Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Democracy of the Joke And Lack of German Humor Discussed by Leacock

On the very week that America entered World War I, Stephen Leacock explained in an article how one of the Allies’ unheralded strengths in the battle of ideas was their sense of humor, while one of Germany’s greatest weaknesses was their lack thereof:

“Do you know what is the most democratic form of literature? It is humorous literature. For of humorous literature the only test is: Do they laugh or do they not laugh? No King ever posed as a humorist. No King ever was a humorist, that is, an intentional humorist.

And one proof of the democracy of humor is its absence in Germany. Is there any one not a German to whom the German joke appeals? The German joke, like the peace of God, passeth all understanding.

Real humor is universal in its appeal; its popularity extends beyond national boundaries. Mark Twain has been translated into every language, and he is as funny in French or modern Greek as he is in English… Charles Dickens is the property of all the world; we think of him as a great humorist instead of as a man who wrote to amuse the English. But German humor does not cross the Rhine. The world knows German philosophy and German science and German scholarships, but it knows nothing of German humor. And the reason for this must be that there is no German humor to know.”

The best example of so-called ‘German humor’ ever might be this early Steve Carell clip with American comedians as “Germans who say nice things” —

 Democracy of the Joke And Lack of German Humor Discussed by Leacock: Famous Canadian Wit Also Gives His Views on the Perversity of the Russian Verb (PDF)

Published Sunday, April 8, 1917

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Written by Jesse

April 10th, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Humor,War

War Brings Huge Increase in United States Peanut Crop

Between 1908 and 1916, the total value of U.S. peanuts more than quadrupled. Why? Because the cotton crop had been nearly wiped out boll weevils, leaving far more land for peanuts to be planted. As a result, the price per peanut bushel had doubled or more within only a few years. The more you know.

The final sentence’s prediction that “Down in the cotton country they are saying that we are soon to see the rise of peanut barons” never quite came true, as best I can tell from quick research.

War Brings Huge Increase in United States Peanut Crop (PDF)

From Sunday, March 25, 1917

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March 29th, 2017 at 7:01 am

Posted in Business,War

Spirit of the Nobler American Now Awake

Less than two months before the United States would formally enter World War I, the drumbeat of imminent entry was uniting the country. James M. Beck, author of “The Evidence in the Case,” was previously a critic of President Woodrow Wilson’s policies, but he come around after Wilson ceased diplomatic relations with Germany in early 1917, shortly before ultimately declaring war that April. In February, Beck wrote:

“The value of this action to the United States is immeasurable. It saves it from a possible abyss of disaster. Had America failed to act and show a willingness to make sacrifices for the basic principles of civilization, the hand of every nation might hereafter have been against her. President Wilson’s action has saved for the United States the respect of the world (including Germany, which overestimated America’s willingness to fight for its rights), the leadership of the neutral nations, and the good-will of our sister democracies in Europe, with whose final triumph the interests of America are so vitally concerned.”

One wonders whether a similar near-unanimity of public support is possible for any policy position in the modern era.

Spirit of the Nobler American Now Awake: Former Critic of the President Says There Are Practically No Dissenters From President Wilson’s Clarion Call to Duty (PDF)

From Sunday, February 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

February 12th, 2017 at 7:34 am

Posted in Politics,War

New York Police Department Is on a War Footing

Lest one thinks that war only affects law enforcement on a national level, the local NYPD was heavily prepared for imminent involvement in the World War I:

“…[for] invasion of bombardment or the cutting of supplies by siege, detailed answers to every phrase of that question are on file at Police Headquarters… Plans for emptying the town or any given section of the town are perfected. In addition to all the normal traffic lines, elevated, surface and subway, which the Police Commissioner has the right to commander if the lives of the people are at stake, he he on record lists of many thousands of motor trucks and other vehicles which would be at the instant disposal of the police…

By means of this same Police Department with its emergency plans the entire food and fuel supply of the city could be municipalized overnight and its distribution regulated by the authorities in the way to do the most good for the largest number.”

One would assume that the NYPD in 2017 has an even more complex plan for such an unlikely scenario, especially following a massive terrorist attack on New York City soil in 2001.

There was also a warning to avoid paranoia or overly broad measures in 1917, in stark contrast to the “Muslim registry” advocated during the campaign trail by our current president:

“This suggests another thing the ideal policeman has to be. He must be part diplomat. Nothing would be more absurd or fraught with danger of serious consequences in a time like this than for the police to act on the assumption that all Germans are suspects. There are 300,000, or more, of them in this city. The occasional plots of the last two years and a half in this country and city would indicate that perhaps a very few of these Germans have to be watched — probably not one in a thousand.”

