World War 1: Timeline, Reason and Aftermath

3 Aug 2022  Read 2450 Views

A war that was supposed to end all the wars, a war that caused millions of deaths and marked the least average life of a soldier, was none other than “World War I.” 

Originally called the Great War was later referred to as World War I due to the Second World War. The war of wars destroyed empires, created many new nations, made the US world power, and led directly to the rise of Hitler. It was one of the great watersheds of 20th-century geopolitical history. It led to the fall of four great imperial dynasties in Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey, which resulted in the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and, in its destabilization of European society, laid the base for World War II. 

In this article, we will discuss the storyline of WWI and how the Central and allied powers were divided in this war. Famous battles and consequences of the war. 

WW1 was fought between which countries?

World War I began after the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro- Hungarian throne, and his wife was murdered by a Serbian- backed terrorist by South Slav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in 1914. So, it erupted during the summer of 1914 in an event historians call the July Crisis. World War I was an international conflict that involved most nations of Europe, Russia, the United States, the Middle East, and other regions between 1914- 1918. 

The war marked the Central powers against the Allied powers (the US joined the Allies in 1917). The war ended with the defeat of the Central Powers only. 

  • Central Powers- Germany, Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire (Turkey)- Austria- Hungary supporters
  • Allied Powers- Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia, Romania, Greece, France, Belgium, United States, Canada, India, Portugal, Montenegro, and Poland- Serbia supporters

When did WWI begin?

World War I began on July 28th, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia (post- assassination). This seemed a small conflict between two countries, but later on, it spread rapidly, and no sooner than Germany, Russia, Great Britain, and France got involved in the war but why? Only because they were part of the Treaties that obligated them to defend some other nations. Austria-Hungary was one of the Central Powers alongside Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire (Turkish empire). In contrast, Serbia was backed by France and Russia, which had the largest army in the world at the time. 

In dealing with WWI, the role of Germany is important. Germany formed an alliance in 1879 with the neighbor Austria-Hungary, which was joined by Italy three years later. Fear of Germany’s growing strength encouraged Russia and France to enter into an alliance in 1893, so altogether, Russia & France backed Serbia against Germany.

Why did the US become a part of WW1?

The First Battle of the Marne was a battle of the First World War which was fought around the Marne River Valley between the French army and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) against the advancing Germans who had invaded Belgium and northeastern France. The consequence was a compact victory against the German armies in the west. Once Germany sank many American merchant ships around the British Isles, this battle henceforth marked the entry of American troops into the war who were already against the Germans.

Here are three prime reasons for America’s entry:

1. The Lusitania

In early 1915, Germany introduced a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic, which meant that the U-Boats (Germany-operated submarines) were hunting and sinking merchant shipping without warning. On 7th May, the Lusitania (British passenger ship) was spotted off the coast of Ireland by U-20 (a German submarine that was hunting ships), and it was carrying 1,962 passengers,  out of which 1,198 lost their lives. Among the dead were 128 Americans, causing widespread outrage in the US.

2. The German invasion of Belgium

Following Germany’s invasion of neutral Belgium in 1914, stories began circulating about atrocities committed against Belgian civilians. These stories showcased the Germans as a barbaric nation bent on ruthless, indiscriminate destruction. This propaganda soon reached the US, firing anti-German sentiments.

3. The re-introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare

Germany reintroduced unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. Knowing they risked provoking the US into joining the war as the US already held a grudge against Germany due to the Lusitania incident, Germany gambled on defeating the British before the US had a chance to deploy. 

Where was the war fought?

Coming at the Western and Eastern Fronts of the war. 

Most of the fighting took place in Europe along two fronts: the western front and the eastern front. There, the American Expeditionary Force (armed force which the US sent to Europe during WWI) was fighting in France, while four Army divisions fought in Belgium alongside the British Army in the "Flanders Fields.” 

So, we will talk mainly about two spots of fighting- France and Belgium (the Western Fronts). Then, the eastern front was between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria on one side & Russia and Romania on the other.

Facts on WW1

  • The first month of combat was composed of bold attacks and rapid troop movements on both the western and eastern fronts. 
  • In the west, Germany first attacked Belgium and then France. 
  • In the east, Russia attacked both Germany and Austria-Hungary. 
  • In the south, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia. 
  • Following the Battle Of The Marne (September 5–9, 1914), the western front became deep-rooted in central France and remained that way for the rest of the war. 
  • The fronts in the east also gradually locked into place.

Trench Warfare

It was a combat tactic in which the opposing sides attacked, counter attack, and defended from permanent systems of trenches dug into the ground, which is mainly used in Belgium and France. The middle part of the war, 1916 and 1917, was dominated by continued Trench Warfare in both the east and the west. Soldiers fought from dug-in positions as these trenches were often dug up to 12 feet deep and stretched for miles striking at each other with Machine Guns, Heavy Artillery, and Chemical Weapons.

New offensive weapons were introduced during WW1 that is tanks and poisonous gases. Chlorine was one of the poisonous gases used in World War I. It was damaging many organs like lungs etc. The Germans used these poisonous gases against the Allies (opponents).

Timeline of Events in World War I

• June 1914

Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated.

