Hisbits: World War 1

Whether the first bullet hit him or his wife, I’m not sure. Either way, the blood soon covered the hole exposed in both the bodies and the fabric which the assassin’s weapon caused.  

A very real, and very deadly secret society, known as the Black Hand, personally selected six men to ensure the success of the plot. Princip was the name of the man who ended the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. 

The two, one victim and the other murderer, were loyal to their countries. Archduke Ferdinand to Austria, being the heir to the throne. Princip, to both Serbia, and a Slavic section of Austria that longed to be free from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Like the echoes that were to come, Sophie was the first innocent casualty, many more would follow. 

The Slavs and Serbia shared a common genetic history, one that enhanced the desire to join together into one greater unit. The name of that goal was to be a nation known as Yugoslavia. Itself, now a ghost of history past. 

It may well have stayed a story on the other side of the world, had it not been for the demands of the territories involved, and their friends. Austria demanded justice, issuing an ultimatum to the Kingdom Of Serbia.

No less than the head of the Serbian Military Intelligence, Dragutin was behind the plot. Perhaps this was the reason that Serbia only partially complied with the demands. Austria, along with their ally Germany invaded Serbia.  

Russia, an ally of Serbia, prepared for war. Germany’s two leaders, Kaiser Wilhelm, and his Prime Minister Von Bismark, saw the opportunity to invade Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.  

Russia attacked both Austria, and attempted to invade Germany. Unsuccessful, they were violently repelled by the German war machine. While only a small part of Northern France was occupied by Germany, the costs of the war on it would be deadly.

At war’s climax, 1.4 million French soldiers would give their lives, in a short time, 4% of the entire population of France was gone. 27% to 30% of their entire military would be killed in a war that began with one bullet.  

Great Britain, an ally of France, declared war on Germany. Before the War, Great Britain was in trouble itself. Political problems divided the country. As horrible as the bloodbath known as the Great War, before it’s sequel was, it unified Britain.  

They not only had an ally to save, they had an enemy to despise. 850,000 lives would be sacrificed by the United Kingdom of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland to save France. A man named Winston Churchill helped to develop the military vehicle known as the tank.

The power of Britain’s military wasn’t enough. No matter how proudly the Union Jack flew over British vessels, they needed another ally. That’s where the Dough Boys came in.

This was the term used to describe the American Army and Marine soldiers that, as the popular song said, went “Over There” to fight for France’s liberation. The phrase was taken from a fried dumpling soldiers would consume which became what we now call the doughnut.

The reason our soldiers joined the fight sounds like a scene out of a summer movie. A German U-Boat, what you and I would call a submarine, sank the British cruise ship Lusitania, with 128 American passengers onboard.

America, who had been neutral, had enough. Even the peace loving President Woodrow Wilson, was now ready for war. To wearied soldiers on the battlefield of France, 10,000 Americans a day arrived to take up their rifles. The Yanks, as they were also called, against the soldiers of the combined forces of Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.

It could have been billed like an Ultimate Fighting Championship, Black Jack versus the Black Hand. General Black Jack Pershing, the only American General ever to go on to share the same rank with General Washington, lead the conflict.

As bombs burst around them, from the foxholes of the French and Belgian countrysides, heroes were forged, and villains began their dark journey. Among the heroes was a young corporal named Harry S Truman. Among the villains, another corporal, by the name of Adolph Hitler.

Before Hitler would attempt his annihilation of the Jews, and Truman would fight to champion both their cause, and their homeland, they were soldiers. Men, joined in a conflict, which began between two men, and an innocent spouse who gave her life by her loved one.

The war that only lasted four years resulted in over 17 million giving their lives. Of that number, only 11 million were military, the rest were civilians. We lost 744,000 of our countrymen to the conflict that ignited between two kingdoms, half a world away. Not all that were hurt died, the estimated list of dead and wounded combined was at least 38 million people.

This Great War, this horrible conflict, did more than result in reorganizing borders, propelling future leaders, and altering an entire globe. The horrible black cloud that was World War 1, would position men and women which would fight, an even greater conflict.
Had World War 1 not occurred, we may not have had a Roosevelt, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson to answer Pearl Harbor, or stand beside of Churchill.  

There may not have been a Harry Truman who risked his entire reputation to stop Japan, controlled not by it’s Emperor, or it’s people, but by warlords. The same Truman would sign the paper recognizing Israel as a free nation for the first time since the Roman Empire.  

The question is not was War necessary, but what the result of it was. America began a journey that freed not just France, but inspired countries across time zones and continents to follow the example of Washington, and Lincoln. This conflict, this Great War, this horrible conflict, need never be forgotten, but viewed as the forging of an even greater purpose. One that would be only begin to be revealed some twenty years later in it’s second installment.

Alaskan Silver Thorns

It’s at this point in our story that we must  pause the events of Pin, St Louis, and the Strands, to introduce you to the reason for the conflict, Frederick Thorn Piper.  Appropriately labeled, he liked his middle name, it was what he went by to others.  

His Mother gave him a penchant for unusual names.  “Frederick, are you sure this trip is absolutely necessary?”  “Yes Mother. Alaska is a large place, there’s room there to build an empire.”  
Olivia Piper smiled at her son, knowing there was a bit of the rogue in him.  She also knew that of all her children, he was the smartest, and the strongest.  She had no doubt he would become a wealthy man, her concern was the tactics he would use.

Her fears were well founded, as Thorn was as rough as the part of Alaska he settled in.  While others dreamed of mining gold, he took it out of people.  One of his enterprises was tricking discouraged claim holders to sell him their claims at little or no cost.  

This was in edition to robbery, blackmail, and manipulating elections.  It was always at a distance though, he had learned from his hero’s mistake.  You might say the entire Strand history can be traced back to the thread of Aaron Burr.

For those not familiar, the former Vice President was accused of treason for attempting to turn part of the unsettled areas of our young country into his own kingdom.  While Burr survived the court case, his reputation was severely damaged.  This lesson taught Thorn to plan for others to do his dirty work.

As he grew more successful, Thorn also grew more greedy.   It was then that he devised his master plan.  One that would outlive him of course, he knew that, but he would be the founder.  His memory would live on, and that fed his arrogance.

It was this pride that led him to manipulate his own family into positions which would secure his scheme.  He picked his daughter’s husbands, allowed families to be separated, and passed on every aspect of his personality possible to his heirs.

This pride is why the Strands found themselves at a reunion in Minerva’s suite.  Ironically enough, the crime network Pin had risked his life, and sacrificed his future to destroy, had been founded by another of Piper’s protégés. A criminal network very much alive, and hoping for the opportunity to get its revenge on a certain policeman.  

Pin didn’t know all of this, but he did know that our nation’s capital was a lot closer to New York than Alaska.  So his new Bride, the wolves, and he were staying with Francois on the outskirts of town.  Soon, the couple would meet every member of the big top.

It was on a late night walk that Pin broke into a run.  The man had seen him too, and was running fast.  Pin was faster, and caught Ralph Hearns easily.  “I didn’t expect to see you here Ralph.  Let’s talk!”

Find out next week what their conversation holds, as well as the Thorn’s plan, in Alaskan Silver.