Today we commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I, the War to End All Wars. If only.
We’ve extended this holiday in America to remember the sacrifices of all our military veterans across all our military services, in or out of war. It’s also my birthday, which calls to mind the ongoing, unending war against the inexorable onslaught of age, which each year looks a little bit more like the enormous cannon those smiling doughboys in the banner photo are escorting to the Western Front. Believe me, it’s a lot easier to smile about artillery of that size when it’s pointed at somebody else.
World War I was a bigger and bloodier conflict than anything mankind had yet endured, fought for reasons that seem incredibly vain and petty to us now. It unveiled the true horror of warfare supercharged by technologies of the Industrial Revolution, fought with pre-Industrial tactics.
The only way to get a hint of what it was like is to read the memoirs of those who fought and suffered and died, and this is a good day for that sort of reflection.
To that end, here’s a link to a collection of WW I diaries from eyewitnesses to the war—soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, nurses, and support personnel, officers and enlisted, rich and poor, from a spectrum of cultural, racial, and religious communities. Read a few and help ensure their courage and valor will never be forgotten.