Archive for the ‘War’ Category

War’s Biggest Trick: “The Suicide Fleet”

The Trojan horse had its 20th century equivalent in the “His Majesty’s Ship No. 1-14” fleet of fake battleships commissioned by the British Navy during World War I.

A Royal Naval Reserve Officer described the ostensibly powerful vehicles:

The ships seemed in trim for any daring venture that the sea in wartime could afford, and I wondered if the tale that they were dummies were not a farce for the consumption of spies. Never have I seen warships with appearance more genuine. Huge gray monsters they were, with double turrets fore and aft, from which great guns protruded; wicker masts with crow’s nests and gaunt naval bridges towered above decks stripped for action and anti-aircraft guns and range-finders pointed in every direction. All of them had steam up as if ready to dash to sea and engage a prowling enemy at any moment. Not in my twenty years at sea, in which time I have seen the navies of all the powers, have I gazed upon a more formidable squadron, if the eye alone were judge.

But on board the joke was evident at a glance. The fighting turrets were little wooden barns, with bare rafters inside. The great guns were logs, graduated from a sawmill, tapered and bored in exact imitation of naval cannon. Not a single real gun aboard! We could not have sunk a rowboat!

There were 14 such ships in all, and they worked: the Germany military bragged about torpedoing one of them, not realizing how little damage they had actually inflicted on their oppoentns.

War’s Biggest Trick: “The Suicide Fleet” — British Squadron of Fourteen Wooden Ships, with Wooden Guns, Deceived Germans for Months and Decoyed Them Into the Dogger Bank Disaster (PDF)

From Sunday, January 13, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 16th, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Posted in War

Thirty-two Camps Have Newspaper in Common

The newspaper Trench and Camp was started for soldiers in training during WWI, with the intention that half the content would be national and identical among each of the 32 editions, with the other half of content being written by local writers.

Trench and Camp did not survive past approximately 1919. What most Americans now think of as the primary publication dealing with the military, Stars and Stripes, began in its modern incarnation during WWI.

However, it had apparently not received enough attention by January 1918 for the New York Times Sunday Magazine to profile it yet — Trench and Camp was still apparently the bigger of the two publications at that point.

Thirty-two Camps Have Newspaper in Common: Four Pages of Each Issue Printed Here for All, Four More Pages of Local Interest Printed at Nearby Cities for Each Cantonment (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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January 10th, 2018 at 8:17 am

Posted in Journalism,War

Where Women Supplant Men Because of War

 

Among the jobs which were women were filling in for men in larger numbers as a result of World War I: streetcar conductors, subway guards, elevator runners, firefighters, munition works, the felt hat industry, radium plating, and wagon drivers.

As a man, I would gladly volunteer for even the most unjust war to avoid an occupation of radium plating. Guess how Marie Curie died?

Where Women Supplant Men Because of War: Changes Taking Place in Many Industries — Employers Report New Workers’ Adaptability in Fields Hitherto Barred — Equal Pay Now the Rule (PDF)

From Sunday, December 30, 1917

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December 31st, 2017 at 8:01 am

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here

In what is probably the single best piece of writing I’ve seen during my time running Sunday Magazine, this article describes the fewer toys, barren shop windows, and a new somewhat lonelier holiday celebration for Americans in the throes of World War I.

It is a changed Santa Claus that will visit New York on this, the first Christmas that has found America buckled down to the grim task of playing a part in the great world conflict — a war-rationed Santy who is trying to do his bit.

The old twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, cheery smile, and jolly paunch — symbols of merriment and hospitality, of kindliness and generosity — have lost some of their pristine glory. When hard-fisted necessity in the guise of the Higher Cost-of-Living, has been busy depleting the pocketbook for these many months past, when Charity is making her appeals for the starving and homeless in many quarters of the globe, when Patriotism is crying for funds with which to fight the enemy, the gift-pack must perforce shrink, the stuffed turkey be forsworn, the punch-bowl stay dry.

But if the old spirit of Merry Christmas has been tempered, if it has been shorn of some of its jollity, some of its splendidly careless generosity, because there is no longer “peace on earth,” there has come a community kindliness, a sobered realization of the ties that bind us to those outside our circle of kinship and friendship, a bestowal of hospitality and generosity upon the stranger and the poor such as we have never before seen. And so, after all, those gaudy colored angels perched upon their Christmas-card cloud can still trumpet forth with all their old fervor “good-will toward men.”

Be thankful for all that’s going right in the year 2017, whether in your own personal life or in the world at large. Happy holidays… and to all a good night.

