Western Europe, but also Eastern Europe and the Balkans, was ground zero for World War I (known as the First World War, Great War, or WW1), which raged from July 28, 1914, to November 11, 1918. It quickly gained the label “world war” because of the participation of the majority of the world’s leading powers at the time. Many historians call it “The Great War” because they believed it would be the final conflict in their country. World War I was fought between central empires like Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary and the Allies like France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States. It was characterized by the mobilization of so many soldiers, trench warfare, and the introduction of new weapons like airplanes, tanks, and gas, and it resulted in the deaths of 18 million people (military and civilian alike). When the Allies won the war, a lot of the old empires fell apart and were replaced by new countries.
How did World War I start?
It all started with an assassination attempt on June 28th, 1914, which triggered a major crisis across Europe. Sarajevo was the scene of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Habsburg, heir to the throne of the Austria-Hungary (Austro-Hungarian Empire), by a Bosnian Serb student. The latter group was advocating for Serbia to annex Bosnia. On July 28, 1914, the Austria-Hungary Empire used this as justification for an attack on Serbia.
The Serbs wanted to recover Bosnia, which had been annexed by Austria-Hungary, so that they could gain access to the Adriatic Sea and unite all the Slavs of the Balkans under a single kingdom. It was the catalyst for the political maneuvering that ultimately led to World War I. On July 30, Russia began mobilizing its military forces to aid Serbia. Austria-Hungary’s ally, Germany, went to war with Russia and then France. Thereafter, the United Kingdom declares its allegiance to France. Germany invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914. Next up was the Ardennes Offensive.
What were the causes of World War I?
Examining a world map from the start of 1914 was essential for comprehending the factors that led to the outbreak of World War I. Many people lived in what was then known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Romanians, Poles, Serbs, etc.). The Russian Empire, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary all had a piece of Poland. There was a change in Turkey’s name to the Ottoman Empire. At the end of the war in 1870–1871, Germany had taken Alsace and a portion of Lorraine from France. Tense diplomatic relations were a result of territorial disputes between multiple countries and empires.
Who were the actors in World War I?
At the outset of World War I, in 1914, two alliances squared off against one another:
- The United States, Japan, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Romania, Greece, Brazil, and many other countries backed the Triple Entente, which was made up of the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire.
- The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria supported the Triple Alliance, which consisted of the German, Austria-Hungary, and Italian Empires, and which joined the Triple Entente in 1915.
All these nations quickly went to war with one another because of the complex web of alliances that existed between them.
Verdun and the other battles of 1914–1918
During World War I, battles were fought simultaneously on numerous fronts. A front line was forming on the western border of France and Italy. From the Baltic to the Black Sea in the East, the Russian Empire was at odds with the Triple Alliance. A third great front was present in the Balkans. However, the World War I was felt on every continent, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, and on every ocean. There were three distinct eras of World War I on the Western Front. The months of August through November of 1914 were characterized by constant troop and supply shifts. These rapid advances in a war of positions from the end of 1914 to March 1918 will be halted, however, by the use of new, very deadly weapons (heavy artillery, shells, etc.). As a result, the fighting evolves into a trench war. In March of 1918, tanks and planes began arriving in large numbers, marking the beginning of maneuver warfare.
In light of these three main epochs, the following is a list of the most significant battles fought on the Western Front during World War I:
- The First Battle of the Marne killed 250,000 people between September 5 and September 12, 1914.
- The Dardanelles campaign, which lasted from February 1915 to January 1916, claimed the lives of 250,000.
- The Battle of Verdun took place from February 21 to December 31, 1916, and caused 700,000 deaths.
- From July 1st to November 18th, 1916, the Battle of the Somme kills 1.2 million people.
- The Battle of the Chemin des Dames took place from April 16 to May 9, 1917, and resulted in 180,000 French deaths.
- On July 18, 1918, the Second Battle of the Marne occurred, killing 200,000 people.
Was World War I a total war?
