World War 1 Introduction Essay About Myself

About World War I


"Total War I: The Great War"
by John Bourne

The First World War was truly ‘the Great War’. Its origins were complex. Its scale was vast. Its conduct was intense. Its impact on military operations was revolutionary. Its human and material costs were enormous. And its results were profound.

The war was a global conflict. Thirty-two nations were eventually involved. Twenty-eight of these constituted the Allied and Associated Powers, whose principal belligerents were the British Empire, France, Italy, Russia, Serbia, and the United States of America. They were opposed by the Central Powers: Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.

The war began in the Balkan cockpit of competing nationalisms and ancient ethnic rivalries. Hopes that it could be contained there proved vain. Expansion of the war was swift. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914; Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August. Germany declared war on France on 3 August and invaded Belgium. France was invaded on 4 August. German violation of Belgian neutrality provided the British with a convenient excuse to enter the war on the side of France and Russia the same evening. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on 6 August. France and Great Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary six days later.

The underlying causes of these events have been intensively researched and debated. Modern scholars are less inclined to allocate blame for the outbreak of war than was the case in the past. They have sought instead to understand the fears and ambitions of the governing �lites of Europe who took the fateful decisions for war, particularly that of imperial Germany.

Fears were more important than ambitions. Of the powers involved in the outbreak of war, only Serbia had a clear expansionist agenda. The French hoped to recover the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine lost to Germany as a result of their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, but this was regarded as an attempt at restitution rather than acquisition. Otherwise, defensive considerations were paramount. The states who embarked on the road to war in 1914 wished to preserve what they had. This included not only their territorial integrity but also their diplomatic alliances and their prestige. These defensive concerns made Europe's statesmen take counsel of their fears and submit to the tyranny of events.

The Austrians feared for the survival of their multi-racial Empire if they did not confront the threat of Serb nationalism and Panslavism. The Germans feared the consequences to themselves of allowing Austria, their closest and only reliable ally, to be weakened and humiliated. The Russians feared the threat to their prestige and authority as protector of the Slavs if they allowed Austria to defeat and humiliate Serbia. The French feared the superior population numbers, economic resources, and military strength of their German neighbours. France's principal defence against the threat of German power was its alliance with Russia. This it was imperative to defend. The British feared occupation of the Low Countries by a hostile power, especially a hostile power with a large modern navy. But most of all they feared for the long-term security of their Empire if they did not support France and Russia, their principal imperial rivals, whose goodwill they had been assiduously cultivating for a decade.

All governments feared their peoples. Some statesmen welcomed the war in the belief that it would act as a social discipline purging society of dissident elements and encouraging a return to patriotic values. Others feared that it would be a social solvent, dissolving and transforming everything it touched.

The process of expansion did not end in August 1914. Other major belligerents took their time and waited upon events. Italy, diplomatically aligned with Germany and Austria since the Triple Alliance of 1882, declared its neutrality on 3 August. In the following months it was ardently courted by France and Britain. On 23 May 1915 the Italian government succumbed to Allied temptations and declared war on Austria-Hungary in pursuit of territorial aggrandizement in the Trentino. Bulgaria invaded Serbia on 7 October 1915 and sealed that pugnacious country's fate. Serbia was overrun. The road to Constantinople was opened to the Central Powers. Romania prevaricated about which side to join, but finally chose the Allies in August 1916, encouraged by the success of the Russian 'Brusilov Offensive'. It was a fatal miscalculation. The German response was swift and decisive. Romania was rapidly overwhelmed by two invading German armies and its rich supplies of wheat and oil did much to keep Germany in the war for another two years. Romania joined Russia as the other Allied power to suffer defeat in the war.

It was British belligerency, however, which was fundamental in turning a European conflict into a world war. Britain was the world's greatest imperial power. The British had world-wide interests and world-wide dilemmas. They also had world-wide friends. Germany found itself at war not only with Great Britain but also with the dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa and with the greatest British imperial possession, India. Concern for the defence of India helped bring the British into conflict with the Ottoman Empire in November 1914 and resulted in a major war in the Middle East. Most important of all, perhaps, Britain's close political, economic, and cultural ties with the United States of America, if they did not ensure that nation's eventual entry into the war, certainly made it possible. The American declaration of war on Germany on 6 April 1917 was a landmark not only in the history of the United States but also in that of Europe and the world, bringing to an end half a millennium of European domination and ushering in 'the American century'.

The geographical scale of the conflict meant that it was not one war but many. On the Western Front in France and Belgium the French and their British allies, reinforced from 1917 onwards by the Americans, were locked in a savage battle of attrition against the German army. Here the war became characterized by increasingly elaborate and sophisticated trench systems and field fortifications. Dense belts of barbed wire, concrete pillboxes, intersecting arcs of machine-gun fire, and accumulating masses of quick-firing field and heavy artillery rendered manœuvre virtually impossible. Casualties were enormous.

The first phase of the war in the west lasted until November 1914. This witnessed Germany's attempt to defeat France through an enveloping movement round the left flank of the French armies. The plan met with initial success. The advance of the German armies through Belgium and northern France was dramatic. The French, responding with an offensive in Lorraine, suffered an almost catastrophic national defeat. France was saved by the iron nerve of its commander-in-chief, General J. J. C. Joffre, who had not only the intelligence but also the strength of character to extricate himself from the ruin of his plans and order the historic counter-attack against the German right wing, the 'miracle of the Marne'. The German armies were forced to retreat and to entrench. Their last attempt at a breakthrough was stopped by French and British forces near the small Flemish market town of Ypres in November. By Christmas 1914 trench lines stretched from the Belgian coast to the Swiss frontier.

Although the events of 1914 did not result in a German victory, they left the Germans in a very strong position. The German army held the strategic initiative. It was free to retreat to positions of tactical advantage and to reinforce them with all the skill and ingenuity of German military engineering. Enormous losses had been inflicted on France. Two-fifths of France's military casualties were incurred in 1914. These included a tenth of the officer corps. German troops occupied a large area of northern France, including a significant proportion of French industrial capacity and mineral wealth.

These realities dominated the second phase of the war in the west. This lasted from November 1914 until March 1918. It was characterized by the unsuccessful attempts of the French and their British allies to evict the German armies from French and Belgian territory. During this period the Germans stood mainly on the defensive, but they showed during the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April-25 May 1915), and more especially during the Battle of Verdun (21 February-18 December 1916), a dangerous capacity to disrupt their enemies' plans.

The French made three major assaults on the German line: in the spring of 1915 in Artois; in the autumn of 1915 in Champagne; and in the spring of 1917 on the Aisne (the 'Nivelle Offensive'). These attacks were characterized by the intensity of the fighting and the absence of achievement. Little ground was gained. No positions of strategic significance were captured. Casualties were severe. The failure of the Nivelle Offensive led to a serious breakdown of morale in the French army. For much of the rest of 1917 it was incapable of major offensive action.

The British fared little better. Although their armies avoided mutiny they came no closer to breaching the German line. During the battles of the Somme (1 July19 November 1916) and the Third Battle of Ypres (31 July-12 November 1917) they inflicted great losses on the German army at great cost to themselves, but the German line held and no end to the war appeared in sight.

