Book Review: Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne
by Bob Seals
SGT York’s compelling story is a familiar tale to laymen and military historians alike. Born in a small, two room log cabin near Pall Mall, Tennessee, in 1887, Alvin C. York was the third of eleven children born to poor parents who struggled in the hills. After the death of his father, from the effects of being kicked by a mule in 1911, Alvin was thrust into the role of head of the household for his widowed mother and younger siblings at home. The pressure of such responsibility affected the young man. York often sought escape shooting, fighting, gambling and drinking in the rough hewn bars and local moonshine plentiful in the mountains. A favorite game with his friends was called “last man standing,” with the winner being the last left standing after a challenging bout of conspicuous consumption. His life was a pointless, wayward existence until he re-discovered his parent’s devout, fundamentalist Christian faith, and developed a romantic interest in a young lady near the York farm. After a revival meeting Alvin was “…transformed from a drunkard, brawler, and malcontent to a leader in the church, a Sunday School teacher, a choir leader, and a respected man in the community.”
Member Article: Romania and its allies during World War I
by Liliana Adochitei
With the beginning of WW1, Romania came under pressure from both sides of the conflict to join them. The Entente countries (France, Great Britain, Russia) demanded that Romania join their side against the Central powers (Austria-Hungary and Germany), and promised to recognise Romanian claims to territory held by Austria-Hungary in a post-war settlement. At the same time, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany demanded that King Carol I of Romania comply with the 1883 Treaty between the countries, which stipulated that if one of the countries were attacked the other one would offer their unconditional support.
Meeting from July 21 to August 3, 1919, the Crown Council of Sinaia determined that neutrality was the only appropriate option for Romania, as it was a small country located in the sphere of influences of two warring empires (Austria-Hungary and Russia). Romania’s situation was further complicated by the fact that it held territorial claims against both the Empires surrounding it. Consequently, neutrality was considered the best option at the start of the war, although both the Romanian politicians and the population in general, expected that Romania would likely be compelled to enter the war at some stage.
Member Article: A Crisis of Cartography: Mapping the Western Front in World War I
by Del Kostka
When the great armies of Europe converged on the border region between Belgium and
France in August of 1914 they were not concerned with map making or topography.
After all, it was very familiar territory. Just forty-four years prior, the most
decisive battle of the Franco-Prussian War was waged outside the French town of
Sedan near the Belgian border, and every commander in every nation knew by heart
the epic campaign of Napoleon, Wellington and Blucher, and the roads that led them
to a quiet Belgian village named Waterloo. Besides, each side was confident that
this would be a very short war. Germany’s Schlieffen Plan, which called for the
invasion of France through Belgium, set a timetable of six weeks for total French
capitulation, and eager British recruits were discouraged when assured that the
war would be over by Christmas. But the Great War would not be quick and it would
not be easy. In fact, it would become a bloodbath of horrific proportions. Before
it was finished over 37 million people were either dead, wounded or had simply vanished
from the face of the earth.
Member Article: The Evolution of British Infantry tactics in World
by Roger Daene
World War One on the Western Front is often times depicted as a series of senseless
battles where infantry ran across open fields only to be slaughtered by machinegun
and artillery fire. The popular conception is that there were little innovations
in tactics. Wilhelm Balck, a German division commander, had written many articles
and manuals on tactics before the Great War. He said, “Bullets quickly write
new tactics.” After the Battle of the Marne in 1914 and the subsequent German retreat,
the war on the western front became more of a positional war rather than a war of
maneuver. The goal of the Allies and the Germans was to penetrate the enemy’s main
defense lines and exploit any breakthrough. The goal would be hard to attain because
of the unique nature of warfare in World War One. Never before in the history of
the world were so many new weapons introduced or old ones that suddenly became practical
enough to use on a wide scale. World War One would see the introduction of the airplane,
tank, and poison gas which had never been used on any battlefield. Although artillery
had been around for centuries, recent innovations allowed for larger pieces to be
developed that fired a heavier shell even greater distances than ever before.
Member Article: Bullets Quickly Write New Tactics
by Roger Daene
Wilhelm Balck said about tactics, “Bullets quickly write new tactics.” He was a
divisional commander in the First World War and had written many articles and manuals
on tactics before the Great War. After the Battle of the Marne in 1914 and the
subsequent German retreat, the war on the western front became more of a positional
war rather than a war of maneuver. The Allied and German nearly unattainable goal
was to penetrate the enemy’s main defense lines and exploit any breakthrough. New
tactics would be developed after the bullets started flying. The German Army made
some fundamental changes to both its offensive and defensive tactics during the
winter of 1916/1917 and again in the winter of 1917/1918. In spite of all the adjustments,
the spring offensive of 1918 failed. The Germans began questioning and studying
why they failed in their last gamble to win the war.
