With the 62nd annual Old Soldiers Day Parade this weekend (Aug. 2), this week also marks another milestone – Monday, July 28, 2014 is 100 years since the outbreak of World War I.
That doesn’t seem like a lot of years, but think how much the world has changed since the days of trench warfare and zeppelin air raids.
The connections of North Fulton’s Old Soldiers with The Great War are long. While the Old Soldiers Day Parade initially began as a way for the then-elderly Confederate veterans to commemorate their glory days, they expanded it in 1920 for the Doughboys returning from Flanders fields.
The Great War was the first war to engulf every world power of the age, as well as their colonies. It was a war fought in Victorian fashion – lines of infantry charging at each other and using mass volleys of shots – with modern weapons. The machine gun and artillery made it possible to chew up thousands of men daily. Some of the largest battles claimed tens of thousands of lives and lasted months. More than 20 million people died in the war (a further 20 million died just after in an influenza outbreak) and four empires were destroyed – Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman. Talk about shock and awe!
It turned out that the world’s generals did not learn anything from the American Civil War, which had similar, disastrous results. Running headlong into a machinegun nest is never a good idea.
The average soldier of the war fought on foot and, if he was lucky, wore a helmet made of metal. It took a worryingly long time for countries to realize all the head wounds their men were receiving were caused by using leather hats to protect from artillery damage.
Far from “The War to End all Wars,” world war broke out again barely 20 years later. A bad peace can be worse than war but it explains why, when Hitler was annexing much of Europe in the 1930s, France, Britain and Russia were so keen to appease – avoid war at all costs. If anything, Europe of the 1930s was the opposite of the Europe in 1914 – instead of overly aggressive and charging into war, they were overly passive and intent on avoiding war. We see how that worked out.
I could go into great length on lessons learned from the war and interesting tidbits. Instead, I will leave you with this. The London Times has an interesting idea – go to http://ww1.thetimes.co.uk/. There, you can sign up to receive a weekly email containing the actual coverage the Times gave the war in 1914 as it happened. Photos, editorials, dispatches from the battles as they happened and by the reporters in the field, all on your screen. Check it out.
10 everyday inventions of WWI
Sanitary napkins (Kotex)
Paper napkins (Kleenex)
Daylight Savings Time
12 new weapons of WWI
Interrupter gear (synchronized machine gun fire on a prop plane)
Air traffic control
Mobile X-ray machine