World War I was from 1914-1918.The U.S. would not enter the war until 1917.Countries from all over the worldparticipated in the conflict, but it started mostly in Europe. WWI grew out of the world powers expanding and coming into conflict because of imperialism. WWI is also known as the GreatWar, the War to End All Wars, and the Imperialist War. Many new technologies andweapons would be utilized for the first time during the war.
The imperial nations in Europe as well as others in the world were practicing ideas thathelped lead to a global conflict.Among these were imperialism, militarism, nationalism, and secret alliances. Each of these helped to bring about war in their own way.
As countries competed for power, the people of each country took pride in its success. A wave of nationalism, or pride in one’s country swept Europe. Each country took pride in being the best, the strongest, or the most powerful when it could. Nationalism also applied to ethnic groups living within countries. Nations are groups of people, countries are political units of government. Multiple nations can live within one country. In the Balkan region of Europe, many different ethnic groups wanted to separate themselves from the country of Austria-Hungary. One of these groups was the Serbians, who had more ties to the country of Russia than to Austria-Hungary, which controlled them.Russia wanted these groups who had stronger ties to them to break away from Austria-Hungary, but it would most likely have meant war.
The countries of Europe were all looking for new areas to trade and new territories to add to their empires.The British and French were both concerned over the growing power of Germany. As countries spread out and expanded, tensions grew. Each nation thought it would need more strength to protectitself from the growing power of the others.This led to an arms race of major countries in the world.
Imperialism and expansion led to militarism, the building up of the armed forces. The military was not just strengthened, but glorified.Being a soldier was seen as heroic and full of adventure. The leaders of the military became leading figures in the major imperial nations. Everyone built more ships and trained more troops to protect territorial gains as well astheir homelands from other imperial nations.As one nation increased the size and powerof its military, the others did as well. This is known as escalation.
Fear of one country usingits new powerful militaryon another became a real threat in Europe.Hoping to avoid attacks,the countries of Europe formed alliances, oragreements to come to each others’ defense if attacked.These alliances ensuredthat any kind of conflict would quickly involve multiple countries. This threat of an escalating conflict kept countries from being aggressive… at first.
The major Europeancountries carefully chose an alliance to join to protect themselves, but also to hopefully avoid a military conflict. Two majoralliances formed:The Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. Other countrieswould later chooseto help one side or the other.
The Triple Alliance included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and ItalyLater on the Triple Alliance will be known as the Central Powers
The Triple Entente included Great Britain, France, and Russia. Later on the Triple Entente would be known as the Allies.
The Balkans is an area in southern Europe that includes Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is named for the the Balkan Peninsula. The small countries on the peninsula were battling for territory after the Ottoman Turks had given up control of the area.Austria-Hungary had annexed (added) Bosnia-Herzegovina to its territory, angering the Russians and the Serbians.Most people in the Balkans were Slavic, speaking languages and having customs that were more similar to the Russians than the Austria-Hungarians. Displeasure with the Austrians led to Serbia taking action.
World War I began with a murder. While visiting the city of Sarajevo, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered by Serbian Gavrilo Princip. Princip represented a group called the Black Hand.Ferdinand had been sent by the Emperorof Austria-Hungary to examine the status of the region after Bosnia-Herzegovina had been added to Austria-Hungary. Ferdinand was the heir to the throne ofAustria-Hungary and had plans to regroupand take over much of the Balkan Region. His death led to a declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia.
When Austria-Hungary declared war, it set off a chain ofevents because of the alliance system already in place. 3 days after war was declared, Russia began to mobilize(prepare for war) all of its armed forces on July 31, 1914.In response, Austria-Hungary’s ally Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, and Russia’s ally France on August 3.Germany invaded Belgium, a neutral country on August 4. That same day Great Britain, ally of France and Russia, declared war on Germany after promising Belgium it would protect them. Europe had exploded, and World War I officially had begun.More than 20 countries would participate before the warended. The Ottoman Turks would join the Central Powers in the war against France, Great Britain, and Russia.
