Manfred von Richthofen’s First Victory – American Volunteers in WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Week 113


By this time in the war, there were men from
all over the world taking part, but you know what? They weren’t just men from the warring nations,
thousands of men from nations that were not at war were fighting in Europe, including
many thousands of Americans. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week saw the introduction of the new
British weapon- the tank, as it rolled across the Germans at the Somme. The Irish also had some luck there, and on
the Italian Front and the Salonika Front the Allies began new offensives. Here’s what came next. Well, the end of that offensive on the Italian
front came this week. It was the 7th Battle of the Isonzo River,
and had begun last week with heavy Italian casualties. The objectives of the battle were to break
through on the Corso, but also to take Mount Rombon and the Bovec basin. For the first few days of the week, the Italians
attacked again and again, but they didn’t make any significant gains, and when they
did gain land, counter attacks drove them back before they could dig in. Thing is, in the attacks this week, Austrian
casualties kept pace with Italian and by the time Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna
called off the battle the 17th, Austro-Hungarian General Svetozar Borojevic von Bojna’s army
was pretty ragged. Italian production had created a big artillery
gap between the two, Austrian food supplies weren’t up to snuff, and the Austrian draft
was sending middle-aged men to the front lines after minimal training. But still, they defended well. In the assault on Mount Rombon the 16th, for
example. This mountain is high in the Julian Alps and
the peak was held by two Bosnian battalions of the Austrian army. The initial artillery exchange resulted in
small casualties for the Bosnians, and early and fairly demoralizing ones for the Alpini-
the Italian mountain troops. The assault that followed was a complete failure. Well, the whole battle was a complete failure,
even though I have to point out that losses were only a few thousand more for the Italians
than the outnumbered and outgunned defenders. But in this war defense pretty much always
had the advantage. Here’s a couple of other things Cadorna
did away from the battlefields (White War). Colonel Douhet, Chief of Staff of the Carnia
Corps, who would later shine under Mussolini, was very critical of Cadorna, and was appalled
by his ineffectiveness. He also corresponded with government ministers. In July he gave one of them an assessment
of Cadorna, saying his thinking was 45 years out of date, the idiotic concept of the frontal
assault had killed the country’s best soldiers, the insistence on holding every piece of conquered
territory regardless of losses was ridiculous, and that Cadorna had no strategic vision. This was all pretty much true, but Douhet
was not very discreet. Another missive in late August arguing that
the capture of Gorizia in the 6th Battle of the Isonzo had not helped Italy’s strategic
position at all found its way into Cadorna’s hands. He had no doubt who was the author and Douhet
was arrested, court-martialed for breaching confidentiality, and jailed for a year. Also, the press and the public gave General
Luigi Capello a lot of praise for the capture of Gorizia, so Cadorna banished him to a post
on the Asiago plateau. (SEGUE 1)
It wasn’t just the Italians that were charging this week; over at the Somme it was the Canadians. The Battle of Flers-Courcelette was in full
swing this week, coming to an end on the 22nd. Now, Britain had used tanks for the first
time as the battle began last week and though they mostly had mechanical problems, they
and the creeping barrage and nearly collapsed the German defenses, and by the time the battle
ended, after a week of fighting in rains that turned the whole area into a swamp, the British
had advanced several kilometers and even taken some of the German third lines. In fact, they took about twice the amount
of ground they’d taken on July 1st when the battle began, for about half the casualties,
just under 30,000. The Canadian Corps saw action at the Somme
for the first time the 16th. There was actually a very famous charge that
day by Private John Chipman Kerr. It’s chronicled like this: “Although his
finger had been blown off he sprang from shelter and raced along the top of the trench, shooting
down the enemy bombers from traverse to traverse. His astonishing onslaught proved the last
straw for the badly shaken Germans and 62 unwounded prisoners surrendered. Having delivered his captives at a support
trench, Kerr returned to action without troubling to have his wound dressed.” He won the Victoria Cross for his efforts. A side note- he was one of 14 volunteers from
a single family. I’ll talk about a couple of other individuals
today for a change. On September 17th, 1916, a young pilot named
Manfred von Richthofen won his first official aerial combat over Cambrai. He would soon gain fame as the Red Baron,
the deadliest ace of the war. He had already seen action dropping bombs
on the Eastern Front, but dogfighting was new to him. Richthofen wrote in his diary soon after the
event (Gilbert), “My Englishman twisted and turned, flying in zig-zags. I was animated by a single thought: “the
man in front of me must come down, whatever happens.”… At last… my opponent had apparently lost
sight of me… In a fraction of a second I was at his back
with my excellent machine. I gave a short burst of shots with my machine
gun… Suddenly I nearly yelled with joy, for the
propeller of the enemy machine had stopped turning. I had shot his engine to pieces; the enemy
was compelled to land…” The British plane was unable to reach allied
lines and touched down near a German squadron. Richthofen landed as well and ran over to
the enemy plane. Not only was the engine damaged, but both
pilot and observer were severely wounded. The observer died at once, the pilot a bit
later. Richthofen placed a stone on the pilot’s
grave. His star career was just getting going, but
another Starr’s career came to an end this week. A soldier named Dillwyn Starr died the 16th. He was American. He had volunteered in 1914 and drove ambulances
for the French, then British armored cars at Gallipoli, and then transferred to a British
Guards regiment. There were 32,000 Americans who had gotten
around British army regulations and managed to serve. One of those regulations listed categories
of people not allowed to enlist under any circumstances. Number 6 on the list was, “a foreigner”. There was also a development behind the lines
on the Western Front this week. On the 16th, German Chief of Staff Paul von
Hindenburg gave orders for a semi-permanent defense line built miles behind the front. This would become the H indenburg Line and
would be a fortified zone that could stop any allied breakthrough of the front lines. But if you want to know what some of the Allies
thought about the chance of that happening, here’s a quote from French General Émile
Fayolle about the Somme, (Strachan), “This battle has… always been a battle without
an objective. There is no question of breaking through. And if a battle is not for breaking through,
what is its purpose?” And over in southeastern Europe the Central
Powers were trying for a breakthrough of their own. In Romania, where a Turkish and Bulgarian
force was attacking under General August von Mackensen, perhaps the best German field commander
of the war. On the 17th in Dobrogea, Russo-Romanian forces
had fallen back from Rasova to Tuzla, and their situation seemed grave. But General Alexandru Averescu had taken command
there a day earlier with reinforcements and new Russian troops had arrived as well, and
now they attacked Mackensen. The fighting was heavy, particularly at Rasova
on the Danube and if Mackensen had taken it, he could’ve flanked the Romanians and cut
off communication between Dobrogea and the rest of Romania, but he didn’t take it,
and by the 19th was forced to retreat. And a couple of notes to end the week: on
the 19th, the Belgians occupied Tabora, capital of German East Africa, and on the 22nd Hejaz
surrenders to forces of the Arab Revolt. And the week ends, with battles ending at
Flers-Courcelette and in Northern Italy and the Germans pushed back in Romania. And the soon to be Red Baron’s career takes
off. And Dillwyn Starr died. Just one more man. But one more American man. 32,000 Americans served in the British forces. That’s a lot of men, and they were doing
so totally illegally, from British, American, and even German perspective. You know, I’ve said before that while this
war had lots of enemies, it didn’t really have a bad guy. Neither the Central nor the Entente Powers
were the good guys. But obviously, a great many men 100 years
ago didn’t agree with me, for they went to a war that was not their war and gave their
lives for a cause that was noble to them. Think of them for a moment.

