World War I
World War I (WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war, a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents' technological and industrial sophistication, and tactical stalemate. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved.
The war drew in all the world's economic great powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers (Central Empires/Quadruple Alliance).
- Alphabetized by author
- If I am asked what we are fighting for, I can reply in two sentences. In the first place, to fulfill a solemn international obligation … an obligation of honor which no self-respecting man could possibly have repudiated.
I say, secondly, we are fighting to vindicate the principle that small nationalities are not to be crushed in defiance of international good faith at the arbitrary will of a strong and overmastering Power.
- In retrospect, Jean Jaurès and Rosa Luxemburg seem to me the only delegates who, like Adler, realized fully the inevitability of the World War and the horrors it entailed.
- Angelica Balabanoff My Life As a Rebel (1938)
- The First World War shook the scaffolding of progress because it was deadly and unexpectedly long: it showed that technology could be two-faced. The war delivered one other insidious attack on the idea of progress by raising a moral question which the believers in progress had taken for granted: had the morality of Europeans improved during the long era of 'progress'?
- Geoffrey Blainey, The Great Seesaw: A New View of the Western World, 1750-2000 (1988)
- If, on the eve of the war, a fortune teller had pointed to all the Australian men between the ages of 20 and 30, and had predicted that a number equal to 60 per cent of that age group would be killed or permanently disabled in the coming war, she would have been ridiculed but she would have been correct.
- Geoffrey Blainey, The Story of Australia's People: The Rise and Rise of a New Australia (2016)
- Nothing will bring American sympathy along with us so much as American blood shed in the field.
- Winston Churchill, first lord of the Admiralty, memorandum to Prime Minister Sir Edward Grey and Lord Kitchener (September 5, 1914); Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911–1914 (1923), 2d ed., vol. 1, p. 272
- I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can't help it — I enjoy every second of it.
- Winston Churchill, A letter to a friend (1916)
- No compromise on the main purpose; no peace till victory; no pact with unrepentant wrong -- that is the Declaration of July 4th, 1918.
- Winston Churchill At a joint Anglo-American rally in Westminster, July 4, 1918, speaking against calls for a negotiated truce with Germany. As printed in War aims & peace ideals: selections in prose & verse (1919), edited by Tucker Brooke & Henry Seidel Canby, Yale University Press, p. 138
- The Great War differed from all ancient wars in the immense power of the combatants and their fearful agencies of destruction, and from all modern wars in the utter ruthlessness with which it was fought. … Europe and large parts of Asia and Africa became one vast battlefield on which after years of struggle not armies but nations broke and ran. When all was over, Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and they were of doubtful utility.
- Winston Churchill, From The World Crisis, 1911-1918 : Chapter I (The Vials of Wrath), Churchill, Butterworth (1923)
- After the end of the World War of 1914 there was a deep conviction and almost universal hope that peace would reign in the world. The heart's desire of all the peoples could have easily been gained by steadfastness in righteous convictions, and by reasonable common sense and prudence. The phrase "the war to end war" was on every lip, and measures had been taken to turn it into reality. President Wilson, wielding, as was thought, the authority of the United States, had made the conception of a League of Nations dominant in all minds. The British Delegation at Versailles moulded and shaped his idea into an Instrument which will for ever constitute a milestone in the hard march of man. The victorious Allies were at that time all-powerful, so far as their outside enemies were concerned. They had to face grave internal difficulties and many riddles to which they did not know the answer, but the Teutonic Powers in the great mass of Central Europe were prostrate before them, and Russia, already shattered by the German flail, was convulsed by civil war and falling into the grip of the Bolshevik or Communist Party.
- Winston Churchill, From The Second World War: Volume 1: The Gathering Storm, Churchill, Houghton Mifflin (1948)
- If you hadn't entered the World War we would have made peace with Germany early in 1917. Had we made peace then there would have been no collapse in Russia followed by communism, no break-down in Italy followed by fascism, and Germany would not have signed the Versailles Treaty, which has enthroned nazi-ism in Germany. In other words, if America had stayed out of the war all of these "isms" wouldn't today be sweeping the Continent of Europe and breaking down parliamentary government, and if England had made peace early in 1917, it would have saved over 1,000,000 British, French, American, and other lives.
- Attributed to Winston Churchill, but denied by him. William Griffin, sworn statement (September 8, 1939), reprinted in the Congressional Record (October 21, 1939), vol. 84, p. 686. Griffin, publisher of the New York Enquirer, said the conversation had taken place in London during August 1936. Griffin brought a $1,000,000 libel suit against Churchill in October 1939, but the charges were dismissed on October 21, 1942, when Griffin or his lawyers failed to appear when the case was called. At that time Griffin was under indictment in Washington, D.C., on charges of conspiring to lower the morale of the armed forces of this country. In his answer to the suit, Churchill admitted the 1936 interview, but denied the statement. The New York Times (October 22, 1942), p. 13. The proceedings against Griffin were later quashed after a hearing in federal court on January 26, 1944.
