Discussion How was a U.S. Army doughboy outfitted for battle? Clothing, equipment, and weaponry shown and explained in the image.
Discussion Based on the image and information, what do you think life was like for American soldiers during WWI? American soldiers faced many hazards, including shelling, poison gas, mud, bullets, and shrapnel. Life was not easy for an American soldier on the front lines.
Combat in World War I Artillery Most attacks started with an artillery barrage fired from far behind the front lines. Trench Warfare Vast networks of trenches, fenced with barbed wire, sheltered troops from direct fire. Attacking soldiers scrambled out of their trenches into a hail of enemy machine gun fire to try to break through the enemy’s lines. Automatic weapons with a high rate of fire caused enormous casualties. Chemical Weapons Fumes from chemical weapons sickened, blinded, and suffocated soldiers. To counter poison gas attacks, the gas mask became standard equipment for the infantryman. Tanks Armored mechanized vehicles could knock down barbed wire and roll across open trenches. Airplanes Aircraft were first used to locate enemy positions and movement. Later, carrying bombs and outfitted with machine guns, airplanes turned into offensive weapons.
Discussion How did new technologies affect tactics in WWI? Long-range artillery led to trench warfare, which in turn called for new weapons, such as tanks. Machine guns made direct assault difficult. Chemical weapons in the form of poison gas forced soldiers to wear gas masks. Airplanes made long-range recon possible and opened a new arena in war. Submarines prowled the seas.
Discussion What role do you think new technologies played in civilian casualties in WWI? Weapons such as poison gas could not be confined to battle areas. Artillery created so- called "collateral damage" in populated areas near battlefields.
Discussion What other factors besides new technologies might have caused deaths in World War I? Disease spread quickly and easily among soldiers who lived in trenches for long periods of time. There were incidents of friendly fire. Malnutrition. Suicide.
The Americans Arrive U.S. forces reached France in July 1917. British and French commanders wanted U.S. troops placed under their command. U.S. General John J. Pershing insisted that American soldiers fight under U.S. command. President Wilson agreed. In late May 1918, U.S. forces saw their first action. In June, along with French troops, the Americans blocked an intensive German drive on Paris. U.S. and French forces also repelled one final German push toward Paris in July of 1918. After blunting the German offensive, the Allies counterattacked in September 1918. In the Battle of the Argonne Forest, American troops shattered German defenses and opened a hole in the German lines. In October 1918, a revolution in Austria-Hungary split that empire into independent states. By early November, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman governments had surrendered to the Allies. On November 11, the German government signed an armistice. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the fighting stopped.
Discussion Who was winning the war before the United States joined the Allies? Neither side had gained much during the long period of stalemate, and many soldiers had died in bloody, often pointless attacks. By the time American troops arrived, Germany had begun to launch several large-scale offenses.
Discussion What could the Americans bring to the war to help the Allies? More soldiers and supplies as well as a new energy and spirit
Discussion Why do you think British and French commanders wanted to have American soldiers under their command? Both countries had lost thousands of soldiers. They needed to replace these losses with fresh troops. Also, as Britain and France had been fighting the war since 1914, they did not wish to relinquish control.
Discussion Why do you think Pershing and Wilson agreed that American soldiers should remain under U.S. command? Public support for the war in the United States might weaken if Americans were placed in units under foreign command that had suffered high casualties.
Background At the time, World War I was called the Great War, in part because of its unprecedented size and scope. Contemporaries also hoped that it would be the “war to end all wars.” Its identification by historians as World War I or the First World War came, naturally, only after the start of the Second World War.
Postwar Goals The British wanted to punish the Germans for starting the war and force them to pay reparations. The French, who shared a border with Germany, wanted to permanently end the threat of German invasion by reducing the size of Germany’s military and prohibiting troop placement near the Rhine River. President Wilson proposed a plan called the Fourteen Points that was meant to create a lasting peace in Europe. It advocated various freedoms, addressed the right of national self-determination, and called for the creation of a League of Nations.
Discussion How did the postwar goals of the main Allies vary? European powers wanted to punish and weaken Germany. The United States sought to create a lasting peace through openness and conflict resolution.
Changes in Europe Peace talks began at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, in January 1919. Delegates from 27 countries, excluding Russia, attended the meeting. The Treaty of St. Germain dissolved the empire of Austro-Hungary and recognized the independence of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Balkan states. The final terms of the Treaty of Versailles severely punished Germany, essentially blaming German aggression for starting the war. Germany’s military and navy were severely downsized. Heavy reparations were demanded, and German territory was taken from German control. President Woodrow Wilson came to the treaty negotiations with his Fourteen Points proposal. European powers were only lukewarm on Wilson’s ideas. However, the final treaty did at least call for a League of Nations, which was Wilson’s primary objective.
Discussion How do you think the Treaty of Versailles affected Germany in the years following WWI? It would weaken Germany because its armed forces would be greatly reduced in size and its economy would struggle to pay war reparations for years to come.
Predictable Misunderstanding You might think that Versailles was the site of the last battle of World War I. Actually, Versailles was a palace in France where the treaty formalizing Germany’s surrender was signed.
Senate Rejection Republicans felt excluded from the negotiations. “Irreconcilables” opposed the League of Nations. Reservationists wanted changes in the treaty to ensure that U.S. forces would not be called into action in European conflicts. Congress voted twice and rejected the treaty both times. Many of those opposed feared what George Washington had more than 100 years earlier called “entangling alliances.”
Discussion What were the Senate’s objections to the Treaty of Versailles? What were the Senate’s objections to the Treaty of Versailles? The “Irreconcilables” saw the League of Nations as the kind of “entangling alliance” that the founders had warned against. The “Reservationists” argued that the League might force the United States into a war without congressional approval.
Discussion Why do we call this conflict a world war when it was fought mainly in Europe? Nations from many parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America, participated in or were affected by the fighting.