Once again we are pleased to announce that our annual Memorial Program will be held Sunday,
May 30, 2010 at 2:00 PM. As in past years, the service will be held in the nave of the Washington
Memorial Chapel on Route 23 about two miles west of the Valley Forge exit of the Pennsylvania
We are very happy to announce that the speaker for the program will be Dr. John Rossi. Professor Rossi is currently Professor Emeritus of History at La Salle University, where he has taught since 1962. He holds an MA degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph. D. Degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of six books. Currently he is writing a new study of the English writer, George Orwell. He also is an expert on the history of baseball and is the author of The National Game: Baseball and The American Culture and The 1964 Phillies: the story of Baseballs.s Most Memorable Collapse.
As has been the tradition in the past at our Memorial Programs, refreshments will be served in the Patriot Room next to the nave of the Chapel. In order to have an idea of the attendance we would appreciate your mailing in the last page of this newsletter. In any event please come to the program. Everyone is invited and welcome.
The Forgotten War
For this talk I checked La Salle.s Library holdings on World War I and II. La Salle has approximately 400 books dealing with the First World War while World War II has generated more than 1000 holdings. This reflects reality today although I believe that it gives a poor impression of World War I.s significance.
One way to grasp this is a formula I often use to impress my students with the importance of the First World War.
The First World War created such social and economic chaos that allowed marginal types such as Hitler and Mussolini to come to power. In the highly stratified class society pre-1914 lower middle class types like Hitler or declasse intellectuals such as Mussolini were not taken seriously. In the 1920.s with the problems of runaway inflation, loss of faith in the concept of democratic government, major forced population transfers caused by the war, and the rise of aggressive nationalist movements, the Hitlers and Mussolinis were able to gain a hearing and eventually power.
The same holds true for Russia. She was a troubled nation before the war but the communist movement was a fringe group with support of less than 5% of the voters. When the war destroyed Russian society, Lenin and his communist followers were able to seize and hold onto power. Lastly, the United States was an isolationist nation before 1914 and happy to remain so. The war created economic and diplomatic pressures that led to America.s intervention. The problem was that unlike 1941 the United States wasn.t ready to accept great power status and returned to isolation after the war.
The war also had profound social consequences. For example, all governments encouraged their combatants to smoke cigarettes as a way of reducing stress and tension. In this way, a generation of young males was introduced to tobacco addiction. They in turn passed on this habit to their wives and girls friends leading to the first generation of serious women smokers.
With regard to the role of women in society, they had been campaigning for voting rights throughout the Western world but without any success. The role that millions of women played during the war undermined all the arguments that women were not capable of exercising the franchise. As a result women got the vote throughout the Western world in the 1920.s directly as a result of the war.
Another major consequence of the war was sexual. Before the war, most young men, especially middle class ones, were woefully ignorant about sexual matters, a reflection of the influence of Victorian Puritanism. As a result, during the war many young men were exposed to prostitution for the first time. Many of them came down with various sexual diseases. For example, approximately 20-25% of British troops were in hospital for sexually transmitted diseases. In order to cut down on these losses, armies began instructing soldiers in basic sexual hygiene including use of condoms. As a result a generation of young males learned how to effectively practice birth control with enormous consequences for the future.
World War I could be considered as the hinge of the 20th century, the conflict that set the trend for the rest of the century.