On Wednesday, Morgan Hall hosted a panel event focused on ending world wars.
“The War to End All Wars” is a part of a celebration for Military Appreciation Week at Western Illinois University. The Department of History, Art, Music, College of Sciences, the Student Resource Center, the Multi- Cultural Center, the Veterans Club and the Women’s Center co-sponsored the panel event, which celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War. Cathy Myers helped organize the event.
Panel participants Dr. Ginny Boynton, Dr. Ute Chamberlin, Dr. Febe Pamonag, Dr. Filipink and Dr. Brian Locke, discussed the immediate aftermath and the broader legacies of the war from different thematic and national perspectives. Boynton pointed out the effects the global epidemic of influenza had on the world powers during the end of the first Great War. She stated that anywhere from 50 to 100 million people died worldwide, compared to 18 million people who died during the war from combatrelated incidents. The influenza, or better known as the Spanish Influenza, reached its highest mortality rate in the spring of 1918 through the fall of 1919. Over 650,000 United States citizens died from influenza in 1918 which was the deadliest year in American history. During this time, the life expectancy rate decreased by 12 years and the mortality rate increased by 19 percent. According to Boynton, it happens suddenly.
“In the morning you would feel fine and by nightfall you would be dead,” Boynton said. The underlining cause was the fact that viruses had not been discovered yet, nor had antibiotics or anti-viral medicine.
Many other countries tried to fight the infection from spreading by requiring everyone to use facemasks and closing public parks, schools and churches, but it was not enough because ofthe ongoing effort put into the war.
Chamberlin, professor of history at Western, began her presentation by quoting her professor of European History, Robert Gerwarth “Europe, between the official end of the Great War in 1918 and the treaty of Lausanne in July of 1923, was the most violent place on Earth.”
Chamberlin attributed the wave of violence to bloody revolutions on multiple European fronts on Munch, Germany to the Spartacus revolution in Berlin, Germany. The socialists took power and viciously subdued the communist revolution parties at the time, according to Chamberlin, which led to a battle between the two groups won by the communists before they were overthrown by the re-risen government socialist-backed military. The revolutionary violence was not unique to Germany. The revolution led to thousands of massacresand violence throughout Europe, Hungary, Romania and in the Baltic states of Latavia and Russia. “It is an important and often overlooked anniversary,” Chamberlin said.
Filipink talked about the flaws of the League of Nations that the then-President of the United States Woodrow Wilson, dedicated himself to. Filipink explained that the League of Nations was based on a collective ideology where nations would put aside their self-interests to cooperate for mutual peace, but only Wilson was convinced of this. Additionally, when Japan invaded China and when the collective ideology of nations collapsed, it was evident that no country was willing to give up their self-interest for security at that time. A British investigation led to Japan leaving the league, which quickly devalued the League of Nations. Filipink also believes the league failed after United States invaded Nicaragua over the Panama Canal, which led to a conflict overaid. The league eventually collapsed prior to the Second World War.
“It is a nice example of collaboration on behalf of student and the community in sharing their interests in global history,” Filipink said. Locke, professor of music at Western, focused on the role that music had on the Great War. Locke explained that the Czech and Slovak independence led to the creation of one of the earliest democracies in Eastern Europe, and their soldiers managed to retain sanity through chorus and opera music. Eventoday, the Czech and Slovak nations celebrate their independence by remembering their soldiers who died when the music played on the march home.
“It is a wonderful occasion to come together with colleagues all across campus to share what we have in common,” Locke said.
Pamonag doesn’t believe Japan recalls the war to end all wars. She attributes this to the popularity in Japanese society in WWII. The Second World War is widely depicted in films and literature, while there is little to no mention of the First World War. Yet, there is a record of how, after Japan joined the League of Nations, university students throughout Japan celebrated the event and even made it a holiday. China still appeared to protest the signing of the league articles by Japan because of the subsequent invasion of Manchuria, China. Overall, the effect Japan had on the Second World War was greater than the effect they had on the First World War. For example, the Japanese Navy protested Australian transports, fought off the German forces in China, and went to hold complete control over the Korean Peninsula.
“The diverse perspective further enriches the legacy of the Great War,” Pamonag said. Overall, the event of “The War to End All Wars” was a diverse, well-planned panel that aimed to shed light on an already all but forgotten war that shaped the world.