3 Stories from The Great War

Gerald D. Swick, who was an editor and proofreader of the rules for MacGowan & Lombardy’s The Great War™ card game, authored a newspaper column of historical information about his home state, West Virginia, for more than 16 years. With Gerald’s permission three of those columns that dealt with the First World War are offered to the Kickstarter and BackerKit customers who post their feedback about the game. You can read more by Gerald in his always fascinating “Once, in America, a quirky American history blog” at

Here are the choices –

#1 Letters home from the Great War
This column shares parts of the letters written by seven West Virginia veterans who wrote home with their thoughts, including one who was “utterly unimpressed with France,” and another who refuted a fake American newspaper story that claimed his artillery regiment “had been annihilated”—simply not true!

#2 The final flight of “balloon buster” Louis Bennett, Jr.
Bennett piloted a British-made SE-5A single seater biplane fighter plane after being assigned to the Royal Air Force No. 40 Squadron in 1918. He was credited with shooting down eight German observation balloons and two confirmed and one probable aircraft before he was shot down nine days after his first aerial combat. He died of his injuries a month short of his 24th birthday.

#3 Surviving a horrific wound
An American pilot’s training accident went horribly wrong before he could be deployed to France. A gifted surgeon’s work on this young airman’s face was hailed as “among the most remarkable performed during the war”—and gave him the hope of living a normal life after the disastrous crash.

2 Guides to First World War German Navy Records at the National Archives
Thousands of rolls of microfilm containing Imperial German Navy records are stored at the United States National Archives. The following two PDFs providing finding aids for research were provided by archivist and military history author Tim Mulligan.

Tim Mulligan received his Ph.D. in diplomatic history from the University of Maryland. He is the author of three books and over 20 articles most relating to the Second World War in Europe, including Lone Wolf: The Life and Death of U-Boat Ace Werner Henke and Neither Sharks Nor Wolves: The Men of Nazi Germany’s U-Boat Arm.

Mulligan worked as an archivist at the National Archives for 34 years and volunteered 10 more years after he retired. One of the projects he undertook was compiling lists of the records of captured Imperial German Navy records from the First World War that are available at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. These finding aids are essential for anyone who wants to do research on the German Navy in the Great War 1914-1918.

Operations in the Baltic 1914-1919 (28 pages)

This compilation includes dozens of intelligence, operational, after-action, and battle damage reports. The 1917 German joint air-sea-land operation Operation “Albion” is well documented. Here are just two examples from this PDF finding aid –

Kr. Op. Ostsee 7. Sonderunternehmung II K.Adm. Behring gegen den finnischen Meerbusen mit kl. Kreuzern, Torp.- und U-Booten 8./14.10.14. Versenkung russ. Panzerkreuzer “Pallada” (operation by light cruisers Amazone and Lübeck, supported by light forces and submarines U-23, U 25 and U 26 in the Gulf of Finland, including a British news clipping regarding the loss of Russian cruiser Pallada in this operation), 5 – 23 Oct 1914:

PG 64868, roll 465

Akte III.2.-18x. Akten betr. Fortsetzung der Operationen in der Ostsee vom Juli bis 6.9.1916 (including information on Russian air attacks on German naval and air installations; directives for antisubmarine operations by auxiliary ship Vineta in the Kattegat, 23 Jul and 19 Aug; an assessment of the poor performance of German UB-class submarines in the Baltic and evaluations of specific UC-class U-boat operations there, 5 Aug; a proposal for shipping American citizens as “guardian angels” on board German merchant ships threatened by British submarines in the Baltic, 26 Aug; a message on the engagement between auxiliary ship ‘K’ and an enemy submarine, 13 Aug; a report on new Russian minefields that resulted in the loss of two light German craft, 18 Aug; a report of the naval representative at Imperial Headquarters on the advisability of an operation to seize Ösel Island (Saaremaa) near the Gulf of Riga, 25 Aug; and a listing of German naval coastal batteries on the Courland coast, 28 Aug), July – September 1916:

G 77172, roll 1195

Operations in the North Sea 1914-1919 (87 pages)

This compilation includes dozens of intelligence, operational, after-action, and battle damage reports, including records of operations of German naval airships (zeppelins) in the North Sea theater, including airship raids on Great Britain, as well as British naval and air strikes on German bases and facilities. In particular the records provide extensive information on the principal naval engagements fought in the North Sea during the war, the Battles of Helgoland (or Heligoland) Bight (28 August 1914), Dogger Bank (24 January 1915), and Jutland (31 May-1 June 1916), as well as bombardments of the English coast (2-3 November and 15-16 December 1914 and 24-25 April 1916).

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