Matthew Naylor: The Legacy of World War I
The National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo., is the U.S. hub for centennial exhibits and commemorative events.
Naylor, the Australian-born president of the National World War I Museum and Memorial, has spearheaded centennial commemorations through this anniversary year of the U.S. entry into the war. (Randy Glass Studio)
Matthew Naylor, president and CEO of the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., also sits on the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, which since its establishment by Congress in 2013 has worked to commemorate the nation’s participation in the war. On Nov. 11, 2018, the commission and its partners nationwide will mark the 100th anniversary of war’s end on the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918. Naylor, a native Australian who holds a doctorate from Curtin University in Perth, recently spoke with Military History about the significance of the war, the centennial, the museum’s mission and its plans beyond November 11.
What about World War I most interests you?
The war is deeply personal, as my grandfather was British and served in France. The conflict also contributed to the development of independence movements and the deconstruction of empires. It was the beginning of a new era and the emergence of a new world in many areas—literature, music, art—and we saw the impact of new technologies. I also have a deep interest in how the world was reshaped and how the war was a fulcrum for clashing ideologies and new ways of thinking.
It is seen as a European war. How do you convey the conflict to American audiences?
One could argue it was World War I that launched the “American Century” and really brought the United States onto the world stage.
World War I is a very complicated story. In the popular imagination it’s messy, its cause is unclear, there were countries involved that aren’t around anymore. We at the museum present the story from a global perspective and from the point of view of all the belligerents. Our introductory film is fantastic and lays out the key players and the contributing factors. Once people learn that, they then begin to move into understanding the conflict and its enduring impact.
What was the significance of the United States’ entry into the war?
There is much to be learned from 1914–16, before the United States was in it. We were, of course, involved in other ways—volunteers, industry, finance. And the arguments leading to the American entry were influenced by the makeup of the country, which has parallels to the conversations today around immigration. At the time German immigrants comprised about 10 percent of America’s population.
We acquired two uniforms—one German, one American—both worn by a Danish man. He was in German-occupied Denmark and served under the German flag. Then he sailed to the States to join his brother. He was probably conscripted and in 1918 went back to Europe wearing an American uniform. That example illustrates the complex nature of immigration and the difficult decisions being made by the United States. Some Army divisions spoke as many as 43 languages.
We still seek to identify what it means to be an American, and that was happening in 1914–16 and in many respects delayed the U.S. engagement in the war. But, of course, when Congress voted on April 6, 1917, there was spectacular growth from a standing U.S. Army of 100,000 to just over 4.5 million. In many respects the nation came together in quite a remarkable way that was defining for the American experience.
What are some standout items in the museum’s collection?
One is the Renault tank, one of only three that remain that were battle-damaged. When this particular tank was brought here, we discovered that inside are the names of mechanics who worked on it in France—and some of them were from Kansas City. So not only does the tank illustrate the evolution in technology, but also it has a strong local connection.
Public relations and propaganda were born in World War I, and our poster collection depicts that. One of my favorites is of a mother with a child, sinking in the water—it was made after the sinking of Lusitania. It’s a powerful, evocative and haunting image.
We also have a collection of gas masks, from gas goggles first introduced in 1915 to the masks they were using by the time the Americans arrived in France. To see them is quite haunting and terrifying.
What would you like to add to the collection?
We collect encyclopedically from all of the belligerents, which distinguishes us from other like institutions that primarily tell the story through the lens of their country or empire. We certainly tell the U.S. story, but that doesn’t start until about halfway through. So we have a great many objects from other countries. About 97 percent of our collection is donated, and we are collecting almost every week. Last year we had about 286 accessions. Each accession could contain one object or as many as a couple hundred. The year 2017 was especially good for us in terms of accessions.
We have been looking for objects from Eastern Europe and the Eastern Front, and we were able to acquire quite a number of Russian objects. We’re also looking for an original World War I aircraft. We don’t have an original—they’re difficult to come by and difficult to maintain, and simply looking after them is a challenge.
How will you maintain audience interest after the centennial?
