World War I Aftermath


Figure 1.--Enormous physical damage resulted from World War I. Much of it in the West was limited to northern France and Belgium. Damage in the East was more widespread. Perhaps even more devesting was the human lossess. Some 8.5 million men wre killed and even more were crippled in body and soul--far too mamy irretrievably. And each of those casualties left behind many family and friends, their lives forever altered. These two French boys are two of the millions of children who lost their fathers or had their fathers terribly wounded. Notice their father's medals. I am not sure why the boys are wearing smocks, presumably school smocks. It is such experiences why so many Europeans and Ameicans became so opposed to war and militart spending. And were thus unprepared a decade later when Hitler began his massive military armaments program. Pacifist and isolationist felling in France, Britain, and America agave Hitler the opportunity to rebuild Germany's military might while the Allies resisted not only confroting him but adequate military preparations. /i>

World War I was a turning point in European history. It was with the War that Europe lost the innocense with which it entered the 20th century. The international system was shattered by the War. It its place appeared the League of Nations and the principle of Collective security. Europe itself was transformed. The major countries that went to war were imperial powers. Thus the war became a world war. The destruction of many of those empires, both in and beyond Europe, had profound consequences for the 20th century. Europe's primacy in world affairs was undermined, although this was not immediately apparent. The empires were broken up into small states that were not really capable of self defence and with mutual grevences. And ominously were located on the perifery of the new Soviet Union and Germany, states which did not accepthe new European system. Many of the countries involved have never fully recovered. The casulaties sustanined by the major combatants, except for Russia, were substantially greater than in World War II. It is difficult for Americans to understand this as our experience in the War was much different. America entered the War in 1917, 3 years after the War began and American forced were not heavily commited until 1918. While substantial, American losses did not approach the level of the other major combatant countries. There were single battles in World War I where the losses exceeded entire wars that had been fought previously. Americans visiting Britain should stop a moment at virtually any village church they chance upon. Inside they will find a large opened book. The books is a list of the fallen of World War I. When one stops to think of similar books throughout Britain, one begins to comprehaend the enormity of World War I losses. The huge losses were comparable throughout Europe.

International System

World War I was a turning point in European history. It was with the War that Europe lost the innocense with which it entered the 20th century. The international system was shattered by the War. It its place appeared the League of Nations and the principle of Collective security. Europe itself was transformed. The major countries that went to war were imperial powers. Thus the war became a world war. The destruction of many of those empires, both in and beyond Europe, had profound consequences for the 20th century. Europe's primacy in world affairs was undermined, although this was not immediately apparent. The empires were broken up into small states that were not really capable of self defence and with mutual grevences. And ominously were located on the perifery of the new Soviet Union and Germany, states which did not accepthe new European system.

Countries

Many of the countries involved have never fully recovered and most were irevivably changed. The casulaties sustanined by the major combatants, except for Russia, were substantially greater than in World War II. It is difficult for Americans to understand this as our experience in the War was much different. America entered the War in 1917, 3 years after the War began and American forced were not heavily commited until 1918. While substantial, American losses did not approach the level of the other major combatant countries. There were single battles in World War I where the losses exceeded entire wars that had been fought previously. Americans visiting Britain should stop a moment at virtually any village church they chance upon. Inside they will find a large opened book. The books is a list of the fallen of World War I. When one stops to think of similar books throughout Britain, one begins to comprehend the enormity of World War I losses. The huge losses were comparable throughout Europe in a variety of ways, most importantly causing European to question liberal democracy. This led to the rise of totalitarian solutions. The Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, establishing a Communist police state based on Marxism which develped a Lennist overlay. And in the West, many turned to Fascism, first in Italy and then in Germany. Communist and Fascism parties gained strebgth in maby other countries as well. Here the Depression was a factor, byt far from the only driving force. Too often the Communism and Fascism are seen as opposite ends of the political sprectrum. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is true that Fascism and Commuinsm competed with each other and had some differences, but basically they were very similar. They both grew out of the Socialist movement. They both instituted police states and restricted citizen participation in government. They both free thought and the rule of law. And they both murdered in the millions. The Fascists killed mostly foreigners, the Communists both their own people as well as foreigners. And both were committed to war as a major tool of national polict. In the democeacies the aftermath was fundamentally different because citizens could make their opinions known. The huge losses fundamentally affected European thinking. It promoted pacifist thinking in the West which eaised preventing another war to the major goal of national policy leding to Appeasement. This mean that during the inter-War era, the totalitarian powers would gain the dominant military position on the World stage. The result would be killing on a farlarger scale than World War I--this tome targetting civilians.

War Memorials

World War I ocured after about a century of relative peace and enormous material in Europe. This made the terriblke killing nd dstruction all the more terrible. World War I or the Great war as it was called at the time shattered European society and an entire generaton. It was apparent even before the War had ended thst Europe would be chnged for ever. People in the victotious Allied countries began referring to the war as “The War to end All Wars”. After 4 years of bloody warfare, loss, amd privations, there was a unversal desire in all the beligerant contries to honor the fallen and those who made such sacrifices. Few families were unaffected by the War in someway and many had a family member killed or seriously wonded. There was also enormous property damage Citieswere badly damages in the fishing or combaing. Whole village was simply erased. Communities, churcges, schools, and veterans associations wanted to honor the fallen. The question was just how to do that. As a result war meorials began appearing in cities and towns during the 1920s. There were both public and private memorials. They vatied greatly in style and construction. Many included the mames of the fallen from the cities or towns, schools, churches, factories, sports clubs, railway stations, and other locations. These were commonly memorial rolls of honor. Some of the city public momunments were grandiose. I found espcially moving the churches across Britain that maintain a book of the fallen and change the page every day. Church windows were designed and dedicated to military units or individuals. Memorial buildings in schools abd cities were dedicated as living memorials. Garadually memorials arose on some of the major battlefields of the War, usually round the millitary cenetaries. Such was the carnage. Large numbers of the fallen could not be identified. Veterans grops placed memorials on the battlefields rember their units, units such as divisions, regiments and battalions. The battlefield monuments are most in Allied countries because the War began when Gernany invaded Belgium abd France abd the major vattles were fought there. It addition to brick and mortar, other ideas surfaced. We see memorial plaques and commemorative peace medals. Especially important was medical and convalesent care for veterans. Here both public and state funds were involved. One of the most important traditions is the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy. The British still wear poppies as November 11 appraches.

Sources

Keegan, John.








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Created: 2:26 AM 3/5/2011
Last updated: 1:08 PM 4/19/2016