Member Article: Plague of the Spanish Lady
by David W. Tschanz
In August 1918 while World War I raged from Finland to Mesopotamia an epidemic began.
In two months it covered the globe, sparing only Tristan da Cunha in the extreme
South Atlantic. No one has ever figured out how it traveled such great distances
in so short a time. Coast Guard search parties, for example, discovered Eskimo villages
in remote, seemingly inaccessible locations wiped out to the last adult and child.
Most of its victims were young men aged 18 to 45. Many of them went from perfect
health to the coldness of the grave in less than a day. It crippled troop movements,
slowed the reinforcement of Pershing, broke the already fragile German morale and
shattered the Kaiser's war effort. Only the Black Death of the 14th Century and
the Plague of Justinian of the 6th Century, would rival it in the rate it claimed
human lives. Neither would match it in its speed.
Member Article: SMS Dresden's War: The Benefits of Protracted Evasion
Over Spirit of Enterprise,1914-1915
by Dr. Christopher M. Jannings
How highly mobile German commerce raiders (light cruisers) performed at sea and
met their fate is one of the more compelling and controversial stories of World
War I. One such account is that of the SMS Dresden and how it successfully
eluded capture or sinking at the hands of a far superior British navy and their
allies in 1914-1915. This essay charts the performance of the light cruiser from
its prewar position off the eastern coast of Mexico to its scuttling in Chilean
national waters on March 15, 1915. It asks: In terms of carrying out cruiser
warfare, what expectations did the German navy have for its overseas cruiser squadron
at the beginning of the war? Was SMS Dresden under capable command and prepared
to take on the role of an independent commerce raider? As the sole survivor of the
German East Asian Squadron at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, what determining
factors forced its commander, Captain Franz Ludecke, to opt for a strategy of “protracted
evasion” over the “spirit of enterprise?” By taking the former action, SMS Dresden
successfully avoided enemy contact and forced the British navy and their allies
to commit warships to the region that were best served in the North Atlantic. In
the process, it continued to pose an immediate threat to British shipping interests
in the Far East and South Atlantic.
Member Article: Air Reconnaissance in World War One
by Del Kostka
For most people, the great aces are the most enduring personalities of World War
I. Almost 100 years after they blazed across the skies of Europe, names like Richthofen,
Bishop, Guynemer and Rickenbacker are still memorialized as the chivalrous "knights
of the air". Yet few people today give thought or credence to the pilots and observers
of reconnaissance aircraft. Often portrayed as lumbering and defenseless victims
of air combat, aerial reconnaissance crews actually made an impact and contribution
to the war effort far greater than their glamorized brethren. The accuracy and timeliness
of the intelligence they gathered changed the nature of warfare, and the devastating
artillery barrages they orchestrated from high above the battlefield accounted for
more casualties than any other weapon system of the Great War. Simply put, the
reconnaissance aircrew was the most lethal killing machine of World War One.
Member Article: Smoke without fire: A re-examination of the Angel of
by Steve MacGregor
During World War One there was a widespread belief in Britain that some form of
supernatural intervention saved allied troops during the retreat from Mons. Since
the war this event, generally known as the “Angel of Mons” has been variously used
as evidence of supernatural intervention in combat, an example of a collective hallucination
or as an urban myth unwittingly originated by a piece of fiction. The most prosaic
explanation is that the Angel was no more than a misinterpretation of odd cloud
formations seen by weary troops. The only thing that most theories agree on is that
something strange happened during the retreat from Mons in August 1914 and that
this was witnessed by British (and possibly German) troops.
Member Article: Who Killed the Red Baron?
by Steven Wilson
In the skies above Vauz sur Somme, France, April 21, 1918, the highest-scoring ace
of World War I was shot down by enemy fire and died. Almost immediately, his legend
was born. Manfred von Richthofen, forever known in history as "The Red Baron," was
credited with 80 air-to-air victories in World War I. He was chasing victory number
81 at the time of his death. He was 25. At the time of his shoot down, Canadian
Capt. Roy Brown of the Royal Air Force's 209th squadron was credited with firing
the fatal shots that killed the famous aviator. However, recent evidence has surfaced
that indicates the old history books may, in fact, be wrong.
