tv One Century Later Panel Discussion CSPAN August 17, 2014 6:30pm-7:43pm EDT
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facebook, and follow us on twitter. world war i began on july 20 8, 1914, when austria-hungary declared war on serbia. less than a month later, most of your pet joined. as the world marks the centennial, the national world war i museum in kansas city hosted a panel of historians and who talked about the effects of the conflict once known as the war to end all wars. this program lasts about an hour and 10 minutes. >> i' barbaram pinto. i will be monitoring our
discussion. for someone to introduce you to the gentleman who will bring today's discussion to life. on the far left is dr. chad williams, chair of african-american studies at brandeis. nexium, the senior lecturer at the university of south florida. the executive director of phi alpha theta national history honor society and a board member of the world war i association. last but not least, the author soldiers, americans under british command." he is an archivist. he teaches history at the u.s. naval academy. thank you for joining us. now, our panel of experts will be answering questions from me. if you are watching live, they can also answer questions from you as well. we will answer questions from the audience. @ww1cc tweet questions
or message us on our facebook page at world war one, spelled out, centennial commission. before we hear from our panel, we would like to take you to gaza to our al jazeera correspondent who has been there watching the crisis unfold for the past few weeks. lastled this report for us week before the most recent round of cease-fires. [video clip] >> somehow i ended up in the wrong war. on sunday morning, i had a ticket to northern yosemitiraq. by monday, i was on my way to gaza. since i have been here, i've seen a failed cease-fire, i've seen an escalation. i have seen hamas, the organization that runs gaza, accused of targeting civilians with these multiple rocket attacks out of gaza. they have eventually, as of today, killed one person. seen israel say they were striking military targets. and among the 213 people they
have killed, something like half or more of those people are civilians. some of whom i've seen up close. 213 killed now. today.ounded as of if you look over the skyline behind me, there have been plumes of smoke because of the israeli air, land and sea strikes. there have also been multiple rocket attacks coming out of this area. and of course, we have seen the result in the streets. there have been dozens of homes destroyed.mas leaders all buildings like the police station, the ministry of interior, any center of power in town has been targeted. the israelis have struck over 1000 targets. they say they have thousands more to go. to families today who
had left their homes days ago. heard about a cease-fire yesterday. and then were told again, with israeli leafless dropped from the sky, to leave their homes and they have returned to the center of gaza, a city that is not prepared to handle the hundred thousand people the israelis have asked to leave their homes. so there is likely to be a manager in crisis here. this is a city with a shortage of water. there is a shortage of electricity. most people get eight hours a day. and there is a shortage of food. this place has 50% unemployment. 80% of the people live in poverty and receive food aid. i've noticed that this a conflict with no end in sight. i was at the home of a hamas official today that was destroyed. but what was interesting is that in 2004 his home was destroyed once before. his son was killed.
he was injured. another son was killed in a separate engagement with israel, and then today, it happens all over again. weas we await a cease-fire, look forward and wonder whether whatever happens at the end of this conflict will make a substantial difference between israel and palestine over the long run. >> john hendron talks about a conflict that seem to have no end. at the beginning may be a bit more clear-cut. how does this fighting in israel and gaza relate back to world war i? >> ok. it's a pleasure to be here. world war i tow t understand the conflict going on now. local arab sein a leader approach the british government about an alliance because the turkish empire controlled all the middle east. in 1915, you have the famous
mcmahon-hussein correspondent where the arabs are told you can ally with us, but we will control iraq. we will be supreme. it is accepted after a long silence. but the key point is 1917. the balfort declaration. here the british inform the jewish people that they would have a new homeland and ensure the arabs they would not be disturbed. disturbing the british never intended any of what they said in this time. you have to remember britain was largest imperial empire in the world control 25% of the arabs at this time. have a military campaign and palestine which was on the level of what they anticipated for world war i, but wanting palestine for the british was that it would cover the flanks for the suez canal.
the suez canal is critical for india. their gemstone in their empire. the tragedy a lot of people are not aware of -- this is what the 7,bs look back to, on july 1918, a joint declaration was made by the british and french governments promising that if the arabs continue to fight against the turks, they would be given their independence and freedom. this is going to happen over and over again. it was never intended. when the war ended, there were 1 million british shoulders, most of them were indian, asian and african. but there was an immediate demobilization because people at home one of the war to end. well, what happened was no one anticipated between 191 and 1922 every area in the middle east
rose up and revolt -- in revolt. versailles's 14 er points gave them their freedom. wilson and clemens so and -- only intended that freedom to be in europe. they finally start to settle down and iraq and egypt become independent. no. the british still control them. they wanted oil in mesopotamia, in iraq. they did a campaign in 1914 and 1915 to get the oil for the dreadnoughts. but it is in the 1920's that nationalis starts to build, and with the islamic .revolution -- islamic evolution.
major5, you have a uprising in palestine. with the trouble starts is in 1939. the british government issued their so-called white paper, where they said you cannot have independence for 10 more years. it cause a lot of trouble. what happens when world war ii breaks out is that many of the arab leaders will support the nazis because it is the imperialistic british and french have controlled them. this becomes important, but also the fact that hitler's armies beat france in 1940. and the japanese embarrassed the british in 1941 and 1942 in the pacific. the middle east is never going to be the same. again, in 1941, particularly syria and lebanon are promised their freedom at the end of the war. this has to happen because by world war ii britain and france are finished as major imperialistic powers. 1947, after is
world war ii. this is when the british decide they cannot handle the religious problems in palestine or india. they ask the united states to take over control of palestine. we say no. so we turn it over to the united nations. but to make a long story short, as soon as the united nations claims a birth of israel, there is a war in 1948. there are other wars, 1967 and 1973. this brings in the great powers. because after world war ii in africa, asia, and the middle east, all the nationalistic groups can get weapons systems they could not before from the superpowers. the arabseen 1963 and switch to guerrilla warfare because they know they cannot win on the ground. i'll wrap up by saying you have
the palestinian liberation organization. it goes to hezbollah. now it's hamas controlling that area. i call it a more dangerous ireland. it is over religion, but this is not going to be settled for a long time. >> back to world war i. >> it all goes back to world war i, at the very beginning. >> i would like to elaborate from the larger point. we need to think of world war i first and foremost as an imperial war. this was a war about empire. all of the major belligerents in 1914 were major imperial powers, controlling vast amounts of land, resources, as well as people all over the world. in africa, and asia, in the middle east. and many observers at the time, blackubois, a intellectual leader recognize that the root of the war lay in the national rivalries over
imperial control over these different parts of the world. so it's important to think about what's happening today in gaza, in israel, in the ukraine but also in other areas. africa,and syria, very, the congo, as being legacies of-- being the legacies of imperialism. that disregarded the ethnic and religious identities of the people who lived there. so when you think about what the world, world war i means today, in manyurrent world, respects we are still experiencing the struggles over self-determination that animated the hopes and aspirations of many oppressed peoples all over the world at the end of the war. and are still being fought for today. >> just to sum it up, one of the points that the doctor made.
at the end of the war, the armies were more interested in demobilization. of thes the attitude people, especially in the united states. the papers were reporting what was going on in the middle east, but it was not so much of a concern in this country. as time went on after the war, we are celebrating and moving on. it was not possible in the middle east. and things were exacerbated. would get worse. now turning around to now. we are concern. it is the top news story. >> another one of those top news stories. russia and the ukraine. a conflict that seems to be spinning out of control. also with roots in world war i. how did this start? >> to you want me to start again? >> go ahead. >> the trouble between the ukraine and great russians, muscovites, starts back in the middle ages, but in world war i with the treaty of brussels -- 1918, the germans
had conquered the eastern part of europe. and the russians had dropped out of the war with the revolutioni in 1918. the ukrainians declared themselves a separate republic. the treaty was negated with a peace treaty at versailles. i want to mention, which is ukraine anderstand russia -- at the end of the war we know the four empires collapse. german, austro-hungarian, russian, and turkish. are whole area is where you going to understand the second world war is going to be born because the peace treaty of did not resolve what world war i was fought about but actually is going to increase the problems. my collects will go into that. but i want to mention in 1920, poland was reborn. it had not existed since 1795. the poles went to war against
the bolsheviks. she got -- they got the polish corridor, part of east prussian territory. i am mentioning this because the treaty of versailles could o nly senate voted down the treat. the treaty dependent upon britain and france. not going to do it. the danger was in the east. because the treaty of versailles germany or the soviet union became great powers, and they get about the same time. and their mutual enemy was poland. you understand better the machinations with hitler and the western front in eastern front. theh point -- the point is this, during the war, the ukrainian nationalists fought the nazis and the soviets. revolt against the
soviets continued until 1947, later president rousseff -- krus chev anwill threaten and for ukrainianrms pregnant women. there has been this hostility. when you start the cold war, the soviet union takes the eastern empire's protected area against invasion from the west. -- hoularly the threat is,r, what happens then many americans are not aware of this 1/4 of the former soviet union atomic missiles are still in the ukraine. by the fact that we are trying to toy with the ukraine and support them to get into the eu, this has been part of russia for centuries. so putin is right.
it is the same as cuba and the united states in 1962. press,the poeople in the because i do not believe the press. half they say -- half of what they say is baloney. you have to understand that the soviet union considers ukraine very vital to them. in fact, their entire navy consisted almost all of ukrainian sailors. we start playing and try to get them to revolt, which we never do. putin has a right. and that is only going to be resolved after much more bloodshed. it is not going to end overnight. thank you. circle to add one, to it back to the first world war, a lot of people do not know that there were american troops in both north russia and siberia. there were regiments while the other american troops were winding down on the western front, we had troops well into 1919 and later fighting against,
also in support of the white russians. it was a bloody situation where there were a number of americans who have lost their lives in an area we do not think of as a theater of war. >> in fact, josef stalin said at 1.1 of his speeches, the cold -- at one point, one of his speeches the cold war began when the americans landed in 1919. >> we talk about how this went back to the first world war. the treaty designed to end the war seem to perpetrated more war. what in your perspective to the people who came up with the treaty of versailles, what did they not understand? >> just to start off, i think part of it, when you look at the french, for example, there was a lot of anger. they wanted retribution against the germans. a lot of the infrastructure was destroyed. a lot of citizens. same thing with the belgians. a lot of their population had
died. so you had a lot of anger. you had a lot of animosity, of going after the germans. and that animosity i think led to some confusion of what they were going to try to achieve by having this treaty. and the united states was on the periphery of this. president wilson was a referee. theas never ratified in united states. thended up being more of -- other allies controlling things at the table. thet also reflected limitations of american influence when it came to the history and internal dynamics of your. -- of europe. the deep-seated hostilities that were at the core of the war, and how woodrow wilson and all of his idealism, his talk about
self-determination and creating a new international order of to the medical lace and was ultimately -- of diplomatic relations was not effective. which led to the next great conflict of the 20th century. but i think, even more specifically at the american perspective, and wilson specifically, his lack of attention to domestic affairs. he was in versailles negotiating, and america is in flame. you have race rights, labor unrest. you have a tremendous amount of upheaval. that affected the politics of passed the treaty through congress which did not
happen. there is a number of different factors looking from the perspective of the united states. and wilson speaks to why the league of nations and versailles was a failure. >> lloyd george and george, and so play -- george clemenceau played will the like a fill -- played wilson like a fiddle. so you had to be aware of that. with standr wilson up to something or say, i do not like that, they would say we're not going to vote for the league. this is how we gave into the mandates for asia, africa, and the middle east. he was convinced by lloyd george who had to be, snickering under their breath, we're going to give them their freedom. yes there is the abc mandate, but in the middle east they will be free soon.
wilson feell for it. the main other point is is that the austro-hungarian empir e was destroyed. a major political and economic structure for europe from the middle ages. created seven countries that could not exist alone. and nationalism was the key. and this, if you go back to what i said earlier, if germany becomes a great power, the soviet union. these countries are there for the taking, because they were nationalistic. each one had at least 1/3 of other races within them and they all wanted to rule on their own. and wilson never visited the battlefield once. never understood what the war was about. i hate to say it but lloyd george and clemenceau came out the winner's. war'sfully understand the
impact, it is important to take a closer look back at the four years that were world war i. how to describe that war? history channel asked some historians and authors to give it a try in one word. [video clip] ♪ >> if i had to choose one word to described world war i, it would be cataclysmic. word togle world to -- describe world war i would be catastrophic. >> transformational because nothing was the same. >> the one where that helps to describe world war i is destructive. -- the one word that helps to describe world war i is destructive. >> i would use mistake. >> stupid. that is how i would encapsulate the first world war. >> world war i did not have to happen. there was no inherent reason. it literally was dumb. >> a person during world war i
thought they were in a new age, fascinating, modern world. the world that produced the titanic, aviation, incredible advances in medicine. it seemed like everything was within grasp right before world war i. and all of these would be smashed in the battlefields of europe. >> from the very beginning, the road to war, to everything that comes out of the war is not just one mistake but a series of mistakes. people have the option to choose peace and time and again seemed to make the wrong decisions. >> it was lack of communication. it was intellectual rigidity. ofwas a simple falling dominoes that never needed to fall. so the children of the renaissance and the age of reason and the enlightenment ended up massacring each others. in the trenches. >> not just destructive in terms
of what happens to men's bodies on the battlefield. destructive in terms of global politics. >> the russian empire, the austro-hungarian empire, the weakening of the british and french empires. the world that existed in 1918, was are markedly different from the world that existed in 1914. >> the whole globe was influenced by this war. and the changes cover a wide range from technology and weapons, tanks. you see the maturation of artillery guns, machine-gunned, trench warfare. in world war i begins the modern era. an interesting piece. world war i began the modern era, but was this war a stupid war, a a mistake? what does that mean? >> i think it was an inevitable. war. with all of the different
factions. the empires as one of the other speakers mentioned. what was going on in europe. it was kick started by the assassination in serbia. it went from there. causes of thethe war, the alliance system the most important one. and this is how i explain to my students. austria-hungary was going to go to war regardless. she is going to invade serbia. germany did not start the first world war. the austro-hungarian monarchy is going to invade serbia and hope germany will keep russia out. russia is going to come in. and should be outfoxed from the balkan wars of 1912, which need a lot of explanation. to not have time, but why are britain and france and germany coming into the war august 1? because of the alliance system.
