5 Things You Didn't Know About World War I

On June 28, 1919, World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles by Germany and the Allies.  Here are 5 interesting facts you probably didn't know about World War I...

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The First Tank Used in Combat Was During World War I # America entered the war following the loss of 128 Americans when a German submarine sank the Lusitania. Image credit: WikiCommons Tanks are an essential component of militaries today, so much so that it’s hard to fathom war without them. But up until Sept. 15, 1916 (two years into the Great War), horses were still the main form of cavalry used by militaries. The United Kingdom was the first empire to employ tanks, in the Battle of the Somme, and they were largely ineffectual. There were too many breakdowns and the French heavily criticized their allies for giving away the advantage of surprise by launching the tanks before they were battle ready.

World War I Introduced the First Aircraft Carrier # War was declared against on February 3, 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson appeared before Congress to declare a break in American relations with the Germans. Image credit: WikiCommons War was the catalyst that introduced the first aircraft carrier, which was the HMS Furious, a British ship. Learning how to take off and land from a moving ship was difficult, and many early aircraft carriers were conversions built from battle, cargo or other ships. A British commander was the first to successfully land on a ship in 1917, but he died soon after when his plane crashed in his third landing attempt.

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The War Kicked Off the Beginning of Plastic Surgery. It was not just weaponry that saw tremendous advancements during the war—medicine also saw new innovations that carried on into modern times. Plastic surgery got its start during World War I. A doctor named Harold Gillies pioneered facial reconstruction surgery after seeing soldiers injured and disfigured by shrapnel explosions. Blood transfusions also became a regular practice, with the first blood banks established on the frontlines during 1917.

German was the Second Most Widely Spoken Language in the US Before the War. But that changed when U.S. officials banned German language books and required schools remove German from their curriculums.  Dogs’ names had to be changed too because of anti-German sentiment. In America, “dachshunds” became “liberty dogs”, and in Britain, “German shepherds” started to be called “Alsatians” (after Alsace-Lorraine on the German-French border). Food didn’t escape the renaming craze – sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage” and frankfurters changed to – yip, you guessed it – “liberty sausages”.

The U.S. Government Encouraged Americans to Plant "Victory Gardens" As part of the war effort, the government rationed foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods. Labor and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market. So, the government turned to its citizens and encouraged them to plant "Victory Gardens." They wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetables. Nearly 20 million Americans answered the call. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. Neighbors pooled their resources, planted different kinds of foods and formed cooperatives, all in the name of patriotism.