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Were there mercenaries around for WWI?

Were there mercenaries around for WWI?


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Were there mercenaries or notable vigilante type groups around for World War One? Particularly Europeans? I was wondering if all nations were strict about their militaries and whether civilians would have been permitted to pick up a rifle and help out in any circumstances.

I do mean mercenaries as organized private companies. But also, was there anything stopping other individuals from fighting alongside? I guess what I'm getting at is, was the war fought by people other than those under a government military, regular or militia?


Yes, there certainly foreign volunteers fighting in both World Wars. Examples include the Lafayette Escadrille of American Fighter pilots in World War One and the Flying Tigers and Eagle Squadrons flying for the Chinese and Royal Air Forces respectively during World War Two.

Article 1 of the Annex to the Hague Convention (II) on the Laws and Customs of War on Land:

The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps, fulfilling the following conditions:

To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;

To carry arms openly; and

To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

In countries where militia or volunteer corps constitute the army, or form part of it, they are included under the denomination "army."

The Hague Convention (1899) II - With Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its Annex, largely based on the Lieber Code adopted by the Union Army in 1863, was the equivalent to today's Geneva Conventon in effect during World War One. The difficulty that volunteer mercenaries encountered in attempting to , and proving compliance with, the requirements of Article 1 above had the effect of forcing these militias to seek and obtain commissioning from appropriate authorities for nations involved in the conflict.

My answer to the question on the Customs/Consensus Regarding Irregular Combatants in the 19th Century provides additional background.


Doughboys

Indelibly tied to Americans, “Doughboys” became the most enduring nickname for the troops of General John Pershing’s American Expeditionary Forces, who traversed the Atlantic to join war weary Allied armies fighting on the Western Front in World War I.

The Great War marked the first time in history the United States sent soldiers abroad to defend foreign soil. The French ecstatically welcomed the first wave of soldiers. “Vive l'Amèrique!” came the shouts at the edge of a Boulogne pier as Pershing steamed into port. In an emotional arrival ceremony at the Marquis de Lafayette’s tomb, Col. Charles E. Stanton declared to the crowd, “Lafayette, we are here!” suggesting Americans had come to repay an old debt to the French dating back to when the colonies stood virtually alone in the American Revolution.

But what to call the Americans? “Yanks,” “Sammies,” “Pershing’s Crusaders” – these were just some of the names used to label America’s enlisted men in World War I. Pershing’s Crusaders and Sammies (for Uncle Sam’s troops) made some appearances in advertising and propaganda posters, but those labels weren’t well liked by the troops, many of whom preferred to be called Yanks.

Though there are many origin stories for “Doughboys,” the nickname that finally stuck, there is one with strong historic support. Likely, the name attached early to the Americans from U.S. military operations on the Mexican border.

Reconciliation with Mexico had just concluded in 1916 when marching foot soldiers in Pershing’s Expeditionary Force traveled south of the border to fight rebel Pancho Villa. Covered in white adobe dust, the foot soldiers were called “adobes” or “dobies” by mounted troops. Within a few months, these dobies, or Doughboys, were redeployed to Europe.

Whatever name they were called, few disagreed that the U.S. made a huge impact on the war by just entering the fray. The enormous effort required to mobilize and equip the two million servicemen in the span of less than a year was nothing short of inspiring.

With this pivotal historic event – the modern American Army was born in WWI. Approximately four million men would end up serving in the U.S. Armed Forces from April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918.


Life in the Trenches of World War I

When Union Army general William Tecumseh Sherman famously said “War is hell,” he was referring to war in general, but he could have been describing trench warfare, a military tactic that’s been traced to the Civil War. Trenches—long, deep ditches dug as protective defenses𠅊re most often associated with World War I, and the results of trench warfare in that conflict were hellish indeed.

Trenches were common throughout the Western Front.
Trench warfare in World War I was employed primarily on the Western Front, an area of northern France and Belgium that saw combat between German troops and Allied forces from France, Great Britain and, later, the United States.

Although trenches were hardly new to combat: Prior to the advent of firearms and artillery, they were used as defenses against attack, such as moats surrounding castles. But they became a fundamental part of strategy with the influx of modern weapons of war.

