In northern France leaders from 21 EU countries gathered at Verdun, the first great battle of the war, which lasted for an appalling ten months, and where an estimated 600,000 casualties (dead, wounded, missing) were taken. In
The statistics of WWI are staggering. It lasted five years, and involved 35 countries. Over 65 million soldiers fought; 10 million died and 20 million were wounded. For the first time in history, the full power of modern technology was brought to bear in making war, such as airplanes, tanks and submarines. However, the most horrible aspect of WWI, for which it is remembered, was its brutal trench warfare. As defenses dug in, attacking forces were slaughtered in record numbers—on the first day of the Battle of Somme, for example, 80,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded. Also, for the first time in history, the war was fought by civilian armies, not professional soldiers, making the massive loss of life even harder to bear.
In countless ways, World War I created the fundamental elements of 20th century history. Genocide and the use of poison gas emerged as acts of war. The international system was totally transformed. On the political right fascism came out of the war; on the left the communist revolution in
One of the most tragic things we can say is that “Armistice Day” eventually became known as “Veteran’s Day.” WWI was supposed to be “the war to end all wars.” If it had been, we would still be remembering Armistice Day today. Instead, however, on Veteran’s Day we sadly note that “wars and rumors of war” continue to characterize this fallen world in which we live.
Let us mark this day with a fresh commitment. In our work and in our lives, let us promote peace. Let us be people of kindness, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. In all the battles of life, may we be peacemakers. And, as we remember veterans this week, let us also lift our hearts in prayer for the day to come when:
“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2.5)