Saturday, October 15, 2016


We Americans are familiar with 11/22/63 -- the date on which JFK was assassinated.  How many of us, however, recognize the significance of 6/28/14?

The spot where WWI began
Courtesy Mehul Randery

On 6/28/14 the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo.  This double homicide was far more historically consequential than the Kennedy assassination.  It was the catalyst for the start of World War I which claimed the lives of over 17 million people.  The so-called "Great War" would shatter four empires and lead directly to Communism, Fascism and World War II.  It was history's greatest train wreck and it all began on 6/28/14.

In my new book, An Adventure in 1914, I wrote this about the assassin Gavril Princip...

Gavril Princip 1894-1918

"Gavril Princip (1894 – 1918) was nineteen years of age when he assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.  Princip, born in Obljaj in Bosnia - Herzegovena, was a Bosnian Serb nationalist who received training and weapons from a secret society called the Black Hand.  He was a slight man, the son of a farmer, who complained that “people took me for a weakling”.

Sarajevo 2016
Photo courtesy of Mehul Randery
He was equipped with a revolver and a cyanide packet on Franz Joseph street when the Archduke’s vehicle slowed to a stop.  Princip clambered onto the limousine’s running board.  The Archduke, dressed in a distinctive helmet with bright green ostrich feathers, was impossible to miss.  Princip was armed with a Browning NM1910 revolver that was capable of firing six .380 ACP rounds.  He only fired two shots at Ferdinand and Sophie and each was fatal.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Princip raised the revolver to his temple to take his own life but the gun was knocked away.  He was unable to swallow his cyanide packet.  Princip was immediately identified as the shooter and beaten by a mob.  Police officers rescued him from lynching and he was quickly arrested.  Under interrogation he declared, “I am a Yugoslav nationalist and I believe in the unification of all South Slavs in whatever form of state and that it be free of Austria.”

Sarajevo street corner of 1914 Assassination, Bosnia, 2016
Courtesy Mehul Randery
Wells tell us that “the Archduke and his wife were murdered by an Austrian subject, in Austrian territory”.  Technically this is true as Princip had been born in Bosnia, Sarajevo was in Bosnia and Austria had annexed Bosnia in 1908.  Wells also claims that Serbia had warned Austria of the plot to kill the Archduke in advance of June 28.  This remains debatable.  After the assassination Serbian ambassadors did claim to have warned Austria; they later denied these claims.  A vaguely worded telegram sent on June 18 did direct the Serbian ambassador to Vienna to warn his Austrian counterparts of a plot to kill the Archduke on Bosnian territory.

Princip was tried and convicted but was not executed due to his youth at the time of the assassination.  He died in an Austrian prison of tuberculosis on April 28, 1918 nearly four years after the assassination."

Special thanks to my good friend Mehul Randery who visited Sarjevo this summer and took photographs. 

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