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This Week in World War I: August 15, 1914

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Germany’s Opening Gambit

The German attack on Belgium and France, starting on August 4, 1914, was designed to deliver a crushing blow to the French armies before the Russians and British could mobilize; after defeating the French, the Germans planned to use their extensive railway system to rush their forces to the eastern front to deliver a powerful attack on the Russians. Our editorial was accurate on the weakened state of Austria, which invaded, and was quickly beaten back by, the tiny nation of Serbia (or Servia as we called it back then). Eventually, the Russians proved weaker than the Germans had feared, but the French and British proved much stronger.

A graphical comparison of the artillery strength of Russia, France and England versus Germany and Austria. The U.S. artillery strength is the tiny cannon at the top left. Credit: Scientific American, August 15, 1914

From the issue of 100 years ago: August 15, 1914:

The Napoleon of the Twentieth Century

Chief among the many dramatic features of the opening scenes of the great European war drama, is the superb daring with which the German “War Lord” has launched his mighty army against what is practically the united naval and military strength of the rest of Europe.

For the neutrality of Italy has withdrawn from the Triple Alliance a great army and a powerful navy of the most modern type. This defection leaves the Mediterranean Sea so completely in the control of the Triple Entente, that the Austrian fleet will probably never venture forth from the protection of its naval base. The Austrian army has yet to win its laurels; for, as every student of history knows, the military history of Austria has been marked more by defeat than victory. With Russia’s army of triple her own strength to the north, and with the warlike Servians and a doubtful Italy to the south, Austria will be so closely concerned with her own defense, as to be able to render but limited assistance in the immediate field of operations covered by the German armies.

Upon Germany, then, will fall the stupendous task of inflicting a decisive defeat upon the combined armies of France, Russia, Great Britain, Belgium and and as seems not unlikely, of Denmark also.

To see a full archive of our coverage of World War I—military, economic, social, technological—view our archive package, Scientific American Chronicles: World War I, at www.ScientificAmerican.com/wwi.

Dan Schlenoff About the Author: Dan Schlenoff edits the “50, 100 & 150 Years Ago” column for Scientific American. He is a keen student of the role of science in history.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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