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|The Great War|
Clockwise from top: Trenches on the Western Front; a French tank crossing a trench; a father with his child wave the French flag after the Battle of Sponheim; British ships preparing to invade Normandy; and French colonial soldiers preparing for battle with Prussian armies.
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The Great War, originally known as the War to End All Wars, was a major international war centered in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 9 December 1917. It involved all the world's great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Entente (based on the Triple Entente of France, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire) and the Allies (based on the Triple Alliance of the United Kingdom, Prussia and Russia).
The war is almost unanimously said to have begun with the Attack on the Imperial Council in Vienna, Austria, by Yugoslav nationalists who had lived in Bosnia. Several delegates were wounded, two Christian-Socialists were killed, along with the heir presumptive Franz Ferdinand. Austria blamed Serbia for the attacks, and after an ultimatum, declared war. The Ottoman Empire and France soon joined on the side of Austria. Russia soon joined to aid Serbia, a Slavic ally, and the Triple Alliance followed suit. Contesting alliances and imperialism around the globe also brought the war to the Far East, Africa, and North America.
After several years of war, an armistice was signed that gave victory to the Entente powers. The war was unique in that conflict between nations and conflict within nations itself ultimately led to the demise of several empires on both sides of the war, including the Prussian, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires. The treaty recognized the ends of these empires, as well as the land transfers associated with the victories (and losses) of the Entente powers. To ensure another major war would be avoided, the Concert of Nations was created. The war was one of the most deadly and costly wars in history, and effectively settled major issues and tensions brought on since the French Revolution.
The causes of the war's origins can effectively be traced back to the late 1700s during the French Revolution, in which France had dominated several European lands and claimed several as client states (sometimes called puppet states). The revolution had greatly affected the balance of power in Europe, and little could be done about it; France was considered one if not the largest European powers.
France had taken everything west of the Rhine and had placed influence throughout the lands of Europe. Its only ally was the Ottoman Empire, which had faced slow decline over the ages. Prussia and Great Britain had continued their alliance since the Seven Years' War while Austria and Russia had allied each other. Austria had previously allied France until the revolution after repeated attacks from republicans.
With the decline of the Ottoman Empire, nations tried to establish partitions of the country when it would effectively fall. France had tried her best to aid the declining nation, effectively helping win the Crimean War and the Balkan War, however independence wars were always successful. The tension between the Balkan states, who would usually feel oppressed by the Ottoman Empire, contributed to WWI.
Alliances that had begun to strongly emerge since the French revolution had begun to dwindle by the mid-19th century. The Crimean War between the Russian coalition and the Ottoman coalition showed the weakness of the Austro-Russian alliance, due to fear of aggression and differences of interest in policies (mainly the Balkan Question. When the Prussian War arrived in the 1850s, Austria was left to fight Prussia to finally decide who is the principal nation to govern the collapsing Holy Roman Empire. The French soon joined, wanting to preserve their own influence in the eastern Holy Roman Empire that was gained during the Revolutions of 1836. The coalition of France and Austria beat Prussia and had rendered a concept of unifying the German states useless. By the end of the war, Austria had joined the Franco-Ottoman Alliance, and the three became the Triple Entente.
Due to the defeat of the Prussians in the aggression war, Prussia and Britain became threatened of France's influence in Europe and Africa. As a result, imperialism had became a rampant tool to increase influence in the world and challenge France's power. Prussia had quickly begun creating colonial possessions in Africa and the Pacific Ocean, thereby growing an empire along with gaining economic wealth. However, the colonial borders in Africa had not been monitored closely, and Prussian and British claims were in direct conflict with France's claims.
- Main article: Pacific War
The Pacific War was the first war of the 20th century, and prior to WWI, one of the deadliest. The Pacific War was mainly situated in the Pacific Ocean, and little to no fighting had occurred in Europe. It was originally between the Chinese-Russian alliance to rid Manchukuo of Japanese influence. Eventually, France became involved, followed by Britain and Prussia, and was later mentioned by historians that a full-out world war was prevented due to the quick thinking of the attacks on Canadian Hawaii in order to have the British step down.
The war is notable for expressing the disastrous affects of having two rival alliances, and while the main objective for the war was in favour of the Russian-Chinese, there were many lasting tensions between the Triple Alliance and the Japanese-French alliance, and the Triple Entente by extension.
Attacks on the Imperial Council
- Main article: Attack on the Imperial Council
On 22 June 1914, a group of Yugoslav nationalists living in the Austrian territory of Bosnia entered the city of Vienna, carrying guns and explosives with them. They had arrived that the Imperial Council, and immediately began shooting at the building, through windows, and rushed into the building, shooting dozens of delegates and killing Franz Ferdinand. The assassins were captured, trialed and soon executed, however the word of the attacks were sent to the Serbian government. The assassination had outraged the Austrian people and had demanded something be done about the Serbians. An ultimatum was issued, ordering several harsh demands be done. Austria-Hungary is said to have made the demands harsh enough for Serbia to deny them in order to have a cause to declare war. And while the Triple Alliance (made up of Prussia, United Kingdom and Russia) highly recommended the terms be met, the Serbians disagreed, and war was declared a month later on 22 July 1914.