Member Article: The 308th Infantry during the Argonne Offensive October
by Kevin Mulberger
During the American involvement in World War I, there were various battles that
caught the American public's attention, but none were like the one like the story
of the "Lost Battalion". This battalion consisted of about five hundred men of the
308th Infantry of the 77th Division along with attachments from other units. The
commander of the 1st Battalion 308th Infantry Regiment was Maj. Charles Whittlesey,
a former New York City lawyer. The 308th also consisted of attachments from the
306th Machine Gun Battalion and K Company from the 307th Infantry for their mission.
This mission was to capture the Charlevaux Ravine in the Argonne Forest during the
Meuse-Argonne offensive in October 1918. The offensive through the Argonne Forest
would be a tough battle for the Americans since the Germans had dug themselves in
over the last four years. Also the rough terrain would add to the difficulty in
any attack in the Argonne. In theory, if the AEF broke through here, they could
punch a hole all the way past the main lateral rail line the German Army needed
to keep the front supplied. A major break through here would then be catastrophic
for the Germans.
Member Article: Decisions of Disaster: Jutland 1916
by Alan McGahey
On the morning of October 21, in the year 1805, three naval fleets met at Cape Trafalgar
off the Spanish coast. Napoleon had ordered his admirals to mass the French and
Spanish fleets together against Lord Horatio Nelson and the British Fleet. Admiral
Horatio Nelson went to sea at age twelve and fought in many battles throughout his
career. Because of one of these battles, he received a wound in his right arm by
grapeshot (a clustered projectile used against boarding parties) forcing the doctor
to amputate his arm.
Member Article: End Game in Flanders, 1918
by Ronan Thomas
Ieper, Flanders – 2009 marks the 91st anniversary of the end of the Great War of
1914-18. On 11 November, 1918, the guns finally fell silent across the entire length
of the Western Front in France and Belgium. After four shattering years of fighting,
an armistice - at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh month
– came into force and finally ended the Great War of 1914-1918. In November 2008
the conflict’s 90th anniversary was marked by dozens of moving ceremonies and in
sombre contemplation by the combatant nations.
Member Article: The German Commerce Raiders
by Jamie Bisher
In late January 1915, the first American merchant vessel lost to hostile action
was sunk by a German auxiliary cruiser in the South Atlantic.
Member Article: The
Battle of Tannenberg, 1914
by Birrion Sondahl
The Battle of Tannenberg was the first major battle in World War I on the eastern
front. It pitted the forces of Russia against those of Germany. The major battle
was preceded by a much more minor affair at Gumbinnen which had a great influence
upon the course of the campaign. The Gumbinnen encounter led into the actual Battle
of Tannenberg where the German Eighth Army encircled the Russian Second Army.
Member Article: The
Great Retreat, Eastern Front 1915
by Michael Kihntopf
By 23 August 1915 the Russian positions on their fronts with the Central Powers
of Austria-Hungary and Germany were crumbling like mud walls in a rainstorm. Since
April, the combined armies had slowly and methodically destroyed one Russian corps
after another as they marched across the Polish salient and through the Carpathian
Mountains. The strong fortresses of the Vistula River had succumbed. Voices from
the trenches to the desks of the Russian General Staff or Stavka whispered innuendos
of betrayal and incompetence and called for something to be done before the German
hordes gobbled up any more of holy mother Russia. Tsar Nicholas II, encouraged by
his wife, finally gave in to the allegations and sacked the commander in chief,
his uncle, Nicholas Nikolovich, and took up the reigns of command himself.
Member Article: Was
Britain's Participation in WWI Justified?
by Andrew Wright
In the summer of 1914 Europe plunged into war. Isolated by the English Channel and
protected by the much vaunted Royal Navy, Britain, as always, had the chance to
decide whether or not to participate in the struggle. After the German invasion
of Belgium, Britain decided to come to the aid of Belgium and France and subsequently
declared war on Germany. During the next four years Britain would suffer horrendous
casualties, lose much of her vast wealth, and surrender her paramount position as
the leading power of the world. But does this mean it was a mistake for Britain
to participate in the First World War? It is likely that without British intervention
the Germans would have won the war and dominated the continent of Europe. England
also had legal and moral obligations to her allies.
Motivations of the Lafayette Escadrille Pilots
by Guy Nasuti
The experience of American pilots who flew and fought for France in the early years
of the First World War led to the spectacular showing of air power by the United
States. In addition, the pilots' knowledge contributed greatly to advances in the
aeronautic and military use of aircraft. These young volunteers, especially of the
Lafayette Escadrille, were motivated by a longing to get out of the horrors of the
trenches, the innovativeness of flight coupled with a romantic sense of adventure,
and revenge. Aeronautics was about a decade old when the war began in 1914. It was
therefore still in its infancy, and the militaries of the belligerent countries
were beginning to see some use, however small at first, for these new machines.
