Great War


Great War Essay, Research Paper

The Great War


Kevin Kilkenny

World War I was from 1914 to 1918 it started out as a local European war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia on July 28, 1914, but then became European war when the declaration of war against Russia on August 1, 1914 and eventually became a global war involving 32 nations. 28 of these nations were Allies and the Associated Powers and including Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and the United States. The Central Powers consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria. It would prove to have many great effects.

The immediate cause of the war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was the assassination on June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo in Bosnia part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of Archduke Francis Ferdinand heir to the Austrian and Hungarian thrones his wife and unborn child on their way to visit a hospital. Their assassin was Gavrilo Princip a Serb nationalist. After this vile act a proposed ultimatum was given to Serbia with a two day from Austria-Hungary. The Germans with a bold act said they would back Austria-Hungary no matter the terms not taking in account Russia’s reaction. When war seemed imminent Germany decided to take over Belgium and propose that they would pay for any damages.

The start of the conflict however was not immediate. Influence of the previous century in the political and economic policies that prevailed on the Continent after 1871 the year that marked the emergence of Germany as a great world power. The underlying causes of World War I were the spirit of intense nationalism that ran rampant in Europe throughout the 1800’s and into the 20th century. The political and economic rivalry among the nations and the establishment of two hostile military alliances. They formed when Belgium won its independence from the Netherlands in 1830 the unification of Italy was accomplished in 1861 and that of Germany in 1871. At the close of the century however the problem of nationalism was still unresolved in other parts of Europe. The spirit of nationalism was also in economic conflict. The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain at the end of the 18th century followed in France in the early 19th century and then in Germany after 1870’s caused a increase in the manufacturing of each country. As a result of tensions, between the nations of Europe adopted foreign policies that helped steadily increased the danger of war. Convinced that their interests were threatened the powers maintained large standing armies which was constantly restocked and enlarged by peacetime. At the same time navies were also being built up. The naval expansion was intensely competitive. Great Britain influenced by the expansion of the German navy begun in 1900 and by the events of the Russo-Japanese War developed its fleet to be twice as large as any other. The war between Russia and Japan had proved the effect of long range naval guns and the British accordingly developed the widely copied dreadnought battleship notable for its heavy armor. Developments in other areas of military technology and organization led to the dominance of general staffs with precisely formulated plans for mobilization and attack. The European nations not only armed themselves for purposes of self-defense but in order not to find themselves standing alone if war did break out so alliances with other powers came about. The result was that in itself greatly increased the chances for war. The grouping of the great European powers into two hostile military alliances the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy and the Triple Entente of Great Britain, France, and Russia. Shifts within these alliances added to the building sense of crisis.

The next step was war and the Austrian Serbian tension was the push in the domino effect. Austria marched on Serbia. Then Russia would mobilize against Austria. A proposal on July 26 by the British foreign minister called for a conference between Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy should settle the Austro-Serbian dispute was rejected by Germany. On July 28 Austria declared war against Serbia either because it felt Russia would not actually fight for Serbia or because it was prepared to risk a general European conflict in order to put an end to the Greater Serbia movement. Russia responded by mobilizing against Austria. Germany warned Russia that continued mobilization would entail war with Germany and it made Austria agree to discuss with Russia possible modification of the ultimatum with Serbia. Germany insisted that Russia immediately demobilize. Russia declined to do so and on August 1 Germany declared war on Russia. Then French began to mobilize on the same day on August 2 German troops traversed on August 3 Germany declared war on France. On August 2 the German government informed the government of Belgium of its intention to march on France through Belgium. Great Britain on August 4 sent an ultimatum to Germany demanding that Belgian neutrality be respected when Germany refused Britain declared war on it the same day. Italy remained neutral until May 23, 1915 when to satisfy its claims against Austria it broke with the Triple Alliance and declared war on Austria-Hungary. As the war progressed other countries including Turkey, Japan, U.S., and other nations of the were came into the conflict. Japan declared war on Germany on August 23, 1914. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.Military operations began on three major European fronts the western the eastern, and the southern. In November 1914 Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers and fighting also took place between Turkey and Great Britain. In late 1915 two more fronts had been established the Italian front after Italy joined the Allies and one on the Greek border after Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in October 1915.

The initial German plan of the campaign was to defeat France quickly in the west. The German forces were to sweep through Belgium outflank the French by their rapid movement then wheel about surround and destroy them. As executed with certain modifications in the fall of 1914 the plan at first seemed likely to succeed. The Germans rushing onward then defeated the French at Charleroi and the British Expeditionary Force of 90,000 men at Mons causing the entire Allied line in Belgium to retreat. At the same time the Germans drove the French out of Lorraine, which they had briefly invaded and back from the borders of Luxembourg. The British and French hastily fell back three German armies advanced steadily to the Marne, which they then crossed. The fall of the French capital seemed so imminent that the French government moved to Bordeaux. After the Germans had crossed the Marne the French wheeled around Paris and attacked the First German army and held thanks to the taxi strategy. The Battle of Flanders marked the conclusion of the war of movement or fighting in the open on the western front. From the end of 1914 until 1918 the fighting consisted of trench warfare. In this type of fighting during 1915 in the west the Allies were on the offensive the Germans who were engaged in a heavy offensive on the eastern front made only a single attack in the west during the year the west was deadlocked.