That’s the existential question—who are we post-centennial? In the last four years we have seen a 64 percent growth in the number of people coming into the galleries. We’ve also had tremendous growth in our online engagement.
We’re having a ceremony on November 11, but our commemoration will certainly continue after that. We have begun to look at such guiding questions as, What are the big themes that we’ll speak to in the coming decade? We’ve brought together museum professionals, military personnel and social historians for workshops to consider it. I’m very excited about what the future is for us.
‘Above all, it’s an honor to have the opportunity to be stewards of the story, to preserve the objects’
We’re also interested in exploring the aftermath of the war, about the troops’ homecoming and readjustment to civilian life. A soldier coming back could be a different person. So what is home? Can you go home again? Through that lens we explore our responsibility to returning veterans and the responsibility of command.
Our work is to remember, interpret and understand World War I and its enduring impact. We want to explore fundamental questions that have application to the current context. How did wartime innovations affect social life as well as military life? The development of independence movements caused people to ask questions about identity—who are you? Issues of migration caused people in the war and postwar periods to ask that, and it is similarly being asked and re-asked today.
We feel very confident about who we will be post-centennial. The audience we know is deeply interested, and we have much to talk about. Above all, it’s an honor to have the opportunity to be stewards of the story, to preserve the objects. MH
"Your Country Needs YOU!", the famous poster featuring Britain's secretary of state for war, Lord Kitchener, encouraged more than a million men to enlist to bolster the original expeditionary force deployed to France hopelessly unprepared and unfit for a European war. Within a year of Britain declaring war on Germany in August 1914, despite the numbers of enthusiastic young men who joined up (often with their friends and neighbours in what became known as "Pals" battalions) such was the rate of casualties it was clear the country could not continue to fight by relying solely on volunteers.
For the first time in British history early in 1916 the government introduced conscription. Unlike in many continental powers – including France, Germany, Russia, Austria and Hungary, where compulsory enlistment in different forms had existed for many years, in Britain there was no tradition that citizenship carried military obligations, according to Sir Hew Strachan, Oxford University's professor of the history of War. Strachan made the point in his book, The First World War, that the principle of universal military service was introduced in Britain without the adoption of universal adult male suffrage – Britain had the most limited franchise at the time of any European state bar Hungary.
Photograph: British Library/Robana via Getty
Britain's Military Service Act was passed by parliament in January 1916. It imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41. The medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and workers employed in key industries were exempt. Conscription was extended to married men in May 1916, and during the last months of the war in 1918, to men up to the age of 51. Conscription raised about 2.5 million men during the war.
Protests against conscription included a demonstration by 200,000 people in Trafalgar Square. Tribunals were set up to hear demands for exemption, including from conscientious objectors. However, the principle of objecting to military service on moral grounds was widely accepted and, in most cases, objectors were given civilian jobs.
The tribunals' main task was ensuring that men not sent to the battlefields were productively employed at home. As the war went on and more men were sent to fight, the shortage of skilled workers in arms factories became more acute. Late in 1917 the German Reichstag passed a law obliging all available males between 17 to 60 to work in arms factories.
An attempt in 1918 to force conscription on Ireland was strongly opposed by trade unions, nationalists and the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It was abandoned and served only to increase support for an independent Ireland (though more than 200,000 Irishmen – Catholic and Protestant – volunteered to serve in the British army).
Canada introduced conscription in its "khaki election" in 1917, the year the US president, Woodrow Wilson, also did so, arguing, Strachan notes, "that it was the most democratic form of military enlistment".
Richard Norton-Taylor, the Guardian
The Office of Strategic Services
Often referred to as our Agency’s forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) became the first centralized intelligence agency in American history.
Wild Bill Donovan led the women and men of OSS to collect and analyze strategic information and conduct unconventional and paramilitary operations.
Though the new office met some resistance from other U.S. agencies, OSS continued to grow its world-wide intelligence capabilities through military, diplomatic, and non-official cover. At its peak, OSS employed over 13,000 military personnel and civilians—35% of whom were women.
