History Narrative Excerpts Old West

WWI’s Dark Innovations: Unveiling Ingenious Yet Horrifying Inventions

World War I, spanning from 1914 to 1918, witnessed the birth of ingenious yet terrifying innovations that changed the face of warfare. From poison gas to tanks, the following inventions left an indelible mark on history, showcasing humanity’s capacity for creation and destruction.

1. Poison Gas

A soldier releasing chlorine gas from a tank during WW I.
Image by: Rferl

The introduction of poison gas in 1915 marked a harrowing turning point. Gases like chlorine and mustard gas choked soldiers and inflicted unspeakable suffering. These gases caused various symptoms, including choking, vomiting, blindness, skin burns, and lung damage. It is estimated that over 100,000 soldiers died from poison gas in World War I.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—

Wilfred Owen

Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” is a powerful indictment of the use of poison gas. He describes the fear and panic soldiers experienced when gassed and the long-term psychological effects of gas poisoning. 

2. Tanks

A war tank during WW II.
Image by: Wikipedia

The first tank, British Mark I, was developed in Britain in 1915 and used in battle in September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. These mechanized vehicles broke through trenches and provided mobile protection for troops. 

British Mark I was slow and unreliable. The French Renault FT-17 eventually replaced it. It was faster, and more maneuverable than the Mark I, and had a rotating turret. 

In his book “The Tank in World War I’,” Robert J. Bruce discussed the psychological impact of tanks on soldiers and civilians. They argued that tanks inspired awe and dread and could demoralize enemy soldiers and civilians.

3. Trench Mortars

Soldiers next to trench mortars during the second world war.
Image by: War History Online

Trench mortars were short-range, high-angle weapons to fire shells into enemy trenches. They were very effective at causing casualties, making life in the trenches even more miserable. Trench mortars were often inaccurate and unpredictable, but they were also incredibly effective at causing fear and demoralization. 

In his memoir “Goodbye to All That,” British Army officer Robert Graves writes that his worst fear was the sudden, unpredictable arrival of a trench mortar shell that could blow him to pieces at any moment. 

Graves’s description of the fear of trench mortars is a powerful reminder of the horrors of war. The sound of a trench mortar firing was enough to send shivers down the spine of any soldier, knowing that a shell could land at any moment. 

4. Submarines

Submarine during the time of WW II.
Image by: War History Online

In World War I, Germany used submarines to attack warships and merchant ships. Initially, they focused on warships, but as the war went on, they increasingly turned to merchant ships. This was because merchant ships were essential to the Allied war effort, and by sinking them, Germany could disrupt the flow of supplies to the Allies.

However, the sinking of neutral merchant ships also led to diplomatic crises with neutral nations, such as the United States. In 1915, a German submarine sank the Lusitania, a British passenger liner, killing 128 Americans. This event outraged the American public and helped to turn the United States against Germany.

In 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, meaning they would sink any ship, regardless of its nationality. This led to the United States declaring war on Germany.

5. Dreadnought Battleships

Picture of a WW II batlleship.
Image by: Wikipedia

Dreadnought battleships were a major technological breakthrough that revolutionized naval warfare. The hallmark of dreadnought battleships was an “all-big-gun” armament scheme with all the main guns of the same caliber. This was in contrast to previous battleships, which typically had a mix of different caliber guns. 

They were the most potent warships of their time and played a significant role in the naval arms race leading to World War I. Dreadnought battleships also played an essential role in the naval war in World War I. However, they were also vulnerable to attack from submarines and aircraft, and they were eventually replaced by newer and more powerful ships.


WWI’s horrifying inventions, born from the crucible of conflict, remind us of the dual nature of human ingenuity. They underscore the imperative to pursue peace, diplomacy, and cooperation. As we reflect on the dark innovations of this era, let us honor the memory of those who suffered by striving for a world where such inventions remain relics of the past.

