History Primary Source

Woodrow Wilson :: Proclamation 1364 — Declaring That a State of War Exists Between the United States and Germany :: April 6, 1917

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Whereas, the Congress of the United States in the exercise of the constitutional authority vested in them have resolved, by joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives bearing date this day “That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared”;

Whereas, it is provided by Section 4067 of the Revised Statutes, as follows:

Whenever there is declared a war between the United States and any foreign nation or government, or any invasion or predatory incursion is perpetrated, attempted, or threatened against the territory of the United States, by any foreign nation or government, and the President makes public proclamation of the event, all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of a hostile nation or government, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States, and not actually naturalized, shall be liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed as alien enemies. The President is authorized, in any such event, by his proclamation thereof, or other public act, to direct the conduct to be observed, on the part of the United States, toward the aliens who become so liable; the manner and degree of the restraint to which they shall be subject, and in what cases, and upon what security their residence shall be permitted, and to provide for the removal of those who, not being permitted to reside within the United States, refuse or neglect to depart therefrom; and to establish any such regulations which are found necessary in the premises and for the public safety;

Whereas, by Sections 4068, 4069, and 4070 of the Revised Statutes, further provision is made relative to alien enemies;

Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim to all whom it may concern that a state of war exists between the United States and the Imperial German Government; and I do specially direct all officers, civil or military, of the United States that they exercise vigilance and zeal in the discharge of the duties incident to such a state of war; and I do, moreover, earnestly appeal to all American citizens that they, in loyal devotion to their country, dedicated from its foundation to the principles of liberty and justice, uphold the laws of the land, and give undivided and willing support to those measures which may be adopted by the constitutional authorities in prosecuting the war to a successful issue and in obtaining a secure and just peace;

And, acting under and by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution of the United States and the said sections of the Revised Statutes, I do hereby further proclaim and direct that the conduct to be observed on the part of the United States toward all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of Germany, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States and not actually naturalized, who for the purpose of this proclamation and under such sections of the Revised Statutes are termed alien enemies, shall be as follows:

All alien enemies are enjoined to preserve the peace towards the United States and to refrain from crime against the public safety, and from violating the laws of the United States and of the States and Territories thereof, and to refrain from actual hostility or giving information, aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States, and to comply strictly with the regulations which are hereby or which may be from time to time promulgated by the President; and so long as they shall conduct themselves in accordance with law, they shall be undisturbed in the peaceful pursuit of their lives and occupations and be accorded the consideration due to all peaceful and law-abiding persons, except so far as restrictions may be necessary for their own protection and for the safety of the United States; and towards such alien enemies as conduct themselves in accordance with law, all citizens of the United States are enjoined to preserve the peace and to treat them with all such friendliness as may be compatible with loyalty and allegiance to the United States.

And all alien enemies who fail to conduct themselves as so enjoined, in addition to all other penalties prescribed by law, shall be liable to restraint, or to give security, or to remove and depart from the United States in the manner prescribed by Sections 4069 and 4070 of the Revised Statutes, and as prescribed in the regulations duly promulgated by the President;

And pursuant to the authority vested in me, I hereby declare and establish the following regulations, which I find necessary in the premises and for the public safety:

First. An alien enemy shall not have in his possession, at any time or place, any fire-arm, weapon or implement of war, or component part thereof, ammunition, maxim or other silencer, bomb or explosive or material used in the manufacture of explosives;

Second. An alien enemy shall not have in his possession at any time or place, or use or operate any aircraft or wireless apparatus, or any form of signalling device, or any form of cipher code, or any paper, document or book written or printed in cipher or in which there may be invisible writing;

Third. All property found in the possession of an alien enemy in violation of the foregoing regulations shall be subject to seizure by the United States;

Fourth. An alien enemy shall not approach or be found within one-half of a mile of any Federal or State fort, camp, arsenal, aircraft station, Government or naval vessel, navy yard, factory, or workshop for the manufacture of munitions of war or of any products for the use of the army or navy;

Fifth. An alien enemy shall not write, print, or publish any attack or threats against the Government or Congress of the United States, or either branch thereof, or against the measures or policy of the United States, or against the person or property of any person in the military, naval or civil service of the United States, or of the States or Territories, or of the District of Columbia, or of the municipal governments therein;

Sixth. An alien enemy shall not commit or abet any hostile acts against the United States, or give information, aid, or comfort to its enemies;