OSS existed for just over three years, but in this time it made a lasting contribution to our country, the world, and the future of American intelligence.
The economic and financial situation was just as worrying. Beyond the material damage—which was staggering, with 2.5 million hectares of farmland devastated, 60,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of thousands of buildings destroyed in France alone—the horrific ordeal of the conflict had left Europe bankrupt. While the war was a boon for certain industrial sectors, like aeronautics, chemicals, and the car industry, it swept away the gold standard1 and with it the stability of Europe’s currencies. “All nations involved waged war on credit, relying on domestic loans but also, as far as France was concerned, on money borrowed from outside the country,” explains Isabelle Davion, from the IRICE2 laboratory. Whether to fund the war effort, repay debts, finance reconstruction, compensate those entitled to damages or pensions or, in the case of Germany, pay reparations, the European countries, whose gold reserves were depleted, resorted to printing money. They began producing currencies that had virtually no intrinsic value and depended solely on the confidence of the economic agents that used them. Inflation swept across Europe and gained momentum, reaching its climax in Germany, where in November 1923, one US dollar was valued at 4.2 trillion marks. The trauma of this period of hyperinflation would haunt the German collective memory for years to come.
The First World War and the Legacy of Shellshock
In the history of psychiatry, the First World War is often identified with the rise of the disorder of “shellshock.” However, many in both the medical community and the military establishment were dubious of the claim that war could produce psychiatric symptoms.
HISTORY OF PSYCHIATRY
2014 marks the centenary of the beginning of World War I. This year, in many parts of the world, commemorative events will be held, marking the 100th anniversary of the start of what was referred to at the time as the Great War.
The scale of that war was unprecedented at the time. Sixteen nations mobilized over 65 million soldiers. Of these, 8.5 million were killed, another 21.2 million were wounded, and 7.75 million captured or missing. 1
Beyond these numbers, however, World War I also ushered in a change in how war in the western world was conducted. While prewar international agreements had banned the use of certain weapons of mass destruction (eg, chemical weapons) and differentiated between the treatment of soldiers and civilians, these distinctions were quickly erased once fighting began. The German military developed and regularly used poison gas against enemy combatants, waged unrestricted submarine attacks against commercial vessels, and shot civilians and practiced mass rape in Belgium. At the same time, Britain and its allies carried out a blockade of central Europe, hoping to starve their enemies into submission. And the Ottoman Empire undertook the first genocide of its kind against its indigenous Armenian population. For good reason, then, historians have referred to the Great War as the first example of “total war.”
In the history of psychiatry, the First World War is often identified with the rise of the disorder of “shellshock.” Referred to at the time most often as “war neurosis,” the malady was characterized by a common core of possible symptoms: tics, convulsions, muscle spasms, paralyses, shakes, and problems in memory were among the most prominent.
The scale of the problem matched the scale of the war itself. In Germany, over 600,000 servicemen were treated in military hospitals for “nervous” diseases during the four years of war. In the UK, 80,000 cases of war neurosis were diagnosed between 1914 and 1918, and around 200,000 veterans ended up receiving pensions for war-related nervous disorders following the war. 2 Yet while World War I has been widely seen as having given birth to shellshock -and by extension, to present-day PTSD-as well as to its clinical recognition, the history of the phenomenon actually dates back several decades earlier.
As historian Martin Lengwiler 3 notes, the notion of war neurosis required a peculiar etiological connection to be drawn in order for it to emerge as a viable diagnosis. Psychiatrists and neurologists needed to be convinced that a causal link could exist between military service and war on the one hand and a set of nervous symptoms on the other. This was by no means obvious to observers in the 19th century (and it often remains a matter of debate today as well in pension cases involving veterans).
