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The First Dreadnought Engagement, January 1915
On January 24, 1915, a German naval force commanded by Admiral Franz von Hipper conducted a raid on British fishing fleets in the area of the Dogger Banks. The force was engaged by a British force, which had been alerted by a decoded radio intercept. The ensuing battle would prove to be the largest and longest surface engagement until the Battle of Jutland the following summer. While the Germans lost an armored cruiser with heavy loss of life and Hipper's flagship was almost sunk, confusion in executing orders allowed the Germans to escape. The British considered the battle a victory; but the Germans had learned important lessons and they would be better prepared for the next encounter with the British fleet at Jutand. Tobias Philbin's Battle of Dogger Bank provides a keen analytical description of the battle and its place in the naval history of World War I., reviewing a previous edition or volume
Controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in World War I
Called by some a "Mediterranean Jutland," the Battle of the Otranto Straits involved warships from Austria, Germany, Italy, Britain, and France. Although fought by light units with no dreadnoughts involved, Otranto was a battle in three dimensions -- engaging surface vessels, aircraft, and subsurface weapons (both submarines and mines). An attempt to halt the movement of submarines into the Adriatic using British drifters armed with nets and mines led to a raid by Austrian light cruisers. The Austrians inflicted heavy damage on the drifters, but Allied naval forces based at Brindisi cut off their withdrawal. The daylight hours saw a running battle, with the Austrians at considerable risk. Heavier Austrian units put out from Cattaro in support, and at the climactic moment the Allied light forces had to turn away, permitting the Austrians to escape. In the end, the Austrians had inflicted more damage than they suffered themselves. The Otranto action shows the difficulties of waging coalition warfare in which diplomatic and national jealousies override military efficiency.
How Veteran Politics Shaped the New Deal Era
The period between World Wars I and II was a time of turbulent political change, with suffragists, labor radicals, demagogues, and other voices clamoring to be heard. One group of activists that has yet to be closely examined by historians is World War I veterans. Mining the papers of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion (AL), Stephen R. Ortiz reveals that veterans actively organized in the years following the war to claim state benefits (such as pensions and bonuses), and strove to articulate a role for themselves as a distinct political bloc during the New Deal era.
Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill is unique in its treatment of World War I veterans as significant political actors during the interwar period. Ortiz's study reinterprets the political origins of the "Second" New Deal and Roosevelt's electoral triumph of 1936, adding depth not only to our understanding of these events and the political climate surrounding them, but to common perceptions of veterans and their organizations. In describing veteran politics and the competitive dynamics between the AL and the VFW, Ortiz details the rise of organized veterans as a powerful interest group in modern American politics.
In the summer of 1915, the Central Powers launched an offensive on the Eastern Front that they hoped would decide the war. It did not, of course. In June 1916, an Allied army under the command of Aleksei A. Brusilov decimated the Central Powers' gains of 1915. Brusilov's success brought Romania into the war, extinguished the offensive ability of the Habsburg armies, and forced Austria-Hungary into military dependence on and political subservience to Germany. The results were astonishing in military terms, but the political consequences were perhaps even more significant. More than any other action, the Brusilov Offensive brought the Habsburg Empire to the brink of a separate peace, while creating conditions for revolution within the Russian Imperial Army. Timothy C. Dowling tells the story of this important but little-known battle in the military and political history of the Eastern Front.
Contemporary Canadian Literary Responses to World War I
Catching the Torch examines contemporary novels and plays written about Canada’s participation in World War I. Exploring such works as Jane Urquhart’s The Underpainter and The Stone Carvers, Jack Hodgins’s Broken Ground, Kevin Kerr’s Unity (1918), Stephen Massicotte’s Mary’s Wedding, and Frances Itani’s Deafening, the book considers how writers have dealt with the compelling myth that the Canadian nation was born in the trenches of the Great War.
