via the Albany Times Union (NY) newspaper web site
ALBANY, NY – City officials marked the third Henry Johnson Day to honor World War I hero Sgt. Henry Johnson on the 102nd anniversary of his enlistment.
Henry Johnson monument in Henry Johnson Park in Albany, N.Y. (Catherine Rafferty/Times Union)The Albany man was part of the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment and his actions in May 1918 posthumously earned him the Medal of Honor in 2015. President Barack Obama bestowed the highest military honor an American soldier can receive on June 2, 2015, in a White House ceremony.
At Wednesday's ceremony, Mayor Kathy Sheehan awarded city School Board Member Tabetha Wilson with the third Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service. The award honors those who have "demonstrably given of their time and talent to build a better Albany."
The annual award is a minted silver commemorative Henry Johnson Medal.
Tabetha who works for the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, also serves on non-profit boards including as president of AVillage and a member of the Capital District New Leaders Council and Grand Street Community Arts.
The Albany Housing Coalition awarded its second Charles Chandler Memorial Scholarship Award to Irene Nelson, a senior at Albany High School and member of the Junior ROTC Henry Johnson Battalion. The $1,000 college scholarship is given for an essay on Johnson's impact today.
Johnson enlisted in the Army during a time of racial segregation when the U.S. Army refused to allow black soldiers in combat. Members of 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters, fought under French command.
'WWI America' at the Bob Bullock Texas state History Museum does cover the European conflict, but it focuses on the impact of World War I on America, which went from a relatively peaceful and prosperous place to a one of pronounced divisions, at times near chaos. (Contributed by the Bullock Texas State History Museum)
Austin WWI exhibit shows how U.S peace turned to near anarchy
By Michael Barnes via the Austin American-Statesman newspaper (TX) web site
Wars change nations. Big wars change nations in big ways.
Few were as big as the Great War, otherwise known as World War I, which ended not much more than 100 years ago with the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918.
The United States entered the European showdown of doomed empires late but with enormous impact, especially back at home, as a densely organized and visually sharp exhibit, “WWI America,” argues at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The exhibit runs through Aug. 11.
This exhibit, which originated with the highly regarded Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minn., includes a fair share of personal stories, such as ones about “doughboys” like Charles Whittlesey, part of a “Lost Brigade” caught behind German lines, and José de la Luz Saenz, who fought for democracy in France and against racial segregation in the U.S.
Yet pictures and numbers do the heavy lifting in this impressive show that’s squeezed into the Bullock’s special exhibition space downstairs.
Meditate at the entry to the exhibit, for instance, on statistics about the U.S. in 1914, at the start of the war that the country did not join until April 2, 1917. The U.S. population stood at 103 million, less than a third of what it is today. One in seven Americans were foreign born, about the same as today. Ninety percent of Americans were considered white, as opposed to 63 percent these days. A third of American households had telephones, but only one in 10 Americans paid income tax, recently made possible by the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was ratified in 1913.
In 1914, just 16 teams played major league baseball, “America’s pastime,” and manufacturing jobs brought in an average of 53 cents an hour in wages. More Americans lived in rural areas than in cities and towns, and a third of the population was younger than 15 years old.
Number, please? 'Hello Girls' answered the call in World War I
By Richard Cowen via the North Jersey Record (NJ) newspaper web site
Grace Banker served in some very high places during World War I. For 20 months, she lived like a soldier at a time when the Army didn't allow women in the ranks.
She wore a U.S. Army uniform with three stripes on her sleeve and carried a helmet and a gas mask to the front lines in France. And like any soldier, Banker had to keep her cool under fire, working the switchboard at Gen. John Pershing's headquarters amid the thunder of artillery shelling.Grace BankerThe Cenotaph in Armory Park in Passaic.
In France, she learned to fire a pistol — just in case. And when Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through a showdown with the Germans at the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne, Banker was with him, keeping the lines of communication open in the closing campaign of the war.
True to the cause, the Passaic resident didn't come home right away when the war ended in November of 1918. Banker went to Paris to operate the switchboard at President Woodrow Wilson's residence during negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles, which set down the terms of the new peace.
Banker was one of 223 women who volunteered for the U.S. Army Signal Corps as telephone switchboard operators. The newspapers dubbed them "The Hello Girls" — a moniker that many of them disliked, but one that stuck.
