To End All war: A Historical Novel

by: Nicholas Lambros

It is 1916 and twenty-six-year-old John Morris cannot ignore the Great War anymore. Despite his father’s objections and the fact that America has not even entered the war yet, John leaves Maryland for France where he hopes to fulfill his mission of becoming a flyer in the Lafayette Escadrille. He leaves behind not only his parents, but also his surgeon brother, Michael, and sister, Catherine, who are quietly nurturing their own dreams to play a part in the war.

Over two years later, John’s father is dead, his mother is in Arizona, and Michael and Catherine are heading to New York. Michael is soon assigned to an aid station in France while Catherine translates French documents for the State Department. But after she is supposedly sent to Paris to work at the United States Embassy, Catherine is made a counterspy in a French town near the Swiss border. As John, Michael, and Catherine each do their best to help in a war that stretches from the skies to the Western Front, none of them realize that only two of them will return home.

In this story, three American siblings end up in France via separate paths, hoping to aid the war effort. Before the United States has formally declared war, John is flying combat missions with the Lafayette Escadrille. Michael ends up working in field hospitals that would make an abattoir look like a vacation destination. Catherine is initially a translator, but her skills allow her to branch out into cloak and dagger work. Their stories overlap and intertwine; by novel’s end we’ve come to know and care deeply about the family.
As a historical novel, the book delves into WW1 from the viewpoints of air, sea and land fighting. It is an anti-war novel, taking three characters into the war-a pilot, a surgeon, and a counterspy..

Treaties that Ended the Great War:

Brest-Litovsk, St.-Germain, Trianon, Sèvres, and Versailles

 

The Russian Revolution of March 15, 1917 ended the imperial regime of Tsar Nicholas II.  A former ally, Russia quit the war on the eastern front by signing the Brest-Litovsk Treaty on the 3rd of March, 1918, ceding Poland, the Ukraine, the Baltic States, and Finland to Germany eight months before the war on the western front ended.  As a result, Russia did not participate in the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles. In August,1920, the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Sèvres, taking Egypt, Lebanon, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Syria, and Transjordan from the Turks who soon turned to General Mustafa Kemal, later called Pasha Kemal or Atatürk, for leadership.

Once the armistice between France and Germany was signed in a railroad coach in the forest of Compiègne on November 11, 1918, the Paris Peace Conference began on the 4th of January, 1919.  The treaty signed in Versailles took its name from the French royal palace and the town of Versailles where the winning countries met.  The palace is actually southwest of Paris, about ten kilometers from the French capital.  After nearly six months of negotiations, the Allies finally signed the Versailles Peace Treaty on the 28th of June.  Germany ratified the treaty on July 9th.

The Allies at Versailles were mainly represented by The Big Four―Britain’s Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, Italian Prime Minister Vittorio E. Orlando, and US President Woodrow Wilson, the first US president to visit Europe.  Conference members also included Japan, Prince Feisal of Arabia, India, and colonial states that had taken part on the Allied side.  Germany was not represented.  Many claims of the victors often overlapped politically or economically. The treaty obviously deprived the losers of war materials, but also resources and markets that could have helped make them viable and politically stable in defeat. Stripped of arms, Germany was also humiliated when made to accept the moral responsibility for starting the war.  The treaties of St.-Germain and Trianon cost Germany and Austria the loss of territory 

Opposing Sides of World War 1

Date of Entry into the War

to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Poland, and France.  Austria-Hungary was split in two, becoming Austria and Hungary. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were formed.  Germany lost its colonies.  It surrendered control of the coal deposits in the Saar Valley to France and was made to pay for the Allied occupation force on the west bank of the Rhine River, both for 15 years.  Its armed forces were limited in number.  Moreover, Germany either had to turn over or destroy its weapons of war.  U-boats and airplanes were banned.  Poland’s western border was redrawn, gaining them access to the Baltic Sea by creating a corridor to Danzig through German territory. The isolation of a part of eastern Germany from the Fatherland became a bone of contention.  In 1921, a bill for $33 billion dollars in war reparations, meant to punish Germany, was tendered.

It was impossible for member nations to satisfy the demands of all the nations represented.  Wilson prevented Italy from getting the Yugoslav port of Fiume.  The nations created from the  remains of the Ottoman Empire would eventually become hostile to Israel after it proclaimed itself a state in 1948.  The congress of the United States failed to ratify the treaty.  In rejecting Wilson’s Fourteen-Point plan they rejected entry into the League of Nations, fearing involvement in future European conflicts.  The treaties literally laid a paper road to bitterness in Middle Europe and hostility in the Middle East.