Seventh. An alien enemy shall not reside in or continue to reside in, to remain in, or enter any locality which the President may from time to time designate by Executive Order as a prohibited area in which residence by an alien enemy shall be found by him to constitute a danger to the public peace and safety of the United States, except by permit from the President and except under such limitations or restrictions as the President may prescribe;

Eighth. An alien enemy whom the President shall have reasonable cause to believe to be aiding or about to aid the enemy, or to be at large to the danger of the public peace or safety of the United States, or to have violated or to be about to violate any of these regulations, shall remove to any location designated by the President by Executive Order, and shall not remove therefrom without a permit, or shall depart from the United States if so required by the President;

Ninth. No alien enemy shall depart from the United States until he shall have received such permit as the President shall prescribe, or except under order of a court, judge, or justice, under Sections 4069 and 4070 of the Revised Statutes;

Tenth. No alien enemy shall land in or enter the United States, except under such restrictions and at such places as the President may prescribe;

Eleventh. If necessary to prevent violation of the regulations, all alien enemies will be obliged to register;

Twelfth. An alien enemy whom there may be reasonable cause to believe to be aiding or about to aid the enemy, or who may be at large to the danger of the public peace or safety, or who violates or attempts to violate, or of whom there is reasonable ground to believe that he is about to violate, any regulation duly promulgated by the President, or any criminal law of the United States, or of the States or Territories thereof, will be subject to summary arrest by the United States Marshal, or his deputy, or such other officer as the President shall designate, and to confinement in such penitentiary, prison, jail, military camp, or other place of detention as may be directed by the President.

This proclamation and the regulations herein contained shall extend and apply to all land and water, continental or insular, in any way within the jurisdiction of the United States.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this 6th day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seventeen and of the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and forty-first.


WOODROW WILSON

Woodrow Wilson :: Address to a Joint Session of Congress Requesting a Declaration of War Against Germany :: April 2, 1917

GENTLEMEN OF THE CONGRESS:

I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of making.

On the third of February last I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the first day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean. That had seemed to be the object of the German submarine warfare earlier in the war, but since April of last year the Imperial Government had somewhat restrained the commanders of its undersea craft in conformity with its promise then given to us that passenger boats should not be sunk and that due warning would be given to all other vessels which its submarines might seek to destroy when no resistance was offered or escape attempted, and care taken that their crews were given at least a fair chance to save their lives in their open boats. The precautions taken were meager and haphazard enough, as was proved in distressing instance after instance in the progress of the cruel and unmanly business, but a certain degree of restraint was observed.

The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom: without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents. Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium, though the latter were provided with safe conduct through the proscribed areas by the German Government itself and were distinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.

I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to the humane practices of civilized nations. International law had its origin in the attempt to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no nation had right of dominion and where lay the free highways of the world. By painful stage after stage has that law been built up, with meager enough results, indeed, after all was accomplished that could be accomplished, but always with a clear view, at least, of what the heart and conscience of mankind demanded.

This minimum of right the German Government has swept aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity and because it had no weapons which it could use at sea except these which it is impossible to employ as it is employing them without throwing to the winds all scruples of humanity or of respect for the understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world.

I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved, immense and serious as that is, but only of the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of noncombatants, men, women, and children, engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate. Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people cannot be.

The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind. It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it. The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation.

We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.

When I addressed the Congress on the twenty-sixth of February last I thought that it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable. Because submarines are in effect outlaws when used as the German submarines have been used against merchant shipping, it is impossible to defend ships against their attacks as the law of nations has assumed that merchantmen would defend themselves against privateers or cruisers, visible craft giving chase upon the open sea. It is common prudence in such circumstances, grim necessity indeed, to endeavor to destroy them before they have shown their own intention. They must be dealt with upon sight, if dealt with at all.

The German Government denies the right of neutrals to use arms at all within the areas of the sea which it has proscribed, even in the defense of rights which no modern publicist has ever before questioned their right to defend. The intimation is conveyed that the armed guards which we have placed on our merchant ships will be treated as beyond the pale of law and subject to be dealt with as pirates would be. Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best; in such circumstances and in the face of such pretensions it is worse than ineffectual: it is likely only to produce what it was meant to prevent; it is practically certain to draw us into the war without either the rights or the effectiveness of belligerents.

There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making: we will not choose the path of submission and suffer the most sacred rights of our Nation and our people to be ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.

With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.

