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The First Great European War

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Europe19140413

The Western Powers are in Green. The Central Powers are in red.

The First Great European War

The First Great European War, also known as the War of 1914, was a conflict between some of the major European powers. The war lasted for two years, beginning on November 14th, 1914, and ending on August 23rd, 1916. It was the deadliest European conflict up until that point in history, with over twenty-five million casualties; fifteen million killed, and ten million wounded, missing, or captured. The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The consequences of the war were a direct cause of the next major European conflict, the Second Great European War.

Background

By the turn of the 20th century, a considerable amount of tension had built up on the European continent. The first major cause of tension was the creation of the country of Germany in 1871. Before unification, Germany had consisted of dozens of loosely-affiliated states. Under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck of Prussia, the German states unified and formed a nation. This new nation would soon be a source of grief in Europe. In 1898, Bismarck died, sending shock waves throughout the nation. In a scramble for power, a man named Friedrich Hienden became chancellor in a politically distraught Germany. Hienden believed it was Germany's role to take charge in Europe and create an everlasting German empire. Hienden spoke to citizens of a German dominated Europe and inspired nationalism. He began to build up the armed forces, refined German infrastructure, and created massive public works projects. He also began to seek allies in his quest for domination. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had begun to lose control within its own borders. Slavic nationalist movements threatened to tear apart the empire. In order to regain a hold on his power, Emperor Francis Hoven of Austria-Hungary appealed to Germany for help. Germany had become a major power in Europe since its unification and Hoven believed German interests were linked with Austrio-Hungarian ones. Hoven negotiated with Heinden and the two formed a mutual alliance. Hienden, now with Austro-Hungarian support, believed it was time for Germany to realize its birthright. 

On July 8th, 1914, Hienden ordered a German invasion of its northern neighbor Denmark. Denmark had very little military power and was an easy target for Hienden. German forces broke through Danish defenses and occupied the country in a matter of days. Denmark became a German territory and Hienden showed the world Germany's capabilities. Other European nations condemned this action. Norway, a close ally of Denmark, began to question whether or not it should declare war and liberate Denmark. However, Norway also had very little military power and felt it would be best to appeal to France or Great Britain for assistance. France and Great Britain had feared Germany since its creation and now knew Hienden's true intentions. However, neither nation declared war for they did not want to get in a direct conflict with Germany. However, this decision only encouraged Hienden. On November 13th, 1914, Hienden ordered a German assault on France.

Progress of the war

The European continent, which had experienced peace for nearly fifty years, had been plunged into war. German forces began to push through Belgium and Luxembourg to assault France. Belgium and Luxembourg declared war on Germany, followed by their ally, the Netherlands. Great Britain, an ally of Belgium, and France finally declared war on Germany. Britain began to mobilize its forces to liberate Belgium and defend France. Meanwhile, the French mobilized fast enough to meet the Germans at Cambrai. At the Battle of Cambrai, the French forces pushed back the German offensive, but just barely. The French were critically weakened after the battle and feared another German offensive. British forces began to pile into France as the Western Powers prepared for another offensive. The Germans began to plot another offensive, but this time, they appealed to Austria-Hungary for more manpower. Austria-Hungary was planning an invasion of the Balkans to acquire more territory, but knew its weak military could never accomplish the task without support. Austria-Hungary offered its forces in return for help in occupying the Balkans. Germany accepted the offer and the Central Powers readied for a huge assault on France.

The Central Powers began their combined offensive into Belgium. Belgium had been severely weakened after the first German offensive. Even with Dutch and Luxembourgian forces, their capabilities were no match for the Central Powers. While the offensive was stalled in the lowlands, the British and French prepared for an invasion of Denmark to liberate it and invade Germany from the north. At the Battle of Copenhagen, the Western Powers broke through the German defenses, liberated Denmark, and began to push into northern Germany. Now with the addition of Danish forces, the Western Powers prepared for an offensive.

After weeks of grueling battles, the Central Powers broke through the remaining Western Powers' lines. After pushing through Belgium, the Central Powers pushed into France while the Western Powers struggled to fight back. After much stalemate, a large faction of Austro-Hungarian forces made it to Verdun. However, a huge line of Western Powers' forces were already there. At the Battle of Verdun, the Central Powers were crushed by Western Powers. With a tactical victory, the Western Powers then switched to the offensive and began to push the Central Powers back. The Central Powers retreated into Belgium while the remaining Western Powers' forces pushed them back. The Western Powers formed a combined force and began an assault on western Germany. The Germans appealed to Austria-Hungary for extra forces. However, after the defeat at Verdun, Austria-Hungary had virtually no military power left. Germany, with no support from its ally, tried to hold back the offensive. The German defense finally broke at the Battle of Munich. The Western Powers swept through Germany after Munich and pushed to Berlin. However, before Berlin could be taken, Germany formally surrendered on August 20th, 1916. Austria-Hungary, with its military nearly obliterated, formally surrendered the following day. The war was over with the Western Powers emerging victorious.

Aftermath

On August 23rd, 1916, European leaders met in Paris to discuss a peace treaty. The Western Powers used this opportunity to weaken Germany as much as possible. The treaty officially blamed Germany for the war and demanded huge reparations. The treaty also ceded certain German lands to France. Large fortifications would be built along the German borders with Denmark and France. Germany's and Austria-Hungary's armed forces were downsized. Finally, the treaty established the Order of Europe, a diplomatic organization set in Paris to act as a peace keeper in Europe. Most major European powers had suffered extensive damages during the war, but Germany was devastated. The nation had lost huge amounts of money, land, and people. Hienden, fearing a government takeover, escaped to the Netherlands, where he would die in hiding. Despite the Treaty of Paris' attempts at peace after the war, the outcomes of the war ultimately set the stage for the next conflict in thrity years, which would be even more devastating.

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