The French cruiser Léon Gambetta is sunk by Georg Johannes von Trapp

April 27th, 2015

The Austro-Hungarian submarine U-5 captained by Georg Johannes von Trapp sinks the French cruiser Léon Gambetta south of the Otranto Straits.  Von Trapp would gain imortal fame with the creation of a movie about his and his children's life, The Sound of Music.

Beginning of the Armenian Genocide

April 24th, 2015

The traditional date marking the start of the Armenian Genocide with the deportation of Armenian intellectuals by Ottoman officials in Constantinople.  

Rupert Brooke dies of sepsis from an infected mosquito bite on a hospital ship in the Mediterranean

April 23rd, 2015

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Adolphe Pégoud becomes first flying ace

April 21st, 2015

Adolphe Pégoud becomes the first war ace by shooting down his fifth aircraft (he would shoot another aircraft down later this month).  Few pilots in the war would become aces, and it was generally recognized as a significant accomplishment.

The Thrasher Incident

March 28th, 2015

On 28 March, 1915, a British steamship, the RMS Falaba, was torpedoed during the unrestricted submarine warfare campaign by German U-Boat U-28 operated by Commander Freiherr Georg-Günther von Forstner.  An early ocean-going U27 class boat, U-28 was a veteran on its third war patrol when it encounted the British steamer.

When the casualty report came in from the Galaba it was discovered that one American was on board, a 31-year old engineer named Leon Thrasher.  Feeling they had a propaganda victory on their hands, the British foriegn office put the name of the dead American out into the press.  Soon the incident was being called a massacre of innocents and president Woodrow Wilson of the United States was being urged to act.

Just when the American president appeared prepared to issue a note that would lead to war with Germany, the facts of the sinking came to light.  U-28 had in fact acted according to the rules of war.  She had approached the Falaba and fired a warning shot from its deck guns, asking the captian of the ship to offload its passengers to safety before the submarine engaged her.  The British Captain, who had been carrying 13-tons of illegal explosive in her holds) chose to flee and radio British patrol craft of the location of the submarine.  Still not firing, the submarine approached as close as it could, making vocal contact and pleading with the merchant to allow the passengers to escape.  When this was refused the ship was fired upon.  Unfortunately, according to testimony, the first shells designed to cripple the ship instead landed in the illegal stash of explosives and blew out of the water.

While unrestructed submarine warfare was galling to the United States, attempts to manipulate US opinion by the British had the opposite affect on the Americans, causing them to approach more egregious and deadly incidents like the Lusitania with a more jaundiced eye.