WW1 - 1917 Turning Points

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The crucial year of the war.

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1917 : 

Turning Points 1917

The War So Far...Explosion : 

1914 was a year of rapid advance by Germany, which soon settled into trench warfare on the Western Front. In the East, Russia invaded Germany but was soon pushed back. The War So Far...Explosion

The War So Far...Stalemate : 

1915 saw the stalemate continue on the Western and Eastern Fronts. Italy entered the war but was held up in the snowy Alps by Austria. Turkey entered and fought off the Allied invasion at Gallipoli, but neither side had the upper hand by year’s end. The War So Far...Stalemate

The War So Far...Slaughter : 

1916 was the year of the great offensives – Verdun and the Somme. Neither side was able to break through. It looked like the stalemate was to continue... The War So Far...Slaughter

A Year of Changes : 

1917 began much like any other – cold, miserable, with the war raging on. Plans for new offensives were drawn up. The war was still anyone’s to win. Neither side yet realised that soldiers would not win this war – politics, diplomacy, and events on the Home Front would. A Year of Changes

January : 

The USA remained neutral in the war. Unwilling to be drawn into a destructive war, or to upset the large number of German-Americans, President Woodrow Wilson had recently called on both sides to make peace. Only a major event would make him change his stance... January

February : 

On Jan 31st, Germany announced it would resume unrestricted submarine warfare. Why? This policy had ended back in 1915 after 126 Americans were killed on the passenger ship Lusitania. February

February : 

On February 3rd, the USA cut off diplomatic ties with Germany. Things would only get worse from here... February

February : 

On Feb 24th, details of the Zimmermann Telegram were passed on to the US by Britain. In January 1917, the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, sent a coded telegram to the German minister in Mexico City. This instructed the minister to propose an alliance with Mexico if war broke out between Germany and the United States. In return, the telegram proposed that Germany and Japan would help Mexico regain the territories that it lost to the United States in 1848 (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona). The telegram was intercepted by the British. February

Zimmermann Telegram : 

“On the first of February, we intend to begin unrestricted submarine warfare. In spite of this, it is our intention to endeavour to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: That we shall make war together and make peace together. We shall give generous financial support, and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. The details of settlement are left to you. You are instructed to inform the President [of Mexico] of the above in the greatest confidence as soon as it is certain that there will be an outbreak of war with the United States and suggest that the President, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence with this plan; at the same time, offer to mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call to the attention of the President that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England to make peace in a few months.” Zimmermann Telegram

Zimmermann Telegram : 

Zimmermann Telegram

March : 

March The telegram was leaked to the press on the 1st March. Americans were outraged. Later that month, Wilson ordered the arming of all US merchant ships. This would enable them to respond to German attacks.

March : 

March Meanwhile, events in another large nation were also hotting up. Russia had been in the war since August 1914, fighting both Germany and Austria. Her army was poorly-trained and equipped, but Russia had an almost limitless supply of men. However, by 1917, Russia was on its knees. The Tsar had taken personal control of the war, and had suffered some bad defeats. On the Home Front, people were hungry, exhausted, and angry with the Tsar... Something had to give

March : 

March In March, protests and riots in Petrograd developed into widespread mutiny and unrest. On the 15th, Tsar Nicholas was forced to abdicate. 300 years of monarchy were over. Russia became a liberal democracy overnight. However, her problems were only just beginning...

April : 

April The U-Boat campaign and Zimmermann Telegram had finally convinced Wilson of German treachery. On April 2nd he appealed to Congress to declare war on Germany: “It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war...but the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, -- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments...for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.” On April 6th, Congress declared war.

April : 

April The U-Boat campaign and Zimmermann Telegram had finally convinced Wilson of German treachery. On April 2nd he appealed to Congress to declare war on Germany: “It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war...but the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, -- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments...for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.” On April 6th, Congress declared war.

Wilson addresses Congress : 

Wilson addresses Congress

April : 

April The first US troops would not arrive for months. Meanwhile, France launched the Nivelle Offensive. It failed, and pushed the already exhausted French army to mutiny. They came so close to collapse that there were fears that Germany would win the war.

May : 

May Nivelle was sacked, and the French mutiny was averted. American forces were put under the control of General Pershing. He asked for the US Army to be increased from around 140,000 men to 3 million...

June : 

June The first US troops arrived in France – over two months after the Declaration of War.

July : 

July To take pressure off the fragile French army, Haig begins a major offensive at Passchendaele. It will be an utter failure. Meanwhile, in Russia, there is a power struggle between the democrats who took power in March, and the Bolsheviks, who want to turn Russia into a communist nation. The new government refused to withdraw from the war. This upset the Bolsheviks, who led violent protests this month called the July Days.

September : 

September In Russia, there is an attempted coup by General Kornilov. The Bolsheviks help the Provisional Government defeat the coup, and increase their own power in turn.

November : 

November Events deteriorate in Russia. The Bolsheviks decide to overthrow the Provisional Government. They use their armed troops to do so on November 7th, ushering in 75 years of communist rule. Lenin becomes ruler of Russia, under the slogan, ‘Peace, Land and Bread’.

Consequences : 

Consequences In December, Russia negotiated a ceasefire with Germany In March 1918, Russia signed a peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk. It was one of the most demanding in history – Russia lost 30% of her population, and 50% of her industry, to Germany. However, Germany had to keep 1 million troops in Russia to maintain the occupation...just as...

Consequences : 

Consequences ...a large number of well-equipped, fresh, well-trained troops were arriving on the Western Front. An empire had left the Allied side, but the largest democracy had joined. Half a million Americans were in France by Spring 1918. Germany saw that yet another near-limitless pool of troops would be able to flood across the ocean to fight her war-weary, hungry, soldiers. It was now only a matter of time...

The End : 

The End Ludendorff and Hindenburg knew they had one last chance to turn the war around. They concentrated all of their forces for a Spring offensive – the ‘Ludendorff Offensive’. There was no breakthrough. The German troops were demoralised and tired, and the civilians at home were threatening to overthrow the government as the Russians had done the previous year...

The End : 

The End Ludendorff knew that all was lost. He advised the Kaiser to end the war. On November 9th, Wilhelm abdicated. Germany signed the armistice 2 days later. The guns finally went silent, after over 1560 days of fighting. Up to 20 million people had died, four empires had collapsed, and the ground had been laid for the rise of Hitler, and an even worse war two decades on.

The Question : 

The Question In 1917, there was stalemate. Russia, the giant in the East, was on the verge of collapse. So why did Germany lose?

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