World War I was the first war to be considered a ” total war”. This means that the war was not only fought at the fronts, the entire population was affected, mainly in Europe, eastern Europe and north America. While soldiers fought for their country civilians dedicated themselves to work towards war purposes. It was a war with no limits, where victory was considered indispensable and the end would justify any mean necessary. For the first time the war was fought in the air and in the seas, as well as on land. Everyone, with no exception, filled the role of a target for the opposition.
The Great war started with mass mobilisation of the armies to the front. In the beginning the war was expected to be a short one and most men thought of it as an adventure. Millions of men volunteered to fight with a nationalistic spirit for their country, none of them possibly knowing the outcome of the atrocity. Over six million people were mobilised through out fifteen countries world wide. The mobilisation of the troops and warfare equipment was carried out with remarkable organisation.
The mass mobilisation of men to the fronts and to army training camps created a disproportion of female population in the towns. This meant that women had to take over jobs that were, before, restricted to men. The industry of each country was almost exclusively dedicated to the production of arms, munitions, the supply of raw materials and uniforms. The factories that produced unnecessary goods for consumption were rapidly changed to the production of armament or equipment. The civilians were submitted to twelve hour work shifts, seven days a week. Although they were not fighting the actual battles the war affected their lives in a drastic way. The war consumed everybody’s lives on a daily basis.
The women left husband-less, child-less or father-less were not only required to work in the factories, but also made to grow food in their gardens. The attention provided on war effort did not leave much space for good farming and supplying food. Many people suffered from starvation, especially in Russia and in Germany. The under-nourishment was suffered both by the civilians and the soldiers as there was not enough food to send to the battle fronts, or there were problems with transportation. For the first time rotation was used as a means to produce more. During this warfare phase many advances and changes took place: in agriculture, transport, communication and especially in machinery.
The period of total war is also characterized by using any means possible of destruction, the advances in arms and destroying materials were outstanding. For the first time the war was fought from the air. The aircrafts were designed for bombing, observation and fighting. The dedication into the improvement and creation of these planes was exceptional. The figures speak for themselves: in 1914 France owned 162 aircrafts and in 1918 the number amounted to 11 836. Another novelty introduced in this war were submarines. Along with the equipment improvements the arts of camouflage and warfare techniques were perfected. On land trench war was performed, the war was impersonal. The soldiers did not see who they were killing, it could be their enemy or their friend. The modern weapons were capable of shooting in a five mile radius.
The new machinery was not only used to fire army bases and the opposing soldiers. The bombs were taken into the towns or dropped unexpectedly from the ski. Hospitals, villages and farms became the new targets, there was no escape. Soldiers followed orders blindly. The traumas they had endured made them heartless and retracted. The war had gone beyond a military confrontation.
The massacre of the war was not totally discovered until later. Although the people living in the towns were living in poor conditions, suffering from foot shortages they believed that their families or relatives in the war were successful. This created most of the incentives to work. Curiously the people in every country believed that they were winning, that they were beating the opposition into the ground and would come out as a victorious, dignified and rich country. Considering this, they were happy and continued with a great patriotic sentiment. This false information was due to the media. The media was censured by the government, only allowing news papers to publish pictures of the opposition’s dead bodies and articles about their own victories, many times complete fiction. Civilians were kept with falsely high spirits and empty hope while they made their contribution to their country.
As we can see, every part of civilization was dedicated to the war. It became the only objective. It absorbed, involved and took over every aspect of what was known as a normal life. The war ended with no winners, just a mass of broken down homes with equally broken down people. All efforts and all resources possible were put into a war that spread through out the whole world causing over eight million deaths and over fifteen million casualties. After the war the land was rendered barren and the towns were unrecognisable. World War I was a total war as it literally changed the world as people knew it. The implications of the war are unaccountable for, as are the consequences. After a world wide effort for a positive outcome the war turned out to be a bloodbath with no resulting answers. The totalitarian unity of vast amounts of people fighting for the same goal, made this war unlike any other.