Here come the Yanks: April 6, 1917


The U.S. Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, bringing America into the war that had consumed Europe and dragged in countries on every continent, including Japan.

The National World War Museum and Memorial will commemorate the anniversary today with a ceremony at the museum that will tell the compelling story of the U.S decision to enter into the Great War through a unique multi-media program including significant and representative American writings of a century ago, including selections from speeches, journalism, literature and poetry, as well as performances of important music of the time. Invited participants and guests include the President of the United States, international Heads of State and diplomats, military leaders, veterans’ organizations, and national and state elected officials.

President Donald Trump will not attend as he will be hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping today.

The commemoration will include flyovers by U.S. aircraft and Patrouille de France, the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force, as well as the U.S. First Infantry Division Band and Color Guard, Native American Color Guard, and Army and Air Force legacy units that served during World War I.

You can livestream the ceremony at




Update on the WW1HA Annual Seminar

Evacuation of our troops from the Peninsula. Barges conveyed them from transports to the Island. Photo (cropped, some digital retouching) of a black and white photographic print in an album titled Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17 held at the State Library of NSW. December, 1915.

Evacuation of our troops from the Peninsula. Barges conveyed them from transports to the Island.
Photo (cropped, some digital retouching) of a black and white photographic print in an album titled Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17 held at the State Library of NSW. December, 1915.

Here’s news of the seminar, Oct. 2-3, at the Hilton/Lisle in the Chicago suburb of Lisle, Ill. And here’s the link for more details and to register:


Jack Tunstall: Eastern Front, 1915 (with an eye on Aerial Ops)
Kelley Szany: In the Shadow of War: The Armenian Genocide 1915-1918
Jon Guttman: Through, Above and Around: Arming the First Allied Fighters in 1915
Dick Church: The Kaiser’s U-Boats: Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, the Lusitania, and Will They Bring America into the War?
Steve Suddaby: Aerial Bombing, 1914-1915: Crossing the Rubicon with Baby Steps
John Mosier: Western Front, 1915
Lance Bronnenkant: Early German Aces and the Interrupter Mechanism
Paul Grasmehr: Gallipoli

Also, 1st Infantry Div. Museum Tour, Friday pm
Modeling Contest, Re-enactors, Strategy Games and vendors

Program Outline

Friday, October 2
8:00 AM to 12 Noon: Seminars with breaks
Noon to 1:00 PM: Lunch
1:00 to 5:00 PM: Buses to Cantigny and Museum tour
6:00 PM: Cash bar before dinner
7:00 PM: Dinner

Saturday, October 3
8:00 AM to 11:30 AM: Seminars with breaks
11:30 AM to 12:30 PM: Lunch
12:30 to 3:15 PM: Seminars and briefings on WW1HA and League

Book Review: “The Hidden Threat”

German fleet surrendering to the English. First German U-boat near the Towerbridge. London, England, 1918.

German fleet surrendering to the English. First German U-boat near the Towerbridge. London, England, 1918.

The Hidden Threat: The Story of Mines and Minesweeping by the Royal Navy in World War I, by Jim Crossley, Pen & Sword, 2011, 168 pages, charts, diagrams, photos, index, ISBN 978 1 8488 4272 4, $39.95 cloth.

Review by Len Shurtleff

Mines were first (unsuccessfully) employed in naval warfare during the American Revolution. They were far more effective during the American Civil War when mines (or torpedoes as they were then called) sank some 22 vessels. Mines were also used to protect German harbors during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Traditionally thought of as a defensive weapon employed by the weaker adversary, mines came into their own as an offensive weapon in Japanese hands against Russia in 1904-05. Their use was expanded significantly during World War I, first by Germany and Turkey, then by Great Britain

Employing speedy converted destroyers and armed passenger liners, Germany mined the approaches to British fleet anchorages and ports beginning in August 1914. Russia used mines to defend her main Baltic bases. The Germans developed several classes of mine-laying submarines some of which had enough range to reach American shores. Turkish-laid fields of mines in the narrows off the Dardanelles sank or badly damaged several British and French battleships in 1915.

