Russian Bombing On The Eastern Front – US Prisoners of War I THE GREAT WAR Week 134

Russian Bombing On The Eastern Front – US Prisoners of War I THE GREAT WAR Week 134


Relations between the United States – who
were neutral – and Germany had seriously deteriorated over the past couple of weeks since Germany
re-introduced unrestricted submarine warfare, whereby even neutral shipping could be sunk
without warning, and those relations take another hit this week, as Germany detains
American citizens as prisoners of war. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, the action on the Libyan front finally ended, and the Macedonian front
came to life after the winter, with the British realizing that the Bulgarian defenses were
formidable. Some big news also was the United States severing
diplomatic relations with Germany and drawing one step closer to joining the war. And that crisis continued to develop. After the US broke off diplomatic relations,
American Ambassador to Berlin James Gerard had requested his passport to leave the country. That was back on the 5th. Now, dispatches from the US had arrived in
Berlin via London, which misled the German government into thinking that their ambassador
to the states, Count von Bernstorff, had been detained by the American government, along
with German ships in American ports and their crews. So Gerard and a bunch of Americans in Germany,
like newspaper correspondents, were themselves detained and they remained so this week. There had, in fact, been no such seizures
of ships or anything in the States, and the only restrictions on the German crews were
those of immigration laws, and detaining Gerard was actually an act of war. Whatever the case, while he was being held
incommunicado, the German government was trying to deal with him by revising two old treaties
and applying them to new conditions. Of course, since breaking diplomatic relations
Gerard was no longer an ambassador and had no legal status to negotiate, but Germany
asked him anyhow to sign a protocol that was to protect Germans within the US and their
interests in the event of war between Germany and the US. Germans in the United States and Americans
in Germany were to be allowed to live their lives and conduct their business unmolested,
or were to be free to leave with their property. They were to have the same private rights
as any other citizens, their contracts were to be honored, and they were not to be interred. Also, merchant ships were not to be forced
to leave port unless allowed binding safe conduct by ALL enemy sea powers. Basically, in the event of war Germany’s
interests in the US would be exempt from military law. Gerard refused to sign. American Secretary of State Robert Lansing
got hold of the protocol through the Swiss and told Germany that the US would not modernize
and extend the treaties – which were from 1799 and 1828 between the US and Prussia – pretty
much because Germany had already violated and voided them. The 1828 one, for example, said that if one
country was at war, the other one’s shipping and commerce would not be interrupted. Well, unrestricted submarine warfare threw
that right out the window. Lansing said he believed those treaties had
been abrogated by Germany, but think about what that means. Without those treaties, German vessels in
American harbors would be immediately seized by the American government should war break
out, so Germany had basically destroyed the protection they would have otherwise received. This week, when Berlin realized that no ships
had been seized and Bernstorff was fine, they released Gerard and another 120 Americans
and gave them their passports. The German government said Gerard’s detention
was an error made by minor officials. Thing is, they had not released the Yarrowdale
passengers. These were a number of Americans who had been
taken from ships sunk by the German raider Moewe and taken to Germany aboard the captured
British steamer Yarrowdale. They were being held as prisoners of war because
they had taken pay and served aboard armed enemy vessels. The Story of the Great War says, “Germany
disclosed for the first time that they were treating armed merchantmen as ships of war
and regarded neutral seamen found on such vessels as combatants. The German raider had captured altogether
103 subjects of neutral states. They were not imprisoned because they had
committed hostile acts… They were penalized for being on enemy vessels.“ The US government said that this was all BS
and they shouldn’t be prisoners of war without committing hostile acts, but Germany did not
free them. German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann
said, “They will be released just as soon as we learn the fate of the German crews in
American ports”. Which they had actually already learned. Those crews were at liberty. By now people began thinking that these Yarrowdale
guys were being held to be hostages in the event of war, and just the fact of their detention
was becoming a major part of the crisis between Germany and the United States. A report came this week on the 16th that they
had been freed, but that was a false alarm. They remained prisoner and tensions between
the two nations grew ever stronger. Germany did, of course, have to concentrate
on the nations with which it was actually at war, and there was scattered fighting this
week. There were no major offensives in progress
on the Western Front, not since Verdun ended a couple of months ago, and the Allies weren’t
planning a new one until April, but still there was action every day. On the night of the 10th, the British captured
a system of German trenches on a front a kilometer wide on the Somme line north of Serre Hill,
taking 215 prisoners. There were many such raids this week by the
British and the French, with most of them being quite successful, and though they in
themselves were not especially important, together they showed progress. Each slight advance brought them closer to
important German positions and the number of prisoners taken added up. By Valentine’s Day the British had forced
the Germans to abandon advance positions between Serre and the Somme. Of course, the Germans elsewhere were making
gains of their own. On the 15th, south of Ripont in Champagne,
they stormed French lines on a 2km front, penetrating 500m. They captured 21 officers and 837 enlisted
men. They were also doing well on the Southeastern
Front, which was slowly coming alive as winter waned. On the 12th, a German attack near Jacobeny
took Russian positions and over 1,200 prisoners and on the 14th near Tarnopol, another attack
took 6 officers and 275 prisoners. And in the skies in the east? Well, people have asked us a number of times
about Russia’s air force, so I thought I’d share this piece from “The Story of the
Great War”. “February 13th, 1917 was an especially active
day for Russian aeroplanes on the Eastern Front. They dropped bombs on the Povursk railway
station, east of Kovel, and on the depots north of the Povursk station. Bombs were dropped on the station at Rodenrois,
East of Riga; on the little town of Lihinhof, in the vicinity of Friedrichstadt; on Valeika,
the village of Sviatika, north of Vygonov Lake, south of Kiselin; on Radzivilov, and
in the regions south of Brody.” All these attacks may have produced prisoners
and casualties, but they didn’t change the overall picture of the war, but on one front
that was pretty close to happening. The Mesopotamian Front, where General Sir
Stanley Maude’s men were nearing Kut-al-Amara, where a British army had surrendered to the
Ottomans last spring. His re-equipped, re-trained, and re-organized
forces had been on the move up the Tigris since December, and made great progress this
week, driving the enemy from the right bank of the Tigris and taking nearly 2,000 prisoners. This was a major step toward victory, but
the Ottomans still held strong defensive positions at Sanniyat. And here are some notes to end the week. On the 14th, the British government told the
Japanese government they would support Japanese claims on German territory in Asia and the
Pacific north of the equator if Japan will support British claims south of it. On the 15th, the British government took over
all British coalmines for the duration of the war. And that was the week. The British coming ever nearer a prize in
Mesopotamia, scattered fighting on the European fronts, and a potential hostage situation
in Germany. Well, you could I guess call it a current
hostage situation. The Yarrowdale men had been held for 44 days
as prisoners of war in violation of international law. But really, who cared about international
law at this point? Any of the warring nations? They were all using poison gas, that had been
outlawed by the Hague years ago. Atrocities against civilians? Great, new PR opportunities! So… hostages? Who cares? Individual rights had no place in modern war. If the German Merchant Raider Moeve rang a
distant bell in your head, that’s because we made a whole special about their first,
incredible journey. You can learn all about that right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Benjamin
Kraus – thanks to Benjamin’s and your help, we are able to produce this show. Help us out on Patreon to make it even better. See you next time.