In German-speaking Europe at least, it was psychiatrist Werner Nasse (1822-1889) who first tied combat to symptomatology. Reporting on the cases of several veterans of the German wars of unification (1864-1866)-who had afterward exhibited symptoms of emotional withdrawal, memory lapses, apathy, listlessness, shakes, and convulsions-Nasse argued that their symptoms were best explained by the circumstances of soldiers in the field. “War psychosis,” as he referred to it, arose from the physical stresses, the cold and unhealthy living conditions, and the poor diet under which soldiers suffered during active duty. 3
Many in both the medical community and the military establishment, however, remained dubious of the claim that war could produce psychiatric symptoms. For one, the late-19th century was the heyday of the idea of degeneration, ie, the notion that hereditary pathologies could cumulatively corrupt and overwhelm entire families, communities, and even nations. 4 The increasing prevalence of neurasthenia and hysteria toward the end of the century was taken by some as an indication not of the effects of environmental factors on mental health, but rather of how pathological predispositions transmitted to offspring could lead to increasing numbers of mental “defectives,” ill-equipped for the vagaries of modern life (including combat). For many observers, biology in this instance was destiny.
In addition, a great number of authorities believed that a third possibility existed that might account for the apparent explosion in the rate of war neurosis-namely, that the men were not sick at all, but were merely simulating. Feigning illness in order to either avoid some kind of social responsibility or gain some benefit was a topic discussed among physicians dating back to ancient times. But “malingering” or “simulation,” as the phenomenon was generally called, only first drew concerted scholarly interest over the course of the 19th century, becoming an especially prominent topic at the end of the century in public deliberations about and criticisms of social insurance compensation to workers. 5(pp124-148) In this instance, shellshock symptoms were dismissed as little more than a sham, a ruse on the part of the weak and cowardly.
While debate about the nature of war neurosis continued on after the war, it was World War II that eventually cemented recognition of warfare as an etiological factor in mental disorders. Shellshock and World War I, however, ended up playing a pivotal role in the broader history of mental health care. With the enlistment of psychiatrists and neurologists into military service, notions that had been circulating within psychiatry for decades-trauma, degeneration, malingering, functional illness, for example-came face-to-face with the realities of modern war. In the process, their encounter altered how clinicians and the public came to look at mental illness.
On the one hand, the lesson of the meteoric rise of war neurosis appeared to support the idea that traumatic mental experiences could cause nervous disorders and, thus, reinforced the growth of psychotherapy. On the other hand, shellshock convinced many observers that mental illness was an urgent public problem, one requiring decisive, effective, and efficient action. In a postwar climate where societies faced economic hardships and divisive ideological conflicts, this appraisal encouraged both policymakers and psychiatrist to entertain the use of more radically adventurous and cheaper techniques, such as eugenics, to promote public mental health.
Dr Eghigian is Associate Professor of Modern History and former Director of the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Penn State University, University Park, Pa. He writes and teaches on the history of madness, mental illness, and mental health in the Western world. He is the editor and author of numerous books, most recently From Madness to Mental Health: Psychiatric Disorder and its Treatment in Western Civilization (Rutgers University Press 2010). He is also co-editor of the scholarly blog, h-madness. Dr Eghigian is the History Section Editor for Psychiatric Times.
POV: The Legacy of World War I
Nearly a century has passed since the guns of the Great War fell silent, since new grass re-covered scarred landscapes of the vast killing fields of Flanders and Verdun, Galicia and western Russia, since bright alpine flowers returned to the flinty battlefields of the Isonzo valley. A hundred years since terrible new flying machines lifted war into a third dimension and odd little U-boats took it down into a fourth. Yet a specter is haunting Europe still, and the world. A specter of total war. It stalks and hunts us all.
We have an uneasy (and quite inaccurate) shared memory that no one planned it, that it was somehow all a terrible and tragic mistake. It was not. The Great War was, as are all wars, the outcome of hard choice and callous calculation. It was also marked by blunder and miscalculation, incompetence and incomprehension, courage and folly, sacrifice and suffering, new marvels of efficient killing, and bloody murder on a scale the world had never seen before.
It was started by the two German-speaking powers, with contributory culpability and initial enthusiasm from Serbs and Russians, rather less from the French, little at all from the British. Others entered later, for venal reasons and most of the same illusions: Turks, Italians, Rumanians, Bulgarians, and Americans, until all the world’s great empires and most of its wealth and peoples were committed to years of total war.
