The fatal impact impression of Zeppelin commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson who chose to jump to his death rather than burn up with his ship, the L 32, 1916.
From the Wikipedia Article “Zeppelin“, under the category “History”:
L.31 approached London from the south, dropped a few bombs on Kenley and Mitcham and was picked up by a number of searchlights. Forty-one bombs were then dropped in rapid succession over Streatham, killing seven and wounding 27. More bombs were dropped on Brixton before crossing the river and dropping 10 bombs on Leyton, killing another eight people and injuring 30. L.31 then headed home. Also coming in from the south was L.32, running late due to engine problems, it dropped a few bombs on Sevenoaks and Swanley before crossing Purfleet at about 01:00. The Zeppelin then came under anti-aircraft fire as it dropped bombs on Aveley and South Ockendon. Shortly thereafter, at 01:10, a BE2c piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey engaged L.32. He fired three drums of incendiaries and succeeded in starting a blaze which quickly covered the entire airship. The Zeppelin crashed to earth at Snail’s Hall Farm, Great Burstead. The entire crew was killed, with some, including the commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, choosing to jump rather than burn to death.
German Army and Navy hydrogen filled Airships began their bombing raids over Southern England with varied success on the 19th January 1915. Their bomb load consisted of both high explosive bombs and incendiaries. The incendiaries consisted of simple metal canisters filled with a mix of thermite, tar, and benzol; then being being wrapped in tarred rope and fitted with a simple fuse.
British aerial defences had up until 1916 proved ineffectual. In February 1916 the British Army took over full control of ground defences and a variety of sub 4-inch calibre guns were converted for anti-aircraft use. Searchlights manned by Police were also introduced, initially manned by police. By mid1916 there were 271 anti-aircraft guns and 258 searchlights across England.
Aerial defences against Zeppelins were haphazard, with the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) engaging enemy airships approaching the coast and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) taking responsibility once the enemy had crossed the coastline. Due to the lack of an interrupter gear (to enable machine guns to fire forward) in early fighter aircraft the basic technique for downing Zeppelin airships was to simply drop bombs on them. Initial trials of incendiary bullets in mid-1915 had unfortunately shown unimpressive results.
New BE12 fighters now fitted with interrupter gear and Lewis machine guns firing a mix of explosive, incendiary and tracer rounds were slowly introduced from mid 1916. But the German’s were also further developing their airships. Their new Q-class Zeppelin with an additional 100,000 cubic feet of gas enabled the length to be extended to 585 feet, improving both ceiling limits and bomb-load.
But the turning point came on the night of the 2nd September 1916 when Lt. William Leefe Robinson, firing three drums of bullets from his Lewis gun, managed to set alight German Army Airship SL.11 commanded by Hauptmann Wilhelm Schramm. Built by Luftschiffbau Schütte-Lanz (and therefore not actually classed as a ‘Zeppelin’), it carried four Maybach engines developing an impressive 960 hp capable of propelling the airship at 91.8 kph. The airship, which quickly became enveloped in flames, crashed at Cuffley in Hertfordshire. Propaganda possibly intentionally misidentified the airship as one of the already feared “Zeppelins”. The crew (listed at the bottom of this page) were initially buried at Potters Bar Cemetery but in 1962 were re-interred at Cannock Chase German War Cemetery in Staffordshire.
For downing the first rigid airship on British soil and for the first ‘night fighter’ victory Robinson received the Victoria Cross. Robinson, his health being badly affected during his time as a Prisoner of War in 1917-18, succumbed to Spanish Influenza during the Pandemic and died on the 31st December 1918.
The loss of SL.11 ended the German Army’s interest in Airship warfare over England but the German Navy continued to aggressively pursue this form of aerial combat. On the night of the 23rd September three M-class airships, including L.32, attacked London. L32 was the second of the 650ft M-class “Super Zeppelins”, being powered by six engines and capable of operating at 13,000 ft (with another 5,000 ft to its maximum ceiling) while carrying up to four tons of bombs.
At 1.10am a BE2c fighter plane piloted by 2nd Lieutenent Frederick Sowrey attacked L.32. Despite fire being returned he fired three drums of explosive bullets until a fire finally took hold, possibly helped by a burning petrol tank. Flames swiftly spread throughout the airship, bursting through the outer envelope in several places. An eye-witness recalled that “The flames crept along the back of the Zeppelin, which appeared to light up in sections… until it was burning from end to end.” The great airship finally crashed to the ground near Great Burstead in Essex. Again, there were no survivors, the Commander, Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, choosing to jump rather than burn to death in the inferno. Sowrey survived the war and died in 1968.
The same night L.33, despite being at 13,000 feet, was hit by anti-aircraft fire, thereafter being forced to the ground, landing near Little Wigborough. The crew set the Zeppelin alight but sufficient of the wreckage remained to be of valuable use to the British in their own rigid airship research.
There were a total of 23 Zeppelin raids in 1916 in which 125 tons of ordnance were dropped, killing 293 people and injuring 691. British anti-aircraft defences were becoming tougher but still new Zeppelins were introduced with an increased operating altitude of 16,500 feet and a maximum ceiling of 21,000 feet. Airships raids continued to be feared and to do great damage. It was only by 1918 that Zeppelin raids markedly decreased, primarily as a result of supply issues and the allied bombing of Zeppelin production lines and sheds in Germany.
The Zeppelin attacks had a profound psychological impact on the Allies. In total there were 159 Zeppelin attacks against England during World War I which resulted in the deaths of 557 people, mainly civilians. Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was ordered to hand over all their airships, but as with their Navy, the crews attempted to destroy as many of them as they could.