• July 1914

Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, beginning World War I

Mid-August 1914

Austria-Hungary invades Russia

• September 1914

Allied forces halt (stopped) the Germans into France during the First Battle of the Marne.

• February 1915

Germany began a naval blockade of Great Britain; Britain's blockade across the North Sea and the English Channel to cut the flow of war supplies, food, and fuel to Germany during World War I resulted in Germany retaliating by using its submarines to destroy neutral ships supplying the Allies. Also, this time, unrestricted submarine warfare was first introduced in World War I.

• April 1915

Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula of the Ottoman Empire.

• May 1915

German submarine sinks the passenger liner Lusitania during the crossing from New York to Liverpool, England, killing 128 Americans. This is why America joined the war.

• May End 1915

Italy (on Serbia’s side) declares war on Austria-Hungary.

• February 1916

Germany begins the attack on Verdun. The Battle of Verdun was fought between France and Germany from 21 February to 18 December 1916 on the Western Front in France, and it was the longest of the First World War.

• May 1916

The Naval Battle of Jutland takes place between British and German fleets. 

• July 1916

Allied offensive begins the Battle of the Somme (Fought by the armies of the British Empire and the French Third Republic against the Germans to secure victory on the Western Front)

• December 1916

The battle of Verdun ended with 550,000 French and 450,000 German casualties.

• February 1917

Germany's return to unrestricted submarine warfare was halted after the sinking of the Lusitania, and so, the United States severs (detaches) diplomatic relations with Germany. 

• April 1917

The United States declared war on Germany.

• June 1917

General John J. Pershing, a newly elected commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, arrives in England with his staff. That is, American combat forces arrive in France.

• December 1917

Russia signs an armistice (a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting) with Germany.

• January 1918

President Woodrow Wilson presented to Congress his outline of the Fourteen Points needed for peace.

• February 1918

The Stars and Stripes (the first official military publication) begin publication with the first issue of one thousand copies. Second Lieutenant Guy T. Viskniskki is the first managing editor of the newspaper.

This was published in Paris during World War I for the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.)

• March 1918

Russia signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany. Germany begins its final offensive of the war. American women recruited to serve as bilingual telephone operators for the AEF arrived in Europe.

(The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a separate peace treaty signed between the new Bolshevik government of Russia and the Central Powers)

• May 1918

United States forces are victorious in the Battle of Cantigny, the first independent American operation. In this battle, an Allied force, including a full brigade of nearly 4,000 US soldiers captured the village of Cantigny near Somme river from the Germans.

• June 1918

American forces stop German attempts to cross the Marne River at Chateau-Thierry.

• July 1918

The Stars and Stripes suspend the Sporting Page.

• September 1918

American First Army attacks St. Mihiel salient. Allied forces began the attack at Meuse-Argonne, the war's final offensive. (against Germans)

• November 1918

In 1918, the infusion of American troops and resources into the western front finally went in the Allies’ favor and against Germany, So Germany signed the Armistice at Compiègne, ending World War I.

• December 1918

Harold Ross assumes editorship of The Stars and Stripes. British and American forces enter Germany. With this, the Stars and Stripes War Orphans Adoption Campaign ends after raising 123,047 francs and placing 3,444 orphans for adoption, and the Sporting Page returns to The Stars and Stripes.

• January 1919

The peace conference begins in Paris.

• February 1919

The first anniversary of The Stars and Stripes. Circulation surpasses 500,000. The draft of the covenant of the League of Nations was completed. League of the Nations is now popularly known as the United Nations.

• June 1919

The last issue of The Stars and Stripes has been published. Allied and German representatives signed the treaty of Versailles. The United States signed the treaty of guaranty, pledging to defend France in case of an unprovoked attack by Germany.

• November 1919

United States Senate failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles.

• January 1920

Treaty of Versailles takes effect.

• March 1920

United States Senate failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles for the second time.

• August 1921

The United States signed separate peace treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary.

The Treaty of Versailles was one of the most controversial armistice treaties in history. The treaty's so-called "war guilt" clause compelled Germany and other central powers who supported it to take all the blame for World War I. This meant a loss of territories, a reduction in military forces, and reparation payments to the Allied powers.

Death Toll

The total number of military and civilian casualties in this war was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The total deaths included 9.7 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians.

Effects of the WW1

Historians believe that the allied powers were very harsh in their punishment of Germany and that the Treaty of Versailles planted the seeds of World War II rather than fostering peace. The treaty’s declaration that Germany was entirely to blame for the war was completely untrue 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. Germany did pay a small percentage of the damages but was financially weak. Ultimately, extremist groups, such as the Nazi Party, were able to exploit this humiliation and gain political control over the country in upcoming decades.


The fight between the exhausted troops continued until the Germans lost several individual battles and gradually began to fall back. The soldiers on both sides had to face many problems such as the outbreak of Influenza etc. 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 late 1918 after the member countries of the Central Powers signed Armistice Agreements. Germany was the last of all these nations, signing its armistice on November 11, 1918. As a result of these agreements, Austria-Hungary was broken up into several smaller countries, and Germany, under the Treaty Of Versailles, was severely punished.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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