Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD REFERENCE (www.oxfordreference.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single entry from a reference work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 16 May 2021

World War I 

Source:
The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military
Author(s):

Oxford Dictionaries

(1914–18) Essentially a civil war in Europe with global implications, World War I resulted in a shift of economic and cultural influences away from Europe, ultimately enabling new nations to emerge and encouraged others (notably the United States) to challenge Europe's international leadership. The fighting pitted Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire (together styled the Central Powers) against an alliance of Britain, France, Russia, Italy and, eventually, the United States. With the mobilization of 65 million troops, World War I was ultimately the most destructive military conflict in world history to that point.Triggered by the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital, Sarajevo (allegedly by Serbian nationalists), open warfare grew from a series of strategic alliances that drew in powers that seemingly had little interest in this immediate cause. The Austrians, given unequivocal support by their ally, Germany, decided to crush Serbia's perceived challenge. Russia, fearing domestic uprisings in support of Orthodox Serbia, gave notice that it would support its coreligionists against Catholic Austria-Hungary. German military leaders, particularly Gen. Alfred von Schlieffen, sought to advance their own goals by using the crisis as a justification for attacking Russia's ally, France. That all these nations had been steadily arming over the previous years only further exacerbated the crisis, pushing them toward war. By August 12, all major powers had declared war, and Germany, challenging Belgium's declarations of neutrality, began hostilities by marching through the smaller nation in order to launch an attack on France. France and Britain responded by meeting the German attack. Acting on its own declaration of war, Russia launched an attack on Germany's eastern front.Within three weeks the engaged armies had fought to a virtual standstill. German troops destroyed an entire Russian army at Tannenberg (August 26–30). A week later, British and French stopped Germany's own flanking maneuver through Belgium in the First Battle of the Marne (September 5–9). Soon the western armies had constructed an almost continuous parallel line of defensive systems stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea. Trench warfare, most prominent in France and Flanders, but existing in some areas of Russia, Italy, the Balkans, and Palestine as well, flouted attempts by Europe's military leaders to return to a war of maneuver by rupturing the enemy's front. To restore the offensive, both sides eventually introduced new weapons such as tanks and chemical warfare. High-explosive shells, recoilless carriages, optical sights, improved communications, and cannon ranges of 20 or more miles made indirect artillery bombardment the dominant force of the battlefield. The application of massive and increasingly sophisticated artillery fire proved to be the most effective means of reducing fortifications. But western defenses were so strong and thickly defended that, although it was possible to break into them, there remained severe limitations to any advance.In ... ...

Access to the complete content on Oxford Reference requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.