- The protagonists of 1914 were sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world.
- Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (2012)
- The Nation has need of all that can be contributed to it through the best efforts of all its citizens. The colored people have repeatedly proved their devotion to the high ideals of our country. They gave their services in the war with the same patriotism and readiness that other citizens did. The records of the selective draft show that somewhat more than 2,250,000 colored men were registered. The records further prove that, far from seeking to avoid participation in the national defense, they showed that they wished to enlist before the selective service act was put into operation, and they did not attempt to evade that act afterwards.
- The success with which we have met in all of these undertakings is a matter of universal knowledge. We are at peace with all the world. Those of this generation who passed through the World War have had an experience which will always cause them to realize what an infinite blessing peace is. We are in an era of unbounded prosperity. The financial condition of our National Government is beginning to be more easy to be borne. While many other nations and many localities within our own country are struggling with a burden of increased debts and rising taxes, which makes them seek for new sources from which by further taxation they can secure new revenues, we have made large progress toward paying off our national debt, have greatly reduced our national taxes, and been able to relieve the people by abandoning altogether many sources of national revenue. We are not required to look altogether to the future for our rewards and find in our lot nothing but sacrifices for the present. Now, here, to-day, we are all able to enjoy those benefits which come from universal peace and nation-wide prosperity.
- In all countries, the First World War weakened old orthodoxies and authorities, and, when it was over, neither government nor church nor school nor family had the power to regulate the lives of human beings as it had once done. One result of this was a profound change in manners and morals that made a freer and less restrained society. Women benefited from this as much as anyone else. Time-worn prescriptions concerning what was or was not proper behavior for them no longer possessed much credibility, and taboos about unaccompanied appearances in public places, or the use of liquor or tobacco, or even pre-marital sexual relationships had lost their force. ... [W]omen were no longer as vulnerable to the tyranny of society as they had been [before].
- Gordon A. Craig, The Germans, (1991), New York: Merdian. p. 161
- Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?
- The First World War/It came and it went/The reason for fightin'/I never did get/But I learned to accept it/Accept it with pride/For you don’t count the dead/When God’s on your side
- Bob Dylan, With God on Our Side 1964
- The First World War was at once piteous, in the poet's sense, and 'a pity'. It was something worse than a tragedy, which is ultimately something we are taught by the theatre to regard as unavoidable. It was nothing less than the greatest error of modern history.
- Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War: Explaining World War I (1998)
- We are not going to lose this war, but its prolongation will spell ruin for the civilised world, and an infinite addition to the load of human suffering which already weighs upon it...We do not desire the annihilation of Germany as a great power ... We do not seek to impose upon her people any form of government other than that of their own choice... We have no desire to deny Germany her place among the great commercial communities of the world.
- Henry Petty Fitzmaurice, 5th_Marquess of Lansdowne, Lansdowne Letter, The Daily Telegraph, (29 November 1917).
- This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.
- At eleven o’clock this morning came to an end the cruellest and most terrible War that has ever scourged mankind. I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars.
- David Lloyd George, Speech in the House of Commons, (11 November 1918)
- The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."
- Edward Grey, Vol. 2, ch. 18, "lamps+are+going" p. 20 books.google
- On his famous remark, in August of 1914, about the impending outbreak of the First World War
- Cf. John Alfred Spender: Life, Journalism and Politics, Vol. 2, Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York 1927. Chp. 20, p. 14 archive.org and The lamps are going out.
- Are we virtuous merely because we are restrained by the fetters of the law? We hear men prophecy that this war means the death of Christianity and an era of Pandeism or perhaps even the destruction of all which we call modern civilization and culture. We hear men predict that the ultimate result of the war will be a blessing to humanity.
- Louis S. Hardin, '17, "The Chimerical Application of Machiavelli's Principles", w:Yale Sheffield Monthly (May 1915), p. 463, pp 461–465
- My countrymen, there isn't anything the matter with the world's civilization except that humanity is viewing it through a vision impaired in a cataclysmal war. Poise has been disturbed, and nerves have been wracked, and fever has rendered men irrational. Sometimes there have been draughts upon the dangerous cup of barbarity. Men have wandered far from safe paths, but the human procession still marches in the right direction. Here in the United States we feel the reflex, rather than the hurting wound itself, but we still think straight; and we mean to act straight; we mean to hold firmly to all that was ours when war involved us and seek the higher attainments which are the only compensations that so supreme a tragedy may give mankind.
- The Frogs" and "Joe Latrino" boys had been whispering the fini la guerre for so long that when the news did reach us, we didn't believe it. The official report caught us just about midnight along the main drag southwest of Sedan, which had been reached by some of the units of the outfit in competition with other American divisions and the French. He only thing we had to celebrate with were grenades, rockets, rifles, etc., and everybody did. The bedlam wore off about daybreak. The waffle boys of the staff drove up in their big limousines and shiny uniforms and boots and demanded: "Where are your men?" The captain pointed. Here and there in a rain-soaked field and out in the open in the steady drizzle, there were the men, sleeping singly, coiled up like a dog, or in twos or threes, anything to keep warm.
