WORLD WAR ONE – SYNOPSIS
Part One: PRELUDE TO WAR
1)From the end of Napoleon (1815) to 1914, Europe enjoyed a century or relative peace.
2)The first modern Olympic Games (1896) were indicators of a popular desire
for “world peace.”
3)German leader Otto von Bismarck predicted, “I shall not live to see the next war, but you will see it, and it will start in the east.”
Entangling Alliances – Collective Security
4)Spurred by distrust, the great powers of Europe signed secret treaties pledging to protect one another. These alliances intended to promote peace through collective security, by creating powerful combinations deterring attack.
5)Germany formed an alliance with Austria-Hungary and Turkey.
6)France formed an alliance with Russia in 1893, surrounding a common enemy –
Germany. France also formed an alliance with Britain in 1904.
7)Britain would form an alliance with Russia. King George and Czar Nicholas
were cousins. Britain also pledge to defend the neutrality of Belgium.
8)Germany would later form an alliance with the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.
9)The Allied and Central alliances created a tinder box” for large-scale conflict.
10)Imperial rivalries over colonies also increased tensions. Sensationalist and
nationalistic journalism helped fueled European rivalries.
11)Militarism, the glorification of the military, also fueled nationalist rivalries.
Aggressive nationalism was strong in Britain, Germany and France.
12)Germany, unified in 1866, was growing into a military and economic power.
13)Prussia, the eastern German state that helped unify Germany, had a centuries old
military tradition. Most states have an army. Someone famously stated,
“Prussia was an army that had a state.”
14)Germany had recently industrialized and was proud of their growing
economic power. Britain felt threatened by this.
15)British King George and the German Kaiser Wilhelm were cousins.
The fiercest tension was the rivalry between the British and German navies.
16)England and Germany engaged in an arms race.
17)Russia sponsored a form of nationalism called “pan-Slavism”, which
held that all “Slavic” peoples held a common “nationality”.
18)The nation of Serbia hoped to create a southern European Slavic state.
19)The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Turk Empires encompassed many ethnicities.
These two empires feared the rising nationalities would break apart their empires.
A southern Slavic kingdom would take away from both their empires.
20)The Balkan Peninsula was where THREE “WORLDS” COLLIDE,
west, east and Middle East – Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim religions.
21)After several wars, the Balkans were called the “Powder Keg” of Europe.
Part Two: PRELUDE TO WAR – THE SPARK
22)Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, visited Sarajevo, Bosnia. Home of many Serbians and Muslim Slavs, they viewed the Austrians as foreign “oppressors”.
23)A Serb nationalist terrorist group called “The Black Hand” vowed action
during Franz Ferdinand’s visit.
24)On June 28, 1914, the Archduke and his wife drove through Sarajevo, Bosnia.
They were both assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist.
25)The Austrian government in Vienna saw the incident as an excuse to crush Serbia.
German Kaiser Wilhelm urged his “Germanic” cousin to take a firm stand.
26)Austria issued an ultimatum to the Serbian government. Serbia agreed to most, but not all of the conditions. On July 28, 1914, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia.
27)Alliance soon drew the great powers into a large-scale conflict. Serbia turned to
Slavic ally Russia. On August 1, 1914, German declared war on a mobilizing Russia.
28)Russia appealed to its ally France. France declared war on Germany.
29)Germany invaded France through Belgium. Pledged to Belgian neutrality,
Britain then declared war on Germany.
30)Once the war started, it seemed impossible to stop. Alliances meant to prevent
war resulted in war. German Otto von Bismark’s prediction had come true.
Part Three: THE GREAT WAR – THE FIGHTING
31)Military leaders on all sides anticipated a relatively short war. All nations fully
mobilized their newly “industrialized” war machines.
32)The Germans were surrounded on west and east with enemies. Their
SCHLIEFFEN PLAN sought to address this disadvantage of a two-front war.
33)Germany would move against France in the west first, then turn to fight
Russia in the east.
34)To ensure a quick victory in the west, the Germans would march though
neutral Belgium, then swing south behind French defenses to encircle and crush.
35)Just the opposite happened – quick victory in the east and stalemate in the west.
36)The Russians were crushed by the Germans at the Battle of Tannenburg.
They suffered the most casualties during the war.
37)The Germans launched a massive offensive at the French river Marne. The French
and British held this off. This battle ended German hopes for quick victory in the west.
38)Both sides began to “dig in” to protect themselves from enemy artillery. This
“trench warfare” would lead to a long, deadly stalemate.
39)After more than a year of this, the Germans would launch a massive offensive at the battle of Verdun in 1916. The French held off this offensive. The
eleven month battle resulted in half a million casualties on both sides.
40)The Allies then launched an offensive at the river Somme. The Germans held it off. On a single day, the British lost 60,000 killed or wounded.
The five month battle resulted in over one million casualties.
41)The technology of modern warfare led to the massive number of casualties –
rapid-fire machine guns, long-range howitzers, and barbed wire.
Tanks and airplanes were just being developed for warfare.
42)The land between the trenches was called “No Man’s Land”.
43)The Turks cut off the British-Russian supply line through the “Dardannelles”.
44)At the battle of Gallipoli, the British tried to open up this narrow strait. After ten months and over 200,000 casualties, the British finally withdrew.
45)The Turks also fought Arab nationalists, aided by Britain, in the Middle East.