One could say that World War I was a total war because it affected every aspect of life in the countries that were involved.
Military mobilization: The European conflict exploded onto the world stage with the involvement of the colonial empires (France, Britain, and Russia), the United States, and Japan. Each nation sent a sizable number of its men to the battlefield.
Economic mobilization: The war effort receives significant contributions from all belligerent nations’ industrial output. The French government had also begun issuing loans to the general public. Civilian life was also affected. Male farmhands and factory workers have been replaced by female counterparts. Rationing was the norm because food supplies were more difficult to distribute.
How did World War I end?
In 1917, American troops arrived on the Western Front. While Germany and Austria-Hungary continued to fight on the Eastern Front, Russia, caught up in communist revolutions since March 1917, withdrew its forces. When the Germans tried to push through to the West in 1918, the Entente powers made a breakthrough instead. Unsettled by the uprising, Germany requested an armistice, which was signed with representatives of the new German Republic on November 11, 1918, in Rethondes, France.
How many people died in the World War I?
One of the deadliest wars ever was World War I, which claimed more lives than World War II. A total of 18 million people, including 10 million soldiers, lost their lives as a result. The French military suffered a loss of 1.4 million men and women. Two million German soldiers were killed in action. Keep in mind the 21 million wounded, especially the “gueules cassées,” or amputated or disfigured soldiers. Europeans began to feel the effects of the Spanish flu in April 1918, which continued through the summer of 1919. The physical resilience of the population had been depleted by years of fighting. More than 2 million people in Europe would have died if this virus had spread.
The results of World War I
Many lives were lost and many bodies were broken during World War I. The affected nations were unsettled and saddled with debt. There was a lot of damage as a result. Not least, it had a geographic impact:
- The French states of Alsace and Lorraine were reclaimed by the French government.
- Austria and Hungary emerged from the fragmentation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. New nations were created from the remaining parts of the empire: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc.
- The Ottoman territory was split up, occupied, and ultimately lost. In 1923, Turkey came into being.
- After the German Empire fell, a new country called the German Republic was formed, but it quickly lost land to Poland in the form of Alsace-Lorraine and the “Danzig corridor.”
- Finnish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian nationalists successfully pushed for independence from the Russian Empire, which had also become a Republic.
The Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, exacted a steep price from Germany. The brand-spanking-new German Republic was taxed heavily. Its colonies were destroyed, and its military was whittled down to nothing. Adolf Hitler would later use German resentment of the “diktat” of Versailles to his advantage during the 1930s.
TIMELINE OF WORLD WAR I
May 25, 1882: Birth of the Triple Alliance
It was in 1882 that the Triple Alliance (or Triplice) between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy was formed for defensive purposes. Thus, Germany was bolstered in the face of an antagonistic France that had not been friendly since the war of 1870, and Austria-Hungary found allies in the face of threats posed by Russian expansionist policies in the Balkans. The Italians, for their part, craved power above all else so that they could better counter France’s colonial agenda. All of them took part in cutting diplomatic ties with France. The signing of this treaty was crucial in setting the stage for World War I. It was broken in May 1915 when Italy sided with the opposing camp.
French and Russian military officials signed an agreement on August 18, 1892
A diplomatic and military agreement between France and Russia allowed them to end their diplomatic isolation from the Triplice. This treaty not only formalizes a military partnership but also sets out the parameters for the Empire to take out a loan from Russia. The relationship between the two countries and Britain got better over time, which led to the Triple Entente and made things more tense before World War I.
April 8, 1904: Signature of the Entente Cordiale
The European situation was becoming increasingly tense, and the Triple Alliance posed a threat of an imbalance of power among the other countries, so the United Kingdom and France were able to reach an agreement to end their colonial disputes. Thus, the two powers initiated a rapprochement in four articles covering topics such as fishing in Newfoundland, control of Egypt for one country and Morocco for the other, and the formation of what would be called the “Triple Entente,” a military alliance with Russia.
March 13, 1905: Reinforcement of the Blockade of Germany
A decree issued by France stipulated that all goods originating from or destined for Germany would be intercepted, further solidifying the country’s policy of economic warfare and blockade against the country. The German declaration of war in the English Channel and the waters near France and the United Kingdom on February 4 prompted the signing of this treaty. When the French got similar orders from the British on February 9, they worked together with them to make a plan.
The Triple Entente was founded on August 31, 1907
France and the United Kingdom had been informally discussing military cooperation for a year before Britain signed an agreement with Russia. This deal not only allowed the three countries to connect indirectly, but it also defined the spheres of influence of each nation in Afghanistan and Iran. After that point, France’s allies included the Russian Empire, the British Empire, and finally France itself. This agreement was crucial in light of the war that broke out seven years later.
July 1, 1911: Episode of the Gunboat “Panther”
Colonial rivalries sparked a severe crisis at a pivotal time in the buildup to World War I. As an official measure, Germany dispatched the gunboat “Panther” to the port of Agadir. A message was sent to France, which had backed Sultan Moulay Hafiz against a Berber uprising by sending an armed ship. Their sights were set on Morocco, and Germany did not take kindly to France’s efforts to increase its military presence and, by extension, its influence there. The strength of the Entente Cordiale was underlined by the United Kingdom’s intervention on behalf of France, and everyone made preparations for war. Eventually, Germany caved into economic pressures and retracted its position in the fall.
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo
While in Sarajevo, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie of Hoenberg, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, were murdered by 19-year-old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The attack ignited Europe, which was then split between the Triple Alliance (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy) and the Triple Entente (Russia, France, and Great Britain). World War I began after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28. Over the course of four years, 18 million lives will be lost.
The 28th of July, 1914, saw the declaration of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo prompted Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia a month later. As the chain of alliances widens, the conflict will become more widespread: on the one hand, the Triple Entente (Russia, France, and Great Britain); on the other, the Triple Alliance (America, Japan, and Germany) (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy).
First Day of War: August 1, 1914
The Germans declared war on Russia, and the French ordered general mobilization four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the assassination of the Archduke of Austria in Sarajevo. The invasion of neutral Belgium by German troops began on August 4, following Germany’s August 3 declaration of war against France. All of Europe’s major powers expect the war to be brief.
German forces invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914
Even though Belgium claimed to be neutral, German troops invaded under the Schlieffen plan. When France and Russia joined forces, this strategy was born. To avoid a frontal assault, the Germans planned to avoid the “risky” French zones. Even though the army led by King Albert I put up a fierce fight, much of the country was still occupied. The Canton territories of Eupen, Malmedy, and Saint-Virth were formally recognized as part of Belgium after World War I thanks to the Treaty of Versailles. The country of Belgium now had a mandate over the country of Ruanda-Urundi (later Rwanda-Burundi). Conflict will eventually force it to abandon its neutral stance.
The First Battle of the Bulge began on this day in 1914
In spite of their best efforts, French forces were unable to halt the advance of the German army. Movement was a core principle for both sides, and the battles were planned in accordance with each camp’s underlying theory. In the so-called “battle of the borders,” the French were initially defeated and forced to retreat. This led to their defeat in the Ardennes, a battle they would later go on to win in the Marne.
August 30, 1914, Russian defeat at Tannenberg
A month had passed since the war began. When the French asked the Russians to open a front in the East, they did so in order to get Germany to split its forces. The Germans were able to attack and push the Russians back at Tannenberg in East Prussia because they intercepted Russian messages. In addition to capturing 500 cannons, the Germans also managed to capture over 92,000 Russian soldiers.
The Triple Entente was formally established on September 3, 1914
By bolstering their military pacts, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia provide the Triple Entente with a solid political foundation. They’ve agreed to forego signing any bilateral accords.
