“The War to End All Wars”
• Before the outbreak of World War I in
1914, the general outlook for the future
by most Europeans were highly
optimistic with material progress
expected to create an “earthly paradise.”
• The First World War
would not only kill
millions of human
beings, it would also
destroy one of the
basic intellectual
precepts upon which
Western Civilization
had been founded -the belief in progress.
The Road to
World War I
• The rise of
nationalism did not
give rise to the
fraternity of the 19th
Deutschland Uber Alles
• It led instead to
and rivalry over
colonial claims
and commercial
The Alliance System
• The division of Europe’s great powers into two
loose alliances (Germany, Austria and Italy vs.
France, Russia and Great Britain) added to the
• The crises at the turn of
the century taught the
lesson that those powers
exercising restraint in
order to avoid war were
humiliated and those
that went to the brink of
war won international
Ethnic Minorities
• Ethnic Slavs in the
Balkans, Poles in
Russia and the Irish
in Great Britain all
dreamed of having
their own national
Socialist Unrest
• Socialist labor
increasingly relied
on violent strikes
to gain worker’s
• Some historians have argued
that conservatives, fearing
socialist revolution, sought to
use war to “smother internal
• Massive military
build up increased
tension and
guaranteed that if
war came it would
be incredibly
• Universal
conscription had
become the norm in
Europe by 1914.
• Great Britain was
the exception.
• European
armies had
doubled in size
between 1890
and 1914.
Comparative figures on army
increase, 1870-1914:
• Most European armies were made up of
rural peasants, since most urban workingclass males could not pass the physical.
• Many German generals did not trust the
loyalty of the urban youth.
Mobilization and Planning
• Modern European
armies followed the
Prussian model of
complex mobilization
and strategic planning
involving timetables
and railroad
deployment of troops
and supplies.
To move one German army corps (or just 2.5% of the German Army)
it took this many railway cars :
Officers 170 cars
Infantry 965 cars
Cavalry 2960 cars
Artillery 1915 cars
... in 140 trains
Average train length 42 cars.
• These plans lacked flexibility and
And it took the same number of cars
forced diplomats
- aboutand
6000 -political
of their supplies.
based on
the fixed programs of the military.
“War is too important a
matter to be left to the
–Georges Clemenceau.
The Outbreak
of War
The Summer of 1914
• The Balkan Crises
between 1908 and
1913 had increased
tensions in the region.
• The desire of the
Serbs to create a
“Greater Serbia” was
opposed by Austria
but encouraged by
The Assassination
• On June 28, 1914, the heir to the Austrian
throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his
wife Sophia, were assassinated in Sarajevo by
Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Serbian
nationalist group the Black Hand.
The Funeral of Franz Ferdinand
• The Austrian government was not
certain that the Serbian
government was directly involved
but it wanted revenge and a war to
destroy the Serbian kingdom.
“The Blank Check”
• Fear of Russian
intervention led
the Austrians to
seek the
support of the
German Kaiser.
• William II responded
with the infamous
“blank check” –
Germany would fight
Russia to aid Austria
in its war.
The Ultimatum
• Austria then gave
demands to Serbia
that were so extreme
that Serbia had to
reject them.
• Austria then
declared war on
Serbia on July 23.
Serbian Army during its
retreat towards Albania
Russian Reaction
• On July 28,
Russia ordered
mobilization of
its troops against
• The Russian General
Staff informed the
Tsar that a partial
mobilization was not
possible it was either
Germany and Austria
or nothing.
More Ultimatums
• Germany then gave
an ultimatum to
Russia to halt their
mobilization or face
• Russia ignored the
demands and
Germany declared
war on Russia on
August 1st.
The Schlieffen Plan
• Following the
establishment of the
entente, the German
chief of staff Alfred
von Schlieffen had
created a plan of
attack based on a two
front war.
• The Schlieffen Plan called for a limited
mobilization against Russia to fight a
defensive holding action while the bulk of
German troops would be sent against
• In order to by-pass the
French defensives along
the Alsatian border, the
plan called for a flanking
maneuver through neutral
Belgium and then
southward to envelop
Paris and the French
• After the planned
quick defeat of
the French, the
German Army
would re-deploy
to defeat the
• Germany could
not mobilize
against Russia
only and
therefore had to
declare war on
France as well.
Belgian Neutrality
• Belgium had been
neutrality by the
major European
powers, including
Great Britain.
Another Ultimatum
• Germany issued
an ultimatum to
the Belgians to
allow its troops to
cross through the
country –
Belgium refused.
Declarations of War
• Germany declared war
on France on August
3rd and crossed into
• Britain declared war
on Germany August
The Great
Illusions of the Times
• Economists had written
before the war that economic
conditions made a great war
unlikely and if it occurred it
would be brief.
