January 22, 2003

By Michael Strickland

War is Hell

My next writing project is not a new one; it's a work-in-progress that hasn't seen much progress lately. The goal is to finish it, and to hopefully get it published. It's a short story that deals with the topic of death—specifically, death during wartime, and how the military has historically dealt with it.

The story might be classified as science fiction, but only because I've chosen to set it 100 years into the future. There are no warp drives, no little green men, no time machines. Just a lot of death in yet another war, and one man's failing struggle to give the dead whatever shreds of dignity he can muster.

Eerily, I wrote a large chunk of this story—10 pages—in an archive in Parma, Italy, while my then-fiancée conducted historical research. In the pages I wrote, the protagonist encountered hundreds of dead bodies, casualties of war to be brought home. The descriptions I composed were not pleasant.

The date? September 11, 2001.

I'll post an excerpt here soon, as I near completion. In the meantime, I wanted to post an account of one of World War I's most horrible battles, something I came across during my research. Unless future conflicts involve the use of weapons of mass destruction, we're unlikely to see the mass casualties of the first two World Wars. But I hope that we—and by "we," I mean we as human beings, not we as Americans or any other nationality—never forget the immense human cost of those wars.

I intend no moral comment, I only seek to underscore the sheer scale of death. When you read the six-figure numbers below, keep in mind that they are not mere casualties. The numbers represent lives cut short... hopes extinguished... families rent asunder. And they are very large numbers.

· · ·

The Battle of the Somme, 1916

At 0730 hours on the first of July, 1916, after a week-long artillery bombardment, Haig launched the now infamous "Big Push" attack across the river Somme. With the French Army being hard-pressed to the south at Verdun, the British intended to break through the German defenses in a matter of hours.

The mistrust that High Command had of the so-called "New Armies" manifested itself in the orders to the troops to keep uniformed lines and to march towards the enemy across no-man's land. This, coupled with the failure of the artillery bombardment to dislodge much of the German wire, or to destroy their machine-gun posts, led to one of the biggest slaughters in military history.

When the attack began, the Germans dragged themselves out of their dugouts, manned their posts and destroyed the oncoming waves of British infantry.

After the first day, with a gain of only 1.5 kilometers, the British had suffered 57,470 casualties. Despite this, Haig pressed on with the attack until November 19th of the same year. For the meager achievements, total losses on the British and Imperial side numbered 419,654 with German casualties between 450,000 and 680,000. When the offensive was eventually called off, the British were still three miles short of Bapaume and Serre, part of their first-day objectives.

Source: Major Battles of WW I


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Daily Chuckle:

Despite the high cost of living, it remains a popular pursuit.

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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1/21: Watching the Wheels
1/20: Bring on the Mayhem
1/19: Pigskin Ponderings
1/18: More Stupid Lawsuits
1/17: Finding My Passion
1/16: Gulf War Memories
1/15: Meet the New Boss
1/14: Man's Other Best Friend
1/13: Sea of Fire
1/12: Back to the Books
1/11: America's Finest Climate
1/10: Sunshine in a Bottle
1/9: What Would Jesus Drive?
1/8: Southwestern Sojourn
Wheel of Fortune
Class Warfare
1/5: Very Large Dream
The New Nuclear Age
Going Solo
New Year, Old Cave
1/1: All Things End

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