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WWI underground: Unearthing the hidden tunnel war (...killed an estimated 10,000 Germans.)
BBC ^ | June 10, 2011 | Peter Jackson

Posted on 06/10/2011 10:09:12 AM PDT by decimon

Archaeologists are beginning the most detailed ever study of a Western Front battlefield, an untouched site where 28 British tunnellers lie entombed after dying during brutal underground warfare. For WWI historians, it's the "holy grail".

When military historian Jeremy Banning stepped on to a patch of rough scrubland in northern France four months ago, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

The privately-owned land in the sleepy rural village of La Boisselle had been practically untouched since fighting ceased in 1918, remaining one of the most poignant sites of the Battle of the Somme.

In his hand was a selection of grainy photographs of some of the British tunnellers killed in bloody subterranean battles there, and who lay permanently entombed directly under his feet.

When most people think of WWI, they think of trench warfare interrupted by occasional offensives, with men charging between the lines. But with the static nature of the war, military mining played a big part in the tactics on both sides.

The idea of digging underneath fortifications in order to undermine them goes back to classical times at least. But the use of high explosive in WWI gave it a new dimension.

One of the most notable episodes was at the Battle of Messines in 1917 where 455 tons of explosive placed in 21 tunnels that had taken more than a year to prepare created a huge explosion that killed an estimated 10,000 Germans.

Tunnelling was mainly done by professional miners, sent from the collieries of Britain to the Western Front.

(Excerpt) Read more at bbc.co.uk ...


TOPICS: History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: ggg; godsgravesglyphs; militaryhistory; worldwarone; ww1
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1 posted on 06/10/2011 10:09:17 AM PDT by decimon
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To: SunkenCiv

What’s mine is mine ping.

Recent history, ancient technique.


2 posted on 06/10/2011 10:10:52 AM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon
One of the most notable episodes was at the Battle of Messines in 1917 where 455 tons of explosive placed in 21 tunnels that had taken more than a year to prepare created a huge explosion that killed an estimated 10,000 Germans.

A mine is a terrible thing to waste...

3 posted on 06/10/2011 10:14:12 AM PDT by GOPJ (In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act. - - Orwell)
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To: decimon
One of the most notable episodes was at the Battle of Messines in 1917 where 455 tons of explosive placed in 21 tunnels that had taken more than a year to prepare created a huge explosion that killed an estimated 10,000 Germans.

A mine is a terrible thing to waste...

4 posted on 06/10/2011 10:14:29 AM PDT by GOPJ (In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act. - - Orwell)
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To: decimon

http://www.lochnagarcrater.org/


5 posted on 06/10/2011 10:15:31 AM PDT by Fester Chugabrew (minds change)
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To: decimon

6 posted on 06/10/2011 10:18:09 AM PDT by frithguild
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To: decimon

Like many tactics of World War I, this tactic debuted courtesy of the American Civil War - specifically a mining expedition by the 48th PA Infantry at the Siege of Petersburg July 30, 1864.


7 posted on 06/10/2011 10:22:04 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: frithguild

Well done.


8 posted on 06/10/2011 10:22:30 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: decimon
IIRC, the site at Messines ( where the big explosion occured) still today bears the depression/crater.

Many don't know it, but today it is literally possible to walk from the Swiss border to the English channel, and follow the trench lines. It is incomprehensible to realizie that millions died, over several years, for a few miles of terrain.

I toured Verdun, and some of the other Somme sites in the early 70's, while I was stationed overseas. To look at the momuments, with the endless lists of the dead..it is humbling experience. It makes D-Day, and the American military cemetary, look like a minor skirmish.

Prior to that experience, I'd always failed to understand how the Brits allowed Hitler to come to power, when he could have been stopped early on quite easily. I used to ridicule Chamberlain's "peace in our time."

Once you realize that the Brits lost the better part of an entire generation in WW I, it gives context to their actions up till the outbreak of the 2nd WW.

9 posted on 06/10/2011 10:23:51 AM PDT by ken5050 (Save the Earth..It's the only planet with chocolate!!!)
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To: GOPJ

To this day, that 455-ton mine at Messines is still the largest loss of life in world history from a non-nuclear explosion. Ten thousand men wiped out in a few seconds from the explosion or being buried alive when their trenches and dugouts collapsed. Horrifying.

}:-)4


10 posted on 06/10/2011 10:26:05 AM PDT by Moose4 ("By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!")
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To: frithguild; wideawake
You mean like this?

The Battle of the Crater

Its ironic that the Civil War began using tactics of Napoleon 50 years before, and ending using tactics of The First World War 50 Years Later.

