Eastern Front

Russia mobilization on the Eastern Front moved faster than Germany. In August 1914, two Russians armies had thrust deeply into the German territory of East Prussia. Germans learned that two armies had become separated and prepared a battle plan. On August 31, 1914, German had encircled one Russian army in the Battle of Tannenberg. Then chased the other Russian army out of East Prussia in the Battle of the Masurian Lakes, the Russians casualties number of men killed, captured, wounded, or missing, about 250,000 in the two battles. The victories made heroes of the commanders of the German forces in the east, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff.

Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), was a German military office, statesman and politician who served as the second President of Germany. Retired from the army for the first time in 1911, but was recalled shortly after the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Came to national attention at the age of 66 as the victor of the decisive Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914. Was Germany’s Chief of General Staff from August 1916, his reputation rose greatly in German public esteem.

He and his deputy Erich Ludendorff then led Germany in a de facto military dictatorship throughout the remainder of the war, marginalizing German Emperor Wilhelm II as well as the German Reichstag (Parliament.)

Hindenburg retired again in 1919, but returned to public life in 1925 to be elected the second President of Germany. In 1932, Hindenburg was persuaded to run for re-election as German president, although 84 years old and in poor health, because he was considered the only candidate who could defeat Adolf Hitler. Hindenburg was re-elected in a runoff.

He was opposed to Hitler and was a major player in the increasing political instability in the Weimar Republic that ended with Hitler’s rise to power. He dissolved the Reichstag twice in 1932 and finally, under pressure, agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Hindenburg did this to satisfy Hitler’s demands that he should play a part in the Weimar Government despite losing the election. In February, he signed off on the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended various civil liberties, and in March he signed the Enabling Act of 1933, which gave Hitler’s regime arbitrary powers. Hindenburg died the following year, after which Hitler declared the office of President vacant and made himself head of state.

Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937)

Was a German general, the victor of the Battle of Liege, and the Battle of Tannenberg. In August 1916, hi appointment as Quartermaster general, which made him a leader (along with Paul von Hindenburg) of German war efforts during World War I.

After the war, Ludendorff became a prominent nationalist leader, and a promoter of the stab-in-the-back legend, which posited that the German loss in World War I was caused by the betrayal of the German Army by Marxists and Bolsheviks who were furthermore responsible for the disadvantageous settlement negotiated for Germany in the Versailles Treaty. He took part in the unsuccessful coup d’état with Wolfgang Kapp in 1920 and the Beer Hall Putsch of Adolf Hitler in 1923, and in 1925, he ran for the office of President of Germany against his former superior Hindenburg, who he claimed had taken credit for Ludendorff’s victories against Russia.

From 1924 to 1928 he represented the German Völkisch Freedom Party in the German Parliament. Consistently pursuing a purely military line of thought, Ludendorff developed, after the war, the theory of “Total War,” which he published as Der totale Krieg (The Total War) in 1935. In this work, he argued that the entire physical and moral forces of the nation should be mobilized, because, according to him, peace was merely an interval between wars. Ludendorff was a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross and the Pour le Mérite.

Austria-Hungary had less success than its German ally on the Eastern Front. In the end of 1914, Austria-Hungary’s forces had attacked Serbia three times and been beaten back each time. Russia had captured much of the Austro-Hungarian provinces of Galicia. In October, Austria-Hungarian army hold retreated into its own territory.

Fighting elsewhere

Allies declared war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914. After Turkish ships bombarded Russian parts on the Black Sea, the Turkish troops invaded Russia. Fighting later broke out in the Ottoman territories on the Arabian Peninsula and Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria.

Britain stayed in control of the seas following two naval victories over Germany in 1914. British then kept Germany’s surface fleet bottled up in its home waters during most of the war. Germany relied on submarine warfare.

World War I quickly spread to Germany’s overseas colonies. Japan declared war on Germany in late August 1914, and drove the Germans off several islands in the Pacific Ocean. Troops from Australia and New Zealand seized other German colonies in the Pacific.

In mid-1915, opposing states had dug opportunities into a system of trenches that zigzagged along the Western Front. From trenches, they defended their positions and launched attacks. Western Front remained deadlocked in trench warfare until 1918.

Trench Warfare

Is a type of land warfare using occupied fighting lines consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are significantly protected from the enemy’s small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery. The most famous use of trench warfare is the Western Front in World War I. It has become a byword for stalemate, attrition, sieges and futility in conflict.

Trench warfare occurred when a revolution in firepower was not matched by similar advances in mobility, resulting in a grueling form of warfare in which the defender held the advantage. On the Western Front in 1914–18, both sides constructed elaborate trench and dugout systems opposing each other along a front, protected from assault by barbed wire, mines, and other obstacles. The area between opposing trench lines (known as “no man’s land”) was fully exposed to artillery fire from both sides. Attacks, even if successful, often sustained severe casualties.

With the development of armoured warfare, emphasis on trench warfare has declined, but still occurs where battle-lines become static.

Typical front-line trench, 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meter) deep and wide enough for two men to pass. Dugouts in the sides of the trenches protected men during enemy fire. Support trenches ran behind the front-line trenches.

Off-duty soldiers lived in dugouts in the support trenches. Troops and supplies moved to the battle front through a network of communications trenches. Barbed wire helped protect the front-line trenches from surprise attacks. Field artillery was set up behind the support trenches.

Between the enemy lines lay a stretch of ground called no man’s land.

No man’s land is land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties who leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. The term was originally used to define a contested territory or a dumping ground for refuse between fiefdoms.  In modern times, it is commonly associated with the First World War to describe the area of land between two enemy trench systems, which neither side wished to cross or seize due to fear of being attacked by the enemy in the process.