Germany had plans long before WWI began on how to deal with France and Russia, who were allies.Germany is between the two countries, which would force them to fight on both sides of their country.German General Alfred von Schlieffen, suggested thatthe Germans knock out France quickly, to avoid a two front (war on two sides) war. His plan became known as the Schlieffen Plan. His plan led the German army through neutral Belgium to reach France quicker.The Belgians were led in their defense by King Albert,but failed to stop the Germans from reaching France.The British and French armies however received much needed time to prepare for the German Army, that met the Allies at the Marne River.
The German Army was only 30 miles from the capital of France, Paris.The British and French fought the Germans at the Battle of theMarne, halting the German advance and preventing them from getting to Paris to capture France. Both sides lost half a million (500,000) soldiers. After the Battle, both sides began a long stalemate where neither side had the advantage.The result was the digging in on both sides and the formation of long trenches for defense.These trenches would be in place for over 3 years, with neither side able to move forward very far without being stopped.Trenches became the homes of soldiers on the front lines, andwere the only protection they had from machine guns, artillery, and snipers.
New technologies helped make World War I much more deadly. Airplanes began to be used to spy and provide reconnaissance. They also could drop grenades from above. The tank was invented to bridge the gap between trenches, and overrun enemy defenses. Machine guns sprayed bullets across No Man’s Land bythe thousands, cutting down anyone who tried to attack the other side. Artillery (cannons) shelled the other side from miles behind enemy lines.The worst however was gas attacks. Poison gas would be released with the capability of blistering the skin of the enemy (mustard gas), or choking and suffocating the enemy (chlorine gas).
The area in northeastern France where the trenches formed was known as the “Western Front.”Between the Allied and German trenches was an area known as “No Man’s Land” where barbed wire, mines, craters, and dead bodies. Both sides would order charges across No Man’s Land to the other set of trenches are were mowed down by machine guns, grenades, enemy soldiers, and artillery.Soldiers would fight over small amounts of land, with the two lines moving only feet, at the cost of thousands of lives. Trenches filled with mud and water from rain, and soldiers were constantly being shelled (bombed) from the other side. Rats, lice, frogs, were also all over. Disease spread easily. Wet feet led to trench foot, a condition that would require amputation. Each morning both sides would start their day with “Stand To”, with everyone ready for a morning attack from the other side. This was repeated at dusk in case of a night attack.The trenches were filled with the smells of rotting bodies, overflowing latrine holes, the odor of dirty soldiers, mud, poison gas, smoke, and disinfectants.
President Wilson didn’t want the U.S. to be part of a European war.The U.S. said it would remain neutral in the war, and would not fight for either side.Many Americans had strong ties to countries on both sides.The British tried to make the Germans sound more brutal than they were to win over American support.The Americans did sell supplies to the Allies, mostly Great Britain. The American economy had been suffering from a smallrecession, and the need to make things for the Allies led to job creation and increased production. American banks also loaned large sums of money to the Allies.
Both the British and the Germans patrolled the seas looking to destroy ships carrying supplies to their enemies. The British were blockading Germany and not allowing any supplies to come in. The Germans could not destroy the mighty British fleet that blockaded them, but they did use theirsubmarines (U-Boats) to attack British ships carrying supplies. A British ship, the Lusitania, was sunk by German submarines in May of 1915. Over a thousand people died, and over 100 were American. The Lusitania had secretly been carrying weapons to Great Britain. The Germans began to scale back their attacks in fear of the U.S. joining the war.
Germany began to attack all ships near Great Britain again soon after they claimed they would back off. Worrying about the Americans joining the Allies, the Germans looked for someone to keep the U.S. busy.A telegraph message was intercepted by the British from Germanyto Mexico, sent by a German official named Arthur Zimmermann. He proposed an alliance with Mexico, and that if the Mexicans fought the Americans, the Germans would help them recaptured areas lost to them in the Mexican War.3 American ships were sunk soon after. The people began to want war.After the Russian Revolution of 1917, America joined the war. They were reluctant to help the Czar of Russia, Nicolas II. He had long opposed his country becoming more of a democracy. Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for war, saying that “The world must be made safe for democracy.”
