Life in the Trenches

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Eye Deep in Hell: Trench Warfare during World War I” by Larry Burke.

"Over the Top." American soldiers answer the bugle call to "charge," 1918.  Image by Keystone View Co., via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

“Over the Top.” American soldiers answer the bugle call to “charge,” 1918. Image by Keystone View Co., via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Soldiers in the trenches of World War I suffered extreme temperatures, disease, and parasites in addition to the psychological stresses of war. How did the soldiers cope with the immense stress of life in the trenches? How did they find the courage to go ‘over the top’ into the maelstrom of no man’s land? Larry Burke’s Speakers Bureau presentation examines the strategies and tactics of trench warfare along the Western Front.

“Advancements in military technology, particularly machine guns and artillery, made the offensive tactics attempted by both sides early in World War I horrifically costly and obsolete,” said Burke. “This caused a stalemate on the Western Front resulting in trench warfare which imposed terrific physical and mental stress on the individual soldier ‘eye deep in hell.’”

Many World War I trench warfare soldiers suffered from “shell shock,” a combat stress reaction similar to today’s post-traumatic stress disorder. The presentation explores the similarities between battlefield stresses experienced by World War I soldiers 100 years ago and those of today’s soldiers.

Larry Burke

Larry Burke

Larry Burke is a historian, emeritus professor at Dodge City Community College, and a Vietnam combat veteran. His research focuses on military history with special emphasis on Civil War and Reconstruction, Vietnam War, and World War II history.

You can attend Larry Burke’s “Eye Deep in Hell: Trench Warfare during World War I” on August 9th in Park City. You can also bring this or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.