"She was an extraordinary daughter from Passaic who went on the world stage," said Mark Auerbach, the city historian. "The telephone was the cutting-edge technology of its time, and good communications saved many lives."
Five years after the war, on Memorial Day in 1924, Banker donned her Army uniform and stood with Pershing when he came to Passaic to dedicate the Cenotaph in honor of World War I soldiers that stands in Armory Park. Around the same time, Banker married and moved out of Passaic to Scarsdale, New York, packing her uniform, helmet and gas mask into a trunk and taking it with her.
Banker settled down and raised a family in Scarsdale, and her story seemed all but lost to history.
Recently, Banker's granddaughter, Carolyn Timbie, came to Passaic with her husband, Dustin, to see the house at 227 Van Houten Ave. where Banker grew up. Timbie never met her grandmother, but she has spent much of her time piecing together the story and came to Passaic wanting to know more.
"My grandmother was an amazing woman," said Timbie, who lives in New Hampshire. "She was intelligent, and independent-minded. I think she figured, 'I'm going to do my bit to help win the war.' "
David Hamon, the WW1CC's Military/Veteran Liaison, accepts a check for $1,700 from Elizabeth Kraatz, from the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone DAR Chapter Kalamazoo MI. Ceremony took place last week at the DAR Continental Congress in Washington, DC.
An Extraordinary Community Project Leads to a Special Donation from the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter of the DAR
By Chris Isleib Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Our effort to build the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC has brought us partners from many different parts of the country, and from many different groups of people. The stories they bring to us are extraordinary -- their personal/historic ties to World War I, their belief in remembering our veterans, their commitment to giving the lessons to future generations. Among the most extraordinary stories of support comes to us from Kalamazoo County, Michigan -- specifically from the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Their members created a special project to mark the centennial of the end of World War I. As part of that project, they included a fundraiser aimed at helping build out memorial in the nation's capital. We had the opportunity to speak to Elizabeth Kraatz, Vice Regent of the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter, to hear the full story.
Tell us about this special donation to the new National WWI Memorial. Who is your organization, How did it come about, who helped to put it together, who contributed?
The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter is the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Founded in 1890, the DAR is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization. We're open to any woman 18 years or older -- regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background -- who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution. The DAR is the world’s largest women’s service organization. Our objectives are Historic Preservation, Education, and Patriotism. One of the ways that we preserve our country's history is to commemorate historic events, such as the centennial of the First World War.
The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone chapter sponsors the Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung Society, Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.) and its Junior American Citizens Club (JAC). “Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung” means “pot of boiling water” and was the name the Potawatomi used for the area; with time, it morphed into the name “Kalamazoo.” The C.A.R. was founded in 1895 by Harriet Lothrop, the author of the beloved “Five Little Peppers” series of children’s books and a DAR member. C.A.R. is open to all children – boys and girls, birth to 21 – who can trace their ancestry to a patriot of the American Revolution. The C.A.R. is the nation’s oldest and largest patriotic youth organization. Its mission is to promote true patriotism and love of country and development of leaders through education and service projects. The JAC was established by the DAR in 1901 and is open to all children, regardless of ancestry, who are interested in exploring their American history and heritage.
The money was raised through a Luminarium - an installation of hundreds of glowing luminarias -- in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park, both in 2017 and again in 2018. The Luminarium was co-sponsored by the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter, NSDAR and the Ki-Ka-Ma-Sung Society, N.S.C.A.R. Additional volunteer support was provided by two key groups: the Colonel Joseph B. Westnedge Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and Boy Scout Troop 205. Colonel Westnedge was the beloved leader of the troops from Kalamazoo (126th Infantry, 32nd Division). He was hospitalized during the last week of WWI and died of septicemia on November 29, 1918. He is buried in the American Army Cemetery in Nantes. Providing volunteer assistance in his honor and memory was one of the first service projects for the newly-organized SAR chapter that bears his name. Boy Scout Troop 205 was founded in 1916 and is the oldest troop in Kalamazoo. A number of “boys” from Troop 205 served in WWI including its first Eagle Scout, Donald Charles MacEwan, who served as a Sergeant in the Medical Corps and was wounded at Juvigny. The Troop 205 boys of 2018 provided volunteer service for the Luminarium in honor of the Troop 205 “boys” of 1918.
