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Sep. 17, 2014  War on Terror   Transformation   News Products   Press Resources   Images   Websites   Contact Us 
The War That Didn't End All Wars

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

They called it "The Great War," and it was a titanic struggle that decimated Europe and killed the young men who were the brightest hope of that generation.

President Woodrow Wilson called it "The War to End All Wars," but he was sadly mistaken. When another conflict erupted 20 years later, "The Great War" became simply World War I.

The war began in 1914 over "some damn foolish thing in the Balkans," as German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck prophesied. A Serb nationalist stepped from a crowd in Sarajevo and shot the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, killing both.

Within weeks, the European continent was split into two camps, with Germany and Austria facing off against France, Russia and Great Britain. Millions of men fought on the Western and Eastern Fronts. All the combatants expected to make quick work of their enemies, but then all aspects of national power came to the defense of the nations, and the war quickly evolved into a stalemate.

Both fronts became killing machines, as generals and admirals, unused to the destructive power of the technologies they unleashed, still ordered attacks using the old rules of warfare. At the Battle of the Somme in 1916, 60,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded on just the first day. The Battle of Verdun -- February to December 1916 -- cost both German and French forces almost 800,000 casualties.

On the Atlantic, German submarines came close to strangling Great Britain as the tonnage of Allied shipping sunk rose.

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