World War I: Maine’s lost legacy — Maine’s nearly forgotten role in WWI reached from the trenches of France to the islands of Casco Bay and the streets of Lewiston-Auburn.

TURNER — Adam Hochschild worries that the arrogance of a century ago — among the generals and politicians who plunged the Western world into World War I — still lives in today’s decision-makers.

The historian and author of 2011’s “To End All Wars” said he sees lessons yet to be learned, particularly as tensions climb in Russia and Ukraine.

“I think there is always a tendency to think that whatever great military force you have — and there is always some great new tool that the other side doesn’t have, like drones, today — it will solve the problem,” he said.

The result is never that simple, said the writer, a summertime resident of Turner with his wife, author Arlie Hochschild.

“God knows there are enormous problems out there,” he said. “What Putin is doing in Ukraine is terrible, immoral, horrible. But I don’t think the solution is for the U.S. and Europe to start a war.”

“In 1914 there were all kinds of problems as well. They assassinated the archduke. Everybody thought if we start the war, we will stop the problem. The war won’t last long.

“Instead, the war lasted four years and cost an estimated 16 million lives.

“I don’t expect another world war to break out at this moment,” Hochschild said. “I think there is some sensibleness in the world about that.”

The Hochschilds — Adam is 71 and Arlie is 74 — have been coming to their modest home in Turner for decades. Arlie’s father, Francis Russell, grew up here in a farmhouse on the ridge north of town.

For years, they came here when the college year was over. Both served as full-time professors at the University of California at Berkeley. Arlie now writes full time. Adam still teaches a class now and then but focuses on his books.

Other titles have included “Bury the Chains,” about Britain’s anti-slavery movement, and “King Leopold’s Ghost,” a history of the conquest of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium.

Today, Adam Hochschild, a founder of the liberal investigative magazine Mother Jones, said he remains focused on history rather than current events.

“You’re much more liable to see me in the Bates College library researching something that happened 80 or 100 years ago than something that’s happening today,” he said.

But he can’t help following some news.

“In 1914, each side was so entranced with the military tools at the time — the snazzy new machine guns, the glorious cavalry charges — they thought victory would be very quick and would solve the problems,” he said.

“And I see exactly the same pattern in the last few years,” he said. “Remember when President Bush went into Iraq. Six weeks later he landed on that aircraft carrier with the big sign ‘Mission Accomplished.’ Whatever the mission was, it sure hadn’t been accomplished.”

The longtime progressive said he has more faith in the current American administration.

“I think that today’s U.S. government, for all its faults, is a great deal more cautious than the one under Bush and Cheney, which was so quick to start wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Hochschild said.

[email protected]

A brief history of World War I

On June 28, 1914, a Yugoslav nationalist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo. Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

The assassination ignited a web of alliances that lined up the Allies of the United Kingdom, France and Russia against the Central Powers of Austria-Hungary and Germany. In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers, followed a year later by Bulgaria. In 1915, Italy joined the Allies.

On April 6, 1917, the United States joined the Allies.

Though the bloodiest fighting happened in the trenches of France, fighting occurred across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, China and off the coast of South and North America.

Fighting ended on Nov. 11, 1918, with the signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany.

The Treaty of Versailles formally ended the war on June 28, 1919.

About 16 million people died in the war. Roughly 10 million were soldiers. The other six million were civilians who died from either military causes or disease and starvation.

More than 2.2 million Germans, 3 million people from the Ottoman Empire and 2 million from Austria-Hungary, died.

About 1.7 million French people, 1 million Italians and 1 million people from the United Kingdom died.

About 117,000 Americans died. Of them, about 1,000 were from Maine.

Source: Wikipedia


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: