November 11 is the day of the year we rightly honor the veterans of our armed forces. This is a well deserved holiday since the freedoms we enjoy in our country are in no small part due to the actions they took in defending our nation.
Those of us familiar with the date chosen for this holiday may be surprised to know the majority of the people do not know the significance of November 11. This was the day the fighting stopped to end World War I.
If you ask people which war had the worst results for America, you would probably hear mentioned the Iraq War or the Vietnam War. While those wars did not end up with the results we had hoped for at the start, I believe that the worst war to involve America was World War I. This is contrary to general perception we have of World War I. We think of songs like ¨Over There¨ and that America was saving Europe from the evil Huns (Germany).
However, a closer examination of the facts clearly shows that without America's involvement, Germany would not have suffered a humiliating defeat that resulted in the punishing terms in the Treaty of Versailles which in turn created the environment where Hitler and his Nazi goons were able to rise to power and lead Germany into World War II.
World War I was not a war of good vs. evil as you can easily claim World War II to be. World War I was just another war among European nations that had been going on for centuries. What made this war particularly bloody was the advancement of artillery and the machine gun. While Americans might have felt greater affinity to England due to common ancestry and to France for helping us win the American Revolution, Germany's reasons for entering the war were to honor alliances, not to promote some genocide. The Kaiser and the King of England and the Tsar of Russia were cousins. The Kaiser wanted a quick war to humiliate France like Germany did in 1870s.
|Russia's Nicholas, England's George, and Germany's Wilhelm, all cousins|
Germany came very close to defeating France in first few months of the war, but then the war bogged down into trench warfare for more than three years. Germany's defeat of Russia in 1917 freed up enough troops to give Germany another chance to defeat France and England in 1918. However, the arrival of American troops tipped the scales in favor of the allies and looming starvation back in Germany forced them to sue for peace. The terms sowed the seeds that reaped Hitler.
American entry in the war was not a foregone conclusion. There was overwhelming opposition to getting involved in a European war. Woodrow Wilson campaigned for reelection in 1916 with the promise of keeping us out of the war. Germany's clumsy attempt to enlist Mexico into attacking America along with its submarine warfare forced America into war. Had America stayed neutral, Germany may have defeated France and England or at least negotiated better peace terms. Without the Treaty of Versailles, there would have been no Hitler and no World War II. Perhaps World War I truly would have been the war to end all wars.
Or at least saved the lives of more than 100,000 American soldiers who died during World War I, including the one now buried at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
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