5 Things You Didn't Know About WWI

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I ended. Here are 5 things you probably didn't know about “The War to End All Wars.”...

ADVERTISEMENT

The First Tank Used in Combat Was During World War I 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. Horses! 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.

The Youngest Soldier to Enlist in the U.S. Army Was Only 12 Years Old Frank Sauliere from San Jose, California, became the youngest doughboy to serve in World War I when he lied about his age and signed up with the U.S. Army two days after Congress declared war. Sauliere’s parents lied too since Frank was only 12, and they went so far as to petition President Woodrow Wilson to approve his entrance into the military. The boy worked running messages, a dangerous battlefield job, and as an interpreter, and during his 21 months of service, he was wounded two times.

ADVERTISEMENT

World War I Was the Reason Plastic Surgery Was Invented Harold Gillies, a surgeon, practiced an early form of plastic surgery during World War I when he worked on the terrible facial injuries soldiers suffered from shrapnel wounds. Because shrapnel caused worse injuries than a bullet, reconstruction surgery was used in some cases. However, some soldiers who were horribly disfigured ended up staying in nursing homes rather than going home or appearing in public.

Blood Banks Came into Use During World War I Before World War I, blood was directly transferred from one individual to another, but this wasn’t practical on a battlefield with the high numbers of wounded. Captain Oswalt Johnson, an Army doctor, was the first person to establish a blood bank at the Western Front by adding sodium citrate to blood, which prevented its coagulation. With this innovation, blood could be kept for up to 28 days on ice and sent to where it was needed for soldiers who had experienced a high degree of blood loss.

The Draft Began During World War I The Selective Service Act was passed by Congress and signed into law in May 1917 by President Woodrow Wilson. This law was needed to increase the number of soldiers serving at the Western Front battlefields and to relieve the battle-weary troops already there. By the war’s end, around 2.7 million men had been drafted, and an additional 1.3 million had volunteered to fight.