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The Great War
Transcript of The Great War
Introduction to the Great War
Hatred & Hunger
Most of the leaders in 1914 had no real idea of the war machine they were putting into motion -- many believed the War would be over by Christmas 1914.
By August 1914, millions of Europeans -- especially the military and diplomatic leaders of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia -- saw war as the only way to save their honor, as well as to solve the internal and international problems that needed to be resolved.
Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
The Outbreak of War: Summer 1914
As an ally of Serbia, Russia announces full mobilization of her armed forces.
Germany mobilizes her armed forces and declares war on Russia.
Germany declares war on France
Germany declares war on neutral Belgium and invades in a right flanking move designed to defeat France quickly. As a result of this invasion, Britain declares war on Germany.
Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia.
Czar Nicholas II
Emperor William II
From the very beginning, the war grew rapidly out of control -- new styles of warfare, like the use of gas and heavy artillery, produced new kinds of horror and unprecedented levels of suffering and death.
The German military plan was drawn up under the guidance of General Alfred von Schlieffen
strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east.
Russia would take at least 6 weeks to mobilize.
France would be easily defeated in 6 weeks.
Belgium would not resist any German attack.
Britain would remain neutral.
On 2nd August 1914, the German army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium according to the Schlieffen Plan -- were held up by the Belgium army.
Russia mobilized in just 10 days and Germany was forced to withdraw troops from the Schlieffen Plan to defend her eastern border.
Germany did not take the chance to take Paris, instead decided to attack east of the capital. They were met by French at the battle of the Marne (5-11 Sept) which halted the German advance.
the process of assembling troops and supplies and making them ready for war -- in 1914, mobilization was considered an act of war.
By early August 1914, all the great powers of Europe were at war.
From the very beginning, the war grew rapidly out of control.
New styles of warfare, like the use of gas and heavy artillery, produced new kinds of horror and unprecedented levels of suffering and death.
When the German invasion of France failed to take Paris or destroy French and British resistance on the river Marne -- stalemate quickly followed.
a line of trenches soon stretched along the war's Western Front from the Swiss Alps to the English Channel -- therefore, trenches became the symbol of stalemate
The first major trench lines were completed in late November 1914 -- at their peak, the trenches built by both sides extended nearly 400 miles from Nieuport, on the Belgian coast, to the Swiss border.
Among the Allies, the Belgians occupied 40 miles, the British occupied 90 miles and the French occupied the rest.
Experts calculate that along the western front, the Allies and Central Powers dug nearly 6,250 miles of trenches by the end of 1914.
Organization of the trenches
The Allies used four "types" of trenches.
The first, the front-line trench (or firing-and-attack trench), was located from 50 yards to 1 mile from the German's front trench.
Several hundred yards behind the front-line trench was the support trench, with men and supplies that could immediately assist those on the front line.
The reserve trench was dug several hundred yards further back and contained men and supplies that were available in emergencies should the first trenches be overrun.
Connecting these trenches were communication trenches, which allowed movement of messages, supplies, and men among the trenches. Some underground networks connected gun emplacements and bunkers with the communication trenches.
German trench life was much different -- they constructed elaborate and sophisticated tunnel and trench structures, sometimes with living quarters more than 50 feet below the surface.
These trenches had electricity, beds, toilets and other luxuries of life that contrasted sharply with the open-air trenches of the Allies.
On average, daily losses for the British soldiers were nearly 7,000 men killed, disabled or wounded.
To keep morale as high as possible and to keep the soldiers on the front as fresh as possible, the British established a three-week rotation schedule -- A week in the front trench was followed by a week in the support trench, which was followed by a week in the reserve trenches.
During this third week, the men could relax by writing letters. Letters were an important part of life as a soldier -- receiving and writing them helped keep them sane, and could take them away from the horrors of trench life.
A single pair of rats could produced up to 880 offspring in a year.
..."While in the trenches the water is over our knees most of the time. The war is going to last some time yet, and might be another twelve months before it is over. The war has only just begun and its going to be a war of exhaustion."
--Private H. F. Leppard
We have just come out of the trenches after being in for six days and up to our waists in water.
--Private Stanley Terry
The worst of these were the rodents: rats gorged themselves on human remains, and grew to massive sizes: some reported rats as big as domestic cats.
Most trenches were muddy, cold, and overall depressing -- many soldiers simply died from exposure to the cold, as the temperature within a trench was often below zero in the winter ... soldiers would lose fingers and toes to frostbite ... this submersion caused a terrible fungal infection called "Trench Foot."
Whenever possible, both sides filled this land with barbed wire to slow down any rapid advances by the enemy -- the machine gun and the new long-range rifles made movement in this area almost impossible.
"No Man's Land"
Both sides quickly recognized that assaults against the enemy trenches were suicide if begun in broad daylight, so attacks tended to take place just before dawn or right at dawn.
Poison gases tended to be more effective in the mornings, as the colder air and absence of wind allowed the gases to stay closer to the ground for longer periods of time.
In the Spring of 1915, the trenches along the Western Front were filled with millions of soldiers at the average rate of one soldier per four inches of trench.
The job behind the front lines was to keep the men fed, equipped and ready to continue the fighting until the end came.
The civilians behind the lines were as important to victory as the men on the lines. Because of their value to the war-making power of each nation, civilians became the target of the enemy.
Entry of the U.S.
The U.S. tried to remain neutral
but, as the war dragged on, this policy of neutrality became increasingly difficult.
