Sunday, May 15, 2011

World War I

World War I
WW1 TitlePicture For Wikipedia Article.jpg
Clockwise from top: Trenches on the Western Front; a BritishMark IV Tank crossing a trench; Royal Navy battleship HMSIrresistible sinking after striking a mine at the Battle of the Dardanelles; a Vickers machine gun crew with gas masks, and German Albatros D.III biplanes
Date28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918 (Armistice)
Treaty of Versailles signed 28 June 1919
LocationEurope, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, China and off the coast of South and North America
ResultAllied victory
  • End of the German, Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires
  • Formation of new countries in Europe and the Middle East
  • Transfer of German colonies andregions of the former Ottoman Empire to other powers
  • Establishment of the League of Nations. 
Allied (Entente) Powers
France France
 British Empire
 Russia (1914–17)
 United States (1917–18)
 Italy (1915–18)
 Romania (1916–18)
 Greece (1917–18)
Portugal Portugal (1916–18)
 Montenegro (1914–16)
Brazil Brazil (1917-18)
and others
Central Powers
 Ottoman Empire
 Bulgaria (1915–18)
Commanders and leaders
Leaders and commanders
France Raymond Poincaré
France Georges Clemenceau
France Ferdinand Foch
British Empire H. H. Asquith
British Empire David Lloyd George
British Empire Douglas Haig
Russian Empire Nicholas II
Russian Empire Nicholas Nikolaevich
United States Woodrow Wilson
United States John J. Pershing
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Victor Emmanuel III
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Antonio Salandra
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Vittorio Orlando
Romania Ferdinand I
and others
Leaders and commanders
German Empire Wilhelm II
German Empire Paul von Hindenburg
German Empire Erich Ludendorff
Austria–Hungary Franz Joseph I
Austria–Hungary Karl I
Austria–Hungary Conrad von Hötzendorf
Ottoman Empire Mehmed V
Ottoman Empire İsmail Enver
Ottoman Empire Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Kingdom of Bulgaria Ferdinand I
Kingdom of Bulgaria Nikola Zhekov
and others
Russian Empire 12,000,000
British Empire 8,841,541
France 8,660,000
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) 5,093,140
United States 4,743,826
Kingdom of Romania 1,234,000
Empire of Japan 800,000
Kingdom of Serbia 707,343
Belgium 380,000
Kingdom of Greece 250,000
Portugal 200,000
Kingdom of Montenegro 50,000
Total: 42,959,850
Central Powers
German Empire 13,250,000
Austria–Hungary 7,800,000
Ottoman Empire 2,998,321
Kingdom of Bulgaria 1,200,000
Total: 25,248,321
Casualties and losses
Military dead:
Military wounded:
Military missing:
22,477,500 KIA, WIA or MIA
Military dead:
Military wounded:
Military missing:
16,403,000 KIA, WIA or MIA.


Before World War II, the war was also known as The Great WarThe World War, or The War in Europe. In France and Belgium, it was sometimes referred to as La Guerre du Droit (the War for Justice) or La Guerre Pour la Civilisation / de Oorlog tot de Beschaving (the War to Preserve Civilisation), especially on medals and commemorative monuments. The term of choice used by official histories of the war in Britain and Canada is First World War, while American histories generally use the term World War I.
The earliest known use of the term First World War appeared in September 1914 when German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel said, "There is no doubt that the course and character of the feared "European War" ... will become the first world war in the full sense of the word."
The terms World War I and First World War both became standard (in the United States and Britain respectively) beginning in about 1940 to 1942; prior to that, it was most commonly called The Great War.