Long, narrow trenches dug into the ground at the front, usually by the infantry soldiers who would occupy them for weeks at a time, were designed to protect World War I troops from machine-gun fire and artillery attack from the air.

As the “Great War” also saw the wide use of chemical warfare and poison gas, the trenches were thought to offer some degree of protection against exposure. (While significant exposure to militarized chemicals such as mustard gas would result in almost certain death, many of the gases used in World War I were still relatively weak.)

Thus, trenches may have afforded some protection by allowing soldiers more time to take other defensive steps, such as putting on gas masks.

The Battle of Somme as seen from the trenches. (Credit: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

Trench warfare caused enormous numbers of casualties.
At least initially in World War I, forces mounted attacks from the trenches, with bayonets fixed to their rifles, by climbing over the top edge into what was known as “no man’s land,” the area between opposing forces, usually in a single, straight line and under a barrage of gunfire.

Not surprisingly, this approach was rarely effective, and often led to mass casualties.

Later in the war, forces began mounting attacks from the trenches at night, usually with support of covering artillery fire. The Germans soon became known for effectively mounting nighttime incursions behind enemy lines, by sending highly trained soldiers to attack the trenches of opposing forces at what they perceived as weak points.

If successful, these soldiers would breach enemy lines and circle around to attack their opponents from the rear, while their comrades would mount a traditional offensive at the front.

The brutality of trench warfare is perhaps best typified by the 1916 Battle of the Somme in France. British troops suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day of fighting alone

German soldiers lying dead in a trench after the Battle of Cambrai, 1917. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Disease and ‘shell shock’ were rampant in the trenches.
With soldiers fighting in close proximity in the trenches, usually in unsanitary conditions, infectious diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever were common and spread rapidly.

Constant exposure to wetness caused trench foot, a painful condition in which dead tissue spread across one or both feet, sometimes requiring amputation. Trench mouth, a type of gum infection, was also problematic and is thought to be associated with the stress of nonstop bombardment.

As they were often effectively trapped in the trenches for long periods of time, under nearly constant bombardment, many soldiers suffered from “shell shock,” the debilitating mental illness known today as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It’s likely all of these factors, which stemmed from the widespread use of trench warfare, made World War I the deadliest conflict in global history to that point. It’s believed that as many as one in 10 of all fighting forces in the conflict were killed.

It was also the first conflict in world history to have more deaths caused from combat, rather than from disease spread during fighting.

Trench warfare was also employed in World War II and in the Korean War to some degree, but it has not been used regularly during conflicts in the ensuing decades.


Where Was WWI Fought?

Word War I was fought primarily in Europe and the Middle East between a total of 32 countries: the Allies and the Central Powers. It began on July 28th, 1914, and ended on Nov. 11, 1918, with the Central Powers losing the war.

World War I is also referred to as the Great War or the War of Nations and is often abbreviated as WWI. World War I started as a mere local war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary because a Serbian individual assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. The countries were already upset with one another, but this move escalated the tension into a full-blown war. Austria declared war on Serbia after the assassination with Germany declaring war on Russia and France a few days later.

The United States entered the foray on April 6, 1917, because the Germans were sinking ships around Britain and sunk a passenger ship without warning. The Lusitania, the passenger ship that was sunk, had 128 Americans onboard, and many were killed. The Germans also sank a French ship that killed more Americans so the United States decided to enter the conflict. President Wilson of the United States wanted to help keep peace throughout the global world, so he helped to create the League of Nations.


A Brief History of Challenge Coins

There are many examples of traditions that build camaraderie in the military, but few are as well-respected as the practice of carrying a challenge coin—a small medallion or token that signifies a person is a member of an organization. Even though challenge coins have broken into the civilian population, they're still a bit of a mystery for those outside the armed forces.

What Do Challenge Coins Look Like?

Typically, challenge coins are around 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, and about 1/10-inch thick, but the styles and sizes vary wildly—some even come in unusual shapes like shields, pentagons, arrowheads, and dog tags. The coins are generally made of pewter, copper, or nickel, with a variety of finishes available (some limited edition coins are plated in gold). The designs can be simple—an engraving of the organization's insignia and motto—or have enamel highlights, multi-dimensional designs, and cut outs.

Challenge Coin Origins

It's nearly impossible to definitively know why and where the tradition of challenge coins began. One thing is certain: Coins and military service go back a lot farther than our modern age.

