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
This fine two-page spread, "Secrets of German's New Pocket Battleship "Deutschland" and Her Wonderful Engines" appeared in Popular Mechanics in September 1931. I'm not sure offhand how the Weimar government was able to build this ship and abide by the Versailles Treaty, but it did. The ship--a 610' heavy cruiser, also known as a pocket battleship--saw a lot of action during WWII, mostly under the name of Luetzow, as it was called after a major upfitting. Anyway by 1939 the ship's engines were probably not seen as being so "wonderful", any more.
This intriguing and striking collection of dots is actually an articulated portrait of death. Road death. The composite picture appeared in the Illustrated London News on December 18, 1937, and when the reader opened the magazine to the big two-page spread--11x18" big--they were probably shocked. The picture represents 67,000 people killed on British roads in auto accidents over ten years. "Nothing less than appalling" is what the heading reads.
Just down the road, at the end of WWII eight years later, you would need 1,200 of these double sheets to represent the dead of that conflict.
These two, related, pamphlets were the products of the Nazi Propaganda engine and sought to affect the moral and intellectual stamina of the people in the occupied countries of the Netherlands and France in 1943. Each stressed the enormous differences in the German state that took place in the 25 years between the end of World War I and the third year of the Nazi European part of World War II. I’ve no idea whatsoever about the grander symbology (if any) of these numbers associated with these two pamphlets (the Roman numeral for “5” and the 25 years of the difference and the “13” points (of the French propaganda) aside from the obvious mathematical implications.
(The only interesting bit that I can find in the “18=43” from the French pamphlet is Luke 18:43 “Immediately the man could see again and began to follow Jesus, glorifying God. All the people saw this and gave praise to God.”. ) I find it curious that identical symbolism (?) was used for the two countries, and that the French version was simple comparative text (summarizing the differences in the two periods of time) while the Dutch version was mainly a picture book.
I would reprint the French version if it wasn't so bloodily hateful. (Suffice to say that this is so by looking at one example: in the last of the second issue of 13 points Goebbels et alia wrapped themselves in the insulating fabric of the German “people” in the “resistance” against “Jewish saboteurs”—not the German political machine, and not the German military, but the German people, insinuating that the Nazi annihilation of the Jewish people was de facto sanctioned by the will of the German nation. This is of course part and parcel of the fictitious and loathsome Protocols of the Elders of Zion (of which Henry Ford was a happy reader), a French work that was completely stolen and plagiarized by Imperial Russia in the early 1880's and which, later, Hitler used to both build his hate against the Jewish people and use (and acknowledge ) as the template for his early actions in the Nazi Party.)
The maps used in the Dutch publication are fairly general and issue a stark warning about the growth of Germany--and how Germany continues to grow through war. The first that we reprint, above, tries to get the point across to the occupied people that England has more problems to deal with than would concern their attention with the Netherlands. The second part of the first map crazily shows the attack upon England and the effectively exhausting attention it has to pay to many points of invasion. Ditto for the second map, showing the spread of American concerns--the U.S. in 1943 would have far more to deal with in many points in a two-ocean war than to concern itself with or have the ability to think about the liberation of Europe and the Netherlands. The last map shows the supposedly extraordinary growth in Germany's industrial and agricultural capacity.
In short, the maps tell its readers to just keep quiet, the German nation is mighty, and just wait for the end of the victorious German war. The maps also addressed non-readers--of course the Dutch literacy rate was extremely high, but you didn't have to be able to read the description of the map to understand its blunt message. (This makes me wonder if the maps really weren't intended for scare tactics against children.) As Boss Tweed once infamously reported--that he had no fear of editorials because his constituency couldn't read--he hadn't counted on the political cartoons of Thomas Nast--which could be understood by a non-reader--and which wound up being one of the direct causes of his exposure and downfall.
This graph shows the growing shadow of The End, the falling curtain, creeping across the the vertical and the horizontal. This was published to show the results of the fatal 1933 election--this was the one right after Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor who immediately dissolved the Reichstag and so necessitated a new election. That election followed months later, and in spite of massive Brown Shirt presence, plus NSDAP intimidation, violence, coercion and son on, Hitler's party did very well, but perhaps surprisingly not as successful given all of those other factors. He didn't have control of the government as a result of the election that gave the Nazis 43% of the seats in the Reichstag. It would come to develop that Hitler and the party found enough support to implement the Enabling Act, which would give Hitler the power to enact laws without the support of the Reichstag. Four months later, with the political and power struggle over, there were no other parties in Germany besides the Nazi Party, and that would become Hitler's ultimate power, and the true beginning of the rotting of Germany and the coming of the deaths of dozens of millions of people.
