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Overview of World War I

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What started out as a local European war soon became a global war that lasted from 1914-1918. World War I was the first war that involved nations (28 to be exact) from around the world, and is commonly called The Great War or The War to End All Wars. Check out the historical facts on World War I.

World War I - Outbreak of War

On June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip assassinated Franz Ferdinand (no, not the band), the Archduke of Austria, in Sarajevo. Exactly one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The war divided Europe into two armed camps - on one side was the Triple Alliance made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and their enemy was the Triple Entente of France, Russia and Great Britain. As other countries began to join sides, the Triple Alliance became known as the Central Powers and the Triple Entente became the Allied Forces.

World War I - Life in the Trenches

Most of the action took place in the trenches. They were dug deep into the ground in a zigzag pattern to protect soldiers from advancing enemies. Soldiers spent an average period of eight days in the trench, where they were constantly under threat of attack from shellfire, snipers and diseases. Soldiers experienced everything from Trench Fever (a painful infection caused by lice poop) to Trench Foot, which caused a fungal foot infection that could result in amputation!

World War I - Fighting on the Front

WWI was different from previous wars because soldiers used efficient weapons like machine guns, artillery, tanks and air force. Military operations began in three major areas in Europe - the western front (France/Belgium), the eastern front (Russia) and the southern front (Serbia). Many of the deadliest battles occurred during WWI, including Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Somme and Gallipoli. Although thousands and thousands of soldiers died during these battles, they were all turning points for the Allied Forces in helping them win the first world war. On October 3, 1918, Germany requested a cease-fire. The war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the warring parties signed the Armistice and agreed to stop fighting.

World War I - Did U Know?

  • During the Christmas of 1914, soldiers from both sides temporarily stopped fighting and called a Christmas Truce. They laughed, sang carols and exchanged presents!
  • Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a surgeon during WWI. Inspired by the sight of red poppies growing among the graves of fallen soldiers, he wrote the memorable poem called In Flanders Field.
  • So far about 4,159 coalition soldiers have died during the latest war in Iraq - compare that to 7,996,888 soldiers who died in WWI.
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