Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ten Million Dead in the Great War

Almost every time I come upon on of these monuments, naming the dead of WWI, I get out of the car and take a picture.  I must have a hundred photos of these monuments.  If there is a village in France that doesn't have one of these monuments to the "enfants" lost in World War I, I'd like to know where and why not?   Yesterday, as we drove back from Pamiers, we saw three more monument that I hadn't seen because we'd not been to these little villages before.  These three towns might have had 200 inhabitants each, and a few more souls in the nearby farmland, and the list of dead always surprises me.  How could this little village have sacrificed so many of it's "enfants"?  I know that the UK, and Germany, Slovakia and other places have these monuments that name the dead.  However, I can't think of single town in the United States that has such a monument to the dead of the "Great War". 
Why is this?  I don't know for sure, but I am willing to speculate.  Look at the list of casualties as listed by Wikipedia.   France lost 1,397,800 of her young men.  That's 4.29% of her total population.  Germany lost 2,050,897 or 3.82% of her young men.  The UK lost 885,138 or 2.19%.  The numbers are absolutely staggering. I am always astounded reading accounts of the generals who so blatantly threw away the lives of their men to gain a hundred feet of useless ground. Almost 10 million people lost their lives in that incredibly stupid war.  By contrast, the United States, which came into the war late and tipped the balance over to the Allied side, lost 116,708 soldiers, or a percentage rate of 0.16.
I don't mean to diminish the losses of my countrymen, or diminish the effect we had on the outcome of the war, but our losses were minuscule in comparison.  There are no doubt monuments to WWI soldiers somewhere in the US, in fact I think I've seen them in larger towns.  But, make no mistake, there are no monuments in every little town all across the country with names of the dead.  No doubt because only 0.16% of the population perished in that war; very few American towns lost anyone at all. What a contrast to these three tiny towns in southern France.

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