The Serbian front fighting mostly occurred in 1914 through 15. In 1914 the Austrians undertook three invasions of Serbia. The front remained inactive until October 1915 After Bulgaria declared war on Serbia on October 14, 1915, the Allied troops advanced into Serbia. The Bulgarian troops defeated Serbian forces in Serbia and also the British and French troops. Also in anticipation of the Bulgarian declaration of war on October 6 a strong Austro-German drive was launched from Austria-Hungary into Serbia. By the end of 1915 the Central Powers had conquered all of Serbia and eliminated the Serbian army. The British and French troops in Serbia retreated fortified and where they were held in waited for later action.

The eastern front the plans of the Russians assumed the offensive at the very beginning of the war. In August 1914 two Russian armies advanced into East Prussia and four Russian armies invaded the Austrian. In East Prussia a series of Russian victories against inferior German forces had made the evacuation of that region by the Germans imminent. In April a combined German and Austrian army drove the Russians back. In May the Austro-German armies began a great offensive in central Poland and by September 1915 had driven the Russians out of Poland and had also taken possession of all the frontier fortresses of Russia. Although the Central Powers did not force a decision on the eastern front in 1914 through 15 the Russians lost so many men and such large quantities of supplies that they were subsequently unable to play any decisive role in the war.

Turkish warships cooperated with German warships in a naval bombardment of Russian Black Sea ports Russia formally declared war on Turkey on November 2 and Great Britain and France followed suit on November 5. In December the Turks began an invasion of the Russian Caucasus region. The invasion was successful at its inception, but by August 1915 the hold that Turkish forces had gained had been considerably reduced. Turkish pressure in the area however the Russian government demanded a diversionary attack by Great Britain on Turkey. British naval forces bombarded the Turkish forts at the on February 1915.In the Mesopotamian Valley British forces from India defeated the Turks in several battles during 1914 & 1915. The chief military events on the Austro-Italian Front in 1915 were four indecisive battles between Austro-Hungarian and Italian armies on the Isonzo River. The purpose of the Italian attack was to break through the Austrian lines.

On the Italian front 1916 was marked by another inconclusive battle on the Isonzo River the fifth of a series in that region and by an Austrian offensive in the Trentino designed to break through the Italian lines and reach the rear of the Italian position. The Austrians gained considerable territory but could not breakthrough and an Italian counteroffensive succeeded in regaining most of the captured terrain. Into Balkans during 1916 the Allied powers interfered in Greek affairs on the grounds that the Greek government under King Constantine I was, in spite of its declared neutrality, unduly favoring the Central Powers.

Theastern front the dominating influence on the fighting during 1917 was the outbreak in March of the Russian popular uprising against the imperial government resulted in turn in the establishment of a provisional government and the abdication in March of Czar Nicholas. At this time the U.S. decides to enter the war. The early part of 1918 did not look good Allied nations. On March 3 Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which put a formal end to the war. On the Balkan front result of the fighting of 1918 was disastrous to the Central Powers. The Allied offensive was so successful that by the end of the month the Bulgarians were thoroughly beaten and concluded a war with the Allies. The German success in Romania was nullified in November when with the support of Allied troops who had advanced into Romania after the Bulgarian surrender, Romania reentered the war on the Allied side.

The war was nearing an end all that was left were the Germans the others were all withdrawing. Despite the German victories over Russia and Romania at the outset of 1918 the Allies principally through their spokesperson Woodrow Wilson formulated war aims drastically opposed to those already stated by the Central Powers. At the beginning of 1918 the Germans, realizing that victory by means of submarine warfare was impossible and that they must force a decision on the western front before American troops might take up positions there in force planned fothe spring of the year an all-out effort to break through the Allied lines and reach Paris. The Germans just were out of time. Supplies, and men. They could not successfully finish the drive.

The effects of the war were from the fall out of Russia an internal revolution began with Czar Nicholas’s abdication. The breakup of the central powers spawned many new central European countries causing set backs in many of the new countries economic gains. The greatest loss was that of a whole generation of men all the best and brightest were wiped out from all over Europe.The peace treaties that emerged from the conferences at Versailles, Saint-Germain, Trianon, Neuilly, and S?vres were on the whole inadequately enforced by the victorious powers leading to the resurgence of militarism and aggressive nationalism in Germany and to social disorder throughout much of Europe. Italian resentment also followed form the treaties they proclaimed land was not adequately divided. The mandate system was formulated as a compromise between the desire of the victorious Allied powers to retain control of conquered areas and their wartime declarations opposing territorial annexation. The territories were placed nominally under the supervision of the League of Nations, and the administration of the mandates was delegated to certain of the victorious powers until the areas could govern themselves. The mandates were divided into three classes according to the presumed development of their populations in the direction of fitness for self-government. U.S. policy of isolationism also occurred. The disillusionment of the people led them to join opposing forces. Probably the worst effect of the Great War was the rise of Fascism in an already decaying Germany, which led to the breakthrough of the Nazi party.

In conclusion World War I began on July 28, 1914, with the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia and hostilities between the Allied and Central Powers continued until the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918 a period of 4 years. Casualties in the land forces amounted to more than 37 million in addition close to 10 million deaths among the civilian populations were caused indirectly by the war. Despite worldwide hopes that the settlements arrived at after the war would restore world peace on a permanent basis. World War I actually provided the basis for an even more devastating conflict. The defeated Central Powers declared their acceptance of President Wilson’s 14 points as the basis for the armistice and expected the Allies to utilize the principles of the 14 points as the foundation for the peace treaties. Allies came to the conference at Versailles and to the subsequent peace conferences with the determination to exact from the Central Powers the entire cost of the war and to distribute among themselves territories and possessions of the defeated nations. .

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