July 1914, Sir Edward Grey and World War I
[laptop-built, view on narrow browser window]
By 1914, with the adults HM Queen Victoria and the architect of the European peace von Bismarck out of the room, a number of French, Austrian, German, Russian and British officials seemed less focused on mastery of gov't than on mastery of a timeless leisure, whose role, it might be said, was playing at gov't.

Page 2: Foreign Secretary Edward Grey: Balkans Crisis Arbitration 1903-1914.
1914: A general willingness to believe "war was something that was not going to happen in Europe."
Page 3: "Caught Looking": American Major League Baseball Physical
Working Model of European/British Response to June 28-July 1914 Crisis

June 28-July 1914: The Strategy of Hope
Confusion Between Defensive/Offensive Military Preparations
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey: Delayed Telegrams June-July 1914
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey on the Causes of World War I
Winston Churchill on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
Historians on Causes of World War I
June 29th-July 1914, Wagons-Lits to the French Riviera
Dec 3, 2019.

THUS FAR, the crux of the argument presented at July1914.com is that a monstrous armaments-race between France, Germany, Russia and Britain (maritime) pushed astonished gov't officials into believing such colossal weapons stockpiles made the prospect of a general European war less likely to break out.

So, when fierce-but-local crises did break out, and from 1903-1914 there were a number of them, gov't officials in Paris, Berlin, St Petersburg, Vienna and London displayed an unflappable lack of attention to prompt crisis arbitration, if the barest hint of urgency might be detected and telegraphed at lightning-speed 'round to all the capitols and the populations of of Europe/Britain that the local crisis might expand and drag in all the Great Powers.

It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what happened next.



The June 28-July 1914 Crisis that ignited World War I.

From Sunday, ≈ 11:30am June 28th through July 1914, European/British govt's were hurled into the single most destructive political meltdown in human history, millions of times worse than days of "absolute chaos" at atomic-reactor Unit II's control room caused by a Loss-Of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA) at Three Mile Island, 4:00am Wednesday, March 28, 1979.

Nobody died at TMI, but European/British gov't officials in 1914 - the same ones presumably responsible for preventing large-scale European war - got into a fierce political squabble, and with every side deploying revolutionary Maxim machine-guns like battlefield lawnmowers, along with relentless overhead industrial-scale heavy-artillery bombardment, slaughtered an estimated 9 million soldiers & 6 million civilians.(1)

June 28-July 1914's European/British political collapse ignited WWI, delivering on a platter the worst century in history: WWI destroyed the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German & Ottoman Empires, left the French and British Empires dead-men-walking, spawned the Russian Revolution, the rise of Communism & Fascism, the sprawling Soviet Union, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, World War II, uncorked a tumultuous Middle East & then the Cold War, which unleashed the fearsome Atomic Age.


"I also want to highlight that in Austria-Hungary, [June 28, 1914] there is very much a sense of genuine popular outrage. Although Franz Ferdinand was not a beloved figure with most of the population, his death, and particularly the murder of his wife, was a sincere outrage."

"It was very much like the climate after 9/11 in the United States. It was an act of terror, which the Austrians knew the Serbian government was behind."[italics added] (2)
John Schindler [Professor of National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College, formerly NSA]


July 16, 1945: Trinity
Effects of Atomic Detonations: Hiroshima, Nagasaki
Japan: Feasibility of Atomic Demonstration-Test in 1945
USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

Iconic Foreign Secretary Edward Grey arbitrating a 1913 Balkans Crisis:

"If the Conference could not get an agreement Austria might launch an ultimatum, or even take peremptory action against Serbia. Then the whole prestige of Austria and Russia in the Balkans would be at stake, and so would the peace of Europe.

"The details with which we dealt were insignificant — in themselves mere sparks; but we were sitting on a powder-magazine.

"The Conference was allowed to dissolve. We seemed to be safe. In reality it was not so; the set of the current was the same, and in a year’s time we were all swept into the cataract of war."[italics added] (at 258, 267).

