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WWI: "How far we have come, that now we can remember together as friends."

Uploading History: Bismarck Military Aviation History

By Michael Stahler
Staff Writer

First came engravings, then scrolls, then books, then documentaries. Now, the way history reaches new audiences is through the internet. In this segment previously, we interviewed Youtuber Extra Credits. Today, we spent some time with Christoph Bergs, otherwise known online as "Bismarck", who tackles history with a specific lens: aviation history. Bergs, like our previous interview Bernhard Kast, is not an American yet still has covered American military history as told by the military aircraft they employed. Through simulators, games, and visual representations, the way the world does combat in the realm of the sky is Bergs' key interests. He also has had experience working with the Great War, having worked with our French counterpart, the Mission du Centenaire, visiting the battlefields of the Somme and Verdun. We were fortunate enough to spend some time with him, and he additionally has agreed to produce a video on American aircraft during World War 1 for us. If you'd like to visit his channel, click here.

Making a name in the growing field of historical Youtubers is difficult, yet you have managed to garner a combined 4.3 million views on your channel by focusing on a key element. How did you get started in this field, and started out on Youtube as a whole? What is your overall background?

Image 6Christoph BergsI started out on YouTube a few years ago after I had rediscovered my passion for aviation, specifically military aviation. Right now, I am creating regular content on the history of military aviation with a focus World War 1 and World War 2. All of it is based on research I do myself using primary or secondary sources. My interest in it started out when I was really young however, back when I was around 10 years old and saw the first warbirds in museums and books. Obviously, that was somewhat on the backburner as I went into my late teens. Where I went to school, warbirds weren’t exactly how you would start a conversation with your fellow classmates. It all came back to me after university where I had studied history.

Though a majority of the combat coverage on your channel spans the World Wars, you've been able to produce over a hundred videos, many in-depth and some over an hour long. What sort of narrative emerges by studying the usage of aircraft in war? Why aircraft?

Why aircraft? Pure and simple, I love them. There is just something about aircraft that I like and I have yet to find an exception. There is so much to talk about when it comes to military aviation, it is sometimes a challenge to just decide on a topic. The development of airpower from WW1 to WW2 has spawned so many different designs, concepts and technological advances. In a way, it reinvented military strategy and by doing so it had a profound impact on politics too. Military aviation wasn’t something nations could ignore, they had to invest and develop competitive planes and weapon systems out of nothing. That gives us such a wealth of material to go through, any way you turn something new pops up.

Moreover, why do you find this narrative important? Many people aren't as well-informed on the more technical aspects. Why is it important for people to understand the mechanics of warfare?

Image 4Production still of a video on Dicta BoelckeGenerally, I think the study of history itself is crucial, what happened, why, what did we learn from it and what does it tell us for our time? Of course, military aviation is more of a niche subject, it’s a specialisation and perhaps its real importance lies in how it transformed warfare and the conceptionalisation of military power. That makes it so great as so many different topics can be broadcasted to a wider audience that is interested in learning how it all started out and what prompted technological advancements. As a whole, learning about military aviation can help us understand the wider narrative of strategy and tactics. For example, why did a certain country decide to adopt a specific aerial doctrine and how did their aircraft reflect this, was it successful, did it achieve its goal, what were the lessons learned, how does it all fit into the grander picture?

Do you have any personal connections to military history? Is there anything about the Great War in particular that interests you? What has drawn you to the subject?

It defined aviation. In those four years, we learned so much about plane design and materials, we advanced the field out of its pioneering stage. But that’s not all, the Great War interests me because it was such an earth shattering event. Personally, I was deeply moved when I visited Ypres in Flanders, Belgium on a school trip. It was a long time ago, but I still remember it. It shows you how devastating the war was and why it is important to remember. Last year, I also visited the old battlefields of Verdun and the Somme when I worked for the Mission du Centenaire, your French counterpart. Can you imagine, a German working for the French Republic to help commemorate the First World War? It would have been unthinkable only a few decades ago but its reality now. That does show how far we have come, that now we can remember together as friends.

Michael Stahler is a Summer 2017 Intern at the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

 Image 1Nieuport 11 in the colours of the American volunteer squadron Escadrille Lafayette.

Image 2German Albatros D.V

Image 3French SPAD XIII


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