The Zeppelin’s greatest achievements were undoubtedly to tie up numerous squadrons in home defence and for their psychological value but as an effective weapon of war they proved themselves unsatisfactory and were ultimately not a military success. Of the 115 Zeppelin Airships employed by the Germans, 53 were destroyed and a further 24 were too badly damaged to effectively carry out their missions. The Airship crews suffered a 40% loss rate. Additionally, the cost of constructing those 115 Zeppelins Airships was approximately five times the cost of the actual damage they inflicted.
The crew of both SL.11 and L.32 (listed below) are now buried at Cannock Chase German War Cemetery in Staffordshire, England.
The Crew of SL.11
Wilhelm SCHRAMM Hauptmann
Jakob BAUMANN Obermaschinist
Hans GEITEL Leutnant
Rudolf GOLTZ Vizefeldwebel
Karl HASSENMULLER Feldwebel-Leutnant
Bernhard JEZIORSKI Gefreiter
Fritz JOURDAN Untermaschinist
Karl KACHELE Untermaschinist
Fritz KOPISCHKE Obersteuermann
Friedrich MODINGER Obermaschinist
Reinhold PORATH Obermaschinist
Rudolf SENDZICK Obersteuermann
Heinrich SCHLICHTING Unteroffizier
Anton TRISTRAM Unteroffizier
Wilhelm VOHDIN Oberleutnant
Hans WINKLER Untermaschinist
The Crew of L.32
Werner PETERSON Oberleutnant Zur See
Adolf BLEY Obersignalmaat
Albin BOCKSCH Obermaschinistmaat
Karl BORTSCHELLER Funkentelegrafieobermaat
Wilhelm BROCKHAUS Oberheizer
Karl BRODRUCK Leutnant Zur See
Paul DORFMULLER Maschinistenmaat
Richard FANKHANEL Obermaschinistenmaat
Georg HAGEDORN Obermaschinistenmaat
Friedrich HEIDER Oberbootsmannsmaat
Robert KLISCH Funkentelegrafieobergast
Herman MAEGDLFRAU Obermaschinistenmaat
Bernhard MOHR Obersegelmachersgast
August MULLER Matrose
Friedrich PASCHE Bootsmannsmaat
Karl PAUST Obermaschinistenmaat
Ewald PICARD Obersignalmaat
Walter PRUSS Maschinistenmaat
Paul SCHIERING Obermatrose
Bernhard SCHREIBMULLER Steuermann
Karl VOLKER Obermaschinistenmaat
Alfred ZOPEL Oberbootsmannsmaat
Soviet Paratrooper over Leningrad.
“The important thing to remember about this photo is that the Cold War was, by its very nature, a war of technological advances and propaganda. Literally, this was about who could spend more money to out-bullshit the other. Everything was about bullshit. Who could spin bigger bullshit, grander bullshit, in what ways could we trip up the other side? This is why, for a while, there were SEAL Teams 1, 2, and 6. Its the old Greased Pig Senior Prank, done with lethal commandos. The reason the Stealth was labelled as a Fighter, and not a Bomber. Misdirection, chaos, confusion. Not only can our soldiers jump out of planes over urban areas, but they can do it while maintaining a perfect salute, without losing their beret. Lets see those capitalist pigs out-do that!” – My friend Mikhail
Crossroads Baker nuclear explosion of July 25, 1946, test fired at 27m underwater. Photo taken from a tower on Bikini Island, 3.5 mi (5.6 km) away.
This is a picture from the 1946 detonation of a 23 kiloton nuclear bomb (same device design that was used to bomb Nagasaki) during operation Crossroads in Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. This tests was designated Baker denoting that it was the second in the series of 3 planned tests (but only two were carried out. The first being Able). It was the 3rd nuclear test ever conducted, and the 5th nuclear explosion in history.
The bomb was detonated 90 feet underwater amidst a fleet of decommissioned US and seized Japanese vessels. It was meant to simulate and document the effects of nuclear weapons in naval warfare.
In August 1961, two young girls speak with their grandparents in East Germany over a barbed wire fence, a barricade which later became the Berlin Wall.
Australian 11th (Western Australia) Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force posing on the Great Pyramid of Giza on 10 January 1915
Group portrait of the Australian 11th (Western Australia) Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force posing on the Great Pyramid of Giza on 10 January 1915, prior to the landing at Gallipoli. The 11th Battalion did much of their war training in Egypt and would be amongst the first to land at Anzac Cove on April 25 1915. In the five days following the landing, the battalion suffered 378 casualties, over one third of its strength.
The poem ‘The Happy Warrior’ by Sir Herbert Read
His wild heart beats with painful sobs,
His strin’d hands clench an ice-cold rifle,
His aching jaws grip a hot parch’d tongue,
His wide eyes search unconsciously.
He cannot shriek.
Dribbles down his shapeless jacket.
I saw him stab
And stab again
A well-killed Boche.
This is the happy warrior,
This is he…
In 1805, after hearing the news of Lord Nelson’s death at Trafalgar, William Wordsworth began work on a poem that he entitled “Character of the Happy Warrior.”
A century later, the Imagist poet Herbert Read wrote a bitterly ironic reply to Wordsworth that has been deservedly praised. Read’s poem, “The Happy Warrior” contracts the reality of fear directly against the literary myth of Wordsworth’s “Character pf the Happy Warrior.” This prototype of what “every man in arms should wish to be” is governed by reason, and even in “the head of conflict” he controls and subdues those necessary companions of the soldier, pain and fear. “This is the happy warrior” it concludes; “this is he/ Whom every man in arms should wish to be.”
Read shows instead a man driven by fear far beyond the reach of reason: “I saw him stab, and stab again. A well-killed Boche.” To reinforce his point, Read ends his poem with Wordsworth’s own words- “This is the Happy Warrior,/ This is he.”
In 1960s Greenland during Project Iceworm the American government tried to create a nuclear ice base, aka Hoth Base
Discharging radioactive waste into ice used to be considered a viable method of waste storage.
With the half life it would basically be non-radioactive long before it ever exposed to anything other than ice.
With the current rate of ice melting it’s no longer viewed as a very reliable method. That being said it all depends on location. If the liquid was dumped in an area that isn’t going to melt for hundreds/thousands of years then it’s perfectly safe.
You can even put the waste into large concrete disposal tanks and set them on the surface of ice. The heat generated by the radioactive materials will melt the ice below the tank and it will slowly sink into the ice and soon be completely covered where it can finish it’s lifetime safely stored in a vault of concrete and ice. But like I said it depends on the rate of ice melting.
Longer article with more pictures and information.
FUN FACT: The US also offered to buy Greenland for 100 million dollars.
A hypnotizing old documentary about the construction of the nuclear powered research center built by the US Army Corps of Engineers under the icy surface of Greenland
Early in the war, physicians began to handle cases of psychological breakdown, paralysis, and disturbing, uncontrolled physical behavior among men who had been in combat. C.S. Myers was one of the first to coin the term “shell shock,” as doctors assumed that artillery fire and the like had had caused concussion-like damage and possibly physical legions somewhere in the brain. Other doctors saw the same thing, but Myers discovered that many men experiencing these symptoms hadn’t been near artillery bombardments and so he tried to withdraw the term, but it stuck. The condition was called “soldier’s heart” in the American Civil War and “combat fatigue” in the Second World War, and now we call it PTSD. It’s not until 1980 that PTSD gets into the medical handbook as a legitimate syndrome, which means that doctors can treat it and that those who suffer from it can receive a pension.
- Why was it so difficult to pin down a definition for “shell shock?”
The medical profession of the time was conservative and relatively endogenous. Many of them thought that shell shock was a license for cowardice or a renunciation of “manliness,” which made it partly a problem of gender. It’s important to understand that although we usually think of PTSD as a psychological disability, it often manifests itself in physical ways. At the time, the conversion of mental symptoms to physical ones was called hysteria – a term reserved for women. This meant that men suffering from “hysteria” were transgressing Victorian gender norms, and we can see the stigma of this diagnosis clash with social conventions – only enlisted men were diagnosed with hysteria, while officers were diagnosed with “nervous breakdown.” The difference in diagnosis was paralleled by differences in treatment – treatment for enlisted men was largely punitive and coercive, while treatment for officers was based more on persuasion, sometimes through psychotherapy. Lest you think officers were in a better position, remember that the casualty rate for them was almost double that of enlisted men. Diagnosis and treatment were further complicated by the difficulty in identifying who legitimately had a problem and who was just trying to get away from the front. For some physicians, the solution was to make treatments more painful than returning to the front. For example, electric shock therapy could be used on mutes to try and stimulate the tongue so that they would make noise. In Austria, future Nobel Prize winner Julius Wagner Jauregg was accused of torturing his patients because he used electroconvulsive shock treatment to discourage malingering. In general, the war tore up the Hippocratic Oath because doctors became servants of armies that needed men to return to the front as soon as possible. Thus, the principal aim of doctors was to heal the injured enough to send them back to the front. This meant that if a soldier had a physical wound in addition to psychological symptoms, doctors would often treat the wound and then send the soldier back. Treatments were thus largely coercive in nature – there’s a famous French story in which an army doctor told a soldier “Yes, you are going to get this.” The enlisted man responded, “No, I’m not.” “Yes you are, I’m your officer, I gave you an order.” The exchange continued back and forth until the doctor moved to put the electrodes on his forehead and the enlisted man knocked him out. The soldier was then court-martialed, found guilty, fined one franc, and dismissed from the army without a war pension. This is the sort of thing that contributed to desertion, especially from men who felt they had no way out. As you can see, there were numerous problems with the medical profession’s approach to the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of shell shock. Consequently, we really don’t know how many suffered from it. The British Army recorded 80,000 cases, but this likely underestimates the actual number. Regardless, we can be sure that a significant number of those that went through artillery barrages and trench warfare experienced something like it at some point. While the number is significant, it’s important to remember that a minority of soldiers suffered shell shock, and consequently it does fit into the spectrum of individual refusal.
- What about executions?
In the late 90s there was a movement in England to apologize to those that refused to continue fighting in the war. There were 306 men that had been shot for cowardice or desertion and although the British government refused to make a formal apology, one of Tony Blair’s last acts as prime minister was to posthumously pardon them. The problem here should be obvious – it’s unclear how many were shell shocked and convicted of cowardice or desertion when they really were insane. There’s serious doubt as to how many men actually thought it through and decided that they couldn’t fight anymore and were going to leave. In the French case there was a terrible period at the beginning of the war when there were many summary executions. It’s a perfect example of what happened when officials and the professional army feared the effects that desertion might have on the rest of the men that had been mobilized at the start of the war. The French CiC, Joffre, felt that if offensives didn’t proceed because people were “allowed to act as cowards,” the rest of the mobilized army, made up of millions of reservists, would be contaminated. The upshot was the summary executions of numerous soldiers. The French parliament set up a special tribunal in 1932 to reexamine many of the cases, and a number of those who had been executed were subsequently pardoned, some on grounds that they had originally been denied the right of appeal despite being citizens. There is an important distinction to make here – French soldiers had the vote and could appeal to their representatives for better legal treatment, while millions of British soldiers could not since they were subjects of the crown. By the end of the war, every capital sentence required the approval of the French president.
