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World War I was a military conflict from 1914 to 1

war918. It began as a local
European war between Austria – Hungary and Serbia on July 28, 1914. It was
transformed into a general European struggle by declaration of war against
Russia on August 1, 1914 and eventually became a global war involving 32
nations. Twenty – eight of these nations, known as the Allies and the
Associated Powers, and including Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and
the United States, opposed the coalition known as the Central Powers,
consisting of Germany, Austria – Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria. The immediate
cause of the war between Austria – Hungary and Serbia was the assassination
of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo in Bosnia by
Gavrilo Princip, a Serb nationalist. (Microsoft Encarta, 1996) On July 28
Austria declared war against Serbia, either because it felt Russia would not
actually fight for Serbia, or because it was prepared to risk a general
European conflict in order to put an end to the Greater Serbia movement.
Russia responded by partially mobilizing against Austria. Germany warned
Russia that continued mobilization would cause war with Germany, and it made
Austria agree to discuss with Russia a possible change of the ultimatum to
Serbia. Germany demanded, however, that Russia demobilize. Russia refused to
do so, and on August 1, Germany declared war on Russia. (Microsoft Encarta,
1996) The French began to mobilize on the same day. On August 2, German
troops invades Luxembourg and on August 3, Germany declared war on France. 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
prevent an attack on Germany by French troops marching through Belgium. The
Belgian government refused to allow the passage of German troops and called
on the witnesses of the Treaty of 1839, which guaranteed the justice of
Belgium in case of a conflict in which Great Britain, France, and Germany
were involved, to observe their guarantee. Great Britain, one of the
witnesses, on August 4, sent an ultimatum to Germany demanding that Belgian
justice be respected. When Germany refused, Britain declared war on it the
same day. Italy remained uninvolved until May 23, 1915, when, to satisfy its
claims against Austria, it broke with the Triple Alliance and declared war on
Austria – Hungary. In September 1914, Allied unity was made stronger by the
Pact of London, signed by France, Great Britain, and Russia. As the war
progressed, other countries, including Turkey, Japan, the U.S., and other
nations of the western hemisphere, were drawn into the conflict. Japan, which
had made an alliance with the Great Britain in 1902, declared war on Germany
on August 23, 1914. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6,
1917. (Microsoft Encarta, 1996) The outbreak of war in 1914 set in motion
forces more gigantic than any previous war had seen. Two million Germans were
on the march, the greater part of them against France, and there were another
3,000,000 trained men to back them up. France had nearly 4,000,000 trained
men at call, although they relied on only 1,000,000 active troops in the
first clash. Russia had more millions to draw upon than any, but their
mobilization process was slow, a large part of their forces were in Asia and
even their great potential strength was to a large extent canceled out by
lack of munitions. (Captain Sir Basil Liddell Hart, 1984) The growth of these
tremendous forces had been due primarily to a military gospel of mass. Known
by Clausewitz, the Prussian military philosopher, who drew his inspiration
from Napoleon’s example, the spread of this gospel had been stimulated by the
victories of the Prussian conscript armies in 1866 against Austria and in
1870 against France. It had been assisted also by the development of
railways, which enabled far larger numbers of men to be assembled, moved and
supplied than had been possible previously. Therefore the armies of 1914 –
1918 came to be counted in their millions compared with the hundreds of
thousands of half a century earlier. (Captain Sir Basil Liddell Hart, 1984)
The essential causes of World War I were the attitude of intense nationalism
that permeated Europe throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, the
political and economic rivalry among the nations, and the establishment and
maintenance in Europe after 1871 of large armaments and of two hostile
military alliances. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic era had spread
throughout most of Europe the idea of political democracy, with the resulting
idea that the people of the same ethnic origin, language, and political
ideals had the right to independent states. The principle of national self –
determination, however, was largely ignored by the dynastic and retrogressive
forces that dominated in the settlement of European affairs at the Congress
of Vienna in 1815. Several peoples who desired national independence were
made subject to local dynasts or to other nations. Notable examples were the
German people, whom the Congress of Vienna left divided into numerous
duchies, principalities, and kingdoms; Italy, also left divided into many
parts, some of which were under foreign control; and the Flemish – and French
– speaking Belgians of the Austrian Netherlands, whom the congress placed
under Dutch rule. Revolutions and strong nationalistic movements during the