The French won the Battle of the Marne on September 12, 1914
We’re now a month into this war. In the face of the German offensive, French General Joffre and British General Maunoury, leading the Franco-British forces, were forced to continually withdraw from the Belgian border. Joffre made the decision to launch a counterattack and had new troops brought in from Paris in taxis (the cabs of the Marne). There was a decisive defeat for the Germans, and they were forced to retreat. The French army managed to escape.
October 5, 1914: First air combat
In World War I, a German Aviatik piloted by Lieutenant Von Zangen was shot down near Reims by a French Voisin III piloted by Sergeant Frantz and Corporal Quénault. As far as we know, this was the first aerial battle ever fought. Prior to the outbreak of the first international conflict, it was common practice to use military aircraft to take photographs of the locations of the combatants. They served as informants but had no weapons.
17 October 1914: The locks stop the German advance on the Yser front
By opening the locks and flooding the plain, the Belgian army was able to cut off the Germans’ access to the sea. Even though they were outnumbered, the Belgians were able to stop the enemy from moving forward and set up a strong barrier thanks to this planned flooding. This was done after their victories in the Marne.
The Germans won the Battle of Coronel on November 1, 1914
A battle broke out off the coast of Chile when two battleships from the esteemed Royal Navy ran into German cruisers. The two British ships were sunk without too much damage by German Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee. People still talk about how shocking this victory was, and in the Battle of the Falklands Islands, the Royal Navy got its revenge.
On November 5th, 1914, France and Great Britain declared war on Turkey
After Russia went to war with the Ottoman Empire, England and France joined in two days later. On October 28, Turkey joined Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy in World War I as part of their Central Powers.
The Battle of the Falklands began on December 8th, 1914
After the British navy spotted two German ships, they pursued them and fought a German squadron led by Vice Admiral Maximilian Von Spee a few hours later. The United Kingdom successfully defended itself from this attack near the Falkland Islands. The Royal Navy gets its revenge on the vice admiral, but more importantly, the British are able to maintain control over important trade routes.
April 22, 1915: The first use of asphyxiating gas
The Germans introduced a new weapon into the trench warfare in Ypres (Belgium): asphyxiating gas. At first, the Allies’ defense against these gases was limited to goggles and pads. Then they will put on masks for safety. In the years 1915 and 1916, nearly 100,000 soldiers were killed by this poisonous weapon, which had been outlawed by the Hague Declaration of 1899. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 and United Nations Resolution 2603 of 1969 contain more recent provisions regarding gas use.
Landing at Gallipoli, April 24, 1915
The Allies’ naval expedition through the Dardanelles encountered Ottoman resistance and underwater mines on its way to Constantinople. Seventy-five thousand reinforcements were dropped off at Gallipoli. The Ottomans beefed up their security in anticipation of the Allied invasion. Although reinforcements were sent in August, that month brought no noticeable improvement. Despite a total of 200,000 casualties and 120,000 wounds, the offensive was unsuccessful. Between December and January of 1916, the Allies withdrew.
7 May 1915: A submarine sinks the “Lusitania”
Off the coast of Ireland, the German submarine U-20 torpedoed the British liner Lusitania as it sailed from New York. When the ship sank quickly, 1,198 people, including 128 Americans, lost their lives. American public opinion was already leaning toward supporting military action against the “Central Powers” before this tragedy struck, but it shifted dramatically afterward. Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered a full submarine war to begin again in 1917, prompting President Wilson to declare war on Germany.
On May 23, 1915, Italy and Austria-Hungary went to war
Italy went to war with Austria-Hungary, a country it had been allied with the year before. The agreements signed a month earlier in London with the Triple Entente allowed for this about-face against an ally that it had never taken to its heart. The latter capitalized on Italy’s desire to expand its influence into parts of Austria-Hungary, most notably Istria. At the beginning of the war, Italy was a part of the Triple Alliance but had not yet joined the conflict. Since it considered these allies to be the aggressors, it owed them nothing.
October 6, 1915: Austria-Hungary invades Serbia
More than a year after the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, that country began to feel the effects of the conflict that had engulfed Europe. Austria-Hungary didn’t actually invade Serbia until fourteen months after it declared war on the country. In one day, Belgrade will be no more.
