European War Fever
Blinded by nationalistic sentiments and an onslaught of new propaganda, men enlisted by the thousands in cities across Europe.
All of these men had an illusion of how this war would play out; thinking that the conflict would be over in a matter of months.
Parades of soldiers through major cities were very common and meant to inspire the people at home.
Common people were excited! Very romanticized view of the war
The military advisors and a few national leaders thought that this war would be different, and feared what was to come. Despite these misgivings, nations mobilized for war all the same.
A little foreshadowing
Upon the war's end, one soldier reflected: "One out of every four men who went to war, never came back; and of those men who came back, many are maimed and blind and some are mad.
Delayed by the 18 days they spent going through Belgium (expected to take 6 days), the Germans met a combined force of both English and French troops at the Battle of the Marne River just east of Paris.
The soldiers dug trenches for shelter from enemy fire. Soon these trenches stretched all the way from the English channel to Switzerland.
The war in the west would grind to a halt here. Neither side would be able to seize the advantage and knock the other side out. The lines of battle would change little (in the west) for all four years of the war.
A New Kind of War
This area saw some of the greatest carnage of the war.
At the battle of Verdun, there were more than 500,000 casualties during the 11 month battle.
The battle at Somme River had over 1 million casualties over a 5 month stretch, with 60,000 British killed in a single afternoon
Most of the high casualty numbers resulted from poor strategy, and ever deadlier weapons being utilized on the front lines.
New Weapons of the War
Tanks (late war)
Airplanes (later in war)
People weren’t prepared for this kind of war (tactics had to change! Slow...)
Conditions in trenches were extremely unsanitary
No disposal of dead bodies → rats → cesspool of bacteria
Remnants of Battle of Verdun can still be seen today
Imprints of Artillery shells
Trenches still visible
War on the Eastern Front
The eastern front was a very different story.
Russia had industrialized very little and very late.
Supply shortages of every kind
Some troops even go into battle without rifles
Slowly, the Russians lost ground, and the battle lines on the eastern front changed by hundreds of miles at Russia's expense.
The war was very taxing on Russia: they have the highest civilian and soldier death tolls in the war.
The Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria, Italy).
They cut trade to Russia via the Black Sea because they controlled the strategic area where Black and Mediterranean seas meet
Two important straights to control: Dardanelles in the south, the Bosphorus in the north
This was the only way for the allies to ship food and supplies to Russia
Millions of Russians starving due to normal harsh winter, lack of industrialization, infrastructure, and warm water trade ports to receive foreign aid.
War Around the World
The Allies (France, GB, Russia) sent a coalition force of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and Indians to attempt to capture the straights and allow them to ship much needed food and supplies to Russia
The Battle of Gallipoli lasted 10 months and cost over 200,000 lives, and forced the Allies to withdraw from the region.
Russians Leave the War
Mounting unhappiness in Russia due to multiple factors
Huge body count from war
Tsar totally disconnected from realities less fortunate people endure
Revolution against the Tsar in 1917
Communist takeover of Russia
Russia agrees to an armistice (temporary peace settlement) with Germany which will take them out of the war in December of 1917.
Turks go Genocidal
The Ottomans also attacked the Russians along their northeastern border, with an ethnic group called the Armenians trapped in the middle.
Though Armenians helped both sides, they were a Christian group, and the Turks used this as an excuse to mass deport or execute them.
This event cost about 1.5 million lives (mostly peasants) and became known as the Armenian Genocide.
Trouble for the Ottomans
Armenians all died or fled
Unhappiness swells within Ottoman Empire
Rebellions in the eastern (Arabian Peninsula) part of the empire
British sent T.E. Lawrence (later known as Lawrence of Arabia) to help organize resistance, teach locals how to fight guerilla style warfare. (blow up bridges, attack caravans, etc.)
As a result, Ottomans lose tons of territory in the east to rebellion
War in Southern Europe
Bulgaria (though Slavic) joined the war on the side of Germany, Austria, and the Ottoman empire, wanting to enlarge themselves at Serbia’s expense.
Romania joined the allies (Britain, France) and attacked Hungary hoping to gain some land. Totally crushed
Italians joined the allies(Britain, France) in a secret treaty.
Promised land controlled by Austria/Hungary when the war was over
Between 1915 and 1917, Italians are forced to retreat
Driven further and further back into Italy
only able to stabilize lines when French troops join them
On the Homefront
Total war is warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combatant needs.
Simply stated, all of a country's productive capabilities are thrown behind the war effort.
The effects of total war were felt by nearly every citizen of the major warring nations. Very common effects included:
A draft (Conscription) for young men into military service (you don’t have a choice) was put into effect
Rationing of food and other necessities
Increased production for military use
Because so many men joined the war effort, women and children had to fill the roles they left behind.
In Germany, there were even camps where civilians were forced to work to produce goods for the front.
Governments borrowed money to pay for it
Many of these decisions were not popular, so governments took a greater role
Made strikes and work stoppage illegal
Set prices of goods to avoid crazy inflation
War on the High Seas
England had the early advantage, having the world’s largest standing navy
Used it to block access to the north sea (Germany’s only ocean access point)
Stop ships trading goods to and from Germany
By international law, only supposed to stop ships carrying weapons, NOT ships carrying food. England stops both types
Germany gains the upper hand when they unleash U-boats (submarines)
German submarines FAR superior to those of other nations.
Tables are turned and German U-boats blockade Britain
Germany declared that all merchant vessels bound for Great Britain were subject to attack.
Allies form convoys (a fleet of trade ships) to protect against attack
Sink TRILLIONS of tons of goods into the Atlantic.
America Joins the War
Germany used unrestricted submarine warfare (sink everyone military-related)
In 1915, Germans sunk a British passenger ship, The Lusitania off the coast of Ireland which had 128 Americans traveling to Britain on it.
Was actually carrying arms and munitions and MADE it a viable target!
President Woodrow Wilson used the event as propaganda, which vilified Germans, and made many want to enlist.
Bears a striking resemblance to the USS Maine!
Germany stopped using unrestricted submarine warfare
In 1917, the British intercepted a telegram from the German foreign minister, to his ambassador in Mexico.
The message urged Mexico to join Germany's side in the war, and in return they would help Mexico take back the land Mexico lost in the Mexican-American war. This event became known as the Zimmerman Telegram.
America then officially entered WWI
Gave its allies a much needed psychological boost
Unhappiness in Germany
With Russia out of the war, the Central Powers (Germany, AH, Ottomans) could bring their full force to the Western Front.
But after four years of war, resources had been stretched thin and people were at a breaking point.
Germany was conscripting men as young as 14!
Total War had left many in German cities starving and unhappy, there were bread riots in many German cities.
The Ludendorff Offensive
The central powers launched one last offensive (known as the Spring, or Ludendorff) to try to win the war before a fresh and ready America arrived to stop them.
The offensive pushed the Allied lines back 30 miles, but failed to break through and end the war as Ludendorff had promised.
By September, it was clear the Central Powers could not win the war.
Due to the clear unhappiness of the people both the Chancellor and Kaiser (German emperor) had stepped down from power by November.
A new government, called the Weimar Republic formed in their absence, and sued for peace.
Austria's power had also been greatly weakened by the war. It could no longer control the many different ethnic groups of people within it.
Most wanted rebellion against Austria and splitting from the Austrian Empire.
The Ottoman Empire was also on the verge of collapse. It had entered the war wanting to regain its lost territory in the Balkans (Greece area).
Not only did it not gain the territory back, but the majority of its conquered territory was demanding their freedom.