World war i
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World War I. Lsn 19. ID & SIG:. AEF, auftragstaktik, Fourteen Points, isolationism, Meuse-Argonne, Nivelle, Petain, Pershing, Russian Revolution, Treaty of Versailles, unrestricted submarine warfare, York, Ypres (Third Battle). Breaking the Stalemate: American Entry.

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World War I

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World war i

World War I

Lsn 19

Id sig


  • AEF, auftragstaktik, Fourteen Points, isolationism, Meuse-Argonne, Nivelle, Petain, Pershing, Russian Revolution, Treaty of Versailles, unrestricted submarine warfare, York, Ypres (Third Battle)

Breaking the stalemate american entry

Breaking the Stalemate: American Entry

  • In 1914, the American public was firmly opposed to intervening in the war

  • The mood began to change in 1915, when the Germans sunk the British passenger liner Lusitania, killing 1,198, including 128 US citizens

  • Still in 1916, Woodrow Wilson was reelected President with the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War”

Between Feb 14 and Sept 18, 1915, the Germans practiced “unrestricted submarine warfare.” Any Allied ship in the seas around the British Isles would be sunk without warning.

Growing dissatisfaction in russia

Growing Dissatisfaction in Russia

  • Russia was chafing under the authoritarian rule of Nicholas II

  • Military defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) brought to a head simmering political and social discontent

  • In Jan 1905, soldiers killed 130 workers who were marching in protest to Nicholas’s rule

    • Sparked countrywide protests and forced some concessions

Growing dissatisfaction in russia1

Growing Dissatisfaction in Russia

  • Nicholas was further weakened by Russian setbacks in World War I in 1916 and 1917

    • Disintegrating armies, mutinies, and food shortages provoked a series of demonstrations and strikes in Petrograd

    • Eventually troops mutinied

    • In 1917, Nicholas abdicated the throne, ending the Romanov dynasty

Growing dissatisfaction in russia2

Growing Dissatisfaction in Russia

  • “Soviets,” elected councils that had first originated as strike committees in 1905, surfaced all over Russia and wielded considerable power through control of factories and segments of the military

  • The Petrograd soviet demanded Russia pursue an immediate peace in World War I

  • To reinforce this movement, the Germans transported Vladimir Lenin and other revolutionaries back to Russia

1921 poster declares,

“Long live the Communist Councils!”

Growing dissatisfaction in russia3

Growing Dissatisfaction in Russia

  • Lenin’s older brother had been arrested and hanged for plotting to assassinate the tsar

  • Lenin was in exile in Switzerland where he studied Marxism and wrote political pamphlets

Russia leaves the war

Russia Leaves the War

  • Russia was experiencing social and political unrest and growing war-weary

  • The Bolsheviks seized power through the Russian Revolution and ended Russia’s involvement in World War I by signing the treaty of Brest-Litorsk with Germany on March 3, 1918

  • In the midst of World War I, Britain, France, Japan, and the US all sent troops and supplies to aid the “Whites” in their struggle against the “Reds” but the Whites were defeated in 1920

1919 Bolshevik poster showing the three White generals as vicious dogs under the control of the US, France, and Britain.  

German miscalculation

German Miscalculation

  • Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917

    • Notified US of decision Jan 31

    • Sunk several US ships in Feb and Mar

  • US declared war on April 6, 1917

    • At the same time Russia was withdrawing from the war, the US was entering

  • Germany failed to end the war before the US entered it

American involvement command issues

American Involvement: Command Issues

  • British and French wanted the Americans attached to armies of other nations (amalgamation)

    • Committing the Americans to combat in small units rather than waiting for them to organize and train as divisions and corps would get them into the fight more quickly

  • Pershing resisted, arguing that national pride and a separate American contribution to victory overshadowed the logistical and preparation problems

John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force

Nivelle offensive

Nivelle Offensive

  • In December 1916, General Robert Nivelle replaced Joffre as commander of the French armies on the western front

  • The British reluctantly agreed to place the entire BEF at France’s disposal for offensives on the Western Front in 1917

  • Instead of waiting for the arrival of large numbers of American troops, France launched a large offensive at the Chemin des Dames