then ia add the arms race. from 1911 on,. everyone is arming to the teeth there is going to be a war. if you read the book "sleepwalkers." he's wrong. they were not sleepwalking. there is a book on austria-hungary. we had to name the five to 10 people most responsible for the outbreak of the war. they all knew what was going to happen because they were caught up in the nationalism, the most dangerous -ism of the 21st century. so the war starts out as a local war, but austro hungary has to her empireia or will class because she has 15 nationalities. published in 15 different language. for austria-hungary, it was survival of a great power. germany could not let austria-hungary be defeated. it is her only ally.
and the russians had signed a treaty in 1894 which would take the weight off the french and the west if they went to war. i'll stop and that my colleagues contiuenue. >> it mattered. at the time, the war matter to millions of people. they were fighting for something they believed in. and people all over the world were engaged in this conlicflic. engaged. to dismiss it as stupid runs a risk of dismissing it as a historical event. i think some other historians who spoke in the videos spoke to the tremendous ramifications of the war, the transformations that took place in terms of technology, in terms of the nature of modern warfare.
i. mattered in many ways so i would characterize, if i had to >> it was a tragic historical moment, but one that was incredibly important to how we think about the world today. why thisis a reason memorial. built as a it was an important event. the people who are involved, whether they're on the battlefields or political this was notnew the war to end all wars. they all knew it would lead to other conflicts. >> this building where in right now is a testament to that. world war i lasted for years and involved 20 countries and soldiers from five continents. 10 million lives were lost, 20 million wounded. many more disabled. a generation at that time wiped
out. u.s. was only involved for the last 18 months of the war. 2 million americans served overseas. 116,000 were either killed in combat or from disease. to put that in context, that is two times the casualties of american troops in more than a decade of war in vietnam. this was called the war to end all wars. clearly, it was not. it did just the opposite. help us understand how the united states got us involved in this war that was thousands of miles and an ocean away. >> using the word inevitable again, i think it was -- there was a point to the u.s. was going to get involved. the chief reasons, you can go back to the sinking of the lusitania, 1915. american lives are lost, germans have ramped up to you board war -- the u-boat war. we recognize the fact that we had to help our allies, who were the british and french at this
time. although there were a lot of americans in this country, immigrants from germany and irish immigrants who would've been just as happy if the united states had gone on the side of germany and certainly fought against the british. you had the mexican revolution which we became involved in and the zimmerman telegram that said hey, mexico, we will help you texas and newna mexico if you help turn this war. this helped turn the tide for the united states. there are so many people in this country that did understand why we need to get into a war that is more than 3000 miles away. we are not directly involved in that. without the united states, the war would not have ended and we certainly turned the tide. >> united states was involved from the very beginning, whether it was economic, providing arms for the allies, whether it is volunteers going to europe to the red cross.
you have americans following what is happening in the war. the immigrant communities have a clear connection in terms of their relatives and immediate family members. when the united states got involved formally in the war in the spring of 1917, it wasn't as if this was suddenly thrust upon the american people. their questions and issues that americans had been confronting and debating for quite some time. american mobilize the population was a different story. where major wilson becomes important in how he framed the war as -- woodrow wilson becomes important in how he framed the war. he tapped into the democratic idealism of the united states and was quite effective in terms of mobilizing a country that was wholly unprepared for war. united states and one of the smallest standing armies in the
,orld. the time the war ended we had emerged as a significant military power on the global stage. >> talk about public sentiment at that time in history among americans. were americans emotionally ready to go to war? how not ready where we? >> you ask a question. there are still animosity from the civil war. there were still divisiveness between the north and south. we certainly weren't ready as dr. williams pointed out, we had one of the smallest standing armies. we had a regular army force, we had the national guard, which was from the militia. we weren't ready technologically to fight this war. we didn't have enough manpower. we had to institute a draft does not entirely popular.