Aerial combat had not yet begun, and aerial bombings were still primitive at best.
The airplane was used mainly in photographic and topographical areas. Already many
forward-thinking young men were viewing the new innovation of flight as an enthralling
and challenging instrument of the future.
Dead Man's Penny
by Ken Wright
amongst the vandalised graves, rusting wrought iron railing and a few empty beer
bottles, lays the final resting place of Private Robert John Bruce of C Company
46th Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces. His grave in the Will Will Rook cemetery
located in Melbourne's outer suburb of Broadmeadows is impossible to find as many
graves have long since disappeared through years of wanton destruction and an indifferent
public appreciation of the historical significance of the cemetery.
by Ken Wright
Early in 1915, the British Government began to feel the financial pressure of the
war and indicated to the Australian Government that it would be better if Australia
could finance her own share of the war effort. After deducting the war loans already
received or promised by Britain, the Australian Government concluded the war was
going to be more of a financial burden to the country than first realised in 1914.
The Government decided to raise loans from the public and the Commonwealth Bank
of Australia was entrusted with the job of managing the operation on behalf of the
Commonwealth Government. On the 1st July 1915, the first of seven war loans was
launched with the Government hoping to raise 5 million pounds. Public enthusiasm
for the war effort was so great; that the sum received at the close of the first
loan was 13,389,440 pounds.
One of Ten Thousand
by Ken Wright
This is the story of Henry James Wright, who enlisted in the Australian Imperial
Forces in 1915. His parents, Edward and Marion Wright and their seven sons and two
daughters lived at No 6 Winfred Street, North Essendon, a suburb of Melbourne. When
war was declared on 4 August 1914, patriotic fever spread through out Australia.
Henry was the first of the sons to answer the call to fight for King and Country.
While he was overseas, Henry was a prolific letter writer, but most of those letters
have now been lost as his brothers and sisters have long since died. The information
used to present Henry’s story is from the postcards and letters that have survived.
Henry was not the only family member to enlist and fight in the Great War.
The Design Was Not Passed
by Ken Wright
By early 1915, the fighting on the Western Front had stalemated into static trench
warfare. The death toll had reached such epic proportions that neither the British,
French or Germans could keep up the insane tactics of mass charges by their troops
across no-mans land only to be slaughtered in vast numbers by machine gun fire,
artillery barrages or die entangled in barbed wire or drown in mud. Static warfare
was not how the generals of the time wanted the war conducted and Allied General
Headquarters in France began demanding a solution to the trench warfare be found.
Subverting the Sultan:
British Arms Shipments to the Arabs of Darfur, 1915-16
by Dr. Andrew McGregor
In recent years the Sudan government has been responsible for pouring weapons into
Darfur at a time when territorial and environmental tensions were already high.
Rather than encourage and supervise resolutions to these issues the government has
chosen to inflame ethnic and racial divisions in the region. The well-known devastation
created by this policy has a precedent in British activities in the region in 1915-16
as part of the buildup to the Anglo-Egyptian invasion that brought the independent
Sultanate of Darfur under the control of the Khartoum government.
The Victories and Defeats
of the Russian Army: 1914
by Patrick Murphy
During the last days of the Tzarist Empire, the Russian soldier had, in many cases,
given up on fighting and wanted only to return home. The common Russian, like the
nation, was crippled from years of destructive war. Russia was damaged most by Germans,
whom they were forced to sign a separate peace treaty with at Brest-Litovsk in 1918.
Leading up to the treaty were a string of major losses, shattering the last foundations
of the Tzar's government. One can see in the early stages of the First World War
the impending collapse of the army's command authority and fighting potential.
by Michael Kihntopf
War planners in the German General Staff planned to outflank the French fortress
line by an invasion of Belgium. What they expected the Belgian army to do as they
advanced across the country isn’t quite clear, although historians agree that the
Belgians were not expected to put up too much of a fight. Within moments of crossing
the borders, the Germans found themselves faced with a well equipped and organized
army that stood behind an admittedly antiquated but impressive, massive array of
The Battle of St. Etienne:
The 36th Division in World War One
by Bruce L. Brager
The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Though the exact nature
and degree of American participation in the Allied cause had to be worked out, some
token contribution to the Allied World War I effort was needed as soon as possible.
Four infantry regiments of the Regular Army were collected, the 16th, 18th, 26th
and 28th Infantry, formed into the 1st Division -- the "Big Red One," still in existence
-- and sent overseas. The regiments still had to be expanded, and sailed to Europe
about two-thirds new recruits.