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World War I or The Great
1914-1918/19: History’s most
destructive half-decade….for
Prelude to War
Nationalism in major European powers builds up and tensions
grow as countries compete for territories and natural
Militarism- glorifying the idea of war, became patriotic among
the global empires and countries spend $$$$ on the military
to ensure their supremacy over their neighbors.
Industrialization now allows for the rapid production of
weapons and military supplies.
Balkan nationalism- ethnicities compete for territory and
support of larger nations or the elimination of influences from
“Powder Keg”
Balkan “Powder Keg”
The creation of alliances will eventually force the nations
of Europe to go to war.
The Triple Alliance of 1882 was an attempt by Germany
to isolate France. Italy joined in 1882. However, Italy
will change sides as war breaks out.
Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, & the Ottoman
Empire (joins later) will be known throughout the war as
the Central Powers.
Alliances cont.
Not to be outdone, France signs a defensive alliance
with Russia in 1892 & 1894. If war breaks out, Germany
will have to fight a two-front war.
Great Britain, as response to aggressive German naval
building, in 1907 joins France & Russia in an alliance
known as the Triple Entente.
Britain also signed a defensive alliance with Belgium (1830’s),
protecting its neutrality.
Britain & her colonial possessions, France & her colonial
possessions, Russia (until 1917), Italy, Japan, Greece,
Serbia, Portugal, Romania, and the United States (joins
in 1917) will be known throughout the war as the Allies.
Britain spent an estimated $500
million on battleships alone
between 1906-1914.
Mad Rush To War
Tensions & hostilities grow very quickly as opposing
nations maneuver themselves into position that will lead
to war.
Brinkmanship- use the threat of going to war to achieve
a political/diplomatic goal. Normally used by larger
countries against smaller countries, though not
As part of militarism, nations institute conscriptions (draft
or mandatory military service) in peacetime. This causes
other nations to do the same to protect themselves if
conflict arises.
Estimated size of armies (in millions) at the onset of
WWI: Germany- 4.5; Austria-Hungary- 3; France- 4;
Russia- 6; Britain- .975
Outbreak of War
Conflicts between Austria-Hungary & Serbia
start the global conflagration that is World War I.
Since gaining independence, Serbia was
technically under the political, economic, &
social influence of A-H.
Connected ethnically, both Slavic, Russia
supported the Serbians in their attempts at
breaking A-H influence.
Fearful of Russian intervention further south,
Germany pledges full support to A-H regardless
of what happens.
“The shot felt around the world”
In an attempt to eliminate A-H influences, the radical
Serbian nationalist organization “Society of the Black
Hand” organizes and carries out the assassination of
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on June
28, 1914.
The couple were in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina on a
public relations tour when they were shot a point blank
The assassin was 19 year old Gavrilo Princip.
Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the throne of AustriaHungary.
This event was the “spark” that ignited the “powder keg.”
Archduke Ferdinand, wife Sophie,
& children
Actual bloodstained uniform worn
by Ferdinand
Mug-shot of Princip after
Photograph of Princip being arrested
immediately after assassination
The World Goes To War
On July 23, A-H delivers an ultimatum to Serbia
demanding numerous terms be met or war
would begin. The ultimatum basically
demanded that Serbia surrender itself to A-H.
Serbia will cave in on all demands except one.
On July 28, A-H declares war on Serbia.
Over the next several days a series of events
catapults the world to war.
Rapid Chain of Events
In support of Serbia, Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II orders his
army mobilized on July 28-29.
Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II declares war on Russia on
August 1.
Germany wants to eliminate the biggest threat to them at
that time and delivers an ultimatum to neutral Belgium
allowing German forces to move through Belgium to
attack France.
On August 3, Belgium rejects the ultimatum and
Germany declares war on Belgium & France.
On August 4, Britain declares war on Germany for
violating the neutrality of Belgium.
Schlieffen Plan
The German plan of attack against France was laid out
in the Schlieffen Plan.
This attack called for the German army to use the flat
terrain of Belgium and quickly attack into France, capture
Paris, and defeat the French army before it could
The plan would avoid the French fortifications and
natural boundaries that separated France & Germany;
cut off the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from joining
with the French.
With France out of the war, Germany could focus its
attention on Russia, which it feared would be more
difficult to beat.
False Hope & Bloody Stalemate
People on both sides believed that the war would be
over by Christmas and soldiers marched off to war with
high hopes of returning home quickly & victorious.
Reality sets in with the 1st Battle of the Marne as the
Germany advance is stopped 20 miles outside of Paris.
Both sides dig in and the war of attrition known as trench
warfare begins on the Western Front.
On the Eastern Front, Austrian, German & Russian
armies clashed starting at the end of August. While the
Western Front gets most of the attention, the Eastern
Front saw some of the worst fighting and highest
casualties of the war.
French troops leaving for the front
Aftermath of the 1st Marne
Trench warfare on the Western Front
New Weapons-Old Tactics
The industrial revolution allowed countries to
create new weapons of war at much faster rates.
These new weapons were the most
technologically advanced at the time but
tactics/strategies were still from the Napoleonic
Era to the American Civil War.
Most high commanders never changed their
tactics to contend with the new weapons.
As a result, casualties (killed, wounded, POW)
on both sides reached into the hundreds of
thousands and even over one-million.
German machine gun: During the
course of the war Germany
manufactured over 100,000 of these
Poison Gas attack
The tank was developed & first used by
the British to cross No Man’s Land. Its
size and speed limited its use in certain
terrains but proved invaluable when
used on the battlefield.
