Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 1914



As the year 1914 comes to an end, the World War is five months old and is already unprecedented in geographic scope and its widespread destruction of lives and property.  In December Austria-Hungary attacks Serbia again; this time it occupies Belgrade, but only temporarily.  In the South Atlantic, the long journey of the German East Asia squadron comes to an end as it rounds Cape Horn and approaches the Falkland Islands.  German ships from the High Seas Fleet cross the North Sea to bombard three towns on the east coast of England, barely escaping destruction on the way home.  On the Western Front, in the first major offensive since the opposing armies reached the North Sea, French forces attack German positions in the Champagne region of France.  The new Pope calls for the warring nations to lay down their arms, and in some parts of the Western Front peace breaks out, temporarily, on Christmas Day.  For the first time in history, aircraft carriers launch an airstrike.  In the United States, the short (post-election) session of the Sixty-third Congress begins.  (The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, designed in part to eliminate such "lame duck" sessions, will be adopted in 1933.) 


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Artist's Rendering of King Peter Reentering Belgrade

This month saw another failed Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia.  In an offensive that began last month, the Austro-Hungarian Army succeeded in reaching and occupying Belgrade on December 3.  In doing so, however, it weakened its right flank, and a Serbian counter-offensive begun the same day in the vicinity of Arandjelovac inflicted a devastating defeat on the Austro-Hungarian Army, which abandoned Belgrade and withdrew across the Drina River into Bosnia.  The Serbs reoccupied their capital on December 15.


Admiral Sturdee

The German East Asia squadron's long journey across the Pacific ended this month at the Falkland Islands, where it encountered a British naval force under the command of Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee.  Until recently Chief of the Naval General Staff, Sturdee was an early casualty of last month's change of command at the Admiralty in which Admiral Jackie Fisher replaced Prince Louis of Battenberg as First Sea Lord.  Relieved of his post just as word reached London of the disastrous defeat of Admiral Cradock's squadron off the coast of Chile, Sturdee was given command of naval forces in the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans with orders to pursue and destroy the German East Asia Squadron wherever it could be found.  The East Asia squadron, meanwhile, replenished its coal supply in Chilean ports and rounded Cape Horn on December 1.  On December 6, anchored at the eastern end of the Beagle Channel, Admiral von Spee made a fateful decision not to proceed directly to Germany but first to conduct a raid on the British Falkland Islands, which he believed to be undefended.  As he approached the eastern end of the Falklands on December 8, Spee discovered Admiral Sturdee's task force, which had arrived the day before and included the South Atlantic cruiser squadron and two additional battle cruisers Sturdee had brought with him from England.  In the ensuing chase, the British, faster and with more firepower than the Germans, sank Spee’s flagship and all the other ships of his squadron except Dresden, the fastest of the German ships, which escaped around the Horn to the coast of Chile, where she remained at year's end.
 

 
 A House in Hartlepool Destroyed by Naval Gunfire

The dispatch of three battle cruisers from the Grand Fleet to join the hunt for Admiral Spee's East Asia Squadron caused the balance of naval power in the North Sea to come as close as it has ever been, and is likely ever to be again, to parity between the opposing fleets.  Taking advantage of this development, Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, commander of the German High Seas Fleet, ordered a battle cruiser squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Franz Hipper to conduct a raid on the coast of England.  Hipper's squadron left the Jade Estuary on December 15 and, followed by the main body of the High Seas Fleet, crossed the North Sea to the Yorkshire coast, where on December 16 it shelled the seaside towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, destroying buildings and killing or injuring hundreds of civilians.  The British, with advance intelligence that a raid would take place, positioned naval forces including Admiral David Beatty's battle cruiser squadron to intercept the Germans as they turned for home.  A combination of worsening weather and poor communications, however, allowed Hipper's squadron to escape.


 British Seaplanes Returning to Their Ships After the Raid on Cuxhaven

Lighter-than-air dirigibles, or Zeppelins as they are called in Germany, pose a new danger to civilian populations.  Since the war began Zeppelin raids have been launched on urban areas on the continent, and the threat to English cities within their reach, a reach that is much greater than that of aeroplanes or land-based artillery, is apparent.  Because they can fly at altitudes much higher than can be reached by aeroplanes, they are effectively immune from attack in the air, so the most effective defense is to attack them on the ground.  On Christmas Day the Royal Navy launched a raid on the Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven, at the mouth of the Elbe River.  Seaplanes carrying bombs were carried by specially modified channel steamers, escorted by destroyers and light cruisers, to an area close to the German naval base at Heligoland Island where, screened by submarines, they were lowered by cranes into a placid North Sea.  They lifted off into clear skies, but when they crossed over land they encountered ground fog that made it impossible to locate or effectively attack the zeppelin sheds.  Subsequent attacks on ships in the Jade Estuary were not much more successful.  They flew back to sea, where their naval escorts were able to hoist them aboard and escape before the German naval forces at Heligoland could get under way and overtake them.  The raid on Cuxhaven, which resulted in little or no damage to either side, was the first attack on a military target by carrier-based aeroplanes, but it will almost certainly not be the last.


The Western Front

The attempts by the Allied and German armies to outflank each other on the Western Front ended when they reached the North Sea coast of Belgium.  After another failed attempt to cross the Yser River on December 3, the German Army dug into defensive positions.  The Allies have also constructed trench lines, but they are less satisfied than the Germans with holding the ground they occupy.  The front line north of the Marne is all in French and Belgian territory, and the parts of France that lie behind the German lines comprise its industrial heartland.  It is as important to the French to recover it, therefore, as it is to the Germans to continue to hold it.  On December 20, the French Army mounted offensive operations in the Champagne region, which have been costly in terms of casualties but have yielded little if any gains.


The New High Commissioner

The Ottoman Empire's entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers has deprived it of its nominal sovereignty over Egypt.  On December 28 Sir Edward Grey, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, gave notice that "in view of a state of war arising out of the nation of Turkey, Egypt is placed under the protection of his Majesty, and will henceforth constitute a British Protectorate.  The suzerainty of Turkey over Egypt is thus terminated and his Majesty's government will adopt all measures necessary for the defense of Egypt and the protection of its inhabitants and interests."  Lieutenant Colonel Sir Arthur Henry McMahon has been appointed High Commissioner for Egypt.


Looking Forward to the Next Congress

In the United States, the 63rd Congress convened on December 7, the first Monday in December, for the short "lame duck" session mandated by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution.  The next day, President Wilson read his annual message to a joint session.  Resolutions calling for an investigation into the preparedness of the United States for war have been introduced in the Senate by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts and in the House of Representatives by Lodge's son-in-law, Massachusetts Representative Augustus P. Gardner.  Other issues before this Congress, which will expire on March 4, include a woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution, legislation providing relief for cotton farmers whose overseas markets have been affected by the war, and a Ship Purchase Bill providing for the government to purchase and operate merchant vessels interned in American ports.

Prior to delivering his message to Congress, President Wilson announced that he opposes the Lodge-Gardner resolution, and in his message he rejected the argument, made by former President Roosevelt, General Leonard Wood and others, that the United States should increase its military capability in anticipation of possible involvement in the European war.  Responding to those who say the United States is not prepared for war, he said "What is meant by being prepared?  Is it meant that we are not ready upon brief notice to put a nation in the field, a nation of men trained to arms?  Of course we are not ready to do that, and we shall never be in time of peace so long as we retain our present political principles and institutions.  And what is it that it is suggested we should be prepared to do?  To defend ourselves against attack?  We have always found means to do that, and shall find them whenever it is necessary."  The president stated his belief that, because the United States is "a true friend to all the nations of the world," it should rely "not upon a standing army, nor yet upon a reserve army, but upon a citizenry trained and accustomed to arms" and upon a powerful navy maintained for the purpose of "defense ..., never of aggression or of conquest."