- Rondo Hatton, "News Hounds, Once Doughboys, Describe First Armisitice Day: South of Sedan," The Tampa Times (12 November 1928), p. 11
- Anyone who thinks of the Germans as a naturally bellicose people should recall that Prussia-Germany was the only one of the continental powers in the run-up to 1914 whose elite seriously feared that if they had their war, their people might refuse to fight it.
- James Hawes, The Shortest History of Germany (2017)
- During the war we necessarily turned to the government to solve every difficult economic problem. The government having absorbed every energy of our people for war, there was no other solution. For the preservation of the state the Federal Government became a centralized despotism which undertook unprecedented responsibilities, assumed autocratic powers, and took over the business of citizens. To a large degree we regimented our whole people temporarily into a socialistic state. However justified in time of war if continued in peace-time it would destroy not only our American system but with it our progress and freedom as well. When the war closed, the most vital of all issues both in our own country and throughout the world was whether governments should continue their wartime ownership and operation of many instrumentalities of production and distribution. We were challenged with a peace-time choice between the American system of rugged individualism and a European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines -- doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. The acceptance of these ideas would have meant the destruction of self-government through centralization of government. It would have meant the undermining of the individual initiative and enterprise through which our people have grown to unparalleled greatness.
- The burning blasts of war have shrivelled, blackened, and destroyed the world we once knew. Old landmarks have disappeared. The nations of the earth panting from the struggle, impoverished by the unprecedented destruction of wealth, are confronted with a new set of financial, national, and industrial circumstances. Humanity has indulged in a terrible orgy of destruction; it must pay the price.
- The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. Unnecessary because the train of events that led to its outbreak might have been broken at any point during the five weeks of crisis that preceded the first clash of arms, had prudence or common goodwill found a voice; tragic because the consequences of the first clash ended the lives of ten million human beings, tortured the emotional lives of millions more, destroyed the benevolent and optimistic culture of the European continent and left, when the guns at last fell silent four years later, a legacy of political rancour and racial hatred so intense that no explanation of the causes of the Second World War can stand without reference to those roots.
- John Keegan, The First World War (1998)
- The tragedy of the diplomatic crisis that preceded the outbreak of the fighting in August 1914, which was to swell into the four-year tragedy of the Great War, is that events successively and progressively overwhelmed the capacity of statesmen and diplomats to control and contain them. Honourable and able men though they were, the servants of the chancelleries and foreign officers of the great powers in the July crisis were bound to the wheel of the written note, the encipherment routine, the telegraph schedule. The potentialities of the telephone, which might have cut across the barriers to communication, seem to have eluded their imaginative powers. The potentialities of radio, available but unused, evaded them altogether. In the event, the states of Europe proceeded, as if in a dead march and a dialogue of the deaf, to the destruction of their continent and its civilisation.
- John Keegan, The First World War (1998)
- Although the major development of the fifty years after 1900 can thus be seen as the coming of a bipolar world, with its consequent crisis for the "middle" Powers (as referred in the titles of Chapters 5 and 6), this metamorphosis of the entire system was by no means a smooth one. On the contrary, the grinding, bloody mass battles of the First World War, by placing a premium upon industrial organization and national efficiency, gave imperial Germany certain advantages over the swiftly modernizing but still backward czarist Russia. Within a few months of Germany's victory on the eastern front, however, it found itself facing defeat in the west, while its allies were similarly collapsing in the Italian, Balkan, and Near Eastern theaters of the war. Because of the late addition of American military and especially economic aid, the western alliance finally had the resources to prevail over its rival coalition. But it had been an exhausting struggle for all the original belligerents. Austria-Hungary was gone, Russia in revolution, Germany defeated; yet France, Italy, and even Britain itself had also suffered heavily in their victory. The only exceptions were Japan, which further augmented its position in the Pacific; and, of course, the United States, which by 1918 was indisputably the strongest Power in the world.
- Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1989)
- The First World War exhausted treasuries, terminated dynasties and shattered lives. It was a catastrophe from which Europe has never fully recovered. By the signing of the armistice agreement on November 11, 1918, nearly 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians had been killed. Of every seven soldiers who had been mobilized, one never returned. Two generations of the youth of Europe had been depleted – young men killed, young women left widowed or alone, countless children orphaned. While France and Britain emerged victorious, both were exhausted and politically fragile. Defeated Germany, shorn of its colonies and gravely indebted, oscillated between resentment of the victors and internal conflict among its competing political parties. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires both collapsed, while Russia experienced one of the most radical revolutions in history and now stood outside any international system.
