Understanding the world wars is important to understanding the state of the world’s foreign conflicts today.


Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: Hey, Connor.

Connor: As promised, we’re gonna start diving into the World Wars, starting with World War I. We’ve been talking in past episodes about this type of content coming, and obviously, our short format of episodes are not gonna do the entire justice to, unpacking all of the significant information. But we wanna hit some highlights and we wanna talk about some interesting stuff. There’s so much to cover. and so we at least want to give you some key points so that as a family, perhaps you can do further research. And in this case, where we focus on World War I, start to set the stage for what later was World War II. And you know, many times history teachers or professors, they want you to memorize names and dates when it comes to war, but I think these details are less important, frankly than understanding how one event led to another. and so at least for these wars, kind of keep that in mind. That’s, I think, the approach that we’re gonna take. There’s of course, always like, this spark that starts the war. There’s the incident that triggers, you know, the rest of things happening. I think of the Battle of Lexington and conquered, for example, that was the shot heard around the world, that triggered the start of the Revolutionary War. And, just as our listeners know, the Revolutionary War was the result of decades of abuse and power struggle that finally led the colonists to rebel against England. Well, in the case of World War I,  there was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the leader in Austria, and he was heir,  or rather, he was, you know, gonna be the leader of the Austro-Hungary empire, and which was this huge power in central Europe before World War I. And he was assassinated because of what was called the South Slav Provinces of the Empire, basically a region of the empire. They wanted to break away from the Astro-Hungary empire, and they wanted to join instead with Yugoslavia. And this might sound complicated, but the main takeaway away is that you know, there were shifting political alliances. In other words, just like America broke off from, you know, great Britain and wanted to do their own thing, you had these provinces that wanted to break off from their government and join Yugoslavia. And, you know, we talked in the last episode about the 10 deadly ideas that lead to war. And often,  you have this conflict because rulers hate to lose power and people don’t wanna be oppressed. And so, you know, when they try and break away or resist or rebel, you know, that can lead to war. And this was the incident that led to the beginning of World War I, a war that would grow to involve 135 countries, 8 million deaths of soldiers, and additional, I think 21 million would be injured to say nothing of the destruction of property. Yeah. All the civilian casualties and the disruption to markets, right? The lack of getting food and medicine. I mean, war isn’t just about death. It’s about so much destruction and distorting the market system and causing all these problems. And, so the war, it put this Austro-Hungry empire, which, you know, Germany, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, all these kind of allies together, it put them up against the rest of the world known as the Allied power. So it was this massive conflict between these two sides.

Brittany: That’s right. And there’s one thing that you remember, America didn’t enter the war until nearly the end, and it was only after a German submarine killed, I think it was 128 Americans. I think they actually called it a U-boat. Isn’t that what the Germans called their submarines? If I remember, that’s, yeah, my sophomore year history,  class correctly, but this would actually set the country up to become what we know now is a major global power after World War II. But it’s funny, most of our listeners, and you know, Connor, you and I have only known the US as an empire, right? But we weren’t always the big kids at the table. In fact, we were just some small kind of country that, you know, you could leave or take. But so that’s an interesting point to remember is America’s not this huge superpower at this point. But, you know, back to World War I, so Germany plays a huge role because the Austria-Hungary powers, they didn’t even wanna enter the war until they knew Germany had their back. So, you know, the Austria-Hungary, oh, can’t even say that. Hungary rulers were, scared of going up against Russia who was on the other side. And they thought that with Germany, they might stand a chance. So World War I comes at this really interesting time because it’s right before innovations like planes were really used, there were planes, but they weren’t used like they were in World War II, where they’re like actually attacking, you know, the enemy. In fact, they were only used to do, like, spying. They were only used to go see like, oh, they have a, I was gonna say a base, but it’s more, I’ll get into it in a minute. Trenches. so they weren’t, so planes aren’t being used. There’s not the heavy artillery, the big guns that we have today. So World War I is mostly fought with something called trench warfare, and this is horrific. Now, we did an episode a while back about the Christmas, world War I Christmas, where Yeah, that’s right, yeah. Where the Germans and the Americans and British like put their differences aside during Christmas, and they came out of their trenches and they went into what was called no man’s land. So trench warfare is horrible. You literally dug like a hole on one side, and you would, you would like, squat down and put your guns on top and hide, and bullets are whizzing past your head. The other side did the same thing. So then there’s just this chunk of land in the middle of your trenches. And as you can imagine, you don’t wanna be stuck on that. Like, and there were instances where people would charge the other trench, and you have to realize once you’re in that no man’s land like you’re just, you’re just a target for everybody. You’re exposed, you’re exposed. So this is horrific. It’s almost worse for me. You know, you see the Revolutionary War movies where they like each took turns shooting and walking forward, right? And you think, like, who decided this? Like, who decided this was a good idea? Trench warfare is almost worse to me, just because it was horrific. And I feel like there was a psychological like, it messed with your head the whole time because you never felt safe.