Great Britain's agreement to allow American cotton to be shipped to neutral countries without interference has not removed all areas of friction between the two countries regarding trade. By orders in council issued in August and October, Britain attempted to define contraband subject to seizure on the high seas.  In doing so, they modified the 1909 Declaration of London, which although negotiated and drafted under the auspices of the British government, was not ratified by Great Britain.  The Declaration would have modified international law in ways friendly to neutrals.  For example, it distinguished between absolute and conditional contraband, adopted a "free list," and revised the doctrine of continuous voyage, which allows contraband on a ship en route to a neutral port to be seized if its ultimate destination is an enemy country, by limiting it to absolute contraband only.  The orders in council expanded the definition of absolute contraband, and declared that conditional contraband (including food) bound for Germany would be intercepted.  They also declared that cargoes bound for neutral ports, such as those in Holland, Norway and Denmark, would be considered to be bound for Germany unless proved otherwise.  In addition to the orders in council, last month Great Britain declared the North Sea a war zone and warned merchant ships to stay clear of it except by way of narrowly defined routes.  On December 28 the United States sent a note to Great Britain protesting the resulting interference with American trade.


Admiral Mahan

Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, America's foremost naval strategist and a world-renowned authority on sea power, died of heart disease December 1 at the Washington Naval Hospital.  He was born in 1840 at West Point, New York, the son of a professor at the United States Military Academy.  Despite his Army background, he chose a naval career, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1859.  The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783, published in 1890 while he was an instructor at the Naval Academy, was his most influential work.  Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered that a copy of the book be placed aboard every ship in the German Navy.  With the outbreak of the World War, he was much in demand as an expert on naval strategy until President Wilson ordered military and naval officers to refrain from commenting on the war.  The war only heightened his interest in the subject, however, and he was continuing his studies at the time of his death.


The Stock Exchange On Its First Day of Trading Since July

The New York Stock Exchange reopened for trading in stocks on December 12.  It had been closed since July 30, when trading was suspended following the outbreak of the European war to discourage rapid selling of American securities and minimize gold outflow to Europe while enabling the United States to remain on the gold standard.  Since then, American agricultural exports have helped stabilize international commodity markets and currency exchange rates, restoring equilibrium to securities markets.  At the Exchange's opening, minimum opening prices were fixed at the July 30 level, and prices on average advanced during the day.


Pope Benedict XV

As the first Christmas of his papacy approached in a world at war, Pope Benedict XV called for the nations at war to lay down their arms.


British and German Soldiers in No-Man's Land

As if in response to the Pope's message, a spontaneous and unsanctioned cease-fire occurred on Christmas Day on parts of the Western Front.  Christmas carols were sung, Christmas trees were placed on parapets, and German and Allied troops left their trenches to exchange Christmas greetings and token gifts and wishes for peace.  In some areas soccer balls appeared and impromptu games were played.



December 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, January and February 1915
New York Times, December 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
Vincent J. Esposito, ed., The West Point Atlas of War: World War I
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Holger H. Herwig, The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle that Changed the World
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
John Keegan, The First World War
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Gordon Martel, The Month That Changed the World: July 1914
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War
Michael S. Neiberg, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I 
Kenneth Rose, King George V
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram


Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 1914




As the fourth month of the Great War draws to a close, it looks like the Kaiser's promise that his troops would be home before the leaves fell was overoptimistic.  Vigorous attacks and horrific casualties on both the Eastern and Western Fronts have resulted in little if any gain for either side.  General Paul von Hindenburg is the new commander in chief of the German army in the East, with General Erich Ludendorff as his deputy.  A German attack in Poland heads off a planned Russian offensive, but is turned back by the Russians at Lodz.  On the Western Front, armies dig in on both sides as fighting rages around the Belgian town of Ypres.  The British Admiralty declares the North Sea a war zone.  In the Pacific, the German East Asia Squadron inflicts a devastating defeat on a Royal Navy squadron off the coast of Chile.  In the Indian Ocean, the Emden is attacked and sunk by an Australian cruiser.  Revolutionists compete for supremacy in Mexico as the United States’ occupation of Veracruz comes to an end.  In mid-term elections in the United States, the Democratic Party loses seats but retains control of both houses of Congress.  Harvard and Army score big wins on the gridiron.  West Point's senior class will become known as "the class the stars fell on" because of the number of them who become generals, including Five-Star Generals Eisenhower and Bradley (future Four-Star General James van Fleet is Army's starting right halfback).

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Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff

Fierce fighting continued this month in western Belgium as the British Army beat back repeated German attempts to capture the town of Ypres, gateway to the French ports of Dunkirk and Calais on the English Channel.  On the Eastern Front, battles along the Vistula River have resulted in the defeat of both a Russian plan to invade Germany and a subsequent German offensive in Russian Poland.  At the beginning of the month, General Paul von Hindenburg was promoted to overall command of German forces in Eastern Europe, along with his deputy, General Erich Ludendorff.  General August von Mackensen took Hindenburg's place as commander of the Ninth Army.  On November 11, to thwart a planned Russian invasion of Silesia, the Ninth Army attacked the Russian Second Army, exploiting a gap between it and the First Army to the north.  As the Germans pushed the Second Army back toward the city of Lodz, the Russians were reinforced by the Fifth Army, attacking from the south, and elements of the First Army, threatening to encircle the Germans from the north.  At month's end the Germans have succeeded in turning back the threat from the north, but the Russians remain in possession of Lodz.  Thus while the Russians have succeeded in blunting the German attack in Poland, the German attack has achieved its original objective of heading off the planned Russian attack on Silesia.  Neither side can claim an unqualified victory.



The North Sea, Closed to Shipping by the British


Citing the "indiscriminate" laying of mines by German ships masquerading as neutral merchant vessels, the British Admiralty on November 2 declared the North Sea a war zone.  It warned that "within this area merchant shipping of all kinds, traders of all countries, fishing craft and all other vessels will be exposed to the gravest dangers" from British mines and warship patrols and that "all ships passing a line passing from the northern point of the Hebrides through the Faroe Islands to Iceland do so at their own peril."  The Admiralty's announcement states that "ships of all countries wishing to trade to and from Norway, the Baltic, Denmark, and Holland are advised to come, if inward bound, by the English Channel and the Straits of Dover.  There they will be given sailing directions which will pass them safely, so far as Great Britain is concerned, up the east coast of England to the Faroe Islands whence a safe route will, if possible, be given to Lindesnes Lighthouse [on the south coast of Norway].  From this point they should turn north or south, according to their destination, keeping as near the coast as possible.  The converse applies to vessels outward bound."


Admiral Cradock

The German East Asia Squadron, strengthened by the addition of S.M.S. Dresden at Easter Island, ended its journey across the Pacific this month.  On November 1 it was intercepted off the coast of Chile by the Royal Navy's South American Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, which had followed Dresden through the South Atlantic and around Cape Horn.  In the ensuing battle, the Royal Navy suffered its worst defeat in over a hundred years.  The armored cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth were sunk and 1,600 British sailors, including the Admiral himself, were killed.  Little damage was inflicted on the German ships, though they may now find it difficult or impossible to replenish their supplies of coal and ammunition.  All available resources of the Royal Navy are now devoted to the pursuit and destruction of Admiral von Spee's squadron.



