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Education

Incredible audio shows what WWI sounded like when the guns and bombs just suddenly stopped

It's both beautiful and haunting to hear the ceasefire silence at the agreed-upon 11th hour.

Much of World War I was fought in trenches.

On November 11, 1918, U.S.soldier Robert Casey wrote from the American front in Western Europe:

And this is the end of it. In three hours the war will be over. It seems incredible even as I write it. I suppose I ought to be thrilled and cheering. Instead I am merely apathetic and incredulous … There is some cheering across the river—occasional bursts of it as the news is carried to the advanced lines. For the most part, though, we are in silence … With all is a feeling that it can’t be true. For months we have slept under the guns … We cannot comprehend the stillness.

It was the 11th day of the 11th month, and the war was scheduled to end with a ceasefire at the 11th hour—11:00 a.m. exactly. It had been four years of bloody, brutal fighting in what would later be called World War I. (Ironically, the war that was dubbed "the war to end all wars.")

The sense of relief at the ceasefire had to have been palpable, and thanks to modern technology, we can get an idea of what it sounded like to have the constant gunfire, artillery shells, fighter planes and bombs just…stop.

The following audio is not a recording, since magnetic tape recording technology didn't exist in WWI. It's a sound recreation based on visual "sound ranging" recordings the military used to determine where enemy fire was coming from. Special units placed microphones in the ground and used photographic film to visually record the noise intensity of gunfire, similarly to how seismometer measures an earthquake.

The lines you see in the film below are vibrations from noises at the River Moselle on the American Front, which were interpreted by sound company Coda to Coda using meticulous research on the kinds of weaponry that would have been used and how far away they were, even taking into account the geography of the area.

The result is the sounds soldiers would have heard during the last minute of World War I. Listen:

The little bird chirp at the end really punctuates it, doesn't it? Beautiful, yet haunting.

The fact that there was an exact minute when opposing forces agreed to lay down their arms and then did so is a bit surreal. If you know you're going to stop shooting, why wait for a few hours and keep shooting one another? Why not just say, "Stop, we're done now"? Communication took time and the various forces needed to be informed of the ceasefire agreement, so it makes some sense, but still. The armistice agreement was signed six hours before the ceasefire. In those six hours—when peace had already been agreed upon—3,000 soldiers were killed. Talk about senseless deaths.

Of all the things humans have devised and systematized, war is probably the weirdest. Leaders get into disputes over political or geographic particulars, and then one says, "I'm going to send my people to kill your people." Another responds, "If your people kill my people, then my people will kill your people." Then the worst of human atrocities are perpetrated by people who would normally never dream of doing such things to one another until, at some point, they've all have had enough of the senseless destruction, the leaders come to some kind of agreement and say, "OK, our people will no longer kill each other. Good talk."

Of course, it's all a bit more complicated than that, but at the same time, it's not. War as a concept is simply stupid and stupidly simple. Humanity in general does seem to have grasped the stupidity of it, as we've been making global progress toward a more peaceful world for many decades. But as conflicts ignite and violence explodes in certain regions, we feel the tenuousness of that progress, which makes peacemaking skills all the more valuable.

Twenty million people were killed in WWI, more than half of them civilians. Many of them died from famine and disease brought on by the conditions of war. This audio is a reminder that these things don't just happen—they are choices that human beings make. Destruction and diplomacy are both choices. Retaliation and restoration are choices. War and peace are choices.

We've tried choosing war followed by peace, many times over. Maybe we should try choosing peace without having to go through the stupid, senseless killing part first.

John Lennon and Gloria Emerson.

John Lennon of the Beatles was a uniquely gifted musician, writer, actor, visual artist and performer whose talents made him one of the most beloved people on the planet. However, his unique approach to activism in the ’60s and ’70s was mocked in its time but today seems just as visionary as his other talents.

Lennon’s first big political statement was the 1968 hit “Revolution,” which challenged those who want to “change the world” through institutions to “free your mind instead.” In 1969, he created one of the most enduring anti-war anthems, with “Give Peace a Chance.”

The easy-to-sing chorus was designed to be chanted by large groups of people and was a major refrain in the massive Vietnam Moratorium march in Washington in the fall of 1969.

As a member of the most popular pop group of all time, Lennon knew the power of the media and how to craft messages that caught the world’s attention.



After Lennon wed artist Yoko Ono on March 20, 1969, the couple knew it would be a major media event. So they decided to take the attention and use it as an advertisement for peace by staging a two-week-long bed-in at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

The couple invited the international press into their hotel beds, and many thought there would be something salacious happening, only to find Lennon and Ono making the case for peace.

