World War I: American Legacy

World War I: American Legacy

2006, History  -   40 Comments
Ratings: 8.05/10 from 181 users.

Narrated by David Carradine, this poignant film reveals the true cost of World War I. The forgotten soldiers whose graves were never marked, the expense of human life and the immense suffering of those who did survive (for every man who was killed, three men were maimed, injured or driven mad). World War I sucked up millions of dollars and swamped many governments in debt. Estimates of cost amount to a staggering $190 billion dollars. But how did this diabolical destruction commence? How did the 'Great War' come to the front doorstep of the United States?

It began with two pivotal murders. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie were murdered publicly by activists in the city of Sarajevo. The Austro-Hungarians declared war when the Serbians refused to allow their officials to investigate the murders. The situation escalated when the surrounding allied countries became involved. Russia came to the aid of the Serbians and the Germans supported the Austro-Hungarians. On Aug 1 1914, the Germans declared war on Russia. As the British would not tolerate a mobilized German army so close to them across the English Channel, the Great British Empire declared war after the German army invaded Belgium on Aug 4 1914. Thus starts the 'war to end all wars'.

The Americans stayed out of the war, but provided ammunition and finance. At sea, Germany declared that any ship carrying war supplies to Britain or France would be targeted and destroyed. German submarines subsequently attacked and sunk many American cargo ships. When British code breakers intercepted a German message to the Mexican government, it was given directly to the Americans. This message contained the potential threat of a secret alliance between the Germans and Mexicans. The United States of America is then compelled to declare war against Germany on 6 April 1917.

14 million people lost their lives during the 'The Great War' and a generation of young men had been wiped out. This 'war to end all wars' was so awful; that it was believed it could never again be repeated. Although World War I hasn't had as much attention as other wars, (such as World War II or the Vietnam War), it has still left a profound impact on the lives of Americans to this day.

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3 years ago

A very interesting documentary showing many still images I had not seen before.
The American legacy of WW1 is a rather short one and much of that legacy was not pointed out.
After declaring war in April,1917 Conscription for service had to be introduced because only 80,000 men had signed up voluntarily.By September 1917 they had over 1,000,000 troops in France....and none in battle.
The home industry was so backlogged (and profiting) supplying the Allies with equipment and war materiel the Americans arrived with only their rifles and basic Kit.
They bought their aircraft,Tanks and machine guns plus ammo from the French and artillery,shells and proper field Kit from the British.At first they wore the French helmets but switched to the British helmet.
All sides had been bled white by now with manpower losses.The British and French wanted Gen. Pershing to meld the American troops into their armies to bring their units up to strength and strengthen the line.Pershing was adamant that the U.S. Army would only fight under the U.S. flag and U.S. command.As a concession he gave the French 3 Divisions of Black troops.The rest would continue training and fight when ready.Meanwhile,American troops continued to arrive in France.
With the Russian Revolution and the Tsar gone Germany signed a Peace Treaty with Russia and was able to transfer 500,000 battle hardened troops to the Western Front.
The Germans knew they had only 1 chance to win the War before the Americans came in and prepared for their great Spring Offensive."It's all or nothing" said Gen. Ludendorf.The Americans continued training while Germany launched 3 attacks between March and June 1918 that very nearly won them the war.Heavy losses,exhaustion and supply problems allowed the Allies to push them back to their start positions.
The Americans moved into their assigned section of the Front Line in July and fought their first battle.
In August all the Allies' armies attacked,determined to end the war.This was called the Last 100 Days later.The Americans fought on 45 of those days.
Pushed back and Germany in a near Civil War situation they signed the Armistice agreement ending the war on November 11 at 11 A.M. The Germans packed their bags,hitched up their guns and marched back to Germany.
Much to Pershing's credit he wanted no Armistice but to fight the Germans right back to Germany.Only if Allied troops marched down German streets would the Germans know they were defeated.The Armistice allowed the German Army to parade through cities with crowds throwing flowers and claim they were never defeated in battle.But the French and British vetoed that.After 4 years of slaughter they just wanted it to end.
The Peace Treaty signed in June 1919 was written by the Americans.Every word of the four hundred forty-something clauses were written by the Harriman brothers.
Winston Churchill thought the Treaty too harsh and said if he were the Germans he wouldn't sign it.But the Germans had no choice because the Allies would continue the sea blockade of Germany until she did sign.Since the Nov. Armistice another 400,000 German civilians had died from starvation.
After the signing,French President Clemenceau said,"Now we'll have to do it all over again in twenty years."
He was off by only 3 months.

