- Published: September 5, 2022
- Updated: September 5, 2022
- Language: English
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The Great War began in 1914 when the Austria-Hungarians wanted to retaliate against Serbian aggression. The Germans, being allied with the Austrians, declared war on Serbia as well. However, the Serbians were allies with its protectorate Russia, who had a security pact with the French and British. Both the Russians and the French immediately declared war on Germany. The British in 1914 decided to wait and see if the Germans were going to attack its allied forces, before committing to war. The Germans understood that they were facing a two front war, and needed to mobilize in order to defeat one enemy rapidly. The Russians were primitive, so the German high command, decided that the Western Front would determine the outcome of the war. If the Germans defeated the Western forces, then they would be able to advance towards the East and end the war.
While the Germans where mobilizing, the French were doing the same, in an attempt to revenge the loss of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Across the ocean, the French allied British were in a naval arms race with Germany, to control the seas. Prior to the mobilization of 1914, the German armies were already preparing to invade France, under the Schlieffen plan. The Schlieffen plan introduced the idea of a German two front war. This plan admitted that the German population could not handle a two front war, so it had to destroy France in forty days. This roughly coincided with the time it would take Russia to mobilize. The Schlieffen plan called for a strong right wing to advance north to south, using the majority of the military force. The plan also called for invading the neutral territories of Belgium and the Netherlands (Keegan 31). When Schlieffen died in 1911, Helmuth von Moltke became the German Chief of Staff, and he changed the attack. Moltke weakened the right wing by moving troops to the Russian front and the German-French border. He also decided that the Germans should not invade the Netherlands, because they were not sure whether the British would join the war.
The French, not expecting a north to south invasion, planned a war according to the East-West scenario. Therefore, the French built fortresses, and left a forty-mile gap trying to entice the Germans to attack. After a German invasion, the French also planned to initiate, Plan 17. This called for an immediately attack into German territories.
The Western Front War began on August 3, 1914, due to the constant mobilization of troops. And on the following day, the Germans implemented the Schlieffen plan, starting with the invasion of Belgium. The British immediately declared war on Germany for invading an ally. This was the beginning of the Great War. The French attacked the Alasace-Lorraine after the war began, in an attempt to implement plan 17, but it failed due to German retaliation. This forced the French to retreat, and defend their nation against the War of the Frontier.
On the 14th of August, the French were forced to move their troops from the Eastern defenses, to the north, in order to combat German troops in the Adrennes. Key battles such as the Mons and the Charleroi on the 20th-23rd of August, forced the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to retreat near the channel, and battles on the 15th-21st, forced the French to retreat inland. Twenty days in, it seemed like the Germans were well under way to capturing their objective.
In an attempt to avoid defeat, the French and British pressured the Russians into attacking the Germans in East Prussia. This act, along with troop relocation to the French-German border, weakened the right hand just enough to create a gap between the first, and second German army. This allowed the BEF, and the French, to attack the German lines, in the Battle of Marne. This battle stopped the Germans from advancing, and caused Trench Warfare. The Germans decided that this war would not end rapidly, and tactically retreated, entrenching themselves on higher ground, while going on the defensive. The British and French forces decided that they would go on the offensive.
In 1915, the French and British decided to attack, but these initiatives proved to be fatal. The new artillery was defensive in nature, and punished all those who attacked. During the few times that the Germans attacked in 1915, such as in the Ypres, they were faced with devastation, and decided that their troops would be more useful in the East. The year of 1915 was a year of bloodshed, with little results for either side. The Germans learned how to combat trench warfare, and it seemed that no gains would be made for either side.
At the start of 1916, the Germans decide to go on the offensive. The 21st of February was the start of the longest battle in the West. The battle of Verdun. The Germans decide to attack the French stronghold in order to force the French into total war. The Germans used deadly gas in order to make this a war of attrition (Strachan 182). During the war, the French realized that they could not hold their positions much longer, and forced their allies to attack, and create other theaters of war. On July 1 1916, the British attacked the Somme. This battle was one of the bloodiest in history, and the British lost 57, 000 troops on the first day (Strachan 182). The Russians opened up a front in the east as well. These two invasions forced the Germans to re-allocate their military resources, thus relieving Verdun. At this point, with loss of life on all sides, the Germans and the Americans attempted to open peace talks, but neither the French nor the British would accept anything but victory.
At the end of 1917, political and military chaos occurred throughout the Western Empires. The French attempted to go on the offensive again in Nivelle, but faced extraordinary defeat. Also in July of 1917, the British attacked the Arras, and it ended in devastation. These two battles almost broke the British army, and caused the French to become defensive (Strachan 188). In 1917, the Germans instituted unrestricted submarine warfare, and sank neutral flagged ships. This was done in an attempt to starve the British Empire. This action angered the Americans, so on April 6 1917 the Americans declared war. At the end of 1917, the French were only defending, the British were reeling, and the Americans were starting to arrive in numbers.
