World War I: Part 1
Today I will be talking about the first part of World War I. There were five main causes to WWI.
To understand the first cause we need to go back to the Congress of Vienna, held in 1815. It redrew the boundary lines that Napoleon had drawn to create his massive empire, however they were drawn to suit the rulers of Europe. So countries were being put together and pulled apart against their will, this made people come together to protect their individual cultures. So cause #1 of WWI was NATIONALISM.
Cause #2 of WWI was ECONOMIC COMPETITION, as nearly every country in Europe wished to be at the top of the global market in sales. And when the nations of Europe found themselves short of trade items they took from their colonies in Asia and Africa.
Cause #3 of WWI was THE FORMATION OF ALLIANCES. For example Germany and Austria-Hungary realized that if they agreed to an alliance they would stand a better chance taking on their rivals in the event of a war. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy formed an alliance called the Triple Alliance nicknamed the “Central Alliance”. France, Russia, and Great Britain formed an alliance called the Triple Entente, or the allies.
Although many of the nations formed alliances with each other, almost all of them didn’t trust each other. Nobody knew who to trust so cause #3 of WWI was SECRET DIPLOMACY.
Cause #5 of WWI was MILITARISM. Militarism had grown strong as weapons got more advanced. One German organization even stated that war is beautiful.
So Europe in 1914 was like a sitting keg of gunpowder, one match strike away from exploding. What set everything off was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. Had they survived they would have been next inline for the throne of Austria-Hungary. Ferdinand and Sophie were in a touring car on June 28, 1914, when a 17 year-old Bosnian student shot them. Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia, Russia mobilized it’s troops because it had financial interest in Serbia. Germany feared Russia’s involvement and declared war on Russia on August 1. And since France was in Alliance with Russia Germany declared war on France. Great Britain remained loyal to the Triple Entente and declared war on Germany on August 4. And before the year was over, battles were raging across three fronts. On the west side of Germany called the western front, the French and the British beat the Germans in the First Battle of the Marne in September. On the East side of Germany, or the eastern front Germany beat the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg in August. And on the southeast side of Germany also called the Mediterranean Front, the Germans secretly recruited the Ottoman Turks to join the Central Powers.
The great war grew even uglier in 1915. As the Germans introduces poison gas to the battlefield at the Second Battle of Ypres. Ypres was a city in Belgium, which was neutral to the war, however it was standing between Germany and France. Fought in April and May the battle ended in a stalemate. The Germans also began to use zeppelin, which were successful at dropping crossing the English channel at night and dropping bombs. However they were huge targets and were easily shot down. Moving to the sea the Germans used a U-boat to sink a British ocean liner named the Lusitania on May 7, 1915. Nealy 1,200 passengers died including 128 Americans. Italy decided that it would join the allies in 1915 and declared war on Austria-Hungary. Also joining the Allies in 1915 were the ANZAC forces (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) who quickly went to work with Great Britain creeping on Asia Minor. The reason the Allies were interested in Asia Minor was to help Russia gain access to the Mediterranean sea, since most of Russia’s ports are frozen for most of the year. At the point where the Sea of Marmara flows into the Aegean Sea there is a peninsula called the Gallipoli Peninsula. Many battles were fought over the strategically Dardanelles from 1915 to January of 1916, over which the Ottoman Turks ultimately won. Sadly many Christian Armenians were deported and killed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, to the degree that it has been called an act of Genocide. No matter what the title is approximately one million Armenians were killed.
Now for the events of 1916. Both sides of the war suffered unprecedented losses at the the Battle of Verdun, on the border of Belgium and France. In which the Germans were successful at assaulting the small city of Verdun with the use of artillery. However after six months of French retaliation, the Germans could push no further. The battle cry of the French was “Ils ne passeront pas!” which means “They shall not pass!” and they held true to it, at the cost of 540,000 souls. Early in the war, planes were used to spy on the enemy. However in short time both sides resorted to equipping their planes with guns. Each side had their own flying ace. The Germans had the Red Baron, Manfred Von Rishthofen. The British had Billy Bishop, and his famous flying foxes. Unfortunately since planes were very new WWI pilots were all rookies that had never flown. This lead to many casualties. Th year of 1916 also saw the infamous Battle of the Somme, fought between British troops under Sir Douglas Haig and Germans along the Somme river. This battle has been remembered as the worst conflict of WWI because 600,000 British men died to gain only 7 miles or territory. After the disaster at the Somme, WIlhelm II the kaiser of Germany fired his commanders and replaced them with Paul von Hindenburg. Hindenburg would lead the Germans through the rest of WWI along with his deputy Erich Ludendoroff. Most of the fighting was not fought in the open but in trenches, thus earning this nature of fighting the name of “trench warfare.” Germans first dug trenches after the Battle of the Marne to stake claim to their land and dodge enemy bullets. In response the allies dug their own trenches to say that “The battle stops here!” Conditions in the trenches were horrible and it made the troops weaker. However there is one heartwarming story in the trenches. It was Christmas Eve, 1914 and a group of Germans soldiers put down some tiny Christmas trees with tiny lights on them and began to sing Christmas Carols. With trenches only a football field apart it was easy to hear the soldiers in the other trench. So the Allied soldier sang a Carol of their own. And soon both sides were exchanging songs and applause. And on Christmas morning there were signs put up, one stated “YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT.” Soldiers exchanged gifts and shook hands and even started a game of soccer. This miraculous truce lasted until new years day. Adolf Hitler who was a corporal at the time sneered at the soldiers who were festive.