World War One

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World War One. A Two Front War. Germany’s Schlieffen Plan failed, and Germany quickly found itself fighting a two-front war: against Britain and France in the west and against Russia in the east. The Western Front.
World War One A Two Front War
  • Germany’s Schlieffen Plan failed, and Germany quickly found itself fighting a two-front war: against Britain and France in the west and against Russia in the east
  • The Western Front
  • Both sides dug interlocking trenches (deep expansive ditches) for shelter
  • Conditions were unbearable – hot in summer, cold in winter, wet and muddy when it rained - leading to the rampant spread of disease and trench foot
  • Trench Warfare Trench Foot No Man’s Land
  • The area between the Entente Powers’ trenches and the German trenches came to be called “no man’s land” – everything there had been destroyed and no one could survive there for long because there was no shelter from enemy fire
  • No man’s land was riddled with corpses, land mines, unexploded ordinance, and barbed wire
  • Stalemate
  • The war’s Western Front quickly became a stalemate
  • Germans attacked at Battle of Verdun: over 500,000 combined casualties in 11 months, before the German attack failed
  • British attacked at Battle of the Somme: over 1 million casualties in 5 months, including 60,000 British soldiers killed or wounded in just one day, before the British attack failed.
  • The Eastern Front
  • Russia invaded Germany in August 1914, but were pushed back; all remaining fighting in the east during the war took place in Russia
  • Russia was not industrialized and struggled to keep its troops supplied, but it had nearly limitless numbers of poorly trained peasants to send into combat
  • The Ottomans
  • The Ottomans closed the entrance to the Black Sea (a vital supply route for British aid to Russia)
  • In 1915 a mix of British and colonial troops tried to capture the entrance at the Battle of Gallipoli, but were forced to retreat after 10 months and 200,000 casualties
  • The Ottomans, however, lost much (including Iraq) when Arabs under their rule took advantage and rebelled (with British aid).
  • Other Participants
  • Italy left the Triple Alliance and joined the Entente Powers (Britain, France, & Russia) in 1915 after promises of new territory at war’s end
  • Japan joined the Entente Powers and seized German outposts in China and the Pacific after promises of being given a free hand in China
  • Colonial Fighting
  • Fighting also took place between the various colonies in Africa, but colonial recruiting efforts received mixed results – many refused to fight for the powers which oppressed them, while others saw it as an opportunity to achieve citizenship or to “earn” independence
  • The War Drags On
  • By 1917, troops and civilians on both sides were demoralized
  • Germany was drafting 15 year olds
  • Britain was nearly bankrupt
  • French troops had begun to mutiny and Italian troops had started deserting
  • Russia Exits the War
  • Revolution in Russia
  • March 1917: bread riots in St. Petersburg grew into a full scale revolution
  • Thousands of Russian troops left the front to return home to take part in the revolution
  • Early in 1918, new Russian leader Vladimir Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, surrendering huge amounts of territory, and pulled Russia out of the war
  • Russia’s withdrawal closed the Eastern Front and allowed Germany to mass all of its troops on the Western Front
  • Submarine Warfare
  • German U-boats conducted unrestricted submarine warfare, sinking any Entente Powers ships without warning
  • U.S. insisted that Americans had a right to safe sea travel, even on British ships
  • May 1915: Germans sank the passenger ship Lusitania, killing 1200 civilians, including 128 Americans – this led U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to openly denounce Germany
  • The Zimmermann Note
  • Early 1917: British agents intercepted a message from German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann to the Mexican government
  • Germany offered to help Mexico retake the American Southwest if they would begin a war that would keep the U.S. from being able to help the Entente Powers in Europe
  • Britain publicized the note; many Americans reacted angrily and called for declaring war on Germany
  • The U.S. Enters the War
  • April 1917: U.S. President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany
  • The U.S. sent 2 million troops, plus fresh financial aid to Europe in 1918
  • Wilson’s Fourteen Points
  • January 1918: Wilson proposed “Fourteen Points” or terms for ending the war:
  • No more secret alliances
  • Freedom of the seas for all nations
  • The removal of barriers to international trade
  • Demilitarization by all nations
  • An end to colonization
  • Allow Russia to stabilize itself without interference
  • Germany must pull out of Belgium
  • Wilson’s Fourteen Points
  • All captured French territory, including that from the 1871 war, must be returned
  • All captured Italian territory must be returned
  • Austria must be freed of German influence
  • All the Balkan states should become free, independent nations
  • The Ottoman Empire should be reduced to just Turkey
  • An independent Poland should be created between Germany and Russia
  • A League of Nations should be formed to resolve future disputes between nations
  • The War Ends
  • March 1918: Germany launched an offensive which stalled out by July and used up Germany’s last remaining resources
  • July 1918: Entente Powers launched a counter-offensive; by September, German military leaders advised the Kaiser that the war was lost
  • November 1918: Kaiser Wilhelm stepped down as leader of Germany after rioting by German civilians over food shortages
  • 11 AM, November 11, 1918: All fighting stopped after Germany reached an agreement with the Entente Powers to end the war
  • Costs of the War
  • 8.5 million dead
  • 17 million wounded
  • Widespread famine due to loss of farm production
  • Influenza pandemic swept around the world in 1918, spread by returning soldiers, killing another 20 million
  • Much of Europe was in ruins and all of the European governments were deeply in debt
  • Government had collapsed in Russia, Germany, Austria, and the Ottoman Empire
  • The Peace Conference
  • The terms of peace would be determined by “The Big Three” after Germany’s unconditional surrender
  • Woodrow Wilson (U.S.): wanted a lasting peace based on his Fourteen Points
  • David Lloyd George (Britain): wanted to punish Germany and force them to make financial reparations for costs of war
  • Georges Clemenceau (France): wanted to leave Germany so weak that they could never again threaten France
  • The Treaty of Versailles
  • June 1919: Allies presented Germany with the terms:
  • Germany was to accept all public blame for the war
  • Germany was to make reparations ($30 billion in 1919 or about $350 billion in today’s dollars)
  • Limited size of German military
  • Germany was to return territory to France that was taken in 1871
  • Germany was stripped of its colonies
  • Germany signed the treaty because they had no choice, but they were furious over the terms
  • Nationalism Wins Out
  • Eastern Europe was broken into many small states:
  • Latvia, Lithuania, & Estonia were broken off of Russia
  • Poland was recreated from Russian, German, & Austrian territory
  • Austrian Empire was broken into independent nations of Austria, Hungary, & Czechoslovakia
  • Balkan region was rearranged into Yugoslavia, Romania, & Bulgaria
  • Reorganized Colonies
  • German colonies were divided up and Ottoman territories in the Middle East were taken as new colonies by Great Britain and France
  • Colonized peoples who had sent troops to help the Allies had hoped to be given self-government in return – they weren’t, and felt betrayed as a result
  • Some Still Unhappy
  • Italy was angry because they did not gain any of the territory that the Entente Powers had secretly promised to give them
  • Japan angered over Entente Powers refusal to allow them free reign in China
  • Russia was angry over their exclusion from the treaty process and their loss of territory
  • The League of Nations
  • Wilson’s League of Nations, with more than 40 member nations, was created to settle international disputes
  • U.S. did NOT join (also never ratified the Treaty of Versailles), because U.S. became isolationist (wanted to stay out of foreign problems) after the war.
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