A timely post on this Veteran’s Day:
When the US declared war on Germany in 1917, Luther Gulick, then 25 and a newlywed, tried to enlist in the air corps but was denied for poor eyesight. According to his friend Lyle Fitch, Gulick then enlisted in the army and was sent to Washington to work in the State Council for National Defense compiling (what else?) statistics.
With draft-evasion bedeviling President Wilson, Gulick also worked on what he freely called “a propaganda campaign” with the press to get American boys to sign up for service “and the registrations came flooding in.” Then another crisis erupted — the flu epidemic. So many soldiers were stricken, Gulick reported, “we even wondered whether we could win the war.”
Luckily, Gulick and his bride Helen lived in a fairly remote area on Connecticut Avenue and commuted to work by bicycle, with the newspapers taking note.
He found time to help two visiting Czech patriots, Jan Masaryk and Edvard Benes, write a constitution for their homeland. Their brave plan later fell victim to Hitler and, in the postwar Communist takeover, Stalin.
Gulick witnessed the parade of the first Armistice Day a year after the war ended on 11/11/11/– the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. In a letter to his sons, Gulick much later remembered: “Mother and I stood on the steps of the War and Navy Building, directly across from President Wilson, and watched him review the parade. I will never forget how tired and sad he looked.”
It was hardly the end of Gulick’s wartime contributions. In World War II he served FDR in a host of agencies supervising military production and manpower and after victory consulted at Nuremberg and helped negotiate reparations from Germany and Japan.
Oh, and he got back a piece of equipment loaned to the war effort.