We are horrified by its vast carnage, its waste of youth, matériel, and moral energy. We are tormented by suspicion that its 10 million dead settled very little or nothing at all, and made the decades that followed and the era we inherited far, far worse. We are right to thus remember it, for its immediate legacy was that it was completely indecisive on the major issues that really mattered. And that meant a second world war quickly followed, far more destructive and full of worse horrors, with more mass killing and learned hate.
Yes, the Great War ended four historic dynasties: Habsburg, Hohenzollern, Ottoman, and Romanov. Yes, it smashed apart two large multinational empires (Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman) and knocked large bits off two more (German and Russian). Yes, it spilled diverse and quarrelsome peoples into new and untidy states in the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe, and across the Middle East, leaving us to live among the ruins and rubble of ghost empires even today. And although the two largest, the British and French, got bigger in its immediate aftermath, it mortally wounded them as well.
Yet, it left two key questions unanswered, so that a second and more terrible total war had to be fought inside a generation. First, unresolved was the problem of Germany’s ambition and place in the international system. Contrary to an enduring myth of the wanton harshness of Versailles, Germany in fact emerged from defeat mostly intact. Militarily and geostrategically, it was in a far superior position as it rearmed to again challenge the international order. The alliance that hemmed it in before 1914, and defeated it in 1918, fell apart: Great Britain (and America) quickly returned to old delusions of “splendid isolation,” abandoning France to face Germany alone. Paris also lost its traditional Russian ally, which withdrew into radical, armed isolationism under Lenin and Stalin, then allied with Nazi Germany in serial wars of aggression from 1939 to 1941.
More fundamentally, the Great War endorsed force as the main means of political resolution in Europe, even as it heralded a predicted culmination of military affairs in true total war: all-out commitment of all resources and populations of whole nations to total victory, by whatever means science and engineering and industry provided. Diplomats spoke of arbitration and conciliation and peaceful dispute resolution. It was mere veneer over the new reality, post-1918, that major states and peoples were less restrained in the use of force than before, far more willing, even eager, to employ any means against their enemies. In just 20 years Europeans graduated from slaughtering youths in uniform to mass starvation of “enemy civilians,” terror bombing of cities, and multiple genocides of unarmed peoples.
We like to think that Europe learned something from the war, that it concluded as it buried the last of 10 million dead sons in 1918 that “we must never do this again.” Yet, Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel, not Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or the acute protest poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, is the real signature work of the 1914 to 1918 generation. Jünger’s celebration of hard vitalism and of war and nation, not pacifism or cosmopolitanism, is a sadly truer representation of postwar (interwar) views.
The Great War broke so much of the old order that hitherto impossible paths to power opened for thugs and criminals in a dozen countries, leading to thuggish politics internally, then internationally. Mass dislocations contributed to state takeovers by criminal gangs devoted to cults of social violence: fascisti in Italy, Bolsheviks in Russia, Nazis in Germany. And to their erection of savage, murderous, expansionist regimes. Its promise of revolutionary change through destruction displaced law among nations with ugly fascist and communist belief in the virtues of violence, in murder and war as positive moral instruments. This abiding fact of states’ easy willingness to use force as their ultima ratio was hidden by silkscreen rhetoric of diplomats and the League of Nations. Just as it is hidden today behind the façade of the United Nations. It abides nonetheless.
And so what came after the artificial thunder along the horizons stopped were brutalized societies in place of discarded older civilizations, and newly vicious ideologies that overtly celebrated state terror and mass murder as central means of social engineering. Fascism and communism were loosed into the world, along with other terrible men and ideas that scoured humanity into the mid-20th century, and beyond. The darkness was so deep it briefly eclipsed civilization, as all the major powers, even the more-or-less decent ones, descended into savage barbarity of means in a second world war that killed 65 million, mostly innocent civilians.