S.M.S. Emden

S.M.S. Emden, detached from the East Asia Squadron after the outbreak of war, has been engaged since then in a career of destruction in the Indian Ocean.  After destroying 24 Allied ships, its rampage came to an end on November 9 when it was attacked and sunk by the Australian cruiser H.M.A.S. Sydney off the coast of Java.  


S.M.S. Goeben (now Yavuz Sultan Selim)

At the end of last month Turkey went to war with Russia when the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau, inducted into the Turkish Navy and rechristened with Turkish names, attacked Russian ports in the Black Sea.  Russia declared war on October 30 and British ships bombarded Turkish forts at the entrance to the Dardanelles on November 3.  Great Britain and France formally declared war on November 5.  On November 18, Goeben was damaged in a battle with the Russian fleet off the coast of Crimea.


Governor Hiram Johnson

November 3 was election day in the United States.  The Democrats retained control of both houses of Congress.  In the Senate, in the first election held since ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment providing for direct election of Senators, the Democratic Party's advantage increased from ten (53-43) to sixteen (56-40), but in the House of Representatives it fell from 147 (291-144) to 25 (230-205).  In New York the Republican candidate, Manhattan District Attorney Charles S. Whitman, was elected governor, defeating the Democratic incumbent Martin Glynn, who as lieutenant governor succeeded to the governorship last year when Governor Sulzer was impeached and removed from office after falling out with Tammany Hall.  In other campaigns, the effort to gain equal voting rights for women had mixed success.  Two states (Montana and Nevada) voted to grant women the right to vote, while voters in Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota rejected woman suffrage amendments.  There are now eleven states, all in the west (the easternmost is Kansas), in which women have the same voting rights as men.  The election brought nothing but bad news for the Progressive Party, whose candidates went down to defeat across the country despite former President Roosevelt's vigorous campaigning.  The only successful Bull Moose candidate was Governor Hiram Johnson of California, Roosevelt's running mate in 1912, whose personal popularity carried him to reelection.


Eulalio Gutierrez

On November 2, the Mexican convention of Aguascalientes elected Eulalio Gutierrez provisional President.  His tenure as president is meant to be temporary; he and Carranza are opposed by two other revolutionists who were instrumental in Huerta's ouster, Francisco "Pancho" Villa and Emiliano Zapata.  United States Army troops were withdraw from Veracruz on November 23, ending the occupation that began when U.S. Marines seized the custom house during the standoff with the Huerta regime that began with the arrest of American sailors in Tampico on April 9. 


The Yale Bowl on its Opening Day

The nation's largest sports arena had its debut on November 21 in New Haven, Connecticut.  Christened the "Yale Bowl" because of its shape, the new stadium accommodates over 70,000 spectators.  Unfortunately for the home crowd, the visiting Harvard team dominated Yale by a lopsided score of 36-0. A week later, in another match-up of storied rivals, the Army team defeated Navy 20-0 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.  Among those watching from the stands were Secretary of War Lindley Garrison, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, Admiral George Dewey and Generals Leonard Wood and Hugh Scott.



November 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, December 1914 and January 1915
New York Times, November 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
Vincent J. Esposito, ed., The West Point Atlas of War: World War I
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Holger H. Herwig, The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle that Changed the World
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
John Keegan, The First World War
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Gordon Martel, The Month That Changed the World: July 1914
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War
Michael S. Neiberg, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I 
Kenneth Rose, King George V
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram

Friday, October 31, 2014

October 1914



In October 1914, the extension of the Western Front northward from the River Aisne ends when both armies, failing in their attempts to outflank each other, reach the Belgian North Sea coast, where the Belgians succeed in stopping a final German attempt to turn the Allied flank.  The siege of Antwerp ends with the surrender of the city to the German Army.  The British successfully defend the area around Ypres, an important crossroads between the German Army and the channel ports of Calais and Dunkirk.  As the armies dig in, they create a network of trenches that stretches over 475 miles from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps.  The German East Asia Squadron continues its journey across the Pacific, and the light cruiser S.M.S. Emden, detached from the squadron in August, wreaks havoc in the Indian Ocean.  Japanese and British Army troops capture Tsingtao.  Turkey enters the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary.  A British dreadnought strikes a mine and sinks off the coast of Ireland and a British cruiser is torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the Straits of Dover.  The senior officer in the Royal Navy resigns his post and is replaced by one of his predecessors. 


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The Defense of Antwerp; Belgian Soldiers on the Ramparts

The Belgian Army defending Antwerp was reinforced on October 3 by the arrival of the Royal Marine Brigade, accompanied by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill.  Additional.units of the Royal Naval Division arrived on October 6.  Churchill returned to London after the Cabinet rejected his proposal that he remain in Antwerp and take command of the city's defense.  The German Army moved up heavy artillery, including the 17-inch siege guns that had been used at Liege, and the city surrendered on October 9.  Some of the British and Belgian defenders withdrew to the coast; others escaped to neutral Holland, where they were interned.  The Belgian government, which had moved from Brussels to Antwerp to escape the initial invasion, moved on October 5 to Ostend and from there on October 13 across the border to Havre, France.


The Flooded Yser Plain

As the Allied and German Armies made successive attempts to outflank each other, the western front stretched northward from the Aisne to the North Sea coast.  The Belgian Army stopped the Germans at the Yser River in a battle that raged from October 12 to 20.  By opening the Yser dikes, the Belgians flooded the low-lying area from Dixmude to the sea, frustrating the final German attempt to turn the Allies' flank.  The Germans then attacked to the south, targeting the Belgian town of Ypres, an important crossroads between the German Army and the French coastal towns of Dunkirk and Calais.  At month's end, the British Army was still in possession of Ypres.


German Bombers and the Gare du Nord

On October 11 two German aeroplanes flew over Paris and dropped bombs, killing three civilians and injuring fourteen and causing minor damage to the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  Railway stations appeared to be the principal targets.  The bombs that caused the most damage fell in the Rue Lafayette, near the Gare du Nord, and in the vicinity of the St. Antoine Hospital near the Gare Lyon.  Another narrowly missed the Gare St. Lazare.  One of the aircraft dropped a pennant with the German language inscription "We have taken Antwerp. Your turn will soon come."


Gavrilo Princip (seated third from left) and Co-conspirators on Trial

The trial of Gavrilo Princip and twenty-three others for treason in the assassination plot against Archduke Franz Ferdinand began in Sarajevo on October 14.  Princip testified that he intended to kill the archduke and Oskar Potiorek, the governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina who was also in the car, but that the killing of the duchess was an accident.  He said his goal was to achieve by terror the independence and unification of all Serbs.  The trial ended on October 26 with a verdict of guilty.


H.M.S. Audacious

The British super-dreadnought H.M.S. Audacious struck a mine and sank off the coast of Ireland on October 24.  The liner Olympic, sister ship of the ill-fated Titanic, was in the vicinity en route from New York to Liverpool, and rescued the crew after making several unsuccessful attempts to take the battleship in tow.  The large number of rescued survivors, and of passengers aboard the Olympic, guaranteed the failure of the government's attempt to keep the sinking secret. One of the Olympic's passengers was Charles M. Schwab, the chairman of Bethlehem Steel, who was traveling to Great Britain to discuss construction contracts for the Royal Navy.  A week after the Audacious sinking, a German submarine torpedoed and sank the British cruiser H.M.S. Hermes in the Straits of Dover as it was returning from Dunkirk.


Prince Louis of Battenberg

The British losses at sea, as well as the passive nature of the Navy's distant blockade strategy, has contributed to public dissatisfaction with the Navy's performance and led to increased agitation for a change at the top of the Admiralty.  Particularly vulnerable was the First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, who, although a British citizen with a brilliant career in the Royal Navy, was a member of a German family with a German title.  In the heat of war with Germany, this background exposed him to innuendo that his loyalty was suspect.  Under pressure, he resigned on October 28.  The next day, Fleet Admiral John ("Jacky") Fisher, who served as First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910, was brought back to the Admiralty as his replacement.


Admiral Souchon

The German cruisers Goeben and Breslau escaped to Constantinople last month and joined the Turkish Navy.  Their German crews donned Turkish uniforms and their commander, Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, was made commander-in-chief of the Ottoman Navy.  There has been little doubt since then that the Ottoman Empire would join the war on the side of the Central Powers.  On October 29, Goeben and Breslau attacked Russian Black Sea ports, including Sevastopol and Odessa.  The next day the Allies demanded that Turkey disavow the attacks, deactivate and dismantle the ships, and send their crews back to Germany.  Because it is highly unlikely that the Ottoman government will accede to that demand, war between Turkey and the Allies appears inevitable.


S.M.S. Dresden on a Visit to the United States in 1909

In the Pacific, the German East Asia Squadron continued its voyage toward the west coast of South America.  It left the Marquesas Islands on October 2 and reached Easter Island on October 12, where it was joined by the light cruiser S.M.S. Dresden.  Dresden is the sister ship of S.M.S. Emden, which Admiral Spee detached from the East Asia Squadron in August for a commerce raiding mission in the Indian Ocean.  Dresden carried Victoriano Huerta to Jamaica after he resigned the Mexican presidency in July, and found herself on the wrong side of the Atlantic when war broke out.  Pursued by British armored cruisers, she rounded Cape Horn into the Pacific, where she was ordered to rendezvous with the East Asia Squadron at Easter Island.  The squadron, augmented by the addition of Dresden, departed Easter Island on October 18 and continued eastward, arriving at Mas Afuera in the San Fernandez Islands on October 26.


British and Japanese Troops at Tsingtao

In the western Pacific, Japanese naval forces attacked German possessions, occupying the islands of Yap in the Carolines and Jaluit in the Marshalls on October 7.  Tsingtao, the principal city in the German leased territories on the coast of China, fell to the Japanese on October 31.  In the Indian Ocean, Emden continued to elude the Royal Navy.  On October 28 she entered Penang harbor in the Strait of Malacca and sank a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer.


King Carol of Roumania

King Carol of Roumania became the country's ruler in 1866, and declared its independence in 1878 after the Ottoman Empire's defeat in the Russo-Turkish War.  He was proclaimed king in 1881, and saw his country through two Balkan wars in recent years.  Despite his personal preference for the Central Powers, his country has so far remained neutral in the World War.  He died on October 10, and was succeeded by his nephew Ferdinand.


The President on the Links

Cotton is by far the most important export product of the American South.  It is also an essential ingredient in the manufacture of explosives.  Although it was included on the free list in the 1909 Declaration of London, the Declaration was never ratified by Great Britain and after the war began the British government declared cotton to be contraband subject to confiscation when discovered aboard vessels bound for Germany, or for neutral ports where the consignee was believed to be an agent of the German government.  The result has been the loss of a substantial portion of the overseas market for Southern cotton planters.  As the Sixty-third Congress was rushing to complete its business and adjourn in advance of the November elections, Southern Democrats in the Senate mounted a filibuster, refusing to consent to adjournment without passage of an amendment to a War Tax bill requested by the president that would provide for government purchase of surplus cotton.  On Friday, October 23, the War Tax passed the Senate without the amendment and Congressmen began boarding trains to return home.  President Wilson was rushed from the golf course to the President's Room in the Capitol, where he signed the bill in his golf attire and without the benefit of his reading glasses.  The next day, the filibusterers agreed to adjournment with the promise to place the cotton issue at the top of the agenda in the lame duck session beginning in December.  Then, without a quorum but fortunately without objection, the first regular session of the Sixty-third Congress was gaveled to an end.  On Monday, October 26, the British government sent a formal note to the United States stating that cotton carried in ships other than those flying the flag of Germany or Austria-Hungary would be treated as non-contraband and allowed to proceed to its destination.


Roosevelt on the Campaign Trail

Because the regular session that began last December followed immediately upon the expiration of the special session that had begun the previous April, this Congress was in continuous session for 567 days. Apart from its length, it was unusually productive.  Tariff reform, adoption of a federal income tax and the creation of the Federal Reserve System are among its accomplishments.  In the last month of the session, Congress enacted and sent to the President two additional measures that may have lasting consequences for the national economy.  One outlaws unfair trade practices and establishes a Federal Trade Commission to oversee corporate behavior.  The other, the Clayton Act, named for the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who sponsored the bill, augments the Sherman Act by specifying prohibited anti-competitive activities such as interlocking directorates, price discrimination and anti-competitive corporate mergers, and provides protections for organized labor.  Advocacy of these measures by a Democratic president and their enactment by a Democratic Congress has caused many progressives to abandon their support of the Progressive Party in favor of the Democrats.  Former President Roosevelt, however, is not one of them.  He spent most of the month campaigning for Progressive Party candidates.


Charles D. Hilles

In the 1890's many Southern states enacted laws that effectively restricted the franchise to white men, who in those states vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party.  When efforts to prevent such disenfranchisement by federal legislation failed, Republican votes in the states of the former Confederacy became practically nonexistent.  None of those states has voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1870's, and none has sent a Republican to Congress since the turn of the century.  In 1912, in an attempt to court Southern votes, Roosevelt barred Negro delegates from the Progressive Party convention, but to his disappointment the Southern states remained firmly Democratic. Often represented in Republican national conventions by "black and tan" delegations, the South has exercised influence far out of proportion to its slight (if any) contribution to the party's electoral success.  On October 25, Charles D. Hilles, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, announced the approval of a revised plan of representation designed to bring the voting power of Southern states in national conventions more in line with their proportion of the nationwide vote cast for Republican candidates.  The new apportionment will result in Southern states and territories losing a total of 87 delegates.  Ironically, by reducing Southern states' representation in Republican Party conventions, the reform will weaken the power of Negroes, whom the party has traditionally sought to protect, by lessening their influence in the only forum in which they have any significant political power (there has never, for example, been a Negro delegate at a Democratic Party national convention).

In other American political news, it was learned this month that, after he was elected on a Democratic platform that advocated amending the Constitution to limit the president to a single six-year term, and after the Senate had adopted a joint resolution submitting such an amendment to the states for ratification, President Wilson quietly told the House Judiciary Committee that he was opposed to it.  The proposal then died in the House, and the president remains free to seek a second term in 1916.


Fenway Park during the third game, won by the Braves 5-4 in twelve innings

On October 13 at Fenway Park in Boston, the Boston Braves defeated Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics in the fourth game of the World Series by a score of three to one, completing the first four-game sweep of the series in history.  The Braves were in last place in the National League on July 4, but won seventy of their last eighty-nine games to win the pennant by ten and a half games before moving on to sweep the series against the heavily favored Athletics.


