WORLD WAR I
Political and military alliances
For much of the 19th century, the major European powers had tried to maintain a tenuous balance of power, resulting in a complex network of political and military alliances.
The biggest challenges to this were Britain’s withdrawal into so-called “splendid isolation”, the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the post-1848 rise of Prussia under Otto von Bismarck.
In 1890, the new German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, forced Bismarck to retire and was persuaded not to renew the Reinsurance Treaty by the new Chancellor, Leo von Caprivi. This allowed France to counteract the Triple Alliance with the Franco-Russian of 1894 and the 1904 Entente Cordiale with Britain. In 1907 Britain and Russia signed the Anglo-Russian Convention.
The agreements did not constitute formal alliances, but by settling long-standing colonial disputes, they made British entry into any future conflict involving France or Russia a possibility; these interlocking bilateral agreements became known as the Triple Entente.
Victory in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and the creation of the German Reich led to a massive increase in Germany’s economic and industrial strength.
Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and Wilhelm II, who became Emperor in 1890, sought to use the increase to create an Imperial German Navy to compete with Britain’s Royal Navy for world naval supremacy.
The result was the Anglo-German naval arms race. With the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906, the Royal Navy increased its advantage over its German rival. By 1912, the German economy could no longer support both naval expansion and the largest permanent army in Europe.
Ending the naval arms race reduced tensions between Britain and Germany but did not lead to reductions elsewhere. In 1913, Germany approved an increase in its standing army by 170,000 men, Russia committed to another 500,000 men over the next three years, while France extended compulsory military service from two to three years.
Conflicts in the Balkans
In October 1908, Austria-Hungary precipitated the Bosnian crisis of 1908–1909 by officially annexing the former Ottoman territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Austria-Hungary had occupied Bosnia since 1878.
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, visited the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. A group of six assassins from the Yugoslavist group Mlada Bosna; supplied with arms by the Serbian Black Hand; gathered on the street where the Archduke’s motorcade was to pass, with the intention of assassinating him.
The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary’s South Slav provinces, which Austria-Hungary had annexed from the Ottoman Empire, so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia.
Later, one of the assassins shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.
The assassination led to a month of diplomatic maneuvering between Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France and Britain, called the July Crisis.
Austria-Hungary correctly believed that Serbian officials (especially the officers of the Black Hand) were involved in the plot to murder the Archduke, and wanted to finally end Serbian interference in Bosnia.
On July 23rd, Austria-Hungary delivered to Serbia a series of ten demands that were made intentionally unacceptable, in an effort to provoke a war with Serbia. Serbia decreed general mobilization on the July 25, 1914. Serbia accepted all of the terms of the ultimatum except for article six, which demanded that Austrian delegates be allowed in Serbia for the purpose of participation in the investigation into the assassination.
Following this, Austria broke off diplomatic relations with Serbia and, the next day, ordered a partial mobilization. Finally, on July 28, 1914, a month after the assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.
On July 30, 1914, Russia, in support of Serbia, declared a general mobilisation against Austria-Hungary. Germany then issued an ultimatum demanding that Russia’s mobilization be stopped, and a commitment not to support Serbia.
Another was sent to France, asking her not to support Russia if it were to come to the defense of Serbia.
On August 1, 1914, Germany mobilized and declared war on Russia. This also led to the general mobilization in Austria-Hungary on August 4, 1914.
The German government issued demands to France that it remain neutral.
The French did not respond, but sent a mixed message by ordering their troops to withdraw from the France and Germany border to avoid any incidents, and at the same time ordered the mobilization of their reserves. Germany responded by mobilizing its own reserves.
On August 2, 1914, Germany occupied Luxembourg, and on August 3rd, declared war on France.
On the same day, they sent the Belgian government an ultimatum demanding unimpeded right of way through any part of Belgium.
The ultimatum delivered to Belgium was denied, and on August 4th, the Germans invaded Belgium. The Belgium King Albert ordered his military to resist and called for assistance from Britain, under the terms of the 1839 Treaty of London. Britain demanded Germany comply with the Treaty and respect Belgian neutrality. When Britain’s demands were rejected, Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914.