Books Learning Materials Narrative Excerpts

The Legacy of the Oldest Manuscripts: Dust to Discovery

For centuries, the only form of information sharing was verbal – conveying ideas and teaching skills with the use of spoken words alone. Communities around the world pass down folklore, cultural practices, and even religious teachings through the generations without having ever documented their practices. 

It took a great number of years for ancient civilizations to finally adopt a written script that corresponded to their spoken language effectively. This was first introduced for economic reasons – used primarily in matters of law, finance, and trade. With time, however, people began developing manuscripts to document all kinds of information. Using leaves, rocks, or the bones of dead animals as their scroll, citizens would record their knowledge for others to read. 

Today, let us take a look back at some of these oldest manuscripts and discover just how much information they preserve.

5. The Dispilio Tablet – Approximately 7,282 years old

The Dispilio Tablet which is made from wood.
Image by: The Archaeologist

In 1993, professor of archaeology George Hourmouziadis was participating in an excavation of a Neolithic lake settlement near Kastoria, Greece. He unearthed several old artifacts during the excavation, the most interesting being a large wooden tablet. 

This tablet was engraved with several symbols. These appear to be different from Sumerian writing, which was believed to be the earliest form of writing but did not exist until 3100 BC – nearly 2000 years after this tablet was written. This means that the symbols engraved on the Dispilio tablet may be the oldest form of writing known to man (so far).

No one knows what the symbols on this wooden tablet mean, though Hourmouziadis guessed it may be a record of inventory of ancient possessions.

4. Dead Sea Scrolls – Approximately 5,000 years old

Image of the Dead Sea Scrolls from 5000 years ago.
Image by: History

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of nearly 15,000 scrolls unearthed from 11 different caves near the ancient settlement of Qumran. They were first discovered by accident by Bedouin teenagers in 1946 who tended to their sheep near the modern-day West Bank off the northern shore of the Dead Sea.

Most of the content of the Dead Sea Scrolls is written in Hebrew, though some scrolls are written in Aramaic, the language used by Jews living in the area during that period (including, most likely, Jesus himself). The text is also largely religious, with almost the entire Bible preserved in the script. 

Some portions of the manuscript, however, refer to areas of the region where treasure may be hidden for safekeeping. Known as the Copper Scroll, it outlines 64 possible locations where riches may be found. 

To date, no treasure has been found.

3. Instructions of Ptahotep – Approximately 4,397 years old

Picture of the oldest book in the world, known as the Instructions of Ptahotep.
Image By: Wikipedia

Often referred to as “the oldest book in the world”, The Instructions of Ptahotep is an ancient literary composition formulated by the Egyptian vizier Ptahotep in 2375 BC. It is 18 pages long and consists largely of proverbs designed to teach young men belonging to noble families about how best to fulfill their duties.

The Prisse Papyrus contains the only complete copy of these instructions, discovered inside the coffin of pharaoh Sekhemre-Wepmaat Intef of Egypt. It discusses matters like pursuing justice, admonishing greed, and obeying elders and superiors.

2. Kesh Temple Hymn – Approximately 4,622 years old

Image of the Kesh Temple Hymm.
Image By: World History

Discovered in the 1800s among the ruins of Nippur, which would be part of modern-day Iraq, the Kesh Temple Hymn is regarded as being the oldest manuscript of a surviving religious poem in the world. It is written in Ancient Sumerian and was first translated in 1909.

The Kesh Temple Hymn consists of 134 lines broken up into eight different songs, each one bestowing praise onto the city of Kesh, which housed a temple chosen as the assembly for gods. Several gods and goddesses are praised in the poem, including the goddess of vegetation Nisaba, the Ruler of Gods Enhil, as well as the goddess of the stony ground Ninhursag.

1. Pyramid Texts – Approximately 4,422 years old

Texts on Egyptian pyramids in the form of symbols.
Image By: History of Information

Perhaps the most interesting manuscript, the Pyramid Texts were discovered on the walls of the pyramids in Egypt as well as the coffins of pharaohs whose bodies had been preserved. Written in Old Egyptian, the text detailed an account of the religious beliefs of the Egyptians during the 5th and 6th dynasties of the Old Kingdom (2400-2600 BCE).

