A Timeline of World War 1

As with any war, it is important to understand and evaluate the causes that lead entire countries into years’ long skirmishes. When it comes to World War I, historians point to four main causes: militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism. Militarism is the policy of building a stronger military, either for added defense or to flex military muscle for influence. Germany was known to have engaged in militarism just before the outbreak of WWI. An alliance is a mutual defense agreement between countries; it states that one country will go to war with and fight as an ally for another country. Imperialism is a policy held by a country of increasing power and wealth by acquiring additional territories. Finally, nationalism is a sense of pride in one’s country, yet an excessive amount of pride leads to the need to establish dominance over other territories

WWI battles

Once all four of these elements were set in motion, the events of World War I began to unfold, beginning immediately with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914. The Germans entered the war with a plan for victory, named the Schlieffen Plan for the German officer who devised it. This plan was based on the idea that German forces could take advantage of the overwhelmed French and Russian armies and fight them at the same time; while one group of German forces attacked the French, the other group could fight the Russians. This is also referred to as fighting on two fronts. In September of 1914, France and Germany engaged in the Battle of the Marne, wherein France’s army surprised the German forces who were stationed near the Marne River. After days of fighting, the German forces finally retreated despite their plan for victory.

In February of 1915, the Allied Powers embarked on the Gallipoli Campaign, which was their attempt to control the sea route from Europe to Russia. It was named for the location of the campaign, which is off the coast of modern-day Turkey. The campaign, however, was not successful; there was a lack of sufficient military intel and knowledge of the territory.

or a period of 10 months, French and German forces engaged in the Battle of Verdun from February to December of 1916, making it the longest single battle of WWI. It was significant in that it was the first time flamethrowers were used, and it resulted in a huge loss of life. French forces, however, emerged victorious. During the Battle of Verdun, the British attacked to take pressure off of the French, an event which became known as the Battle of the Somme. Despite the British aid, this was unsuccessful for the Allies.

After the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the 1917 Zimmerman Telegram, America was prompted to join the war. An American presence had a tremendous impact, as the Allied troops were tired of the three years of fighting. They welcomed the increase in manpower as well as the fresh supplies.

Rioting and the overthrow of the Russian government by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 paved the way for a Russian exit from the war in 1918. They signed a treaty with Germany officiating their decision shortly after. This hurt the Allied powers, as it meant that Germany had another ally on its side, and the fear of Communism began to spread.

The First World War finally came to an end on November 11, 1918, when the Armistice - or an official stoppage of war - was signed. This day is remembered in history as Armistice Day.


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