- Henry Kissinger, Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy (2022)
- To me the war was an abomination, a madness, a crime, and from the first moment onwards–more out of impulse than reflection–I inwardly rejected it and could never reconcile myself with it up to this very moment.
- Alexandra Kollontai, The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman (1926), translated by Salvator Attanasio, Herder and Herder, 1971
- [T]o claim that the over 100,000 American soldiers who died on the front lines in World War I were defending American freedoms, as Memorial Day speakers like Obama do year after year, is simply a lie. World War I was never about a threat to America. It was a war of empire, fought by the European powers, none of which was any better or worse than the others, and the US joined that conflict not for noble reasons or for defense, but in hopes of picking up some of the pieces. My own maternal grandfather, a promising sprinter who had Olympic aspirations, was struck with mustard gas in the trenches and, unable to run anymore with his permanently scarred lungs, ended up having to settle for coaching high school as a career. (My paternal grandfather won a silver star for heroism as an ambulance driver on the front, but was so damaged by what he experienced that he never talked about it at all, my father says.) Sadly, their sacrifices and heroism served no noble cause.
- In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short day ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- I foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure forced upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war. To try and avoid such a calamity as a European war I beg you in the name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far. Nicky.
- For all the astounding growth in man’s power, there had been no parallel increase in responsibility. The caveman with the club was now a caveman with a machine gun.
- John O'Farrell An Utterly Impartial History of Britain (2007)
- What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
- After the World War, millions wanted anything that would help them forget the filth of human combat and the criminal stupidity of war-makers. Today, nobody needs or wants that variety of oblivion. Still there remains a widespread interest both in oblivion and in war. The causes have changed, and so, too, have the special publics.
Take the shift in war interest. Men and women who were involved in the World War still smell its stench, and hate it, gore and glory alike. But we have with us to-day tens of millions of young adults who were babes and juveniles between the years 1914 and 1918. While the fighting was going on, they understood nothing and experienced little, save the flag waving and the silly propaganda of the governments. As the years passed, they listened to the veterans, to the tales of returning tourists, and to the swelling chorus of poets and novelists who cashed in on the bloody episode. They realized that they had missed something big, and they were deceived about its nature, just as we all are deceived by stories of things we have never seen face to face. So, to the rising generation of to-day, the War is a strange alluring welter of romance. It is an escape from office drudgery and school lessons, just as in 1917 the oblivion of wild parties was an escape from the nasty monotony of the trenches.
- The transformation came on even more abruptly than is usually realized. World War I and the postwar revolutions still formed part of the nineteenth century. The conflict of 1914-18 merely precipitated and immeasurably aggravated a crisis that it had not created. But the roots of the dilemma could not be discerned at the time; and the horrors and devastations of the Great War seemed to the survivors the obvious source of the obstacles to international organization that had so unexpectedly emerged.
- Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944), Ch. 2 : Conservative Twenties, Revolutionary Thirties
- Some of us still recall World War I, which awakened our generation to the fact that history was not a matter of the past, as a thoughtless philosophy of the hundred years’ peace would have us believe. And once started, it did not cease to happen. I will seek to evoke the scenes we have witnessed and take the measure of our frustrations. Great triumphs and grave disappointments have been met with. However, it is not a balance of our experiences, achievements and omissions that stands to question; nor am I scanning the horizon for a mere break. The time has come to take note of a much bigger change.
- Karl Polanyi, "For a New West" (1958)
- These fought, in any case,
and some believing, pro domo, in any case ...
Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later ...
some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some pro patria, non dulce non et decor”...
walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.
Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;
fortitude as never before
frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies.
- The cost of the Great War has never been adequately computed though its scale is clear enough; over 10 million men died as a result of direct military. As for disease, typhus probably killed another million in the Balkans alone. Nor do even such terrible figures indicate the unprecedented physical and psychic toll in maiming, blinding, the loss to families of fathers, husbands and sons, the spiritual havoc in the destruction of ideals, confidence and goodwill. Europeans looked at their huge cemeteries and the long list of those who were, as the British memorials recorded, 'missing', and were appalled at what they had done.
- J. M. Roberts, The Penguin History of the Twentieth Century (2000)
- In war-time the word patriotism means suppression of truth.
- Siegfried Sassoon in Memoirs of an Infantry Officer.
- The origins of the Nazi and Soviet regimes, and of their encounter in the bloodlands, lie in the First World War of 1914-1918. The war broke the old land empires of Europe, while inspiring dreams of new ones. It replaced the dynastic principle of rule by emperors with the fragile idea of popular sovereignty. It showed that millions of men would obey orders to fight and die, for causes abstract and distant, in the name of homelands that were already ceasing to be or only coming into being. New states were created from virtually nothing, and large groups of civilians were moved or eliminated by the application of simple techniques. More than a million Armenians were killed by Ottoman authorities. Germans and Jews were deported by the Russian Empire. Bulgarians, Greeks, and Turks were exchanged among national states after the war. Just as important, the war shattered an integrated global economy. No adult European alive in 1914 would ever see the restoration of comparable free trade; most European adults alive in 1914 would not enjoy comparable levels of prosperity during the rest of their lives.
