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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
OverviewMutinyCollapseBrittain / KamaraDesagneaux / Borden
American soldiers on parade'Think of what it was that they [members of Congress] were applauding.  My message today was a message of death for those young men.' -- President Woodrow Wilson, April 1917

German officers arrive to negotiate surrender, 1918
German officers arrive to negotiate surrender, 1918
The odds looked bad for the Allies in 1918. With Russia knocked out of the war by revolution and the French army rocked by mutiny, Germany stopped the Allies' offensive on the Western Front. But all of Europe was running out of men; both sides were drafting old men and young boys. The Kaiser no longer had effective power, with Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff taking over.
In 1917, German U-boat attacks and German approaches to Mexico had provoked President Woodrow Wilson [link to the Wilson material on the GW site] into a war he did not want to fight. Once in it, however, he urged the United States to "make the world safe for Democracy" and by 1918, five million American men were in uniform. In September of that year, the Doughboys went over the top and they were cut down like cornstalks. But the presence of American troops in France made a difference; the German army saw it could not win the war; thousands surrendered on the western front.

American Soldiers in the Great War

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In October, the revolt of the German Navy triggered the final collapse of the German war effort. The Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland. The guns of the Great War finally fell silent on November 11, 1918.
When the cease-fire came, people all over the world celebrated. But the war was not over for the German civilians. The Allies insisted on continuing the blockade through the winter months, resulting in mass starvation and death.
In the days that followed the Armistice, peopled learned that it is often far easier to wage war than it is to build a lasting peace.

Top Photo: American soldiers on parade

Map of Europe: The Western Front 1918

Historian Commentary Woodrow Wilson
David Kennedy, Historian

German U-boat
Inside a German U-boat
Woodrow Wilson, ever since the war began in 1914, was running his own calculated risk. He gambled that he could maintain the right to trade with the belligerent powers -- Britain, in particular -- trade which was profitable. He gambled that he could continue that trade without actually running the risk of war.
The Germans repeatedly provoked the United States by sinking ships that cost American lives and American cargoes. The Lusitania, May of 1915, is probably the most famous episode of that kind of provocation, but Wilson nevertheless, down to early 1917, was able to secure the economic right to trade with belligerents without provoking the Germans to the point of open warfare.

Explore Further
* The Western Front in 1918
* How Private Henry Tandey saved Hitler's life (
* The Zimmermann Telegram (Channel 4, UK)
* The Silent Dictatorship by Martin Kitchen (London, Batsford, 1976)
1916-1921 Timeline
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Timeline Maps & Battles Shaping of the 21st Century Historians War Index Resources About the Show
Armistace Allies breach Hindenberg Line Tsar Nicholas and family killed German winter offensives 1920 1920 1919 1918 1917 1916