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Saturday, April 6, 2013

A World War I Primer

I had previously discussed the fact that the United States entered World War II after the surprise morning attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  But it is also imperative to discuss World War I. The first World War was brought on by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, 1914. The political unrest ushered in a new era of fighting wars:   The introduction of chemical gas, trench warfare, machine guns and tanks. World War (also known as the Great War) was aptly named because of the unparalleled amount of casualties and destruction involving many nations. World War I included the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, vs the Allies. The Allies consisted of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan, and later the United States of America. (Source: www.history.com)



Incidentally, African American Garret Morgan invented the gas mask 1914. His gas mask was originally used to rescue trapped men in an underground tunnel. Morgan's gas mask was later refined for use against chemical warfare in WWI. He was also the inventor of the traffic light; because of this brilliant man millions of people owe their lives. (Source: inventors.about.com.)


Source: www.paterson. k-12.nj.us



The concept of the tank was developed in 1914 by the British. The tank was needed to cross enemy lines and trenches. A British Army colonel named Ernest Swinton and William Henkey went to then British Navy minister Winston Churchill. Churchill championed the idea of developing a "land boat". The rest, as they say, is history. In September of 1915, the first tank came into being, albeit a clumsy one. Here is a video of the tank, called "Little Willie", below:







What caused the United States to become involved in WWI? According to www.historylearningsite.co.uk:

America entered World War One on April 6th, 1917. Up to that date, America had tried to keep out of World War One - though she had traded with nations involved in the war- but unrestricted submarine warfare, introduced by the Germans on January 9th, 1917, was the primary issue that caused Woodrow Wilson to ask Congress to declare war on Germany on April 2nd.  Four days later, America joined World War One on the sides of the Allies.


 The Ottoman Empire included Turkey and was once the world's greatest independent Islamic power.
Source: nationalarchives.gov.uk





Unrestricted submarine warfare was the use of sinking merchant and passenger ships, vessels that included American passengers. President Woodrow Wilson had for the longest promised to keep the United States out of World War I. But the loss of innocent American lives compelled Wilson to act.

Decisive battles led to the brutal defeat of the Central Powers by the Allies in November, 1918. Europe was essentially decimated and countries were left in ruins. No other war in the history of mankind at the time had caused such rampant destruction. It has been estimated that over nine million lives were lost and twenty one million soldiers and civilians were injured as a result of this war from both sides.  ( Source: history.com)

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.  This was an extensive document and was primarily negotiated by the Big Three: Woodrow Wilson of America, David Lloyd George of Britain and Georges Clemenceau of France. George and Clemenceau wanted Germany punished so that another war of its magnitude would never happen again. Woodrow Wilson of America "could not understand how an advanced civilization could have reduced itself so that it had created so much devastation." America opted for non-intervention policies.

The Treaty of Versailles signed in 1918 determined post-war borders from Europe to the Middle East, established the League of Nations as an international peace organization and punished Germany for its aggression with reparations and the loss of territory. Tragically the instability caused by World War I would help make possible the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. -History.com

Also around this time The Russia Revolution had occurred. The Russian Revolution was the overthrow of imperial tsar rule in Russia and led to the creation of the Soviet Union under the Communist Party. British leader David Lloyd George had concerns of Communism* spreading throughout Europe in the future when signing the Treaty of Versailles. Furthermore, The Spanish Flu left over twenty five million people dead. Such was the dire background of World War I.




*Communism- a type of government that relies on collectivization of labor and good to equal out the (socio-economic) classes. (obtained from www.howstuffworks.com/communism.html)


































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