Several interesting rituals were outlined in these texts, including one in which holes were cut into the deceased mouth so he may breathe in the afterlife.


As you can see, old manuscripts are more than just aged pieces of paper. They are the windows to the wisdom of the ancient world. From rituals to religion to astrology, these texts discuss matters of great importance. Overall, they provide access to both the life of our ancestors as well as their guidance, preserved for generations to come.

History Adventures Learning Materials Narrative Excerpts

Misfires in the Sky: WWII’s Worst Manufactured Planes

World War II was a time of great technological innovation, and the aircraft industry was no exception. New and improved planes were being developed all the time, but not all of them were successful.

Some were plagued with problems that made them difficult to fly, unreliable, or simply not effective in combat. These planes are a cautionary tale about the importance of careful design and testing.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the worst manufactured planes of World War II.

1. Messerschmitt Me 210

Image of the Me 210 aircraft in the sky.
Image by: Wikipedia

The Messerschmitt Me 210 was a twin-engined heavy fighter aircraft developed in Germany in the early 1940s. It was intended to replace the Messerschmitt Bf 110, but it was plagued with problems and was quickly replaced by the Me 410 in 1942.

The Me 210 had several design flaws, including poor handling, instability, and a tendency to stall. It was also heavy and difficult to control at high altitudes.

The engines were unreliable and prone to failure. The wings were too thin and could not withstand the stresses of high-speed flight. Lastly, the cockpit was cramped and visibility was poor.

Only a small number of Me 210s were produced, and they saw only limited use in combat. The aircraft was a failure, and it is considered to be one of the worst manufactured planes of World War II.

2. Junkers Ju 87 Stuka

The Junkers JU 87 Stuka.
Image by: Sciencehow

“The Stuka was more than just a terror weapon – its ability to deliver bombs where needed with then unheard of precision made it a potent war machine.” – David C. Isby

The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka was a German dive bomber developed in the 1930s. It was known for its distinctive siren, which was used to terrorize enemy troops. 

The Stuka was very effective in the early stages of World War II when it was used to support German ground forces in Poland, France, and the Low Countries.

However, it became increasingly vulnerable to enemy fighters as the war progressed. The plane was also very difficult to control at low altitudes, making it a target for anti-aircraft fire.

Hence, the Stuka was eventually phased out of service as more modern aircraft became available.

3. Fiat G.55 Centauro

The G55 Centauro aircraft on the runway.
Image by: Wikipedia

The Fiat G.55 Centauro was a single-engine, single-seat fighter aircraft developed in Italy during World War II. It was powered by a single Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1 engine, which gave it a top speed of 387 mph and a range of 1,160 km (721 mi). 

Despite its impressive performance, the G.55 had a number of issues. It had a high landing speed and was prone to spinning. The cockpit was cramped and visibility was poor.

This made it a challenge for even experienced pilots to fly, and it earned the nickname “widowmaker” among Italian pilots.

The G.55 was a victim of its own ambition. It was designed to be the best fighter aircraft in the world, but it was too ambitious. The aircraft was simply too difficult to fly for most pilots, and it never lived up to its potential.

4. Aichi B7A Ryusei

Picture of the B7A Ryusei plane.
Image by: Wikipedia

The Aichi B7A Ryusei was a Japanese torpedo bomber developed in the early 1940s. It was designed to replace the Nakajima B5N Kate, and it was one of the most advanced torpedo bombers in the world at the time. However, it was also one of the most difficult to fly, and it had a high accident rate.

The B7A was powered by a single Nakajima Sakae 21 engine, which gave it a top speed of 500 km/h (311 mph) and a range of 2,700 km (1,680 mi).

It was armed with one 7.7 mm Type 97 machine gun in the nose and two 20 mm Type 99 cannons in the wings. It could also carry a torpedo or a bomb load of up to 1,000 kg (2,204 lb).

