On the day North Korea explodes an atomic bomb and threatens more such tests, as well as launches three short range missiles, we recall The Great War, The War To End All Wars – that was World War I. The lessons of that war still shape our world today. It appears nation states do not learn their lessons, but instead will foolishly repeat those mistakes.
It is a dangerous time we live in. There is an inexperienced, unqualified boob at the helm.
The nuclear test was a major diplomatic challenge to Obama at a time when he is facing a global economic crisis and working to curb Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, which the West fears is aimed at producing nuclear arms but Tehran says is for energy.
It is a dangerous time for inexperienced boobery.
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Verdun, should be a pilgrimage site for Americans on a first trip ever to the European continent. There, a great battle took place. From February until December, on a small piece of terrain, the battle chewed upon 700,000 casualties. It was the most vicous battle ever.
There is no monument in the nation’s capital dedicated to the Americans who fought in World War I. Many Americans and Europeans, if not most, have forgotten the Lost Generation and the lessons for us today.
The primary fact of this world – and the first thing that young people noticed about it – was that it was being rapidly transformed by technology. Europeans were being freed increasingly from the traditional constraints imposed on mankind by nature. Life was becoming safer, cleaner, more comfortable, and longer for most sectors of the population. Death had not been vanquished but its arrival was now more predictable, and the physician, along with the engineer, had been elevated to the priesthood of the new civilization.
The arrogance then, the arrogance now, “predictable” but not vanquished death somehow has made a triumphal return to unpredicability. The foolish leaders which led to the charnel house of 1916 have different names today, but the same pedigree of arrogance.
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Many Americans went “over there” to fight the great fight. Before the reality overtook the ideas of glory many Americans marched off to war.
There is only 1 veteran of the “great war” alive today.
Frank Buckles still fights at 108 years of age.
“Right from the start I was very conscious of the war being a very serious situation,” says Frank Buckles of Chalres Town, W. Va. The war he’s referring to is the First World War.
Buckles is the only known living American veteran of that war.
Though Buckles is now 108 years old, in 1917 at age 16 he was too young to enlist. So he said he lied to the army recruiter. “I didn’t lie, I just misrepresented,” he says with a laugh.
Buckles’ misrepresentation worked and he became an U.S. Army corporal.
“I went overseas in December 1917 on the Carpathia the ship that came to the rescue of the Titanic,” he said. The RMS Carpathia was bound for England but that wasn’t where the action was.
“I was all gung ho to get to France,” Buckles says. “A regular army sergeant said to get into France in a hurry, you go into the ambulance corp.” Buckles had learned to drive on his family farm so he joined the motor pool and then escorted Germans back to Germany after the armistice.
The First World War was a global military conflict which involved almost all of the world’s great powers. Over 70 million military personnel were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history. Over 15 million people were killed during the conflict, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.
The war didn’t diminish Buckles’ wanderlust. Soon after the war he got a job with an international shipping company. He was working in Manila when the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. As the Japanese swept across the Pacific, Buckles was captured and spent three years in a prison camp.
Even with only a few years between the world wars the lessons of weakness had not been learned by the time of Pearl Harbor. Frank Buckles witnessed that foolish forgetfullness.
Frank Buckles fight is for memory, to not be forgotten, for the lessons to be learned.
Though he is many decades removed from harm’s way, Buckles says he has one more battle to fight. There is no World War One memorial in Washington, DC, only a dilapidated monument honoring area residents who died in the war. Buckles says he is fighting for his fellow veterans to be remembered on the National Mall.
“I hope they’ll have something of national importance,” says Buckles, who is honorary chairman of the World War 1 Memorial Foundation.
Frank Buckles is fighting his last fight for memory. Buckles does not want events he witnessed to fade away from history.
We respect Frank Buckles’ fight for memory. We won’t forget the events we witnessed either and will continue to fight not to have them fade from history.