Vernon L. (Vernon Lyman) Kellogg.

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Headquarters Nights

Headquarters Nights

A Record of Conversations and Experiences

at the Headquarters of the German

Army in France and Belgium

By Vernon Kellogg

The Atlantic Monthly Press

Copyright, igiy




Biographical Note 7

Foreword by Theodore Roosevelt 13

The Headquarters of the Great General

Stafif 15

Von Bissing's Headquarters 57

A Belgian Record 105


Vernon Kellogg graduated from the uni-
versity of his native state of Kansas in 1889.
After winning his master's degree, he studied
at Cornell, and subsequently spent several
years abroad specializing upon entomology
and biology at the University of Leipzig, and
considerably later at the University of Paris.
For the past twenty years, he has been a
professor of entomology in Stanford Uni-
versity, writing and lecturing on problems of
life in a multitude of its most interesting and
extraordinary forms.

' Soon after the war broke out. Professor
Kellogg, pacifist and humanitarian by con-
viction, obtained a furlough from his univer-
sity and went abroad to devote himself to the
alleviation of human suffering. It was not
long before he joined his friend of long stand-
ing, Mr. Herbert Hoover, in the memorable
enterprise of the Commission for the Relief
of Belgium, of which he has become the official
historian. In connection with this work of


Headquarters Nights

civilian relief, it is worth recording that his
wife, Charlotte Hoffman Kellogg, was the
only woman member of that commission.
Both Professor and Mrs. Kellogg spent their
strength and energy to the utmost upon the
cause; and in the years which preceded the
inevitable intervention of the United States,
it was Professor Kellogg's duty to serve
during considerable periods as a sort of
informal ambassador of the C. R. B., both at
the Headquarters of the Great General
Staff and at the Headquarters of the German
Army of Occupation of Belgium. The unique
opportunities given through this official yet
intimate acquaintance with the German higher
command and with German civilians of im-
portance are set forth in this little book, which
incidentally becomes an illuminating record
of the conversion of a reasoned pacifist into
a supporter of the great and necessary war.

In an article published in the Atlantic
Monthly Professor Kellogg once gave a de-
scription of the surroundings in which he
lived during those tense months. "The
Great Headquarters," he wrote, "is quiet.
The loudest sounds there come from the

Headquarters Nights

playing of children in the streets. In the
larger buildings of the town sit many officers
over maps and dispatches. Telephones and
telegraph instruments, stenographers, mes-
sengers, all the bustle of busy but quiet offices,
are there. The General Staff, the General
Quartermaster's group, the General Intend-
ant's department, scores, aye, hundreds, of
officers, play here the war game for Germany
on the chessboard whose squares are bits of

"The small gray town is another head-
quarters, too; it is the great headquarters of
all relief work that goes on in the North of
France. Here lives, by permission and ar-
rangement with the German staff, the Ameri-
can head of the neutral relief work — he and
one other American who is the local head of
the district including a hundred and fifty
thousand people around the town. They
live in a large comfortless house, and with
them two German staff officers as official
protectors and friendly jailers. And they,
too, are part of the neutral relief work, for no
man can live with it and not become part of
it. It is too appealing, too gripping.

Headquarters Nights

"We had seven orderlies and two chauffeurs,
for we are provided with two swift gray mili-
tary motors for our incessant inspecting.
One of the orderlies is named cook, and he
cooks, in a way. Another was a barber before
he became corporal, which was convenient.
And another blacked my shoes and beat my
clothes in the garden with a rough stick and
turned on the water full flow in our improvised
bath at a given hour each morning, so that I
had to get up promptly to turn it off before it
flooded the whole house.

*' Quite four nights of each seven in the week
there were other staff officers in to dinner,
and we debated such trifles as German Mili-
tarismus, the hate of the world for Germany,
American munitions for the Allies, submarin-
ing and Zeppelining, the Kaiser, the German

"We were not all of one mind. 'Now all
keep still,' demands my officer, the Haupt-
mann Graf W., 'and my American will tell
us just what the Americans mean by German

"They all kept still for the first ten words
and then all broke out together :


Headquarters Nights

'"No, we shall tell you what it is. Organ-
ization and obedience — nothing more, noth-
ing less. It is that that makes Germany-
great. And it is that that you must come to
if you would be a great nation.'

