World War I Battles and Weaponsby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Describe the battle techniques and weapons of WWI. Focus on cause and effect.
"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (Matthew 24:6-7, NIV)." This, just as Jesus predicted, was fulfilled by some of the devastating wars during this past century. World War I, also known as the Great War and "the war to end all wars" (until World War II), was a war of such great proportions that the world had never seen before with over 65 million men involved in the conflict. Approximately 8,500,000 of these died as a result of the war, about 21,000,000 more were wounded, and another 7,500,000 were taken as prisoners or missing in action; more than half of the men mobilized from all the nations involved experienced casualties.1 Involving almost every nation in Europe and many of the other major nations of the world, World War I lead to the development of horrifying new weapons, horrible trench warfare, and horrific effects on the generations to come.
In the early 1900's, Europe resembled a tightly packed powder keg just waiting for a spark. The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria by a 19-year-old Serbian nationalist in June, 1914 provided this spark. However, before this incident, the European nations had been tense; they formed alliances and rivalries with each other and built up their militaries in preparations for war. Four major things caused the European nation's tension before the war: the intense nationalism and clashing national interests and ideals, the division of the European nations after grouping into two sides of allies against each other, the economic rivalry existing between these nations, and the imperialist rivalries between some of the nations.2
France first allied itself with Russia observing with alarm Germany's rapidly growing military power and influence. France also hoped that if war broke out with Germany, an alliance with Russia would cause a two-front war thus dividing Germany's forces and resources, and giving the French an opportunity to recover the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which the French had lost previously to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. Also alarmed, especially by Germany's growing navy, Britain grudgingly allied itself with France and Russia thus forming the Triple Entente later known as "the Allies". As the war progressed, more nations, particularly the United States, joined this alliance. To counter this menace of the Triple Entente, Germany allied itself with Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire (in modern day Turkey). Germany attempted to draw Italy into this alliance with promises for support of its colonial expansion, but tensions between Austria-Hungary and Italy over a border dispute made Italy's alliance questionable and liable to change at any provocation. When the war began, Italy allied itself with the Triple Entente. With these tensions and alliances forming, the stage was set for a massive conflict.3
Daniel's revelation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, found in the Bible in Daniel chapter 2, could be interpreted as a prediction of the tension between the European nations. "The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and baked clay (Daniel 2:32-33)." Speculation has arisen that the European nations could be represented by the iron and clay. This makes sense since iron and clay do not stick together very well; neither did the European nations get along very well, and the two metals could represent the two sides of allies.4
When the war officially began after the assassination of the Archduke, Austria declared war on Serbia, an ally of the Triple Entente nations, on July 28, 1914. A whirlpool of massive size and consequence began to turn which would suck most of the world's nations into history's second largest conflict. Russia then prepared to mobilize so that they could help defend Serbia from the Austrian's army since its interests required that it support Serbia. Germany threatened mobilization if Russia did not halt its preparations. When Russia did not halt its preparations, Germany declared war, first on France, then on Russia. To support her allies, and because of Germany's invasion of Belgium, Great Britain declared war on August 4. World War I had begun.
During World War I, many new, deadly, and frightening weapons were used such as machine guns, artillery guns, U-boats (submarines), tanks, poison gas, flamethrowers, and aircraft. Machine guns had been used in conflicts before, but never to the extent or consequence as they were used in World War I. "These weapons were first used in the American Civil War to devastating effect. But with World War One their effectiveness reached frightening new levels. Firing up to 600 bullets a minute (the equivalent of 250 men with rifles), Machine Guns were then deemed to be 'weapons of mass destruction'."5
Cannons had been used since Medieval times, but in World War I, the range, devastation, and accuracy improved to frightening new levels. In the Somme Offensive of March 23, 1918, the Germans revealed their secret weapon: massive 8.4 inch guns known as "Big Berthas". These huge guns could fire projectiles 76 or more miles; they were used in a long range bombardment of Paris intended to break French moral. "The cannons weren't the only things that had been improved. The shells were upgraded as well. Instead of ordinary shells, new high-explosive shells were developed. The shells were thin casings and were filled with tiny lead pellets. This was so effective, that artillery fire killed hundreds and thousands of men."6
U-boats or submarine were used with great success by the Germans to sink 900,000 pounds worth of ships by April 1917. Tanks were another devastating new innovation. At first, the tanks developed by the British were slow (about five kilometers per hour), unreliable, could carry little munitions, and only 1-2 personnel. However, as the war went on, tanks could carry up to eight men, fire 208 shells, and 13,000 bullets. Poison gas, another innovation of World War I, was first used in the second battle of Ypres: "Without warning, a cloud of greenish chlorine gas released from containers in the front-line German trenches was swept along by the wind into the trenches of the French and Canadians. The Allied troops were helpless and within the area of the gas attack had to be abandoned."7 Although gas masks were issued to the allied soldiers, the Germans still used these weapons with great effectiveness since the gas masks only held about five minutes worth of oxygen.
Improved over earlier versions, the flamethrower was not a new weapon since it had been used in many different forms before like the Byzantine's use of "fire ships" which threw fire out of tubes to catch other ships on fire with a volatile chemical still unknown today.8 The weapon spread fear into the hearts of the British and French troops at the start of their use. 9 Among these other new weapons, aircraft (including giant zeppelin airships and biplanes for combat) paved the way for better aircraft in World War II and beyond. "The use of aircraft in warfare led to great changes in tactics. For the first time it was possible for an army to obtain a broad view of the enemy's territory, the positions of his troops and ships, and the state of his defenses. The airplane was also used to attack enemy troops and to bomb supply bases and cities. These developments created new problems and new methods had to be devised to meet them. These methods included the use of anti-aircraft guns, camouflage, and fighter airplanes."10 As the saying goes: "Necessity is the mother of invention."