Though accepted at Versailles, Clemenceau said of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, “Even God had only ten!”  Justified by their contribution to victory, Wilson’s plan stirred desires for independence and self-determination among Allied colonies in Africa and the East.  The postwar German Weimar government that ratified the treaty set up what Hitler later called “the stab in the back,” his claim that the government had lost the war, not the German army.  The treaty’s immediate impact on Germany was hunger, unemployment, and the weakening of its postwar government.  A traditional foe of France, the humiliation of Germany soon led to unrest and political riots in the streets.  The Great Depression was the “last straw” that ushered in Hitler’s to rise to power.  Taken together, the treaties that ended The Great War lost any chance of the lasting peace sought by the  world.

Map of France cropped (2015_09_16 13_20_21 UTC)

The Lasting Effects of the Great War 

  1. Austrian, German, and Russian monarchs ceased to exist after the war, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire allowed The Big Four of Versailles to reshape the Middle East. The Arab world changed without regard for religious, economic, or tribal differences.  Trouble developed among Moslem sects and in British-controlled Palestine.
  1. In 1917, Lord Balfour promised a Jewish homeland, finally realized in 1948 in Palestine after its first leader, David Ben-Gurion, declared Israel a state. The next day Israel was at war with surrounding Arab nations.  With Egypt the exception, attempts to gain Israel recognition from those Moslem states have failed.
  1. Arab wars with Israel led to the sequestration of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a hotly disputed area today that continues to produce riots and deadly violence.
  1. Mid-East tensions spawned a collection of militant Moslem and Islamic terrorist groups that are the principal source of violent attacks on civilians in both hemispheres.
  1. One of Wilson’s 14 Points sought the right to self-determination to a populace. After the war, citizens of countries like India that fought with the Allies sought independence.
  1. The price tag to Germany following WWI forced the Weimar government to print money, which brought massive inflation to Germany after the war.
  1. The huge cost of WWI derailed European economies. Economic gains in the US stirred stock speculation.  The stock market crash of 1929 brought unemployment and world depression in the1930’s and prompted a run on banks that had invested in losing stocks.
  1. Whether by artillery fire, indiscriminant bombings, or war crimes, civilians became targets, setting a pattern for “total war.” Today, terrorists randomly target civilians, ostensibly to eliminate Western influence and return to the archaic traditions of 6th century Islam.
  1. Russian losses in the war provoked socialist revolution, overthrowing the Tsar. After Stalin replaced Vladimir Lenin in 1924, WWII spread communism to Eastern Europe, China, and Southeast Asia.  Korea split in two, bringing war between north and south.  Similar wars followed in Vietnam.  Today, North Korea threatens a new war.
  1. WWI industries made improved war materials in vast amounts to meet the demands of warring nations. Accelerated production of weapons intensified the arms race that existed even before the war, an arms race that persists today in spite of treaties banning the proliferation and use of certain weapons. Today, the US, Russia, England, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea have atomic weapons, and Iran is said to be attempting to produce the bomb.
  1. The face of Europe changed, creating Poland and a split Germany. The Versailles Treaty became one cause in Hitler’s rise to power. Hitler brought the return of anti-Semitism.  Disregarding the terms in the treaty, Hitler began rebuilding the German war machine, then initiated a series of illegal and hostile actions that began the Second World War.  The end of that war marked the beginning of a Cold War between the USSR and the USA.  Today, Vladimir Putin, emulating Stalin’s claim to Eastern Europe, has invaded southern Ukraine.  Putin’s support of Syrian president Assad demonstrates an interest in the Middle East, an issue that has deteriorated US-USSR relations to a point resembling that of post-war Europe, and threatens renewal of the political climate of the Cold War.

The Great War – the World’s First Total War

[From 28 July 1914 to Armistice Day on 11 November 1918]

 

In August of 1914, everyone believed the war would stay local and end by Christmas.  Its names marked its expansion–The European War, The Great War, and lastly The World War.  World War II gave it a final name–World War I.  Hundreds of Americans already in France joined French units when Germany attacked, nearly three years before America discovered the “Zimmerman” note.  In April 1916, seven American volunteers formed the escadrille Américaine, N.124, later called the escadrille Lafayette.  In the spring of 1917, the life expectancy of French and British fighter pilots was less than four weeks, worse than the men in the trenches.  The most destructive war history

1 Monroes letter

had seen, some called it “the war to end all war” in the belief that mankind would never dream of doing it again.  On 2 April 1917, Wilson asked congress to declare war on Germany.  Four days later, The Great War became a World War that has changed the course of history into our day.

