Sunday, May 26, 2019

Bookplate inside "The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears"

This colorful 2¾-inch-wide bookplate, with an indecipherable name scrawled on it, appears on the inside front cover of the 1927 hardcover The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears, which was published by J.H. Sears & Company.

Despite the odd title, this is a serious book. It's a diary — from August through November 1918 — of a U.S. artillery soldier on the front lines in France during the First World War. It was published anonymously, but the author was South Dakota native Robert J. Casey (1890-1962). This is the book's "dedication":
If I should become a casualty, please see that this book is mailed to my wife — address on inside front cover.
Here's an excerpt from Casey's journal, just one of many harrowing and horrific moments in the campaign:
"Duff was getting ready to to go bed when he noticed a kitchen belonging to an outfit of 75s to the right of us, turning off the road near him. He stepped over to promote a bite of food and thereby saved his life.

"He had gone perhaps a hundred meters when a shell hit on the crest behind him. He could hear the spent fragments whining about his ears. Almost immediately came a second shot in the same place — then two more in quick succession.

"The first shell of the second salvo dropped in front of the medical wagon. The second was a direct hit. Duff went back to his former headquarters only long enough to find a blanket. He slept for the rest of the night at the edge of the ditch in the lee of a dead horse."
The book is roundly praise by modern readers. Here are some snippets from Amazon reviewers:

  • "a detailed, and often graphic, picture of what it was like to be an Artilleryman in an AEF Field Artillery Unit."
  • "uncommonly good narrative of our participation in WW1."
  • "As a reader you quickly understand that the American artillery was a priority target of the Germans. The use of gas is told in detail and its effects."
  • "there is little political comment or overall battle strategy. Just the details of one mans experience. Has a sense of humour but doesn't shrink from the horrors or the stupities or the sheer chance of who gets wounded or killed."

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