Zeppelin airship
German submarines called U-Boats
ravaged allied shipping. The passenger
ship Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk
by a U-Boat killing over 1000 people,
including Americans.
Aircraft, originally used for observation,
now take on combatant roles and control
of the skies becomes a top priority.
Major Battles/Campaigns
1st Battle of the Marne- Sept. 6-10, 1914: German advance halted 20
miles outside of Paris.
Battle of Verdun- February 21-Dec. 6, 1916: The longest single battle
the war; estimated number of total casualties exceeded 700,000.
Battle of the Somme- July 1-Nov. 19, 1916: Attempt by the allies to
relieve the French “trapped” at Verdun. Horrendous loss of life on
both sides, with the British suffering over 420,000 casualties; 60,000
troops on the first day alone. The first use of tanks occurred during
this battle.
Battle of Jutland- May 31-June 1, 1916: Only major sea battle of the
war. Fought between Britain & Germany, this was to be the epic battle
between two titans of the sea. Britain suffered more losses in terms of
ships and men, but Germany never used its surface fleet again.
2nd Battle of the Marne- July 15-Aug. 4, 1918: Final German offensive
of the war. Failed attempt at breaking the stalemate. 1st use of
American troops in battle.
Russian Troops surrender at Tannenberg
German counter
attack at Verdun
British wounded at the Somme
German warship on fire after Jutland
Turning Points in the War
Russia is knocked out of the war after the Russian
Revolution of 1917 toppled the Tsar’s government. In
1918, Russia & Germany signed the Treaty of BrestLitovsk. Russia is out of the war and has to give up
large amounts of land to Germany. This allows
Germany to shift troops to the Western Front.
T.E. Lawrence “of Arabia,” was a British officer charged
with getting the support of Arabs to mount civil conflict
within the Ottoman Empire. With British military &
economic support and promises of independence for the
different Arab nationalities, Lawrence waged a
successful guerilla war against the Ottoman Turks
causing them to waste valuable resources, keeping
troops off the front lines, and leading to their eventual
Turning Point cont.
The entry of the United States in World War I came after
a series of events that pushed the isolationist nation into
the conflict.
Anti-German sentiment & propaganda began to spread
around the country as many Americans saw Germany as
the aggressor.
Unrestricted submarine warfare & the Lusitania sinking
on May 7, 1915 killed hundreds of Americans.
The Zimmermann Telegram was the final straw. The
telegram stated that Germany would help Mexico retake
the land lost in the Mexican-American War if Mexico
sided with Germany if war were to break out with the US.
The United States declares war on Germany on April 6,
1917. Mexico, however, stays out.
Propaganda after the Lusitania sinks
Zimmermann Telegram decoded
Zimmermann Telegram coded
End of the Fighting
After the failure of the 2nd Marne campaign, German
citizens & soldiers were tired of the war.
Citizens began to aggressively protest against the
government and on November 3, 1918, soldiers & sailors
refused to fight under the current government.
Wilhelm II attempts to reform the government but
ultimately abdicates the throne on November 9. The
new government immediately seeks to end the fighting
and signs an armistice (cease fire) on November 11,
The fighting of World War I ends though Germany has
not been technically defeated.
With the armistice signed, the allies, 32 countries in all,
went to work on creating an official treaty with Germany
with the leaders of the “Big Four” leading the way.
The countries & leaders that made up the Big Four are:
Woodrow Wilson of the United States
David Lloyd George of Great Britain
Georges Clemenceau of France
Vittorio Orlando of Italy
In what becomes the Treaty of Versailles, singed on
June 28, 1919, the allies deal harshly with the Germans,
who they believe are responsible for the war. Provisions
of the treaty include:
Germany cannot have a strong military;
give up vast amounts of land in Europe & colonial possessions;
sign the War Guilt Clause accepting responsibility for the war;
make monetary reparations to the allies
Peace???? cont.
The allies will make separate treaties with the other
Central Powers nations with many terms being the same
as far as giving up land & making reparations.
The United States signed the treaty but it was never
ratified by the senate. Technically, the US remained at
war with Germany and her allies until 1921.
The Treaty of Versailles turned out to be a punishment
for Germany and not an attempt at bringing peace &
stability to Europe.
The 14 Points of Woodrow Wilson were an attempt of
bringing stability to Europe, but many of the provisions
were ignored.
As a result, the nations never really solved their
problems. In fact, they only got worse and would lay the
foundation for the worst conflict in human history: World
War II.
Major Effects of World War I:
Political Effects:
– Some countries gained territory (size)
Romania got lands from Russia, Bulgaria and AustriaHungary
Italy gained lands from Austria-Hungary
– Japan gained colonies in the Pacific
– Ottoman Empire’s lands in the Middle East (that were
promised independence by Britain and France) were
colonized by them instead
Britain – Palestine and Iraq
France – Syria and Lebanon
Major Effects of World War I:
Social Effects:
Minority groups in new countries (a source of conflict for later on)
Some Arabic peoples betrayed by Britain (and France)
Germany and Russia weakened
Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918  another 30+ million
deaths worldwide!
– Refugees and mass migrations (many to USA, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, and France)
– Damage to countries in which the fighting occurred
World War I was the costliest (human & economic)
war up to that time and was a total war.
Since records were not accurate, it is estimated that
over 8.5 million soldiers died over the course of the
war with at least 3-4 times that wounded. Some
records say that the number could reach 10 million
Civilian casualties from the war reached almost 7
Disease, starvation, exposure to the elements, and
combat related incidents contributed to the high
mortality figures among civilians.