Ideaventions Academy students at the school looking at the World War I exhibit displays.
Year-long WWI Research Project by Reston, VA High School Group
"Students often discover WWI to be far more interesting than they expected it to be."
By Chris Isleib Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
A major reason why the Centennial Commission does what it does is to ensure the stories, and the lessons, of World War I are given to our coming generations. So, last month, we were thrilled to hear from Mr. Hugh Gardner, and Ms. Lachlan Dodge, who work with the Ideaventions Academy in Reston, Virginia. There, they helped their high school level students to create and carry out a World War I research project that took place over this entire school year. We wanted to hear more, and sent them a number of questions about the project -- and they asked students Daniel Heitz and Nolan Powers to be the spokespersons for the effort.
Tell us about your class project. What did you study, and what did you create? What is the URL for your web site?
Following a year-long study of WW1, we selected from the research papers that we wrote for class and were proud of and created a web site to educate others about WW1.
The URL for the site is: http://idvhonorshistory.weebly.com. The website is organized by Technologies, People, Analyses and Reviews (incl. books, movies, games and museums). We're still working on getting permission to use some of the images that were sourced from books.
How did you organize yourselves? How did your research process work?
Nolan (student):Ideaventions Academy students at the school holding up WWI item from the hands-on exhibit The process would start by defining a topic that had to do with WWI. I would then find books in either the book annex at our school or buying books from Amazon or other online book providers. I would also look online for websites that were reputable and helpful. The next step would be to read all of the sources and take notes to fully understand the topic. The next step before writing would be to create an outline and have it approved by our teacher, Mr. Gardner.
For one paper I happened to be in Kansas City and so I wrote a paper on the National World War One Memorial Museum.
Daniel (student): I would start by choosing a topic, and then I would ask my teacher if he knew any good, reliable books on the topic. Then, I would look at books that were either available online or that we owned, and see if they would work as a good source. Usually, by now I would have plenty of sources, but if I didn't, then I would do a Google search about the topic, including looking at museum websites.
Once, I interviewed Dr. Patrick R. Jennings, Programs and Education specialist for the National Museum of the United States Army about the exhibit on World War One. I also talked to docents at the National Museum of the United States Navy and the National Museum of the United States Marine Corps.
Nolan (student): Our history teacher was one of the most helpful people during this process recommending books, topics and places to get more information. He would also help with the writing process, including beginning to edit phases to deciding how the backbone of the paper would look like. He would also provide feedback on our papers that would help us in future papers. For example, he recommended that I go to the National Air and Space Museum to write my paper on synchronized machine gun development.
Daniel (student): The people who helped most were probably my mom and our history teacher. They recommended books and helped workshop themes/topics for my papers. My mom helped with the editing process and showed me tips to help make the paper cleaner. Both of them helped me break-up my paper into different sections with different ideas when I was making the outlines.
Soldiers of Company A, 325th Field Signal Battalion, standing on Mound #7 of the Mound City Earthworks during WWI. (Ohio History Connection via Ohio Memory.)
Camp Sherman versus the Mound City Earthworks
By Paul LaRue, Ohio WWI Centennial Committee Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site
The Scioto Valley in South Central Ohio is home to numerous important Pre-Contact American Indian earthworks. The visible heritage of Ohio's Pre-Contact American Indians are the mounds and earthworks that dot the landscape in Southern Ohio.
One of the most important Pre-Contact earthworks is the Mound City Earthworks, part of the Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park near Chillicothe, Ohio. The Mound City Earthworks had been explored and documented as early as the 1840's. In 2017, USA Today selected the Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park as one of its top ten sites in the country in an article titled Ten Great Places to Honor the Original Americans. Ohio fourth grade students learn of these Pre-Contact American Indians, who were the state's first inhabitants. One hundred years ago, the Mound City Earthworks were partially destroyed by Camp Sherman, a World War I cantonment.
In 1917, after the declaration of war, the United States Government leased 9700 acres of land outside Chillicothe, Ohio. Two thousand buildings would be constructed on the leased land, making Camp Sherman the third largest cantonment in the country. More than 120,000 men from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia would train at Camp Sherman. Some of the 9700 acres of Camp Sherman were adjacent, and on top of, the Mound City Earthworks.
