is the largest online archive of world war 1 photographs and texts. the Archive of World War 1 Photographs and Texts
History of World War 1 The Western Front The Russian Front Italian Front The Middle East Air Warfare War at Sea
A First World War Soldier

Prev | Next | Contents


We rowed out quietly, our boat a little nutshell on the tossing waves. But I was relieved; the elements did not frighten me; on the contrary, I felt secure and refreshed in the midst of the sea. When morning began to dawn, scores of little boats came out of the harbor and circled about waiting for the cruiser. This was our chance. I crouched in the bottom of our boat and to all appearances my boatman was engaged merely in fishing. After I had lain there over an hour with my heart beating like a drum and with small hopes for the success of my undertaking, I heard at last the whistle of the approaching cruiser followed by a Babel of mad shouting and cursing among the boatmen. In the confusion I felt it safe to sit up. No one paid the slightest attention to me. All were engaged in a wild race to reach and mount the Tennessee's ladder. I scrambled up with the rest, and when, on the deck, an officer demanded my passport, I put on a bold front and asked him to tell Captain Decker that Mr. Aaronsohn wished to see him.

Ten minutes later I stood in the captain's cabin. There I unfolded my story, and wound up by asking him if, under the circumstances, my "first papers" might not entitle me to protection. As I spoke I could see the struggle that was going on within him. When he answered it was to explain, with the utmost kindness, that if he took me aboard his ship it would be to forfeit his word of honor to the Turkish Government, his pledge to take only citizens of neutral countries; that he could not consider me an American on the strength of my first papers; and that any such evasion might lead to serious complications for him and for his Government. Well, there was nothing for me to do but to withdraw and go back to Jaffa to face trial for an attempt to escape.

When I reached the deck again I found it swarming with refugees, many of whom knew me and came up to congratulate me on getting away. I could only shake my head and with death in my heart descend the Tennessee's ladder. It did not matter now what boat I took. Any boatman was eager enough to take me for a few cents. As I sat in the boat, every stroke of the oars bringing me nearer to the shore and to what I felt was inevitable captivity, a great bitterness swelled my heart. I was tired, utterly tired of all the dangers and trials I had been going through for the last months. From depression I sank into despair and out of despair came, strange to say, a great serenity, the serenity of despair.

On the quay I ran into Hassan Bey, commandant of the police, who was superintending the embarkation of refugees. I knew him and he knew me. Half an hour later I was in police headquarters under examination by Hassan Bey. I was desperate, and answered him recklessly. A seasick man is indifferent to shipwreck. This was the substance of our conversation:--

"How did you get aboard the ship?"

"In a boat with some refugees. A woman hid me with her skirts."

"So you were trying to escape, were you?"

"If I had been, I shouldn't have come back."

"Then what did you do on the cruiser?"

"I went to talk to the captain, who is a friend of mine. My life is in danger. Fewzi Bey is after me, and I wanted my friends in America to know how justice is done in Palestine."

"Who are your friends in America?"

"Men who could break you in a minute."

"Do you know to whom you are speaking?"

"Yes, Hassan Bey. I am sick of persecution. I wish you would hang me with your own hands as you hanged the young Christian; my friends would have your life for mine."

I wonder now how I dared to speak to him in this manner. But the bluff carried. Hassan Bey looked at me curiously for a moment--then smiled and offered me a cigarette, assuring me that he believed me a loyal citizen, and declaring he felt deeply hurt that I had not come to him for permission to visit the cruiser. We parted with a profusion of Eastern compliments, and that evening I started back to Zicron-Jacob.

Prev | Next | Contents