Map of the participants in World War I: Allied Powers in green, Central Powersin orange, and neutral countries in grey
In the 19th century, the major European powers had gone to great lengths to maintain a balance of power throughout Europe, resulting by 1900 in a complex network of political and military alliances throughout the continent. These had started in 1815, with the Holy Alliance between Prussia, Russia, and Austria. Then, in October 1873, German Chancellor Bismarck negotiated the League of the Three Emperors (German: Dreikaiserbund) between the monarchs of Austria–Hungary, Russia and Germany. This agreement failed because Austria–Hungary and Russia could not agree over Balkan policy, leaving Germany and Austria–Hungary in an alliance formed in 1879, called the Dual Alliance. This was seen as a method of countering Russian influence in the Balkans as the Ottoman Empire continued to weaken. In 1882, this alliance was expanded to include Italy in what became the Triple Alliance.
After 1870, European conflict was averted largely through a carefully planned network of treaties between the German Empire and the remainder of Europe orchestrated by Chancellor Bismarck. He especially worked to hold Russia at Germany's side to avoid a two-front war with France and Russia. With the ascension of Wilhelm II as German Emperor (Kaiser), Bismarck's system of alliances was gradually de-emphasised. For example, the Kaiser refused to renew the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia in 1890. Two years later, the Franco-Russian Alliance was signed to counteract the force of the Triple Alliance. In 1904, the United Kingdom sealed an alliance with France, the Entente cordiale and in 1907, the United Kingdom and Russia signed the Anglo-Russian Convention. This system of interlocking bilateral agreements formed the Triple Entente.
Ship at sea with smoke emitting from two funnels
HMS Dreadnought. A naval arms raceexisted between the United Kingdom and Germany.
German industrial and economic power had grown greatly after unification and the foundation of the empire in 1870. From the mid-1890s on, the government of Wilhelm II used this base to devote significant economic resources to building up the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy), established by AdmiralAlfred von Tirpitz, in rivalry with the British Royal Navy for world naval supremacy. As a result, both nations strove to out-build each other in terms of capital ships. With the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906, the British Empire expanded on its significant advantage over its German rivals. The arms race between Britain and Germany eventually extended to the rest of Europe, with all the major powers devoting their industrial base to the production of the equipment and weapons necessary for a pan-European conflict. Between 1908 and 1913, the military spending of the European powers increased by 50 percent.
Austria-Hungary precipitated the Bosnian crisis of 1908–1909 by officially annexing the former Ottoman territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it had occupied since 1878. This greatly angered the Kingdom of Serbia and its patron, the Pan-Slavic and Orthodox Russian Empire. Russian political manoeuvring in the region destabilised peace accords that were already fracturing in what was known as "the Powder keg of Europe".
In 1912 and 1913, the First Balkan War was fought between the Balkan League and the fracturing Ottoman Empire. The resulting Treaty of London further shrank the Ottoman Empire, creating an independent Albanian State while enlarging the territorial holdings of Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. When Bulgaria attacked both Serbia and Greece on 16 June 1913, it lost most of Macedonia to Serbia and Greece and Southern Dobruja to Romania in the 33-day Second Balkan War, further destabilising the region.
Ethno-linguistic map of Austria–Hungary, 1910
Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian-Serb student, was arrested immediately after he assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian-Serb student and member of Young Bosnia, assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, Bosnia. This began a period of diplomatic manoeuvring between Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France and Britain called the July Crisis. Wanting to end Serbian interference in Bosnia conclusively, Austria-Hungary delivered the July Ultimatum to Serbia, a series of ten demands which were intentionally unacceptable, made with the intention of deliberately initiating a war with Serbia. When Serbia acceded to only eight of the ten demands levied against it in the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Strachan argues "Whether an equivocal and early response by Serbia would have made any difference to Austria-Hungary's behaviour must be doubtful. Franz Ferdinand was not the sort of personality who commanded popularity, and his demise did not cast the empire into deepest mourning".
The Russian Empire, unwilling to allow Austria–Hungary to eliminate its influence in the Balkans, and in support of its longtime Serb protégés, ordered a partial mobilisation one day later. When the German Empire began to mobilise on 30 July 1914, France, sporting significant animosity over the German conquest of Alsace-Lorraine during theFranco-Prussian War, ordered French mobilisation on 1 August. Germany declared war on Russia on the same day. The United Kingdom declared war on Germany, on 4 August 1914, following an "unsatisfactory reply" to the British ultimatum that Belgium must be kept neutral.