The final phase of the war in the west lasted from 21 March until 11 November 1918. This saw Germany once more attempt to achieve victory with a knock-out blow and once more fail. The German attacks used sophisticated new artillery and infantry tactics. They enjoyed spectacular success. The British 5th Army on the Somme suffered a major defeat. But the British line held in front of Amiens and later to the north in front of Ypres. No real strategic damage was done. By midsummer the German attacks had petered out. The German offensive broke the trench deadlock and returned movement and manœuvre to the strategic agenda. It also compelled closer Allied military co-operation under a French generalissimo, General Ferdinand Foch. The Allied counter-offensive began in July. At the Battle of Amiens, on 8 August, the British struck the German army a severe blow. For the rest of the war in the west the Germans were in retreat.

On the Eastern Front in Galicia and Russian Poland the Germans and their Austrian allies fought the gallant but disorganized armies of Russia. Here the distances involved were very great. Artillery densities were correspondingly less. Manœuvre was always possible and cavalry could operate effectively. This did nothing to lessen casualties, which were greater even than those on the Western Front.

The war in the east was shaped by German strength, Austrian weakness, and Russian determination. German military superiority was apparent from the start of the war. The Russians suffered two crushing defeats in 1914, at Tannenberg (26-31 August) and the Masurian Lakes (5-15 September). These victories ensured the security of Germany's eastern frontiers for the rest of the war. They also established the military legend of Field-Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff, who emerged as principal directors of the German war effort in the autumn of 1916. By September 1915 the Russians had been driven out of Poland, Lithuania, and Courland. Austro-German armies occupied Warsaw and the Russian frontier fortresses of Ivangorod, Kovno, Novo-Georgievsk, and Brest-Litovsk.

These defeats proved costly to Russia. They also proved costly to Austria. Austria had a disastrous war. Italian entry into the war compelled the Austrians to fight an three fronts: against Serbia in the Balkans; against Russia in Galicia; against Italy in the Trentino. This proved too much for Austrian strength. Their war effort was characterized by dependency on Germany. Germans complained that they were shackled to the 'Austrian corpse'. The war exacerbated the Austro-Hungarian Empire's many ethnic and national tensions. By 1918 Austria was weary of the war and desperate for peace. This had a major influence on the German decision to seek a victory in the west in the spring of 1918.

Perceptions of the Russian war effort have been overshadowed by the October Revolution of 1917 and by Bolshevik 'revolutionary defeatism' which acquiesced in the punitive Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (14 March 1918) and took Russia out of the war. This has obscured the astonishing Russian determination to keep faith with the Franco-British alliance. Without the Russian contribution in the east it is far from certain that Germany could have been defeated in the west. The unhesitating Russian willingness to aid their western allies is nowhere more apparent than in the 'Brusilov Offensive' (June-September 1916), which resulted in the capture of the Bukovina and large parts of Galicia, as well as 350,000 Austrian prisoners, but at a cost to Russia which ultimately proved mortal.

In southern Europe the Italian army fought eleven indecisive battles in an attempt to dislodge the Austrians from their mountain strongholds beyond the Isonzo river. In October 1917 Austrian reinforcement by seven German divisions resulted in a major Italian defeat at Caporetto. The Italians were pushed back beyond the Piave. This defeat produced changes in the Italian high command. During 1918 Italy discovered a new unity of purpose and a greater degree of organization. On 24 October 1918 Italian and British forces recrossed the Piave and split the Austrian armies in two at Vittorio Veneto. Austrian retreat turned into rout and then into surrender.

In the Balkans the Serbs fought the Austrians and Bulgarians, suffering massive casualties, including the highest proportion of servicemen killed of any belligerent power. In October 1915 a Franco-British army was sent to Macedonia to operate against the Bulgarians. It struggled to have any influence on the war. The Germans mocked it and declared Salonika to be the biggest internment camp in Europe, but the French and British eventually broke out of the malarial plains into the mountainous valleys of the Vardar and Struma rivers before inflicting defeat on Bulgaria in the autumn of 1918.

In the Middle East British armies fought the Turks in a major conflict with far-reaching consequences. Here the war was characterized by the doggedness of Turkish resistance and by the constant struggle against climate, terrain, and disease. The British attempted to knock Turkey out of the war with an attack on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915, but were compelled to withdraw at the end of the year, having failed to break out from their narrow beach-heads in the face of stubborn Turkish resistance, coordinated by a German general, Liman von Sanders. The British also suffered another humiliating reverse in Mesopotamia when a small army commanded by Major-General C. V. F. Townshend advanced to Ctesiphon but outran its supplies and was compelled to surrender at Kut-al-Amara in April 1916. Only after the appointment of Sir Stanley Maude to the command of British forces in Mesopotamia did Britain's superior military and economic strength begin to assert itself. Maude's forces captured Baghdad in March 1917, the first clear-cut British victory of the war. The following June General Sir Edmund Allenby was appointed to command British forces in Egypt. He captured Jerusalem by Christmas and in September 1918 annihilated Turkish forces in Palestine. Turkey surrendered on 31 October 1918.

The war also found its way to tropical Africa. Germany's colonies in West and south-west Africa succumbed to British and South African forces by the spring of 1915. In East Africa, however, a German army of locally raised black African soldiers commanded by Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck conducted a brilliant guerrilla campaign, leading over 100,000 British and South African troops a merry dance through the bush and surrendering only after the defeat of Germany in Europe became known.

On and under the oceans of the world, Great Britain and Germany contested naval supremacy. Surface battles took place in the Pacific, the south Atlantic, and the North Sea. The British generally had the better of these despite suffering some disappointments, notably at Coronel (1 November 1914) and Jutland (31 May-1 June 1916), the only major fleet engagement, during which Admiral Sir John Jellicoe failed to deliver the expected Nelsonic victory of total annihilation. Submarine warfare took place in the North Sea, the Black Sea, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Baltic. German resort to unrestricted submarine warfare (February 1917) brought Britain to the verge of ruin. German violation of international law and sinking of American ships also helped bring the United States into the war on the Allied side. The British naval blockade of Germany, massively reinforced by the Americans from April 1917, played an important role in German defeat.

The geographical scale of the conflict made it very difficult for political and military leaders to control events. The obligations of coalition inhibited strategic independence. Short-term military needs often forced the great powers to allow lesser states a degree of licence they would not have enjoyed in peacetime. Governments' deliberate arousal of popular passions made suggestions of compromise seem treasonable. The ever-rising cost of the military means inflated the political ends. Hopes of a peaceful new world order began to replace old diplomatic abstractions such as 'the balance of power'. Rationality went out of season. War aims were obscured. Strategies were distorted. Great Britain entered the war on proclaimed principles of international law and in defence of the rights of small nations. By 1918 the British government was pursuing a Middle Eastern policy of naked imperialism (in collaboration with the French), while simultaneously encouraging the aspirations of Arab nationalism and promising support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. It was truly a war of illusions.

Europe's political and military leaders have been subjected to much retrospective criticism for their belief that the ‘war would be over by Christmas'. This belief was not based on complacency. Even those who predicted with chilling accuracy the murderous nature of First World War battlefields, such as the Polish banker Jan Bloch, expected the war to be short. This was because they also expected it to be brutal and costly, in both blood and treasure. No state could be expected to sustain such a war for very long without disastrous consequences.

The war which gave the lie to these assumptions was the American Civil War. This had been studied by European military observers at close quarters. Most, however, dismissed it. This was particularly true of the Prussians. Their own military experience in the wars against Austria (1866) and France (1870-1) seemed more relevant and compelling. These wars were both short. They were also instrumental. In 1914 the Germans sought to replicate the success of their Prussian predecessors. They aimed to fight a 'cabinet war' on the Bismarckian model. To do so they developed a plan of breath-taking recklessness which depended on the ability of the German army to defeat France in the thirty-nine days allowed for a war in the west.

