People have been fighting wars since the first wooden spears were carved thousands of years ago. Estimates for the total number killed in war throughout all of human history ranges from 150 million to 1 billion people, and according to the New York Times, at least 108 million have been killed in wars in the twentieth century alone. With the continuing advances we see in technology, the way we fight wars is constantly changing. Today we’ll be looking at how two of the biggest wars in history compare, in this episode of The Infographics Show: World War 1 vs World War 2.
World War 1, also known as the First World War, the Great War, or the War to End All Wars, was a global war. It started in Europe and lasted more than 4 years from 1914 to 1918. The conflict was between the central powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey up against France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and towards the end, in 1917, America. It is one of the largest wars in history, and though sources vary on exact numbers of casualties, it is estimated there were 10 million military deaths, 7 million civilian deaths, and 21 million wounded.
World War Two, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted for 6 years from 1939 to 1945, though there were earlier related conflicts, leading up to it. It was the deadliest conflict in human history and included The Axis Powers, which were Germany, Italy, and Japan against the Allied Powers of France, Britain, America, the Soviet Union, and China. There were 15 million military deaths, 45 million civilian deaths, and 25 million people wounded.
These wars took place more than two decades apart; let’s see how these brutal battles compare side by side. In World War 1, each soldier was given a rifle, a bayonet, and 3 grenades. The first grenades in 1914 were basic and often hand-made, consisting of old cans filled with nails and bits of metal and packed with gunpowder. The British were the first to introduce tanks into warfare with the Mark 1, which was developed in 1915 to break the stalemate of trench warfare. And the Germans introduced machine guns with each battalion having a minimum of 6.
The Russians had 8 machine guns while the less fortunate British soldiers had only two. Mortars were explosive bombs shot in a projectile motion, and both sides of the battle had their own versions. Heavy artillery was one of the most significant elements in the First World War, and for firing from behind the lines there was a lighter, more localized form known as field artillery. Gases were commonly used to occupy enemy trenches, barbed wire would be placed near enemy camps to prevent enemy soldiers from entering, and in 1915, the Germans even employed flamethrowers against the French.
What about World War 2? Well 25 years later, things had advanced. There were lightweight machine guns, which soldiers could use against low-flying aircraft, as well as well equipped navy carriers that had cannons to shoot down heavy aircraft. The bazooka, which you may remember as Hollywood character Rambo’s weapon of choice, is an anti-tank, handheld, missile launcher, which was used against the German Army.
The Germans themselves had the Fritz-X guided bomb, to use against anti-aircraft guns, U-boats to sink American ships, as well as The Panther tank which formed the backbone of the German Blitzkrieg tactic. But the biggest advancement and probably the most famous weapon of the Second World War, was the atom bomb that was used by the Americans, to wipe out the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and end the conflict.
With all the injuries that come with war, one of the most important aspects of fighting a long drawn out battle is medical support. When World War 1 broke out in France in 1914, horse-drawn wagons with baskets on either side, were used to get a wounded soldier from the battlefield to a hospital. That often meant first being taken to the nearest train station and put in the straw of a cattle-car, and sent towards the nearest city that had a hospital. No bandages, no food, and no water. “One of those trains had dumped about 500 badly wounded men and left them lying between the tracks in the rain, with no cover whatsoever,” recounted Harvey Cushing, the head of the Harvard Unit of volunteer doctors at the American Ambulance Hospital of Paris.
But with all these injured soldiers to deal with, doctors actually learned enough to vastly improve a soldier’s chances of survival. At the beginning of the war, they only had amputation as a solution, but they learned to disinfect wounds, to operate on the injured soldiers and repair the damage from enemy artillery. Ambulances, antiseptic, and anesthesia, all emerged from the medical community having to deal with millions of deaths in the First World War.
When The Second World War arrived, every country was far better prepared, but again having to deal with an extraordinary number of injuries also changed the medical landscape. Most notably, with the role of nurses, of which many came from America. Not only did the number of female nurses increase significantly during the war, but the responsibility they carried became more critical.
In 1941, the Army Nursing Corps had a mass shortage of nurses with fewer than seven thousand available, leading to the need for nurses to volunteer to serve. In order to join the Nursing Corps, a woman had to meet certain criteria. Naturally, she had to be a citizen of the United States and to be a registered nurse. From 1943, Army nurses were required to undergo additional training such as field sanitation, psychiatry and anesthetics, and physical training to help build up their endurance. They worked closer to battle lines than they did in World War 1 or any war before. The nurses often worked and served under harsh conditions and had to make emergency decisions on the spot.
What about the results of these two devastating conflicts? Following World War 1, communism spread among the Soviet Union resulting in the Russian revolution of 1917. The Treaty of Versailles resulted in the German Army being forced to pay $31.5 billion dollars as reparation for the war. The empire of Austria-Hungary split their union and formed independent countries of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. And there was a Great Depression in America.
After World War 2 ended with the victory of the Allies against Germany and Japan in 1945, the European economy had collapsed, with 70% of the industrial infrastructure destroyed from the war. Germany split into two, with East Germany adopting a communist policy. Hitler and his closest associates committed suicide, but many other associates; especially Hermann Göring was sentenced to life imprisonment for hate crimes. And The United Nations was formed on October 24th, 1945, promising to uphold the peace. Both of these wars had a devastating impact that was felt for many years after.
So, can you envision a thrid world war, and if so, how do you think it will compare to the first two? Let us know in the commets! Also be sure to check out our other video, Australia vs the United States (Who Would Win? Military Comparison). Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!