World War I (WW I) has now begun
Austria invaded and fought the Serbian army at the Battle of Cer and the Battle of Kolubara beginning on August 12th 1914.
Over the next two weeks, Austrian attacks were thrown back with heavy losses, which marked the first major Allied victories of the war and dashed Austro-Hungarian hopes of a swift victory. As a result, Austria had to keep sizeable forces on the Serbian front, weakening its efforts against Russia. Serbia’s defeat of the Austro-Hungarian invasion of 1914 has been called one of the major upset victories of the twentieth century.
When the WW I began, the German Order of Battle placed 80% of the army in the West, with the remainder acting as a screening force in the East. The plan was to quickly knock France out of the war, then redeploy to the East and do the same to Russia.
The German offensive in the West was officially titled Aufmarsch II West, but is better known as the Schlieffen Plan. .
The Schlieffen Plan deliberately kept the German left (southerly), its positions in the French Alsace-Lorraine area, weak to lure the French into attacking there; while the majority were allocated to the German right (northerly), so as to sweep through Belgium, encircle Paris and trap the French armies against the Swiss border.
However, Schlieffen’s successor Moltke grew concerned that the French might push too hard on his left flank. As such, as the German Army increased in size in the years leading up to the war, he changed the allocation of forces between the German right and left wings. Ultimately, Moltke’s changes meant insufficient forces to achieve decisive success and thus unrealistic goals and timings.
The initial German advance in the West was very successful: by the end of August the Allied left, which included the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), was in full retreat.
French casualties in the first month exceeded 260,000, including 27,000 killed on August 22, 1914, during the Battle of the Frontiers.
German planning provided broad strategic instructions, while allowing army commanders considerable freedom in carrying them out at the front. This worked well in 1866 and 1870 but in 1914, General Alexander von Kluck used this freedom to disobey orders, opening a gap between the southerly and northerly German armies as they closed on Paris. The French and British exploited this gap to halt the German advance east of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne (September 5 – 12, 1941) and pushed the German forces back approximately 31 miles.
By the end of 1914, German troops held strong defensive positions inside France and controlled the bulk of France’s domestic coalfields. However, communications problems and questionable command decisions cost Germany the chance of a decisive outcome. This failure to achieve the primary objective of avoiding a long, two-front war amounted to a strategic defeat for the German Army.
Military tactics developed before World War I failed to keep pace with advances in technology and had become obsolete. These advances had allowed the creation of strong defensive systems, which out-of-date military tactics could not break through for most of the war.
Barbed wire was a significant hindrance to massed infantry advances, while artillery, vastly more lethal than in the 1870s, coupled with machine guns, made crossing open ground extremely difficult and deadly. Commanders on both sides failed to develop tactics for breaching entrenched positions without heavy casualties.
In time, however, technology began to produce new offensive weapons, such as gas warfare and tank warfare.
After the First Battle of the Marne, Allied and German forces unsuccessfully tried to outflank each other, a series of maneuvers, later known as the “Race to the Sea”.
By the end of 1914, the opposing forces were left confronting each other along an uninterrupted line of entrenched positions from Alsace to Belgium’s North Sea coast. Since the Germans were able to choose where to stand, they normally had the advantage of the high ground. In addition, their trenches tended to be better built, since Anglo-French trenches were initially intended as “temporary”, preparatory to breaking the German defenses.
Both sides tried to break the stalemate using scientific and technological advances. On April 22, 1915, at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Germans (violating the Hague Convention) used chlorine gas for the first time on the Western Front.
Several types of gas soon became widely used by both sides, and though it never proved a decisive, battle-winning weapon; poison gas became one of the most-feared and best-remembered horrors of the war.
Tanks were developed by Britain and France and were first used in combat by the British during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (part of the Battle of the Somme) on September 15, 1916, with only partial success. However, their effectiveness would grow as the war progressed; the Allies built tanks in large numbers, whilst the Germans employed only a few of their own design, supplemented by captured Allied tanks.