The overthrow of Csar Nicolas II was led by Vladamir Lenin. The new Russiangovernment quickly madepeace with Germany in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.Russia gave up coal-rich landto the Germans in exchange for peace. The Russian army stopped fighting and the Eastern Front in Russia dissolved.The Germans were now able to use all of their military strength against Great Britain and France.
The war was not going well for the Russians, and there was a food shortage that was leaving millions of people hungry. Unable to make everyone happy, a group of Marxists led by Lenin overthrew the government.Marxists believe in the theories of Karl Marx. He was a German political and economic thinker.Marx believed that human history and society was tied directly to economics.He disliked that there were classes of people in the world. Hethought it was wrong that some people had more than others.He envisioned a world where there was no private property, and everyone collectively owned everything. There would be no need for a government to make rules because everyone would share everything.His world was a utopia, a perfect world. The philosophy behind it was called Communism.
Lenin wanted to put Karl Marx’s thinking into action. He wanted to take the newly formed Soviet Union and move it toward Communism. Unfortunately, Marx’s ideas required time andcertain steps to be taken that Lenin just wanted to skip to get to Communism quicker. Lenin and the new government had to get stronger to take control of the country andcertain industries while in theory all of it should have been getting smaller.His ideas brought civil war to Russia, with his side(the Reds) fighting those who wanted to restore the Csar or to bring about a democratic government (the Whites).The Whites failed and the Soviet Union was born.
There has always been a resentment and even a fear of Communism in the U.S. There have always been people who supported Karl Marx’s ideas in the U.S.Communism involves the dividing up and sharing of wealth. No one can get richer or poorer.There is no self-determination. You can’t go out and make yourself better through hard work.Communism conflicts with the American dream. Americans prided themselves on hard work paying off in the long run because it gets you ahead. In a Communist society, no amount of work makes you better off. The ideas of competition, profit, and capitalism don’t exist in a Communist society, and therefore could not exist without a drastic change in America.
The U.S. had built itself a large navy as it expanded, but its army was lacking. The U.S. would have to mobilize its military quickly to help Great Britain and France, but theentire American army had only 125,000 men. 8 times that many men died at the Marne alone. In order to increase the size of the army, the Congress authorized the Selective Service Act. The act set up a military draft to increase the size of the army. People were joining, but not enough to build up the army quickly.All men between 21 and 30 were eligible. Roughly 3 million were drafted and quickly the army was 4 million strong.Women could not be drafted and they could not fight. Thousands became nurses or worked in navy and army offices doing clerical work. Women were divided on the war. Jeannette Rankin, the only female congresswoman at thetime was the only vote against entering the war. Other women hoped that support and service during the war would help them get the right to vote.
The American Army was made up of men from different backgrounds. There were Italians, Filipinos, and Mexicans in the army. 20% of the army was not born in America.Native Americans weren’t technically citizens so they couldn’t be drafted, but many still joined the army to fight. Almost 400,000 African Americans served in the army. They were placed in all-black units.Most black units did work behind the lines unloading ships or setting up camps. One unit, theHarlem Hellfighters, saw some of those most intense service during the war and received the French Cross of War for their service. The military also helped teach American men how to read and write as well as how to take better care of themselves. Hygiene and nutrition were stressed. IQ tests were given to identify potential officers to lead the soldiers as well.
Back home the U.S. economy had to make a shift to prepare for war.President Wilson chose Herbert Hoover to lead the Food Administration. He looked for ways to make sure the American forces would remain fed. He urged Americans to preserve food and not waste it. Soon after most Americans observed“wheatless Mondays” or “meatless Thursdays.” People planted “victory gardens” and grew their own vegetables. The War Industries Board was set up to ensure that American factories were producing whatwas needed to fight. American businesses were coordinated and told what to produce and how much. They were also told what to charge, and what materials to use. Rarer materials were preserved and only used for the military. More production required more workers. With many men gone to serve in the army, women and African Americans stepped up to fill in for the men in the workforce.