On October 12th, 1915, Edith Cavell was brutally murdered
Edith Louisa Cavell, an English nurse, was shot to death by German troops in Belgium. She faced accusations that she aided the Allied forces in reaching Holland to resume fighting there. The occupied Belgian territory where a prominent Brussels hospital’s head nurse was employed. Because of what she did, 170 men made it to the Netherlands in a matter of months. There was no denial on her part when she was taken into custody. Rather, she was completely forthright with Germany about everything.
Paris was attacked by a German zeppelin on January 29, 1916
Twenty-six people were killed and thirty-two were injured when a German zeppelin dropped bombs on the neighborhoods of Belleville and Ménilmontant. However, it went down on the return trip. It was decided to switch to a combination of cannon (the Grosse Bertha) and aerial bombing because the previous strategy was too expensive and ineffective.
In 1916, on February 21, the Battle of Verdun began
At 7:30 a.m., German infantrymen, led by Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn, attacked the Verdun forts and trenches. For a distance of nearly 15 kilometers and for nearly 9 hours, German artillery pounded the three French divisions present. Hill 304 lost 7 meters of elevation due to the heavy artillery fire. German forces launched an initial push to the south bank of the Meuse, capturing a number of positions. Philippe Pétain, the French army’s general, oversaw the country’s response. Ten months from December 15th, 1916, would pass before the Verdun battle would be declared over. More than 700,000 people lost their lives, making this one of the deadliest battles of World War I.
On February 25, 1916, Pétain assumed command of the French forces at Verdun
Four days after the German offensive began, General Philippe Pétain was put in charge of defending Verdun. As soon as he took command, he instituted a rotation of men at the front along the Meuse’s banks. He restocked the forts’ arsenal and sent in the air force to scout the opposition. His victory at Verdun earned him the title “Man of Verdun” among the French.
April 10th, 1916: “We’ll get them!” Pétain’s legendary order
Pétain held regular meetings with his troops and communicated with them daily. In his 94th general order, issued on April 10, 1916, he congratulated the French on their victory the day before and urged the French soldiers to be courageous, writing, “We’ll get them!” The newspapers printed these three words on the front page, and they were soon being shouted and sung in the trenches and even in the rear.
Nivelle took over as leader on May 1, 1916
To his dismay, General Pétain was promoted and ordered to abandon Verdun. He was relieved of command and given the role of supervising General Nivelle. In contrast to Verdun, which was criticized for being too defensive, Nivelle was a bold offensive operation that didn’t care about casualties. Pétain will live on in the hearts and minds of the victors of Verdun.
The Battle of Jutland, May 31, 1916
It was off the coast of Denmark that 37 British and 21 German ships engaged in a naval battle known as the Battle of Jutland. Since the British fleet was larger, they attempted to surround the German fleet. The latter, however, avoided it through strategic retreat and ultimately forced the enemy to call off the battle after suffering heavy casualties. The loss of life was staggering, with 3,000 German sailors joining the 6,800 British sailors who perished. The Royal Navy was embarrassed, but the German fleet failed in its attempt to dominate the North Sea because it could not break the British blockade.
The Germans were at Verdun’s gates on June 23, 1916
Very close to Verdun, the Germans launched an attack that von Falkenhayn hoped would prove decisive after they had been hit with phosgene, a toxic gas. Unfortunately, the gas eventually dissipated, and their opponents had managed to reorganize in the meantime. Mangin immediately responded the following day with counterattacks. These attempts also failed, however.
The first day of the Battle of the Somme was July 1, 1916
The British troops began their assault on the enemy after a week of bombarding the German lines. Nearly 20,000 British soldiers were killed that day, and the Allies advanced no more than ten kilometers in ten days, but the battle was only just beginning; it would last until November 18. In just five months, over a million people will have died on the battlefield for nothing.