One of the earliest known examples of an enlisted soldier being monetarily rewarded for valor took place in Ancient Rome. If a soldier performed well in battle that day, he would receive his typical day’s pay, and a separate coin as a bonus. Some accounts say that the coin was specially minted with a mark of the legion from which it came, prompting some men to hold on to their coins as a memento, rather than spend them on women and wine.

Today, the use of coins in the military is much more nuanced. While many coins are still handed out as tokens of appreciation for a job well done, especially for those serving as part of a military operation, some administrators exchange them almost like business cards or autographs they can add to a collection. There are also coins that a soldier can use like an ID badge to prove they served with a particular unit. Still other coins are handed out to civilians for publicity, or even sold as a fund-raising tool.

The First Official Challenge Coin…Maybe

Although no one is certain how challenge coins came to be, one story dates back to World War I, when a wealthy officer had bronze medallions struck with the flying squadron’s insignia to give to his men. Shortly after, one of the young flying aces was shot down over Germany and captured. The Germans took everything on his person except the small leather pouch he wore around his neck that happened to contain his medallion.

The pilot escaped and made his way to France. But the French believed he was a spy, and sentenced him to execution. In an effort to prove his identity, the pilot presented the medallion. A French soldier happened to recognize the insignia and the execution was delayed. The French confirmed his identity and sent him back to his unit.

One of the earliest challenge coins was minted by Colonel “Buffalo Bill” Quinn, 17th Infantry Regiment, who had them made for his men during the Korean War. The coin features a buffalo on one side as a nod to its creator, and the Regiment’s insignia on the other side. A hole was drilled in the top so the men could wear it around their necks, instead of in a leather pouch.

The Challenge

Stories say that the challenge began in Germany after World War II. Americans stationed there took up the local tradition of conducting “pfennig checks.” The pfennig was the lowest denomination of coin in Germany, and if you didn’t have one when a check was called, you were stuck buying the beers. This evolved from a pfenning to a unit’s medallion, and members would "challenge" each other by slamming a medallion down on the bar. If any member present didn’t have his medallion, he had to buy a drink for the challenger and for anyone else that had their coin. If all the other members had their medallions, the challenger had to buy everyone drinks.

The Secret Handshake

In June 2011, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates toured military bases in Afghanistan before his impending retirement. Along the way, he shook hands with dozens of men and women in the Armed Forces in what, to the naked eye, appeared to be a simple exchange of respect. It was, in fact, a secret handshake with a surprise inside for the recipient—a special Secretary of Defense challenge coin.

Not all challenge coins are passed by secret handshake, but it has become a tradition that many uphold. It could have its origins in the Second Boer War, fought between the British and South African colonists at the turn of the 20th century. The British hired many soldiers of fortune for the conflict, who, due to their mercenary status, were unable to earn medals of valor. It was not unusual, though, for the commanding officer of those mercenaries to receive the accommodation instead. Stories say that non-commissioned officers would often sneak into the tent of an unjustly awarded officer and cut the medal from the ribbon. Then, in a public ceremony, they would call the deserving mercenary forward and, palming the medal, shake his hand, passing it to the soldier as a way of indirectly thanking him for his service.

Special Forces Coins

Challenge coins began to catch on during the Vietnam War. The first coins from this era were created by either the Army's 10th or 11th Special Forces Group and were little more than common currency with the unit’s insignia stamped on one side, but the men in the unit carried them with pride.

More importantly, though, it was a lot safer than the alternative—bullet clubs, whose members carried a single unused bullet at all times. Many of these bullets were given as a reward for surviving a mission, with the idea that it was now a “last resort bullet,” to be used on yourself instead of surrendering if defeat seemed imminent. Of course carrying a bullet was little more than a show of machismo, so what started off as handgun or M16 rounds, soon escalated to .50 caliber bullets, anti-aircraft rounds, and even artillery shells in an effort to one-up each other.

Unfortunately, when these bullet club members presented “The Challenge” to each other in bars, it meant they were slamming live ammunition down on the table. Worried that a deadly accident might occur, command banned the ordnance, and replaced it with limited edition Special Forces coins instead. Soon nearly every unit had their own coin, and some even minted commemorative coins for especially hard-fought battles to hand out to those who lived to tell the tale.

