Chapter 6: A War To End All Wars (ha!)

Many history books just gloss over this whole affair rather than try to explain it to you. The short version of what it was all about: all sorts of new weapons had been invented, and every old army was obsolete. So countries started to build new ones, resulting in an arms race that, like most arms races, was really just a big "who has the biggest thingie" contest (and by "thingie," we mean "stamp collection," of course.) Once they had a bunch of shiny new weapons, they were all just itching to use them, either to show that they were now a major power in the world or to show that they were STILL a major power in the world. The war was an accident waiting to happen. We got involved largely because President Wilson knew that when it ended, the leaders of the world would meet to decide how the world would work for the rest of the 20th century - and he knew that being involved in the war would get him a better seat at the table.


Here's a propaganda poster designed to make people support President Wilson:

Your assignment: make a propaganda poster about your history teacher. Mail your results to the staff; some may be posted here!*

*As always, by sending them in, you grant us permission to post them, but we probably can't post everything we get.


Yes, kids, you can make your own mustard gas from the things you find at home!

You'll need:

1/3 cup of milk
1/2 cup of corn syrup
3 oz chocolate, unsweetened
4 tablespoons margarine
4 1/2 cup sugar, powdered
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the margarine and stir everything else in slowly. Pour the mixture into eight inch pan, cool, and serve. You will notice that this doesn't look, smell or taste anything LIKE poison gas. You see, we DO know how to make poison gas, but our lawyers said that, even though we've already told you to hire an intern and poke them in the liver, saw off your friend's legs and hang them, and all sorts of things that we assume that you know are just jokes, providing an actual recipe for poison gas might violate international law. So we replaced it with a recipe for fudge. Everyone just LOVES fudge!*

* - see, Kirkus? The recipe in the book is not real.


Songs That Won the War

(and learn the "playground version:" "Over there...over there...go and sit in your chair over there...")

Around the world, about 65 million peope participated in the war, and there were some nine million casualities. Some say that a whole generation of leaders was lost, leading Europe to be led by the b-team for the next half century. Countless kids fought in the war.

Today, some of the kid soldiers are among the
tiny handful of veterans known to survive.

In 2009, the Smart Aleck Staff swung by Jefferson Junior High in Naperville, IL. We heard they had a WW1 exhibit at which you could see a TRENCH. You know how often we've wished we could go back in time and see trenches for ourselves? Well, never. We're not stupid. But the exhibit was AWESOME, and the kids really knew their stuff. Here's Adam getting all excited about the trench:

We sort of thought they'd just dig a trench in the football field, but the trench they made was really cool. No actual mustard gas or rotting corpses, though (history just doesn't come alive for us unless someone gets maimed), but this was about as close to a real trench as we'd ever recommend getting:

Here's the staff's youngest intern, putting on a doughboy outfit. When asked if he knew how to make mustard gas, he said "out of my butt!"

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