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World War I, 1914-1918. French Soldiers at Verdun. The “Great War” -- Overview. First large-scale international conflict in a century 38.2 million casualties; 9.4 million soldiers killed; 6.6 million civilians died; about 6,000 people killed each day for more than 1,500 days

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World war i 1914 1918
World War I, 1914-1918

French Soldiers at Verdun

The great war overview
The “Great War” -- Overview

  • First large-scale international conflict in a century

  • 38.2 million casualties; 9.4 million soldiers killed; 6.6 million civilians died; about 6,000 people killed each day for more than 1,500 days

  • 1918-1919: global influenza epidemic killed 50 million people (more in Europe than the “Great War”)

  • Disintegration of four empires

World war i origins in europe
World War I, Origins in Europe

  • Trigger: assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo (Bosnia) on June 28, 1914

  • Alliances: Triple Entente (Russia, France, Britain) vs. Triple Alliance (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy)

  • Ultimatum: Austria-Hungary demanded dissolution of all Serb nationalist organizations, and purge of Serb officials and army officers on July 23, 1914 (after Germany had given Austria-Hungary a “blank check”)

  • July 25, 1914: Russian Army went on alert and Serb military mobilized

  • July 28, 1914: Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia

  • July 31, 1914: full Russian mobilization

  • August 1, 1914: German army mobilized and declared war on Russia

  • August 3, 1914: German declared war on France

  • August 4, 1914: Britain declared war on Germany

  • German crown prince expected “a jolly little war”

Changing nature of warfare
Changing Nature of Warfare

  • Trench Warfare: 6,250 miles of trenches dug in France, hundreds of thousands of soldiers died in each individual offensive trying to capture a few miles of ravaged land; hundreds of thousands of soldiers suffered shell shock

  • Example I: Battle of the Somme: 60,000 British casualties (including 19,000 killed) on the firstday. There were more British casualties in the first three days of the Battle of the Somme than Americans killed in World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined.

  • Example II: Battle of Verdun: French victory cost 540,000 French and 430,000 German casualties

  • Chemical Warfare: Germans used mustard gas against British around Ypres

  • War in the Air and on the Seas: first planes chasing each other (e.g. German Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen and American Eddie Rickenbacker), first bombings of civilians in Paris, London, Rhineland German cities; German submarines (“U-boats”) began to sink British armored cruisers

  • Home Front: nationalist propaganda to mobilize for total war and maintain morale at home (55,000 armaments workers took one year to produce the shells used in a nineteen-day artillery barrage at the Battle of Ypres in 1917), military conscription (1916 in Britain), daylight savings time introduced, rationing and price controls, British feminists supported the war

World war i around the globe
World War I around the Globe

  • Gallipoli Campaign of 1915: British attack on Turkey to gain control over Dardanelles strait (a brilliant stroke or colonial diversion?)

  • British forces took German colonies (Togoland in 1914, Southwest Africa in 1915, and the Cameroons in 1916); combat continued throughout war in German East Africa

  • Japanese forces captured fortress and port Tsingtao (Qingdao) from a German garrison, and seized German islands of the Marianas, Carolines, and Marshalls in the North Pacific

United states neutrality 1914 1917
United States Neutrality, 1914-1917

  • Woodrow Wilson urged Americans to be “neutral in fact as well as in name,” “impartial in thought as well as in action.” On the other hand, Wilson also feared a German victory, “it would change the course of our civilization and make the United States a military nation.”

  • Wilson’s advisors took sides: Col. Edward House and Robert Lansing supported the British, Sec. of State William Jennings Bryan supported true neutrality

  • American exports to England and France grew 365 percent from 1914-1916, while exports to Germany dropped by more than 90 percent (British naval blockade); private American banks loaned Britain and France $2.3 billion and Germany only $27 million during the neutrality period

  • May 7, 1915: German U-boat sank British liner Lusitania

  • February 1917: Germany launched unrestricted submarine warfare and Britain intercepted a telegram from German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann inviting Mexico to join a military alliance against the United States for German help in recovering Mexican territories lost in 1848

  • April 2, 1917: Wilson’s war message to Congress

  • April 6, 1917: Congress declared war against Germany (373 to 50 in the House, and 82 to 6 in the Senate)

  • Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973): first women in House of Representatives, only member of Congress to vote against U.S. entry into both World War I and World War II

