Historians on Causes of World War I
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"...the [origin of WWI] books continue to come out. And mine was only one of many that came out.
And there is no consensus among us.
I've been on a number of panels with historians whom I respect a great deal.
And I [shakes head from side to side] cannot find that we are going to agree on anything."(1)[italics added]
Margaret MacMillan, University of Oxford, 2015.

Home References
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": Physical Working Models
of European/British Response to June 28-July 1914 Crisis

Foreign Secretary Edward Grey: Delayed Telegrams June-July 1914
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
Winston Churchill on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
June 28-July 1914: The Tactic of Timidity
Ambiguous Defensive/Offensive Military Preparations
June 29th-July 1914, Wagons-Lits to the French Riviera
Switzerland: Europe's Strongest Neutral Armed-Power and the June 28-July 1914 Balkans Crisis

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

"The only difference between a problem and a
solution is that people understand the solution."
CF Kettering, DuPont, General Motors

  • Intro:
It's been over 100 years since the June 28-July 1914 political crisis booted up WWI. Reportedly 25,000-30,000 competing books written on WWI, and the exact set of causes (or if it could have been stopped before the fighting began) have NOT been positively ID'd.

How on earth is such an event possible?

Over 100 years of pandemonium and political chaos resulted from the June 28-July 1914 Balkans Crisis booting up World War I: the Russian Revolution, the rise of Communism & Fascism, the sprawling Soviet Union, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, World War II, a tumultuous Middle East and the Cold War, which unleashed the fearsome Atomic Age, holding more than enough destructive power to end human life on earth as we know it.

It's an unimaginable situation. Possibly it's because the right crew has yet to take a look at it.

  • Tenerife, March 27, 1977:
On March 27, 1977, a pair of fully-loaded Boeing 747's, Pan-AM and KLM, collided at Tenerife's Los Rodeos airport in the Canary Islands. 583 died, the worst commercial aviation disaster in history. Who was brought in to investigate were analogous to crime scene investigators. The USA brought in the methodological NTSB (National Transportation & Safety Board). The Netherlands brought in a crew of aviation investigators. So did Spain.

No university historians seeking material for a book/speaking-tour, clandestine apologists looking to exonerate Pan-AM, Dutch KLM or Tenerife ATC (air traffic control), nor any anti-social conspiracy theorists were permitted to just wander around at the Tenerife runway crash-site.

The description of Tenerife's twin jetliner collision parallels June 28-July 1914's political chaos that led straight to World War I:

"The magnitude of the accident speaks for itself, but what makes it particularly unforgettable is the startling set of ironies and coincidences that preceded it. Indeed, most airplane crashes result not from a single error or failure, but from a chain of improbable errors and failures, together with a stroke or two of really bad luck. Never was this illustrated more calamitously - almost to the point of absurdity - than on that Sunday afternoon almost forty years ago."(2)

Language difficulties exacerbated the confusion between Tenerife ATC and Pan Am/KLM flight crews:

"Tenerife ATC's normal language was Spanish; the KLM crew's was Dutch; and the Pan American crew's was English... ATC instructions were given on the radio in English...

"The ground controller directed them [Pan Am] to leave the runway at the third taxiway to the left. There was a great deal of difficulty and confusion understanding these instructions within the Pan Am cockpit because of the heavy Spanish accent of the controller as he spoke English."

The June 28-July 1914 European/British political meltdown, especially in the last week of July, included high-speed translations of Russian, English, German, French, Italian etc. Those are radically different languages, exact translations being the exception, not the rule.

"KLM, for its part, is the oldest continuously operating airline in the world, founded in 1919 and highly regarded for its safety and punctuality. Jacob Van Zanten...is the airline’s top 747 instructor pilot and a KLM celebrity.

"If passengers recognize him, it’s because his confident, square-jawed visage stares out from KLM’s magazine ads. Later, when KLM executives first get word of the crash, they will attempt to contact Van Zanten in hopes of sending him to Tenerife to aid the investigation team." [italics added] (3)

At the home office in the Netherlands, after several urgent phone calls, KLM executives discovered that Jacob VanZanten, their most experienced and top 747 instructor pilot, was the KLM pilot at Tenerife.

Aviation investigators positively identified a staggering number of improbable but point-specific events, each of which in a greater or lesser degree contributed to the crash. CSI determined the exact timing of those events that caused the crash.

It seems impossible to believe, but due to a surveying mistake the entire Los Rodeos airport at Tenerife, immediately adjacent to a mountain, may have been built in the wrong location:

"The people who planned to build the first Tenerife a/p made an X on a map to mark the place [vulnerable to pea soup fog quickly rolling in from the mountain] at which no airport ever must be built - this X was mistaken for the opposite."[italics added](4)

As if to underscore the point, the next year another airport (Tenerife South), with far less incidence of heavy fog, was opened.

