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War Made New and Terrifying

  • What in God's name are those things?! WHAT ARE THEY?!
--A German NCO in the midst of exploding shells. [1] [2]
  • This is not war. IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!
--Indian-British solider in a letter to his father. [2]

The dead lay everywhere, in pieces or whole, rotting for days, or months. The smell cannot be described. It is death simply to raise your head above the trenches. Most men are wearing cloth hats. Helmets are just coming on line. Helmet or not, when the order comes, over the top you go, to live or die. That is frightening enough, but imagine that you are in the 2nd line, seeing what just happened to the first. The whistle sounds. It's your turn now. Death is the end of suffering. Shells arrive in waves. The battlefield is awash in metal and poison gas. By treaty, gas is forbidden, but millions are dead already... so... the Germans wait for the wind to be right (if such a word can be used) and pull the tops off the canisters. The gas creeps along the ground like the Angel of Death, claiming lives as it flows by. Some men run from the shelling. They call it "shell-shock". Later they will call it "battle fatigue," but the officers call it cowardice. Hundreds of soldiers are lined up and shot for desertion. No mercy. The French start rotating their troops out of the trenches, but how much more of this can the troops take? For those of us commanded to die, the whistle sounds. For king and country, over the top we go. [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The battles of World War 1 were actually much worse than I'm describing here. The Second Industrial Revolution brought more than prosperity. It created an infrastructure that allowed large armies to be fed, clothed, armed and rearmed to the point where the complete destruction of a nation became possible. Bureaucracies broke down under the strain. Economic collapse was imminent, but it just didn't matter. For them, there was no tomorrow... but we know that tomorrow came. What emerged was ugly, bitter, disillusioned and building up for a second round. The next time will be different. It always is. [5] [6]

The Armenian Genocide

The killing of Armenian Christians has been going on long before World War 1, but when the Ottoman Empire (mostly modern day Turkey) sides with Germany, it all comes to a head. Russia is at war with Germany and traditionally, Russia has been an ally to Armenia. A lot of Armenians have escaped the persecution by the Muslim Turks, and joined the Russian army. Now the Russians are sending their ethnic Armenian units to beat the tar out of the Turks. It feels good to the Armenians. The Turks? Not so much. One more background item: secret negotiations are in progress to carve up the Ottoman Empire after the war. It's called the Sykes–Picot (sikes PEE-ko) Agreement. Whether the Turks know the secret or not, they'd have to be idiots not to have guessed. So here we are. A large Armenian population exists within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. They look like a 5th column ready to join the Russians (because they are). As the war rages, the Turks decide to move the Armenians to Syria... millions of Armenians, on foot with whatever they can carry. If you are asking yourself, "How did they feed these people?", you have noticed one of the problems. The other problems are murder, rape, pillaging, and beheadings. The number of Armenians that will die is unknown, but figure around 600,000 for this year alone and 1.5 million over all. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Was it intentional? It depends on what you mean by "intentional". The Ottomans of the time knew what would happen when they tried to move so many people at once. I'm leaving out a lot of the horror, but pictures exist, and credible, non-Armenian, non-Turkish witnesses reported on the death marches. It was a major catastrophe. Whether the death marches were organized specifically to kill off the Armenians is still debated. Look. I'm Jewish. Millions of my fellow Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany. They are sorry. I'm sorry. We are all F-ing sorry. Let's move past it now. We will not forget. Never that, but their sons didn't do it. Don't get me wrong. I'm watching the son carefully, but his sins are his own as are mine.

Notable Births

  • Richard Webb (Actor, best known as Captain Midnight. I actually met this guy... and he cared!) [13]
  • Les Paul (Musician and inventor of the solid-body electric guitar.) [14] [15]
  • Frank Sinatra (Singer and actor. I liked him in "Guys and Dolls" and "Von Ryan's Express".) [16]