The central legacy of the Great War was a general barbarization of the world’s major societies that did not end for 30 years, if then. The vanity of powerful nations, the blood lust of leaders and ordinary folk, consummated a marriage to depravity in a worse total war fought without mercy or garlands. The ancient distinction between soldier and civilian was obliterated as states embraced obscenely rational methods of mass killing: starvation via naval blockade and air interdiction Nazi Einsatzgruppen death battalions and death camps the abattoirs of the Soviet Gulag and Holodomor in Ukraine the Rape of Nanjing and lesser massacres across Asia universal acceptance of terror bombing, including careful targeting of civilians (“morale bombing”) by air forces of the democratic nations: Britain, Canada, and the United States. For a dread moment in the mid-1940s, civilization stopped.
The Great War was a terrible rupture in the deep subduction zone of world affairs. It began a tsunami of mass killing that took 200 million lives by the end of the 20th century and caused mammoth disruption of the lives of billions of innocent people on every inhabited continent. Its floodwaters are receding, but they leave behind exposed ethnic, religious, and regional hatred from Ukraine to the Baltic, from Bosnia to Iraq-Syria, and many other places.
Above all, it undermined the modern idea that civilization is progressive. It is much harder today to believe that humanity is capable of making rational and moral advances, alongside more impressive but merely material and technical progress that promises near-certain future destruction. Its specter thus haunts us still, warning that we, too, may yet be surprised in our progressive and technological vanity by atavism embedded in our nature.
What is the Lasting Impact of World War I?
World War I is not just about trench warfare and poison gas. It is a story of doughboys, airmen, ambulance drivers, Red Cross workers, Hello-girls, Yeomen, doughnut dollies, farmers, war production laborers, suffragists, and pacifists. It’s a fascinating era that - despite its deep and far-reaching impact – seems to have become all too inaccessible for students. How often have you heard the phrase, “Why do we have to learn this stuff?” As an educator, I believe it’s essential that we look for ways to capture students’ attention and help them to understand the impact The Great War left on politics, technology, and culture. To help you start this conversation in your class, consider trying this activity.
Divide the class into four groups of 6-8 students. Pass out four sets of pictures described below. As this stage of the activity is intended for brainstorming, I suggest setting rules up so students don't google the answer prematurely.
- Group A: A male wristwatch oil rig prosthetic limb canned food – preferably beef stew or spaghetti (Note: these should be current pictures if possible.)
- Group B: A person doing Pilates a woman voting package of vegetarian sausages copy of a standardized test – maybe an SAT or ACT (Note: these should be current pictures if possible.)
- Group C: Pictures from WWII, Vietnam, Berlin Wall, European Union Euros
- Group D: President Truman Douglas MacArthur (Korean War picture) Jeanette Rankin (her 1940 Congressional picture) President Eisenhower
Ask each group to try to find a connection among the pictures. The answer, of course, will be World War I.
How do each of these pieces connect to WWI?
- A Male Wristwatch: At the start of WW1 a wristwatch was recognized as women's jewelry but within a year of trench warfare, the impractical male pocket watch was replaced with the wristwatch and its protective "cage" over the glass and radium dials for nighttime use. A wristwatch was necessary to synchronize maneuvers and to deliver supplies in a timely fashion. Today's wristwatch is not only a timepiece, but a minicomputer as well.
- Oil Rig: Though World War I may have begun with coal power, by war's end it was oil-driven with the internal combustible engine that powered planes, tanks, supply trucks, and mechanized infantry. At war’s end, the question, which continues to plague us today, became: who will control the oil fields in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) and Persia (present-day Iran)? Today when something happens in Iraq or Syria, the price of gasoline rises almost overnight.
- Prosthetic Limb: Prosthetics were needed in such vast numbers during WW1 that the United Kingdom turned to standardization for mass production. Aluminum alloy was introduced as the main material for prosthetics instead of wood. Today's prosthetics are designed for the individual, with many containing microchips and robotics. They function more like a natural limb than ever before.
- Canned Food: Canned food was not new to World War I however, it was not commonly eaten until the need for easy, mass-produced food that could be quickly delivered to the front arose. After the war, the mass-food production industries focused their advertising on the troops who had grown accustomed to their frontline meals and foods they could not get at home. Thus, these canned foods found their way into the home.
