JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 361
This is a picture of a captured German soldier, somewhere in France in the middle of 1918, months away from the finale in November. His tunic is still clean, his buttons as shiny as his baby-fat face, happy to be receiving something--a canteen?--from the British officer, an object of strict attention. Except that the more our dour soldier to his right has his fingers around the thing and will probably take it from the boy, who looks not only young, but small. As a matter of fact, most of these soldiers look very young, too young: sopranos.
As the soon-to-be-defeated experience in every war, as the ranks of suitable, able-aged soldiers slim and shrink, the military hand grabs up whatever is available, or left. I guess this makes sense as most folks in the industrial world didn't debate child labor laws--with energy, anyway--until the 1920's. If you an work in a cotton mill at 8 or 10 or 12 years of age, why not get these workers to carry guns? The answer is that they're not capable, for the overwhelming majority, and would make a
poor soldier, possibly costing more effort and life on his own side than on the enemy's. But at the tail end of a brutal conflict like WWI, the grim matter is that general conscript had been gobbled up and fed into the grist mill that had already cost millions of lives. This phenomenon is not just a WWI problem, and not an old problem, either: you could construct an alphabet of abusers, and apply it by century: Burundi, Chad, Ivory Coats, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Burma, China, Sri Lanka, Columbia, the Soviet Union, the United States, all pressing children into the front line, or as drummer boys, powder boys, cannon fodder, mine-clearers, and on and on. Run out of men, and the 13-year-old boy was next in line, the face filling out any sort of uniform at any point in time.