Kansas City Opens Its New Union Station

As railroads have expanded across the continent and made remarkable gains in speed and comfort, improvements in station design to facilitate the movement of trains and passengers in and out of metropolitan areas have kept pace.  The last few years have seen the opening of several magnificent buildings designed for that purpose.  Washington, D.C.'s Union Station opened in 1907.  In New York, Pennsylvania Station began operation in 1910 and the new Grand Central Terminal was opened in 1913. This month Kansas City, Missouri added itself to the list, dedicating its new Union Station on October 30.



October 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, November and December 1914
New York Times, October 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
Vincent J. Esposito, ed., The West Point Atlas of War: World War I
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Holger H. Herwig, The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle that Changed the World
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
John Keegan, The First World War
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War
Michael S. Neiberg, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I 
Kenneth Rose, King George V
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 1914

In September 1914, the World War is in its second month.  Millions of men are in combat in Europe and Africa, on the high seas and the coast of China.  The German invasion of France is turned back at the Marne, and four years of bloody stalemate on the Western Front begin.  Austria-Hungary, which started the war determined to punish Serbia for the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, follows its embarrassing defeat in Serbia with another defeat in Galicia.  The German East Asia Squadron continues its voyage across the Pacific toward South America, as Japanese and British forces attack the German concession on the Shantung (now Shandong) Peninsula and occupy Tsingtao (now Qingdao, but still the home of Tsingtao Beer).  Foreshadowing a new era in naval warfare, a single German submarine sinks three British cruisers in the North Sea.  In Mexico, despite Huerta's ouster, the revolution isn't over, as Pancho Villa declares war on the new government of Venustiano Carranza.  In the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church names a new Pontiff.  In the United States, former President Roosevelt publishes an article in The Outlook summoning Americans to their "twofold duties" in light of the World War, and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan continues to pursue his goal of world peace through the adoption of "cooling off" treaties.


*****


General von Kluck

At the beginning of September, seven German armies were battling six French armies and a British Expeditionary Force in northern France, in the border regions of Alsace-Lorraine, and in the Ardennes Forest.  General Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the General Staff, was in overall command of the German armies.  The right wing of the German attack was the First Army, commanded by General Alexander von Kluck, who had just turned his army's axis of advance away from Paris and toward the southeast to pursue the retreating French Fifth Army and to prevent a gap, already opening between his army and the adjacent Second Army, from growing.


General Joffre

General Maunoury

Meanwhile, General Joseph Joffre, in command of all French forces, made changes to meet the rapidly evolving military situation.  On September 3 he replaced General Charles Lanrezac, commander of the French Fifth Army, with General Franchet d'Esperey.  Using units transferred by rail from the south, he also created a new Sixth Army under the command of General Joseph Maunoury, which he positioned north of Paris.


General Gallieni

The German attack and steady approach of the German Army has had political ramifications in Paris.  At the end of August the government fled Paris for Bordeaux and President Poincare formed a new cabinet.  Rene Viviani continued as premier, Theophile Delcasse resumed his former post as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Alexandre Millerand replaced Adolphe Messimy as Minister of War.  One of Messimy's last acts before leaving the Ministry of War was to appoint General Joseph Gallieni Military Governor of Paris.

When von Kluck turned the German First Army to the southeast, he exposed his flank to Gallieni's Paris garrison and Maunoury's newly formed Sixth Army, which attacked on September 6.  Gallieni commandeered every vehicle in Paris, including the city's entire complement of taxicabs, to rush troops to the front to join the battle (click to play):




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Lieutenant Colonel Hentsch

As von Kluck turned to meet the French attack from the west and the Second Army approached the Marne River to the south, the gap between the two German armies widened, and the British Expeditionary Force and French Fifth Army attacked.  At this point in the battle, von Moltke sent a member of his staff, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hentsch, on a tour of the German army headquarters with authority to order withdrawal if it appeared advisable.  When he reached the Second Army headquarters, its commander, General Karl von Bulow, advised retreat.  Hentsch acquiesced, then proceeded to First Army headquarters where he ordered von Kluck to withdraw and close the gap between the two armies.


General von Falkenhayn

The First and Second German Armies retreated across the Aisne River where they established defensive positions on high ground along the Chemin des Dames, with the German line extending from there eastward to the Meuse River north of Verdun.  On September 14, dissatisfied with von Moltke's failure to achieve the swift victory envisioned by the Schlieffen Plan, the Kaiser replaced him as Chief of the General Staff with General Erich von Falkenhayn, the Minister of War.  Since then, each of the opposing armies has made unsuccessful attempts to turn its enemy's flank, extending the battle front northward from the Chemin des Dames toward the Channel coast.

As the German Army advanced through Belgium last month, the Belgian government abandoned Brussels and moved to Antwerp.  Pursuing the Schlieffen Plan, the German Army left Antwerp behind as it swept into northern France.  Unwilling to leave a potential enemy stronghold in his rear, General Falkenhayn has now turned his attention to Antwerp.  A German assault on the city began with an artillery bombardment on September 29.


General von Rennenkampf

At the end of August, the German Eighth Army won a decisive victory on the eastern front when it attacked and destroyed the Russian Second Army at the battle of Tannenberg.  The Russian First Army, commanded by General Paul von Rennenkampf, was advancing to the north of the Masurian Lakes, but failed to reach the battle in time to be of assistance.  Beginning on September 5, Hindenburg's Eighth Army, now reinforced by units transferred from the Western Front, attacked Rennenkampf's left (southern) flank.  German forces in the north mounted a simultaneous counteroffensive, forcing Rennenkampf's right wing to fall back.  Threatened with encirclement, Rennenkampf conducted a fighting retreat, withdrawing his army to forts on the Russian side of the border.

To the south the Russian Army was faring better.  From August 26 to September 11, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian armies were locked in battle in Galicia and southern Poland.  As the Austrian First Army advanced northward into Poland, the Russian Third and Eighth Armies attacked from the east into Galicia.  The Austrian forces around Lemberg were pushed back and the Russian Fifth Army attacked into a growing gap between those forces and the Austrian First Army to the northwest.  The battle ended in a decisive defeat of the Austrian Army, which retreated 100 miles to the west.  On September 7, before the battle was over, Russia formally annexed Galicia.


S.M.S. Scharnhorst, Admiral von Spee's Flagship

The German East Asia Squadron, rendered homeless by the outbreak of war, continued its journey across the Pacific this month.  By September 7 the squadron was at Christmas Island, where it was rejoined by the light cruiser S.M.S. Nurnberg.  Admiral von Spee had sent Nurnberg to Honolulu to use the neutral cable facilities there to advise the German Naval Staff of his intentions, and to Fanning Island to cut the British cable between the Fiji Islands and Hawaii.  When Nurnberg brought news from Honolulu that German Samoa had been occupied by troops from New Zealand, Spee decided to take his ships there.  He reached Samoa on September 14 but found no targets of opportunity and decided not to risk a landing.  Hearing the local wireless station broadcasting his position, he took his squadron away to the northwest to deceive the British as to his intentions.  Once over the horizon he turned and continued his easterly voyage, proceeding to Bora-Bora in the French Society Islands.  There the squadron spent several days taking on supplies, revealing its German identity only as it sailed away.  When the squadron approached Tahiti on September 22, the French garrison there had been alerted.  Its coal supplies had been destroyed and its navigation aids removed, and it fired on the approaching German ships until its shore batteries were silenced by German gunfire.  Continuing eastward from the Society Islands, Spee's squadron reached the undefended island of Nuku Hiva in the French Marquesas on September 26, where it remains at month's end.

