Before Europe exploded into what was called at the time “The Great War” 100 years ago in 1914, war had not really changed much for centuries. But with World War I, gigantic empires crumbled, kings fell and the way global politics worked has never been the same. When the 20th century started, World War I helped to sweep the floor clean of old institutions and old ways of thinking about nations and governments. Part of it was the technology that allowed armies to cause tremendous destruction with less, but perhaps it was also just the time for the old institutions to give way.
A British woman who served with the Royal Air Force for the last two months of World War I was the last known veteran of the war when she died in her sleep Saturday night. Florence Green joined the RAF at the age of 17 and died just before her 111th birthday, which would have been Feb. 19. She had been a mess steward with the air force, the BBC reported, serving in two U.K. air bases after she joined up on Sept. 13 1918. The Allies signed the armistice with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918.
Until some old Thomas Edison wax cylinders were recently restored, no one alive today had actually heard the voice of Otto von Bismarck, the chancellor of Germany that ruled pulled a number of diverse states together into a powerful German empire.
Oh France and your crazy anti-German schemes. While the Maginot Line in WWII was sort of a joke, in World War I, the French had a plan that actually might have worked pretty well for the time had it not been thwarted by the end of the war and all. They were going to build a fake Paris on the outskirts of the real one.
Frank Buckles was an ambulance driver in World War I and returned to Europe to fight in World War II where he briefly became a prisoner of war. And yesterday at the age of 110, he passed away peacefully at his home in Michigan, leaving not an American alive who remembers fighting in WWI.