New York Police Department Is on a War Footing: Nothing Has Been Left to Chance During the Last Two Years to Prepare 11,000 Policemen for Any Emergency to Come (PDF)

From Sunday, February 11, 1917

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Written by Jesse

February 11th, 2017 at 7:34 am

Posted in War

Lowering the Cost of Living for the Navy

Here’s an element of navy/military spending that seems obvious once it’s brought up, yet might never have entered your brain before:

“Suppose, for instance, that you had about 65,000 men, the great majority of them young, healthy, and hungry, to clothe and feed. Suppose that when you bought flour you bought it by the millions of pounds; that you meat purchases totaled nearly 18,000,000 pounds a year; that you had to buy almost 25,000,000 pounds of cabbages, onions, potatoes, carrots, cauliflowers, and other fresh vegetables annually; that your sugar and coffee and canned good purchases were proportionately large; that when you bought eggs the order specified a few hundred thousand; that you bought every twelve months more than 1,700,000 pounds of butter, not to mention scores of other foods which America’s bluejackets and marines must have and do get, what would you do about it?

That was in 1917. If anything, today those numbers for the Navy are almost certainly larger. I couldn’t find numbers related to the cost of food for today’s military, but the number of active duty Navy members currently stands at 323 thousand.

A few months ago I covered a talk from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, yet somehow this subject of food never came up.

Lowering the Cost of Living for the Navy: How One of the Newly Appointed Rear Admirals, as Paymaster General, Tackled a Vexatious Problem and Solved It (PDF)

From Sunday, January 28, 1917

 

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Written by Jesse

January 29th, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Business,War

One-Man Submarine Invention of an American

 

Small submarines definitely still exist today, though to my knowledge the operator sits inside. I’m not aware of a current design which requires lying on one’s stomach and pedaling.

Although the pictured invention might look a bit silly to a modern day viewer, the idea behind the invention still has merit to it:

“The only way by which to make the action of the torpedo actually certain was to put an experienced operator inside it; for, while its automatic machinery operates with almost human intelligence, there is no certainty that it will on long ranges do exactly what is required of it.”

One-Man Submarine Invention of an American: Tiny Torpedo Boat, Said to be Used by German Raider, Was Anticipated by the Ingenious Craft of Thomas J. Moriarty (PDF)

From Sunday, January 28, 1917

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January 29th, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Prophesies Bigger ‘Tanks’ – By H.G. Wells

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Famed novelist — and one of the only writers of the time who’s still read today — H.G. Wells penned this piece for NYT Sunday Magazine in 1917. The legendary science fiction author and futurist, who wrote such classic novels as The Time Machine in 1895 and The War of the Worlds in 1898, in this piece projects the future development of tanks, which were one of the main military innovations at the time:

“It is impossible to restrain a note of sharp urgency from what one has to say about these developments. The “tank,” which at present weighs under twenty tons, will develop steadily into a tremendous instrument of warfare, driven by engines of scores of thousands of horse power, tracking on a track scores of hundreds of yards wide, and weighing hundreds or thousands of tons. Nothing but a world agreement not to do so can prevent this logical development of the land ironclad idea. Such a structure will make wheel-ruts scores of feet deep; it will plow up, devastate and destroy the country it passes over altogether.”

Tanks did improve. Though they weighed less than 20 tons at the time, the 1944 German tank Panzer VIII Maus remains the heaviest tank ever built at 207 tons. And most American tanks today have around 1,500 horsepower, which qualifies for Wells’ prediction of “thousands of horse power.” But one single tank, even the most powerful ones currently in exist, is not enough to destroy a country it passes over altogether.

Prophesies Bigger “Tanks”: Novelist Who Foretold the Caterpillar Forts Believes More Terrible Land Battleships Are Sure to Come (PDF)

From January 7, 1917

 

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Written by Jesse

January 5th, 2017 at 7:26 am

Posted in Fiction,War

Military Training Would Make Us a New Race

military-training-would-make-us-a-new-race

Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Hugh H. Young did not appear to legitimately believes that more military training would literally turn us into a new species, but he did advocate mandatory military training as some other countries such as Switzerland did. He writes:

“If our American boys could have such physical training under scientific supervision, what a different race we would produce. Minor defects and diseases would be discovered early and cured, thus removing the deformities or foci of infection which lead to the host of diseases and physical impairments which make us a sub-standard neurotic nation, with the highest middle-aged mortality.”