The Committee on Public Information was formed to encourage Americans to support the war.“Four Minute Men” were trained to speak on the war to crowds anywhere in order to get their support.Propaganda posters (like Uncle Sam) were put up and Americans were encouraged to loan the government money through buying Liberty Bonds.The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 allowed the government to crack down on newspapers and individual citizens with antiwar views. They could be imprisoned or the papers could be shut down.Groups formed that took it upon themselves to keep track of their neighbors. People spied on each other, opened mail, tapped phones, and kept track of people’s actions during the war. Anything sounding German was renamed. Sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage.” German measles became “liberty measles.” Hot dogs (frankfurters) became “liberty sausage.”Germans began to be treated poorly across the country, even if they did not support Germany.
The Western front saw many other major battles before the Americans arrived.Almost the entire year of 1916, the Battle of Verdun ranged on. German attacksin northern France led to a battle for land equaling only about 10 square miles. Almost 700,000 French and German soldiers were lost, and their skeletons are still being discovered to this day. In 1916, British forces saw their bloodiest day in history at the Battle of the Somme in July –November of 1916. The British suffered nearly 60,000 casualties in the first day alone. The Battle took place along the Somme River in France. Trying to push theGermans back, the British lost around 420,000 men, the French 200,000, and the Germans around 465,000. In the middle of 1916, the only major naval battle, the Battle of Jutland, took place between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet. The German High Seas Fleet could not defeat the British and was more or less kept close to Germany for the remainder of the war.
Air operations were taking place throughout the war. Early in the war airplanes were used to gatherinformation and photograph trenches, as well as give the artillery positions to fire at. Very small bombs could be dropped because airplanes couldn’t carry large bomb loads yet. As enemy planes encountered each other theybegan to throw bricks, grenades, and ropes used to tangle propellers at each other. Later the pilots would fire pistols at each other. Machine guns began to be fitted to the guns, leading to more deadly dogfights. The Red Baron was one of the most famousGerman fighter pilots, with a confirmed 80 kills.
The U.S. was preparing its army to join the fight in Europe,but in the meantime German submarines were sinking Allied ships full of supplies. In response, Allied naval leaders came up with the convoysystem. Supply ships would sail with battleships, cruisers, and submarine-chasing ships to ensure safe passage across the Atlantic Ocean.The U.S. chose General John J. Pershing to lead the Americantroops, called the American Expeditionary Force, into Europe. Pershing and President Wilson both insisted that the U.SArmy fight separate from the British or French armies, so thatthey could win a major battle and help shape the outcome of the war and the peace talks that would come after. American troops arrived in 1917 to the relief of the French Army, who was worried and demoralized after continuous fighting. The Convoy System
With Russia leaving the war to solve their own problems, German units focused on the Western Front. The British and the French, the only remaining Allies, had to survive until American troopsarrived in large numbers to help fight the Germans. The Germans attacked in early 1918 in hopes of defeating the British and French before America arrived.The Germans made it to ChateauThierry, only 50 miles from Paris. It was here that the Americans made their WWI debut.
The Americans first attacked the Germans at Chateau Thierry, halting German advances. The U.S. Marines attacked the heavily fortifiedGerman positions in the Battle of Belleau Wood, suffering heavy losses but eventually pushing the Germans back. Both of these battles in 1918 helped the Americans and the Allies begin to push the Germans out of France for good. Belleau Wood saw intense fighting, hand-to- hand combat, but the Germans began to suffercasualties (800,000 in 1918) after the Americans fought back. The Germans continued to try to get to Paris,but with almost 750,000 American soldiers now in France, the Allies could push forward to overrun the Germans.
The Germans’ last attempt to capture Paris failed after theylost the 2nd Battle of the Marne.Failing to break through to Paris again, the Germans were counterattacked by the French and the Americans, killing thousands of Germans. The Germans lost around140,000 men while the French, British, Germans, and Italians lost around 130,000 men. The Germans failed to reachParis and it became clear theywould no longer be able to do so thanks to the Americans arriving to help the Allies.
