Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Great War

100 years ago this month World War I began, which means it's time to re-post some shit I wrote a few years ago about blah blah who cares blah:
Last week HERE I mentioned my newfound interest in the WWI era, thanks to my  being a woman  love of Downton Abbey.  As I said, pretty much all I'd ever thought about WWI before was that it's partly responsible for us never really hearing about the 1918 Influenza (which is odd since 3x more Americans died of it than WWI) the US wasn't involved in it for too long, and it was greatly overshadowed in the US by it's sequel (a รก Godfather II being better than The Godfather.)

Of course in Europe it was a much bigger deal, and this article in the NY Times (as usual, the world has followed my lead and said "hey, yeeeeaaah...I wanna know about WWI too!"...get a life, people!) mentions several reasons why: besides it being the first war to be largely filmed, it was the first one of weapons of mass destruction, which greatly changed what man was willing to put up with in a war:

But there is another deeper, perhaps more profound reason the war continues to preoccupy us. It was a conflict between 19th-century armies equipped with 20th-century weapons — hence the unprecedented carnage. The tactics were 19th century — advance on the enemy. But the enemy had weapons of mass destruction — the battlefield was dominated by tanks, machine guns, howitzers, aircraft and poisonous gas. Some 117,000 American servicemen died in the 19 months of United States participation in World War I — more than twice as many as in Vietnam, nearly 20 times as many as in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
No society today would accept such a horrendous casualty count. At the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1, 1916, the British Army suffered 60,000 dead and wounded — in one day. It was arguably the worst butcher’s bill in military history, of army versus army. There is a very real sense in which the modern world — our world — was born between 1914 and 1918. Something changed in human sensibility. Soldiers wouldn’t be willing to engage in such slaughter.
Even MORE interesting to me, the war remains a bigger deal to Britain than other countries partly due to poetry:
One of the reasons for this is, paradoxically, the resonance of the poetry. The poets of the First World War — Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, Isaac Rosenberg — are taught in almost all British schools. I can remember Wilfred Owen’s terrifying poem “Dulce et Decorum Est,” about a mustard-gas attack, being read aloud to us in the classroom when I was 10 or 11. One boy actually ran outside, he was so overcome and upset. The war poems shaped your earliest perceptions of the First World War and were swiftly buttressed by the familiar images of the trenches and the histories of the futile, costly battles.       
I remember reading Dulce et Decorum Est, but I don't really remember giving a damn about it being set in WWI.  Which, as an American, shouldn't really be a surprise.

I'll tell you one thing though: if those krauts so much as mess up a hair on Captain Crawley's beautiful head, they best be ready to knuckle up and guard their grill.

No comments: