On November 11 it will be 100 years since World War I “officially” ended. It was the war to end all wars.
President Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a League of Nations to maintain world order and peace was a noble aspiration, but as human history on this planet traversing the cosmos has shown, peace and harmony among nations is an elusive dream. Conflict seems to be part of the human genome, and war is as common as breakfast cereal.
Since 1914 it is estimated that 187 million men, women and children have died in armed conflicts around this global village called Earth. Perhaps, sadly, the number is greater when the suffering of war among the survivors with mental and physical wounds is counted; these are difficult to heal with the passing of time.
War wounds like shell shock are like the tenacious icicles attached to the gable of the roof. They cling to the soul and rob one of the innocence which once resided there.
In 1918 when the war was over, another army lay in the shadows—virulent and swift. Where The Great War had captured over 16 million lives for the Grim Reaper, the pestilence of influenza and its cohorts gave the Reaper globally between 50 to 100 million new victims.
Many who survived the War fell victim to this new plague which had no regard for the returning heroes. Many who had witnessed the first modern conflict with its horrors now faced the unmerciful death of a disease which affected both rich and poor; the mighty and the lowly and all strata of society.
Many saw their loved ones hauled away. The death rate was so horrendous that there were not enough coffins or time to conduct the burial rituals of a society still reeling from the War.
Those who lived through World War II are known as the greatest Generation. However, the World War I generation faced foes more deadly both abroad and at home.
Their suffering prepared the greatest generation for what would come in the years ahead. War on a universal scale would arrive once again for the children of World War I to fight, to suffer and to die.
November 11 is to remember those who served their country. The debt owed to these men and women can never be repaid or deeply appreciated to the extent which is required.
Listed below are two songs of World War I: the British music hall— It’s A Long, Long Way To Tipperary and the American— Over There. Music and war, especially the beat of the drum and the tones of the fife, are enrobed in every conflict.
In 1976 a new song, sober in its tone and harsh in its commentary on war, was written about a teenager who gave his life in France during World War I. His name was Willie McBride who represented all the young men who have died in war over the centuries.
The song Green Fields of France is poignant. It reflects on a 19 year-old’s sacrifice for his country and what he left behind.
Now the sun shines down on the green fields of France
a warm summer wind makes the red poppys dance
The trenches have vanished under the plows,
there’s no gas no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now
but here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s land,
the countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
for man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
to a whole generation that was butchered and damned
Wars are never created by the young. Unfortunately, it is the young who pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Veterans both living and dead should be shown respect and tokens of kindness. For they did what was asked of them without question or hesitation.
Cemeteries, especially national ones, are places of sacred ground. They are to be visited with reverence for those who lived in their time and if they served, honor and respect.
G. D. Williams © 2018
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919
Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war than did enemy weapons.
World War I claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. One fifth of the world’s population was attacked by this deadly virus. Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history.
The impact of the pandemic on the United States is sobering to contemplate: Some 670,000 Americans died.
In 1918, medicine had barely become modern; some scientists still believed “miasma” accounted for influenza’s spread. With medicine’s advances since then, laypeople have become rather complacent about influenza. Today we worry about Ebola or Zika or MERS or other exotic pathogens, not a disease often confused with the common cold. This is a mistake.
When the United States entered the war, Woodrow Wilson demanded that “the spirit of ruthless brutality…enter into the very fiber of national life.” So he created the Committee on Public Information, which was inspired by an adviser who wrote, “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms….The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.”
At Wilson’s urging, Congress passed the Sedition Act, making it punishable with 20 years in prison to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United State…or to urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production in this country of anything or things…necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war.” Government posters and advertisements urged people to report to the Justice Department anyone “who spreads pessimistic stories…cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war.”
Against this background, while influenza bled into American life, public health officials, determined to keep morale up, began to lie.
How Woodrow Wilson’s Propaganda Machine Changed American Journalism
In its crusade to “make the world safe for democracy,” the Wilson administration took immediate steps at home to curtail one of the pillars of democracy – press freedom – by implementing a plan to control, manipulate and censor all news coverage, on a scale never seen in U.S. history.
Following the lead of the Germans and British, Wilson elevated propaganda and censorship to strategic elements of all-out war. Even before the U.S. entered the war, Wilson had expressed the expectation that his fellow Americans would show what he considered “loyalty.”
Military conflict took place during every year of the 20th Century. There were only short periods of time that the world was free of war. The total number of deaths caused by war during the 20th Century has been estimated at 187 million and is probably higher.
Songs of World War I
The most popular song of the early days of World War I, and one of the songs indelibly linked to it, was “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary.” The song was a recent hit of the British music halls at the outbreak of the war, and was being sung by marching soldiers from the first weeks of the conflict. The song has nothing to do with war and is actually a comic account of a homesick Irishman adrift in London, but somehow it fit, and was picked up by English speaking soldiers throughout Europe. It quickly crossed the Atlantic, and the American Quartet recorded the song on September 15, 1914. Other versions followed, and even a sequel of sorts called “Tip -Top Tipperary Mary,” recorded by the Peerless Quartet in November of that year.
John McCormack – It’s A Long Way To Tipperary. This famous world war I British anthem was first recorded by John McCormack(1884-1945) in 1914 with the VICTOR recording label. Several versions of the song were performed later by various singers.
George M. Cohan in 1917 wrote this song which is sung by Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso.