Reflections on World War I

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For Europeans, World War I (WWI) began in August of 1914. The event that occurred to start the war happened in June when the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand occurred (Germany During World War I n. p.). He was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. He was assassinated in Sarajevo, which was part of Bosnia Herzegovina at the time. At the time, there were no less than seven royal rulers sitting on thrones in Europe who were directly related to Queen Victoria (n. p.). The major three rulers were King George V of Great Britain (GB), Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who were first cousins and grandsons of Queen Victoria. Kaiser Wilhelm II fought against his two cousins (n. p.). Up until the actual start of the Great War, most people believed that because there were seven rulers directly related to Queen Victoria, they would not fight against each other, but that belief turned out to be false. Upon reflection, all the events of the Great War ended up changing the world order and ushering in a much different one.

The Great War left old war tactics behind such as cavalry horses and line infantry and ushered in new types of armaments never used before in any other war, except for trench warfare.  The armies used mustard gas, airplanes, tanks, grenades, several different types of guns, and U-boats/submarines that were armed with torpedoes. Each battle fought in the war produced more wounded or dead soldiers that any war up to that point. The types of new warfare led to a new world order that proved more dangerous than the one they left behind. Allied troops from Russia, France, Romania, and Serbia, seemed to suffer the highest casualty rates, with the United States troops suffering the least, although they entered the war later.  Austria and Germany suffered horrible casualties on the Axis side. For every 100 men Austria sent into war, 90 were killed (Trueman n. p.).  The number of troops injured or killed is staggering to think about. The world had never seen war like WWI before.  It had to change how people thought of war.  And to top it off, after the war was over, the Spanish Flu manifested and killed more people than those who died in the war (The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 n. p.). Reports said that the flu killed more people than the Black Death in the 1300s (n. p.). 

The new world order also ushered in new types of government.  Over half of the royal families lost their thrones. For example, in 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm lost his kingdom and was exiled to the Netherlands (History.com n. p.). Tsar Nicholas II’s fate was much worse as he and his entire family were executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Only George V would live out his life in his country as ruler.  Communism, fascism, and Nazism took hold out of civil unrest as the people were tired of monarchs and how poorly the monarchs treated people. Russia started developing into a communist nation that would eventually take over smaller eastern European countries to form a multi-state nation.  Fascism would manifest in Italy, and Germany, so humiliated by defeat, would turn to Nazism to repair the nation’s wounds.

Another change was in the way women acted and dressed. Before the war, women wore long skirts, had long hair, and wanted to be perceived as “good girls.” After the war, women wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, and started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Women got the right to vote in the U. S. too.  Women were coming into the new world order with new attitudes.

President Woodrow Wilson was keeping America out of the war, its industries did not hesitate to sell arms to both sides participating in the war. The shipping line took a chance and was bringing arms to the English on a passenger ship, the Lusitania (PBS.org 1 n. p.). The Americans were warned about transporting arms and did so anyway, putting many lives in danger. Americans should have listened. Wilson kept calm and instead, the Zimmerman telegram offering Mexico its former land the U. S. won from it in 1848 was the catalyst for the U. S. joining the war (PBS.org 2 n. p.). Wilson had to protect the U. S. southern border, so America joined the war and helped the Allies win in Europe.

Lessons learned from this chapter/unit are numerous. The technology invented between 1898 and 1914 ushered in a new world order that was much more dangerous than the old world order.  Former governments run by monarchies changed to communism, fascism, and Nazism. So many people died during and after the war, that the lack of people also would affect the world. It is staggering to think of just how more deadly and dangerous the world became due to WWI.

Works Cited

Cole, Joshua, and Carol Symes. Western Civilizations:  Their History and Their Culture. New York:  W. W. Norton and Company.

“Germany During World War One.” FirstWorldWar.com. http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/germanyduringww1.htm. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.

Great War, The. PBS.org. 1. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/TheGreatWar1918/. Accessed 23 

“Influenza Pandemic of 1918, The.” Stanford.edu. https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.

“Kaiser Wilhelm.” History.com. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/kaiser-wilhelm-ii. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.

Trueman, C. N.  “First World War Casualties.” http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/world-war-one-and-casualties/first-world-war-casualties/. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.

Woodrow Wilson. PBS.org. 2. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/wilson/filmmore/index.html. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.