Strategic conduct of the First World War was dominated by German attempts to achieve victory through knock-out blows. Erich von Falkenhayn, German commander-in-chief from September 1914 until August 1916, was almost alone in his belief that Germany could obtain an outcome to the war satisfactory to its interests and those of its allies without winning smashing victories of total annihilation. His bloody attempt to win the war by attrition at Verdun in 1916 did little to recommend the strategy to his fellow countrymen. The preference for knock-out blows remained. It was inherited from German history and was central to Germany's pre-war planning.

Pre-war German strategy was haunted by the fear of a war on two fronts, against France in the west and Russia in the east. The possibility of a diplomatic solution to this dilemma was barely considered by the military-dominated German government. A military solution was sought instead. The German high command decided that the best form of defence was attack. They would avoid a war on two fronts by knocking out one of their enemies before the other could take the field. The enemy with the slowest military mobilization was Russia. The French army would be in the field first. France was therefore chosen to receive the first blow. Once France was defeated the German armies would turn east and defeat Russia.

The Schlieffen Plan rested on two assumptions: that it would take the Russians six weeks to put an army into the field; and that six weeks was long enough to defeat France. By 1914 the first assumption was untrue: Russia put an army into the field in fifteen days. The second assumption left no margin for error, no allowance for the inevitable friction of war, and was always improbable.

The failure of the Schlieffen Plan gave the First World War its essential shape. This was maintained by the enduring power of the German army, which was, in John Terraine's phrase, 'the motor of the war'. The German army was a potent instrument. It had played a historic role in the emergence of the German state. It enjoyed enormous prestige. It was able to recruit men of talent and dedication as officers and NCOs. As a result it was well trained and well led. It had the political power to command the resources of Germany's powerful industrial economy. Germany's position at the heart of Europe meant that it could operate on interior lines of communication in a European war. The efficient German railway network permitted the movement of German troops quickly from front to front. The superior speed of the locomotive over the ship frustrated Allied attempts to use their command of the sea to operate effectively against the periphery of the Central Powers. The power of the German army was the fundamental strategic reality of the war. 'We cannot hope to win this war until we have defeated the German army,' wrote the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. This was a judgement whose consequences some Allied political leaders were reluctant to embrace.

The German army suffered from two important strategic difficulties. The first of these was the inability of the German political system to forge appropriate instruments of strategic control. The second was Great Britain. German government rested on the tortured personality of the Kaiser. It was riven by intrigue and indecision. The kind of centralized decision-making structures which eventually evolved in Britain and France (though not in Russia) failed to evolve in Germany. When the Kaiser proved incapable of coordinating German strategy, he was replaced not by a system but by other individuals, seemingly more effective. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg radiated calm and inspired confidence. This gave him the appearance of a great man but without the substance. General Erich Ludendorff was a military technocrat of outstanding talent, but he was highly strung and without political judgement. In 1918 his offensive strategy brought Germany to ruin.

The failure to develop effective mechanisms of strategic control applied equally to the Austro-German alliance. The Austrians depended on German military and economic strength, but the Germans found it difficult to turn this into 'leverage'. Austria was willing to take German help but not German advice. Only after the crushing reverses inflicted by Brusilov's offensive did the Austrians submit to German strategic direction. By then it was almost certainly too late.

Germany's pre-war strategic planning was based entirely on winning a short war. British belligerency made this unlikely. The British were a naval rather than a military power. They could not be defeated by the German army, at least not quickly. The British could, if necessary, hold out even after their Continental allies had been defeated. They might even have chosen to do this. They had in the past and they would again in the not-too-distant future. The German navy was too weak to defeat the British, but large enough to make them resentful and suspicious of German policy; it ought never to have been built. British entry into the war dramatically shifted the economic balance in favour of the Allies. Britain was one of the world's great industrial powers. Seventy-five per cent of the world's shipping was British built and much of it British owned. London was the world's greatest money and commodities market. British access to world supplies of food and credit and to imperial resources of manpower made them a formidable enemy, despite the 'contemptible little army' which was all they could put into the field on the outbreak of war. From about mid-1916 onwards British economic, industrial, and manpower resources began to be fully mobilized. Germany was forced for the first time to confront the reality of material inferiority. Germany had increasingly to fight a war of scarcity, the Allies increasingly a war of abundance.

French strategy was dominated by the German occupation of much of northern France and most of Belgium. At its closest point the German line was less than 40 miles from Paris. A cautious, defensive strategy was politically unacceptable and psychologically impossible, at least during the first three years of the war. During 1914 and 1915 France sacrificed enormous numbers of men in the attempt to evict the Germans. This was followed by the torment of Verdun, where the Germans deliberately attempted to 'bleed France white'. French fears of military inferiority were confirmed. If France was to prevail its allies would have to contribute in kind. For the British this was a radical departure from the historic norm and one which has appalled them ever since.

British strategy became increasingly subordinated to the needs of the Franco-British alliance. The British fought the war as they had to, not as they wanted to. The British way in warfare envisaged a largely naval war. A naval blockade would weaken Germany economically. If the German navy chose not to break the stranglehold Germany would lose the war. If it did choose to fight it would be annihilated. British maritime superiority would be confirmed. Neutral opinion would be cowed. Fresh allies would be encouraged into the fight. The blockade would be waged with greater ruthlessness. Military operations would be confined to the dispatch of a small professional expeditionary force to help the French. Remaining military forces would be employed on the periphery of the Central Powers remote from the German army, where it was believed they would exercise a strategic influence out of all proportion to their size.

The British never really fought the war they envisaged. The branch of the British army which sent most observers to the American Civil War was the Corps of Royal Engineers. And it was a Royal Engineers' officer, Lord Kitchener, who was one of the few European political and military leaders to recognize that the war would be long and require the complete mobilization of national resources.

Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War on 5 August 1914. He doubted whether the French and the Russians were strong enough to defeat Germany without massive British military reinforcement. He immediately sought to raise a mass citizen army. There was an overwhelming popular response to his call to arms. Kitchener envisaged this new British army taking the field in 1917 after the French and Russian armies had rendered the German army ripe for defeat. They would be 'the last million men'. They would win the war and decide the peace. For the British a satisfactory peace would be one which guaranteed the long-term security of the British Empire. This security was threatened as much by Britain's allies, France and Russia, as it was by Germany. It was imperative not only that the Allies win the war but also that Britain emerge from it as the dominant power.

Kitchener's expectations were disappointed. By 1916 it was the French army which was ripe for defeat, not the German. But the obligations of the French alliance were inescapable. The British could not afford to acquiesce in a French defeat. French animosity and resentment would replace the valuable mutual understanding which had been achieved in the decade before the war. The French had a great capacity for making imperial mischief. And so did the Russians. If they were abandoned they would have every reason for doing so. There seemed no choice. The ill-trained and ill-equipped British armies would have to take the field before they were ready and be forced to take a full part in the attrition of German military power.

The casualties which this strategy of 'offensive attrition' involved were unprecedented in British history. They were also unacceptable to some British political leaders. Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George (Prime Minister from December 1916), in particular, were opposed to the British army 'chewing barbed wire' on the Western Front. They looked to use it elsewhere, against Germany's allies in the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Balkans. Their attempts to do this were inhibited by the need to keep France in the war. This could only be done in France and by fighting the German army. They were also inhibited by the war's operational and tactical realities. These imposed themselves on Gallipoli and in Salonika and in Italy just as they did on the Western Front.