Connor: Well, and you’re down there like going to the bathroom and there’s disease.

Brittany: Everywhere. Yeah.

Connor: It’s just, it was nasty conditions.

Brittany: Well, and not to mention this is when gases were used a lot. This was one of the first words where this became a thing. So mustard gas was a big, it was almost like you threw a grenade, but it was gas. Think of like, tear gas, unfortunately, which is used today sometimes.

Connor: Stink bomb.

Brittany: Stink bombs, yeah, there you go. that’s probably more accessible. but these mustard gases, these were horrific. They would burn your lungs. They would cause people to go blind. So this is a brutal war. And remember, these are young kids, these are 18-year-old boys fighting. These aren’t, not that it would make it any different, but it’s still, it’s just terrible. There’s a great movie and it’s also a book called All Is Quiet on the Western Front. Now I saw it in junior high, the old one, I think they made a new one. I can’t speak for the new one. but the old one I saw in junior high. So it might be okay for the older kids because the graphics are so bad, there’s nothing really like, scary to see, but parents might wanna watch it at first. But I think it’s a great film because it really shows one now, these are just young boys. And two, how truly awful trench warfare was for these young men.

Connor: I think it’s important to, understand the Germans, they were a force to be reckoned with, mainly because they very much bought into the idea of like, the glory of war. And we talked in the last episode about Richard Mayberry. He writes in his book about World War I, which will link to on the show notes, page Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Germany believed that it had this strong history of military greatness, and they wanted to protect this legacy. They wanted to hold a dominant position over the rest of the world. So they saw themselves as having power through conquest, through battle. And you know, Mayberry talks about how this idea is silly and it’s wrong, mostly because Germany was actually a relatively new country. Alliances were constantly shifting, at this time in the world. And America, you know, of course,  in centuries past was once part of Britain, Russia was, you know, part of the Soviet Union. Like you’ve got all these like things that are shifting around Germany, of course, used to be part of something called Prussia. But Germany itself was a fairly new kind of civilization or country and yet believed itself to have this rich history that as Mayberry explains, just wasn’t really true. But that didn’t stop them from believing that they could essentially like take over the entire world. But Germany made a huge mistake. it’s one they would make again, frankly, in World War II. But Germany began fighting World War I on two fronts, basically on two battlefields in totally different geographic areas. And so they invade France through Belgium which was neutral. So, in the West, they’re invading France. And then in the East, they’re confronting Russia. And so, as you might imagine, you know if you’re being split between two battles on a kind of polar opposite ends of where your country is, you are, you’re having to split your resources, your soldiers, your ammunition, you know, you’re having to develop transportation systems between those two fronts and your country to keep the supply routes open. It exposes you,  basically. And so you’re really spreading out. And it was Germany’s,  big mistake that as I said, they would go on to repeat later. And yet here they start doing it. World War I,

