Sunday, April 28, 2013

17108. Charles L. Tibbetts

Charles L. Tibbetts died in Flirey, France on August 4, 1918, at just 24 years old. Sadly, he was one of hundreds of thousands of people of many nationalities dying in those horrible days in Europe.

His story is elusive, but there's one part of his tale that is telling of a larger phenomenon. To the point, his family remembered him as "Our World War Hero."

I was discussing with a friend just the ither day how her grandfather, who lived through the Depression, lived every day as if it could happen again. As such, whenever anybody asked for anything - "Hey, does anybody have 4 ten-penny nails and a bolt of red cloth?" - he'd walk out to the barn and grab it. He saved everything he ever owned, just in case the Depression might happen again.

But the world had never seen anything like World War I. And the United States had entered a long period of isolation and even ideological isolationism before the war, so a prolonged period of relative peace had reigned from the end of teh Civil War through the 19-teens (I said relative. I am aware of the Spanish-American War and the other minor conflicts!). The concept of a global war seemed fantastical, like something about which H.G. Wells would have written. But transportation technology, weapons technology and communications technology had allowed the world's countries to share their hatreds in ways never seen before.

World War II? Perish the thought. Who in 1918 foresaw a larger and more destructive war taking place in their lifetimes? Few understood at the time that World War I caused World War II, the unfair treatment of the losers leading to burning resentment. World War I wasn't known as World War I at the time; it was the Great War. That's why Charles is "Our World War Hero" and not "Our World War I Hero."

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