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Origins of the Second Balkan War

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The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 57th installment in the series. (See all entries here.)

February 22, 1913: Origins of the Second Balkan War

Before the First Balkan War between the Balkan League and the Ottoman Empire was even over, another conflict was brewing—this time between the members of the Balkan League. Although Serbia and Bulgaria were still cooperating against the Turks, tensions were rising between the allies over the distribution of spoils in former Turkish territory. Meanwhile, Romania was also demanding Bulgarian territory, foreshadowing the formation of a new coalition against Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War, June through August 1913.

On the surface, relations between Serbia and Bulgaria were fine. At Bulgaria’s request, Serbian troops were helping lay siege to Adrianople, one of three big cities in the Balkans still in Turkish hands (the other holdouts were Scutari, under siege by the Montenegrins and Serbians, and Janina, under siege by the Greeks); Serbian heavy artillery would play a key role in the fall of Adrianople in March 1913.

Beneath the surface, however, the Bulgarian and Serbian governments were already facing off over the division of conquered Turkish territory in Macedonia. Before the war, a secret treaty parceled out most of Macedonia between the two sides—but left a large “undecided” zone in the middle. In their treaty, the allies agreed to submit any dispute over this territory to arbitration by Russia, the traditional patron of the Slavic kingdoms.

As it turned out, during the First Balkan War Bulgaria committed most of its troops to Thrace, leaving Serbia to do most of the work in Macedonia, where the Serbs conquered both the “undecided” zone and territory that was assigned to Bulgaria. And because the Great Powers were denying Serbia access to the sea (by creating an independent Albania) the Serbs were determined to compensate for the loss by holding on to their conquests in Macedonia, despite their agreements with Bulgaria.

On February 22, 1913, Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić sent a diplomatic note to the Bulgarian government, formally requesting to revise the terms of the treaty to give Serbia a bigger share of Macedonia. The Serbians argued that Bulgaria had failed to provide the promised number of troops to their combined operations in Macedonia, while Serbia was providing more assistance than promised to the Bulgarians at Adrianople. In fact this wasn’t the first time the Serbs asked to revise the treaty: a previous note made the same request on January 13, 1913. Both notes were politely ignored by the Bulgarians, and Serbian patience was wearing thin.

Needless to say, the Bulgarians weren’t about to give up their claims in Macedonia, for a number of reasons. For one thing, the Serbians had signed the treaty, and the Bulgarians were counting on Russian support in mediation. Moreover Bulgarian claims were based on historical precedents from the medieval period, when the Bulgarians ruled an empire covering most of the Balkan Peninsula (of course, the medieval Serbian Empire covered much of the same territory, and the Serbs were equally committed to regaining their lost glory). More recently, Bulgarian claims were also aligned with the Bulgarian exarchate—the ecclesiastical territory of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which split from the Greek Patriarchate in 1872.

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Romania Joins the Fray

European balance-of-power politics in the early 20th century resembled children dividing up a cake: If one state expanded its territory, it was standard procedure for other states to demand “compensation,” in the form of territorial annexations for themselves. Thus Bulgarian success in the First Balkan War also attracted the envious gaze of Romania, the largest Balkan state, which had claims to Dobruja, a chunk of territory straddling Romania and Bulgaria between the Danube and the Black Sea. In return for recognizing Bulgaria’s conquest of Thrace, Romania demanded Silistra, the northernmost part of Bulgarian Dobruja, implicitly threatening war if Bulgaria refused.

On February 24, 1913, the Bulgarians agreed to submit their dispute with Romania to mediation by the Great Powers at the Conference of London, on the assumption that the Russians would protect the interests of their Slavic cousins in Bulgaria against the non-Slavic Romanians. However Bulgaria’s trust in Russia turned out to be entirely misplaced, as ineffectual Russian diplomats ended up siding with their enemies in both mediations. The Bulgarians were understandably embittered by these betrayals, which left Serbia as Russia’s only real ally in the Balkans—and that, in turn, meant that Russia had to back up Serbia in future disputes no matter what, or risk losing all its influence in the region. In 1914 this would have unforeseen, and incalculable, consequences.

See previous installment, next installment, or all entries.

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Civilian Researchers Discover Wreckage of the USS Indianapolis
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On July 30, 1945, the cruiser USS Indianapolis sank in the Pacific Ocean after it was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58. More than 70 years after the historic naval tragedy— which claimed the lives of nearly 900 crew—The New York Times reports that the ship’s mysterious final resting place has been found.

The discovery came courtesy of a team of civilian researchers, led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. His state-of-the-art research vessel, Petrel, located the wreck 18,000 feet below the Pacific’s surface, the team announced on Saturday, August 19.

"To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in a statement. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence, and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances."

Before it sank, the USS Indianapolis had just completed a top-secret mission to a naval base on the Northern Mariana island of Tinian. After delivering enriched uranium and components for Little Boy— the atomic bomb that the U.S. would drop on the Japanese city of Hiroshima about a week later—the cruiser forged ahead to Guam, and then to the Philippines. It was supposed to meet the battleship USS Idaho at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare to attack Japan.

The USS Indianapolis never made it to Leyte Gulf. Shortly after midnight on July 30, the Japanese submarine I-58 spotted the cruiser and fired six torpedoes. The USS Indianapolis—which was hit twice—sank within 12 minutes. Around 300 to 400 sailors and Marines were killed in the attack; the rest were stranded in the Pacific Ocean for several days.

