::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
5 Questions About: The Great War

An Interview With Historian William R. Keylor

(The Great War (1914-1918) – also known as the War to End All Wars and World War One – has always fascinated DaRK PaRTY. One reason is that DP’s grandfather volunteered for the U.S. Marines while 17 years old and ended up fighting at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918. He was shot in the upper thigh, but recovered fully. He used to tell DP’s father – a little more to the left and you wouldn’t be here. Boston University History Professor William R. Keylor knows a thing or two about the Great War having written the book “The Legacy of the Great War: P
eacemaking 1919.” DP recently caught up with the good professor for a quick tutorial on the history of one of the greatest conflicts in 20th century history.)

DaRK PaRTY: Was the Great War really caused by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand?

William: All wars have long-term causes and short-term causes. The assassination of the Archduke was the short-term cause. The long-term causes were: Anglo-German naval rivalry, the conflicting goals of the Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans, and Germany’s decision to launch a preventive war against France and Russia while its leaders believed it enjoyed military superiority over its two adversaries.

DP: The causalities from the Great War were enormous -- nearly 20 million dead and missing and 20 million wounded. Is it accurate to say that an entire generation of European men was wiped out?

William: It is an exaggeration to say that an entire generation was wiped out, but a significant proportion of the men of fighting age in the belligerent states were either killed or severely wounded.

DP: The Great War was infamous for long battles with high causality counts. Which battle turned out to be the most significant and why?

William: The Battle of the Marne in September 1914 was the most significant battle. Had the German Army broken through the French Defenses, the war would have ended and the future history of Europe would have been much different.

DP: What was the most significant impact of the Great War on modern society?

William: There were so many important consequences of the war. If forced to choose one, I would say that the mechanization of warfare during World War One ended for good the old conception of war as a conflict among human beings in which individual initiative and bravery were the key elements in victory.

DP: Did the conditions of the peace negotiated after the Great War set the stage for World War 2? If the conditions had been different could WW2 have been avoided?

William: The peace settlement of 1919 has been unfairly maligned as the cause of World War Two. In fact, the peace settlement was much less vindictive that its critics, beginning with (John Maynard) Keynes, claimed if Germany had accepted the relatively moderate peace terms and learned to live with its smaller territory, Europe would have been spared the agony of another much more destructive war.

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