- Why do we think PTSD began with “shell shock?”
World War I was the first to really introduce mental illness to mass society. The notion of traumatic memory that was brought back home and reappeared in literature helped normalize mental illness in the absence of consensus by the medical profession as to what it was. Although PTSD existed long before the First World War, the circumstances of the war pushed hundreds of thousands of men beyond the limits of human endurance. They faced weapons that denied any chance for heroism or courage or even military skill because the artillery weapons that caused 60 percent of all casualties were miles away from the battlefield. The enthusiastic men that signed up in 1914 were loyal, patriotic, and genuinely believed that they were fighting to defend their homeland. While they consented to national defense, it’s not clear that they consented to fight an industrialized assembly-line murderous war that emerged after 1914. Unlike previous wars, there was no beginning, middle, and end. Trench warfare was seen as a prelude to a breakout, but those breakouts never really occurred. Many men withdrew from the reality of the war into their own minds, and in this sense shell shock can be seen as a mutiny against the war. PTSD has numerous symptoms, but among them is the sense that the war the soldier lived had escaped from human control. This is why many PTSD sufferers are constantly reliving the trauma – the horror of combat never goes away and time has no hold over it. There’s a wonderful autobiography by Robert Graves called Good-Bye to All That; it’s one of the most famous World War I memoirs. Of course, the great irony is that he can’t say good-bye to all that – his life is constantly affected by his war experience, even 10 years after the war ended. There are so many great World War I memoirs, but I’d highly recommend the following: The Secret Battle by A.P. Herbert and The Case of Sergeant Grischa by Arnold Zweig Both deal with executions and the perversion of military justice during the war. I would also recommend The Legacy of the Great War and Remembering War. Both are by Jay Winter, who specializes in historical memory and World War I. (When he was teaching at Cambridge in the late 70s and early 80s, he traveled to Warwick hospital to study some of the records of patients that had been institutionalized there during the war for shell shock. When he went there, he discovered that there were still several men that had been kept in the asylum without treatment since the Great War. Once enthusiastic young men, psychologically crippled by the war, had spent the next 70 years constantly reliving their trauma, locked away from a society that didn’t understand what was wrong with them. I can’t think of a more horrible fate.)
HMS Queen Mary’s magazine explodes after receiving accurate fire from SMS Derfflinger during the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916.The Derfflinger herself was hit a total of 17 times by main caliber guns and 9 times by secondary caliber guns, but the superb damage control done by the sailors aboard kept her afloat and in the fight all night until the High Seas Fleet could escape into the Jade Bight. Firing hundreds of her own shells of various calibers; Derfflinger sustained about 160 KIA and about 25 wounded (which is rather high for a ship that didn’t sink). The British nicknamed her the “Iron Dog” after her tenacity and stubbornness at Jutland. Of a complement of 1,275 men, only 9 of Queen Mary’screw survived.
Franz Joseph’s reflections on WWI
Several members of the Franz Joseph’s entourage recorded that the aged emperor was upset with the course of the war and its future implications for the future of the Habsburg empire. According to a note passed to the Germans by the Austro-Hungarian representative to the German Supreme Headquarters, Alois Klepsch-Kloth von Roden, in 1915, the Habsburg emperor did not desire war in 1914:
I am a constitutional monarch, not an absolute ruler, and for this reason could not act otherwise! From the beginning, I had all the influential advisers to the crown against me; for a full three weeks, I vehemently defended myself against any aggravation that might lead to war – in vain! They would not be persuaded, and after three weeks of fruitless effort, I was forced to give in.
In July 1916, he reportedly told his military adjutant Albert von Margutti that:
Things are going badly with us, perhaps worse than we suspect. The starving people can’t stand much more. It remains to be seen whether and how we shall get through the winter. I mean to end the war next spring whatever happens. I can’t let my empire go to hopeless ruin!
Of course these claims have to be taken with a significant grain of salt. Von Roden’s narrative of the Emperor’s actions does not quite match the actual timing of the Austro-Hungarian decision making process in 1914. Like the famous “Nicky-Willy” telegrams between the Kaiser Wilhelm II and Emperor Nicholas II of 1914, this type of correspondence was not an apolitical personal communique but a document laden with political overtones. Von Margutti’s postwar reminiscences about his former master also necessitates some skepticism as he was a loyal servitor of the Habsburgs and was interested in presenting his master in the best possible light.
One thing that is clear about the wartime years of Franz Joseph is that he was quite aged and increasingly fatalistic. Although he kept to his near-robotic regimen of structured work habits even in his last years, the Emperor was hermetically sealed off by an entourage who was almost as elderly as Franz Joseph. Much of this entourage busied themselves with ensuring that Franz Joseph kept to his routine rather than exercising personal authority over the war effort. Many of them did note that Franz Joseph’s health was deteriorating and the Emperor was less capable of performing his duties. The escalating crisis with Italy pushed Franz Joseph to his breaking point, Ferdinand Freiherr von Marterer’s diary recorded the Emperor exclaiming after Italy had delivered its ultimatum that “In this way shall we go under,” and weeping in the ante-chamber of the palace. Von Marterer would also note that after the Italian entry, that “The Emperor frequently nods off during reports, we are lacking the strong central force, uniform action everywhere.”