After the 2nd Battle of the Marne, the Germans were at the mercy of the Allies.The Allies began to push forward from their trenches all across France. The Americans marched into the Argonne Forest, fighting the Germans and moving slowly at first. As time went on, the Germans knew theywere about to lose the war and began to not want to fight.The German Army was running low on men, and the Allies had fresh reinforcements in the form of American soldiers.Seeing no alternative, the Germans asked foran armistice, or a cease fire, to sort out how to bring the war to an end.
In order to gain a cease-fire, the Germans had to agree to some harsh terms. They had to pull all of their troops back into Germany,give back the lands gained when Russia left the war, and hand over all of their submarines to the Allies. The allies of the Germans such as Austria-Hungary,Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire all asked for a cease-fire as well as they would not be able to fight the Allies without Germany.President Wilson demanded the abdication, or stepping down of German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Wilhelm fled toHolland to avoid any kind of harm. He then gave up his throne and Germany became a republic. The terms on the armistice would take place on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 (November 11, 1918 at 11:00 AM).
Over 10 million soldiers from bothsides died during the war.An entire generation of men in Europe disappeared, with over a million men dying in France,Great Britain, Russia,and Germany, each.Millions more wereblinded, had lost a limb, or suffered another battle- related injury.
Once the armistice had stopped the fighting,President Woodrow Wilson began to think about how peace could be achieved and maintained.Wilson came up with a plan called the Fourteen Points.His first five points dealt with preventing future wars by calling for freedom of the seas, free trade, and an end to secret alliances.He also wanted imperialist countries to reduce their militaries. Wilson also supported self-determination, allowing people to determine how to govern themselves. The biggest point was the calling for an international organization to help keep peace, which he called the League of Nations.
President Woodrow Wilson would goto Paris to represent the United States in the peace talks that were to begin in January of 1919.Alongside him were the other three members of the “Big Four.” DavidLloyd George (Great Britain), George Clemenceau (France) and Vittorio Orlando (Italy) were also there representing their countries.The three European Allies wanted to punish Germany while Wilson was more focused on restoring peace.These countries also had eyes on the territories of the Central Powers.
The Treaty of Versailles restored peace between the Allies and Germany.Germany lost its colonies overseas as well as territory that had been added to Germany and taken from France.Germany had to accept full responsibility for the war and was forced to pay reparations, repaying the Allies for the damages and destruction of the war. Wilson and the U.S. did not like theseconditions as he wanted to restore a true peace. The Germans had no real choice but toagree to the terms but would leave angry, paving the way for a new conflict a few decades later.
The Allies made separate treaties with the remaining Central Powers. Austria-Hungary was divided into Austria and Hungary, two separate countries. Czechoslovakia formed out of the territory of Austria-Hungary as well. Serbia and other people in the Balkan peninsula formed the new country of Yugoslavia.The country of Poland also formed from Russian and German territory, and would be the site of the first fighting of World War II. People of Africa and Asia were not included in the conversations of Paris. They did not get to form their own countries, and remained under European rule.One of these men was Ho Chi Minh, who wanted American help in allowing him and his people to become free of the French.Wilson declined to help, and French Indochina would have to fight for independence, eventually splitting into North and South Vietnam.
Wilson went along with the Allies in punishing Germany in order to get their support for the League of Nations. Wilson went home to get the Senate to approve the new Treaty of Versailles.The Senate did not want Americans tied toEuropean countries, while Wilson said the U.S. would have to help lead the world from now on. Wilson continued to get Americans tosupport to support the new treaty and the League, but his health declined. The Senate chose not to approve thetreaty or join the league. A separate peace would be negotiated with Germany.
The large movements of men to and from the war led to an outbreak of influenza that killed 500,000 people worldwide. Americans were dealing with their employers and the problems of unemployment. Peace brought productionback down, and many former soldiers came home without anywhere to work. Many strikes took place over working wages not being high enough.All the problems in the economy led to people thinking it was due to Communists in America. A “Red Scare” took place as the U.S. government, led byAttorney General Mitchell Palmer began to investigate and deport those who sympathized with the Communists. These Palmer Raids led to thousands of people being rounded up and arrested.