President (and Vice President) Challenge Coins

Starting with Bill Clinton, every president has had his own challenge coin and, since Dick Cheney, the vice president has had one, too.

There are usually a few different Presidential coins—one for the inauguration, one that commemorates his administration, and one available to the general public, often in gift shops or online. But there's one special, official presidential coin that can only be received by shaking the hand of the most powerful man in the world. As you can probably guess, this is the rarest and most sought-after of all challenge coins.

The President can hand out a coin at his own discretion, but they are usually reserved for special occasions, military personnel, or foreign dignitaries. It’s been said that George W. Bush reserved his coins for injured soldiers coming back from the Middle East. President Obama hands them out fairly often, most notably to soldiers that man the stairs on Air Force One.

Beyond the Military

Challenge coins are now being used by many different organizations. In the federal government, everyone from Secret Service agents to White House staff to the President's personal valets have their own coins. Probably the coolest coins are those for White House Military Aides—the people who carry the atomic football—whose coins are, naturally, in the shape of a football.

However, thanks in part to custom coin companies online, everyone’s getting in on the tradition. Today, it’s not uncommon for police and fire departments to have coins, as do many civic organizations, such as the Lions Club and the Boy Scouts. Even the Star Wars cosplayers of the 501st Legion, Harley Davidson riders, and Linux users have their own coins. Challenge coins have become a long-lasting, highly-collectible way to show your allegiance anytime, anyplace.


How the Russian Revolution brought the father of the helicopter to America

Posted On October 27, 2020 04:40:48

Aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky was designing bombers for the Russian Empire when World War I broke out. Nowadays, the company he founded in the United States makes the “choppers” that transport U.S. presidents. This is the story of how the “father of the helicopter” crossed the Atlantic and made it big — before designing the first aircraft to make regular flights across the major oceans.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Massive Maginot Line Failed to Stop Hitler

World War I absolutely devastated France. Of the roughly 8.5 million French soldiers mobilized in 1914 to fight Germany and the other Central Powers, more than 6 million became casualties, either killed, wounded or declared missing during four years of grueling trench warfare.

In the wake of that catastrophic war, the French government vowed to protect its vulnerable northeast border with Germany from any future attacks. With fresh memories of fighting and living in squalid, open-air trenches, the French spent a decade building a 300-mile (482-kilometer) series of underground fortifications that would be both impenetrable and comfortable to live in. Behind an imposing line of pop-up gun turrets, tank traps and 12-foot (3.6-meter) concrete walls were fully equipped subterranean military bases complete with mess halls, hospitals, recreation facilities and railway lines.

These impressive fortifications — 142 large artillery forts called ouvrages or "works," 352 fortified gun emplacements called "casemates," and 5,000 smaller bunkers and pillboxes — became known as the Maginot Line, named after the French politician André Maginot (pronounced Mah-ji-noh). The line wasn't Maginot's idea alone, but he helped push the ambitious, multimillion-franc project through parliament.

Despite its monumental concrete glory, which was the pride of interwar France, the Maginot Line ultimately wasn't able to stop Adolf Hitler's Nazi war machine from quickly overwhelming and occupying France in World War II. But does that mean that the Maginot Line was the colossal blunder that many historians have made it out to be?

Not according to Robert Kirchubel, a military historian with the FORCES Initiative at Purdue University.

"The Maginot Line was meant to stop a World War I-style attack of infantry and artillery, and it did what it was supposed to do," says Kirchubel, who's written multiple books on World War II military campaigns. The problem was that Hitler and his generals abandoned the "static" style of WWI fighting for a far more mobile blitzkrieg attack that punched a hole into France through Belgium and the Netherlands. "That's the part that fell apart for the Allies."

A Love of Fortresses

The Maginot Line was the brainchild of Marshal Joseph Joffre, a French WWI general, but it was hardly a new idea. The French had been building state-of-the-art fortresses and fortified cities along the German border for centuries.

"That's just what the French did," says Kirchubel. "The Maginot Line fit perfectly with this kind of thinking."