As Admiral von Spee and his squadron were traversing the Pacific, S.M.S. Emden, detached from the squadron at the Marianas, was in the Indian Ocean attacking British shipping.  On September 22 it shelled the city of Madras, on the southeast coast of India.  Japanese and British forces, meanwhile, were attacking the German leased territories on the Shantung Peninsula, where last month they imposed a blockade of Tsingtao and its harbor at Kiau-Chau Bay.  Ignoring Chinese government protests, Japanese troops landed at Lung-kow, on the north shore of the peninsula, on September 2.  British troops from Australia and India landed in support of the Japanese on September 23, and on September 28 Japanese troops occupied Tsingtao.



H.M.S. Aboukir

When the war began, British cruisers and destroyers were assigned to patrol the "Broad Fourteens," an area of the southern North Sea named for its generally consistent depth of fourteen fathoms, primarily for the purpose of guarding against attacks on transports carrying British Army forces to France.  On September 22, three British armored cruisers, H.M.S. Aboukir, H.M.S. Cressy and H.M.S. Hogue, were on patrol when they were attacked and sunk by a single submarine, the German U-Boat U-9.  1450 lives were lost.

On September 18, King George V gave royal assent to the Government of Ireland Act and the Welsh Church Act.  The first grants home rule to Ireland through the creation of an Irish Parliament; the second disestablishes the Anglican Church in Wales.  Another piece of legislation, the Suspensory Act, postpones the effective date of both pieces of legislation for at least twelve months due to the outbreak of war.  Parliament was prorogued the same day.


Former President Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt's name no longer appears on the masthead of The Outlook, but the magazine remains a conduit for the former president to communicate his ideas to the public.  The September 23 issue includes a lengthy article by Roosevelt entitled "The World War: Its Tragedies and Its Lessons."  In it, the former president expresses his gratitude that his country, "alone among the great civilized powers," is "unshaken by the present worldwide war."  He says the war presents Americans with a "twofold duty," first to guard against any "similar disaster" befalling the United States, and second, to be prepared to "act as an instrument for the achievement of a just peace" and to promote international agreements to minimize the chance of a "recurrence.of such a world-wide disaster."

Mid-term elections will be held in most states in November. Maine, which holds its election in September, is the exception, giving rise to the belief that "as Maine goes so goes the nation."  On September 14 the normally Republican-leaning state chose the Democratic candidate for governor, Portland Mayor Oakley C. Curtis, over the incumbent Republican William T. Haines.  All three incumbent members of Congress (three Republicans and one Democrat) were reelected.


Secretary Bryan, Ambassadors and Cabinet Members at the Signing Ceremony

As war rages in Europe, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan's attention remains fixed on the goal he has pursued since assuming office last year: ending war through the universal adoption of "cooling off" treaties.  By the latest count, he has entered into or is negotiating such treaties with some thirty countries.  At a treaty signing ceremony on September 15, he and the ambassadors of Spain, France, Great Britain and China signed treaties committing the signatories, in the event of a dispute between the parties, to refrain from declaring or waging war until a period of time has elapsed during which attempts are to be made to resolve the dispute by means short of war.  Germany and Austria-Hungary have rejected Bryan's proposals, saying they are unwilling to surrender the advantage of being prepared for war when international conflicts arise.


Pancho Villa

The new president of Mexico, Venustiano Carranza, came to power last month as the leader of the Constitutionalists.  His rise to power was aided by Francisco "Pancho" Villa, who won military victories in northern Mexico that were instrumental in driving President Victoriano Huerta from power, and by Emiliano Zapata, who was active against Huerta in the south.  Carranza entered Mexico City in triumph on August 19.  While he and Villa had a common goal in getting rid of Huerta, they were never allies, and on September 23 Villa declared war on the Carranza regime.

Huerta's departure has hastened the end of the American occupation of Veracruz.  On September 15, President Wilson ordered that the American troops there be withdrawn.


Pope Benedict XV

The College of Cardinals met at the Sistine Chapel on September 3 and chose a new Pope to succeed Pope Pius X, who died last month.  Cardinal Giacomo della Chiesa, the Archbishop of Bologna, is of noble blood, a son of the Marchese della Chiesa.  He is fifty-nine years old, young for a Pope, and has been a Cardinal only since May of this year.  His selection is thought to reflect the desire of the Cardinals for a long papacy like those of Pius X's two predecessors, Pius IX and Leo XIII, whose successive papacies continued for more than fifty-seven years.  The new Pope has chosen to take the name Benedict XV in honor of the Eighteenth Century Pope Benedict XIV, the last archbishop of Bologna to become Pope.  The new Pope is expected to make the restoration of peace his primary goal.



September 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, October and November 1914
New York Times, September 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Philip Blom, The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914
Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill Volume II: Young Statesman, 1907-1914
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
Vincent J. Esposito, ed., The West Point Atlas of War: World War I
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Kermit L. Hall, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Holger H. Herwig, The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle that Changed the World
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
John Keegan, The First World War
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War
Michael S. Neiberg, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I 
Kenneth Rose, King George V
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
George Malcolm Thomson, The Twelve Days: Two Weeks in Europe's Fatal Summer
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the Great War
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram

Thursday, August 28, 2014

August 1914


It's August 1914.  A crisis that might have led to a third Balkan War has instead exploded into a continent-wide, and then a world-wide, conflict.  By the end of the month Russia, France and Great Britain are at war with Germany and Austria-Hungary.  Because those nations rule much of the globe, the war extends beyond Europe to Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and colonial troops are on their way to assist their mother countries in the battles raging on the continent.  Germany invades Belgium, Russia invades East Prussia, and Great Britain sends an army across the Channel to join the French and Belgians.  Two German warships escape the British in the Mediterranean.  Japan joins the war, and the German East Asia Squadron flees across the Pacific.  British ships attack the German High Seas Fleet in the North Sea.  Austrian ships bombarding the coast of Montenegro are attacked by British and French naval forces from Malta. The Austro-Hungarian Army gets its nose bloodied in its first attack on Serbia.  The United States declares its neutrality and begins a two and a half year struggle to define what that means.  Pope Pius X dies of heart disease in the Vatican and Mrs. Wilson succumbs to Bright's Disease in the White House.  The President appoints Attorney General McReynolds to the United States Supreme Court, where he will gain a reputation for being racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and reactionary.  The Panama Canal is officially opened to commercial traffic.


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Germans Celebrate the Declaration of War . . .


. . . and See Their Soldiers Off to the Front

Fears of a continent-wide European war were realized this month.  Germany's ultimatum to Russia on the last day of July was followed by a declaration of war on August 1 and a German demand that France declare its neutrality.  The French cabinet responded by ordering mobilization.  German troops entered Luxembourg on August 2.  On August 3, Germany severed diplomatic relations with France and issued an ultimatum to Belgium demanding free passage of its army through that country.  In a personal message to King George, Belgium's King Albert appealed for assistance from Great Britain in defending its independence and neutrality.


Sir Edward Grey

On August 3, British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey addressed the House of Commons.  He read King Albert's plea for assistance and asked the members to consider whether it would be wise for Britain to abandon its traditional policy of opposing domination of the European continent by a single power.  He also warned that Britain's "moral position" would be at risk if it stood by and allowed the subjugation of Belgium and France. Among his concerns is the arrangement made with the French to divide naval responsibilities, pursuant to which France concentrated its fleet in the Mediterranean while the Royal Navy undertook the defense of the English Channel and Atlantic coasts of France.  It would be dishonorable, Grey suggested, for Great Britain under these circumstances to fail to come to France's aid in a war with Germany.


