Ninety-nine years ago, in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the armistice was proclaimed that ended the terrible fighting in World War I. A war that had erupted in large part because Europe’s political leaders, a century on from the Napoleonic conflicts, were accustomed to war remaining limited, produced some of the bloodiest battles ever fought. The six-month battle of the Somme in 1916 took the lives of an unimaginable 1.5 million French, German, and British soldiers – without either side achieving sustainable penetration of the line of confrontation or any operational victory. WWI was the most tactically and politically frustrating of wars, admitting little maneuver, little jockeying for advantage, and no enduring significance to victory.
But it marked the debut of the United States on the stage long occupied by the great powers of Europe, as American soldiers boarded troop ships to head “Over