"Once Society drank war, brought them into manhood with a
cultivated taste for war; but now Society seemed to have found something
else for a beverage."
William Faulkner, Soldiers' Pay
Certainly World War I was the most significant event of the first
part of the century. Also known as The Great War, it thrust the
nation into European politics. The United States Congress declared war on
Germany on April 6, 1917. Troops began engaging in battle in the summer of
1918 in Cantigny, Chateau-Thierry, and Belleau Wood, France. More than
4,000,000 American soldiers were mobilized in the war, and at the end of
hostilities the casualties numbered near 120,000 (with an estimated
10,000,000 dead on all sides).
American participation was key in the defeat of Germany, and
the armistice ending the war was signed on November 11, 1918.
The United States
became a financial superpower following the war, and military growth and
weapons development expanded almost without political control. The
democracy came under severe strain. The country had never been totally
united in support of the war, and in the years following the ceasefire,
poems, novels, and memoirs centered, often
bitterly, on the experience of the individual soldier. In these works, the
old civilized world went up in flames and the modern world was born.