In the 17th century, from his luxurious palace at Versailles, Louis XIV oversaw the construction of citadels and fortresses meant to mark and protect the Sun King's territory. The genius behind these innovative fortifications was Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, who designed dozens of strongholds, including the magnificent fortified town of Neuf-Brisach in the contested Alsace-Lorraine region bordering Germany.

Fortress construction in France continued through the 19th century. After a humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the French built a ring of 19 heavily fortified military bases around the ancient city of Verdun in northeastern France near the borders with Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. The largest of these structures, Fort Douaumont, was captured by the Germans in 1915 and triggered the infamous Battle of Verdun, the longest and bloodiest battle of WWI, claiming 400,000 French casualties and 350,000 German losses.

"With the Maginot Line, Joffre's idea was to take these fortifications that France had had for 200 years and bring them into the mid-20th century," says Kirchubel.

Constructing an Unbreakable Wall of Defense

The Maginot Line took 10 years to build, starting in 1929. By the eve of WWII, the French had constructed a string of fortifications stretching from the Swiss Alps to the English Channel, but the heaviest defenses were along the 280-mile (450-kilometer) border with Germany.

The Germany-facing section of the Maginot Line presented a string of obstacles, traps and artillery forts that ran 16 miles (25 kilometers) deep in places. An advancing German army would first be spotted by camouflaged observation points hugging the German border. The enemy's position would be communicated to a cluster of 78 fire control stations that coordinated the French defense from hilltop outposts.

The fire control stations would give orders to the hundreds of anti-tank and heavy artillery positions that could pop out of the ground and fire from armored turrets. Behind them were minefields and tank traps made from row after row of porcupine-like iron girders that would cripple armored vehicles. French engineers even constructed emergency dams and levees that could flood the surrounding fields to further slow the German attack.

The last line of defense was the Maginot Line's massive ouvrages, each large enough to hold 500 to 1,000 permanent troops. These colossal concrete "works" packed heavy firepower and were connected to nearby stations by underground rail lines to shuttle men, weapons and supplies. While the accommodations weren't luxurious, the barracks and mess halls were a tremendous improvement over the mud, freezing cold and disease of WWI trenches.

Planning for the Wrong Kind of War

When Joffre, Maginot and others conceived of the Maginot Line, Germany was under tight military restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.

"The Maginot Line would have done just fine against a German army with no tanks, airplanes or heavy artillery," says Kirchubel, all of which were banned inside Germany after WWI.

But when Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in the early 1930s, they quickly backed out of the Treaty of Versailles and began equipping for a much different kind of war. While the Germans built a fleet of bombers and armored vehicles for their mobile blitzkrieg strategy, the French were putting the finishing touches on their very large and static underground fortresses.

"Maginot Line" has acquired a secondary meaning: a defensive barrier or strategy that inspires a false sense of security, according to Merriam-Webster. But this may not be a fair characterization.

Keep in mind, says Kirchubel, that the French didn't believe that the Maginot Line alone could win another war with Germany. The heavy fortifications were designed to block the most direct line of attack into France and avoid repeating what happened in WWI, when the German forces occupied large swaths of the strategically important Alsace-Lorraine region.

"Maginot and these other guys weren't dumb," says Kirchubel. "The Maginot Line was never meant to fight the war by itself. It was part of a bigger plan to force a German attack through Belgium. When the bigger plan went to crap, the Maginot Line went along with it."

The Nazis' End-run Around the Maginot Line

By the time Germany invaded Poland in 1939, it was clear to French military leaders that they had greatly underestimated the speed and ruthless efficiency of the German blitzkrieg. But it was too late to reorganize the entire French military in a matter of months. The French strategy was already set in millions of cubic feet of concrete.

The Nazis knew that the heart of the Maginot Line was nearly impenetrable, so they feinted attacks along the heavily fortified border while they planned for their massive 1940 invasion of France through the Netherlands and Belgium. The boldest and most pivotal German line of attack ran through the dense Ardennes Forest in Belgium, which both the French and the other Allies had dismissed as impassable.

The thick-walled forts and casemates of the Maginot Line withstood direct hits from German bombers as they were designed to do, but the real action happened far away from that solid line of defense. By the time the Germans crossed into French soil through Belgium, the fight was all but over.

"The French were beaten emotionally and spiritually," says Kirchubel. "They cashed in their chips. They fought for four years in WWI, but were done in a week in WWII." Just six weeks after Hitler began his land invasion of the country, France surrendered to Germany.

