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Why I Feel Like Thomas Jefferson As a Writer
In a recent blog post, I made the point of saying I felt like Benjamin Franklin in his youth, pursuing his writing career the only way he could, under a pseudonym. My case, being a very young male writer, reminded me of Franklin's beginnings. Here I am going to discuss how I felt when a WWI article of mine was accepted for publication on a war history website and found that my original text had been edited and slightly rewritten.
When I read my article that had been published on War History Online, I was able to tell right away from the first sentence onward that it had been rewritten by an editor of the site. My original article went as follows (if you don't mind jumping into some WWI history):
"World War I was brought on by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzgovina, on June 28, 1914. The war involved conflicts between large nations including Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Ireland, Austria-Hungary, and eventually the United States which joined the fight late in the war. The First World War took its toll over a period of approximately four years and three months, not including the fighting which continued in Turkey.
"Technically and historically speaking, the war was brought to close on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, five years to the day since the assassination of Ferdinand. This war cost the lives of around 20 million soldiers and innocent civilians; it cost even more injuries that were not fatal, leaving many crippled, missing limbs, or psychologically impaired - much like the effects of modern war, of all war. During the course of the war, battle strategies and weapons were born, died out, or underwent some sort of evolution.
"For example, the horse played an important role in both the first and second World Wars. Cavalry were extremely crucial in the early days of the war, a group of the army that was very effective in combat against enemy infantry. The significance of equines in World War I is clearly depicted in Steven Spielberg's 2011 film War Horse. Historically, in the Battle of Mons (or the Battle of the Frontiers) which occurred in late August of 1914, a party of British cavalry charged the Germans, causing the Germans not to be able to advance very far. But as more and more trenches were being dug and used, the cavalry quickly became a bit of a rarity.
"All infantry soldiers were provided with bayonets to attach to their guns. The bayonet, a sharp blade meant for stabbing, was used primarily for fighting at close range of hand-to-hand combat. Most of the ones employed in World War I were of the simple knife variety. But the French often used the needle bayonet, and the Germans were sometimes known to use the cruel saw-bladed bayonet. Bayonets would also be employed by the Japanese a few decades later in World War II.
"World War I has been referred to as "the birth of submarine warfare." In 1917, Germany declared that it would start attacking unrestrictedly at sea with its Unterseeboote or U-boats as they are commonly called. On March 17 of that year, German U-boats sank three American merchant ships. Thus, the United States declared war on Germany the following month. The US Navy also ended up using submarines in battles of the First World War.
"Guerrilla warfare is ambushing, sabotaging, raiding, and the like carried out by a small group of fighters against a larger and less-mobile military. Guerrilla tactics were used several times in the war. While in Africa, a German commander named Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck fighting against a larger force of Allies by exhausting and pestering them. von Lettow-Vorbeck returned to Germany as a hero.
"Just 11 years after the first successful airplane flight of the Wright brothers in North Carolina, USA, planes were being used by both the Allies and the Central Powers in World War I. Early in the war, airplanes were used for reconnoitering. Eventually, they were affixed with machine guns. Machine guns played a pivotal role on the ground as well as in the air. Automatic machine guns, another American invention, had been around since 1884. Some of the ones used in this war could shoot 450 to 600 rounds per minute.
"The tank was actually invented during this war period. All-terrain armored fighting vehicles like the tank were being manufactured to meet the demands of competing in trench warfare. The British first employed tanks in combat on September 15, 1916, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Less than two years later, Great Britain had built approximately 2,600 tanks. Flamethrowers were invented in 1901 and used in the war, and the poisonous mustard gas was invented around the time of World War I.
"As you can see, World War I was the testing ground for several new implements of war. The tank continued to evolve and grow larger. Horses were still powerful aids used by armies in the Second World War. A variety of dangerous chemicals were employed during World War II including mustard gas, diphosgene, and carbonyl chloride. And, of course, airplanes evolved to be able to carry bombs. It was the devastating and catastrophic atomic bombs dropped by a B-29 Superfortress bomber that finally brought closure to World War II."
So I began to read "my article," and it didn't really sound like my article. The first sentence in the published version reads: "WWI erupted following the assassination on June 28, 1914, of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina." In my original piece, the first sentence read: "World War I was brought on by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzgovina, on June 28, 1914."
I can see why the editor altered it. Erupted is a more engaging phrase than was brought about by, but initially, I felt disappointed that the article had to be changed so much. My original 770+ word article was now composed of 702 words. (I guess it is the abridged version.) Then I have just recently recalled how so many literary giants in the past had had their works utterly turned down by publishers, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be published on War History Online.
Another historical moment which came to mind was Thomas Jefferson's writing up of the legendary Declaration of Independence. When he gave the draft of the great document to Congress it was eventually accepted after drastic changes had been made. Jefferson had to have expected it, but I wonder how he really felt about it, seeing something he created be completely deformed from its original state.
Well, I think I've gotten over the ironic disappointment of my history article's editing. I would go so far as to suggest to any other history writers who would like to contribute a guest blog post as I did and who do not care if their work is edited beyond belief to check out War History Online's submission guidelines. Anyone can write for them and easily be accepted.
© 2017 John Tuttle