If only Dr. Young knew what the American obesity rate would swell to 100 years later.

Military Training Would Make Us a New Race: Noted Medical Authority Says It Would Lift Us From a Sub-Standard Neurotic Nation to One of Highest Type of Manhood (PDF)

From January 7, 1917

 

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Written by Jesse

January 3rd, 2017 at 7:26 am

Posted in Science,War

‘America Faces Its Most Momentous Year’

 

america-faces-its-most-momentous-year

At the close of 1916, George MacAdam predicted that 1917 would be the most important year in American history. Although historians differ on precisely what was the most important year in American history, virtually nobody selects 1917. Among the most common selections are: 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed, 1789 when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were were ratified, 1861 when the Civil War started, 1865 when the Civil War ended and the slaves were freed despite Lincoln getting assassinated, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was Attacked and the U.S. entered World War II, 1945 when World War II ended and the U.S. became the first and only country to deploy nuclear weapons, 1968 when a bunch of crazy stuff happened, 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and the U.S. became the world’s one true superpower, and 2001 when the September 11 attacks occurred.

“America Faces Its Most Momentous Year”: President of Princeton University Says Crisis of the Present Day Is Greater Than That of the Revolution or the Civil War (PDF)

From December 31, 1916

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Written by Jesse

January 2nd, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Immigration After War Will Break All Records

immigration-after-war-will-break-all-records

Did the immigrant population spike after World War I ended, as this Harvard professor predicted? The answer is: it went up slightly. As the below graphic from the Center for Immigration Studies shows, U.S. immigrants living in the U.S. went up slightly from the 1900-10 decade to the 1910-20 decade in pure numbers, from 13.5 million immigrants to 13.9 million, then up again to 14.2 million in from 1920-30. However, the percentage of immigrants as a percentage of the U.S population actually declined during that time, from 14.7 percent in 1910 to 13.2 percent in 1920 to 11.6 percent in 1930.

The 2010 percentage was 12.9 percent. That was originally estimated by the Center for Immigration Studies to reach a near-high of 14.3 percent in 2020 and a new high of 15.8 percent in 2030. It will be interesting to see what effect a President Trump will have on those projections. On the one hand, he could curtail immigration, for example Syrian refugees. On the other hand, if the economy expands due to lower income and corporate taxes, perhaps more people from other countries would want to come here for the economic opportunities, the true “American dream” Trump promises to resuscitate.

Image result for immigration by year 1900

Immigration After War Will Break All Records: Prof. Foerster of Harvard Expects More than a Million a Year and Thinks United States Should Adopt Restrictive Measures (PDF)

From December 17, 1916

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Written by Jesse

December 13th, 2016 at 7:12 am

Barrie, Saddened by the War, Writes Little Now

From November 12, 1916

barrie-saddened-by-the-war-writes-little-now

Barrie, Saddened by the War, Writes Little Now: Famous Author of ‘Peter Pan’ Is More Shy and Elusive Than Ever Since the Struggle Began — Supports a Hospital in France (PDF)

I’ve had a long and complicated relationship with Peter Pan as a novel. I first read it in elementary school and found it magical, in fact it was one of my favorite books. I read it for the second time the week that I turned 18 and became an adult, at least in the eyes of the law. I still loved it but took a different lesson from the ending. (Spoiler alert for the next sentence or two.) Wendy, John, and Michael all go back to London from Neverland, bringing the Lost Boys with them, so that all the main child characters eventually grow up, but Peter himself remains forever a boy on the island. Instead of just a light fun harmless story as I found it in elementary school, I now saw the lesson as “Become an adult, but keep a little bit of childlike joy and wonder within yourself.”

The third time I read it was in 2014, shortly after the NBC live musical version aired. I was now fully an adult — a young adult maybe, but still an adult, no question about it. I came to dislike what I now perceived as the lesson, namely “Childhood is good, therefore adulthood is bad.” I agree that childhood is good, but that doesn’t mean the opposite of childhood is therefore bad. I had become an adult and loved many aspects of it — no more curfew, for one thing! I found the film Boyhood, released that same year, to be a much better and more meaningful fictional encapsulation of from the transition from childhood to adulthood.

But there’s still no denying that J.M. Barrie remains one of the few writers from the early 1900s who is still regularly read, thanks largely to Peter Pan. World War I hit the man extremely hard. Already shy and a little odd to begin with — as can be seen through Johnny Depp’s brilliant Oscar-nominated portrayal in the film Finding Neverland — Barrie’s godson George Llewelyn Davies was killed in action in 1915. George was one of the main inspirations for the Lost Boys characters, and his first name was used as the name of Wendy’s father in Barrie’s book and play.