In Other News

  • England produces "Little Willie," a prototype tank. It's not ready for prime time, but it's coming along. [17]
  • "In Flander Fields" is published. "In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row..." [18]
  • "Birth of a Nation" is released. This film about the KKK will be screened at the White House. (That is, Woodrow Wilson, Democrat.) [19] [20] [21]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1915, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Junger, Ernst. Storm of Steel. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 9780141186917. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Blueprint for Armageddon III (PODCAST) (24 April 2014). “Length: 3h 54m. Size: 217 megabytes. Summary: The war of maneuver that was supposed to be over quickly instead turns into a lingering bloody stalemate. Trench warfare begins, and with it, all the murderous efforts on both sides to overcome the static defenses.”
  3. Keegan, John. First World War, The. Vintage. ISBN 9780375700453. “Within a few months, most armies will have adopted the steel helmet, the first reversion to the use of armour since its disappearance in the seventeenth century. The opening months of the First World War marked the termination of two hundred years of a style of infantry fighting which, with decreasing logic, taught that drill and discipline was the best defence against missile weapons, however much improved.” 
  4. Chemical weapons in World War I - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “The first instance of large-scale use of gas as a weapon was on 31 January 1915, when Germany fired 18,000 artillery shells containing liquid xylyl bromide tear gas on Russian positions on the Rawka River, west of Warsaw during the Battle of Bolimov. However, instead of vaporizing, the chemical froze and failed to have the desired effect.[8] The first killing agent employed by the German military was chlorine.”
  5. Boot, Max. War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today. Gotham Books, 198-199. 
  6. Alex Shrugged notes: Most of my comments come from my reading of Barbara Tuckman's "The Proud Tower," and listening to Dan Carlin's series "Blueprint for Armageddon."
  7. Toumani, Meline. There Was and There Was Not: A journey through hate and possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and beyond. Henry Holt and Co.. 
  8. Bard, Mitchell G.. Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict, The. Alpha. ISBN 9780028644103. “Great Britain and France had already divvied up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire in a secret agreement signed on May 16, 1916, by Sir Mark Sykes and Georges Francois Picot. Under the agreement, Armenia and a huge area of the Iranian-Russian border were ceded to the Russians to entice them to engage in war with the Turks along their northern border. The agreement also provided incentive for French assistance by offering to France control of Syria, Lebanon, and the oil-rich Mosul area of Iraq. Great Britain was to keep the rest of Iraq and Palestine.” 
  9. Keegan, John. First World War, The. Vintage. ISBN 9780375700453. “Among the troops the Russians had employed was a division of Christian Armenians, many of them disaffected Ottoman subjects, who took the opportunity offered by Russian sponsorship to commit massacre inside Turkish territory. Their participation in the campaign, and the declaration in April 1915 of a provisional Armenian government by nationalists on Russian-held territory, underlay the Ottoman government's undeclared campaign of genocide against their Armenian subjects which, between June 1915 and late 1917, led to the deaths of nearly 700,000 men, women and children, force-marched into the desert to die of starvation and thirst.” 
  10. Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, The. Touchstone. ISBN 0684844419. “At the core, Russia, the equivalent of France and Germany, is closely linked to an inner circle including the two predominantly Slavic Orthodox republics of Belarus and Moldova, Kazakhstan, 40 percent of whose population is Russian, and Armenia, historically a close ally of Russia.” 
  11. Armenian Genocide - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 14 December 2016. “The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.”
  12. Armenian Genocide - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 14 December 2016. “While there is no consensus as to how many Armenians lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide, there is general agreement among western historians that over 500,000 Armenians died between 1914 and 1918. Estimates vary between 800,000[114] and 1,500,000 (per the governments of France,[115] Canada,[116] and other states). Encyclopædia Britannica references the research of Arnold J. Toynbee, an intelligence officer of the British Foreign Office, who estimated that 600,000 Armenians 'died or were massacred during deportation' in a report compiled on 24 May 1916.”
  13. Richard Webb (actor) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “He appeared in more than fifty films, including many westerns and films noir including Out of the Past (1947), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951) and Carson City (1952). Today, he may be best remembered as the star of the 1950s television series, Captain Midnight, based on a long-running radio program of the same name and Border Patrol.”
  14. Invent Now - Hall of Fame - Search - Inventor Profile. (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “His innovations led to his first solid-body electric guitar in 1941. Coupled with his pioneering recording techniques, Paul produced a series of extremely po”
  15. Les Paul - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “In 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his development of the solid-body electric guitar.[62] He was named an honorary member of the Audio Engineering Society in 1958.[63] In 2007, he received the National Medal of Arts from U.S. President George W. Bush.”
  16. Frank Sinatra - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide”
  17. Little Willie - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “Little Willie was a prototype in the development of the British Mark I tank. Constructed in the autumn of 1915 at the behest of the Landships Committee, it was the first completed tank prototype in history. Little Willie is the oldest surviving individual tank, preserved as one of the most famous pieces in the collection of The Tank Museum, Bovington, England.”
  18. In Flanders Fields - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “
    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.”
  19. The Birth of a Nation - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “Under President Woodrow Wilson it was the first American motion picture to be screened at the White House.”
  20. William Joseph Simmons - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 13 December 2016. “While convalescing in 1915 after being hit by a car, Simmons decided to rebuild the Klan which he had seen depicted in the newly released film The Birth of a Nation directed by D.W. Griffith.”
  21. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 468-469. 

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