The immediate cause of U.S. entry was an ongoing naval war between Germany and Great Britain -- the British blockaded Germany that kept war materials and other goods from reaching Germany by sea
Germany enforced its blockade with the use of unrestricted submarine warfare, which included the sinking of passenger liners.
The entry of the U.S. into the war not only gave the Triple Entente a psychological boost, but also brought them a major new source of money and war goods.
West African soldiers were shipped in from the colonies to fight in the trenches; brave Englishwomen traded other jobs for more dangerous jobs in weapons factories.
This total war effected the lives of many different people:
In some communities unprecedented casualty rates, especially of young officers, stripped young women of all their male contemporaries;
War Without End
In 1916, some of the most appalling battles in human history took place on the Western Front.
The Battle of Verdun became for the French what Gettysburg was for Americans. Verdun symbolized for the French the strength and fortitude of their armed forces and the solidarity of the entire nation.
The battle lasted nine months and in the end the front lines were nearly the same, while more than 300,000 French and Germans were killed and over 750,000 were wounded.
Russia was unprepared both militarily and technologically for the total war of World War I.
Russia had no competent military leaders -- Czar Nicholas II took personal charge of the armed forces despite his obvious lack of ability and training.
Russian industry was unable to produce the weapons needed for the army -- many soldiers even had to train with broomsticks rather than rifles.
Nicholas’s wife (Alexandra) had fallen under the influence of Rasputin.
Rasputin claimed to be a holy man, but in reality was an uneducated Serbian.
He was assassinated in December 1916 for interfering in government affairs.
March Revolution, 1917:
Strikes led by working-class women occurred because many could not even get bread.
March 10: Shutdown all factories in Petrograd (St. Petersburg)
March 12: The Duma met and urged the czar to step down.
March 15: Nicholas II stepped down ending 300 years of Romanov rule.
Alexander Kerensky decided to stay in the war.
The Rise of Lenin
Bolsheviks began as a small faction of a Marxist Party (Russian Social Democrats) -- led by Lenin.
Lenin called for a violent revolution because he believed that was the only way to destroy the capitalist system.
End the war
Redistribute all land to the peasants
Transfer government power to the Soviets
Three simple slogans summed up the Bolshevik program:
"Peace, Land, Bread"
"Worker Control of Production"
"All Power to the Soviets"
The odds looked badly for the Allies in 1918 -- with Russia knocked out of the war by revolution and the French army rocked by mutiny, Germany stopped the Allies' offensive on the Western Front.
In 1917, German U-boat attacks and German approaches to Mexico had provoked President Woodrow Wilson into a war he did not want to fight.
Once in it, however, he urged the United States to "make the world safe for Democracy" and by 1918, five million American men were in uniform.
The presence of American troops in France made a difference. The German army saw it could not win the war and thousands surrendered on the Western Front.
In October, the revolt of the German Navy triggered the final collapse of the German war effort -- the Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland.
The guns of the Great War finally fell silent on November 11, 1918.
Though the armistice was in effect, the Allies continued to wage war against Germany via a naval blockade and to pressure Germany into acquiescence at Versailles.
Woodrow Wilson arrived in Paris in December 1918 to negotiate the peace agreements, and to secure a new-world order, but he soon lost his fight for a more lenient, humane settlement.
President Wilson proposals, which are known as the "Fourteen Points," outlined measures for lasting peace throughout the world.
-- Focused on self-determination (right of all people to choose their government)
-- Get rid of secret alliances
Wilson wanted to create a world organization -- the League of Nations -- to prevent future wars.
The Treaty of Versailles, with Germany, was signed on June 28, 1919. It was the most important of the five separate treaties by the defeated nations -- Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey.
1. Germany had to accept the blame for starting the war
2. Germany had to pay £6,600 million (called Reparations) for the damage done during the war.
3. Germany was forbidden to have submarines or an air force. It could have a navy of only six battleships, and an Army of just 100,000 men.
4. Germany lost territory (land) in Europe. Germany’s colonies were given to Britain and France.
Power of governments increased.
Countries were ripe for revolutions/dictators.
The conditions in Europe set it up for WWII.
Construction of the Lusitania had begun in 1903 with the goal of building the fastest liner afloat.
The British had secretly subsidized her construction and she was built with specifications and the understanding that at the outbreak of war the ship would be consigned to government service.
As war clouds gathered in 1913, the Lusitania quietly entered dry dock in Liverpool and was fitted for war service ... this included the installation of ammunition magazines and gun mounts on her decks ... the mounts, concealed under the teak deck, were ready for the addition of the guns when needed.
On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool.
Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort.
On May 7, the ship neared the coast of Ireland. At 2:10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U 20 slammed into her side.
The ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water.
Most passengers never had a chance ... within 18 minutes the giant ship slipped beneath the sea.
1,119 of the 1,924 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.
The sinking enraged American public opinion.
The political fallout was immediate ... President Wilson protested strongly to the Germans -- Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a pacifist, resigned.
In September, the Germans announced that passenger ships would be sunk only with prior warning and appropriate safeguards for passengers. However, the seeds of American animosity towards Germany were sown. Within two years America declared war.
In 1916 Woodrow Wilson was elected President for a second term, largely because of the slogan "He kept us out of war."
Events in early 1917 would change that hope...
In January of 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmermann, to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause.
The American Press published news of the telegram on March 1 -- on April 6, 1917, the United States Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies.
Instead of the open-door deliberations he had promised, the negotiations took place behind closed doors. Wilson got the League of Nations he desperately wanted, but paid the price of a harsh peace to get it.