Trench Warfare

Trench Warfare

World War I was a military conflict that
lasted from 1914 to 1918. It was a modern war with airplanes, machine
guns, and tanks. However, the commanders often fought World War I
as if it were a 19th Century war. They would march their troops across
open land into the face of machine guns and often slaughter. As a
result of this action, a tactic known as trench warfare was implemented.

The most recent use of use of trench warfare,
before World War I, took place during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

This war attracted worldwide attention among military authorities that
were interested in studying the latest technology used in war. Many
viewed trench warfare to be an effective tactic against enemy advancement.

Because of this view, trench warfare proved to be, in World War I, an ineffective
and traumatizing experience for all.

In September 1914, the German commander,

General Erich von Falkenhayn ordered his troops to dig trenched that would
provide protection from the allied troops. When the allies reached
the trench, they soon realized that they could not break through the line
that the trench provided. They also realized that the trench provided
the Germans with shelter from their fire. Soon after, the allies
began to dig their own trenches and, therefore, trench warfare began.

Not very long, after the first trenches
of the war were dug, a network of trenches arose. This network spread
across France and Belgium for many miles. Within the network, there
were three different types of trenches: front line trenches, support trenches,
and reserve trenches.

The first line of trenches was called front
line trenches. These were usually two meters deep and had a zigzag
pattern to prevent enemy fire from sweeping the entire length of the trench.

In order to prevent the trench form caving in, sandbags were stacked against
the trench walls. Between the trenches of opposing forces laid no
man\'s land. This area between the opposing front line trenches was
filled with barbwire and mines to prevent enemy crossing. If a soldier
was ever injured in no man\'s land, he usually was killed because of his
vulnerability to enemy fire.

The second and third types of trenches
were the support and reserve trenches, respectively. These trenches
were constructed to easily move supplies and troops to the front trenches.

All of the trenches were linked to each other by other trenches, underground
tunnels, or telephone communications networks. Barbwire was also
stretched across the line to protect from enemy attack.

While the design of the trenches and the
network of trenches seemed like a great tactic, the reality of the life
in the trenches was a different story. Life in the trenches took
its toll on the soldiers involved in the war. The soldiers in the
front line trenches often stayed there for at least 10 days at a time,
usually with very little sleep. "Katczinsky is right when he says
it would not be such a bad war if only one could get more sleep.

In the line we have next to none, and fourteen days is a long time at one
stretch"(p.2). The main reason that soldiers on the front line could
not sleep was to be on guard against enemy sneak attacks.

Another reason that the soldiers were very
tired is that night was used as a time for preparation and maintenance
of the trenches. The trenches were constantly being destroyed, either
by enemy shellfire, or water damage. Many times, soldiers would be
buried alive by the collapsing trench walls. Paul, in All Quiet on
the Western Front, states "Our trench is almost gone. At many places,
it is only eighteen inches high, it is broken by holes, and craters, and
mountains of earth."(p.107).

Along with very little sleep and the destruction
of trenches, soldiers also had to worry about contracting trench foot.

Trench foot is an infection of the feet caused by wet and insanitary conditions.

Soldiers stood for hours on end in waterlogged trenches without being able
to remove wet socks or boots. This caused their feet to gradually
go numb and their skin to turn red or blue. If these conditions went
untreated, they would turn gangrenous and result in amputation.

Another major concern for soldiers in the
trenches was dysentery. Dysentery is a disease involving the inflammation
of the lining of the large intestine. The inflammation caused stomach
pains, diarrhea, and usually vomiting or fever. The main causes of
dysentery were bacteria entering the body through the mouth, contact with
human feces, and contact with infected people. Dysentery mainly struck
the soldiers because of improper sanitation from latrine use in the trenches.

Another major concern