Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: October 31, 1914

Blown bridge: This railroad bridge over the River Ourcq was demolished in early September, 1914—allegedly by retreating Germans. The train on it at the time was full of wounded men; when it dropped into the river, 40 were killed. Image: Scientific American, October 31, 1914

The articles by “The Military Correspondent of the Scientific American” were probably written by an American army officer. He shows a remarkably good grasp of the wider strategies being pursued at the time by the Allies and the Central Powers. His articles do not mention specific units, troop movements or casualties even though there was no need to avoid censorship in America, so it is possible that he did not have access to that information. But he was a perceptive reader of what little hard information came through the heavy veil of censorship from the front lines. And there was a consistent underlying theme of Allied boosterism, much in line with the general mood of Scientific American itself:

Strategic Moves of the War

“The great German campaign for the capture of Dunkirk had failed, and the Allies had shown their lighting ability under adverse circumstances. The result could not but be of considerable encouragement to them, especially so since the forces in this field were reserves and volunteers whose conduct under fire was until then untested.”

Crystal Palace: This large exhibition space was taken over by the British Government to house recruits for a rapidly expanding Royal Navy in 1914. The men slept in traditional British naval hammocks. Image: Scientific American, October 31, 1914

“The Allies are still fighting, not so much to win, as to keep from getting badly beaten in these first days of the war. Their full strength cannot be developed before next spring, so they are well satisfied with an even break at present. So much have the Prussian successes, against Austria in 1866 and against France in 1870, impressed the military men of all countries that the whole strategy of the Allies has been directed to avoiding a knockout blow in the first rounds. If they can force the combat to settle down to a question of endurance, there can be but one outcome. In the beginning Germany's well-trained and well-equipped men can outfight largely superior numbers of their opponents. But before August comes again the Allies will be able to outclass them not only in numbers, but also in armament, ammunition, and the accessories that add so largely to the fighting power of troops.”

To see the full archive of our coverage of World War I—including several first-person accounts—the full package, Scientific American Chronicles: World War I, is available for purchase at