December 28th, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A century later, it’s easy to dismiss all the remembrances and tributes as being overly sentimental and maudlin. What’s often forgotten, however, is what the temporary peace represented in the larger scheme of things. There’s a very good reason why a truce never happened again in this war and in subsequent wars — and much of it had to do with the changing nature of military strategy, the changing role of soldiers and how they engaged with the enemy, and the high stakes involved for industrialized nations embroiled in a war without compromise. Moving forward, politicians and military leaders could no longer tolerate such fraternizing in consideration of mass armies existing in an age of revolutionary fervor. It was an issue of control.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 can also be seen as the last gasp of the romantic 19th Century, the final gesture of an era that featured “gentlemanly” soldiering and gallant heroes who could confront their adversaries face-to-face. Professional soldiers in WWI were replaced by recruits with no sense of military tradition. Battlefields, like the factories back home, had turned into industrialized workplaces.
Wars were no longer defined by movement and decisive battles. Instead, it became a battle of attrition where armies of millions would be pitted against other armies of millions. Meanwhile, the multitudes back home rallied the home front to provide material support with their industrial might.