At the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL, you walk through a re-creation of the smoky trenches of World War I as a Red Baron’s Fokker Tri-Plane flies over head.  Read the story on the side of the trench about this epic aircraft and its pilot.  The feeling of trench war is somewhat realistic, but don’t worry, your WWI comrades are keeping watch for the enemy to insure your safe passage.  A communication room – which includes an original pigeon carrier and communication equipment – is manned by a WWI soldier to keep visitors out of harm’s way.

 

Despite the action that is occurring outside the trench, don’t rush or you may miss the unique dog tag making set, which serves as a reminder that during WWI, tags were pounded out by hand.   The display cases in this diorama include authentic hand crafted trench art and memorabilia from the USMC, US Army and Imperial German Army.  The barb wire post holders on top of the trench are actual pieces that were used on the battlefield during World War II.  The posts were actually retrieved from Flanders field in France.   This audio enhanced diorama is one of the most unique, not only in the museum, but throughout the Tampa Bay area.

 

A Brief Look at WWI 

World War I began in July of 1914 and lasted until mid-November, 1918.  All the world’s great powers were involved in this conflict.   One of the largest wars in history – and the sixth deadliest - WWI involved over 70 million military personnel of which 9 million combatants were killed.

 

Prior to WWI, military tactics were unable to keep pace with the advancements being made in technology such as barbed wire, poisonous gas, heavy artillery (which made advancements across open fields difficult), tanks and trench positions.

 

For the infantrymen, life in the trenches would last anywhere from one day to two weeks or about 15% of any given year.  Even then, the soldiers would usually only be required to engage in battle a handful of times each year.  Battle from the trenches would generally occur at night.  Snipers and other means of watch made movement during the day without notice, almost impossible.  Night time would also see increased activity in the making of the trenches and the setting up, maintaining and expanding of the barbed-wire.  It wasn’t long before new tactics emerged that slowly leveled the advantage of the trenches.

 

During World War I, about 10% of the soldiers in the trenches were killed, a number that greatly decreased by WWII to only 4.5%.  Contributing to the higher percentage was the more primitive medical services that were available during WWI and the fact that antibiotics were yet to be discovered. As a result, a simple wound could easily become fatal.  Disease was also prevalent due to the poor sanitary conditions of these trenches and extreme weather conditions – especially the cold – both contributing factors to the death count as well.