Reflecting on the “War to End All Wars”

By Dan Doyle

Reflecting on the War to End All WarsOn August 4, 1914, Germany invaded Belgium to begin one of the most devastating wars in human history. By the end of that war, more than 15 million were dead from 28 different countries. Millions more were wounded. It was the first war that could truly be called a world war, with fronts in Europe, in the Middle East and Ottoman Empire, and in Africa. Some of the battles that would become famous in that war, like the Battle of the Somme, witnessed such carnage that the human mind could not comprehend it without teetering on the edge of insanity.

Countless veterans would come home from suffering the effects of wounds caused by weapons that were used for the first time in history: the tank, the machine gun, aerial bombing, and gas/chemical warfare. Tens of thousands came home suffering from psychological wounds so profound that the medical profession could only name the phenomenon with the language of poetic metaphor: shell shock.

The war raged across the world for four long years, leaving death and destruction in in its wake. It would finally come to an end not so much from clear victories as from the sheer exhaustion of the populations of Europe, no doubt aided by the entry of the United States in 1917. The Russian government would collapse in March of 1917 and the Bolshevik Revolution would begin in November of that year. On November 4, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to an armistice.

Revolution was rumbling in Germany as well, and Germany finally signed an armistice on November 11, 1918. We still celebrate that event to this day, now called Veterans Day. At the end of the war the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, both of which had reigned for centuries, no longer existed.