World War 1
- By 1914, fear was on the rise in Europe. Many countries faltered attack from the other. For example, Germany was becoming increasingly dominant, and the British saw this as a peril to the British Empire. The countries formed alliances to guard themselves, but this divided them into two groups. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been allies since 1879. They had then formed the Triple Alliance with Italy in 1882. France and Russia became allies in 1894. They then joined with Britain to form the Triple Entente.
- World War I was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on July 28, 1914, and came to a halt with the Treaty of Versailles on November 11, 1919. The war was a global war that lasted exactly four years, three months, and 14 days. Most of the fighting was in Europe, but soldiers from many other countries took part, and it changed the colonial empires of the European powers. One hundred thirty-five countries took part in World War I, and nearly 10 million people died while fighting. Before the war, European countries had formed alliances with each other to protect themselves. However, by doing this, they had divided themselves into two groups.
- On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie while the couple was visiting Sarajevo. By August 6, the British Empire, France, and Russia were at war with Serbia and Germany. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson announced the U.S. would remain neutral. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia and declared war on them on July 23. Serbia’s ally Russia then declared war on Austria-Hungary. This set off a chain of events in which the two groups of countries declared war on each other. The two sides were the Allied Powers (mainly Russia, France, and the British Empire) and the Central Powers (chiefly Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire).
The Western and Eastern Fronts
The first month of conflict consisted of brazen attacks and rapid troop movements on both fronts. In the west, Germany attacked first Belgium and then France, in the east, Russia attacked both Germany and Austria-Hungary, and in the south, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia. Following the Battle of the Marne (September 5–9, 1914), the western front became entrenched in central France and remained that way for the rest of the war. The fronts in the east also gradually locked into place.
The Ottoman Empire
Late in 1914, the Ottoman Empire was brought into the conflict as well, after Germany outwitted Russia into thinking that Turkey had attacked it. As a result, much of 1915 was dominated by Allied actions against the Ottomans in the Mediterranean. First, Britain and France launched a failed attack on the Dardanelles. This campaign was succeeded by the British invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Britain also propelled a separate operation against the Turks in Mesopotamia. Although the British had some advances in Mesopotamia, the Gallipoli campaign and the attacks on the Dardanelles resulted in British defeats.
The middle part of the war, 1916 and 1917, was guided by sustained Trench Warfare in both the east and the west. Soldiers attacked from dug-in positions, striking at each other with Machine Guns, Heavy Artillery, and Chemical Weapons. Though millions of soldiers died in crude conditions, neither side had achieved any advantage.
The United States’ Entrance and Russia’s Exit
Despite the stalemate on both fronts in Europe, two crucial advancements in the war occurred in 1917. In early April, the United States, angered by attacks upon its ships in the Atlantic, proclaimed war on Germany. Later, in November, the Bolshevik Revolution urged Russia to pull out of the war.
The End of the War and Armistice
Although both sides launched Renewed Offensives in 1918 in an all-or-nothing effort to win the war, both attempts failed. The fighting between fatigued, demoralized troops continued to limp along until the Germans lost several individual battles and very gradually began to fall back. A deadly outbreak of Influenza, meanwhile, took heavy tolls on soldiers of both sides. Eventually, the governments of both Germany and Austria-Hungary began to lose control as both countries experienced multiple mutinies from within their military structures.
The war ended in the late fall of 1918 after the member countries of the Central Powers signed Armistice Agreements one by one. Germany was the last, signing its armistice on November 11, 1918. As a result of these agreements, Austria-Hungary was broken up into several smaller countries. Germany, under the Treaty Of Versailles, was severely punished with hefty economic reparations, territorial losses, and strict limits on its rights to develop militarily.
Germany After the War
Many historians, in hindsight, believe that the Allies were excessive in their punishment of Germany and that the harsh Treaty of Versailles planted the seeds of World War II, rather than foster peace. The treaty’s declaration that Germany was entirely to blame for the war was a blatant untruth that humiliated the German people. Furthermore, the treaty imposed steep War Reparations payments on Germany, meant to force the country to bear the financial burden of the war. Although Germany ended up paying only a small percentage of the reparations it was supposed to make, it was already stretched financially thin by the war, and the additional economic burden caused enormous resentment. Ultimately, extremist groups, such as the Nazi Party, were able to exploit this humiliation and resentment and take political control of the country in the decades following.
Significant events in the war
Most people thought the war would be short. They thought the war would be about brave soldiers — they did not understand how the war had changed. Only a few people, for example, Lord Kitchener said that the war would take a long time.
The “Great War” itself was advanced by national and economic battles among the European countries of which the Imperial and Colonialist policies are the most glaringly manifest. The European powers had formed themselves into two broad networks–the Triple Alliance or Central Powers, and the Triple Entente, more commonly known as the Allies.
The immense public opinion in those nations was also intensely nationalist, even nationalistic, and the public desire for heroic warfare was quite palpable. What almost no one expected was a sustained, brutal battle that would change the nature of conflict and that would act as a tremendous cultural trench between the long nineteenth century (1789-1914) and the current world.
The war allowed for the Russian Revolution under Lenin to come to fruition. Imperial ties pulled in numerous forces from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and the failure of WWI to accomplish any lasting results give rise to multiple rebellions and wide-spread oppression in the colonized countries. Furthermore, the outcome of WWI created the conditions of displeasure that would make a failed Weimar Republic and a fascist Nazi Germany.
