The Legacies of a World War
World War One and what happened...
The Legacies of World War One
The obvious legacy of World War One would be World War Two. Another legacy was Vietnam and the continuing problems in the Middle East that are still in evidence as I write.
Yes the less obvious legacies would indeed include the continuing unrest in the Middle East and the Vietnam War. Strife in Iraq and Iran today may also be traced back to World War One and deals made between France and Britain for after the war.
The story of what happened after the Great War has as much to do with lost opportunities as it has anything else and also a lot to do with those representing their respective countries in 1919 only being human and therefore apt to make mistakes in judgment and in their reading of the future.
The Great War
In 1914 Great Britain and her Commonwealth declared war on Germany and Austria. Turkey entered on the side of Germany. Great Britain and her Commonwealth were allied with France and Belgium.
The USA officially entered the war on the side of the allies in 1917. Prior to this American manufacturers of barbed wire could deal with either side in the ensuing conflict. There were, however, American pilots fighting for France independent of their government before 1917.
In 1914 there were people who felt the great powers in Europe would come to terms with one another before the first shot was fired in anger. Even after the declaration of war and the first shot had been fired there was the hope that it wouldn't be a long struggle and that it would only last six months before the powers that be regained their senses.
It began over the death of an Austrian archduke who was assassinated by a group of radicals calling themselves the Black Hand in a tiny little corner of Europe most Australians at the time had never heard of. Whoever thought that what had happened in the Balkans would result in the deaths of millions of people throughout France and Belgium?
According to Max Hastings book Catastrophe Europe Goes to War 1914 (2013), the British at first thought their support for France would involve only their navy. They had an impressive navy but only a small land army on hand.
The attack by Germany on Belgium, however, prompted this land army to be put to use. Meanwhile recruiting was going on in Britain for the creation of a much larger armed force to send to the European continent.
Mistrust between the old enemies of Britain and France, according to Max Hastings, may well have contributed to lost opportunities for ending the war early. To put it another way the French leaders struggled to see the British as an allies and the same could be said for how the British leaders felt about the French.
The Australians that joined up to fight felt that they would probably miss out on the combat and, once they landed via ship in either England or Europe proper, they'd be given guard duty of prisoners before being sent back home.
Instead of going to Europe, though, the Australian troops ended up in Egypt for further training and then on to Turkey. The Gallipoli campaign was a disaster but it did forge a fighting spirit. The newly Christened ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) made a name for itself during the campaign and also during the latter fighting in France and Belgium.
The Great War was eventually called a World War because it was fought in many places and those who traveled to fight traveled from many parts of the world.
Victory came in 1918. An armistice came into effect and the killing was over. This is a shinning legacy.
The Response of Australians to the Great War
In Australia as in many countries the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is still celebrated. It is known as Armistice Day also Remembrance Day. Those who think it is in any way a celebration of war do the people who first came to celebrate Armistice Day an injustice as well as those who have followed them in celebrating this particular date.
No, Armistice Day is not a celebration of war at all but a celebration of peace and it is also a time in which to remember those who fell for their country.
Those Australian diggers who have been questioned on the significance of Armistice Day always point to the peace and the remembrance of comrades rather than the violence that had gone before and this is the way Armistice Day should continue to be celebrated.
There are many monuments to the fallen of WW1 throughout Australia. There is even the role of the honored dead at Central Station in Sydney.
After the war Australians felt something should be done for the widows and orphans created by the war and also any wars to come and so Legacy was formed. I buy a Legacy badge every year.
A club where diggers and former diggers could come for a cheap meal and a nice night out also came into existence. The R. S. L. (Returned Services League) clubs are with us today and are growing in membership.
The Rise of Communism
In 1917 the Russians pulled out of World War One. Soon after this event civil war broke out and, after years of bloody strife, Russia became a Communist nation.
If not for World War One weakening the Tsar's hold on power even more than it had already been weakened by lack of good judgment, Communism might not have come to the fore until much later if, in fact, at all.
The threat of a Communist take over would become one of the factors that would eventually propel Hitler to power.
Linking Communism with the Jews living in Germany and elsewhere would result in the actions taken against the Jews. Were the Jews Communists? A great many Jews disagreed with Communism but that didn't matter much to the Nazis or to Hitler.