Neither side proved able to deliver a decisive blow for the next two years. Throughout 1915–17, the British Empire and France suffered more casualties than Germany; because of both the strategic and tactical stances chosen by the sides. Strategically, while the Germans only mounted one major offensive, the Allies made several attempts to break through the German lines.
In February 1916, the Germans attacked French defensive positions at the Battle of Verdun, lasting until December 1916. The Germans made initial gains, before French counter-attacks returned matters to near their starting point.
Casualties were greater for the French, but the Germans bled heavily as well, with anywhere from 700,000 to 975,000 casualties suffered between the two combatants. Verdun became a symbol of French determination and self-sacrifice.
The Battle of the Somme was an Anglo-French offensive which occurred from July to November 1916. The opening day of the offensive (July 1, 1916) was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army, suffering 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead. The entire Somme offensive cost the British Army some 420,000 casualties. The French suffered another estimated 200,000 casualties and the Germans an estimated 500,000 casualties.
Gun fire wasn’t the only factor taking lives; the diseases that emerged in the trenches were a major killer on both sides. The living conditions made it so that countless diseases and infections occurred, such as trench foot, shell shock, blindness/burns from mustard gas, lice, trench fever, and the “Spanish Flu”.
To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of widespread “Spanish Flu” influenza illness and its mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. It is estimated that approximately 43,000 United States servicemen, that were mobilized, died from the “Spanish Flu” in 1918.3,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of
Protracted action at Verdun throughout 1916, combined with the bloodletting at the Somme, brought the exhausted French army to the brink of collapse. Futile attempts using frontal assault came at a high price for both the British and the French, and led to the widespread French Army Mutinies, after the failure of the costly Nivelle Offensive of April–May 1917.
The concurrent British Battle of Arras was more limited in scope, and was more successful, although ultimately of little strategic value. A smaller part of the Arras offensive, the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps, became highly significant to that country.
The last large-scale offensive of this period was a British attack (with French support) at Passchendaele (July–November 1917). This offensive opened with great promise for the Allies, before bogging down in the October mud. Casualties, though disputed, were roughly equal, at some 200,000–400,000 per side.
The years of trench warfare on the Western front achieved no major exchanges of territory and, as a result, are often thought of as static and unchanging. However, throughout this period, British, French, and German tactics continually evolved to meet new battlefield challenges.
World War I Naval Conflict
Before the beginning of the war, it was widely understood that Britain held the position of strongest, most influential navy in the world.
At the start of the war, the German Empire had naval cruisers scattered across the globe, some of which were subsequently used to attack Allied merchant shipping. The British Royal Navy systematically hunted them down, though not without some embarrassment from its inability to protect Allied shipping.
The German detached light cruiser SMS Emden, part of the German East Asia Squadron stationed at Qingdao, China, seized or destroyed 15 merchantmen, as well as sinking a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer.
The German East Asia Squadron armored cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau, and the light cruisers SMS Nurnberg and SMS Leipzig, and two transport ships, did not have orders to raid shipping and were instead underway to Germany when it met British warships. The German flotilla and the SMS Dresden sank two armored cruisers at the Battle of Coronel. The remaining ships of the flotilla were virtually destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914; with only SMS Dresden and a few auxiliaries escaping.
Soon after the outbreak of the actual World War I hostilities in 1914, Britain began a naval blockade of Germany. The strategy proved effective, cutting off vital military and civilian supplies, although this blockade violated accepted international law codified by several international agreements of the past two centuries. Britain mined international waters to prevent any ships from entering entire sections of ocean, causing danger to even neutral ships.
Since there was limited response to this tactic of the British, Germany expected a similar response to its unrestricted submarine warfare.
German U-Boats submarines attempted to cut the supply lines between North America and Britain. The nature of submarine warfare meant that attacks often came without warning; giving the crews of the merchant ships little hope of survival.
