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The war to end all wars:100 years ago

By Cpl. Sarah Cherry | | January 30, 2014


One hundred years ago today, the world was in the calm before the whirling storm of World War I. Few suspected the raging war which would soon pull countries across the world into a global battlefield.

Later that same year, war broke out on an international scale as 30 countries declared war or joined the war on behalf of an ally.

The United States announced neutrality, a status that would change on April 6, 1917 when the U.S. entered the war. Tension erupted between Germany and the United States after Germany’s attempt at isolating Britain, one of the United States closest trading partners.

"Marines up to this point had been used as an amphibious force and ship guards," said Dr. Stephen Wise, the museum director for the Parris Island Museum. "For the first time, you’re seeing Marines operating away from their logistical assistance in the Navy."

The history of the Marine Corps at the start of the Great War was characterized by Marine detachments aboard naval vessels subduing the Barbary pirates, dueling frigates in the War of 1812, and the Banana Wars in the Caribbean among other actions.

Wise said the Marines of the time were more experienced than their Army counterparts, with skill in amphibious assault from recent combat in the Banana Wars. While they were more experienced, they were not as well grounded in fighting on land. During the war, two Marine divisions served attached to the Army.

The war to end all wars is not only etched into the heart of the earth for the sheer geographical scale on which it took place. New technology spurred a need for new methods of fighting.

Reconnaissance reviewed photographs of enemy fortification, better weapons drastically improved the ability to kill the enemy, and troops from opposing countries dug down into the earth for protection from this new artillery.

The impact of the war was far reaching. Countries once close were now enemies, like Russia and Germany, and former enemies allied, like France and Russia. The League of Nations, forerunner to the United Nations, was formed and later failed. France wanted financial retribution and revenge for the damage Germany caused in the country, while Britain wanted a balance of power. The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, and Italy didn’t get Austrian land that they wanted. Revolutions sparked across the globe, including Russia, Germany and Hungary.

Germany was drastically restricted by the Treaty of Versailles; Germanic land given to France, Belgium, Denmark, Czechoslovakia and Poland; army reduced to 100,000; and a colossal bill to pick up of 132 billion marks, about 30 billion dollars today, a bill that Germany would not finish paying until 2010.

The cost of the Great War was heavy for all parties with 16 million dead civilian and military alike and 21 million wounded, and set the stage for the horrific scenes of World War II.