June 28, 1914–Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian nationalist triggers alliance system of Europe and on July 23, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. The remaining powers declare war between July 29 and August 4.
August 2, 1914–Ottoman Empire signs an accord with Germany; enters the war in November.
1914 – 1917–Western Front at an impasse; trench warfare immobilizes both sides with horrific results.
1915–Italy joins the Allies.
1915–The Armenian Genocide
1916–Battle at Verdun lasts six months–Germany loses 281, 000; France loses 315, 000.
1916–Battle at the Somme lasts four months–Germany loses 450,000; France loses 200,000; Britain loses 420,000
May 7, 1915–British ocean liner Lusitania sunk, killing 1, 198 people, including 139 Americans; Germany agrees to stop submarine patrols from keeping the U.S. neutral.
April 25 1915-6 January 1916–Gallipoli campaign fails to take Constantinople, despite high costs to Turkish forces; first sustained experience of war for Australians and New Zealanders.
January 1915–Twenty-One Demands–Japan’s gives China an ultimatum to become a protectorate.
1917--Russian Revolution under Bolsheviks & Lenin
April 1917–Germany renews submarine patrols; the United States enters war against Germany.
March 3, 1918–Treaty of Brest-Litovsk–Russia exits the war with German concession of Baltics, Caucasus, Finland, Poland, and Ukraine.
Spring 1918–Allies break through the line and begin to push Germany back.
November 11, 1918– Armistice
1919–Paris Peace Conference opens; despite Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Germany effectively crippled by British and French demands. Austria-Hungary dismantled
1920–League of Nations meets
1920–Treaty of Sèvres–Ottoman Empire dismantled
1923--Treaty of Lausanne–the Republic of Turkey recognized
World War 2
- World War II, was a conflict that included practically every part of the world through the years 1939–45. The main belligerents were the Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan—and the Allies—France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China. The war was in many respects a sequel, after an unsettled 20-year break, of the disputes, left agitated by the first World War.
- The 40,000,000–50,000,000 deaths incited in World War II make it the bloodiest war, as well as the most massive war, in history.
- It was the most significant war in history, comprising of more than 30 nations. Sparked by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, the war dragged on for six blood-soaked years until the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945.
- There were many issues throughout the world that led to the inception of the Second World War. In many ways, World War 2 was a direct result of the turbulence left behind by World War 1.
Below are some of the main causes of World War 2.
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I between Germany and the Allied Powers. Since Germany lost the war, the treaty was very harsh against Germany, which forced it to “accept the responsibility” of the war casualties suffered by the Allies. The treaty asked that Germany pay a large sum of money called reparations. The difficulty with the treaty is that it left the German economy in rubbles. People were perishing, and the government was in chaos.
During the period before World War II, Japan was rising rapidly. Nevertheless, as an island nation, they did not have the land or the natural resources to nurture their growth. Japan began to look to grow their domain in order to attain new resources. They penetrated Manchuria in 1931 and China in 1937.
With the economic confusion left behind by World War 1, some nations were taken over by tyrants who built powerful fascist regimes. These dictators, followed by their greed to expand their empires, were looking for new lands to conquer. The first fascist government was Italy which was governed by the dictator Mussolini. Italy invaded and took over Ethiopia in 1935. Adolf Hitler would later imitate Mussolini in his takeover of Germany. Another Fascist government was Spain ruled by the dictator Franco.
Hitler and the Nazi Party
In Germany, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power. The Germans were desperate for someone to restore their economy and national pride. They saw hope in Hitler. In 1934, Hitler has announced the “Fuhrer” (leader) and became dictator of Germany.
Hitler condemned the restrictions put on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. While lecturing about peace, Hitler began to rearm Germany. He allied Germany with Mussolini and Italy. Then Hitler looked to reclaim Germany to power by extending his empire, by first taking over Austria in 1938. When the League of Nations did nothing to stop him, Hitler became more audacious and took over Czechoslovakia in 1939.
After World War 1, the nations of Europe were exhausted and did not want another war. When countries such as Italy and Germany became aggressive and began to take over their acquaintances and build up their armies, countries such as Britain and France hoped to keep the peace through “Appeasement”. This meant that they tried to make Germany and Hitler happy rather than try to stop him. They assumed that by meeting his demands, he would be delighted and there wouldn’t be any conflict.
Unfortunately, the policy of reconciliation backfired. It only made Hitler more dauntless. It also bought him time to build up his army.
The period before World War II was a time of great economic suffering throughout the world called the Great Depression. Many people were out of work and struggling to survive. This created unstable governments and worldwide confusion that helped lead to World War II.
Interesting Facts about the Causes of World War 2
- Because of the Great Depression, many countries were experiencing strong fascist and communist movements, including France and Great Britain prior to the war.
- Preceding World War 2, the United States tried to stay out of world issues with a policy of noninterference. They were not members of the League of Nations.
- As part of their settlement policy, Britain and France agreed to let Hitler have part of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement. Czechoslovakia had no say in the deal. The Czechoslovakians called the agreement the “Munich Betrayal.”
- Japan had taken over Korea, Manchuria, and a significant part of China before World War 2 began.
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