While most of the giant underground fortresses of the Maginot Line were abandoned or destroyed, you can visit a few of them, still in working order. Check out the Hackenberg Maginot Fort, now a military museum offering tours, and the Schoenenbourg Fort.


The Surprisingly Important Role China Played in WWI

While the Pacific theater was a major and well-known battleground of World War II, it may come as a surprise that Asian nations played a role in World War I. Both Japan and China actually declared war on Germany in hopes of gaining regional dominance. While China never sent troops into battle, its involvement in World War I was influential—and had impacts that stretched far beyond the war, going on to shape the country's future indelibly.

Under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, China was the most powerful nation in the East for nearly three centuries. But losing the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan in 1895 put an end to that. And the downhill slide didn’t end with losing the war a subsequent series of treaties divvied up chunks of China between Russia and Japan, a continuation of the creation of European concessions like Hong Kong or the French settlement in Shanghai.

Germany also used military force to insert itself into east Asian affairs. Capitalizing on the murder of two German missionaries, the country attacked and invaded the city of Qingdao in 1897, establishing what amounted to a German colony in Shandong province. The prospect of expelling Germany from the region and taking control themselves was enough to entice Japan to join the fight against Germany, making the Great War a global one in 1914.

Meanwhile in China, a wobbly republican state led by military general Yuan Shikai replaced the imperial system of governance in 1912. But local warlords and clashes with the nationalist party, Kuomintang (led by Sun Yat-sen), continued to threaten his position. “The Chinese people suffered political chaos, economic weakness, and social misery,” writes historian Xu Guoqi in Strangers On the Western Front. “But this was also a period of excitement, hope, high expectations, optimism and new dreams”—because China believed it could use the war as a way to reshape the geopolitical balance of power and attain equality with European nations.

There was only one problem: At first, none of the Allies wanted China to join the fight. Although China declared itself neutral at the start of the war in August 1914, President Shikai had secretly offered British minister John Jordan 50,000 troops to retake Qingdao. Jordan refused the offer, but Japan would soon use its own armed forces to oust the Germans from the city, and remained there throughout the war. By February 1916, with men dying in huge numbers in Europe, Jordan came around to the idea of Chinese aid and told British officials that China could “join with the Entente provided that Japan and the other Allies accepted her as a partner.”

Japan, however, refused to allow Chinese soldiers to fight, hoping to remain the powerhouse in the East.

If China couldn’t fight directly, Shikai’s advisors decided, the next-best option was a secret show of support toward the Allies: they would send voluntary non-combatant workers, largely from Shandong, to embattled Allied countries.

Starting in late 1916, China began shipping out thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia. Those laborers would repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies and munitions, and help to literally reshape the war’s battle sites.  Since China was officially neutral, commercial businesses were formed to provide the labor, writes Keith Jeffery in 1916: A Global History.

Chinese laborers filled a number of positions in World War I, including at tank facilities like this one. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“A lot of those trenches weren’t dug by the [Allied] soldiers, they were dug by Chinese  laborers,” says Bruce Elleman, professor of maritime history at the U.S. Naval War College and author of  Wilson and China: A Revised History of the Shandong Question . Sending workers—mostly illiterate peasants—was one way for China to prove it deserved a seat at the table whenever the war ended and terms were agreed upon. But even after a year of supplying labor, their contribution remained largely unrecognized diplomatically.

It was more than just prestige that spurred China to enter the conflict: The volatile nation dreamed of regaining complete control of the Shandong province. Located on the eastern shore of China along the Yellow Sea, the region has a rich history as the birthplace of Confucius diplomat Wellington Koo to call it the “cradle of Chinese civilization.”

In 1915, the year after Japan took Qingdao from Germany, Japan imposed a new treaty on China: The Twenty-One Demands. The highly unpopular treaty required China to cede control of even more territory, including in Shandong and Manchuria. If China participated in World War I, its leaders reasoned, maybe the country could win back this mainland territory.

The United States’ entrance to WWI shifted the political dynamic of the Allies, with U.S. officials supporting China’s cause with an eye toward the war’s end. As Elleman says, “[The U.S. was] hoping at the post-war conference to be able to resolve these diplomatic issues [between China and Japan and Germany],” since President Wilson wanted to take a leadership role in the negotiations and form the League of Nations.

