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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

History: World War One and World War Two: World War One Timeline

Guide for Library Research on World War One and World War Two

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungury with his family in 1910.

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungury with his family in 1910.

The assassination of him and his wife Sophie in 1914 would be the spark that started World War One.

Schlieffen Plan

Alfred Graf von Schlieffen

Alfred Graf von Schlieffen


The German war plan in the west in World War One was created and named after Alfred von Schieffen. The basic idea of the plan was to go around the shared French-German border where it was assumed French armies would be massed to stop an assault by going through Belgium, thus surrounding the French and capturing Paris. This plan was unsuccessful in World War One. It was reused by the Germans in World War Two, where they had more luck with it.

Battle of Tannenberg

Battle of Tannenberg

Memorial to the Battle of Tannenberg 1935 (The Memorial no longer exists.)


The Battle of Tannenberg was fought in the beginning of the war and was a decisive victory for Germany that destroyed a major Russian army. The battle made  Paul von Hindenburg a hero in Germany. He would later be the last President of the Weimar Republic and the man who appointed Hitler as Chancellor, a position from which he began to establish the Nazi dictatorship.

Battle of Verdun

Battle of Verdun

The Battle of Verdun went on for most of 1916 as the French held back the German attack. Both sides suffered heavy casualties but Verdun became a symbol to the French of national determination and sacrifice.

Gallipoli

Gallipoli

The Battle of Gallipoli was an attempt by Allied forces to capture the Dardanelles from the Ottoman Turks. It was fought mostly by soldiers from Australia and New Zealand also called ANZAC forces. The Ottomans held back and defeated the Allies, with ANZAC forces suffering heavy casualties.

Armenian Genocide

Armenian Genocide

NY Times Armenian Genocide (1915)

Starting in 1915 the Ottoman Turks began a genocide against the Armenian population in the eastern part of its empire. Between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks.

Hundred Days Offensive

Hundred Days Offensive

The Hundred Days Offensive was the counterassault launched by the Allied forces in the middle of 1918. It drained much German strength and led directly to Germany begging for an armistice agreement.

Marshalling the War Effort

Marshalling the War Effort

In 1917 the United States entered the war and launched a war effort to ramp up production and to build an army. The government under Woodrow Wilson passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts to silence opposition to the war effort generally and the government specifically. The Sedition Act was overturned in 1921 but the Espionage Act remains on the books and in use by every government since World War One.

Stab in the Back Legend

Stab in the Back Legend

A 1919 Austrian postcard showing a caricature of a Jew stabbing the German Army in the back.

In the aftermath of the end of the war, rather than admit that they had lost, the majority of Germans instead began to claim that they had been "stabbbed in the back" or betrayed and lost only for that reason. The fact that their generals chose to surrender, that their Kaiser fled like a thief in the night, and that their navy was in a state of open mutiny was ignored. Instead the bulk of the German population blamed the Jews for the defeat despite the fact that out of a total population of 550,000 Jews, 100,000 had served with 78% seeing front-line duty and 12,000 dying in battle.

Aftermath in the Middle East

Aftermath in the Middle East

During the war, the colonial powers had made arrangements to split the Middle East between themselves. After the war, they created new states which they called Mandates rather than colonies but which they intended would remain under their control. They created Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire was destroyed and in its place was founded modern Turkey. In the Holy Land, the British had promised to aid in the creation of Jewish Homeland and so had been given a mandate over the territory. They promptly attempted to go back on their word but were unsuccessful in preventing the founding of Israel in 1948.

The End of An Era

The Nine Sovereigns of Europe at the Funeral of King Edward VII of Britain in 1910.

The Nine Sovereigns of Europe at the Funeral of King Edward VII of Britain in 1910.

From left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, King Manuel II of Portugal, Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire, King George I of Greece and King Albert I of Belgium. Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King-Emperor George V of the United Kingdom and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.

July Crisis 1914

July Crisis 1914

The Archduke was assasinated in June and the official declarations of war came in the beginning of August. During July the two European alliances began manuevering and slowly sliding to war.

Trench Warfare

Trench Warfare

From 1914 to 1918, almost the entire war, the western front between Germany and France was made up of a maze of trenches on both sides. Millions of men died simply trying to claim a few yards of mud in between the trenches of the two sides.

Gas Warfare

Gas Warfare

In 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Germans began using chemical warfare. Tear gas and mustard gas would be used throughout the war.

Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme

 

The bloodiest day in the history of the British army was during the Battle of the Somme, with 57,000 casualties. The total lost by Britian in the three day battle was 420,000 while the French lost 200,000.

U-Boats

U-Boats

German submarine U-9 (1910)

The Germans pioneered U-boat attacks during World War One, mostly attacking trade routes in the Atlantic. Germany's unrestricted campaign against all ships on the Atlantic was one of the driving forces in United States entry into the war.

RMS Lusitania

RMS Lusitania

In 1915, as part of their policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Germans torpedoed and sunk the RMS Lusitania, causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew. This caused massive outrage in the United States and was one of the reasons America declared war in 1917.

Russian Revolution

Russian Revolution

In 1917 in order to aid chaos in Russia, the Germans helped Vladimir Lenin in returning to the country where he and his Bolshevik forces took over the government and began to fight a civil war. Lenin signed an agreement with Germany, taking Russia out of the war and giving Germany large amounts of territory in order to focus on destroying his internal enemies. The Russian Revolution led to the creation of the Soviet Union and the spectre of Communism lording over the civilized world for the rest of the century.

Zimmerman Telegram

Zimmerman Telegram

The Zimmermann Telegram was a secret letter from Germany to Mexico suggesting that Mexico join the Central Powers in exchange for German help in conquering the American southwest. It was intercepted and released to the public, being one of the reasons for American entry into the war.

German Naval Mutiny

German Naval Mutiny

In 1918, the German sailors at Kiel mutinied rather than continue to fight in what they viewed as a suicidal offensive that the German generals were planning mainly to maintain their reputations as well as the reputation of the German armed forces.

German Territorial Losses

German Territorial Losses

Germany lost territory in the west to France and in the East to Poland. Reclaiming these territories was part of the reasons Hitler gave for his aggression in the run-up to the Second World War.

The End of Austria-Hungary

The End of Austria-Hungary

After the end of the war, the empire of Austria-Hungary was broken up into the countries of Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia while other territories that were once part of Austria-Hungary were also ceded to other nations including Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

Alliances

Alliances

Prior to World War One the major European powers began to form alliances against each other. What eventually became the Allied powers was an alliance of Britain, France, and Russia while what became the Central powers was Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

Gavrilo Princip

Gavrilo Princip

The assassin of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, died in prison in 1918 from Tuberculosis.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Kaiser Wilhelm II

The Last King of Germany, he abdicated in 1918 and fled the country at the end of the war.

War at Sea

War at Sea

HMS Warspite and HMS_Malaya at Battle of Jutland

The Battle of Jutland in 1916 was the German attempt to break out of the Baltic Sea and to end the British naval blockade of Germany. While the Germans were able to damage the British fleet, they were not able to break British control and remained stuck in port for the rest of the war.

Air Warfare

Air Warfare

The actual Scout C, RFC serial no. 1611


World War One marked the beginning of air warfare; both sides began to use airplanes in addition to balloons and zeppelins that they had been previously using. 

Fall of Jerusalem

Fall of Jerusalem

In 1917 the British army defeated the Ottoman army and successfully entered Jerusalem. This would be the first time a western force would control the city since the Crusades.

General John J. Pershing

General John J. Pershing

General John J. Pershing, nicknamed Black Jack, was the leader of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), essentially the supreme commander of American forces in Europe. 

Armistice

Armistice

World War One officially ended in armistice or cease-fire on 11am on November 11th 1918 - the elventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Versailles Treaty

Versailles Treaty

The Versailles Treaty, signed in 1919, officially ended World War One. It placed blame for the war on Germany, stripped her of territory, and demanded a large reparation fee be paid by them to the Allied powers.

Weimar Republic

Weimar Republic

Created following the abdication of the Kaiser and his fleeing the country, the Weimar Republic is the name given to the Federal republic that Germany became until the election of Hitler and rise to power of the Nazis in 1933.

1918 Flu Pandemic

1918 Flu Pandemic

In the two years following World War One, a deadly influenza pandemic hit worldwide, infecting half a billion people and resulting in about 100 million dead.

Aftermath in Eastern Europe

Aftermath in Eastern Europe

The aftermath of the war in Eastern Europe was of wars, revolutions, and the creation of new states from old empires. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungury, and Yugoslavia were born while Romania and Bulgaria saw border adjustments. Meanwhile in Russia the Communists won the civil war and the Soviet Union was created.