World History 1915

About the history of the world in 1915, Germany begins submarine warfare and the use of poison gas, London suffers from air raids.



* Nurse Margaret Higgins Sanger, 32, was arrested in New York under the Comstock Act, which classified birth control data as obscene and therefore not fit for the U.S. mails. She continued to teach contraceptive measures, nevertheless, and opened up the nation's first birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916--an act for which she served 30 days in jail.

Jan. 25 Alexander Graham Bell, 68, teamed up again with his assistant, Dr. Thomas A. Watson, for another historic phone call--this one the first transcontinental conversation between New York and San Francisco.

Feb. 4 Retaliating against the British blockade, Germany declared all waters around England a war zone and warned that "all enemy merchant vessels encountered in these waters will be destroyed, even if it will not always be possible to save their crews and passengers." In effect, this departure from accepted standards of warfare meant that all neutral ships were to be regarded as potential enemies and therefore were subject to German submarine attack. Germany thus hoped to isolate Britain from world trade. Despite Germany's warning and similarly worded ads placed by Berlin in The New York Times, 197 Americans boarded the Cunard liner Lusitania. On May 7, just 10 mi. off the coast of Ireland, the luxury ship was sunk by German torpedoes. Nearly 1,200 of the 1,957 on board were killed, among them 128 Americans. In Germany, schoolchildren were given the day off to celebrate the sinking. In the U.S., the clamor for war, while still not deafening, grew louder. A hot debate followed within the German leadership. Those fearing U.S. entry in the war suspended unrestricted submarine attacks for a time, but the hawks won out in the end, and more neutral merchant ships went down with Americans on board.

Mar. 11 To counter German submarine warfare, Great Britain announced a complete blockade of Germany. All goods, military or otherwise, bound for Germany were to be confiscated.

Apr. 22 German troops added poison gas (chlorine) to the arsenal of modern warfare at the second Battle of Ypres, southeast of Dunkerque. Variable winds limited its effectiveness, and the defending French, Canadian, and Belgian forces, while stunned, held the line. A French army doctor described that first gas attack:". . . as we looked to our left, we saw a thick, yellowish-green cloud veiling the sky like a cloud of vapor. . . . I felt the action of the gas upon my respiratory system; it burned my throat, caused pains in my chest, and made breathing all but impossible. I spat blood and suffered from dizziness. We all thought we were lost. . . ."

May 31 London suffered its first air raid. A Zeppelin LZ-38 dropped nearly 100 incendiary bombs totaling 3,000 lb. on the northeast sector of the city. Seven people were killed. The zeppelin attacks continued, but the airships proved too cumbersome to pose any real threat to Britain.

Oct. 12 Edith Cavell, 49, a British nurse tending to the war wounded at a Red Cross hospital in Brussels, was executed by a German firing squad for her part in helping some 200 Allied POWs escape to the Dutch border. The Allied governments denounced the action as murder. German officials defended it as necessary "to frighten those who might presume on their sex to take part in enterprises punishable with death."

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