Mars and Santa Claus Meet Here: First Christmas of the War Finds America No Longer the Lavish Spender of Other Years — Signs of Great Changes Seen on All Sides (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 24th, 2017 at 8:01 am

Posted in Life,War

Ebb of Pacifism in America

Prior to American entry in World War I, there was a not-insubstantial and vocal contingent of opposition. Eight months later, that had shriveled up to nearly nothing:

“But today the great majority of the altruists are out of the peace party; they recognized the reality of a war of justice, and quit idealism for humanity. Some of the altruists are still in the party, but they ‘are singing low,’ to quote one of the most influential who, accordingly, insists upon the anonymity of this quotation. And such flabby activity of the peace movement as exists today is being stimulated by the Socialist, the anarchist, the alien propagandist, or ‘the professional gasbag element.'”

One particular example was mentioned, a man who remains a household name even today. (Although his later Nazi sympathies would color how fewer generations would view his stances on war and politics.)

“Because of the sensational methods of his peace advocacy, the name of Henry Ford stands out. Mr. Ford spent $400,000 in his expedition to ‘get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas.’ Upon his return to this country he announced that he was ready to spend $25,000,000, or as much more as might be necessary, to prevent any improvement or extension of the naval or military establishment of the United States. Four months after we declared war he said that ‘we must prepare to go the limit for the struggle.’ A little later, in taking $5,000,000 of Liberty bonds, he said that the United States, in making war on Germany, did ‘the best thing that ever happened for the world.’ He has also come out for universal military training, and now he has himself joined the staff of the Shipping Board.”

Imagine getting that level of nearly-unanimous support on anything today, especially something so consequential.

Ebb of Pacifism in America: Voices Which Were Loud Last Summer Have Been Silenced by a Few Months of War — How the Leaders Came to Realize the Futility of Their Old Arguments (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 23rd, 2017 at 8:01 am

Posted in Politics,War

“Keep Jolly!” Somme Veteran Tells Our Men

How does a soldier keep from going insane in wartime? Maintain your sense of humor. That was the advice in this 1917 article. Among the examples they gave were:

“They give absurd names to everything. The Tommies call the ‘R.I.P.’ that is put on a soldier’s grave ‘Rise If Possible.’ When the rats were bad in Belgium and we were amusing ourselves by shooting at them along the parapet, I heard a pal of mine tell a rookie that those trench rats were so big that he had seen one of them trying on his greatcoat.”

Alas, people wouldn’t become that fun until the late 1970s. If this was the best humor they had to offer, a lot of WWI soldiers probably did go insane.

“Keep Jolly!” Somme Veteran Tells Our Men: Soldiers at the Front Would Go Crazy If They Didn’t Joke, Says Lieutenant Alexander McClintock, U.S.R., Formerly in the Canadian Army (PDF)

From Sunday, December 23, 1917

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December 22nd, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Posted in History,War

War Gifts and Taxes Threaten Home Charity

 

Domestic charitable organizations were facing a challenge in 1917. Because most charitable donations were suddenly going overseas as a result of American involvement in World War I that year, domestic charities found their donations drying up, according to Charity Organization Society of the City of New York President Robert W. de Forest”

“The need in Europe is great — very great. Let us help Europe to meet it if we can. But the direct responsibility for meeting that need falls on the great nations of Europe, one of which certainly is wealthier than our own [referring to the United Kingdom]… Yes, I believe in giving liberally to help suffering in Europe, but we should hold ourselves sufficiently in reserve to be able to relieve suffering at home.”

Today, charitable giving is consistently reaching new highs. Americans gave a record $390.0 billion to charity in 2016, itself up from the previous record the year before: $373.2 billion in 2015. The economy has been good and improving the past few years, while the nation was not at war.

War Gifts and Taxes Threaten Home Charity: How Local Benefactions Are Affected by American Philanthropy in Europe — New Government Levies Curtail Incomes of Those Who Formerly Gave Freely (PDF)

From Sunday, December 16, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 15th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Trade Pact of Nations as Bar to Future Wars

This article argued that the optimal way to deter warfare was economic sanctions, a policy that was used far less at the time of its 1917 publication than today.

“Germany might not have gone to war if she could have conceived that the world would rise to defend the signatures on a scrap of paper. But neither Germany, nor even Bolshevist Russia, could fail to see that the world would infallibly and instantly defend and avenge interests so peculiar to each of them, and yet so common to all, as the security for the world’s commerce.”