**I protested that I thought we are already
a great nation.

^* ^Well, then,' they answered, 'if you would
continue great. Otherwise you will smash.
Democracy, bah! license, lawlessness, dis-
ruption. Organize, obey, — or smash.' And
they believe it. "

When the actual distribution of Belgian
relief had passed out of American control,
Professor Kellogg followed Mr. Hoover to his
new patriotic work, and is now an important
member of the organization which controls
the distribution and influences the consump-
tion of the food of one hundred millions of the
American people.



One of the most graphic pictures of the
German attitude, the attitude which has
rendered this war inevitable, is contained in
Vernon Kellogg's 'Headquarters Nights/
It is a convincing, and an evidently truthful,
exposition of the shocking, the unspeakably
dreadful moral and intellectual perversion of
character which makes Germany at present a
menace to the whole civilized world.

The man who reads Kellogg's sketch and
yet fails to see why we are at war, and why
we must accept no peace save that of over-
whelming victory, is neither a good American
nor a true lover of mankind.

Theodore Roosevelt.

Sagamore Hill,
August 26, 1917.


The Headquarters of the Great
General Staff


We do not hear much now from the
German intellectuals. Some of the pro-
fessors are writing for the German news-
papers, but most of them are keeping
silent in public. The famous Ninety-
three are not issuing any more proclama-
tions. When your armies are moving
swiftly and gloriously forward under the
banners of sweetness and light, to carry
the proper civilization to an improperly
educated and improperly thinking world,
it is easier to make declarations of what
is going to happen, and why it is, than
when your armies are struggling for life
with their backs to the wall — of a French
village they have shot and burned to ruin
for a reason that does not seem so good a
reason now.


Headquarters Nights

But some of the intellectuals still speak
in the old strain in private. It has been
my peculiar privilege to talk through
long evening hours with a few of these
men at Headquarters. Not exactly the
place, one would think, for meeting these
men, but let us say this for them: some
of them fight as well as talk. And they
fight, not simply because they are forced
to, but because, curiously enough, they
believe much of their talk. This is one
of the dangers from the Germans to
which the world is exposed: they really
believe much of what they say.

A word of explanation about the
Headquarters, and how I happened to
be there. It was — it is no longer, and
that is why I can speak more freely
about it — not only Headquarters but
the Great Headquarters — Grosses Haupt-
quartier — of all the German Armies of
the West. Here were big Von Schoeler,
General- Intendant, and the scholarly-

Headquarters Nights

looking Von Freytag, General-Quartier-
meister, with his unscholarly-looking,
burly chief of staff, Von Zoellner. Here
also were Von Falkenhayn, the Kaiser's
Chief of Staff, and sometimes even the
All-Highest himself, who never missed the
Sunday morning service in the long low
corrugated-iron shed which looked all
too little like a royal chapel ever to inter-
est a flitting French bomber.

But not only was this small gray town
on the Meuse, just where the water pours
out of its beautiful canon course through
the Ardennes, the headquarters of the
German General Staff — it was also the
station, by arrangement with the staff, of
the American Relief Commission's hum-
ble ununiformed chief representative for
the North of France (occupied French
territory). For several months I held
this position, living with the German
officer detached from the General Quar-
termaster's staff to protect me — and

Headquarters Nights

watch me. Later, too, as director of the
Commission at Brussels, I had frequent
occasion to visit Headquarters for con-
ferences with officers of the General
Staff. It was thus that I had opportunity
for these Headquarters Nights.

Among the officers and officials of
Headquarters there were many strong
and keen German militaristic brains —
that goes without saying — but there
were also a few of the professed intel-
lectuals — men who had exchanged, for
the moment, the academic robes of the
Aula for the field-gray uniforms of the
army. The second commandant of the
Headquarters town was a professor of
jurisprudence at the University of Mar-
burg; and an infantry captain, who lived
in the house with my guardian officer
and me, is the professor of zoology in one
of the larger German universities, and
one of the most brilliant of present-day
biologists. I do not wish to indicate his
person more particularly, for I shall say


Headquarters Nights

some hard things about him — or about
him as representative of many — and we
are friends. Indeed, he was Privat-docent
in charge of the laboratory in which I
v/orked years ago at the University of
Leipzig, and we have been correspondents
and friends ever since. How he came
to be at Headquarters, and at precisely
the same time that I was there, is a story
which has its interest, but cannot be told
at present.

