Framing the Dialogue

A World Undone

A World Undone is an in-depth book about World War I.  Not just the battles, but the cause, how it should have been prevented and the shear number of mistakes made by both sides to snatch losses from sure victories.  I have a personal interest in this war as both of my grandfathers fought.  I regret not asking them about their experiences, but like most veterans, they rarely (actually never) talked about the war.  My paternal grandfather emigrated here in the early 1900’s.  The story is that when he went back home to visit, he was conscripted to fight.  It took us a while to figure out that he actually did fight on our side.  He survived, came back and NEVER went back to the “Old Country.”  My maternal grandfather had to have a lung removed when he was in his sixties and I now wonder if that cancer was caused by the lingering effects of being gassed during the war.

“None of the warring governments thought they could possibly accept a settlement in which they did not win something that would justify all the deaths. The war had become self-perpetuating and self-justifying. Though not as ebullient as French and Joffre.”

I’ve read many books about various wars and one recurring occurrence beyond the brutality of man, is his ability to recognize humanity…

“In Flanders, where there had been so much horror, 1914 ended with a strange spontaneous eruption of fellow feeling. On Christmas morning, in their trenches opposite the British near Ypres, German troops began singing carols and displaying bits of evergreen decorated in observance of the occasion. The Tommies too began to sing.  Cautiously, unarmed Germans began showing themselves atop their defenses. Some of the British did the same.  Step by step this led to a gathering in no-man’s-land of soldiers from both sides, to exchanges of food and cigarettes, even to games of soccer. This was the Christmas Truce of 1914, and in places it continued for more than a day. The generals, indignant when they learned of it, made certain that nothing of the kind would happen again. The new face of war: a German Uhlan, or lancer, could seem a figure out of ancient legend except for the mask that protects him from poison gas.”

This was one of the most detailed historical books that I’ve read.  Though generally not so in the weeds that made it unreadable, there were times, for me, where I could have used a bit less background.

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