  • Introduction: Foreign Secretary Edward Grey on Great-Power Crisis Arbitration:

As the terse foreign secretary put it: "We seemed to be safe. In reality it was not so.." The outbreak of World War One was preceded by an intense crisis in the Balkans region. The crisis began with the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Sunday morning, ≈ 11:30am, June 28, 1914, and accelerated rapidly throughout July 1914.

The Balkans Crisis' sudden expansion into World War I was enabled - driven - by long-distance electric telegraph cables. The June 28-July 1914 Crisis could not have gotten out of control so quickly with only horseback or steam-trains carrying messages across so many timezones to distant European capitols:

"In earlier centuries, wars took months or years to develop, with the exchange of demands and warnings protracted by the slow speed of communications.

"But the diplomatic crisis leading to the First World War spun out of control within a few days.

"It was the exchange of telegrams and telephone calls that enabled that terrifying acceleration."[italics added]
Changing the Face of War.

As the foreign secretary [right] put it:

"The week ending with August 1 [1914] had been most exhausting. The strain for every member of the Cabinet must have been intense...

"Communications vitally important at this moment were daily being received through Foreign Ambassadors in London, verbally, or through British Ambassadors abroad by telegram.

"These, however critical, had to be considered and dealt with promptly, for every hour mattered."[italics added]
Twenty-Five Years: 1892-1916, Vol II, at 11).

"[F]or every hour mattered." It was only near the very END of the June 28, 1914 crisis that it became a crisis of extreme urgency. But this is precisely what the famous Machiavelli warned gov't rulers against.

Writing about affairs of state (or medical conditions) - Machiavelli said [paraphrase]"In the beginning, diseases are hard to diagnose and easy to treat. In the end, they are easy to diagnose and hard to treat."

Machiavelli's clear warning of the increasing danger of a wait-and-see position exactly describes what happened in the June 28-July 1914 Balkans Crisis. In the beginning, it was completely ignored. In the end, the diagnosis - a likely European catastrophe on a colossal scale - became so imminent that "...every hour mattered."

And regarding telegraph cables, British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey himself cites a previous period of tranquility that within hours electric telegrams describing virtually inconceivable military maneuvers halfway around the globe had momentarily so destabilized British/French govt's as to defy all logic & common sense:

"...two incidents that, for twenty-four hours, were thought to make war between Great Britain and France inevitable....It seems incredible that two great European nations should have become nearly involved in war about anything so ephemeral."[italics added]
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey.

That is a useful case of the potential danger when nations make peace-or-war political/military decisions based solely on distant electric telegram cables. The July 1914 Balkans Crisis, however, had not just two but FIVE Great Powers, all making decisions based on lightning-fast telegraph cables (six if counting Italy).

For example, the October 16, 1962 Atomic Cuban Missile Crisis involved only 2 powers, the US and the USSR. The then-U.S. SECDEF Robert S. McNamara reportedly estimated the chances of an atomic exchange at ≈ 1 in 3. If there were not two but FIVE atomic ballistic-missile antagonists (each speaking a different language) involved, the risk of miscommunication would make those 1-in-3 odds worse, and likely much worse.

The Foreign Secretary continues:

"... the constant friction, rising on the slightest provocation to quarrel and hostility, between Great Britain and France or Russia. The ground-swell of ill-will never ceased.

"British interests touched those of France and Russia in many parts of the world; and where interests touch, an atmosphere of ill-will is always dangerous.

"The blackest suspicion thrives in it, like a noxious growth under dark skies in murky air. The most simple and straightforward acts of one Government are attributed by the other to sinister motives; the agents of each Government on the spot prick and stir their Colonial Office at home with accounts of what the agents of the other Government are doing...

"...the smallest incident may assume proportions that threaten the peace between great nations."[italics added]
(at 11, 12).

