On May 7th 1915 the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat after giving several warnings to the Americans that they would would do so, 128 American citizens died and wide spread outrage set in across the States.
However, in this TL Germany's Chancellor at the time Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg is able to resist pressure from the military to begin unrestricted warfare seeing as it would do little for their war effort but rather would antagonize otherwise neutral powers such as the U.S.A. at Instead the High Sea Fleet would attempt to break the blockade early on using all of their resources to achieve this goal, culminating in the Battle of Jutland (TTL, not OTL) on September 5th 1915. It ended in a German tactical victory, but failed to change the strategic situation at sea with the British blockade remaining intact. This, in turn, would bring the Germans to finally declare unrestricted submarine warfare. With both sides hindering American interests in Europe .Relations with both the entente and the Central Alliances began cooling quickly.
And now the TL starts on October 17th 1915 after Congress declares intent on remaining neutral in what they consider a European war, but promise that any agitation by either side will lead to a possible change in policy to protect American interests.
1915-1917 Stalemate and British Pressure
The battle of Jutland ended in a decisive German victory with 6 British dreadnoughts sunk along with close to 6,000 causulties. While the battle ended in this fashion, the British blockade remained and all German attempts to break it ended in failure leading to the HSF remaining in port until the end years of the war.
On October 17th, 1915 the American Congress and President Wilson held a special conference to determine how best to protect American interests. With the British now seizing all cargo ships heading for Germany and keeping the Cargo and the German U-boats haunting the waters around Britain, promising to attack all ships they consider legitimate Targets. Wilson and the Pro-entente members of Congress spoke in favor of supporting the entente more but much of the congress - as well as the population - still remained slightly sympathetic toward the Germans and were stout isolationists refused any attempts to aid British war efforts. At the end of the meeting no real progress had been made other then America must remain neutral but it must find some way to protect American interests abroad.
In an effort to antagonize the American public against Germany, the British government authorized several plans sway the U.S.A. , including using ships that were considered part of the royal navy but under civilian control to get the Germans to attack them such as the RMS Lusitania. These attempts would, however, fail as the Germans now weary of American intentions and hoping to keep at least cordial relations with them decide to pick targets wisely solely attacking military targets and scaring off merchant ships. This would only slightly harm the British war effort but it helped keep the American public largely neutral.
The water front remained silent apart from commerce raiding following the battle of Jutland. War on the continent raged on with the long trench lines setting into the winter of 1915. No real efforts during that winter were made to break the stalemate, but once spring arrived both sides prepared for new offences on the western front while the German forces continued to push deep into Russian Poland and lead the successful Gorlice-Tarnow offensive which saw the beginning of a slow but general Russian retreat from Galicia. Early 1916 efforts saw major efforts by the German-Austrian command to knock the Russians out of the war. but the line would pretty much the same as OTL except for a few counter offences that successfully retook parts of north Austro-Hungary back.
The Western Front would remain largely the same as OTL with the same battles playing out and Germans trying to break French forces at Verdun in August earlier then OTL but suffering massive casualties due to poor terrain and tactical decisions but the French would prove unable to take advantage of this and would suffer a defeat of their own soon after that. This was the only large German offence and across the rest of the line it would be a strictly defensive war which left thousands of French and Commonwealth forces dead across the no man's land.
The U.S.A. continued to maintain it's neutrality, instead focusing on domestic issues and the recent series of border incidents along the southern border with Mexico culminating in the American Invasion of north Mexico to remove Pancho Villa from the area, outrage across Mexico would lead to further tensions in North America and a slow build up of American forces in case a full scale war broke out in the south. Public favor for a full scale intervention in Mexico began to pique the interests of many southerners and some northerners alike to protect American interests and bring order to a revolutionary Mexico. Britain, also fearful of its interests, tried to get America to back off. This would increase friction in North America as Pro-isolationists and nationalists shouted loud anti-British rhetoric and demanded the government enforce Monroe Doctrine. However, attempts by the Germans to take advantage of this also led to strong anti-German sentiment by the press and the biased Wilson administration. America continued to ignore the European crisis and focus on the western hemisphere. The Preparedness Movement would continue to gain ground though it shifted from its original pro-British origins to an America First stance.
The Balkans and Italy remained a mess with the failed Serbian and Italian pushes into Austro-Hungary in 1916. Following that, the Austrians supported by Bulgarian and Ottoman forces began surrounding the Serbians and pushing into Serbian territory, but the Serbians successfully pulled out of the area and retreated into Greece where they would operate until later on. Romania entered the war soon after on the side of the allies and try to take Transylvania, but their campaign would swiftly collapse when joint central forces began pushing into Romania and occupying much of the southern areas. The Middle Eastern campaign continued as OTL but with some slightly smaller numbers on the French part due to greater a need for troops in France.
