Friday, November 11, 2005


Existential Friday: Veteran's day

Veteran's Day has morphed into a general commemoration of war veterans, but it was originally established to mark the armistice ending the horrific fighting of World War I, which took effect at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918 -- the famous "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month."

This generalizing of Veteran's Day beyond WWI is ironic, because the American experience in World War I became an episode of our nation's history that many Americans wanted to forget. We entered in the final year of the most destructive war in world history, and became almost immediately disillusioned as our war aims -- "making the world safe for democracy," and "ending all wars" by the establishment of a peace-keeping League of Nations -- were wrecked by the manipulation and maneuvering of our European allies.

Our country reacted to the experience with two decades of isolationism that might have kept us -- mistakenly -- out of World War II. And there was no lionizing of World War I veterans as a "great", let alone "greatest" generation, as happened after the next World War. Perhaps as a result of this American cultural detachment, the standard story of WWI historians is Euro- and particularly Anglo-centric: U.S. involvement, while helpful, was too little and too late to be decisive, and the war was won by Britain and France.

Fresh looks at the history are making clear that in fact, by the end of 1917, France and Britain, having bled themselves white for four years, lacked the offensive capability to defeat German. The million U.S. troops thrown into the western front in 1918 were indeed decisive.

What should also be remembered is that in the 200 or so days in which the American Expeditionary Force was engaged in the front lines in France, 50,000 American soldiers were killed in action. That's more than died in 8 years of combat in Vietnam.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE: I had a lunch date with an old friend that we had to reschedule from yesterday to today. Due to a random assortment of factors, we decided that I'd go to his office at 11:00 a.m. I have to go to the reception desk on the 11th floor, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Ah, that last sentence. I really feel you are a man who has got a date with destiny (and even the universe seems to know it!).
Britain & France were bled white, but so was Prussia & the Axis.

By this stage of the war, there were reports of men on both sides laying down arms and refusing to fight - basically going on strike.

You could just as easily argue that if we hadn't infused the war with 1M additional troops, the combatants would have been forced to make peace. Our participation prolonged the war and set the stage for surrender terms so harse that WWII was inevitable.
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]