million men from 32 countries died fighting in the
war of 1914-1918. It was called the Great War. We
know it now as World War I.
World War I pitted the Allied Powers against the
Central Powers. At the start of the war, the Allied
Powers included Britain, France, and Russia. Germany
and Austria-Hungary were the Central Powers. Other
countries later joined each side. The United States
entered the war on the side of the Allied Powers in
WHY WAR CAME
For 100 years, the nations of Europe had tried to
avoid war with one another. No country was allowed
to get too powerful. If one did, others would form
an alliance against it.
William II, the kaiser (emperor) of Germany, built
up his country’s army, navy, and industry. Germany
began seizing territories in Africa and the Pacific
These moves worried other nations, especially
France, Britain, and Russia. France and Britain had
their own colonial empires. They agreed to support
each other if war came.
supported Germany. Its empire ruled many countries
in eastern and southern Europe. Many of them wanted
to break away from Austria-Hungary.
One nation eager for independence was Serbia. On
June 28, 1914, a Serb patriot murdered Francis
Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary.
Nobody expected the murder of Francis Ferdinand to
start a war. But it set off a chain reaction.
Austria-Hungary moved to crush Serbia. Russia
mobilized its army to support Serbia. So Germany
sent troops to oppose Russia. Germany also massed
troops on its border with France. France prepared to
War broke out on August 4, 1914. Germany invaded
Belgium. That brought Britain into the war. The
Germans pushed into France. They seemed headed for a
quick victory. But French and British forces stopped
DEADLOCK IN THE TRENCHES
By the end of 1914, the war had settled into a
deadlock. The armies dug protective trenches that
ran for hundreds of miles. Soldiers lived in these
slits in the ground. They ate and slept in them.
When soldiers came out of their trenches to attack,
machine guns cut them down. Sometimes, soldiers met
For three years, there were bloody battles between
the trench lines. Neither side gained an advantage.
Germany had the strongest army in Europe. But it was
fighting on two battlefronts—against France on the
western front and against Russia on the eastern
A EUROPEAN WAR BECOMES A WORLD WAR
The Ottoman (Turkish) Empire entered the war on the
side of the Central Powers. Italy entered on the
Allied side. German and Allied troops battled in
Asia and Africa for control of colonies there.
In the Middle East, the British organized Arab
tribesmen to fight against the Ottomans. They were
led by British colonel T. E. Lawrence, who is better
known as Lawrence of Arabia.
Japan was a rising power in Asia. It joined the
Allied Powers. Japan seized German-controlled
islands in the Pacific Ocean.
THE TIDE TURNS
In 1917, a revolution in Russia brought a Communist
government to power. It made peace with the Central
Powers. The Germans were now fighting on only one
front. But they could not take advantage. That was
because the United States had entered the war.
Most Americans wanted no part of a European war. But
the United States government was shipping supplies
to the Allies. German submarines sank the ships. In
April 1917, the Congress of the United States
declared war against the Central Powers.
American troops did not reach Europe in large
numbers until 1918. They soon turned the tide of
battle. In July, Americans joined a huge Allied
attack. By late summer, the Central Powers were in
On November 11, 1918, the guns fell silent. The
Great War was over.
AFTER THE WAR
The war had caused terrible destruction and death
across Europe. American president Woodrow Wilson
called it “The war to end all wars.” He tried to
work out a peace plan that would be fair. The Allies
didn’t want it. Even Americans rejected it.
The map of Europe was redrawn. The Austro-Hungarian
and Ottoman empires were broken up.
Germany lost some of its territory. It was forced to
pay huge amounts of money for war damage. France and
Britain took over Germany’s colonies.
This was not peace, one French general complained.
It turned out to be only a 21-year truce. In 1939,
World War II began.
The source of this material was the online Encarta
the name of
on the page.
of this page.