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World War I
The Great War
Origins of Conflict
• Competing ambitions in Europe
over economics, military
expansion, diplomatic
maneuvering, and international
tensions reached an all time
• Kaiser Wilhelm II
becomes the next
German ruler in 1888.
• Foreign policy changes
begin in 1890 with
dismissal of Bismarck.
• alliance with Russia
dropped; Russia then
allies with France.
• effort to strengthen
German navy, which
alarms Britain.
Crisis in the Balkans
• Many groups in
Balkans win
during early
• New nation of
Serbia made up
largely of Slavs.
• Austria-Hungary
annexes Slavic
region—Bosnia and
• Serbia outraged,
sees itself as
rightful ruler of
these Slavic lands.
• On June 28, 1914,
a Serbian terrorist
Archduke Franz
Ferdinand (heir of
the AustroHungarian throne)
and his wife, while
in Sarajevo,
• A Serbian terrorist by the name of Gavrilo Princip, a
member of the group, the Black Hand, assassinated
Franz Ferdinand during his visit to Sarajevo on 28 June
1914, thereby stalling his proposed reforms.
• July 28, 1914,
Austria (with
Germany’s support)
declared war on
• This caused a
chain reaction
which draws many
European powers
into war.
• Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the
attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for
settling the question of Slavic nationalism once and for
• Austria declared war on Serbia
As Russia supported Serbia, Austria-Hungary waited to
declare war until its leaders received assurances from
German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany would
support their cause in the event of a Russian
intervention, which would likely involve Russia's ally,
France, and possibly Great Britain as well.
• Germany declared war on Russia (to help Austria) and
then France.
• On July 5, Kaiser Wilhelm secretly pledged his
support, giving Austria-Hungary a so-called carte
blanche or "blank check" assurance of Germany's
backing in the case of war.
• The Dual Monarchy then sent an ultimatum to
Serbia, with such harsh terms as to make it almost
impossible to accept. Convinced that Vienna was
readying for war, the Serbian government ordered
the Serbian army to mobilize, and appealed to
Russia for assistance.
• On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on
Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe's
great powers collapsed. Within a week, Russia,
Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined
up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and
World War I had begun.
Central Powers
Ottoman Empire
Allied Powers
Russia (plus Poland & Finland)
United States (joins later)
American Attitudes
• Most Americans
believed there was no
reason to join the war.
• However, economic,
ethnic, and cultural
ties connected them to
the Allied Powers.
• Woodrow Wilson
admired Britain’s
culture and
government and
distrusted Germany.
• Due to International law, neutral nations
(like the United States), were allowed to
supply nations at war.
• However, Britain’s navy blocked the
Central Powers from receiving goods from
the United States.
• Only Allied forces could buy American
goods, such as uniforms, steel, explosives,
and wheat. (Helped stabilize the American
• Declaration of
• Statement
drafted in 1909
that explained
international law
and specified the
rights of neutral
• Britain’s naval blockade over
Germany was seen as unlawful by
Woodrow Wilson, but he did not want
to sever ties with Britain.
• January 1915, U.S. gives support to
Britain of naval blockage over
• As a response,
Germany began to
use submarines to
attack Allied ships
coming into the
British Isles.
• May 1915, a
German submarine
sank the British
cruise liner
• The Lusitania had been
carrying weapons in its
cargo hold.
• 1,198 people died; 128
were Americans.
• 761 people survived.
• Angered by the attack, Wilson
demands Germany cease all
submarine use.
• Still refusing to enter the war,
Wilson’s u-boat policy was
tested in March 1916, when a uboat torpedoed the French
passenger ship, Sussex, injuring
several Americans on board.
• Still refusing to join the war the
United States and Germany
made a deal…The Sussex
Pledge, which Germany
promised to no longer sink
passenger liners without
warning and kept the United
States out of the war.
The Final Straw…
• In January 1917, a German
official named Arthur
Zimmerman, sent a telegram to
the German ambassador over in
• The telegram proposed
that Mexico join forces
with Germany during
the war and to attack
the United States.
• In return, Mexico
would regain its “lost
territory,” Texas, New
Mexico, and Arizona.
• However, British intelligence
intercepted the Zimmerman
• Shortly, there after it was leaked to
the American papers.
• Germany resumed the use of their uboats, sinking six American
merchant ships without warning.
• On April 2, 1917
President Wilson
went before
Congress asking
them to declare
war on Germany.
• America was now
officially part of
World War I
The Home Front
• With only 300,000 members in
the Army and National Guard
combined, the United States
created draft called selective
service, which required all men
21-30 to register for the draft.
• Eventually 2.8
million men
were drafted.
• Another two
volunteered for
military service.
African Americans in the
• Soldiers encountered
discrimination and prejudice in
the army.
• Blacks were segregated into
separate units, often with white
Women in the War
• First War women
officially served in the
armed forces, but not
in combat positions.
• Women performed
clerical duties, served
as radio operators,
chemists, torpedo
assemblers, an nurses.
• One of the first agencies established was
the War Industries Board (WIB).
• Created in July 1917, the WIB’s job was to
coordinate the production of war
• It controlled the flow of raw materials,
ordered the construction of new factories,
and occasionally with the president's
approval, set prices.
Food and Fuel
• However, the most
government agency
was the Food
Administration, run
by Herbert Hoover.
• This agency was
responsible for
increasing food
production while
reducing civilian
• While Hoover managed food production, the Fuel
Administration, run by Harry Garfield, tried to
manage the nation’s use of coal and oil.
• To conserve energy, Garfield introduced daylight
savings time and shortening work weeks for
factories that did not make war materials.
Paying for the War
• To fund the war, Congress
raised income tax rates.
