World War I

July 1914 - November 1918

World War I Soldiers in Trench Warfare
Photo by Captain Frank Hurley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

World War I, or the Great War, as it was called at the time, was fought between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers during the years of 1914 through 1918. The Allied side consisted of France, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and eventually, the United States; while the Central Powers were represented by Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire. The war officially started in Europe upon the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, in 1914. Ferdinand was shot by a Serbian nationalist which resulted in Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. This event sent the major European powers into a full-fledged war. At that time, the United States had adopted a policy of neutrality and isolation.

It wasn't until 1917 that the United States entered the war due to unrestricted submarine warfare. In March of 1917, German U-boats sank three American vessels against the agreement between the two countries. On April 6th, later that year, war was declared on the Central Powers. Upon the arrival of American forces, the Allied Powers became the heavily favored side. In an attempt to win the war before the entirety of the American side could reach Europe, Germany launched The Spring Offensive in May of 1918. This attack quickly failed when the German supply vehicles fell off the pace of the rapidly advancing personnel across the cratered landscape. The troops were left in poor defensive positions, then easily pushed back to the German border by Allied forces.

WWIA cease-fire was ordered in November of 1918 and in July of 1919, five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, effectively ending the war and leaving the Central Powers facing severe consequences. The Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary were dismantled, the German and the Bulgarian armies were heavily restricted and Germany was forced to pay reparations to Allied Powers, and give up all of its overseas territories, as well as European territories.

As a result of World War I, more than 10 million military deaths were recorded. On the American side alone, 323,000 military deaths occurred. The Great War is still considered one of the most destructive wars in history as it was the first time that war fronts existed on land, out at sea, and up in the skies. In order to fight on all these platforms, new lethal technology was introduced only causing the death tolls to rise.


A&E Television Networks (Updated 2019). World War I. Retrieved December 10, 2019