World War I

World War I Europe avoided major wars in the 100 years before World War 1 began. In the 1800’s, the force of nationalism swept across the continent that helped bring about the Great War. Nationalism was the belief that loyalty to a person’s nation and its political and economic goals comes before any other public loyalty. . Nationalism led to the creation of two new powers, Italy and Germany.

War had a major role in achieving nation unification in Italy and Germany. Nationalism weakened the eastern European empires of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Ottoman Turkey. Rivalry for control of the Balkans added to the tensions that erupted into World War I. Another thing was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a Serbian terrorist named Gavrilo Princip. On June 28, 1914 Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated The Archduke’s assassination triggered the outbreak of World War 1.

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A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Because of Austria-Hungary’s alliance with Germany, Serbia seeked help from Russia. Russia vowed to stand behind Serbia, but first Russia gained support from France. Germany declared war on Russia on Aug. 1, 1914. Two days later Germany declared war on France.

The German Army swept into Belgium on its way to France. The invasion of Belgium caused Britain to declare war on Germany on Aug. 4. Germanys plan for a quick defeat of France while Russia slowly mobilized was called the Schlieffen Plan. This plan called for two parts of the German army to crush the French army in a pincers movement.

A small left wing would defend Germany along its frontier with France. A much larger right wing would invade France through Belgium. They would then encircle and capture Paris, and them move east. On August 2 the German government informed the government of Belgium of its intention to march on France through Belgium in order, as it claimed, to forestall an attack on Germany by French troops marching through Belgium. The Belgian government refused to permit the passage of German troops and called on the signatories of the Treaty of 1839, which guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium in case of a conflict in which Britain, France, and Germany were involved, to observe their guarantee. Britain sent an ultimatum to Germany demanding that Belgian neutrality be respected.

When Germany refused, Britain declared war on it the same day. Belgiums army fought bravely but held up the Germans for only a short time. By Aug 16, 1914, the right wing of Germany could begin its pincers motion. It drove back French and British forces in southern Belgium and swept info France. But instead of swinging west around Paris, one part of the right wing pursued retreating French troops toward the Marne River. This move left the Germans exposed to attacks form the rear.

Nationalism encouraged public support for military build-ups and for a country’s use of force to achieve its goals. By the late 1800’s, Germany had the best-trained army in the world. In 1898 Germany began developing a naval force that was big enough to challenge the British navy. Advances in technology helped aid in making military forces stronger. Machine guns and other new arms fired more accurately and more rapidly than earlier weapons.

By the end of the 1800’s, technology enabled countries to fight longer and bear greater losses that ever before. A system of military alliances gave European powers a sense of security before World War 1. They formed these alliances with each other for protection and guarantee that other members of the alliance would come to the country’s aid if attacked. Although alliances provided protection, the system also created certain dangers. If war came, the alliance system meant that a number of nations would fight, not only the two involved in a dispute.

Alliances could force a country to go to war against a nation it had no quarrel with. The terms of many alliances were kept secret. The Triple Alliance was made up of 3 countries: Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. They all agreed to go to war if attacked by Russia. .

Bismarck also brought Austria-Hungary and Germany into alliance with Russia. The agreement was known as the Three Emperor’s League. They all agreed to remain neutral if any of them went to war with another country. In 1894, France and Russia agreed to call up troops if any nation in the Triple Alliance mobilized. Russia and France also agreed to help each other if either were attacked by Germany.

The typical front-line trench was about 6 to 8 feet deep and wide enough for two men to pass. Dugouts in the sides of the trenches protected men during enemy fire. Barbed wire helped protect the firing trench from surprise attacks. Between the enemy lines lay a stretch of ground called no man’s land. Soldiers generally served at the front line from a few days to a week and then rotated to the rear for a rest.

The smell of dead bodies was in the air, and rats were everywhere. This made life in the trenches miserable. Except during an attack, life fell into a dull routine. Some soldiers stood guard. Others repaired the trenches, kept telephone lines in order, brought food from behind the battle lines, or did other jobs.

At night, patrols fixed the barbed wire and tried to get information about the enemy. At the start of the war, President Wilson had declared the neutrality of the United States. Most Americans opposed US involvement in the European war. But the sinking of the Lusitania and other German actions against American citizens drew America sympathies to the Allies. German military leaders believed that they could still win the war by cutting off British supplies.

They expected their U-boats to starve Britian into surrendering within a few months, longer before the US had fully prepared for war. Tension between the US and Germany increased after the British intercepted and decoded a message from Germany’s minister, Arthur Zimmermann, the German ambassador to Mexico. This message was known as the Zimmermann note. It revealed a German plot to persuade Mexico to go to war against the United States. The British gave the message to Wilson, and it was published in the US early in March.

Americans were pushed to the end after U-boats sank several US cargo ships. The US entered the war unprepared for battle. The country entered the war with about 126,000 men. It soon organized a draft requiring all from 21 through 30 years old to register for military service. The age range was raised to 18 through 45 in 1918.

Many men enlisted voluntarily, and women signed up as nursed and office workers. The US armed forces had almost 5 million men and women by the end of the war. Few soldiers received much training before going overseas because the Allies urgently needed them. Before US help could reach the Western Front, the Allies had to overcome the U-boat threat in the Atlantic. Britain began to use a convoy system, by which cargo ships went to the sea in large groups escorted be warships. The U-boats proved no match for the warships and Allied shipping losses dropped sharply. The end of the war on the Easten Front boosted German hopes for victory.

By early 1918 German forces outnumbered the Allies on the Western Front. Germany first struck near St.-Quentin, a city in the Somme River Valley, on March 21,1918. By March 26, British troops had traveled about 30 miles. In late March, the Germans began to bombard Paris with Big Berthas, enormous guns that hurled shells up to 75 miles. In April, after the disaster at St-Quentin, Allied leaders appointed General Ferdinand Foch for France to the supreme commander of the Allied forces on the Western Front. A second German offensive began on April 9 along the Lys River in Belgium.

British troops fought stubbornly, and Ludendorff called off the attack on April 30. Germany attacked a third time on May 27 near the Aisne River. By May 30, German troops had reached the Marne River. American soldiers helped France stop the German advance at the town of Chateau-Thierry. During June, US troops drove the Germans out of Belleau Wood. On July 15 German troops crossed the Marne.

A few days later, Foch ordered a counterattack near the town of Soissons. The turning point in World War 1 was the Second Battle of Marne. This battle was fought from July 15 through August 6, 1918. The Allies advanced steadily after winning the battle. Britian and France attacked the Germans near Amiens on August 8. By early September, Germany had lost all the territory it had gained since spring.

The last offensive of World War 1 began on September 26, 1918. Almost 900000 US troops participated in heavy fighting between the Argonne Forrest and the Meuse River. They realized that Germany could no longer overcome the superior strength of the Allies. The Allies won victories on all fronts in the fall of 1918. In late October, the Ottoman Empire signed an armistice.

The last major battle between Italy and Austria-Hungary began in October in Italy. Italy defeated Austria-Hungary with the help of France and Great Britian. Austria-Hungary signed an armistice on November 3. Germany was on the edge of collapse as the war continued through October. Britains naval blockade had nearly starved German people and widespread anger led to riots and rising demands for peace.

On November 11, 1918, the Germans accepted the armistice terms demanded by the Allies. Germany agreed to evacuate the territories it had taken during the war; to surrender larger numbers of arms; and other war materials; and to allow Allied powers to occupy German territory along the Rhine River. The fighting was ordered to stop on the Western Front at 11 am. World War 1 was over. American History.


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