The World War I portal
World War I (abbreviated WWI), also known as the First World War, the Great War and The War to End all Wars was a global military conflict that took place mostly in Europe between 1914 and 1918. The main combatants were the Allied Powers, led by France, the Russian Empire, the British Empire, Serbia, Belgium, and later Italy, Romania and the United States, who fought against the Central Powers: Austria-Hungary, the German Empire, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey).
Much of the fighting in World War I took place along the Western Front, within a system of opposing manned trenches and fortifications (separated by a "no man's land") running from the North Sea to the border of Switzerland. On the Eastern Front, the vast eastern plains and limited rail network prevented a trench warfare stalemate from developing, although the scale of the conflict was just as large. Hostilities also occurred on and under the sea and — for the first time — in the air. More than nine million soldiers died on the various battlefields, and millions more civilians perished.
The war caused the disintegration of four empires: the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian. Germany lost its overseas empire, and states such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were created, or recreated, as in the cases of Lithuania and Poland. This contributed to a decisive break with the world order that had emerged after the Napoleonic Wars, which was modified by the mid-19th century’s nationalistic revolutions. The results of World War I would also be important factors in the development of World War II just over two decades later.
The Tank was one of the most significant innovations of the First World War. The fighting conditions on the Western Front during the war prompted the British Army to begin research into a self-propelled vehicle which could cross trenches, crush barbed wire, and would be impervious to fire from machine-guns. Having already seen a Rolls-Royce Armoured Car used by Royal Naval Air Service in 1914, and aware of schemes prompted by Major Ernest Swinton to create a tracked fighting vehicle, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill sponsored the Landships Committee to oversee development of this new weapon. The Landships Committee created the first successful prototype tank, nicknamed Little Willie, which was tested by the British Army in September 1915. Although initially termed landships by the Admiralty, the initial vehicles were colloquially referred to as water carriers, later shortened to tanks, to preserve secrecy. The word tank was used to give the workers the impression they were constructing tracked water containers for the British army in Mesopotamia, and the name became official in December 1915.
"It must be a peace without victory...Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor's terms imposed upon the vanquished. It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last."
- — Woodrow Wilson, 22 January 1917
French soldiers of the 87th Regiment, 6th Division, at Côte 304, (Hill 304), northwest of Verdun, 1916.
Photo credit: Public domain image, original photographer unknown.
Hunter Liggett (March 21, 1857– December 30, 1935) was a general of the United States Army. His forty-two years of service spanned the period from the Indian campaigns to trench warfare. Liggett was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. After his graduation from West Point as an infantry lieutenant in 1879, field service in the American West, the Spanish–American War, and the Philippine–American War honed his skills as a troop leader. Success in brigade commands in Texas and in the Philippines led to his selection as commander of the 41st Infantry Division in France in 1917. When his division was disestablished, he took command of I Corps. Under Liggett's leadership, the corps participated in the Second Battle of the Marne and in the reduction of the Saint-Mihiel Salient. In October 1918, as commander of the U.S. First Army, he directed the final phases of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and the pursuit of German forces until the armistice. After commanding the U.S. Third Army also known as the Army of Occupation on the Rhine bridgeheads, Hunter Liggett retired in 1921.
Did you know...?
- ...that the Lake Tanganyika passenger ferry MV Liemba began its life as a German warship in World War I, spent eight years on the bottom of the lake, and later portrayed the Empress Luisa in the film The African Queen?