- Timothy D. Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. E-book, New York: Basic Books, 2010,
- The First World War had begun – imposed on the statesmen of Europe by railway timetables. It was an unexpected climax to the railway age.
- A. J. P. Taylor, The First World War ( 1970) p. 20
- The First World War killed fewer victims than the Second World War, destroyed fewer buildings, and uprooted millions instead of tens of millions — but in many ways it left even deeper scars both on the mind and on the map of Europe. The old world never recovered from the shock.
- Edmond Taylor, in The Fossil Monarchies
- Despite the efforts of propagandists, German reservists evidenced little hate. Urged to despise the Germans, Tommies saw no compelling national interest in retrieving French and Belgian crossroads and cabbage patches. Rather, both sides fought as soldiers fought in most wars — for survival, and to protect the men who had become extended family.
- Stanley Weintraub, Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce (2001)
- Five months into the war, although a million were already dead, the trenches remained graves for the living. On both sides in 1915 there would be more dead on any single day than yards gained in the entire year. And there would be nearly four more years of attrition — not to determine who was right, but who was left.
- Stanley Weintraub, Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce (2001)
- The Slavs have now become unrestful and will want to attack Austria. Germany is bound to stand by her ally - Russia and France will join in and then England... I am a man of peace but now I have to arm my Country so that whoever falls on me I can crush - and crush them I will.
- Immediate affirmative clear and unmistakable answer from your government is the only way to avoid endless misery. Until I have received this answer alas, I am unable to discuss the subject of your telegram. As a matter of fact I must request you to immediately [sic] order your troops on no account to commit the slightest act of trespassing over our frontiers. Willy
- Either Germanic ideals or Anglo-Saxon ones must prevail. Justice, freedom, honor, and virtue will triumph, or the worship of money. There can be only one victor in this struggle. German ideals are at stake!
- Wilhelm II, German Emperor, speech in the aftermath of the Spring Offensive (18 July 1918), quoted in Fritz Fischer, World Power or Decline (New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1974), p. 92
- It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.
- Woodrow Wilson, address to a joint session of Congress recommending that Germany's course be declared war against the United States (April 2, 1917), Albert Shaw, ed., The Messages and Papers of Woodrow Wilson (1924), vol. 1, p. 382–83
- God would never be cruel enough to create a cyclone as terrible as that Argonne battle. Only man would ever think of doing an awful thing like that. It looked like "the abomination of desolation" must look like. And all through the long night those big guns flashed and growled just like the lightning and the thunder when it storms in the mountains at home.
And, oh my, we had to pass the wounded. And some of them were on stretchers going back to the dressing stations, and some of them were lying around, moaning and twitching. And the dead were all along the road. And it was wet and cold. And it all made me think of the Bible and the story of the Anti-Christ and Armageddon.
And I'm telling you the little log cabin in Wolf Valley in old Tennessee seemed a long long way off.
- Alvin York, in his account of 7 October 1918, in the Diary of Alvin York
- the big war of 1914-1918 was not my war. It was plainly not a war for democracy but for plutocracy; not for peace but for plunder, and to make our country military-minded. It was capitalism's war-not mine.
- Art Young: His Life and Times (1939)
- We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.
- Gott strafe England.
- It have been one of the richest experiences of my life...feeling that I was being really useful to the boys on the other side.
- Unidentified actress about working in a war factory. From an excerpt in Adriane Ruggiero, American Voices from World War I (2003), p. 79–80, citing Norma B. Kastl, "Wartime, the Place and the Girl", Independent magazine (unidentified issue).
Economic impact edit
- The economic clauses of the Treaty were malignant and silly to an extent that made them obviously futile. Germany was condemned to pay reparations on a fabulous scale. These dictates gave expression to the anger of the victors, and to the belief of their peoples that any defeated nation or community can ever pay tribute on a scale which would meet the cost of modern war. The multitudes remained plunged in ignorance of the simplest economic facts, and their leaders, seeking their votes, did not dare to undeceive them. The newspapers, after their fashion, reflected and emphasised the prevailing opinions. Few voices were raised to explain that payment of reparations can only be made by services or by the physical transportation of goods in wagons across land frontiers or in ships across salt water; or that when these goods arrive in the demanding countries, they dislocate the local industry except in very primitive or rigorously controlled societies. In practice, as even the Russians have now learned, the only way of pillaging a defeated nation is to cart away any movables which are wanted, and to drive off a portion of its manhood as permanent or temporary slaves. But the profit gained from such processes bears no relation to the cost of the war. No one in great authority had the wit, ascendancy, or detachment from public folly to declare these fundamental, brutal facts to the electorates; nor would anyone have been believed if he had. The triumphant Allies continued to assert that they would squeeze Germany “till the pips squeaked.” All this had a potent bearing on the prosperity of the world and the mood of the German race.