• Many political pundits
believed that “rational”
diplomats would prevail and
control the situation making
war unlikely or at least shortlived.
• Government propaganda had
stirred up national feelings
and now played on those
feelings to stir up a war fever.
• Even many socialists and
labor leaders rose to join
the cause in the country’s
campaign for justice and
“Over by Christmas”
• Most believed the war
would only last a few
• Hadn’t all the other wars
since the age of Napoleon
been over quickly?
Wars of Nationalism
• The Europeans failed
to recognize that the
real prototype for the
modern war of
nationalism was the
American Civil War –
four years, 364,000
• Many also believed that the sheer
cost of the modern mechanized
war would not allow for a
sustained effort.
The Glorious Adventure
• Many young
people saw the
war as a great
adventure – a
chance to escape
their boring
bourgeois lives.
The Great Redemption
• Others saw the
war as a chance to
bring their nations
together through
heroism and
• “The lamps are going out all over
Europe, we shall not see them lit again
in our lifetimes.”
- Sir Edward Grey
The Schlieffen Plan in Action
• The German plan for
success relied on
speed and mobility.
• Hundreds of
thousands of troops
crossed the Belgian
border and in four
weeks reached the
Marne River outside
of Paris.
British Expeditionary Force
• The Germans had
not counted on the
speed at which the
British were able
to mobilize and
bring troops across
the Channel.
The First Battle of the Marne
• The British and
French troops, under
French General
Joseph Joffre,
stopped the German
advance at the Marne
on September 6-10.
• The Germans were
forced to retreat but
the allies were
unable to pursue.
• The war
immediately broke
into a stalemate as
both sides dug
Trench Warfare
• The trenches would soon
stretch from Switzerland to
the English Channel – the
front line would hardly move
for four years.
The Eastern Front
• The Russians began the war
with a major offensive into
German territory in the north.
• Their advance was halted at the
Battles of Tannenberg (August
30) and Lake Masurian
(September 15).
• These battles
established the
reputations of the
German generals
Paul von
Hindenburg and
Erich Ludendorff.
• The Russians were
effectively knocked out of
the war.
The Austrian War
• The Austrians were initially
defeated by the Russians in
Galicia and by the Serbians.
• Germany eventually came to
their aid in defeating the Serbs
and pushing the Russians back
300 miles.
• The Russians
lost 2.5
million men
-- either
wounded or
The Italians
• The Italians in the
mean time had
switched sides and
launched an attack
against their old
enemy the
• The Italian front
also became a
stalemate of trench
The Great
1916 –1917
The Trenches
• The Western Front
became an elaborate
system of
breastworks and
trenches, protected by
barbed wire,
machinegun nests and
artillery batteries.
"Trenches full of liquid mud. Smelt horribly. Full of dead
Frenchmen too bad to touch. Men quite nauseated."
No Man’s Land
• The opposing forces
were separated by
open fields of bombed
out craters and
destroyed villages,
across which the
troops would launch
suicidal bayonet
No Man’s Land
“Over the Top”
• Pressure was constantly put on the
generals to break through and bring
about a victory.
• The breakthrough was believed
possible if enough fire power could be
brought to bear to “soften up” the lines
and then mass enough troops to charge
the enemies lines.
• The machine guns doomed
the charges to failure millions of men lost their
lives trying to gain a few
miles of territory.
The Battle of Verdun
• The Germans launched an attack at the
French town of Verdun in February of
• The initial
advances were
soon halted by
the French
General HenriPhilippe Petain.
• Unprecedented bombardment,
aerial dogfights and the use of
poison gas took the lives of over
700,000 men in ten months of
War in the Air
men in their
"[It] climbed like a monkey and
maneuvered like the devil."
Manfred von Richthofen
The Price of
The Blue Max
The Battle of the Somme
• In order to take
pressure of the
French at Verdun,
the British
launched an attack
to the west at the
Somme River.
• The Germans were forced to move
troops to counter this attack.
The British suffered
420,000 casualties.
The French lost
nearly 200,000 and
it is estimated that
German casualties
were in the region
of 500,000.
• The outcomes of these battles
were indecisive, with neither
side gaining nor losing territory.
Life in the Trenches
• For men in the
trenches it was a life
of long days of
boredom followed
by days of pure
terror and living hell.
• During combat the men in the trenches
lived with constant bombardment, the
threat or reality of mustard gas, the
corpses of the fallen and the rats that fed
on them.
• The only relief from the
mud and the terror of the
trench was the suicide
that came with the order
to “fix bayonets.”
• As soldiers on both sides
realized that no one could gain
an advantage in trench warfare
daily life for the soldier became
increasingly squalid,
regimented, and miserable in
the filthy, rat-infested, and liceridden trenches.
