My column in the Daily Beast: “Not Much Passes the 100-Year Test. Will Trump?”

In my time running SundayMagazine.org, it’s become increasingly apparent to me and my readers just how few of the most prominent people, places, and things from 100 years ago are still well remembered tgoday.

What does this insight reveal about who and what from this era might still be well remembered 100 years from now?

My prediction: despite how big the biggest people, places, and things seem to us at the moment, almost nothing and nobody lasts 100 years in the public’s consciousness.

Will Trump? Will Obama? Will 9/11? Will today’s technology? What about the biggest movies or songs?

I tackle these questions in my new opinion column for the Daily Beast: “Not Much Passes the 100-Year Test. Will Trump?”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/not-much-passes-the-100-year-test-will-trump

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Written by Jesse

June 4th, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

Kaiser’s Heir, Prince of Failure

His father was Wilhelm II, the last kaiser of the German empire. As the oldest son, Crown Prince Wilhelm became crown prince at age six and held the title for three decades until the fall of the German Empire in November 1918, three months after this article was originally published.

During WWI, he was one of the top military commanders despite being in his early 30’s and never having previously commanded a military unit larger than a regiment. It… did not go well. This article, filled with ludicrous exaggerated drawings depicted the Crown Prince as a bumbling fool, describes the man:

As a menace to the success of German campaigns, he has not missed a point in the game. He is known as the best friendly enemy the Allies ever had. His being ousted by Foch from the Rheims-Soissons salient is the most recent of a long series of errors which have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of his fellow-countrymen.

But that didn’t stop him earning illustrious prizes thanks to nepotism:

There have been plenty of telegrams of congratulation and awards of medals. It is said that on occasion the headstrong and ill-balanced heir has overruled experienced commanders, making necessary an undue haste to chide failure with medals. The first German drive toward Paris in 1914 was hardly smothered before the Crown Prince got his Iron Cross. That was soon followed by the Star of the House of Hohenzollern.

In later years Crown Prince Wilhelm would go on to befriend Adolf Hitler, who promised to restore the German monarchy, but their relationship soured once Wilhelm realized Hitler would actually do no such thing. The Crown Prince died in 1951.

 

Kaiser’s Heir, Prince of Failure: The Sad Military Career of Frederick William, Who Stops Losing Battles Only Long Enough to Accept Decorations and Study the Strategic Value of Frogs (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 4, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 5th, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Q.M.C. — Unfailing Provider of the Soldier’s Food

How were soldiers fed during WWI? By the Q.M.C., which stood for “Quartermaster [Corporal] Department of the United States Army.”

They tried to keep the costs relatively low:

The cost of the standard menu amounts to from 41 to 43 cents per day per man, varying according to the location of the camp and market price of the food.

Adjusted for inflation, that would be between $6.84 and $7.17 per man, daily.

It also worked:

The best evidence that he is well fed is the fact that the average gain of weight of the American boy since entering the service has been twelve pounds, and this despite the fact that they have been doing such strenuous labor.

This sample menu was given for a weekend and weekday in the army:

SUNDAY

Breakfast: cantaloupes (one-half each), oatmeal, sugar, milk, fried pork sausage, hot biscuits, coffee

Dinner: fresh vegetable soup, diced bread toasted, veal in a creole, boiled rice, string beans (fresh), lettuce salad, ice cream, cake, bread, ice water.

Supper: potato salad, bread, jam, iced tea.

WEEK DAY

Breakfast: corn flakes, sugar, milk, beef stew, boiled potatoes, toast, bread, coffee.

Dinner: boiled beef with dumplings, spinach, young beets, pickles, apple and peach pie, iced tea, bread.

Supper: spinach, young beets, pickles, hot Parker House rolls, iced tea.

Sounds like some great meals! Except for the whole “huge risk of dying or getting bombed at any moment” part.

 

Q.M.C. — Unfailing Provider of the Soldier’s Food: Not One Wearer of Uncle Sam’s Uniform Has Gone Hungry, Thanks to the Commissary Machine That Toils Day and Night (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 28, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 25th, 2018 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Food,War

Types of Feminine Slackers in New York

Almost everyone contributed and sacrificed for the war effort during WWI… but not everyone. A certain class of socialite women — with wealthy husbands and little to do — kept living their lives the exact same as before.