Opening hostilities

Confusion among the Central Powers

The strategy of the Central Powers suffered from miscommunication. Germany had promised to support Austria-Hungary's invasion of Serbia, but interpretations of what this meant differed. Previously tested deployment plans had been replaced early in 1914, but never tested in exercises. Austro-Hungarian leaders believed Germany would cover its northern flank against Russia. Germany, however, envisioned Austria-Hungary directing the majority of its troops against Russia, while Germany dealt with France. This confusion forced the Austro-Hungarian Army to divide its forces between the Russian and Serbian fronts.
On 9 September 1914, the Septemberprogramm, a possible plan which detailed Germany's specific war aims and the conditions that Germany sought to force upon the Allied Powers, was outlined by German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. It was never officially adopted.

African campaigns

A line of African soldiers backs a German officer surrendering to a British officer backed by a similar line of African soldiers.
Lettow surrendering his forces to the British at Abercorn
Some of the first clashes of the war involved British, French and German colonial forces in Africa. On 7 August, French and British troops invaded the German protectorate of Togoland. On 10 August, German forces in South-West Africa attacked South Africa; sporadic and fierce fighting continued for the remainder of the war. The German colonial forces in German East Africa, led by Colonel Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, fought a guerrilla warfare campaign for the duration of World War I, only surrendering two weeks after the armistice took effect in Europe.

Serbian campaign

Declaration of war. Austro-Hungarian government's telegram to the government of Serbia on 28 July 1914th.
The Serbian army fought the Battle of Cer against the invading Austro-Hungarians, beginning on 12 August, occupying defensive positions on the south side of the Drina and Sava rivers. Over the next two weeks Austrian attacks were thrown back with heavy losses, which marked the first major Allied victory of the war and dashed Austro-Hungarian hopes of a swift victory. As a result, Austria had to keep sizeable forces on the Serbian front, weakening its efforts against Russia.

German forces in Belgium and France

Men waving from the door and window of a rail goods van
German soldiers in a railway goods van on the way to the front in 1914. A message on the car spells out "Trip to Paris"; early in the war all sides expected the conflict to be a short one.
At the outbreak of the First World War, the German army (consisting in the West of seven field armies) executed a modified version of theSchlieffen Plan, designed to quickly attack France through neutral Belgium before turning southwards to encircle the French army on the German border. The plan called for the right flank of the German advance to converge on Paris and initially, the Germans were very successful, particularly in the Battle of the Frontiers (14–24 August). By 12 September, the French with assistance from the British forces halted the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (5–12 September). The last days of this battle signified the end of mobile warfare in the west. The French offensive into Germany launched on 7 August with the Battle of Mulhouse had limited success.
In the east, only one Field Army defended East Prussia and when Russia attacked in this region it diverted German forces intended for the Western Front. Germany defeated Russia in a series of battles collectively known as the First Battle of Tannenberg (17 August – 2 September), but this diversion exacerbated problems of insufficient speed of advance from rail-heads not foreseen by the German General Staff. The Central Powers were thereby denied a quick victory and forced to fight a war on two fronts. The German army had fought its way into a good defensive position inside France and had permanently incapacitated 230,000 more French and British troops than it had lost itself. Despite this, communications problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of obtaining an early victory.

Asia and the Pacific

New Zealand occupied German Samoa (later Western Samoa) on 30 August. On 11 September, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island of Neu Pommern (later New Britain), which formed part of German New Guinea. Japan seized Germany's Micronesian colonies and, after the Siege of Tsingtao, the German coaling port of Qingdao in the Chinese Shandong peninsula. Within a few months, the Allied forces had seized all the German territories in the Pacific; only isolated commerce raiders and a few holdouts in New Guinea remained.