Was World War I
an avoidable debacle ?
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left. ”
- Bertrand Russell
Much as Russell surmised, the course of World War I culminated in loss. A study of the treaties, battles, technology, and ideological grounds shows much about the political, military, and diplomatic conditions that prevailed during World War I.
Major Treaties Signed
The major alliances of World War I centered around two treaties:
The Triple Alliance
The Triple Entente
The armistices of Compiègne and Villa Giusti marked the end of the war on the Western Front and on the Italian Front. These were followed by a number of historically significant peace treaties including:
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine
Treaty of Trianon
Treaty of Sèvres
These peace treaties were drafted at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.
Principal Theaters Of Battle
The principal theaters of battle of World War I were:
Western Front: Major battles fought along the Western Front include the Battle of the Marne, the Battles of Ypres, the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Verdun, and the Battle of Passchendale.
Eastern Front: Major battles fought along the Eastern Front include the Battle of Tannenberg, the Battles of Masurian Lakes, and the Battle of Riga.
Italian Front: Major battles of this theater include the twelve battles of the Isonzo River, including the Battle of Caporetto.
Gallipoli Peninsula: Operations in Gallipoli lasted from February 1915 through January 1916. This was the result of a failure on the part of the British Navy to force a route through the Dardanelles.
Naval Warfare: Britain and Germany were long involved in a race for the supremacy of their respective navies. The naval wars of World War I were the outcome of their fierce rivalry. The Battle of Jutland was the most important naval battle fought in World War I.
The battles of World War I were costly in terms of causalities. The top ten battles of World War I noted for their magnitude were:
|Hundred Days Offensive||1,855,369|
|Battle of the Somme||1,219,201|
|Battle of Verdun||976,000|
|Battle of Passchendaele||848,614|
|First Battle of the Marne||483,000|
|Battle of Gallipoli||473,000|
|Battle of Arras||278,000|
|Battle of Tannenberg||182,000|
Technology used in World War I
World War I saw the development of war technology in an unprecedented fashion. Among the weapons used were:
The development of newer and better weapons dominated government expenditure of the nations involved.
Trench warfare dominated the Western Front. Over 200,000 soldiers are estimated to have died in the trench warfare of World War I.
While the Allies concentrated on the development of bombers such as the Farman MF-7, MF-II, Voisin III, and Voisin IV, the Germans devised better antiaircraft missiles. Radical development of ordinances dominated the course of the war.
Major Turning Points
A number of events that proved to be major turning points of World War I were marked by political and diplomatic developments.
Italy, having signed the Triple Alliance, was expected to support the Central Powers. However, when Italy joined the war in 1915, it was on the side of the Allies.
The Race to the Sea of 1914 turned out to be extremely significant as it marked the beginning of a long-drawn-out and costly trench warfare on the Western Front. The frustrating stalemate of the war here was one of the reasons that World War I lasted over four years.
The United States' decision to join World War I cinched the war for the Allied powers. The United States entered the war following Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare and significant losses of American passenger and merchant navy vessels.
Russia withdrew from World War I following the October Revolution and signed an armistice with Germany in December 1917. The battle thereafter was fought primarily on the Western Front and in Italy.
End of the War
The outbreak of the Russian Revolution forced Russia to withdraw from World War I. Russia signed an armistice with Germany in December 1917. This made it very important for both the Allied and Central Powers to win the battle at the Western Front. After a prolonged campaign, the Allied troops won and Germany signed an armistice on November 11, 1918. The Armistice of Villa Giusti marked the end of war on the Italian Front. Following the end of war, the Treaty of Versailles was drawn up at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The economic and social devastation of World War I was unprecedented.
Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points
On January 8, 1918, President Wilson addressed the U.S. Congress and put forth Fourteen Points. These points became the basis of the armistice signed by the Central Powers and formed the terms of surrender for Germany.
President Wilson’s Fourteen Points were the ideological grounds for justification of the United States' participation in World War I and were a great motivation to the Allied troops. The Treaty of Versailles was divergent in its aims from President Wilson’s Fourteen Points because President Wilson’s European counterparts, Georges Clemenceau, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, and David Lloyd George were not in agreement with its ideological ends.