Total War World War One




“World War I: Total War”


Europe since pre-Roman times has been marked by conflict. Warring tribes often did battle in small skirmishes and hand-to-hand combat. But as the civilizations grew and technology improved the battles became larger and much more intense. With the Industrial revolution, warfare would change forever. This can be best seen in World War One. The “war to end all wars” gradually escalated to a global conflict, dragging the super powers into a four year struggle. World War One brought many new and horrible inventions to the participants both at the front, as well as at home.
There are many reasons why World War I was so much different than all the past conflicts. For one thing, it was the first time in almost one hundred years that all the major super powers were fighting. Not since Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, had England, France, Germany (Prussia at the time of Napoleon), and Russia been fighting at the same time. This in turn made it a global conflict. With all the over sea possessions of these countries, fighting was inevitable in their colonies. This was another first for World War I. Another huge aspect that made this war the first truly “modern” war, has to do with the Industrial Revolution. This revolution did change the nature of battle. No longer was war considered to be one-on-one. With the improvement of the gun and invention of the machine gun, almost anybody could become capable of killing many enemy soldiers. Industrialization of the warring countries meant a better railroad system. In turn, this meant that moving the supplies of war to the front line could be done relatively easily. For the first time also, countries were able use the entire industrial resources to help insure victory with industrial might. A final difference from this war from any other was the use of science and war. It was during this time when science was looked upon to help break the stalemate of the war. This can be seen in the use of poisonous gas. The Germans looked for ways to gain the advantage, and their scientists developed a way to spread Chlorine gas over the unprepared allies.
When war did break out in July, 1914, the belligerents had a high enthusiasm toward the war. The past couple of wars had only lasted a few months at the most. With war between Prussia and France only lasting about eighteen weeks, it was hard for anyone seeing this conflict go any longer. Some of the poetry written during the beginning of the war possesses a romantic flavor. They try to compare the duty of serving in the army as the right thing to do. And dying for your country is the best possible way to die. Another undertone present in the poetry is a deep hatred toward the other side. In Ernest Lissauer’s poem “Hymn of Hate” there is an obvious dislike toward the English (Wiesner, Ruff, and Wheeler, 300). Lissauer repeatedly points out the English are the only one they hate and Germans all hate them together. These attitudes of enthusiasm and hate added the total disillusionment of all the people fighting and encouraging the war.
In examining sources about the soldiers fighting along the front, a common theme appears. Often the situation describes death and destruction. This is evident in the writings on the front-line by Henri Barbusse. Barbusse gives an excellent look about the true tales of World War I. He describes the land around the fighting as hell; with twisted humans and earth scattered all about. He goes on further explaining the futility of charging towards the enemy’s position. The confusion and loss of life running toward a storm of bullets is best captured in these real life, trench stories. In Erich Maria Remarque’s book All Quiet on the Western Front, the German side of the trench life. All in all the same type of death and destruction is evident. Remarque describes the awful conditions facing the collapsing German Army. He tells of the doctors making wounded men go back and fight along the front lines. He further goes on to tell of the starvation and sickness of the soldiers still able to fight. Remarque still