• Congress also placed new taxes
on corporate profits and an
extra tax on the profits of arms
• To raise the money needed, the
government borrowed more than $20
billion from the American people by selling
Liberty Bonds and Victory Bonds.
• Essentially, the American people were
loaning the government money.
• The Government promised to repay the
money with interest.
Civil Liberties ??
• Espionage or spying to
acquire secret
information, was
addressed in the
Espionage Act of 1917,
which established
penalties and prison
terms for anyone who
gave aid to the enemy.
• Disloyalty, giving false
reports, or interfering
with war efforts were
also penalized.
Supreme Court Limits
Free Speech
• Despite protests against the
government’s tactics, the courts
generally upheld the principle behind
• In the case of Schenck v. the United
States (1919), the Supreme Court
ruled that an individual’s freedom of
speech could be curbed when the
words uttered constitute a “clear
and present danger.”
• Examples:
• Yelling FIRE!! in an open crowd
• Screaming BOMB in an airport
• The Courts stated:
• “When a nation is at war, many things
that might be said at times of peace are
such a hindrance to its effort that their
utterance will not be endured so long as
[soldiers] fight…”
Advanced Weapon
• New weapons
only lead to
more deaths.
poison gas
machine gun
submarine (uboat)
• airplanes
• World War I saw
the first use of
airplanes in
• First combat plane
with a
gear,” which
enabled a machine
gun to fire through
the arc of the
propeller without
hitting the blades,
was the Fokker E.
War in the Trenches
• Conflict descends into trench
warfare—armies fighting from
• Battles result in many deaths and
small land gains.
• Life in trenches is miserable,
difficult, and unsanitary.
• Trench foot –
foot condition
caused by
exposure to
unsanitary, cold
A Bloody Stalemate
• Western Front—heavy battle
zone in northern France.
• Schlieffen Plan—
German plan to
defeat France,
then fight
• German army quickly advances
to outskirts of Paris.
• Forced to retreat at First Battle
of the Marne.
• Schlieffen Plan fails; Germany
has to fight two-front war.
The Battle on the
Eastern Front
• Eastern Front—site
of main fighting
along the GermanRussian border.
• Russians push into
Austria and
Germany, but soon
forced to retreat
Russia’s Struggle
• Russia’s war effort
suffering by 1916; many
casualties, few supplies.
Russian army runs low on
food, guns, ammunition,
clothes, boots and
Czar Nicholas II, leader of
the Russian Empire
stepped down after riots
broke our across Russia
for the handling of the
• The Bolsheviks (group
of Communists)
competed for control of
• In November 1917,
Vladimir Lenin (leader
of the Bolshevik Party)
overthrew the Russian
Government and
established a
• Lenin pulls Russia out of the war by
agreeing to the Treaty of BrestLitovsk with Germany on March 3,
• Under this treaty Russia lost a large
mount of land, including the Ukraine,
its Polish and Baltic territories, and
The war come to an
• While fighting raged along the
Western front, a revolution engulfed
Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman
Empire surrendered.
• Faced with the surrender of their
allies and a naval mutiny at Kiel in
early November, the people of Berlin
rose in rebellion and forced the
German emperor to step down.
• At the 11th hour on
the 11th day of the
11th month, 1918,
the fighting
• Germany had
finally signed an
armistice (cease
fire), that ended
the war.
War Statistics
• Approximate death toll
Britain – 908,400
France – 1,385,000
Russia – 1,700,000
Germany – 1,773,000
Austria-Hungary – 1,200,000
Ottoman Empire – 325,000
Bulgaria – 87,500
United States – 107,000
Romania – 335,700
Italy – 650,000
Others – 74,200
A Flawed Peace
• Group of leaders known as the
Big Four dominate peace talks:
• U.S. president Woodrow Wilson
• French ruler Georges Clemenceau
• David Lloyd George of Great
• Vittorio Orlando of Italy
• Wilson presented a plan, called the
Fourteen Points, to Congress in January
• Calls for free trade and end to secret
alliances, military buildups.
• Promotes self-determination—right of
people to govern own nation.
• Envisions international peace-keeping
body to settle world disputes.
• The fourteenth point, probably
the most important, called for
the creation of a “general
association of nations” known
as the League of Nations.
• The League’s
member nations
would help
preserve peace and
prevent future wars
pledging to respect
and protect each
other’s territory
and political
Treaty of Versailles
• Was signed by
Germany on June 28,
1919, had weakened or
discarded many of
Wilson’s fourteen
• Under the treaty,
Germany was stripped
of its armed forces and
was made to pay
reparations (war
damages), in the
amount of $33 billion
to the Allies.
• The war resulted in the
dissolution of four empires: the
Russian Empire, Ottoman
Empire, the German Empire,
Austria Hungary became
separate countries and the
countries Yugoslavia, Poland,
and Czechoslovakia were
• Treaty of Versailles was greatly
opposed by many U.S. lawmakers.
• The “Irreconcilables,” were a group
of Senators that criticized the
League saying it would supersede
Congress’ powers to declare war and
thus force the United States to fight
in numerous foreign conflicts.
• However, the “Reservationists”
a larger group of Congress
supported the League, but
wanted to ratify the treaty only
with amendments that would
preserve the nation’s freedom
to act independently.
• Wilson wanted the Senate to ratify
the treaty without changes.
• The Senate voted in November 1919
and again in March 1920, but it
refused to ratify the treaty.
• Consequently, the United States
never joined the League of Nations.
The War’s Impact
• Government lifted all rationing
demands on the American people.
• However, as people raced out to
stock up on supplies, businesses
raised prices on all goods.
• Inflation drastically increased the
cost of living in the United States.