PART XI—THE WAR IN THE AIR
DEVELOPMENT OF THE STRATEGY AND TACTICS OF AIR FIGHTING
The student or observer of the Great European War inevitably must be impressed with its impersonal character. Everywhere masses and organizations rule supreme, and men and material are thought of and used as aggregations rather than as individuals and units for destruction and defense. The individual, save as he gives himself up to the great machine, everywhere is inconspicuous, and while no less courage is demanded than in the days of the short-range weapons and personal combat, yet the heroic note of personal valor and initiative in most cases is unheard, and the individual is sunk in the mass. One is almost tempted to believe that chivalry and individual heroism no longer bulk large in the profession of arms, and that in the place of the knightly soldier there is the grim engineer at telescope or switchboard, touching a key to produce an explosion that will melt away yards of trenches and carry to eternity not tens but hundreds and thousands of his fellows; there are barriers charged with deadly currents; guns hurling tons of metal at a foe invisible to the gunners, whose position is known only by mathematical deductions from observers at a distance.
All of this and much more the engineer has brought to twentieth-century warfare, and the grim fact remains that trained masses are used, made and destroyed in vain attempts at an object often unknown to the individual.
Accordingly, when we turn to the work of the aviators we pass back from the consideration of the mass to the individual. Whatever may be the airman's convictions as to the ethics of the Great War, always his duty and his adversary are well defined, and it is his personal devotion, his skill and daring, his resourcefulness and intrepidity that are to-day playing no small part on the battle fronts of Europe. He too is an engineer with scientific and technical knowledge and training that control the most delicate of machines ever at the mercy of the elements, and engineer and scientist have supplied him with instruments and equipments embodying the results of refined research and investigation. Withal, he is a soldier, yet not one of a mere mass aggregation, but an individual on whose faithful and intelligent performance of his duty mid extreme perils the issue of a great cause may depend. But not entirely a free-lance, for experience in aerial warfare has shown that in the air, as on the ground, harmony of action and plan of operation avail and contribute to success. Consequently, with the development of military aeronautics during the course of the war, the work of the flying corps, with training and practical experience, gradually became more systematic and far more efficient.
While many of their achievements were distinctly sensational, involving extreme personal daring and heroism, yet usually the general operations were as methodical and prearranged as other forms of military activity carried on by the different armies on the ground below. No longer were single aeroplanes used exclusively, but large numbers of machines were brought to bear, with the pilots drilled not only in the manipulation of their individual machines, but to work with others in military formations and groups, while increased attention was paid to weapons and the protection of vulnerable parts.
The flying craft cooperated constantly with the intelligence departments of the various staffs, observing the enemy positions, the distribution and movement of troops, and photographing the territory, and their observations were not only useful but essential to the artillery engaged so extensively in indirect fire. As their work became more practical and understood, it was the more appreciated and its volume increased. Indeed, by the summer of 1915 the aviation corps of the various belligerent armies in Europe had settled down to more or less of a routine of observation, reconnaissance, and patrol, enlivened by bombing expeditions against the enemy and frequent aerial combats. What once would have been considered feats of usual intrepidity and skill on the part of the aviators, long since had become commonplace, and the standard of operation developed to a degree that at the beginning of the war would have been considered phenomenal.
Reconnaissance was actively in progress on all of the battle fronts, combats in the air were more frequent, bombing expeditions were conducted across the frontiers, and with a constantly increasing supply of new and improved machines, and freshly trained aviators, the work progressed, so that before the end of 1915, on the part of the Allies at least, there was probably ten times as much flying as at the beginning of the year. Even when the heavy fogs pervading the battle fields of western Europe in the early part of 1916 prevented other operations, reconnaissance was actively carried on, and this, with the routine work of determining ranges, positions, etc., for the artillery, in active progress, gave little quiet to the airmen. With the development of the war there was a constantly increasing demand on the skill of the aviators.
Many of the places from which it was necessary to begin flights did not furnish good starting, and often the same condition held as regards the landing places. Furthermore, flying was attended with much greater danger, with a corresponding increase in fatalities, on account of the improvements in the antiaircraft guns and ranging apparatus and the skill of the gunners. Withal, all official reports agree in stating that the proportion of casualties was smaller in the air service than in other branches of the service. There has been an ever-increasing number of combats in the air. Often when aeroplanes were observed in reconnaissance the enemy would make an attack upon them in force and endeavor to destroy the machines. Indeed, this was a marked tendency of the war, and the record from the first of August would show not only an increased number of duels between individual machines, but of skirmishes between air patrols, and contests in which a number of machines would attack in force opposing aeroplanes.
As the war developed there was an increased tendency toward the tactical maneuvering of a number of aeroplanes, a greater frequency of bombing raids, and these attempts naturally led to reprisals as well as to defensive efforts. Often the aeroplanes designed for dropping bombs were heavy and powerful machines, not armed primarily for attack, but depending for protection upon one or more fighting aeroplanes of greater maneuvering power which accompanied them and carried machine guns and other weapons. In these bombing raids the tendency was to use a number of machines. In the raids of October 2, 1915, on the stations of Vosiers and Challeranges, sixty-five machines were employed. A few days later a fleet of eighty-four French aeroplanes made a raid on the German lines, starting from an aerodrome near Nancy. Since then raids by large flocks of aeroplanes have become common.
One important objective of such attacks was the destruction of the enemy's communication, and the bombing of railway trains bringing up supplies or reenforcements, became a most important feature. Often this involved considerable daring on the part of the pilot and his companion, as to insure a successful dropping of bombs the aeroplanes had to descend to comparatively low levels. The British Royal Flying Corps on several occasions dropped bombs from a height hardly more than 500 feet, and in the operations at the end of September, 1915, within five days, nearly six tons of explosives were dropped on moving trains with considerable damage.
The most striking feature, perhaps in the work of the aeroplanes, was the increased height of flight which developing conditions made necessary. At the beginning of the war it was assumed that overhead reconnaissance could be carried on in safety at a height of from 4,000 to 6,000 feet above the surface of the earth. At such altitude it was assumed that the aeroplane was safe from terrestrial artillery on account of offering so small a target, as well as on account of its speed and the difficulty of determining its range, but this condition of affairs did not long remain. Both armies, and particularly the Germans, acquired experience in the use of their antiaircraft guns, and improved weapons were placed at their disposal, so that it was not long before the gunners could cause their shrapnel to burst with deadly effect some three miles in vertical height above the ground, and up to 10,000 feet their shooting compelled the admiration of the aviators of the Allies.
Such efficient gunnery practice, of course, contributed to the loss of life among the aviators and the destruction of machines, notwithstanding the constantly increased height of flying. In some cases aeroplanes managed to reach the ground safely with as many as 300 bullet holes, but in other cases a single bullet sufficed to kill the aviator or to hit a vital part, and this was a compelling reason for armoring the aeroplanes and protecting their engines and controls.
All of this naturally produced a higher standard of skill in the European armies than was ever before realized, and the training of new aviators, especially in the light of war experience, was carried on in large part by convalescent members of the aviation corps who had seen actual service in the field, so that the quota of recruits was not only maintained but supplied, trained to a high degree of efficiency.
The progress of the war marked changes in the tactics of the aerial services of the various armies. The French and English believed that in the course of the war the Germans had lost a number of their most skilled and intrepid aviators, and that the expert pilots were held in readiness for more serious effort rather than being sacrificed for any contests of doubtful outcome. The Germans for a time became more cautious in their fights over the French lines, and in the summer and autumn of 1915 seldom crossed. This probably was due in large part to the increased number of aeroplanes at the disposal of the French and English. Apparently for a number of weeks there was a decrease in the reckless flights on the part of the Germans and desire to give battle, and more attention was paid to developing tactical efficiency and securing military results. Often their aeroplanes operated in connection with the artillery, and in many cases their object was to draw the Allies' machines within range of the German antiaircraft artillery, which was efficiently served.
A complete chronicle of the flights and air battles of the period of the war under review would contain a record where hardly a day passed without some flight or contest of greater or less significance. A duel between two hostile airmen might be of less importance than an exchange of shots between members of opposing outposts, yet it might involve heroic fighting and a skillful manipulation of aeroplane and machine gun, when one or both of the contestants might be thrown headlong to the ground. So for these pages we may select some of the more significant of the battles in the air with the understanding that many of those ignored were not without their vital interest.
