It is thought that this war that is been ongoing for over a year, began with the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand; however, many other reasons led to this war. Some occurring reasons date as far back as the late 1800’s. Nationalism, militarism, imperialism, and the system of alliances were four main factors that pressed the great powers towards this explosive war. Nationalism is the love of one’s country rather that the love of a native region. Throughout the 1800’s many national groups that were driven by nationalism tried to unite by governments controlled by their own people.
However, this desire to unite all the people of a nation under one government had devastating possibilities in Europe, where one government often ruled many nationalities. This is one important reason for the start of the Great War. Another reason for the start of the war was the practice of imperialism by many countries. Imperialist countries narrowly avoided war many times as they struggled to divide Africa among themselves in the early 1900’s. Two of these countries, France and Germany, were on the brink of war several times when the argued about claims to Morocco.
Between 1905 and 1911 they settled each argument with a temporary compromise that left one of the two countries dissatisfied. Although imperialism played an important role in starting the war, militarism was even a greater factor. Militarism controlled the thinking of many European Leaders before the war. These leaders thought that only the use of force could solve problems along nations. These leaders also thought that a military strong nation usually got what it wanted, and weaker nation usually lost out. As international rivalries, each nation in Europe made their armed forces stronger and larger.
As all these things began to build up the spark that set off the explosion and led to the war was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand. While the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife were visiting Sarajevo, they were both shot and killed by Gavrilo Princip. Princip belonged to the secret society, Black Hand. Black Hand was a group of Serbian nationalists opposed to Austro-Hungarian rule. Even though Princip acted without the authority of the Serbian Government, a few Serbian leaders were aware of his plans and have given him guns and ammo. This assassination began a long struggle between Serbia and Austria-Hungary.
The Austro-Hungarian government wanted to punish the Serbs, but before they could act, they wanted to make sure that Germany still supported them in case Russia attempted to help Serbia. During the War’s early years Britain and her Allies, France and Russia, fought against Germany and Austro-Hungary. At the War’s end many more countries were involved, including, the United States, Turkey, Japan, Italy. What had started over the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the decaying Austro-Hungarian Empire, only concluded after the deaths of tens of millions of soldiers and civilians.
In the past, wars were often of comparatively short duration, with seasonal campaigns, and usually fought between opposing sides each using mercenary or professional army. The Great War was radically different. Fighting, between volunteer or conscripted soldiers in trenches separated by no-man’s-land from their enemy in similar trenches, continued all year; and new, improved methods of killing had evolved such that the scale of injury and death was beyond that which any person had believed possible.
With industrialization in Europe, invention and greatly enhanced mass-production manufacturing techniques gave rise to plentiful supplies of poison gas, tanks, powerful explosives, flame-throwers, hand-grenades, fighter and bomber aircraft, and, above all, machine-guns, and accurate long-range artillery. Killing was on a gigantic scale, and surprise and inventiveness were forgotten by Generals who developed their new strategy of “attrition”. (http://www. rockingham/ww1. html) At the Armistice there was very little celebration by the battle-weary front-line soldiers.
That the War had ended and that they, despite fearful odds, were still alive was often difficult to comprehend. Once the fact had been assimilated; however, all they wanted to do was to go back home to a country they knew and to cherished relatives and families. In the following years many former soldiers suffered countless disappointments, after the initial jubilation of their return was over, they felt themselves to be un-thanked and unappreciated. In Britain living conditions in industrialized towns were poor and work very hard to come-by, especially during the Depression years of the 1930s.
Many never talked to anyone about their experiences in the trenches. Perhaps they just wanted to put from their minds the harrowing memories of those awful times, or maybe they thought that no one who had not been there could possibly to understand the dreadful conditions, which they had endured. A few kept diaries of their wartime experiences. In recent years, after the deaths of their writers, some of these have come down to relatives who have been surprised to find that great-grandfathers.
The recipients have been astounded by what they have read about the conditions that prevailed in the trenches. Germany continued to support Austria-Hungary, while Russia prepared to defend Serbia. Germany then demanded that Russia cancel mobilization or face war. Russia ignored Germany, and Germany declared war on Russia on August 1. Germany was also convinced that France was ready to side with Russia; so on August 3 Germany declared war on France. (http://www. cc. emory. edu/english/chronology. html) Then Austro-Hungary issued an ultimatum to the Serbian Government.
In it Austria-Hungary made the following demands: )The Serbian Government would condemn all propaganda against Austria-Hungary and suppress publications and societies that opposed Austria-Hungary 2)Serbia would ban from its schools books and teachers who did not favor Austria-Hungary 3)Serbia would dismiss any officials who had promoted propaganda against Austria-Hungary 4)Austro-Hungary judges would conduct the trial of those accused of the crime at Sarajevo 5)Serbia had to accept all of these terms within 48 hours or Austria-Hungary would declare war.
