Archive for August, 2018

Stars and Stripes on Many English Homes

During WWI, millions of British people actually met Americans for the first time as they were stationed overseas. The result was America and England became as close as they’d ever been:

One of the incidentals of the war is the fact that great masses of American troops pass through England or are temporarily stationed there. Thus the towns and villages and countryside places have had two great experiences, reacting on each other, the first being the inspiring and exhilarating knowledge that America had come into the war with her vast forces on behalf of civilization; the second, personal contact with the American soldiers, with all the homely knowledge of them that is bound to arise from a friendly curiosity.

This even culminated in England celebrating America’s Independence Day — a day that set in motion the process of England losing one of their most important territorial holdings a century and a half before.

The English are not demonstrative. There is little or no ringing of bells or waving of flags to signal various battle successes. There has been an instinctive avoidance of arrogance or jubilation at public meetings. But nevertheless on one occasion this year, namely, on July 4, the British people let themselves go.

A distinguished French journalist recently arrived in this country, who has spent some years in London, tells me he has seen no enthusiasm during the war comparable with that he witnesses in London on that day. “At the meeting in Central Hall there were fervid scenes which deeply impressed all foreigners who know how the Britishers have to be intensely stirred before they demonstrate at all. No one could have been in the streets or at that meeting without realizing how the heart of Britain was moved.”

Stars and Stripes on Many English Homes: What the “American Invasion of Britain” Has Done in the Way of Making the Two Nations Friendlier than Ever Before (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 25, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 26th, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Posted in War

Danger in Optimism

An August 1918 article said it was completely unrealistic for WWI to be won by the end of the year. The war would end on November 11, less than three months later.

An example was given of a Midwest manufacturer who believe the war would be over by spring 1919, about 6-9 months after this article.

He held this idea so strongly that it had begun to affect his plans for the near future; instead of seeing a greater effort ahead, he saw a lessening effort, and, of course, those with whom he came in contact, especially his employees, were similarly affected, to a greater or less degree. The man was ardently loyal; little had he realized, in optimistically spreading an idea that was without logical foundation, that he was following a course which would have received the enthusiastic approval of German propagandists.

Why was that considered so unrealistic? Because the official projections of how many soldiers it would take to win the war kept rising considerably higher.

Our popular estimate that it would require 1,000,000 men to defeat the Germans, in addition to what the French and English had, was all wrong. Later we calculated that 3,000,000 would be required. Now the plans, in a clearer conception of the reality of the situation, have risen to an army of 5,000,000, and it may be necessary to go higher. It is evident that only the foolish optimist now arrives at an overestimation of the damage inflicted on the enemy by the present allied success and infers that anything like a vital blow has been dealt to the Germans, or is to be dealt in the immediate future.

A little cynicism is a good thing, but it’s possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction and become too cynical.

 

Danger in Optimism: Senator New Reflects Opinion of Official Washington in Deploring Prophecies that War Will End Soon (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 18, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 18th, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Is An Air Ministry Necessary?

America is debating whether to create a new military branch: the Space Force. 100 years ago to the week, America debated whether to create the air force — or, as they called it then, an “Air Ministry.”

A key difference between then and now was the stance of the president. While Donald Trump supports the Space Force creation, signing a policy directive in June to jumpstart the process, Woodrow Wilson during World War I was opposed to a new branch devoted to aviation.

Indeed, the Air Force would not be created for another 29 years in 1947, two years after the end of World War II. In the United Kingdom, the formation of the Royal Air Force was similarly controversial, but was formed in April 1918.

Planes and pilots were certainly used during WWI and WWII. In fact, the first military use of airplanes was before WWI, in 1909, A military airplane was also used in 1916 against the Mexican general Pancho Villa, who had raided a town in New Mexico and killed 17 Americans.

For years, the military’s air operations were under the auspices of the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. “Because aircraft were initially used for observation and reconnaissance missions, rather than offensive/defensive work, it made some sense to have them be part of the Signal Corps,” Sarah Dunne, Archivist and Librarian for Maine’s Owls Head Transportation Museum, tells me.

This similar to how today space operations are under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force.

Interestingly, Trump’s Space Force directive overrules both Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, both of whom originally opposed the idea. That’s unlike in 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson, Secretary of War Newton Baker, and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels all opposed an “air ministry.”

Actually, why was it called an air ministry back then in the first place? “Odd that the writer chose the term ‘air ministry’ – very British. We didn’t have government departmentts called ‘ministries,’ I don’t think,” Dunne tells me. “Perhaps more than anything else, shows the American sense of kinship with the British?”

This 1918 article quotes extensively from Texas Senator Morris Sheppard, who opposed an “air ministry.” He gave four primary reasons:

#1: the status quo was already working.

“I took exception to the opinion that the Signal Corps had been inefficient in its handling of airplanes. Since then my opinion has not changed. I still believe that in the face of unparalleled difficulty there has been accomplished by our Government in aviation production an unparalleled task, and that it has been done with characteristic American energy, capacity, patriotism, and enthusiasm.”

#2: it would add more bureaucracy.

“Moreover, at the present time I see no reason for taking out of the hands of the Secretary of War and of the Secretary of the Navy and of the Aircraft Production Board the various controls which now emanate from them. To my mind that would only add a complication instead of removing one.”

“If we need a Ministry of Aeronautics, why not have also a Ministry of Submarines, or a Ministry of Military Food Supply, or a Ministry of Clothing, or a Ministry of Ordnance?”

#3: Congress shouldn’t oppose the president on a matter like this, especially during wartime.

“Those who advocate a Cabinet member for Aeronautics, despite the contrary opinion of the President, seem to me no less reckless than the pilot who takes the air without examining his petrol tank. If the President desires so radical a change in Government machinery — and if it becomes necessary he will desire it — then he will ask for it, and, of course, then he shall have it. But why impose on him what may be only a complication?”

#4: air should be considered less important than land or sea.

“While the airplane is highly important and while its quick production and development may even be vital to our military success, it is, and must be in its last analysis, only an adjunct to the army and navy. It seems to me a total misconception of its functions to segregate its production or its distribution from the routine work of the two great military branches of the Government.”

“That cannot be done any more than you can segregate its work in action from that of the army and navy. It can only operate in the field under the protection of the army and on the sea from the haven of the fleet. Why should it be regarded as a thing apart, a latter-day miracle, which is to wing us to victory in some marvelous manner, above our soldiers, beyond our ships?”

 

Is An Air Ministry Necessary?: Senator Sheppard of the Military Affairs Committee, an Administration Man, Tells Why He Thinks Not — Production Adequate, Public Tension Unjustified (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 11, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 14th, 2018 at 5:14 pm

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