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World War I (Jul 28, 1914 - Nov 11, 1918), U.S. Involvement (Apr 6, 1917 - Nov 11, 1918) - Thirty Countries Involved


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One hundred years ago World War I began.  It lasted for over 4 years and resulted in approximately 37 million deaths and injuries, with about 15-16 million deaths and about 9 million of them being military personnel.  It also involved approximately 70 million soldiers being called to serve;  about 60 million in Europe.

All of those are staggering numbers.  Before World War II it was called the Great War.  Devastation on a grand never before experienced scale.

The Atlantic is running a review of photos from the war years.  They are grim.

This weeks pictures available on the web:  The Western Front

The series began last week:  Pictures From Last Week

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Dave, thank you for bringing up this most unpleasant of subjects. It sure is easier to research and discuss "Star Trek." My cheap escapism has been jolted back into reality with this topic.

Some things about World War I we should all know:

* Surprisingly, it is only the sixth-deadliest conflict in human history. 10 million soldiers died. More than 65 million men fought in the war, meaning you had a 15% of death if you fought. 5 million civilians also died, raising the death total to 15 million.

* Nearly 2/3 of WWI deaths occurred in battle; in previous wars, the majority of deaths were from disease.

* The Spanish Flu was responsible for 1/3 of military deaths (don't forget, the great "Flu Epidemic of 1918-1919" overlapped with WWI).

* The Spanish Flu killed 20-40 million people, even more than were killed in WWI.

* WWI is responsible for production use of flamethrowers (the first use ever), tanks, and submarines. German flamethrowers could fire jets of flame 40 meters, or nearly half the length of a football field.

Baron von Richtofen - "The Bloody Red Baron" - shot down nearly 80 planes before finally being stopped. That's like playing Rafael Nadal on clay.

* The horrible concept of "Trench Warfare" became widespread in WWI.

* Ever-faithful to man, dogs were used to carry messages to the front lines (if you've made it this far, consider this one worth retweeting).

* The cruel use of Poison Gas, including Mustard Gas, was introduced and widely employed.

* "Big Bertha" was a 100,000-pound howitzer which could fire a 2,000-pound (one ton!) shell nearly 10 miles.

* Woodrow Wilson's 2nd-term campaign slogan was, "He Has Kept Us Out Of War!" One month after being elected, we entered the war.

* The Draft (Selective Service Act Of 1917) was used for the first time in WW1.

* Future President Herbert Hoover encouraged planting "Victory Gardens" in peoples' backyards. More then 20 million people did, and national food consumption dropped by 15%

* The total U.S. cost of WWI was over $30 billion.

* The term "Dogfight" originated in WWI.

* Alsace and Lorraine reverted back to France after WWI.

* Poland, Belgium, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia also picked up important parcels of land.

* British Author T.E. Lawrence, aka, "Lawrence of Arabia," worked for allied intelligence in the Middle East, led a revolt against the Turks, and wrote a book about it in "The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom."

* Four empires collapsed after WWI: Ottoman (founded in 1299 (!)), Austro-Hungarian (founded 1867), German (1871), and Russian (1721). This is remarkable, and changed the face of the world as it was known.

There is plenty more - refer to "75 Interesting Facts About World War I" on facts.randomhistory.com which contains many of these facts plus a whole lot more in a quick, easy-to-read format. Everyone should know at least *something* about this incredibly important event in world history that most likely effects each one of us. Personally, I'm quite intrigued about the first fact, above, that WWI was only the sixth-deadliest conflict in world history - I would have guessed second, maybe third, and want to know more.

As a side note, the United States has never lost 1 million people in any conflict, ever. Hardship for us? Sure, but nothing compared to what other countries have endured over the centuries. Our geographical isolation has helped us thus far; but with "advances" in transportation and military technologies, that isolation won't shield us forever. And may God help us when it no longer does. As silly as it might sound, I have always used this basic premise as a long-term philosophy as a guide to running this community: We must befriend those who would do us harm, as best we can; otherwise, they will find a way to penetrate our defenses - military might (or, in my case, heavy-handed moderation) is not a long-term solution, not in this day and age. Sound silly? I see it as an exact parallel.

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Don:  I'm not educated on WWI but saw the Atlantic piece said that 2014 is the 100 year anniversary and went through the pictures and some of the history.

WWI is BIG HISTORY.  The photos in the first two installments of this 10 week serial are stunning, grim, and powerful.  The details from your reference are flabbergasting;  so large, so extensive, so devastating, so destructive and evil.

It blows my mind about us as a human race.  That war laid waste to Europe.  it only took 21 years after WWI ended for folks to start a second devastating and even larger war.  In the 21 years between the end of the first World War and the beginning of the 2nd WW the people in charge of countries could count on husbands and wives and mothers and fathers to sire and raise a new generation of young people that could then be sent off to kill one another....in mass numbers....AGAIN.

Back to WWI.   I've read some of the literature...but those pictures are painful.  Trenches, mud, soldiers weighted down by armaments, people in gas masks, devastation.   Its friggin painful and ugly.