“live and let live”
• Men on both sides developed a
“live and let live” policy that let
men go about their daily lives in
some safety.
• Men produced humorous
magazines and sang soldiers
• The Germans sang “The Watch
on the Rhine.”
• The Americans would sing
“Over There.”
Johnnie, get your gun, get
your gun, get your gun,
Take it on the run, on the run,
on the run,
Hear them calling you and
me, ev'ry son of liberty
Hurry right away, no delay, go
Make your Daddy glad to
have had such a lad,
Tell your sweetheart not to
pine, to be proud her boy's in
The Widening of the War
• The British, in an attempt to attack
the Ottoman Empire, attempted a
landing at Gallipoli on the
• The Bulgarians joined the war on the
side of the Central Powers and
brought the Gallipoli campaign to an
The Landing at Gallipoli
“Your news is indeed serious.
But there is nothing for it but
to dig yourselves right in and
stick it out. You have got
through the difficult business,
now you have only to dig, dig,
dig, until you are safe."
Lawrence of Arabia
• A British officer
named T.E. Lawrence
incited the Arabs
tribes to rally behind
Prince Faisel and
attack the Ottoman
Prince Faisel
"All men dream: but not
equally. Those who
dream by night in the
dusty recesses of their
minds wake in the day to
find that it was vanity: but
the dreamers of the day
are dangerous men, for
they may act their dream
with open eyes, to make
it possible."
- The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
"A skittish motor-bike with a
touch of blood in it is better than
all the riding animals on Earth."
--T.E. Lawrence
• The British were able to
move from Cairo in
Egypt to take Jerusalem
and Damascus in the
Middle East.
The War at Sea
• The British and the German navies
fought only one major naval
engagement during the war – the
Battle of Jutland.
• While the Germans outmaneuvered the British and lost
less ships, the British ended up
blockading the North Sea.
The German U-Boat
• The Germans retaliated by
imposing a counter-blockade
of England using unrestricted
submarine warfare.
Freedom of the Seas
• While the US tried to remain
neutral in the war, the use of
submarines to sink unarmed
passenger ships outraged the
Americans and violated President
Wilson’s call for “Freedom of the
The Sinking of the
• On May 7, 1915, a German UBoat torpedoed and sank the
British passenger ship the
• 100 Americans were killed.
RMS Lusitania
• The protests over this
incident and the sinking
of other passenger liners
led the Germans to pledge
not to use unrestricted
submarine warfare.
Breaking the Pledge
• Eager to break the
deadlock of the Western
Front, the Germans
resumed the use of
submarines in January of
• The Germans were
willing to gamble that the
British would be starved
out of the war before the
US would respond.
The Zimmerman Note
• An intercepted note from the
German Foreign Minister to
the Mexican government
called on the Mexicans to
join the war and regain their
lost territories from the US.
The US Joins the War
• The note caused
outrage in
America and led
to Wilson seeking
a declaration of
• The US declared
war on Germany
April 6, 1917.
General John “Blackjack” Pershing
The War in 1917
• The US would not arrive
in great numbers until
1918, in 1917 the war was
not going well for the
Ypres -Winter 1917
• The Italians were smashed
in October and in
November the Bolshevik
Revolution took Russia out
of the war.
The Home Front
Total War
• European
gradually took full
control of all
aspects of their
• Millions of people
were mobilized to
fight or work.
• This led to increased
centralization of the
government and the
widespread use of
propaganda to
manipulate public
• As public morale
and support for the
war ebbed police
powers were
widely expanded
to include the
arrest of all
dissenters as
traitors to the state.
• Internal opposition to the war
came largely from liberals
and socialists appalled by the
scale of human slaughter and
the terrible costs of rampant
nationalism and militarism.
Women in the War
• Many women
went to work in
the factories to
replace the men
sent to the
• Expectations for
women during the
war were that
they would return
to their "normal"
lives when the
war ended.
• These women
workers played an
important role in
winning women
the right to vote
following the war.
Death - the Great Leveler
• Death rates at the front in
World War One were high
for all soldiers regardless of
their prior social status, but
mortality was especially
great among junior officers
drawn largely from the
nobility and the unskilled
laborers and peasants
comprising the mass of
infantry troops.
• The fortunate ones
were the skilled and
highly skilled
workers that were
exempted from going
to battle.
• The new British Prime
Minister David Lloyd
George was misguided
in his optimism that
the war was ending
class conflicts through
the common hardship
and loss of war.
• By the end of the war it
was very apparent that
not all classes had
suffered equally during
the war -- large
industrialists, especially
owners of factories
making weapons and
munitions did very well.
Krups Factory in Germany
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

chapter 25 - The Road to World War I