"The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime"-Sir Edward Grey, who went blind later in life.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serbian organization known as the Black Hand. This one act, which almost failed miserably, sparked a war that was unrivaled by any other until World War II (WWII). World War I, however, will always remain the first war, and WWII was merely a continuation of its bloodshed.

  1. Before and During the Assassination

The fight between Serbia and Austria had been going on a long tome. Although no battles had been fought, Austria had tried time and time again to find a way to stay the threat of Serbia. Serbia made great gains anyway, at the expense of the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, with many other small countries helping them. Austria was threatened by Serbia, and Serbia was out to get Austria. In 1914, an organization known as the Black Hand decided to strike at Archduke Ferdinand as a way to strike at Austria.
external image Archdukeferdinand02.jpgArchduke Franz Ferdinand

The Assassination

Six young men from the Black Hand had traveled to Sarajevo, a town in Bosnia, where the Archduke was visiting. As the Archduke paraded through Sarajevo, one assassin threw a pocket bomb at his carriage. The bomb was on target, but quick thinking by Franz and the car driver saved him. The car driver accelerated as he saw the bomb, and Franz knocked it away toward the rear. The bomb barely damaged the Archduke but the car behind was totaled. The Archduke demanded to go to the hospital after that so he could see the victims, and on their way the car passed not one, not two, but five of the assassins. None of the five assassins made a move toward the Archduke; they seemed to have lost their nerve. Finally, by a strange coincedence, the sixth assassin, named Gavrilo Princip, was right in front of the car when it was stuck in traffic. He took his gun, shot the Archduke and his wife, and was then captured and put out of commission. Franz Ferdinand, hit by a bullet and spurting blood from his mouth, said as his staff tried to save him, "It's nothing, it's nothing." The Archduke was dead minutes later.

After the Assassination

The Austrian goverment was enraged, and it immediatly turned on Serbia. Here is where everything went wrong. Austria enlisted Germany's help, who urged them on. Serbia got help from the Russians, who promised to support Serbia. Britain and America were almost oblivious to the situation, and France was keeping tabs on it. From then on things happen in a blur:

July 5: Germany gives the "blank check" to Austria (they will give anything the Austrians need).

July 23: Austria delivers an ultimatum to Serbia. Two days later, Serbia refuses and mobilizes its forces. Austria declares war on Serbia.
July 30: Russia mobilizes
France was in Russia during the time Germany was ready for war, allowing France to coordinate movements with Russia and declare war against Germany together.

August 1: France mobilizes, Germany mobilizes, and the war is just starting.

August 3-5: Germany and Austria vs. France, Russia, and, on August 12, Britain.
The World is at War.

2.The Schlieffen PlanSchlieffenPlan.jpg

The leader of the German High Command, Helmuth von Moltke, practically decided the way the war would run in 1914. He took his plan from the person he succeeded, Alfred von Schlieffen, and called this top secret plan the Schlieffen plan. The plan was, if a two front war were to happen, Germany would strike fast into Belgium and Luxemburg, circle through France, smash into Paris, then swing around and hit the French army from behind. This devastating strategy would completely destroy France's army, allowing Germany to turn and outfight Russia on its eastern border.

The Beginning

Moltke ordered his right wing to strike into Belgium, but with many less divisions then Schlieffen prescribed. He had about five armies sweeping through Belgium with only two to guard the underside of Germany. Moltke quickly ran smack-dab into the Belgium forces in Liege, a ring of twelve massive forts. Although the forts were almost impenetratable, some tough new German artillery broke through them easily. During the fight, one of Germany's future generals made a name for himself: Erich Ludendorff. Ludendorff, during the battle, went right up to the centerpiece of Liege and demanded surrender. The fort surrendered even though they greatly outnumbered Ludendorff's men. The other four German armies also quickly stifled any Belgium forces that opposed them. The French chief of staff, Joffre, appeared not to have noticed anything, and prepared an attack on the two German armies protecting bottom of Germany.......exactly as Moltke planned.

