Amoeblog

November 11th, 1918, Armistice Day

Posted by Whitmore, November 11, 2009 11:00am | Post a Comment
The War to End All Wars. Though in 20 years time the Second World War would begin and the 78 million casualties would more than double the amount of World War One.
 
The total number of casualties in World War I, both military and civilian, was about 38 million: 16 million deaths and 22 million wounded (7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured).
Of the 60 million European soldiers who were mobilized from 1914 – 1918, the official number of deaths was 9,721,937 with 21,228,813 wounded personnel; that is over half the military population. The Entente Powers (also known as the Allies -- United Kingdom, France, the Russian Empire, Belgium, Serbia, Canada, Australia, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania and the United States) lost 5.7 million soldiers and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria) about 4 million. Civilian deaths officially totaled 6,821,248, though many estimates double that number.
 
Germany lost 15.1% of its active male population, Austria–Hungary lost 17.1%, and France lost 10.5%. About 750,000 German civilians died from starvation brought on by the British blockade during the war. In 1914 alone, the typhus epidemic killed 200,000 in Serbia and a few years later more than 3 million more would die in Russia. By 1918, famine had killed approximately 100,000 people in Lebanon. In addition, the biggest influenza pandemic of the century, the Spanish flu, spread around the world killing at least 50 million to as many as 100 million people. Though the war was not the cause of the flu, it certainly hastened the pandemic (the first cases were found at the army base, Fort Riley, Kansas). With massive troop movements, close quarters and poor sanitary conditions, some researchers speculate that the soldiers' immune systems were weakened by malnourishment as well as the stress of combat and attacks from chemical weapons, increasing their vulnerability to the flu, widening the spread of the disease.
 
Battles of Arras, Somme, Verdun, Soissons, Ypres, Liege, Lorraine, Belleau Wood, Antwerp, St. Quentin, Fromelles, Artois, Bazentin Ridge, Gallipoli, Ctesiphon, Dujaila, Asiago, Caporetto, Mount Ortigara, Piave, Vittorio Veneto, Galicia, Komarów, Kraśnik, Gumbinnen, Łódź, Przemyśl, Rawa, Tannenberg, Vistula River, Kajmakcalan, Kosovo, Bucharest, Cer, Kolubara, Mărăşeşti, Turtucaia, Neuve Chapelle, Cambrai, Saint-Mihiel, Passchendaele, Mont Sorrel, Messines, Marne, Le Cateau, Loos, Guillemont, Fromelles, Charleroi, Gaza, Romani, Hanna, Kut, Champagne, Broodseinde, Amiens, Aisne, Kisaki, Erzincan, Manzikert, Sardarapat, Sarikamish...
 
In many parts of the world people take a two-minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Posted by Whitmore, November 11, 2007 10:05am | Post a Comment

This weekend marks the anniversary of the death of a personal hero of mine, poet Guillaume Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky, better known as Apollinaire, who died during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. His greatest contribution to the 20th century, other than coining the term ‘surrealism’ and helping to publicize and define the cubist movement, was probably his poetry, influencing many of the avant-garde, dada and surrealist writers in post-Great War France, such as André Breton and Tristan Tzara.


Some of the best anecdotes about Apollinaire concern his occasionally dubious character. He was known for reviewing non-existent books and writing erotic / pornographic fantasies under pseudonyms. Re-inventing facts was a penchant of his, often ending in uncomfortable predicaments. In 1911, for example, he was detained for six days on suspicion of stealing the Mona Lisa.  When things looked a bit bleak, he pointed the finger at his trusted friend Pablo Picasso, implicating him in one of the biggest crimes of the era. Both were eventually exonerated, but the Mona Lisa wasn’t recovered until 1913, and after some eight forgeries had been sold! Nevertheless, the more adventurous Parisians were counted in Apollinaire’s circle of friends and colleagues. They were the who’s who of  Paris, artists like Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Marie Laurencin (his long time lover), Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp, writers Gertrude Stein, Alfred Jarry, Max Jacob, and composer Erik Satie.

After the start of the First World War, Apollinaire joined the French military, requesting front-line infantry duty. On March 17, 1916, while entrenched on the front near Champagne close to the Belgian frontier, he suffered a shell wound to the temple. The neurological consequences of such an injury are uncertain. But what is certain, according to people who knew him before and after, his personality and behavior altered dramatically. He became irritable, anxious and depressed, ending significant relationships, including breaking the engagement to his fiancé. Perhaps in part because of his war wounds, exposure to mustard gas, or any of the multiple surgeries he underwent, Apollinaire would become one of an estimated 100 million people worldwide who died from the great influenza pandemic, passing on November 9th in his apartment in Paris at 202 Boulevard Saint-Germain. Every couple of years or so I travel to Paris and I always make a point to stop by his gravesite in Père Lachaise, open a bottle of wine, snack on some bread and cheese, relax and give people directions to Chopin’s and Jim Morrison’s graves.