While today is Veterans Day here in the US, a day to honor all of our military veterans, much of the rest of the Western world today is observing Armistice Day, which marks the cessation of hostilities on the “western” front of World War I . This “Great War” is all but gone from living memory; according to wikipedia (as of 11 Nov 10), there are only 3 living veterans of World War I.
I have to admit that until a couple of years ago, I didn’t really know that much about WWI. Sure, I knew about trench warfare, mustard gas, the first tanks, etc. But I hadn’t really paid too much attention to the global politics that led up to – and followed – the war. It wasn’t until my sons took their Modern World History course in high school that I really started paying attention.
In the summer of 2008, after my youngest had just completed world history, we spent our family vacation in Kansas City. (That was the location of the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Trampoline and Tumbling National Championships that year, and we used our down time to explore.) While there we learned that the National World War I museum is in KC, so we took some time to visit.
What an incredible place. The exhibits are an amazing combination of artifacts and facts. Huge posters explaining the crazy politics that led up to the war, the conduct of the war itself, and the aftermath. Huge, life-size dioramas of trenches and other aspects of a soldier’s life. It took everything I – we – had learned as we discussed WWI during the school year and made it visceral, almost real.
If you ever find yourself in Kansas City, please set aside a morning or afternoon and visit the Liberty Memorial and World War I museum. You will be glad you did.
photo by Brent Flanders, licensed under Creative Commons. Check out Brent’s World War I Museum set on Flickr for more great photos from the museum. Thanks, Brent.