- In fact, however, these clauses were never enforced. On the contrary, whereas about one thousand million pounds of German assets were appropriated by the victorious Powers, more than one thousand five hundred millions were lent a few years later to Germany, principally by the United States and Great Britain, thus enabling the ruin of the war to be rapidly repaired in Germany. As this apparently magnanimous process was still accompanied by the machine-made howlings of the unhappy and embittered populations in the victorious countries, and the assurances of their statesmen that Germany should be made to pay “to the uttermost farthing,” no gratitude or good will was to be expected or reaped. Germany only paid, or was only able to pay, the indemnities later extorted because the United States was profusely lending money to Europe, and especially to her. In fact, during the three years 1926 to 1929 the United States was receiving back in the form of debt-instalment indemnities from all quarters about one-fifth of the money which she was lending to Germany with no chance of repayment. However, everybody seemed pleased and appeared to think this might go on for ever. History will characterise all these transactions as insane. They helped to breed both the martial curse and the “economic blizzard,” of which more later. Germany now borrowed in all directions, swallowing greedily every credit which was lavishly offered her. Misguided sentiment about aiding the vanquished nation, coupled with a profitable rate of interest on these loans, led British investors to participate, though on a much smaller scale than those of the United States. Thus, Germany gained the two thousand millions sterling in loans as against the one thousand million of indemnities which she paid in one form or another by surrender of capital assets and valuta in foreign countries, or by juggling with the enormous American loans. All this is a sad story of complicated idiocy in the making of which much toil and virtue was consumed.
- THE nitrogen fixation plants built by the government during the great war at a cost of about one hundred million dollars, to supply materials needed for making explosives and poisonous gases, had been idle since the Armistice. These plants could be utilized, whether sold to private corporations or operated by the government for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen for industrial and agricultural purposes, and thus greatly increase the supply of nitrogen compounds needed in the industries, and stimulate the production of food through supplying nitrogen for the manufacture of fertilizer. The present anomalous situation in the government plants gives occasion for a survey of the remarkable chemical developments of recent years and of their importance for war and for peace. Nitrogen, tho the most important element needed for an adequate supply of fertilizer, is not the only one essential. Two others are also important: potash and phosphoric acid. All must be chemically combined in such a way as to be available as plant food.
Before the outbreak of the war potash was contained entirely from Germany, at a price maintained substantially above the cost of production by a German monopoly. Exports from Germany ceased early in 1915, and prices in the United States promptly rose to about ten times normal. Existing stocks were thereafter largely diverted to chemical uses, and relatively insignificant amounts were used in fertilizer from 1916 up to and including 1919.
- Grinnell Jones, “Nitrogen: It's fixation, its uses in peace ad war”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 34, No. 3 (May, 1920), pp. 391-392
- Since sulphuric acid in enormous amounts was required for the manufacture of explosives, much of our supply was diverted from the making of fertilizer to direct war use. However, most manufacturers of fertilizer make the acid they need, and hence this diversion did not result in direct financial loss. But their regular business was disorganized and their customers suffered from the disruption. As a direct result of the war demands for sulphuric acid the productive capacity for the manufacture of sulphuric acid in the United States is now more than twice what it was in 1914.
- Grinnell Jones, “Nitrogen: It's fixation, its uses in peace ad war”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 34, No. 3 (May 1920), p. 393
- When the war began, the U.S. economy was in recession. But a 44-month economic boom ensued from 1914 to 1918, first as Europeans began purchasing U.S. goods for the war and later as the United States itself joined the battle. "The long period of U.S. neutrality made the ultimate conversion of the economy to a wartime basis easier than it otherwise would have been," writes Rockoff. "Real plant and equipment were added, and because they were added in response to demands from other countries already at war, they were added precisely in those sectors where they would be needed once the U.S. entered the war."
- Carlos Lozada, “The Economics of World War I”, National Bureau of Economic Research Digest, (January 2005)
- Rockoff estimates the total cost of World War I to the United States at approximately $32 billion, or 52 percent of gross national product at the time. He breaks down the financing of the U.S. war effort as follows: 22 percent in taxes, 58 percent through borrowings from the public, and 20 percent in money creation. The War Revenue Act of 1917 taxed "excess profits" -- profits exceeding an amount determined by the rate of return on capital in a base period -- by some 20 to 60 percent, and the tax rate on income starting at $50,000 rose from 1.5 percent in 1913-15 to more than 18 percent in 1918. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo crisscrossed the country peddling war bonds, even enlisting the help of Hollywood stars and Boy Scouts. The prevalence of patriotic themes created social pressure to purchase the "Liberty bonds" (and, after the armistice, the "Victory bonds"), but in practice the new bondholders did not make a tangible personal sacrifice in buying war bonds, since the yields on the set debt instruments were comparable to those on standard municipal bonds at the time. As Rockoff notes, "patriotic motives were not sufficient to alter market prices of assets during the war."
