John Ptak recently pinned a 1964 science fiction magazine cover depicting a ruined Statue of Liberty, predating the more famous ending of Planet of the Apes by four years. He wondered about earlier images along the same lines, and after a bit of digging I found not many at all. The above is the only example, but it turns out to be relevant to my interests. It's an American propaganda poster dating to 1918, appealing to the viewer to invest in the latest war bond issue. Lady Liberty is ruined all right — her head and her torch have tumbled down beside her. Behind her New York City is burning, and the flames and their reflection in the harbour dominate the image. The cause of the destruction is presumably the aeroplanes which can be seen on either side of the Statue. A submarine is also sailing past, which may be responsible for the merchant vessels wrecked on Liberty Island.
The art of Charles Dellschau has been receiving some attention lately, thanks to the recent publication of a book about his work. Dellschau, who produced thousands of strange and wonderful watercolours, drawings and collages in Houston, Texas, between about 1899 and 1922, is significant as an early outsider artist, but he is mainly of interest to me for two things. Firstly, his subject matter: his artwork is filled with strange flying machines (balloons? airships? aeroplanes?) intermingled with press clippings about aviation. Secondly, his overarching narrative: that his artwork records the activities of the Sonora Aero Club, a secret group of airminded inventors who actually created and flew the aircraft he depicted in California in the mid-nineteenth century. This is a beguiling idea, and some of Dellschau's admirers have tried to find out whether it is actually true (such as Pete Navarro, who is largely responsible for rescuing Dellschau's work). The Atlantic describes it as 'The Amazing Story of an Airship Club That Might Never Have Existed', as though we should be surprised if it had not. But it seems abundantly clear to me that we can in fact say that it pretty much definitely never existed. There is no evidence for the Sonora Aero Club that does not appear in Dellschau's artwork, but plenty against it elsewhere in the historical record.
The Illustrated London News is not really a campaigning newspaper, but it has followed up last week's striking graphical depictions of the airship menace with this fantastic double-page drawing by Norman Wilkinson, RI, of a German aerial fleet on its way to bomb Britain (pp. IV-V; above). The title asks
WILL IT EVER BE SO IN THE EASTERN SKY OVER ENGLAND? THE COMING OF THE BATTLE-DIRIGIBLES AND WAR-PLANES
The caption explains that the Aerial Navigation Act 'forbidding the passage of unauthorised air-craft over certain areas' was 'deemed advisable in view of the numerous reports current of late of strange air-ships manoeuvring by night over this country'.
The fact gives particular interest to this drawing, which represents the eastern sky of England as we may one day see it if the fears of some are realised. It shows an army of invading air-craft. In the middle is the main battle-squadron of air-ships with appliances for bomb-dropping; in the foreground and in the background are high-speed aeroplanes acting as the fleet scouts. Unless met by a stronger opposing force, such an army of air-craft could clear the way for the water-borne fleet of its country and so facilitate the landing of large bodies of troops. It may be remarked that from a height of a mile on a clear day a vision of ninety miles can be obtained.
The text in fact nowhere identifies where these invaders have come from, but airship no. 72 is flying what looks very much like a German war ensign.
This post is part of an experiment in post-blogging the scareship wave of January-April 1913. See here for an introduction to the series.
I may be the only person now living to have read all three of Hamish Blair's novels, published in 1930 and 1931 — I'm certainly the only person on LibraryThing to own any at all. I wish I could say that the rest of you are missing out, but you're really not: they are tedious as fiction and barely more interesting as future war fiction, which is the reason I bought them. Read consecutively, however, I can at least say that his writing did improve somewhat over the three books. And his first novel, 1957 (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1930), is a rare example of future colonial war fiction, and an even rarer example of future colonial air war fiction. So it's worth looking at for that reason alone.
[Cross-posted at Society for Military History Blog
New York waited for an air raid in June 1918. For thirteen nights from 4 June, much of the city was blacked out to avoid giving German pilots any assistance in locating targets to bomb. The New York Times reported the following day that:
Electric signs and all lights, except street lamps and lights in dwellings, were out in this city last night in compliance with orders issued by Police Commissioner Enright at the suggestion of the War Department, as a precaution against a possible attack by aircraft from a German submarine. A system for signalling by sirens in case the approach of aircraft should be detected was devised by the police and signal officers yesterday to warn persons to get under cover.
While coastal and anti-aircraft batteries readied their guns, aviators went up to check the effectiveness of the blackout, resulting in its extension. After the third night, it was reported that
The lower part of the city was in almost complete darkness, the number of street lights being reduced and those that burned being dimmer. Every downtown skyscraper was almost entirely dark, the shades in the rooms which were lighted being drawn.
