World War I Timeline

significant dates during wwi

Dates in the late 1800's

1870 - Prussia forced France to give up territory along German border

In 1870, as part of its plan to unify Germany, Prussia forced France to give up territory along Germany's border. As a result, France and Germany became enemies. To protect itself, Germany signed alliances with Italy and Austria-Hungary. They became known as the Triple Alliance.

1894 - Franco-Russian Alliance

The new Triple Alliance alarmed Russian leaders, who feared that Germany intended to expand eastward. In addition, Russia and Austria-Hungary were competing for influence in southeastern Europe.

A common interest in opposing Germany and Austria-Hungary led Russia and France to sign the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1894. These two nations promised to come to each other's aid in a war against the Triple Alliance.

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1898 - Germany began building large navy

In 1898, Germany began building a large modern navy which threatened the British. This caused the British to rush in building warships. Britain and Germany were engaged in an arms race, which convinced Britain to build closer ties with France and Russia.

Dates in the early 1900's

August 31, 1907 - Triple Entente

The British refused to sign a formal alliance, so the relationship became known as an entente cordiale, or friendly understanding. Britain, France, and Russia became known as the Triple Entente.

1908 - Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia

Austria-Hungary annexed, or seized, Bosnia, which had belonged to the Ottoman Empire, outraging the Serbs. The annexation demonstrated that Austria-Hungary had no intention of letting the Slavic people in its empire become independent. The picture to the left shows the Serbs protesting this annexation.

Dates in 1914

June 1914 - Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

Seven conspirators, who were part of the Black Hand, were involved in the plan to assassinate Ferdinand. One conspirator threw a hand grenade at the archduke's car when he was on his way to Sarajevo's city hall. The grenade bounced off the car and exploded near the following car. The archduke was able to escape injury.


When Franz Ferdinand arrived at city hall, the Austrian commander warned the archduke that the city was about to erupt into rebellion. He convinced the archduke to escape quickly. After the reception, the archduke's car sped away from city hall, traveling fast enough to make it difficult for another attempt on his life, until the car had to make a sharp turn. The curve before the bridge over the river forced the car to slow down. There, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip was able to approach the car and shoot the archduke and his wife.

Assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand

July 28, 1914 - Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia

Russia immediately mobilized its army, including troops stationed on the German border. Within days, Germany declared war on Russia and France. World War I had begun.
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Dates in 1915

February 1915 - announcement of German submarines

In February 1915, the Germans announced that they would use submarines to sink without warning any ship they found in the waters around Britain. Germany made this decision because of the British blockade of German ports. This blockade forced neutral merchant ships sailing to Europe to land at British ports to be inspected for goods prohibited from shipment to Germany and its allies.

May 7, 1915 - Sinking of the Lusitania

On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat sank the Lusitania killing over 1000 passengers including 128 Americans. Even though the United States is outraged that innocent American lives were lost, the government did not fell ready to declare war. Wilson petitioned Germany to stop the attacks on civilian ships.
Germany Sinks The RMS Lusitania - TheBlazeTV - REAL HISTORY - 2012.06.15

Dates in 1917

January 1917 - Zimmermann Telegram

In January 1917, a German official sent the Zimmermann telegram to German ambassador in Mexico which promised Mexico the return of its "lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona" if it allied with Germany. British intelligence intercepted this telegram and notified the United States.

February 1, 1917 - Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare

The German military leaders believed that they could starve Britain into submission if U-boats sank all ships on site. Germany didn't believe the United States could raise an army to send to Europe in time for the war.

Therefore, German U-boats sank 6 American ships between February 3 and March 21. Because of this, Wilson petitioned to Congress to go into war on April 2, 1917.

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March 1917 - Russian Revolution

In March 191, riots broke out in Russia causing Czar Nicholas II, leader of Russia Empire, to renounce his throne, thus causing the Russian Revolution to begin. A temporary government took control and the leaders wanted Russia to stay in war, but were unable to deal with the afflicting problems of the nations.

As a result of this, Vladimir Lenin's Bolshevik Party seized power and established a Communist government in November 1917.

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May 18, 1917 - Selective Service Act

The Selective Service Act was enacted on May 18, 1917. This act required all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the draft. Randomly, men were called up and brought before a local draft board in charge of selecting or exempting them from service.


Not all American soldiers were drafted. Even though about 2.8 million were drafted, approximately 2 million men volunteered for military service. This was a good boost for moral for the allied forces.

June 15, 1917 - Espionage Act

On this day, the Espionage Act was enacted which made it illegal to aid the enemy, give false reports, or interfere with the war effort in the United States.

July 4, 1917 - AEF arrived in Paris

On July 4, 1917, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) arrived in Paris. British and French commanders wanted to integrate American troops into their armies, but American general John Pershing refused. Eventually only one unit (the 93rd Infantry Division - an African American unit) was transferred to the French.

Dates in 1918

March 3, 1918 - Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

Lenin compromised with Germany on March 3, 1918. Russia gave up the Ukraine, its Polish and Baltic territories, and Finland. This compromise is known as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Germany could now concentrate on its forces in the west.

March 21, 1918 - Launch of German gas attack

On March 21, Germany launched a massive gas attack and artillery bombardment along the western front. Strengthened by reinforcements from the Russian front, the Germans pushed deeply in allied lines, and they were less than 40 miles from Paris by June.

May 16, 1918 - Sedition Act

The Sedition Act of 1918 made it illegal to speak against the war publicly. In practice, it allowed officials to prosecute anyone who criticized the government.

June 1, 1918 - Block of German Drive

American and French troops blocked the German drive at Chateau Thierry.

September 26, 1918 - Battle of Argonne Forest

The Battle of Argonne Forest was the most massive American offensive for American expeditionary forces. It was launched in the region between the Meuse River and Argon forest. The Germans inflicted many heavy casualties. but their position slowly fell to the American's advancing troops.

By early November of 1918, the Americans had opened a hole in the eastern flank of the German lines. All across the western front, Germans began to retreat.

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October 1918 - independence of Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia

In October 1918, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia declared independence. By early November, the governments of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire had surrendered to the Allies.

November 9, 1918 - Germany became a republic

On November 9, 1918, Germany became a republic.

November 11, 1918 - end of fighting

On November 11, the government signed an armistice - an agreement to stop fighting. The fighting officially ended.
This Day in History, November 11, 1918: World War I Ends

Dates in 1919

January 1919 - Peace conference at the Palace of Versailles

In January 1919, delegates from 27 countries traveled to the peace conference at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris.

The Big Four leaders that were there were Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, George Clemenceau, and Vittorio Orlando. Russian representatives were not invited to the conference because the allies did not see the government under Lenin to be legitimate

June 28, 1919 - Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was signed reluctantly by Germans on June 28, 1919.The Treaty forced Germany to completely disarm the Rhineland, reduce the size of their troops, accept full responsibility for the war, and to pay back 33 billion dollars in reparations. Hyperinflation occurs because of this
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