ZEPPELIN RAIDS—ATTACKS ON GERMAN ARMS FACTORIES—GERMAN OVER-SEA RAIDS
The second year of the war opened with a spirited combat between the German and French aeroplanes, on August 1, 1915, when six attacking German machines engaged fifteen French machines over Chateau Salins. This fight, which at the time was widely discussed, lasted three-quarters of an hour, and as the French reenforcements came the Germans retreated to their own lines, though it was reported that several of the French machines were disabled and forced to land. Regarding this contest the opinion was expressed that the French were inadequately armed to fight the Germans, and that the latter were not driven back until armed scouts had joined the French. Furthermore, it was believed that the German aeroplanes were more heavily armed than those previously employed, and represented a new and more powerful type of machine. If the French suffered in this battle for lack of armament, the lesson was taken to heart, for the following week a French squadron of thirty-two units, including bombing machines convoyed by a flotilla of armed scouts (avions de chasse) made an attack on the station and factories of Saarbruecken.
There was air war over sea as well as over land. On August 3, 1915, a squadron of Russian seaplanes attacked a German gunboat near Windau and forced her to run ashore, while the same squadron attacked a Zeppelin and two German seaplanes, one of which was shot down. The Russians the following day attacked Constantinople and dropped a number of bombs on the harbor fortifications. That the advantage was not entirely with the Allies at this time was shown by the report that on August 10, 1915, a Turkish seaplane attacked an ally submarine near Boulair. The Russian seaplanes were again successful on August 10, 1915, when they participated in the repulse of the Germans off the Gulf of Riga, where they attempted to land troops. The Russians had merely small sea craft such as torpedo boats and submarines in this engagement, but their seaplanes proved very effective, and the Germans retired with a cruiser and two torpedo boats damaged.
After the attack by German Zeppelins on the east coast of England in June, 1915, there was a lull in the activity of the German airships. Count Zeppelin had stated early in the spring that in August fifteen airships of a new type capable of carrying at least two tons of explosives would be available, and accordingly, when a squadron of five Zeppelins were sighted off Vlieland, near the entrance of the Zuyder Zee, pointed for England, it was realized that attempted aerial invasion was being resumed in earnest. These airships bombed war vessels in the Thames, the London docks, torpedo boats near Harwich, and military establishments on the Humber, with the result, slight in its military importance, of some twenty-eight casualties and a number of fires due to incendiary bombs. This attack encountered resistance and counterattacks from the British aerial services, not without effect, but lacking in positive achievement. One Zeppelin was damaged by the gunfire of the land defenses, and upon her return an Ally aeroplane squadron from Dunkirk attacked the disabled airship and finally blew her up after she had fallen into the sea off Ostend.
It was realized, particularly by the British, that the best way to meet the Zeppelins was by aeroplane attack, yet on the raid just described, the great airships entirely escaped the British aviators. This Zeppelin raid was followed by a second on the night of August 12-13, 1915, which was directed against the military establishment at Harwich. Six people were killed and seventeen wounded by the bombs, and the post office was set on fire by an incendiary bomb. Aside from this, damage was limited. On August 17 and 18, 1915, a squadron of four Zeppelins again attacked the English east coast, and their bombs killed ten persons and wounded thirty-six. Once again the airships were able to escape the British air patrols and made their escape apparently without damage, though one, the L-10, while flying over Vlieland, Holland, was fired upon by Dutch troops.
An important effect of the Zeppelin raids was to bring the war directly to the experience of the British public, and the effect on recruiting as well as in arousing an increased national spirit for defense was marked. On the other hand, in Germany the Zeppelin raids produced great elation, and the German populace anticipated that the aerial invasion of Great Britain would contribute materially toward the conclusion of the war.
In the early summer of 1915 there had been rather less activity on the war front in eastern France and Flanders, especially on the part of the Germans, and as later developments proved, they apparently were engaged in experiments with new types of machines and engines. There was also in this time a manifestation of increased skill on the part of the German air pilots, so that when the new machines were brought out they were handled with skill and ease, especially when climbing to the upper air and dodging the shells from antiaircraft guns of the Allies.
In the meantime, and especially during August, 1915, the French began to develop bombing attacks against German arms and ammunition factories, railway junctions, and other military establishments, on a scale never before attempted in aerial warfare. Toward the middle of the month as many as eighty-four French aeroplanes were assembled for a flight over the German lines, and so carefully were these aviators trained that in less than four minutes the eighty-four aeroplanes were in the sky, arranged in perfect tactical formation. On this particular occasion a reconnaissance was made in force, and the various evolutions and the distributions of the machines were carefully tried. With such practice, on August 25, 1915, a French aerial squadron, including sixty-two aviators, flew over the heights of Dilligen in Rhenish Prussia, thirty miles southeast of Treves, and dropped more than 150 bombs, thirty of which were of large caliber. This raid, while successful in many respects, was not without damage, for the French lost four aeroplanes. One fell to earth on fire near Bolzhen with the pilot and observer killed. A second was captured by the Germans, together with its occupants, near Romilly, a third was forced to land near Arracourt, north of Luneville, and was destroyed by German artillery, and the fourth landed within range of the German guns near Moevruns, south of Nomeny, behind the French front. On this very day a second French squadron bombed the German camps of Pannes and Baussant, starting fires, and discharged bombs over other German stations and bivouacs. In Argonne stations were bombarded as well as the aviation park of Vitry-en-Artois. Allied fleets of French, British, and Belgian aeroplanes, both of the land and sea services, comprising some sixty machines in all, bombarded the wood of Houthulst and set a number of fires.
It must not be inferred that at this time there was any lack of individual effort or achievement. Often bombs were dropped at important stations on lines of communication, and on August 26, 1915, a poisoned gas plant at Dornach was bombed by a French aeroplane and ten shells dropped.
On the other side, during the month of August, 1915, and particularly toward the end, raiding expeditions were organized by the Germans, and on August 28, 1915, an attack on Paris was organized, in which six German aeroplanes were to take part. This furnished a striking test of the French aerial defenses, for none of the German aeroplanes was able to get near Paris, and in the attempt one was shot to pieces by a French gun plane which overtook the German and riddled the machine with bullets, causing it to fall in flames with the pilot incinerated. The German aeroplanes were first discovered by the French scouts as they flew over the French battle front at so great a speed and height that attack from the ground from the parks near the battle lines was impossible. The alarm was given by telephone, however, while north of Paris the French patrol flotilla was found in readiness. The Germans were forced to retreat, and in addition to the aeroplane shot down, as already mentioned, another was fired upon after it had dropped five bombs on Montmorency.
On September 3, 1915, a raid nearly 150 miles from the French base was made by two French aviators on Donaueschingen and Marbach in Bavaria. On the same day in retaliation for the German bombardment at Luneville and Compiegne the French air service sent out a squadron of nineteen aeroplanes over the town of Treves, which dropped about 100 shells. The same squadron, after returning to its base, proceeded in the afternoon to drop fifty-eight shells on the station at Dommary and on Baroncour.
During September, 1915, the Germans resumed over-sea raids, and naval airships attacked the city of London, with results considered generally satisfactory, as German bombs were dropped on the western part of the city, the factories at Norwich, and the harbor and iron works near Middlesbrough. In this raid, made by three Zeppelins on the night of September 8-9, 1915, the British reported as a result 20 killed, 14 seriously wounded, 74 slightly wounded. The Zeppelins flew over Trafalgar Square, one of the innermost places of London, and were clearly visible from the streets. They were attacked by antiaircraft guns, and by aeroplanes, but the latter were unable to locate the airships, whose bombs, both incendiary and explosive, fell on buildings and in the streets. Later in the month of September other Zeppelin raids occurred over various parts of the eastern countries of England.
On September 22, 1915, French aviators made a spectacular raid and shelled the royal palace and station at Stuttgart in the kingdom of Wuerttemburg. This was partly in retaliation for the bombarding by the Germans of open towns and civilian populations, and in the course of the attack about 100 shells were dropped on the royal palace and the station, killing, according to German reports, four persons, and wounding a number of soldiers and civilians, but without doing important material damage. Antiaircraft opened fire on the French raiders and they were forced to retire. In this attack the French machines were painted with the German distinguishing marks, with the result that after their attack a German airman arriving at Stuttgart was fired on by the German troops until he was recognized as one of their own officers, fortunately landing unhurt near the town.
During the first three weeks in September, 1915, the Royal Flying Corps, with the British army in the field, was very active, and there were forty air duels in eighteen days. During the first three weeks four monoplanes were known to have been destroyed, and at least seven others sent heavily to earth, and all survivors were, of course, forced to retire to their own lines.
One notable contest by a British pilot took place one morning when he beat off the first four German machines that had come to attack him, one after the other, but by the time of the onslaught of the fifth, he had exhausted all of his machine-gun and revolver ammunition. The British airman proceeded to go through the motions of aiming and firing his revolver, and the German pilot not realizing that the weapon was useless, after firing a number of shots at him, retired, so that the British officer was able to finish his reconnoitering and return to his own lines.
On September 7, 1915, a furious battle in the plain sight of thousands of soldiers occurred in midair, and resulted in the destruction of a German aeroplane, which had been particularly active in ranging the German guns, and had circled and signaled above the British positions, apparently with considerable effect. A British aeroplane straightway went out and attacked the German at a height of 9,000 feet above the latter's lines, and the duel was in clear sight of the armies. Every form of maneuver known to the expert pilot was indulged in, and in the meantime, both foes were shooting at each other as rapidly as possible. Finally the German aeroplane was seen to fall erratically at an angle, nose downward, that indicated its probable destruction.
On September 13, 1915, two German aeroplanes were brought down by the British within their lines, one of which fought a most thrilling battle before it succumbed. It was a large biplane of considerable speed, armed with two machine guns, one fore and one aft. Flying over the British lines, it was sighted by the English, and a similar type aeroplane attacked. A shot hit the German machine in the gasoline tank, putting the motor out of commission, and, notwithstanding their rapid fall, the aviators maintained their firing until the end. The machine crashed to the earth, and both pilot and observer were killed, but the aeroplane itself was not badly damaged. On the same day, September 13, 1915, a German aeroplane visited the coast of Kent and dropped bombs, which resulted in damage to a house and injured four persons before it was chased off by two British naval aeroplanes.
Regarding the British aviation service, Field Marshal Sir John French, in a dispatch to the secretary of state for war, said with special reference to the fighting on September 25, 1915, at Artois, "that the wing of the Royal Flying Corps attached to the Third Army performed valuable work, and not only in times of actual battle, but throughout the summer. They continuously cooperated with the artillery, photographing the positions of the enemy, bombing their communications, and reconnoitering far over hostile country." In the period under review by the field marshal, he stated that there had been more than 240 combats in the air, and in nearly every case the British pilots had to seek out the Germans behind the German lines, where their aeroplanes were aided by the fire of the movable antiaircraft guns, and that they were successful in bringing down four German machines behind the British trenches, and at least twelve in the German lines, as well as putting out of action many others more or less damaged.
While considerable has been made of the Zeppelins, the French airships were also active during the war. One of the latter craft of this type, the Alsace, having a capacity of 23,000 cubic meters (30,000 cubic yards), on the night of September 30 and October 1, 1915, bombarded the junction of Amagne-Lucquy, and the stations of Attigny and Vouziers on the trunk-line railroad going through Luxemburg and the Ardennes, which was the main supply line for the whole German line from Verdun to the neighborhood of Novon. This airship made its journey and returned safely. However, three days later, in a cruise in the Reathel district, it was forced to land, and the crew were captured by the Germans.
On October 3, 1915, a group of French aeroplanes started out to attack Luxemburg, where the kaiser on his return from Russia had established his headquarters. The station was bombarded at the railroad bridge and also military buildings. The "group" that was used for this work consisted of three flotillas and a flotilla leader, that is, a total of nineteen aeroplanes.
ATTACKS ON LONDON—BOMBARDMENT OF ITALIAN PORTS—AEROPLANE AS COMMERCE DESTROYER
On the evening of October 13, 1915, one of the most noted of the Zeppelin raids over Great Britain occurred, with London as the objective. The airships flew very high to avoid searchlights and gunfire, thus interfering with the accuracy of the bomb dropping, and in only one case was damage done to property connected with the conduct of the war. The darkening of the city and the various protective measures required high flying, so that the dropping of bombs was more or less at random. The raid occurred in the early evening, and while hundreds of thousands of persons heard the bursting bombs and the guns, there was no panic, and the majority of the citizens took shelter as they had been warned officially. An investigation of the damage the next morning showed five distinct areas where bombs containing high explosives had been dropped, and the principal damage was where the explosion of the bombs falling into subways containing gas and water pipes had ignited the former. In one case a number of bombs were dropped on a suburban area where there were no aerial defenses or searchlights, but in few cases were houses actually struck or seriously damaged. Most of the damage was done to people in the streets, and the effect on buildings, while serious, possessed no military importance, and fires produced by incendiary bombs were readily extinguished. The London police officials repeated the warning to the citizens to remain within doors during any subsequent air raids and advising them to keep at hand supplies of water and sand as a safeguard against incendiary bombs.
In the raid of German Zeppelins over the British Isles on the night of October 13-14, 1915, and the attack on London, forty-five were killed and 114 wounded. It was reported during November that Great Britain proposed to construct fifty dirigibles within two years to meet the Zeppelin menace, and to construct each year a sufficient number to secure complete mastery of the air for England. The attack produced a degree of indignation and irritation that was more than proportional to the damage done, and the Government was criticized for the inadequacy of the protective measures.
After these air raids on Great Britain there was a lull in such activities, but it was realized by the English that with the opening of spring these attacks probably would be carried on with greater vigor and determination, as there would be an increased number both of Zeppelins and Schuette-Lanz airships. The atmospheric conditions pervading the British Isles formed as important a defense against airship attacks for almost half the year as actual military measures. Several times fogs and high winds prevented attempts of this kind, and it was realized by the German air pilots that unless weather conditions were favorable flights should not be attempted. Therefore, during the late autumn and winter of 1915-1916, they concerned themselves with problems of construction and equipment, and the training of air pilots rather than actual attempts.
In the meantime the Germans suffered by the destruction of several Zeppelins. One was destroyed with its crew by colliding with a dummy on October 18, 1915, near Maubeuge, and the Z-28 was lost near Hamburg, and a third, whose number was unknown, at Bitterfeld, Saxony. On December 5, 1915, the Russians brought down another Zeppelin near Kalkun on the Libau-Romin railway, locating it with a powerful searchlight and destroying it by artillery fire. The airship previously had escaped several attacks after being caught by the searchlights, but when it appeared for a second time over Kalkun, with its motors silent, it was hit by gunfire. Another accident at Tondern resulted in the destruction of the Zeppelin Z-22 during the first week in December, 1915, this being the same station at which the Z-19 was destroyed in the previous month. The Z-22 had been in service only a few weeks, and was of the latest type, with invisible gondolas, platforms at the top of the envelope, and detachable rafts for use in case of accident while crossing the sea. Its destruction was due to the accidental explosion of a bomb while the airship was leaving the shed, and nearly all the forty members of the crew were killed or wounded. Still another Zeppelin was reported to have been destroyed by a storm in Belgium about December 12, 1915.
On November 15, 1915, two Austrian aeroplanes bombarded Brescia, killing seven persons and wounding ten, all of whom were civilians, and some of them women. None of the bombs hit any of the arms factories of the city, which is about fifteen miles west of the southern part of the Lago di Garda, while Verona, which was attacked by Austrian aeroplanes on the previous Sunday, is about the same distance east. The attack on Verona resulted in the death of thirty persons and injury to about twice that number, and was made possible in a degree by the fog which allowed the aircraft to approach close to the city before they were discovered. They flew as low as 4,500 feet, it is stated, each dropping five or six bombs. On November 18, 1915, the Austrians' seaplane squadron dropped bombs on the forts at San Nicole and Alberoni, and also on the arsenal, the aviation station, gas works, railway station, and several parks at Venice. The Italians attacked in turn, and there was a heavy fire of antiaircraft guns, but the Austrian squadron retired in safety. On November 19, 1915, Austrian aviators threw fifteen bombs on Udine, Italy, killing twelve persons and wounding twenty-seven.
The activity of the Italian aero service developed in the course of the war, and there were many combats between them and Austrian aviators. On December 30, 1915, it was reported that during the naval engagement off Durazzo an Austrian seaplane was shot down by an Italian destroyer, while a fortnight later, January 12, 1916, when four Austrian aeroplanes were attacking Rimini with bombs with little success, one of them was brought down by fire from the main artillery and shells from the warships. On January 13, 1916, Italian aeroplanes dropped bombs on a barracks in the Breguzzo zone in the valley of the Giudicaria, with success. On January 15, 1916, an Italian air squadron made an extensive raid in the region of the East Isonzo and bombarded the enemy aviation camp at Assevizza, the cantonments at Cihapovano and Boruberg, and the railway stations at Longatica, Pregasina, and Lubiana. This squadron was under continuous fire by antiaircraft batteries, but returned in safety.
Reports from Montenegro during January, 1916, reported the activity of Austrian aeroplanes in bombing operations. On January 7, 1916, an Austrian aeroplane fell near Dulcigno, and the aviators were taken prisoners.
On November 28, 1915, the French were successful in three battles in the air and two raids. A French aeroplane in Belgium pursued a German squadron and brought down one of the German machines in the sea off Westende-Bains, between Nieuport and Ostend. On the same day ten French aeroplanes set fire to the German hangars in Habsheim in southern Alsace, and also damaged an aeroplane that was on the ground. Two German machines that attempted a pursuit of the French were repulsed, one being damaged by machine gunfire, and the other being capsized. On the same day, near Nancy, French aeroplanes shot down a German machine and put another to flight.
The Allies continued vigorously their attacks on various munition plants and aero stations of the Germans. How much damage can be done by aeroplane attacks was indicated in an item in the annual financial statement of the Krupps, which was published during the year 1915 in a German paper. This item reads: "Claims and damages due to the war, ten million marks ($2,375,000)," and deals with the effect of the raid over Essen by the airmen of the Allies.
The German aerodrome at Gits, containing fourteen machines, was attacked, and at La Chapelette the ammunition factory with nineteen machines was also the object of an attempt by the Allies. Some sixteen British aeroplanes bombarded a stores depot at Miramont in the Somme district, and the aerodrome at Hervilly. All of the machines returned safely, and considerable damage was believed to have been done at the above points.
The aeroplane as a commerce destroyer had a test on October 30, 1915, when three German machines attacked the steamship Avocet of the Cork Steamship Company. One of these, a large battle plane, discharged some thirty-six bombs, but none hit. With the supply of projectiles exhausted, the battle plane, handled with great skill, opened gunfire on the vessel, while the small planes crossed and recrossed, dropping their bombs, but without effect. The aviators and their observers also opened rifle fire on the steamer, but in the space of thirty-five minutes they were unable to do any serious damage, and none of the crew was injured. It was noted that the failure to fly low so as to get sufficient accuracy for dropping the bombs was responsible for the miscarriage of this attack.
The use of seaplanes to attack merchantmen and smaller warcraft became a feature of the Austrian and German campaign, and in November and December, 1915, several attacks were reported on steamers of the Allies. Two German aeroplanes dropped bombs on a British patrol ship off North Hinder Lightship in the North Sea on November 6, 1915, and set her on fire. The French steamer Harmonie was attacked in the Mediterranean by an Austrian aeroplane, but none of the six bombs which were dropped struck the vessel. Three German seaplanes attacked a British cargo boat aground off the coast of Belgium, but before they could succeed in destroying her with bombs, the attempt was reported by the Allies' aero scouts, and a squadron of aeroplanes went to the rescue. The Germans were forced to retire, while French torpedo boats floated the British freighters.
One of the notable events of the year was the first seaplane battle between the British and German seaplanes near Dunkirk on November 28, 1915. The British were successful, as they were also in an attack on a large German seaplane by one of their aeroplanes patrolling off the Belgian coast. The German machine was hit and fell on the sea, bursting into flames and exploding on striking the water. No trace of pilot, passengers, or machine could be found. The British aeroplane, under command of Lieutenant Graham, was also damaged by gunfire and fell into the sea, but the officers were picked up and safely landed.
The Allies, and particularly the British, employed aeroplanes chiefly for patrolling their coasts, naval harbors and subsidiary fleet bases, as well as the principal shipping lanes, in order to keep them clear of the insidious action of hostile submarines. Of this silent and steady coast patrol work, which is deprived of any spectacular side, little has come to light, except where a reconnaissance also involved an attack upon forces of the enemy.
It was during such patrol flights, along the Belgian coast, that two German submarines were put out of action by aviators of the Allies. The first of these engagements occurred on August 26, 1915, when Squadron Commander A. W. Bigsworth of the Royal Naval Air Service destroyed a German submarine off Ostend by dropping several bombs on the but partly submerged vessel. The second German submarine was destroyed off Middelkerke, Belgium, on November 28, 1915, by a British seaplane, piloted by Flight Sub-Lieutenant Viney, and carrying a French officer, Lieutenant Count de Sincay, as an observer. German submarines having been reported in the vicinity, the aviators were ordered to patrol the coast with the object of watching for the enemy. The aviators rose to an altitude of 3,000 meters, and had been up for half an hour when they sighted, four miles from the shore, two submarines side by side on the surface. The place was favorable for attack, the sea being shallow there, and the aviators hoped that the enemy boats would be unable to escape by diving. The seaplane quickly dived to about 200 meters above the sea and attacked the submarines, one of which succeeded in escaping, the other boat, however, was hit by two bombs, which broke open its hull and caused it to sink in a few minutes.
Owing to the great range of vision afforded by a seaplane, both horizontally and vertically, owing also to its considerable speed and ease of maneuvering, marine aeroplanes have proven formidable foes for submarines, which they can easily overtake and destroy with bombs. Especially is this true when a submarine is steaming partly submerged, with only its periscope visible above the sea, for, whereas, the submarine's outline is easily detected from great heights, the periscope has but a limited range of vision horizontally, and none vertically.
Another instance of how aeroplanes can be used for attacking war vessels was furnished by the feat of a British aviator who attacked a Turkish army transport on August 12, 1915, in the Marmora Sea and sank the vessel with a heavy projectile, which, it is claimed, weighed over 200 pounds.
Although not yet sufficiently developed to fulfill the functions for which they are ultimately intended, i. e., strategical reconnaissance and offensive action against vessels of war and coast fortifications—seaplanes have played a very useful role in tactical operations, and particularly in convoying troop ships, as well as in "spotting" for naval guns. Whenever the comparatively limited range of seaplanes precluded their employment for long-range reconnaissances or bombardment, airships were called upon to carry out these duties.
In the matter of airships, Germany was markedly favored by the possession of the Zeppelin type, whose speed and endurance is still unequaled by the smaller, nonrigid dirigibles which constitute the chief bulk of the British, French, Italian, and Russian fleets of "lighter-than-air" machines.
Obviously, the employment of airships is fraught with even more danger, on account of the large hull exposed to enemy fire, than that of aeroplanes. A great number of Zeppelins have been destroyed either by antiaircraft guns or by storms, although the gallant feat of the late Flight Lieutenant Warneford, who blew up single-handed a Zeppelin near Ghent, has not yet been repeated by aviators of the Allies.
An Austrian aviator, however, succeeded on August 5, 1915, in putting out of action the Italian dirigible Citta-di-Jesi, which was returning from a bombing raid on Pola. Soaring above the airship the aviator dropped several bombs on the envelope, which was damaged, the hydrogen being ignited thereby. The airship did not explode, but was forced to alight on the sea, her crew being captured by the Austrians.
AIR FIGHTING ON ALL FRONTS—LOSSES
By December, 1915, and January, 1916, the official reports of the war in the air contained a continued account of activity. Almost every day reconnoitering machines were sent out over one city or another, and attempts were made to interfere with their work or to bring on battle, and on December 19, 1915, the British War Office reported forty-four combats in the air, with two enemy aeroplanes brought to the ground within their own lines, and two brought down in damaged condition. On this day one of the British machines was missing.
Again, the report on December 29, 1915, from the British War Office mentioned an unsuccessful attack by the Germans on one of the British aerodromes by four machines, only two of which reached their objective, and no damage was done to them, although one of the British aeroplanes was shot down. On December 29, 1915, sixteen British aeroplanes attacked the Comines station with bombs, and hit the station railway and sheds in the vicinity. Ten of the British aeroplanes attacked the aerodromes and did considerable damage, in both cases all machines returning safely.
On this day, December 29, 1915, there were twelve encounters with hostile aeroplanes, and a British aeroplane engaged four belonging to the Germans, one of which was believed to have been brought down, while another was damaged, and all four were driven off. The British aeroplane fell as the result of a struggle with two machines. On January 5, 1916, a number of British aeroplanes made a bombing raid against enemy aeroplanes at Douai, while the Germans retaliated by an aeroplane raid over Boulogne, dropping a few bombs without damage. The next day the British made another raid with eleven machines on gun and supply stations at Lesars. On January 10, 1916, enemy aircraft dropped bombs near Starzelle, Hazebrouck and St. Omer, and one woman and one child were killed.
That the activities of the British were not always crowned with success is stated in the report for January 13, 1916, where record is made of the fact that four of the British aeroplanes sent out on the previous day had not returned. On January 17, 1916, sixteen British aeroplanes attacked the German supply depot at Lesars, northeast of Albert, and did considerable damage. On this day there were nineteen encounters in the air, and five of the German machines were driven down, and two British aeroplanes were lost.
The activity of the French did not diminish as the war progressed, and the activity of the bomb-operating squadron continued. On December 20, 1915, four French aeroplanes designed for bomb-dropping, escorted by seven machines with rapid-fire guns dropped on the fort and station at Muelhausen six shells of 155-millimeter caliber, and twenty shells of ninety-six caliber. In the terse language of the official report, "they reached their objective." The damage must be imagined as it was not specified.
During December, 1915, and January, 1916, the French aviators were active with the eastern army, although many difficulties were encountered, especially the intense cold in the Balkan Mountains when reconnoitering around the Bulgarian lines and elsewhere. French aviators during December, 1915, shelled Uskub, Istip, Strumitza, and other encampments with great effect, and they made a remarkable series of photographs and maps, in addition to reporting to headquarters by wireless. The aviation corps in this section of Europe furnished daily weather reports to the headquarters staff regarding the speed of the wind and the height of the clouds from 1,000 meters altitude, and this work shows the extent of the organization and plan of campaign. On December 29, 1915, the French aeroplanes bombarded parks and encampments of the Bulgarians at Petrik, east of Lake Doiran, and that the activity in this region was not all one-sided was evident by the fact that on January 27, 1916, hostile aeroplanes bombarded the cantonments of the Allies in the environs of Saloniki, doing little damage, but losing one of their aeroplanes, which was brought to earth by gunfire. On January 14, 1916, the Allies were again attacked, and bombs were dropped on Janes (Yanesh), northwest of Kukus (Kilkich), and on Doganizi.
In the operations around Constantinople both sides employed aeroplanes for various purposes. On the Gallipoli front on December 20, 1915, it was reported that the Allies had a seaplane shot down and its occupants made prisoners, while on December 23, 1915, an ally aeroplane was shot down at Birheba. On December 26, 1915, an ally aeroplane was brought to earth near Birelsabe, and the French pilot, Captain Baron de Ceron, and a British lieutenant were killed. On December 27, 1915, the Turkish forces sent out a seaplane, which made a reconnoitering flight over Tenedos, the island of Mavro, and the many positions near Sedd-ul-Bahr, striking a torpedo boat south of this point with a bomb. On December 28, 1915, three ally aeroplanes flew over Ari-Burnu, and one of these was hit by artillery fire and fell into the sea, while a British seaplane successfully dropped some bombs on a tent camp. On December 28, 1915, Turkish artillery brought down a biplane flying over Yent Shehr and Kum Kaleh, and on the previous day a reconnoitering and bombing expedition was undertaken by a Turkish seaplane, which dropped bombs on the harbor tool house at Mudros.
On January 1, 1916, a Turkish seaplane attacked and repulsed a hostile ally aeroplane while reconnoitering, and on the following day a Turkish seaplane dropped bombs on the enemy's camp at Sedd-ul-Bahr. Lieutenant Ryck Boddike figured prominently in a number of successful flights, in one of which he attacked a French aeroplane on January 6, 1916, killing the aviator and bringing down the machine on the Anatolian coast, near Akbanca. On the following day he shot down, east of Yalova, a British Farman aeroplane. On January 7, 1916, also there was bomb dropping by the Turkish aviators over the enemy's positions at Sedd-ul-Bahr, and their aviation station on the island of Imbros. January 10, 1916, Lieutenant Ryck Boddike brought down his fourth enemy aeroplane, which fell into the open sea, and two days later he shot down his fifth, a British machine of the Farman type, killing one of the aviators and wounding the other. This aeroplane fell in such condition that it could be repaired by the Turks. On January 14, 1916, a Turkish aeroplane attacked a monitor which, with other vessels, opened fire in the direction of Kilid Bahr. The monitor was forced to withdraw in flames.
Late in the year 1915 the Germans, after a period of inactivity, made a raid in force on the French fortress at Belfort. At least three aeroplanes dropped bombs over the city, and were attacked in turn by the machine and antiaircraft guns of the garrison, and French aviators proceeded to the attack, beating off the Germans, who returned again later in the day discharging another shower of shells over the fortress.
On December 29, 1915, the Germans reported that they had shot down an English biplane in an aerial flight near Bruges, and the occupants of the machine were killed. The English machine had been flying over the district of Lichtervelde, south of Bruges, and had dropped several bombs, one of which had hit a munitions depot with disastrous effect. A German aeroplane intercepted the British machine on its return, and in the course of the battle both machines were disabled and crashed to earth. The same day the Germans reported the loss of two aeroplanes by the British, one of which was forced to descend at a point to the north of Lens, and the other, a large battle aeroplane, was shot down in a fight north of Han, on December 27, 1915, and three British aeroplanes were destroyed by fire west of Lille. The Berlin report on December 29, 1915, stated that on the whole front artillery and aeroplanes were active. The enemy's aircraft attacked the towns and railroad stations of Wervick and Menin, Belgium, without, however, doing military damage. A British aeroplane was shot down in a fight northeast of Cambrai, and on January 6, 1916, the Allies made an aircraft attack upon Douai, which failed, and two British aeroplanes were shot down by German aviators. One of these was brought down by Lieutenant Boelke, and was the seventh aeroplane that he had disabled. January 10, 1916, a German air squadron attacked the warehouses of Furnes. On this same day an interesting air battle occurred, involving a series of fights, with casualties on both sides, between the French and German aeroplanes above the lines of the latter near Dixmude. Three French avions cannon (Voisin steel biplanes armed with 37-millimeter quick-firing guns at the bow) fought with German scouting aeroplanes of the Fokker type. The attack was brought on by the Fokker assailing a French machine which was forced to descend, but one of its companions straightway attacked the German and brought him down by machine gunfire at a distance of twenty-five meters. A third French machine was also successful in attacking another Fokker, which fell in the forest of Houthulst, southeast of Dixmude.
On January 11, 1916, a French battle aeroplane was attacked by German rifle fire and forced to land near Noumen, south of Dixmude in Belgium, and the aeroplane and its occupants, uninjured, became German prisoners. On this day a British biplane was shot down in an encounter near Tournai, Belgium. Lieutenant Boelke on January 13, 1916, shot down a British aeroplane, as did also Lieutenant Immelmann—one northeast of Tourcoing and the other near Bapaume. Both were decorated with the Order of Pour-le-Merite by the emperor. A third British aeroplane was shot down in an aerial fight near Roubaix, and a fourth was brought down by German defense guns near Ligne, northwest of Lille. Of the eight British officers on these four aeroplanes six were killed and two wounded.
On January 15, 1916, Lieutenant Boelke again shot down an enemy aeroplane, which fell within the British lines and was set on fire by German artillery. On January 18, 1916, there were aerial battles near Paschendaele and Dadezelle in Flanders, and three of the four occupants of one machine were killed. A French aeroplane was shot down by German airmen near Moyenvic, and the pilot and observer were captured.
In the course of the war the German aeroplane fleet developed at the close of the year 1915, and at the beginning of 1916, a renewed activity and initiative of attack. In the period from December 20, 1915, to January 19, 1916, an analysis of the official reports indicated that the British airmen had had seventy-five individual combats with the Germans, in the course of which nine British and eight German machines were lost. The Germans, on the other hand, reported in this time that they had destroyed fourteen British and three French aeroplanes, while the French claimed the destruction of three German machines, one of which was shot down in the Balkans; while the Turks, defending the Dardanelles, claimed to have shot down seven ally aeroplanes. Italian airmen overcame two Austrian machines, and Austria and Montenegro each overcame one enemy aeroplane. An analysis of these figures indicates that for this month the advantage was distinctly with the Germans, as they had destroyed twenty-five machines as against fourteen aeroplanes brought down by the enemy.
The statements concerning the losses of airships and aeroplanes published by the various armies and newspapers in most cases were disputed for their accuracy. The Paris "Temps" on February 5, 1916, criticising a German statement, stated as the correct figures for the aeroplane losses of the various combatants on the western front between October 1, 1915, and January 31, 1916, the following: "Thirteen English and seventeen French aeroplanes lost on the side of the Allies—eleven German aeroplanes destroyed on the English front and twenty on the French front. Of the French machines lost, four were overcome in aerial combats, one destroyed by artillery fire, three were forced to descend by motor troubles, and eight disappeared on land-scouting missions."
During the month of February, 1916, patrol service was actively maintained on both sides of the frontier; a large number of attempts at bombing were made, and many individual combats took place, with the losses, so far as the French and Germans were concerned, about evenly divided, the French reporting the destruction of nine German aeroplanes, while the Germans claimed to have destroyed eight French and four British machines. For this period the official reports of the British claimed that four German machines were forced to the ground, but it was not apparent whether they had been actually destroyed or merely forced to retire. In the French reports, in addition to the nine German aeroplanes destroyed as noted, it was stated that two additional were "forced down."
In January and February, 1916, the German air service again began its activity against the British Isles, and not only Zeppelins but also seaplanes and aeroplanes crossed the Channel and dropped explosives and incendiary bombs on English towns and villages, mostly on the east coast. The Germans claimed that in one instance a Zeppelin had gone as far as Midlands in an attempt at some of the great manufacturing centers of England, and this seemed to indicate that the campaign would be carried on with greater relentlessness than ever and more attempt at material damage. More and more aeroplanes of the German service were beginning to cooperate with the Zeppelins, and it was clear that future attacks would be in forces with aeroplanes to protect the Zeppelins from attack by quick-flying hostile aeroplanes. It was evident from the activity of the Germans that in all departments of its aerial services increases were being made, and increased activity was to be manifested. At the same time the Allies were showing corresponding activity in their attempts to destroy the air cruisers of the enemy.
The German military Zeppelin L-Z-77 was brought down by a French incendiary shell from a 75-millimeter antiaircraft gun of the motor-gun section of Renigny in the neighborhood of Brabant-le-roi, on February 21, 1916. This airship was hit by an explosive shell which ignited the gas bag and caused an explosion of the bombs, so that it was completely wrecked and fell in flames. The L-19, belonging to the German navy, previously had been destroyed by a storm in the North Sea on January 31, 1916.
PART XII—THE UNITED STATES AND THE BELLIGERENTS
SINKING OF THE ARABIC—ANOTHER CRISIS—GERMANY'S DEFENSE AND CONCESSIONS.
The Lusitania issue, after the dispatch to Germany of the third American note of July 21, 1915, was withdrawn from the publicity in which the exchange of diplomatic communications had been made. Note writing having fulfilled its mission in stating the case, an interlude followed devoted to private conversations between the American Ambassador at Berlin and the German Foreign Office and between the German Ambassador at Washington and the State Department. Apparently a way out of the impasse was seen in conferences in the privacy of the chancelleries rather than by negotiations conducted in the light of day on the theory that absorbed public observation and criticism of every stage in the exchanges was not helpful to a settlement. But time did not show that this resort to secrecy smoothed the path of Germany meeting the American demands.
In fact, the ruthless course of the submarine warfare, which the sinking of the Lusitania only momentarily checked, relegated that specific issue to the background, or at least made it only one of a series of indictments by the United States of the entire submarine policy pursued by the Teutonic Powers.
Thirty days after the American Government had warned Germany that any further contravention of American neutral rights at sea would be regarded as an act "deliberately unfriendly," the White Star Atlantic liner, the Arabic, with twenty-nine Americans among her company, was sunk without warning off the south of Ireland by a German submarine. Germany had not responded to the reiterated demands made in the third American note on the Lusitania and the question was impetuously asked in the press: Was the sinking of the Arabic Germany's answer? This view of Germany's second blow at transatlantic liners, made at a time when the Lusitania crisis had only seemingly abated because withdrawn from the public gaze, found its best expression from a pro-German quarter. The "New Yorker Staats-Zeitung" deplored the absence of a reply from the German Government to the third Lusitania note as "most unfortunate," because the subsequent destruction of the Arabic could therefore be held to be a "direct challenge," particularly as reports showed that the liner had been torpedoed without warning and the rescuing of the passengers had been left to "blind chance."
The Arabic was bound from Liverpool to New York, so that the motive for sinking her could not be that advanced by Germany for destroying the Lusitania—that the vessel was carrying war munitions to her enemies. The fact that she was headed for the United States inspired some incensed commentators to make the direct charge that the German submarine commander deliberately aimed at the lives of Americans on board. As elsewhere described, the Arabic was sunk on August 19, 1915, without being first warned by the attacking submarine. Abundant testimony from survivors satisfied the Administration as to this circumstance, in addition to disproving the belief originating from German sources that the liner was being convoyed by a warship, whose presence would deprive her of any right to protection from attack. The Administration was also assured that the liner, contrary to Germany's allegation, did not attempt to ram the submarine or escape from it. Two Americans were among the passengers lost; but this was not the sole issue.
The days immediately following were charged with dangerous undercurrents. The President was silent. Had he not said all there was to be said in the Lusitania notes? But there was no doubt that the press correctly divined what was passing through his mind, and the press said that, short of a satisfactory explanation from Germany, made in a proper spirit, accompanied by a disavowal of the deed, a break in diplomatic relations was inevitable. But the onus was on Germany to speak before the Administration took action, which could not take the form of another protest. The situation had grown beyond the stage of protests. They had already been made. If Germany could not show extenuating circumstances that palliated the sinking of the Arabic, the President must act on his Lusitania warning, or remain silent—must go forward or recede.
This ominous condition of American sentiment was not lost on Germany. It was true the Berlin press affected an apathetic tone in referring to the Arabic, saw nothing calling for perturbation, and, in casting doubt on the accounts of the liner's destruction, hinted that a mine was responsible. But the German Government, wisely informed by Count von Bernstorff on the state of American feeling, knew better than to belittle the situation. Pending the receipt of any report from the submarine commander who sank the Arabic, it charged Ambassador von Bernstorff to ask the American Government to defer judgment.
"The German Government," Count von Bernstorff pleaded, "trusts that the American Government will not take a definite stand after hearing the reports of only one side, which in the opinion of the Imperial Government cannot correspond with the facts, but that a chance be given Germany to be heard equally. Although the Imperial Government does not doubt the good faith of the witnesses whose statements are reported by the newspapers in Europe, it should be borne in mind that these statements are naturally made under excitement, which might easily produce wrong impressions. If Americans should actually have lost their lives, this would naturally be contrary to our intentions. The German Government would deeply regret the fact and beg to tender sincerest sympathies to the American Government."
This statement, made five days after the Arabic's destruction, was viewed as the first ray of hope in the crisis. A disavowal of unfriendly intent was seen in the regrets expressed for the loss of American lives. There was a disposition to credit Germany with cherishing a desire to avert a rupture with the United States and to go to considerable lengths in that endeavor. This impression eased the Washington atmosphere, which had been weighed by the President's determination not to depart from the stand he took in the third Lusitania note, and also by Germany's apparent indifference to its warning, as shown by her pursuit of submarine warfare seemingly regardless of consequences.
What the "facts" were in the sinking of the Arabic to which, according to the German statement, the reports to hand could not correspond, exercised official Washington. As the German Government had not so far heard from the submarine commander of its own acknowledgment, it could not itself be aware of this version of how the Arabic sank. Why Germany was so confident that the reports the Administration accepted were inaccurate was explained on the surmise that she had revised her orders to submarine commanders governing the conduct of their operations. For some time before the sinking of the Arabic the German submarine commanders had been conforming closely to the rules of search and seizure demanded by the United States. The sudden divergence from this procedure in the sinking of the Arabic, according to the accepted reports, implied that the submarine commander had contravened instructions, or could plead justification. Germany was indisposed to believe that the submarine commander had disobeyed orders. But if he had done so, the German Government would give "full satisfaction" to the United States. This assurance came from the Imperial German Chancellor, Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, the day after Ambassador von Bernstorff had revealed Germany's conciliatory spirit.
The United States consented to withhold judgment until Germany had presented her side of the case. Meantime Count von Bernstorff urged upon his Government the imperative necessity of making more substantial concessions to the United States on the submarine issue. Another catastrophe such as the sinking of the Lusitania or Arabic, he warned Berlin, would aggravate the situation beyond his control. That Germany recognized the danger was shown by a further declaration from her Imperial Chancellor on August 26, 1915, wherein he endeavored to placate American feeling by declaring that the sinking of the Arabic, if caused by a German submarine, was not a "deliberately unfriendly act," but, if the accepted version of the disaster proved to be true, was "the arbitrary deed of the submarine commander, not only not sanctioned but decidedly condemned by the German Government," and that the latter, being "most anxious to maintain amicable relations with the United States, would express its deep regret and make full reparation." This conditional promise was made in the continued absence of any report from the implicated submarine commander, whose silence became mysterious. The British added to the perplexity by making the unqualified statement that the submarine which sank the Arabic had herself been sunk by a British patrol boat.
While the United States waited significantly for Germany to make the amende honorable, an internal conflict was proceeding in Berlin over the submarine policy. The Arabic crisis had been transferred to Germany by the stand the Chancellor, Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, and the Foreign Minister, Herr von Jagow, made for modifying the ruthless conditions under which the German admiralty had pursued the submarine warfare. Grand Admiral von Tirpitz and the extremists opposed any relaxation permitting passenger ships to be warned before being torpedoed or safeguarding the lives of passengers. The chancellor desired to place Germany on record as an observer of international law, and the kaiser faced the task of determining which side should prevail.
Admiral von Tirpitz was generally regarded as the originator of the policy of sinking merchant shipping without heeding the recognized laws of visit and search. "What would America say if Germany declares war on all enemy merchant ships?" he had asked before Germany initiated the submarine methods which caused the destruction of the Lusitania and the Arabic and numerous other craft. His view of the Lusitania issue, as freely expressed in an interview, was that the maintenance of friendly relations with the United States was of far less importance than the continuance of the submarine blockade of British ports, and that the entrance of the United States into the war among Germany's enemies was preferable to acceding to the American demands.
Since the Lusitania disaster the imperial chancellor had been the target of sustained attacks from the Von Tirpitz group, who charged that he was not radical enough and inclined to abandon the extreme aims of German policy. The agitation attained such serious proportions that the National Liberal party issued a statement denying knowledge of any lack of confidence in the Government. Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg's difficult position in trying to save Germany from international outlawry, however, was not sensibly weakened. Events temporarily showed that the kaiser concurred more in his view than that of the hotspurs. There was a momentary cessation of submarine activity. The chancellor's policy, the keynote of which was: "Keep at peace with the United States," gained the upper hand, and Admiral von Tirpitz grudgingly bowed to the chancellor's contentions, on the condition that his acquiescence must be deemed unofficial; but he held out against any formal disavowal by Germany of the sinking of the Arabic. This attitude was comprehensible, for a disavowal meant a repudiation of his submarine policy. Thus the surrender of the extremists did not go very far; it merely helped to relax the friction between the kaiser's councilors.
The outcome of this agreement was a note (September 1, 1915) from Count von Bernstorff to Secretary Lansing announcing that his instructions concerning Germany's answer to the last American note on the Lusitania contained this passage:
"Liners will not be sunk by our submarines without warning and without safety of the lives of noncombatants, provided the liners do not try to escape or offer resistance."
The German Ambassador added that this policy had been decided on before the Arabic was sunk. Secretary Lansing, commenting upon this abatement of Germany's sea war methods, said: "It appears to be a recognition of the fundamental principles for which we have contended." A settlement of the Lusitania case, however, was deferred until that of the Arabic had been satisfactorily disposed of.
The atmosphere was clearer. But Germany was still silent regarding the report of the submarine commander, on whose version of the Arabic's destruction hinged the question whether Germany would disavow his act. The report that the submarine had been sunk revived in London, but the British admiralty maintained an impenetrable silence regarding its truth or falsehood. The circumstantial story was that the submarine later sighted a cattle boat, and was engaged in shelling it when a British patrol boat appeared and, opening fire, sank the submarine with its crew except two or three survivors. Hence London concluded that in the disappearance of the submarine lay Germany's reason for her readiness to climb down to the United States on the Arabic controversy.
On September 7, 1915, nineteen days after the Arabic was sunk, Germany appeared to disprove this story of furnishing a report to the American Government giving the submarine commander's account of the sinking. This delay was in contrast to the promptitude with which the German Government had officially announced the sinking of the Lusitania. The British openly charged that Germany could not have heard from the submarine commander, for the sufficient reason, they iterated, that he was drowned with his craft, and that the German Government, waiting in vain for him to report, had resorted to "manufacturing" a report to conform with its preconceived theories of the Arabic's destruction. This, however, remained an unsolved press controversy in face of the British admiralty's silence. The American Government gave no indication that it took cognizance of the charge, or that the British admiralty had privately enlightened it as to whether it had any real basis. Hence Germany's report officially stood unquestioned.
The defense of Germany was that before sighting the Arabic the submarine commander had stopped the British steamer Dunsley and was about to sink her by gunfire, after the crew had left the vessel, when the Arabic appeared, headed directly toward the submarine. From the Arabic's movements the commander became convinced that the liner intended to attack and ram his submarine; whereupon, to forestall such an attack, he ordered the submarine to dive, and fired a torpedo at the Arabic. After doing so he had convinced himself that the people on board were being rescued in fifteen boats.
"According to his instructions," the German report continued, "the commander was not allowed to attack the Arabic without warning and without saving the passengers' lives unless the ship attempted to escape or offered resistance. He was forced, however, to conclude from the attendant circumstances that the Arabic planned a violent attack on the submarine.
"The German Government most deeply regrets that lives were lost through the action of the commander. It particularly expresses this regret to the Government of the United States on account of the death of American citizens.
"The German Government is unable, however, to acknowledge any obligation to grant indemnity in the matter, even if the commander should have been mistaken as to the aggressive intentions of the Arabic.
"If it should prove to be the case that it is impossible for the German and American Governments to reach a harmonious opinion on this point, the German Government would be prepared to submit the difference of opinion, as being a question of international law, to The Hague Tribunal for arbitration, pursuant to Article 38 of The Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes.
"In so doing it assumes that, as a matter of course, the arbitral decision shall not be admitted to have the importance of a general decision on the permissibility or the converse under international law of German submarine warfare."
Here Germany affirmed that submarine commanders were forbidden to attack liners without warning and safeguarding passengers' lives, but that commanders could justifiably disregard this precaution if they deemed that a vessel's movements, designedly or otherwise, jeopardized the safety of the attacking submarine. On this reasoning a submarine commander could excuse a wanton act on the plea of self-defense, which Germany appeared eager to accept, whether the need of self-defense was actual or fancied.
The Washington Government declined to consent to clothing a submarine commander with the discretionary power of determining whether a vessel should be sunk on sight because of movements he considered suspicious. The German Government would absolve him from blame and repudiate any obligation to grant indemnity, even if the commander was mistaken in attributing aggressive intentions in a vessel's movements. Germany's precept, as laid down by Count von Bernstorff in his note of September 1, 1915, and Germany's practice, as illustrated by the foregoing defense for the sinking of the Arabic, were thus widely divergent.
The situation receded to the Lusitania stage. Ambassador von Bernstorff's assurances as to warning and safety to passengers were negatived by the new condition that submarine commanders could disregard instructions, whether right or wrong, in doing so. The Administration accepted as convincing the abundant evidence before it that the Arabic made no attempt to ram the submarine. According to this testimony, no one on board the Arabic even saw the submarine; only the torpedo was seen coming from the direction of the sinking Dunsley, behind which, it was supposed, the submarine had been screened when the Arabic came in view, whereupon it submerged. Moreover, the Arabic was struck astern from a direction which showed that the submarine was at right angles to her. If the Arabic had been heading toward the submarine with the intention of ramming it, the torpedo should have struck her at the bow. But the Arabic testimony was that the submarine was invisible.