- Pilates: While spending time in a British internment camp during WWI, German boxer and bodybuilder Joseph Hubertus Pilates motivated fellow inmates, including the bedridden, with exercise programs that promoted movement and health. After the war he and his wife developed his exercise philosophy, which remains popular today.
- A woman voting: The suffragist movement in Great Britain and the United States began before the First World War broke out. While many suffragists put aside their activism to work outside the home to support the war effort, some suffragists continued their civil disobedience, willing to be imprisoned for their beliefs. However, by war’s end, women throughout the western world had proven their importance to the war effort and were rewarded with the vote in many countries throughout the first half of the 20th century.
- Vegetarian sausages: Because of early food shortages, particularly meat, some Germans ate a cheap meat alternative - vegetarian sausages. These rather tasteless sausages were made from soya, flour, corn, barley and ground rice. Though not incredibly popular at the time, tasty versions of these sausages have found their way into today’s vegetarian diets.
- Standardized testing: During 1917 and 1918, the military tested more than 1.5 million men to determine what type of soldier someone may make. Though one test (Alpha) measured such things as numerical and verbal abilities, another version was typically used for the illiterate or non-English speaking draftees and volunteers. Following the war, institutions of higher learning relied on the Alpha test to determine class placement for students, perhaps eventually leading to the use of the ACT or SAT in college placement.
- World War II: World War I did not directly cause World War II. However, WW1 created several consequences which led to a second World War:
- New states in Eastern Europe who were weak and ripe for the taking by Hitler.
- A devastated Germany and France appeased Hitler to prevent another war.
- U.S. policy of isolationism to avoid being drawn into another European conflict.
- In Asia, Japan turned to militarism and began taking over European holdings.
- Ineffectual League of Nations.
During World War II, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin created a new international security agency, the United Nations, with hope of preventing WWIII.
- Harry Truman: In WWI, Truman served as captain of a field artillery battery, seeing action in St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. Truman was elected Vice President in 1944 became President in April 1945 upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. It was Truman’s decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan to bring WWII to an end. Following WWII, Truman issued an Executive Order in July 1948 desegregating the U.S. military. Truman served as President 1945-1953.
- Douglas MacArthur: In World War I, MacArthur served as commander of the 42 nd Division (the “Rainbow Division”) – 1917-1918. He continued to serve his country following the war. In July 1932 as Chief of Staff of the US Army, he was ordered to clear the Bonus Expeditionary Army marchers (WWI veterans seeking the bonuses they had been promised) from Washington, D.C. During WWII, he led American forces in Pacific campaigns as Supreme Allied Commander, 1941-1945. During the Korean War, MacArthur was commander of the United Nations Command in the Far East 1950-1951.
- Jeannette Rankin: In 1916, Rankin, an avowed pacifist, was the first female elected to Congress. On April 5, 1917, Rankin voted against the declaration of war. In 1918, Rankin ran for the Senate but was defeated. She spent the inter-war years on social welfare issues and pacifism. In 1940, Rankin was reelected to the House of Representatives. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rankin is called on again to vote on a declaration of war, this time against Japan. As she casts the only “no” vote in the House, she stated, “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”
- Dwight Eisenhower: Beginning in September 1917, Eisenhower trained officer candidates at Fort Oglethorpe, GA. By 1918, he was a Commander at Camp Colt (Gettysburg), an Army Tank Corps training center. The war ended before he could be sent overseas. He spent the interwar years serving in the Army developing the skills which will be used in World War II, when he served as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In 1944, he served as the Supreme Commander of Overlord – the D-Day Invasion. Eisenhower served as President of the U.S. from 1953-1961, during which he dealt with Cold War conflicts among his many duties and responsibilities.
For more information on how these connect to the War visit “100 Years 100 Legacies: The Lasting Impact of World War I” from the Wall Street Journal. As an extension activity, you could invite students to investigate an item from one of the categories (Politics, Countries, Armaments, Medicine, Culture, Tactics, Economy) and explain how it connected the 20th or 21 st century to World War I.
