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World War I - "The First World War was the first modern war."

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Introduction

Matthijs Smits IB History Mr. Johnson February 8, 2004 World War I Essay Assignment "The First World War was the first modern war." Although there have been doubts about and rivals to this statement, such as the Anglo-Boer War and the American Civil War, it is probably true that WWI did prove to be the first modern war. Yet, there is still one prime factor that prevents this from truly being a modern war. This is the factor, that, though World War I was fought with 20th century weaponry, it was fought with a 19th century sentiment. Think of the American Civil War, where two generals met on a field, fought, counted their casualties, retreated, and later fought on a different battlefield. World War I was in some ways no different, and that ultimately led to the millions of casualties during World War I. Due to the nature of World War I's defensive sentiment, a resulting trench system on the Western Front formed, which covered the equivalent of 25,000 miles and also stretched non-stop from Belgium to Switzerland. Battles fought in trenches were tedious and exhausting; soldiers generally got more than 2-3 hours of sleep to be on alert for enemy attacks. Additionally, the defensive trench system placed an emphasis on defence, while the new offensive measures tried to force the enemy out. ...read more.

Middle

On April 22, 1915, at the Second Battle of Ypres, poison gas was introduced by the Germans, and the terrible effects that followed were strangely enough not reported to other French soldiers until quite a bit later in the war. Britain and France however reciprocated these attacks later with their own gases. However, this chemical warfare was highly condemned and led to severed diplomatic ties between Germany and U.S, as well as increased use of gas later in the war. Eventually, casualties and deaths ran rampant, and by the end of the war, with the Armistice, the use of poisonous gases was outlawed in 1925. Tanks were yet another new development that had been based on the idea of an automobile, a very modern invention. These new armoured "cars" were intended to break the tension of defensive warfare and be used to attack the enemy head on. Due to their massive cannons, manoeuvrability (to a certain extent), and armour plating, they were formidable opponents to deal with. Oddly enough, Germany never took the development of tanks seriously, whereas Britain and France did, a mistake which Germany would not make again in World War II. However, in retrospect, this may have been a good thing, since tanks were not always as reliable in offensive manoeuvres. Many times, they broke down and became ditched in a muddy trench. ...read more.

Conclusion

Alongside the grenades came a somewhat more sophisticated version in the form of a trench mortar. The trench mortar can be summarised as a more mechanised version of the grenade, with a much longer range and more firepower, therefore ideally suited for trench warfare, hence the term, trench mortar. Again, from the Russo-Japanese War, the Germans also walked away with the idea of mortars alongside grenades. Despite the Germans formidable head start, the British impressively caught up and improved upon the German's initial design of the 'minenwerfer.' Although the mortar was effective in trench warfare, its initial element of surprise and attack as a whole disappeared as the firing positions were quickly prone to enemy fire. However, the mortar remained a highly mobile weapon, and was used to a great extent in the First World War. In conclusion, the implementation of the following weapons without a doubt revolutionized warfare, and brought about an unprecedented new level of deaths and casualties in a war. In combination with a 19th century attack sentiment, dug away in trenches in large numbers, while operating 20th century weaponry; can be held accountable for the number of human casualties. The First World War can therefore be considered the first modern war, with the exception that it was fought with a 19th century sentiment. For it to be a completely modern war would require the weapons to be operated with 20th century battle tactics. ...read more.

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