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At the beginning of the War, there were 2 alliances in place. The first was
called the Triple Alliance, but it grew and became known as the Central
Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.
The second alliance was called the Triple Entente, and became known
as the Allied Powers or Allies. They included: England, France,
Russia. Later they would expand to include Serbia, Italy, Portugal, the
United States, and colonies of all of these countries.
All European countries had military plans in case of the outbreak of war.
Germany’s plan was known as the Schlieffen Plan. It called for a holding action
of the Russians in the East and a 5 pronged encirclement of Paris and the
French army in the West.
To do this they had to travel through neutral Belgium, which contributed to the
British entering the war. The war in the East against the Russians went
surprisingly well. The Germans defeated the Russians in decisive battles.
The Western Front was different. In 1914 at the first Battle of the Marne, the French
army stopped the German advance just outside of Paris. They used taxicabs from Paris
to transport fresh troops to the front line. The soldiers from both sides dug in, and
basically did not move from those spots.
The soldiers on both sides dug elaborate trenches to protect
themselves. The line of trenches stretched from the English Channel to
Switzerland. Soldiers lived and fought in the trenches.
The longer that the war dragged on, the more elaborate the trench systems became on
both sides. They included lines of parallel trenches connected by communications
trenches that ran diagonal or perpendicular.
In between the two lines was an area known as “No Man’s Land.” It was a bad
place to be as it was in the middle of the two trench systems and provided no
cover. Soldiers could fire weapons from the trenches on either side and easily
hit someone traveling across No Man’s Land.
No Man’s Land was covered with shell holes and barbed wire. This invention
was a great hindrance to attacking troops. As a result, both sides sent out
wiring parties at night to extend the wire. Many never returned.
Trenches were obviously used for defense, and contained machine
guns and snipers in addition to regular soldiers.
But the trenches were also the places where the attack started. The
call for “over the top, boys!” meant risking death to race across No
Man’s Land” to try to take the enemy trench,.
With the stalemate in the trenches came the invention of new weapons. One
was mustard gas which not only burned the skin, but caused breathing
problems. Troops had to be fitted with gas masks in case of attack. Both sides
used gas against each other.
Other weapons such as the airplane saw their first action in the war as well.
They were originally used only to spot troop positions. Eventually they were
fitted with machine guns and bombs. Aerial “dog-fighting” was developed
during World War I.
Other weapons were developed to try to end the trench warfare. One
such weapon was the tank. Early tanks could cross over No Man’s
Land and enemy trenches, but were expensive and slow.
Also developed to break the stalemate of trench warfare was the flamethrower.
On the seas, not only were the new “dreadnaughts” or battleships being used
against each other, but submarines (shooting torpedoes) were used to destroy
enemy ships.
To try to convince other nations to join their cause, both the Central Powers and
the Allies distributed Propaganda.
The Allied propaganda was a little more sophisticated most of the time.
German Propaganda mainly appealed to their sense of patriotism as seen