Faced with the proven effectiveness of this silent weapon, the Royal Navy responded by creating a fleet of small minesweeping trawlers, drifters and paddle steamers manned by fishermen and other reservist crews. By 1916, they had also mounted a major mining campaign of their own along the German coast, in the Dover Straits and English Channel expanding these in 1917 and 1918 to the North Sea between Norway and the northern most Scottish islands. Most of the 70,000 mines in this Northern Barrage aimed at containing German U-boats were laid by the US Navy from converted civilian coastal liners.

Their effectiveness was disappointing. At the most the Northern Barrage sank six U-boats.

Mines laid in the eastern North Sea were far more effective in supporting the British Grand Fleet in pinning the German High Seas Fleet in its bases while the maritime trade blockade gradually eroded Germany’s ability to sustain a war of attrition on the Western Front.


Centennial Countdown to the Great War

Battle on the Prussian-Russian border 1914/15 in present-day Lithuania. From the Flickr collection of

Battle on the Prussian-Russian border 1914/15 in present-day Lithuania. Jens-Olaf Walter photo

Are you following this blog by Dennis Cross? This is the clearest explanation of how the dominoes fell in July 1914.

He said, then I said, then he said, then I said, etc.

Dennis tells a lot of stories that you might not have connected to the march toward war, including a famous murder trial in France that delayed the country’s attention to the approaching disaster.

Henriette Caillaux, the second wife of former French Premier Joseph Caillaux, was tried this month for the murder of Le Figaro editor Gaston Calmette following the magazine’s publication of private letters between herself and her husband written when both of them were married to others.  She claimed that she had not planned to kill Calmette, only to teach him a lesson, but had been overwhelmed by passion.  She told the court the shooting was an accident: “It is terrible how these revolvers go off when they begin shooting — one can’t stop them!”


No kidding, lady.

My thanks to Dennis for this blog post.

Book review: “Planning Armageddon”


HMS Dreadnought, 1906

Review by Len Shurtleff

President, World War One Historical Association

Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War, Nicholas A. Lambert, Harvard, 2012, 651 + xii pages, index, map, abbreviations, notes, ISBN 978 0 674 06149 1. The author won the 2000 Tomlinson Book Prize for his work Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution (Cambridge, 1999).

This is the first complete history I have seen to trace the evolution of British economic warfare policy from its inception in the early 1900s to the end of the Great War. It is a massive work, carefully researched and eminently readable. It is the story of how British Admiralty planners convinced their political masters that the use of economic warfare on an unprecedented scale could defeat Germany. This strategy called for Great Britain to use her virtual monopolies international banking, communications and shipping – essential infrastructure underpinning international trade in this first era of globalization – to create a controlled economic implosion. The author argues, not unconvincingly, that historians have consistently underestimated the role of economic warfare in bringing Germany to her knees by 1918.

The fact remains that resort to the economic weapon reflected British military weakness and economic vulnerability. Though the City of London controlled world trade, Britain was a net importer of food, oil and raw materials utterly dependent on imports. By the early 1900s its industrial power had been eclipsed by Germany and America. While the British army was puny, the Royal Navy with its global system of bases was undeniably the strongest in the world as was Britain’s huge, modem merchant fleet. Thus, when war brokeout in August 1914, the UK was able to react immediately, putting into effect a wide range of pre-agreed measures, including blockade, to cut off German international commerce, communications and sources of finance.

Unfortunately, these measured aroused immediate and loud opposition not only from powerful trade and financial interests at home, but also from powerful neutral powers such as America. Britain was obliged to back off. Indeed, as Lambert sees it, US pressure was a key factor in an 18-month delay in imposing full economic sanctions and maritime blockade on Germany.         In fact, German trade continued to grow until early 1916 and the blockade only became fully effective only after America entered the war in April 1917.

