Saturday, November 7, 2009

World War One: The tragedy of the XXth century

Without a proper understanding of the impact of this war on the world, the growing brutality and inhumanity of the twentieth century is difficult to explain. Many of the technological advances during the war made nations ever more efficient at producing weapons that could kill and destroy their enemies more quickly and efficiently. What are your opinions and understanding of this tragic event?


Esteban Matthews said...

‘The War to End Wars,’ to me this is the most momentous statement when understanding the incredible tragedies of World War I. At the start of the 19th century the major European powers had gone to great lengths to maintain a balance of power throughout Europe. This resulted in a complex network of political and military alliances throughout the continent. However, greed and fear inflicted those in power and a World War was only inevitable, but what was going to be the slogan for this war. In my opinion the leaders at the time were weary on giving propaganda of the war based on Nationality.
‘Peace,’ the only next option to feed into the minds of thousands and thousands of soldiers who inescapably were being shipped to give their life for something they had no real idea about. ‘If you fight now you won’t ever have to fight again, we promise this will be the last battle of your life. If you fight now with victor by your side only then can you and your family live in a world without war.’ How else can we explain the events of hundreds of thousands of lives being spent for only a few feet of territory. World War I was not intended to end all wars, it was constructed to nourish the monster that is war, the monster of ideologies that cannot and will not exists in this life.

Randall Horn said...

Esteban really hit the nail on the head with his comment. I don't know how else to elaborate on the theory of being encouraged to fight a war to end all wars. In theory this idea is worth fighting for, but at the end of the day it comes down to human beings killing each other. As the veteran said in the second video, after a shell exploded and your stuck in muck, when they dig you up you have bodies all around you- bodies with out heads or legs around your neck. The thought of so many lives ending so quickly is just really hard for our generation to comprehend.
Watching the machine gunners go through hundreds of rounds of ammunition is really scary. Each one of those bullets is intended for the body of an enemy. Many of the deaths in this war were from trench warfare where the bayonet at the end of your weapon was the definition of close combat. The thought of the gruesomeness of this fighting is really beyond me. And you must consider what you're fighting for. Many went to war because it was the right thing to do for your country. Many who objected to the fighting still went for fear of being labeled a coward or a German sympathizer, at any rate each soldier had his own life he left behind to die in battle to gain a few yards. Is it worth it? That depends on how strong the issue hits home to you. It is sad to think that many people with lots of power and money used war as a method of profit and bullets were counted as dollars rather than lives lost.

William Suttles said...

Using the term "The War to End Wars" was quite clever on the part of the various governments involved. Giving the men hope for the future, not necessarily theirs but that of their children, pushed for something beyond patriotism. A man who is fighting for the sole purpose of his country is one thing. But, a man who is fighting for the well-being of his children and grandchildren to be is one of the most fierce things imaginable.

Debating on whether WWI should have ever occurred in the first place would take up an entire semester. The simple reality is that many men from both sides died fighting for something they believed. As noted by Randy, some of the reasons for fighting were less noble than others; for example, fear of being a Nazi sympathizer. It's difficult to imagine being a part of this war without some form of motivation, at least on the level of the individual.

The main reasons for the high cost of life during WWI were the advancement of military technology and the application of trench warfare. Never before had such an arsenal of technologically advanced military weapons, ranging from bombers to water-cooled machine guns, meshed with the art of trench warfare. Fighting truly came down to feet and inches of ground gained. If one looks at this from a literal standpoint it seems a bit foolish. But, it seems to me that you must step back and realize that this was a war of attrition and gaining those few extra feet over months of fighting were a psychological victory, or at least a mental blow to the enemy.

Kassidy Benson said...

Initial news of the war brought jubilation to Europeans who thought the war would end widespread discontent caused by feminist and socialist movements. However, in the midst of the WWI the eruption of the Russian Revolution brought even greater social problems to Europe by polarizing opinion between capitalist and socialist ideals. The people were also unaware of the detrimental effects of advanced military capability. By the war’s conclusion, over nine million people were dead and neither side had advanced more than 50 miles. The war initially anticipated to solve instability and social unrest instead prompted the soviet movement, buckled the economy, and numbed the people of Europe to the tragedy of death. I would argue: if Europe had not witnessed the brutality of mankind during WWI, the atrocities of the Holocaust would have been unimaginable.

Cristina said...