- Carlos Lozada, “The Economics of World War I”, National Bureau of Economic Research Digest, (January 2005)
- Finally, the author assesses the legacies of World War I for the U.S. economy. When the war began, the United States was a net debtor in international capital markets, but following the war the United States began investing large amounts internationally, particularly Latin America, thus "taking on the role traditionally played by Britain and other European capital exporters." With Britain weakened after the war, New York emerged "as London's equal if not her superior in the contest to be the world's leading financial center."
- The Haber-Bosch process is generally credited with keeping Germany supplied with fertilizers and munitions during World War I, after the British naval blockade cut off supplies of nitrates from Chile. During the war Haber threw his energies and those of his institute into further support for the German side. He developed a new weapon—poison gas, the first example of which was chlorine gas—and supervised its initial deployment on the Western Front at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915. His promotion of this frightening weapon precipitated the suicide of his wife, who was herself a chemist, and many others condemned him for his wartime role. There was great consternation when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1918 for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements.
- Science History Institute, "Fritz Haber", (7 December 2017)
- In the period between 1900 and the First World War, there was a relatively homogenous sexual culture in which respectable people within all classes and age groups in society shared broadly similar, negative attitudes to sexuality. The impression that Victorian sexual mores altered substantially in these decades is misleading. The working classes were becoming more sexually restrained, and while the Bloomsbury group and other rebels contributed to the new openness which was being introduced in novels and magazines, their sexual activity remained limited. In the aftermath of the First World War, historians of masculinity have found that a deeply anti-heroic mood emerged. This further advanced the modification of masculinity set in motion by first-wave feminism, while women’s confidence and independence was increased by war work. Nonetheless, the majority of the population remained sexually conservative throughout the inter-war period. The generation that came of age in this period grew up between 1900 and the war, and a high proportion remained unmarried or married late. For example, only 59 per cent of women aged 20 to 39 were married in 1931. Fertility rates continued to fall until the 1930s, and the inadequate contraception available ensured that those who did marry continued to focus on sexual restraint. There were considerable changes following the First World War but the impact of these on the sexual knowledge and behavior of the majority was not felt until the 1930s. By then books on physical sexuality and contraception were becoming more widely available, and such topics could be mentioned in newspapers and magazines, although censorship remained a major constraint. Contraception was being used by all classes. Sexual ignorance was eroding and a recognizably modern sexual culture began to emerge. Children growing up in this period had a very different experience of the body from those who grew up before the First World War. Following the war, clothing, especially that worn by women, became less heavy and tight, more people took recreational exercise, and exposure to sun and air was encouraged. Relevant progressive causes that blossomed in the 1930s included nudism and free schools movement.
- Hera Cook, “The long sexual revolution: English women, sex and contraception 1800-1975”, Oxford University Press, 2004, "Summarizing Sexual Change", p.182-183
- The American Social Hygiene Association fought hard to prohibit condom use in the early part of this century. Social hygienists believed that anyone who risked getting “venereal” diseases should suffer the consequences, including American doughboys ⎯U.S. soldiers who fought in World War I. The American Expeditionary Forces, as our army was called, were denied the use of condoms, so it is not surprising that by the end of the war our troops had very high rates of sexually transmitted infections. Like most people throughout history, our “boys” were just unable to “just say ‘no’” (Brandt, 1985).
The Secretary of the Navy at that time was only one of many military leaders who believed that condom use and other infection prevention methods were immoral and “unchristian.” It was a young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, when his boss was away from the office, decided to help sailors treat infections that they could have otherwise prevented with condoms. FDR ordered the distribution of prophylactic kits that contained chemicals to wash and insert into the penis to treat gonorrhea and syphilis (Brandt, 1985).
- “A History of Birth Control Methods“, Planned Parenthood, p.5
- Fuller later recalled his own epiphany. He’d gone to Yvranch, France, home of the army’s Heavy Section, as Tank Corps was then called, to watch the demonstration of a remarkable new weapon. (In fact, about all the Heavy Section was doing in those days was putting on daily maintenance-intensive dog-and-pony shows for visiting officers, sending its crude tanks to trundle over berms, cross trenches and, of course, crush trees like matchsticks.) “Everyone was talking and chatting,” Fuller wrote, “when slowly came into sight the first tank I ever saw. Not a monster but a very graceful machine with beautiful lines.…Here was the missing tool of penetration, the answer to the dominance on the battlefield of small-arms fire.” Fuller had found the antidote to the all-powerful machine gun.
Fuller’s first actual tank operation was the April 1917 Battle of Arras. As a demonstration of the tank’s capability the operation was a failure, at least in part because tankers ignored Fuller’s advice to deploy en masse and instead fed the tanks—mostly clapped-out training vehicles shipped from England—into battle a few at a time. Nor did it help that the army insisted on a traditional pre-attack artillery bombardment, a tactic anathema to Fuller, as it both eliminated any element of surprise and so thoroughly chewed up the ground that many of the tanks were immobilized.
The Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 was the Tank Corps’ greatest wartime success, as it punched a horde of tanks through the Hindenburg Line in a stunning example of Fuller’s penetration tactics. Fuller had wanted to lead the central charge, but his commander, Lt. Col. Hugh Elles, turned him down and directed the battle himself from his tank “Hilda,” becoming a fleeting national hero as a result.
Still, Cambrai wasn’t a clear-cut enough victory to establish Tank Corps as part of the varsity. Field Marshal Douglas Haig instead relegated tanks to a defensive role, much to Fuller’s chagrin. The iron monsters were strung out along a 65-mile front, either dug into pits or otherwise fortified—parked pillboxes, in effect—where “this beast would squat and slumber until the enemy advanced,” Fuller later mocked, “when it would make warlike noises and pounce upon him.”
Fuller’s finest wartime moment was the promulgation of his Plan 1919. Believing World War I would continue into 1919, he suggested victory with a single penetrating, surprise, mass tank attack aimed not at killing lots of German soldiers but at reaching and killing the enemy “brain”—the rear-area command-and-communications infrastructure—and thus paralyzing the body. But Fuller’s most meaningful tactical concept came to naught, as the war ended in November 1918. Had it continued, Fuller today might be as widely known as Guderian, Montgomery and Patton.
- Stephan Wilkinson, “J.F.C. “Boney” Fuller – Wacko Genius of Armored Warfare”, History.net
- The Battle of Verdun was the longest sustained conflict of World War I. The battle, which lasted 300 days and cost more than 300,000 French and German lives in 1916, was also one of the bloodiest of “The Great War.”
The intense fighting and shelling near the tiny town of Verdun has permanently altered the region surrounding the Meuse River in northeastern France. The environmental destruction left by the battle led to the creation of the Zone Rouge—the Red Zone.
The Zone Rouge is a 42,000-acre territory that, nearly a century after the conflict, has no human residents and only allows limited access.
Before World War I, the landscape of Verdun was different.
“It was farmland,” says British historian and author Christina Holstein. “There was a very big garrison in Verdun, a peacetime garrison with 66,000 men, so they had to be fed. Verdun was farmed. It was not heavily forested.”
That changed with the onset of war in 1914. By 1916, French and German forces had amassed significant munitions in the area—millions of rounds of ammunition and heavy, cannon-size guns.
Holstein says the conflict at Verdun was the first of the great artillery battles of the war.
“During that time, the shelling never stopped,” she says. “Millions and millions and millions of artillery shells were fired.”
- Christina Holstein as quoted in “Red Zone”, by Stuart Thornton, National Geographic Magazine (May 2014)
- “At the start of the battle, there were trenches, but as the months went by with shells falling all the time in many places, there weren’t any trenches at all,” Holstein says. “The ground was just completely churned up. Any trees were smashed, and men took shelter where they could, in shell holes and in holes in the ground.”
- Christina Holstein as quoted in “Red Zone”, by Stuart Thornton, National Geographic Magazine (May 2014)
Prejudice against veterans edit
- Going all the way back to the twenties, the horror movies of the Silent Era with Lon Cheney, there's a lot of twisted people. The monster was just a mutilated person. When people came back from World War I they came back without limbs. They came back in somewhat-living pieces.
- Brian Yuzna, Nightmares in Red White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film, a 2009 documentary, beginning at 4:25
Aftermath of World War I edit
- The Cold War stemmed from war, from the violence, fear and paranoia that conflict fostered, and from defeat and victory in two successive struggles, World War One and the Russian Civil War. Defeat at the hands of Germany and, even more, the social and political strain of conflict on an unprecedented scale in World War One (1914–18) led, in March 1917, to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in Russia and its replacement by a provisional, republican government. The dynasty had responded more successfully to the challenge of the Thirteen Years’ War with Poland in 1654–67, to the Great Northern War with Sweden in 1700–21, to wars with the Turks, Sweden and France between 1806 and 1815, and even to the brief French occupation of Moscow in 1812, than it was to do to war of a very different type with Germany.
- Jeremy Black, The Cold War: A Military History (2015)
- The same problems, of defeat at the hands of Germany, political division and social strain, weakened the Romanovs’ republican Social Democratic replacement, and this weakness provided the opportunity for a Bolshevik (Soviet Communist) coup in Russia later in 1917. The victory of the Bolsheviks over domestic foes and foreign intervention in the subsequent Russian Civil War (1918–21) ensured that their regime would not be short-lived, as for example was Communist rule in Hungary in 1919. The victory also furthered the identification of the Soviet regime with struggle, as well as giving such struggle a specific character. The war provided the regime with a strong rationale for opposition to Western states, notably the leading European empires, Britain and France, as well as the USA and, indeed, Japan.
- Jeremy Black, The Cold War: A Military History (2015)