Given a choice between the Nazis coming to power in Germany or the Communists coming to power many industrialists living in Germany felt that the Nazis were the lesser of the two evils.
Later on the fear of Communism and communist take over would result in the Cold War and the fear of nuclear annihilation.
A result of the Cold War would be the race to the moon and the advanced exploration of our solar system and our universe.
The Soviet Union with its launch of Sputnik 1, an unmanned artificial orbiting satellite, in 1957 scared the hell out of the Americans. Science fiction visions of artificial satellites with death rays danced in their heads and persisted throughout the Cold War period.
The makers of the 1971 film adaptation of Ian Fleming's novel Diamonds are Forever played into this fear with an artificial satellite with a laser weapon.
Then there was the fear of the Russians landing on the moon and setting up missile strikes from there. No, the Americans had to get to the moon first and so they did. Nowadays there isn't a Cold War nor is there a space race but the desire to know more about what is out there persists.
1919 and Beyond
The Treaty of Versailles did not insure future peace anywhere. The Germans that had quit the fighting in 1918 were aware that they had troops still stationed in enemy territory. What's more, they had many aircraft still intact and their navy had battleships and submarines ready and able to continue the conflict. The biggest issue for the Germans was food.
1917 had been a bad harvest year and there had been bread riots in 1918. Also by 1919 the Kaiser had been removed and replaced by a republic.
Even so, many a German soldier felt that they had not lost a war. A fair treaty would take into account this fact and also the fact that they, too, had suffered from the fighting and that who started the war and why was a complex issue in which more than their nation was to blame.
From 1918 to the signing of the treaty in 1919 the British blockaded food and medical supplies from entering Germany. This added strain on the newly formed Weimar Republic to cut the best deal it could with the allies and also to get it done quickly.
Those who signed the treaty would later on be considered traitors to Germany by the general population of Germany.
The allies had the German republic over a barrel and they knew it. France, Belgium and Great Britain wanted a steady flow of monetary compensation for injuries suffered to people and property during the war.
France in particular wanted to see Germany punished. There was also to be the severe reduction of Germany's armed forces not to mention loss of territory both in Europe and elsewhere.
In signing the treaty the Weimar Republic representatives had signed their own republic's warrant. The republic was Germany's first shot at democracy but already, or so most Germans felt, it had been tainted with failure or worse. The ultimate collapse of the republic would result in Germany making Hitler supreme ruler over the German people.
It can be said that Woodrow Wilson, president of the USA at the time, wanted Germany to suffer less than the other allies did and had the idea that if there was some kind of peace keeping force such a terrible war as the Great War might be avoided in the future.
The League of Nations was formed soon after the war but the USA, despite what Wilson wanted, was not to be one of the original members and nor was Germany. Perhaps of all the representatives there at Versailles in 1919 Wilson was the one who had his eye most firmly on the future.
Not only was the 2nd World War an inadvertent result of what went on in 1919 but also the Vietnam War. A representative of what we now refer to as the Vietcong came to Versailles in the hope of either obtaining more freedom from French rule in Vietnam from the French or finding allies who might help in the quest for national freedom.
The only people who would talk in a positive way to the representative from Vietnam was the Russian Communist representative. In the end, to further the nationalist cause, those fighting for the cause would become communist.
Despite American soldiers fighting along side Vietnam nationalists against the Japanese and Vichy French during WW2, the Vietnam War would arise and cost in the end a lot of Australian and American lives.
Even before the First World War came to a conclusion, the British and French were working out ways to divide up the Middle East to suit their own national interests. The results? Well, you could say the Middle East the way it is today is the result.
The First World War saw to the impoverishing of a number of nations including Great Britain. This resulted in nations, including Australia, asking for and obtaining massive loans from the USA.
Since the USA had come into the war late, her people had suffered from less financial hardship imposed on them by the war. Relying heavily on the USA financially resulted in the Great Depression. When Wall Street went down in 1929 the USA followed and then so did all of the great nations of the world.
This financial collapse was good for the Nazi party and for the fascists in Italy. Hence the 2nd World War can be related back to the world, financially speaking, becoming way too dependent on one nation. Of course the impoverishing of certain nations would not have come about without the First world war.
Stated above are only a few of the legacies of the Great War. Some are good but too many are anything but good. I hope you enjoyed the read.
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