The U-boat threat lessened in 1917, when merchant ships began travelling in naval convoys, escorted by naval destroyers. This tactic made it difficult for U-boats to find targets, which significantly lessened losses; after the hydrophone and depth charges were introduced; accompanying destroyers could attack a submerged submarine with some hope of success. Convoys slowed the flow of supplies, since ships had to wait as convoys were assembled. The solution to the delays was an extensive program of building new freighters.
World War I also saw the first use of naval aircraft carriers in combat. In July 1918, the HMS Furious utilizing Sopwith Camel aircraft, executed a successful raid against the Zeppelin hangars at Tonder, Denmark (then a part of Germany).
Central Powers Peace Overtures
On December 12, 1916, after ten brutal months of the Battle of Verdun and a successful offensive against Romania, Germany attempted to negotiate a peace with the Allies.
Soon after, the US President, Woodrow Wilson, attempted to intervene as a peacemaker; asks in a note for both sides to state their demands. Lloyd George’s War Cabinet considered the German offer to be a ploy to create divisions amongst the Allies. After initial outrage and much deliberation, they took Wilson’s note as a separate effort, signaling that the United States was on the verge of entering the war against Germany following the “submarine outrages”.
While the Allies debated a response to Wilson’s offer, the Germans chose to rebuff it in favor of “a direct exchange of views”.
Learning of the German response, the Allied governments were free to make clear demands in their response of January 14, 1917. They sought restoration of damages, the evacuation of occupied territories, reparations for France, Russia and Romania, and recognition of the principle of nationalities. This included the liberation of Italians, Slavs, Romanians, Czech-Slovaks, and the creation of a “free and united Poland”.
The Allies sought guarantees that would prevent or limit future wars, complete with sanctions, as a condition of any peace settlement. The negotiations failed and the Entente powers rejected the German offer on the grounds that Germany had not put forward any specific proposals.
The British naval blockade began to have a serious impact on Germany. In response, in February 1917, the German General Staff convinced Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg to declare unrestricted submarine warfare, with the goal of starving Britain out of the war.
German planners estimated that unrestricted submarine warfare would cost Britain a monthly shipping loss of 600,000 tons. The General Staff acknowledged that the policy would almost certainly bring the United States into the conflict, but calculated that British shipping losses would be so high that they would be forced to sue for peace after 5 to 6 months, before American intervention could make an impact.
Tonnage sunk rose above 500,000 tons per month from February to July 1917. It peaked at 860,000 tons in April 1917. After July, the newly re-introduced naval convoy system became effective in reducing the U-boat threat. Britain was safe from starvation, while German industrial output fell, and the United States joined the war far earlier than Germany had anticipated.
Entry of the United States
At the outbreak of the war, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace.
When the German U-boat (U-20) sank the British liner RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, with 128 Americans among the dead, President Woodrow Wilson insisted that America is “too proud to fight” but demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied.
Wilson unsuccessfully tried to mediate a settlement. However, he also repeatedly warned that the United States would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare, in violation of international law.
In January 1917, Germany decided to resume unrestricted submarine warfare, realizing it would mean American entry.
The German Foreign Minister invited Mexico to join the war as Germany’s ally against the United States. In return, the Germans would finance Mexico’s war and help it recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The United Kingdom intercepted the message and presented it to the US embassy in the UK. From there it made its way to President Wilson who released note to the American public.
After the sinking of seven US merchant ships by submarines, President Woodrow Wilson called for war on Germany on April 2, 1917, and the US Congress declared war with Germany on April 6, 1917.
The United States was never formally a member of the Allies but became a self-styled “Associated Power”. The United States had a small army, but, after the passage of the Selective Service Act, it drafted 2.8 million men, and by summer 1918, the United States was sending 10,000 fresh soldiers to France every day.
German General Staff assumptions that it would be able to defeat the British and French forces before American troops reinforced them, were proven incorrect.
The United States Navy sent a battleship group to Scapa Flow to join with the British Grand Fleet, and also sent destroyers to Queenstown, Ireland, and submarines to help guard convoys.
Several regiments of United States Marines were also dispatched to France.
The British and French wanted American units used to reinforce their troops already on the battle lines and not waste scarce shipping on bringing over supplies. General John J. Pershing, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander, refused to break up American units to be used as filler material. As an exception, he did allow African-American combat regiments to be used in French divisions. The Harlem Hellfighters fought as part of the French 16th Division, and earned a unit Croix de Guerre for their actions at Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Sechault.
AEF doctrine called for the use of frontal assaults, which had long since been discarded by British Empire and French commanders due to the large loss of life that resulted.
German Spring Offensive of 1918
German General Ludendorff drew up plans, codenamed Operation Michael for the 1918 offensive on the Western Front. The Spring Offensive sought to divide the British and French forces with a series of feints and advances, hoping to end the war before significant US forces arrived.
The operation commenced on March 21, 1918 with an attack on British forces near Saint Quentin. This phase of the operation enabled the German forces to achieve an unprecedented advance of 37 miles.
British and French trenches were penetrated using novel infiltration tactics (named Hutier tactics after General Oskar von Hutier) by specially trained units called stormtroopers.
Previously, attacks had been characterized by long artillery bombardments and massed assaults. In the Spring Offensive of 1918, however, Ludendorff used artillery only briefly and infiltrated small groups of infantry at weak points. They attacked command and logistics areas and bypassed points of serious resistance. More heavily armed infantry then destroyed these isolated positions. This German success relied greatly on the element of surprise.
The front moved to within 75 miles of Paris. Three heavy Krupp railway guns fired 183 shells on the capital, causing many Parisians to flee. The initial offensive was so successful that Kaiser Wilhelm II declared March 24, 1918 a national holiday. Many Germans thought victory was near.
After heavy fighting, however, the offensive was halted. Lacking tanks or motorized artillery, the Germans were unable to consolidate their gains. The problems of re-supply were also exacerbated by increasing distances that now stretched over terrain that was shell-torn and often impassable to traffic.
Upon arrival of the AEF units, they were assigned to the depleted French and British Empire commands on March 28, 1918.
A Supreme War Council of Allied forces had been created at the Doullens Conference on November 5, 1917. General Foch was appointed as supreme commander of the Allied forces. Field Marshall Douglas Haig (British Forces), Marshall Phillipe Petain (French Forces), and General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing (American Expeditionary Forces) retained tactical control of their respective armies, and Foch assumed a coordinating, rather than a directing role. The British, French, and United States commands operated largely independently.
In April 1918, Germany launched Operation Georgette against the northern English Channel seaports. The Allies halted the drive after limited territorial gains by Germany.
The German Army to the south then conducted Operations Blucher and Yorck, pushing broadly towards Paris.
On July 15, 1918, Germany launched Operation Marne (second Battle of the Marne) in an attempt to encircle Reims.
The resulting Allied counter-attack; which started the Hundred Days Offensive, marked the first successful Allied offensive of the war. By July 20th, the Germans had retreated back across the Marne, having achieved little, and the German Army thereafter never regained the initiative. German casualties between March and April 1918 were 270,000; including many highly trained stormtroopers.
Meanwhile, Germany was falling apart at home. Anti-war marches became frequent and morale in the army fell. Industrial output was half the 1913 levels.
Allied Victory, Summer 1918
The Allied counteroffensive, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, began on August 8, 1918 with the Battle of Amiens. This battle involved over 400 tanks and 120,000 British, Dominion (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, New Foundland, South Africa and the Irish Free State), and French troops. By the end of its first day a gap 15 miles long had been created in the German lines. The defenders displayed a marked collapse in morale, causing Ludendorff to refer to this day as the “Black Day of the German army”. After an advance as far as 14 miles, German resistance stiffened, and the battle was concluded on August 12th.
Rather than continuing the Amiens battle past the point of initial success, as had been done so many times in the past; the Allies shifted their emphasis elsewhere. Allied leaders had now realized that to continue an attack after resistance had hardened was a waste of lives, and it was better to turn a line than to try to roll over it. They began to undertake attacks in quick order to take advantage of successful advances on the flanks; then broke them off when each attack lost its initial impetus.