What this will involve is clear. It will involve the utmost practicable cooperation in counsel and action with the governments now at war with Germany, and, as incident to that, the extension to those governments of the most liberal financial credit, in order that our resources may so far as possible be added to theirs. It will involve the organization and mobilization of all the material resources of the country to supply the materials of war and serve the incidental needs of the Nation in the most abundant and yet the most economical and efficient way possible. It will involve the immediate full equipment of the navy in all respects but particularly in supplying it with the best means of dealing with the enemy’s submarines. It will involve the immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States already provided for by law in case of war at least five hundred thousand men, who should, in my opinion, be chosen upon the principle of universal liability to service, and also the authorization of subsequent additional increments of equal force so soon as they may be needed and can be handled in training.

It will involve also, of course, the granting of adequate credits to the Government, sustained, I hope, so far as they can equitably be sustained by the present generation, by well conceived taxation. I say sustained so far as may be equitable by taxation because it seems to me that it would be most unwise to base the credits which will now be necessary entirely on money borrowed. It is our duty, I most respectfully urge, to protect our people so far as we may against the very serious hardships and evils which would be likely to arise out of the inflation which would be produced by vast loans.

In carrying out the measures by which these things are to be accomplished we should keep constantly in mind the wisdom of interfering as little as possible in our own preparation and in the equipment of our own military forces with the duty–for it will be a very practical duty–of supplying the nations already at war with Germany with the materials which they can obtain only from us or by our assistance. They are in the field and we should help them in every way to be effective there.

I shall take the liberty of suggesting, through the several executive departments of the Government, for the consideration of your committees, measures for the accomplishment of the several objects I have mentioned. I hope that it will be your pleasure to deal with them as having been framed after very careful thought by the branch of the Government upon which the responsibility of conducting the war and safeguarding the Nation will most directly fall.

While we do these things, these deeply momentous things, let us be very clear, and make very clear to all the world what our motives and our objects are. My own thought has not been driven from its habitual and normal course by the unhappy events of the last two months, and I do not believe that the thought of the Nation has been altered or clouded by them.

I have exactly the same things in mind now that I had in mind when I addressed the Senate on the twenty-second of January last, the same that I had in mind when I addressed the Congress on the third of February and on the twenty-sixth of February. Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles

Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people. We have seen the last of neutrality in such circumstances.

We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states.

We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling towards them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval.

It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere consulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the interest of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellow men as pawns and tools.

Self-governed nations do not fill their neighbor states with spies or set the course of intrigue to bring about some critical posture of affairs which will give them an opportunity to strike and make conquest. Such designs can be successfully worked out only under cover and where no one has the right to ask questions.

Cunningly contrived plans of deception or aggression, carried, it may be, from generation to generation, can be worked out and kept from the light only within the privacy of courts or behind the carefully guarded confidences of a narrow and privileged class. They are happily impossible where public opinion commands and insists upon full information concerning all the nation’s affairs.

A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic government could be trusted to keep faith within it or observe its covenants. It must be a league of honor, a partnership of opinion. Intrigue would eat its vitals away; the plottings of inner circles who could plan what they would and render account to no one would be a corruption seated at its very heart. Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own.

Does not every American feel that assurance has been added to our hope for the future peace of the world by the wonderful and heartening things that have been happening within the last few weeks in Russia?

Russia was known by those who knew it best to have been always in fact democratic at heart, in all the vital habits of her thought, in all the intimate relationships of her people that spoke their natural instinct, their habitual attitude towards life.

The autocracy that crowned the summit of her political structure, long as it had stood and terrible as was the reality of its power, was not in fact Russian in origin, character, or purpose; and now it has been shaken off and the great, generous Russian people have been added in all their naive majesty and might to the forces that are fighting for freedom in the world, for justice, and for peace. Here is a fit partner for a League of Honor.

One of the things that has served to convince us that the Prussian, autocracy was not and could never be our friend is that from the very outset of the present war it has filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government with spies and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot against our national unity of counsel, our peace Within and without, our industries and our commerce.

Indeed it is now evident that its spies were here even before the war began; and it is unhappily not a matter of conjecture but a fact proved in our courts of justice that the intrigues which have more than once come perilously near to disturbing the peace and dislocating the industries of the country have been carried on at the instigation, with the support, and even under the personal direction of official agents of the Imperial Government accredited to the Government of the United States.