On July 11, 1916, the German army launched its final offensive at Verdun
A final assault was launched by General von Falkenhayn to take Verdun. The British attack on the Somme was quickly defeating the German forces, and time was running out for him. He was in a good spot, but he needed to make it count. When he met opposition at the fort of Souville, he had to retreat. After losing so many men in the Battle of the Somme, he had to adopt a defensive strategy going forward.
The first tanks showed up on September 15, 1916
It was at Flers in World War I that the British army first deployed tanks (in the Somme). In Villers-Bretonneux, France, on April 26, 1918, tanks fought each other for the first time in a major conflict. In 1918, tanks were pivotal in breaking the front lines.
French victory at Verdun, October 24, 1916
After gaining the upper hand in August, the French launched a massive offensive to retake Vaux and Douaumont. The front was 7 kilometers long and very effective. The Germans were forced to retreat, and the French easily captured Douaumont after losing Thiaumont. However, the French did not reach Vaux until November 3. It was clear that the Germans were outnumbered and would have to withdraw from the conflict, which would eventually lose some of its intensity by the end of the year.
February 1, 1917: Germany strengthens the submarine war
Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to use the isolation of the United Kingdom as a means to weaken it. To cut off the island’s supplies, he declared total submarine warfare. The United States voiced strong objections, severed diplomatic ties, and urged other nations to follow suit. Wilson, realizing he needed the public’s backing to join the war against the Central Empires in April, did just that.
America goes to war with Germany on April 6, 1917
In 1914, the United States declared its neutrality.With their population on the verge of starvation, the Germans resumed full-scale submarine warfare against the British Navy in January 1917. This military action shocked the American public and ultimately led to the United States declaring war on Germany. About two million troops were dispatched to Europe.
April 9, 1917: Founding Canadian Victory at Vimy
3,500 Canadian soldiers stormed Vimy Ridge after two weeks of heavy bombardment of enemy lines. German trenches, barbed wire, and machine guns protected the area. Even though the majority of the day’s objectives were accomplished by nightfall, fighting would continue for another few days. Over and above anything else, this victory became a potent symbol for the burgeoning nation of Canada. The lowering of the flag to half-staff on April 9 became a national day of remembrance as the Peace Tower, a memorial to the fallen of World War I and a symbol of international harmony, was constructed on that date.
April 16, 1917: Defeat of the Chemin des Dames
Nivelle’s primary goal, part of a much larger Allied offensive plan, was to retake the Chemin des Dames. This attack did not go as planned and ultimately ended in deadly failure. Most significantly, it marked the beginning of widespread mutinies in France and heralded Pétain’s ascension to power.
May 1917—Mutinies in the French camp
Many French soldiers refused to attack after the disastrous Chemin des Dames battle and subsequent attacks, leading to the growth of mutinies. After more than two years of war with little to show for it, both sides began to experience a phenomenon characterized primarily by a reluctance to attack rather than a heightened focus on defense. Minor agitations, typically in the rear, are to be expected over the next two months due to the challenging context and the fatigue of the horrors of war. For the sake of example and to restore order, 42 poilus will be shot, based on somewhat arbitrary selections. After the war, they were able to start over and become productive citizens again.
Arabic triumph at Aqaba, July 6, 1917
Because of their desire to create a new front against the Ottoman Empire (which was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary), the British allied with Arab countries that were working to establish an independent state in the region formerly controlled by the Ottomans. The Ottomans were defeated by the Arabs at the Battle of Aqaba. They were led by Lawrence of Arabia.
Guynemer passed away on September 11th, 1917
The French fighter pilot was killed while piloting his Spad over the Belgian city of Ypres. After being “shot down” seven times, the body of the “ace of aces,” who had 53 victories to his name, was never located.
November 17, 1917: Clemenceau is recalled to the government
It became clear to President Raymond Poincaré of the Third Republic that only Georges Clemenceau could rally the French parliament around the Sacred Union and guide France to victory, so he reinstated Clemenceau as head of government. Clemenceau, also known as the “Tiger,” ended the political unrest by becoming President of the Council and Minister of War.