Dutch investigators pointed to background noises in CVR transcripts of tower transmissions indicating a possibility Tenerife ATC had been watching or listening to a football match and become distracted:

"The tower spoke twice to the KLM aircraft using the wrong name. At 1704: 58:2 and 1705: 53:4 they called them 8705. KLM's correct ident was '4805'." CVR Transcript

On the runway, then blanketed in very dense fog that had suddenly rolled in off of the nearby mountain, KLM radioed Tenerife ATC, saying: "We are now on [or at] take-off."

When the American, Dutch and Spanish investigators later listened to the recording, none of them knew what the phrase meant. No one could figure out whether the phrase meant the KLM jetliner was in position on the runway awaiting take-off clearance, or if the jetliner had actually started it's takeoff roll down the runway.

  • It'd be like shooting fish in a barrel with a machine gun:

Now if instead of meticulous aircraft investigators trained in metallurgy, chemistry, jet engine analysis, structural engineering, forensics, mathematics etc., what if strangers untrained in large-scale engineering investigations, such as university historians, clandestine partisan apologists for KLM/Pan-Am, conspiracy theorists, sports writers, novelists & even science fiction writers were allowed to wander all over the Tenerife airport crash-site to determine the causes?

It'd be like shooting fish in a barrel with a machine gun; an unlimited opportunity to serreptitiously edit, fabricate or quash eye-witness testimony, change the sequence of events, conceal evidence, plant evidence and/or remove evidence. What more efficient way to unwittingly clear the path for more jetliner aviation crashes can be imagined?

  • Swissair Flight 111, Sep't 2, 1998: Canadian Transportation Safety Board:

Almost immediately after Swissair Flight 111, enroute from New York to Geneva on September 2, 1998, slammed into the Atlantic Ocean at 300 Km/hr, Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) swung into action by first having the Royal Canadian Mounted Police secure the crash site and the recovery center on land. Canadian Forces ships were already at sea nearby.

The TSB took immediate control of the investigation, securing assistance from the Canadian Department of National Defence, Canadian Military Operations Centre, Her Majesty's Canadian Ship, HMCS Okanagan, HMCS Preserver, Canadian Coast Guard Ship Matthew, Canadian Coast Guard Ship Earl Grey and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Parizeau.

The TSB quickly enlisted Canadian Coast Guard Helicopters, Sea Sorceress (lifting ship), Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel Endeavour, the Canadian Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Remote Sensing Group (Emergencies Sciences Division, Environment Canada), Convair 580 aircraft, Douglas DC-3 aircraft, Canada's RADARSAT satellite, Canadian remotely operated vehicles, the United States Navy, the USS Grapple, the Queen of the Netherlands (dredgeship) and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and Canadian Hydrographic Services.

As Swissair Flight 111's onboard flight recorders had stopped some 5 minutes before the crash, the TSB decided on the heroic and colossal task of undertaking to re-assemble the cockpit (where a fire was suspected of starting) from over 2 million pieces (98%) of the wreckage dredged from ≈ 150 feet below the ocean's surface. The effort produced a shockingly detailed report on the exact causes of the jetliner crash.

  • There Might be a Dozen Separate Narratives Written up as to the Exact Causes of the Crash:

Whereas, what if after every jetliner crash a Barnum & Bailey three-ring circus of atrociously unregulated and loudly squabbling opportunists were permitted to flood the crash scene? There might be a dozen separate narratives written up as to the exact set of causes of the crash, each narrative pounding the table, insisting it's the right one. In furious turf wars with all the others, each narrative might seek to overtly/covertly ridicule, defame and conceal evidence of every other narrative in hopes of boosting it's own credibility.

The domestic and international aviation industry's mandatory flight codes could not possibly accommodate a dozen radically conflicted narratives on the causes of each crash. It would be sheer pandemonium.

A black cloud of vultures engulfing every aviation crash scene would assure a tsunami of further jetliner crashes, terrifying hundreds of millions of potential future passengers and almost certainly putting an end to safe domestic and international commercial aviation.

  • Tenerife:

At Tenerife, aircraft investigators also determined there was an intense struggle for the controls in the cockpit of the KLM jetliner at take-off. The pilot reportedly pushed the jetliner's power-levers forward and the KLM started down the runway. The co-pilot reached over and pulled the power-levers back, insisting they had not received take-off clearance yet. The pilot pushed the power levers forward again, insisting they had received take-off clearance. This was moments before the collision with the Pan-AM jetliner still on the runway but which they could not see due to the pea-soup fog.

There were were other epic battles between jetliner pilots and their flight crews leading to total destruction, as described meticulously by NTSB in their Aviation Accident Report on the crash of the Korean Jetliner Air Flight 801. and on the jetliner Egypt Air 990's unannounced steep plummet into the Atlantic Ocean. Those jetliner cockpit fights bear an eerie similarity to the wild misunderstandings and fiery disagreements throughout all of June 28-July 1914 among gov't officials in Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna and St. Petersburg.


  • U.S. National Transportation Safety Board:

Due to the aircraft investigations at Tenerife, numerous mandatory changes in aviation flight code procedures - especially the interaction of flight-crews/pilots and Air Traffic Control grammar terminology - were written in.