Even in checking these things and trying to extirpate them we have sought to put the most generous interpretation possible upon them because we knew that their source lay, not in any hostile feeling or purpose of the German people towards us (who were, no doubt, as ignorant of them as we ourselves were), but only in the selfish designs of a Government that did what it pleased and told its people nothing. But they have played their part in serving to convince us at last that that Government entertains no real friendship for us and means to act against our peace and security at its convenience. That it means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors the intercepted note to the German Minister at Mexico City is eloquent evidence.

We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in such a Government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no assured security for the democratic Governments of the world.

We are now about to accept gauge of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretense about them to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.

We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Just because we fight without rancor and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for.

I have said nothing of the Governments allied with the Imperial Government of Germany because they have not made war upon us or challenged us to defend our right and our honor. The Austro-Hungarian Government has, indeed, avowed its unqualified endorsement and acceptance of the reckless and lawless submarine warfare adopted now without disguise by the Imperial German Government, and it has therefore not been possible for this Government to receive Count Tarnowski, the Ambassador recently accredited to this Government by the Imperial and Royal Government of Austria-Hungary; but that Government has not actually engaged in warfare against citizens of the United States on the seas, and I take the liberty, for the present at least, of postponing a discussion of our relations with the authorities at Vienna. We enter this war only where we are clearly forced into it because there are no other means of defending our rights.

It will be all the easier for us to conduct ourselves as belligerents in a high spirit of right and fairness because we act without animus, not in enmity towards a people or with the desire to bring any injury or disadvantage upon them, but only in armed opposition to an irresponsible government which has thrown aside all considerations of humanity and of right and is running amuck.

We are, let me say again, the sincere friends of the German people, and shall desire nothing so much as the early reestablishment of intimate relations of mutual advantage between us–however hard it may be for them, for the time being, to believe that this is spoken from our hearts. We have borne with their present Government through all these bitter months because of that friendship–exercising a patience and forbearance which would otherwise have been impossible. We shall, happily, still have an opportunity to prove that friendship in our daily attitude and actions towards the millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy who live amongst us and share our life, and we shall be proud to prove it towards all who are in fact loyal to their neighbors and to the Government in the hour of test. They are, most of them, as true and loyal Americans as if they had never known any other fealty or allegiance. They will be prompt to stand with us in rebuking and restraining the few who may be of a different mind and purpose.

If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression; but, if it lifts its head at all, it will lift it only here and there and without countenance except from a lawless and malignant few.

It is a distressing and oppressive duty, Gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. 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 the rights and liberties of small nations, 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. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, every thing that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.

World War I The Russian Revolution and Stalinism

Chapter 21: Verdun Metastasizes :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyers

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “The two sides were draining each other in a fight so huge and costly, so rich in drama, that it had captured the imagination of the world. Verdun had been elevated to such colossal symbolic importance that France needed only to hold on in order to claim a momentous victory. Falkenhayn, originally indifferent to whether Verdun fell or not, now desperately needed to take it. The trap that he had wanted to construct for the French now held him firmly in its grip.”
  • “The Russians responded with yet another expression of their almost touching readiness to try to come to the rescue whenever asked—an eagerness that contrasted sharply with the cynicism and contempt that so often tainted relations between the British and the French. It is difficult to imagine Joffre or Haig responding as the Russians did if the situation had been reversed.”
  • “It seems as though we are living under a steam hammer…You receive something like a blow in the hollow of the stomach. But what a blow!…Each explosion knocks us to the ground. After a few hours one becomes somewhat dumbfounded.”

Response Quotes – Airships and Landships

  • “But the war transformed aviation with dazzling speed. In a matter of months it changed the airplane from a novelty of uncertain value—“a useless and expensive fad,” Britain’s top general said as late as 1911—to an essential element in the arsenal of every nation.”

Thought Questions

  • What does the author mean by “Verdun Metastasizes”?
  • Describe the German attempt to “restart” the Verdun battle and the French response to it
  • At this point in the battle, what factors made the “balance” lean towards the French
  • Describe how the French advantage was used and wasted
  • How did the battle of Verdun settle into a stalemate?
  • Describe how the evolution of the French military staff impacted the French war
  • How did the fight at Verdun impact the fight in the East?
  • Describe the Russian “roadless” period and its impact on military operations
  • Describe the evolution of the Russian Army in 1916 and how this situation in the west impacted this evolution
  • Describe the turnover in leadership the year 1916 produced
  • In what ways were the reasons for leadership changes in 1916 related to each other?
  • Explain and Expand: “Pétain’s artillery too was taking a fearsome toll, but literally foot by foot the attackers were clawing their way forward in what was by now a war of attrition of the rawest and most savage kind.”
  • Describe the “Lake Naroch debacle”
  • Explain and Expand: “The Eastern Front had fallen quiet in the aftermath of Lake Naroch”
  • In what ways did Alexei Polivanov impact the Russian war effort
  • Who was Rasputin and In what ways did he impact the Russian royal family and government?
  • Who was Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov and how did he impact the Russian war?

