World War I

WORLD WAR I—1914-1918

One hundred years ago marked the end of World War I, also known as the First World War, the Great War, the War of the Nations, and the War to End All Wars.  WWI raged from August 1914 to the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918.  The Allied Powers, also known as the Entente, (led by Britain, Russia, France, Italy, and, later, the United States) defeated the Central Powers (led by Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire).  The war led to the collapse of four empires and a radical change in the global map.


Franz Ferdiand, c. 1914, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv Austria, Inventarnr-Public Domain

On 28 June 1914, in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand (heir to the Austrian-Hungary throne) and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot dead by a Serbian nationalist.  One month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, who was allied with the Russians.  Germany was an ally of Austria-Hungary while France was allied with Russia.


German forces invaded Belgium on 2 August 1914; which brought Great Britain into the war due to Belgian allegiance under the 1839 Treaty of London.  Japan quickly sided with England in the Pacific.  The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria entered the war aligned with the Central Powers; while Montenegro, Italy, Romania, Portugal, Hejaz, China, Greece, and Siam sided with the Allies.


Zimmerman Telegram, U.S. National Archives and Record Administration, Public Domain

In January 1917, British intelligence intercepted the Zimmerman Telegram; which was a secret communication sent from the German Foreign Secretary to the German Ambassador to Mexico.  Germany was trying to gain alliance with Mexico to enter the war against the United States; promising Mexico Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  Germany then sank 7 U.S. merchant ships which led to the U.S. declaring war in April 1917.


The German Empire had its military and resources stretched across the globe as they fought on 2 fronts.  After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the monarchy was replaced briefly by a republic until the Bolsheviks came to power.  The Russian Army faltered and the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918 followed by the surrender of Romania.  Germany then had nearly 50 Divisions available to join in hostilities on the Western Front.  Some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles occurred on the Western Front, but proved to be too much for Germany.


The German Spring Offensive of 1918 saw initial success, but was met by the Hundred Days Offensive wherein the Allies were able to push German forces back.  Bulgaria surrendered on 29 September 1918 followed by the Ottoman Empire on 30 October, and Austria-Hungary on 4 November.  To make matters worse for Germany, revolution at home resulted in the abdication and exile of Kaiser Wilhelm on 9 November.  Germany signed the armistice on 11 November 1918.


Allied Powers troop strength was around 42,959,850 soldiers and sailors with 18,356,500 KIA, WIA and MIA.  Civilian deaths were 4,000,000.

Central Powers troop strength was around 25,248,321 soldiers and sailors with 12,774,000 KIA, WIA and MIA.  Civilian deaths were 3,700,000.



Siege of Tsingtao, 1914

Battle of Ardennes, 1914

Battle of the Somme, 1916

Battle of Jutland, 1916

First Battle of Cambrai, 1917

Battle of Cantigny, 1918

Battle of Belleau Wood, 1918


Combat footage of WWI can be seen at:


Timeline of WWI in movies

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