I always believed the slogan, “The War to End All Wars”, to be one of the best advertising ploys of our time. It closely follows the encouragement from George W Bush to declare war on Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe that war is a commodity that needs a selling point just as much as any other good or service. War World I occurred during a time of great instability and unrest for the world’s leading powers. Since the 19th century, the leading powers constantly attempted to exercise their authority with the advent of alliances and coalition, in order to strengthen their bond with like-minded nations. For example, the Holy Alliance between the Christian nations was one of the first developed coalitions that helped create a political network of nations. World War I was fought solely between alliances with the same mentality as the one from the 19th century: to strengthen their political network and power throughout the world.
It was crucial for the political leaders and alliances to give the people a reason to fight that they would understand. After all, “The War to Build Alliances and Gain Global Domination” does not exactly have the same intrigue and catch as the original statement.
I have always found “The War to End All Wars” to be an eerily ironic and unfortunate statement. No war will ever end all wars, but the people and casualities of war will continue to be fed this propaganda each time another war needs to be supported. The American people fell for the same propaganda from our political leaders following the atrocities of September 11th, just as the people did for World War I.

Geethi Abraham said...

The rise in popularity of mass production at the start of the 20th century led to the application of its methods towards the creation of new, more destructive warfare weaponry. New weaponry such as rifled artilleries and machine guns made it near impossible for troops to advance onto defended ground. The now upgraded hand grenade allowed for more effectual attack of trenches. As the veteran mentioned in the video, the new high explosive shells, were massively lethal. For the first time, women at home were also directly supporting the war effort by working in manufacturing factories. Since all of the countries involved in the war were employing this new technology to their weaponry, little gains could be made on any end without a substantial number of casualties. As mentioned in the video, 11% of France´s, 8% of Great Britain's, and 9% of Germany's entire population were causalities in the war; so much so, that literally figures began referring to the causalities of the first world war as the ¨Lost Generation¨ in Europe. World War I was tragically destructive, shattering nineteenth century hopes of a peaceful future. Moreover, the introduction of this new generation of weaponry, set the stage for the second world war, the most deadly military conflict in history.

Andrew said...

I respectfully beg to differ with those of you who adhere to the idea that the title “The war to end all wars” was simply a marketing ploy aimed at getting military-aged men to head to the front lines. First, World War I was like nothing the world had ever seen before. The advent of modern war machines created at a back- breaking pace was not viewed as terrifying initially, but exciting. Young men were still unaware of the destruction that awaited them (many eagerly lining up to take their place in the trenches). When this was combined with the belief on both sides that the enemy’s rapid spread of alliances and mass production of arms was due to their desire for European domination, the populaces in Europe were filled with a sense of fear, anger, and distrust of rival countries.
Therefore, with such unprecedented arms being constructed, and such large powers uniting for a common cause, the people, and governments alike, probably truly did believe this was the war to end all wars. It was not until the true carnage of the battles had taken place that journalistic propaganda was required to keep men enlisting, and this occurred long after the slogan was adopted.
This war was an extreme tragedy, as so many young people and civilians died for little more than an arms race and a flexing of states’ muscles. Of course, there were widespread problems for people in the Balkan states, but very few of the countries in the war were affected by these problems on a daily basis. However, this war, in my opinion, was largely inevitable. Europe was referred to as a powder keg before the onset of the war due to its volatile nature. Had war not broken out, the countries would likely have continued their arms races, while simultaneously soaking up every possible ally they could muster, making the eventual war that much worse.

Kandace said...

I'm going to have to agree with Andrew on this one. The fervor associated with World War I was unprecedented. Nobody had ever experienced anything like this before. The whole world was waiting for it: it wasn't just a bunch of journalists sitting around plotting. I'm struck by the writing of "All Quiet On The Western Front", which explains a first-hand account of the war (with stories of the original excitement) and the resulting "Lost Generation" because of it. Trench warfare and the weaponry associated with WWI was akin to the nuclear bomb in WWII -- brand new, untested, and unclear as to where the future would lead. Young boys signed up eagerly, picturing the heroism and romantic ideas of warfare... but instead, they got rivers of blood and death. I think it is significant that the idea of "Live and Let Live" was born during World War I -- that sentiment, if anything, would be the reason for this war to end all wars.

Anonymous said...

I found both clips to be very interesting. They both demonstrated the rapid changes countries went through to change from being soley an agriculture economy to a modern country.
For example, the way the soldiers fought in WW I was way more different then any war before then. Before, WW I men fought using their hands, and getting up close to someone; they didn't have weapons with technological advancements. World War I completely changed the production of goods.