It’s amazing just how fast people’s long term plans can change, depending on what they hear.  I was dead-set on learning to become a comedian, then a famous musician, then applying for the NFL Draft, all within the span of one week of 4th grade.  My experience at Pritzker this week taught me that very important lesson: that you never know till you learn.

Currently I am studying to become a Secondary Education teacher in history, but when this year rolled around I was considering teaching at a collegiate level, should an opportunity present itself.  However, through talking with my professors and seeing how their academic lives differ from my experiences with high school teachers, I now consider becoming a professor to be my top career goal.  Such focus on one topic in history and getting to do extensive research and writing on it seems very appealing, and for me teaching wouldn’t come as an add-on to the profession.  Yet while working on my discovery pages at Pritzker I found out the intern I share a workspace with, Andrew Bourgeois, was a graduate of Loyola University’s History Department from 8 years ago.  He gave me a great overview of which professors were good, which I should avoid (not many), and which classes would be worth my time.  But more importantly, he gave me a first-hand look at what a historical graduate program would look like.  Andrew mentioned a lot of discourse, a lot of jargon, and a lot of academia.  I don’t believe he mentioned these things to discourage me from entering into such a study, it was simply a “warning” of sorts, that this would be the environment you’d be spending your time in, and like all professions, it has its ups and downs.  When it comes to a person’s career, you can’t go in blind.  The input I received from my professors was important, as was the glimpse Andrew provided me.  But in the end I’ll have to decide what I value the most, and until then, learn as much as I can.

Speaking of learning, in my last Pritzker session I recently started preliminary research into my next topic, trench warfare featured during WWI.  All I’ve known of trench warfare was from my history class last year dealing exclusively with WWI (taught by Professor Thomas Knapp), and even then our intro to this style of fighting was very basic.  Digging into areas to provide defensive cover has always been a part of warfare, but it has been interspersed with mobile warfare and weaponry that benefited from such tactics.  World War I’s tactics were about an imbalance between technology and tactics; they had access to machine guns, mortar shells, massive artillery capabilities, and late into the conflict, tanks.  Contrasting this was battle tactics.  The phrase “over the top” was made famous because generals and squad leaders would send waves and waves of troops over the artillery-shelled wasteland of “no man’s land,” straight into more shells, machine gun fire, and near-certain death.  Even flanking maneuvers were cut off by the opposing side, endlessly stretching trench lines so far as the coasts (the most famous example being the “race to the sea,” in which German and British forces extended their lines to the North Sea).  However, I had learned all of this before in class, so it was not a huge surprise.

What was, however, was information I found on trench raids.  To add a touch of mobility to the endless waves of troop advancements, under the cover of night many small squad groups would sneak across No Man’s Land, and with a plethora of melee weapons and close-combat guns (such as hunting shotguns converted for military use), they would cause as much havoc as possible.  This, while adding a new wrinkle to the stagnation of trench warfare, only enhances its brutality.  By looking at some of the weapons, like the picture below of a “knuckle duster,” which has a triangular blade for the express purpose of doing as much damage as possible, it’s plain to see these men fought to discourage the enemy.  And with conditions as deplorable as many were, with 90% of people who sustained a torso injury dying due mainly to infection, it’s easy to see not only how advanced their weaponry was, but how unprepared they were to use it.Image

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