A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
The searchlight had been used in military operations for several decades before this cover appeared in the Scientific American for June 15, 1915. Just a few years earlier an idea for using a powerful illuminating source in a dirigible for night time bombing appeared in the Illustrated London News--it was pretty powerful, showing the dark airship against a dark sky, the searchlight piercing its way down to the surface to reveal fleeing African tribesmen. (Why the target was Africa and tribesmen with spears I can only guess at, but each answer I come up with is not pretty.) The present image seems like a fine idea at first for the defensive position, illuminating an advancing line in a night time attack. That said, the spotlight seems like a pretty big target, the 5'-wide glowing glass an easy mark from a few hundred feet. One thing I could say for sure is that I would not want to be the guy up there operating the spot, which right now looks more like a light tube to fill bullets with more than anything else.
Earlier in this blog I wrote about an extraordinary WWI news service photograph from a collection here of German prisoners on display, ca. autumn, 1918. (There's a description along with tighter, detailed images of the individual faces of the prisoners here.) In the great wide world of serendipity, where everything is possible, and nothing seems to be in the place you'd expect it to be, I found another photograph of that same group of POWs.
The original photo--truly a fine and remarkable image:
And the newly-uncovered photograph, showing this group either approaching or leaving the side of the cinema where their group portrait was made:
And the detail:
And one of the details from the original post:
There's a lot of surrounding British soldiers and Irish Tommies, and commotion, and mud, and happy/confused/and something else in the faces of the victors as they paraded this end-of-the-war group of soldiers in the muck. In the original group portrait the soldiers are bookended by what I see as two extremes of soldiers in the war--the boy on the left, experienced with god-knows-what under his camouflaged and hardened baby fat:
and the guy on the right, who seems so much like a Durer-Death/apocalypse image itself, a thousnad-yard-stare man, a soldier of deep experience, and worn to the nub:
He seems to have the same expression in each picture:
Maybe he was just bone-tired, though he definitely gives the impression of you-can't-hurt-me, and perhaps underneath it all he was happy to have made it through the war alive, and hadn't become one of the 40 million casualties. In a few months, the war would be over, and perhaps most of the men in this picture got to go home.
One of my favorite popular technical illustrators of the 20th century was G.H. Davis (1881-1963), who worked enormous accomplishments for the Illustrated London News for some forty years. His specialty seemed to be the cut-away schematic, showing half-exposed/half-not technical schematics on mostly oblique angles. The example below is a fine one, showing the (not-named) British 1925 tank, which I believe must be the Vickers Medium I or variation thereof. It was certainly an improvement over the tanks used in WWI, and for all intents and purposes it seems a "modern" tank.
In 1929 Germany was still abiding by the Treaty of Versailles, which was the peace treaty ending WWI and signed in 1919. The 440-clause treaty spent the first two dozen or so clauses were spent on President Wilson's League of Nations, while the rest was a distribution of punishment and reparations against/on Germany. The German military as directed by Versailles was limited to 100,000 soldiers, and had 1926 machine guns, and 2886 cannons. as stipulated Germany could have no tanks and no air force, and was limited to six ships and no subs, and had to keep the Rhineland free of all armed forces.
By 1928 Germany was certainly having multiple regressive thoughts about the Treaty, and public demonstrations of questioning its efficacy began to appear with more frequency. In this example--from the Illustrite Zeitung (Leipzig)--a strong statement was graphically displayed showing the state of the German military situation. As you can see, there is scant measurement for just about anything in the military sphere for Germany--and to press the matter home ever more so, in addition to the nulls and tiny numbers, there (in the sixth section down, and magnified above) is a helmeted German soldier with a large magnifying glass inspecting the German totals of the nearly-invisible machine gun totals.
This would all be completely changed by 1934, when the Nazis were already well on the way to having a competitive (and modern) fighting force which counted 4.5 million troops. It would only get worse.
In January, 1915, in the pre-Luistania/post beginning of WWI (by six months) days, Scientific American declared an interest in the state of the United States military and found it lacking. It posted this very strong statement to advertise a coming special issue investigating the status of the armed services.
