Two of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, The World Wars were the most catastrophic in terms of loss of life. If you were a soldier on the frontlines, you’d better hope you were in WW2.
In World War 1 far fewer civilian and soldier deaths occurred than in World War 2, but this was due to the stalemates, and immobility of the war. About 18 million died. Towns would be hit with stray bombs and bullets from nearby trench lines. Soldiers died from in charging from the trenches and bombings in the trenches and snipers. The disease was also a major factor in deaths, and the Spanish Flu killed a staggering number of combatants across the eastern front. The trench conditions were very unhealthy, and a lot of soldiers died due to the conditions. The worse possible obstacle for a soldier to come across as possibly the most recognized factor in the war, chemical warfare. Many gases, such as chlorine gas, could kill you or render you permanently disabled.
The Opposition. Many would argue that WW2 is much worse, with the staggering amount of new war machines to take human life, the number of civilian lives lost, and new military tactics such as Germany’s blitzkrieg. In WW2 though, soldiers were much more likely to survive the conflict, with introductions to non-combatant roles and trained medical experts, along with new life-saving applications, such as plasma and blood transfusions which were much safer after WW1. In The Great War though, only minor advancements had been made for blood transfusions, and the practice was very risky.
The Great War was primarily trench warfare, due to the immobility of troops, and this is the worst possible place for troops to be. Trenches were filled with dirty troops that often had gangrene from standing in calf-deep water all day. Rats as big as cats would feast on sleeping soldiers, and transmit disease among the trenches. Incompetent commanders would send soldiers to their death by a charge to the enemy trench, normally resulting in high casualties along with a full-force retreat by the advancement.
World War 2 for troops in select theatres was far worse than the Great War. The pacific-Japanese theatre saw an unrelenting Japanese force for the American’s, along with new diseases, unfamiliar landscapes due to jungle warfare, and dehydration due to the tropical heat. As well as the Western Front for the Germans and Russians, the harsh winter conditions made for a high mortality rate, and urban warfare saw many casualties (Stalingrad). The difference though, troops had broken in combat, it wasn’t a constant barrage of artillery and machine gunfire.
For these reasons, I believe a troop’s life in the trenches of the Great War would have a certain death sentence. Even though WW2 saw unparallel amounts of death, technology and tactics made a soldier’s life much more bearable. In the end, they both still resulted in unmeasurable amounts of deaths, so no war was really better in any way.
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