World War I
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World War I was a military conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918. It was a usual war with airplanes, machine guns, and tanks. However, the commanders often fought World War I like it was a 19th Century war. They would march their troops across open land into the face of machine guns and often slaughter. A result of this, was the invention of the strategy known as trench warfare.
The most recent use of use of trench warfare, before World War I, took place during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). This war attracted worldwide attention among military authorities that were interested in studying the latest technology used in war. Many viewed trench warfare to be an effective tactic against enemy advancement. Because of this view, trench warfare proved to be, in World War I, an ineffective and traumatizing experience for all.
In September 1914, the German commander, General Erich von Falkenhayn ordered his troops to dig trenches that would provide protection from the allied troops. When the allies reached the trench, they soon realized that they could not break through the line that the trench provided. They also realized that the trench provided the Germans with shelter from their fire. Soon after, the allies began to dig their own trenches and, therefore, trench warfare began.
Not very long, after the first trenches of the war were dug, a network of trenches arose. This network spread across France and Belgium for many miles. Within the network, there were three different types of trenches: front line trenches, support trenches, and reserve trenches. The first line of trenches was called front line trenches. These were usually two meters deep and had a zigzag pattern to prevent enemy fire from sweeping the entire length of the trench. In order to prevent the trench form caving in, sandbags were stacked against the trench walls. Between the trenches of opposing forces laid no mans land. This area between the opposing front line trenches was filled with barbwire and mines to prevent enemy crossing. If a soldier was ever injured in no mans land, he usually was killed because of his vulnerability to enemy fire. The second and third types of trenches were the support and reserve trenches, respectively. These trenches were constructed to easily move supplies and troops to the front trenches. All of the trenches were linked to each other by other trenches, underground tunnels, or telephone communications networks. Barbwire was also stretched across the line to protect from enemy attack.
While the design of the trenches and the network of trenches seemed like a great tactic, the reality of the life in the trenches was a different story. Life in the trenches took its toll on the soldiers involved in the war. The soldiers in the front line trenches often stayed there for at least 10 days at a time, usually with very little sleep. The main reason that soldiers on the front line could not sleep was to be on guard against enemy sneak attacks. Another reason that the soldiers were very tired is that night was used as a time for preparation and maintenance of the trenches. The trenches were constantly being destroyed, either by enemy shellfire, or water damage. Many times, soldiers would be buried alive by the collapsing trench walls. Paul, in All Quiet on the Western Front, states Our trench is almost gone. At many places, it is only eighteen inches high, it is broken by