China’s position became more fraught when Germany announced its strategy of unrestricted submarine warfare. More than 500 Chinese laborers aboard the French ship Athos were killed in February 1917 when a U-boat struck the ship. Finally, encouraged by the U.S. and believing it was the only sure way to be considered in the eventual peace agreements, China declared war on Germany on August 14, 1917—though little changed in the support they provided, since they had already been sending laborers.

By the end of the war, Chinese workers would rank as the largest and longest-serving non-European contingent in World War I. France recruited 37,000 Chinese workers, while the United Kingdom took in 94,500. The men sent abroad would earn an estimated total of $2.2 billion, reports the South China Morning Post. Along the way, so many of these workers died or sustained injuries that China established a Bureau of Overseas Chinese Workers and convinced the U.K. to provide compensation for the wounded men. 

In other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“China had prepared to attend the post-war peace conference as early as 1915,” says Xu. When the war at last ended in November 1918, China planned its delegation for the Paris Peace Conference, hoping to finally achieve full control of its mainland territory.

But China was given only two seats at the Paris Peace Conference to Japan’s five, since the latter had contributed combat troops. Matters only devolved from there. Some of the European delegates were unfamiliar with the Twenty-One Demands, writes Julian Theseira in Global Histories, and the Western powers ultimately awarded Shandong to Japan the Western diplomats believed they should honor the treaty Japan pressured China to sign after taking Shandong. China saw the move as a rejection of its demand to be recognized as an equal player in global politics, and as an affront to its sovereignty.

“China was deeply angry at the Versailles Treaty and was the only country at the postwar peace conference to refuse to put a signature on it,” Xu said. A student-led protest in Beijing called the May Fourth Movement was organized in response to outrage over the peace talks. It called for political and social changes and, as Xu writes, was a sign of China’s turn towards socialism in 1921 with the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.

Elleman goes even further in stating the importance of the Shandong issue. “They talk about these forks in the road, and this is one. If this whole Shandong controversy had not happened, China might never have become Communist,” Elleman says. He argues that leaving the Shandong question unresolved, at least in China’s eyes, meant they mistrusted European governments going forward and felt more attracted to socialism. “It’s one of the most important pieces in modern Chinese history.” 


Why did the Golden age of piracy die out?

As the title says i wanna know why piracy died out. I can't think of a reason of this to happen, as the pirates only grew in numbers. And the technology of the pirates were equal to those of the Spanish and British. Maybe the tactics improved for the British and Spanish, but i would like a good explanation on this. I'm Sorry for my English as it is not my native language.

Civilisation happened, pirates at see need safe harbour to hide replenish and repair. As the influence of the world powers grew in and around cuba it made it harder for pirates to find shelter. There was also the fact that as life improved in the colonies it became less appealing to risk your life for some baubles. Lastly their tech wasn't really the same.. The British navy was better supplied and equiped not to mention far more organised and bigger. If you look at current piracy around Africa. The factors that drive that are similar.

I think a lot of people romanticize piracy in the golden age beyond the reality. If you look at the actual lifestyles of most pirates, it isn't all that different from the career Somalian crews.

You could argue that Captain Phillips is the best pirate movie of all time.

Colonialism around the Caribbean was what made it very hard for pirates to find a sfae haven.

The British navy was incredibly well supplied, equipped, very well organized, and their tactics were vastly better than the pirates' tactics.

And current piracy around Africa is primarily due to mass poverty. From what it seems like, the pirates in Somalia become pirates in the hope of a better life for them and their families.

Low populations and competing nations.

At the early stages of colonization, there weren't many people around. In 1685, for example, Cartegena was a major Spanish outpost in the New World. But it only had 7,000 inhabitants. A few years later, a major pirate raid occurred - but they only needed 1,000 men to sack the town. Smaller towns could be taken with much smaller forces. The native populations had been decimated by diseases as well.

Then the many islands and ports were controlled by different nations. The English and French attacked the Spanish (and it was approved of by the central government), the Dutch attacked the English and Spanish, the French attacked the Dutch, and so on. The home states said "as long as you attack the other guy, go for it." Lots and lots of ports took the same philosophy - "as long as you aren't attacking us, you are welcome to come here and spend your money." It meant lots of safe havens. And the spanish colonial loot meant lots of opportunities for plunder.