The B7A entered service with the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1943, but it saw limited use in combat. It had a high accident rate. As a result, it was often replaced by the Mitsubishi G4M Betty.

5. Mitsubishi G4M Betty

The Mitsubishi G4M Betty aircraft flying in the sky.
Image by: Wikipedia

The Mitsubishi G4M Betty was a Japanese medium bomber developed in the early 1940s. It was one of the most important bombers in the Japanese arsenal, and it was used in a variety of roles, including torpedo bombing, dive bombing, and level bombing.

The G4M entered service with the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1941, and it saw extensive use in the Pacific War. It was a reliable and effective bomber, and it was responsible for sinking a number of Allied ships.

However, the G4M was also vulnerable to enemy fighters, and it suffered heavy losses in combat. As a result, it was gradually replaced by the Mitsubishi G6M.

Only a small number of G4Ms were produced, and they were withdrawn from service in 1945.

Final Word

In the heated furnace of World War II, while many aircraft soared to fame, others faltered due to design flaws and rushed production. From Germany’s problematic Me 210 to Japan’s accident-prone B7A Ryusei, the skies were not kind to every plane.

These missteps in aviation remind us that in the race to dominate the skies, meticulous design and thorough testing are paramount. Even in the chaos of war, quality should never be compromised.

Characters History Adventures Narrative Excerpts Spencer Striker PhD

Introducing: Agent 355, American Revolutionary War Spy

United States of America, 1778 CE

“I am not a soldier. I will never wield a musket nor face cannon fire. My place is not upon the battlements nor cutting across a battlefield. I am a spy. Intent upon serving my young nation. As it tears itself away from its infuriated progenitor, Great Britain, I take pride in helping save it from itself. And who better to sneak throughout the halls, eavesdropping conversations as I fill bathtubs and stoke hearths for the chilly evenings? We have a traitor in our midst. An officer by the name of Arnold…”

— Excerpted from History Adventures, World of Characters, Book 3, 1750–1900, created by Spencer Striker, PhD

..coming to iTunes, January 2020..

The future of the book is now.

History Adventures — a next gen digital book experience being developed by an international team of animators, artists, designers, and historians — represents an enhanced, multimodal learning design for 21st Century students.

This media-rich learning experience combines the latest in mobile entertainment — and the power of narrative design — with a cross-disciplinary approach to teaching history: awakening student fascination for the past…bringing the pages of history to life.

The narrative structure will be like zooming in through portals in time, to observe — and feel the drama and excitement — of little slices of lived human experience.

And from these stories, we will extract curricular concepts relevant to a bigger picture understanding of history and its fascinatingly interwoven, cross-disciplinary themes.

History Adventures: the Stories of People in Time, Connected by Eternity..

Characters History Adventures Narrative Excerpts

Luis Felipe Gutierrez, Spanish Conquistador, the New World (Modern Day, Peru), 1537 CE

“He was strolling through the jungle; he had to reach the other side of the mountains. Luis knew that he faced a long journey to reach the last outpost of the Spanish Empire – at the edge of civilization, where the map fell off into legend. It was the Anno Domini 1537, and Luis Felipe Guiterrez had arrived in the New World the year before, sent by his majesty Charles V to help his fellow countrymen complete the conquest of the land we now call Peru. The world he encountered now was nothing like he’d expected..”

– Excerpted from History Adventures, World of Characters
..coming to iTunes, January 2020

The future of the book is now.

Drawing inspiration from Robert Garland’s The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (2010): History Adventures conjures snapshots of compellingly real historical scenarios. The characters will not be world famous, like Alexander, Cleopatra, or Napoleon. Rather, they will be relatable, normal people – living in extraordinary circumstances.

The narrative structure will be like zooming in through portals in time, to observe – and feel the drama and excitement – of little slices of lived human experience.And from these stories, we will extract curricular concepts relevant to a bigger picture understanding of history and its fascinatingly interwoven, cross-disciplinary themes.

History Adventures: the Stories of People in Time, Connected by Eternity..

coming to itunes, January 2020