Friday, November 14, 2008

Musings on the World Wars

This past Saturday on KUNM, Radio Theatre played a PRX piece by Marjorie Van Halteren about the World Wars and the War in Iraq from the perspective of an American living in France.  In Europe, finding unexploded bombs from the pre-1945 era is commonplace, and there are special forces in both Germany and France that do nothing but round up and destroy these still-live explosives.  In fact, several years ago my paternal grandmother, who lived then in Leatherhead, England, called us up to tell us that an unexploded firebomb had been found under the floorboards of a shop in the town.

As Americans we never have to deal with the after effects of wars - especially those wars in which we were a combatant.  Since WWI, only one battle has been fought on US soil and none have been fought in the contiguous 48.  Finding a bomb in your back garden must really bring home the reality of a war that ended nearly 110 years ago.

Speaking of bringing things back to life, Kelsey has reposted a very interesting set of pictures from the First World War.  These photos are nothing special in terms of composition or subject matter - they depict soldiers in typical WWI uniform standing in trenches or sitting around - but they are in color, as almost no other photos of the Great War are.

I showed these pictures to my photo teacher, who asked if they had been hand-colored.  I don't think they have been, judging by the accuracy and the detail of the work, but I looked it up anyway.  As it turns out, a method of color photography was developed in 1907, just seven years before the outbreak of hostilities in Europe - autochrome.

The pictures, like the bombs and the radio piece, bring the World Wars slightly closer, subjectively, to modern times.  We can identify more easily with a color photograph than we can with a black and white one.  Perhaps things like these will help us avoid such a war in the future.  Maybe we will never have a war so horrible, so bloody, that it can be described by no other name than simply, "the Great War."  

Only if we remember these artifacts, these photos, these stories.

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