World War 1 was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from July 28, 1914, to November 11, 1918. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history.
Over nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the war, a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents' technological and industrial sophistication and the tactical stalemate caused by grueling trench warfare.
It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history and paved the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved.
Unresolved rivalries still existed at the end of the conflict and contributed to the start of World War 2 only twenty-one years later.
World War 1 Timeline
Otto von Bismarck leads the creation of the Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria, and Italy.
June 28, 1914:
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was killed in Sarajevo along with his wife, Duchess Sophie, by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. This is cited as a primary cause of World War 1.
July 5, 1914:
Austria-Hungary seeks German support for a war against Serbia in case of Russian militarism. Germany gives assurances of support.
July 23, 1914:
At the beginning of "Black Week," Austria-Hungary sends an ultimatum to Serbia. The Serbian response is seen as satisfactory everywhere but in Vienna.
July 28, 1914:
Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, Russia begins to mobilize, and The Netherlands declares neutrality.
August 1, 1914:
Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway declare neutrality, while Germany and the Ottoman Empire make a secret alliance. France begins to prepare for war.
August 2, 1914:
Germany invades Luxemburg
August 3 - 4, 1914:
Germany declares war on France, and Belgium denies Germany access to move its army to the French border, which was necessary to implement the Schlieffen Plan. In response, Germany invades Belgium. Britain protests the violation of Belgian neutrality, guaranteed by the Treaty of London. The German Chancellor replies that the treaty is just a scrap of paper. The United Kingdom declares war on Germany. The United States, watching an ocean away, declares its neutrality.
August 5 - 12, 1914:
Dominos continue to fall as the countries in Europe take sides. Montenegro, Serbia, and Great Britain declare war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. While Spain declares its neutrality, and the Ottoman Empire closed the strategic Dardanelles. Austria-Hungary then declares war on Russia.
August 7 - September 13, 1914:
The Battle of the Frontiers begins. The first land battle, the Battle of Liege, takes place in Belgium, where German forces take heavy casualties despite overwhelming numbers.
The Germans obtain a victory against the British Expeditionary Force and France's Fifth Army at the Battle of Mons. By the end, Germany occupies Brussels, deal heavy losses to the Russians, and was now at war with Japan. Many battles take place, and more lines are drawn. Austria-Hungary also declare war on Belgium while Germany advances into France and halted before reaching Paris.
In the Pacific, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, and Great Britain begin to pick away at German holdings in China and many Pacific Ocean island chains.
August 12, 1914:
The Belgians pick up a victory against the invading Germans at the Battle of Haelen. While it seemed significant for the Belgians, it did not deter Germany's invasion. However, it did have an impact on the use of horses in battle. Technology had surpassed horses, and their use began to become obsolete.
The German advance through Belgium to France did not go as smoothly as the Germans had hoped. The Belgians put up a good fight, destroying railway lines to slow the transport of German supplies.
Despite a French counter-attack that saw the deaths of many Frenchmen on the battlefields at Ardennes, the Germans continued to march into France. They were eventually halted by the Allies at the First Battle of The Marne.
British troops had advanced from the northern coast of France to the Belgian town of Mons. Although they initially held off the Germans, they were soon forced to retreat.
The British lost a huge number of men at the first battle of Ypres.
By Christmas, all hope that the war would be over had gone, and the holiday saw men of both sides digging themselves into the trenches of the Western Front.
Winston Churchill resigns after the fiasco in Gallipoli. He would join the army on the Western Front and eventually make it back into politics before the end of the war.
The use of airships by the Germans increased. Zeppelins began attacking London. They were also used for naval reconnaissance, to attack London, and smaller balloons were used for reconnaissance along the Western Front. They were only stopped when the introduction of airplanes shot them down.
May 7, 1915:
The Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat. This causes a reaction in the United States, and the public began to be in favor of war. The United States remained neutral.
May 23, 1915:
Italy chooses to forego its neutrality and declares war on Germany.
April - August 1915:
The British land troops on Gallipoli in hopes of pushing the Ottoman Empire back and opening up Dardanelles. The mission was a failure.
April - August 1916:
Romania enters the war on the side of the Allies, but by August was occupied by Germans and Austrians.
May 31 - June 1, 1916:
The Battle of Jutland resulted in many casualties on both sides, but the Allies took the brunt of the losses. However, the battle alarmed Kaiser Wilhelm, who grounded much of the German navy for the remainder of the war.
21 Feb - Nov, 1916:
The Battle of Verdun resulted in the Germans mounting an attack on the French designed to ‘bleed the French dry.’ Although the fighting continued for nine months, the battle was inconclusive. Casualties were enormous on both sides, with the Germans losing 430,000 men and the French 540,000.
1 July - Nov 1916:
The battle of the Somme was preceded by a week-long artillery bombardment of the German line, which was supposed to destroy the barbed wire defenses placed along the German line but only actually succeeded in making no man's land a mess of mud and craters. The five-month-long battle saw the deaths of 420,000 British soldiers (60,000 on the first day), 200,000 French soldiers, and 500,000 German soldiers, all for a total land gain of just 25 miles.
6 April, 1917:
The United States declares war on Germany
Following the successful revolution by the Bolsheviks, the Russians signed an Armistice with Germany at Brest-Litovsk. The terms of the treaty were harsh: Russia had to surrender Poland, Ukraine, and other regions. They had to stop all Socialist propaganda directed at Germany and pay 300 million roubles for the repatriation of Russian prisoners.
The British combined the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service to create the Royal Air Force
8 - 11 August 1918:
The British general Haig, ordered the attack on the German sector at Amiens. At the same time, the news came through that the Allies had broken through from Salonika and forced Bulgaria to sue for peace.
The Allies continue to push into France and Belgium. They managed to take back most of what was lost in those two countries.
30 October 1918:
The Allies had successfully pushed the Turkish army back, and the Turks were forced to ask for an armistice. The terms of the armistice treaty allowed the Allies access to the Dardenelles. This was pivotal for the Allies.
1 - 11 November 1918:
In early November, the Hindenberg line collapsed, and the Germans were pushed back. This results in the Kaiser being abdicated from his leadership and an Armistice signed that would end World War 1. Germany was given harsh consequences which would aid Adolf Hitler in his rise to power.