The Ecphorizer

Notes of a Magaziner IV
Paul W. Healy

Issue #16 (December 1982)

Past and present histories of future wars

Prophesying future wars seems to have been a popular undertaking for at least a century. The most recent effort to achieve wide distribution is The Third World War, August 1985 by General John Hackett GCB, CBE, DSO and MA, LittD, LLD, once in command

...English, Canadian and German troops now advanced on the American trenches...

of the Northern Army Group of NATO, and other top ranking NATO generals. It was published in 1978.

General Hackett foresees Soviet inspired incursions in Africa in 1984, a Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia in late July of 1985, and a full scale invasion of West Germany and the Low Countries on 4 August, 1985. The war lasts only a few weeks -- two [quoteright]nuclear weapons are used, one on Birmingham, England by the Russians, and a second in retaliation on Minsk by the Allies. At this point many of the Soviet "republics" secede and make good their independence, along with Poland and other Russian satellite nations. Russia sues for peace. One hopes that the General's foresight in military matters is no better than his political predictions: James Carter is still President in 1984, and the Shah is alive and firmly in control in Iran!

H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come (made into Korda's film, Things To Come in 1937) predicted the beginning of World War II with considerable accuracy; he had it start in 1940 instead of 1 September, 1939. But he missed badly on the duration, and he has the "airmen" take over the world at the end and impose peace and order on people only one step removed from savage tribes.

An even more fascinating prophecy was published in four successive issues of The Cosmopolitan beginning in November, 1897. (For those whose history is a bit rusty, the USS Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor on 15 February, 1898, and America declared war on Spain in April of that year.) The anonymous author (*_____*_____*_____) of a Brief History of Our Late War With Spain has the war start when two young Americans disappear in Havana in September, and it is learned that they were tried on a "supposedly trumped up charge and shot," the subsequent delivery of a "peremptory note to the Madrid Government by the American Minister" and his death at the hands of a mob. This is followed very quickly by a Spanish, and then an American, declaration of war.

The method of augmenting the regular army is quite interesting: "By 9 A.M. on the 11th every regiment of the National Guard was in its armory. Each man had been requested to go out quietly and find one or two who would volunteer, say goodbye to friends and family and be back at the armory by 8 P.M., ready to start for the front ...At seven o'clock on the morning of the 13th came the President's proclamation calling for two million volunteers for two years service..."

The American fleet of transports and warships heading for Cuba is attacked by "three of the largest and fastest armored cruisers of the Spanish Navy;" they promptly sink the rear guard cruiser, the USS Columbia, then turn their guns on the transports and sink five vessels crowded with troops. Before their guns are silenced the Spaniards nearly destroy several more US. cruisers. Meanwhile "...upon the news of the great loss came a cablegram from Paris that the Emperor William of Germany has moved two hundred thousand to Bremen and was embarking them. The cablegram was believed to be a canard, but coming at the same moment with that of our loss it caused gloomy forebodings."

*_____*_____*_____ had some highly original ideas about turning a merchantman into a warship. Of the battle between the two fleets in Cuban waters just outside Havana he writes:

Well in the rear of the line as it departed Havana was the American liner St. Louis. A thousand mechanics had hastily cut portholes through her thin iron sides and mounted 300 six-pound rapid fire guns. Along the center upper deck had been erected a slight iron platform on which 150 gatling and maxim guns were in place with twenty more on platforms built into the masts. Each of the six-pound guns had a capacity of ten shots per minute or a total rain of 3000 shells, each capable of piercing light armor or causing death and destruction if it entered a turret porthole ...With her great speed in reserve the St. Louis hung on the rear and out of reach until the action had been well begun. As the pall of smoke began to descend... (she) came on without attention from the enemy until almost alongside the "El Palayo", one of the Spanish battleships. Then there was let loose a broadside of 150 three-inch guns and the entire 170 maxim and gatling guns ...Before the discovery was made that the (enemy) ship had ceased firing, nearly 8000 three-inch shells and more than 50,000 bullets had been rained upon her ...a small percentage penetrating the openings was sufficient to leave nothing alive above the water line...In four minutes the St. Louis, comparatively little injured, was able to cease firing and turn in pursuit of another adversary.

The author now inserts some paragraphs which were truly prophetic:

The power of the modern Croesus had begun to exhibit itself in the sudden change of tone of the European press. But the control of a large section of the fourth estate was a simple matter. There were newspapers governed by financial powers whose very editors scarcely recognized the supervision which is exercised over them ...What will not four hundred millions wielded with a single purpose accomplish in the year 1900? The art is being reduced to a science and will at the present rate of progress be perfected by that year. Such an influence is so far reaching, so enwrapping, so complete, that both Kaiser and Queen become mere puppets, ruled by that public opinion which a purchased press can create, a parliament which money can elect, and influenced by courtiers whose motives are guided by their investments.

At any rate the Kaiser succeeds in enlisting the support of Great Britain and " secret dreamed of the glory of another Sedan. Foreign conflict would unite the nation and rouse the Reichstag to liberal appropriations. Moreover, the tone of the Monroe doctrine was arrogance itself! There were other motives ...a complex network of personal interests, beliefs, and superstitions. " So the Germans embark their troops on transports (mainly British) and sail for Canada. General Miles and his army are recalled from Cuba. News that "two British steamers had arrived that morning at the wharf at Montreal laden with a hundred thousand rifles, five hundred repeating guns,maxims and gatlings, and eighty field pieces" galvanized the Americans to action, and an army of fifteen thousand men seized Mount Royal (above Montreal) and threw up entrenchments. They also seized the two British ships and their cargos.

In describing the fortifications to the approaches to Quebec the author now describes one new weapon in some detail:

On this morning of the 26th 150 dynamite field guns arrived in camp and were placed in deep pits ...These guns were manufactured of light merchant brass. They consisted of three tubes mounted on a carriage. The right hand tube received through a breech a four pound charge of black powder. The center tube through another breech block received the shell containing 15 pounds of dynamite. The black powder charge upon being fired compressed the air in the right tube and through a connecting cross-tube in the fartherest end of the left hand tube, thence downward until through a connection the compressed air entered behind the dynamite cartridge and drove it out the center tube.*

Now American batteries on shore destroyed most of the English fleet which had steamed up the St. Lawrence. The combined army of English, Canadian and German troops now advanced on the American trenches and fortifications:

The German troops, without protection (the trees and shrubs had been cut down) were mown down by the tens of thousands. It was found afterwards that regiments occupying particularly exposed positions had been literally wiped out... In sixteen minutes...between the opening fire and the sounding of recall, eighty thousand German, English and Canadian troops were killed or badly wounded.

So ended the one great land battle of the war. Now the threat of a French invasion, and unrest among the German people, caused the Kaiser to order the return of German troops. The remnant of the British fleet sailed for home at the same time. The peace treaty called for the complete independence of Canada, and also of Cuba. A world war in Europe was narrowly averted. The "history" concludes: "How few years have elapsed since 'the late war with Spain' and what changes have taken place! Already the peoples of the earth turn their eyes on an object lesson in the highest form of intellectual and scientific government in 'Cuba the Model Republic.'"
* In the late 1920s one of my favorite objects at the old Arts and Crafts Building of the Smithsonian was the three foot model of the dynamite cruiser, the USS Vesuvius, which was in commission in 1897. Three gleaming brass tubes projected through her forward deck at about a 30 degree angle, and her dynamite charges propelled by compressed air! She did see action during the Spanish-American War. 

Magaziner Paul W. Healy has been known for years in San Francisco Mensa as the impressario of many fine classic film showing.

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