Seven months later, the couple was challenged for their anti-war activities by celebrated war correspondent Gloria Emerson, who had just returned from the frontlines in Vietnam. Emerson, a serious journalist who saw the bloodshed firsthand, thought that Yoko and Lennon’s activism was silly self-promotion.

The exchange between the three is engaging because they all want peace but have zero agreement on how it can be accomplished.

John Lennon interviewed by Gloria Emerson

"You've made yourself ridiculous!" Emerson insists.

"I don't care," Lennon replied, "if it saves lives."

"My dear boy," she said, "you're living in a nether-nether land. . . . You don't think you've saved a single life!" Emerson says.

"You tell me what they were singing at the Moratorium," Lennon shot back.

"Which one?" Emerson asks.

"The recent big one," Lennon explained. "They were singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’ … and it was written specifically for them."

"So they sang one of your songs," she said with some irritation. "Is that all you can say?"

"They were singing a happy-go-lucky song, which happens to be one I wrote. I'm glad they sang it. And when I get there, I'll sing it with them," Lennon responds.

Throughout the back and forth Lennon calls Emerson a "snob" and she responds by calling him a "fake." Lennon tries to explain that he's doing an "advertisement campaign for peace." To which she cleverly responds, "Are you advertising John Lennon or peace?"

The argument is a wonderful example of a bygone era when celebrities were challenged by reporters. In 1969, Lennon was one of the most well-known and beloved people on planet Earth and Emerson has no problem challenging him. Can you imagine a reporter confronting someone of that status on the topic of activism in 2021?

The exchange is also refreshing because Lennon has no qualms about protecting his public image. He doesn’t care if he’s seen as a clown as long as he makes his point to as many people as possible. It's a lot different than the type of celebrity "slacktivism" we see today where all they do is send out a tweet or reply to a hashtag.

There’s no real way to quantify whether Lennon’s songs and activism helped change the tide of the war, but there’s no argument over whether he was successful at presenting his message of peace to the world.

In the interview, Emerson accuses Lennon of being a half-hearted activist who lacks commitment but, in the coming years, the former Beatle and Ono would continue to engage in anti-war activism.

The couple’s political activism would cool off by the mid-’70s after being threatened by the Nixon administration with deportation.

John Lennon was murdered in New York City on December 8, 1980, 41 years ago to the day this article was written.

As flags fly on Veterans Day, let's rethink how we observe this holiday.

If you attend any Veterans Day ceremony in the United States, you'll likely see many of the same things. Military personnel in uniform. The Pledge of Allegiance recited and/or the National Anthem played—perhaps even by a military band. Speeches celebrating American freedoms and expressing gratitude for the people who defend them. Salutes and patriotism and pomp. Flags, flags and more flags.

What do we rarely see or hear anything about on Veterans Day? Building peace. And frankly, that's weird.

It's particularly weird considering where this holiday came from. Originally commemorated as Armistice Day marking the end of World War I, November 11 was a day dedicated to the cause of world peace in addition to honoring veterans who served in the war. Congress's 1926 resolution establishing the legal holiday read in part [emphasis mine], "…it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations."

Over the decades, it seems the focus of the holiday has shifted away from "exercises designed to perpetuate peace," toward exercises designed to glorify our armed forces. We don't talk about building peace on Veterans Day. We use militaristic language to talk about "defending our freedoms," painting the whole picture with a patriotic brush that tugs our red-white-and-blue heartstrings.


It's additionally weird to see such a focus when I think about some of the combat veterans I've known. The family member who refused to talk about his time in Korea. The friend who flinched at fireworks and still couldn't stand the sound of helicopters decades after serving in Vietnam. The friend, a few years younger than me, who shut himself in a closet and shot himself in the head after multiple tours of duty in Iraq.

Their sacrifices were real and should be acknowledged. But so should the reality of why they were called to make those sacrifices. Were those wars actually fought to defend American freedoms? Are the sacrifices of our veterans—with their mental health, with their families, with their lives in some cases—always worth it?

We don't dare say no. To some, it might seem disrespectful—downright blasphemous, perhaps—to even ask the questions. But we owe it to the veterans we honor to consciously weigh the cost of war—and conversely, promote the cause of peace—in our observances of this holiday.

That's the message Veterans for Peace has for all of us. Founded in 1985, Veterans for Peace is a global organization of military veterans and allies with dozens of chapters and five stated goals: To increase public awareness of the causes and costs of war, to restrain governments from intervening in the internal affairs of other nations, to end the arms race and eliminate nuclear weapons, to seek justice for veterans and victims of war, and to abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

These veterans also want to reclaim Armistice Day.

"Veterans For Peace has taken the lead in lifting up the original intention of November 11th—as a day for peace," states the organization's website. "As veterans we know that a day that celebrates peace, not war, is the best way to honor the sacrifices of veterans. We want generations after us to never know the destruction war has wrought on people and the earth."