The roads, barracks, and latrines of Camp Sherman encroached upon the thirteen-acre Mound City Earthworks with its more than twenty mounds. Some mounds, such as the large mound #7, were spared. Others, like mounds #13 and #23, were "cut down" to accommodate barracks (though the barracks were built over and did not intrude into the mound). Unfortunately for the earthworks, World War I temporarily overshadowed their historical significance.
The 369th Experience. a WWI tribute band sponsored by the U.S WWI Centennial Commission, performs in May in Rockefeller Center during Fleet Week New York, which this year commemorated World War I. The band, which is made up of music students from HBCUs across the U.S. plays the musical repertoire of New York's legendary 369th Regiment Harlem Hellfighters Regimental Jazz Band. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for U.S. WWI Centennial Commission)
369th Experience Band ties HBCU musicians to WWI Black history
By Leonard E. Colvin via the Philadelphia Tribune newspaper web site
In 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles ended World War I, two years after the U.S. entered the fight with France and Great Britain against Germany, 44 Black colleges existed.
Today, 100 years later, there are 101 public and private HBCUs, and they and their students are playing an important part in reclaiming the role African-American troops and artists played in that conflict.
Thanks to the United States World War I Centennial Commission, Coca Cola and the network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), a band of 42 accomplished musicians from HBCUs are traveling around the country playing the sounds of the 369th Infantry Regimental Band that made its mark in history during World War I and World War II.
The old wartime regimental band was reincarnated four years ago in the form of the 369th Experience. Most of the new band’s 42 members are current students or pending graduates of the HBCUs.
Its namesake, the 369th Infantry Regimental Band of WWI and WWII, used musical instruments and its artists with a flair for Jazz, originated by African Americans, to establish its legacy, and introduce the art form to the Europeans.
The WWI band was formed to accompany the 369th Infantry Regiment, a group of Black fighting troops. Its assignment was to boost the morale of the Black troops comprising the 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly known as the 15th New York National Guard Regiment and commonly referred to as the Harlem Hellfighters.
Dwight David Eisenhower on the 1919 military convoy that ran from the East to the West Coast on the Lincoln Highway.
From the World War I Centennial News Podcast
Ike's Big Road Trip
Podcast episode #130, July 5, 2019
Written By David Kramer and Theo Mayer
When the American Expeditionary Forces, the AEF, went to Europe to fight in WWI, a number of commanders were struck with the strategic importance of transportation infrastructure. Troops got moved through the regions by water, rail AND roads in ways that were strategically critical.
In 1919 there was no functional national road system in America! All major transport was via rail… so with the emergence of internal combustion engine driven technologies like trucks and tanks, it became clear to several commanders that their own homeland was vulnerable for lack of road based infrastructure.
As a young officer in World War One, George S. Patton was part of the newly formed United States Tank Corps of the AEF. He was commanding the U.S. tank school in France before being wounded while leading tanks into combat near the end of the war.
State-side another young officer - a 1915 graduate from West Point named Dwight D. Eisenhower who was put in charge of a unit that trained Tank crews in the US.
During the interwar period, Patton and Eisenhower struck up a friendship. As two young “new style” officers, the guys bonded over their shared military enthusiasm their love of military strategy - but most of all - they were both head-over-heels into the new battlefield power tech of TANKS.
With that as a setup - let’s jump into our Centennial Time Machine and go back 100 years to an interesting story that plays out during the aftermath of the WAR THAT CHANGED THE WORLD! The segment was prepared by podcast researcher and writer - David Kramer and is called - Ike’s Big Road Trip!
[WAYBACK MACHINE SOUND EFFECT]
In July of 1919, it would be hard to image a world where you might casually take a road trip across the nation - let’s say from Washington DC to San Francisco…
You’d never imagine jumping into a reliable and air-conditioned machine - with adaptive stop-n-go cruise control - with a hybrid-gas-electric power train - a magical map that guides you to your destinations - let’s you know where to refuel, suggests the “best placed to eat” along the way as you listen to music being curated for you on the fly and making the whole trip at a pretty leisurely pace, in voila - in under 5 days - it’s hello Pacific!