Thought Questions: Airships and Landships

  • Describe the impact World War I had on the development of tanks. How did tanks impact World War I?
  • Describe the impact World War I had on the development on war planes. How did war planes impact World War I?
  • Describe the impact World War I had on the development of “Lighter than air” ships. How did “lighter than air” ships impact World War I?
  • Affirm or Refute: “The Great War did give birth to the tank”
  • Who was the Manfred von Richthofen – the “Red Baron”

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

World War I The Russian Revolution and Stalinism

Chapter 20: Verdun: Execution :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Anyone inclined to believe that some dark force beyond human comprehension intervened again and again to make the Great War long and ruinous would have no difficulty in finding evidence to support such a thesis.”
  • “Telling Langle de Cary to do as he thought best, he returned to his supper. Langle de Cary went ahead with the withdrawal. Almost as soon as he did so, German troops moved in from the north to fill the vacuum. It was another part of the spreading French collapse.”
  • “By 1916 the armies of Britain, France, and Germany were being diminished not just by the numbers of men killed and wounded but by something so new to human experience that the English had to coin a name for it: shell shock.”
  • “Always the objective was not to “cure” the victim, to identify and deal with the underlying causes of his symptoms, but to get him back into action.”

Thought Questions

  • In what ways was Verdun a “perfect microcosm of the war”?
  • Compare and Contrast: the strengths of the German plan for Verdun and the French weaknesses
  • Compare and Contrast: the strengths of the French and the weaknesses of the German plan
  • Explain and Expand: “The French for their part had little real need to hold Verdun.”
  • React and Respond: “During the first day’s bombardment an estimated eighty thousand shells had fallen on the Bois des Caures, an area measuring five hundred by one thousand yards”
  • Describe the French leadership during the battle of Verdun
  • Who was General Henri-Philippe Pétain
  • Explain and Expand: “The story of how it happened is like something out of Kafka”
  • Affirm or Refute: “The appointment of Pétain put Verdun in the hands of a man who, probably more than any other in the French army, was capable of organizing an effective defense while at the same time protecting his troops from unnecessary destruction.”
  • Describe the role transportation and logistics played in the defense of Verdun
  • What was the significance of: “In time three-fourths of the entire French army—125 divisions—would be rotated through Verdun, so that it more than any other battle of the war became a shared national experience.”
  • Explain and Expand: “The actions taken by Pétain, coupled with the Germans’ lack of reserves, changed the character of the fight.”
  • Explain and Expand: “And so the Germans, having in the space of a week thrown away two opportunities to capture Verdun, cast aside the chance to get out cheaply.”
  • Describe “Shell Shock” and the response to it
  • Explain and Expand: “Treatment was often indistinguishable from punishment.”
  • React and Respond: “The problem remained immense. This is an area in which data are scarce—little is known about the incidence or treatment of shell shock among the Austrians and Russians, though the continued fluidity of the Eastern Front may have limited the problem there.”

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

World War I The Russian Revolution and Stalinism

Chapter 1: An Imperial Son :: Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Over the more than four centuries from the time of ivan the terrible, russia expanded an average of fifty square miles per day.”
  • “Canadian agriculture was generally on a line with Kiev, far below the farms surrounding Moscow or St. Petersburg.”
  • “Too much has been made of Beso’s failings, and not enough of Yakov “Koba” Egnatashvili’s support. Too much has also been made of the violence in Soso Jughashvili’s early life. Beso beat his son out of anger, humiliation, or for no reason; the doting Keke beat the boy, too. (Beso struck Keke, and Keke sometimes thrashed Beso for being a drunkard.) 58 Of course, a sizable chunk of humanity was beaten by one or both parents.”
  • “To Iosif Jughashvili . . . for excellent progress, behavior and excellent recitation of the Psalter.” One schoolmate rhapsodized about Soso and other choirboys “wearing their surplices, kneeling, faces raised, singing Vespers with angelic voices while the other boys prostrated themselves filled with an ecstasy not of this world.”
  • “Stalin was very much a believer, going to all the services, singing in the church choir. . . . He not only observed all religious rites but always reminded us to observe them.”

