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).


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