November 11 commemorates the anniversary of the armistice that ended The First World War – an armed conflict so bloody and destructive that it was “The War to End all Wars.”
Germany’s policy of “unrestricted submarine warfare,” which contributed to the sinking of The Lusitania, and an alleged German proposal to Mexico to join the Central Powers – the Zimmermann note – were the catalysts that sparked America’s entry into a European war. Congress declared war on April 6, 1917, and Germany agreed to an armistice on November 11, 1918.
The map of the world changed after the First World War. The Russian, German, Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires became defunct. Independent nations were carved out from those anachronistic empires. The victorious European allies received territories and colonies from the vanquished Central Powers. The League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations, was created to maintain world peace. Unfortunately, “war guilt,” heavy war reparations to the allied powers, and a failed economy caused the Germans to look toward National Socialism for answers. The League of Nations eventually collapsed when Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan withdrew from it in the 1930s.
World War I was a European affair. One can argue that the United States should have – could have – avoided entry into World War I. The First World War introduced the use of modern weapon systems, such as the plane and the tank. It also gave the world a bitter taste to the horrors of poison gas.
World War I supposed to have been the “War to End all Wars.” Regrettably, World War I only served as a grim prelude – a blood-soaked preface and a dreaded foreboding – of the terrors that would follow in the years to come.
John Di Genio