Alas, the actual track record for economic sanctions as a deterrent to warfare has been decidedly mixed. As Center for the National Interest Executive Director Paul J. Saunders argued in a 2013 op-ed:

“Washington has not tried to compel another major power with sanctions since 1940-41, when America imposed them on Imperial Japan, culminating in an oil embargo and the seizure of Japanese assets in July 1941. At that time, the United States sought to deter Japan from seizing Southeast Asia and demanded that Tokyo withdraw from Indochina and China. Japan in turn concluded that American sanctions made the occupation of Southeast Asia essential, as well as the devastation of the United States Navy.”

In 2017, sanctions have been instituted earlier this year on Russia, North Korea, and Iran. All three are considered among the nations that America could most likely go to war with given current geopolitical conditions, especially if you count “cyberwar” as modern-day warfare.

The bill passed the Senate 98-2. It was signed into law over President Trump’s stated objections that the legislation “improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.” Only time will tell if the sanctions will be enough to prevent war.

Trade Pact of Nations as Bar to Future Wars: No Government Could Afford to Forfeit Privileges in World Clearing House or to Imperil Gold Hoard Belonging Jointly to All Countries (PDF)

From Sunday, December 9, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 8th, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Nation More United Than in Past Crises

During the Revolutionary War, an estimated 20 percent of colonists were loyalists to the Crown, 45 percent wanted independence, and the remaining 35 percent were undecided or somewhere in between.

During subsequent wars declared by Congress, the Senate only voted for the War of 1812 by 59 percent and voted for the Spanish-American War by 54 percent.

World War I saw no such doubt, either among Congress or the American public at large. The country was absolutely unified around its military conflict, in a way that would last through World War II several decades later, but become shattered in the Vietnam and post-Vietnam eras.

By 2017 we now live in a world where — as Bill Maher quipped — “You can’t get 70 percent of people to agree that the sun is hot.”

Nation More United Than in Past Crises: Throughout the Revolution, in War of 1812, and During Mexican, Civil, and Spanish Wars Our Internal Dissensions Were Continuous (PDF)

From Sunday, December 2, 1917

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December 3rd, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Posted in War

War’s Subtle Changes in New York Life

How did World War I change daily life in New York City, even for those who weren’t fighting in the trenches?

  • Women weren’t wearing as fashionable clothing. “Fashionable social life expressed its lyric genius in a cumulative series of events designed to reveal feminine Spring in its most ardent mood. Not in 1917.”
  • People were rationing their food intake. “Eating has followed drinking as one of the pasttimes no longer in vogue.”
  • Knitting became huge. “This extraordinary popular activity has seized the feminine half of the community with a democratic disregard of classes. The servant and the mistress are alike obsessed.”
  • Theater took a hit. “All ordinary attractions fall almost instantly. In one week seven stars folded their tents on Broadway. Plays that might have prospered in some other season have no chance this year.” [The simultaneous surging popularity of movies also played a large role.

War’s Subtle Changes in New York Life: Although the City Is Outwardly Moving in the Same Old Ways, There Are Marked Differences Just Beneath the Surface (PDF)

From Sunday, November 25, 1917

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Written by Jesse

December 2nd, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Life,War

Slackers Are Not Popular Among the Quakers

Quakers refused to take up arms in war, as their religious beliefs dictate, but that didn’t stop them from participating in every non-combat way they could during World War I. As explained by Robert Cromwell Root, Pacific Coast Director of the American Peace Society and a Quaker himself:

“I urged them all to do everything possible to help in all activities for the aid and comfort of the troops, to co-operate with the Government in its food conservation program, to join the Red Cross, to buy Liberty bonds. I found that they were already doing all of these things. Quaker women everywhere are knitting and making bandages for soldiers, collecting books to be sent to the camps, and aiding the Y.M.C.A. in its work among the men in the armies.”

Today the Quakers maintain their “conscientious objector” views towards combat. But it’s not affecting our military too greatly — according to the Quaker Information Center, there were about 76 thousand Quakers in the U.S. in 2012, or only about .02 percent of the U.S. population.

That’s a dramatic downturn from colonial times, when Quakers represented a full one-third of the colonists. The U.S. Quaker population has decreased 12 percent in only five years, prompting fears from within that the group could go extinct within a few decades.

Slackers Are Not Popular Among the Quakers: Though Exempt from Fighting, the Friends Are Serving in Many Ways to Win War — Men in Red Cross, Women Knitting (PDF)

From Sunday, November 25, 1917

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December 1st, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Posted in War

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers

Before the age of email, instant messaging, texting, and even mass phone calls, communication from families to soldiers was much more difficult, as this 1917 article details:

“The time when the soldiers from the firing line did not get the home mail they were hoping for came at the end of one of the eighteen-day periods in which it was impossible to send any mail from America because there were no ships going over. There have been two such periods since our troops arrived in France.”