Our house was rather a favored centre,
for 'my officer,' Graf W. — he always
called me 'my American,' but he could
no more get away from me than I from
him — is a generous entertainer, and our
dinners were rarely without guests from
other headquarters houses. Officers,
from veteran generals down to pink-
cheeked lieutenants, came to us and
asked us to them. The discussions, be-
gun at dinner, lasted long into the night.
They sat late, these German officers, over
their abundant wine — French vintages


Headquarters Nights

conveniently arranged for. And always
we talked and tried to understand one
another; to get the other man's point of
view, his Weltanschauung.

Well, I say it dispassionately but with
conviction: if I understand theirs, it is a
point of view that will never allow any
land or people controlled by it to exist
peacefully by the side of a people gov-
erned by our point of view. For their
point of view does not permit of a live-
and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a
point of view that justifies itself by a
whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of
Neo-Darwinism, the Allmacht of natural
selection applied rigorously to human
life and society and Kultur.

Professor von Flussen — that is not
his name — is a biologist. So am I. So
we talked out the biological argument
for war, and especially for this war.
The captain-professor has a logically
constructed argument why, for the good
of the world, there should be this war,

Headquarters Nights

and why, for the good of the world, the
Germans should win it, win it completely
and terribly. Perhaps I can state his
argument clearly enough, so that others
may see and accept his reasons, too. Un-
fortunately for the peace of our evenings,
I was never convinced. That is, never
convinced that for the good of the world
the Germans should win this war, com-
pletely and terribly. I was convinced,
however, that this war, once begun, must
be fought to a finish of decision — a finish
that will determine whether or not Ger-
many's point of view is to rule the world.
And this conviction, thus gained, meant
the conversion of a pacifist to an ardent
supporter, not of War, but of this war;
of fighting this war to a definitive end — •
that end to be Germany's conversion
to be a good Germany, or not much of
any Germany at all. My 'Headquarters
Nights' are the confessions of a converted

In talking it out biologically, we agreed

Headquarters Nights

that the human race is subject to the
influence of the fundamental biologic laws
of variation, heredity, selection, and so
forth, just as are all other animal — and
plant — kinds. The factors , of organic
evolution, generally, are factors in human
natural evolution. Man has risen from
his primitive bestial stage of glacial time,
a hundred or several hundred thousand
years ago, when he was animal among
animals, to the stage of to-day, always
under the influence of these great evo-
lutionary factors, and partly by virtue
of them.

But he does not owe all of his prog-
ress to these factors, or, least of all, to
any one of them, as natural selection,
a thesis Professor von Flussen seemed
ready to maintain.

Natural selection depends for its work-
ing on a rigorous and ruthless struggle
for existence. Yet this struggle has its
ameliorations, even as regards the lower
animals, let alone man.

Headquarters Nights

There are three general phases of this
struggle : —

1. An inter-specific struggle, or the
lethal competition among different ani-
mal kinds for food, space, and opportunity
to increase ;

2. An intra-specific struggle, or lethal
competition among the individuals of a
single species, resultant on the over-pro-
duction due to natural multiplication by
geometric progression; and,

3. The constant struggle of individuals
and species against the rigors of climate,
the danger of storm, flood, drought, cold,
and heat.

Now any animal kind and its indi-
viduals may be continually exposed to
all of these phases of the struggle for
existence, or, on the other hand, any
one or more of these phases may be
largely ameliorated or even abolished for
a given species and its individuals. This
amelioration may come about through
a happy accident of time or place, or

Headquarters Nights

because of the adoption by the species of
a habit or mode of life that continually
protects it from a certain phase of the

For example, the voluntary or involun-
tary migration of representatives of a
species hard pressed to exist in its native
habitat, may release it from the too severe
rigors of a destructive climate, or take it
beyond the habitat of its most dangerous
enemies, or give it the needed space and
food for the support of a numerous prog-
eny. Thus, such a single phenomenon
as migration might ameliorate any one
or more of the several phases of the strug-
gle for existence.