Although Franz Joseph had some signs of increased activity, such as supporting the appointment of the reformist Ernest Koerber as Prime Minister after the assassination of Count Stürgkh and renewed energy in confronting the Italians, despite his obvious age. The Emperor also remained a popular figure for a number within the Empire as evidenced by a considerable upswing in personal appeals sent to him by his subjects suffering under wartime pressures. But there was little Franz Joseph could do to rectify the dire situation the Dual Monarchy had found itself in. Franz Joseph increasingly devoted himself to the execution of his last will. He sought to ensure that his personal finances would be able to provide for his heirs’ financial well-being.
That the Emperor devoted such attention to this matter in his last remaining months was typical of Franz Joseph’s somewhat curious amalgamation of a diligent bourgeois mentality within an imperial context. Yet the fact that he was clearly concerned whether or not the members of the Habsburg family would be financially secure after his death also speaks volumes about what he possibly felt about the prospects for the Dual Monarchy in the immediate future.
Beller, Steven. Francis Joseph. London: Longman, 1996.
Healy, Maureen. Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire: Total War and Everyday Life in World War I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Rauchensteiner, Manfried. The First World War and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1914 – 1918. Vienna: Böhlau, 2014.
W.H. Auden, I love you.
This is a sad and brave poem about accepting the suffering of unrequited love—an experience that Auden was apparently familiar with. In this poem, he makes his peace with his experience of “stars” whose beauty inspires such passion and longing, but which care nothing for him in return.
Being treated with indifference is not so bad, Auden says, in the first stanza; there are worse things in life. To love, even if one is not loved back, is more than enough, he suggests in the second stanza. And, in the final two stanzas, Auden tells himself that even if that which one loves were to disappear from one’s life, one would survive the grief and the emptiness—even if, as he poignantly understates it in the last line, being reconciled with that loss may “take a little time.”
Franz Reichelt “The Flying Tailor” created a jacket that doubled as a parachute and tested it by jumping off of the Eiffel Tower. (It ended in tragedy.)
Franz Reichelt, an Austrian tailor who later moved to France, was obsessed with the idea of human flight. He was an early designer of a basically frameless parachute made out of nothing more than silk, some rubber and a couple of rods. Late 18th century parachute experiments by Louis-Sebastien Lenormand or Jean-Pierre Blanchard – experiments that are seen as successes – had relied on fixed-canopy solutions, which means that the parachute was already open at the time of the exit. These designs were well suited for high altitudes.
When Franz Reichelt began to work on his design in the summer of 1910, he was aiming at a “parachute-suit” to be worn by the jumper, a suit that had to be folded out before the leap by spreading the arms. With his “bat-suit”, as the public called it, Reichelt was hoping to have come up with a parachute suited for low altitude jumps and jumps out of airplanes. (Here, tests had regularly ended in the death of the aviators.)
Reichelt’s suit had successfully landed dummies thrown out of his apartment window on the fifth floor; as he kept pushing his design forward to reduce the weight to about 9 kilograms, dummy tests failed. Reichelt, the Flying Tailor, kept asking police officials for the permission to conduct a test from the Eiffel tower. After some back and forth, he was granted a permission for dummy tests in February 1912.
At 7 a.m. on February 4th in 1912, Reichelt arrived at the Eiffel tower in a car, already clad in his bat-suit. He declared he would jump himself rather than using a dummy. Friends and bystanders tried to persuade him not to do it, but at 8.22 a.m., Franz Reichelt unfolded his suit standing on a chair on a bar table and jumped from 57 meters off into the icy Parisian air.
The suit did not catch air as Reichelt had hoped it would. After five seconds of free fall, he was dead in an instant. His crushed body left a 14cm deep crater in the frozen ground underneath the tower.
An uncropped version of the famous Tiananmen Square tank and protester photo, June 1989.
It’s hard to fathom the courage that it would take for one person, alone and carrying only plastic shopping bags, to face down that line of tanks.
Terrain outside Anchorage, Alaska after the March 27, 1964 Earthquake (Magnitude 9.2)
It was the second most violent earthquake ever recorded—and these pictures are from 75 miles away from the epicenter. All told, nearly 100,000 square miles of land experienced “vertical displacement of up to 38 feet“. It was so powerful that it produced a tsunami that caused damage in Hawaii. And Japan.
This part of Alaska lies on what’s called a “subduction zone.” Tectonic faults like the San Andreas Fault have two plates sliding sideways, with one going north and the other going south. In a subduction zone, you have one tectonic plate sliding into—or under—another. Eventually so much pressure builds up that one of the plates buckles, and suddenly you have bits of land that are fifteen feet higher or lower than they used to be.
If you go out into Resurrection Bay there are small islands that dropped several feet deeper into the water. All the trees on those islands sucked sea water up into their roots and all the way up into the larger branches, killing the trees and preserving them as they were 50 years ago.
Full Album of selected Photographs
Youtube account from Woman (7 years old at the time) which I thought was fascinating.
Amateur Home Video Footage- Post Quake
Winston Churchill and his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest leaders.
Firstly a little bit of leadership theory to put Churchill into context, specifically that of Transformational Leadership.
Transformational leaders inspire their followers to achieve more than would normally be expected by a combination of:
- Looking after followers’ individual needs, acting as a coach or mentor and developing them.
- Challenging followers intellectually. Asking them to consider complex problems and come up with solutions by conducting their own research.
- Providing inspirational motivation. Articulating a vision of the future, setting lofty goals and being optimistic about the team’s ability to achieve them.
- Being a role model. Exemplifying everything they want their followers to be, setting high ethical and behavioral standards thus gaining respect and trust.
Whenever Churchill took charge of a government department, the work rate would increase considerably. He was a man of energy and ideas who was always keen to understand the latest innovation or cutting edge technology. For example, by the time the neutron had been discovered, he had already written about the potential of nuclear power, especially in the military context.