Comments

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    Anthony ofWindsor

    To german speaking viewers I recommend speeches of Herfried Münkler. There are also some on youtube available. Really educational.

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    Zan0s

    I don't know how such a small team is able to accomplish so much on a weekly basis, and still have their own lives. You guys do an amazing job and your dedication to your work is awe-inspiring.

    Here's to the great war team. From Australia.

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    xafidafi the man

    hey indy and crew (say hi for me )thanks for the show but can tell me how where the trenches build love the show keep up the work

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    themajor

    SPOILER ALERT:

    Fun fact about the SS Vaterland (seen at 3:38), it is docked in US waters when war is declared and is promptly seized by the US government. During the war, it was converted into a troop transport for the United States and renamed the USS Leviathan. After the war the Leviathan became the United States Lines flagship as part of reparations for the war. All of Germany's biggest liners were actually handed over to allied powers as reparations. When the United States Lines tried to convert the Leviathan back into a passenger ship and refit her, they realized that the Germans had never handed over a copy of the ship's blueprints. After asking the Germans for the a copy, the Germans agreed to sell US Lines a copy for $1 million. I imagine they were still pretty bitter about the Treaty of Versailles. Needless to say, the US refused but that meant that they had to reverse engineer every inch of the ship for months to create new blueprints and then refit her. After her refit and some very clever and suspect accounting, she was declared the biggest ship in the world

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    nebu7777

    man I'd kill to see you guys do this series for World War II. I REALLY hope you think about it when this series is at the end. WWII is so much more interesting to me and Impacting to us everyday. I know there's a huge lack of coverage for WWI but you guys are so good at this, I'd love to see what you have to say about WWII.

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    Eusebius

    My g-grandpa was a US citizen in Germany at this time. He said he was never treated any differently by the German people or government when war broke out between the US and Germany. He had to simply report in to the local police station once a week so they knew where he was. He said he received the same treatment as German citizens; getting the same food rations etc. It seems like Germany's holding of US citizens was directed to small specific group.

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    Wesley Snyder

    Hey Indy, a video has been going around the internet that has you singing the song "hard luck woman" on the ukulele, care to explain the premise behind that?

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    Justin Roig

    Dear Indy, tanks( pun intended) for the awesome show. I was wondering what it was like in Puerto Rico during the war. What was the reaction to the war. What changed.

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    CorruptedWolf13

    To Mr Idle please put this on out of the trenches. How was the impact of armored light vehicles (Ex: armored cars) a big effect on battles in the war and who used them? From what I found only Belgium used them in large numbers is this true?

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    Erik Rothenbuchner

    Greetings from Upper Austria.
    Could you perhaps make a video about "ski soldiers" in WW1. I would be interested where and by whom they were used.
    Thanks in advance.

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    A. Friedrich Wilhelm Macklin

    Hi Indy, Greetings from Stuttgart. A question for "Out of the Trenches", Did soldiers ever switch sides?

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    Ed Wiles

    Love the series!!! Wonder if you could do an episode about the plight of the Jews in Poland. If you have i apologize fo missing it. This NY Times 1917 archive refugee testimonial says it all! http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9405E0D91538EE32A2575BC1A9649C946696D6CF

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    Marek Dohojda

    Ohh Germany, yer so silly!

    I guess Von Hotzendorf thought "Hey, this war isn't big enough! I know, let's further piss of America! Now we can't loose!"

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    Walter Alter

    I have a minor critique of Indy's delivery style. I love the focused energy and animated delivery. The subject matter is intense and deserves an intense presence on the part of the narrator. But what would be the harm in occasionally seeing a smile or bemused irony creep across Indy's face if some comedic blunder or shortsightedness is being discussed? When ending a segment, a pleasant countenance would imply pride in the production. Usually we get a stern visage accompanying "See you next time" which makes me roll my eyeballs and wish Indy could lighten up a bit. We know the subject is horrific and we are capable of autonomously judging it's relevance to today and really could do without a parting hammer to the head by "Ragnar Neidell" in the last few seconds of the segment, seconds that tend to echo and color one's mood and leave a sour taste. I love this series, it's impact on turning YouTube into an independent broadcast medium, it's implications for pedagogy and turning the Internet into a real time university. A pleasant goodnight and an occasional cheerful expression isn't going to break the cosmic mirror…

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    ColasTeam

    Can anyone give me a legit answer as to why exactly the US never objected to the british blockade on Germany? You are telling me the trade with Germany wasn't lucrative enough that this act affected the economy in the US?

