Whether the first bullet hit him or his wife, I’m not sure. Either way, the blood soon covered the hole exposed in both the bodies and the fabric which the assassin’s weapon caused.
A very real, and very deadly secret society, known as the Black Hand, personally selected six men to ensure the success of the plot. Princip was the name of the man who ended the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.
The two, one victim and the other murderer, were loyal to their countries. Archduke Ferdinand to Austria, being the heir to the throne. Princip, to both Serbia, and a Slavic section of Austria that longed to be free from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Like the echoes that were to come, Sophie was the first innocent casualty, many more would follow.
The Slavs and Serbia shared a common genetic history, one that enhanced the desire to join together into one greater unit. The name of that goal was to be a nation known as Yugoslavia. Itself, now a ghost of history past.
It may well have stayed a story on the other side of the world, had it not been for the demands of the territories involved, and their friends. Austria demanded justice, issuing an ultimatum to the Kingdom Of Serbia.
No less than the head of the Serbian Military Intelligence, Dragutin was behind the plot. Perhaps this was the reason that Serbia only partially complied with the demands. Austria, along with their ally Germany invaded Serbia.
Russia, an ally of Serbia, prepared for war. Germany’s two leaders, Kaiser Wilhelm, and his Prime Minister Von Bismark, saw the opportunity to invade Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.
Russia attacked both Austria, and attempted to invade Germany. Unsuccessful, they were violently repelled by the German war machine. While only a small part of Northern France was occupied by Germany, the costs of the war on it would be deadly.
At war’s climax, 1.4 million French soldiers would give their lives, in a short time, 4% of the entire population of France was gone. 27% to 30% of their entire military would be killed in a war that began with one bullet.
Great Britain, an ally of France, declared war on Germany. Before the War, Great Britain was in trouble itself. Political problems divided the country. As horrible as the bloodbath known as the Great War, before it’s sequel was, it unified Britain.
They not only had an ally to save, they had an enemy to despise. 850,000 lives would be sacrificed by the United Kingdom of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland to save France. A man named Winston Churchill helped to develop the military vehicle known as the tank.
The power of Britain’s military wasn’t enough. No matter how proudly the Union Jack flew over British vessels, they needed another ally. That’s where the Dough Boys came in.
This was the term used to describe the American Army and Marine soldiers that, as the popular song said, went “Over There” to fight for France’s liberation. The phrase was taken from a fried dumpling soldiers would consume which became what we now call the doughnut.
The reason our soldiers joined the fight sounds like a scene out of a summer movie. A German U-Boat, what you and I would call a submarine, sank the British cruise ship Lusitania, with 128 American passengers onboard.
America, who had been neutral, had enough. Even the peace loving President Woodrow Wilson, was now ready for war. To wearied soldiers on the battlefield of France, 10,000 Americans a day arrived to take up their rifles. The Yanks, as they were also called, against the soldiers of the combined forces of Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.
It could have been billed like an Ultimate Fighting Championship, Black Jack versus the Black Hand. General Black Jack Pershing, the only American General ever to go on to share the same rank with General Washington, lead the conflict.
As bombs burst around them, from the foxholes of the French and Belgian countrysides, heroes were forged, and villains began their dark journey. Among the heroes was a young corporal named Harry S Truman. Among the villains, another corporal, by the name of Adolph Hitler.
Before Hitler would attempt his annihilation of the Jews, and Truman would fight to champion both their cause, and their homeland, they were soldiers. Men, joined in a conflict, which began between two men, and an innocent spouse who gave her life by her loved one.
The war that only lasted four years resulted in over 17 million giving their lives. Of that number, only 11 million were military, the rest were civilians. We lost 744,000 of our countrymen to the conflict that ignited between two kingdoms, half a world away. Not all that were hurt died, the estimated list of dead and wounded combined was at least 38 million people.
This Great War, this horrible conflict, did more than result in reorganizing borders, propelling future leaders, and altering an entire globe. The horrible black cloud that was World War 1, would position men and women which would fight, an even greater conflict.
Had World War 1 not occurred, we may not have had a Roosevelt, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson to answer Pearl Harbor, or stand beside of Churchill.
There may not have been a Harry Truman who risked his entire reputation to stop Japan, controlled not by it’s Emperor, or it’s people, but by warlords. The same Truman would sign the paper recognizing Israel as a free nation for the first time since the Roman Empire.
The question is not was War necessary, but what the result of it was. America began a journey that freed not just France, but inspired countries across time zones and continents to follow the example of Washington, and Lincoln. This conflict, this Great War, this horrible conflict, need never be forgotten, but viewed as the forging of an even greater purpose. One that would be only begin to be revealed some twenty years later in it’s second installment.