Historians Observe Centennial of World War I's End

Nov 9, 2018

Nov. 11 is Veteran's Day, which was once known as Armistice Day. It's also the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, on which ended World War I, then known as "the Great War," or - with hope, but sadly, not truly - "The War to End All Wars."

Sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by Serbian nationalists in June 1914, the war quickly grew into a worldwide conflagration that no one would have predicted, as Russia, France, and England joined their ally Serbia when Austria-Hungary's ally, Germany, joined it (many other countries were to join the fray as well, including, of course, the United State in 1917). Lander University history Professor Ryan Floyd said that oddly, no one entered the war seeking any particular goals. The war was not for land, oil, gold or revenge. But once it started and countries came to the aid of nations they had treaties with, things got out of hand.

Historian Fritz Hamer said around 60,000 South Carolinians were drafted into the service during the war, and about 1,000 died, though probably half or more died of disease, not combat. Though the bulk of Americans didn't reach Europe until the summer of 1918, only a few months before the war's end, Floyd said they made a difference, not only on the battlefield, but psychologically, as the exhausted Germans saw two million fresh troops coming from the United States as their people were starving and their resources running low. By late October the war was all but over, and on Nov. 11 it was, in fact. Hamer laments that "the more we look at history the more we realize how little we seem to learn from it," and Floyd says it is still right to honor those who gave their lives in service to their country, whether it's today, a century ago or a century from now.