I finally got around to reading history professor Michael Neiberg’s (my nephew) book on WWI, ‘Fighting the Great War’ and became fascinated by the incredible carnage compared to previous and subsequent wars. I have now finished Jeff Shaara’s WWI novel ‘To The Last Man’ which places the literary human element againt the historical background.

WWI was where classic military strategy met modern technology. WWI saw the first use of the tank, the grenade, poison gas, the flamethrower, the airplane, and major advances in light machine guns and large artillery. Yet the commanders threw troops into combat just as every major military leader from Alexander the Great to Ulysses Grant had done.

The result was incredible human carnage. Ten million died on the battlefield, more the 5,000 every day the war was fought. 50,000 Americans died, but we came into the war very late. Most of the Americans died between May and November of 1918. That is about the number we lost in Viet Nam in 14 years. One third of all our pilots died in action. 57 countries participated at some level.

Yet the British and French were also exhausted and defeated and were unable to enforce the harsh peace forced on the Germans. President Wilson was unable to get the American public and leaders to buy into the League of Nations as isolationist sentiment gripped the country.

The result of the peace that no one was either willing or able to enforce was the amazing resurgence of Germany only 20 years later and WWII. The war to end all wars achieved nothing more than an extended truce.

It is a harsh lesson that is still pertinent.