Many of these survivors would ultimately lose their lives to sharks, a grisly scene that would be famously (albeit semi-accurately) recounted in the 1975 movie Jaws. Others died from drowning, heat stroke, thirst, burns and injuries, swallowing salt water or fuel oil, and suicide. More than 300 crew members were rescued after a bomber pilot accidently sighted the imperiled men while on a routine antisubmarine patrol.

The mass tragedy—which wouldn’t be announced to the public until August 15, 1945—sparked controversy: Charles B. McVay III, captain of the USS Indianapolis, was found guilty in a court martial of failing to steer the ship on a “zigzag” course to elude Japanese submarines. A Japanese submarine captain testified that this precautionary measure wouldn’t have thwarted the enemy, but McVay was charged nonetheless. The captain died by suicide in 1968, and wouldn’t be officially exonerated by the Navy until 2001.

For decades, the remains of the USS Indianapolis were lost to the ravages of time and nature. But in 2016, naval historian Richard Hulver found a historic ship log that mentioned a sighting of the USS Indianapolis. Allen’s search team used this information to locate the ship, which was west of where experts assumed it had gone down.

Allen’s crew took pictures of the wreckage, including a piece of its hull, and will search for more of the ship. They plan to keep the exact location of the USS Indianapolis a secret, however, to honor the sunken ship as a war grave.

"While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” Allen said.

[h/t The New York Times]

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The Time That Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Opened Competing Restaurants on the Sunset Strip
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From 1946 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were show business supernovas. With an act that combined singing, slapstick, and spontaneous hijinks, the duo sold out nightclubs coast to coast, then went on to conquer radio, television, and film. Long before Elvis and The Beatles came along, Dean and Jerry  were rock stars of comedy.

Offstage, there was a cordial but cool friendship between the laidback Martin and the more neurotic Lewis. But as the pressures of their success increased, so did the tensions between them. Martin grew tired of playing the bland romantic straight man to Lewis’s manic monkey boy. And when Lewis started to grab more headlines and write himself bigger parts in their movies, Martin decided to quit the act. In an angry moment, he told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a f**king dollar sign.”

After the split, both men went on with their individual careers, though it took Martin a few years before he regained his footing. One of his ventures during that transitional period was a Hollywood eatery called Dino’s Lodge.


In the summer of 1958, Martin and his business partner, Maury Samuels, bought a controlling interest in a restaurant called The Alpine Lodge, at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. They hired Dean’s brother Bill to manage the place, and renamed it Dino’s Lodge.

Outside they put up a large neon sign, a likeness of Dean’s face. The sign turned into a national symbol of hip and cool, thanks to appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, and most prominently, in the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip.

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Dino’s Lodge was popular from the get-go, serving home-style Italian food and steaks in an intimate, candlelit, wood-paneled room meant to replicate Martin’s own den. In the first year, Dean himself frequented the place, signing autographs and posing for photos with starstruck diners. He also occasionally brought along famous friends like Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. To promote the idea of the swingin’ lifestyle that Martin often sang about, Dino’s served “an early morning breakfast from 1 to 5 a.m.” The restaurant also had a lounge that featured singers, though only females. Dean apparently didn’t want any male vocalists encroaching on his turf.

But as with many a celebrity venture into the food business, this one soon turned sour. And most of that was due to the jealousy of Jerry Lewis.


In late 1961, Lewis wooed Martin’s business partner Maury Samuels away, ponied up some $350,000, and opened his own copycat restaurant three blocks down Sunset. It was called Jerry’s. To make it clear he was out for top billing, Lewis had his own likeness rendered in neon, then mounted it on a revolving pole 100 feet above his restaurant. In contrast to Dino’s Italian-based menu, Jerry’s would serve “American and Hebrew viands.” Lewis didn’t stop there. Within a few months, he’d hired away Dino’s top two chefs, his maître d', and half his waitstaff.

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When Lewis was in Los Angeles, he made of point of table-hopping and schmoozing with his guests at his restaurant, and he occasionally brought in a few of his celebrity friends, like Peggy Lee and Steve McQueen.


By the following year, a disgusted Dean Martin was fed up with the restaurant business and cut ties with Dino’s Lodge. Much to his aggravation, he lost a motion in court to have his likeness and name removed from the sign. So the new owners carried on as Dino’s Lodge, with the big neon head staring down on Sunset for another decade before the place finally went bust.

Jerry’s lost steam long before that, folding in the mid-1960s.

For the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Martin and Lewis avoided each other. “Jerry’s trying hard to be a director,” Dean once told a reporter. “He couldn’t even direct traffic.”

In 1976, Frank Sinatra famously engineered an onstage reunion of the pair during The Jerry Lewis Telethon. While the audience roared their approval, Sinatra said, “I think it’s about time, don’t you?” And to Sinatra, Lewis said under his breath, “You son of a bitch.”

What followed was an awkward few moments of shtick between the former partners. Reportedly, Martin was drunk and Lewis was doped up on painkillers. There was a quick embrace, Martin sang with Sinatra, then blew Lewis a kiss and disappeared from his life for good. Martin died in 1995. Lewis passed away today, at the age of 91.


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