Saturday, September 20, 2014

Today -100: September 20, 1914: Of cathedrals, flanks, submarines, footballers, and horses

The Germans shell the 13th century Rheims Cathedral, setting it on fire. This will feature heavily in Allied propaganda for some time to come, as in this French cartoon

and this 1915 Irish recruiting poster.

Headline of the Day -100: “PUSHING IN GERMAN FLANKS.; Allies Fail to Budge the Invaders’ Centre, However.” War, or bad sex?

A while back, I was saying that no one is defining their war aims. Well, the London Times says the war will go on “until German militarism, its causes, and its effects are destroyed once and for all. ... Not until the German people have been compelled to perceive this struggle in its true light, as a revolt of the invincible forces of civilization against the systematized ethic of barbarism forged by German potentates and Professors, can there be a prospect of lasting peace for the world.” See, and I didn’t think there were any concrete war aims.

An Australian submarine sinks, or at any rate disappears. Probably an accident. Anyway, Australia evidently had submarines.

Mexico’s Not-Provisional-President-Because-Woodrow-Wilson-Said-He-Can’t-Call-Himself-That Carranza orders the expulsion of 400 Catholic priests and nuns from the country.

Headline of the Day -100: “English Soccer Players Go to War.”

The French Army is selling off several hundred horses captured from the Germans.  They can’t be used by the French Army, because they only speak German, so they’re being sold off to farmers (who had their horses requisitioned by the army).

Columbia, already the largest university in the country, will have its largest class ever this year, as people who’d expected to study in Europe think better of it.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Today -100: September 19, 1914: Whoever knows the good-natured character of our troops cannot seriously pretend that they are inclined to needless or frivolous destruction

Austrian police ban the spreading of news about Austria’s war losses.

Automobiles are banned from leaving Paris except for military ambulances and the cars of officials and journalists.  Possibly to thwart the use of cars by spies, who are supposedly whizzing around Paris identifying concentrations of troops.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Von Kluck Flanked?”  That’s German Gen. Alexander Heinrich Rudolph von Kluck, the inspiration behind this British soldiers’ song, sung to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel:
Kaiser Bill is feeling ill,
The Crown Prince, he’s gone barmy.
We don’t give a cluck for old von Fluck
And all his bleedin’ army.
Germany distributes a pamphlet in Italy, which says “With German energy we have determined to win, and we invite the Italians to win with us.”  Sure, they can bring their Italian... energy.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: a Belgian courier arrives in London with news that the Germans have mined all the public buildings and large private homes in Brussels, and filled the schools with straw, preparing to blow up and burn down the city.

Fog of War etc: Alfred Zimmermann, Germany’s assistant foreign secretary, adds a new detail to Germany’s propaganda about the Louvain massacre: the treacherous civilians included women and children who blinded wounded German soldiers.  Obviously, the “severest measures” were required, indeed were forced on the Germans, for their self-preservation.  “Whoever knows the good-natured character of our troops cannot seriously pretend that they are inclined to needless or frivolous destruction.”

Repulsive Headline of the Day -100:  “Repulse Germans 10 Times.”  My favorite bit in this dispatch from the First Battle of the Aisne: “All the next day the battle was of a ding-dong nature”.

Gen. Funston, in charge of the US occupation of Vera Cruz, wants Pres. Wilson to delay the ending of the occupation until October 10 so that all the refugees and priests and nuns can escape before the Constitutionalists inevitably slaughter them all, or something.

Evidently French youths have not been allowed to volunteer for the army before the age of 20 without permission of their father.  Now the government will allow mothers to give that permission, but only if the father is absent.

Germany is supposedly trying to conscript ethnic Germans in the parts of Russia it’s occupying, and hanging those who refuse to comply.

John Rizzo, a prisoner at Sing Sing prison who served as waiter to the warden, escapes after the warden’s dinner party.

The British Parliament suspends the £3,000/year annuity of the Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a cousin of Queen Victoria who married a German 70-some years ago.

Turkey orders newspapers to call the renamed city of Petrograd by its old name St Petersburg.  I don’t know why.  Probably just to piss Russia off.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today -100: September 18, 1914: Of feet, friendly fire, and withdrawals

Perhaps fortunately, I don’t have an image of the full page of atrocity photos printed in today -100’s Daily Mail, including one of a Belgian holding up the charred remains of his daughter’s foot.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The London Times reports that a bunch of German warships accidentally fired on each other.

