One hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918 (now Veterans Dayopens a new window), at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Great War ended. Today it's known as the First World War or World War I (1914-1918). The end of the greatest war the world had ever seen, and its aftermath, laid the groundwork for WWII. When the war was over, four imperial dynasties were no more (Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire). The war killed nearly 7 million civilians and 10 million military personnel although numbers vary.
At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the Allies wanted a world that would safeguard against such widespread and devastating international conflicts, but the Treaty of Versailles, signed June 28, 1919, did no such thing. Germany, who was denied entrance into the League of Nations, had heavy reparations to pay, and was burdened by war guilt and heavy losses, eventually burned into a heated resentment that historians now cite as a major cause of the Second World War (1939-1945). The Ottoman Empire was broken up and ceded lands to states like Czechoslovakia. England and France drew new territory boundaries without respect for ethnic and religious groups, and those repercussions are still felt in the Middle East today.
It's important to remember a war that has passed out of living memory. The last two veterans passed away in 2011opens a new window and 2012opens a new window. All that's left is to rely on history, gathered from first-hand accounts, newspaper articles and documentation, and the lessons learned, and repeated, from global conflict and destruction, and their impacts on today.
ALLIES (Entente Powers)
- Great Britain
- United States (1917-1919)
WWI saw the first use of trench warfare. Tanks, invented in 1915 by the British, were first used at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, though French invented the "classic" tank look soon after. Flamethrowers, poison gas, depth charges and tracer bullets were also invented as was air traffic control, U-boats, hydrophones, mobile X-ray units and aircraft carriers, all to fight a war that wasn't just on land but air and sea.
WHEN THE WORLD WENT TO WAR
- June 28, 1914: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungrary and wife murdered by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip
- July 28, 1914: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
- August 1, 1914: Germany declares war on Russia (allied with Serbia)
- August 3, 1914: Germany declares war on France (allied with Russia) and enters neutral Belgium
- August 4, 1914: Great Britain declares war on Germany after Germany refuses to leave Belguim
- August 23, 1914: Japan declares war on Germany (from Anglo-Japanese Alliance with Great Britain signed in 1902)
- October 29, 1914: Turkey enters the war on Germany's side
- November 2, 1914: Russia declares war on Turkey
- November 5, 1914: Great Britain and France declare war on Turkey
- May 7, 1915: Lusitania sunk by German U-boat
- May 23, 1915: Italy enters the war on the side of the Allies
- January 1917: British cryptographers decipher a message in which the German Foreign Minister offers U.S. territory to Mexico if Mexico joins the war
- April 6, 1917: USA declares war on Germany
- Fiction about the Great Waropens a new window
- Nonfiction about the Great Waropens a new window
- Documentariesopens a new window and filmsopens a new window about the Great War
- Visit the Genealogy hubopens a new window to learn how to trace your family's history
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DULCE et DECORUM EST
By Wilfred Owen (published posthumously in 1920)
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.