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Opinion: 11/11/11 — Veterans Day

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice with Germany went into effect. That marked the end of World War I. It was called a “World War” or “The Great War” because it was a global conflict, fought between two huge coalitions: the Central Powers and the Allied Powers. Sounds like something from Star Wars, but it was a brutal, almost primitive struggle fought in mud, scorching sun, bitter rain, and biting cold.


World War I was one of the most horrible wars in history. There were few, if any, rules regarding crimes against humanity, the treatment of prisoners of war, or the use of weapons (e.g., poison gas). Civilians had no protection, either in theoretical convention or practice.


There was great hostility among the various countries of Europe during the beginning of the 20th Century. Technically, though, the war began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, in 1914. His subjects put the blame on a Bosnian Serb and, on July 28, declared war on Serbia. Russia came to Serbia’s defense, and Britain, France, and Germany were pulled into the conflict the following month. In November, the Ottoman Empire joined a “Triple Alliance” with Germany and Austria-Hungary, and war contagion continued to spread.

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