A Brief History
World War I (and the revolutions that occurred during it) was without any doubt one of the largest, deadliest, and most significant war in human history. It was also not without its more bizarre and epic moments…
On October 9, 1911, an accidental bomb explosion in China lead to the ultimate fall of China’s last imperial dynasty.
World War I
On July 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, starting World War I. When a Serbian nationalist assassinated the Archduke (heir to the throne) of the Austrian empire to protest Austro-Hungarian occupation of Serbian territory, he never could have seen the incredible consequences of the worst war in human history (until World War II).
On August 25, 1914, during the opening stages of World War I German soldiers burned the Library of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, destroying a treasure of ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance works.
On December 24, 1914, British and German soldiers facing each other across No Man’s Land in the trenches of World War I confounded their superiors by leaving their trenches and walking out to meet and greet their enemies in a spirit of Christmas brotherhood.
On January 24, 1915, the British Royal Navy Grand Fleet fought a sizable naval engagement against elements of the German Imperial High Seas Fleet in the North Sea at an area called Dogger Bank.
On March 27, 1915, the woman history has come to know as Typhoid Mary was placed into involuntary quarantine for the rest of her life!
On July 24, 1915, the SS Eastland, a passenger ship only 265 feet long and 38 feet wide, rolled over while tied up at dock, killing 848 people, the greatest loss of life in any Great Lakes maritime disaster.
On July 25, 1915, the somewhat appropriately named Lanoe Hawker became the first British aviator to shoot down 3 enemy planes in 1 day, earning himself the Victoria Cross.
On September 30, 1915, the aviation world achieved a milestone of sorts when the first incident of a combat airplane being shot down by ground fire took place over Serbia.
On July 1, 1916, the five month Battle of the Somme began with horrific results for the British Army, leaving 19,240 men dead on the battlefield and another 36, 230 wounded on lonely the first day!
On August 2, 1916, Austrian saboteurs managed to sink the Italian battleship, Leonardo da Vinci as the great ship lay in Taranto harbor.
On November 21, 1916, the new and improved version of the Titanic became the largest ship sunk during World War I!
On November 21, 1916, in the waters of the Aegean Sea near the Island of Kea, the British hospital ship HMHS Britannic struck a naval mine and sank, becoming the largest vessel sunk during World War I.
On December 29, 1916, possibly the most cracked clergyman of all time finally met his doom, having been poisoned, shot, and drowned, thereby rivaling Blackbeard for the claim of bearded bad-ass who most went out “like a boss”!
On September 23, 1917, Imperial Germany lost one of its greatest flying aces when Leutnant Werner Voss was shot down and killed over West Flanders, outnumbered 8 to 1 and refusing to run!
On November 20, 1917, a combined Allied offensive (British and French) stepped off against the Germans at Cambrai, France (Nord Department).
On January 9, 1918, in Southern Arizona near the border with Mexico at a place called Bear Valley, one of the last battles of the American Indian Wars (1540-1924) was fought.
On January 31, 1918, Britain’s Royal Navy “fought” a battle with itself in the Scottish Firth of Forth near the Isle of May, a series of naval accidents in the dark and the mist that led to the loss of 104 British sailors killed.
On March 4, 1918, the USS Cyclops kept a date with destiny!
On April 20, 1918, Baron Manfred von Richtofen shot down the last enemy airplanes of his short but spectacular career.
On June 1, 1918, the Battle of Belleau Wood began in France near the River Marne.
On August 8, 1918, the Allied offensive known as the “Hundred Days Offensive” began with the start of the Battle of Amiens.
On August 13, 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first of 305 women that proved it is true, women can do and be anything when they enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the first female Marines in US history.
On October 8, 1918, United States Corporal Alvin C. York killed 28 German soldiers and captured 132 in France’s Argonne Forest during World War I making York one of America’s most decorated soldiers of the war.
On October 8, 1918, 2nd Lt. Ralph Talbot of Massachusetts earned the coveted Medal of Honor, the highest American military honor.
On November 9, 1918, in the face of catastrophic defeat after 4 years of debilitating war, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany abdicated his throne and went into exile in the Netherlands.
On November 11, 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car in the forest of Compiègne, France, officially ending fighting at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day in the eleventh month, but fighting did not actually end at that exact time and nor did the war!
On June 21, 1919, the reactionary establishment of the city of Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba, and the federal government of Canada overreacted to a peaceful labor strike and attacked striking workers (largely war veterans) with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
On July 19, 1919, England celebrated Peace Day in honor of winning World War I.
On October 7, 1925, baseball great and Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson died of tuberculosis brought on by a weakening of his respiratory system due to accidental exposure to poison gas during World War I.
On June 17, 1932, 17,000 United States military veterans of World War I and 25,000 of their friends and family gathered in Washington, D.C. to demand early payment of their service certificate war bonuses.
On September 23, 1968, a World War I veteran eventually canonized as a saint passed away…after having apparently endured the stigmata for several years!
On August 24, 1994, an extraordinary American warrior was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. Eugene Bullard, born in Columbus, Georgia in 1895 had fought in World War I for the French Foreign Legion, and in 1917 became the first ever African-American to be a military pilot, one of only 2 pilots of African origin in World War I.
On August 23, 2007, the bodies of the remaining Romanov family members were found near Yekaterinburg, Russia, the remains being mere skeletons.
On February 27, 2011, World War I veteran Frank Buckles died at 110 years old, just one of the many cracked things about his life!
For more information, please see…
Massie, Robert K. and Barbara W. Tuchman. The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic About the Outbreak of World War I. Presidio Press, 2004.
Remarque, Erich Maria and A W. Wheen. All Quiet on the Western Front. Ballantine Books, 1987.
Trumbo, Dalton. Johnny Got His Gun. Bantam, 1984.