11 posted on 06/10/2011 10:29:47 AM PDT by KC_Lion (If Sarah can't be elected in 2012, then Phase II will fall into place, may G-D have mercy on us all)
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To: wideawake; frithguild
Like many tactics of World War I, this tactic debuted courtesy of the American Civil War

Exactly right. And nice graphic frithguild.

12 posted on 06/10/2011 10:33:38 AM PDT by Upstate NY Guy
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To: decimon

“holy grail”

Odd way to describe the last resting place of heros.


13 posted on 06/10/2011 10:35:38 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This post is not a statement of fact. It is merely a personal opinion -- or humor -- or both)
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To: decimon

Verdun and The Somme were an ecological Diseaster. Look at this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_rouge_(First_World_War) and this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_villages_destroyed_in_the_First_World_War as well as this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Verdun


14 posted on 06/10/2011 10:36:07 AM PDT by US Navy Vet (Go Packers! Go Rockies! Go Boston Bruins! See, I'm "Diverse"!)
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To: ken5050
Along those lines, people have written books about how the notion of manliness suffered in Britain and France immediately after WWI. The 1920's saw a younger generation of "bright young things" and a much greater acceptance of homosexuality. A generation of real men had been lost and culturally, Britain (and France) had a greatly reduced willingness to be manly and risk doing it again.

What is remarkable to me is that Germany does not seem to have had quite the same experience. They lost WWI but (perhaps because they felt "stabbed in the back") they were almost eager to do it all over again. They still had an aggressive spirit.

But after WWII you can see that all of Europe became pacifist. They don't want to fight anymore: twice was enough. Of course, they still can fight -- the men that they have are good quality and can get the job done -- but overall, as societies, they are not manly and do not relish the thought of combat.

America has held on to the tradition a lot better, but we too are certainly not the men we used to be. I think Vietnam did to us was WWI and WWII did not.

15 posted on 06/10/2011 10:36:07 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (The USSR spent itself into bankruptcy and collapsed -- and aren't we on the same path now?)
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To: ClearCase_guy
What is remarkable to me is that Germany does not seem to have had quite the same experience. They lost WWI but (perhaps because they felt "stabbed in the back") they were almost eager to do it all over again. They still had an aggressive spirit.

Largely because almost none of the war was conducted on their soil. Note the difference in the French and English responses to Germany's WWII aggression.

16 posted on 06/10/2011 10:44:46 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: wideawake

Good point.


17 posted on 06/10/2011 10:46:24 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (The USSR spent itself into bankruptcy and collapsed -- and aren't we on the same path now?)
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To: wideawake

I was going to post that in 1552 Tsar Ivan the Terrible breached the city walls of Kazan using tunnels and mines. That’s how it was depicted in the Soviet film.

But the accounts I just read only mentioned the use of mines, not how they were emplaced. Oh, well.

The battle of Messines is a forgotten horror. We no longer have the sense of history (and gratitude) we once did as a people, remembering those who sacrificed all. Maybe the IT revolution will reopen the past to us.


18 posted on 06/10/2011 10:46:41 AM PDT by elcid1970 ("Deport Muslims. Nuke Mecca. Death to Islam. Freedom for mankind.")
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To: ClearCase_guy
"Along those lines, people have written books about how the notion of manliness suffered in Britain and France immediately after WWI....

Casualty counts that would cause outrage today were more or less expected back then. Thousands of dead day after day for months on end. This devastated the marriage aged females of both countries. Untold tens of thousands were destined to be spinsters through no fault of their own.

A sad thing on top of all the other horrors of war.

19 posted on 06/10/2011 10:51:29 AM PDT by SnuffaBolshevik
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To: ClearCase_guy; wideawake
Good points.

Germany's eagerness to embrace Nazism, and again launch a war is due in major part to the terms of the peace treaty. Keynes correctly predicted that it would cause Germany to take up arms again. The terms imposed left them no chocie. If you give people no hope, then death is an acceptable, if not welcome alternative. And they might well have won.

I was watching a History channel documentary recently during Civil War week. It said that the mortality rate in the Civil War, in today's population, would equate to SIX MILLION dead, with at least an equal numer of casualties, today. Would we be willing to pay such a price today?

If you've ever seen "Chariots of Fire: the opening scenes, which show the impact of the war dead, and the disfigured survivors, is among the most powerful expressions of what England went through.

20 posted on 06/10/2011 10:55:12 AM PDT by ken5050 (Save the Earth..It's the only planet with chocolate!!!)
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To: ken5050
It is incomprehensible to realizie that millions died, over several years, for a few miles of terrain.

I agree. Easy to write about and beyond imagining.

Prior to that experience, I'd always failed to understand how the Brits allowed Hitler to come to power, when he could have been stopped early on quite easily. I used to ridicule Chamberlain's "peace in our time."

Once you realize that the Brits lost the better part of an entire generation in WW I, it gives context to their actions up till the outbreak of the 2nd WW.

And the much maligned French.

21 posted on 06/10/2011 11:02:45 AM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon
Documentary Heaven
22 posted on 06/10/2011 11:05:54 AM PDT by Berlin_Freeper
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To: ken5050; ClearCase_guy
Keynes correctly predicted that it would cause Germany to take up arms again. The terms imposed left them no chocie. If you give people no hope, then death is an acceptable, if not welcome alternative.

I disagree with Keynes.

The terms of the surrender were militarily humiliating, but did not necessarily remove hope.

A lot of commentators do not seem to realize exactly what was at work in the Versailles Treaty.

The victorious powers knew that Germany's industrial base was still intact at war's end and that Germany would have a swift economic recovery and be able to rearm in short order, to begin the war again.

They also knew that France's industrial and agricultural base was deeply impaired.

So the goal of the reparations/demilitarization was that Germany would transfer its military budget to industrial output to pay off the reparations - the proceeds from reparations would rebuild France's industrial base (and also its military capability) while the demilitarization would give France the time it needed to regroup.

The goal of the Versailles treaty was primarily to restore the "natural balance" of power between France, Germany and Britain - not to deprive Germans of hope.

23 posted on 06/10/2011 11:06:08 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: ClearCase_guy; ken5050

Both excellent posts.

You may be interested in a book called Rites of Spring by a fellow named Modris Eksteins. Assigned to me by some liberal college professor years ago when I was studying WWI it details among other things the birth of “expressionism” in the postwar period and the rise of homosexuality and cross-dressing. Also on the reading list Franz Wedekind’s Frulingserwachen and a bunch of other crazy stuff. That class is most memorable to me because, as my homosexual TA whose advances I refused failed me on my final paper, it is the only class I have ever failed.


24 posted on 06/10/2011 11:08:37 AM PDT by golux
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To: golux
Rites of Spring is an excellent book! Also worthwide is "War and Modern Memory" by Paul Fusell, and "Children of the Sun: A Narrative of Decadence in England After 1918" by Martin Green.

WWI defined the entire 20th century. Culturally, it changed everything. And the rise of the Bolsheviks became a poison that damaged the entire globe.

25 posted on 06/10/2011 11:15:31 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (The USSR spent itself into bankruptcy and collapsed -- and aren't we on the same path now?)
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To: wideawake
The goal of the Versailles treaty was primarily to restore the "natural balance" of power between France, Germany and Britain - not to deprive Germans of hope.

I would agree with your theory a little more if the European power brokers didn't start carving up the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires under the watchful eye of Woody Wilson. And they took the German representatives on a lengthy tour of war desolation with the clear objective of making it known that "All this is your fault!" There was a clear desire for severe punishment of the German people and an elitist attitude toward the "Barbarians"

26 posted on 06/10/2011 11:20:05 AM PDT by Gordon Pym (2+2=4)
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To: ken5050
I toured Verdun, and some of the other Somme sites in the early 70's, while I was stationed overseas. To look at the momuments, with the endless lists of the dead..it is humbling experience. It makes D-Day, and the American military cemetary, look like a minor skirmish.

Prior to that experience, I'd always failed to understand how the Brits allowed Hitler to come to power, when he could have been stopped early on quite easily. I used to ridicule Chamberlain's "peace in our time."

Once you realize that the Brits lost the better part of an entire generation in WW I, it gives context to their actions up till the outbreak of the 2nd WW.

I've also found it easy to laugh at jokes about used French military rifles from WWII being "almost new; only dropped once", or referring to "surrender monkeys."

However, I believe the French suffered casualties rivaling the English. An entire generation of brave men disappeared. I think this had something to do with French attitude to WWII, and that we may still see the effects in pacifist Europe today of the loss of almost an entire generation of brave fathers, brothers, husbands, and uncles during WWI.

27 posted on 06/10/2011 11:20:56 AM PDT by Scoutmaster (You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred.)
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To: KC_Lion

I once heard the Civil War described as a 19th century war fought with 20th century weapons and using 18th century tactics. The Prussians learned a lot by observing our Civil War, and then used that knowledge to win the Austro-Prussian War and the Franco-Prussian War. ....and after all of that, the Brits and French (and Germany cavalry) still used mid-19th century tactics to destroy millions of their own troops.


