22 August 1914 dawned foggy and grey. Nevertheless, "Lieutenant J" and his observer boarded their airplane for a reconnaissance flight that took them from Sedan in France over the Belgian border. North of Bertrix, heavy rain forced them to descend to an altitude of 1000 m -- within range of French artillery. A barrage of gunfire ensued. Lieutenant J was hit first in the chest and then in the head; as the plane careened downwards, the observer "turned around and saw him lying there dead with a bu
Over the course of the past 18 months, I have acquired several pandemic skills. Most of them are of questionable utility. I doubt that any prospective employer, for example, will care that I have learned to make lasagna from scratch or knit Shetland lace. (Of course, who knows. My next job could be at a yarn shop, in which case the ability to make beautiful and complex shawls might be a major asset.)
By far the most arcane skill that I acquired, however, is the ability to read Sütterlin. In
When the Great War began, radio was not used for civilian broadcasts, film reels were silent, and sound recording devices were too cumbersome to take into the field. As far as I have been able to find out, only one audio recording from the battlefield was ever made: “Gas Shell Bombardment” by William Gaisberg in 1918.
However, the authenticity of the Gaisberg recording has been debated for decades. It is now thought to be the result of careful engineering rather tha
Who were the Germans of the Great War? “Hard people to beat,” observed the American surgeon Harvey Cushing in his journal from the Western Front; “big, strong, cheerful, and well-fed” too. Though he noted the names of seemingly all the Allied soldiers with whom he crossed paths, he never mentions the name of a single German, instead referring to them with all manner of pejoratives. One can hardly fault him; to Cushing they were the enemy who caused the carnage that he witnessed in Belgium and Fr