"...where interests touch, an atmosphere of ill-will is always dangerous." The trenchant foreign secretary puts his finger straight on the problem:

The commercial/territorial interests of the British, Russian, French, German and Austria-Hungarians touched in many areas of Europe or the world. So when the June 28 1914 Balkans Crisis booted up, the heavily-armed Great Powers may well have been reluctant to act promptly to arbitrate it because every European arbitration carried the additional formidable danger of "the blackest suspicion," whipsawing "the smallest incident" to outrageous proportions, and possibly igniting a wholly unintended general showdown amongst the Great Powers themselves.

[(right) French Ambassador Paul Cambon 1898-1920, stationed in London. Paramount figure in greatly improving French-British relations, worked closely with the foreign secretary during London Conferences to arbitrate Balkans Crises.]

In short, it seems every local crisis in Europe may have posed not one, but two lethal dangers:

#1, if nobody offered to arbitrate it, the possibility of the local crisis expanding and dragging in one or more of the Great Powers, which could threaten the peace of Europe.

#2, if the Great Powers did offer to come in and arbitrate it, the possibility the arbitration itself may re-ignite previous fierce territorial disputes (e.g. Alsace Lorraine) between the Great Powers, or disturb where Great Power commercial interests "touch," such that "the smallest incident may assume proportions" which could threaten the peace of Europe.

This seems a highly useful approximation of what the governments of France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia & Britain were then facing at the time the June 28, 1914 Crisis struck. Every European crisis confronted European/British govt's with having to estimate whether the lesser risk was with intervening, or with sitting on the sidelines - and they had to be right every time. The alternative was facing the prospect of a catastrophic European War.(2a)

A number of WWI analysts, out of a desire for simplicity, or possibly in their anxiety to assign blame as early as they can to some country or set of individuals, glide right past (omit) this immensely consequential Scylla v. Charybdis decision-making process the Great Powers had to face every time a European crisis erupted.

[(right) British King Edward VII, 1901-1910. Possibly the gold standard in post-1900 British diplomacy. The single most important figure in opening - in sudden & flamboyant fashion - British-French relations after centuries of fierce rivalries/wars.]

The Foreign Secretary:

"The settlement [The Treaty of Bucharest] after the second Balkan War was not one of justice but of force. It stored up inevitable trouble for the time to come.

"To make peace secure for the future, it would have been necessary for the Great Powers to have intervened to make the settlement of Bucharest a just one.

"This they did not do. They dared not do it, being too afraid of trouble between themselves."

"They were afraid to move lest they should come in contact with each other..."[italics added]
(at 253, 254).

The foreign secretary states in plain English that the Great Powers interevening to arbitrate the Treaty of Bucharest carried a higher danger of a European war breaking out than sitting on the sidelines and leaving the Balkans to sort it out.

When the June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis struck, the Great Powers followed the same strategy they used in the Treaty of Bucharest. They sat on the sidelines and declined to intervene, leaving the patently chaotic Balkans to sort it out.

And after many years of quite successfully intervening/not-intervening in intense Balkans disputes, the Great Powers had, for the first time, guessed wrongly.

The June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis grasped the wait-and-see approach and wrangled it upside down in just 3.5 weeks, booting up the worst catastrophe of Western Civilization. In great part due to the lightning-speed of European/British telegraph cable messages, the June 28, 1914 decision to sit on the sidelines booted up a near-instantaneous path to World War.

  • The foreign secretary: "One false step, one indiscreet or incautious word, one necessary word delayed or unspoken at the critical moment, and the result might have been fatal."
The Foreign Secretary on the 1909 Algeciras Conference:

"As one looks about, and sees all the perils that there were, how little belief nations have in each other, how prone they are to disbelieve and to suspect it, it seems almost a miracle that the Entente survived.

"One false step, one indiscreet or incautious word, one necessary word delayed or unspoken at the critical moment, and the result might have been fatal."[italics added]
(at 109).

The Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill:

"A sentence in a dispatch, an observation by an ambassador, a cryptic phrase in a Parliament seemed sufficient to adjust from day to day the balance of the prodigious structure [European/British alliances/ententes]. Words counted, and even whispers. A nod could be made to tell."
The World Crisis, 1923, at 199.
The Great Powers fear of coming "in contact with each other" every so often came at a very steep price: in an intense European crisis, no one could be as sure of each other's motives. The British phrase was "splendid isolation." The sharp, ever-present fear of each other kept the Great Powers from establishing in peacetime anything resembling healthy relationships, and so in intense crises the mutual confidence required to sincerely resolve them had practically vanished.

Starting Day-1, June 28, 1914, these were the conditions foreign secretary Edward Grey, the French Ambassador Paul Cambon (stationed in London), and their Great Power foreign office colleagues were facing. The acerbic foreign Secretary unsuprisingly describes European/British foreign policy as if occasionally crossing and re-crossing a knife edge.

  • von Clausewitz: Speed And Secrecy To Achieve Surprise Is The Foundation of All Military Undertakings:

If very long-distance telegraph cables can unwittingly amplify a couple simple military misunderstandings to the point where for 24 hours the then-Greatest Empire on Earth (Britain) and France were facing war, then it seems prudent to assume that - during any suitable intense European crisis - those same telegraph cables might be used by radical elements with perverse intent to spark a general war between the Great Powers.

Besides its use in organizing a conference for settling crises, or accidentally amplifying small misunderstandings up to the point of great 1,000-year-old European empires clashing, the electric telegraph could just as easily be used for yet another purpose: in any suitable crisis, inviting distant-but-heavily-armed allies to join in, which without warning could boot up a vastly wider, more dangerous conflict.

According to British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, at 5:00pm, June 29, 1914, J. F. Jones, British Vice-Consul in Serajevo, sent a telegram received by Foreign Secretary Edward Grey at the British Foreign Office in London at 5:45pm, 45 minutes later.

British Vice Consul Jones' telegram traveling ≈ 1800Km in just 45 minutes to Foreign Secretary E. Grey in London indicates - starting Day-1, 11:30am, June 28, 1914 - just how quickly very angry or very frightened (or both) radical military/political elements in the Balkans/Vienna could have reached sympathetic Great Power allies asking for all kinds of military support:

"We say, surprise lies at the foundation of all [military] undertakings without exception...Secrecy and rapidity are the two factors in this product..."[italics added]
von Clausewitz [right], On War (CH IX. THE SURPRISE).

von Clausewitz states speed and secrecy to achieve surprise is the foundation of all military undertakings.

Thus, British Vice-Consul Jones' speedy Sarajevo telegram to London's Foreign Secretary Edward Grey shows that possibly as early as ≈ 12:30-1:00 PM, June 28, 1914, the same day of the regicide, heavily-armed Russia, Germany and/or France could have already been in receipt of urgent Balkans/Viennese telegrams pleading for tens of thousands of military weapons, rifles, Maxim machine-guns, millions of rounds of ammunition, industrial-scale artillery and shells.

Or even sooner:

In 1911, a telegram "...left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later."[italics added]

Sending a telegram 28,000 miles, or 45,000Km in 16.5 minutes is over 2,700Km a minute, ≈ 163,620Km/hr. That would slice the optimal speed of Sarajevo's Consul Jones's telegram to London's Foreign Secretary E. Grey to something like 40 seconds.

[The archduke was assassinated just beyond the north end of the Latin Bridge (right). The telegraph office was just ≈ 450 meters west, along the river and inside the newly-built (May, 1913) Sarajevo Central Post Office, "Posta Obala" (left)]

Given the fantastic speed and reach of European/British telegraph cables, applying von Clausewitz's Rules of War to the Balkans indicates starting Day-1, ≈ 11:30am, June 28, 1914, adding 2-3 minutes by car to the Central Post Office's telegram station, and a few moments to write a telegram, ≈ 40 seconds to ≈ 45 minutes later the so-called"local crisis" in the Balkans could have expanded into a wider conflict involving one or more of the Great Powers.

Including von Clausewitz on speed and secrecy to achieve surprise, the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu weighs in:

"Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes..."