That was during World War I. My maternal grandfather delivered mail to the troops during the Korean War several decades later, and even then there were complications delivering the mail. Today, as you can imagine, the situation is significantly easier.

Interestingly, another excerpt from the article reveals the discrepancy between inbound and outbound letters: 450,000 letters per week to the troops, but only 376,000 letters per month from them — almost five times as many letters to the troops as from them.

Speeding Up the Mails for American Soldiers: Every Week 450,000 Letters Go to France, and Lack of Ships Has Complicated the Postal Problem — Cantonment Service Systematized (PDF)

From Sunday, November 18, 1917

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November 16th, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Posted in War

Why Stocks Tumbled in 1917 and Rose in 2017

In November 1917, the prices of most stocks were between 20 and 70 percent below where they had stood a year before. The plummet was so steep that rumors abounded that the Stock Exchange would be entirely shut down, permanently.

This article from the time interviewed former Director of the U.S. Mint George E. Roberts for his analysis of the stock market’s plummet. He laid the blame at four causes, quoting directly:

1.) The demands of the Liberty Loan. Every one [sic] has subscribed or has pledged to subscribe about all the spare cash he can must for the coming few months.

2.) The collateral demands of the war, the Red Cross, the hundred and one charities which reach forth on every hand to waylay the pocketbook.

3.) The vast needs for new and quick industrial investments to meet the munition and supply demands of the war.

4.) The uncertainty of the immediate future. Those who have available cash hesitate to invest it in stocks or bonds, even at the present ridiculously low prices. They would rather wait a bit and see what the Winter brings forth.

The market eventually self-corrected. In fact, if you had invested $1,000 in Coca-Cola stock during its original 1919 initial public offering, two years after this article was published, that stock would be worth $9.8 million today.

A century later in 2017, the opposite question is being asked: why does the stock market keep going up? Derek Thompson of The Atlantic recently wrote an excellent article analyzing this question after the Dow reached a new record high.

Thompson, like Roberts a century before him, laid out three or four reasons for the stock market’s performance:

1. It’s simple: Corporations everywhere are making a bunch of money.

2. A1 chaos doesn’t drive the business cycle.

3. There aren’t many obvious signs of bubbles, or causes for imminent corrections.

Thompson’s reason #2 in particular on its face may seem to contradict Roberts in 1917, since Roberts’ theory was that the page-A1 chaos of the time — namely World War I — was exactly what was driving the business cycle.

Then again, WWI truly consumed everything about the economy, politics, culture, and life. By contrast, Trump’s headline-driving tweet of the day usually generates more of a “Wasn’t that interesting?” response (or “Wasn’t that terrifying?” depending on who you ask) rather than proving transformative to the markets.

Usually… but not always. After Trump tweeted attacking their respective companies, Amazon’s stock market value dropped $5 billionBoeing dropped $550 million, and Toyota lost $1.2 billion in five minutes.

Why Stocks Tumbled: No Business Panic and No Prospect of One, Says George E. Roberts, Banker — Wartime Causes of Low Prices (PDF)

From Sunday, November 11, 1917

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November 8th, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Business,War

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp

Decades before the USO tours started in 1941, a prototype version called the Liberty Theaters was started in 1917.

Marc Klaw, a member of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, was tasked with building 16 such theaters for up to 600,000 soldiers to view. “We will have eight companies on the road all the time, four dramatic and four vaudeville,” Klaw said. “Plays will be up to date, and only first-class performers will be engaged.” Irving Berlin was one of the first performers to sign up.

The modern version, the USO, has 160 locations around the world and has entertained an estimated 75 million Americans throughout its history.

Real Theatres in Every National Army Camp: Soldiers in the Cantonments Will See Best Plays and Leading American Actors Each Week — Highest Ticket PRice Twenty-five Cents (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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November 3rd, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Theater,War

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army

If soldiers in WWI thought the Axis Powers were scary, they had nothing on chlamydia.

During the war, the U.S. military lost more than 7 million “person-days” and were forced to discharge more than 10,000 men due to sexually transmitted diseases.

Mere months into the war, top official realized this could become a serious problem. William H. Zinsser, Chairman of Council of National Defense’s Sub-Committee for Civilian Cooperation in Combatting Venereal Diseases, said:

 “One nation, during the first year and a half of war, lost the services of more men through venereal disease than through death or wounds in battle. One regiment which participated in a furious attack in Northern France was sent back of the lines to recuperate, and there joined another regiment which had been encamped behind the front for some time and had seen no actual fighting at all. Will you believe that the latter regiment, the one that had not been in action, had lost the services of more men through venereal disease during its stay behind the lines than the one back from the firing line had lost in the attack?”

