Posts Tagged ‘world war I’
Calling all History teachers! Don’t let this week go by without talking to your students about World War I. This Thursday, April 6, marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ declaration of war on Germany. On April 2nd, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson had asked Congress for the declaration, stating that it would be a “war to end all wars” and that it would “make the world safe for democracy.” All-out war had been raging in Europe since August 1914. Wilson had kept America out of the fighting, even after the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, which had 128 Americans on board. Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine (U-Boat) warfare on all commercial ships heading toward Britain. In addition, British Intelligence intercepted a secret German diplomatic communication, called the Zimmermann Telegram, which proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico. These events, plus the fact that the United States had loaned massive amounts of money to the allies and feared it would not get that money back if the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) won, tipped the scales in favor of war.
The Selective Service Act was signed May 18, 1917. In the United States, over 9-and-a half million men, ages 21 to 31, signed up at their local draft boards. One of those men was my grandfather, Thomas Young Mason. Tom was a 30-year-old farmer from Logan County, Kentucky, when he signed his draft card on June 5, 1917. The reason I know this is because I found a copy of his draft card while searching AncestryLibrary.com, available via ProQuest. I was surprised at how easy it was to find information about my grandfather. I can’t say that I know a lot about his time during the Great War. He died years before I was born, and my family never was much for telling war stories. I do, however, have some nice photographs of him in his WWI uniform. I also have, at home in my basement, the very hat he was wearing in those photos.
My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who made it home from the War. Europeans bore the brunt of the casualties with 9 million military men killed and over 30 million wounded. World War I was one of the most tragic events in modern world history, and the “peace” that was reached at its end led directly to the Second World War.
eLibrary has many resources teachers can use to explain this momentous time in world History. A really good high school lesson plan called “Wilson & American Entry into World War I” can be found at EDSITEment!, a National Endowment for the Humanities website. While you and your students are conducting research on this topic, don’t forget to check out ProQuest’s awesome Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War, a digital collection of writings produced near the trenches and on the home front. During this 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I, it might be a good idea to take some time out from your regular class assignments and get your students involved in a discussion on this timely topic. One idea would be to have your class watch the American Experience documentary “The Great War,” which premieres on PBS April 10.
While Woodrow Wilson often gets credit for the phrase “the war to end all wars,” delivered during his April 1917 speech before Congress, many historians assume that he got the idea from a 1914 book by H.G. Wells entitled “The War That Will End War.”
The United States officially declared war on Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917. Twenty-four years later, on December 7, 1941, FDR asked Congress for a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan, marking America’s entry into World War II.
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Here we are, right in the middle of the 100th anniversary of World War I (1914-1918). Those of you who read these blogs may have noticed that eLibrary has been posting occasional entries relating to various topics of the “Great War.” I have been perusing many articles and books about the First World War and was searching around on Amazon for something else to read when I came across the book “Above the Dreamless Dead.” It is a unique mixture of poems from the Trench Poets of World War I and artwork from today’s finest cartoonists. The collection was edited by New York Times bestselling editor Chris Duffy. Thinking that this book would be a great resource to use in schools for teaching both history and poetry, I reached out to First Second Books for an interview with Mr. Duffy. Here are the questions and responses from that interview:
1. First of all, what made you want to compile a book of WWI poetry in graphic form?
2. Have you always been interested in WWI? [Mr. Duffy answered both questions at once]
Mr. Duffy: The idea came from editor Calista Brill at First Second. She called me up one day and said “We have this idea for a book to round out our season.” She described the idea of current cartoonists adapting the work of the Trench Poets as part of the centennial of the start of World War I. She asked if maybe I would edit it, but she had someone else in mind if I said no. I thought it was a pretty bad idea at first and I almost passed–I mean, what do we have in common today with men who lived in muddy trenches and watched their buddies die (and who died) a hundred years ago? Didn’t seem like a great fit with the cartoonists I know, who are for the most part sheltered from war. Then I started reading a lot of World War I poetry just to see. There’s a lot of it, the best of it is amazing, and all of it is compelling–and I started to really see how visual and narrative a lot of it was/ is. Then I started thinking about cartoonists who have spent their careers engaging with war and related themes–Pat Mills, Sarah Glidden, George Pratt, Peter Kuper, Garth Ennis, just to name a few. The project started seeming like a GREAT idea. In the end, I think the book is both about the poetry and about cartoonists of today engaging with the past and with a specific group of writers.
