"War is the work of the devil." So says one of the generals of WWI, although I couldn't find the quote as I went back and looked for it in this 715 page history, so I can't even report for sure who said it. It doesn't really matter, though, because as I continued to study this book, if I got one thing from it, it would be that war is undoubtedly and indisputably Hell with a capital H. Living all my life hearing about WWI and II, I have never really been able to put the pieces together to make sense of it all. Several months ago I went on a WWII binge, reading and listening to a lot of books on it until I think I finally have at least a working knowledge of what it was all about. It seemed to follow that I then learn about WWI, and so I have been. This book offers a great starting point for the study of that war. I tried studying other books first, but got hopelessly lost. This book, by virtue of the way that is written, made it very accessible to me, and now I can study some of those other books with a degree of knowledge that will help me add to my understanding.
I really like the format of the book, particularly the short intermediary background chapters that shed so much light on the core story of the war. It helped so much with understanding the how and the why of the war, and events that it precipitated.
So in a nutshell, outside of the logistics and battles and armaments and all of that usual and necessary war stuff, here is what I learned. This war was fought for the flimsiest of reasons, if in fact there was a reason at all. Nations can act very much like two-year-old children fighting over an inexpensive toy. Over 9.5 million soldiers lost their lives over these petty squabbles, not to mention many more millions who were moderately to severely wounded, nor the millions of civilians who who were wounded or killed. The Germans were justified in being outraged at the way they were treated in the Treaty of Versailles, particularly by Woodrow Wilson, and we all know where that lead, or at least I hope we do.
I hope many more of us are willing to put forth the effort to learn the truth about war in the hopes of avoiding it in the future. The way things appear to me right now, it seems that we are going down this same path, and that scares me. No wonder Santayana, widely quoted by others, including Winston Churchill, has said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
As I started listening to this book, I felt the need to follow along with the physical book, and so I bought a copy. It was extremely helpful, as the book is full of pictures and maps, and I could see the names of people and places that were hard for me to grasp from just hearing them, names of German, Belgian and French cities, rivers and regions that to us do not sound like we think they should. A good example is the French town of Ypres, pronounced Eep. (One would be disappointed to look for the town of Eep on a map.). The narrator was just right for this book, and had a great command over multiple European accents. This was a great book to both read and listen to. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to know more about the history of WWI and what the ramifications for us have been.
I'm still not sure why I enjoyed this book so much. I was fascinated by it, while at the same time wondered if I were the only person in the world who was. The premise of this book is a review of all the events that helped ready America to enter WWII with the power that would soon end it. In the meantime, so many new inventions, technologies and ideas were put into play that America emerged from the war as the world leader it was for so many years. This part was compelling to me, but so were the people who happened to "be at the right place at the right time" that brought it all to pass. These things could only have taken place in a country where freedom allowed it. It is freedom that fosters forward, productive thinking and doing. Without it, we stifle ourselves. Here is a prayer for the future, that we don't let go of the precious little freedom remaining to us.
A beautifully written book about an unbelievable adventure. I just can't believe what these guys went through, and that all of them lived to tell about it is beyond belief. I felt like I was right there with them through the whole ordeal. If you like survival stories, this one will rock your sox.