Course of the war
Declarations of war
The war officially began with the warfare between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. Austria immediately began sending troops into the nation, anticipating a swift victory over the rebellious nation. Soon after, Russia declared war on Austria to defend Serbia, a Slavic ally. Prussia was asked by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia to join them as well, but remained neutral. Russia had sent troops to Serbia to defend the land, and the Russians had attacked West Galicia, effectively starting the Eastern Front.
By September of 1914, France (as well as her client republics) had joined Austria in war against Russia, and troops were immediately sent to defend Galicia. Being obligated by the terms of the Triple Alliance, Prussia declared war on France and began sending troops to attack Galicia and sent troops to attack France. Britain also followed suit and declared war on both France and Austria. While the reason for war wasn't clear, historians argue that the war against war was to finally rid France of her influential power and establish the great powers in Europe. One month later, the Ottoman Empire agreed to aid Austria and France in war, thanks in part to France.
- Main article: African Campaigns (World War I)
Less than a week after the Ottoman declaration of war, troops in African colonies began mobilizing to attack. Ottoman and French troops had gathered to invade major English colonies, including Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and British Congo. France and Prussian colonies, including Prussian Kamerun and Togoland, had begun assaults, and had continued until the war was over.
- Main article: Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern front was largely between Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (with some assistance from France) against Prussia, Russia and later Romania. Initial Russian plans called for attacks into West Galicia. Although Russia's initial advance into Galicia was largely successful, it was driven back from Austrian and French-backed troops in August and September 1914. Russia's less developed industrial base and ineffective military leadership was instrumental in the events that unfolded. By the spring of 1915, the Russians had swept into Galicia, and in May the Entente achieved a remarkable breakthrough in having Russians retreat back into modern-day Belarus.
By June of the same year, the French and Austrians had used most of their soldiers to invade Prussia, both from the west and through the south. Through a secret treaty, the French and Austrians had pledged to assist Polish peoples in a revolution brewing in Prussia. They agreed that Polish revolutionaries would attack Prussian lands along with them. On 5 August, a joint French-Austrian invasion successfully captured Warsaw from Prussia and forced Prussians to retreat.
- Main article: Serbian Campaign (World War I)
After a meeting with the leaders of the Entente, Austria devised a plan for her and Ottoman Macedonia to swiftly defeat Serbia. In September of 1914, the plan had been carried out. Approximately 100,000 Austrian and 70,000 Ottoman troops had invaded Serbian lands from the north and south. The invasion had done a considerable amount of damage on Serbia, despite facing some losses against Russian assistance.
After the Russian declaration of war, many troops were forced to leave the Serbian fronts and were relocated to West Galicia to defend Austrian lands. However, Serbia’s defeat of the Austro-Hungarian invasion of 1914 counts among the major upset victories of the last century.
- Main article: Balkans Campaign (World War I)
While Serbia had endured several blows from the Austrians and Ottomans, the Balkan League wouldn't let the Entente defeat her. The Balkan League was a military alliance between Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro, mostly against the Ottoman Empire, which still controlled much of the Balkan peninsula. By the end of August, the Balkan League, except for Greece, had declared war on Austria and the Ottoman Empire.
- Main article: Italian Front (World War I)
The Italian Front had began in 1915, with opening hostilities between Sardinia and France. The two nations had gained tension after the several Italian Rebellions throughout the 19th century, and the Sardinian government had finally wanted to unite the Italian states into one kingdom. However, this interfered with France's republicanism as well as the French client republics in the peninsula.
As France and Sardinia began fighting, Sardinia began to look to the other Italian nations for backup. By March of 1915, the Kingdom of Naples also declared war on France, with the aim to conquer the French client republics and finally unify Italy. However, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany had remained neutral, facing both war fatigue and little ready troops. France's client republics in the Italian peninsula, Cisalpine and the Roman Republic (also known as the Papal States), declared war on both Sardinia and the Naples the same month.
The war front revolved heavily around Sardinia and France. The French government realized that Sardinia was France's greatest threat in the area. Sardinia, meanwhile, wanted to conquer the French client states swiftly in order to force France into signing an armistice. Troops had met at the Sardinian-Cisalpine border, with a total of 150,000 French troops (along with several hundred reinforcement from Austria) against approximately 90,000 Sardinian ones.
Entry of the United States
The United States had been neutral since the beginning of the war, while trying to broker a peace. However, several factors later influenced president Woodrow Wilson to declare war on the Allies. Ever since the Lower Canada Rebellion and the American Civil War, the Americans and the British had faced tension politically. Reasons for this included conflict of interest in the Americas, naval power, relations with France, and the supposed British support for the Confederate States (which was contested). As well, British and Prussian naval ships, among them submarines, had began a blockade of French ships to North America starting in September 1916. Along with that, mostly Prussian submarines had begun attacking all commercial and military ships headed toward France, some of which were American.
- Main article: Canadian Campaign