Planes, Guns and Automobiles I BETWEEN 2 WARS I 1919 Part 1 of 4


1919 – Part 1. In 2018, there are still people alive who were born in 1919 or even earlier. And yet, this was such a different world that it almost defies imagination. Mass communication was only through printed newspaper; there wasn’t even radio with sound. The majority of people alive hadn’t ever seen, let alone sat, in a car. In January of 2018, more than 3.8 million commercial flights took to the skies. The same month 99 years earlier, it was zero. Regular passenger airlines did not even exist yet. In 1919 though, all of those things were about to change and change quickly. Welcome to Between 2 Wars, a summary of the interwar years. From the uncertainty and hedonism of the 1920s, to humanity’s descent into the darkness of the Second World War. I’m Indy Neidell. Four armistices ended World War I in the field last fall. But even as the killing subsided, the biggest pandemic in history, the Spanish Flu, reached its zenith of infection, killing millions of more people than the war did all around the world. Despite the suffering though, in France, in Great Britain, and in the US, everyone was breathing a sigh of relief. With the war finally over for the victorious Allies, a new age of hope, freedom, and uninhibited growth looked like it was in the making. Everyday inventions so promised for the future. It’s a promise of mass communication for everyone. This is the year when aviation transforms from a hobby in the civilian world and a novel way to wage war from the skies, to a world altering means of travel. During the war, civil aviation had been banned in many parts of the world. Military aviation, on the other hand, made fantastic developments, from the open single engine planes made out of plywood, wire, and canvas, to solid structure metal planes with closed cockpits and crews of ten people or more. By 1918, huge planes like the German Zeppelin-Staaken R-series heavy bomber aircraft, or the French Farman Goliath F.60 appear. Now, the F.60 was still in testing when the war ended and never saw military service. But the Farman brothers realized there was a potentinal use for it. On February 8th, 12 passengers take the first commercial flight between London and Paris. This is a big promotion for Henri Farman’s aviation company and the Goliath, which now becomes the first long distance passenger airliner. In February, the ban on civil aviation was still in place though. So all of the passengers were former military pilots in uniform, “carrying orders.” But the ban is soon lifted, and the first regular international commercial route is opened by Farman March 22nd, between Paris and Brussels. Again, with the Goliath F.60. Aviation is now the new frontier. From May 8th to May 27th, a Curtiss NC-4, a US Navy flying boat commanded by Albert Reed, makes the first transatlantic flight. From Rockaway Naval Air Station, to Newfoundland, the Azores, and finally Lisbon. On June 14th and 15th, a Vickers Vimy with John Alcock and Arthur Brown aboard make the first non-stop transatlantic flight, from Newfoundland to Ireland. And then there were the airships. During the war, they had been the first aircraft to bomb cities behind the front lines like London, Paris, and Cologne. Now, they’re seen as possibly the best solution to carry cargo and passengers over longer distances. From July 2 to 6, the British airship R34 makes the first transatlantic airship flight. This is also the first westbound aerial crossing of the Atlantic, from Scotland to New York state. An airship also causes one of the first major civil aviation accidents, when the Wingfoot Air Express crashes into the Illinois Trust and Savings Building in Chicago on July 21. 1 crew member and 2 passengers are killed, as well as ten bank employees who die when flaming debris crashes through the skylight into the main banking hall. But the march into the age of air travel is unstoppable, and continues into the fall as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is formed October 7. This makes KLM the world’s oldest airline still flying under its own name. In its first year of existence, KLM will transport 345 passengers and 25000 kilos of post and cargo. A week later comes the next aviation milestone when on October 13, the Paris Convention Relating to the Regulation of Aerial Navigation is signed. The convention decides that each nation has absolute sovereignty over its airspace, and can deny entry, and regulate flights into and through its airspace. However, each nation must apply its airspace rules equally to its own and foreign aircraft operating in that airspace. These universal regulations, expanded over the years, still make up the framework of the international airlines industry today. But the budding travel boom isn’t confined to the skies. The Citroën Type A makes its appearance in June, the very first cars Citroën ever made. Producing 100 cars a day by 1920, Citroën is the first mass production auto manufacturer in Europe. This is