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The First World War Was A Horrible Experience For All Sides

involved. No one was immune to the effects of this global conflict and
each country was affected in various ways. However, one area of
relative comparison can be noted in the experiences of the French and
German soldiers. In gaining a better understanding of the French
experience, Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est was particularly
useful. Regarding the German soldier’s experience, various selections
from Erice Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front proved to
be a valuable source of insight. A analysis of the above mentioned
sources, one can note various similarities between the German and
French armies during World War I in the areas of trench warfare,
ill-fated troops, and military technology. Trench warfare was totally
unbiased. The trench did not discriminate between cultures. This “new
warfare” was unlike anything the world had seen before, millions of
people died during a war that was supposed to be over in time for the
holidays. Each side entrenched themselves in makeshift bunkers that
attempted to provide protection from the incoming shells and brave
soldiers. After receiving an order to overtake the enemies bunker,
soldiers trounced their way through the land between the opposing
armies that was referred to as “no man’s land.” The direness of the
war was exemplified in a quotation taken from Remarque’s All Quiet on
the Western Front, “Attacks alternate with counter-attacks and slowly
the dead pile up in the field of craters between the trenches. We
are able to bring in most of the wounded that do not lie too far off.

But many have long to wait and we listen to them dying.” (382) After
years of this trench warfare, corpses of both German and French
soldiers began to pile up and soldiers and civilians began to realize
the futility of trench warfare.

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However, it was many years before any major thrusts were made
along the Western front. As soldiers past away, recruits were ushered
to the front to replenish the dead and crippled. These recruits were
typically not well prepared for the rigors of war and were very often
mowed down due to their stupidity. Both the French and Germans were
guilty of sending ill-prepared youths to the front under the guise
that “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” (380) Owen’s
Dulce et Decorum Est is a prime example of this “false optimism”
created by the military machine in France to recruit eager new troops
to die a hero’s death on the front lines. Remarque also alluded to the
fact incompetent young recruits were sentence to death. In reference
to the young recruits Remarque stated, “It brings a lump into the
throat to see how they go over, and run and fall. A man would like to
spank them, they are so stupid, and to take them by the arm and lead
them away from here where they have no business to be.” (383)
Millions of French and German soldiers, both young and old lost
their lives during this world-wide struggle for survival. It is not
necessary for one to go through an intense amount of abstraction in
order to note similarities in the weaponry each side employed during
the first World War. “Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas,
tanks, machine-guns, hand grenades” were all weapons that served the
same purpose. (383) It did not matter if these weapons were in the
hands of German or French soldiers, they all indiscriminately dealt
death to the opposition. Gas was a particularly horrid creation. It
would seeming spring out of the ground without much notice and if one
did not seek the security of a gas mask, dreams would be smothered”under a green sea” and as one solider stated (in reference to those
who were caught up in the pungent clouds of death) “He plunges at me,
guttering, choking, drowning.” (380) Typical sights for soldiers on
any given day were “men without mouths, without jaws, without faces;
we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for
two hours in order not to bleed to death. (384) The destructive
weapons of war contributed to the massive amount of death neither the
French nor German army could escape.

Both the accounts looked at in this inquiry unveil a mass of
similarities between German and French soldiers during the First World
War. Based on Remarque’s firsthand encounters with trench warfare in
World War I and Owen’s vivid descriptions of the French soldiers
experiences it is unduly apparent that many perished along the Western
front. All of this death rarely yielded more than a few hundred yards
for the “victor.” However, regarding trench warfare, one could argue
that there were no victors, only losers in a hopeless battle for
territorial supremacy.


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