The major part of the war, especially on the Western front of Europe, was fought with trench warfare which consisted of both sides digging heavily fortified trenches. When an offensive was attempted, the attackers were mowed down by machine gun fire causing tens of thousands of casualties. Over the deaths of thousands of soldiers, a few yards gain was considered a victory. However, every army knew that if they could break the lines of the enemy, they would win decisive victories and achieve considerable gain. Because most of the generals did not understand that the strategies of war had changed, they kept on attacking the enemy lines only to lose many men in the carnage.
"Perhaps more than any other single factor, the failure of Germany's ambitious plan for a quick victory over France insured that there would be a long war of stalemate and attrition.To protect themselves from the withering firepower of the artillery and machine guns of the opposing armies, British and German soldiers began to dig into the ground during and after the clashes along the Marne. Soon northern and western France was crisscrossed by miles and miles of entrenchments that frustrated - with staggering levels of dead and wounded - all attempts to break the stalemate between the opposing forces until well into 1918. The almost unimaginable killing power of the industrial technology wielded by the opposing European armies favored the defensive. Devastating artillery, the withering fire of machine guns, barbed wire barriers, and the use of poison gas turned the Western Front into a killing ground that offered no possibility of decisive victory to either side.In so many ways, the war in Europe was centered on the ongoing and senseless slaughter in the trenches.They were all the more tragic because neither side could break the stalemate; hundreds of thousands were killed or maimed to gain small patches of ground soon lost in counterattacks."
Finally, on September 29, 1918, Hindenburg line was broken south of Cambria by the British Fourth Army with the aid of the U.S. II Corps. After this, the German lines crumbled and the allied forces took fortified towns behind the lines. The German ambassadors had little choice after this but to either starve to death from the Ally's blockade, to be invaded by the Allies, or to accept the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles which severely limited the expansion of the German army, stripped Germany of her colonies, rights, and territories, and put the blame on Germany for the war, forcing them to pay millions of pounds to reimburse France and Britain in particular for their losses. These terms differed radically from President Woodrow Wilson's fair, peaceful Fourteen Points for peace which essentially said: no more secret treaties, countries must seek to reduce their weapons and their armed forces, national self-determination should allow people of the same nationality to govern themselves and one nationality should not have the power to govern another, all countries should belong to the League of Nations. As could be imagined, the terms in the Treaty of Versailles, to which they were forced to agree, humiliated the Germans and made many of them, particularly a young corporal in the army named Adolph Hitler, very angry and thirsty for revenge. Adolph Hitler later became Chancellor and then dictator of Germany and started World War II, perhaps partly out of feelings of revenge and hatred. 12
Another aspect of the conclusion to World War I was the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Because of this, the Holy Land began to be prepared for the return of the Jews to their rightful land just as Biblical prophecy predicted.
"However, after the First World War the Sykes-Picot Agreement (signed by imperial powers in 1916) divided the territory of the former Ottoman Empire. The League of Nations created the mandate system to allow its member nations to rule over the former German colonies (the Ottoman Empire had been allied with Germany in the war and was also subject to the mandate system). Consequently, Palestine was separated from Syria and put under British mandate while Syria was placed under French mandate. These acts created the conditions for a new local Arab nationalism that sought independence from colonial control and, as a result, a distinct identity in Palestine. In March 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference, an agreement was signed between Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and Arab leader Emir Faisal that promoted the development of a Jewish homeland."
Randall Price, Fast Facts on the Middle East Conflict13
Thus, World War I prepared the land for the Jews, while, after the Holocaust, World War II prepared the Jews for the land.
up1 New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 14, W/X/Y/Z, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 329
up2 Peter N. Stearns, Michael Adas, Stuart B. Schwartz, Marc Jason Gilbert, World Civilizations: The Global Experience, AP Edition, Pearson Education, Inc., New York., 2003, pages 671-674
up3 New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 14, W/X/Y/Z, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 300-302
up4 Mr. Nosotro, "Why for Week 4," Why for Week 4, 2004, http://hyperhistory.net/apwh/task/why04.htm, October 29, 2004
up5 "World War I Weapons - New Technology," World War I Weapons - New Technology, 2003, http://www.revision-notes.co.uk/revision/927.html, October 22, 2004
up6 "World War I Weapons - New Technology," World War I Weapons - New Technology, 2003, http://www.revision-notes.co.uk/revision/927.html, October 22, 2004
up7 New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 14, W/X/Y/Z, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 329
up8 Greek fire - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia," Greek Fire, October 23, 2004, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_fire, October 29, 2004
up9 Michael Duffy, "First World War.com - Weapons of War - Flamethrowers," Weapons of War: Flamethrowers, January 7, 2002, http://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/flamethrowers.htm, October 22, 2004
up10 New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 14, W/X/Y/Z, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 327-328
up11 Peter N. Stearns, Michael Adas, Stuart B. Schwartz, Marc Jason Gilbert, World Civilizations: The Global Experience, AP Edition, Pearson Education, Inc., New York., 2003, pages 675-677
up12 Diana Waring, "What in the World's Going on Here?" audio series, Turn of the Century to World War I, Vol. 2, Tape 3, Something to Say Productions
up13 Randall Price, Fast Facts on the Middle East Conflict, Harvest House
Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2003, pages 24-25
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