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):


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