World War I involved all the great powers of the world. More than 10 million men died in WWI and it was the hope of many that this would be the war that would end all wars. Instead, it turned out to be the pre-empt that set the stage, for WWII.
At the Armed Forces History Museum, you step back in time and into the action as you walk through a re-creation of the smoky trenches of World War I. The feeling of trench war is realistic as gunfire erupts and smoke fills the trench, but don’t worry, your WWI comrades are keeping watch for the enemy to insure your safe passage.
The United States Enters WWI
Even as early was WWI, the United States was known worldwide for its resources. The US did not get involved in the war initially due to the distance, desire to remain more isolated and the fact the war did not seem to have a great impact on them in any way. Public opinion, however, was influenced by two separate incidences.
The first was the sinking of Britain’s ocean liner, the RMS Lusitania, which the United States viewed as a neutral ship. The Lusitania was carrying 159 Americans on board when it was sunk by a German U-boat. The second incident involved the British’s interception of a German message that had been coded and sent to Mexico. Basically, the message enticed Mexico with the promise of parcels of U.S. land if Mexico would join forces against the United States. Britain, however, intercepted the message and after they successfully translated it, they shared the contents with the United States. As a result, on April 6, 1917, war on Germany was declared by the United States of America.
Trench warfare was used during this Great War along with the implementation of new tactical weapons and strategies. The trenches provided additional safety for the men, but also served against them due to the widespread diseases and wound infections that often proved fatal. When orders were launched to “take the enemy”, it mandated they leave this war haven and cross open field in an attempt to overtake the enemy and their trenches. Trench war fare was responsible for the loss of millions of lives in WW I.
Though mainly used as spotters and bombers, WWI bi planes proved to be a valuable asset to the war. These planes of this era were the first to have special guns mounted on them for air-to-air combat, which in WWI was referred to as “dog fights”. The Fokker, the Sopwith Camel and the SPAD are just a few of the aircraft that gained famed for their participation in the war.
Tanks were also involved in World War I, being implemented in the war with the hope of breaking the stale mate created by trench warfare. As the war progressed, tank performance was analyzed, and as a result, tactical application and tank design also progressed. Despite some of the initial problems experienced by the tanks, their overall performance in WWI was impressive.
Battleships were also utilized throughout WWI; however, their participation is best described as marginal in regards to what was happening on land. The United States held the strongest naval fleet followed by Britain, France and Germany. WWI German U-boats, in their attempt to sink any ship they encountered with an enemy flag, generated a new wave of warfare.
During WWI, soldier’s dog tags were made by hand, and with the introduction of trench war, trench art – handmade by the soldiers - began to emerge. The 1911 pistol was developed during this period and saw military action in WWI and has subsequently – due to its continued popularity throughout military history – become one of the most popular hand guns among collectors.
World War I did not prove to be the war that ended all wars, but it did prove to be a catalyst in military advancements and laid the ground work for future military action in warfare.