Germany's explanation was so unsatisfactory, so discredited by the overwhelming evidence of the Arabic survivors, as well as being qualified by an indirect recognition of the possibility that the submarine commander might have erred, that the question of severing diplomatic relations again became imminent. A resort to arbitration, as proposed by Germany, with the nullifying condition that any decision of a Hague tribunal was not to affect Germany's conduct of submarine warfare, was not deemed worthy of serious consideration. The question now was whether, after the pledge given by Count von Bernstorff, the German Government intended to allow submarine commanders a broad discretion in deciding the circumstances under which passenger ships may be torpedoed. The ambassador was informed of the Administration's conviction that the torpedoing of the Arabic could not have been a mistake, justified or unjustified. Germany's unreadiness to disavow responsibility for the act of the submarine commander as "arbitrary" and "unsanctioned," to quote the German Chancellor, showed that she accepted her submarine commander's purported report, not the Arabic testimony. In this impasse the Administration was credited with being almost ready to break off relations with Germany, but deferred doing so until the German Government had studied the evidence on which the American Government had decided that the submarine commander was solely to blame.
In the negotiations which followed, the Arabic issue went the way of the unsettled Lusitania case by its withdrawal from being threshed out in public. The exchange of notes was abandoned for pourparlers, which were resorted to as seeming to afford a more supple means of arriving at a settlement. Germany was afforded an opportunity of privately establishing her good faith—which was in serious question—by reconciling her acts on the seas with her pledge not to attack passenger vessels without warning. No official disclosure was made to enlighten a forgetful public as to the extent to which she had done so in the negotiations which occupied the American and German Governments throughout September, 1915. But a communication from Count von Bernstorff to Secretary Lansing, which passed October 2, 1915, was permitted to be revealed acknowledging that the submarine commander was mistaken in believing that the Arabic intended to ram his vessel, and disavowing the act. The Von Bernstorff note contained this passage: "The order issued by His Majesty the Emperor to the commanders of the German submarines, of which I notified you on a similar occasion, has been so stringent that the recurrence of incidents similar to the Arabic case is considered out of the question."
The United States had thus brought Germany to an admission that the sinking of the liner was unjustified. This important point gained, the issue was removed from the acute stage at which it had dangerously lingered, and only left undetermined the question of indemnity to be paid by Germany to the Arabic victims.
It cleared the diplomatic decks sufficiently to enable the deferred negotiations on the Lusitania dispute to be resumed; but these had made little headway when both the Lusitania and Arabic issues were overshadowed by the sinking of the Ancona.
ISSUE WITH AUSTRIA-HUNGARY OVER THE ANCONA—SURRENDER TO AMERICAN DEMANDS
The attention of the United States was abruptly diverted from Germany to Austria-Hungary. The Ancona, an Italian liner en route for New York, was steaming westward in the Mediterranean, between the coasts of Sicily and Tunis, on November 9, 1915, when a submarine flying the Austro-Hungarian flag fired a shot at the steamship. As described by the American protest sent to Austria-Hungary on December 6, 1915, based upon the testimony of American and other survivors, the Ancona thereupon "attempted to escape, but being overhauled by the submarine she stopped; that after a brief period, and before the crew and passengers were all able to take to the boats, the submarine fired a number of shells at the vessel and finally torpedoed and sank her while there were yet many persons on board, and that by gunfire and floundering of the vessel a large number of persons lost their lives or were seriously injured, among whom were citizens of the United States."
A heated protest from the Italian Ambassador to the State Department thus depicted the same scene: "Without any warning whatever, without even a blank shot, without observing any of the formalities accompanying the right of search, the submarine encountered by the Ancona opened fire upon the unarmed passenger liner, relentlessly shelling not only the wireless apparatus, side, and decks of the ship while she was at a stop, but even the lifeboats in which the terrified passengers were seeking refuge. Many of the passengers were killed outright or wounded. Some who approached the submarine in the hope of rescue were driven off with jeers. As a result of this inhumane procedure more than two hundred men, women and children lost their lives."
An impenitent explanation came from the Austro-Hungarian admiralty, who in upholding the submarine commander, saw "no reason to find fault with his course of action," and while recognizing that a commander in the heat of battle could act contrary to instructions, "nothing of the kind has occurred in this case."
"It appears from his report," said the admiralty defense, "that his ship was in danger; indeed, in double danger; first, that an enemy boat was approaching on a line that threatened to cut off his retreat, and the enemy ship and the Ancona could have established his radius of action and could have set a torpedo boat flotilla on him; and second, there was danger of the Ancona escaping, which, according to his instructions, was to be prevented in all circumstances. Hence the conduct of the commander, much as the loss of innocent lives must be regretted and deplored, cannot be disapproved. On the contrary, if he had departed without destroying the Ancona, it would have been failure to do his duty since the Ancona could have notified other ships of his whereabouts. The loss of American lives is regrettable, as well as that Americans used a vessel belonging to a nation at war with Austria-Hungary."
This statement amplified a previous defense by the Austrian admiralty, in which the latter admitted that the Ancona was torpedoed after her engines had been stopped and when passengers were still on board. The American protest cited the admiralty's admission as substantially confirming the principal testimony of the survivors. It, moreover, alluded to the correspondence which had passed between Germany and the United States on the use and misuse of submarines in attacking vessels of commerce, and to Germany's acquiescence in the American stand thereon. Yet despite the "full knowledge" possessed by the Austro-Hungarian Government of the views of the United States, "as expressed in no uncertain terms to the ally of Austria-Hungary," the commander of the submarine which attacked the Ancona, the United States protested, failed to put in a place of safety the crew and passengers before destroying the vessel.
The United States accused the submarine commander of violating the principles of international law and humanity, and characterized his conduct as "wanton slaughter of defenseless noncombatants," as the vessel was not resisting or attempting to escape, and no other reason was sufficient to excuse such an attack, not even the possibility of rescue.
A tone of severity and bluntness, not hitherto used in American communications with the belligerents, marked this note of protest to Austria-Hungary. Demands were made for a denunciation of the submarine commander's act as "illegal and indefensible," for his punishment, and for reparation by the payment of indemnity for the loss of American lives. The United States left an avenue open through which Austria-Hungary could find an acceptable excuse. It preferred to believe that the submarine commander acted contrary to instructions rather than accept the alternative assumption that the Austro-Hungarian Government "failed to issue instructions to the commanders of the submarines in accordance with the laws of nations and the principles of humanity."
The answer of Austria-Hungary (December 13, 1915) was deftly befogging by clouding in diplomatic rhodomontade the familiar issues raised by the United States. Its deliberate evasiveness was so direct as to be almost an affront. Stripped of its confusing terminology, the Austrian note declared that the United States had not adequately stated its cause of complaint, and had wrongly assumed that the Austrian Government was fully acquainted with all communications passed between the German and American Governments on the submarine issue. This plea of ignorance was made in face of the precautionary transmission by the State Department to the Austrian embassy of copies of all the American notes sent to Germany. The Austrian note also questioned whether the testimony made by the Ancona survivors, whom the American protest had not specifically named, was to be deemed more trustworthy than the report of the submarine commander. As to Austria-Hungary's knowledge of the American issues with Germany, that Government was not of the opinion that "this knowledge could be sufficient for the present case, which, according to its own information, is materially different from the case or cause to which the American Government apparently is referring." The note thus proceeded:
"Therefore, the Austro-Hungarian Government must leave it to the Washington Cabinet to draw up the individual legal maxims which the commander of the submarine is alleged to have violated when sinking the Ancona.
"The American Government also thought it advisable to point out the attitude which the Berlin Cabinet in the before-mentioned exchange of correspondence had taken. In the highly esteemed note the Austro-Hungarian Government finds no support for this course. If the American Government should have intended thereby to express an opinion as if a precedent exists for the present case, the Austro-Hungarian Government, in order to prevent misunderstandings, must declare that it, of course, must preserve full liberty to urge its own legal interpretations during the discussion of the Ancona case."