This energy was most apparent when he became PM in May 1940, coincidentally on the day that the German Invasion of Belgium and France was launched. Thus the first six weeks of his premiership saw one of the worst strategic set backs in British military history as the BEF was defeated and forced to abandon France. In the face of exceptional pressure form the French to stay in France and to commit further reserves, he trusted his commanders and accepted that a withdrawal was the best option. Throughout this period he did as best a job as he could to placate the French (possibly even lying to them) in order to give his commanders the space they needed to effect the withdrawal. He moved between the tactical, operational and strategic levels of command on an almost hour by hour basis in order to understand, support and decide.
Whilst all this was going on, he took the time to familiarise himself with Britain’s air defences knowing all too well that this was the next line of defence. He trusted Hugh Dowding and Charles Portal, he trusted the air defence system and he supported Dowding’s recommendation not to send any more spitfires to France, knowing it was a lost cause. He then set about instilling his confidence into the British public. The “finest hour” speech is not simply a masterpiece of rhetoric, it is the cornerstone of a concerted effort to reassure Britain that its Air Force, by this point untested in any major campaign for 22 years, was up to the job of defeating a highly capable, more numerous and more experienced Luftwaffe. Whatever went on behind the scenes, he maintained the high vision of victory and portrayed an almost relentless optimism, whilst reminding everyone of the gravity of the situation.
Deep down he knew that the Royal Navy would be the deciding factor in case of invasion, but the opportunity to stop the enemy before he even reached the shores was one he seized upon and a cause he triumphed as if it were his own.
This pattern repeats itself throughout Churchill’s tenure: the frenetic activity surrounding him, the detailed interest in an important area of responsibility, the campaign (supported of course by excellent speeches) to reassure the public that everything would be OK and then exploiting successes. Note too that he took very little credit for himself, instead focusing the public’s attention on the men and women fighting the war and crediting them with success.
So we can see that WSC was highly adept at challenging his followers intellectually and providing inspirational motivation, but what of the other two elements of Transformational Leadership?
Churchill’s weakest suit, in my opinion, was looking after individual followers. He had a terrible habit of befriending people, using them for what he needed and then dropping them. He could even do this to entire organisations and has been heavily criticised for abandoning Bomber Command in the face of criticism about the strategic bombing campaign which he had supported.
He was, however, an excellent role model. The pugnacious, stoic face of defiance in adversity, portrayed famously as the archetypal British bulldog, he set the tone for the British public to adopt – he was the archetype for the stereotype of the down-trodden but bloody-minded blitz victim. His military experience, including some remarkable individual heroics as a young subaltern and command of a battalion during the Great War, set him in good stead and enabled him to wear the uniform and rank of a commodore/brigadier/air commodore credibly.
He was not, however, perfect. He was a contrary character who wouldn’t ordinarily have become Prime Minister, let alone a successful one. He was prone to flights of fantasy and was prepared to allow incredibly risky activities. He would often be reeled in by the likes of General Hastings Ismay, his chief military assistant for most of the war, who maintained a well-informed, realistic brief and was able to recover him from his more audacious fantasies. He was also prone to depression, his “black dog” and there is immense credit to be found in his ability inspire people as he did despite his own personal demon. These two quotes do a good job of reflecting on WSC:
In 1940 the American journalist Ralph Ingersoll reported:
Everywhere I went in London people admired [Churchill’s] energy, his courage, his singleness of purpose. People said they “didn’t know what Britain would do without him.” He was obviously respected. But no one felt he would be Prime Minister after the war. He was simply the right man in the right job at the right time. The time being the time of a desperate war with Britain’s enemies
Field Marshal Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1941, wrote in his memoirs:
…..And the wonderful thing is that 3/4 of the population of the world imagine that Churchill is one of the Strategists of History, a second Marlborough, and the other 1/4 have no idea what a public menace he is and has been throughout this war ! It is far better that the world should never know, and never suspect the feet of clay of this otherwise superhuman being. Without him England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and again…….Never have I admired and despised a man simultaneously to the same extent. Never have such opposite extremes been combined in the same human being.
True genius treads a fine line between triumph and disaster. Churchill knew this line all too well.
Bass, B.M. & Avolio, B.J. (1994). Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership
Bungay, S. (2009), The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain
Jenkins, R. (2001), Churchill: A Biography
Storr, A. (1997) Churchill’s Black Dog and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind
Thompson, J. (2009), Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory
Robespierre: a child of the Enlightenment, a tragic misunderstood figure, or a forerunner of modern dictators?
The first thing I will say is that there is no understanding Robespierre without Rousseau. There is the famous apocryphal story that he slept with the Social Contract under his pillow. But Rousseau is best understood as a transitional figure between the Enlightenment proper and Romanticism, it is in this light I think we must understand Robespierre. Today we remember Rousseau as a political philosopher, or for Emile and his educational theory, but if you want Rousseau as his contemporaries (and Robespierre) knew him look more closely at Julie or especially his Confessions. What emerges is an immensely sentimental philosophy, which considers man as largely subject to passions, passions which are beyond morality and can only be measured by the intensity of their feeling. The astonishing trick of Rousseau’s Confessions, on his audiences and many of us today, is that it consists mainly of his admitting terrible, even unconscionable things, but throughout he has such pure, consistent, and appealing sentiment that you cannot help but love him more for it.
Robespierre’s entire career is animated by a similar overwrought emotion. It fuels his success until it takes him to martyrdom: the single-minded refusal to compromise, unlike a Mirabeau or even Danton, it is his strength before it unites the multitude in guilty fear of him.
