To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

I thought that as an avid reader and a lover of history that I knew the basics about World War I.  I'd heard about trench warfare, chlorine gas, mustard gas, and shell shock but I didn't really understand them and I wasn't prepared for what I learned while reading this book.

They called it the Great War.  However, this war was apparently completely unnecessary.  That's right - 8.5 million casualties, 12-13 million civilian deaths  totally unnecessary brought on by a war-hungry monarch and military men who wouldn't accept the changes that the 20th century had brought to the battlefield.

Kaiser Wilhelm wanted to play at war, he always wore a uniform and he wanted to prove his country's superiority.  The excuse used to start the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Joseph and his wife (he abhorred war - how ironic).  The Austro-Hungary empire would have probably controlled the effects with a small military action in Serbia where the assassination had taken place, but as an ally of Austro-Hungary, Kaiser Wilhelm and Germany took it upon themselves to stress escalation.

So we have a war and the British, who had end the Boer wars several years before thought that they were ready to take on the Germans with the same tactics as used then.  However, since the Boer wars the 20th century saw motor vehicles, machine guns, and airplanes come into existence. Gen. Douglas Haig would not accept that cavalry was no longer useful with the new methods available.  Time and time again he would send men to certain death by commanding offensives directly into the German machine gun nests.  Hundreds of thousands of men were killed in weeks and Haig just kept sending them.

On the home front, massive labor strikes and Conscientious Objectors filled the headlines.   The Conscientious Objectors were sent to prison with sentence ordering hard labor (16 hours a day) half rations and no heat.  Women were imprisoned if they argued against the war.

But really bothered me the most about what I learned was the actual cause of shell shock.  Imagine sitting in a deep ditch for weeks on end and then suddenly being bombarded by artillery NON-STOP for days at a time so loud that you couldn't hear the person next to you talking.  I personally can't handle a loud thunderstorm that's off again on again for 20 minutes - how can you handle this acoustic attack?

The Allied Forces were actually losing the battle until the Americans joined the fight.  The Treaty that ended the war was so vindictive that many historians see it as a contributor to World War II.

The book was slow to start, had some areas where it was extremely repetitive concerning the women that were against the war, but highly informative.


GENRE: History
CHARACTERS: John French, Charlotte Despard, Douglas Haig, Alfred Milner 
DATE READ: April 10 - April 26
Challenges: 75, Category, TIOLI, AlphaKit
SOURCE: Library, Nook Stockpile

No comments: