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


January 18

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 18, 2017

1915: Japan issues Twenty-One Demands to the government of China. During World War I, the Empire of Japan had Ōkuma Shigenobu as Prime Minister. He sent a list of demands to China which would extend Japanese control of Manchuria as well as increase control over the economy. The Japanese had gained a great deal of influence in northern China and Manchuria during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. At the time, Japan ranked with European imperialist powers in their quest to take control of China. The Qing dynasty was overthrown and a new Republic of China was created under General Yuan Shikai. Japan saw this development as a way to increase her own power on the mainland.

Early drafting of the demandswas done by Shigenobu and Foreign Minister Katō Takaaki, who would later serve as Prime Minister of Japan. They were presented to the Genrō and Japanese Emperor Taishō. They went next to the Diet who approved the list of demands after which they were presented to Shikai on this date. Along with the demands came threats of dire consequences if they were not met. The demands were divided into five groups.

The first group demanded that Japan’s seizure of German ports and operations be recognized along with control over infrastructure in the Shandong Province. Groups two and three sequentially granted Japan a wider sphere of influence over greater territories and natural as well as manmade resources. Group four barred China from making similar deals with other foreign powers. And the most aggressive and final list demanded China hire Japanese advisors who would take control of China’s finances and police as well as freedom to build their own infrastructure. They attempted to keep this last section secret while putting pressure on the new Chinese government.

A new list of Thirteen Demands was sent on May 7, almost two weeks after China’s rejection of the first list. Shikai was not in a strong enough position, since he was still in battle with other warlords over total control of China and he capitulated and signed the reduced document on May 25, 1915. The consequences for Japan were mainly negative. The signing of the demands did little to increase the de facto power Japan already had in China but it did greatly antagonize relations between Japan and the US and Great Britain who had been Japan’s greatest ally up to this point. The British Foreign Office was dismayed by Japan’s overbearing and bullying behaviors. The Chinese themselves organized a total boycott of all Japanese imports and the economic consequences were considerable.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. – Frederick Douglass

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. – Adam Smith

Freedom is our most precious commodity and if we are not eternally vigilant, government will take it all away. Individual freedom demands individual responsibility. – Lyn Nofziger

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow. – Alice Walker

World War I

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2013
Franz Ferdinand and his family

Franz Ferdinand and his family

July 23, 1914: Serbia ignores an ultimatum issued by Austria-Hungary. Franz Ferdinand Karl Giuermo Anikò Strezpek Belschwitz Mòric Pinche Bálint Szilveszter Gömpi Maurice Bzoch János Frajkor Ludwig van Haverbeke Josef von Habsburg-Lothringen was an Archduke, Prince Imperial, Royal Prince, and next in line to assume the throne of Austro-Hungary. Franz was supposed to wed only someone of royal lineage. He was smitten by a young duchess and lady-in-waiting. After great upheaval and ignoring pleas from the Pope, a Tsar, and an Emperor, the couple married.

On June 29, 1914, the Archduke and his wife were assassinated while riding in an armored car in Sarajevo. The car was a convertible and the top was off. They had come to Serbia, knowing it was dangerous. Europe was already involved in an arms race, increased nationalism, and imperialism. Serbia wished for freedom from Austrian rule. The Black Hand, aka Unification or Death was intent on uniting Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, and Slovenes – all the South Slav populations – in a free nation. Franz was one of Serbia’s strongest advocates in Vienna.

Vienna wasn’t overly outraged at his death as he was not popular in the court or with the general public, but the affront would have to be dealt with in some fashion. An ultimatum was sent on this date demanding that Austro-Hungarian police be permitted access to hunt the murderers on Serbian soil along with other demands. All were met except for the police presence.

Danilo Ilić formed a cell of Black Hand adherents in Sarajevo in 1914. On June 28, 1914 the group threw a grenade at the Archduke’s car and it bounced off the hood, injuring several bystanders. Franz and Sophia insisted they go with the victims to the hospital. Their car made a wrong turn and 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip was able to shoot both occupants at close range. He was eventually arrested and died of TB in prison. The Austrian government was outraged at not being granted access to the hunt and capture of the assassins. Instead, on July 28, they declared war – and so began WWI.

“Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” – Archduke Ferdinand’s last words to his wife

“I am the son of peasants and I know what is happening in the villages. That is why I wanted to take revenge, and I regret nothing.” – Gavrilo Princip

“[Sophie] could never share [Franz Ferdinand’s] rank … could never share his splendours, could never even sit by his side on any public occasion. There was one loophole … his wife could enjoy the recognition of his rank when he was acting in a military capacity. Hence, he decided, in 1914, to inspect the army in Bosnia. There, at its capital Sarajevo, the Archduke and his wife could ride in an open carriage side by side … Thus, for love, did the Archduke go to his death.” – A. J. P. Taylor

Count Harrach: “Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?”

Archduke: “It is nothing.” (repeated several times – his last words)

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Franz Ferdinand was born in 1863 in Graz, Austria. His father was the youngest brother of Franz Joseph and Maximilian. When Franz Ferdinand was eleven, Duke Francis V of Modena died and named his young cousin heir if Franz were to add Este to his name. With the name change, the child became one of the richest men in Austria. When he was 25, another cousin – this time Crown Prince Rudolf – committed suicide. This left Karl Ludwig and then Franz Ferdinand as next in line for the throne. Karl denounced his claim in favor of his son. This put Franz as successor to the vast holdings of the Habsburg dynasty. He married Sophie, a mere Countess, after much distress in 1900. They had four children; the youngest was a still born son. Princess Sophie of Hohenberg lived until 1990 outliving both of her younger brothers. Maximilian (Duke of Hohenberg) died in 1962 and Ernst (Prince of Hohenberg) died in 1954.

Also on this day: “Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patents a new tire.
Telstar – In 1962, the first live transatlantic TV program was broadcast.

The War to End All Wars

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 11, 2010

Photograph taken in the forest of Compiègne after reaching an agreement for the armistice ending World War I.

November 11, 1918: World War I, The Great War, The War to End All Wars, the First World War ends at 11 AM when Germany signs an armistice agreement. On June 28, 1914 one of those shots heard ′round the world was fired when Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand group fighting for Slavic independence, shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The Archduke was in line for the throne of Austria-Hungary.

The escalation from a civil war for independence to a world conflagration was swift. The two sides were eventually to include the Allies with member nations: France, Italy, Russia, Serbia, British Empire, the US, and other minor players against the Central Powers with member nations: Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.

During the four years of warfare, the Allies suffered over 5.5 million dead, nearly 13 million wounded, and more than 4 million missing. The Central Powers lost nearly 4.4 million, with close to 8.4 million wounded and over 3.6 million missing. The battles raged across Europe and into Africa.

The end came in the same swift manner as the beginning. Bulgaria signed an armistice on September 29, 1918. The Ottoman Empire followed on October 30 and Austria-Hungary signed on November 3. Germany succumbed within days. The victors met in Paris and created the Versailles Treaty which laid blame for the entire war at the feet of Austria-Hungary and Germany. They were made to pay war reparations and were saddled with the guilt of the vast war and monumental death toll. Thus the war to end all wars laid the seeds for the next outbreak of worldwide violence.

“If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied.” – Rudyard Kipling

“Cannon is expensive, cannon fodder cheap.” – John Gunther

“Soldiers are made on purpose to be killed.” – Napoleon

“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” – Carl Sandburg

Also on this day, in 1620 the Mayflower Compact was signed.