World War I: By the Numbers

- It was the first war fought in the air.
- 15 years after the Wright Brothers made their first flight, more than 65,000 aircraft were produced by both sides.
- 38 American volunteers served in the French Air Service before America entered the war. They flew more than 3,000 missions
- Germany built 123 zeppelin airships, which carried out more than 100 bombing raids on Great Britain.
- It took 5 downed aircraft or “kills” to be considered a “flying ace.”
- America’s top ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, had 26 kills.
- Germany’s Manfred von Richthofen (best known as the “Red Baron”) had 80. 

- Not all air weapons were high-tech: 500,000 carrier pigeons were used to carry messages along the front.

- Tanks made their first appearance on a battlefield.

- Britain used 476 tanks in the 1917 Battle of Cambrai, and 8,200 were produced by war’s end.
- The self-powered machine gun was invented in 1884 and became a mainstay of the war.
- It had a range of 1,000 yards and fired 600 rounds a minute.
- Heavy artillery included the French 75mm gun and Germany’s devastating 420mm howitzer, “Big Bertha.”
- Artillery weapons caused 70% of all battle casualties. 

- More than 2,500 miles of trenches were erected along the 466-mile Western Front, which stretched from the English Channel to Switzerland.

- There was one soldier for every 4 inches of trench.
- The British army treated 20,000 cases of trench foot in 1914 alone.
- 1.2 million men were lost just during the Battle of the Somme–the Allies only gained 7.8 miles of territory.
- 110,000 tons of poison gas were used during the war, resulting in more than 500,000 casualties.
- It was the first use of chemical weapons in warfare.

- World War I featured one of history’s last great naval battles. There were more than 250 ships involved in the battle of Jutland.
- Germany lost just 178 of the 400 U-Boats it built–but still managed to sink 5,554 allied and neutral ships.
- The U-boats’ most famous victim was RMS Lusitania. It was torpedoed in 1915 and sank in just 15 minutes. 1,198 people aboard died, including 128 Americans.
- There were 6.6 million civilian deaths, including 2 million in Russia alone.
- 8 million soldiers died–or 6,000 deaths every day of the war.
- 21.2 million were wounded. In all, 65 million men fought in World War I–from 40 countries and dozens of colonies.

- For the first time in history, battle wounds accounted for more deaths than disease…Until the arrival of the Spanish Flu.
- By 1918, 60% of U.S. Army deaths were attributed to the flue and more than 40% of the U.S. Navy had fallen ill.
- By the end of the outbreak, the flu had claimed almost as many men as combat had.

Wilson Proposes to Arm US Merchant Vessels

Wilson addresses Congress.

February 26 1917, Washington–Since the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare at the beginning of February, only two American ships had been sunk, both with warning and without loss of life.  The larger effect was in American ports, where many vessels that had been planning to depart for Europe simply refused to leave, clogging American ports and disrupting American trade.  To help relieve this situation, and to impress upon the Germans his determination to protect America’s rights on the high seas, Wilson decided to ask Congress for the authorization to arm merchant ships so that they could defend themselves from submarines.

Wilson planned to address a joint session of Congress on Monday, February 26.  Over the weekend, Wilson had received the Zimmermann Telegram from his ambassador in London, and apparently showed “much indignation.”  He had wanted to release it right away, but ultimately decided to wait until after the address to Congress, allowing him to test their mood towards Germany.  The delay would also give him the chance to completely verify its authenticity (though he apparently had no doubts) and to consult with Secretary of State Lansing, who was not in Washington over the weekend.

At 1PM on the 26th, Wilson addressed Congress and introduced his Armed Ships Bill.  The message was well-received by most.  Anti-German politicians were glad Wilson was finally standing up to Germany, while some pacifists hoped that arming merchant ships would deter Germany from attacking American ships and prevent an incident that would lead to war.  Wilson himself took the second tack: “I am the friend of peace and mean to preserve it for America so long as I am able…[I am not] proposing or contemplating war or any steps that lead to it.”  Other pacifists, however, saw the measure as more likely to lead to a confrontation with Germany, and bitterly opposed it.

While he was speaking, the news of the Laconia sinking arrived, along with the deaths of two Americans on board.  Although the Laconia was a British ship (and could not have been affected by Wilson’s measure), the sinking only served to cement both sides’ opinions of the bill.

Today in 1916: Turkish-Senussi Force Defeated in Egyptian Desert
Today in 1915: Germans Deploy First Flamethrowers of the War

Sources include: Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram; Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel; Michael Kazin, War Against War.

We have developed a kind of symphony music that, no matter what else you think, is different and distinctive, and that lends itself to the playing of the peculiar compositions of our race … My success had come … from a realization of the advantages of sticking to the music of my own people.” And later, “We colored people have our own music that is part of us. It’s the product of our souls; it’s been created by the sufferings and miseries of our race.

James Reese Europe

Originally posted by theladybadass

U-Boat Sinks Laconia, Kills Two Americans

The Laconia pictured off the coast of German East Africa in July 1915, while she was in the service of the Royal Navy; she had resumed transatlantic passenger service in September 1916.

February 25 1917, Queenstown [Cobh]–The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare had brought a near-immediate rupture in diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany.  However, war appeared little closer; several weeks into the campaign, only two American merchant ships had been sunk, both with warning and without loss of life.  This changed on the evening of February 25, when a British passenger liner, the RMS Laconia, was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by U-50 with no warning.  The evacuation was relatively orderly, until the U-boat fired another torpedo twenty minutes later.  This accelerated the pace of the sinking and caused severe damage to one of the lifeboats being lowered into the water.  On board this lifeboat were Mary Hoy of Chicago, and her daughter Elizabeth.  The American consul in Queenstown described their fate:

[The lifeboat was] leaking like a basket.  It filled with water instantly but was buoyed up by air-tanks under the thwarts….[It] drifted away through a chilling drizzle, coasting the twelve-foot ocean swells in the black darkness….As the night wore on, two American ladies found it necessary to stand continuously on their feet, so deep had settled the water-logged boat.

At half past one o’clock…gray-haired Mrs. Hoy sank down and tucked her head back like a tired child and entered the last sleep.  After this, Miss Elizabeth Hoy’s mind seemed to be unhinged.  She kept chafing the hands of the stiffening remains of her mother and pouring endearments into those deaf ears, until an hour later a merciful heaven released her overtaxed spirit in its turn…When the wan dawn suffused the winter sea, the eleven survivors found themselves shipmates with eight staring corpses.

Also on board the Laconia was Chicago Tribune reporter Floyd Gibbons, whose vivid account of the sinking further riled up American public opinion.  

Today in 1916: Fort Douaumont Falls to Germans
Today in 1915: Enver Pasha Orders Disarming of Armenian Soldiers

Sources include: Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel.  Image Credit: Imperial War Museum.

Armistice Day

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, and coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

“All quiet on the Eastern front”
… really, mum. They’re just horribly misunderstood creatures, Ironbellies. Pyotr Kravchenko, the Chief Warlock of the Beast Division here in Tarnopol, is a staunch supporter of the Tsar and has named all the dragons after members of the Muggle royal family. Nikolai is positively sweet. Anastasia can be a handful at times, but nothing we can’t handle. I think she may be allergic to something they’re feeding her.

Thanks for the woollen socks you sent, and especially for the Hot Air Charm you’ve put on them.

Please give my love to Theseus when you write to him. And make sure Nipper eats properly. He always moults so badly while I’m away. They say we’ll be home by Christmas, so I’ll be seeing you soon.

Your loving son,