Now that you have hooked your students’ attention and initiated a conversation, you can expand the discussion to the impacts of the War. Looking for more areas to highlight? Read an overview of several key WWI developments here. More resources can be found in this World War collection on PBS LearningMedia.
Porters and their families: the forgotten casualties of World War I
The British and German governments - and especially the white settler communities in East and South Africa - did not like the idea of encouraging African men to fight Europeans, so they mostly recruited African men as porters. These men were not considered to be veterans, since they did not fight themselves, but they died in scores all the same, especially in East Africa. Subject to harsh conditions, enemy fire, disease, and inadequate rations, at least 90,000 or 20 percent of porters died serving in the African fronts of World War I. Officials acknowledged that the actual number was probably higher. As a point of comparison, approximately 13 percent of mobilized forces died during the War.
During the fighting, villages were also burned and food seized for the use of troops. The loss of manpower also affected the economic capacity of many villages, and when the final years of the war coincided with a drought in East Africa, many more men, women, and children died.
Environmental Histories of the First World War
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- Publisher: Cambridge University Press
- Online publication date: August 2018
- Print publication year: 2018
- Online ISBN: 9781108554237
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108554237
- Subjects: Environmental History, Military History, History
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This anthology surveys the ecological impacts of the First World War. Editors Richard P. Tucker, Tait Keller, J. R. McNeill, and Martin Schmidt bring together a list of experienced authors who explore the global interactions of states, armies, civilians, and the environment during the war. They show how the First World War ushered in enormous environmental changes, including the devastation of rural and urban environments, the consumption of strategic natural resources such as metals and petroleum, the impact of war on urban industry, and the disruption of agricultural landscapes leading to widespread famine. Taking a global perspective, Environmental Histories of the First World War presents the ecological consequences of the vast destructive power of the new weaponry and the close collaboration between militaries and civilian governments taking place during this time, showing how this war set trends for the rest of the century.
‘Anyone who wants to learn about the global ecological catastrophe that the First World War precipitated must read this book. It is an eye-opener and a disturbing reminder that those who set the Great War in motion had no idea as to what they had let loose on the world.'
Jay Winter - author of War beyond Words: Languages of Remembrances from the Great War to the Present
‘This exciting collection represents the best of the innovative new field of environmental history of war. Looking at the ways that the First World War impacted land, food, and animals it will give us new insights and fresh ways of thinking. This book will be a must read for those wishing to understand the war.'
Michael S. Neiberg - author of The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
‘The truly global coverage of this pioneering environmental perspective on the Great War breathes new life into the notion of ‘total war' by venturing far beyond the battlefield and the hellish mud of the Western Front's trenches to investigate the feeding and fuelling of military support systems, and wider environmental transformations, from Austria-Hungary to Africa and Japan. This ambitious study of nature's mobilization stands out amidst the onslaught of new books accompanying the centenary.'
Peter Coates - co-editor of Militarized Landscapes: From Gettysburg to Salisbury Plain
‘This collection of essays deserves a broad audience. The innovative studies not only enrich the literature on the First World War as a ‘total' global conflict they also present powerful evidence of the interpretive insights that await historians in the broader field in which environmental history and military history intersect.'
Roger Chickering - author of Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914–1918
‘This engaging collection represents a welcome addition to the previously neglected environmental history of World War I. Sharply written chapters focus on the mobilizing of food, oil, and other resources for war, while offering much needed coverage of the environmental consequences of World War I in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This book represents a vital contribution to the burgeoning literature on war and the environment.'
Charles E. Closmann - author of War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age
‘This is something truly new - a wonderful, global collection on one of the most important yet neglected topics in history: the legacy and impact of war on the environment. It brings together some of the best scholars in the field of World War I and environmental history and covers a dazzling array of topics.'
Christof Mauch - Director, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany
'… [a] thoughtful and thought-provoking collection, highly recommended especially for public and college library World History or Environmental Studies collections.'