Each side had the latest weapons, including high explosive artillery shells, the first true machine guns, flamethrowers, tanks, poison gases, huge warships, diesel submarines, and warplanes.  The first global war killed ten million combatants and as many civilians.  The Turks alone massacred one million Armenians.  Soldiers in rat-infested trenches carried the pandemic called the Spanish Flu as they returned home, with death tolls estimated from 40 to 100 million men, women, and children worldwide [no one knows the actual total].  Russia lost 1.7 million men.  With thinning rations and hunger at home, Germany sent Lenin to Moscow to incite a revolution that took Russia out of the war on 3 March 1918.  The Russian revolution and following civil war created the communist USSR, which lost its seat at Versailles.  After Lenin died, Stalin came to power.  His purges killed two million Russians before World War II.  Many were military officers, creating a lack of military leadership that caused huge losses when Hitler invaded Russia in June of 1941.

After Versailles, England’s George V and Belgium’s King Albert I remained, but Emperor Francis Joseph died, Tsar Nicholas II was shot, and Kaiser Wilhelm was deposed.  The Ottoman Empire was gone, along with its ruler.  The Treaty of Versailles subdivided the Middle East, creating a new map in the Middle East with Palestine under British control.  PM Lord Balfour promised a Jewish state during WWI, finally realized in 1948 when Jewish refugees from Europe and Russia created Israel inside Palestine.  The birth of Israel brought immediate war with five Arab nations.  Israel became the reason for the terrorists we fight today.

The Treaty of Versailles humiliated Germany, making it admit responsibility for the war, forcing it to pay full reparations, give up its military, air, and naval power, cede its foreign colonies and a corridor that split Germany to give Poland access to the sea.  The war’s personal and financial cost, and the turmoil caused by the treaty’s social, political, and economic terms helped to bring on the Great Depression, which helped in the rise of Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and World War II.  Russian victories in WWII brought communism into Eastern Europe after the war, creating what Churchill called “An Iron Curtain” as Stalin refused freedom to Eastern Europe or East Berlin.  The Cold War began when Russia blockaded East Berlin and built a wall.

An ally in WWI, Japan became an expansionist military power and invaded China in the mid-thirties.  Ignoring international condemnation, it quit the League of Nations.  Hostile forces led Japan after Roosevelt’s embargo of US oil.  Tension grew into hostility, demonstrated on 7 December 1941, bringing the US into war.

Not counting WWII, total deaths caused during or as a result of the war, directly or indirectly, closely parallels the entire population of the United States in 1915, 112,000,000 lives.  The ten-year war in Vietnam cost America 58,000 lives and split the country in two–those either for or against the war.  Yet, in only the last four months of WWI, 116,000 Americans died–twice as many as Vietnam.  A memorial wall to the American war dead of WWI would run the length of the Washington Monument’s reflecting pool.  The events resulting either from the Great War or the consequences of the Versailles Treaty determined the course of the rest of the Twentieth Century and continue to affect world events today.

Casualties of the Great War–1914-1918

(to the nearest thousand)

                                                      Allies Dead             Wounded          Missing

Belgium (& Belgian colonials)             46,000           78,000                 74,000

British Empire (Canada, Ireland          942,000       2,111,000              198,000

                            & British empire)

France (& French colonials)                 1,368,000    3,600,000             557,000

Greece                                                  23,000           14,000                1,000

Italy                                                       680,000         947,000               600,000

Japan                                                    1,000             12,000                 unkown

Montenegro                                           3,000             10,000                 7,000

Portugal                                                 8,000             15,000                 unkown

Romania                                                300,000         105,000               80,000

Russia                                                   1,700,000    4,950,000              2,500,000

Serbia                                                    45,000           133,000               153,000

USA  (fought in last four months of war)   117,000         204,000            4,500

Central Powers

                                                                 Dead             Wounded             Missing

Austria-Hungary                                    1,200,000         3,620,000           2,200,000

Bulgaria                                                  87,000             155,000              14,000

Germany                                                1,935,000         4,216,000           990,000

Ottoman Empire                                     725,000           1,565,000             unkown

Combined Casualty Toll
            Dead                   Wounded        Missing (presumed dead
9,180,000                21,735,000              14,757,000
 
Average daily casualties:  20,000
Deaths from the spread of Spanish Flu:  est. 50-80 million
Total Deaths Attributable to WWI:  70 to 100 million
 
Daily Rate of US Dead compared to Viet Nam
World War I, 120 days = 967      Vietnam 3,650 days = 16
Or, a ratio of 60 to 1

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