Necessary Background Info

When I was a teenager, I was close to my maternal grandfather, Milton M. Brown. I was fascinated by the time he spent as a "delegate" in Herbert Hoover's WWI Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). He was one of only 185 American supervisors who ever worked for the CRB. After he died in 1979, I inherited all his diaries, correspondence and photographs from that period (1916-1917).

From 1986 through 1989, I worked full time researching the time period, WWI, the CRB, and numerous delegates. From those efforts, I wrote an 850-page historical novel, Honor Bound. I had a few nibbles -- agents and publishers who asked for the entire manuscript -- but no one offered a contract. In the late 1990s, I made a half-hearted attempt to rewrite the novel, but it didn't go far.

After my second book, Facing Your Fifties: Every Man's Reference to Mid-life Health came out in 2002 (and was included in Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2002), my agent looked at Honor Bound. He suggested the topic would do well -- and fit my writing strengths -- if it was a history book written in novel-like style.

At the end of 2012, as I turned 60 years old, I came to the conclusion that it was time to take up this incredible humanitarian story again and see if I could make it work.

After more than a year of researching and writing, and with the help of a talented book team, I published Behind the Lines: WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation. 1914. It detailed the complex and chaotic beginnings of the CRB and CN during the critical first five months of the war (August to December, 1914). It was released in October 2014 in time for the 100-year anniversary of the start of WWI and the CRB.

Since then, I'm happy to report that Behind the Lines has garnered national recognitions and reviews that include a Kirkus Starred Review (only 750 out of 10,000 books annually reviewed by Kirkus are awarded a Starred Review) and inclusion in Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014. The last sentence of the review states: "An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians." You can read all the reviews at the book's website, which can be reached by clicking here.

Below are my blog posts about re-immersing myself in this important humanitarian topic. The posts start in Dec. 2012 and come up to the present. The posts are laid out with the most recent first. A "List of All My Posts" is on the bottom right of this page. I start each post with a quick snippet of history. I used to call this item "A Spot of History," but now it's titled "Don't-Forget-WWI Project."

My main forcus now is to finish researching and writing WWI Crusaders, which tells the riveting full story of the American CRB delegates from August, 1914 to April, 1917, when America entered the war and the CRB delegates had to leave Belgium and Northern France.

I hope you find something of interest within this blog. For more information about Behind the Lines and/or WWI Crusaders, please go to the books' website by clicking here.

Post #24: August 4, 1914 . . .and so it began

August 4, 2014

A Spot of History: An excerpt from my book, Behind the Lines (minus the footnotes):

On that first day of invasion, Tuesday, August 4, it was a hot and surprisingly clear summer day in the normally cool, cloudy, and wet country of Belgium. At 8 a.m. German uhlans (lance-carrying cavalry) thundered across the Belgian border, signaling the start of what became the deadliest war the world had ever seen, and what Pope Benedict XV called “the suicide of civilized Europe.” By evening six columns of German troops were two to three miles past the border.
A column of German foot soldiers during the August invasion. (Public domain; Fighting in Flanders, E. Alexander Powell, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914.) 
Around noon the Germans entered the frontier village of Visé. Nestled on the right bank of the Meuse River, it boasted 3,800 people and 900 houses. When the Germans arrived, the Belgian soldiers withdrew from the town, crossed the Meuse, blew up the bridge behind them and settled onto the left bank, where they shot at any German who came close to the river.

According to historian Jeff Lipkes in his book, Rehearsals: The German Army in Belgium, August 1914, within ten minutes of entering Visé, the Germans shot their first civilian. He was “Monsieur Istas, a cashier at the railway station, [who was] gunned down as he returned to work after an early lunch. . . . By evening, more than a dozen corpses littered the streets. Most of the murders seemed wholly arbitrary. . . . The Brouhas, father and son, brewers, were dragged out of their basement and executed in front of their house.”

One of the town’s barbers, Louis Kinable, was shot in front of his shop because he had a pair of clippers in his hand—hence he was seen as a franc-tireur (civilian fighter). One boy was battered so badly by rifle butts “that his body could only be identified thanks to a card from his middle school proclaiming him an honors student.” Meanwhile, a Berlin newspaper reported that a 16-year-old Belgian girl in Visé had been executed for mutilating German corpses.

And so the story began . . .

My Post: I have been remiss in not posting to this blog, but I am happy to report that I am now done writing my book, Behind the Lines, and as of this evening, August 4, 2014, I will have sent the entire book to the designer! I hope to have print, print-on-demand, and an e-book available by October or November.

You can't believe how excited I am tonight after a year and a half of research and writing fulltime.

I promise to post more very soon -- especially how I have been fortunate enough to gather together a wonderful group of professionals who are helping me produce this book. I could not do it without them.

And, finally, I want to mention the book's new website. It's at I hope you like it.

End of Post

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