Brittany: It’s funny history always tends to repeat itself. But, so this was obviously a very brief history of World War I, like we said, it would be impossible to touch on everything in one episode. I think that’s why Ken Burns has like, an eight-hour documentary on World War I, which I fell asleep in. So maybe that’s not the best thing to watch. But let’s talk about why all these matters cuz this is what’s important. So when the Allied Powers, which is like, you know, US Britain, and Russia, when they eventually win the war, the wars ended through something called the Treaty of Versai. I believe it’s cuz it was signed in Versai. All the world leaders went there. And that was in 1919. So the treaty was not great for Germany. It basically held Germany accountable for the entire war. Not only that, but they had to pay Allied Countries reparations, which is like money to say sorry, essentially. And, that money was, I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was something that like Germany would never have been able to pay off. Th this was going to cripple their country financially. But that was the terms of the entire treaty. So you have to remember, as we talked about Germany, the German people were very proud people. So not only is their national pride hurt, but the people are suffering. And you know, Connor and I have talked about the Weimar Republic before and what happened, but this is when the German government was artificially increasing the money supply, which probably sounds familiar cause people knew that. But it was in order to pay these reparations back cuz they just couldn’t do it. And that then massive inflation took place. And there’s the picture, what is it of the lady with the wheelbarrow full of money who’s like trying to, trying to buy like a watermelon or something. that’s, I mean, money had no value anymore because there was just so much of it and it wasn’t real anymore. So this made Germany really bitter. They were beaten down, they were poor. And this is how somebody like Adolf Hitler, who we talked about in another episode, this is how someone like him was able to rise to power because the Germans were just so defeated that they wanted something to give them hope again. And not only do you have a leader coming up saying, I’m gonna make, I’m gonna put us in a better financial, you know, position. We’re gonna be, you know, more prosperous than we were before. But now he also wants to once again claim that Germans have, you know, dominance over the world. So talk about history repeats itself, the war just ends. And then you have Hitler rising up saying, you know, we’re gonna try it again. Let’s see what happens.

Connor: It’s interesting too because, as you point out, Hitler was able to kind of tap into this, wounded national pride. I mean, Germany,  basically was on the hook for so much of this during World War I and all their actions, and they were trying to be held accountable by these allied countries. And so the Germans felt, especially because they saw glory in war and conquest and spreading their power and all this kind of stuff, they, their pride kind of took a beating. And so of course, when you have this kind of authoritarian figure, this strong-armed kind of persuasive guy trying to rebuild that pride and say, we’re the victims. We, you know, we need to rally, we need to, rebuild, we need to conquer again. You know, that was very attractive to a lot of people who didn’t like, that Germany’s economy basically was being destroyed,  when, when they hyper-inflated like that, to pay these reparations, to pay all this stuff, that made the average person suffer substantially, of course, because all your life savings is now worthless,  if you kept it in savings, right? That as they’re printing tons of money, you’re basically losing value. It’s like your government, it’s not like your government. It is your government actually stealing from you, right? It, is an invisible form of taxation, right? It’s one thing to say, Hey, you owe us this much in taxes pay now. It’s another thing to say quietly, or not even say, but quietly behind the scenes, you know, be taking other people’s money. And of course, they don’t go into your bank and take it directly. They just inflate the money. They print a ton of money so that now the money that you’ve saved can buy way less. And so as this happened in Germany, everyone is affected by it, everyone. And so this was an issue on everyone’s mind trying to fix the problem. And of course, they didn’t look to their own government and say, you’re so horrible for printing the money because the government was blaming other people. They were blaming other forces. And then Hitler comes along and others like his kind of, you know, willingly putting the blame on anyone and everyone else and saying, we’re not at fault. You know, we’re so great. We need, you know, to rebuild, vote for me, support me. And kinda the rest is history. And of course, we’ll get into that in future episodes. But this stuff is important because,  as we talked about, I think in the last episode, one thing is connected to another and it’s important to understand, especially World War I, which I think we don’t often talk about. World War II seems to get most of the historical attention. but World War II would not have happened, were it not for World War I, because you had Germany kind of feeling beat up like this and allowed someone like Hitler,  to happen. That Treaty of Versai is interesting to look into, right? Had the allied countries not, not imposed,  consequences so heavily on Germany, maybe Hitler never would’ve rose up. You know, like there’s just some of these interesting what ifs about how things happened early on that led to some of this happening. It makes you question what’s happening now, right? What our government is doing in the Middle East and elsewhere, and what type of consequences will there be in the future, as a result of what’s happening now? So history’s always connected like that. And it’s, I think, fun for us too not fun maybe, but certainly educational and important for us, necessary for us to get into so that we can better understand how to have a better future. How to keep people,  in power in check so that they don’t abuse it so that we can maintain our freedoms and a peaceful world. Brittany, great talking to you as always. Thank you. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.