100 thoughts on “Manfred von Richthofen’s First Victory – American Volunteers in WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Week 113”

  1. I understand no side was just the good guys or the bad guys as morally nobody in the battles was better than the others. But didn't the French and the Russian just defend their territory from the Germans? And similarly, didn't the Serbian just defend themselves from the Austrian? Isn't that enough to be considered as "the good guys"?

  2. So, we long term viewers know about Americans in the British and French armies on the ground and flying… How many Americans joined the German (Austro-Hungarian/Turkish, etc) side? Was that a thing?

  3. So.. The Entente had a lot of volunteers from foreign countries.. Did the Central Powers also have some Volunteers from neutral or even enemy nations?

  4. I'm surprised there is no mention of the Battle of Kaymakchalan, which began on the 13th. It's actually a very big deal in Bulgaria and Serbia even today.

  5. Foreigners were prohibited from serving in the British Army? That's odd, especially considering their manpower shortages and their routine use of troops from other nations within their empire.

  6. interesting fact about Douhet: he was the theorist behind Strategic Bombing between the two wars and the one that gave British, American and German WWII planners the idea that bombing cities to the ground could break enemy morale. quite hard to have simpathy for him even if he was critical with Cadorna

  7. I freaking Love this Channel. Didn't really get into WW1 till really this series started :/ Oh well 🙂 tells my ignorant ass to learn more 😀 Keep up the Great Work!

  8. my great great grandfather enlisted in the RFC in the begining of 1916 and was in the squadron that shot down the red baron, he took down one of the barons 'circus' during the dogfight in which the red baron was shot down, he survived the war.

  9. Acctually puertorrican soldiers where fighting in the war since the beggining. I bellieve that arount 20 thousande or even more , mostly of corse descent, faught in the war.