The Middle

In the chaos of war, nothing moves at a slow pace, and here is an example. The French attacked the Germans in the wrong spot, the Germans moved along with their plan, and Conrad, Field Marshal of Austria, sent an army into Serbia. The British were still getting their troops into battle, but one big surprise Germany got was the Russian army. Germany believed the Russians would take practically forever to mobilize, when instead they sent two armies against Germany's badly defended back by August 21. Further on, however, Germany managed to blast the French forces back across the border due to the fact the French were overextended. Then Conrad not only was routed by Serbia and sent running, was attacked by the Russians and was completely unprepared for it. Germany's Schlieffen plan strode along as normal, while Joffre continued to pay it minimal attention. On August 20, the German forces took Brussels, the capital of Belgium, and were well on their way. The Russian armies were fighting against German ones and wearing away at them. In summary, on August 23 the

  • Germans were moving through Belgium and outrunning all French forces sent against them, all according to plan.
  • French launched an offensive against the space in between Germany's wild swing and its defensive force. This failed, and the French finally caught on to the German strategy, and sent forces to stop them, seemingly too late.
  • Russians were making progress into East Prussia (part of Germany)
  • British finally got their act together and sent the BEF (British Expiditionary Force) led by John French against the Germans..... who ran right into them as soon as the BEF dug in.
  • The BEF was eventually pushed back, but may have affected the outcome of the war.

At the end of August, the French were literally hurtling themselves at the Germans, asking to be slaughtered. They believed that wars were won by courage and valor. Ha! The French courageously lost more than three times as many men as the Germans. The Germans used machine guns and artillery pieces to destroy the enemy defenses with minimal loss, and outwitted the French. "It was the most terrible August in the history of the world", said Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle, a well-known writer. Meanwhile, French troops were gathered to provide a last line of defense should the Germans make it to Paris. The British and French were in a headlong retreat toward Paris, with the Germans in pursuit. General Kluck, leader of the First German Army, set the pace as he drove his troops day and night, trying to find a way to Paris. The French were almost giving up hope. But then two things happened that may have saved the French: Joffre actually transfered a whole lot of troops to the north, giving him superior numbers, and Moltke decided to change plans. Moltke sent two armies to encircle French forces in Verdun, and had two turned to face the forces coming from Paris, and had had the other three move forward and downward as the original plan said. This took away troops that Moltke needed to continue the offensive, but it balanced the risk factor greatly. Still, an overwhelming defeat would have caused France to be defeated, and a miracle was needed. The climax of the Schlieffen plan was a miracle: the miracle on the Marne.

The End

As Moltke's plan went into action, he made a pretty big mistake: He neglected to tell Kluck about the army at Paris. He merely gave instructions on where to move, not why. Therefore, Kluck decided to continue his sweeping motion and moved south, exposing his flank to the newly-made French army at Paris. Joffre took control of the army and marched it against the Germans, forcing them to make their first backward movement in their entire campaign so far. However, after Kluck's army regrouped, they began to blow the newly formed army to pieces. Meanwhile, the BEF, apparently tired of sitting back and doing nothing, suddenly found itself in a gap between Kluck's army and the 2nd German Army, commanded by Bulow. Amazingly, the BEF failed to understand their position until near the end of the campaign, and then it was too late. If they had moved faster, the BEF could have broken through and hit the Germans from behind. Whoops! At this point there are two things that could have decided the end of the war: how fast Kluck's army could have destroyed the new French army, and whether the Germans could create a breakthrough anywhere along the line. All along the line it was chaos, fight after fight after fight. Taxicabs from Paris were loaded up with recruits and sent to the front. In the end, Bulow (with his position in extreme jepordy from a flanking attack) retreated, causing Kluck to retreat too. Amazingly, at the that time, Kluck's army was just clearing out the last of the new French army. Paris was within reach, only 30 miles of undefended ground. One more dash and Kluck could have made it to Paris, but he would have then been destroyed as he was surrounded by all the French armies. It was a sour note to end the campaign on, and it left all the armies on either side exhausted and beaten. This was the begining of World War I.