Nivelle offensive1

Nivelle Offensive

  • The Germans learned of Nivelle’s plans and repositioned most of their infantry on the reverse slope of the Chemin des Dames

  • Nivelle’s slogan was “The artillery conquers; the infantry occupies”

  • For nine days the French pounded the Germans with artillery before attacking on April 16

Nivelle offensive2

Nivelle Offensive

  • Once the French overcome the meager German defenses on the forward slope and crested the Chemin des Dames, they met heavy fire from the main German defenses

  • Although it was apparent after the first week that the offensive had failed, fighting continued until May 7

  • The senseless losses plunged France into despair and Neville was replaced by General Philippe Petain



  • The disaster of the Chemin des Dames signaled the end of any French effort to breakthrough the German defenses

  • Petain would only conduct limited offensives designed to seize key terrain

  • One of Petain’s major tasks was restoring French morale

  • In May and June mutinies occurred in more than half the French army

  • Through swift discipline and improved living conditions, Petain was able to restore morale

Rather than launching costly attacks, Petain said, “I am waiting for the tanks and the Americans.”

The third battle of ypres

The Third Battle of Ypres

  • Throughout the French mutinies, the British maintained pressure on the Germans

  • British commander Sir Douglas Haig successfully seized Messines Ridge which dominated the plain around Ypres

  • In July 1917, Haig began an almost two week artillery bombardment and on July 31 he began his attack toward the village of Passchendaele with the ultimate goal of breaking through to the German submarine bases at Ostend and Zeebrugge

The third battle of ypres1

The Third Battle of Ypres

  • Rain turned the battlefield to mud and after many attacks and counterattacks, the British finally occupied Passchendaele on November 6

  • In the process they had lost 240,000 men

  • “Passchendaele” came to be synonymous with suffering and disappointment

  • Haig had failed to break through the German lines and decided to halt the offensive

Passchendaele before and after the battle (showing the level of destruction)

The aef


  • In order to field the AEF, the US had to overcome numerous challenges

    • On April 6, 1917 the Army had only 127,588 active soldiers and 80,446 National Guardsmen

    • No active units larger than a regiment existed

    • Severe shortages in uniforms, weapons, and equipment existed

      • Some new soldiers would have to train in coveralls and used wooden sticks to simulate weapons

The aef1


  • On May 18, 1917, the US passed the Selective Service Act

  • By the time of the armistice in November 1918, the US Army had 3,685,458 soldiers, an increase of more than 17 times its April 1917 strength

World War I draftees from Nebraska

Overwhelming the germans

Overwhelming the Germans

  • On July 18, 1918 the Allies began a series of counterattacks designed to take advantage of their new strength and seize the initiative from the Germans

  • Nine American divisions participated as part of three French armies (rather than as an independent force)

  • The Germans were forced out of their Marne River salient

Overwhelming the germans1

Overwhelming the Germans

  • The initiative had now shifted to the Allies

  • Ludendorff called August 8, the first day of the next Battle of Amiens, a “black day for the German army” because it marked a turning point in the conduct of Allied operations and inaugurated the relatively open form of warfare that would characterize the last months of the war

  • The Allies were now getting stronger while Germany could only get weaker

  • The Kaiser called a conference of his military leaders on August 14 and announced, “We have reached the limits of our endurance”

Overwhelming the germans2

Overwhelming the Germans

  • The rapidly deteriorating German situation surprised the Allies, but they determined to press their gains with two simultaneous attacks that would advance and turn inward like giant pincers

St mihiel

St. Mihiel

  • The American contribution was the attack of Pershing’s First Army against the St. Mihiel salient on September 12

  • The fighting included the greatest concentration of aircraft during the war

    • Colonel Billy Mitchell commanded 1,481 Allied planes against only 283 German planes

  • First Army met little resistance as the Germans had already begun withdrawing and the salient was captured in two days

Meuse argonne

St. Mihiel

Meuse River


  • After St. Mihiel, the French and Americans conducted the Meuse-Argonne offensive

  • American inexperience showed throughout the offensive and casualties were high, but ultimately the Americans were able to cross the Meuse River before the Germans could reestablish their defense there