3. Why do you think that WWI has been a neglected topic in classrooms over the decades?
Mr. Duffy: I really don’t know, but I’m asked that a lot. I think people feel a distance there and want to bridge it. I highly recommend anyone read the work of the war poets and writers to bridge not only the distance between them and the past, but with them and soldiers in general.
4. What is your favorite WWI poem?
Mr. Duffy: “As the Team’s Head Brass” by Edward Thomas. It’s a home front poem. A soldier, probably Thomas, watches a ploughman at work and every time he passes by they exchange some words–about the war, the weather, the tree that fell that the ploughman can’t remove because all the younger men are at war. It’s an everyday scene but the poem is about life, death, alternate worlds, young love, death, and maybe a great tragedy to come. I believe it’s Seamus Heany’s favorite World War I poem, so I feel pretty good about my choice. It didn’t make it into the book; several cartoonists turned it down when offered. Maybe I should have pushed harder!
5. Who is your favorite WWI-era poet?
Mr. Duffy: Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Edward Thomas. But it’s hard to choose.
6. Are you yourself a graphic artist?
Mr. Duffy: I draw and make comics, but not professionally.
7. Any ideas on how educators could use Above the Dreamless Dead to get the discussion started with students concerning both poetry and WWI?
Mr. Duffy: I think it would be a good follow up to a unit on World War I–maybe the students could read one poem, talk about it, and then look at the adaptation and discuss the choices the cartoonist made. I also think it’s a good opportunity for students to research one poet–his life, war experience, and career. In one way or another World War I was a huge part of every one of the poet’s lives. In many cases it ended their life. But I’m not a teacher, so beware of these tossed-off suggestions!
8. Why do you think WWI inspired such an outpouring of poetry, whereas other wars do not seem to have generated such literary creativity, especially in poetic form?
Mr. Duffy: I don’t know. I postulate that poetry was something read and written by more people at that time than after. I have also read that this was the first generation of young British men to benefit from big education reforms–the average soldier would have been more literate than in previous wars. But I don’t know the whole story about why!
9. If you could go back in time and say something to one of these Trench poets, what would it be?
Mr. Duffy: That’s a little too ahistorical for me. We can’t go back in time. You have to read to learn about them.
10. With the tremendous amount of poetry produced during and after WWI, are there any more such anthologies in the works?
Mr. Duffy: I hope so! Not by me, but I think poetry is a rich topic for cartoonists.
(Thanks to Chris Duffy and a special thanks to Gina Gaglinao of First Second Books for setting up the interview.)
The best review I can give for the book is this: I was in my basement reading it when my son Josh, who has ZERO interest in poetry but likes comic books, stopped and asked what I was reading. I told him a little about the book and showed it to him. He said something like, “Hmmm. Interesting.” Later that evening, when I walked past his room, I saw him sitting in his “gaming chair” reading “Above the Dreamless Dead.”
If you wish to contact First Second Books to ask about ordering this book for your classroom or school library, please follow this link: First Second Books
During this 100th anniversary of World War I, please use the many resources available in ProQuest’s eLibrary to learn more about the War to End All Wars:
America and World War I (Research Topic)
British Poets of World War I (Research Topic)
Canada and World War I (Research Topic)
Canadian Poets of World War I (Research Topic)
Common Core ELA: History/Social Studies (Research Topic)
Common Core ELA: Reading Literature (Research Topic)
Poetry (Research Topic)
ProQuest Research Topic Guide: World War I (Research Topic)
Trench Warfare of World War I (Research Topic)
World War I: A History in Documents (Reference Book)
And just some of the Research Topics for WWI-era poets:
July 1 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme during World War I. More than one million men on both sides were killed or injured in the four-and-a-half month campaign. The amount of bloodshed not only made the Somme the largest and bloodiest battle of World War I, but also one of the deadliest in all of history. Professor Gary Sheffield aptly stated, “The Battle of the Somme is etched into our minds as the epitome of all that is ghastly and tragic about war.”
Planned by Allied leaders, French marshal Joseph Joffre and British commander Douglas Haig, the Battle of the Somme was a string of attacks made against German trench lines in northern France. On the first day of battle, a few British leaders gave their soldiers footballs to kick around no man’s land as they advanced because they were so assured they would breach enemy lines. After the British laid down a barrage of fire on the Germans, the Germans in the interim readied their machine guns. As young, inexperienced Brits raced to German positions in broad daylight, thousands were killed in what for many was the first and only battle they would fight. Some were as young as age 15. On July 1 alone almost 20,000 Brits were killed out of nearly 60,000 casualties total. The French, on the other hand, were more experienced. They attacked with heavier artillery, rushing the Germans more quickly, thus suffering fewer casualties. The lesson learned that day was antiquated military tactics were no match for contemporary military weapons. A new invention, the tank, would even more emphasize this lesson when it was used for the first time September 15, 1916.
The Somme, which was to be a definitive gain for the Allies, became a battle of attrition. The battle ceased on November 18, 1916 despite the British and French not reaching their goal of breaking through German lines. In the end the Allies gained only six miles of the front.
One could say that the World War I Battle of Jutland (May 31-June 1, 1916) actually began way back in 1906. In that year, the British Royal Navy launched the HMS Dreadnought, a battleship so awesome that it revolutionized naval warfare and sea power overnight. Germany, not wanting to be outdone by Great Britain, began rolling out its own Dreadnoughts, intensifying a naval arms race between the two countries. They had to wait 10 years before they would encounter each other in an actual naval battle. The First World War was already into its second year when Sir John Jellicoe of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet received intelligence that the German High Seas Fleet, under command of Admiral Reinhard von Scheer, was steaming into the North Sea.
The two opposing fleets met near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula on May 31, 1916. The British had superiority in numbers with 151 warships against 99 German vessels. Germany, however, took the early advantage. In quick succession, both the Royal Navy’s Queen Mary and the Indefatigable were destroyed. Out of a 1,275-man crew, only 9 sailors survived the sinking of the Queen Mary, while only 2 sailors from the 1,019-man crew of the Indefatigable were rescued. Later on, the tide of the battle turned, and Germany was on the defensive. As day broke on June 1, the German fleet had slipped past Jellicoe and the battle was over. Both sides claimed victory, but the Royal Navy still maintained naval superiority with 24 battleships ready to sail, while Germany only had 10 that were seaworthy. In all, England lost 6,094 sailors while Germany lost 2,551. In the wake of Jutland, Scheer pressed for the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare against the British blockade.
No tale of the Battle of Jutland would be complete without mentioning “Jutland” Jack Cornwell. He was posthumously awarded Britain’s highest medal for outstanding bravery. Jack was a 16-year-old seaman aboard the HMS Chester. On the first day of the battle, his ship came under intense fire from four German cruisers. Cornwell was mortally wounded by exploding shells, but remained with his gun crew. Later, medics arrived on deck to find Jack the sole survivor at his gun, shards of steel embedded in his chest, looking through the gun sights and still waiting for orders. He died the next day. Jack’s mother received his Victoria Cross for heroism personally from King George V.
Don’t forget to check out ProQuest’s Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War, an unprecedented digital collection of a vast body of writing, by and for the serving men and women of every combatant nation, that has lain hidden in libraries and archives around the world, until now.
Ireland had been under some form of English rule since the 12th Century. Fast-forward to 1800 where passage of the Act of Union made Ireland an official part of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This Act resulted in Ireland losing its parliament in Dublin and its people being ruled from Westminster in London. Irish nationalists naturally came to resent this arrangement. Many of the more moderate nationalists suggested that Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom but have a form of self-government. The British parliament finally passed a bill in 1914 that gave Ireland home rule, but, due to the outbreak of World War I, implementation of the bill was suspended.
By 1916, England was bogged down on several fronts in a war that was taking more and more of its soldiers and equipment and money. While Great Britain was distracted, members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (who thought home rule didn’t go far enough) saw their chance to gain complete freedom for Ireland and began planning what would be known as the Easter Rising. They even sought support from Germany, England’s enemy in the war. On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, rebel leaders and about 1,600 followers took control of the Dublin General Post Office and other locations. From the steps of the post office, one of the rebel leaders, Patrick Pearse, declared Ireland to be an independent republic and said that a provisional government had been appointed.
The public, however, did not rise up to help the rebels. The Easter Rising was intended to take place across all of Ireland, but Dublin seemed to be the focal point. The British government declared martial law in Ireland and put down the rebellion in less than a week. During the fighting, over 400 people were killed and 2,000 injured. Much of Dublin’s downtown district was destroyed. Many Irish citizens resented the rebels and blamed them for the destruction and deaths.
But in May, 15 leaders of the uprising were executed. Thousands of people were arrested and jailed without trial. These actions by the British government helped fuel support for the independence movement in Ireland. Two years later, the Sinn Fein party won a majority of Irish seats in the UK parliament. They then convened their own Irish Parliament and declared independence. This led the Irish Republican Army to start a guerrilla war against the British government. In 1921, a treaty was signed that called for an Irish Free State. The fully independent Republic of Ireland was proclaimed on Easter Monday, April 18, 1949.