"O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands."[italics added]
(The Art of War, XI. The Nine Situations, at 19; VI. Weak Points and Strong, at 9).

  • Scutari's Fall Alarms Europe (Aug 1913): "Otherwise this question would already have led to a world-war...":

The point made here is regardless of whether or not all 1914 Great Powers at that moment had actually preferred peace (and only they know), the operational fact that radical military/political elements in the Balkans/Vienna could very easily hi-jack long-distance electric telegraph-cables, and within as little as ≈ 40 seconds to ≈ 45 minutes push the Crisis into a wider conflict would seem a colossal danger to the peace of Europe.

The Great Powers' June 28th decision to sit for 3.5 weeks on the sidelines amplified that risk by many orders-of-magnitude. Whether or not the Great Powers themselves wanted peace is separate from the point that Germany, France and Russia had deliberately built up the largest land-armies on earth, and Britain had built the most militarized fleet on Earth.

In reality, the Great Powers, with giant industrial-scale weapons' stockpiles and vast armies, practically sitting in each other's laps, radiated very little (if any) long-term stability. As the foreign secretary put it:

"British interests touched those of France and Russia in many parts of the world; and where interests touch, an atmosphere of ill-will is always dangerous.

"The blackest suspicion thrives in it, like a noxious growth under dark skies in murky air. The most simple and straightforward acts of one Government are attributed by the other to sinister motives; the agents of each Government on the spot prick and stir their Colonial Office at home with accounts of what the agents of the other Government are doing...

"...the smallest incident may assume proportions that threaten the peace between great nations."[italics added]

As for the "stability" of the Great Powers in 1914, one has only to fast-forward a couple decades and like an elephant steppping on an aluminum beer can - July 16, 1945 - the last of all 6 empires had utterly imploded and vanished into the history books forever.

So in a 1914 European local-but-intense crisis, with ubiquitious telegraph cables able to instantly accelerate the smallest misunderstandings to national proportions, it may have taken not much more than the slightest of pushes to tilt the very heavily-armed, already-suspicious, sitting-in-each-other's-laps Great Powers into a crisis amongst themselves.

"[1913] On all questions we took sides with Austria and Italy — about Albania, a Serbian port on the Adriatic, Scutari, and also about the delimitation of the frontiers of Albania...

"Thus with his [foreign secretary Edward Grey] assistance it was possible to coax King Nikita [Montenegro] out of Scutari again. Otherwise this question would already have led to a world-war..."[italics added]
Prince Lichnowsky [German Ambassador to Britain, stationed in London]
My Mission to London, 1912-14, at 11.

  • Victorian European/British gov't officials mis-identify the June 28-July 1914 Balkans Crisis:

Starting June 28, 1914, whomever in the Balkans/Vienna could reach St. Petersburg, Berlin or Paris the quickest stood a chance of getting a hearing for gaining the support of millions of soldiers/Maxim machine-guns/industrial heavy-artillery.

The problem facing Europe/Britain was they used the telegraph primarily for commercial, non-military purposes. The Americans had gained extensive experience with the telegraph in the 1860's Civil War. 1914 European/British gov't officials had less in-depth, years-long experience with how quickly the telegraph could accelerate the dynamics of an intense political/military situation.

So when the June 28th Crisis struck, relative technological newcomers, aka, European/British gov't officials, all born in the Victorian mid-to late 1800's, mis-identified the onset of the June 28, 1914 Crisis as just a "geographical local crisis," that is, one that could be confined locally, with the result that it was not taken seriously and promptly stopped in it's tracks.

[(right) European/British telegraph cables, 1903]

The June 28th Balkans Crisis should only safely have been considered a "local crisis" if none of the parties involved had potentially highly-motivated, very sympathetic, industrial-strength Great Power allies capable of mobilizing millions of soldiers at the drop of a hat.