Genevieve Parkhurst profiled them in this 1918 article:

One woman had two Pekingese spaniels with her. She had traveled all the way from a Middle Western city.

“It is such an expense carrying them around,” she complained. “You know they have to have certified milk — a quart a day each, and it costs me $2 a day at the hotel for them.”

When it was suggested that it might be a good idea to give them a change of diet and send the milk money to the children of France, she exclaimed aghast: “What! Why, the poor little dears would suffer. They’ve always had their certified milk and cream and I could not think of depriving them of it.”

Getting a head start on the hedonism and excess to come during the 1920s, clearly.

Types of Feminine Slackers in New York: Random Observations on the Squanderer, the Waster, and the Trifler — Tinfoil as Proof of Patriotism — The Cost of Showy Gowns and Pekingese Spaniels (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 21, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 20th, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Life

America’s Attitude Toward the Clergy

Clergy and religious leaders were losing influence and leadership in many different areas of life.

in philanthropy:

Look at the governing boards of such organizations as even the Red Cross, the Committee of Mercy and similar societies, and the astonishing fact reveals itself that the clergy are effectively boycotted! The very men on whose co-operation and good-will success in appealing for funds mainly depends are carefully excluded from membership; acknowledged to be essential in the gathering of the money, they are allowed no voice in its disbursement.

in politics:

As they forfeited no rights of citizenship by becoming clergymen, it would seem that it is as much their duty to be interested in politics as any one else. To be sure, for partisan politics in their public ministrations there is and should be no place, but there are always grave moral questions back on the political setting, and on these the clergy should constantly speak, just because they are clergymen.

Strange things have been happening in Washington. Certain “missions” from abroad have been here. They came about war and peace and international relationships. Naturally they were much entertained, not only in a private way, but also officially. Yet so far as we have been able to learn at not one of these official hospitalities were any clergymen present — their absence being markedly in contrast with their presence at certain of the foreign embassies, where they do these things better. Of course politicians were there, so were representatives of the army and navy; also the people with large pocketbooks, but the one class that should have been invited first of all was not invited at all. Why?

in the social realm:

The boycott which prevails so effectively in our political and philanthropic worlds is just as effective in the social world. For some reasons the hospitalities and social courtesies commonly extended to prominent men are rarely extended to the clergy… under penalty of loss of votes.

It was a very able (Episcopal) Bishop, the head of one of the largest dioceses in the East, who was thus addressed in his Diocesan Convention: “May I venture to make the suggestion that you go more about among your people in a social way? Thereby they would know you better and you would greatly increase your influence for good.”

Promptly the Bishop replied: “I heartily agree with my brother and thank him for his suggestion, but since I have been in this city I have received exactly three invitations to dinner and have accepted them all. What more can I do?”

This seems to be connected to what was, at the time, decreasing religiosity in many circles. President Woodrow Wilson, asked four years later in 1922 whether he believed in evolution, replied: “Of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.”

And now the vice president is Mike Pence.

 

America’s Attitude Toward the Clergy: Member of the Profession Discusses Its Lost Leadership and Suggests Reasons for the Change — Exclusion from Politics and Ostracism from Social Life (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 14, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 10th, 2018 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Religion

Insignia, Not Black Gowns, as War Mourning

Women in America had long worn all black to represent widowhood as a result of a husband dying in war. This 1918 article even noted that “There are now women who have been in black ever since the civil war.”

But that began to change during WWI. Women began wearing a three-inch black band sleeve on their arm, instead of dressing fully in black.

Explained Anna Howard Shaw, chair of the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenense:

The men are going over in the spirit of battling for the freedom of the world, cheerfully, with defiance of the enemy in their hearts. Once ‘over there,’ they do not murmur or repine, even in face of death itself. We women should lift our lives to the same plane, in appreciation of the exaltation of the service rendered by the men for the protection of ourselves and our homes. Instead of giving away to depression, it is our duty to display the same courage and spirit that they do. If they can die nobly, we must show that we can live nobly.

We should look on the insignia, therefore, not as a badge of mourning, but as a mark of recognition of exalted service, as a sign of what it has been their privilege to give to their country — a badge of honor. The wearing of the insignia will express far better than mourning the sacrifice that has been made, that the loss is a matter of glory rather than one of prostrating grief and depression.