Attempts to implement an Allied grand strategy enjoyed some success. Allied political and military leaders met regularly. At Chantilly in December 1915 and December 1916 they determined to stretch the German army to its limits by simultaneous offensive action on the western, eastern, and Italian fronts. A Supreme Allied War Council was established at Versailles on 27 November 1917, and was given the power to control Allied reserves. Franco-British co-operation was especially close. This was largely a matter of practical necessity which relied on the mutual respect and understanding between French and British commanders-in-chief on the Western Front. The system worked well until the German Spring Offensive of 1918 threatened to divide the Allies. Only then was it replaced by a more formal structure. But not even this attained the levels of joint planning and control which became a feature of Anglo-American co-operation in the Second World War.

Allied grand strategy was conceptually sound. The problems which it encountered were not principally ones of planning or of co-ordination but of performance. Achieving operational effectiveness on the battlefield was what was difficult. This has given the war, especially the war in the west, its enduring image of boneheaded commanders wantonly sacrificing the lives of their men in fruitless pursuit of impossibly grandiose strategic designs.

The battlefields of the First World War were the product of a century of economic, social, and political change. Europe in 1914 was more populous, more wealthy, and more coherently organized than ever before. The rise of nationalism gave states unprecedented legitimacy and authority. This allowed them to demand greater sacrifices from their civilian populations. Improvements in agriculture reduced the numbers needed to work on the land and provided a surplus of males of military age. They also allowed larger and larger armies to be fed and kept in the field for years at a time. Changes in administrative practice brought about by the electric telegraph, the telephone, the typewriter, and the growth of railways allowed these armies to be assembled and deployed quickly. Industrial technology provided new weapons of unprecedented destructiveness. Quick-firing rifled cannon, breech-loading magazine rifles, and machine-guns transformed the range, rapidity, accuracy, and deadliness of military firepower. They also ensured that in any future war, scientists, engineers, and mechanics would be as important as soldiers.

These changes did much to make the First World War the first 'modern war'. But it did not begin as one. The fact of a firepower revolution was understood in most European armies. The consequences of it were not. The experience of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) appeared to offer a human solution to the problems of the technological battlefield. Victory would go to the side with the best-trained, most disciplined army, commanded by generals of iron resolution, prepared to maintain the offensive in the face of huge losses. As a result the opening battles of the war were closer in conception and execution to those of the Napoleonic era than to the battles of 1916 onwards.

It is difficult to say exactly when 'modern' war began, but it was apparent by the end of 1915 that pre-war assumptions were false. Well-trained, highly disciplined French, German, and Russian soldiers of high morale were repeatedly flung into battle by commanders of iron resolve. The results were barren of strategic achievement. The human costs were immense. The 'human solution' was not enough. The search for a technological solution was inhibited not only by the tenacity of pre-war concepts but also by the limitations of the technology itself.

The principal instrument of education was artillery. And the mode of instruction was experience. Shell-fire was merciless to troops in the open. The response was to get out of the open and into the ground. Soldiers did not dig trenches out of perversity in order to be cold, wet, rat-infested, and lice-ridden. They dug them in order to survive. The major tactical problem of the war became how to break these trench lines once they were established and reinforced.

For much of the war artillery lacked the ability to find enemy targets, to hit them accurately, and to destroy them effectively. Contemporary technology failed to provide a man-portable wireless. Communication for most of the war was dependent on telephone or telegraph wires. These were always broken by shell-fire and difficult to protect. Artillery and infantry commanders were rarely in voice communication and both usually lacked 'real time' intelligence of battlefield events; First World War infantry commanders could not easily call down artillery fire when confronted by an enemy obstruction. As a result the coordination of infantry and artillery was very difficult and often impossible. Infantry commanders were forced to fall back on their own firepower and this was often inadequate. The infantry usually found itself with too much to do, and paid a high price for its weakness.

Artillery was not only a major part of the problem, however. It was also a major part of the solution. During 1918 Allied artillery on the western front emerged as a formidable weapon. Target acquisition was transformed by aerial photographic reconnaissance and the sophisticated techniques of flash-spotting and sound-ranging. These allowed mathematically predicted fire, or map-shooting. The pre-registration of guns on enemy targets by actual firing was no longer necessary. The possibility of surprise returned to the battlefield. Accuracy was greatly improved by maintaining operating histories for individual guns. Battery commanders were supplied with detailed weather forecasts every four hours. Each gun could now be individually calibrated according to its own peculiarities and according to wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity. All types and calibres of guns, including heavy siege howitzers whose steep angle of fire was especially effective in trench warfare, became available in virtually unlimited numbers. Munitions were also improved. Poison gas shells became available for the first time in large numbers. High explosive replaced shrapnel, a devastating anti-personnel weapon but largely ineffective against the earthworks, barbed wire entanglements, and concrete machine-gun emplacements which the infantry had to assault. Instantaneous percussion fuses concentrated the explosive effect of shells more effectively against barbed wire and reduced the cratering of the battlefield which had often rendered the forward movement of supplies and reinforcements difficult if not impossible. Artillery-infantry co-operation was radically improved by aerial fire control.

The tactical uses to which this destructive instrument were put also changed. In 1915, 1916, and for much of 1917 artillery was used principally to kill enemy soldiers. It always did so, sometimes in large numbers. But it always spared some, even in front-line trenches. These were often enough, as during the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916), to inflict disastrous casualties on attacking infantry and bring an entire offensive to a halt. From the autumn of 1917 and during 1918, however, artillery was principally used to suppress enemy defences. Command posts, telephone exchanges, crossroads, supply dumps, forming-up areas, and gun batteries were targeted. Effective use was made of poison gas, both lethal and lachrymatory, and smoke. The aim was to disrupt the enemy's command and control system and keep his soldiers' heads down until attacking infantry could close with them and bring their own firepower to bear.

The attacking infantry were also transformed. In 1914 the British soldier went to war dressed like a gamekeeper in a soft cap, armed only with rifle and bayonet. In 1918 he went into battle dressed like an industrial worker in a steel helmet, protected by a respirator against poison gas, armed with automatic weapons and mortars, supported by tanks and ground-attack aircraft, and preceded by a creeping artillery barrage of crushing intensity. Firepower replaced manpower as the instrument of victory. This represented a revolution in the conduct of war.

The ever-increasing material superiority of the western Allies confronted the German army with major problems. Its response was organizational. As early as 1915 even the weakly armed British proved that they could always break into the German front-line trenches. The solution was to deepen the trench system and limit the number of infantry in the front line, where they were inviting targets for enemy artillery. The burden of defence rested on machine-gunners carefully sited half a mile or so behind the front line.

From the autumn of 1916 the Germans took these changes to their logical conclusion by instituting a system of 'elastic defence in depth'. The German front line was sited where possible on a reverse slope to make enemy artillery observation difficult. A formal front-line trench system was abandoned. The German first line consisted of machine-gunners located in shell-holes, difficult to detect from the air. Their job was to disrupt an enemy infantry assault. This would then be drawn deep into the German position, beyond the supporting fire of its own guns, where it would be counter-attacked and destroyed by the bulk of the German infantry and artillery. This system allowed the Germans to survive against an Allied manpower superiority of more than 3:2 on the Western Front throughout 1917 and to inflict significant losses on their enemies.