Drafting american soldiers
Drafting American Soldiers

  • Pacifist song "I did not raise my boy to be a soldier" vs. preparedness song “I didn’t raise my boy to be a coward”

  • Military “preparedness” before 1917: National Defense Act (1916) helped increases in army and National Guard; Navy Act (1916) started largest naval expansion in American history

  • Selective Service Act (May 1917): all males between 21 and 30 (later between 18 and 45) had to register

  • 4.8 million served in armed forces (2 million in France); tens of thousands of women enlisted; 400,000 African Americans served in segregated units (W.E.B. DuBois had endorsed NAACP’s support of the war); 42,000 blacks experienced combat in Europe; the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment spent more time in the trenches and received more medals than any other American unit; 15,000 Native Americans served in non-segregated units and suffered a high casualty rate

  • 3 million men evaded draft registration (compared to the total of 24 million registered); 338,000 registered Americans failed to show up for induction; 65,000 draftees applied for conscientious-objector status (4,000 officially)

Negative propaganda posters
Negative Propaganda Posters

Japanese Threat in World War II

German Threat in World War I

A case of patriotic lynching for the students of henry dale
A Case of “Patriotic” LynchingFor the Students of Henry Dale

  • Robert Paul Prager, a German immigrant and coal miner, was wrapped in a flag and lynched on April 5, 1918 in Collinsville (southwestern Illinois)

  • Prager was accused of sabotage and spying for the Germans

  • Twelve men were charged, but later acquitted, the ringleader of the Prager lynch mob was also a German American (himself suspected of “disloyalty”)

  • Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet and U.S. Senate discussed Prager’s death

  • In his Labor, Loyalty, and Rebellion: Southwestern Illinois Coal Miners and World War I (2005), Carl R. Weinberg argues that the Prager lynching is an expression of deep class divisions within the Illinois mining communities

American soldiers in europe
American Soldiers in Europe

  • June 26, 1917: first American units landed in France

  • 53,000 American soldiers died in battle; 62,000 died from disease; some suffered shell shock

  • French prime minister Georges Clemenceau offered licensed, inspected prostitutes to the American army; Secretary of War Newton Baker responded: “For God’s sake … don’t show this to the President or he’ll stop the war.” 15 percent of America’s soldiers contracted venereal disease.

Economic mobilization
Economic Mobilization

  • 25 percent of all American production was diverted to war production; close government-business collaboration (e.g. Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch headed the War Industries Board)

  • one-third of war financed through taxes (War Revenue Act of 1917) and two-thirds through loans (including Liberty bonds)

  • full employment and labor shortages opened up new work opportunities for women and minorities; 0.5 million African Americans moved North; women represented at least 20 percent of all workers in electrical-machinery, airplane, and food industries

  • Woodrow Wilson supported women suffrage in 1918, stating: “We have made partners of women in this war.”

  • National War Labor Board (early 1918): discouraged strikes and lockouts; union membership soared as Samuel Gompers declared AFL’s loyalty to Wilson’s war; nevertheless, there were more than 6,000 strikes during the war in support of “living wage” and eight-hour workday

Peace defeated
Peace Defeated

  • January 1918: Fourteen Points (principles of Open-Door diplomacy, self-determination, and League of Nations)

  • Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles (1919): Wilson reluctantly agreed to German war-guilt clause; compromised on self-determination principle, fought for League of Nations

  • League of Nations: Article 10 (collective security)

  • November 1919: Senate rejected Treaty of Versailles (and U.S. membership in League of Nations)

  • March 1920: Senate majority favored the treaty, but short of the two-thirds needed

  • By 1920: United States was the world’s leading economic power (first in world trade)

Recommended readings
Recommended Readings

  • John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe (2010)

  • Mary Beth Norton, et al., A People and a Nation: A History of the United States (2009)

  • Walter LaFeber, The American Age (1994)

  • Martin Gilbert, The First World War (1994)

  • Edward Paice, World War I, The African Front (2008)

  • Jonathan Tucker, War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare From World War I to Al-Qaeda (2006)

  • John Horne, Alan Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914 (2001)

  • Paul Fussel, The Great War and Modern Memory (1975)

  • Fritz Fischer, Germany’s Aims in the First World War (1967)

  • Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)

  • David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The Home Front in the First World War (1980)

  • John W. Chambers, To Raise an Army (1987)

  • Thomas Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (1992)

  • Lettie Gavin, American Women in World War I (1997)