December 15, 1917—The Armistice of Brest-Litovsk
The revolutions of February (called March by the Gregorian calendar) and October 1917 rocked the Tsarist Russian Empire. As one of their first acts in power, the Bolsheviks ratified the “peace decree” on December 15, 1917, at Brest-Litovsk, which led to an armistice with the Germans and the Austrians (now in Belarus). The Russians ceded several territories during this agreement, and other provinces, including Finland and Ukraine, took advantage of this agreement to declare independence from Russia. Upon Germany’s defeat in 1918, Russia planned to reclaim some of the territory it had given up in 1917.
January 8, 1918: Wilson unveils his plan
In his “Fourteen Points,” President Wilson of the United States lays out his plan for restoring peace and rebuilding Europe. On January 18, 1918, he presented his principles to the United States Congress. These included free economic trade, democracy, disarmament, the right to self-determination of peoples, reshaping borders, etc.
It was on March 3, 1918, that the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed
The fighting on the Eastern Front ended on March 3, 1918, when the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed by the Central Empires (a coalition of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria) and the newly formed Bolshevik Republic of Russia. Russia had no choice but to agree that Poland, Ukraine, and Finland were independent countries.
March 21, 1918: Start of the last German offensive
In France, the Germans began an offensive that would signal a massive series of attacks lasting until July and result in the Allies’ second defeat on the Chemin des Dames that same month. The Empire’s plans, however, were foiled by the arrival of American troops, equipment, and tanks. All of these offensives yielded gains that were sometimes substantial but never game-changing. Instead, they drained the military’s resources and occasionally put them in jeopardy.
March 26, 1918: Foch commands the allied forces
Panic among the Allies was caused by the German offensive on the Somme, which aimed to split the front in two. At the meeting in Doullens, civilian leaders from the Allies put Foch in charge of the Western Front, where he oversaw Douglas Haig for the British and Philippe Pétain for the French.
On April 21st, 1918, the Red Baron was killed in combat
Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the “Red Baron,” was a legendary fighter pilot in the German Air Force. He was a World War I ace who participated in and won 80 air battles before his red plane was shot down over the Somme region on April 21, 1918.
June 26, 1918: Big Bertha bombs Paris
A German army cannon, nicknamed “Big Bertha” after the daughter of industrialist Krupp, wreaked havoc in Paris. The device can launch shells over 100 kilometers away and to an altitude of 30 kilometers.
Decision by the Allies to counterattack, August 8th, 1918
The Battle of Amiens began on August 8, 1918, when French and British forces attacked near Montdidier in the Somme department. On September 8, 1918, the German forces had to retreat behind the defenses they had built between 1916 and 1917 because they were so tired.
November 9, 1918: The Kaiser leaves his empire
The German navy mutinied, and Berlin erupted in rebellion as Germany was about to lose the war. Wilhelm II of Germany abdicates and takes his family to the Netherlands. Scheidemann, the socialist, declares a republic. On the second day, he planned to approach the allies with a request for a ceasefire.
World War I officially ended on November 11, 1918
At the start of November 1918, Germany requested an armistice with the Allies. Years of war and blockade have weakened the country, and now the “German revolution” will bring about a change in political regime. On November 11, 1918, the armistice was signed in a wagon in Rethondes, in the Compiègne forest.
The German fleet was sunk in Scapa Flow on June 21, 1919
The German navy, gathered in the Scottish port of Scapa Flow, refused to surrender its ships to the victors and instead scuttled. The entire German fleet, with the exception of the submarines, was docked here.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919
Germany was forced to accept harsh terms when it signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. To begin, everyone agreed that the war was entirely Germany’s fault. It was forced to pay astronomical war reparations. Alsace-Lorraine and the “Danzig corridor,” which provided Poland with a sea route, were among the territories it lost. It lost its colonies and was coerced into dominating the Western Hemisphere. At last, Germany was partially demilitarized, and its weapons were removed.
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