Sgt alvin york

SGT Alvin York

  • Conscientious objector from Tennessee; drafted and assigned to the 82nd

  • Battalion commander gave York two weeks’ leave to search his soul about serving

  • York returned having decided to serve

Sgt york

SGT York

  • Won the Medal of Honor for heroism in the Argonne Forest Oct 8, 1918

  • York’s battalion received fire from German machine guns and York’s 16-man platoon was sent to flank the enemy

  • Nine Americans, to include the platoon leader and the other two corporals, were killed or wounded

  • York was the only remaining unhurt leader

Sgt york1

SGT York

  • York’s platoon was now trapped and under fire within 25 yards of the enemy’s machine guns

  • York was an expert marksman. He began shooting at the nearest position, knowing the enemy would expose themselves to return fire. One by one, he hit every enemy soldier who popped his head up

Sgt york2

SGT York

  • After York killed over a dozen enemy, six Germans charged him with fixed bayonets.

  • York shot the last man first, than the 5th, 4th, etc so the soldiers in front didn’t see their comrades fall.

  • Then he turned his attention to the machine guns.

Sgt york3

SGT York

  • Between shots, York, by himself, called for the Germans to surrender

  • The German commander, seeing York had single-handedly killed over 20 Germans, offered to surrender.

  • Now York, with seven friendly soldiers wounded, had dozens of enemy prisoners to evacuate from an isolated position behind enemy lines.

  • As he began moving these prisoners, other Germans start surrendering.

  • By the time it was over, York had taken a total of 132 prisoners and put 35 machine guns out of action.

Breaking the hindenburg line

Breaking the Hindenburg Line

  • At the same time, other Allied offensives breached the Hindenburg Line in October and forced the Germans to withdraw

  • German morale was at the point of breaking and on September 29, Hindenburg and Ludendorff told the Kaiser that Germany had to request an armistice



  • In the end, the Allies had overwhelmed the Germans with men and equipment

    • “Americans and tanks”

  • Bulgaria surrendered Sept 30, 1918

  • The Ottomans Oct 30

  • Austria-Hungary Nov 4

  • Germany Nov 11

    • “Armistice Day” was replaced by “Veterans’ Day” by Act of Congress on May 24, 1954

Paris peace conference

Paris Peace Conference

  • The victorious powers met in Paris in 1919 to determine the postwar settlement

  • Representatives from the Central Powers were not invited to attend

  • The Russians were not invited to attend

  • The French, British, and Americans dominated the conference

Georges Clemenceau (France), Lloyd George (Britain), and Woodrow Wilson (US) at Versailles

Treaty of versailles 1919

Treaty of Versailles (1919)

  • Woodrow Wilson proposed a generous “Fourteen Points” designed to focus on international cooperation and peace, but the French especially wanted harsh terms imposed on the Germans

    • Wanted to destroy or permanently weaken Germany as a threat

Treaty of versailles 19191

Treaty of Versailles (1919)

  • The resulting Treaty of Versailles denied the Germans a navy and air force and limited the size of their army to 100,000 troops

    • Prevented Germany and Austria from entering any sort of political union

    • Required the payment of war reparations

  • German protest against the Treaty of Versailles will lead to Hitler’s rise to power and World War II

Toward a new german way of war

Toward a New German “Way of War”

  • While the Treaty of Versailles limited the physical German military, it could not limit what the Germans could do mentally

  • In most cases, people tend to learn more in defeat than in victory

  • While most armies merely integrated the new weapons such as the tank and airplane into old military concepts, the German prepared to fight mobile battles



  • Furthermore, the 100,000 man Treaty of Versailles limit on the size of the German Army meant that they could not afford a long, drawn-out defensive campaign

  • Instead the Germans would have to develop a powerful striking force built on mobility and surprise

  • In 1924, they published a new doctrine that would make the Blitzkrieg of World War II possible



  • German interwar doctrine emphasized:

    • decentralized, mission-oriented orders (Auftragstaktik)

    • speed and exploitation of enemy weaknesses maximized by troop commanders taking the initiative (understand the commander’s intent)

    • close integration and cooperation between combat branches (mobile warfare required armor, infantry, and artillery)

    • leadership from the front

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