Meeting Report

January 18, 2015

Wayne Luney

The Great War and its Ongoing Consequences

The Great War—now known as World War I—seems like ancient history to us. Indeed, one of the facts Wayne Luney laid on us is that there is not a single veteran of that war still alive. It was the war of our grandfathers and great grandfathers. Yet its effects persist in our world, one hundred years after its start.

The nearly twenty of us in the audience sat in rapt attention as Wayne presented his history of that war. He related how it started, on June 28, 1914, with the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Serbian militant, an act that drew most of the European and Middle-Eastern powers, one by one, into the conflict.
He then told of the technological progress that not only made the scale of the war possible, but also made it extremely lethal. For example, the invention of a method of producing ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen led to the large-scale production of explosives, which enhanced Germany’s weapons capability. Other deadly Great War innovations were machine guns and poison gases including mustard gas, as well as submarine and aerial warfare.

The Great War altered the map of the world. Mr. Luney listed the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, the Russian revolution, the Sykes-Picot agreement to carve up the Arab world, and the German reparations which led to World War II as among its major consequences. Ultimately, the war caused approximately 20 million deaths worldwide.

The war eventually drew in the United States on the side of the United Kingdom and her allies, resulting in 100,000 American deaths. It also imperiled civil liberties here as war fever took hold, causing protesters to be imprisoned or worse.

Thank you, Wayne Luney, for a gripping presentation, as well as your fielding of questions and lively comments at its end. Fascinating.

Report prepared by Roger Zabkie

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