Realizing that the Americans might turn the tide of the war in 1918, the Germanys decided to initiate their last great push. At first, the Germans were able to break through British and French lines, but the American moral, and lack of German supplies and organization, pushed the Germans back. This brought disgrace and disorganization into the German Nation, and ultimately an armistice was drafted. The war however, did not end just because of the German uncertainty, but because of a flu as well. This new flu was spreading into the trenches, and all the nations involved were sick of the increased number of deaths. The War officially ended on November 11 1918, at 11 am. And it ended four years of war, and four years of massacres.
Part I C:
In the year 1914, the Germans decided to attack Western Europe in order to conquer the French nation in 42 days. Then the Germans would shift their attention towards the East, where the Russians were advancing against their Austro-Hungarian counterparts. The first couple of days in the war, the German plans went as planned. But on the 26th of August 1914, the Russian forces surprised the Germans, by attacking at Tannenberg. With minimal German forces on the Eastern Front, the Germans had to weaken the right wing, and send troops to the region, in order to combat the Russian aggression. The German commander Prittwitz retreated and was relieved of duty. This placed Commander Hindenburg and Ludendorff in power. The Russians were sending two divisions at Eastern Prussia, and the German officials deduced that these Russian forces would not collaborate with each other. Therefore, the generals took a force less than that of the Russians, and attempted to encircle the second army, followed by catching the first in retreat. This battle plan worked, and allowed the Germans to garner a major victory in 1914 (Strachan 48). However, the Germans could not afford to celebrate this victory, due to Russian success in the south.
With the War in the West coming into the age of trench warfare, the Germans were able to attack in the East, due to the availability of troops in 1915. Noticing that the Austrians were struggling and loosing territories such as Galicia, the Germans launched the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive. This offensive united the German and Austrian troops, against Russia, in an attempt to push them out of the Southeast and Northeast regions. With this offensive, the Germans and Austria-Hungarians, conquered Poland, and sent the Russian army into full retreat. The Russians decided to retreat in order to recuperate their losses, and remobilize their troops. This allowed the Germans and the Austrians time to conquer Warsaw and Galicia. During this offensive, and the year, the Germans were able to advance to Poland and reach the outskirts of Western Russia (Keegan 232). This was possible due to the lack of Russians firepower, and the battle line being four times longer, than that on the Western Front. This allowed the Germans room to attack in specified locations, and weaken the Russian moral, and war ideology.
Noticing that the Russian armies were retreating, General Hindenburg asked Chief of the General Staff Falkynhein for more troops, so that he can encircle the Russian Northern Army, enter Russia, and end the war. Hindenburg was promised additional divisions, so that the war in the East would end. However, Falkynhein decided to keep his divisions in the West, and attempt to attack the Ypres, causing total disaster. By the time the troops started arriving in the East, the Russians realized their vulnerability, and were able to mobilize more troops. This ended the German hope of having the war in the East end, in the year 1915.
In the year 1916, with the French and British suffering at Verdun and the Somme. The Russians were forced to attack Lutsk in order to relieve pressure from the Western Front. The Russians in an attempt to knock the Austrians out of the war, found General Brusilov to launch the campaign after his name. Initially, the Russians penetrated into Austrian territory, and captured thousands of prisoners. This victory enticed the Romanians to enter the war and attack Transylvania, instead of defending their homeland. They were then pushed back by the Central Powers.
These offensives proved to be a fatal mistake for the allies. The Germans found these invasions as reasons why it should invade, and move its troops into the Southeast. They also captured the Romanian fertile land in the process, gaining oil and grain to feed its troops. With the initial loss, Brusilov was compelled by higher command to continue the attack, but this too was stopped, after an even greater loss. By the end of the Brusilov offensive in 1916, Russian lost close to one million men (Keegan 306). The Russian army also started disserting and mutinying. The reports of suffering and loss in the main country, also initiated revolts, and demonstrations against the war. The Russians could not mobilize enough war materials, due to the German blockade, forcing them to starve internally.
