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The Stars and Stripes

Historical Research Capabilities: Researching Technology in World War I

Read the article reporting on the transport of two 42-centimeter German howitzers abandoned near Verdun in June 1919 and their shipment across France to Mehun and ultimately to Aberdeen, Maryland. Research the German howitzers known as "Big Berthas" and their effectiveness against allied fortifications at Liege, Antwerp, and Paris. Research other implements of war introduced during World War I, including the use of airplanes for reconnaissance and as bombers.

  • How effective were "Big Berthas" in securing the fall of the Belgian fortress of Liege in 1914?
  • What were some of the other major weapons used by the Central Powers and Allies during the war?
  • How did technological advances begin to alter warfare during World War I?

Airplanes were also used, on occasion, to deliver The Stars and Stripes, as noted in this story:

"THE STARS AND STRIPES for October 4 were delivered on the day of publication to the men in the front line in Argonne by American pilots flying Liberty planes.

All the different types of air-craft in the American service, bombing planes, observation planes, chasse planes, aided in the distribution that day and the next of some 2,200 copies, done into little bundles of ten and scattered along the line all the way from the western edge of the Argonne forest itself to Brieulles on the Meuse.

Some were dropped from a height of 1,000 feet, some were scattered over the lines by flyers swooping so low that they almost scraped the tree tops. They could see the doughboys rush for the papers and then look up to wave their appreciation. Just to be facetious, and for the general good of the German soul, a few copies were carried far back into 'Germany' and dropped around Mouzon and Sedan.

...Some of the most celebrated flyers in our service — pilots who wear the D.S.C. and aces like Lieutenant Cook and Lieutenant Rickenbacker — were among the aerial newsboys of THE STARS AND STRIPES that day."

From "Aerial Newsboys Peddle Army Paper," The Stars and Stripes, October 18, 1918, page 8, column 2

Another lighter story about technology in World War I has to do with the wristwatch. A relatively new timepiece, the wristwatch prior to the war was seen as an item of women's jewelry. During the war, however, the military purchased wristwatches for some units. Find out more about adoption of the wristwatch as a man's timepiece during World War I. A Search of the collection using the keyword wristwatch will identify several early items designed to convince soldiers that wearing a wristwatch was a good idea:

  • What pre-war attitudes about wristwatches were reflected in the stories?
  • What arguments were used to convince soldiers that wearing a wristwatch was a good idea?
  • Why advantages might wearing a wristwatch have over using a pocket watch, especially when soldiers were in combat?
  • How does the example of the wristwatch illustrate the complex factors that influence how technological innovations are adopted?