19th century succeeded in canceling much of the retrogressive and
antinationalist work of the congress. Belgium won its independence from the
Netherlands in 1830, the unification of Italy was accomplished in 1861, and
that of Germany in 1871. At the close of the century, however, the problem of
nationalism was still unresolved in other areas of Europe, resulting in
tensions both within the regions involved and between various European
nations. One particularly noticeable nationalistic movement, Panslavism,
figured heavily in the events preceding the war. (Microsoft Encarta, 1996)
The attitude of nationalism was also visible in economic conflict. The
Industrial Revolution, which took place in Great Britain at the end of the
18th century, followed in France in the early 19th century, and then in
Germany after 1870, caused an immense increase in the manufactures of each
country and a consequent need for foreign markets. The principal field for
the European policies of economic expansion was Africa, and on that continent
colonial interests frequently clashed. Several times between Germany on one
side and France and Great Britain on the other, almost precipitated a
European war. (Microsoft Encarta, 1996) The dispute between the United States
and Germany was far more serious. In order to prevent food, munitions, and
other supplies from reaching Great Britain, Germany in 1915 declared the
waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland a war zone in which German
submarines would sink all enemy vessels without the visit or search ordered
by international law. To avoid the possibility that uninvolved vessels might
be sunk by mistake, or that uninvolved might be killed, Germany warned
uninvolved ships not to enter the zone. They also advised citizens of
uninvolved nations not to travel on ships of the Allied nations. Germany
remained intolerant in the face of U.S. protests against this declaration. In
May 1915 a German submarine torpedoed the British passenger liner Lusitania
off the Irish coast without warning, causing the deaths of 1198 people, of
whom 128 were U.S. citizens. The Germans claimed that the Lusitania was
carrying munitions to Britain, and later research has proven this to be true.
But the American public was outraged by the sinking, and strong protests by
the U.S. State Department brought a promise from Germany not to sink any
passenger liners without taking precautions to protect the lives of
civilians. (Alistair Horne, 1970) In March 1916, however, a German submarine
sank an unarmed French Channel steamer, the Sussex, with the loss of two
Americans. President Wilson threatened to separate diplomatic relations with
the German government unless it abandoned “its present methods of submarine
warfare against passenger and freight-carrying vessels.” In May, the German
government pledged not to sink merchant vessels without warning and without
saving the lives of those aboard. For nine months the pledge was kept
generally to the satisfaction of the United States. Wilson’s powerful
diplomacy seemed to have averted war with Germany, and as the Democratic
candidate in the presidential election of 1916, Wilson was elected over the
Republican nominee, Charles Evans Hughes, largely because “he kept us out of
war.” The war, however, was near. At the end of January 1917, Germany broke
the so-called Sussex Pledge by declaring unrestricted submarine warfare in a
zone even larger than the one it had proclaimed in 1915. On February 3,
Wilson replied by breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany. Later in
the month, at his request, Congress passed a bill permitting U.S. merchant
vessels to arm. After new depredations by German submarines against
uninvolved shipping, and the discovery of a plan made by the German Foreign
Office to unite Germany, Mexico, and Japan against the United States if it
entered the war, Wilson on April 2, 1917, requested Congress to declare war.
On April 6, Congress passed a resolution declaring a state of war with
Germany. (Alistair Horne, 1970) The early part of 1918 did not look favorable
for the Allied nations. On March 3, Russia signed the Treaty of Brest –
Litovsk, which put a formal end to the war between that nation and the
Central Powers on terms more favorable to the latter; and on May7, Romania
made peace with the Central Powers, signing the Treaty of Bucharest, by the
terms of which it ceded the Dobruja region to Bulgaria and the passes in the
Carpathian Mountains to Austria – Hungary, and gave Germany a long – term
lease on the Romanian oil wells. (Microsoft Encarta, 1996) On November 6, the
German delegates left Berlin to apply for an armistice. Meanwhile, the Allied
advance in the west continued, and, on the American sector at least, with
fresh incentive. The Americans reached Sedan on the same day that the German
delegates reached General Ferdinand Foch’s rendezvous. (Alistair Horne, 1970)
The terms he laid down were severe – sufficient to cripple the German forces
more decisively than any battle. But the collapse of the home front, even
more than the military menace in front and flank, ensured their acceptance.
In any event, the stranglehold of the blockade was stifling to power of
resistance, so the Germans had no choice but to sign. And at the eleventh
hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the war came to an end.


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