The Serbian Government would not accept the last two. Austria-Hungary then declared war after the time limit on the ultimatum had elapsed. The war has finally begun. The great powers had guaranteed Belgium neutrality in 1839, shortly after Belgium had gained its independence. (http://www. eurotravler. com/battlefields. html) With this guarantee, Belgium agreed to stay out of any European war, and not to help any Belligerents, or warring nations. In turn, the powers agreed not to attack Belgium. However, Belgium’s location was important to Germany’s military plans.
Germany sent an ultimatum to Belgium, demanding that German troops be allowed to cross through Belgium. Britain protested, and insisted that Belgium was neutral. Germany ignored this and sent soldiers into Belgium on August 4, 1914. Great Britain declared war on Germany later that day. (http://www. cc. emory. edu/english/chronology. html) After 10 months of heavy fighting, the German army finally evacuated Fort Vaux to end the Battle of Verdun. This was the largest engagement of the World War, fought between German and French forces from last February until early this week.
On February 21 the Germans launched an attack on the French town and fortress of Verdun. Verdun occupied a vital position on the heights above the Meuse River at the eastern end of the trench line in France. The attack began with a German artillery bombardment of the outlying forts. The French fell back to prepared positions, and the German command, intensifying the onslaught, pushed forward, disregarding the enormous loss of life. Fort Douaumont fell to the Germans. That same day General Henri Philippe Petin was placed in command of the French troops at Verdun. (http://www. cc. emory. edu/english/chronology. tml)
German attacks continued, however, with little intermission. By April the French air force gained control of the skies over the battlefield, and this played an important role in the successful defense of the area. To disperse the military strength of the Germans and thus relieve the strain on the French, the British had opened an attack on the Somme River, which necessitated the transfer of a considerable amount of German forces. As the fighting became less intense, French troops prepared for a sudden and smashing blow north of Verdun. Innovations in warfare make war even more deadly than ever before.
Industries used mass production to produce more weapons than ever before. Many new powerful weapons were invented during World War. One of the most important new weapons of the Great War was the machine gun. The rapid-fire spray of bullets were hard to dodge, making it difficult to make any advances. To protect themselves from the machine gun’s rapid fire, soldiers are digging complex systems of trenches. Other new weapons are tanks, airplanes, submarines, and poisonous gas. This totally changed war strategy because the weapons of mass destruction have to be defended against with new methods.
This war was the first European war to ever be fought by drafted civilians to fight in battles. Trenches were cut through battlefield fronts in Europe to protect troops from deadly artillery and machine-gun fire. Firing trenches were backed by cover trenches, which provided a second line of defense in case enemies overran the firing trench. Each was about 6 to 8 ft deep. Off-duty troops lived in dugouts in the support trenches. Supplies, food, and fresh troops moved to the front through a network of reserve and communications trenches.
Between the trenches of opposing forces lay no-man’s-land. Crossing no-man’s-land often resulted in death, because it was strewn with barbed wire and open to the sights of enemy guns. President Woodrow Wilson attempted to bring about negotiations between the belligerent groups of powers that would in his own words bring “peace without victory. ” As a result of his efforts, and particularly of the conferences held in Europe that year by Wilson’s advisers and leading European statesmen, some progress was at first apparently made toward bringing an end to the war.
In November the German government informed the U. S. that the Central Powers were prepared to undertake peace negotiations. When the U. S. informed the Allies, Great Britain rejected the German advances for two reasons: Germany had not laid down any specific terms for peace, and the military situation at the time was so favorable to the Central Powers that no acceptable terms could reasonably be expected from them. The United States has now entered the Great War! On April 6 congress voted to declare war on the side of the Allies.
President Wilson appeared before congress on April 2, and stated, “The world must be made safe for democracy. (Boyer 522) He then asked congress to declare war on Germany. Congress responded with a declaration later that week. Many people may wonder why we decided to enter the war. The U. S. has many reasons to back up the decision to enter the war. One of the most important reasons for the U. S. ‘s decision to enter the war was the interception of an important secret telegram known as the Zimmerman telegram.
It was sent in January by Alfred Zimmerman, the foreign minister of Germany, to the German ambassador in Mexico, which was a neutral country at the time. It instructed the ambassador to draw Mexico into the war on Germany’s side. Germany promised in return parts of the Southwestern U. S. that it lost in 1848. The British intercepted this telegram, deciphered it, and reported it to the U. S. When the news went public after it was seized, it angered the President and Congress and brought us a step closer to war.
Another reason the U. S. s entered the war was the decision by Germany to resume unrestricted submarine warfare. The Germans have stopped using submarine warfare since Wilson ordered Germany to stop after the sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, in 1915. But Germany has realized that the Allies have taken the upper hand and as an act of desperation started unrestricted submarine warfare. All ships that now enter the German “war zone” are taking a huge risk of being sunk by German U-boats. These events led up to Wilson’s decision to declare war on Germany.