With Russia reeling from disastrous military losses, even though it greatly outnumbered its enemy troops, the Tsar was forced to flee the country in March. This was in part due to his disastrous ruling of the military and internal revolts. That same month, many soldiers started ignoring orders from their superiors, for fear of destruction, and lack of morals. Also in March, a provisional government headed by Kerensky formed. This provisional government decided to fulfill their promise of supporting their allies in the war against Germany. The Russians also were pushed to stay in the war by the British and French, due to the military destruction occurring in the West. Kerensky decided that he would send Brusilov into battle, once more. This decision brought the last major battle of the Eastern Front. In 1917, the Russians advanced into Austrian territory, claiming less land than in their first invasion, due to the strong German foothold in the region. The Germans then counter attacked the frail Russian troops, forcing them to retreat, and destruct. When the Russian population heard of the latest military failure, the people would have no more. Civil War erupted between the White Army and the Red Army. While this was occurring, the Germans continuously took territory from Russia, in order to gain the vital agricultural lands, which would help sustain the forces in the West.
On March 3, 1918, led by the new Bolsivik government, the Brest-Litovsk treaty was formed. This formally ended the War in the East, even though the last major fight occurred a calendar year prior. The Bolsiviks realized that the Tsar led his military into political disarray, and created internal revolts, and they could not continue a war, which caused so many deaths. This treaty allowed the Germans to retrieve many of their soldiers, who were held in captivity, and they were allowed to keep the territory they gained in the East. After the armistice, the Germans transferred their battle ready troops to the west, for a final battle.
Part II A: America and World War I:
In 1914, when the war was starting, the United States of America (US) immediately declared its neutrality. This allowed the Americans the ability to increase trade, and keep its isolationist policy. In addition, the Americans could not fight, due to its lack of military strength in 1914. However, when the British started a blockade against the Germans, it made it almost impossible for the Americans to trade with Germany. And in 1915, the Germans decided to deal with this blockade, by declaring unrestricted submarine warfare on all boats, which were deemed military accessible. President Wilson was appalled by this decision, since he feared that it put his citizens in harm’s way. So Wilson threatened to hold Germany accountable for any lives and trade products, which were destroyed. When the Lusitania was sunk on the 7th of May, the United States forced the Germans to end this tactic, or it would risk greater consequences implemented by US Forces.
After the Germans stopped using unrestricted warfare, the relations between the US and the war percipients returned to normalcy. President Wilson, believing in neutrality, and facing an election at home, attempted to mediate a peace agreement between all the parties involved. However, none of the actors of war where willing to engage in any agreements. In 1916, Wilson won the election in the United States, due to his policy of isolationism, and non-aggression. But less than a year later, Wilson was forced to reconsider his decision. In January of 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, and the United States ended all diplomatic relations with the German state. President Wilson hoped that the Germans would not attack merchant ships, so he protected his ships with military escorts. However, this threat did not deter the Germans. In February of that year, the British also sent the Americans a copy of the Zimmerman Telegram, in order to try to persuade the United States to enter the World War. When the American public found out about the telegram, their perspectives towards the Germans changed. And on the 2nd of April 1917, Wilson asked Congress for a Declaration of War. And on the sixth of that month, he received his wish. The United States was formally at war with Germany.
It would take the United States time to mobilize, and in June of 1917, the first troops would land in France. Even though the American troops did not play a major military role during the first months, they brought moral and fresh bodies, to a deflated German nation. The Americans also insisted that they would fight under their own command, bringing a sense of nationalism and mystery to the American army. By the fall of 1918, around 2 million American troops came into the war, and their participation in the battles, helped push the Germans into seeking an armistice, and set the stage the stage for the Treaty of Versailles (Strachan).
Part II B: Gallipoli:
In 1914, the Ottoman Empire decided to enter the war on the Germans side. This created problems for the allies, since the only legitimate connection between the West and the East was through the Bosporus. The British and the French realizing that the situation in Russia was getting desperate, decided to attack the Ottoman forces in Dardanelles, in order to free a passage of travel. In addition to relieving the embargo on Russia, the British forces hoped to attack Constantinople. Allowing them to knock the Ottomans out of the War, and have another access point in attacking the Germans.
In November of 1914, Winston Churchill planned a sea invasion of Dardanelles. He believed that the British held enough ancient ships to break through the Turkish blockade. He argued that these ships were too outdated to fight the Germans. And on the 20th of February 1915, the first attack on the Dardanelles had begun. The navy began bombarding Turkey’s artillery, and everyone was expecting a victory. On the 18th of March, the British attempted to advance through the Dardanelles narrowest point (1 mile wide). They believed that most of the Ottoman defenses had been wiped out, and there would be no mines placed below the river. However, the naval ships entered a trap, and the allies decided to retreat due to political pressure. Ten days earlier, the Turks had added mines to this region, and the allies did not notice (Keegan 239). This retreat increased the moral of Turkish troops, and it set the stage for a land invasion.