Changing attitudes in the home countries did pirates in. In the 1600s, a successful pirate would be celebrated at home ("Captain" Henry Morgan was appointed governor of Jamaica after his success). In the 1700s, pirates were seen as more likely to be a general menace - there was a lot more English people and English merchant ships in the area, and pirates were seen as a threat, rather than an opportunity to attack the Spanish. Once the English cracked down on pirates after about 1725 and started executing them, it fell off quickly.


Fort McHenry’s most active time period in its long and varied history was not the War of 1812, but during the First World War.

It is hard to believe now, but at one time, the Fort was a very busy military base. A 3,000-bed receiving hospital was constructed around the old Star Fort. It was a facility through which more than 20,000 wounded and sick soldiers from World War I would pass for treatment on their way back to duty or civilian life. Some patients stayed two weeks, others two years.

View of just some of the buildings constructed around the Star Fort for General Hospital No. 2.

Construction and Staffing


Construction started on what became known as U. S. Army General Hospital No. 2 in 1917 and by the time it was through over 100 structures had been built on the 40 plus acres – covering virtually every foot of ground. It was the largest receiving hospital in the country.

To take care of the soldier-patients was a staff which included some 200 doctors, 300 nurses, 300 medical corpsmen, and 100 civilian hospital aides.

Two soldiers who received facial reconstruction surgeries.

Surgical Center


As time went by, Fort McHenry became less a receiving hospital and more a surgical center. Army doctors, working with local medical schools and hospitals, developed many new surgical techniques. Much medical history was made here, particularly in neuro-surgery. Great advances were made in plastic surgery as well. Soldiers who had lost portions of their faces left the hospital with new noses, new ears, and other miraculous results of the then new surgical techniques. Facial reconstruction surgeries, as they were called, would allow these soldiers to have as close to a normal life as possible after suffering such gruesome injuries.

Occupational Therapy


Great strides were also made in occupational therapy. The men were taught new job skills that could be used once they were dismissed from the hospital. Subjects taught in the Fort’s vocational school included telegraphy, metal work, basketry, commercial art, shorthand and typing. Carpentry, upholstery, auto repair, bookkeeping and even knitting were also offered to keep the wounded occupied and provide them with a possible means of livelihood. It was the first serious attempt to give disabled American veterans real employment.

Probably the spirit of the hospital’s rehabilitation program was best depicted in an illustration on the anniversary cover of "The Trouble Buster," Fort McHenry’s own magazine, printed on its own presses by it own patients.

Nationwide Flu Epidemic

Women played a major role in the military during the First World War. Nurses, dressed in their starched white uniforms and caps, were employed by the Army. Employing their skills and caring ways, they played an important role in helping thousands of their soldier-patients on the road to a speedy recovery.

They would be sorely tested in 1919 when a flu epidemic rampant throughout the country took a heavy toll at the hospital – among both patients and staff. Some 300 persons came down with it, and at least 100 of them died. The nurses, while exposing themselves to the risks of the flu, did their best to take care of those patients wounded as well as those affected by the flu. They made rounds of all the patients four times daily, sponging faces and giving cool drinks of milk or orange juice.

President Warren G. Harding shaking hands with patients of General Hospital No. 2.

Presidential Visit

On June 14, 1922, the patients and hospital personnel were treated with a visit by their Commander-in-Chief, President Warren G. Harding. He was at the Fort on this special Flag Day to dedicate the newly erected statue of Orpheus, a memorial to Francis Scott Key and the defenders of Baltimore in 1814. The statue can be seen at the park today.

The Hospital Closes

The last of the patients of General Hospital No. 2 were released in 1923. For the first time in six years, not one soldier was in Fort McHenry for medical treatment. The War Department would make the Fort a National Park in 1925 and tear down the empty, decaying hospital buildings two years later. The old brick Star Fort and its silent cannon were all that remained of the 125 years of military occupation. A new phase in the life of the old fort was about to begin – that of national park.


Watch the video: Πως προδόθηκαν οι Έλληνες Κομμουνιστές; - Η ιστορία ξέρει (December 2022).

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