 
 The German Army Enters Belgium . . .


. . . and Britons Celebrate the Declaration of War in Trafalgar Square

German troops crossed the Belgian frontier on the morning of August 4.  Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg spoke the same day in the Reichstag, admitting that Germany's action violated international law but insisting that "necessity knows no law."  The Reichstag responded by approving war credits.  The vote was unanimous: even the Social Democratic Party, the largest in the Reichstag and previously opposed to war, supported the measure, Hugo Haase, the party's leader, declaring that "we will not desert our Fatherland in its hour of need."  The British government responded by issuing an ultimatum to Germany demanding that it cease its invasion by midnight German time (11:00 P.M. in London).  As the deadline expired, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey looked out the window of the Foreign Ministry at the gas lamps being lit on the street below and was heard to say "The lamps are going out all over Europe.  We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."


Lord Kitchener

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, is Great Britain's highest ranking military officer and greatest war hero.  On August 4, he was brought into the British cabinet as Secretary of State for War.  Between August 12 and August 17, a British Expeditionary Force formed under the command of General Sir John French was landed on the French coast and deployed on the left flank of the French army.  The Canadian Government has been advised by the British War Office that the 21,000 Canadian troops on their way to England will be sent into the firing line as soon as they arrive.  On August 28, Lord Kitchener announced in the House of Lords that Indian troops would also be employed.


German Troops in Liege

The German army occupied the city of Liege on August 6, but the forts surrounding the city held out until August 17, delaying the German timetable.  The Belgian government withdrew to the coastal city of Antwerp on August 17, and on August 20 German troops occupied Brussels. As the German Army advanced through Belgium, it was delayed further by the necessity to reduce the forts around Namur, in a siege that lasted from August 20 to 24, and by battles fought on August 21 with the French at Charleroi and on August 23 and 26 with the British at Mons and Le Cateau.  The confusingly named General French wanted to pull his British Expeditionary Force out of the line, but was overruled by Lord Kitchener, who crossed the channel and ordered the BEF commander to continue to support the French Army.  At month's end German forces were on French soil but the Allies appeared to be withdrawing in good order.


 French Soldiers Cheered as They March Off to War

The French plan for war against Germany, called Plan XVII, was implemented on August 6 with an offensive in Alsace.  Mulhouse was captured on August 8, but recaptured by the Germans on August 13.  An offensive into Lorraine that began on August 14 failed, as did an attack in the Ardennes Forest a few days later, due in part to the necessity of withdrawing French forces to meet the growing threat posed by the German attack in the north.

As this summer's diplomatic crisis unfolded, it was unclear where Italy stood.  A member of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, her relations with Austria-Hungary have been strained by territorial disputes going back to the wars of Italian unification.  On August 1, immediately following Germany's declaration of war on Russia, the Italian government notified Germany and Austria-Hungary that it did not regard its membership in the Triple Alliance as requiring it to come to their assistance in the present circumstances. On August 3 it issued a formal declaration of neutrality, relieving France of the necessity of defending another frontier.  Italy remains under intense pressure from Germany and Austria-Hungary to come to their assistance, including promises of territorial compensation.


General Alexander Samsonov

The Schlieffen Plan, devised in 1905 by German General Alfred von Schlieffen to fight a two-front war against Russia and France, assumed that Russia would be slow to mobilize and that Germany could and should therefore seek a quick victory over France before concentrating its attack on the Eastern Front.  This month, however, as the German Army moved through Belgium and into France in accordance with Schlieffen's plan, the Russians mobilized quickly and attacked the Germans with two armies in East Prussia.  The First Army, commanded by General Pavel von Rennenkampf, advanced to the north of the Masurian Lakes and on August 20 inflicted a defeat on the German Eighth Army, under the command of General Maximilian von Prittwitz.  Prittwitz proposed to retreat to the Vistula, but was overruled by the overall German commander, General Helmuth von Moltke, who replaced Prittwitz with General Paul von Hindenburg and Hindenburg's deputy, General Erich Ludendorff.  Under its new command, the Eighth Army attacked to the south and destroyed the Russian Second Army near Tannenberg on August 30 before the First Army, separated from the Second by the lakes, could join the battle.  General Alexander Samsonov, the commanding general of the Second Army, walked into the woods after the battle and shot himself.


Serbian Marshal Radomir Putnik

War is also raging in the Balkans, where it all started.  Austria-Hungary was already at war with Serbia when the month began, and the two-front nature of its strategic challenge was underscored when it declared war on Russia on August 6.  On August 7, Montenegro declared war on Austria-Hungary, and the next day Austrian warships bombarded Antivari, a Montenegrin seaport.  They were cut off and attacked on August 16 by an Anglo-French naval force that succeeded in sinking one of the Austrian ships and driving the other away, but was forced by the end of the month to return to Malta, leaving the Adriatic in Austrian hands.  On August 12, the Austro-Hungarian army invaded Serbia by crossing the Drina River from Bosnia, but was met in the vicinity of Cer Mountain by Serbian forces under the command of Marshal Radomir Putnik and turned back with heavy losses.  By month's end, the Austrians had retreated back across the Drina and Serbian forces had crossed the Sava River, west of Belgrade, to occupy the Hungarian town of Zemun.


H.M.S. Amphion

The first shots in the naval war were fired on August 5 when the British cruiser H.M.S. Amphion sank a German minelayer in the English Channel.  The next day, the Amphion struck a mine and sank, killing or wounding 132 British sailors and twenty-seven German crewmen from the minelayer who had been rescued by the Amphion the previous day.

With the onset of war, transatlantic sailings of German vessels have been cancelled.  Further isolating Germany, on August 5 a British cable steamer in the North Sea and a British cruiser in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Azores located and severed a total of seven telegraph cables connecting Germany with North America and with other European nations.

Germany is not the only nation whose international trade has been affected by the outbreak of war.  The sudden unavailability of merchant ships to transport grain and other commodities has caused export trade in the United States to come to a virtual standstill.  Legislation is under consideration for the United States Government to provide war risk insurance and to purchase and operate merchant vessels, including German ships, that are now effectively embargoed in American ports   The situation is most acute at Gulf Coast ports such as Galveston and New Orleans, where elevators and storage facilities are filled to capacity with grain bound for South and Central America.  The legislation is opposed by private shipowners who object to government participation in the shipping business.  Government ownership and operation of steamship lines, however, is not entirely unprecedented: the Panama Railroad Company, which operates ships as well as the railroad, is controlled by the Government.  Another complication may be more serious.  Under the Declaration of London the transfer of an enemy ship to a neutral flag after the outbreak of war is recognized as valid only if the new owner can demonstrate that the transfer was not made in order to avoid capture.  It might be difficult, and certainly awkward, for the United States Government to try to make that case in an Allied prize court.


