In three days, Nov. 11, 2018, at 11 a.m., the world will be observing the centennial to the end of “The War to End All Wars.” Though there are no living veterans of this four-year nightmare, we will pause to remember those who lived and died, as well as our current veterans and military.
Up to Nov. 11, 1918, never had there been such massive bloodshed on so grand a scale, involving both military and civilians. There are many reasons for this; it was the first time chemical weapons were deployed on such a wide scale. Airplanes and airships were first used militarily. Tanks, submarines and other mechanized vehicles were also first deployed in widespread use. Finally, long-range artillery and trench warfare became essential to battle. These combined to cause casualties on a level never dreamed of before.
Some 9,720,000 military dead were the result of these “tools” of combat. Even more stunning (at that time), were the 8,870,000 civilian casualties that resulted from this conflict. To put this in perspective, the approximately 18,590,000 people who died as a result of war would be like eliminating the populations of the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Colorado and Maryland from the United States today.
Since the end of the “Great War,” we have seen many changes for the betterment of mankind as well. In my opinion, nothing more important came from lessons learned in this struggle than the advances of medicine. Specifically, the ambulance, antiseptics and anesthesia were the leading answers to higher survival rates in battle. This translated into medical advances on the home front, particularly for injuries that once may have resulted in amputations, injuries that had long recoveries (if ever) and even prevention of an injury worsening. A good example would be a little boy or girl who may have suffered a deep cut on an arm or leg. Before antiseptics, if the wound was washed it was maybe covered with a possibly dirty cloth — all the ingredients for infection. The use of fast transportation also proved that the quicker medical attention was received, the better chance of survival and successful treatment. Of course, anesthesia was a God-send to those being treated, they did not have to suffer excruciating pain while being treated. Imagine something most of us have undergone — a filling in a dental office. No Novocain? I don’t think so!
Another colossal effect was transporting people and equipment on a massive scale. America alone moved approximately 4.7 million people to Europe, between April 1917 and November 1918 alone. With the use of large “vehicles,” such as ships, road transport and trains, the need to move more personnel, farther, in shorter periods of time, the priority was to invest in larger and more dependable sea and land transport. After observing the effectiveness of airplanes, much experimentation and engineering went to improving air travel. Just nine years after the end of WWI, instrument navigation was built, as well as the most famous flight in history, Charles Lindbergh’s solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
As we remember those veterans who are still with us today, as well as those serving on active, reserve or National Guard duty, take a moment to remember history, the centennial of “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars,” which effects we see all around us today.
American Legion Post 86 is at 112 Old Ridgefield Road. Contact: [email protected].
Tom Moore, Adjutant
American Legion Post 86