Great War of 1914-1918. The writer answers the question "Why was there so much initial support for the war and what did that do to the soldiers in the trenches?" The writer details the world's mindset at the time and the factors that escalated the situation, which in turn garnered initial support for the violence that ensued. There were three sources used to complete this paper.
Wars have been a fact of life since the beginning of time. Historically, wars have been about religious disagreements, political power, or economic need. Most wars can be traced to one of these causes with little underlying secondary foundation. The Great War of 1914-1918 is an exception to this rule of thumb. The Great War on the outside appeared to be founded in an assassination but if one peels the top layer away and examines the underpinnings one will discover a deeper, more broad reaching meaning. The Great War initially received a tremendous amount of support worldwide because mankind had recently industrialized to the point of being able to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and violence. The governments of the nations fighting in the Great War were initially enthusiastic with their new found "toys" and like little boys lining up in the yard with their toys, the nations rushed to display and show off their ability to create wide spread destruction. This new ability and eagerness to show off the ability caused men who were in the trenches to die in mass numbers. The Great War and the opportunities it presented triggered the initial enthusiasm by the involved nations and presented trench solider as fish in a barrel for the weapons to target.
The Great War will forever be known as the war which led mankind into the future. The Great War years separate the world into two eras. The era before the Great War was lacking industrialization and modernization while the years following the Great War were modernized and marching forward in progress (Fussell, 1975). The Great War stood at the brink of change. The world had spent its history working to develop necessities that would allow survival, while the after math of the Great War saw the world launched into an era that allowed leaps and bounds technologically.
During the Great War the initial support of many world nations for the war had more to do with that era change than the war itself. The Great War allowed various nations to flex their industrialized muscles and demonstrate the technological advancements they had discovered. Weapons such as hand grenades, machine guns, aircraft bombers and poisonous gases created a mindset of power that escalated during the initial months of the war (Fussell, 1975).
The war provided more than weapons however (Ellis, 1991). The same technological advances that provided the new weapons of destruction also provided the ability to invent the wristwatch, daylight savings time and other positive contributions to society. It also gave the world the ability to kill in mass numbers.
As the world discovered just what it was capable of the men in the trenches during the war were used as target bait to prove the power (Ellis, 1991).
WEAPONS OF DESTRUCTION
For the first time in history weapons reached technically superior heights. There were hand grenades, gases, aircraft and machine guns. These weapons had not been used in widespread capacities previously therefore the war strategies that various nations had developed were designed around more primitive methods of defensive and offensive actions. One of the most tried and true war strategies that had worked in the past had been a trench (Chickering, 1998). Service men would go into trenches, which were holes or pathways dug into the ground. They could duck and hide, as well as shoot toward enemy lines with the safety of being in the ground to protect them. The new technology provided weapons that made trench hiding as dangerous as a suicide mission in many cases. The use of aircraft and fighter pilots was one of the first indicators that trench men were in trouble. As the planes flew in fast and low they would unleash rains of bullets at hundreds per minute from the front or wings of the planes. The men in the trenches had nowhere to go and were consequently killed by the hundreds in single raids (Fussell, 1975). In addition if they rushed out of the trench and tried to run for cover the machine gun ability allowed the enemy to mow them down. This ability to attack from the air with such destructive results caused governments involved in the war to step up their efforts to gain power through the use of force.
Hand grenades were another new tool of destruction that excited the powers in the war. One could pull the pin on a single grenade and toss it into a trench and take out dozens of men with death and maiming. Poisonous gases also provided the ability to kill many enemy soldiers with a single effort.
The single shot rifle was replaced by the newly developed machine gun and for the first time in world history there was no way to live if faced with some of these weapons
The governments were initially self impressed with these new destruction abilities and ordered many violent campaigns to show the world what they were capable of. The initial excitement provided for a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the war before the governments began to understand just how destructive the weapons can be.
Alongside the power happy newness of the destruction weapons came the fear of falling behind other nations in power and land. As each nation became involved and showed the weapons it had at its disposal concern began to surface that power would be lost to those who were most aggressive. The aggressive nature of the war is evidenced in the tales, stories, and written works of the former trench soldiers who lived it.
The nations who became involved in the war did so with enthusiasm at first. While it slowed down within the year the initial support was very strong. The support was no longer about what had triggered the war, but more about the coming of age technologically and the ability to seize power with that technology. Once the world began to see that the weapons of mass destruction were killing hundreds of thousands of men within month long periods they began to reassess their commitment to continue. While the reasons given for the slow down were not tied to technological issues when one views the evidence it becomes apparent. Body counts that were higher than ever before spurred an initial thrill or rush of adrenaline on a government level that had not been seen in the past.
The men in the trenches, which sometimes stretched for miles had to learn coping skills to survive emotionally and mentally while being shelled and targeted with weapons designed to destroy them. The men spent many hours writing letters to loved ones, and whether they got there or not was not as important as the ability to put their feelings and fears down in writing for a cathartic relief. In addition the men spent long hours telling each other about their lives before the war and what their pplans were going to be if they got out alive. Because of the new weapons and the governments willingness to cause mass deaths each man who went into the trenches was fully aware there was a good chance that they would never get out. The men had to survive hand grenades, poisonous gas, air raids and machine gun fire, all while trying to fight back and gain ground. In the previous wars experienced by mankind a campaign could take months…