Learn more about this event in Irish History by searching the many resources in eLibrary.
British Monarchy (Research Topic)
Easter Rising Plan (Map)
Irish America (Magazine)
Irish Times (Newspaper)
Northern Ireland (Research Topic)
Sinn Fein Campaign, 1918-1922 (MPI Video)
A Young Nationalist in the Easter Rising (Magazine Article)
February 21, 2016, marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the bloodiest battle in world history. After the First Battle of the Marne, where Kaiser Wilhelm’s armies almost reached the gates of Paris before being repulsed, Germany remained on the defensive behind an almost impregnable line of trenches while the French and British threw themselves in vain against it at a staggering cost in lives. Only once did the Germans deviate from this strategy, and that was at Verdun. In terms of the armies involved, the Battle of Verdun began as a relatively “small affair,” but quickly turned into an epic “Blutbad.” This “grimmest battle in all that grim war” is now considered to be the longest battle of all time (303 days) and gained the reputation of being the battlefield with the highest density of dead per square yard that has ever been known. Before this battle, Germany had a chance of winning the war. When it was over, neither the French nor the German armies were the same. The battle, midway between the beginning of the Great War in 1914 and the Armistice in 1918, marked a turning point.
Compared to the casualties in our modern wars (Vietnam and both Iraq wars, for instance), the numbers of injuries and deaths from just this one battle are almost unimaginable. Estimates from after the war found a total of over 700,000 casualties (377,000 French and 337,000 German), an average of 70,000 casualties for each month of the battle. More recent estimates place the overall casualty number at 976,000. Verdun, located near the Meuse in France, was of great historical and military significance to the French. German commander Erich von Falkenhayn’s aim of the campaign (code-named “Judgement”) was to bleed the French army dry at Verdun and capture Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux. French Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre issued a statement noting that any commander who gave ground to the advancing Germans would be court-martialed. Pledging to Joffre that the Germans “shall not pass,” General Henri Philippe Petain took personal control of the defense. He also created an effective supply route, designing a 50-mile road that ferried troops and ammunition to the Verdun battlefield. This became known to the French as the “la Voie Sacree,” the Sacred Road.
The casualties from Verdun and the impact of the battle on the French army was the primary reason the British initiated the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. By the end of October 1916, the French had re-captured the two forts at Vaux and Douaumont, but the surrounding countryside where the battle had been fought since February was a wasteland. The only real effect of the battle (which ended December 18, 1916) was the depletion of both armies. After the loss of nearly 1 million men, no tactical or strategic advantage was gained by either side.
This February, use the many resources in eLibrary to research this grim but fascinating period in world history.
Teaching Tip: In conjunction with eLibrary resources, teachers could also use the great WWI film “Paths of Glory“ (1957). Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas, this film more than even “All Quiet on the Western Front” shows the senseless brutality witnessed on the Western Front.
When the Great War erupted in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pledged neutrality for the United States. As a result, many in the German high command jokingly referred to Wilson as “The Great Neutral.” In February 1915, Germany declared a submarine blockade of Great Britain. Any ship approaching England would be considered a legitimate military target. Britain was one of America’s closest trading partners, so tension soon arose between the U.S. and Germany over the blockade.
In early May 1915, several New York newspapers published a warning that Americans traveling on British or Allied ships in war zones did so at their own risk. The announcement coincided with an advertisement of the sailing of the RMS Lusitania from New York back to Liverpool. The British Admiralty warned the Lusitania to avoid the south coast of Ireland and to take evasive action in the area. Apparently, the captain of the Lusitania, William Turner, ignored those warnings.
At 2:10 p.m. on May 7, 1915, Kapitanleutnant Walther Schwieger, commander of the German U-20, was patrolling off the coast of Queenstown, Ireland when he spotted a huge “four-stacker” in his sites. The 32,000-ton Lusitania was hit by one exploding torpedo on its starboard side. The blast was followed by a larger explosion (maybe one of the ship’s boilers), and the ship sank in less than 20 minutes. Of the more than 1,900 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,190 died, including 123 Americans.
The sinking of the Lusitania played a significant role in turning public opinion in the U.S. against Germany. It also marked the end of any delusions that so-called “civilized warfare” would survive into the 20th Century. It would be almost another two years before Wilson allowed America to formally enter the war.
