I first posted a version of this diary on Christmas Eve 2011. Even in the midst of unprecedented carnage in World War I, soldiers on both sides found within themselves a modicum of human decency and desire for peace. In this most brutal of wars which raged on for four long years, there was a cessation of hostilities on the night of December 24, 1914 - even if for only one day. Any time, anywhere, when the cycle of violence is momentarily interrupted or broken, that, in itself, is worthy of remembrance.
Wars suppress the natural urge of men to behave in a manner that has no bearing to and can even remotely be construed as civilized behavior.
Combat does terrible things to human beings and transforms the best of them into killing machines. The low-key and gentle man who may have been a country farmer in a previous life turns into a savage, thirsty for blood. The unassuming and quiet factory worker who was primarily concerned with making machine parts emerges as an efficient killer. The seemingly peace-loving gardener who lovingly took care of nature's wonders is worried about one and only one thing - kill or be killed.
Prolonged conflicts severely restrict and narrow one's options on the field of battle. Through all the brutality, soldiers are preoccupied with the ultimate goal: survival. And at the war's end, a longing to be reunited with their loved ones and to carry on with their mundane, unexciting, and ordinary lives.
The lie and the harsh reality of total war is simply this: older men send younger men into battle to die while invoking honor, duty, and country. How should soldiers behave when placed as cannon fodder in an impossible situation?
As I wrote in this 2007 diary - "Shared National Sacrifice" and 'The War' Tonight on PBS
Grand strategies, geopolitical objectives, and tactical battle plans are for politicians and generals. In a democratic society, soldiers don't make the decision to engage in war; political leaders, some with perverted personal agendas, do.
The "Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom" Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote about the futility of war and directed his criticism at the British military high command. His classic poem,The Charge of the Light Brigade, is about a disastrous suicidal charge made by British soldiers in the Crimean War.
The Crimean War took place between 1853-1856, with Tsarist Russia fighting an Allied force consisting of soldiers from the British, French, and Ottoman Empires. The Allies were also joined by a force from the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war resulted as imperial powers jockeyed for territorial influence following the decline of the Ottomans.