Over the weekend, I made my first real outing (other than grocery stores) to a lecture at the library on World War I. It’s the 100th anniversary of WWI, the 75 anniversary of WWII, and the 25th anniversary of Desert Storm.
It was an interesting lecture, and I was also surprised at some of the similarities to Desert Storm.
But let’s start with a couple of the really cool facts of WWI:
- Prior to WWI, the U.S.’s army was comprised of local regiments. Like what we had for the Civil War. After WWI, it became a national army.
- We were an agrarian society before WWI started; we change to industrial afterward.
So some big society changes.
The war had been going on for some time when the U.S. entered it. Because we did not have a national army, the government had to pull one together and fast. The government started the Selective Service to draft soldiers. It took about a year and half. I’m pretty sure they were probably putting the soldiers on ships and sending them over that way (should have asked that!).
In Desert Storm, Iraq invaded Kuwait, which put them at the borders where they could invade Saudi Arabia. The U.S. had to mobilize its military and fast. Technology helped us be much faster than WWI. The Army was sending over the elite forces days after the invasion, and it took until about December for enough people to be over there.
WWI was right around the time women were outspoken about suffrage. They were viewed as radical. But then the war started, and the women pitched in. They were in some military roles and helped on the home front. After the war, they became more accepted because they participated.
Desert Storm was, at the time, the largest deployment of women to war. I remember it being new and strange … newspapers reported breathlessly on women who were leaving their children behind … the sergeants didn’t quite know what to do with us, so they treated us like men. The Army didn’t have any policies in place for dealing with any problems with women. That one, of course, has been evolving over the last 25 years. Women now can serve on submarines.
Like I mentioned above, we were farmers before WWI and after, we were industrial. People who saw WWI grew up with horse and buggies and at the time they died, they saw jets.
Desert Storm also saw a big change there, too. We were industrial, but knowledge work also came in to play a very large role. We went from expensive computers that only a few could afford to people holding a palm-sized one in their hands–and that everyone has.
WWI marketed the war heavily and controlled what information got back to the United States.
So did Desert Storm, in spite of the 24 hour news cycle. That one has done us as a society a disservice. I just saw an article the other day about how the government censored out the violent aspects of the war. The result is just like Star Trek brought up in A Taste of Armageddon. Everyone expects war to be as neat and as non-violent as possible. If one civilian is killed, the media parades it as a military failure. War is messy. Moreover, it needs to be messy.
It’s why wars need to end.
Finally, both wars are largely being forgotten. We had some big WWI events just recently, and they barely got reported, and in some newspapers, not at all. For Desert Storm, some of the veterans have actually heard people say, “That doesn’t count as a war.”
And each was followed by another war that eclipsed it … WWII for WWI and the Iraq War for Desert Storm.