Saturday, November 7, 2020

Bottled Up

Arthur Bartlett Maurice

On January 7, 1917, a New York writer and editor, Arthur Bartlett Maurice, sailed to Europe on the Nieuw Amsterdam. He had been appointed a delegate to the American Relief Commission in Belgium and would spend three months behind German lines. 

The Commission was headed by future President Herbert Hoover, a master of disaster relief who would brilliantly manage rescue work following the 1927 Mississippi River flood.  

When Maurice returned to the U.S., he published Bottled Up in Belgium, The Last Delegate’s Informal Story, a grim account divided into three sections: “Getting into the Bottle,” “Inside the Bottle,” and “Getting Out of the Bottle.”

During the past few years, I’ve often thought that the last few pages of the book would express my feelings upon learning that President Trump had been defeated.

It is a description of Maurice’s voyage back home on the USS Chicago, which was a target of the German Navy.

He wrote:

The first two nights on deck, near your boat, fully dressed, and with life belt at hand, were the instructions as the vessel neared the danger zone. The third day a man in naval uniform, with black circles about his eyes, appeared in the dining salon. It was the Commandant, for the first time leaving the bridge. The U-boat infested waters were behind us. We were in the open sea. Across it we came back to an America that I had never seen before, and, once this grim job is done and thoroughly done, may I never see again.

July Night