Thought Questions

  • In what ways does the interior of the Russian Empire compare with the American western frontier?
  • In what ways does the availability of labor in 19th century Russia compare with the availability of labor in the United States?
  • Who were “Greater Russians”, “Little Russians”, “White Russians” and what is “Yellow Russia”?
  • Describe the situation Jews lived in during late Imperial Russia
  • Where is the Polish Pale of Settlement and what purpose does it serve?
  • What areas comprise the Russian Caucasus?
  • What are the principle cities of Georgia?
  • What areas comprise Russian Central Asia?
  • What areas comprise the Crimea?
  • Where is the Ossetia region?
  • Who were the “Old Believers” and how did they come into existence?
  • Explain and Expand: “Georgia’s Christian rulers were battling both the Muslim Ottomans and the Muslim Safavids and invited Christian Russia’s protection. That “protection,” in practice, was effected by opportunistic imperial agents close to the scene, and soon took the form of annexations, in 1801 and 1810.10 Russia terminated the Georgian Bagrationi dynasty and replaced the patriarch of the formerly independent Georgian Orthodox Church with a Russian Orthodox Church metropolitan (called an exarch). And yet, in another contradiction, the local “Russian” administration overflowed with Georgians, who were favored as fellow Christians.”
  • Describe the relationship between Russia and Georgia
  • Who was Besarion Jughashvili and Ketevan “Keke” Geladze?
  • Describe the Jughashvili family and their existence in Georgia
  • Explain and Expand:” These immense geopolitical facts that accompanied Stalin’s birth and early life—a unified industrial Germany, a consolidated industrial Japan, an American power greater than any other in world history—would shake the tsarist regime to its core and, one day, confront Stalin, too.”
  • How did industrialization in Russia impact the early life of Iosif Jughashvili?
  • Compare and Contrast: Clara Hitler and Ketevan “Keke” Geladze
  • Describe the relationship between the Orthodox Church and Iosif Jughashvili
  • Explain and Expand: “Much has been made over the young Stalin’s infatuation with a celebrated novel, The Patricide (1882), by Aleksandre Qazbegi (1848–93)”
  • How does Iosif Jughashvili assume the nickname “Koba” and who was Yakov Egnatashvili?
  • Describe the academic and religious education of Iosif Jughashvili
  • Compare and Contrast: The early lives of Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible with Iosif Jughashvili
  • Who were Sergei “Kirov” Kostrikov and Grigol “Sergo” Orjonikidze
Primary Source Documents

A Letter to American Workingmen from the Socialist Soviet Republic of Russia – V.I. Lenin – Moscow, August 20, 1918

A Letter to American Workingmen from the Socialist Soviet Republic of Russia

By V.I. [M] Lenin

Moscow, August 20, 1918

LeninComrades: A Russian Bolshevik who participated in the Revolution of 1905 and for many years afterwards lived in your country has offered to transmit this letter to you. I have grasped this opportunity joyfully for the revolutionary proletariat of America—insofar as it is the enemy of American imperialism—is destined to perform an important task at this time.

The history of modern civilized America opens with one of those really revolutionary wars of liberation of which there have been so few compared with the enormous number of wars of conquest that were caused, like the present imperialistic war, by squabbles among kings, landholders and capitalists over the division of ill-gotten lands and profits. It was a war of the American people against the English who despoiled America of its resources and held in colonial subjection, just as their “civilized” descendants are draining the life-blood of hundreds of millions of human beings in India, Egypt and all corners and ends of the world to keep them in subjection.

Read more

Week 19 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 19: Verdun: Preparation

