Yale's Jay Winter sums up what we should remember about WW I

tags: Jay Winter, WW1



A chauffeur's happenstance wrong turn down a back street in Sarajevo 100 years ago this week ended in the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Habsburg empire. Archduke Franz Ferdinand's murder was the catalyst for the Great War that haunts the cultural memory of Europe a century later but has made a less visible mark on American society — just count the World War I films versus World War II movies. Jay Winter, a Yale historian, has spent his adult life trying to figure out the war that didn't end all wars but opened the bloody gates of 20th century industrial slaughter.

Why is a war this devastating barely a blip to Americans?

The war did not affect the United States in fundamental ways. It's not written into family history. What people remember is the crossing of family history and global history. The United States was at war for 16, 17 months, and it suffered a bloody nose. Most of the major [European] countries suffered a wound that to some degree has never healed — 1.4 million Frenchmen killed, 1 million people who wore British uniforms killed. In French and British family life, everybody had somebody who was wounded or killed in the First World War. The American Army lost 100,000 men in the First World War, and half of them died of the Spanish flu...





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