it really was starting from scratch. so did the british when they got into war. they had a small standing army as well. formhad to rely on their of the militia. the kindd states had of learning curve to build up to it. it took a while and angered a lot of the political leaders in france and britain who said just ring the american troops over. we will not make them with our troops. president wilson was against this. gas generaleneral john j burgeoning whose name is all over kansas city. he said you will not fight as an independent army, you'll find is the american army. if you need to help out the other belligerents, so be it. wilson never visited the battlefields. he sent secretary of war baker over there are couple of times. he would report back to him. he didn't care staff wilson didn't care so much about the
fighting. he cared about what would happen once the war was over. >> the united states government created an incredible propaganda machine to generate support for the war effort amongst many segments of the american population which was incredibly skeptical. you have the committee of public information, which was created by george creel which produces this remarkable machine of government-sponsored propaganda. you also have a strong element of government repression as well . american support for the war was the worst. you have one of the darker aspects of american involvement in the war is a tremendous suppression of civil liberties which took lace. restrictions of freedom of the press. there was a whole element to american involvement in the war, which in some ways counter to the democratic idealism that
woodrow wilson was propagating. >> i would also like to mention capitalism, because we do live in america. the united states government loaned money to britain. written loss also gold reserves, but britain loaned money to italy and france. war, who not enter the ? s going to pay the bills ech all the papers in new york city had news from the german government. it was a ship of war. it is one of the reasons we go into the war. i want to mention after the war because this is one of the things that helps hitler. the tines have trouble paying back toy, the french the british. the americans loaned money to the weimar government, which is used to build buildings. i don't have time to go into it.
the depression makes the difference. it is over these payments. hitler only becomes important .ecause of the depression and then his party rises. >> follow the money. we will switch gears just briefly here. major warook at this overseas, it also drove some huge cultural changes back here at home. further thewar fight for civil rights, for women's rights? dr. williams, you have done a lot of research. >> are the most erratic reverberations of the war happened on the homefront in terms of transformation and social, cultural, political and race relations in the united states. the war was framed, to make the world safer for democracy tapped in to the democratic aspirations of a broad range of marginalized
peoples and groups in the united states. we can look at the women's rights movement culminating in the 19th amendment. in 1919 we can look at organized labor and unionism, workers rights. african-americans who really used the language of discourse, of democracy, to engage in a struggle to affirm their citizenship rights and united states, but to also expand upon --ir citizen ship citizenship rights which had been under attack since the end of construction. we can look at the fact that you have some 300 80,000 african-american soldiers who served in world war i. 200,000 served overseas, roughly 40,000 fighting on the western front. very important in terms of what domestically, african americans, looking at them as a source of hope and inspiration. also the constitution -- or contributions to the war effort.
i think it often goes unrecognized. we can look at the war in many ways as being the birth of the modern civil rights movement for -- if we are talking about the black experience, how you have a generation of african-americans who come out of the war to fightd to continue for democracy, who take the lessons from the war, the positive developments but also the disillusionment's, and translate that into sustained efforts for change in the united states. it happens during world war ii the 1950's andin 1960's with what we now see as the modern civil rights movement. >> is important to mention that those african-american soldiers had to fight in french uniforms. talk about why that was, their lives in europe and their lives when they returned back to the united states. .> you had two divisions
i wrote a whole book about this. but, yes, two divisions of black combat soldiers. the 92nd division was served in american expeditionary forces and was subjected to institutionalized racism, segregation, had a very trying experience, especially amongst the black officers. you have another division, the 93rd division which was a provisional division made up largely of black national guardsman from new york, chicago and other places. division of american troops among the french. if and when the united states entered the war, not knowing what to do with this conglomeration of black national guardsman, he conveniently gave the 93rd division to the friends army. they literally served under french command, war french -- wore french uniforms
and acquitted themselves admirably. and spoke tonce the challenges that african-americans faced when faced -- when serving an american military. french under the generated as far as providing bike soldiers with a different ,iew of racial possibilities that there were alternatives to what they were experiencing and had experienced in the united states. translated into the postwar. period. >> some of the unsung heroes were native americans who served in the combat divisions, for example the 36th, which is out of oklahoma and texas. he had a number of native americans. we know about the novel code talkers in the second world war using codes to full japanese. actually, that dates to the first world war where the
choctaw code talkers in 36 used telephones and use their own dialect and came up with some kind of gibberish messages that fooled the germans around the champagne sector. native americans were rewarded for their so-called service by getting naturalization after the war. >> the war also drove incredible advances in technology. this is a war were soldiers rode in on horseback and came out in airplanes. talk about what people may not know about the technology and advancement that happened in the four years of world war i. research particularly advanced. you did not have your wonder drugs yet. one example, a lot of head wounds were fatal. particularly in the alps. that was the worst field of battle in europe. artillery shells would hit the rocks and pieces of rock would go into heads who did not have
steel helmets until the end of the war. an austrian who won an award in 1914 developed a process which allowed many of these people to live. it was resample. you clean up the world. -- with times you went abraham lincoln they treated the wound incorrectly. armor did not prove itself in the first world war. in fact, the germans did not see it as being that worthwhile because they didn't even build a lot of tanks. their artillery would stop them. that will be a development later. the telegraph and telephone become critical in the first world war, which leads to communication advances. we jumpstart in the second world war. oil becomes the mainstay of warfare. his explains the middle east later and even today, oil is the background and as we all know it is not going to last forever. they have to come up with
solutions. that is the key to military power. anyway, it is why china has tried to get all the oil she can. she's tried to build up a gigantic army and within a few decades it will be the first time in history that a country will actually be able to threaten an invasion of the united states. >> we will get to those tensions in a while. anyone else have anything to add about the technology that was developed during the war? of the paintings you're seen done after the war show soldiers in hand-to-hand combat and using their bayonets against fo. that was unusual. but of the reason was the fact that machine guns were so deadly. the germans were masters of the machine gun. they set up these pillboxes throughout their defenses and it was for difficult to get close to them because they were able to use them with such deadly , that having been fighting hand to dan -- hand to hand fighting never happened.