Fog of War of the Day -100: Austria is supposedly trying to arrange a peace with Russia.

Woodrow Wilson says he ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Vera Cruz because he believes the Mexicans are now able to run their own country.  He does not say why it was up to him to decide when they were ready to run their own country. I guess he thought it was just obvious.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Today -100: September 17, 1914: Of dum-dums, liberty and the realization of national views, and stacks of corpses

Woodrow Wilson responds to Kaiser Wilhelm’s complaints about the alleged use of dum-dum bullets by the French and British, refusing to express any opinion at this time, saying it would be unwise, premature and inconsistent with American neutrality to do so.  He gives an identically phrased response to Belgian complaints about German atrocities.

When the Germans thought they had captured parts of France, they set about proclaiming themselves the new governors and putting up placards saying that if there was any sabotage, the commune (town) in which it occurred would face severe collective punishment.  Also, “Any locality where persons of the German Army are traitorously wounded, poisoned, or killed will be immediately burnt.”

A Russia proclamation being distributed in the parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire its troops are occupying says that Russia “brings liberty and the realization of your national views” to oppressed nationalities.  Who knew?  Perhaps the Poles of Austrian Galicia can ask the Poles of the Russian Empire about that liberty and realization of national views.

One thing we’re not hearing much about is war goals.  That proclamation suggests that Russia intends the dismantling of the Habsburg Empire, but it’s short on specifics and obviously more propaganda than policy statement.  The rest of what we hear about war aims is mostly speculation and rumor: Germany wants to annex Belgium, Britain wants the complete dismantling of the German Navy.  Obviously France wants Alsace and Lorraine back and Serbia wants Bosnia, but even those aren’t being openly announced.

Rioters in Italy demand that Italy enter the war on the allies’ side.  The Radicals seem especially bloodthirsty, but everyone wants to get Italy’s claims for new territory (at Austria’s expense) in before everyone else divides up all the good bits.

French Gen. Joffre supposedly escapes an artillery ambush, thanks to fast driving by his chauffeur, a race-car driver.

Irish Nationalist leader John Redmond, evidently satisfied with postponed Home Rule (and postponed civil war), calls for Irish men to join the army.

The London Times says that during the battle of the Marne, at one spot German soldiers built a barricade of corpses six feet high.

The US resumes deporting illegal aliens, which was stopped at the start of the war.

The Colorado miners’ convention accepts Woodrow Wilson proposed three-year truce.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Today -100: September 16, 1914: The pen is mightier

The Allies recapture Rheims.

Pres. Wilson orders the withdrawal of US troops from Vera Cruz and thus from Mexico.  Carranza seems to be obeying Wilson’s demands that he not take the provisional presidency.  He will therefore be able, under the Mexican constitution, to run for the presidency.  It’s not clear to me why Wilson is so concerned about abiding by the details of the Mexican constitution.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Two of the German officers involved in the Zabern affair in 1913, in which the German military trod rather heavily over Alsatian civilians, are reported killed in action.  They aren’t, but Lt. Baron von Förstner will be be killed in action in 1915.

The French have supposedly taken prisoner the German general who would have been Governor of Paris if the Germans had, you know, captured Paris.

Germany threatens China for its supposedly allowing Japanese troops to use its territory in their march on Kiao-Chau.  In response it will “deal with” China “as it sees fit.”

The British House of Lords passes the bill to postpone Irish Home Rule. Tory leader Andrew Bonar Law makes a speech in favor of postponed treason: when the war is over and Home Rule is implemented, he says, Tories will support Ulstermen in whatever steps they think necessary to “maintain their rights.”

The Chamber of German-American Commerce will try to get Belgian movies showing German troops committing atrocities in Belgium banned in the US, as violating the spirit of neutrality.  They’re not even claiming that these films distort the truth, just that they would inflame public opinion.

That article quotes a letter sent by the National Board of Censors to movie producers last month asking that any war scenes (re-enactments, there is as yet no real war footage) be preceded by a request to the audience to “refrain from any expressions of partisanship as the pictures are shown.”

South Carolina Gov. Coleman Blease’s loss of influence continues.  Early in the year, his candidates for the Democratic State Convention almost all lost, and badly.  Last month, he lost his bid for the US Senate, and now his choice to succeed him as governor loses spectacularly to Richard Manning, who is more or less a progressive, by South Carolina standards.

