World War I is often overshadowed by its younger brother, but it is still a historical event of great significance. Not only did the aftermath of World War I sow the seeds of World War II, but the war also had a profound effect on the culture and politics of the era. The battlefields of World War I are fascinating, because they provide a glimpse of the odd transition period that the war exemplified. There are many reasons to learn more about World War I, and these are just a few of them.
World War I is infamous for trench warfare. Due to the technology of the period, battles tended to be drawn-out and defensive. It was easy to fortify a position and hold it against attackers by digging trenches and stringing barbed wire in front of them. Behind the trenches would be machine gun emplacements. It was also easy for both sides to make a particular area of the battlefield uninhabitable with powerful artillery and poison gas. However, that meant that breaking through an enemy defensive line was almost impossible: it required fighting through the gas, artillery, and machine gun fire just to reach the trenches, where enemy soldiers waited in a strong defensive position. Tanks, bombers, and similar means of deploying mobile offensive power did not yet exist in significant numbers, so battles could last months. This unique aspect of World War I makes is battlefields a real treat to see, because they are the last remnant of the large, set-piece style of defensive battle that revolved around fortifications since the Middle Ages.
As its moniker suggests, World War I took place all over Europe, in many different locations and climates. There is a great diversity of WW1 battlefields, from open fields to cities and ports. While many of the important locations of World War I overlap with the critical areas of World War II, such as the eastern border of France and the boundary between Russia and Europe, there are some nations that were major forces in World War I but not in World War II. The most notable of these is the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman participation in World War I, the battles in the Balkans, and the subsequent political chaos were instrumental to the outbreak of World War II. There are many battlefields in this area that are quite distinct from the World War II locales, providing an interesting diversity.
Going on WW1 tours can be one of the best ways to immerse yourself in history that you didn’t know. World War II is a famous story, but many people are much less aware of World War I, the major participants, and the way it changed the world. There are many aspects of World War II and its era, such as the rise of fascism and nationalism, Germany’s resentment towards Western Europe, France and England’s reluctance to fight, and the origins of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that make little sense without the complete context of World War I. That’s what makes a tour on a WWI battlefield so rewarding- it is a span of history that offers new insights and information about the entire 20 century. That alone makes it worth the admission. On top of that, many of the individual battles are interesting in their own right. The bottom line is that for many people, World War I is an untold story, and touring the battles where the great nations of the early 20th century fought is the best way to learn that story.
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