15 August 1914

The Panama Canal opens to traffic with the transit of the cargo ship SS Ancon.

The Panama Canal is an artificial waterway located in Central America that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It was one of the most significant engineering feats of the 20th century and continues to be a vital route for global maritime trade and transportation.

The idea of constructing a canal across the Isthmus of Panama dates back centuries, as it would provide a shortcut for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, eliminating the need for the lengthy and treacherous voyage around the southern tip of South America. Various attempts were made by different countries and entities over the years, including the French and the Spanish, but due to challenges like disease and financial difficulties, these efforts were unsuccessful.

The most successful and famous endeavor to build the Panama Canal was undertaken by the United States. The construction began in the early 20th century, with the United States taking over the project after purchasing the assets of the failed French attempt. The major challenges faced during construction included disease, primarily malaria and yellow fever, as well as the rugged terrain and the need to cut through mountains.

One of the most significant contributions to the success of the project was the implementation of aggressive measures to control and eradicate disease-carrying mosquitoes, which significantly improved worker health and productivity. Chief engineer John F. Stevens and later, George W. Goethals, played key roles in overseeing the construction and addressing these challenges.

Completion and Operation:
The Panama Canal was officially completed in 1914 and consists of a system of locks that raise and lower ships to navigate the varying elevations of the terrain. The canal spans approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) across the Isthmus of Panama. It allows ships of various sizes and types to traverse the continent in a matter of hours, drastically reducing travel time and costs compared to the alternative route around South America.

The Panama Canal has had a profound impact on global trade and maritime transportation. It has facilitated the movement of goods between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, opening up new trade routes and making shipping more efficient and cost-effective. The canal’s strategic location has also been of military significance, enabling naval vessels to quickly move between the two major oceans.

In recent years, a significant expansion project was completed to accommodate larger vessels. The expansion project, which was finished in 2016, involved the construction of new locks known as the “Panama Canal Expansion” or the “New Panamax” locks. These locks are wider and deeper, allowing for the passage of larger container ships and other vessels, known as “Panamax” and “New Panamax” ships.

19 October 1914

The First Battle of Ypres begins.

On October 19, 1914, near the Belgian city of Ypres, Allied and German forces begin the first of what would be three battles to control the city and its advantageous positions on the north coast of Belgium during the First World War.

After the German advance through Belgium and eastern France was curtailed by a decisive Allied victory in the Battle of the Marne in late September 1914, the so-called “Race to the Sea” began, as each army attempted to outflank the other on their way northwards, hastily constructing trench fortifications as they went. The race ended in mid-October at Ypres, the ancient Flemish city with its fortifications guarding the ports of the English Channel and access to the North Sea beyond.

After the Germans captured the Belgian city of Antwerp early in October, Antwerp’s remaining Belgian forces along with troops of the British Expeditionary Force, commanded by Sir John French, withdrew to Ypres, arriving at the city between October 8 and 19 to reinforce the Belgian and French defenses there. Meanwhile, the Germans prepared to launch the first phase of an offensive aimed at breaking the Allied lines and capturing Ypres and other channel ports, thus controlling the outlets to the North Sea.

On October 19, a protracted period of fierce combat began, as the Germans opened their Flanders offensive and the Allies steadfastly resisted, while seeking their own chances to go on the attack wherever possible. Fighting continued, with heavy losses on both sides, until November 22, when the arrival of winter weather forced the battle to a halt. The area between the positions established by both sides during this period—from Ypres on the British side to Menin and Roulers on the German side—became known as the Ypres Salient, a region that over the course of the next several years would see some of the war’s bitterest and most brutal struggles.