The First World War, otherwise known as the Great War, claimed the lives of millions and forever transformed the psyche of each participating nation. The history of that war, and the lessons and legacy it wrought forth, form the basis of the informative documentary The War That Changed the Course of History.
The film traces the origins of the war to the events of June 28, 1914. On that fateful date, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were murdered by a Serbian assassin. Within a month, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which in turn galvanized the involvement of the Central Powers and their allies, including Britain, Germany and France. World War I was born.
The film packs in a wealth of information in its brief running time, and includes details of each notable skirmish that occurred throughout the duration of the four-year war. It also examines the contributing factors that made this conflict unique among previous wars.
Perhaps no force shifted the character of conflict more profoundly than the Industrial Revolution. The resulting war machinery redefined warfare by land, air and sea, particularly the advent of the rapid fire machine gun, combat aircraft and more sophisticated submarines. These technologies demanded an alteration of antiquated military tactics.
The terrain of the First World War also posed singular challenges. Trench warfare proved tricky, especially in colder climates that saw massive levels of snowfall. As a result, many casualties were unaccounted for and would continue to be discovered within the frozen landscape in the decades that followed. The filmmakers also spotlight the war propaganda efforts of the time as volunteer armies were dwindling and fresh recruits were needed to take their place.
The film contains a cavalcade of fascinating battlefield footage, newspaper headlines and other visual artifacts of the day, including the first known footage of a young Adolf Hitler. The narration moves at a breakneck speed, but it demonstrates a comprehensive and well-rounded view of its subject.
The War That Changed the Course of History is a vital retelling of an often misunderstood or overlooked war. Its impact would continue to resonate throughout the remainder of the century and into our present day.