Nearing the end of 1916 the war was playing out very much close to OTL except that the British and Canadians began relocating some troops back to North America due to rising tensions with America. Mexican stability continued to deteriorate as the different factions fought for power, despite mass protests from the population the American government decided not to intervene due to the risk of British intervention. Meanwhile the increased tensions between the entente and the American government lead to more and more resistance by American banking institutions to renew loans to the allies specially as British and French collatoral was drying up.
In the Far East all of the Austro-Hungarian and German colonies and leases were seized by the Japanese and British forces.Germany's attempts to get Japan to join the Central Powers or, at least, sign a peace treaty were for nothing as the Japanese hoped to annex German colonies currently under their occupation. However during this time
China was dealing with the aftershock of the revolution and the collapse of a central government. Shikai's government had collapsed in January 1916. With the British absorbed in the conflict against Germany and the Central Powers, Japan attempted to enforce its 21 demands under the table by promoting internal strife and division within the military. This along with already tense relations would lead to greater anti-Japanese sentiment in China.
When the British efforts to get the U.S.A. into the war failed and with rising tensions, the U.K. looked toward Europe for support. Britain's approaches toward the neutral countries of Europe such as Sweden, Denmark and Netherlands, were met with polite refusal. Germany also approached these countries in an effort to open up trade to relieve the growing shortages in German and Austria-Hungary.
Entering the winter of 1916 another two battles would occur across the western front with a German victory at Ypres but soon having to fall back once British re-inforcements and the newly deployed tanks began arriving and another indecisive battle between France and Germany near Verdun ending with massive French casualties and the continued demoralization of the French army, leading to the start of some defections. With several breakthroughs on the eastern front Russian troops began falling back faster from all lines across the front, leaving the Romanians and Serbians to face the might of the Central Forces alone. Italy and Austro-Hungary continued fighting it out across the Eastern Alps which cost both sides dearly and due to Italian ill prepared forces left thousands dead, while Austrian-German forces slowly advanced into northern Italy.
1917-1919 Breakthroughs: Collapse on the Eastern Front, mass French desertions, America steps in
The war had been going on for well over two years now with no real progress on the western front, and the ill prepared eastern Entente falling to pieces as the German war machine slowly pushed east. Italy remained stuck in the Alps and The Ottoman Empire began showing cracks in the centuries old empire.
In the opening months of 1917 Russian forces would begin faltering faster as the German and Austro-Hungarian forces pushed toward their objectives, in February the Russian Revolution broke out with support from the Central Powers. The Imperial family was placed under house arrest and the Russian army began falling apart. Without American support for the allied war effort the already ill-prepared Russians faced large scale desertion and was plagued by low morale. the new provisional government unstable and unsure how to handle the current situation fell prey to a series of assassinations and revolts lead by the reactionary leaders and by the revolutionary Soviets based in Moscow and Petrograd, all the while the Germany continued their push into Slavic territory.
Without Russian support Romania folded and requested an armistice with the Central Powers a mere year after entering the war. Romania signed the treaty of Bucharest ceding land in the south to Bulgaria, control of the Carpathian mountains to Austria-Hungary and leased the Romanian oil fields to Germany for 99 years. The Central powers in return recognized Romania claims to Bessarabia.
Serbia would soon follow when Greece lead by a new de facto government requested entry on the side of Germany, King Constantine, a pro-German, organized and lead a coup that removed the pro-entente Prime Minister Eleftherios from power. Now an ally of Germany, Greek troops forced the remaining Serbian forces taking refuge on Greek soil to surrender and Serbia would signed a cease fire with the CP soon after, freeing up troops to fight on the other fronts.
Greek troops assaulted Italian possessions in the Balkans, occupying a few islands and forcing Italy to divert much needed forces from the Alps front. Serbia would remain under joint Austrian, and Bulgarian occupation as Greek and Bulgarian forces began sending troops to try to help the Ottomans - a nation they had previously fought at the beginning of the decade.
Despite the victories of the Central Powers in the Balkans and the rapid gains in Russia discontent began spreading throughout Eastern Europe as nationalism and anti-war riots began breaking out everywhere south of Vienna.
The fall of their Balkan allies brought greater loss of morale on the western front as it liberated more troops to head toward the Russian front and eventually to France. With the Germans now producing their own tanks (known as panzers in Germany) though of a different design. Attempts to breakthrough on both sides began once more as the Allies knew that once Russia fell it would be a lot harder to end the war against Germany.
Germany rejoicing their streak of victories across Europe hoped to finally bring an end to the war. All attempts were again met with nothing but artillery fire and machine guns mowing down lines of infantry bringing in greater casualties with no significant gains to show for it.
At sea the British Blockade held firm and the effects were beginning to show as German agricultural production couldn't keep up with the demand as more civilians were drafted into the army. Austria-Hungary was becoming increasingly unstable as ethnic violence grew along with left-wing protests.
Despite the best efforts of the German High Sea Fleet and the U-boats no progress could be made in breaking the blockade and both German and British navies continued to wreck havoc on trade in the region raising tensions with the USA and hindering Dutch trade with its colonies. In July 1917 the American Government after yet another inconclusive meeting continued to demand that both Germany and Britain cease their harassment of American trade. Anti-European sentiment was on the rise through out the States as stories of the brutality and the mass loss of life came pouring from Europe.
In September 1917 General Lavr Kornilov supported by the British and French, launched a coup using as a pretext supposed orders from provisional government to restore order to Petrograd. The coup proved a success Lavr managed to maintain the loyalty of most of the Russian forces in the Russian capital allowing him to organize a stable regime change within the city of Petrograd arresting most of the provisional government. Kornilov quickly gained the support of the the majority of the Imperial forces as one of the few successful generals in the army, along with the backing of conservatives, and reactionaries. Within days of the coup the Soviets launched a second rebellion across the country, sparking the bloody conflict later known as the Russian civil war. With civil war erupting in the empire, the Russian war effort completely collapsed and Central Forces began pushing deeper into the Russian empire pouring past the Baltics into Russia proper and into the Ukraine, without any other choice Lavr's Government was forced to retreat from Petrograd farther inland to handle operations.
With the rapid collapse of the Eastern Front the Communist forces centered in Moscow quickly set up a meeting with the Central Powers to agree on a ceasefire. The Russian Communists in a far more desperate situation then OTL and with the Russian forces in complete disarray, the Communists were forced to accept a humiliating treaty (same as OTL Brest-Litovsk) known as the treaty of Kiev. The Communists acknowledged the creation of a free Ukrainian state, the occupation of Russian Poland and the Baltics, where the Germans set up several puppet regimes. The allies and the White Army (anti-Communist forces) refused to accept the treaty, but without the capacity to deal with the German forces at the time Lavr simply discontinued fighting the Central Powers directly instead backing guerrilla and paramailitary groups so that he could focus on crushing the communist forces which represented the biggest threat to his government. With the start of the civil war the Finns declared Independence as the State of Finland. The state was recognized by Germany and its allies soon after with many Finnish nationalists had trained in Germany.
With an end to the fighting on the eastern front, the German high command began moving large numbers of troops west to get ready for a large spring offense against the remaining entente. French morale was at an all new low with the new troops heading west from the eastern front.The continued loss of life produced by failed offences under French leadership provoked several mutinies against the French commanding officers and refusal to participate in further assaults across the trench lines ultimately crippling French offensive capacities.
In March 1918 the German spring offence would begin, when German forces launched another series of attacks on Ypres and Verdun, both of which they managed to break through at the cost of massive losses of life which prevented further advances. Having lost Verdun after promising to not retreat under any circumstance, the mutinies across the French line increased. After these initial successes the French and British lines of defense stabilized, despite the breakthroughs made by German forces. The main reason for the strategic failure of the spring offensive was the weariness of German troops and the need to leave large amounts of troops in the east to help occupy the newly gained regions instead of providing greater manpower for the offense west.
Despite their victory in the East ethnic, and political violence soon broke out as paramilitary groups loyal either to local nationalists, or to Reds or Whites in Russia started fighting amongst themselves or against the German occupiers.
The Italian front was now even more dire then before as the Austro-German forces now advanced supported by troops coming from the eastern front. By August 1918 despite British support the Central Powers make their way through Northern Italy, occupying Lombardy and Venice. With their forces effectively out of commission and facing major discontent further south from rising violence lead by Communists and right wing nationalists, the liberal government capsized and asked for a ceasefire with the Central Powers. The Germans agreed as they wanted more troops freed up to help on the western front. In exchange for a cease fire on the Italian Front, Rome had to allow accept the Austro-German occupation of Venice.
With the defeat of entente powers across southern and eastern Europe of the Entente powers, French forces finally had enough and demanded that the government ask for a cease fire or the army would march on Paris itself leaving the country wide open for a German offense. Faced with pressure from the army and from the general population, the French finally agreed to a ceasefire with Germany and the Central Powers on November 14th, 1918 marking an end to the fighting on continental Europe.
With its last major ally out of the war Britain was now alone except for the distant Japanese though the great British fleet protected the homeland and held firm the blockade of the Northern Sea. The High Sea Fleet would attempt another breakout in the battle of North Sea, but it failed and soon after members of the navy would begin refusing to go out to sea to die. Germany despite its success and only fighting Britain now was on its last leg with mass hunger kicking in back home, and the national debt getting bigger with each passing day.