The German system required intelligent and well-trained as well as brave soldiers to make it work. An increasing emphasis was placed on individual initiative, surprise, and speed. In 1918 specially trained ‘stormtroops', supported by a hurricane bombardment designed to disrupt their enemies' lines of communication and their command and control systems, were ordered to bypass points of resistance and advance deep into the enemy's rear. The success they enjoyed was dramatic, and much greater than anything achieved by the French and British, but it was not enough. Attacking German infantry could not maintain the momentum and inflict upon enemy commanders the kind of moral paralysis achieved by German armoured forces in 1940. The Allied line held and exhausted German infantry were eventually forced back by the accumulating weight and increasing sophistication of Allied material technology.

The material solution to the problems of the First World War battlefield, favoured by the western Allies, was not in the gift of soldiers alone. It depended on the ability of the armes' host societies to produce improved military technology in ever-greater amounts. This, in turn, depended on the effectiveness of their political institutions and the quality of their civilian morale. It was a contest at which the liberal democracies of France and Great Britain (and eventually the United States of America) proved more adept than the authoritarian regimes of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia.

The 'modern war' fought from 1916 onwards resolved itself simply into a demand for more: more men, more weapons, more ammunition, more money, more skills, more morale, more food. Some of the demands were contradictory. More men meant more men for the armies and more men for the factories. Balancing the competing demands was never easy. 'Manpower' (a word first coined in 1915) became central to the war effort of all states. The Allies were in a much stronger position than Germany. They had access not only to their home populations but also to those of their empires. 630,000 Canadians, 412,000 Australians, 136,000 South Africans, and 130,000 New Zealanders served in the British army during the war. Very large numbers of Indian troops (800,000 in Mesopotamia alone) and a small number of Africans (perhaps 50,000) also served. (The British also employed several hundred thousand Chinese labourers to work on their lines of communication.) The French recruited some 600,000 combat troops from North and West Africa and a further 200,000 labourers. And of course there were the Americans. American troops arrived in France at the rate of 150,000 a month in 1918. Truly the new world had come in to redress the balance of the old.

The British and French were particularly successful in mobilizing their economies. In Britain this had much to do with the work of David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions (May 1915-July 1916). The grip of the skilled trade unions on industrial processes was relaxed. Ancient lines of demarcation were blurred. Women replaced men in the factories. Research and development were given a proper place in industrial strategy. Prodigies of production were achieved. On 10 March 1915, at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the British Expeditionary Force struggled to accumulate enough shells for half an hour's bombardment. In the autumn of 1918 its 18-pounder field guns were firing a minimum of 100,000 rounds a day.

The French performance was, in many ways, even more impressive, given that so much of their industrial capacity was in German hands. Not only did the French economy supply the French army with increasing amounts of old and new weaponry, but it also supplied most of the American Expeditionary Force's artillery and aeroplanes. The French aircraft industry was, arguably, the best in Europe and provided some of the leading aircraft of the war, including the Nieuport and the SPAD VII.

Morale was also a key factor. All sides tried to explain and justify the war and used increasingly refined techniques of propaganda to maintain commitment to the cause. Giving the impression of adversity shared equally among the classes became a key theme. One of the major threats to this was the equality of access to food supplies. In Germany this proved increasingly difficult to maintain. Morale deteriorated and industrial efficiency suffered as a result. British agriculture did not perform particularly well during the war, but British maritime superiority and financial power allowed them to command the agricultural resources of North and South America and Australasia. Food was one of the Allies’ principal war-winning weapons. The degree of active resistance to the war was low in most countries. But war-weariness set in everywhere by 1917. There were many strikes and much industrial unrest. In Russia this was severe enough to produce a revolution and then a Bolshevik coup d’�tat which took Russia out of the war in 1918.

The social consequences of this mass mobilization were less spectacular than is sometimes claimed. There were advances for the organized working class, especially its trade unions, especially in Britain, and arguably for women, but the working class of Europe paid a high price on the battlefield for social advances at home. And in the defeated states there was very little social advance anyway.

The First World War redrew the map of Europe and the Middle East. Four great empires, the Romanov, the Hohenzollern, the Habsburg, and the Ottoman, were defeated and collapsed. They were replaced by a number of weak and sometimes avaricious successor states. Russia underwent a bloody civil war before the establishment of a Communist Soviet Union which put it beyond the pale of European diplomacy for a generation. Germany became a republic branded at its birth with the stigma of defeat, increasingly weakened by the burden of Allied reparations and by inflation. France recovered the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, but continued to be haunted by fear and loathing of Germany. Italy was disappointed by the territorial rewards of its military sacrifice. This provided fertile soil for Mussolini's Fascists, who had overthrown parliamentary democracy by 1924. The British maintained the integrity and independence of Belgium. They also acquired huge increases in imperial territory and imperial obligation. But they did not achieve the security for the Empire which they sought. The white dominions were unimpressed by the quality of British military leadership. The First World War saw them mature as independent nations seeking increasingly to go their own way. The stirrings of revolt in India were apparent as soon as the war ended. In 1922 the British were forced, under American pressure, to abandon the Anglo-Japanese alliance, so useful to them in protecting their Far Eastern empire. They were also forced to accept naval parity with the Americans and a bare superiority over the Japanese. 'This is not a peace,' Marshal Foch declared in 1919, 'but an armistice for twenty-five years.'

The cost of all this in human terms was 8.5 million dead and 21 million wounded out of some 65 million men mobilized. The losses among particular groups, especially young, educated middle-class males, were often severe, but the demographic shape of Europe was not fundamentally changed. The real impact was moral. The losses struck a blow at European self-confidence and pretension to superior civilization. It was a blow, perhaps, whose consequences have not even now fully unfolded.

From The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern War. Ed. Charles Townshend. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Copyright � 1997 by Oxford University Press.


Return to World War I

The Hartford Courant congratulates the students who participated in the 2005 Annual Veterans Day Poster/Essay Contest. The contest, sponsored in partnership with the CT Veterans Day Parade Committee, invites 6th, 7th and 8th graders in Greater Hartford to convey, in words and pictures, what it means to be a military veteran.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Valerie Stickles
Grade 7, Captain Nathan Hale Middle School, Coventry
2005 Winner

A man boarding a boat,
Waving to his wife,
He may never see her again,
This may end his life.

He feels the boat take off,
He's headed on his way.
His daughter starts to cry,
"Why did Daddy go away?"

His family is getting smaller,
Now they look like ants.
As they disappear,
He gets one last glance.

What is lying ahead for him?
Will he live to tall the tale?
As he approaches the dock,
He hears a soldier wail.

War is horrible, it is death,
Man killing his own brother,
Is that what we're on Earth for?
Just to kill one another?

This many is a veteran,
He made it through it all.
Although he lost an arm,
He still stands strong and tall.

He made it through the terror,
Thinking he would die.
He made it through the killing,
And the late nights when he would cry.

He made it through the missing
His wife and family so,
He made it through not being able
To see his daughter grow.

He sacrificed his life
To protect the USA,
He put himself in danger
Every single day.

When it comes to protection,
Veterans are the key.
This many is a hero,
That's what a veteran means to me.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Steven Apicello
Grade 7
Vernon Center Middle School
2005 Runner-Up

What is a veteran? Is it a soldier, a person in the air force, someone fighting in the marines? That's not what they are to me. They are freedom fighters, answering the call of duty, responding to our prayers, and most importantly that they help fight for our country, the United States of America.

