On March 21st, 1918, at 7:15 AM, a charge ignited deep within a monstrosity of steel and concrete buried into the hills of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique. A 234 lb. shell launched, shredding the lining of the barrel as it punched into the atmosphere. Above the French countryside it rose, higher and higher, five miles, ten, fifteen, twenty-five. Then it fell, stooped like a hawk. At 7:18 AM, the shell slammed into the Quai de la Seine, a full 80 miles away from where it had begun. This was the Paris Gun, and the first man-made object to penetrate the stratosphere.
War had reached new new heights.
The way the history of WWI is taught really bugs me, because it’s nearly always so limited. Nearly everyone only learns about trench warfare on the Western Front, submarine raiding in the Atlantic, maybe the Russian Revolution. The Great War was fought at greater heights than any before, as well as greater depths. Geographically, fighting occurred near or on every continent. Culturally, the armies of the First World War were more heterogeneous than any war fought before the creation of trans-national empires could. On the Western Front alone, the Allied Powers fielded soldiers and laborers from France, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia, Portugal, Senegal, Algeria, Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia, the United States, Siam, Indochina, India, and China.
To attempt to help rectify this, I decided to try to create a visualization of the war, a map showing just how widespread and all-encompassing this conflict was. And to make this post slightly less self-indulgent, I included a selection of historical maps relating to the war I think help illustrate my point.