Thursday, November 11, 2021

Eleventh Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month by Karla Stover


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The war I have always been most interested in is World War I. For better or worse, it was what writer Paul H. Murray called "a watershed moment in American history." Innovations included Kleenex, Day Light Savings (we can thank the Germans for that. It was a way to save coal), blood banks, sanitary napkins, here's a good one: Pilates, thanks to German body builder Joseph Hubertus Pilates, stainless steel (British), zippers (Americans), wristwatches, (Elizabeth I strapped a small clock to her arm) and drones (thank you Orville Wright). Out with trench warfare and in with the modern battlefield, submarines replacing the "High Seas fleet. All of a sudden people had access to sun lamps, tea bags, and plastic surgery. However, one thing often forgotten is camouflage. Here's how Wikipedia describes it: the concept of visual deception developed into an essential part of modern military tactics. In that war, long-range artillery and observation from the air combined to expand the field of fire, and camouflage was widely used to decrease the danger of being targeted or to enable surprise. As such, military camouflage is a form of military deception." For years I've been interested in camouflage because a Tacoma, WA. girl studied the art and headed to the western front to make use of her studies.

Tacoma's Enid Jackson graduated from Tacoma's Annie Wright Academy and Philadelphia's Academy of fine Arts. During her teenage years she learned to drive and took an aviation course to learn from up above" the best use of colors to create deception." or as one local newspaper wrote, "learning to fool the Hun birdmen."

Most people are aware of camouflage clothes but maybe not of trees and horse bodies soldiers could hide in, or of fake heads peering over the trenches to attract gunfire thus revealing where the enemy was hold up.

While Enid was doing her part, people all over western Washington were out in bogs gathering sphagnum (bog) moss. 

As early in the war as 1915, field hospitals were running out of cotton for dressings. Enter Lieutenant Colonel E.P. Sewell who suggested using sphagnum. According to Robin Kimmer professor of ecology at SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry and the author of Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, “ninety percent of the cells in a sphagnum plant are dead and they’re supposed to be dead. They’re made to be empty so they can be filled with water.” They are also independent of each other which helps keep the water in. And sphagnum also has antiseptic qualities. During the war (and in other places, other times, and among other cultures) medical personal took advantage of that liquid-absorbing capacity to soak up blood, pus and other bodily fluids. "The American Red Cross provided precise instructions for how to layer the moss with nonabsorbent cotton and gauze." The packaged moss, known as Pershing Packs named for General Pershing, was then sterilized in autoclaves and shipped to field hospitals. Puget Sound cities held moss drives, and according to the country's Moss Czar (yes, there was one but I can't remember his name) our moss was the best quality.

In addition to to our camouflage artist and moss drives, and because we were (and are) adjacent to Camp Lewis, now Joint Base Lewis McChord, practically everyone here was knitting socks, including in church and on the school grounds during breaks. We had women who specialized in making the heels which not everyone could do.

What with meatless days and metal drives and horrible mortality rates, those were tough years, but they also drew communities together, something you don't much see anymore.

Skating Champ Scott Hamilton Reveals the Conversation He Had with Producer Busbee Shortly Before His Death

Whose death? 

I guess I'm a reader / writer snob but love these.


  1. Very interesting information. I like it when writers do their research. They always turn up surprising facts. Thanks for sharing.


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