The result of the entangling alliances that plunged much of Europe and eventually the United States into World War I had a much greater impact that many realized. The alliances caused countries to defend other countries and shattered the German economy. This gave the Nazi party and Adolph Hitler the opportunity to take control of the country. These chains of events lead to the start of the Second World War in Europe. The war became a two-front war when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Protecting the Aristocracy

WWI was fought for national pride and to protect the boundaries of some countries. The start can be traced to a desire to protect the aristocracy in Austria-Hungary. Specifically, WW1 started because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir apparent to the throne. Germany and Austria-Hungary entered into a joint alliance in 1879 and agree to protect each other from Russia. Two years later Austria-Hungary made an alliance with Serbia to prevent Russian aggression in Serbia. That same year Russia formed an Alliance with France so France could be protected from Germany and Austria-Hungary. In 1904, France and Great Britain entered into an alliance to end the conflict between the two warring nations. Next in 1907, Britian and Russia reached an agreement to end imperialist rivalries in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet. The Triple Entente of 1907 was an agreement connecting the Anglo-Russian agreement with an agreement involving Russian, France and Britain. This plan called for each country to defend the others in the event of a threat from Germany. With this came the start of the group of nations that would eventually become the Allies of World War II. With everyone agreeing to defend everyone else, it was inevitable that some type of conflict would begin. The conflict that would quickly turn into World War 1 started when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. Like standing dominos falling down with only a gentle push, the countries involved in the alliances stepped up to “honor” their agreements.

One Event Creates A Chain Reaction

On July 28, 1914, one month after Archduke Ferdinand and his wife had been killed. Austria-Hungary declared war of Serbia, the home nation of the assassin. A day later, on Aug. 4, the United Kingdom declares war on Germany, after Germany invaded Belgium. On Aug. 5, Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia, and Serbia declared War on Germany. At this point, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson announced on Aug. 18, 1914 that the U.S. would remain neutral. Wilson had been trying to maintain long-standing position of isolation for the United States. That position was beginning to crumble as the Allies sought assistance. However, in less than a year, the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania is sunk by German U-boats on May 7, 1915. This openly forced the United States into the war. Prior to the attack on the Lusitania, it was fairly well accepted that while trying to maintain a neutral position the United States was aiding England in its effort to ward off the Germans. The year 1916 saw the escalation of the war with the Battle of Verdun, the longest and one of the bloodiest of the war. Verdun was followed by the Battle of Jutland, where the major naval battle of the war began on July 1. Next, the Battle of Somme introduced the first tanks into battle. On April 5, the United States declared war on Germany. The Bolsheviks overthrow of the Russian government opened the door for the Communist takeover. Finally, in 1919, German Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and flees Germany, allowing the start of the Nazi party to take hold. As history notes, World War 1 ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in Paris.

The League of Nations

The United States never signed the treaty. However, President Wilson sought to establish the League of Nations as a peace-keeping organization, which failed. It was followed by the creation of the United Nations years later, which had a much different agenda than had been proposed for the League of Nations by Wilson. Wilson also drafted his 14 Points for Peace, which never received wide acceptance from the global community. Wilson was seeking an end to secret diplomacy, arms reduction and freedom of the seas. Wilson, a former college professor, could not impose his peace for the world view on the Allied Powers that won the war. Wilson believed that forming the League of Nations would allow countries to reach agreements, thus preventing future wars. Wilson had difficulty convincing his own government of that plan. Thus not only did the U.S. not sign the Treaty of Versailles, it did not join the League of Nations. Wilson’s Fourteen Points outlined a vision for a safer world. Wilson sought an end to secret diplomacy, reductions to trade, barriers, and respect for national self-determination, which he claimed would reduce economic and nationalist sentiments that lead to war. The war was over. Germany and the others had lost, but it is probably safe to say that little was gained by the Allies, other than knowing that Germany and its allies had to be closely watched. As noted, the League of Nations was created, but the United States never joined and the organization never achieved it purpose.

A Short Period of Peace

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. In 1935, Fascist Italy invades, conquers and annexes Ethiopia. Then between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, 1936, Nazi-controlled Germany and Fascist Italy signed the Treaty of Cooperation, and the Axis powers are created. That same year Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan signed the Anti-Comintent Pact, directed against the Soviet Union and the International Communist Movement. Other fascist governments later joined in the agreement. The conflicts continued in Europe. However, on Dec. 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The following day the Unite States declares on war on Japan and three Days Later, from Dec. 11-14, Nazi Germany and its Axis partners declared war on the United States. The forces of the United States, England, France and the underground resistance to the Nazi party eventually won the war in Europe and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war with Japan.

Connection Between WWI and WWII

Looking back at the timetable, it is simple to conclude that World War 1 and World War 11 were in a sense, the same long war. There was an extended period of pseudo-peace while the Nazi party rebuilt Germany and the Communist Part extended its influence into Eastern Europe. However, Germany and Japan both had ambitions aimed at world conquest. By declaring war against the United States, the Germans were attempting to force the U.S. into the war. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor made it impossible for the U.S. to avoid war. It could no longer maintain its cloak of isolation in a rapidly changing world. The alliance between Japan and German gave the German leaders the opportunity to declare war on the United States, thus thrusting the country into a two-front war almost overnight. Few alliances such as those that led to the start of World War 1 probably exist today. The bureaucracies that exist in most countries would prevent such actions that would have unpredictable outcomes. No one would know who was supporting or opposing which countries.


World War 1 is unique in many ways. Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic is the fact that a world war began over the assassination of one man. Today, the assassination of a leader will definitely start the civil war in countries where there are major political or religious factions that cannot find any common ground. Often, success is hard to measure. Korea is still divided into two distinct countries. Vietnam, where the U.S. fought with the South Vietnamese against the north, is now one country, a tourist attraction and really provides no threat to the free world. That conflict would be fought over ideology instead of avenging the honor of a fallen leader.


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