Again, the adoption by two widely
distinct and perhaps antagonistic species
of a commensal or symbiotic life, based
on the mutual-aid principle — thousands
of such cases are familiar to naturalists
— would ameliorate or abolish the inter-
specific struggle between these two species.
Even more effective in the modification

Headquarters Nights

of the influence due to a bitter struggle
for existence, is the adoption by a species
of an altruistic or communistic mode of
existence so far as its own individuals
are concerned. This, of course, would
largely ameliorate for that species the
intra-specific phase of its struggle for
life. Such animal altruism, and the bio-
logical success of the species exhibiting
it, is familiarly exemplified by the social
insects (ants, bees, and wasps).

As a matter of fact, this reliance by
animal kinds for success in the world
upon a more or less extreme adoption
of the mutual-aid principle, as contrasted
with the mutual-fight principle, is much
more widely spread among the lower
animals than familiarly recognized, while
in the case of man, it has been the greatest
single factor in the achievement of his
proud biological position as king of living

Altruism — or mutual aid, as the biolo-
gists prefer to call it, to escape the impli-

Headquarters Nights

cation of assuming too much conscious-
ness in it — is just as truly a fundamental
biologic factor of evolution as is the cruel,
strictly self-regarding, exterminating kind
of struggle for existence with which the
Neo-Darwinists try to fill our eyes and
ears, to the exclusion of the recognition of
all other factors.

Professor von Flussen is Neo-Dar-
winian, as are most German biologists
and natural philosophers. The creed of
the Allmacht of a natural selection based
on violent and fatal competitive struggle
is the gospel of the German intellectuals;
all else is illusion and anathema. The
mutual-aid principle is recognized only
as restricted to its application within
limited groups. For instance, it may
and does exist, and to positive biological
benefit, within single ant communities,
but the different ant kinds fight desper-
ately with each other, the stronger de-
stroying or enslaving the weaker. Sim-
ilarly, it may exist to advantage within

Headquarters Nights

the limits of organized human groups — as
those which are ethnographically, nation-
ally, or otherwise variously delimited.
But as with the different ant species,
struggle — bitter, ruthless struggle — is the
rule among the different human groups.
This struggle not only must go on, for
that is the natural law, but it should go
on, so that this natural law may work
out in its cruel, inevitable way the salva-
tion of the human species. By its salva-
tion is meant its desirable natural evolu-
tion. That human group which is in the
most advanced evolutionary stage as
regards internal organization and form of
social relationship is best, and should, for
the sake of the species, be preserved at
the expense of the less advanced, the
less effective. It should win in the
struggle for existence, and this struggle
should occur precisely that the various
types may be tested, and the best not
only preserved, but put in position to
impose its kind of social organization — its

Headquarters Nights

Kultur — on the others, or, alternatively^
to destroy and replace them.

This is the disheartening kind of argu-
ment that I faced at Headquarters;
argument logically constructed on prem-
ises chosen by the other fellow. Add to
these assumed premises of the Allmacht
of struggle and selection based on it, and
the contemplation of mankind as a con-
geries of different, mutually irreconcilable
kinds, like the different ant species, the
additional assumption that the Germans
are the chosen race, and German social
and political organization the chosen
type of human community life, and you
have a wall of logic and conviction that
you can break your head against but can
never shatter — by head work. You long
for the muscles of Samson.



The danger from Germany is, I have
said, that the Germans believe what they
say. And they act on this belief. Pro-
fessor von Flussen says that this war is
necessary as a test of the German position
and claim. If Germany is beaten, it will
prove that she has moved along the
wrong evolutionary line, and should be
beaten. If she wins, it will prove that
she is on the right way, and that the rest
of the world, at least that part which we
and the Allies represent, is on the wrong
way and should, for the sake of the right
evolution of the human race, be stopped
and put on the right way — or else be
destroyed as unfit.

