“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s own country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.”
– Ernest Hemingway
“Technology in relation to war has always been a determining factor in the outcome of battle, and no war reflects this relationship as much as the First World War. In preparation for the war, there was a plethora of opportunity for young inventors and factories to produce revolutionary machinery following the Industrial Revolution. The creation of weapons became an industry, and factories rushed to produce killing devices. Machine guns and rifles were designed for trench warfare and had the ability to kill far faster than any weapon previously created. Yet, as advanced as the machines were, the mentality of how a war should be fought was still rooted in the Nineteenth Century military tactics. The war tactics of the American military were fairly simplistic compared to the advanced weaponry it was using, and “improvements in artillery and the proliferation of machine guns made offensive warfare a bloody business.”1 Due to the primitive fighting tactics of trench warfare and the advances in technology, World War I was not just ‘bloody business;’ it was a brutal blood bath that shocked the military as well as the entire human race.
Trench warfare is usually attributed to the Germans who successfully used it in 1914 by blocking British forces to create a stalemate at Chemin des Dames Ridge.2 Trenches were designed with a high front and lower back, lined with sandbags and usually dug in a zig-zag pattern, so that soldiers could fire at the enemy without exposing their entire bodies.3 Trenches were in no way a glorious place to be. They were dark and cold, often flooded and rat infested, and as one historian concludes, “there were actually occasions where men had to stand for days on end up to their waists, or even their armpits, in freezing water. Usually the water mixed with the earth in the trenches and turned to thick mud, making each step an effort.”4 Soldiers were supposed to stay in the trenches for no more than four days, but this rarely happened, and many men spent over two months straight in the trenches.5 The strategy was to outlast the enemy, attack (usually at night) and conquer military personnel in the opposite trenches. However, this mainly resulted in deadlock fighting and immense casualties.”