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “The forces of France will bleed to death.”
  • “From time to time an aerial torpedo passes, making a noise like a gigantic motor car. With a tremendous thud a giant shell bursts quite close to our observation post, breaking the telephone wire and interrupting all communication with our batteries. It seems quite impossible that he should escape in the rain of shell, which exceeds anything imaginable; there has never been such a bombardment in war. Our man seems to be enveloped in explosions, and shelters himself in the shell craters which honeycomb the ground; finally he reaches a less stormy spot, mends his wires, and then, as it would be madness to try to return, settles down in a crater and waits for the storm to pass.” 
  • “In the Gorlice-Tarnow campaign alone, a hundred and fifty thousand Russians had been killed, six hundred and eighty thousand wounded, and nearly nine hundred thousand taken prisoner. … Though the French had been on the attack repeatedly during the year, they had accomplished essentially nothing and had done so at almost incredible cost. In the Champagne and Artois regions alone, three hundred and thirty-five thousand of their soldiers had been killed. … Some two hundred thousand British were dead—nearly twice the number with which the BEF had begun the war.”
  • “The assembled generals had no difficulty in agreeing that the Germans, fatally weakened, could be finished off with one great symphonic offensive involving all the major combatants on every major front.”
  • “She is staking everything on a war of exhaustion,” he wrote. “We have not been able to shatter her belief that it will bring Germany to her knees. What we have to do is dispel that illusion.” 
  • “France has arrived almost at the end of her military effort,” he told the kaiser. “If her people can be made to understand clearly that in a military sense they have nothing more to hope for, the breaking point will be reached and England’s best weapon knocked out of her hand.” 
  • “a plan aimed not at capturing Verdun but at bringing the French army within range of the German artillery and, in the general’s words, bleeding it white. His goal at the start of the campaign was simply to mass his artillery in the hills north of the city, force the French to try to drive those guns away, and blow them to pieces as they did.”

Thought Questions

  • Describe the German plan and goals for the Verdun offensive
  • How did Germany expect the western allies to react to Verdun?
  • In what ways was the battle of Verdun the product of 1915?
  • Describe the impact the Italian entry into the war had on the Central Powers?
  • React and Respond: “The certainty that the Entente’s numerical advantage could only increase with time was obvious in Berlin.”
  • Compare and Contrast the German beliefs about the role of Britain in 1915-16 with their beliefs about the role of Britain in 1941-42
  • What two strategies did Falkenhayn see to knock Britain out of the war?
  • Describe the military history of Verdun. Why did the French people hold Verdun as significant? 
  • Describe why Verdun was significant to the Germans in 1916?
  • What was the initial German objective for the Verdun offensive? 

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

Week 18 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 18: Gallipoli Again, and Poland, and …

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Perhaps a scapegoat is needed to save Russia. I mean to be the victim.”
  • “The fall of Warsaw—and so of all Poland—had been followed by continued German advances and increasing evidence that the Russian armies were on the verge of disintegration. The Russian retreat was turning into not just an alarming mess but a wave of crimes against humanity.”
  • “For generations most of Russia’s Jews had been forcibly confined to eastern Poland, where they were required to live in ghettos and shtetls and almost entirely barred both from farming and from the learned professions. In late 1914, claiming to be addressing security concerns, the Russians had driven more than half a million of these people out of their homes and left them to the tender mercies of the long central European winter. In the first months of 1915 another eight hundred thousand of them were put out onto the roads of Poland, Lithuania, and Courland by the tsar’s Cossacks, who often did not even permit them to take whatever possessions they might have been able to carry or cart away.”
  • “He began warning London that failure to give full support to France’s next offensive could lead to the fall of Joffre and Millerand—and to France making a separate peace. Not surprisingly, Kitchener informed Hamilton that he should expect no more troops at Gallipoli and gave the BEF unambiguous new orders for the autumn. Britain must support Joffre’s offensive to the utmost, he said, “even though, by doing so, we suffer very heavy losses indeed.””
  • “duty to the country which God has committed to my keeping” to “share the burdens and toils of war with my army and help it protect Russian soil against the onslaught of the foe.” The grand duke, when he got the news, was more succinct. “God be praised,” he said. “The Emperor releases me from a task which was wearing me out.” 
  • “The King rode along the first three or four ranks, then crossed the road to the other three or four ranks on the other side, speaking to an officer here and there. Our instructions had been that at the conclusion of the parade we were to put our caps on the points of our fixed bayonets and wave and cheer. So that’s what we did—‘Hip, hip, hooray.’ Well, the King’s horse reared and he fell off. He just seemed to slide off and so of course the second ‘Hip, hip’ fizzled out. It was quite a fiasco and you should have seen the confusion as these other high-ranking officers rushed to dismount and go to the King’s assistance. They got him up and the last we saw of him he was being hurriedly driven away.” 
  • “Coming back over the ground that had been captured that day,” one Tommy wrote, “the sight that met our eyes was quite unbelievable. If you can imagine a flock of sheep lying down sleeping in a field, the bodies were as thick as that. Some of them were still alive, and they were crying out, begging for water and plucking at our legs as we went by. One hefty chap grabbed me around both knees and held me. ‘Water, water,’ he cried. I was just going to take the cork out of my water-bottle—I had a little left—but I was immediately hustled on by the man behind me. ‘Get on, get on, we are going to get lost in no man’s land, come on.’ So it was a case where compassion had to give way to discipline and I had to break away.” 
  • “Horses and men stumbling into the abyss; Albanian attacks; hosts of women and children. A doctor would not dress an officer’s wound; soldiers would not bother to pull out a wounded comrade or officer. Belongings abandoned; starvation; wading across rivers clutching onto horses’ tails; old men, women and children climbing up the rocks; dying people on the road; a smashed human skull by the road; a corpse all skin and bones, robbed, stripped naked, mangled; soldiers, police officers, civilians, women, captives. Vlasta’s cousin, naked under his overcoat with a collar and cuffs, shattered, gone mad. Soldiers like ghosts, skinny, pale, worn out, sunken eyes, their hair and beards long, their clothes in rags, almost naked, barefoot. Ghosts of people begging for bread, walking with sticks, their feet covered in wounds, staggering. Chaos; women in soldiers’ clothes; the desperate mothers of those who are too exhausted to go on.” 
  • “I’m twenty-one years old, my hair and beard are already gray. My mustache is white. My face is wrinkled and my body is rotting. I can’t bear these hardships and privations any more.” 

