It’s been a year now since Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, giving way to the diplomatic kerfluffle that generated the First World War. The war that would “be over by Christmas” is now lurching towards its first anniversary, and the death toll mounts in Europe and in other places. Irish Home Rule, which seemed to be on the way, is now deferred indefinitely, and the French film industry has largely been shut down as the machine shops are converted to war production and young men are drafted into service. V.I Lenin is in Switzerland, writing critically of the many Social Democrats who support the war, and Trotsky is in Paris, advocating “peace without indemnities or annexations, peace without conquerors or conquered.” Italy, partly under pressure of a formerly prominent Socialist named Mussolini, has chosen to join the war, precisely in order to achieve those things Trotsky would renounce. The USA remains neutral, although in the wake of the sinking of the Lusitania, a good deal of anti-German sentiment has spread among the population.
Here’s the news roundup for July, beginning with the war news:
South Africa is victorious in the South-West African Campaign, beating the last of the German forces in Otavi (present-day Namibia) on July 1, and accepting German surrender on July 9. South Africa would make repeated attempts to annex the former territory of German-South-West Africa, finally agreeing to demobilize in 1988.
Air War: on July 1, pilot Kurt Wintgens, of the German signal corps, becomes the first man to shoot down an enemy plane, using a machine gun mounted on his Fokker aircraft. Wintgens would go on to achieve the status of “ace.”
Russian Front: on July 22nd, Russian forces begin “The Great Retreat” from Polish and ultimately western Russian territory in the face of forces of the Central Powers. Although it is a lengthy withdrawal, across hundreds of miles of territory, much fighting power, in form of men and materiel, is preserved, allowing for a significant counter attack, beginning in September.
Canada: a trolley overloaded with 157 passengers, overturns on July 7 near Queenston, Ontario, killing 15.
Disasters: The steamer Eastland capsizes while tied to a dock in the Chicago River, July 24. 844 passengers lose their lives.
US Military: On July 28, the occupation of Haiti commences to protect American economic interests in an increasingly volatile political situation. President Woodrow Wilson invokes the Monroe Doctrine and concerns about possible German infiltration as justification. The occupation will continue until 1934. 330 US Marines are sent to Port-au-Prince, and face resistance from only one Haitian soldier.