  10. Hello Indie and the gang firstly thanks for all you do and your great content, I was hoping that you could answer a question, did British and or French tanks ever engage German tanks during the first world and if they did, who won what would be the first Tank VS Tank battle in human history, thanks again for the great videos.

  11. Hi Indy, so i came from BBC video about WW1 Rap Battle, that vid is hilarious..but when Kaiser Willhem showed up it says "Cousin of Tsar Nicholas II"..so i got an interesting question, How can Tsar Nicholas II, King George V, Kaiser Willhem were related? since my question related to WW1, can you make a vid about it? thanks Indy!!

  12. Out of the trenches Question: Siam entered the war in 1917 but what and why did they get involved in the Great war? did Siam have a beef with French Indochina? This show is GREAT!!!

  13. Richthofen first began flying as an observer on the Russian Front. He describes his first time in a "flying machine", reporting, "(I) found it impossible to make myself heard by the pilot. If I took out a piece of paper, it disappeared. My flying helmet slipped off. My muffler dropped off. My jacket was not sufficiently buttoned. In short, I was miserable!"

    All this, and the idling plane had not even left the ground. ( Erza Bowen, "Knights of the Air" (1980) Time Life Books, page 122).

  14. Maybe this can a question for Out of the Trenches: Did any Americans serve in the French Army in the Foreign Legion or even illegally like the 32,000 that served in the British Army?

  15. Hi guys, just a weapons question for 'out of the trenches'. Were shotguns ever popular as weapons in any army? It seems they would be perfect for trench warfare, easy to use, and reliable.

  16. Great show! I watch every episode. Just one small remark. In Slavic languages, letter C pronounces not like K (cat), but as TS / TZ like (tsar). If it is K, we simply write K… Thus it is Bovets not Bovek…

    If you have time, visit Isonzo/ Soča in spring, it is heaven…

  17. This channel have so much content about the war that i even get amazed thrilled. For me 80% of of youtube videos should have this kind of contents , love you people from The Great War channel inclusive the other channel of History 🙂 You should make a Android app , i am programmer 🙂

  18. Salonika front >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> any particular individual story of American or Canadian or Aussie man-at-arms. I dont adhere to some of my compatriots tone when pointing out the same, but i certainly agree with their grumpiness over it. Why follow the official, so well known and boring narrative, one that served to mostly highlight Anglo-American and some French points of view, when there is so many more interesting, less known, and certainly more important pages in untold (or rarely told) WW1 saga?

  19. More high-altitude slaughter on the Italian front with Cadorna, as usual, more interested in destroying Italian rivals rather than Austrian enemies.

    On the Somme glorious victory as the Germans fall back before Britain's new secret weapons: tanks, creeping-barrages and Canadians. With parts of the third and final German line in Allied hands things are definitely not going according to plan for the Kaiser.

    Sir Douglas Haig and Sir Henry Rawlinson enjoy a brief flicker of sunshine

    The Russian front is flat on its back from exhaustion, and the Rumanian is have just annoyed Gen Von Mackensen, who must have been out without his hat that day; and I'm sure he'll make them pay as soon as he finds it.

    And enter the Red Baron: hunter, killer and Prussian individualist in a war of faceless mass-slaughter.

  20. I looked up Dillwyn Starr in the CWCG website. He was a Lieutenant in 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards.  He has no known grave but is believed to be buried in the Guards' Cemetery, Lesboeufs.

  21. I dont think 30.000 american volunteers is that much… i mean, 30.000 where killed in the battle of the somme this week, and even indy himself said "just under 30k men"…

  22. Finally caught up. Love your guys show. I love history and I always looked for a place to go more in depth into the war. I found it. Thank you guys. Keep up the good work

  23. Love the show! thank you so much for making so many wonderful videos on this fascinating 4 years of history! Talking about Americans fighting for the British, I remember in Ernst Junger's book about his experiences during the war he had a man in his company who had been a plantation owner in America before enlisting in the German army. Is there any hard data on how many Americans fought for the Central Powers and what happened to them when the US entered the war?

  24. Question for Lindy: you mention 32,000 U.S. citizens fought for Britian. Any idea or numbers on how many fought for Germany, Russia, Italy, Austria etc.?

  25. I remember the famous photo of Righthofen in flying cap, and how mature he looked to me when i was around twenty. I stumbled upon it recently, and was surprised how young he was.

  26. It becomes boring, the new theaters are opening, the new offensives (Monastir, Dobrodea, ..) and you are still commenting Verdun and Somme. And also incorrect informations about Romanian and Macedonian campaign. Pls. try to be little bit more objective, At Dobrodea, there is Bulgarian participation 10:1 to Turk one or German on, at Macedonia 10:1 to German too.

