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Veterans Day: 100 Years Since World War I

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November 11 marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the “war to end all wars.” A year after it ended, Veterans Day, then known as “Armistice Day,” began. By 1938, the annual observance became a national holiday. Originally the day was only to celebrate the Veterans of World War I, but eventually evolved to celebrate all American veterans.

World War I was sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on June 28, 1914, by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. The war led to the death of 20 million people, the disappearance of four empires: the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, German, and Ottoman, the end of four dynasties: the Romanovs, Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, and Ottomans, the creation of new countries, and nations’ recovery of their former independent status.

The war was a turning point for the world, never had humanity seen such destruction by such expansive means. The war became the first fought on three battlefields: land, air, and sea. The different types of fighting caused immense destruction from all directions. In some cases, cities and villages, including Fleury-devant-Douaumont, France, never recovered and were abandoned.

The term shell-shocked was coined during the war and used to describe a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. In many cases, the trauma these soldiers experienced resulted in lifetimes of struggle. Chemical weapons had been used in warfare before, but World War I was the first conflict to see them used on such a grand scale. Tear gas, mustard gas, and chlorine left soldiers with burns, blindness, and respiratory problems.

The war had also seen the first use of combat tanks beginning on September 15, 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, France. In the beginning, the tanks were slow, but with time they proved to be essential to the war.

 

Roughly 100,000 British Women entered the military, for the first time in history. The last surviving war veteran from any country had been a Brit, Florence Green, a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force.

 

On November 11, 1918, the Allied Powers and Germany signed the Armistice that ended fighting on the Western Front. Although combat fighting had ceased, the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, five years after the war began, formally ended the state of war they had been in. However, for many, including those who suffered from shell shock, were blinded by mustard gas, or lost a spouse, the war never really ended.

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Veterans Day: 100 Years Since World War I