The staggering statistics of World War I are hardly fathomable. In war in which casualty numbers lie in the millions, in which whole divisions cease to exist after a given battle, it is rather difficult for us to really comprehend and appreciate the horrendous loss of life that took place. The danger in studying the war is that we allow the numbers to desensitize us to the reality that is taking place. We thus have the potential to become like many of the generals whose disregard for the common soldier's life prompted them to send millions of men over the parapet to be mercilessly slaughtered. If at all possible, we must force ourselves to remember that each one of those men who perished was a real person with his own hopes, dreams, and ambitions. Thankfully, many of the soldiers who survived the war have given us to the opportunity to re-connect with the soldier as an individual. Their memoirs help us remember that these were not just bodies littered across the battlefield but living, breathing, human beings. .
Marc Bloch's, Memoirs of War, is compilation of his experiences as sergeant in the French army during the first five months of the war. Drawing from journal entries and other vivid memories, Bloch attempts to recreate his war experience, which gives us an opportunity to see the war's effect on a particular individual. Paging through his memoirs, we find that that war's effect on him was a slow and gradual process. Having the historical perspective of about ninety years, we may have certain preconceptions about what Bloch's attitudes toward the war might be. Certainly the war's impact on Bloch must have been profound. Yet, the questions we ask must ask ourselves when reading Bloch's memoirs is: How aware is he of the horror that is taking place around him? How aware is he capable of being? How aware will he let himself be? In the end, Bloch is engaged in a desperate struggle to maintain some sense of sanity.