In contrast to British and European remembrances of WWI, which tend to regard it as a cataclysmic destroyer of innocence, or Australian myths that promote an ideal of outsize masculinity, physical bravery, and white superiority, contemporary Canadian texts conjure up notions of distinctively Canadian values: tolerance of ethnic difference, the ability to do one’s duty without complaint or arrogance, and the inclination to show moral as well as physical courage. Paradoxically, Canadians are shown to decry the horrors of war while making use of its productive cultural effects.
Through a close analysis of the way sacrifice, service, and the commemoration of war are represented in these literary works, Catching the Torch argues that iterations of a secure mythic notion of national identity, one that is articulated via the representation of straightforward civic and military participation, work to counter current anxieties about the stability of the nation-state, in particular anxieties about the failure of the ideal of a national “character.”
The Plattsburg Training Camp Movement, 1913-1920
The Citizen Soldiers explores the military reform movement that took its name from the famous Business Men's Military Training Camps at Plattsburg, New York. It also illuminates the story of two exceptional men: General Leonard Wood, the rambunctious and controversial former Rough Rider who galvanized the Plattsburg Idea with his magnetic personality; and Grenville Clark, a young Wall Street lawyer.
The Plattsburg camps strove to advertise the lack of military preparation in the United States and stressed the military obligation every man owed to his country. Publicized by individuals who voluntarily underwent military training, the preparedness movement rapidly took shape in the years prior to America's entry into the First World War. Far from being war hawks, the Plattsburg men emphasized the need for a "citizen army" rather than a large professional establishment. Although they failed in their major objective -- universal military training -- their vision of a citizen army was largely realized in the National Defense Act of 1920, and their efforts helped to establish selective service as the United States' preferred recruitment method in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Featuring a new preface by the author, this new edition of a seminal study will hit shelves just in time for the World War I Centennial.
“A powerful and important book that turns our attention to the often understudied experiences of civilians at war. Civilians in a World at War, 1914-1918, makes a major contribution not only to the history of World War I but to the history of civilians involved in war before and since.”
The Story of Lewisite, America's World War I Weapon of Mass Destruction
"Dr. Vilensky raises important concerns regarding the threats posed by lewisite and other weapons of mass destruction. As he describes, non-proliferation programs are a vital component in the War on Terror." -- Richard G. Lugar, United States Senator
"Joel Vilensky's book is a detailed and immensely useful account of the development and history of one of the major chemical weapons.... We will always know how to make lewisite, the 'Dew of Death,' but that does not mean that we should, or be compelled to accept such weapons in our lives." -- from the Foreword by Richard Butler, former head of UN Special Commission to Disarm Iraq
In 1919, when the Great War was over, the New York Times reported on a new chemical weapon with "the fragrance of geranium blossoms," a poison gas that was "the climax of this country's achievements in the lethal arts." The name of this substance was lewisite and this is its story -- the story of an American weapon of mass destruction.
Discovered by accident by a graduate student and priest in a chemistry laboratory at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., lewisite was developed into a weapon by Winford Lewis, who became its namesake, working with a team led by James Conant, later president of Harvard and head of government oversight for the U.S.'s atomic bomb program, the Manhattan Project. After a powerful German counterattack in the spring of 1918, the government began frantic production of lewisite in hopes of delivering 3,000 tons of the stuff to be ready for use in Europe the following year. The end of war came just as the first shipment was being prepared. It was dumped into the sea, but not forgotten.
Joel A. Vilensky tells the intriguing story of the discovery and development of lewisite and its curious history. During World War II, the United States produced more than 20,000 tons of lewisite, testing it on soldiers and secretly dropping it from airplanes. In the end, the substance was abandoned as a weapon because it was too unstable under most combat conditions. But a weapon once discovered never disappears. It was used by Japan in Manchuria and by Iraq in its war with Iran. The Soviet Union was once a major manufacturer. Strangely enough, although it was developed for lethal purposes, lewisite led to an effective treatment for a rare neurological disease.