 

Insignia, Not Black Gowns, as War Mourning: Women of America Asked to Forego Gloomy Evidences of Grief — Black Band on Sleeve to be a Badge of Honor for the Bereaved (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 7, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 7th, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Development,Life,War

Who Will Be Drafted Next?

What should be the minimum and maximum ages for potentially getting drafted to serve in the military? This 1918 article details the then-current state of affairs:

When the present law was before Congress the War Department asked that the draft be imposed between the ages of 19 and 26, inclusive. In both houses opposition developed at once against going below 21. The House of Representatives finally adopted 21 to 40 years as the age limits, the Senate 21 to 27 years. In conference 21 to 31 was agreed upon.

The article, about pending legislation to expand the draft ages from 18 to 45, passed soon after. America’s fighting forces were projected to expand by more than one million men as a result.

Today, as a combination of peacetime conditions and post-Vietnam conscription reforms, draft registration is required for men between ages 18 and 25.

 

Who Will Be Drafted Next?: Discussions in Congress as to Calling Youths Between 18 and 21 Years, and Men as Old as 45 — Crowder’s New Figures on Exhaustion of Present Eligible List (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 30, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2018 at 11:04 am

Posted in Debate,Politics,War

Vagaries of the German “Michel”

“In Germany, a ‘Michel’ is, freely translated, a fool, a clown, a weak-wit of great physical power when aroused, but wholly dominated by his masters of higher intellect or greater power. You hear it every day and everywhere in Germany.”

So reported A. Curtis Roth, the former American Consul General in Plauen, Saxony, Germany in 1918. He provides this example:

Is any clearer evidence needed of the “boobery” of the race than the conduct of a German in a foreign land? Does he, as a guest, keep quiet and listen, trying to absorb some knowledge of the new country? He does nothing of the sort. Acting upon the principle that everything in the world was created for the German, he howls and blusters, organizes noisy societies such as he knew in Germany, and makes himself a general nuisance.

Or try this:

The Germans in America, while I was still acting for our Government in Saxony… had collected a considerable sum of money which they wished to devote to the relief of German war widows and orphans… Imagine my surprise when I learned that, following a long and serious conference among themselves, the various [German] Town Councils had voted unanimously to decline the money, because it came from America and was tainted, even though it had all been contributed by men of German blood, or men and women born on the soil of Germany. And this was long before America took a hand in the fight!

I don’t believe this stereotype still exists today — unless it does and I’m just not aware of it? The main German stereotype now appears to be that they always talk like this:

 

Vagaries of the German “Michel” — In Plain American It Means “Boob,” Yet the German Applies It to Himself and Seems Proud of the Title (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 30, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2018 at 10:34 am

Posted in Humor,Life

Where Were You?

Every stanza in Schoonmaker’s 1918 poem Where Were You? ends with a question, challenging the poem’s readers to ask themselves whether they were truly and fully doing their part to help America’s effort as World War I raged.

The poet, Edwin Davies Schoonmaker, would live until 1940 and write many plays and books including The AmericansThe World Storm and Beyond, and Democracy and World Dominion. But his fame didn’t last — in 2018, he still doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry.

Every week in the modern era, NYT Sunday Magazine features a poem — but it would never ever be featured as the lead piece of content in that week’s magazine. One week in June 1918, a poem was. As I discussed in my recent column for the Daily Beast, poetry was far more front and center in America’s literary culture back then. (Plus the 1918 poem entirely rhymed, something much more infrequent in the featured poems of 2018.)

 

Where Were You?: [Poem] By Edwin Davies Schoonmaker (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 30, 1918

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Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2018 at 10:11 am

Posted in Poetry,War

War as a Tonic for Jaded Feminine Nerves

WWI caused a marked declined in women’s slouching — a change which some doctors attributed to the war itself..

Said Dr. Eugene L. Fisk, director of the Life Extension Institute in June 1918:

The most gratifying physical change in women is in their posture. Time was, not so far distant, when the clouch was a fashionable attitude for women. This began in society, was seen on the stage, and was reflected widely among workingwomen. It was accentuated by the hobble skirt and the turkey trot, just before the war.

The last year has come like a breath of fresh air to the physical habits of all women. I believe the unconscious influence of the military largely accounts for it. The soldier has captured the popular imagination. The military bearing, the military salute, the military appearance appeal to the women even more quickly than to the men, and they react to it automatically in their physical manners. A girl who glides or slouches or minces along is no longer considered desirable by young men or envied by her associates.