City officials met to discuss other civil defence measures, including air raid sirens and shelters. A particular concern was the evacuation of skyscrapers during business hours:
It was pointed out that in case of such a raid in the daytime the danger of loss of life from panic in swarming down the stairs and into elevators would be greater than the danger of bomb explosions.
It was decided that the best thing to do would be to designate certain floors as evacuation points. These plans were probably not put into effect, however, as the last night of blackout was 16 June; on 17 June all police precincts were ordered to 'Resume normal lighting throughout the city until further orders'. There was evidently some embarrassment now, as the War Department and the New York Police Department each claimed that the blackout was the other's idea. In any event, the exercise doesn't seem to have been repeated.
[Cross-posted at Society for Military History Blog
In the published version of his 2008 Lord Trenchard Memorial Lecture, Richard Overy concluded that now
air power is projected for its potential political or moral impact. In Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan it is the political dividend that has been central to the exercise of air power, just as it was when Trenchard’s Independent Force flew against German cities in 1918 with the hope that a demoralised urban population might pressure the German government to make peace. In this sense it might be possible to argue, without stretching the history too far, that the RAF has begun to forge a new sense of identity in the past two decades more compatible with the traditions of Trenchardism.
My interest here is in that last word, 'Trenchardism'. Overy nowhere defines it — in fact, it's the only time it occurs in his article — but as an airpower historian I have a pretty good idea what he means, despite the fact that it's actually a relatively uncommon term. Marshal of the Royal Air Force (as he ended up) Lord Trenchard is well-known for his belief in strategic bombing as a war-winning weapon, particularly through its effects on morale, and as the RAF's Chief of the Air Staff from 1919 to 1930 he was in a position to promote it. This sense of Trenchardism, something like Douhetism, seems straightforward enough, and it's the sense in which I've encountered it in the secondary literature. But here I'm interested in other uses of this word Trenchardism: specifically the way it is used in a a Wikipedia article of that name which was created recently by Jo Pugh of The National Archives, who invites additions and comments (as discussed on Twitter). There, Trenchardism is taken beyond simply an enthusiasm for bombing, indeed beyond the military sphere entirely. The dilemma is that in so doing it risks diluting Trenchardism past the point of usefulness. But equally, it highlights a contemporary understanding of Trenchardism which is very different to that we understand now. Are they reconcilable? And if not, which should we prefer?
This image and the one below are selections from the The National Archives' collaboration with Wikimedia Commons, so far comprising 350 examples of war art from the Second World War. These particular ones are propaganda posters (or draft versions of same) but there are also more informational ones as well as portraits and caricatures of Allied leaders.
It's been more than two weeks since I've posted anything on my current mystery aeroplane research, but it's not because I haven't been working on it. In fact it is coming along pretty well. There are still some frustrating gaps in my understanding of the archival records, but the writing is coming along. I've written up the section about the aeroplane scare, and next I'll be doing the section on the German threat, as depicted above in a 1918 (?) poster by Norman Lindsay. So here's something about that.
Lots of interesting things in today's papers about the campaign in Burma, the future of India, Anzac Day, and so on — but there's also a lot on bombing, so I'm going to talk about that. The predominant theme is, as the Daily Mirror's front page headlines above claim, that Bomber Command is now delivering exceptionally heavy blows against enemy-held cities (one, Flushing or rather Vlissingen, is actually in the Netherlands, not Germany, though the Mirror doesn't mention this):
THE RAF have opened a new era in aerial warfare. Within the past twenty-four hours they have launched the two most destructive and furious raids of the war.
While Rostock, the German Baltic supply base for the Russian front, was still burning following one hour of concentrated bombing in the early morning, Fighter Command yesterday carried out their biggest ever single offensive.
In this day attack swarms of Spitfires took a force of Boston bombers to smash the docks at Flushing.
This post is part of an experiment in post-blogging the Battle of Britain, the Blitz and the Baedeker Blitz. See here for an introduction to the series.
MONSTER EAR TRUMPETS FOR AIR DEFENCE
During the last years of the Great War, sound detectors played an increasingly important part in the air defences of all the belligerents. Since those days they have undergone great development. Here the emperor of Japan is inspecting the huge trumpet-like detectors that work in conjunction with the anti-aircraft guns (seen right)
This last in a series on 'Things of tomorrow' draws upon Boyd Cable, 'Future schemes of air defence', in John Hammerton, ed., War in the Air: Aerial Wonders of our Time (London: Amalgamated Press, n.d. ), 310-6. (There was a seventh in the series, but by another author and on a non-military subject, that of stratospheric flight.) The previous posts looked at 'Death from the skies', 'The doom of cities', 'New horrors of air attack', 'If war should come' and 'When war does come: terrifying effects of gas attacks'.