The second thing I will say is that for Robespierre Terror is a revolutionary doctrine, a republican doctrine, necessary in every respect to the Revolution in the time of its most pressing need. For Robespierre a revolution must be ‘something more than a noisy crime to distract from previous noisy crimes’ (from his penultimate speech.) What more is it? The Revolution is a total refoundation of society, a new social contract, liberty from the old regime means the opportunity for radical reformation into a new model for humanity. Of course in Rousseau’s formulation what happens to enemies and refusers of the social contract? They are exterminated or exiled. They threatened no less against the revolution. When a revolution is in peril (as it was in 1793) it must either realize itself through violence against the threatening reaction or perish.
Robespierre was never misunderstood in his own time; he is misunderstood now as being bloodthirsty. This is ignorant of the record, Robespierre was the leader of the anti-war faction when the Brissotin were declaring preemptive war, and it was his attempt to reign in the corrupt terror of Fouché that was the immediate cause of 9 Thermidor. He is tragic in that it was his absolute devotion, his incorruptibility, the very qualities that made him a champion of liberty, that brought about the downfall.
“Working to beat the devil – Eskimo medicine man exorcising evil spirits from a sick boy”, ca.1900-30.
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-133505
Mukpie: Point Barrow Eskimo girl, youngest survivor of the S.S. Karluk, 1914.
The last voyage of HMCS Karluk, flagship of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, ended with the loss of the ship and the subsequent deaths of nearly half her complement. On her outward voyage in August 1913 Karluk, a brigantine formerly used as a whaler, became trapped in the Arctic ice while sailing to a rendezvous point at Herschel Island. After a long drift across the Beaufort and Chukchi seas the ship was crushed and sunk. In the ensuing months the crew and expedition staff struggled to survive, first on the ice and later on the shores of Wrangel Island. In all, eleven men died before help could reach them.
Mugpi, who later was known as Ruth Makpii Ipalook, became the very last survivor of the Karluk voyage, dying in 2008 after a full life, aged 97.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel shortly after arriving in North Africa-Unknown date, 1941
Rommel was able to get a combat command due to his relationship with Hitler. Rommel had known Hitler for years and had asked Hitler for a combat command. In France his division became known as the Ghost Division. That’s generally seen as praise. However, it was called that because no one in his own chain of command ever knew where it was because Rommel kept out running his own lines of communication and command. If his French opponents had been more on the ball they could have cut him off in a Kessel (surrounded) and destroyed him.
German military officers were trained to think for themselves. Today this is known as Mission Type Tactics. The commander was supposed to give an order which stated the resources available to be used (troops, tanks, etc) and the objective. It was up to the lower ranked officers to use their own initiative in how to obtain the objective.
Rommel however was quite an interfering General. He gave orders with specific instructions and expected them to be followed to the letter. He would also drive around the front and give orders to soldiers thus cutting their actual officers off (there’s accounts of him issuing individual targets to anti tank guns rather than let their own officers decide and almost being killed by the return fire. In fact, Rommel lost quite a few aids while “touring” the front in this manner). This could lead to confusion and also resentment. Rommel was loved by the enlisted men under his command and quite detested by his officers as they considered him interfering and that he didn’t trust them to do their actual jobs.
By going around the front Rommel also quite often cut himself off from everyone. No one knew where he was and it could be quite difficult to get in communication with him.
People also seem to cherry pick things Rommel did or said to prove he was great. They will point out that Rommel believed the Allies would invade Normandy but then leave out that he thought said invasion would be a feint which made him like every other German officer.
I also think that Rommel looked good in North Africa due to the Allies helping him with that image. Churchill “stole” quite a lot of troops from Wavell for the impossible task of defending Greece. Wavell was so worried about his job that he didn’t say anything and thus made it easier for Rommel to attack him, which Rommel did against orders. Wavell also isn’t considered one of Britain’s finest. It is easier to look great if your opponent isn’t.
A lot of people try to make North Africa look like this huge battle for the control of the Suez Canal, to block access to oil fields in the Middle East, etc and thus state that Rommel was sent there as he was the best of the best. In reality the years of war in North Africa were pretty much because Rommel disobeyed orders to not attack.
Which leads me to my next point that if Rommel was so great why wasn’t he on the Eastern Front? Why was he never given that “prestigious and highly important command?” In the West we like to “pretend” that North Africa and Western Europe were every bit as important as the Russian Front, but to the Germans the Russian Front was it. That’s where they sent over 2/3 of their military and suffered 80% of their casualties. Rommel wasn’t even privy to knowing that the invasion of the Soviet Union would be happening which is why he thought when he launched his attack across North Africa that he would quickly be given all the men and supplies he would need. Sadly for him this wouldn’t be the case.
Rommel though was a gallant enemy. He didn’t order his men to execute troops. He didn’t set out to oppress Jewish populations. If he could have avoided this on the Eastern Front we’ll never know, but we can credit him for it where he did fight. In fact, he is said to have ripped up an order from Hitler that ordered him to execute prisoners and then announced that the order wasn’t clear to those around him.
The Australian General Morshead considered Rommel to be highly predictable in how he would initially attack. This is one of the reasons why he failed to take Tobruk from the mostly Australian garrison. Morshead was able to time and time again work out where Rommel would attack and would have the needed defences there to resist. Morshead said that if Rommel had shown a bit more unpredictability the “Fortress” would have fallen as the defenders did not have enough antitank guns, etc to defend everywhere.
I feel that a lot of people talk Rommel up because he’s well known and he’s the “Nazi” you can openly talk about respecting without people looking at you funny. However, I would say he was a mediocre general who was promoted above his means due to his relationship with Hitler. He was a captain trapped in the body of a General/Field Marshal. As a captain things he did wouldn’t have been a problem, in fact they would have worked well. As a general though he acted as a captain. Rommel is quite often praised for his tactical abilities. Tactics though (the small scale stuff, what soldiers do in battle) wasn’t supposed to be what a general worried about.