28 posted on 06/10/2011 11:28:12 AM PDT by Pecos (Constitutionalist. Liberty and Honor will not die on my watch.)
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To: wideawake

Beg to differ. The roots of WW II had nothing to do with the military surrender terms. Indeed, Germany felt betrayed, because it had NOT been defeated militarily. But the reparations were beyond impossible, they defied logic. Germany’s industrial base, which as you correctly point out, was largely intact at the end of the war, was to have bene virtually dismantled and shipped to the Allies. Germany’s economy would have to grow to 50X the size of WW I, and at that lever, EVERY drop of output would have gone to pay the reparations. There have been several excellent studies which make this point. The Allies were bled dry by the cost of the war, and the governments told the people that they would recoup the cost of the war from the Germans.


29 posted on 06/10/2011 11:30:15 AM PDT by ken5050 (Save the Earth..It's the only planet with chocolate!!!)
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To: Gordon Pym
There's no question that one goal was to rub Germany's nose in it and to prevent the formation of German-Austrian Empire.

But if the main purpose was to deprive Germans of hope and destroy Germany, the Allies could have permanently occupied large portions of Germany.

30 posted on 06/10/2011 11:37:23 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: US Navy Vet
Verdun and The Somme were an ecological Diseaster.

I remember reading Alistair Horne's excellent book on Verdun, "The Price of Glory," and he says that there was something like a ton of explosive detonated for every square yard of the battlefield, rendering the soil to the consistency of fine sand.

31 posted on 06/10/2011 11:41:32 AM PDT by Bubba Ho-Tep ("More weight!"--Giles Corey)
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To: Scoutmaster; decimon
Good points about the French. The country suffered terribly in WW I..horrific casualties. Don't know why it's not often discussed. It may well be a function of language. Look, here in the US, we still hear the occasional outcry about the cruelty of bombing German cities..the Dresden raid is an example...yet we cannot even comprehend that the USSR lost perhaps 20 million, if not more..at some level, the mind shuts down..refuses to compute..the scale is to great.

We've just finished honoring another D-Day anniversary. It's generally accepted that about 2,500 US troops were killed on that first day. Yet it is hardly ever mentioned that over 600 US troops were killed some 6 weeks before the invasion, during a training exercise to practice landings on the beaches...

32 posted on 06/10/2011 11:41:52 AM PDT by ken5050 (Save the Earth..It's the only planet with chocolate!!!)
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To: Berlin_Freeper

Wow - thanks for the tip! Looks like a great site.


33 posted on 06/10/2011 11:44:15 AM PDT by GOP_Party_Animal
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To: ken5050

Not to mention the fact that German civilians were starving to death at the end of the war. Germany needed every ounce of industrial and agricultural output to right itself for years after the treaty was signed.


34 posted on 06/10/2011 11:51:20 AM PDT by GOP_Party_Animal
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To: decimon

Somewhat off topic, but poignant, is a book I read about German generals. In it, Senderlin, who fought in and lost his brother in WWI, actually went to the trench where he was buried, dug him up, put him in his car and drove him home to be buried. Horrifying to say the least.


35 posted on 06/10/2011 11:51:43 AM PDT by Amberdawn
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To: ken5050
But the reparations were beyond impossible, they defied logic. Germany’s industrial base, which as you correctly point out, was largely intact at the end of the war, was to have bene virtually dismantled and shipped to the Allies. Germany’s economy would have to grow to 50X the size of WW I, and at that lever, EVERY drop of output would have gone to pay the reparations. There have been several excellent studies which make this point.

This was not the case.

The reasoning was simple: during the runup to WWI, Germany had been spending about 7% of GDP on its military.

The Treaty provided for about 40 years of reparations at the rate of about 7% of 1910 GDP.

The goal was hardly dismantling Germany's industrial production, but diverting a portion of its products to the Allies.

German industrial production was back up to prewar levels by 1921.

Your claim of 50x is simply divorced from reality.

The original total reparations were 269mm gold marks and German GDP was about 85mm gold marks - three years worth of GDP, not 50 years.

The reparations were easily sustainable by Germany.

36 posted on 06/10/2011 11:52:38 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: Bubba Ho-Tep

If you tour the Verdun battlesite, because of the huge about of nitrates/nitrites in the soil from all the explosives detonated, there are still today acres upon ares of soil where nothing grows...it looks like the surface of the moon..


37 posted on 06/10/2011 11:55:04 AM PDT by ken5050 (Save the Earth..It's the only planet with chocolate!!!)
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To: GOP_Party_Animal; ken5050
Not to mention the fact that German civilians were starving to death at the end of the war. Germany needed every ounce of industrial and agricultural output to right itself for years after the treaty was signed.

Again, inaccurate.

There was widespread hunger in Germany at the end of the war because most agricultural production was going to the front lines and the rest of Germany was well-blockaded by the UK navy.

Within months after the blockade ended, German domestic agricultural production and food consumption was approaching prewar levels.

France had worse food shortages in 1920 than Germany did.

38 posted on 06/10/2011 11:56:37 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: Scoutmaster
I've also found it easy to laugh at jokes about used French military rifles from WWII being "almost new; only dropped once", or referring to "surrender monkeys."

Same here, until I read A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. Phenomenal bravery and toughness on the part of the ordinary French soldier.

39 posted on 06/10/2011 11:56:57 AM PDT by GOP_Party_Animal
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To: ClearCase_guy

I think Vietnam was a result of what had already changed within the American leadership that was already in it’s 50s, 60s and 70s.


40 posted on 06/10/2011 11:58:09 AM PDT by ansel12 (Bachmann/Rollins/Romney=destruction for Bachmann, but it sure helps Romney. WHY?)
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To: wideawake

You have “forced” me to do some research this weekend..I’m fairly sure of my facts, but will verify and discuss with you later. If you can provide any links/sources to substantiate your statements, I’d appreciate it. Thanks


41 posted on 06/10/2011 11:58:58 AM PDT by ken5050 (Save the Earth..It's the only planet with chocolate!!!)
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To: wideawake

My post #41 crossed your #38..same comments apply again, best


42 posted on 06/10/2011 12:01:07 PM PDT by ken5050 (Save the Earth..It's the only planet with chocolate!!!)
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To: Scoutmaster
However, I believe the French suffered casualties rivaling the English.

French casualties were far worse than British. The official statistics are 1,697,800 French dead, or 4.29% of their total population, versus 994,138 British dead, or 2.19% of their total population. Adding British Empire forces (Canadians, Anzacs, South Africans, etc) brings their total to 1,225,914, still far behind the French.

43 posted on 06/10/2011 12:05:23 PM PDT by Bubba Ho-Tep ("More weight!"--Giles Corey)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Boy, have I enjoyed reading your profile! One day I hope to make your acquaintance.


44 posted on 06/10/2011 12:13:22 PM PDT by golux
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To: ken5050
If you can provide any links/sources to substantiate your statements, I’d appreciate it.

Sally Marks is the one recent historian who has actually delved deep into the math of WWI German reparations. She wrote a good-sized chapter in a Routledge festschrift about 10 years ago or so.

Most analyses seem to be the work of non-economist historians.

Ultimately I find that all this misrepresentation of Versailles and of the established practice of reparations is in service of a rational explanation of the supposed inevitability of National Socialism.

It was neither rational or inevitable - sometimes nations do irrational things. Human nature can be very dark and unpredictable.

I find these arguments similar to the arguments that 9/11 was inevitable and was a predictable and foreseeable response to US foreign policy.

45 posted on 06/10/2011 12:13:42 PM PDT by wideawake
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To: golux

Well, thank you. It’s really just a dumping ground for anything that strikes my fancy and which I don’t want to lose.


46 posted on 06/10/2011 12:16:43 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy (The USSR spent itself into bankruptcy and collapsed -- and aren't we on the same path now?)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Every once in awhile a thread comes along which I wish was taking place in my living room over cigars and a few bottles of single malt. This is, of course, one of them.


47 posted on 06/10/2011 12:20:32 PM PDT by golux
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To: ken5050
To look at the momuments, with the endless lists of the dead..it is humbling experience. It makes D-Day, and the American military cemetary, look like a minor skirmish.

The first day of the First Battle of the Somme the Brits lost over 19,000 dead and took 35,000 casualties. Adjusting for population sizes that would be the equivalent of the present day US loosing 125,000 dead and taking 225,000 casualties - in one day.

48 posted on 06/10/2011 12:33:15 PM PDT by Timocrat (Ingnorantia non excusat)
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To: Pecos

I’ve read that casualties suffered by the forces of the Confederate States in the Civil War were proportionately comparable to those suffered by the major European combatants in WW I. The North lost similar numbers, but its population was much larger.


49 posted on 06/10/2011 12:47:59 PM PDT by hellbender
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To: decimon
The Turkish attack on Vienna in 1529 featured use of tunneling, mines, and pitched battles underground.

http://wesulm.bravehost.com/history/vienna_siege.htm

50 posted on 06/10/2011 12:54:57 PM PDT by hellbender
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