The Americans who laid down their lives in the Great War deserve a memorial
By Ray Kelly via the New York Post newspaper web site
As the smoke clears from the Fourth of July fireworks sent aloft over Washington, DC, something profound is still missing from our nation’s capital: America’s World War I Memorial.
A Marine lieutenant who served in the Vietnam War, Raymond Kelly was commissioner of the New York Police Department from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2002 to 2013, making him the first person to hold the post for two non-consecutive tenures.More than 100 years after the end of that brutal, searing conflict, the Americans who laid down their lives in Europe have yet to be honored with a memorial worthy of their sacrifice.
In our rush to celebrate our national holiday, and amid our often-squalid daily politics, we continue to lose our connection to a combat that inflicted more than 116,000 American causalities, a war that left more “Doughboys” on the battlefield within a short 18 months than the losses suffered by our armed forces by the end of the Korean and Vietnam wars — combined.
Well into the 21st century, with no survivors left from World War I to demand that this wrong be righted, we are left to our national conscience to reflect on what we owe that generation.
In doing so, we are afforded the opportunity to consider the lasting legacy of that shattering conflict, including: women’s suffrage, civil rights, the emergence of modern medicine and the role of America as an economic and military superpower.
Who we are today was forged in the crucible of the Great War. But for 100 years, we have declined to pay tribute to the Americans who fought it by erecting a lasting and fitting memorial in the capital.
Our nation’s capital is home to monuments and memorials to great leaders, poets and politicians, milestone achievements and past sacrifices required to sustain our republic. There is a triumphant memorial to World War II and a deeply reflective Vietnam memorial that pays tribute to those I served with during that conflict.
The Korean War is captured with poignant statuary: A solidarity sailor reflects on those lost at sea. The shared purpose of these memorials is to permanently capture our nation’s everlasting obligation to remember, reflect and honor.
Still there is no national memorial in Washington, DC, that allows us to honor those Americans who gave their lives in World War I. Today, that unfinished business is being attended to, but it requires assistance.
Professors dig through history to prove WWI hero deserves a Medal of Honor
via the CBS News television web site
Sgt. William Butler served with the renowned all-black 369th Infantry Regiment during World War I. His heroism made headlines after he rescued five Americans who had been taken prisoner, while killing at least five Germans.
The 369th got a parade on their return, and Butler received the Distinguished Service Cross and France's highest military honor, but not the U.S. Medal of Honor. Professor Jeffrey Sammons of New York University said that's largely because of a concerted and well-documented effort by senior white officers to denigrate the performance of black soldiers.
Sammons has joined forces with professor Timothy Westcott of Park University in Missouri to right what they see as a terrible wrong.
"We are going to fix it with the best forensics and genealogical and historical research that we can possibly do," Westcott said.
Westcott and his students are combing through the records of more than 100 World War I minority service members who received the Distinguished Service Cross but might have deserved more.
"I'm just astonished by what these men did," said sophomore Joshua Weston, who is a veteran. "When you look at Caucasian members of the military, if they were to perform the same actions they would be given the Medal of Honor in a heartbeat."
Their work is supported by bipartisan legislation now before Congress which would require the Defense Department to do a systematic review of potential Medal of Honor candidates identified.
Butler later took his own life and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Student Ashlyn Weber hopes his headstone will one day read: Medal of Honor.
"If I can do anything in my power to make sure some of these men live again I will do it," she said.
A mission based on a belief that it's never too late to do the right thing.
Iowa Middle School teacher visits WWI sites in France
By Adam Sodders via the Marshalltown Times-Republican newspaper (IA) web site
PARIS – June was an exciting month for one local school teacher and history buff.
Miller Middle School teacher Ann Jackson reads a eulogy she wrote for Pvt. Frederick Eckstrom, a Swedish immigrant who moved to Marshalltown before joining the service in World War I.Miller Middle School Extended Learning Program teacher Ann Jackson landed in France for a history-filled trip to explore World War I sites as part of Memorializing the Fallen, a National History Day program.
“We’ve spent our time going through all of the American cemeteries and speaking with superintendent’s of those cemeteries,” Jackson said. “It’s been such a rich time of learning, not only about World War I but also collaborating with other teachers.”