What may make this doubly surprising is that WWI actually generally marked the end of corsets in America. Corsets forced women to sit up straighter with better posture, so one might think that their decline as a fashion would actually cause more slouching rather than less.

War as a Tonic for Jaded Feminine Nerves: Physicians Say They Are Now Treating Fewer Women Whose Ills Are Imaginary — Military Heels, Sensible Toes, and the Erect Carriage Instead of the Slouch (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 23, 1918

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Written by Jesse

June 22nd, 2018 at 10:53 am

Posted in Health,Life,War

Echoes in Lighter Tone from Washington

Should we be referring to WWI as the stenographers’ war? That’s what one article in 1918 predicted that “future historians” might call it:

And, hurrah, here come the stenographers! They are here from multi-storied city skyscrapers and from country lawyers’ offices; from business colleges and from just-learned-it-by-myself; calm, self-possessed, clear-eyed; helpers of detail — helpless men. Power resides in their right hand and in their left… Therefore, some future historian may call this the stenographers’ war. At least, they know who is running it.

Alas, the conflict eventually came to be known as World War I. One wonders if we just missed out on an eccentrically-named conflict instead, such as the 1739 one between Great Britain and Spain called the War of Jenkins’ Ear.

 

Echoes in Lighter Tone from Washington: Some Observations on the Military Salute, the Stenographer, and the Temporary Buildings — Wartime Capital Seen in Its Amusing Phases (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 16, 1918

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Written by Jesse

June 17th, 2018 at 11:47 am

Posted in Humor,Life,War

U-Boats Off Shore!

Franklin D. Roosevelt… assistant secretary of the navy?

Many people — or perhaps even most people — today don’t even remember what position FDR held right before his presidency: governor of New York. But virtually nobody remembers what position he held even before that: assistant secretary of the Navy.

FDR held the #2 spot in the Navy from 1913-19. He was appointed a year before World War I broke out in Europe and four years before America entered the conflict.

In this June 1918 article, FDR explains the reasoning behind Germany launched a U-boat attack on shipping right off the American Atlantic coast:

First, merely to carry out the known German system of terrorizing the enemy; second in this particular case, it may be the definite belief of the German Admiralty that this campaign will force the United States to withdraw destroyers and patrol vessels now in European waters in order to protect our own coasts. To do this would be playing directly into the hands of the German Admiralty, because… it pays them better to attack our ships on the other side and not here; if we withdraw destroyers and patrol boats from the other side it would make it that much easier for the Germans in their chosen field of operations.

We must realize, therefore, that while Germany may and probably will continue to send occasional submarines to our own coasts, and while these submarines may occasionally sink ships off our shores, we must regard their operations as secondary.

The secretary of the Navy — and FDR’s boss — was Josephus Daniels. FDR would repay Daniels as president by appointing him ambassador to Mexico.

U-Boats Off Shore!: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Discusses the Possibilities and Purposes of Germany’s Submarine Attack (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 9, 1918

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Written by Jesse

June 10th, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Total Eclipse of the Sun Next Saturday

We all remember the total solar eclipse last August, which passed over the United States. June 1918 saw one as well, starting in Washington state and moving southeast until it reached Florida. Actually, it started in a rather unusual way, as this contemporary article described:

And here comes an odd point about this eclipse; it really begins at sunrise on June 9, at the Island of Borodino, off the coast of Japan, and rushes out across the Pacific; then the circle of shadow (the point of the moon’s shadow-cone) crosses the “road to yesterday” (the 180th meridian of longitude) and finds itself on June 8, reaching our Pacific Coast in what is there the afternoon.

No word on whether Woodrow Wilson looked directly into the sun during the eclipse, as our current president did.

Total Eclipse of the Sun Next Saturday: Jet Disk Will Move Swiftly from Pacific Coast Southeastward Across Continent — Partly Visible in New York Early in the Evening (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 2, 1918

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Written by Jesse

May 31st, 2018 at 10:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Year of Hoover’s Control: Food Enough for All Allies

More than a decade before he would be elected president in 1928, Herbert Hoover led the U.S. Food Administration, which exerted much control over the nation’s and Allies’ food supply.

The appointment cave even though the Republican Hoover was named by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, a bipartisan move that would be difficult to imagine in today’s political environment.

This May 1918 article describes the results of Hoover’s efforts:

Take wheat: Owing to the shortage of last year’s crop we had scarcely 20,000,000 bushels above our normal consumption and seed requirements. Practically all this had been shipped by Christmas. Then, in January, came the British Food Commissioner’s urgent call for 75,000,000 bushels before the new crop, if the Allies were to have food enough to carry on the war. In response to that call, the American people saved 50,000,000 bushels out of their normal consumption; it was shipped to Europe, and the war goes on!

How was this accomplished?

Hoover himself describes in a quotation for the article that much of it was due to voluntary cutbacks and a common sense of purpose among the American people, rich and poor alike. Alas, these are also two phenomena which would be much harder — or perhaps impossible — to accomplish today.

This quote is a little long — four paragraphs in total — but take two minutes out of your life because it’s worth reading in full, to understand the potential greatness that can come when a country like America is united in sense of purpose.

“A man came up from my State,” he said, “to attend a conference that concerned one of the most important food industries in our State. This man is a prominent official at home and a citizen of much influence. He was aroused over proposed interference in the industry by the Food Administration. ‘We won’t stand for it,’ he said. ‘It isn’t fair. We are willing to be reasonable; we don’t ask to make what we are entitled to, but this proposal is too raw. If Hoover insists on it, we’ll go after him as he never has been gone after before.’

“‘Better wait and see what he says,’ I suggested.

“After the conference the State official came to me. ‘How much longer can Germany hold out their food supply?’ he asked. I told him that Germany was practically self supporting before the war, and had since seized some of the richest farm lands in Europe. ‘But,’ he broke in, ‘it doesn’t matter. We’ll get them in the end. Of course, we have to make every sacrifice; think of what the Allies are doing over there. All that’s worth living for is at stake! We’re in to the limit. Hoover can take the whole industry if he wants it, do with it as he pleases. We’ve got to win. At a time like this who would think of profit?’

“That man did not seem to know that a change had been wrought in him, that something bigger than he had ever known before had got hold of him; for the first time he realized we we are standing for. And you see he wasn’t forced to do anything!”

After the war, Hoover would continue leading the agency under its new name: the American Relief Association. They were tasked with feeding millions of hungry people in 23 war-battered countries in Europe and Russia. He would be elected president in 1928.

 

One Year of Hoover’s Control: Food Enough for All Allies — Taking a Chance on His Faith in Nation’s Loyalty, the Administrator Has Succeeded in Using Volunteer Spirit to Assure Supplies for Democracy’s Hosts (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 26, 1918

 

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Written by Jesse

May 24th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Posted in Food,Politics

3,000 Planes a Month

America is the leader in aviation technology today, and has been for decades. But that was not the case in 1918, even though the Wright Brothers who hailed from Ohio had invented the airplane only a few years before.

As this May 1918 article explained, the U.S. had some major catching up to do upon entering WWI:

It must be remembered that all the warring nations had three years of advantage over the United States in bringing aircraft production to its highest efficiency, because they had been fighting three years when we began. Some of our aircraft producers had foreign contracts, but not many; and the aircraft industry in the United States, on that day in early April when we threw Uncle Sam’s hat into the ring and decided to make the world safe for democracy, was at a low ebb. Although two young Americans invented the aircraft, people of the United States, generally speaking, took no very intense interest in doing their traveling by air, and it was extremely difficult for aircraft manufacturers to keep going, even in a small way.

But with our entrance into the war, the whole situation changed. Aircraft companies sprang up like mushrooms.

As Dr. Bert Frandsen writes in his article The Birth of American Airpower in World War I in Air & Space Power Journal, the American military only had 26 qualified aviators at the start of the war, and “Aircraft production was so small that airplanes were made in shops instead of factories.” By the end of the war, we had created the Army Air Service (later largely turned into the Air Force in 1947), with 190,000 men and 11,000 aircraft.

 

3,000 Planes a Month: Careful Inquiry Shows Real Progress in American Output, Including One Machine Which Is Unburnable (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 26, 1918

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Written by Jesse

May 23rd, 2018 at 11:24 am

A Whole World Outraged

If Germany lost WWI, should they be granted the same status they had previously held in the European and world geopolitical landscape? That was the question facing American and the world in May 1918.

George Trumbull Ladd, a professor emeritus of philosophy at Yale, argued no:

The feelings of an outraged world against an outrageous Germany, as set forth in deeds and fortified by theory, ought to continue undiminished to the end of time. Without faith in the eternal principles of righteousness no one can guarantee that it will be so; but we may be somewhat confident in the belief that these feelings will continue essentially the same for a very considerable time.

Indeed, Germany in the 1920s did not all regain their pre-WWI status. They were forced to pay tremendous sums of money in reparations to Great Britain and France, and also forced by the Versailles Treaty to give up 13 percent of their land. These produced the desperate economic and political conditions that would allow for the 1930s rise of Adolf Hitler.

A Whole World Outraged: Should Guilty Germany Be Permitted Ever to Resume Her Place Among the Nations? An Argument for Ostracism “on Grounds of Morality and Religion” (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 12, 1918

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Written by Jesse

May 10th, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics,War

Millions of Feet of Movie Films for Soldiers

Nearly a century before the release of — and subsequent suspected bomb scare related to — 2007’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, this 1918 article also contained the phrase “movie films.” But in this case, it referred to physical film, 7 to 8 million feet of which were shown to soldiers during World War I every week as recreation or downtime.

How were the films chosen?

After a number of experiments it has been decided that the week’s three movies at a camp shall include, as a general rule, the following: One all-man program — pictures of fighting, racing, adventure in the great outdoors; one comedy; and one drama.

The needs of the various camps differ widely. Obviously the Allentown camp, largely made up of college boys, requires a different type of picture from the on popular in a centre [sic] where thousands of negroes are assembled as muleteers and stevedores. [A stevedore is a person who loads and unloads cargo from ships.]

The decision of which films were shown to military members was entirely in the hands of one woman: Edith Dunham Foster, editor of the Community Motion Picture Bureau. “I try to get away from my own opinion entirely,” she explained, “and to look at the film with the eyes of a soldier.”

If only they had access to Avengers: Infinity War back then.

 

Millions of Feet of Movie Films for Soldiers: How a Woman Directs the Complex Task of Selecting Subjects, Censoring, and Shipping Motion-Picture Equipment to All American Camps (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 5, 1918

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Written by Jesse

May 4th, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Movies,War

Spies and Plotters

What’s the best way to handle and punish spies who give information to America’s enemies? In World War I, the different options split the country.

On one side was Sen. George Chamberlain (D-OR), whose bill introduced in Congress would have tried spies by court martial. On the other side was President Woodrow Wilson, a fellow Democrat, who called the bill “unconstitutional, unnecessary, and uncalled for.”

Sen. Chamberlain defended his position, arguing that his bill would adapt an antiquated interpretation to modern times:

The term ‘spy’ has had a very limited meaning in the past. It is unknown to the criminal law of the United States. A spy as such may only be punished by military law.

Our enemy of today uses very different tools from those employed at the time when spies were used to obtain information from the enemy. Germany has introduced new devices. The greatest injury wrought on us is not by the technical spy, but by sabotage, the destroyer of property by violence, the spreader of propaganda, and in other insidious and injurious ways.

By the Act of 1806 it was shown that Congress had the constitutional power to subject to court-martial civilians who acted as spies, as the word was then employed; in my opinion it has the same power today to subject to court-martial civilians who commit acts just as injurious to the members of our army and navy.

Ultimately, the senator’s position — and not the president’s — won out. Upon the 1950 adoption of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), spies are court martialed.

A recent example from 2016 is Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin: born in Taiwan, became an American citizen in 1998, but when serving in the military was suspected of giving secrets to China. Lin was court martialed and is now serving six years.

Spies and Plotters: Chamberlain Defends Drastic Bill Which He Withdrew — The Trials of Enemies in England, France, and Italy (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 28, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 26th, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Debate,Politics

World’s Scientists in Life-and-Death Race

“These pictures are six months old,” says a quote from an army officer to begin this 1918 article, “so the devices they show are, of course, perfectly obsolete.”

World War I sparked a massive technological boom, a silver lining to an otherwise horrific blemish on humanity’s history. That would come to be true of World War II a few decades later as well. As this 1918 article describes:

“It is probable we would have had to wait a generation or two, without the stimulus of war, for the development of the airplane into a safe and practical vehicle, or for a satisfactory method of utilizing the antiseptic properties of chlorine, or for a feasible process of fixing atmospheric nitrogen — to mention only a few outstanding advances in the fields, respectively, of physics, medicine and chemistry.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson made a similar point at his eloquent Rice University commencement address in 2013, challenging the graduates to innovate without the impetus of war:

If you go to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, there is that section of his speech. ‘We’ll go to the moon before the decade is out.’ And it sends chills up your spine, because he galvanized an entire nation.