Perhaps the most telling image in that special issue (of 5 February 1915) was an image of soldiers scaling a fortress wall--that's pretty much the polar opposite of what training should have been happening, what with trench warfare and all. There is also a photograph of practicing cavalry--and not a hint of a tank. There was little or no attention being paid to the developments in aerial/gas/tank/trench warfare, the armaments and munitions of war were ancient-esque, and the standing army numbered around 100,000 (plus 120k in National Guard), which was hardly anything at all compared to the fact the French Army on a single day (August 22, 1914) in the Alsace-Lorraine region lost 27,000 dead and 40,000 wounded, and that there were already 3 million dead/wounded in the European theater. There would be readiness factions and peace factions at work for the heart and mind of the U.S., but that wouldn't really start for another month or two. In the meantime, though, Scientific American took stock of the military situation, and found that the U.S. was militarily-prepared for almost nothing, so far as global war was concerned.
"I am the first woman to make a flight across London, in one of His Majesty's war machines; I am the first woman who has been presented by the War Office with a view of Hyde Park from an altitude of almost eight thousand feet."--Jane Anderson (1916)
I was somewhat surprised to see that this pamphlet was co-written by a woman—my experience with WWI pamphlets is that it is vastly dominated by male writers, and I would have expected it to stay so especially for this subject matter. Jane Anderson was an interesting writer with a free style, and I can tell that she had a good time with her experiences. She starts with this, and tells an unusual story in an easy way:
“Seven thousand feet above Hyde Park, an American Girl looked straight ahead and saw "the roof of the Sky" from England's finest Warplane.” An example of her writing on the sub:"When I looked at her lying with her exposed tubes shining in the sunlight and her bulkheads in strips of rusty iron, it seemed incredible that she had been under the coast guns of the enemy, that she could have made in her damaged condition a journey of three hundred miles, returning to a safe harbour with the information she had been sent to obtain. And, added to this, was the fact that she had made the voyage in a high sea, that for twenty hours, defenceless, she evaded the enemy patrols....” The pamphlet really is worth a read, and it is available here for free via the Internet Archive. The second part of this story is not so great--checking Ms. Anderson's biography
reveals an ugly twist and deep turn to the far and distant fascist/Nazi right. She was certainly an adventurer, and at some point she winds up marrying nobility in Spain and covers the Spanish Civil War--but she goes from journalism to propaganda and begins to write and broadcast for the Fascist government. Her good works there come to the attention of the Nazis, who pursue their interest in her. Anderson responds, and goes to work in service of Adolf Hitler. She writes propaganda, and then is given her own radio show. She seems to have been useful for a time, and then perhaps wasn't, but she stayed in Germany until the end of the war, arrested after flight finally in 1947 in Austria. She was charged with treason, but released for lack of evidence. She survived herself, went to Spain, and lived to be 84, dying in 1972.
England was last invaded in 1688 by the Dutch republic, following twelve other attempts from 1066, but Adolf Hitler was half-determined to do so (and several of his leading generals who were not-at-all determined, anti-determined to do so) himself, trying to follow in the lost footsteps of Napoleon with Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen Seelöwe). Napoleon failed of course, as did his predecessors: three French, two Spanish, and an Austrian attempt since 1707. And so would Hitler, although he would never come close to implementing much outside of his terror attacks on cities in the U.K. and the war waged on the RAF (and particularly Fight Command)--control of the air being integral to any sort of invasion that he might try to mount.
It was at the beginning of this air attempt--the Battle of Britain--that the following interesting small graphic appeared in the Illustrated London News (June 29, 1940), a featurette on what it would require for the Germans to mount a successful invasion of England.
Some part of it doesn't make sense to me, (sitting here quietly in the future, not having Nazis flying overhead trying to kill my country)--like a convoy of troop carrier set at 250 to carry a million soldiers into the U.K. Plus there were all of the stuff of invasion--food, supplies, support, materiel of all shapes and sizes and description, and on and on. The D-Day invasion force used 5000 ships and watercraft to land 156k soldiers along a 50 mile front in Normandy, plus aircraft and paratroops and so forth. An utterly understated "spectacular" undertaking--and no doubt the Germans would have had to do something along similar lines, a lot of something that they just didn't have. But no one knew this yet, not really.
This small series of graphics probably served two purposes: one was to alert English readers that such an invasion was theoretically possible, and secondly, that, well, it was in some ways impossible, given the enormity of the task. So, beware, but do not fear, is what I think the message was here.