just one more step, like Henry Ford’s in the States, for making the car available to nearly everybody. And mass production will thus lead to mass communication, when everybody can travel cheaply and easily. In the autumn of 1918, the foundation for the age of radio had been laid, when Edwin Armstrong made the broadcasting of sound practically possible. Until 1917, radio transmissions were only pulses of radio waves, and communication was possible only via Morse Code using spark transmitters. This was only on a single frequency, and was interpreted electromagnetically. The next step was sending on two frequencies at the same time, and switching between them. Now, this did not allow you to transmit voice. But it did allow the receiver to turn Morse code into beeps and buzzes, which you could listen to with headphones, which is a great advantage if you’re being shelled during wartime. The first receiver that interpreted the switching frequencies as sound waves was the heterodyne receiver, but it was very weak and not very versatile, so the quest began for the superheterodyne receiver. The basic scheme for such circuits was patented in 1917 by Frenchman Lucien Lévy for encoding messages during the war. Then in December 1918, Armstrong patented his circuit which significantly boosted signal, and interpreted sound in the full range of human hearing. His superheterodyne circuit could be tuned by tuning a single knob, and radio as we know it was born. This year in 1919, radio takes the next step on its way into the living rooms of the world. In early 1919, the British Marconi Company sends a combination deaf and vacuum tube radio transmitter to the Canadian Marconi Company building in Montreal. This set is a two-way radio telephone, and also a long distance transmitter. British Marconi has the idea that this war surplus set could be used in the Canadian paper industry for communication between mills and offices. So its early tests are a point-to-point communication, with engineers repeating simple phrases and pausing to see if there were any answers coming. Thing is, the engineers got bored of the repetitive work, and began playing gramophone records for their tests. This soon got the attention of local amateur radio enthusiasts, who enjoyed hearing the music better than the usual Morse code. This fall, Canadian Marconi forms Scientific Experimenter Ltd. to sell radio equipment to amateurs. And on December 1, XWA in Montreal (call letters used by Canadian Marconi) becomes the first public radio station in North America to go on the air. It would be several more months though before any documented entertainment broadcast to a general audience would happen. And even though the Great War is over, military technology continues to make leaps and bounds. On February 4, Browning is awarded the patent for the M1919 .30 caliber machine gun Eventually, 5 million M1919s will be produced by the end of World War II. With its characteristic cheese grate cooling guard around the barrel, this iconic weapon continues to see action on the battlefields of the world to this day. Also this year, John Thompson finalizes the design for the Thompson sub-machine gun. The Tommy gun will gain infamy during the Prohibition era in the US, being used by gangsters and law enforcement alike. They will be used by the US military until past 1970, but are still used in other nations in 2018. At sea, we see one end result of wartime mass production when the German fleet is scuttled June 21 at Scapa Flow. 74 ships had been interned there since November, and the German Admirial von Reuter is worried that with a possible peace treaty being signed, his ships would be divided among the Allied Powers. His skeletion crew manages to sink 52 of them. With peace came hope, and innovation that wasn’t only meant to kill people or keep them safer on the battlefield. The advances in mass communication, for which the foundation was laid this year, will transform the world forever. In the next 20 years, the plane, the automobile, and the radio will not only make life easier to live, they’ll also be an instrumental part in a global ideological struggle that’ll eventually erupt into World War 2. But it’s no wonder that the arms industry continues cranking out new ways to kill and maim in this year of ostensible peace because so far, there is little peace. Although World War 1 is over, the wars are not over, not by far. In the next part of 1919, we’ll look at the wars that continued to rage across the globe especially in and around Russia. If you missed our prologue on the Spanish flu, click right here to see that. To get our episodes ahead of time, and to support the effort to make more content like this, join the TimeGhost Army on Pateron or directly on our TimeGhost.tv site. There, you can also sign up for our forum for free. Links are in the description. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to TimeGhost and World War Two on Youtube. World War Two Week-by-Week starts September 1, 2018. See you next time.