November 11, 2018
By Arthur H. Gunther III
(also on Facebook)
When, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, 100 years ago, the guns of August 1914 were finally silenced, 40 million casualties could still be heard, their plaintive cries ignored as the path to the next war was already under construction.
So, what do you say to those who sacrificed, who died in their country’s service, no matter the nation? The mechanical horrors alone of the Great War — super-big artillery, first use of tanks, mustard gas — should have been enough to thwart World War II. But no. Even the later atomic bomb and the threat of world annihilation have not ended conflict. Humankind’s thirst for power, and especially money, combined with the embers, then flames of hatred and prejudice, constantly bring us war.
So, what do you say to the soldier, sailor, marine, airman, mother, father, brother, friend of the fallen, the physically wounded, the emotionally struck of the Great War on this centennial? Wasn’t their sacrifice enough?
One of the last soldiers, dying in the mud in the Second Battle of Guise, November 4-5, 1918, might have had hope that his son, his baby, would see a better world. His eyes closed on that hope. But the world let him down.
There will be many tributes on November 11 to mark 100 years. Big leaders will come (or not, as Trump, the American president, was a no-show at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Belleau, France, citing rain though the dead perished in slogging mud).
There will be articulate speeches, great memorial wreaths. And elsewhere some dictator will be killing the innocent; some horrible people will be practicing genocide; some war-profiteer will be getting even richer.
Yet the hope for a better world persists, as it must, if those who perished shall not have died in vain.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org