The Turks lost a great deal of their empire, including Bagdad.
46)The British enacted a naval blockade on the Central Powers, seeking to starve
Germany into submission.
47)The Germans countered with submarine warfare. In 1915, they sunk the
luxury liner Lusitania, killing over 1200 people, including 128 Americans.
48)The official American position was neutrality. Despite this political position,
economically, American industry supplied the British and French war effort.
49)The Germans countered with unrestricted submarine warfare.
50)In 1917, the British intercepted a telegram from Zimmermann, the German
ambassador to Mexico. It offered them lands lost to the U.S. in 1848 if
the Germans won in return for their support. American distrust of Germany increased.
51)Despite a large Germanic population, the U.S. maintained “cultural” ties to
Britain and France, speaking English and being a democracy like France.
52)The U.S. would end its neutrality and enter the war in 1917 on the side of the Allies.
53)American President Wilson said U.S. involvement was, “To save the world for
democracy”. He made it a “moral” crusade – “a war to end all wars.”
54)American entrance would militarily “tip the balances” in favor of
Britain and France. Both sides were “exhausted” from three years of war.
55)The abdication of the Czar in Russia in 1917 aided the German war effort.
Marxist “Bolsheviks” led by Lenin took over. He quickly signed a peace
treaty with Germany, ending their disastrous war effort.
56)American involvement would help prevent German victory in the West.
The Allies pushed the exhausted Germans back.
57)In September, 1918, German generals told the Kaiser that the war could not be won.German navy officers mutinied in one instance.
58)Hungry city-dwellers rioted across Germany. German military commanders
“advised” the Kaiser to step down. He abdicated (left) the throne.
59)The new German government sought an armistice, ending the war on the 11th hour,
of the 11th day of the 11th month. (November 11, 1918)
Part Four: MAKING THE PEACE
60)The victorious Allied powers met at Versailles, outside Paris in 1919.
The Germans and the Russians were not invited to the peace negotiations.
61)The “Big Three” leaders were French President Clemenceau, British Prime
Minister David Lloyd George and American President Woodrow Wilson.
62)The French and British sought revenge on Germany. They had suffered
millions of casualties. Parts of France were totally destroyed.
63)The French wanted to make sure Germany would never threaten them again.
The British wanted “payback” to finance the re-building of a post-war Britain.
64)American President Wilson countered with his “Fourteen Points” for peace.
His attitude called for “Peace without Victory”, seeking an “equitable”
and lasting post-war peace. Germany had surrendered based on this.
65)Wilson’s Fourteen Points called for freedom of the seas and trade, massive
reduction in arms, “self-determination” – the right of peoples to choose
their own form of government, and an end to secret treaties with a
general association of nations to keep peace in the future.
66)The French and British leaders were in no mood to be “EQUITABLE” with
the Germans. French leader Clemenceau stated, “Mr. Wilson bores me with
his Fourteen Points – Why God Almighty only had ten.”
67)Wilson was forced to compromise on his Fourteen Points, convinced that a post-war
international “League of Nations” would correct any “mistakes” made at Versailles.
68)Wilson believed in “collective security” provided by a world-wide “league”
of nations acting as “one” to preserve the peace of “all”. (did it happen?)
69)In June, 1919, German representatives were called to Versailles. They were
horrified to see the peace terms.
70)The Versailles Treaty(s) forced Germany to accept full blame for causing the war. It imposed huge reparations (war guilt payments) on Germany to pay for
post-war re-building and dead or injured soldier’s pensions.
The total cost would be $30 billion. (about $2.7 trillion in today’s money)
71)The Versailles Treaty also severely limited the size of the German military at
100,000 men total. It also returned the provinces of Alsace and
Lorraine back to France. (“payback” for the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War)
72)German “humiliation” at the Treaty of Versailles would “poison”
post-war relations. An Austrian corporal wounded in the war would later promise “revenge” for Versailles. (Hitler would eventually achieve it)
73)More than 40 countries joined the League of Nations. Ironically, the U.S. Senate rejected American participation in the League. The League’s collective security obligated the U.S. to fight in any future European War. It adopted a long lasting policy of foreign policy isolationism after the “war to end all wars.”
74)The League of Nations would fail to stop a future “world” war, lacking
75)Wilson’s goal of national “self-determination” was applied in some cases. A band of “new” nations emerged in eastern Europe – Yugoslavia (land of
southern Slavs) and Poland (between Germany and Russia). Three separate
republics would emerge in central Europe – Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
76)Decline of the Ottoman Empire and creation of many “nations” in its place opened a whole new “can of worms” of nationalistic conflict.
77)Britain reneged on promises of independence and “self-determination” to India.
78)Wars for “self-determination” would happen in France’s colony of Vietnam in
southeast Asia. (leading to eventual American participation)
The British reneged on promises of Independence after the war made to India.
78)The failures of the peace treaties of Versailles ending the Great War would
impact the entire Middle East.
79) Is it “FAIR” or “REALISTIC” to BLAME WORLDWIDE CONFLICT on ONE THING ???
EVEN IF the VERSAILLES TREATIES had been “FAIR” and “EQUITABLE”, WOULD THEY PREVENT FUTURE WARS?
80)WOULD the REMOVAL of IMPERIAL TYRANNY LEAD to NATIONALISTIC ANARCHY or CHAOS?