When We Tested Nuclear Bombs:
Since the first nuclear explosion in 1945, nearly 2,000 nuclear tests have been performed, with the majority taking place during the 1960s and 1970s. Nearly 1000 of these were at the Nevada Test Site in the desert outside Las Vegas. When the technology was new, tests were frequent and often spectacular, and led to the development of newer, more deadly weapons. All sorts of tests were conducted; to animals, to houses, bridges, clothing and shelters. These mushroom clouds and craters became a tourist attraction. They were banned in 1963, giving way to underground testing, which involved lowering a massive nuclear device several hundred feet underground, rattling the bones of the earth and producing craters, “sink depressions,” across the barren landscape as big as 1,500 feet in diameter.
But wait, there’s more!
FUN FACT: Ayn Rand’s original protagonists for her novels (whom her later protagonists were based off of) were based on a psychopath named William Hickman that kidnapped a little girl, demanded ransom, received it, and mutilated her body anyway, returning to her parents a corpse without internal organs.
To be fair, she wasn’t admiring this monster’s horrible acts (what she called his degeneracy). But it seems like she was inspired by how Hickman couldn’t be controlled by the imposing and controlling morality of society. She wanted “A Hickman with a purpose” in Renahan, her protagonist.
“The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the ‘virtuous’ indignation and mass-hatred of the ‘majority.’… It is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal…”
According to the Wikipedia page, Rand liked how Renahan was
“born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness — [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people … Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.”
The debate about gun control in 1791, (when the 2nd amendment was truly about militias and muskets)
The purpose and intent of the 2nd was to provide for the overthrow of government in the case of tyranny.
For the early founding fathers, that specifically meant having weaponry accessible to citizens. Here’s Hamilton in Federalist 29:
This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by congress.
Notice the word “arming” in there. But Hamilton also viewed the 2nd amendment as a collective right. Some early laws were also based on the idea of arming the populace as part of a collective right. The 1792 Act of Militia is a good example of what I’m talking about.
That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear, so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise, or into service,
So, the founders viewed armament a lot more similarly to how the Swiss view it today: an individual responsibility as part of a collective right.
So what changed? In a lot of ways, the Civil War changed things. The NRA was actually formed after the Civil War. The Civil War, and the 14th Amendment, was actually what sort of gave rise to the view of the Bill of Rights as being individual rights rather than collective ones. As Akhil Reed Amar, a con law professor at Yale, explains here:
The NRA is founded after the Civil War by a group of ex-Union Army officers. Now the motto goes, when guns are outlawed, only klansmen will have guns. Individual black men had to have guns in their homes because they couldn’t count on the local constabulary. It’s in the text of the Freedman’s Bureau Act of 1866 that we actually see the reinterpretation of the original Second Amendment. It becomes about original rights.
So, to take things back a ways. Originally, the Second Amendment was viewed much more as a collective right. The important thing was that individuals be armed as part of a group responsibility. In other words, you needed to have a gun in case you were needed to help overthrow a tyrannical government.
After the Civil War, the whole discussion about collective versus individual rights changed, and having a gun became much more about self defense. This was in direct response to the newly Reconstructed South.
Your individual state could regulate your guns, but the feds couldn’t. Projecting the phrase “gun rights” back in time is really problematic, pretty much for this reason. It was somewhat common in the south for it to be illegal for Black men to own guns–even free Blacks. To a much lesser extent, the same was true for women. It wasn’t so much that you had “gun rights” so much at all, since there was no thought that taking guns away from Blacks was in any way threatening the gun ownership of Whites.
Here’s a list of laws/proposals relating to guns, militias and armies from the English Bill of Rights to the 2nd Amendment. I thought the progression in the wording was interesting.
English Bill of Rights (1689)
- That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law
- That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law
Virginia Declaration of Rights (May 1776)
- Section 13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
Massachusetts Constitution (1780)
- XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.
Gun related requests from States to Congress for Original Amendments:
- No request
- That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, including the body of the people capable of bearing arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state.
- That the militia should not be subject to martial law, except in time of war, rebellion, or insurrection.
- That standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up, except in cases of necessity; and that at all times the military should be under strict subordination to the civil power.
- 17th. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free state. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power.
James Madison’s original version of the 2nd Amendment
- The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.
Final version of the 2nd amendment
- A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
I found the progression interesting. My favorite parts were:
- The founders started from a position before the revolution of statements like ‘armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature’ but by the late 1780s that language is missing.
- The 2nd amendment originally had the clause ‘but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person’ but it was removed.
- The original wording of the 2nd amendment started ‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country’ – They reversed it but I have no idea why. It seems the original was stronger though it is impossible to know their intent unless their discussions were written down.
Portrait of the Burgfraulein von Strechau, ca. 1600’s.
“The legend tells that in the late Middle Ages a damsel waited for her lover who left to the Holy Land to fight the infidels. The lady promised that if he did not return she would enter a monastery. Despite her promise, she married another man and when the bride came to the festival her face changed to a skull and devilish figures appeared and pulled her down to hell in front of all the guests.”
1928 electric chair execution of Ruth Snyder – the second woman to be executed in Sing Sing prison.
She was sent to prison for the murder of her husband. From Wikipedia: “Her distaste for her husband apparently began when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiancée, Jessie Guishard, on the wall of their first home, and also named his boat after her. Guishard, whom Albert described to Ruth as “the finest woman I have ever met,” had been dead for 10 years.”