I do have a bit of a obsession with World War One. It is quite the morbid obsession to have. I just find it fascinating. It's hard to wrap my head around it and I like that. It was such a stupid and unnecessary war, but it is one of the most significant wars that mankind has ever fought.
In every history class that I took in K-12, which covered World War One, the war was largely glazed over. It was more about the Americans showing up and the War ended shortly after. I mean Trench Warfare and such was mentioned, but never really delved into. Nor were the true causes of the War. I mean Archduke Ferdinand's assassination gets a lot of credit for starting the war, but really it only slightly hastened it's arrival. Germany and France were going to go to war and that would draw in Russia, and England and the French side and Austria on the German side.
In turn of the Century Europe, massive military buildups were undertaken by every European power. Germany was only thirty years old and had pissed a bunch of people off to gain its independence. The German's felt disrespected by the older Monarchies and was itching for a fight. In the European military academies, the idea of the offensive was deep and pervasive.
What was lost in all of this was that the military technology had improved greatly since the last war in Europe in 1870. While it really made its debut in the Russo-Japanese War, no one would really know the power of machine guns, artillery, aircraft, tanks, etc until August of 1914.
Shortly after the war began the ideas that were coming out the military academies were proving to be very wrong. Still Generals on both sides held onto the idea of the offensive war. The orders were sent out and thousands and thousands of young men were killed needlessly. In response to the amazing power of the new technology was to dig and hold defensive positions, which Machine Guns made easy.
World War One basically turned into a fight for holes in the ground in Belgium. There would be great battles and thousands of men would die just to trade trenches. It quickly became a war of attrition and that was the real help of the Americans. When the U.S. joined the Entente, it provided the French, and English another bank account and armory to wear down the Germans. Also the American soldiers brought the biggest pandemic of the modern era to Europe. That's a big thing the Americans did.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the War stopped. They kept fighting right to that very point. Prideful Generals didn't hold back in the last days and thousands and thousands of more men were killed for no good reason.
A peace treaty was signed, that basically even more fucked a bankrupt Germany. There is a lot that can be said about the Treaty of Versailles. I think all of it can be summed up like this. The Treaty of Versailles ensured that there would be another war. There's a lot in that, but it all comes down to that.
World War One's effect on World War Two in the European theater is perhaps the most significant effect on the war. World War One was a bloody war of position. In opposition, World War Two was a bloody war of movement. In WWII the Germans, while on the aggressive, moved fast. When the allies were on the offensive, they kept moving. Neither side every really dug in with a few exceptions.
One thing that we can say about World War One, is that at least it didn't really involve civilians. It did, but relative to the total warfare of WWII it was very small.
In World War Two, the armies didn't even bother with trying to prevent civilian casualties. It's strange to me that while the sides of right and wrong are so clear in WWII, but the military tactics were just as wrong as the axis. Whereas in World War One, which side was right is very muddled, but the military tactics were actually largely right.
So, on this day that was originally to remember the end of the what was to be final war of mankind, we should remember the lessons of that war. I think the most important lesson we can take is that war is stupid and mankind should just stop it. There should be no need for faulty offensive or defensive military doctrines. Mankind should be able to look at the incredible loss of life in World War One for no good reason and realize that we should never, ever do that again.
Thanks for reading and please comment.