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The third installment of the series at theAtlantic.com on WWI.  This piece focuses on technology.  Its quite interesting as it gives a sense of the bridge of changing technology over time, between what was in existence at the time, what was developed to cope with changes, and the early versions of technologies we see today.

In my view:  an awful lot of armor and an awful lot of destroyed and twisted armor by ever larger projectiles.

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5th in a series of photographs about WWI   aerial warfare

Really historically fascinating to see how technology changed over time.  The 4th series focused on pictures of animals.  Animals were used in huge numbers for this vast war for many purposes including moving enormous volumes of weight over space.  Tanks and trucks were newish, less reliable.  An estimated 8 million horses died in WWI, half of the deaths of soldiers.

On the other hand this series focuses on aerial war and the advancements in this technology.  WWI  a mixture of old and new.  Some of the photos show aerial shots of the landscapes with massive zig zag trench lines and craters covering the earth, a singular shot of a war plane flying over the great pyramids of Egypt.  (the 7 wonders of the world did not escape the war).   Zepelins, observer balloons, even massive kites that held human observers, let alone the war fighters and bombers.

Simply an amazing perspective of the world at war 100 years ago.

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Volume 6

Pictures of People in WW I

Soldiers and Civilians

The 6th installment of this fascinating retrospective:  http://www.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/wwi/wwisoldiers/

The living, the dead, civilians, soldiers, wounded, captured by the enemy, on the front, on a break, in trenches on horseback, on camels in front of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx,   etc etc.

Remarkable pictures of men, women and children in the midst of the great war.

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I hadn't noticed this topic until just now. I have an academic background in history but have never systematically studied the Great War, its antecedents and consequences, but have a few remarks.

* Ever-faithful to man, dogs were used to carry messages to the front lines (if you've made it this far, consider this one worth retweeting).

Having shared my life successively with two Irish terriers, I find it hard to imagine that Irish terriers were used fairly extensively by the British army as messenger dogs in the war, but so I am informed.

* Poland, Belgium, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia also picked up important parcels of land.

Actually, both Poland and Lithuania had effectively ceased to exist as independent countries in 1795, and came back into existence in considerably altered form after the Great War. Czechoslovakia was one of the many countries newly invented after the war, along with, in Europe, Yugoslavia--two countries broken into fragments after the fall of the Soviet empire. Also, from the wreckage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, newly minted versions of Austria and Hungary, and, out of Russia, Finland, among others; and from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire practically all of the states of the Levant and Arabian peninsula (not all at once): Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey.

* Four empires collapsed after WWI: Ottoman (founded in 1299 (!)), Austro-Hungarian (founded 1867), German (1871), and Russian (1721). This is remarkable, and changed the face of the world as it was known.

And four rulers calling themselves some version of the title of "Caesar" fell: the German Kaiser, the Austrian Kaiser, the Tsar of Russia, and, most fabulous of all, Ferdinand I, the Tsar of Bulgaria.

* Woodrow Wilson's 2nd-term campaign slogan was, "He Has Kept Us Out Of War!" One month after being elected, we entered the war.

And here is probably the most significant historical issue for Americans. The entry of the U.S. into the Great War, in my opinion, is one of the greatest blunders in our history. We put the American economy and military power, essentially, into the service of French revanchism and the odious Third Republic, and the victory of French revanchism, impossible without American assistance, led to the rest of the horrific military and political history of the 20th century. Especially after Russia was sidelined, it was unlikely that France and Britain could defeat the Central Powers on their own. There would have been, at some point, a negotiated peace (they simply couldn't go on slaughtering each other forever), and with an end to the war without the crushing of Germany, we wouldn't have gotten the even Greater War, the Holocaust, and the Cold War and all its attendant calamities (Vietnam, for one). That's my view, counterfactual though it be. It's also my view that Wilson was among the worst presidents in U.S. history, most importantly for taking the country into the Great War in which it had no vital interest on one side as against the other, but also, as possibly the most virulent racist ever to hold the office, for setting back the cause of domestic racial reconciliation by at least 50 years.

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Thanks for your comments.  I realized that when it comes to WW I there is a large gap with regard to my own knowledge.  Nor do I or have I seen significant commentary about this war and lessons learned...other than astonishment that it really didn't take long for the same players that were most involved and most damaged following WW I could get so angry that WW II started roughly a mere generation following the conclusion of WW I.  Sadly that seems to me to imply that it only takes a generation for people to forget how miserable the previous devastating war was...and enables them to raise a new generation of poor souls who will enter the military and be sent out to fight and die.  We humans don't have enough capacity to remember and mourn.

Your perspective is interesting.  I hadn't been exposed to that line of thinking. 

Meanwhile from a far less thought provoking perspective I've found the pictorial fascinating, especially in the context of an astonishing change in technologies and how war was fought.  WW I combined the methods of the past, in part characterized by cavalry with the advances of the then current period with mechanized vehicles, flight in the air, and submarines under the water...all to create ever increasing volumes of death and destruction.  Also the astonishing enhancement of armor and weapons is accompanied by pictures of twisted armor and vast amounts of damage.  The net result:  more destruction.  

Your perspective on Wilson is truly interesting.  I've never been exposed to any of that.

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