[Source: private, via the Library of Congress from the OSS library.]
My browsing came to a sudden halt when seeing this small inset photo in an article in Popular Mechanics for October 1915. "My Four Years in the Navy" was a fairly long feature piece, and it showed a series of rather crowded images of life at sea with overtones of "readiness" should something happen to bring the U.S. into the year-old WWI. It was the picture at the bottom of p. 567 that gives you great pause--first of all, the sailors are armed and on land, but they're also forming a "hollow square", a defensive position used when a large force attacks a smaller one. The tactic has been around at least since Roman times and used steadily through the early 19th century (especially it seems during the Napoleonic Wars), but it gradually wore away from the face of battle, and was hardly employed in the late 19th c, except against irregular forces (like against warriors in the Zulu Wars). What made it an antique notion was the machine gun, and tank--mostly though it was rapid-fire assault weapons the crushed the square, the collection and stacking of soldiers close together (and in layers) made them easy targets to an opponent with such weapons). Nobody was using this technique in the Great War, but there they were, these poor sailors, demonstrating the formation to fight against hundred-year-old ghosts. The U.S. was nowhere near being ready to fight in WWI in 1915.
I came across an interesting little story in Nature (March 28, 1918) about women munitions workers. It is a note based on a report written by Miss O.E. Monkhouse--and as it was noted in the Monkhouse piece that it was the first paper read by a woman before the British Institute of Mechanical Engineers--and summarizes the work of a million women workers in wartime bomb factories. It is probably a valuable report for its telling of the number and nuts and bolts, and of course for the history of the introduction of women into a work environment where they had never been before, and in great numbers, but it still must suffer through the painful prejudices and opinions of the times. Ms. Monkhouse though is an elegant spokesperson and proponent for equality, and makes several arguments for the abilities of women being equal to that of men, which makes this short article well worth the read.
About two months after the Germans used the first poison gas in WWI (on April 22, 1915 against French Colonial troops at he Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium) the Scientific American published (on June 12, 1915) an account of some very early responses to the new lethal threat. This was a more caustic and dangerous form of a warfare that existed for at least 2200 years, going back to the Peloponnesian wars, with pitch- and sulphur-saturated wood that was set alight and buried under siege walls, the noxious smoke incapacity the soldiers within the walls. As the SA article also points out, bellows were used to propel the nasty and noxious smoke produced in a cauldron of burning charcoal, pitch and sulphur, blown hopefully over the walls and lines of the enemy--this at about the same time as the Athenians and Spartans were having it out.
There's also indications that plague/disease-ridden animal carcasses were catapulted across enemy lines, armies going at one another using rockets of diseased meat. And so on.
But the 150 tons of chlorine gas that the Germans sent over the French lines on that day was something entirely different--and far more lethal than any other gas previously used. (There was an earlier attempt to use gas in battle, employing an even nastier gas--xylyl bromide. It was dispatched January 15, 1915 against the Russians on the Eastern Front, but due to extreme cold most of the gas froze--it still however was potent enough to kill a thousand soldiers.)
The early response to protection from gas warfare was inadequate, with masks being sometimes little more than string and cotton gauze. This response was better than no response, because in the end it at least gave some millions of soldiers comfort to know that they were being taken care of, that something was being done to address the gas problem. Of course this would last only so long as they didn't have to actually employ the mask.
As the war progressed, the gas mask response improved, though so did the lethal varities of gases that were employed. Even the best of the masks were incapable of defending much against phosgene and diphosgene--and then there was no protection at all from mustard gas, which was another beast entirely.
It was the illustrations that stopped me in the Scientific American article--first for the flannel muzzle mask (above), which made my heart half-break; and then, just beneath that picture, a portrait of a group of British soldiers wearing cloth masks, who were "prepared to weather a gas attack". They were told that adding a little water to the mask would help stop the gas, a lot of which was hopeful expectation and wishful thinking.
An earlier post appears here, "Gas Masks and Poison Gas, World War I, 1915", on early (November/December 1915) masks.
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.