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Written by Jesse

November 12th, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Literature,War

Viscount Kaneko Sounds Note of Warning

From November 12, 1916

viscount-kaneko-sounds-note-of-warning

Viscount Kaneko Sounds Note of Warning: He Fears That the Good Feeling Between Japan and America Is Losing Strength Because of the Vital Race Question (PDF)

In 1916, there was a worry that positive relations between the U.S. and Japan could be fraying. 35 years later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

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Written by Jesse

November 11th, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Politics,War

‘Movies’ and ‘War Game’ as Aids to Our Navy

From November 5, 1916

movies-and-war-game-as-aids-to-our-navy

‘Movies’ and ‘War Game’ as Aids to Our Navy: Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske Advocates Combining Former with Famed Kriegspiel to Develop American Naval Strategists (PDF)

Unlike any other century-old article that I’ve come across when running this website, this 1916 piece started off as though the writer figured it might be read a century subsequently:

“Historians of tomorrow may award the honor of having developed great American naval strategists to the “movies.” That sounds improbable now, but the improbability will be materially lessened if the shapers of our naval policies adopt suggestions contained in “The Navy as a Fighting Machine,” a new book by Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske…

Not ships, nor guns, nor men, but strategy is the prime requisite for successful naval warfare. Strategy must be worked out in peace times, long before the outbreak of war, in order to insure victory. The best way to develop naval strategists in peace times is through intense cultivation of the “Kriegspiel,” the famous “war game” played much in the manner of chess by German army officers ever since the days of von Moltke, and introduced a few years ago among the officers of the Germany Navy by Kaiser Wilhelm II. A good way to carry the method a step ahead is to “film” the various moves in a given “Kriegspiel” problem and project them on a screen, in order that they may be more easily understood by audiences composed of American naval officers.

Does anybody currently serving in the military know if this suggestion was ever adopted en masse by the U.S. military? I’d certainly never heard of it before. I just covered a talk given by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the National Press Club a few weeks ago — clearly I should have asked him then.

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Written by Jesse

November 2nd, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Italy Proud of Soldier-Poet Killed in Action

From October 8, 1916

italy-proud-of-soldier-poet-killed-in-action

Italy Proud of Soldier-Poet Killed in Action: Giosue Borsi’s “Letters from the Front” and “Spiritual Colloquies” Are Considered Remarkable Products of Days of War (PDF)

After the poet Giosue Borsi was killed during World War I in November 1915, a letter he wrote to his mother in event of his death, his “Letter to his Mother” went around the world and was translated into many languages — the 1916 equivalent of going viral. Much of the letter is reprinted in the above article, but one passage I found particularly tragically beautiful:

With this beautiful and praiseworthy past, fulfilling the most desired of all duties as a good citizen toward the land that gave him birth, I depart, in the midst of the tears of all those that love me, from a life toward which I felt weary and disgusted. I leave the failings of life, I leave sin, I leave the sad and afflicted spectacle of the small and momentary triumphs of evil over good.

 

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Written by Jesse

October 7th, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Literature,War

War Has Taught Our Chemists Many Secrets

From September 17, 1916

war-has-taught-our-chemists

War Has Taught Our Chemists Many Secrets: Need of Products Which Europe Cannot Now Supply Has Successfully Stimulated Experts to Produce Satisfactory Substitutes (PDF)

War has always been one of the most powerful motivators for scientific advancement. As astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil DeGrasse Tyson noted in his 2013 Rice University commencement address, “No one has ever spent big money just to explore. No one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. We went to the moon on a war driver. That part got cleansed from our memory.” Of President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 proposal to send humans to Mars, Tyson said, “People were saying, ‘We’ve lost our drive, we’ve lost our will.’ No, it’s the same will we’ve ever had. We just weren’t threatened.”

World War I was no different. This article details some the ways in which that scientific advancement was occurring at the time, a silver lining to the ultimate dark cloud. Later in World War II, that scientific advancement would come most prominently in the form of the Manhattan Project and nuclear weapons.