Click to enbiggen.  The papers Kaiser Wilhelm is writing with the lie-ink say “Germans approaching Petersburg,” “Great Austrian victory,” “British fleet wiped out,” “Paris in flames.”  Envelopes are addressed to the American press, the Italian press, Dutch, Swedish.  Caption: “I’m not quite satisfied with the sword. Perhaps, after all, the pen is mightier!”

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Today -100: September 15, 1914: Of marnes, pro-Germs, race treachery, and refugees

The First Battle of the Marne.  Germany’s chance of a blitzkrieg capture of Paris as called for under the Schlieffen Plan, already hopelessly behind schedule due to Belgium’s surprising (to Germany) unwillingness to allow itself to be used as an autobahn, is definitively lost.

Is it an unintentional typo that refers to a made-up interview with William Jennings Bryan that appears in an Argentine newspaper as showing a “pro-Germ view?”

Irish Home Rule will be enacted this week, finally.  Well, put on the statute books.  Asquith intends to postpone implementation for at least a year, and modify the bill, possibly excluding Ulster, before it goes into effect.  The disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales will also be postponed.

Albert M.C. McMaster, a professor of modern languages at Sweet Briar College, writes to the NYT to refute the idea that England siding with France against Germany is race treachery.  In fact, he says, the English are racially most similar to the French, both being based in the Celt.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100:  Rumors in Paris that Gen. Alexandre Percin has been executed as a traitor for having failed to defend Lille and ignoring orders to relieve the fortress Namur.  It was considered suspicious that he had a German wife.  I think the wife bit is wrong, and I know the rest of it is.

Fog of War: Germany says there is a revolt going on in India. There isn’t.

First World War Problems: an American woman stranded in Britain without funds applies to the American Relief Committee (at the Savoy) for passage home, but goes on hunger strike when she finds out it will be third class.  She gives up in the afternoon when the chairman, a Mr. Herbert Hoover, offers her 4s to buy herself dinner.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Today -100: September 14, 1914: Of war shit

Germany is having trouble fighting a two-front war against France and Russia.  It’s not currently doing well in either.

And it’s not getting much help from Austria.  The Russian war minister is bragging that the Austrian army is so broken that Russia can safely ignore it and concentrate on Germany.  And he’s not exaggerating much.

Serbian forces, surprisingly aggressive in their tactics or perhaps figuring that the Austrian army has its hands full with the Russians, will try to capture Budapest (meeting up with Russian troops).

Belgian lawyers and judges are on strike, refusing to conduct trials while the Germans keep the public out of courtrooms in violation of Belgian law.

German troops invade Kenya, because why not.

Theodore Roosevelt has been making no public comments about the war.  He must be about ready to explode.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014


John Kerry was in Egypt today, talking with his good friends in the coup government.

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Today -100: September 13, 1914: It’s just a flesh wound

War Headlines of the Day -100:
Prof. Brander Matthews, a literature professor at Columbia, thinks the European war should be great for literature.  Although he predicts that it will take the form of drama rather than novels (the thought that it might be films doesn’t seem to have occurred to him).

South African PM Louis Botha says South Africa will back Britain in this war.  The whole Boer War thing is like totally forgotten.

Rumor of the Day -100: Two or even three of Kaiser Wilhelm’s sons are reported killed. I’m guessing we’re going to keep seeing these stories, so I’ll just do a major spoiler now and say that none of the princes were killed in action during World War I.  One did commit suicide soon after, though, and one became a Nazi.

Britain, France, Russia and Italy tell Turkey that it can’t unilaterally abrogate the treaties giving their citizens immunity from Turkish courts.  The US will say the same.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Today -100: September 12, 1914: We must go forth unflinchingly to the end

Supposedly, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria have signed an agreement to fight Turkey if it enters the war.

Woodrow Wilson instructs William Jennings Bryan to tell the Turkish ambassador to stop talking about lynchings in the South.

Rumor of the Day -100: the Turkish crown prince and the war minister are said to have either gotten in a duel, in which the latter received a fatal bullet, or, less formally, the war minister got angry during a discussion of policy and took a couple of shots at the prince, who returned fire.

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill gives a speech with the Churchillian line, “It is our life against Germany’s.  Upon that there must be no compromise or truce.  We must go forth unflinchingly to the end.”

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