Considering that lightning-fast European/British telegraph cables were spilling out of the Balkans in every direction, as for any realistic basis upon which the Victorian born-and-raised Great Powers expected it to be confined to a "local crisis," they never really got around to explaining:

The foreign secretary [Oct.7, 1912]:

"There is the strongest desire between the Great European Powers, who are most directly interested in the Balkans, and whose frontiers would be most affected by war in that region, to see peace preserved; and this is, I trust, a guarantee that, if the peace is broken in the Balkans, none of the Great European Powers will be involved in war."[italics added]
GREAT POWERS AND BALKANS, House of Commons Debates, 07 October 1912, at 24, 25.

When the June 28th 1914 Balkans Crisis struck, each of the Great Powers attempted to conduct life-and-death foreign policy maneuvers while sitting behind telegraph cables.

[(right) German telegraph]

Telegraph communications sometimes had to be translated from each Great Power's native language into English, or Russian, German, French, Italian, etc., and back again. Continuously accurate word-for-word translations of radically different languages is not possible.

Yet re-consider the foreign secretary's remarks:

"One false step, one indiscreet or incautious word, one necessary word delayed or unspoken at the critical moment, and the result might have been fatal."

What a paradox. Nevertheless, starting Day-1, June 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian, French, German, British & Russian Great Powers went ahead and attempted a 3.5-5-week-long high-wire Karl Wallenda balancing-act atop lightning-fast telegraph cables.

The 5 heavily-armed Great Powers attempted this world high-wire electric-telegraph performance precisely because, as the foreign secretary put it, they were "afraid to move lest they should come in contact with each other", and risk possibly igniting a general European showdown amongst themselves.

[(right) K. Wallenda, 1972]

And after 3.5-5 weeks the 5 Great Powers also fell off the high wire; however instead of losing 5 high-wire artists, make that 15 million soldiers and civilians, and the catastrophic unravelling of 2,000-year-old Western Civilization.

"But you must not judge the Balkan States as if they were so vastly different from the great European States. What they have done has been based upon causes for war very much greater than the comparatively slight causes which have often led to war between the Great Powers."[italics added]
Mr. Noel Buxton, War in Balkans: Statement by Sir Edward Grey. House of Commons Debates, Aug. 12, 1913, at 2301.
  • "The secret of war lies in the communications."-Napoleon

Initially, the Balkans Crisis was split into two opposing but very unequal factions: the major one sitting on the sidelines hoping the local crisis would stay localized & blow over, because if it didn't they had the greatest catastrophe on Earth staring them in the face. And a very minor faction was equally determined to widen the Crisis by hi-jacking European/British electric telegraph cables to drag one or more of the Great Powers into it.

"The secret of war lies in the communications."

1914 Europe was an armed camp. Starting Day-1, 11:30am June 28, 1914, every single day that passed raised expodentially the immense, immense danger of radical military/political elements in the Balkans/Vienna gaining sympathy, influence and possibly military backing from one or more of the Great Powers.

"War is the province of chance.

"In no sphere of human activity is such a margin to be left for this intruder, because none is so much in constant contact with him on all sides. He increases the uncertainty of every circumstance, and deranges the course of events..."[italics added]
von Clausewitz, On War (CH III).

And those radical elements in Europe quickly succeeded because the Great Powers apparently never thought to take the elementary first step and apply the Rules of War to the June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis.

"We say, surprise lies at the foundation of all [military] undertakings without exception."[italics added]
von Clausewitz (Ch IX. THE SURPRISE).

"All warfare is based on deception."
Sun Tsu (I. Laying Plans, at 18).

Whatever the Great Powers' logic was, if they even used logic, the point made here is that without applying von Clausewitz, Napoleon & Sun Tzu's Rules of War to the Balkans, the Great Powers would be left stranded at the starting gate, stumbling around in veritable pitch blackness as to how incredibly quickly the June 28th local Balkans Crisis could expand.

It was the worst miss-call in European/British history.

And note the wording in the foreign secretary's 1925 account of events:

"...we were all swept into the cataract of war."
(at 267).
  • "Those cowboys. They brought a good horse.":

For infamously bad mis-calls, in the multi-billion-dollar sporting world, the nearest equivalent must be the 2009 Kentucky Derby, possibly the worst in all racing history. That shocking fiasco offers several lessons for getting yet another grip on the June 28, 1914 Crisis.

Against world-famed racehorses, a totally unknown cowboy had trailered a horse from New Mexico for 21 hours to the Derby.

[Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird in last place at the first turn in the 2009 Kentucky Derby]

The horse was squeezed coming out of the starting gate, running as far back as 20 lengths off the pace, in last place for most of the race. Coming out of the first turn onto the backstretch the track announcer says: "...the last of them all is Mr. Hot Stuff", although MTB was last. At many lengths behind, just before the final turn to home, MTB makes a monster move up the rails:

"Yes, the 135th [Derby] running was a freight-train-passing-a-bum scenario if there ever was one, the bums being the other gaspers in the field groping for the oxygen that Mine That Bird sucked up down the stretch run ahead of them."[italics added]
NYT: Mine That Oxygen: A Vet’s Take on the Derby

The track-announcer, using high-powered binoculars, inexplicably missed the biggest event in the entire race. Besides not seeing MTB in last place (later corrected), the track-announcer missed MTB's sudden move up the rails, and missed how much faster MTB was going than everybody else (the overhead video is shocking).

It was as if the cowboy's horse was not famous enough to be recognized as in the Kentucky Derby and therefore was not actually on the track.

"His breathtaking acceleration on the far turn, as if someone had given him a hotfoot, was one of the most stunning moments in Derby history. He passed horses as if moving in a different time frame."
The Real Story Behind the “50-1” Shot

"'I was only watching my horse, and nobody else in the world is watching him but me,' Woolley [MTB's trainer] said. 'So I’m watching and he’s running so much faster than everybody else that it was obvious, when he turned for home, that he was going to win.'"[italics added]
[at 1:33 in the video below MTB, in last place, hits the accelerator.]
Fox Sports.com

Making the final turn to home, the track-announcer begins shouting about "Pioneer of the Nile", "Papa Clem" and "Musket Man", giving no indication he has seen MTB, quickly advancing through the pack, riding on the rail, pass all 3 in a flash. Meanwhile, the track-announcer, in great excitement, is still prattling on about the 3 above-mentioned horses. It's as if the track announcer is watching a completely different race.

When the amazingly distracted announcer finally sees the cowboy's horse sanding the rail, in the lead by 3+ lengths, and which in the final 1/16 mile has just exploded, pulling away from the rest as if inhaling an equine equivalent of German rocket-fuel, amazingly the track announcer can't identify it, and apparently has to stop watching the race and look up the number to announce the name of the horse.

"... the shock in the crowd while he was waiting for the horse to return. 'I went on the track and looked back at the crowd and they were stunned,' he said. 'It was like, ‘What just happened?'"
The Real Story Behind the “50-1” Shot

Beyond belief. The 2nd greatest upset in the history of horseracing: NBC SPORTS: Kentucky Derby (2009): Mine That Bird Shocks the World at 50-1 Odds.

"...as they come down to the finish. IN A SPECTACULAR, SPECTACULAR UPSET! "...AN IMPOSSIBLE RESULT HERE!"

"...EXPLODING through on the rail to pull a monumental upset, at FIFTY TO 1! FIFTY TO 1!" [emphasis in original][ at 2:00-2:42]

"And then the horse just explodes."
"He just explodes..."
[Fantastic aerial view of the horse's acceleration, at 2:41ff.]

The 2009 Kentucky Derby's "SPECTACULAR, SPECTACULAR UPSET!...AN IMPOSSIBLE RESULT HERE" is one of the best available video lenses with which to peer into how the 1914 Great Powers' clearly supercilious initial disregard of the June 28th Balkans Crisis left them, in effect, stranded at the starting gate, watching helplessly as Napoleon, von Clausewitz & Sun Tzu's formidable Ignore-At-Your-Peril Rules of War quickly tumbled them all into the European catastrophe.

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