And by the way here are two bits of films about a successful Nazi invasion of England:
A few days ago I was having a look at a Large & Impossible Tank, and today I came across this fabulous beauty from the Electrical Experimenter for February, 1915.
This 45' monster would be somehow powered by electricity though there is no discernible power source or power train, and it would be steered by a gyroscope. (The use of the gyroscope is interesting--the idea of it acting as a control mechanism had been successfully introduced in the Whitehead torpedo in 1905, and used as stabilizing agents in airplanes and ships by 1910, and found in the first gyroscopic repeater compass by 1911, so the magazine and writer pretty much had their finger on the national gyroscopic pulse of the time.) Being hit by defensive cannon fire was said to have been not too much of a problem because the shells would mostly pass through the lattice work of the structure. The armament in the suspended armored buckets would be "the same as British tanks"--the buckets also came equipped with a bomb chute (if you look closely you'll see one in action here, the destroyer dropping a bomb on itself) for, well, bombing.
This interesting and arresting images appears in Scientific American Supplement, October 23, 1915 (page 269). It is an excellent view of topside from 30' or so below. The article describes simple, compound, tele-objective, direct-reflected, panoramic, and periscopes with annular fields--sort of simple, but not really. In any event the panoramic periscope gave a view of a directed point-of-view as well as a slender (but versatile) 360o.
These spectacular images of monumental monumentality appeared in the December 1916 issue of Popular Science Monthly. The author Frank Shuman (1862-1918) had some major inventing chops, not the least of which was some very forward-thinking work (in theory and practice) on solar power (one of which was a solar powered steam engine and another a liquid O2 propulsion system for submarines), so these suggestions for gigantic land battleships came with a fair amount of gravitas. This is some grand thinking, and as Shuman tells us, the beast below would weigh about 5,000 tons (the weight of several hundred Sherman tanks1) and would roll along on 200' diameter wheels. Unfortunately, outside of seeing some sort of (steam) power plant, there is no mention of how those wheels would be turned--I'd've liked to read about that. There is a mention of shock absorbers, but only so, jsut a bare hint.
[Image source is Google Books--I have this volume in a 40 year run of this periodical down in the warehouse, but the book was really too thick to lay flat ont he scanner, and so the Google Books scan was used..]
And for whatever reason there is no heavy artillery on this thing. The damage to the enemy would be done via the three wheels, and also by the enormous chains that hang from the front of the enormity, like a flailing slow-moving monster from a 1950's B-movie.
My guess is that this wouldn't do so well in the rain.
Overall, these soldiers look to be in pretty good spirits, even if they were perhaps told to be so, they still looked fairly genuine. And who wouldn't be, at least to some degree, being survivors? They were a few of the millions of soldiers who were wounded in WWI, which means at least that they were among the millions of the dead.
The caption that accompanies these News Photo Service image (made by the Central News Photo Service and dated May 11, 1917, says that they were enjoying the donated headsets--Electrophones--and represented a few of the hundreds that received them. This device was basically a telephone receiver, and years after Bell and Edison dreamed of social integration and advancement and wide-ranging culture, of delivery literature and music to people flung near and far, these soldiers were enjoying the benefit of limited concerts and other entertainments via telephone lines.
[This lovely photograph is available at the blog's bookstore, here.]
Here's a very good quote ont he electrophone from the highly interesting The Cat's Meat Shop, written by Lee Jackson, author of Dirty Old London, the Victorian Campaign Against Filth. (It is an interesting topic--filth and its control--because you really can't have an Industrial Revolution without lots of workers living close to their jobs, which means that lots of people live close together, and you can't have that unless you somehow control for good sanitary conditions, which means you've got to take care of filth.)
The story of the (very) long-range bombardment of Paris from points unknown is filled with questions in this article that appeared in the Scientific American on April 6, 1918. The writer hadn't an idea of the type of gun being used, the weight of the shell (yet), and just about all other details. The author did wonder about the reasons for such a gun--that the idea of a long-range indescrimient bombing from a great distance just seemed to be beyond the wanting capacity of the countries fighting Germany.
The big gun was The Big Gun, later identified as the Paris Gun--a mysterious entity during the war, and after the war as well. It turns out that when the Germany army retreated beginning in August that they also destroyed the weapon and just about anything connected to it.
