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These shell-shocked men often received little sympathy from a public that did not yet understand the psychological effects of war.Many referred to those killed or wounded in the First World War as a "lost generation," using the phrase made famous by American author Gertrude Stein.Whichever figure is closer, there is no doubt that the cost was staggering.
o matter how they are measured, the costs of World War I were enormous.
Undoubtedly, the most tragic and devastating of the losses caused by the war was the loss of life.
In his war novel A Farewell to Arms, American writer Ernest Hemingway expressed the sense that old truths had been destroyed.
One of the main characters in the book, an American ambulance driver on the Italian front, reflects: I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain.
Besides the huge number of dead soldiers, there were other military loses.
Armies counted the cost of waging war in terms of casualties—the total number of men killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or missing.All told, the Allied forces had a casualty rate of about 52 percent—22 million of the 42 million men sent to war.The Central Powers lost 15 million of the 23 million men they mobilized, a 65 percent casualty rate.The war had come at a time of unprecedented prosperity for Europe, and that prosperity and productive capacity were used to fuel a vast killing machine.Once the killing stopped, Europe's economies did not return to their prewar expansion. Mass poverty among the working classes led to rapid inflation, and politicians could do little to stop it.Several economists, however, have attempted a rough estimate.Shortly after the war, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace estimated that the war cost the world over 7 billion; a later estimate, quoted by Niall Ferguson in The Pity of War, sets the cost at 8 billion.Austria-Hungary had the highest casualty rate—90 percent—followed by Russia at 76 percent and France at 73 percent.Modern weapons like machine guns, fragmenting artillery, and poison gas injured soldiers of every country and sent them back to their families shattered and often disfigured.Empires were shattered, governments fell, and violent and destructive regimes came to power in several of the combatant countries.Perhaps the only country to truly benefit from the war was the United States, which emerged as the world's greatest power.