The program included 16 other U.S. teachers. Jackson was chosen out of 334 applicants to take the trip. Along with American cemeteries, the group also checked out German war trenches, chapels, monuments and more.
This year is of particular significance when it comes to World War I. Exactly 100 years ago Friday, the warring nations signed the Treaty of Versailles, bringing an end to one of the bloodiest wars in human history.
The treaty was monumental in 20th century history. According to National Geographic, the treaty included harsh terms for one of the primary nations in the conflict — Germany.
Specifically, the treaty stripped a large chunk of land from German territory, dwindled the country’s military and demanded war reparations totaling about $37 billion in U.S. dollars, among other demands.
Many historians say the treaty was, in part, responsible for the dire financial situation Germany soon found itself in. With an economy struggling mightily, figures like Adolf Hitler were able to rise and take power.
Jackson said it was interesting to see the areas directly impacted by World War I and to think about how decisions made 100 years ago shaped future events.
U.S. Army Private 1st Class Raymond W. Maker, left, and the key he says he took from Verdun, France, around the end of World War I. His grandson, Bruce Norton, went to France last November to return the key back to the town.
World War I centennial: US author honors grandfather by returning key taken from France 100 years ago
By Greg Norman via the Fox News web site
One hundred years ago on this date, U.S. Army Private 1st Class Raymond W. Maker wrote in his diary “today is one of the happiest days of my life."
“The War is off, thank God. And all the boys have gone about half mad with joy. Bands are playing all day and at night all kinds of flares in the sky,” he beamed, capturing the relief felt among Allied forces as World War I officially came to an end.
It was a thrilling moment for Maker who, during the war, had been hit with mustard gas from the German army, wounded by artillery fire during the Muese-Argonne offensive – the deadliest battle in U.S. military history – and later went on to earn a Purple Heart for his service.
A century later, on Veterans Day 2018 – marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended The Great War – his grandson, Bruce Norton, was in France retracing Maker’s footsteps and honoring him by returning a key his grandfather took during the war. Norton joined the many Americans remembering the heroics of family members from generations past.
“My grandfather never spoke about the war to me, and it was only after his death that war stories were told at family gatherings about his service in France,” Norton, a former Marine and military author who is writing a book about Maker’s service, told Fox News.
From left, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Italian Council President Vittorio Orlando, French Council President Georges Clemenceau and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attend the opening day of the Conference for Peace in Paris on Jan. 19, 1919. (AFP/Getty Images)
Learning the wrong lessons from World War I?
By Gabriel Glickman via the Washington Post newspaper web site
This week, we celebrate peace, notably, the centennial of the peace treaty that brought an end to the First World War. The average person today may take this for granted: We live during an era in which war and violence are no longer celebrated. But this progress is a double-edged sword because the lack of large-scale war, combined with weariness from almost two decades of continuous American deployment to the Middle East, makes us numb to the roads that can lead to a larger conflagration.
Because we are transitioning toward a more competitive and perilous international order, today should also be an occasion to reflect on the cause of a war that sucked in established and aspiring powers alike during a time of peace. After all, it is much better to learn from war than to live through it.
With more than 30,000 accounts of the war written in the English language, World War I has commanded the attention of scholars and politicians since it ended. They have asked the question: What brought those nations into such a devastating conflict? What lessons can we learn from it to stop future localized crises from spinning out of control?
The most popular description of it is that it was an “accidental war.” This argument posits that political leaders absent-mindedly slid into war without realizing the magnitude of the risk they were taking. New archival evidence has shown a more disturbing truth that historical figures were making decisions with their eyes wide open.
This is the pressing lesson we need to understand now. Great-power rivalry can dangerously affect decision-making during a time of peace. In the words of Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan, “National rivalries fueled an arms race which in turn deepened insecurities and so added yet more impetus to the race. Nations looked for allies to make up for their own weaknesses and their decisions help to bring Europe closer to war.”
This happened in four ways. First was the rivalry between Germany and Great Britain. From the turn of the 20th century, the two were locked in an economic competition and an arms race for naval supremacy. By 1913, leaders in both countries announced that the rivalry was at an end, but the dynamic seemed to persist. On the eve of the war, neither appeared willing to tolerate the other’s dominance.