  You can open your house to him. You can save him for his country as surely as that other woman saved the boy in Chicago.  And you can send him on to France with a realization, based on your actions rather than upon words, that all American honors "the sacred cloth" in which he marches forth to battle, and perhaps to die, for you and yours and for me and mine.  Association with these boys will elevate you and your daughters as much as it will the boys, for while it keeps them from evil, it will inspire you with the high ideals which dominate the men of the National army. 

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TO THE HOME GIRL
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
From The Van Nuys News ~ Van Nuys ~ California
January 18, 1918

You have laid down your knitting to read the paper. The chances are fifty-five or better that you are knitting a sweater that won't fit or a scarf that is too narrow or too wide, for some soldier or sailor, and the other end of the bet — and it may be the safer end — is that you are knitting a mustard-colored sweater for yourself. 

The boys need sweaters and scarfs, and more still they need something that you can give them — and not interfere with your knitting. They need association with the sort of girl you are — the good girl, the home girl — the sort of girl they went to see on "beau night” back in Syracuse, or Escanaba, or Nampa, or Hermosa. 

There are soldiers passing through your home town, or, may be, there is a great cantonment near you. What are yon doing for these boys that a knitting machine couldn't do? They are the same kind of boys that you have always known — they are the best boys, the cleanest boys that the country has produced. 

You can give them something Infinitely finer than a sweater — something that will warm them more than a scarf.  You can give them a memory of virtue, and character, and patriotism to take to France with them that will represent an ideal to them — an ideal of home, mother, sister, and sweetheart, of all that personifies country, of all of which the flag is the emblem — an ideal to fight for, to die for. You can give them this if you will open your home to them, if you will place in your window some sign that will say to them that any man in the uniform of our country is welcome there. 

Many of these boys have never before been away from home. They are homesick. They are worked hard five and a half days a week and then they go to town on leave. By that time they are ready for anything that will help them forget their homesickness. Here is where you can help. 

There are girls who meet them on the street corners — little fools who mean no harm and do a lot of it — and there are other girls, who live under the red light, and serve, unwittingly, the kaiser. 

From these two classes you can protect the boy who has gone away from his home to learn to fight for you and your home. If a bad woman may hang a sign in her window to lure men to destruction, it is your duty to display an emblem upon your home that will offer these men the home life which is the only antidote for the homesickness which drives them to purchase evil companionship.

Submitted by David Sorochty


 

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