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The war to end all wars

The Associated Press covers the greatest story of the era — part of the continuing series of special reports from the AP Corporate Archives

Red Prompt

The war to end all wars

The Associated Press covers the greatest story of the era — part of the continuing series of special reports from the AP Corporate Archives

Red Prompt

The war to end all wars

Red Prompt
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The Associated Press had covered war before, but not since the Napoleonic wars a century earlier had so many armies battled to so great an extent.

This was the Great War, called “the European War” or “the World War” by contemporaries. Ten million combatants would die before it ended with Germany’s defeat on Nov. 11, 1918. Its bloody battlegrounds, the Somme, Verdun, the Marne, and others, still epitomize apparently pointless human sacrifice. Those who survived the trenches of the Western Front believed civilization could never again sink so low.

The greatest story of the era was also the most difficult to report. Very soon, it became clear that news of military movements would be subject to rigorous and often capricious censorship. British censorship was unreasonably tight. It did not relax until officials realized that suppressing so much information about the war weakened the public support needed to wage it.

TOP IMAGE:
Silhouettes of British soldiers are projected onto a trench scene in the new “First World War Galleries” after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014.

AP Photo / Matt Dunham

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The shadow of a visitor as they walk by an exhibition titled “The Great War in Portraits” at the National Portrait Gallery in central London, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.

AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis

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“In endeavoring to report this war, we have faced an inexorable, un-systematized and unequal censorship on all news sources abroad. This, added to the delays on the cable due to congestion, has caused us to labor under a condition of affairs almost indescribable.”

— Charles Kloeber, head of AP’s New York news department, September 1914

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A collage of photographs of World War I British forces cover a wall at an exhibition titled “The Great War in Portraits” at the National Portrait Gallery in central London, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.

AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis

View on apimages.com >

“There are terrible things about this war which have never yet been written, and this may be the beginning of tearing open the realities. … While I am looking into this matter absolutely on its news basis for us, yet it seems to me that the cause of civilization may be served incidentally.”

— Elmer Roberts, AP Paris bureau chief, 1916

Explore more World War I coverage from The Associated Press