Through the years we have faced many challenges that we will recognize forever. One war that we have never forgotten and never will is the Revolutionary War. In 1861 to 1865 there was another war we will always remember, The Civil War. In our union, we fought with 2,213,363 service members against 600,000 – 1,500,000 confederate soldiers. We also couldn't forget World War 1 and World War II. Still the most terrifying event that changed our lives was September 11, 2001. We pledged every day to our flag, prayed for them, and saluted those who had saved other's lives by giving up theirs. The tragic nightmare will remind us to make our world a better place.

When Francis Scott Key wrote the star spangled banner almost two hundred years ago, he called America "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Those words still stand strong today as they did back then. Throughout our history American soldiers, marines, air force, and coastguards have bravely answered to defend for our freedom and rights. That is why we as Americans should respect our veterans and thank them for what they have done for all of us, and that is why President Dwight D. Eisenhower said these words: "Now therefore I, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, do hereby call upon all citizens to observe Thursday, November 11th as Veteran's Day. On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, on foreign shores to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that there efforts shall not be in vain."

I would like to personally thank the veterans for their bravery and dedication. However I would like to thank my Papa and remember my Papa Nick for their years of service to our country. Thank you!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ashley Enns
Grade 6
Canton Intermediate School
2005 Runner-Up

What it means to be a veteran is to feel the DUTY to protect our country and to fight for what you believe in. It means to LOVE your country enough to sacrifice your life if necessary. It means to have FAITH in God, your country, and your beliefs.

What it means to be a veteran is to risk your life to help others HEAL when they could not do it on their own. It means to be APPRECIATED by the people you have fought for and protected. It means to have HONOR in everything you do and say.

What it means to be a veteran is to take PRIDE in your service to our country. It means to be PROUD you stood for something.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ashley Pinero and Ada Sierra
Grade 6
Pulaski Middle School, New Britain

To me a veteran is someone who loves this country very much. A veteran must love their country in order to leave her or his family for freedom. Not just for their freedom but for all of ours. That is what being a veteran means to me.

What being a veteran means to be is to be brave. To be brave is to stand up, and face your enemy for freedom, protecting your country out of danger, and living in peace. That's what being a veteran means to me.

To be a veteran means to be proud of yourself. A veteran has to be very proud of what they are doing for our country and for us. Why? Because there are many people who want to hurt our country. But, those people who are now joining the military, and our veterans, they are protecting our country from harm. That is what being a veteran means to me.

What being a veteran means to me is to die for this country, to not want this country to be ruled by bad people, and to always protect it. Because if you don't love this country, why would you fight for it? Veterans fight for this country because they love it. They'll do anything for this country, even die for it. That is what being a veteran means to me.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Darianna Gonzalez
Grade 6
Pulaski Middle School, New Britain

Being a veteran means leaving your family. When veterans leave their family they become very sad because they will miss them.

When people first join the military they have their arms and their legs. Veterans, sometimes lose their arms and their legs, and are never the same as they were before.

Veterans usually can't eat or take a bath. At war they get hungry and dirty. But sometimes there is no eating or taking a bath at war.

Veterans don't get paid a lot of money, but they still die saving this country. They die because they love this country, and all of us.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Geround Kelley
Grade 8
Pulaski Middle School, New Britain

I think we all have a lot to thank veterans for. If it had not been for these veterans defending citizens of the United States in past wars, we may not be free right now. These men and women dedicated their lives to our freedom, and this took a great deal of bravery and sacrifice. Many veterans even died, and I have seen on the news where many more are still dying, and families are losing their loved ones. It is very sad that thee people lost their lives, but they knew the risks and felt it was their duty and honor to fight on our behalf.

My definition of a veteran is any man or woman who fought in a war and served for our country. Some people only honor those veterans who have passed on, but I believe all veterans deserve special thanks and recognition. Veterans' Day is the day the United States sets aside for this purpose; however, I believe we should all try to honor veterans as often and as much as we can.

Many of my friends have family members who are veterans, and so do I. My grandfather was a veteran. If only he was alive today, he could help me write this essay and explain to me how he served our country. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before I was born, so I do not know much about his service, but I know he served, and I am proud that he was a veteran.

Women can be veterans, too. My friend's mother served as a nurse in the United States Army. She cared for injured soldiers hurt during the war. We should remember and thank all the women who served our country.

Both of my brothers want to join the Army, and although I don't think I want to, I support their decision, and one day I will be proud to honor them as veterans. This is what I know about veterans, I hope to learn more about them in the future. God bless those who have lost family members who served our country. We thank the veterans and their families for all that they have done.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ajeela Williams
Grade 6
West Middle Elementary School, Hartford

What does it mean to be a veteran? A veteran is a man or woman that use to work in the United States armed services. Veterans have done many wonderful things. They fought for our country and helped us get our freedom. Veterans fought in many deadly battles. Many of them watched as their close friends died in combat. They risked their lives for our so that we could have our rights and freedoms. Due to their courage, we have many freedoms such as freedom of speech and religion. Freedom of speech is when I can say anything I want. If I really wanted to, I could walk outside and yell, "I hate Bush", and no one will or can do anything to me. In other countries people don't have the right to practice freedom of speech or their own religion. Their ruler or President might hang them, chop off their heads, or might even make them stand in a line and shoot them one by one! Veterans fought so we don't have to worry about such awful things. That's why I'm thankful that our country has veterans. Veterans fought so hard to serve our country. When veterans were in battles, many of them got hurt really, really badly. When they got hurt, they got rushed to an emergency room. As soon as they recovered, they went straight back into battle. Veterans tried their hardest to win these battles. Some of them wouldn't have surrendered at all. They would've fought to the death. Every morning, in my class, we all say the Pledge of Allegiance. It is very important to me that we say the Pledge of Allegiance because it shows respect for our country and for our brave veterans. God bless America and God bless our veterans!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Shamiel Samuels
Grade 6
West Middle Elementary School, Hartford

A veteran is a man or woman that has served in the United States armed services. However, being a veteran means so much more than that! A veteran is a well trained person that fought in the army, marines, or air force. They gladly risked their lives to fight against countries that threatened our freedom. It makes me feel happy and comfortable knowing that there are such brave veterans that have fought for our country.

It is important to my class for everyone to say the pledge of allegiance in the morning at 8:10. It shows respect for our country and for the veterans that fought to preserve our freedom. In America we have the privilege of having many freedoms that people in other countries do not. For example, we have freedom of speech and the freedom to practice whatever religion we want. They are the ones that make our world a better place to live in. Veterans are the ones who risked their lives for our freedom, so I think they should get a lot of respect. People in the army can be very stressed and tired of working but they still keep their heads up high and do their best to win every battle they are faced with.

We are so lucky to have very brave veterans because they worked so hard to serve our country. They fought in many hard battles to protect our country which helped us gain our rights and our freedoms. Veterans are hard working people. People should have respect for what they have done. Maybe if people didn't care about the veterans, they wouldn't care about their job and we probably wouldn't have any freedom.

Hardworking, brave, loyal, and unselfish are adjectives that describe what I feel it means to be a veteran.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Moriah Perrett
Grade 6
Andover Elementary School

Whether it is in an office, on a battlefield, or at a switchboard, it takes a hero to be a veteran. Bravery and patriotism are characteristics of veterans. Veterans' Day was created to honor all people who have served, fought, and died for our country and our freedom. People who served in the military and gave their services, risked their lives, and lost their lives for us are all veterans: They deserve our thanks.

When people think of veterans, a word that might come to mind is hero. Soldiers leave their homes, families, and friends to fight for our country and the freedom we believe in so strongly. If a brother, cousin, uncle, or friend gets killed during a battle, veterans keep going. They need to wait until a later time to grieve, cry, and mourn their lost companions. Soldiers endure loss, blistering cold, scorching heat, trench foot, and more. That is a Hero.

