I’m finding it hard to understand that this November, it will be 91 years ago that what we have come to know as World War I came to an uneasy end. Armistice Day for what was then termed “The Great War” was conducted as a humiliation of the German nation, including the dictation of vague armistice terms that were hotly debated and changed on daily basis when the terms for the Versailles treaty were being finalized, introducing huge war reparations to be paid by the Axis powers.
The war had started as an attempt to redress the balance of power in the world while Imperial Germany was still a military force to be reckoned with but fearing the building industrial capabilities of the rest of Europe’s great powers. It was a time to settle old scores and was to be concluded before Christmas.
But during four grueling years it bled dry the resources of the European and Russian nations involved in the fighting — Russia also having a not so minor distraction in the form of revolution to contend with.
The war left such an impression on the survivors from the fronts and in general, that memorials were erected and instituted on a scale never seen before and they remain in place and well visited to this day.
What made the Great War different from previous wars was the industrial scale with which the killing was done. Early war years were characterized with a large number of dud bombs, shells, and assorted hardware. At the same time the tactics and logistics of combat as well as supply were not too well sorted either, but all this was certainly to change in just four short years. Soon business and factories were being held to deliver to accurate specifications and to subjugate their maximization of profit to the national war effort, tools were refined and the work force became more skilled. Quality control was bumped up and at the end of the process humankind was able to inflict terrible destruction with a perverse efficiency.
The new arm of the Air Force when war broke out was in many cases still regarded as a “gadget-division” or the toys of naval and army forces, a novelty of no real consequence or importance to the real war effort, suited perhaps only for scouting and to report enemy troop positions and movements.
The remaining days and hours before Armistice was finally agreed upon were the bloodiest in the entire course of the war, as the fighting nations sought to achieve the best possible outcome and thereby bettering their bargaining position before the pending peace negotiations.
The uneasy peace was followed by a flu pandemic claiming as many lives as had been lost on the front; 20 million. Germany’s Weimar Republic went bankrupt and inflation was sky-high. The revolution in Russia was a real and menacing threat for Germany and Europe, as the Soviet Communists sought actively to export Marxism/Leninism beyond their borders.
In the end, The Great War didn’t really settle any old scores at all. New wounds were added to old ones and another war, instigated by an Austrian born Corporal would follow only too soon.