November 11, Veteran’s Day, historically commemorated the armistice that ended The First World War – an armed conflict so bloody and destructive that it was called “The War to End all Wars.”
World War I was a European affair. One can argue that the United States should have – or, perhaps, more to the point, could have – avoided entry into World War I. However, Germany’s policy of “unrestricted submarine warfare,” which contributed to the sinking of The Lusitania; an alleged German proposal to Mexico to join the Central Powers – the so-called Zimmermann note – and an American President who wanted to make the world “safe for democracy” (or, was it really to make democracy safe for the world?) were the catalysts that catapulted 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 German, Austrian-Hungarian, Russian, 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 present day United Nations, was created to maintain world peace. Unfortunately, the League of Nations proved to be terribly ineffective, and it eventually “collapsed.” The United States was never a member of the League. Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan withdrew from it during the 1930s.
“War guilt,” heavy war reparations to the allied powers, and a failed economy caused the German people to look toward a charismatic, erstwhile lance corporal and his National Socialist German Worker’s Party platform for answers. The Italian people felt that England and France didn’t give them a fair share of the “spoils of war,” so they turned to a Socialist turned Fascist to put things right. The Japanese, an allied partner during World War I, felt slighted by the European allies; consequently, Japan turned its back on the Allied nations.
World War I was 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 devastating horrors that would follow in the years to come.
John Di Genio