  27. Great episode. I enjoyed the story of Pvt. John Chapman Kerr and would like to suggest a new series where you tell the story of Victoria Cross, and the similarly highest ranked medals for Germany and France. I'm sure there are more amazing examples of heroism to learn about.

  28. Hi Indy and the team! Love your work, keep it up! Will you guys be covering the Russian civil war and by continuation the soviet union as the war comes to an end?

  29. Here is a related question for Out of the Trenches: I have read that most of the air combat happened over German lines. Since the kills had to be confirmed it seems that many of the allied kills would not have been counted. Is it possible that Rene Fonck is the leading WW1 ace and not Richthofen? Fonck himself said that his kill count was closer to 100. I am a long time follower and thank you so much for your work.

  30. how many americans were fighting for france, germany, italy, russia austria-hungry, and who ever else? you said 32,000 fought for england why not the other belligerents?

  31. No objective? There is always the chance to deceive the enemy and research their weaknesses while developing your own experience. A raw cauldron of philosophy brought into manifestation.

  32. Hi Indy! I have a question for Out of The Trenches. Since there were volunteers from other countries in the french and british countries, I was wondering if there were any volunteers in the Central powers from other countries, especially between Germany and the US, since you had mentioned that there were a lot of german descendants in the US and they strongly supported Germany. Keep up with the good work, I love the show! 🙂

  33. You can't mention American volunteers without mentioning the pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille. They flew for France long before Wilson declared war on Germany and many of them died in combat.

  34. The french general seems to have been not very well informed. It always seemed to me that battle of somme was designed for attrition warfare, which would eliminate the main core of german military. And as far as i know, it worked.

  35. I know you probably only specialise in WW1 but when you reach the end of this series, is there a chance you will do a build up to WW2.

    I know it won't be possible on a live timescale. I just thought it would be interesting to shed more light on the prelude to WW2. What with many people believing it is a continuation of the war.

    Also you could touch on how all the nations struggled to integrate it's soldiers back into normal society. I know that you touched on Shellshock before and how different nations viewed it.

    This is a long time away haha, doubt it's crossed your mind really.

  36. The artwork at 5:16 does not show Richthofen's first victory. It shows an S.E.5a. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_victories_of_Manfred_von_Richthofen

  37. When my Grandfather, from Boston, Mass, enlisted in the British Army in 1915, he simply lied about where he was from. He claimed to be from St Johns, Newfoundland. The recruiter couldn't tell the difference between a Boston accent and a Newfie one! Officially, he was from Newfoundland until he asked for his mustering out pay to go to Massachusetts.

  38. Can I ask how the Austrians casualties matched that of the Italian on the 7th battle of Isonzo , seeing as how the Italians were basically committing mass suicide against Austrian defences and first trench traps? Was the Italian bombardment that good? Or Bojna was as "good" as Cadorna ?

  39. i just discovered this channel! dude this is amazin so much history and very important information in your videos!

  40. Talk about the Finnish troops tained in Germany durin whe WW1, they also saw battle in diffrent fronts, before being send back to Finland.

  41. 3:25 So a colonel writes that Cadorna is an incompetent and he is arrested for "breaching confidentiality"… Well, I though it wasn't still a confidential fact.

  42. Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, a true hunter, it has been said, created a table made from the down entant enemy planes propellers he had shot down.

  43. I had really hoped that the British had put "treacherous colonials" on the list of people not allowed to serve in their army.

  44. Wow that final comment about the men who gave there lives for a cause that they thought noble sent chills down my spine need more kinds of inspiration like that in life

  45. Irony. French general asks what the purpose of the Somme was. Haig said in point 2, it was to relieve pressure on Verdun.

    So this Frenchman clearly did not appreciate that Britain was trying to help its French ally.

  46. This is mostly vested interest on my part but I find myself rooting for the Central Powers. I don't find their cause noble since WWI was anything but noble on either side, I'm just Bulgarian and I'd have liked for us to have won the war.

  47. "He won a battle and is popular? Put him somewhere that he can't take the attention away from me." Genius, pure genius.

  48. My great uncle Roderick Malcolm Gooderham was killed during the assault on Courcelette in September of 1916. He served in the 31st Alberta Battalion and is buried in Adanac cemetery. Adanac is Canada spelled backwards. It may have been over a 100 years ago but we still have his medals and deadman's penny.

  49. Because of russian-turkish liberating war in 1878, russians in Dobrugea did not expect bulgarian soldgers to fight with them. They are about to be suprised…

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