Professor von Flussen is sure that
Germany's way is the right way, and
that the biologic evolutionary factors

Headquarters Nights

are so all-controlling in determining
human destiny, that this being biolog-
ically right is certain to insure German
victory. If the wrong and unnatural
alternative of an Allied victory should
obtain, then he would prefer to die in the
catastrophe and not have to live in a
world perversely resistant to natural law.
He means it all. He will act on this
belief. He does act on it, indeed. He
opposes all mercy, all compromise with
human soft-heartedness. Apart from his
horrible academic casuistry and his con-
viction that the individual is nothing, the
State all, he is a reasoning and a warm-
hearted man. So are some other Ger-
mans. But for him and them the test of
right in this struggle is success in it. So
let every means to victory be used. The
only intelligence Germans should follow
in these days is the intelligence of the
General Staff; the only things to believe
and to repeat are the statements of the
official bureau of publicity.

Headquarters Nights

There is no reasoning with this sort
of thing, no finding of any heart or soul
in it. There is only one kind of answer:
resistance by brutal force; war to a de-
cision. It is the only argument in rebut-
tal comprehensible to these men at Head-
quarters into whose hands the German
people have put their destiny.

One evening we had a larger and more
distinguished dinner group than usual.

The Duke of , a veteran of 1870 and

very close to the Kaiser, altogether a per-
sonage, had come by motor with a small
staff from his headquarters near the
Champagne front. My officer was all of
a flutter with the importance and excite-
ment of the event. He coached all of us
— orderlies, myself, and resident guests
— as to our proper behavior during the
visit. This was to consist chiefly of
much stiff standing up, repeated formal
bows, and respectful silence. No one
was to start anything on his own initia-

Headquarters Nights

tive. We were to take the conversational
cue from His Highness. The Comman-
dant-professor of jurisprudence was there,
and a casual baron or two, and various
Headquarters officers.

The duke entered, to find us a fixed
row of effigies, hands on trouser-seams,
eyes front, chins up, in the receiving-
room. His Highness was a small be-
whiskered gentleman, very abrupt and
disconcerting in manner, but not at
all stupid, and very ready to express
his opinions on all subjects of war and
church history, his hobby.

As he surveyed the row of effigies his
keen eye spotted the ununiformed Amer-
ican, and he directed a questioning look
toward Graf W., the host. My officer
made a concise explanation of the situa-
tion, which the duke acknowledged with
a grunt of understanding and the sharp
question, —

'But does he speak German?'

Graf W. hastened to declare, 'Wie


Headquarters Nights

ein Eingehorener' — like a native — which
is far from true. Another grunt of
satisfaction, a critical stare of examina-
tion, and finally a direct phrase of formal
recognition. I reserved any exhibition
of my fluent German, and merely bowed.
My officer gave me an expressive look of
approval and found a later chance to
congratulate me on my 'success.* I sup-
pose not being ordered out of the room
may be called success, under the circum-

After giving the whole row a final
looking-over. His Highness mumbled
something, whereupon an aide-de-camp
stepped briskly up, clicked heels, and
held out to him a small box containing
several medals on yellow ribbons. They
were the insignia of some minor order in
his duchy. He presented one to one of
the barons, one to the Commandant-
professor of jurisprudence, and one to —
my officer's chief orderly, who acted as
house barber and head waiter! The


Headquarters Nights

baron and professor had done their best
and deepest bowing, but when Miiller's
turn came, it was like morning gym-
nastics in the bedroom. 'Touch toes ten
times with finger-tips, legs remaining
unbent/ I fancied that the baron and
professor became less satisfied with their
honor, the more Muller waxed enthusi-
astic. In fact, they did not put on their
orders immediately; Muller did. Finally,
my officer got our barber to stop bowing
— the duke wasn't even seeing him —
and we went into the dining-room.

At dinner the personally conducted

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Online LibraryVernon L. (Vernon Lyman) KelloggHeadquarters nights; a record of conversations and experiences at the headquarters of the German army in France and Belgium → online text (page 1 of 5)