World War I
The beginning of the 17th century brought a change in warfare, which continued until the early years of the 20th century. As European populations increased, and as larger portions of that population were recruited, and then conscripted to fight for their country, the concept of "mass" came to dominate much of the thinking about war. However, as the range and lethal sophistication of the weapons available to the armies also increased, it no longer was possible to simply overwhelm the enemy by launching larger numbers of men at strategic points in the battlefield.
By the beginning of World War I, or THE GREAT WAR as it came to be known, it became painfully clear that imagination and strategy were needed. The numbers of casualities were appalling, and the conditions in which men lived, fought and died almost defy description. This fact makes their spirit and persistence the more astonishing. This spirit was shown by men on both sides and at all levels.
The Great War ranks high among the disasters to have afflicted mankind. The War's complex origins...political and economic...date from the 1870's, when Germany defeated France and caused lasting resentment by seizing Alsace and Lorraine. Germany then rapidly emerged as the greatest industrial and military power in Europe. Alliances were tenuous, but by 1914 it became clear that there would be Germany and Austria-Hungary as the Central Powers, and on the Allied side would be Great Britain, France and Russia. By this alignment, it was hoped that there would be a balance of power, thereby maintaining peace in Europe.
In 1900 the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, married the Countess Sophie Chotek. She did not have a high enough rank demanded of a future empress, and she was not viewed as an equal to her husband, which enraged the people. In spite of public attitudes, Franz loved his wife, and publicly found ways to include her.
On their wedding anniversary in 1914 the Archduke was scheduled to inspect his troops in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. This decision signed his death warrant. The people of the area were Bosnians, Croats and Slavs, and a Serbian minority wanted to join Serbia, deeply resenting the Austrian annexation which had taken place in 1908. On June 28th, 1914, as the Archduke and his wife drove through Sarajevo, a student with nationalistic sympathies, Gavrilo Princip, encouraged by a Serbian secret society called the BLACK HAND, shot and killed them both, thus laying the foundation for the War which followed.
Surprisingly, more people lost their lives to the Great Pandemic Flu than to WWI Casualties. "World War I claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. One fifth of the world's population was attacked by this deadly virus. Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history."
My grandfather, Joseph Lee Harley, fought in France, finally coming home on the hospital ship, the MERCY, on 1 July 1919 after becoming ill. He remained in the hospital at Grand Central, New York, for an additional 3 months before returning to the Pacific Northwest.
When asked about the troop's sentiments when they heard of the War's end, he replied, "We were passing through Dijon, France, with the U. S. army postal service, and we stopped right there. I remember one American officer buying champagne by the bottle and shaking it up and fizzing it all over everyone near him."
For additional reading about the Military and WWI, visit:
WWI Draft Records
American Battle Monuments Commission WWI Honor Roll
The U.S. Army Homepage
The Great War Society
WWI: The Doughboy Center
WWI, The Great War: The Western Front
The Great European & World War
Wartime Propaganda: WWI The Drift Towards War
Songs Brought Back From the Battlefield
On an old piece of newsprint (21 Jan 1918) which my Grandmother, Laura Morrison Harley had kept, was found the following:
The Kaiser's Dream
There's a story I'm told though strange it may seem
How the Great Kaiser Bill had a wonderful dream.
He was dreaming of Allies as he lay in his bed,
When his dream switched about and he dreamed he was dead.
In a very fine coffin he was lying in state,
And thousands were there though none mourned his fate.
His soul buzzed about and found to his cost,
That he and his soldiers were doomed to be lost.
He wouldn't believe it, so to heaven went straight,
And arrived at the portals, knocked loud at the gate;
Hey, Peter, get busy, quick open the door,
See who's here. It's the kaiser, make everything roar.
Beat the drums, blow the horns, have a swell banquet made,
Tell Gott I have come and we'll have a parade.
Saint Peter looked out, then in voice loud and clear,
Said, "Try down below, Bill, you can't get in here."
"Tut, tut!" said the kaiser, "you're very uncivil.
Don't probably know I'm a friend of the devil,
And am going with pleasure." So he started to go,
A-whistling like blazes, to make a big show.
When he came to hell's door he was filled with dismay,
For while waiting outside he o'er-heard Satan say:
"Look here, boys, take notice, I give you all warning,
I'm expecting the kaiser down here in the morning;
But don't let him in, he'll start mussing about,
So give him the ha, ha, and kick him right out."
"Oh, Satan, dear friend," the kaiser then cried,
Excuse me for listening while waiting outside,
But please let me in, for where else can I go?"
"Indeed," said the devil, "I'm damned if I know."
"Ach, please let me in for I'm feeling quite cold,
And if you want money I've plenty of gold;
Let me sit in a corner no matter how hot."
"Nix, Nein," said the devil, "most certainly not.
You can't gain admittance by your offer of pelf.
Here are sulfur and matches, make a hell for yourself;
Don't skimp, use them freely, for by donner and blitz,
I have plenty more left for the sultan and Fritz."
From his troublous sleep Bill woke in a sweat,
And said, "That's a dream I shall never forget;
That I won't get to heaven I know very well,
But I never believed I'd be kicked out of hell."
Author not given
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