understandcal to that when the war began, artillery will end up being the killer of 81% of those killed in world war i. artillery was not accurate. thesee in the western front idea is more and more artillery. it is not until the end of the war that artillery becomes in effect be truly effective weapon. time front inhe one battle, the italians had an artillery piece every four feet. artillery is a key weapon in world war i. it is -- its evolution is slow and it has not completed that in 1918. poisonr that, tanks, gas, and a number of ways to perpetrate the horrors of war more effectively. we'll switch gears here now. world war i has been called the forgotten war. why is it so important to
remember? we asked a few historians and authors. >> i think is so important to remember the first world war because it shaped the world that we live in now. it was not something that is just long, gone and buried. the conflicts that emerge, the border disputes it from world war i continue to plague us in many serious ways. >> is often called the forgotten war because was overshadowed by world war ii. not only was world war ii greater in scope, it was cut.nized and it was clear you had the nazis on one side and you had the perpetrators of pearl harbor on the other. a great crusade with fabulous wonder weapons. economics called world war ii lord of the rings with tanks. world war i was young man dying in my den trenches that didn't move. it is not the stuff of heroic songs.
ofhink largely the madness world war i has been overshadowed by the crusade of world war ii. >> it is important to remember it because we went into it grossly unprepared and we repeated the same lesson over again in world war ii. >> the solution to the end of the war was not the solution, and that is a lesson we can use to the state. we have to be very careful about how we conduct international relations, especially when it involves armed conflict. >> individuals were not only confronted with four, they were confronted with a pandemic flu outbreak. ofmany of our young men died noncombat but the closeness that they had to live and the pandemic that spread. and thefaced a tragedy world faced a tragedy. a significant loss of life in world war i can be something we can never forget. >> world war i is important to
remember because it birthed an american century. we hear over and over again ,bout the greatest generation but who were the parents of the greatest generation? who forged the greatest generation? it was a world war i veterans. it was the family of world war i veterans. >> in addition to remembering those lives lost and the families of world war i veterans , it is important to remember this war because there are very stark and troubling geopolitical thenlels between now and there talk about that. people have said the world is on a crash course because of nationalism once again and other conflicts in the world. are these valid comparisons? >> i think some of the points made in this film, there were
heroes, there were a lot of heroes, for example in the american army, the highest honor one could receive was the medal of honor. i was not given out lightly. that was given out to men who did heroic things, who supported their comrades. some of them died trying. dr. williams could talk about freddy starts. he was killed in battle. he got metally african-american posthumous. dal posthumously. was -- the gas .arfare a lot of them did not want to talk about it. they never mentioned it to the families. during my work in the national archives i would meet families who found it much later on that
-- a relativewill who had fought in the war. they never talked about because it was such an horrific experience. certainly in this country, it became a forgotten war. thankfully, for the national memorial heroes museum, we can still remember what we did and i hope the next four years will -- we will be a will to pay tribute to those people. you can talk about this as well, it is certainly not a forgotten war in europe. if you go to france and great britain and germany, world war i is not forgotten. they're still living with it on a daily basis. french farmers are still digging --unexploded artillery cells shells. in united states, out of the reason why the war may be forgotten is -- has to do with the trauma as well as the disillusionment, and how the
reasons for why the united states fought in the war became very contested immediately after the war in 1919. the failure of the united states .o join the league of nations americans were actively questioning what this war was about, what the sacrifices were that we made for? that has been passed down from generation to generation. why the war doesn't have the same residence in the united states as it does in europe. >> in europe, it certainly does. i have been in poland and all over europe, particularly central and eastern europe, giving talks. all over central and eastern europe, they have fallen tears replacing all the gravestones of those who died in the first world war. in little villages and big cities, they will never be forgotten in europe because an entire generation was destroyed.
the so-called lost generation after the war, the great writers like hemingway and faulkner were disillusioned. i thought they were going to make a great contribution to this conflict there they went -- wently as volunteers in early as volunteers. no one was really happy about it very certainly the germans weren't nor were the allies. the people who fought in it gaveed questioning what we for this? what was our contribution? >> we look at the world today, some people have made comparisons between how the world looks then and how the world looks today, about certain conflicts and rivalries between countries. to compare that to how the world looks prior to world war i. talk about china going militarily and economically. how daunting are those comparisons in your mind? should be be concerned?
>> i think we should be concerned. it is to store before world war i of germany before england and possibly france. believe me, those of you think rush is not a threat, i have a bridge to sell you in brooklyn. rush is still a great power and is very dangerous. threat, andr and i'm earned used overpopulation. by 2050,t aware of it india will pass china and they will have well over half the world population. that often leads to war. an example howu world war i affected what is going on today. in world war i, president wilson told the chinese leaders that if they would go to war against germany, he would make sure that the peace treaty that they could bring up the shandong peninsula question which had been taken by the japanese.
well, whenever site treaty came saidlem and lloyd george to president wilson that they have a secret treaty with japan. it keeps the shandong peninsula. and thegraph arrived versailles treaty which the ,ietnamese, the chinese, etc. was ignored. critical, a century later. believe me. is, when the telegraphs arrived in china and they found out that they did not get the shandong peninsula, it led to the fourth of may movement, a gigantic upheaval. workers, intellectuals, as a , thet of this in 1919 chinese communist party was formed and the nationalist party. japan invaded china in 31 and 37. was one of the most corrupt rulers in history.
he was notorious for not fighting the japanese because he could not beat them. so the cap fighting the communists -- so we kept he kept fighting the communists. you will find a civil war will go from 1921 to 1949. ang spendwar ii, chi most of his time fighting communists and we were supporting him. in 49, the revolution succeeded. that is when the cold war moved to asia. you had the korean war. i can throw in japan. why is the korean war? because china had a revolution. the cold war is here. china has seen its self as betrayed by the americans and disliked us going back to the first world war era.
this china threat? she has a lot of nationalities, but she has a lot of problems and is destroying the earth environmentally, but she is also very dangerous. >> think when you get some challenges facing the world today, it raises a lot of questions about the efficacy of the international bodies. i think there are lessons to be learned from world war i about how to prevent wars and what steps need to be taken to create robust, sustainable international governing bodies. look at what is happening in israel, and gaza, ukraine, in syria. where is the european union? hopefully we can look back on world war i and some of the failures i came out of the war and hopefully take some lessons about how to prevent these
large-scale global conflicts from actuating into something more sinister. from escalating into something more sinister. >> the u.s. had military advisors and attaches all over europe and they were reporting on political, economic, military conditions. we knew what germany was doing. we knew they were building their -- they were preparing for war. this should not have come as a great surprise. going on in china? we need to be aware of what the chinese are doing. we need to not get caught off guard like we did in the korean conflict area >> thank you, we will take a few questions now from members of our live audience and from people online. to can tweak questions
@ww1centennialcommission. >> can anyone on the panel compare the recent downing of airliner over the ukraine with the sinking of the much discussed lusitania here today? say that toike to fly over that area was insane. youhave a war zone, why are flying over it? most of the major come -- countries were flying over it anymore. i think it was stupidity in the part of the malaysian airlines. >> another question from our artists? audience? our >> just effect that world war i had on women in america after the aftermath. you elaborated on labor and race relations.
>> a think the first world war gave women an opportunity. men went off to war, so that women just like in the second world war took over in factories and in other jobs they would normally not have been allowed to work at. certainly after the war, women's rights. women played a significant role oversees in volunteer organizations like the volunteer -- the salvation army, ymca, but also as telephone operators. of course nurses, and i am talking about this country. the world had changed and it opened up from this experience for women to be more empowered. >> another question? gentleman in the back. >> i would like to maybe
slightly disagree with those who say that the soldiers of world war i were a lost generation, in that many of the soldiers who fought in world war i came back and became community leaders. we have such people in kansas city as the judge and the gemini spearheaded the whole idea behind brown versus board of education. there are so many people who joined the american legion who became great assets to their community with golden ideas that someone picked up when they were in europe. >> you're absolutely right. a lot of soldiers came back and andme community leaders their churches and civic organizations and businesses. the point i want to make earlier was that they had such a horrific experience, especially on the western front, in the
trenches. as dr. williams pointed out, if you are an african american you were treated poorly by your white officers. dingbat and when they came i they wanted to move on with their lives and become better people and community leaders. >> the war was incredibly transformative for individual soldiers identities. test ofase of applicant african-american soldiers, the chance to travel to different parts of the world. the idea of a rural sharecropper going to france was revolutionary. the war expanded the horizons of many american soldiers, especially black troops, and they used those expenses to transform their lives for the better after the war, to
transform the lives of those in the family's and their communities. many african-american soldiers did become key members of their civil rights organizations. charles hamilton houston was one of the architects of the naacp's legal strategy to combat jim an officer in the american army during the war. you have many american soldiers who come back from the war who are deeply transformed and take those experiences into various aspects of their lives to affect change, locally as well as nationally. you had lieutenants and captured -- and cap to survive the first world war became the generals and field marshals of the second world war. was affectedrealm
as well. >> if you can just keep your hands up so rebecca can get to you. >> i just wanted to know from your perspective, we seem to be talking about the 20's as a generation where women get rights. longer fornk it took african-americans to get that same sort of momentum in terms of civil rights movement? do the thing is, just general opinion, how much of a difference would it have made it united states had joined the league of nations? in the case of african-americans, you have a deeply entrenched history and legacy of racism and systemic discrimination which took time to fight against. important to think about in terms of the significance of
world war i is we see the groundwork being laid, the seeds own for the civil rights movement. got organizations act the naacp, the urban league, that are growing and expanding. they have important shifts in the demographics of the country with african-americans migrating to the north. that affect political change. change being the calculus of politicians on the local and national levels as far as how they are going to support various civil rights efforts out of clinical expediency. it does take time, and that is why i think many historians today tend to think of the civil rights movement as not being the singular moment, but as a process, a long civil rights movement that really began in
the late 19th century and perhaps even continues today. can answer the league of nations? >> i was going to ask. go ahead. >> the main problem with league of nations is that it did not have any armed forces. have armed forces you don't make decisions. the united states and all the countries that fought in world war i had been bled to death. they were not anxious to fight. states had united been in, i don't think the united states a look would've voted to sentients anywhere. the league of nations was a playground for england and france. it was not truly a league of nations at all. look at muscling in invading ethiopia, he got slapped on hand. does a league of nations do anything when the japanese invaded china and 31 i-37? no. they put out a paper saying this
probably should not have happened. i'm not a big fan of the league of nations. you can probably catch that. [laughter] the league of nations without armed forces was not going to make a difference. >> we have a online. would there have been a hitler had the been no world war i? -- had there been no world war i? hitler was nothing in germany . again, it was a depression. hitlere depression hit, took all the arguments against versailles, articles 231 and 232, germany started the war, therefore she must pay.
it was economic troubles of the depression that brought him forward. it is a depression era that stalin was able to use to build up the russian army. you would not have had a hitler if it had not been for the depression. about one moreor question. anyone have a question? >> we are one more. >> does too much focus on the western front distort the history are goofy of the first world war? -- compensate for this? it took me under no how long to convince -- to convince people that there was an eastern front, which i write about. a lot of people don't understand the caucasian front, -- the caucasus front.
there are academic books out there that have this information. the western front, this is the key, if you don't understand it. write what powers they want. since the british speak english, we get what they say. i will tell you little secret. look at any book written before 1990 and you will see no picture a french soldier any british history of the first world war. the british only had 25 miles of the front. >> at the remember him for one more question. -- i think we have room for one more question. >> i would like to hear your honest opinion about how far we have evolved as a society when [laughter] i will elaborate.
i think it is alarming to see historians say this war was stupid simply because we continue to make the same mistakes. we talk about nationalism and we sit right here in america. being pulled into iraq after 9/11. none of our leaders have the courage to stand up to that based on nationalism. barely tamedjust destroy eachng to other? >> i have more faith in the human species that we would not replicate what happened in the first world war. i would certainly think there are important lessons to be learned. there are yearly parallels -- parallels.erie i do think we have perhaps point, and i am trying to be as optimistic as
possible, that we would not replicate what happened in the first world war. highnk the costs were so that the memories are still so we would with us that not make those kind of mistakes again. >> the trouble in the middle east and other areas is religion. >> you mention in your question about nationalism. became so nationalism as americans got further into the war. if we got into a major conflict like that again, americans would join together. one of the problems you brought up, was preparedness. even though there were leaders who urged the united states. that is something we should
consider. as things got more and more dangerous in the century. >> the problem is that armed forces were being made weaker and weaker. i don't think we should be the policeman of the continent, but you don't have diplomacy unless you have military force. that is what we have got to understand with china and russia. the understand force. they don't understand words. they'll listen to words. >> we will have to leave it there. i want to thank my panel. [applause] thank you so much. thank you. would also like to thank our audience for your thoughtful questions and we would like to thank you for your thoughtful answers. we like to extend a big debt of gratitude to the national world war i team and liberty memorial for hosting us here. to history channel and