5 Things You Didn't Know About World War I

August 1, 1914, marks the official beginning of the "Great War" when Russia and Germany declared war on each other.  Though most thought the war would be over in a few months, it would take more than four years for conflicts to come to an end. Here are five interesting facts about the first World War...


The British Prime Minister Heard an Explosion All the Way in London. # American troops in a field during World War I. Image source: WikiCommons World War I introduced a multitude of new weaponry into battle, including tanks and flamethrowers. But the use of mines was perhaps the most devastating. During The Battle of Messines in 1917, British forces detonated 900,000 lbs of explosives in 19 underground tunnels beneath German frontlines. The explosion was one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history and the most deadly: 10,000 German soldiers died in the trenches. Reports came from Downing Street in London and even Dublin of hearing the explosion. At Lille University in France, the explosion was mistaken for an earthquake.

The War Kicked Off the Beginning of Plastic Surgery. # British troops on the march in 1917. Image source: WikiCommons 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. As if that wasn't crazy enough, German Shepards, Dachshunds, frankfurters, and sauerkraut became known as Alsatians, liberty pups, liberty sausages, and liberty cabbage. Needless to say, suspicions of the Germans were quite high stateside.

Woodrow Wilson Ran on an Anti-War Platform. And then reneged on it just a month after getting elected. Wilson prided himself as the president who kept America out of the war and used American fears of sending boys overseas as a way to earn a second term. But after several American ships were sunk by German forces, Wilson had no choice but to get involved. America entered the war on April 4, 1917.

Women's Skin Turned Yellow During the War. We all remember Rosie the Riveter, and the call for U.S. women to take up jobs usually held by men during World War II. But in World War I, many women had to fill the factory jobs held by their husbands, too. Some women who worked with TNT saw their skin turn yellow and suffered from toxic jaundice. 

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