Bill Farley
4 years ago

Thanks America for entering the fray 2 1/2 years later.

6 years ago

Mostly this just glorifies war rather than bemoaning the loss of lives. It's never going to end, this madness. Humans love war.

6 years ago


Based on your comments, I believe you may prefer this documentary: America's Planned War on Britain: Revealed

6 years ago

I wounder if there would be less war if our leaders were women.

6 years ago

Millions of people died on the battlefield for the benefit of greedy, evil , usury black shadow.

6 years ago

Have any of you watched the documentary "Gallipoli"?
It was was during 1915 to early 1916. Please watch it. There was hell on earth there too.

Roger Andout
7 years ago

Still people will judge a documentary by it's blurb and, no doubt, justify this for not viewing it but still comment on something they have not watched. Next thing they'll be book burning. Sorry, my last remark may be inflammatory to some.

7 years ago

I found this documentary mesmerizing and very well done. I now have a much better understanding of WW I and with the notes I took, a list of resources that I can delve deeper into. I also disagree with the person who complained about the tribute to the thousands of animals who helped the soldiers and gave their lives. These animals were not there by choice and deserve recognition.

8 years ago

Good call Pvt. Ryan.
This is by no means a historical study.
Rather, it sticks pretty literally to it's title in that it focuses on a handful of Americans to have served and their own personal lives and "legacies".
And unfortunately, even if that were the type of thing I were interested in, I'd have to give this documentary a pretty low rating due entirely to it's still image, slideshow format and the dismal narration that fails in it's efforts for the dramatic with needlessly poetic language from a very boring narrator who induces drowsiness despite his forced inflection.

The only upside is the inclusion of a few very interesting photos and paintings of the carnage that I had not seen before.
But again, with these images fading into the next every few seconds and the tiresome droning of the narrator, you'll soon find yourself dozing.

Shaving Pvt. Ryan
8 years ago

I just stopped reading at the description, didnt even watch the documentary:

"The Austro-Hungarians declared war when the Serbians refused to allow their officials to investigate the murders."
The Austro-Hungarians' ultimatum contained 10 (ten!) bullet points which Serbia had to accept.
Inviting austrian detectives to inspect the arch duke's murder was not a problem.

This is bulls*it american propaganda I can already smell it. Just hope people dont take this too seriously.

Archie Caldwell
8 years ago

As long as thereis man there will be war

8 years ago

An incrediible summarization of a complex buildup toward a world war from long buried enemies now excited about ending old feuds without the foresite of its outcome. Subtopics and intimate narriatives offer historical visual, sound, film, and photography in addition to addressing gender, race, ethnicity, animal usage, communication, and air and ground industrialization growth at hyper speed.

Covert and overt comparisons help a viewer see poor officer leadership and those officers that fought side-by-side with their troops. Most tragic is trench warfare taking men to no-man's land over and over again from those in high command, some never seeing first-hand the hell holes. There is no rationale given for going up and out of the trench as none seems to exist.

The documentary offers a clear introduction of cause and effect ending in carrying over of unfinished business still with us today. The irony here is similar to the the buried fueds that expanded into a world war.

Horst Manure
8 years ago

Wonder what the world population would be now if we did not have wars????

9 years ago

I enjoyed this doc because I am interested by both world wars history. This video was better than I thought it would be.
Carradine presented very moving stories, together with illustrations and photographs,about the Americans in Europe during the war: The writers, musicians, famous scions, also about groups like the SOS, and the 169th, to name a few.
I made it almost to the end until Carradine began recounting the animal "war heroes" stories. Pretty silly I know, considering all that was happening to the humans.

9 years ago

I haven't watched this yet, but how America-centric is this? As the description said, America stayed out of the war. I'm British; my grandparents didn't. And I've seen a few America-centric documentaries that seem to ignore the suffering of everyone who isn't American, focussing on how it changed them. If that's the case, I'd rather not watch it.

Horst Manure
9 years ago

Also makes you wonder what the world population would be now.??

9 years ago

A beautiful tribute to brave men and women, yet as many historians note if they had not gone the war would have ended on more balanced terms with the Germans and world war II probably would never have happened