Page 3589

3589 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

On the Continent hardly a day passed

without aerial battles or raids of some

sort. In the early days of the war the

Germans repeatedly dropped bombs on

Paris, killing a considerable number of

people and striking the famous church of

Notre Dame de Paris. Later such exploits against the capital became so

dangerous that they were few and far

between, but Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne,

Amiens and other cities suffered often.

Russian towns such as Warsaw and

Riga were repeatedly bombarded from

the air.

The Allies for the most part confined their

efforts to dropping bombs on fortresses,

railways, troops in the field, barracks,

Zeppelin hangars, and other objects that

gave promise of military results, but on

a few occasions, as for example in the

dropping of bombs on Karlsruhe, they

resorted to reprisals. Even in their use

of bombs against military objects they

not infrequently killed civilians, in some

instances their friends, the Belgians.

The dropping of bombs in any manner

proved, in fact, to be so destructive of

innocent lives that there can be no question

that the practice ought to be utterly

forbidden by international law. At best

the military objects attained were almost

invariably meager, while the death and

suffering inflicted upon the non-combatant

population was very great. It is not

too much to say that the use of aerial

bombs, submarines, and German "frightfulness" combined to make the war the

most brutal for centuries.

As time passed, the Allies on the Western

Front displayed a tendency to send out

great fleets of aeroplanes in their bombing

operations. Thus on July 13, 1915, a

squadron of 35 machines dropped 171

bombs at and near the railroad station

strategically established by the Germans

at Vigneulles-les-Hattonchatel, where ammunition and other stores were concentrated. The bombs not only inflicted

considerable damage by their explosions

but also started several fires. The same

day 20 aeroplanes bombarded with 40

shells the station at Libercourt between

Douai and Lille. Aeroplanes armed with

cannon bombarded a train.

Thrilling beyond anything ever witnessed in warfare were the hundreds of

duels that took place in the air. These

combats were often watched by thousands

of soldiers on the earth beneath, and not

infrequently they took place so high in

the air that they were literally fought

among the clouds. Now and then the

pilot of an aeroplane who desired to break

off an engagement was enabled to do so

by steering into some convenient cloudbank and thus escaping from his antagonist. Instances occurred in which

machines were disabled as high as two

miles in the air, to fall all that enormous

distance to the earth. When the engine

alone chanced to be disabled, the passengers

could sometimes save their lives by volplaning like a soaring bird to earth, often

into the enemy's lines. Now and then

machines caught fire in air, and in such

instances a horrible death was usually

inevitable. When the passengers were

killed or disabled, an aeroplane would

gyrate wildly about in all sorts of positions,

soon to dash to earth with a violence

that left little except a mass of tangled

canvas, wire and steel. Disabled machines falling reminded watchers of birds

shot on the wing by hunters.

On the land, war had come to be almost

an impersonal affair. Armies had grown

to be so large that the individual was

virtually lost in the mass. Artillerymen

worked their great guns much as men

operate machines in a factory, and by

indirect fire, destroyed from a distance

of several miles enemies whom they never

even saw. To a large extent what was

done was in obedience to orders transmitted by some general stationed long

distances from the scene of actual combat.

In the air, however, there was more opportunity for a display of individuality,

and the element of "personal combat,"

which lent interest to the warfare of old,

remained. It was possible, therefore, for

individuals to gain marked distinction

by deeds of personal prowess. In the

military reports the credit for such deeds