The View from the Goeben: British Ships In Pursuit


Goeben (left) and Breslau at the Straits

Among the colonial forces expected to fight in the Allied cause are Algerians to be brought across the Mediterranean to join the French Army.  When war broke out, the first and most urgent mission of the French Navy was to escort and protect troop ships ferrying those troops between Algeria and Marseilles, a mission facilitated by Italy's decision to remain neutral but complicated by the absence of two French dreadnoughts that were absent from the Mediterranean escorting the French President and Prime Minister on their visit to St. Petersburg.  Also of concern was the presence in the Mediterranean of two German warships, the battle cruiser SMS Goeben and light cruiser SMS Breslau, under the command of Admiral Wilhelm Souchon.  The principal task of the British Mediterranean Fleet, under the command of Admiral Sir Archibald Berkeley Milne, was to assist the French Navy and in particular to watch Goeben and Breslau.  As they were doing so, the British missed two opportunities to attack and destroy the German ships: once on August 4 because Great Britain's declaration of war had not yet taken effect; and again on August 6, as the German ships were in port in Messina, because it would have violated Italian neutrality.  Successfully blocking Souchon's exit from Messina west to Algeria, the British allowed the Germans to escape to the east, where they reached the entrance to the Dardanelles on August 10.  As a neutral, Turkey could not allow passage of German ships through the straits, but that difficulty was overcome by transferring the ships to the Turkish Navy, a solution viewed as appropriate retribution for Britain's refusal at the end of July to allow British shipyards to deliver two new battleships to Turkey.  Goeben and Breslau, still manned by German crews but flying the Ottoman flag and bearing their new names of Jawus Sultan Selim and Midilli, were transferred to the Ottoman Navy on August 16.  A week later, Admiral Souchon was named Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish Navy.


British Sailors Watching a German Cruiser Sink at the Battle of Heligoland Bight

The end of the month saw the first major naval battle of the war in Europe.  The German High Seas Fleet is stationed at Heligoland Island, Wilhelmshaven, and in other harbors in the Heligoland Bight, the southeastern corner of the North Sea.  On August 28, British cruisers and destroyers under the command of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt and submarines under the command of Commodore Roger Keyes attacked German ships during their regular patrols.  The attack was supported by additional cruisers under the command of Vice Admiral David Beatty.  The support of Beatty's battle cruisers proved crucial to the outcome, but the failure of the Admiralty to keep the British commanders informed of the presence of friendly forces resulted in confusion and near-tragedy.  The German response was also uncoordinated, however, and at the end of the day the Germans had suffered significant losses: three light cruisers and one destroyer sunk and three other light cruisers damaged.


Premier Okuma Shigenobu

Premier Okuma Shigenobu of Japan, the principal naval power in the Pacific, announced on August 5 that if the war was carried into Pacific waters Japan would assist Great Britain in accordance with the Anglo-Japanese Naval Agreement of 1902. On August 16, Japan presented an ultimatum to Germany demanding that it withdraw from China, including the surrender of the leased territories of Kiau-Chau, on the Shantung Peninsula in the Yellow Sea.  It gave Germany one week to answer.  When the deadline expired on August 23 without a response, Japan declared war.  A declaration of war against Austria-Hungary followed on August 25.  Two days later, Japanese and British naval forces blockaded Tsingtao, the principal city of the leased territories.


Vice Admiral Count Maximilian von Spee

The only substantial German naval force outside European waters is the East Asia Squadron, based when war broke out at Tsingtao.  Commanded by Admiral Count Maximilian von Spee in the armored cruiser SMS Scharnhorst, it includes another armored cruiser, SMS Gneisenau, and three light cruisers: Emden, Leipzig and Nurnberg.  When war broke out, the squadron was dispersed in various locations in the Western Pacific.  Because likely Japanese hostility made it impossible for him to return to Tsingtao, Admiral Spee ordered his squadron to concentrate at Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas, a German colony.  After dispatching Emden on a commerce raiding mission in the Indian Ocean, he took his squadron east, arriving at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands (another German colony) on August 20.  On August 22 he proceeded to Majuro Atoll, on the far eastern edge of the Marshall Islands, where he learned that Japan had declared war on Germany.  He was joined at Majuro by additional ships that had escaped Tsingtao ahead of the arrival of the Japanese fleet.  Deciding that the west coast of South America, in addition to being a relatively hospitable region for obtaining coal and other supplies, was also a promising area for attacking Allied shipping, he took his squadron in that direction.  At month's end, he was on an easterly course, out of touch with the world somewhere in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

Further demonstration of the global nature of this war came on August 26, when British and French forces captured the German colony of Togoland on the Atlantic coast of Africa.


*****


Ellen Axson Wilson

With her husband and daughters at her side, Mrs. Woodrow Wilson died in the White House on August 6.  She was suffering from Bright's Disease.  For months she had worked for passage of a slum clearance bill for the District of Columbia.  On the morning of the day she died, she told her husband that this was her last wish, and before death came news was brought to her bedside that Congress had passed the bill.


 Secretary of State Bryan

The United States issued a formal Declaration of Neutrality on August 4.  On August 5, invoking its status as a signatory to the Hague Convention, it tendered its good offices as a mediator to the warring nations.  Other than non-involvement in military operations, the precise meaning of United States neutrality remains to be determined.  For example, two American corporations have contracts to build submarines for the British Government to be delivered in sections.  The administration has been advised that, while delivery of completed submarines would be unneutral under international law, delivery of unassembled parts would not.  Secretary of State Bryan has nevertheless persuaded President Wilson to ban the delivery, arguing that it would violate the spirit of neutrality.  Bryan's notion of neutrality goes even further.  He believes that its "spirit" requires a ban on all loans to belligerent nations on the ground that "money is the worst of all contrabands because it commands everything else."  Accordingly, on August 15, the State Department responded to an inquiry from J.P. Morgan & Co., following a request by the French Government for a loan, by saying that in the judgment of the Government "loans by American bankers to any foreign nation which is at war is inconsistent with the true spirit of neutrality."

President Wilson provided additional insight into his own thinking when he issued a statement to the American people on August 19.  He gave Americans a "solemn word of warning" that "the United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men's souls," and that "we must be impartial in thought as well as in action, must put a curb upon our sentiments as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another."


S.S. Ancon Entering the Canal

The Panama Canal was formally opened to world commerce on August 15.  The Panama Railroad steamship Ancon was the first ship through, making the transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific in ten hours.

The ongoing revolution in Mexico reached another milestone this month as the provisional president of Mexico, Antonio Carvajal, stepped down on August 15.  The victorious Constitutionalist forces, led by Venustiano Carranza, entered Mexico City without opposition on August 19.


James C. McReynolds and Thomas W. Gregory

President Wilson nominated Attorney General James Clark McReynolds to the United States Supreme Court on August 19.  McReynolds will fill the vacancy caused by the death last month of Justice Horace Lurton.  Thomas Watts Gregory has been appointed to succeed McReynolds as Attorney General.  Gregory has been serving as a Special Assistant Attorney General with the principal responsibility of supervising anti-trust litigation against the New Haven Railroad.


Pope Pius X

Pope Pius X died on August 20.  Born Giuseppe Sarto in 1835, he was elected pope in 1903 when the front-runner, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla, was vetoed by Cardinal Jan Puzyna de Kosielsko on behalf of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, exercising a power traditionally granted to Catholic monarchs to have their say in papal elections.  The outbreak of the war, which greatly distressed the Pope, is believed to have hastened his death.




August 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, September and October 1914
New York Times, August 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Philip Blom, The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914
Randolph S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill Volume II: Young Statesman, 1907-1914
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Kermit L. Hall, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Holger H. Herwig, The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle that Changed the World
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
John Keegan, The First World War
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War
Michael S. Neiberg, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I 
Kenneth Rose, King George V
George Malcolm Thomson, The Twelve Days: Two Weeks in Europe's Fatal Summer
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the Great War
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram