August 3, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

WWI Recruitment PosterAcross the front page the headline reads “Armies of Million Each, Rushing to Frontier.”

“First Battle On – Aeroplanes Sink Two Dirigibles” headlined a report of a battle between French and German forces on the French side of the Belgian frontier. In Paris there were reports of the death of the aviator, Roland Garros, “[sacrificing] his life in bringing down a German dirigible Sunday, just after it had crossed the frontier from Alsace-Lorraine into France, killing every one of its crew of 25.”

Roland Garros, known today as the namesake for the French Open, did not die that day. A renowned aviator, Garros sought to develop a means for machine guns to fire through the propellers of the early fighter planes. Anthony Fokker did develop a means of synchronizing the propeller blade and the firing of machine guns, though in part by examining one of Garros’ planes after he was shot down behind German lines.

From the editorial page, the editor speculated that “There is no telling where a fire once well started will stop. Should the Germans and English get to fighting, it is fair to presume the children of the Faderland (sic) will not rush to the polls to vote for Dr. Withycombe.”

Though neutral and to be on the sidelines for three years, the paper’s editorial implies that sympathies for respective homelands are already solidifying. Very quickly we see that Marion County residents will demonstrate their loyalty to the homelands from which the immigrated.

Rumors of war led to conflicting reports. This would be not only the first worldwide war; it would also be the first war in which a rudimentary global communication system would report events within hours of the event.

Mobilization by Great Britain signaled the expansion of the conflict:

There were rumors that English and German squadrons had met in the North sea and that two English and six German ships had been sunk, but these reports lacked confirmation and were not generally credited.

That England’s forces had been mobilized, a step which everyone felt sure was preliminary to a declaration of war, was announced in the house of commons by Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey.

The British, he said, could not see France subdued and Belgium and Holland ravished – honor, if not self-respect, compelled the nation to go to its ally’s aid. He laid especial emphasis on German disregard of Belgium’s neutrality.

Amidst thunders of applause it was also announced that the Irish home rulers and anti-home rulers had buried their differences and were united against the foreign enemy.

Notwithstanding all this enthusiasm, it was said several members of the British cabinet would resign deeming war wrong under any circumstances. The expectation was that Premier Asquith would so reorganize the ministry as to have all political parties represented. Lord Kitchener was deemed a likely candidate for war portfolio.

FIGHTING RAGES ON LAND AND SEA AND IN THE SKIES ABOVE

(By Ed L. Keen.) London, Aug. 3. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, Servia and Montenegro were at war today.

Fighting raged on land and sea.

In England an army and navy mobilization order had been issued.

Between Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Servia formal declarations of hostilities had been exchanged.

The Germans appeared to have attacked France without troubling to declare war. Indeed, their ambassador was still in Paris, and the French minister was in Berlin.

Montenegro also joined Servia in resisting Austria-Hungary without formal announcement of its intention to fight.

England’s declaration against Germany was expected hourly.

For what promised to be the first great land battle and perhaps the decisive one of the Franco-German campaign, the stage was already being set.

Regardless of their neutrality, one million German troops were pouring through Belgium and Luxemburg toward the French frontier. Another German army was hurrying toward the point where German, French and Swiss frontiers join.

Basle, in Switzerland, was already said to have been occupied by the kaiser’s troops. Several Belgian towns had also been seized. The main body of the German force in Belgium had reached the River Meuse.

The vanguard of this force, joining with the advance detachments of a third army, moving from Metz, had already crossed the border into France and engaged troops at Longwy.

The paper reported that German and French residents of the United States were subject to conscription. In Los Angeles, “Tearful scenes were enacted today at the German consulate, where scores of German reservists reported for instructions.” In San Francisco “Four hundred French reservists had reported for military service up to noon today at the headquarters of Consul General Monnett here. About 200 were registered yesterday. They will leave by train Wednesday for New York, there await an opportunity to cross the Atlantic.”

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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