The Ottomans, unlike their allies, suffered major defeats at the hands of the British and the Arabs, finally agreeing to a cease fire in September 1918. and would swiftly fall into a civil war, when oppressed minorities began revolting against Istanbul and a young Turkish General Kemal began a revolt to create a Turkish republic.
America now having faced more then four years of interference in its trade with Europe and its investments coming into risk now demanded an end to the war and threatened to embargo both the U.K. and the German Empire. Threatening to use the American navy to cut the trade route between Britain, the colonies and Argentina its largest meat supplier. Acting on the advice of their military and civil advisors both Germany and Britain agreed to a ceasefire with accept American mediation Jan, 4th, 1919 marking the end of the Great War.
In Amsterdam all major belligerents except Russia (currently falling apart) and the Ottomans would meet to begin peace talks. The final Amsterdam Accords were signed establishing the following in a series of separate treaties with each of the defeated powers:
- The Recognition of German and Austrian-Hungarian interests in Eastern Europe. (not necessarily recognizing the treaty of Kiev).
- Germany must withdraw from Belgium and with no reperations due.
- Luxemburg joins the German Empire.
- Germany must withdraw from France but no reparations are to be enforced.
- France renounce all claims to Alsace-Lorraine.
- Germany cedes it's African colonies to the French and British respectively (OTL Colonial concessions)
- Germany cedes its Far East Territories to Japan and Britain (OTL changes to East Asia in the post war) with proper compensation to Germany.
- All efforts to blockade the German Empire are ceased.
- Italy suffers no territorial losses but is to be subject to continued Austrian occupation in the north for no longer then 15 years.
- Serbia and Russia are blamed for starting the war. Serbia is to be placed under the protection of Austro-Hungary (becoming a de facto Protectorate of Vienna).
- Serbian Macedonia is ceded to Bulgaria.
- The Blockade of the North Sea ends upon the signing of the Treaty and both Germany and Britain must pay for damages done to American trade.
- British and German interests in the middle east are to be respected (this effectively partitioned the ottoman empire into spheres of influence.)
- Bulgaria is restored to the Pre-Second Balkans War borders.
- The treaty of Bucharest is recognized by all belligerents and the U.S.A.
- Austria-Hungary will grant greater rights to its minorities within six years.
- Efforts to Create an international forum to preserve the peace should be undertaken to prevent further conflicts of a global scale.
The Amsterdam Accords were particularly harsh on the eastern European allies, who were considered by the Central Powers to have started the war. A status quo anti-bellum came into effect between the western powers with some minor changes. The Peace talks were largely lead by Britain, the USA, Japan, and Germany while Austro-Hungary, France, Italy and the Junior members of each alliance had little input in the peace talks. The German delegation tried to push forward a series of clauses which would have reduced France to a shell of its former glory, but this was blocked by the American and British delegations who wanted to continue to hold together the balance of power to some extent and put in check German power.
The final peace left lingering tensions among the former belligerents. It also laid down the foundations for both the League of Nations and for a future war unlike anything ever scene before. The Ottoman Empire which hadn't been present in the peace talks was greatly angered by the partitioning of their empire, but unable to do anything as Istanbul remained the only real stronghold of the Pasha's forces while the rest of the the former empire remained in chaos.
The Accords greatly reshaped eastern Europe as it left large swaths of land under German and Austro-Hungarian control and it laid the foundations for the Austro-Hungarian Civil War as the Austrian now incapable of sustaining their multicultural empire finally broke apart when Slavic and Hungarian rebels began rallying and fighting for independence after September 1919. Forced to aid their allies the reluctant German high command sent a large contingent to help their German brothers, sparking the start of the Eastern Crisis, a series of military interventions carried out by Germany, its allies and a reluctant Britain and USA to try and bring stability to Eastern Europe. Russia was now going into its second year of civil war was not allowed to attend the peace conference and the Reds and Whites continued to tear each other apart, leading to the former belligerents of the great war to intervene in the civil war leading to the integration of the Russian civil war into the greater Eastern Crisis along with the former Ottoman Empire.
The end of the war finally brought an end to American woes and American loans would help with the reconstruction of the shattered economies of Europe. This would help stimulate American business that had suffered for the better part of a decade. With the investments going into Europe a new period would begin for the USA and indeed for the rest of the world. The Great War served as a wake up call for Americans who realized they could no longer turn away from what happened in the rest of the World and that American interests needed to be protected at all costs. It would start by focusing across its southern border by securing its interests in South and Central America in the so called Banana Wars.