Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Great War

It was only later after the end of the conflict that it was called by the names it is known by today - the First World War or World War I. It was only when World War II commenced, that the world knew of a second global conflict.

During the war it was sometimes gloriously referred to as a War to End All Wars; expectations were as high as the number of casualties, but 20 years later another global conflict would consume the planet. And, since then, mankind has seen fit to fight other wars and battles.

It was also called The Great War. The use of the word" great" must have been ironic, for one has to think of ways in which to consider this war, or any war, great. Certainly, no one involved could be said to have had a great time. There were massive frontal assaults of infantry soldiers met by machine guns spewing deadly fire and rolling barrages of artillery, gas attacks that poisoned the air and sickened the lungs, trench warfare that caused all forms of sickness and disease. All these factors were brutal and deadly. More than 70 million military personnel were involved with more than 15 million deaths. So, only in this one sense, death and destruction, can this war be called great.

The war officially ended in an armistice on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m. At this moment, the guns fell silent and it was all quiet on the western front. This phrase "All Quiet on the Western Front" became the title for a book by Erich Marie Remarque, describing the horrific experiences of German soldiers during the war. The phrase derives from the dispatches sent from the front to the headquarters, and the occasional moments when the carnage stopped and for the moment it was "quiet on the front."

At the hour, day, month and year that this war ended, Major James Madison Pearson was being transferred from 1st Army Headquarters to Third Division Headquarters. Major Pearson or Pierson, the spelling is French, would remain overseas until October of 1919 serving with the Third Division keeping the peace. Before returning to the United States, Major Pierson would meet, fall in love with, and marry Marguerite Chevallier Meine, a French girl from the village of Graffign-Chemin. So, in this one ironic sense, it was a great war.



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