WWI soldiers training in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Photo from the Boston Public Library on Flickr.
David Lawrence Jr. is president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, a former publisher of the Miami Herald and a past trustee of History Miami. Knight Foundation and History Miami are co-sponsoring the symposium “World War I: A Century Later” on Saturday, Sept. 20 at New World Center.
It was a war of machine guns and aeroplanes and tanks and trenches and chemical weapons and poison gases that gagged and suffocated. All these implements of war were either introduced in those years, or perfected in, under and over the killing fields of France and Belgium and Germany. It was a war that shaped the Middle East, leading to today’s terror. It led to fascism and communism – and Hitler and Lenin and Stalin (and evils that ensnarled a century).
Sixteen million people died in those four years, 1914-18, 116,000 of them Americans.
It was an accidental war. Shouldn’t have happened. But did. Its cause was way more complicated than the Archduke of the fading Austro-Hungarian Empire getting assassinated in Sarajevo.
Subsequently, we – all of us, vengeful winners in Europe and naive statesman in the United States – botched the peace. It all looked so promising at the time, but looking back now we see the almost inexorable pathway to the next world war (the one we remember). If only we had really remembered the great lessons of the great war….