Being brave does not mean wearing a red cape, moving faster then a speeding bullet, or having massive muscles; it means doing ones duty, even when it is unpleasant or seemingly unbearable. During an attack or a battle, there may be bombs falling, bullets flying, blood, pain, and the death of soldiers and civilians. It takes bravery to live through that. Years later, when veterans are safely home, nightmarish scenes are often still vivid in their minds. The soldier, the veteran, does not complain. When young men and women enlist in the armed forces, they know the dangers they face. They still enlist and are willing to risk their lives for the freedom of their country because they believe. They feel proud. Soldiers leave home, go overseas, fight for our country, and either die proud or come home proud. That is Bravery.

Veterans are extremely patriotic because they risk their lives in battle for America. Patriotism means a great deal to veterans because they have such a strong love for Lady Liberty, the U.S.A. To go through all of the pressure and loss of war for our country shows they have true patriotism and love for America. Veterans go through numerous hardships and sleepless nights for our freedom. To this day, veterans from World War II remember The Battle of Normandy and how much American blood was spilled that day. They are true patriots in America's history.

Veterans are extraordinarily heroic, brave, and patriotic. They fight for our freedom and our country. They live among us proudly. Veterans love America and all that she stands for dearly.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Loren Madore
Grade 6
Andover Elementary School

In a nursing home, three men sit around me. They are wearing uniforms decorated with badges and pins. They talk to me about the days when they were in the war and protecting our country was their first priority. These men trained for many weeks so that when danger came they would be ready. Each saw things most people would see only in nightmares and were willing to give their lives so we could be free. These men are veterans.

Veterans work very hard so that if they need to go to battle they are prepared. They have to practice for many weeks and train in lots of different situations, on land when they are in the Army and at sea if they are in the Marines. Our veterans are very dedicated and take time away from their families to serve our country. They set good examples to people around the world. When veterans are not on duty, they like to have fun just like any other person. You might see one in the mall or at the movies. Maybe you have a family member who is a veteran.

Some veterans go through the most terrible things that people can experience. They are forced to kill people and even watch friends die. These are pictures most see only in nightmares. Such things make veterans' jobs terrible. Some veterans are nurses or doctors, and they help wounded soldiers. This is a job that is hard to bear.

Some veterans have gone into battle and not come out. One of those veterans was Christopher Hoskins. Christopher was a loving son and brother who died in Iraq along with many other soldiers. I had the privilege to attend his funeral in his hometown of Killingly, Connecticut. Many important people attended, such as government representatives for Connecticut. I even met some of Christopher's elementary school friends. He is very important will be remembered. Christopher paid the ultimate price in defending our country. I live a safe life thanks to his service.

Veterans are extraordinarily important people. They work so hard for all of us. They train hard and, when sent to battle, see disturbing things that might haunt them for the rest of their lives. Many die so that we can live free, unlike many other countries in the world. So next time you see a veteran, think of him or her as someone exceptional. Honor veterans for their service, and thank them for their dedication.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Lisa Murawski
Grade 7
East Hartford Middle School

Did you know that each and every day soldiers are fighting for the rights of our country? On Veteran's Day, we recognize those who fought for our rights, freedom, and our country. These soldiers put their life on the line for our nation. These veterans have all went through the pain of seeing people die, and knowing at any moment that it might have been them. All veterans' have three things in common: love, honor, and respect for America. All veteran's helped serve our country in one way or another, whether it was making sure all the planes were ready to fly, serving food to the soldiers, or getting out there and fighting. I appreciate these veterans. Some people do not understand how much work they have done for us. Whether these veterans fought in Iraq or in World War II, they all gave up their time for America. I cannot imagine the feeling of being there and fighting, to be so scared and so brave at the same time. Next time you are able to take a glimpse of the American Flag, take a moment and think of all the veterans that served our country. I am proud to be an American.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Rumanah Kasliwala
Grade 7
East Hartford Middle School

Happy Veterans Day to all!! Today I will be talking about what happened on Veterans Day. In 1918, on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, an Armistice was signed. The "War to End All Wars" was over. On July first it was Armistice Day and that day a man named Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the day and name to Veterans Day. They honored all the people who served the world, state, country, and the whole Universe. Today the Armies, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and the Navy helped our country. Today will be Veterans Day 2005 and I think they all deserve a thank you and we should tell them what a wonderful job they did in serving their country. Veterans Day is a day that is very important for everyone. People should remember what they did for your life and how they saved your life. Would you risk your life? I don't think so, but they did. Today is a day you should appreciate. Armistice Day officially received its name in American in 1926, through a Congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar congressional action. Armistice Day is a day to honor everyone and it was originally commemorated by the Germans signing a paper to end World War I.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Ashley Kinney
Grade 7
Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, Somers

To me, being a veteran means fighting for and protecting the people and the country that they love. It means making a lot of sacrifices, having courage, and knowing people have respect for them. It takes a lot of courage for people to say that they want to be in the military. They do it because they believe in and love our country and want to fight for those reasons. Soldiers know that joining the military means they will have to make sacrifices such as leaving the comfort of their home, leaving their family, and knowing that they have a chance of dieing. They know that their family understands that this is something that they want to do. Those people, the ones that stand up and take the challenge of going to war, know that the people in their country have a lot of respect for them. Without them, there would be no United States of America. It would be taken over by the terrorists and they would want to use their own cultures and their own holidays. The veterans are very brave. They not only fight on our land but all over the world. Veterans have helped us in so many ways for many centuries. That's what being veteran means to me.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Cassidy Caravella
Grade 6
Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, Somers

BOOM! BANG! "Look out there goes a bomb!" Someone could get hurt! Someone could be killed! But do they stop to say that? No! They stand up for our country whether it means LIFE or DEATH! They may know how to defend themselves, but letting go of their wife/husband, and children? That can be a very difficult thing to do. Yes, it may seem like they were leaving you forever, but with years of experience, there's a good chance that they would come back alive! We love them! We adore them, and we take care of them. When we send canned foods and clothes to them, they are proud to be serving our country. That's why we now have 50 stars on our bright, beautiful flag that stands for freedom. But if they didn't fight in those terrible wars, there might still be starvation, or even wars happening all over again. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. said, "I have a dream," and so do they. We have a dream so powerful that nothing can stop it. Or dream is to make it so there's peace on each, and happiness, and some day, the people who fight for us in the Army and Navy, will make that dream come true. And you know what? They still are. They are so great they deserve a day of their own. It's day to rest and enjoy and a day for us to than them. That's what Veteran's Day is all about. The people who were, and still are fighting for the ones they love, protecting people from terrible deaths, are fighting for the U.S.A.! (The United States of America!), for FREEDOM, and you know what…It's working!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Brooke Ballard
Grade 6
Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, Somers

To me being a veteran means being willing to give your life to America because you could have died in the war. Giving your life to America shows that you love your family because you were fighting for them. The people that are usually a Veteran are loving, happy, brave and caring. I think that the veterans of America were not only soldiers but also were heroes to everyone. Every morning they probably woke up knowing it might be the day they die for their country. I had a great grandpa that got shot twice in World War II and he has a purple heart. My mom now keeps it in a safe place. I also had another great grandfather who fought in World War II, and a grandfather who all fought in the Korean War. A lot of people would not take the job of being a soldier knowing that they could die at any time. The people that took the job were not selfish because they were fighting for their families and America. The people that fought in the war made it so that we can have freedom today and go where we want to go and do what we want to do.

