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Vampires (and other stuff) for Veterans Day.

Since yesterday was Veterans Day I thought I would make this a related post….

Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, was first celebrated on November 11, 1919 to celebrate the one year anniversary of the signing of the formal treaty (the Armistice) ending  World War I.  In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day to include ceremonies acknowledging the service of men and women who not only fought, and died, in World War I, but also World War II and the Korean War.

World War I often takes a back seat to World War II when talking about its political, cultural, and historical impact on the 20th century, but it wasn’t called ‘The war to end all wars’ and ‘The Great War’ for nothing. Much of what we recognize as the political geography of Europe came into being as monarchies and empires became states and republics as a result of the war. The scope and logistics, the numbers of casualties and extent of destruction, had never been witnessed before in warfare.

The war started 96 years ago, and ended 92 years ago, so it may seem like ancient history; but consider this: On July 25, 2009, Harry Patch, a British soldier, and the last veteran of the war actually to have fought in the trenches, died. He was 111 years old.  You may already know another British soldier who participated in the war, or at least you know his books. –  J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien, a leiutenant, served in France in 1915 and 1916. There is no doubt that Tolkien’s experiences influenced his perception of war, of good versus evil, as he portrays it in The Lord of the Rings.

It gets better. Frank Buckles, an American, lied about his age to enlist in 1917. He sailed to Europe on the same ship that helped to rescue Titanic survivors just five years earlier. He did not serve in combat, but was stationed in England and France for the last year of the war as an ambulance driver, and later escorted German prisoners of war back to Germany.

Frank Buckles currently lives in West Virginia. Soon, in February 2011, he will be 110 years old. He is the last person alive to have served as a member of any military during World War I.

Think of it this way – there are (or were)  individuals alive in your lifetime who participated in something that ended probably before your grandparents were even born.  How cool is that? Doesn’t it make you want to know more about it?

Well, whether you do, or you don’t, there are books aplenty – non-fiction and fiction –  about World War I.  Here’s some that I have read that I can highly recommend.

The Englishman’s Daughter by Ben Macintyre.

True story of English soldiers trapped behind German lines who were hidden by French villagers for three years.

  

  

 

 

 

Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden.

From the creator of Hellboy, this classically gothic horror story set during World War I is about  more than just vampires.

 

 

 

 

 

By a Slow River  by Philippe Claudel.

A murder mystery set in World War I France. A  police inspector investigates the murder of a small girl in a rural French village not far from the front lines.

 

 

 

 

 

Bloodline  by Kate Cary.

Written in the form of diary entries (just like Dracula), it picks up the tale a generation later, during World War I, with Lieutenant John Shaw and his Captain, Quincy Harker, who exhibits some very un-natural abilities.

 

 

 

 

 

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

An alternate reality – or some might say ‘steampunk-ish’ –  story of World War I. One question – Do you oil your machines, or do you feed them?

 

 

 

 

 

All Quiet on the Western Front  by Erich Maria Remarque.

There’s a reason it’s called ‘a classic’. Written by a veteran of the German army in 1929.

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