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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: The War to End all Wars (Freedman)

Title: The War to End All Wars
Author: Freedman
Genre: Non-fiction, War, History
Pages: 192
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Even though the majority of the reviews posted on this blog are fiction titles, it is no secret that non-fiction is my passion.  There is great joy in finding well-written and interesting non-fiction titles, especially for teens.

So it should not be a shock that non-fiction master Russell Freedman has done it again with his recent book on World War I.  This "War to end all wars" is very important in the history of the world, but is often not covered as extensively in class as WWII. 

In this book, Freedman untangles the relationships and alliances of the many nations involved and succinctly explains the causes leading up to WWI.  Discussion is also given to the introduction of modern weaponry and the effects of these destructive weapons, top-level military decisions that resulted in casualties on an unprecendented scale, and why the resolution to the conflict only fanned the flames that led to WWII. 

There are archival photographs included throughout which really lend to the tone of the book.  On, the author posted a letter to readers about why he wrote the book, and I think this letter describes the book best:

Dear Amazon Readers,

...In 1916, my father ran away from home, changed his name, lied about his age, and joined the United States army. He was 14 years old. Back then, before social security numbers and computerized record keeping, it wasn't difficult to take on a new identity, and that's exactly what my father did. To begin with, he was sent to the Mexican border to fight Pancho Villa under General John J. Pershing. And when the United States entered World War I, he sailed to France with the 7th Infantry Division. In the fall of 1918, he was shot and gassed, and he spent several months recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

My father was proud of his service to America, and I grew up hearing nostalgic stories of his adventures as a teenage soldier. But as I eventually learned, the war's reality presented quite a different tale. This was the first global conflict to employ modern weapons--long-range artillery, rapid-fire machine guns, poison gas, flamethrowers, tanks, and airplanes that bombed and strafed--the first war in which modern weapons inflicted mass slaughter, introducing new kinds of terror and record levels of suffering and death. It was now possible to kill your enemy at distance, without seeing him.

Called the Great War at first, because of its massive and unprecedented scale, the conflict later was known as the War to End All Wars, because it was unthinkable, unimaginable, that humanity would allow such carnage to be repeated ever again.

...It was said at the time that if the war could just once be described in honest and accurate language, people everywhere would demand that the fighting be stopped. That challenge was taken up by many ordinary soldiers of World War I, the men in the trenches, who recorded their experiences under fire in letters, diaries, journals, and memoirs that provide us today with eyewitness accounts of what it was like to fight in the War to End All Wars.

Russell Freedman I put our library copy on display for Veterans Day and it was checked out quickly...before our history teacher had a chance to look at it and use it in class.  Might have to order another copy!

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