Monday, June 2, 2014

The Great War

When I was born in 1953, the Korean War was still raging, World War Two had ended a scant 8 years before and World War One had ended just 35 years before.

When I was 8 years old, we commemorated the centennial of the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861.

Now I am 61 years old, we are about to commemorate the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand at Sarajevo. I'm finding it hard to get my head around the fact that World War One began 100 years ago this year.

Viewed in another way, someone who had been 22 in 1914 (and a soldier in the Great War) would have been 61 when I was born.

My grandfather was a veteran of World War One.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that World War One doesn't seem that long ago to me. In historical terms it was practically yesterday. But to many Americans nowadays, World War One is as real to them as the American Civil War. It was far too long ago to care about.

Yet the repercussions of WWI still echo to this day.

Both France and Great Britain had been weakened to the point where they felt that they could not stand against Hitler. Which led to World War II.

Which led to Eastern Europe falling under the crushing weight of Communism.

Which led to the Cold War.

Which led to China going Communist.

Which led to the Korean War.

Which led to Vietnam.

Ad infinitum.

The wars in the Middle East are a direct result of World War One.

Lines drawn on maps with no regard to the peoples who lived there.

Lines drawn by politicians with secret agendas and a "we know best" attitude.

The assassination of the heir presumptive to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire opened a Pandora's box of horrors which we have not seen the end of yet.

One hundred years later...

What have we learned?


  1. I think I just realized the Spanish-American War was to my grandparents what the Korean War is to me.

    Seriously, it seems the collective "we" haven't learned much, if anything.
    OTOH, it seems each and every one of those wars you've mentioned has a lot to do with economics.
    Speaking of which, I had a course called Economic Geography once upon a time.
    An exercise each student was required to do was to explain the economic reasoning behind the establishment of a political unit.
    Kuwait was the easiest of the lot.

    1. Economics is the cause of a lot of warfare. That whole "money is the root of all evil" thing has a solid foundation in truth.

  2. I'm 59, and remember fondly a WWI color guard marching in the Memorial Day parades when I was a boy. My grandfather served in the Spanish-American war, in the cavalry - he was born in 1876. And you're right: those events don't seem that long ago to me, either.

    1. Now that you mention it, yes, the WWI vets at Memorial Day events.

      A long time ago, but not really.

  3. What have we learned? We learned that we... the US... are pretty good at war. THAT is two-edged sword (no pun).

    And another thing... Jeeze, what a bunch o' geezers all y'all are! ;-)

    1. Geezers? Geezers?

      Uh, what was the question...?

  4. In the early 70's when I first joined the Legion there were a couple WW-1 members that were still effective in leadership rolls.

    1. Not surprising Jon, a guy who was 18 in 1918 would have been 70, not really that old.

      I'll bet they had some stories!

  5. I felt fortunate hearing the lessons of WWII from my Dad, but of the first World War, so much information has been lost. Thank you for such a timely and wise post, tying so much of those stories together.

    1. Much has been lost. Expect to see more of the First World War around here. Especially as the year progresses. 1914 was a momentous year in history.

  6. I'll be 70 this year. When I was around 8, a great uncle passed who had fought in various Indian war campaigns. Wish we had tape recorders available then. He had some "interesting" points of view.

  7. The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City houses the National World War 1 museum and is a gold mine of information about the Great War. Well worth the visit!!

    1. Man, and we spent four years in Omaha. Visiting KC would have been easy. Heck, we drove through there every summer on our way to visit my sister-in-law in Louisiana!


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