Freedom is worth fighting for. Well people fight for their families and for the freedom that we have today, not all people have that. People also fight for the country so that all of us can live here and go to school here and so we can have food to eat and clean water to drink. I respect the veterans for what they have done for me. They should all be remembered as heroes.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Kathleen Ayotte
Grade 6
St. Martha School, Enfield

A veteran is any person that has served in the Armed Forces. These veterans risk their lives to help and protect our country. We should give our respect and honor to these brave people on Veterans Day. Many of these honorable veterans are now dead, but others are alive right now. Many people today have relatives that are veterans. My own uncle is a veteran, and he wears a tattoo showing that he was in the navy. A lot of veterans are very smart people with college degrees. Some travel throughout the whole world both on land and on the seas. They make numerous sacrifices such as leaving a good job, leaving their families, and leaving schools. Veterans may be subject to very bad injuries which may even lead to death. They chance this for us and our country.

During one of the wars my great, great uncle helped out a great hero when he was in danger and needed a ride. I am proud of him. You should also be proud of what the veterans have accomplished. I was so interested that I looked up information about the following veterans: Kevin John Joyce, Thomas Joseph Conners, and Dwain Ursy Mcgriff. I am so glad that the names of veterans are printed on the Wall in Washington, D.C. They deserve our respect and appreciation on Veterans Day.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Nichole O'Brien
Grade 7
St. Martha School, Enfield

A veteran's life is a good life: traveling the world, getting to see famous places, and being honored on Veterans Day.

Even though being a veteran has its ups, it can also have its downs. While in the Armed Forces, veterans may have to risk their lives to protect our country and our way of life. Risking arm and limb for people they don't know seems really special to me. Awarding medals and citations is the least we can do for them. Families that wait by the phone to see if their family member is OK are always relieved to see them come home and be honored with parades, celebrations, and awards. That is the happiest possibility in the world for them.

Veterans make a great difference in our community. Just knowing I am safe makes a big difference to me. That is why on this Veterans Day we should respect, honor, and thank our veterans for the great work they have done for us.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Katie Kupchunos
Grade 7
Vernon Center Middle School

Have you ever wondered why you and I are safe, free, and protected? We are safe, free, and protected because Americans step up to the plate and risk their lives for ours. If they die they will die with honor and respect. They have walked out onto war grounds to see us live free, safe, and protected. They are VETERANS!

Anyone who went on war grounds is a veteran. A veteran is a person who has had experience at war, and/or a person who had served in war. Basically someone who is willing to die for their country is a veteran. For example what Nathan Hale said, "I only regret that I have, but one life to lose for my country." He in my eyes is one of our veterans. In a 1993 encyclopedia is read that 87 million veterans fought in war including the 27 million still living. Lon times ago when war was around 18 year old boys and older men were going to war. Some were only 18 year old boys and they had to see the horror and pain of war, watching people die before them. It is very hard to go to war so we owe veterans a lot. Without veterans our future would be different. The past veterans have helped shape our future. In other words veterans are everyone's heroes and we owe them a lot.

Did you know that you didn't have to carry around a gun to be a veteran? They could have been a cook, mailman, mechanic, support personal, driver of a car, computer operator, medics, supply officer, file clerks.

In my opinion you don't even have to be on war grounds to be called a veteran. You could have been someone who worked at a base. For example my uncle Jim is in the air force, but he hasn't' been on war grounds with a gun. He is a mechanic who works on the planes at a base in Texas. In my eyes my uncle Jim or anyone else who is like him is a veteran.

Do you know where we would be without veterans? I believe our country would be broken, who knows we could be ruled by Japan without our veterans. To answer the question, what it means to be a veteran? Being a veteran means stepping up for their country, someone who knows the risk of being at war, but will stand up tall and fight for their country. Someone who is honored all over America and someone who makes us safe, free, and protected. We owe them a lot! Who knows where we would be without them. God Bless America and Thanks to Veterans!

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Stewart Henderson
Grade 7
St. James School, Manchester

Veterans mean a lot to me. I value the fact that someone will risk their life so that we can be free. Many of these veterans died because they stood up for what was right. To protect us from fear, many brave people have lost their lives.

Many people sacrificed their lives for our freedom. 116,708 Americans died in World War I. 417,316 GIs lost their lives in World War II. In the Korean War 33,651 U.S. servicemen died, and 58,168 Americans soldiers died in Vietnam.

Now in Iraq many people are fighting to keep our country safe from terrorism. They are making sure that we are safe. They are enforcing law in a place that needs it.

I understand what it means to be a veteran from hearing the stories about my grandfathers. Both served our country during World War II. They were brave men who enlisted right after the attack on Pearl Harbor because of their sense of duty to America. One of my grandfathers was in the Army and served here in the U.S., while the other served aboard a Coast Guard ship in the South Pacific. I'm proud of their dedication to our country and its principles.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Tyler Detorie
Grade 6
Canton Intermediate School

Being a U.S. military veteran is such an incredible honor. I should know, my dad flew his A-10 Thunderbolt II in the Iraqi Freedom War. I would love to be a veteran too and have a whole country worth of people look up to me, like I do to my own dad, but its just way too scary for me. Just think about it, having millions of foreign people shoot at you from the ground or from big bombers in the sky. It's scary period, even if you're in an airplane. Being a veteran means that you sacrifice your own life for your country. Not only do the veterans sacrifice their lives for us, but they also sacrifice time from their families, and in my dad's case, his primary job as a commercial pilot. All of the veterans didn't only fight in the war because they were called upon to do it, but because they wanted to help our country and protect us from the Iraqi tyranny. My dad was quoted saying "Primarily, I wanted to serve my country and fly jets" to the Farmington Valley Post. What it means to me to be a veteran is great respect, pride, and honor. All these traits are definitely earned by our U.S. veterans.

What It Means To Be A Veteran
By Kristie Nardini
Grade 7
John F. Kennedy Middle School, Plantsville

I would like to tell you about my two favorite veterans. But first of all, what is a veteran? Why are they so special? What did they do?

Well, veterans are people who used to serve in the war. Veterans are so special because they helped make the world the way it is today. Without soldiers, black people would still be slaves! But we won the war mostly because of our soldiers, and are lucky to have veterans that survived. So many people are happy to have their loved ones back home. As an honor to them, we celebrate the 11th day of the 11th month as Veterans Day.

So, who are my two favorite veterans? One of them is my grandfather Daniel Robert Nardini. He was in the navy for World War 2. He signed himself up when he was 18. Daniel was a signal man on the USS Long Island. He visited Japan but did not see any combat. I love my grandfather and he is so special to me.

My other favorite veteran is my grandfather John Wesley Hosmer. He wanted to be in the army when he was 17, but he only weighed 122 lbs, and you have to be 130 lbs. In June of 1944, he graduated from high school. On July 4th he joined the service. He wanted to be a pilot but did not have good enough eyesight. So instead, he became a military policeman and was in combat. He told himself that if he ever came back from the war alive, he would be a minister praising God. Well, this veteran was true to his own word. He returned from the army and went to seminary school. Then my grandfather became a minister in Connecticut. He married my parents and baptized my sister and me. Now my grandfather is in God's house.

Both of my grandfathers are veterans of World War 2. I am so glad that they have a day dedicated to them and all of the other veterans who have made such a difference in this world.

This essay is dedicated to Grandpa Nardini.

In memory of Grandpa Hosmer.

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