Aircraft-accident investigators go to extraordinary lengths in examining crashes, and are the single biggest reason domestic and international aviation is as safe as it is today.

Every one of the annual hundreds of millions willing to step onto a technology that would be flying 700 miles/hr at 33,000 above the Earth is fortunate to have aircraft accident investigators see to it they arrive safely. In such a politically/militarily turbulent world, the immense popularity and success of domestic and international commercial-aviation transport must be considered one of, if not the single most spectacular 24/7 real-time collaborative engineering accomplishment of all time.

For over 100 years various historical factions, apologists & conspiracy theorists have been waging a titanic struggle against each other (ironically similar to the KLM pilot and co-pilot struggling with each other for control of the Tenerife KLM jetliner) for control of the narrative on the cause of WWI.

This is not to say there are not very good historians, etc. However, it's also true that it takes only a tiny percent of historians with ulterior motives to obscure one or more root causes of WWI.

That said, most of those groups will not find this site all that flattering. That's because the value of the testimony of all those who admit they weren't there but insist only they are Sherlock Holmes and are in possession of what French, German, British, Austro-Hungarian and Russian gov't officials' motives were at the exact moment they made their fateful decisions = zero.

As the terse British foreign secretary Edward Grey put it:

"Those who are outside see the result; the real motive and the full thought can be told only by those who decide and execute policy."(5)

"Whoever has been inside British foreign policy is familiar with the emotion of indignation, amusement, or contempt with which he reads of the deep motives and the clever schemes that are invented for present-day British diplomatists and attributed to them by ingenious writers in foreign, and sometimes even in the British, press.

One who is conscious of this may well be cautious in attributing deep and sinister designs to the action of foreign Governments."(6)

We agree.
  • When you have neither the law nor the facts, pound the table/throw dust into the air:

There's an old saying in the legal community: When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have neither the law nor the facts, pound the table (or throw dust into the air).

Some accounts of the origin of WWI have that "pound the table" tone, meant to discourage a meticulous inquiry as to exactly what each principal did (or did not do) for each day starting from June 28 through most of July, 1914. It's not rocket science. A precise accounting of the daily/weekly activities of every possible involved principal is how Scotland Yard detectives routinely crack the biggest crime cases.

Some WWI apologists seem more interested in spreading gov't official accountability as widely as possible, grinding it to a fine powder - dust, really - so no one, or specifically the officials of their chosen country, could be positively ID'd as AWOL starting Day-1, June 28th through most of July, 1914.

  • Large-Scale structural and Mechanical Engineering:

As mentioned, since the onset of the June-28-July 1914 Crisis was not taken seriously and promptly stopped it's tracks, it produced World War I, the end of which which satisfied almost nobody, making the govt's of Europe/Britain about as stable as a bowl of jello, which led straight to World War II, the fearsome atomic age and the unraveling of the Middle East.

The argument pressed forward here is that the exact causes of WWI have not been positively ID'd because it is esentially an engineering scaling problem. The June 28-July 1914 Crisis spanned 13 timezones. Historians should remember that even Winston Churchill, who was there, wrote in his "The Great War" that one rises from the study of the origins of WWI with a sense of the defective control of events by individuals.

But scaling problems are what large-scale structural and mechanical engineering is all about.

          (Above) ISS

This website's position is that structural/mechanical engineers, especially those involved in the design of large-scale engineering projects, e.g. super-tall skyscrapers, suspension bridges, aircraft, atomic-reactors, NASA & Kennedy/Cape Canaveral Space Exploration, the ISS (international space-station), VLCC/ULCC's (very-large/ultra-large crude-carriers) & seasoned crime-scene investigators are in a vastly more reliable position to sift the June 28-July 1914 evidence.

Large-scale structural/mechanical engineers and dedicated Crime Scene Investigators can decide for themselves whether 25,000 different books on WWI, many locked in the fiercest narrative battles with each other, provides overwhelming evidence that the wrong investigative crew has been involved, in way over their heads, for over 10 straight decades stumbling around in Western Civilization's blackest of nights in a picture-perfect resemblance of the fable of the blind men and the elephant.


(1) Explaining the Outbreak of the First World War - Closing Conference Genève Histoire et Cité 2015, at 2:58ff. The Graduate Institute Geneva, Streamed live on May 16, 2015, Margaret MacMillan, Professor of International History, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.

(2) Patrick Smith: Cockpit Confidential, March 27, 2014: How A Tiny Island Runway Became The Site Of The Deadliest Plane Crash Ever http://www.businessinsider.com/deadliest-plane-crash-in-history-2014-3

(3) Ibid.

(4) Airliners.net Forum, Post #36, citing Die Grössten Flugzeugkatastrophen, a German-printed account of the crash. http://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=88769.

(5) Sir Edward Grey of Fallodon: Twenty Five Years, 1925 at 35.

(6)Ibid, at 230.