The beginning of the 20th century saw a huge growth in size of militaries, especially in Europe, as nations began preparing the imperial nations for the event of war. With a small spark, Europe becomes engulfed in war that became known as the Great War.
LONG TERM CAUSES Wars like World War I don’t happen overnight, but are the product of long-term causes. Nationalism, militarism, imperialism and the system of alliances all played their part in leading Europe in the Great War. nationalism – the movement of ethnic and national pride like ones that had unified Italy and Germany were sweeping through many areas including the Balkans (southeastern Europe) militarism – the glorification of military strength caused the major nations of Europe to increase the size and strength of their armies imperialism – the desire to acquire power over territories led to tensions between nations who sought to weaken their competitors by taking their territory for their own system of alliances – these alliances led to the rapid secession of the war in July and August 1914 as two alliances in Europe drug indirect nations into war
THE SPARK While the outbreak of World War I had long-term causes, the spark that ignites the war happened on June 28th, 1914 when a member of the Serbian terrorist organization known as the Black Hand assassinated Archduke Ferdinand (heir to the Austrian throne) - exactly a month later, Austria formally declares war on Serbia gaining support from Germany in the event Russia joins with Serbia (Germany/Austria = German) (Serbia/Russia = Slavic) - that event comes true when Russia begins to mobilize (assemble troops and supplies for war) on Austria’s border à this is seen as an act of war August 1st, 1914 – Germany declares war on Russia who was allied with France who begins to mobilize on the German border à Germany declares war on France two days later - to deal with France, Germany decides to avoid attacking French defenses by invading Belgium (a neutral country) a Belgium has a military alliance with Great Britain who declares war on Germany for violating Belgian neutrality - now all the great European powers were at war who believe the war would be over by Christmas
ALL IS NOT QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT Now that Europe was at war, the lines were clearly drawn between two opposing forces Allies (Triple Entente) – France, Great Britain, Russia (later Japan, Italy, and U.S. who would remain neutral at the start of the war) Central Powers (Triple Alliance) – Germany, Austrian Empire, Ottoman Empire
Schlieffen Plan – German military plan to invade France through Belgium, defeat France quickly (6 weeks) by sweeping around Paris, and then redeploy to the east to defeat Russia Battle of Marne (Sept 1914) – Germany advances as far as Paris before being halted and pushed back by French and British forces - this battle creates a stalemate with neither side being able to overtake the other - both sides literally digging in, holding out for most of the war representing the end of mobility on the Western Front (western side of the war near the French-German border) trench warfare – war fought from trenches dug along the front lines of opposing forces with the area in-between called “No Man’s Land” - these long trenches stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss border
NEW WARFARE TECHNOLOGY machine gun – new automatic weapons allow hundreds of bullets a minute causing a high casualty rate tanks – armored vehicles (usually without a cannon) used to overcome trenches airplane – Wright Brother’s invention finds a military use for its ability to do reconnaissance & attack enemy position poison gas – a deadly gas used to burn or suffocate victims used by the primarily by the Germans - mustard gas and chlorine gas were the most popular gas à both could be overcome with gas masks u-boats –submarines that were capable of sneak attacks against military and cargo ships zeppelins – large airships used for reconnaissance and bombing radio – like the Wright Brothers, Marconi’s invention finds a military use as wireless technologies made communication more effective
As the war drags on after the first year, it becomes a war of attrition (war based on wearing down the other side through heavy attacks and losses). When this seems ineffective, both sides begin to look for allies to unbalance the stalemate in their favor
AMERICA TAKES SIDES As the war in Europe focused not only the world’s attention but also the United State’s attention to Europe, President Woodrow Wilson urged Americans to remain “impartial in thought as well as deed.”
Pro-Central Powers Side – within the United States were nearly 8 million German-Americans who supported their ancestral lands and supported Germany and the Central Powers - also 4.5 million Irish-Americans who had longstanding resentment for British rule over part of their ancestral lands for centuries also sympathized with the Central Powers Pro-Allies Side – the majority of Americans sympathized with the Allied leaders of Britain and France valuing our British heritage, language and political beliefs along with historic links to French that dated back to the Revolutionary War. - many banks and business that had strong ties to Britain and France began loaning them money to support the Allied cause further entangling America into the financial side of the war: Allies win à get the money back Allies lose à don’t get the money back Neutrality Side – favored by Woodrow Wilson and other pacifists, (those opposed to all war) like Jeanette Rankin and Eugene Debs, some believed that this was a strictly European conflict that America should avoid, continuing to stay out of European affairs as it had for over a century.
Election of 1916 – with the war raging in Europe, President Wilson runs for reelection campaigning on the slogan: “he kept us out of war,” a he wins
Although Wilson kept the United States out of war his first term and promised to continue to do so during the election of 1916, he would find this almost impossible during his second term as the U.S. was already financial involved and had taken as side…just not officially.
AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT America’s long-time friend Britain, started a naval blockade of Germany attempting to prevent supplies and other contraband (prohibited material) from reaching Germany - Germany realized the Allies relied on supplies from overseas and began using unrestricted submarine warfare launching its own naval blockade of Britain in unrestricted attacks on any ship thought to carry weapons to Britain Lusitania (1915) – this British passenger ship is sunk by a German U-boat killing 1,200 passengers including 128 Americans à the first of many ships that are sunk killing innocent Americans - Woodrow Wilson condemns the act but stops short of going to war Zimmerman Note (1917) – fearing American involvement might unbalance the war in the allies favor, the Germans send a telegraph to Mexico that asks Mexico to join the Central Power against the U.S. if they entered the war promising American land in return à message intercepted by Britain who turns it over to the United States
The Zimmerman Note on top of more American ships being sunk forces the President Woodrow Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war against Germany “to make the world safe for democracy” and to finish “the war to end all wars.” a they approve and America goes to war!
Any and all images or media belong to their respective copyright holders and are used here for non-profit educational purposes in accordance with Fair Use Copyright laws. All other rights regarding images or media are reserved.