It's Armistice Day. I noticed the 11th hour tick by [electronically] and paused momentarily to think of the First World War. I then also reflected—being in America—on how this anniversary passes by without much notice.
Here, by contrast, is the BBC news page for today
Still remembering World War I. Not a peep on any of the major American papers. But then the First World War barely touched America, the casualty rate was just 8%. In Australia and New Zealand the senselessness of war was brought home when 2/3 of men who went to a war that did not threaten their homes directly returned injured or did not return at all. The small towns of Australia and New Zealand are dotted with memorials to the men who paid the "ultimate sacrifice." Who died for King and Country. The social dislocation, the impact of half a generation missing, wounded or dead haunted both countries throughout the next twenty years.
As is the way with death and despair we are left with some great literature from the period, that probably captures better than any historian now could, the sense of loss. Indeed, the best history of New Zealand in that period is still Randal Burdon's The New Dominion because he'd lived through the period, and could sense what it meant to his contemporaries.
Whereas my impression of America in the inter-war period is a period of relative prosperity followed by a Depression, New Zealand between the wars was a place which struggled to get over the war, and may, just may have had a year or two (1925-1927) of normalcy, of a society that felt optimistic, before things headed south again. And the same goes, mutatis mutandis, for Australia.
Isolationism gets a bad name in the United States today, but a little bit of caution about rushing off to foreign wars is not a bad thing.
[late updateYes, yes, I know it's Veteran's Day. But really, that just proves my point that America is not really marking the end of World War I in the way that other combatant countries are.]
(Below the fold is a table of the casualty rates of major combatant countries)
|Casualties of the First World War|