Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"I didn't realize war would be like this."

Veterans Day didn't seem like much of a holiday when I was a kid. I don't remember if we got the day off school or not, but there wasn't much going on anyway. I guess there were parades, but I think they were small and seemed mostly for the veterans themselves. I don't even think my extended family got together for the holiday, and they got together for almost any excuse.

But as an adult I've learned about and gained a greater appreciation for what those old men went through. I better understand what they accomplished and what it meant to them, as well as what it means to me. Most of them don't talk much about their service, and when they do they emphasize that they don't consider themselves heroes - the guys who didn't come home were the real heroes to them.

November 11th has been known as Veterans Day since 1954. Before that it was Armistice Day in honor of the anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended World War I on November 11, 1918. We now honor all Veterans on this day, but I'd like to especially honor the veterans of WWI by mentioning The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman.

The War to End All Wars: World War IFew today take much thought about World War One, yet its outcome created the conditions that led to WWII and we're still dealing with it's repercussions in the Middle East. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand set in motion events that quickly spiraled out of control, engulfing all the major European powers (the heads of which were all related, ironically) and even spreading to their colonies and the Middle East. Millions eagerly flocked to their nation's armies with romantic and heroic notions only to find themselves knee-deep in the mud of the trenches that became so emblematic of the western front. In the end an estimated 20 million people lost their lives, venerable empires were overthrown, and the map looked very different from how it began.

This is an excellent little book (just under 200 pages) on a mostly-forgotten yet highly-influential part of history. Freedman covers the causes of the war in text that is easy to understand and is loaded with photographs. True, it is written for young people (grades 6 to 10) but since I knew so little of this war I found it very eye-opening. Freedman not only discusses the war and its major fronts and battles, but highlights the emerging technologies that made this one so horrific, as well as the results of the Versailles Treaty which set up the conditions that enabled Hitler to come to power 20 years later. It's inspired me to seek out more books on this fascinating period of history and I recommend it for young people who may be studying this in school or adults like me who didn't learn it back then. (Note: I received this book from Amazon Vine.)


  1. I feel like younger people don't ever think about/read about WWI anymore. Everyone reads WWII books, which is all fine and good. But you're definitely correct in saying that WWI lead to WWII.

    I definitely want to pick this book up. I've been really interested in WWI since doing a paper on it years ago.

  2. Thanks Kelly, it's on a fairly basic level and great for those who don't know a whole lot about the war already. Since reading this one earlier in the year I've picked up a number of other books on WWI (in fact, here's an earlier post on another book: I've just been swamped with a bunch of books from Amazon Vine and haven't gotten to my own reading in a while. If you get the book let me know how you like it.