The day after the Offensive began, Ludendorff said: “We cannot win the war any more, but we must not lose it either.” On August 11, 1918 he offered his resignation to the Kaiser, who refused it, replying, “I see that we must strike a balance. We have nearly reached the limit of our powers of resistance. The war must be ended”.
On August 13, 1918, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, the Chancellor, and Foreign Minister Hintz agreed that the war could not be ended militarily and, on the following day, the German Crown Council decided that victory in the field was now most improbable.
British and Dominion forces launched the next phase of the campaign with the Battle of Albert on August 21, 1918.
This assault was widened by French, and then further British forces, in the following days. During the last week of August the Allied pressure along a 68 mile front against the enemy was heavy and unrelenting.
Faced with these advances, on September 2, 1918, the German Supreme Army Command issued orders to withdraw in the south to the Hindenburg Line. This ceded without a fight, the salient seized in April 1918.
According to German General Ludendorff, “We had to admit the necessity … to withdraw the entire front from the Scarpe to the Vesle”.
In nearly four weeks of fighting beginning on August 8, 1918, over 100,000 German prisoners were taken. The German High Command realized that the war was lost and made attempts to reach a satisfactory end.
On September 10, 1918, Hindenburg urged peace moves to Emperor Charles of Austria, and Germany appealed to the Netherlands for mediation. On September 14th, Austria sent a note to all belligerents and neutrals suggesting a meeting for peace talks on neutral soil, and on September 15th, Germany made a peace offer to Belgium. Both peace offers were rejected.
Allied Advance to the Hindenburg Line
In September the Allies advanced to the Hindenburg Line in the north and center. The Germans continued to fight strong rear-guard actions and launched numerous counterattacks, but positions and outposts of the Line continued to fall, with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) alone taking 30,441 prisoners in the last week of September.
On September 24, 1918, an assault by both the British and French came within 2 miles of St. Quentin. The Germans had now retreated to positions along or behind the Hindenburg Line. That same day, Supreme Army Command informed the leaders in Berlin that armistice talks were inevitable.
The final assault on the Hindenburg Line began with the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, launched by French and American troops on September 26, 1918.
The following week, co-operating French and American units broke through in Champagne at the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge. On October 8th the line was pierced again by British and Dominion troops at the Battle of Cambrai. The German army had to shorten its front and use the Dutch frontier as an anchor to fight rear-guard actions as it fell back towards Germany.
German Revolution 1918–1919
News of Germany’s impending military defeat spread throughout the German armed forces. The threat of mutiny was rife. Admiral Reinhard Scheer and Ludendorff decided to launch a last attempt to restore the “valor” of the German Navy.
Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war that they believed to be as good as lost initiating the uprising. The sailor’s revolt, which then ensued in the naval ports of Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, spread across the whole country.
With the military faltering and with widespread loss of confidence in the Kaiser leading to his abdication and fleeing of the country; Germany moved towards surrender. Prince Maximilian of Baden took charge of a new government on October 3, 1981 as Chancellor of Germany to negotiate with the Allies.
Negotiations with President Wilson began immediately, in the hope that he would offer better terms than the British and French. Wilson demanded a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary control over the German military. There was no resistance when the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann declared Germany to be a republic on November 9, 1918. The Kaiser, kings and other hereditary rulers all were removed from power and Kaiser Wilhelm fled to exile in the Netherlands. Imperial Germany was dead; a new Germany had been born as the Weimar Republic.
Armistices and Capitulations
On 11 November 11, 1918, at 5:00 AM, an armistice with Germany was signed in a railroad carriage at Compiègne, France. At 11:00 AM, on November 11, “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”, a ceasefire came into effect.
During the six hours between the signing of the armistice and its taking effect, opposing armies on the Western Front began to withdraw from their positions, but fighting continued along many areas of the front, as commanders wanted to capture territory before the war ended.
World War I (WW I) had now ended.