World War I: "The War to End All Wars"
World War I began with an assassin's bullet. Francis Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Hungary, was killed in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip. Princip maintained ties with a Serbian terrorist organization, leading Austrian-Hungarian leaders to believe that the assassination was sponsored by the Serbian government. This prompted Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia on July 28, 1914.
The war quickly escalated as European nations realized the far-reaching implications of this war. Germany joined with Austria-Hungary in a matter of days to form the Central Powers. Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire joined about two months later. Serbia was the first to make up the Allies. It was quickly joined by the British Empire, Belgium, France, and Japan. Other nations joined in the following years. A list of the Allies and Central Powers and the dates that they joined are as follows:
|Belgium (August 4, 1914)||Guatemala (April 23, 1918)||Panama (April 7, 1917)|
|Brazil (October 26, 1917)||Haiti (July 12, 1918)||Portugal (April 7, 1917)|
|British Empire (August 4, 1914)||Honduras (July 19, 1918)||Romania (August 27, 1916)|
|China (August 14, 1917)||Italy (May 23, 1915)||Russia (August 1, 1914)|
|Costa Rica (May 23, 1918)||Japan (August 23, 1914||San Marino (June 3, 1915)|
|Cuba (April 7, 1917)||Liberia (August 4, 1917)||Serbia (July 28, 1914)|
|France (August 3, 1914)||Montenegro (August 5, 1914)||Siam (July 22, 1917)|
|Greece (July 2, 1917)||Nicaragua (May 8, 1918)||United States (April 6, 1917)|
The Central Powers
|Austria-Hungary (July 28, 1914)||Germany (August 1, 1914)|
|Bulgaria (October 14, 1915)||Ottoman Empire (October 31, 1914)|
Germany and Austria-Hungary were the major Central players. By the time the First World War broke out, the German army was the best trained army in the world. It used a mandatory draft to enlist all able-bodied men to serve. The Germans then focused on building a potent navy. At first, Austria-Hungary wanted the war to be solely between it and Serbia. However, when Russia mobilized to defend Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia. Germany then declared war on France. As the German forces swept into France, they invaded Belgium, a neutral country. This prompted Britain to declare war on Germany. Most other European countries quickly followed suit.
Germany's war plan had been devised long before the war was evident. The German strategy, the Schlieffen Plan, called for two wings of the German Army to sweep westward. This plan was followed well until the right wing got overambitious. It followed retreating French troops, leaving the Germans exposed from the rear. French forces, stationed at the Marne River, managed to defeat the Germans at the First Battle of the Marne. This major victory ended Germany's hope for a quick defeat of France. The Germans and the Allies then engaged in what was known as the Race to the Sea. The Germans hoped to cut off Allied ports. However, Allied forces, in the First Battle of Ypres, halted the German offensive. This battle lasted about a month.
On the Western Front, not much happened for about 3½ years. This front consisted of about 750 miles of land.
Russia mobilized on the Eastern Front faster than expected. Almost immediately, Russia lost 250,000 men to the Austro-Hungarian army. During each of the three Austro-Hungarian assaults on Serbia, the Russians pushed them back. By October, the Austro-Hungarian army had retreated back to its own territory. In one of the largest battles of the war, the Battle of the Somme, over one million casualties were recorded, yet the Allies only gained about seven miles of ground. Even with massive battles such as these, the Western front stayed right where it was. During one Russian offensive orchestrated by Czar Nicholas II, the Russians took about 200,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners. This was a great moment for the Allies, but Russia took a great deal of damage.
Italy, in a secret treaty with the Allies, would receive Austro-Hungarian land after the war in exchange for an attack on Austro-Hungarian forces. The Italian Front was a similar story to the Western Front. Several large battles took place. Little strategic territory was acquired by either side, but the Austro-Hungarian army suffered tremendous losses.
One of Germany's greatest achievements in wartime was the U-Boat. These submarines blockaded the British Isles and sank many merchant ships trying to deliver supplies to Britain. On May 17, 1915, a U-Boat sank the Lusitania, a cruise liner, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. President Wilson, in response, urged Germany to cease this type of warfare. They agreed to stop attacks on neutral vessels. The Battle of Jutland, the only major sea battle of the war, caused major losses on both sides. However, Britain still ruled the seas.
A series of strategic blunders on the part of the Allies demoralized forces. It became more and more clear that the Austro-Hungarians might prevail. However, the United States soon entered the war after the interception of the "Zimmerman Note." This was a message from Germany's foreign minister to its ambassador to Mexico. The Note revealed a plot to persuade Mexico to declare war on the U.S. At the beginning of U.S. involvement, the Regular Army numbered about 126,000. By the war's end, there were about 5 million Armed Forces members.
In the last of three German offensives on the Western Front, the Second Battle of the Marne, the Germans were defeated. The Allies marched eastward, easily conquering most of the Germans' territory. In the Fall of 1918, the Allies won all fronts. On November 11, 1918, the Germans finally surrendered, ending the Great War. 10 million people had died; 21 million were wounded.
In May 1919, after threatening to invade Germany, the Allies presented the Treaty of Versailles to the Germans. On June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles, German representatives signed the treaty. Along with this treaty, the Allies also created individual treaties for the remaining Central powers. Austria signed the Treaty of St.-Germain in September of 1919, Bulgaria the Treaty of Neuilly in November, Hungary the Treaty of Trianon in June 1920, and the Ottoman Empire the Treaty of Sèvres in August 1920. The provisions of these treaties follow:
The Treaty of Versailles (German)-
The Treaty of St.-Germain and the Treaty of Trianon reduced Austrian and Hungarian land while recognizing Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia as independent nations.
The Treaty of Sèvres took Lebanon, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Transjordan away from the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria also lost some of their territory to Greece and Romania.