Sir Hamilton was in command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary force. And he organized troops from Australia, New Zealand, Brittan, and French colonies, in order to engage in this operation. There was a delay of four weeks between the naval attacks, and the invasion, so it allowed the Turks enough time to prepare their defenses. On the 25th of April, the invasion occurred. The British and French forces landed at various locations in Cape Helles (Keegan 241). The Turkish troops fought to their death, in order to protect their homeland. And the allied troops continuously advanced, but at heavy costs, and at minimal speeds, allowing the Turks to resupply their battle lines. When in August of 1915, the allies attempted their August push to take the high grounds; it stalled, due to the inability to resupply troops. This brought a debate over the future of the battle. Finally, the decision to leave was granted. And on January 9 1916, the last allied troops left Gallipoli. This victory gave the Turks renewed hopes for their war effort in the future.
Part II C: Italy in World War I: 1915-1918:
Prior to the war, Italy was in an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary. When the war began in 1914, Italy stood on the side waiting to see how the war progressed before they choose sides. When the allies approached Italy with promises of territorial gains, the Italians saw no other choice but to enter the war on the 23rd of May 1915. The Allies were happy, because it opened up a new front in the South. And the Italians were happy, because they would get land, which they believed was rightfully theirs.
The border region between the Austrians and the Italians was around 400 miles long. The terrain was mountainous, so it was hard to navigate troops throughout the region. Italy’s generals decided to attack at Isonzo in an attempt to break through, and go to Ljubljana, and eventually siege Vienna. But due to bad weather and terrain, the troops had to dig through frozen rocks making it harder to advance, while creating military stalemates. In 1915, there were four Isonzo battles, which caused the Italians thousands of casualties, and wounded. However, due to the surrounding terrain, no nation could take advantage of the others lose, creating a stalemate.
In 1916, the stalemate battle continued, and wars at Isonzo proved fruitless. By the end of the first two years, there were nine wars at Isonzo, and no remarkable achievement for either side occurred, except for heavy casualties. In 1917, the 11th battle of Isonzo was a success for the Italians, since they broke through the Austrian lines. But the Italian artillery could not keep up with its troops, so the Austrians regrouped, and push the Italians back (Keegan 346). When the Austrians were crumbling, the Germans were able to send troops in October of 1917, due to the Russian defeat. The Central Powers attacked Italy in upper Isonzo, and reached the Caporetto. The Austria-Hungarian forces had advanced, and crushed the Italian line. The Italians were able to stop the attack, but the overall cost of the war was greater than 600, 000 troops (Strachan 64). Big losses, and internal outcry, caused the army to lose much of its moral. One of the only thing that their troops fought for was the protection of their country. Both sides were dugged in, until the Austro-Hungarians were reinforced. And on the 24th of June, the Austrians attacked the Piave River. The Italians countered them, and the Central Powers were unable to sustain the war effort. Therefore, on October 24th, 1918, the Italians attacked Veneto in the final battle. And six days later, the Austrians surrendered. An armistice was signed on the 3rd of November 1918 (Keegan 416). And after that, Italy marched into the territories it perceived as its own. But after the war, the allies took most of them away, making the Italians personal loss harder to bear.
I chose the novel: The First Day on the Somme, by Martin Middlebrook as my outside reading book. This novel reviews and outlines the plans by the British and French forces while attacking the German trenches with an incompetent general, in the battle of Somme. Then this novel informs us of the ten British soldiers who share their war story, while they wait for their deaths in the trenches, located somewhere in no man’s land. This novel talks about how the British could have advanced on the right wing, but the general decided against it, since his objectives did not align with the field reports. The theme of this novel was to show that even though those in charge sent their troops to immediate death, they received financial rewards for their bravery. Symbolizing these deaths as warranted and necessary for the cause of the war. My response was simple. How could one consider loosing 57, 000 soldiers in one-day necessary for the benefit of any nation in this world? I was left in awe, but also in sadness. I could not stop pondering what could have been, if both nations acted differently. This novel shows the true horrors of war, which consumed the lives of many. The example that stood out to me the most was the vision of the two boys being shot by their own commanders for not going over the top (Middlebrook 221). It shows that World War One was not about the image of protection, but that of brutality and toughness.
This novel can compare to course materials due to the sheer numbers of deaths in the battlefield. This was the bloodiest battle, and the numbers compare statistically to the overall violence of the war. This novel can also compare to the course materials when referencing irrational actions taken by the generals. This was the case with many military leaders throughout this war. They were switched periodically, but were usually not held accountable to their military losses. Lastly, this novel compares to course materials by showing how slow war moves. The ambulances and medics were not available at the start of the Somme, so the injured would lie in the grass waiting. This symbolized the essence of the war, one that started in the trenches, and ended through patience, pain, and deaths, but not by the actions of the greater good.
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