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Caravanfan's avatar

What are your thoughts on World War 1 and how has it affected you?

Asked by Caravanfan (4989points) December 23rd, 2018

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on WW1 recently. I’m just finishing up Dan Carlin’s Harcore History Blueprint for Armageddon, and I saw Peter Jackson’s briliiant new documentary of restored footage (you too can see it December 27).

As an American WW1 is not ingrained on our psyche such as any of the other 20th or 21st century wars are. We got in too late and although the Americans suffered casualties, it’s a pale shadow of the devestation wrought on the European powers on both sides.

This question is more geared towards the Europeans on this site. Last year I had the privilege of going to France and England, and I visited several military museums and learned a lot about the War (albeit from the Entente point of view). I met one Welshman who was visibly upset at Napolean’s tomb when the memorial there barely mentioned the British.

So talk to me. Tell me what you learned and how you feel? Does it mean anything to you? When you read the word “passchendale” does that evoke any sort of emotion?

This is a complex question that I don’t expect a lot of answers to. I’m keeping this in “General” because I’m truely interested in good answers, not just quips.

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15 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Two grand-uncles died (grandmother’s older brothers).

LadyMarissa's avatar

Being born & raised in the South, we never made it past the Civil War in school. I seem to remember one year in high school where we did touch (very litely) or maybe I should say breezed over The New Deal. NEVER made it into WWI though. My Gramps was too young to go & my parents weren’t even born yet; so, it did NOT touch me nor my family at all as far as I know. Now, my dad & uncle were both in WWII so I did hear a few stories about what happened during my family’s time then. Still, there were NO family stories concerning WWI…not even from Gramp’s brothers.

stanleybmanly's avatar

My grandfather went “over there” but never saw combat. He did see Paris. For my part, the time I spent reading about that particular war was priceless. I truly believe that no kid should be allowed to graduate from high school without a knowledge of history’s most egregious and massive example of pointless death and unbelievable slaughter. Nothing I’ve learned since was more instructive on the propensity of the state to squander the lives of the fools who choose to trust it.

kritiper's avatar

I had a great uncle who was a sergeant in the US ARMY. He was deployed as part of the tank corps., out of Camp Benning Georgia. I have several pictures of him in France and the different types of tanks he dealt with, one being a French Renault he must have been in during a fight. It has many bullet holes in it’s rear, where the armor was thin.
I have his dog tags, uniform stripes, and French phrase book.
He died in 1941, and I have the 48 star flag that was on his coffin.
During the construction of Hoover dam, he was fireman on one of the two steam engines that hauled cement. (The engines were two of eight built for construction, 2–8-2 Mikado’s)

ragingloli's avatar

My great great grandfather died in it, when his flamethrower exploded after he finished hosing down a french bunker.
Sniff.

Zissou's avatar

Biplanes are cool.

My 9th-grade history teacher got irate when I opined that the US should have stayed out of it.

Caravanfan's avatar

@ragingloli this was obviously after he had progeny. How old was he?

Caravanfan's avatar

@zissou I realize you were a 9th grader but what was your argument?

flutherother's avatar

The UK has never entirely got over the First World War. The casualty lists were enormous and unprecedented. Every village and small town has a war memorial listing the names of those who died and the names are many. An uncle of mine enlisted though he was under age and was killed when the artillery piece he was manning blew up in the final week of the war. His mother, my grandmother, heard the news that the war was over, expected him to return safely, then got a telegram two days later to say he had been killed.

When I was a child I remember seeing many one legged and one armed men in the streets. You don’t see that nowadays. They had all been maimed in the war.

My thoughts now are that the war was a very traumatic experience for millions of soldiers and for the country as a whole. I think it achieved less than nothing and if the war had never happened I don’t think Nazism would ever have arisen in Germany and the Second World War would never have been fought.

Zissou's avatar

I think at the time I argued that

1. There was no need waste American lives on this conflict.
2. Had we let the European empires exhaust themselves and end in stalemate, instead of ending in the complete defeat and humiliation of Germany, WWII might not have happened.

My teacher brought up German attacks on US shipping and some other points that I don’t recall.

It didn’t occur to me at the time to bring up the Quasi-War with France during the Napoleonic era. We could have tried something like that and sunk enough German ships to convince them not to mess with us and keep our trade routes open. Effective naval and logistical support of the Allies might have forced the Axis to negotiate without putting US ground troops into the meat grinder of trench warfare, and without giving the Allies the power to dictate the excessive terms of Versailles.

But of course alternate history is tricky.

Zissou's avatar

^I meant the Central Powers, not the Axis. The Axis was WWII.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Zissou Thanks, I knew what you meant. I’ve made the same mistake before. :-)

Zaku's avatar

I started studying World War I history out of general interest in military history, when I was about five years old. I found it very interesting. When I was about 11 years old, I read All Quiet On The Western Front and it made a deep impression on my thoughts and feelings about the horribleness of warfare and populations being led to die en masse in very foolish impersonal ways, and that being backed up by cultural thinking and laws.

It also makes an impression on me that more people died from the influenza epidemic that followed The Great War, than died in the war itself.

Both World War One and the influenza epidemic still get fairly regular mention about 100 years later in the local newspaper.

Demosthenes's avatar

WWI always perplexed me because the reasons for the war seemed hopeless opaque. Vietnam may have been a travesty, but I understood the fight against Communism and Soviet power. But then WWI: one guy is assassinated, so the whole world needs to be at war?

Everything I’ve read about WWI leads me to believe that the great powers of Europe, after years of jockeying for power, wanted to go to war to settle it once and for all. Of course had they known how bad it would be, they might’ve chosen a different route.

gorillapaws's avatar

The biggest impact on my life now that I can think of is how “The Great War” forever changed art, literature, music. It revealed the darker side of humankind like nothing before it. To be clear, I do realize that man has committed unspeakable atrocities prior to this, e.g. slavery, the genocide of the native peoples of the Americas, etc. That said, warfare had never been this brutal on this scale. WW1 saw the introduction of flamethrowers, tanks, chemical warfare, artillery, etc.

The results greatly impacted the arts that were produced from that period. Music started experimenting with dissonance, the war poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were taking traditional poetic structures and applying off-rhymes and other techniques to corrupt the tidy forms of poetry. Art got very dark and weird. All of this had a profound impact on the arts going forward and we now are continued to be influenced by them in the arts of today.

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