 

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Written by Jesse

September 16th, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Science,War

Germany Not Seeking Conquest, Says German

From August 6, 2016

Germany Not Seeking

Germany Not Seeking Conquest, Says German: Professor Moritz Julius Bonn Denies That She Would Impose Her Culture on Other Nations by Doctrine of “Might Makes Right” (PDF)

Yeah, about that…

Perhaps Germany was not seeking conquest in 1916, but if only that claim was as true in the 1940s, the world would be an immeasurably better place. At the time this article was written, Adolf Hitler was a lowly soldier fighting for Germany during World War I. His subsequent attempts at establishing the Third Reich make passages such as this seem downright oblivious and dangerous in their lack of foresight:

A nation flanked as Germany is, by the oncoming Slavic races in the East and the established nations of Europe in the West, is not at liberty to indulge in foreign adventures. She must aim at concentrating her people within her borders by foreign commerce and industry, not by trying domination over other European races across the sea.

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Written by Jesse

August 4th, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Politics,War

The Allies of the Future

From July 30, 1916

The Allies of the Future

Harvard professor Hugo Muensterberg wrote this essay about how the world order might look post-World War I. Some of his predictions or warnings seem relevant today, such as his hope that economic concerns would trump war-mongering. That is the overarching theory behind the Obama Administration’s significant easing of economic sanctions as part of the Iranian nuclear deal, and also the famous theory that two countries both with McDonald’s (almost) never go to war. Muensterberg in 1916 wrote:

Peace must be secured from within; not fortresses and guns but good-will must prevent strife in the future. Have not the nations learned through these two years that their material exchange binds them more firmly together than they ever fancied? Was not the sheet of paper on which these words are printed bought at an unheard-of price because they are fighting on the other half of the globe? In the world of the market every declaration of independence is in vain. As long as the guns are roaring, economic generals may work out their campaign plans for the destruction of the enemy’s commerce in future years; war is war. But peace is peace, and, above all, business is business.

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Written by Jesse

July 30th, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Carrier Pigeons an Aid to Preparedness

From July 16, 1916

Carrier Pigeons

Carrier Pigeons an Aid to Preparedness: Europe’s War Has Shown That Homing Birds Often Beat Aeroplanes and the Wireless in Carrying Military Dispatches (PDF)

As the sub-headline suggests, 1916 was an era where a bird could be counted on as more reliable and speedier than “aeroplanes” or “the wireless.” Today, of course, with supersonic jets and instant communication worldwide via the Internet and other digital devices, that is no longer true. The U.S. military stopped using messenger pigeons in 1957. Yet the NYT article estimates that 18,000 such pigeons were being used in France alone during 1916.

The author even suggests that readers mobilize to help out in the war effort, not by rationing food or donating war bonds as were the most typical methods, but by training carrier pigeons yourself:

And you, the reader, may take part in such a nation-wide scheme of preparedness by raising and training your own homing pigeons and holding them ready for the service of the military authorities in time of war or your community in time of peace. On every motor trip you can take a few pigeons and fly them back home from various distances, or any friend in a distant town will delight in flying them to you and telegraphing the moment of release. Express companies on all railroads carry crates at low cost, and I have uniformly found their agents courteous and willing to release the birds on arrival and to ship back the empty crates.

I wouldn’t count on agent being as “courteous and willing to release the birds on arrival” in this day and age.

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Written by Jesse

July 16th, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Nature,War

Sir Edward Grey

From July 9, 1916

Sir Edward Grey

Sir Edward Grey — George Bernard Shaw profile about the foreign secretary of Britain [PDF]

The meeting of two great minds. George Bernard Shaw was one of the most acclaimed writers of his day as a journalist and playwright, and nine years after this article in 1925 he would win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sir Edward Grey was the 11-year Foreign Secretary for Great Britain (their equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State), and later the Ambassador to the United States and Chancellor at University of Oxford.

Shaw didn’t like Grey, to put it mildly. He writes:

As long ago as 1906, in referring to a very horrible episode in the history of our occupation of Egypt, I expressed my opinion that Sir Edward Grey was unfitted by his character and the limitations of his capacity for the highly specialized work of a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Nothing that has happened since has shaken that opinion.

That December, about five months after the article’s publication, a new Prime Minister took over and Grey’s 11-year reign in the position ended. Presumably Shaw was happy.

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Written by Jesse

July 7th, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Politics,War

Red Cross Organizes Medical Preparedness

From July 2, 2016

Red Cross

Red Cross Organizes Medical Preparedness: Colonel Jefferson R. Kean Tells Why It Is Necessary to Train Physicians for Complicated Duty of Caring for the Wounded (PDF)

The Director General of Military Relief for the American Red Cross discusses the necessity of military medical care. The Red Cross did life-saving work then and continues to do so now, a particularly vital service in such times as the aftermath of the Orlando massacre the other week. I’ve donated blood twice before and I’m scheduled to do so again a third time soon. You should too.

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Written by Jesse

July 1st, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Science,War