Historic Ships (Topic Search)
Journal of Military History (Scholarly Journal)
Military History (Magazine)
The Reader’s Companion to Military History (Reference Book)
U.S. History (Anthology)
World War I: A History in Documents (Reference Book)
By 1915, the Great War’s Western Front appeared almost hopelessly deadlocked. The Russians were threatened by the Turks in the Caucasus and begged the Allies for relief. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, suggested a plan for a new war front in the Dardanelles. Churchill’s idea was to create a diversion that would force Germany to split its army in order to support the Ottoman Empire. When the Germans went to assist the Turks, that would leave their lines weakened in the West or East and lead to smaller forces that the Allies would have to fight against. Also, if the Allies could take the Gallipoli Peninsula, then Constantinople would be within reach as well, and with the Turks out of the war, the Balkans might join the Allies against Germany.
Carried out between 25 April 1915 to 9 January 1916, the Battle of Gallipoli ended up being one of the Allies’ great disasters of World War I. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish army was able to repel the British-led Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, which had to withdraw to Egypt. Had the campaign in the Dardanelles succeeded, it would have ended Turkey’s participation in the war. Instead, it forced the Allies to continue the bloody stalemate at the Western Front. The failure at Gallipoli led to H. H. Asquith being replaced as Britain’s Prime Minister by David Lloyd George.
Some 480,000 Allied forces took part in the campaign at a cost of more than 250,000 casualties, with some 46,000 killed. The Turks also suffered 250,000 casualties, with 65,000 killed. While the Campaign was considered a military failure, Gallipoli became a household name in Australia and New Zealand. April 25th is known as “ANZAC Day” (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps), which is the most significant commemoration of military casualties in both countries.
Use eLibrary to learn more about the Battle for Gallipoli and other Great War topics in this centennial of World War I.
By December of 1914, World War I had already turned into a horrific war of attrition. French, Belgian and British forces faced off against German soldiers along the Western front. The stalemate led to both sides digging a maze-like network of trenches that stretched for hundreds of miles across the French and Belgian countryside.
On Christmas Eve, 1914, the guns along many areas of the front fell silent. Stories differ as to how the truces began, but many witnesses said that French soldiers saw lighted trees from the German trenches. Then they began to hear songs, particularly “Stille Nacht.” British & French troops replied with their own versions of “Silent Night.”
Eventually, unarmed German soldiers walked out into the area between the trenches known as “No-Man’s Land.” Seeing that it was not a trap, French, British and Belgian soldiers began to do the same. Both sides met out in No-Man’s Land and shook hands, exchanged gifts of tobacco, food and personal mementos. There are stories of impromptu soccer games being played. Both sides also took this time to bury their dead, and joint burial services were held.
The truce lasted all night and throughout Christmas Day and in some places until New Year’s Day. After a week, the shooting resumed with 6,000 deaths each day for the next 46 months. There were no more Christmas Truces for the rest of the war. Generals on both sides issued strict orders to prevent them.
Find out more about the Christmas Truce of 1914 and other World War I topics in eLibrary.
To many in the U.S., Veterans Day just means a day off of work or school, and while many may actually give some thought to the idea of honoring those who served in the military, do they know why and when the holiday came into existence?
The holiday has its roots in World War I. On November 11, 1918, the war ended with the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany, and the following year, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11, 1919 Armistice Day to pay homage to the heroism of those who died in the struggle.
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
In 1926, Congress passed a resolution calling for another observance and ceremonies, and in 1938, it passed legislation making Armistice Day an annual U.S. holiday. Although World War I was called “the war to end all wars,” unfortunately, World War II proved that it wasn’t. So, in 1954, Congress decided it would be fitting to make November 11 a day to honor all veterans and changed the name to Veterans Day. The man who led the push for the change, Raymond Weeks, was given the Presidential Citizenship Medal by President Ronald Reagan and declared the “Father of Veterans Day.”
When the Uniform Monday Holiday legislation went into effect in 1971, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday in October. This proved to be an unpopular decision, and President Gerald Ford signed legislation to move it back to its original date, starting in 1978.
Today, Veterans Day is still celebrated on 11/11 with parades, services and proclamations of thanks to all of those who have served in our armed forces.
For lots of information on Veterans Day and just about any other topic, search in eLibrary, follow the links in the text above and see the resources below:
Subject browse sections (Click on underlined words to widen or narrow the scope and click on “View Results” to see eLibrary resources. Items with stars next to them will display Research Topic pages.):