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    Codenwarra Cove

    Florian, Indy, a question for the future. The "Spanish Influenza" pandemic struck in mid 1918. For reasons to do with immunity from a pandemic in the 1880s, it mostly affected younger people who had been born after that pandemic. Large numbers of German soldiers were reporting sick in late 1918. It's not clear whether they were malingering or genuinely ill, but as you noted in an earlier video they were already malnourished with weights down to 55 kilograms.

    What do you think the role of the "Spanish influenza" might have been in the cessation of hostilities? No need to answer now.

    Reference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48Klc3DPdtk

    More than an hour, and it's abstruse if you don't know any immunology or virology.

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    Tofiq Bayramov

    Hey. I just want you to prepare a video about Nellie Bly. She was a war journalist and even first war woman reporter of WW 1. Can you do it? I read an article about her and I was really impressed with her life, and it would be great if you will create a video about what Nellie Bly actually did and dealt as a journalist in WW1.

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    René Moncayo

    Fun fact: the US was the enemy in Vietnam. OH and in The Iraq wars too (kuwaiti royalty V's secular govt). Btw a withdrawal is surrender, a tactful retreat is a feint or repositioning. Kthxbai.

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    the breakfast brigade

    i have a question would the two sides in the trenches after a battle would both sides allow the other to go out and collect their dead or would the go out under fire p.s keep doing what you are doing

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    Özgün Uslu

    Hello Indy, I have a question which boggled my mind for a while now. Why Allies did not attempt to push eastwards from Thessoliniki towards Istanbul ? Isn't knocking Ottoman Empire out of the war on the table anymore ? Ottoman Empire was weaker than most of the Entante powers, true, but with that they could've secured the oil and obviously the Russian Empire's continuity as it was the case for the battle of Gallipolli.

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    classydude

    Well after 1871 Prussia evolved with Germany into Europes strongest power and was recognized in having the most efficient army in the world. Of course they didnt fear little USA, they had a strong economy but were incredibly weak in military terms in comparisson to any european power of that time. You cant compare they US of today to the US of back then. they only became the worlds strongest power because the European Greatpowers smashed each others heads in while the US was mostly standing outside, gaining profit from the european war at the same time.

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    Randolph Guevara

    As you showed in your opening animation the Imperial Russian air Force was the first to use four engine bombers. They were designed by Igor Sikorsky of later helicopter designer fame. The name of one of these planes was the Ilya Murometz. Check it out online.

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    Greg Shane

    Was the southern sector of the Western Front essentially quiet after 1914? I don't recall any mention of southern activity during 1915-16, while so much was happening in all the areas north from Verdun.

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    Matthew does kool stuff

    Germany: takes prisoners*
    USA: could you not do that
    Germany: you started it
    USA: I'l hurt you
    Germany: I'm sorry but Ich spreche kein Englisch

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    browndd

    I'm sure you get this all the time but kudos on those pronunciations. As a fellow american i don't think i'd have the first clue as to how any of them are suppose to sound.

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    mariusstana

    The German – Us diplomatic issue is just total BS….
    The US was clearly on the allied side and had economical interest, not the interests of her citizens who were by all reasonable means involved in the war already (armered mercant ships = enemy all day long ).

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    Marc Lutz

    Great episode, but I especially enjoyed the link to the SMS Möve. Not the most bizarre raider of the war. That, I think that would have to go to the 'Seeadler' and Count Felix Von Luckner! Who else raided shipping in a three masted sailing ship?

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    merdiolu

    I am more and more suprised on Germany's diplomatic confusion and blunders and inconsistent erratic style of foreign relations as war progressed. I mean their side Central Powers despite industrial power of Germany were a handful of Mid European autocratic style empires with mainly agricultural economies , blockaded by sea , cut off from overseas trade and raw materials , fighting on multiple fronts and on top of that they are antagonising US….Were German militarists and influence of German High Command that powerful that Germany began to forfeit fine details of a proper diplomacy (or shall we say foreign diplomacy best suited to their interests ) during wartime ?

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    ftffighter

    Hey Indy, I have a very big question though since air combat was brought up. Was there ever a case of artillery shells or cannon hitting an air plane in the war? I know during WW2 Otto Carius and gunner, Heinz Kramer, managed to shoot down an aircraft with only their second shot while in the Russian front lol this was during his Tiger days. http://www.factfiend.com/otto-carius-greatest-shot-ever-taken-tank/

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    MrAlumni72

    Thanks for that brief clip of the submarine Deutschland near the beginning – are you going to do an episode on her and the Bremen? The relatively new book "The Baltimore Sabotage Cell" by Dwight Messimer (US Naval Institute Press, 2015) gives a fascinating history of the blockade-running submarines as well as German spy and sabotage activity in the US. Maybe you can add it to your Amazon page.

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    worddunlap

    So, the UK manipulated electronic communications to involve the US in a war that cost many lives and a ton of money. Seems a lot like it was snatched from todays events.

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    ares647

    basically this whole war is just a perfect storm of mass incompetence and miscommunication, by this point pretty much anything indy says about a general or a country i learn to disagree with or scoff at unless he specifically says otherwise

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    Tiberius Maximus

    Indy, could you do an episode about the submarine Deutschland? I noticed some footage in this episode (1:38) of this same submarine, its truly a remarkable story.

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    SeresTheZocker

    "The same private rights as any other citizen"
    Now I wonder how the war influenced black and native Americans
    The civil rights movement was still decades away and manpower and workforce were essential
    I would hope that this effected their place in society positively, but my hopes are somewhat slim since they still lived in a world where an act of terrorism three years ago started a war that spanned from Papua New Guinea to the British Isles…what a fucked up world

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    Lee Selkirk

    Uh… It appears that the German Uhlan featured in your opening is a reverse image, namely, he is left handed. Rather unlikely as mixing lefty and righty lancers in any army would be a no-no.

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    LeCharles07

    Ok, this is weird; it may just be "one of those things" though. I have now heard the word "abrogated" or some variation 3 times in one day and I swear I had never heard it before. Great word though, more force than neglected and not as aggressive as violated.
    edit This is also "The Great Word" channel.

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    Happy Thoughts

    If Germany won WW1, how might that have effected the next several decades? Would France be part of Germany? Would WW2 have happened?

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    Amitabha Kusari

    Why were merchant ships armed though, was there ongoing piracy in those parts, or were they to defend against various navies. They would be hilariously outgunned if the case was the later, or were there instances where merchant vessels successfully defended itself against battleships or U-Boats??????

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    AsiA I.

    America garbagE''' will be all killeD''''''UK will be genocideD''' HeHHHHH'''' HeHHHHH'''''''' HeHHHH'''''''''''''HehHHHHHHHHH'''''''''''''''''' @/@

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    Iconoclasm_

    Yet another act of war by Germany that the US just ignores. Let's see the German fanboys try to justify that one. Detaining a diplomat.

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    lindsey607

    Great points all around, yet again indy. Keep up the fantastic work brother man. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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    Roland Lawrence

    would love some more about russian air power. seeing they were the 1st to bring in the 4 engine bomber, it seems crazy they did not use airpower more.

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    Gehtdi anschasau

    Since when do you have do commit hostile acts to be taken pow? Isn`t it usually enough to wear the wrong uniform?

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    TullyBascombe

    Were not the German commerce raiders which acquired the prisoners violating international law? IIRC they masqueraded as unarmed merchant ships of other countries, hoisting German colors and revealing their guns only at the last minute.

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    kaczynski S

    It would be interesting to know how many US POWs were captured by the Germans in WW1. My guess would be less than 1,000 – the USA's late participation in the war and their going on the attack when they did would have kept the number of prisoners low.

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    Gato Villano

    Oddly enough, I find the treaty, the Germans were asking for, to be completely acceptable. It respected property rights and human rights of German citizens oversea. I would have signed that treaty as well.

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    6lue Already Dead

    The more and more I watch of this the more and more I realize how evil most Germans really were back then and the more and more I believe we should have dropped an atomic bomb on Germany in World War II also not just Japan🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️💯💯💯💯

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