Prior to 1914 when countries went to shooting at each other it was largely massed rifles versus massed rifles, shooting a volley at a time and reloading. Same with the artillery barrage as such it was when cannons were reloaded by hand and fired one shot at a time. As recently as the American Civil War men simply stood in long lines facing each other and shooting.

But between the Spanish American War and the outset of hostilities of what would become known as The Great War, killing science took giant leaps forward.

DuPont invented smokeless powder, no more battlefields so obscured by smoke you couldn’t tell if you were firing at your own or theirs. A couple of men, Maxim and Thompson invented rifled-guns that would fire and self-reload instantly readying you to fire another shot. Some of the loading mechanisms were adopted to a larger scale to outfit artillery and make the canons shoot faster and more accurately.

The battle scene grew clearer with less smoke and guns and artillery achieved the ability to put more hot lead and high explosives in the air, carnage was routinely used to describe battle conditions.

And then by 1914, the European conflagration had gotten underway, though America under General Pershing would not step foot into France for three more years.

Meanwhile the Germans and French, Englishmen, Turks, Russians, Balkans, and all their allies and their colonial interests were busy for a full three years butchering each other from Gallipoli to Brussels utilizing the new machines for war to their utmost degree of efficiency. Carnage.

Flying machines equipped with the new-fangled machine guns strafed enemy trenches and dropped small bombs during lunch time.

Welcome to the mechanized War.

The ‘tank’ was also developed during WWI by the British and a good wartime idea too; enclosing oneself in a self-propelled steel fort and advancing on the enemy rather safely while consigning opposing soldiers to history at the rate of 300 rounds per minute.

Getty Images Machine Gunners

For added excitement poison chlorine gas was weaponized and utilized. Ever get a close sniff at the neck of a bottle of bleach? Then imagine the entire atmosphere for miles around you filled with mustard gas. How do you don a big rubber mask and still fight, shoot, bayonet, charge at the enemy, and importantly how do you breathe?

Then America entered the war and made rapid progress with even larger numbers of modern war machinery. We brought hundreds of thousands of REO trucks to move around with where the other combatants had used horses. We could get our machinery in place much faster to induce carnage.

Oh, another WWI era invention was 4 wheel drive. It’s really muddy in the winter in France.

At the end of it all, when the paperwork was signed saying everyone had simply had enough war, the young survivors and the old men sat back and gasped at the amount of Carnage they had created.

Carnage when long lines of men in battle would emerge from the trenches and walk straight into murderous fields of machine gun fire while dodging artillery. Thousands from all sides could be killed in a single battle in just a few hours. Day after day for four years. Carnage at the gas releases that killed men sleeping simply trying to get a few hours rest, as well as choking those alert in the trenches. Carnage as bigger and bigger artillery pieces were launched from ever larger guns.

No one living at the time could remember, and no one living had ever even read about the carnage in human terms the likes of which World War I produced, it was utterly and humanly shocking. So many young lives were lost, and so many survivors lived with what we now call PTSD for the rest of their lives that the media in those days coined the term “The Lost Generation” to describe those that endured and survived the great cataclysm.

Though the national leaders of countries of that day had no idea what lay ahead for civilization with WWII and the many conflicts we have today, along with street violence and terrorism they only knew that up until 1918 the world had never witnessed such bloodshed.

In the End, They Said: Never Again

They vowed to never let it happen again. The paper to end WWI was signed by all parties on November 11th, at precisely 11 am local time near Paris, France. No one was actually declared a winner of the war, though Germany was made to foot the bill for the entire thing (an issue that wouldn’t rest in Europe until May of 1945).

The leaders emerged from a train car in which the signing took place, declaring the world would never enter into another such war. The American president, Woodrow Wilson even proposed that nation heads periodically meet together to discuss issues in an attempt to try to prevent war. (the failed League of Nations that led to the start of the United Nations after WWII)

The leaders declared that all through history going forward, the ending of the Great War on November 11th, 1918, one hundred years ago, would stand to celebrate those warriors that survived and to serve as a reminder to all men and all countries to never go to war again.

And that’s how Veterans Day got its start, though it was originally called Armistice Day in honor of the paperwork signed on that train.

On Veterans Day, we thank those living veterans that have risked everything to keep safe the ideals we Americans covet; a law-abiding peaceful society, the ability to rise on one’s own efforts and abilities on his own merit, the ability to give charitably to those perceived to be in need, the ability to worship a creator or not as you choose and many other freedoms that allow humans to grow and expand and rise according to their own natural abilities.

We don’t thank veterans on Memorial Day (when we honor those that didn’t come home), or the 4th of July (when we gave the middle finger to King George III in 1776), no we Thank veterans on Veterans Day for their service to the rest of us. For their willingness to risk their lives to keep ours safe from harm.

True Hope Never Fades Away

And when we thank them, the unspoken eternal hope inside us both is always there, as it was with those who saw firsthand the savagery of WWI, that somehow at some point a permanent Peace will break out and we won’t ever have the need for a veteran again.

But until then we do, we Must.

So we humbly and sincerely Thank our Veterans, Thank You, sirs and madams, we appreciate all you did.

Getty Images Western Front Battlefields Ahead of The 100th Anniversary of The End of WW1