Series of events that led to World War I
Even though World War I started almost spontaneously, there were several events that took place and led to the war. Several leaders and countries took actions that triggered a timeline of events that led to the start of the war. Most of the countries got into the World War I due to the defense alliances they had signed with their allies and to protect their interests.
The first thing to note is that there used to exist some defense alliances among major countries in Europe. The alliances meant that if one country is at war, the partners would join in and support them. The alliances included that of Russia and Serbia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, France and Russia, Britain, and France and Belgium, and Japan and Britain. On June 28th, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the heirs of the Austrian throne were assassinated in Bosnia. Serbia is believed to be behind the assassination and is given an ultimatum by Austria-Hungary and Germany on July 23rd. On 26th July, Britain tried to resolve the issue but Germany refused. On 28th July, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and Russia and Germany joined in a day later, with Russia supporting Serbia. Austria attacked Serbia's capital on July 30th and Germany declared war on Russia and France and invades Belgium, a move that made Britain join in against Germany. Britain then declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. On August 7th to 24th, France lost about 27,000 men in a day as they were attacked by Germany. Russia invaded Germany on August 17th and this led to the digging of the Western front of the trench as Europe was divided into two war zones (Keegan). At this point, the battle of Mons in Belgium started as a formal World War I.
Events that slowly drew the united states into the conflict
Even after the above occurrences, the United States chose to remain neutral and to avoid any intervention. President Woodrow Wilson was supported by the Americans in the neutrality policy until later in 1915 when Lusitania, a British Ocean Liner, was sunk by a German U-boat. The tragedy led to the death of over 2,000 people, out of which 128 were Americans. President Wilson needed to act and requested the Congress to advise on the best way forward. The United States declared war on Germany and this was also a reaction to a Zimmerman telegram that Mexico was forming an alliance with Germany. The United States declared war on Germany on 6th April 1917. The declaration came two days after President had told a joint session of the Congress and the House of Representatives that the world should be made safe for democracy to thrive.
Prior to this, Germany had resumed the submarine attacks on passenger and merchant that were unarmed. For example, the Sussex, an unarmed French ship was sunk by the Germans in March 1916 along the English Channel and this attracted the wrath of the Americans. The unrestricted submarine war was a violation of peace and democracy of many people and the United States needed to act to protect the innocent and the weak countries (Sondhaus). In conclusion, World War I was as a result of a series of events by different countries that attracted the intervention of others. The defense alliances escalated the war because more countries were pulled into the war as a result of the agreements they had with their allies.
Keegan, John. The first world war. Random House, 2014.
Sondhaus, Lawrence. German Submarine Warfare in World War I: The Onset of Total War at Sea. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
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