The call of Veterans for Peace is reminiscent of five-star general President Dwight D. Eisenhower's statements about war: "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity," he said in 1946. And in 1960, he said in the opening session of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, "In this hope, among the things we teach to the young are such truths as the transcendent value of the individual and the dignity of all people, the futility and stupidity of war, its destructiveness of life and its degradation of human values."

Our veterans deserve to be honored. They also deserve to have their experiences recognized as the genuine tragedies that they are, not glossed over or dressed up for the sake of national pride and patriotism.

Let's ask ourselves: Are our young people getting the message that war is stupid and futile at the same time they are taught to place their hands on their hearts and pay respect to our veterans? Are we explaining to young people how high the suicide rate is among military personnel—and why—when we take them to military parades? Do we share with them, as they witness the pageantry surrounding this holiday, that Veterans Day isn't meant to be a badge of glory pinned to our nation's chest, but rather an acknowledgment of a tragic truth—that humanity has not yet learned that war isn't worth its cost?

As we observe Veterans Day with all the usual ceremonial trappings, let's focus on finding ways to build peace between all peoples and nations as well. The best way to truly honor our veterans is not merely to thank them for their service and then keep sending them into combat zones, but to actively strive toward a future that doesn't need them anymore.

Rambam Health Care/Facebook

As the world watches longstanding tensions between Israel and Palestine escalate into violence once again, it's good to be reminded that political conflicts are not a reflection of how average human beings feel about one another. Even when violent attacks take place among civilians, even when hate crimes happen, even when some people express their prejudices loudly and passionately, there are plenty of examples of people on opposite sides of those conflicts—people that the world views as enemies—who join hands to say, "This is not who or what we are to one another."

Case in point: This inspiring show of solidarity between Arab and Jewish medical staff at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.

The city of Haifa itself has been viewed as a model of peaceful coexistence between people of various faiths and backgrounds, its religiously and ethnically diverse population avoiding most of the violence seen in other large Israeli cities over the years. Living up to that reputation, in recent weeks, Jewish medical staff at Rambam Medical Center have taken extra shifts to give their Muslim coworkers time off for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and Arab staff have done the same for their Jewish coworkers to give them time off during Shavuot.

On May 12, as violence escalated, Rambam's medical teams shared photos of Arab and Jewish medical personnel standing arm in arm with signs of peace and coexistence written in Arabic and Hebrew on Facebook.


"Three turbulent days and the escalation in Israel's security situation has led Rambam Health Care Campus employees to send an important message to the general public – we are together," the post states. "The medical staff, nursing staff and employees from other sectors across the hospital are united in these difficult days under the umbrella of peace, coexistence, unity, and solidarity, and many of them chose to take part in a campaign showing colleagues and friends from different religions working side by side to provide the best possible healthcare. These individuals were photographed together, carrying signs of peace and seeking to convey this important message."

The post also included the text of a letter sent to employees from the hospital's director, Michael Halberthal:

"Dear Rambam Employees,

We are all witnessing the recent events in the country, which are characterized by great tension and violence.

Rambam is a hospital where members of all denominations and religions from all walks of life, work side by side. We are all united around only one goal - to help our patients recover and make their hospitalizations easier.

Each of us holds diverse personal opinions and worldviews, but all of these are irrelevant to our shared mission in the hospital.

I hope and believe that Rambam, as a family with differences, will remain an island of sanity within the uneasy reality around us, standing together as we have done during all of the difficult trials we have experienced in recent years.

Therefore, when we, the employees from all the different sectors, enter the hospital and put on our work clothes, we leave the turbulent world behind us and concentrate on our shared goals.

We have built a special "home" here, one that we nurture as a place of harmony and inclusivity. One of which I am personally proud to be a part. Let us keep it going together."

The staff took that message to heart and organized a "solidarity rally" with dozens of Arab and Jewish doctors, nurses, and para-medical staff gathering together under the slogan, "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies."

"We work side by side in the departments and the operating rooms," the doctors who organized the rally said. "We are one big family, and this is our message."

There's no doubt that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over land rights and political recognition is complicated. When you have a centuries-long quagmire of power, oppression, religious prejudices, historical injustices, and more, violence is a natural—though not inevitable—result. While people around the world may feel compelled to protest or support one side or the other for reasons they feel are totally justified, it's heartening to see people on the ground, who live and work with one another, rejecting the idea that they are enemies and embracing one another as fellow human beings sharing a common goal.

The vast majority of people simply want to live in peace. Thank you, staff of Rambam Health Care, for reminding the world of that truth so beautifully.