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army: For the First Time in History a Nation Takes Advance Steps to Avert an Evil Worse Than Battle Casualties (PDF)

From Sunday, October 28, 1917

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October 27th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Health,War

Immigration Tide May Turn from West to East

 

As this 1917 article correctly predicted, many European immigrants to the U.S. later moved back to Europe after the conclusion of World War I. By some estimates, that number was almost one-third of European immigrants to America. However, “relatively few” German-Americans returned back to Germany.

Immigration Tide May Turn From West to East: Millions of Our Foreign-Born Citizens Planning to Return to Europe After the War, Says Commissioner Frederic C. Howe (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 13th, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Development,Life,War

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War

How should schools change their curricula during wartime? During WWI, New York State Education Commissioner John H. Finley attempted to answer that question.

“There is a twofold obligation on the teacher. First, it is essential that we defend the intellectual frontiers of our democracy. We must “dig ourselves into” their trenches and hold them. Second, the schools, public and private, teachers and pupils alike, must take an active part in helping the nation in the fight.”

Today, civics education in schools is on the decline — arguably during a period where Americans need it more than ever.

Finley defended the importance of schools amid a time of war, when others might suggest limiting education budgets or other similar measures in order to invest almost solely in the military:

“There are approximately as many teachers in the State of New York as there are New York men in the first contingent of the National Army; a teacher in the army of future defense for every soldier in the army of present defense. And what an army this is; this unseen mighty army which is helping to make a democracy worth saving by the other army! We who must remain at our posts of future defense cannot let these momentous days in the world’s history pass without doing our part to help bring in our own day that peace which will make the world a safe place hereafter for those whom we teach.”

Stirring words indeed.

Duties of Schools When Nation Is at War: New York State Sets Example in Encouraging Teaches to Inform Pupils About America’s Aims — Lineup of the Colleges (PDF)

From Sunday, October 14, 1917

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October 12th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Education,War

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing

The War Department (later renamed the Defense Department) in 1916 placed “song leaders” in the training camps for the military. Why?

“‘A songless army,’ says Major Gen. J. Franklin Bell, commander of Camp Upton, ‘would lack in the fighting spirit in proportion as it lacked responsiveness to music. There is no more potent force in developing unity in an army than in that of song.'”

We eventually won World War I, though it’s hard to say how much if anything song had to do with that. Still — from “cadence calls” that cadets sing out in time to their steps as they go on runs, to USO tours which bring popular music performers to entertain the troops overseas, music has always played a part in the U.S. military.

Teaching Uncle Sam’s Fighters to Sing: Organized Work Being Done Under Experienced Leaders in Camps All Over the Country — Difficulties of a Song Leader’s Job (PDF)

From Sunday, September 30, 1917

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September 30th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Music,War

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations

In one of the best examples of backhanded compliments ever, George MacAdam wrote in 1917:

“Women make good soldiers? Why not? Women are a great deal more combative than men. If you don’t believe me, ask any married man. A fighting woman is by long odds fiercer than a fighting man. If women had the physical strength and could be disciplined — (make a note of that) AND COULD BE DISCIPLINED — they would dominate the earth.”

President Obama allowed women in combat roles in 2013. Some predict that President Trump could reverse and once again ban women from combat roles, though he currently has yet to do so. (Although some fear Trump reversal of Obama’s policy allowing transgender soldiers could be an opening salvo.)

When Women Fight: Dr. Graeme M. Hammond Discusses “The Female of the Species,” Her Warlike Qualities and Limitations (PDF)

From Sunday, September 2, 1917

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August 30th, 2017 at 11:34 am

Posted in Debate,War

Tremendous Cost of War to the United States

Federal expenditures multiplied more than 10-fold after America entered World War I.

Even then, though, the drastically increased spending was still far less when adjusted for inflation than the federal government spends today. The 1917 spending was about $10.73 billion, which would be about $205.3 billion today. But this fiscal year will spend about $4.14 trillion, or about 20 times what we were spending in 1917.

Still, it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison.Three of the four biggest drivers of modern-day federal spending are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — none of which existed back in 1917.

 

Tremendous Cost of War to the United States: Estimate of the Total Expenditures for Year Ending Next June IS $10,735,807,000 — Last Year’s Outlay Was $1,041,635,116 (PDF)

From Sunday, August 26, 1917

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August 24th, 2017 at 11:39 am