But what’s missing on the granite wall behind, where this is chiseled in, is the other part of the speech, where he introduces the war driver. No one ever spent big money just to explore. No, no one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. So we went to the moon on a war driver, but that’s conveniently left out in the granite wall behind Kennedy.

20 years after we landed on the moon, George Herbert Walker Bush wants to give a similar kind of rabble rousing speech that Kennedy did. July 20th, 1989, he goes to the steps of the Air and Space Museum in Washington, an auspicious day, commemorating the moon landing. An auspicious moment. And he puts a lot of the same language in his speech, reflecting on Columbus’ voyages, all the great explorers of the past, saying it’s our time. It’s time to go to Mars.

It got costed out at $500 billion. It was DOA in Congress at $500 billion. But wait a minute, that was going to be spent over about 30 years. You divide $500 billion by 30, that’s about $16 billion a year — that’s NASA’s annual budget. You could have just made that the trip to Mars.

But people got spooked by the money. Why? You know what else happened in 1989? Peace broke out in Europe, that’s what happened in 1989. The war driver evaporated. No, we didn’t go to Mars. And people are saying, ‘Oh, we lost our drive. We lost our will.’ No, it’s the same will we’ve ever had. We just weren’t threatened. That’s a sobering thought.

 

World’s Scientists in Life-and-Death Race: Allies Now Outstripping Teutons in Discovery and Invention, Which Have Been Speeded Up to Greater Progress in the Last Four Years Than in Previous Four Decades (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 21, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 19th, 2018 at 2:36 pm

The Atlas of Modern War

What was the cause of surging American military superiority in 1918? New York University Mechanical Engineering Professor Collins P. Bliss outlined how the prior century had been a frenzy of technological development in the art of warfare. (Including the usage of the phrase “motor traction” in the very early years of vehicles, before we’d really settled on a term for it.)

In the last hundred years the evolution of war has been more marked than in any other period since the invention of gunpowder… The familiar developments of the present conflict — the use of the submarine and airship, trench warfare, the employment of artillery on an unprecedented scale, especially in forming the barrage, the greatly extended use of the machine gun, the substitution of motor traction for horses, and the effective marshaling of numbers of men so immense that it had been conceived hitherto to be impossible to keep such forces in the field as mobilized and effective combatants — are all based upon a background of engineering skill. The engineer has led the way in bringing about this transformation of warfare. Without his ever-present help the new appliances would be useless in affecting the results of battles and campaigns.

In his 2016 book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari makes a similar point about technological developments in the century since 1918 as well — arguing that it helped lead to a dramatic decrease in war, especially since WWII or so:

While the price of war soared, its profits declined. For most of history polities could enrich themselves by looting or annexing enemy territories. Most wealth consisted of material things like fields, cattle, slaves and gold, so it was easy to loot it or occupy it. Today, wealth consists mainly of human capital and organizational know-how. Consequently it is difficult to carry it off or conquer it by military force.

Consider California. Its wealth was initially built on gold mines. But today it is built on silicon and celluloid — Silicon Valley and the celluloid hills of Hollywood. What would happen if the Chinese were to mount an armed invasion of California, land a million soldiers on the beaches of San Francisco and storm inland? They would gain little. There are no silicon mines in Silicon Valley. The wealth resides in the minds of Google engineers and Hollywood script doctors, directors and special-effects wizards, who would be on the first plane to Bangalore or Mumbai long before the Chinese tanks rolled into Sunset Boulevard. It is not coincidental that the few full-scale international wars that still take place in the world, such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, occur in places where wealth is old-fashioned material wealth. The Kuwaiti sheikhs could flee abroad, but the oil fields stayed put and were occupied.

Let us pray these developments only continue in the century ahead, especially in the places where there are still full-scale international wars.

 

The Atlas of Modern War: On the Shoulders of the Engineer Falls a Tremendous, Ever-Increasing Burden, Due to the Extraordinary Technical Demands of the Present Day (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 14, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 15th, 2018 at 10:17 am

Posted in History,War