The British Army did not widely employ the term when the Regular Army arrived in France in August 1914, soon after the outbreak of the Great War. The terms used most frequently at the start of the war to describe the area between the trench lines included ‘between the trenches’ or ‘between the lines’. The term ‘no man’s land’ was first used in a military context by soldier and historian Ernest Swinton in his short story The Point of View.

Swinton used the term in war correspondence on the Western Front, with specific mention of the terms with respect to the Race to the Sea in late 1914. The Anglo-German Christmas truce of 1914 brought the term into common use, and thereafter it appeared frequently in official communiqués, newspaper reports, and personnel correspondences of the members of the British Expeditionary Force.

In World War I, no man’s land often ranged from several hundred yards to in some cases less than 10 yards. Heavily defended by machine guns, mortars, artillery and riflemen on both sides, it was often riddled with barbed wire and rudimentary improvised land mines, as well as corpses and wounded soldiers who were not able to make it across the sea of explosions and fire. The area was usually devastated by the warfare. It was open to fire from the opposing trenches and hard going generally slowed down any attempted advance. However, not only were soldiers forced to cross no man’s land when advancing, and as the case might be when retreating, but after an attack the stretcher bearers would need to go out into it to bring in the wounded. No man’s land remained a regular feature of the battlefield until near the end of World War I, when mechanised weapons (i.e. tanks) made entrenched lines less of an obstacle.

Effects from World War I no man’s lands persist today, for example at Verdun in France, where the Zone Rouge (Red Zone) is an area with unexploded ordnance, poisoned beyond habitation by arsenic, chlorine, and phosgene. The zone is sealed off completely and still deemed too dangerous for civilians to return to: “The area is still considered to be very poisoned, so the French government planted an enormous forest of black pines, like a living sarcophagus”, comments Alasdair Pinkerton, a researcher at Royal Holloway University of London, who compared the zone to the nuclear disaster site at Chernobyl, similarly encased in a “concrete sarcophagus”.

Warred from less than 30 yards (27 meters) wide at some points to more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide at others. In time artillery fire tore up the earth, making it very difficult to cross no man’s land during an attack.

The soldiers served at the front line from a few days to a week and then rotated to the rear for a rest. Life in the trenches was miserable. There were smell of dead bodies lingered in the air, rats were a constant problem. Soldiers had trouble keeping dry, especially in water-logged areas of Belgium.

During the attack, dull routine, soldiers stood guard, others repaired trenches, kept telephone lines in order, brought food from behind the battle lines, or did other jobs. In the night, the patrols fixed the barbed wire and tried to get information about the enemy. The enemy artillery and machine guns slaughtered wave after wave of advancing infantry. Ever if the attackers broke through the front line, they ran into a second line of defenses. The Allies never cracked the enemy’s defensive power.

The Allies and the Central Powers developed new weapons, which they hoped would break the deadlock.

In April 1915, the Germans first released poison gas over Allied lines in the Second Battle of Ypres, which caused vomiting and suffocation. The commanders lad little faith in the gas, failed to seize that opportunity to launch a major attack. The Allies also began using poison gas and gas masks, which became necessary equipment in the trenches.

Another weapon was flame thrower, which shot out a stream of burning fuel.

Airplanes were first used in combat, as World War I was the first major conflict involving the large-use of aircraft. Observation balloons had already been employed in several wars. Aeroplanes were just coming into military use at the outset of the war. Were used mostly for reconnaissance. Pilots and engineers learned from experience, leading to the development of many specialized types, included fighter, bombers, and ground attack aeroplanes. Ace fighter pilots were portrayed as modern knights, and many became popular heroes. Appointment high-ranking officers to direct the belligerent nations air war effort.

Tanks, British invention of World War I, were designed to rip through barbed wire and cross trenches. Which had developed on the Western Front.

The development of tanks in World War I was a response to the stalemate that had developed on the Western Front. Although vehicles that incorporated the basic principles of the tank (armour, firepower, and all-terrain mobility) had been projected in the decade or so before the War, it was the heavy casualties sustained in the first few months of hostilities that stimulated development. Research took place in both Great Britain and France, with Germany only belatedly following the Allies’ lead.

In Great Britain, an initial vehicle, nicknamed Little Willie, was constructed at William Foster & Co., during August and September 1915. The prototype of a new design that would become the Mark I tank was demonstrated to the British Army on February 2, 1916. Although initially termed “Landships” by the Landships Committee, production vehicles were named “tanks”, to preserve secrecy. The term was chosen when it became known that the factory workers at William Foster referred to the first prototype as “the tank” because of its resemblance to a steel water tank.

The French fielded their first tanks in April 1917 and went on to produce far more tanks than all other combatants combined.

The Germans, on the other hand, began development only in response to the appearance of Allied tanks on the battlefield. Whilst the Allies manufactured several thousand tanks during the War, Germany deployed only 1680 of her own.

The first tanks were mechanically unreliable. There were problems that caused considerable attrition rates during combat deployment and transit. The heavily shelled terrain was impassable to conventional vehicles, and only highly mobile tanks such as the Mark and FTs performed reasonably well. The Mark I’s rhomboid shape, caterpillar tracks, and 26-foot (8 m) length meant that it could navigate obstacles, especially wide trenches that wheeled vehicles could not. Along with the tank, the first self-propelled gun (the British Gun Carrier Mk I) and the first armoured personnel carrier (the British Mk IX) were also constructed in World War I.

Submarines, U-Boat, naval campaign fought by German U-Boats against the trade routes of the Allies. Took place largely in the seas around the British Isles and in the Mediterranean.