It is always wonderful to have a chance to kick back and enjoy hot dogs and a cold beer with friends and family. As you enjoy the day, take a moment to think of, and thank, those families who have lost their loved ones defending our country and way of life. I can’t imagine how difficult the holidays can be for them. Memorial Day parades with flags, and flowers at graveyards, are families’ way of remembering their personal loss. Go to the parades, support the families, and stand in their shoes for a moment.
There have been too many people killed in conflicts over the decades, in too many battles, defending and protecting the countries to which they swore allegiance. In those battles, and in the intervening years, so much technology has been developed – sometimes for “defense” and sometimes for “peaceful” purposes.
While we all enjoy our beers and benefit from advances made and the lives we enjoy, remember those that gave all for us.
The Great War
WWI or “The Great War” raged in Europe, Asia, and Middle East from July 28, 1914 to November 2018, about a hundred years ago now. This insane war was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, along with slighted egos and failed diplomatic maneuvering. Alliances were invoked and, boom, World War I erupted – resulting in an inconceivable level of death and destruction. Over 30 million were killed or injured in a war that did little more than change a few political boundaries.
One series of devastating and incomprehensible battles, the Battles of Ypres, Belgium, lasted just over a year, with both sides trying to establish control of a four-mile stretch of the small town of Ypres. Over these four miles, 850,000 troops were killed. Chemical warfare was used extensively, with chlorine, sulfur, and other poison gases used for the first time in combat – by both sides.
Aviation During WWI
Less than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first successful powered flight (1903), aircraft was used for the first time in combat, during the Italo-Turkish War in 1911. But it was in WWI where significant advances were made in aircraft design – mostly by the French and British, as the Americans were far behind, even in 1917. At first, aircraft were used just for observational and photographic reconnaissance. But by 1915, aircraft were able to communicate with the ground via primitive telephony relayed to tethered balloons. Soon thereafter, direct aircraft-to-ground communication was developed.
Other aviation developments during WWI:
- 1914: The first pusher aircraft (engine facing towards the rear of the plane) was developed, which allowed machine guns to be utilized by the pilot for the first time
- 1914: Battery-operated electric starter used on the Collier flying boat
- 1914: Gyroscopic stabilization of the Curtiss flying boat
- 1915: NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aviation, formed
- 1915: Synchronized aircraft guns, which allowed firing through the propeller without striking the blades
- 1916: Medical evacuation by air
- 1917: First aircraft landing (Sopwith Pup) on moving ship (HMS Furious)
- 1918: National air mail service inaugurated by Signal Corps
Here are a few pictures I took in and outside of Ypres, Belgium in 2005 with Kate O’Reilly.