Here’s a multiple-choice question for you.
When is Veterans Day?
- February 16
- January 20
- November 11
- None of the above
The great majority of you know it’s today. What you may not know is that November 11 is the day Germany surrendered to the Allies to end World War I, when the guns fell silent on the Western Front.
I’ve written a few news features for my Facebook author’s page to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The guns began firing in August 1914. The Victorian Age didn’t really end on December 31, 1899. It really ended in August 1914 when the nations of Europe blundered into War, victimized by their tangle of mutual aid treaties. The war shattered the cherished conventions of the Victorian Age. The revolution in women’s fashions symbolize the end of one age and the birth of the Modern Age we now live in. The Victorian Age: long gowns and dresses that look so quaint in old photographs. The Modern Age: the flappers with their short dresses and wild dances.
The mistakes of World War I led to more mistakes in the decades to follow. A man named Adolph Hitler and his cohorts founded the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – the Nazi Party – in 1921 to rectify what ex-soldiers felt was a stab in the back by politicians who gave away a sure German victory in November 1918. So the Nazis plotted World War II, and the mess they left behind in May 1945 laid the seeds of the Cold War and today’s Age of Terrorism.
So as we honor the service of our soldiers throughout the nation’s history and remember the sacrifice of those who gave their “last full measure of devotion,” the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, we should also take on a cautionary note, remember World War I, and concede that war spawns more problems than it solves.
Take a moment and study the painting that accompanies this blog post. It shows World War I Ally soldiers – including American doughboys – surrounded by a sea of blood. While one soldier lay dying, blood gushing from a chest wound, another beside him fires a machinegun. But notice what’s occurring behind them. Other soldiers buttress – or hold up – the Modern Age. Instead of a sea of blood, a couple stands on a green meadow while a young girl plays with her dog. They symbolize you and me.
The soldiers, sailors and dogfighting pilots of World War I are all gone now – their graves marked by crosses if they fell on battlefields or traditional tombstones if they died old men. Gone just like the Civil War Veterans – and soon World War II veterans. We’re only find them inside the covers of history books and great novels like “All Quiet On The Western Front”; in old photographs and news reels, and on the lips of their now elderly children who remember their fathers’ stories of 1917 and 1918.
America entered the Great War on April 6, 1917. For nearly three years President Woodrow Wilson enforced a neutrality policy, but it became harder and harder for him to maintain it as Germany sank U.S. ships sailing to and from Britain. In February 1917, a German U-boat sunk the American liner Housatonic. In response, the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Germany. In late March, the Germans sank four more American merchant ships. On April 2, Wilson went before Congress and called on both houses to declare war. They did.
The young men of 1917 and 1918 – including my Great Uncle George Kurtz – answered the call and enlisted. By November 11, 1918, more than two million American soldiers had served on the battlefields of Western Europe. More than 50,000 lost their lives. Besides fresh troops to fill the trenches, American entry into the war saved Britain, and by extension the rest of the Allies, from bankruptcy. The first 14,000 U.S. troops landed in France in June 1917 and began training for combat. In 1918, American troops would prove to be what the Allies needed to break the German lines and win the war.
If today’s Americans know little about that war from a hundred years ago, they do recall one song from that era… George M. Cohan’s “Over There.”
“Over there, over there.
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming.
The drums are rum-tumming everywhere.
“So prepare, say a prayer.
Send the word, send the word to beware.
We’ll be over there, we’re coming over.
And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.”
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I’m the author of fantasy novels The Emperor’s Mistress and Thief’s Coin. http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Staton/e/B007ZSSNRM
My publisher is Wings ePress. http://wingsepress.com/
I’ve a personal blog called Live Journal. http://www.lareniashadow.blogspot.com/
Be sure to check out my Facebook Author’s Page. https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Michael-Staton/257163720993943