The fact that British historians have largely failed to plumb the depths this key element of warfare from 1914 to 1918 is partly the result of official secrecy. Many archives were not opened until the 1960s and contemporary official historians were discouraged from telling the full story by skittish politicians. Winston Churchill, for example, glosses over economic warfare in his published works on World War One. Now that lacuna has been filled.


WW1HA 2013 Symposium speakers: John Kuehn

U.S. Navy CDR John T. Kuehn (Ret.)  is the General William Stofft Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

His books include “Agents of Innovation,” an analysis of how the Navy got from World War I to World War II.

He was an aviator in the Navy and retired in 2004 after serving 23 years.

Here’s the link to his symposium page:

Book: “The Star of Istanbul”

“The Star of Istanbul,” to be published in October, is the second in a series by Robert Olen Butler recounting the adventures of Christopher (Kit) Marlowe Cobb, a Chicago newspaper reporter. Cobb got himself mixed up with some bandits, some Germans, some weapons and Woodrow Wilson in last fall’s “The Hot Country,” set in 1914.

Now it’s 1915, and he’s more a spy for the U.S. government who masquerades as a reporter than the other way around. His assignment is to follow a German citizen working in the U.S. who is suspected of carrying information that could affect the outcome of the war.

Butler writes his action in slow motion: He pulled his knife, and I drew my pistol, and he threw the knife, and I ducked, and he was running, and I was running, firing as I ran, and he fell, and as I got close to him, he sat up and whipped out another knife, and so on, and so on.

I prefer my action short and snappy: I shot him. He dropped to the floor. I stepped over his body and ran down the stairs. The maid would find him in the morning. Now I needed a drink.

But that would be a different book. If you aren’t troubled by his breathless thrills, Butler is great fun. There’s a mysterious dark-haired beauty (there was another in “The Hot Country,” and for several pages here, I thought they were the same person), and there are disguises, and taxis that arrive out of nowhere with fervently loyal drivers. These are the adventures you’d want to have yourself if you were that kind of guy. And a very good shot.

Also, on the very first page Cobb follows his German right up the gangplank onto the Lusitania.

The story falters once the characters arrive in Instanbul, but altogether there are thrills aplenty. You know Butler will send Cobb to Russia (where he will meet a mysterious dark-haired beauty) in 1917. I look forward to finding out where he goes in 1916.

If you like a little noir in your novel, Didier  Daenincke’s “A Very Profitable War” might suit you. Translated from the French, it’s set in 1920 and involves a veteran turned detective scraping along in Paris on cheating wives and unfaithful husbands who uncovers a scandal that goes back to the war. The ending will make your eyes pop.

Memorial Day 2013

More than any other modern war ’14-’18 lives in the memory as the ultimate example of a mismatch between what was at stake and the price that was paid. It is the war of the ‘lost generation’, sacrificed for a cause which, in hindsight, is difficult to pinpoint.”

Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Belgian historian and Associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University, quoted on



The Battle of Coronel

The Battle of Coronel, on Nov. 1, 1914, was the worst British naval defeat of the war. It was fought off the coast of Chile between Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee and Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, who went down with all hands on the HMS Good Hope, one of two British cruisers sunk by the Germans.

Blogger Darren Milford begins the story with this ominous detail:

“When the two forces first sighted each other the light was in favour of the British, the sun would be in the eyes of the German gunners.  By the time firing started the sun was just below the horizon, reversing the visibility advantage.”

Read his account at

Cliff McMullen has a Web page with a pictorial record of the Battles of Coronel and the Falklands. Find it here:


Dave Webster has a beautiful photo of the church window in North Yorkshire that was created in memory of Cradock. You can see it and read about it here:

Listen to the Battle of Jutland

This podcast from the Imperial War Museum presents details of the battle from the men who were there.

The page includes a transcript of the recordings, photos and more.

A photo taken from inside the light cruiser HMS Castor, damaged in the battle.