The gun was extremely powerful. At 256 tons it launched a 236-pound shell to a height never before achieved by humans launching/propelling stuff into the air--it left the barrel of the gun at about 1 mile/second, traveled 75 overland miles, reached a height of 26 miles...and then came down, exploding, killing.
One very effective way of explaining the incredible height that the shell reached was measuring the zenith of its trajectory in terms of mountains:
Which is a detail from:
And to give a more local understanding of the range of the gun:
No doubt this map gave a true flavor and sense of dread to American readers on exactly what it meant to have to deal with a cannon whose reach was 75+ miles.
[Source: University of Missouri - Kansas City.http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col/ww2/1939/jive.htm#jive] I made a post just now on German propaganda warning and harrowing the Brits to come to the peace table because Germany was surrounded by non-threatening neutral countries which in effect were surrounding Great Britain. Of course when I posted it I immediately bumped into this piece of music, "Blitzkrieg Baby (You Can't Bomb Me)", by F. and D. Fisher. The ong is much like its title, a kind of a neutral song so far as where it stood on neutrality and Blitzkrieg, though it does imply that if the Germans did attack that whoever it was would not be neutral, though that woul dbe stating the obvious. Anyway, it is an interesting find to me, and the performance is first class: greats Lester Young on sax and Una Mae Carlisle singing make this high, um, calibre.
One thing is for sure--this pamphlet, which has no place of publication or date--was definitely a German war propaganda effort, printed in English, published in Germany, and I guess distributed wherever the English-language-winds and luck would take it. My copy come from a collection that I purchased from the Library of Congress, and it is luckily stamped August 6, 1940, for the date it was received by the library. So the summer (or earlier) of 1940 is the date: the Battle of Britain had begun in July, Dunkirk had been evacuated June 4, France surrendered a few weeks later, and the war was not going well for the U.K. Germany was still a year away from their disastrous attempt to conquer the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, and at this time in 1940, the U.S.S.R. was its vital trading partner. Great Britain was waging a successful economic war/blockade against Germany, which was without any real finance and with no reserves to purchase foreign goods, so in spite of the successes of the invasions and Blitzkreig, the Brits were enjoying a certain level of success. And so this pamphlet appears, one of others, a small part of a hearts-and-minds campaign to try and apply pressure to Britain's allies to convince her to sue for peace.
The main thrust of the maps of the pamphlet was to show Germany surrounded by not-threatening allies, pillowed by neutrals and countries it had overtaken (with no attempt made to label Poland). The interior map (above) is a very faint attempt to show the comparative strength of Germany being surrounded by neutrals in 1939 as compared with being surrounded by enemy countries in 1914. The message of course was that Germany was strong in 1914-1918 in spite of the "threatening" neighbors, so with relatively benevolent neighbors in 1939 they would be even more effective as a war-making national machine. Perhaps this had some influence somewhere, maybe among the Vichy French. And some elements in the U.S.
The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey was a massive intelligence operation composed of a 1000-person team. It attempted to establish the successes and failures of American bombing operations during WWII, resulting in a 208-volume set of findings for the war in Europe and another 108 volumes for the war in the Pacific. Atomic bombing was another matter. I am not going to address the effectiveness issues of different sorts of bombing here--it is a very large and complex issue, and just outside the scope of what I set down to down just now and the amount of time I have. What I did want to do was share this typed/manuscript material (below) that was kept by a member of the analytical team serving in the Pacific. It is interesting to see how the form of the final reports took shape from some of the original notes.
This small archive—from the estate of J.D. Coker, who served in the U.S. Navy on the US Strategic Bombing Survey Ships' Bombardment section, and who later became a leading official in the U.S. Atomic Preparedness programs (such as the President's Committee on Emergency Preparedness)—are mimeographs and manuscripts that comprise what seems to be the summary of the Navy's bombardment of Kamaishi, Muroran, Hitachi, Kushimoto, Shimizu and Hamamatsu. This was about the extent of the Allied naval bombardments against Japan, as it was not possible for battleships to maneuver close enough to the Japanese homeland to fire against industrial and production centers. (It may have also been the case that the aircraft used to protect the assaulting ships could have perhaps done as much damage to the targets as the ships themselves.)