Little Bits of History

August 3

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 3, 2017

1914: The first air battle in history takes place. World War I officially began on July 28, 1914. A month before, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo. The ensuing diplomatic crisis came to a head when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia and called in international alliances to support their position. On July 25, Russia began to mobilize troops as Austria prepared for declaration of war. Germany demanded Russia pull back and this was refused. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia. France and Belgium began to mobilize their own troops and Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium on this day. Britain then demanded Germany withdraw from neutral Belgium and this was ignored so Britain declared war on Germany on the next day.

Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros was a French aviator born in 1888. He came to Paris to study and in 1909 began his flying career when he took up a Damoiselle (Dragonfly) monoplane. The plane was noted for only being serviceable with a small lightweight pilot. Garros fit the bill. He received his French pilot’s license, number 147 in July 1910. He went on to fly larger planes and entered a number of European air races flying a Bleriot monoplane including when he came in second in a race called the Circuit of Europe, a flight from Paris to London and back to Paris in 1911. He set an altitude record of 12,960 feet in the fall of 1911 and had to retake it the next year after an Austrian aviator went higher.

On the first day of World War I, Garros flew his plane into a German Zeppelin dirigible flying above the German frontier and destroyed it and killed the two crewmembers. It is considered the first air battle in all of history. There was a problem with forward firing machine guns mounted on combat aircraft. Garros had a role in the development of an interrupter gear which allowed the gun to shoot through a propeller without harming the blades. He was shot down in 1915 and didn’t completely destroy his plane before Germans took it over, giving Fokker a chance to study his innovations for the gun/propeller set up. Garros was taken prisoner and escaped almost three years later. He was shot down and killed on October 5, 1918, just a month before the war ended.

World War I, the Great War, the War to end all Wars was one of the largest wars in history. During the four years, three months, and two weeks of fighting, over 70 million military personnel were mobilized, over 60 million of them Europeans. Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilian died as a result of the war (these numbers include genocides perpetrated during wartime). These numbers do not take into account the over 21 million wounded and 7 million missing. Technology had made the killing machines far more deadly and trench warfare became a death trap for millions. The happiness at the ending of war was mitigated by the 1918 flu pandemic, exacerbated by the devastation and destruction of war as well as the global movement of people. This accounted for another 50 to 100 million deaths, about three to five percent of the world’s population.

European nations began World War I with a glamorous vision of war, only to be psychologically shattered by the realities of the trenches. The experience changed the way people referred to the glamour of battle; they treated it no longer as a positive quality but as a dangerous illusion. – Virginia Postrel

The stories from World War I are worse than anything I have ever read. – Kerry Greenwood

World War I broke out largely because of an arms race, and World War II because of the lack of an arms race. – Herman Kahn

The Anarchists set off World War I with a gunshot in Sarajevo – but they faded away. It wasn’t that the police drove them out of business. The ideology had nowhere to go except into permanent negativity. – Pete Hamill