World War I was a remarkable war in the fact that is the first war to have world-wide consequences. The battles that marked this war were fought on just about every continent with the exception of Antartica. Though there were no land battles fought in North America, South America or Australia - naval warfare effected each of these continents in dramatic ways. It was the continuing naval warfare around our country that eventually brought us into the fight. Despite how distant in the past this war took place, echoes of it still flow through many families. My family is one of them as I write today to note the life of my great uncle Otto Brodbeck.
Though my family has been well established here in the United States for over 100 years, there are still many branches of the family that are remained in the "old country". My grandmother's family on my father's side is one of those branches. My grandmother came here to live in the United States in 1906 from a small town outside of Stuttgart, Germany called Esslingen. When she came over my grandmother left the rest of her family behind including her brother Otto.
As any patriotic Germany young man would, Otto was quick to enlist in the Germany army shortly after the onset of the WWI. Though the historical record is scarce it is easy to imagine that Otto spent many months potentially even years fighting in the horrible trench warfare of the Western Front. When Otto was killed in 1916 he was 1st Lieutenant and would have been at the "tip of the spear" of the Germany army. It would have been his responsibility to rally his men and give them the courage to "go over the top" of the trench to what was likely a sure death.
Many years ago I managed to do quite a bit of research regarding Otto and I came to find out that he died in 1916. The exact date of his death is unknown as he died during the hell that came to be know as the Battle of the Somme. His grave is marked and lies amongst the countless graves of those who fell in that horrible battle.
One can only imagine how Otto met his end. Potentially he was cut down by machine gun fire as he mounted the top of a trench in one of the futile frontal assaults that marked that war. Or maybe he was cut down by flying shrapnel from an exploding mortar or artillery shell. Did a sniper's bullet cut him down while he briefly stuck his head above the trench to assess the situation? Or was it illness that cut him down in his prime and he died far from the battle in a field hospital of pneumonia? I think it is highly like that I will never find out.
Though he fought for the "other" side in this great war from the viewpoint of my country, I still regard him as a strong and noble man who was willing to make the ultimate sacrafice for his country. Maybe someday I will come to know more of my fallen, long dead relative.
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We hope everyone is having a great weekend!
Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.