Chapter 7 entitled The Great War is an extremely rich source of colorful material about Mises’s years during the World War I. The war years were quite busy for him. He was almost constantly on the road between dangerous assignments on the front and various capacities as a civil servant.During the time at the front, as in his life as scholar and civil servant, we encounter him as a courageous, principled, and dedicated officer fully committed to the task of preparing and leading his men in the battle. That Mises was an exemplary soldier and comrade is confirmed by the numerous war medals and honors he received, and a press report that I would like to quote in full, as it is written in the book. “Our Heroes. The well known and beloved Reserve Lieutenant Dr. Ludwig Edler von Mises, in civilian life an unsalaried lecturer at the University of Vienna, and currently stationed with our Thirtieth, was honored anew with the Signum Laudis in silver for his outstanding efforts before the enemy.â€
The war did not spare him a physical injury. Many years following the war, he still suffered from the pain in the hip. At the end of 1915, he was commissioned to join the War Ministry in Vienna, and then some six months later he was transferred to the Scientific Committee for War Economics where he would stay until October of 1916. During the time at the Scientific Committee he distinguished himself through his uncompromising position on the important question of free trade. Dr. Hülsmann has one very memorable line that seems to fit Mises’s maxim during the time at the Committee quite well: “Montesquieu once said that although one had to die for one’s country, one was not obliged to lie for it.â€
His last assignment at the frontline took him to Carpathian Mountains. It was winter and the weather conditions were very severe but it turned out it was not entirely bad. Russians were less eager to fight in the light of ever increasing revolutionary sentiments in Russia itself. As the February Revolution in Russia brought the centuries old monarchical order to an abrupt end, the motivation to fight on both sides diminished markedly.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the chapter is an extremely fertile source of interesting material on historical events during the WWI. Everyone interested in this particular period of human history will benefit from author’s extensive and detailed scholarship of a broad range of particular political and economic problems of the time.