Thought Questions 

  • Expand and Explain: “But the great prize, the heights that men from Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand had for more than three months been trying and failing to reach, was now just yards away. And it was undefended: just the previous afternoon air reconnaissance had found no sign of Turkish forces anywhere in the neighborhood.”
  • Why did the Western Allies and especially the British feel compelled to act on Gallipoli in the summer / fall of 1915? 
  • Describe the Battle of Scimitar Hill and its significance in the Gallipoli campaign
  • Describe the landing at Suvla Bay 
  • What was / is Tekke Tepe? 
  • React and Respond: “Fewer than fifteen hundred Turkish troops, armed with little more than rifles, stood between Suvla and Tekke Tepe —the key to everything beyond, the whole point of the landing.” 
  • Who was General Sir Frederick Stopford?
  • What role did Irish units play in the final stages of the Gallipoli campaign?
  • Describe the military contribution Italy provided the Entente in 1915?
  • Who was General Luigi Cadorna?
  • What was Anzac Cove and why was it significant in the final battle of Gallipoli?
  • Explain and Expand: “When they were driven off, the second invasion of Gallipoli was essentially finished.”
  • Describe the conclusion of the Gallipoli campaign
  • What steps did the western allies take in response to the end of the Gallipoli campaign?
  • How did the end of the Gallipoli campaign impact Russia?
  • Who was General Nikolai Yanushkevich?
  • Who was General Vladimir Sukhomlinov? 
  • Who was General Alexei Polivanov? 
  • Who was General Mikhail Alexeyev? 
  • Explain and Expand: “… ushering in a meat shortage that would persist in Russia beyond the end of the war. The refugees were ravaged by starvation, cholera, typhus, and typhoid. The number of lives lost will never be known.”
  • Describe the developments on the eastern front in summer / fall 1915?
  • Describe the role Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and Rasputin played in 1915
  • Describe the geography and location of the Pripet Marshes
  • Describe how Bulgaria became involved in World War I and what role Serbia played in their involvement?
  • What were the three stages of the Second Battle of Champagne?
  • How did the plan for the Second Battle of Champagne unfold?
  • What was the role of the Third Battle of Artois?
  • How did the plan for the Third Battle of Artois unfold?  
  • What was the role of the Battle of Loos?
  • How did the plan for the Battle of Loos unfold?
  • React and Respond: “In the end the casualties of Second Champagne totaled a hundred and forty-three thousand for the French, eighty-five thousand (including twenty thousand men taken prisoner) for the Germans. … The Loos and Third Artois offensives cost the British sixty-one thousand casualties (two generals and twenty-eight battalion commanders among them), the Germans fifty-six thousand, and the French forty-eight thousand.”
  • Explain and Expand: “Nineteen-fifteen was finished at last.”

Articles and Resources

Maps

 

Week 17 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 17: The Ground Shifts

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “As usual, the fight went on long after any chance of success had evaporated,”
  • “We relieved our fourth battalion in here, these are the trenches which they lost so many men in capturing, & is just one vast deadhouse, the stench in some places is something awful, the first thing we had to do was dig the trenches deeper & otherwise repair them & we came across bodies all over the place, you know the Germans occupied these trenches nearly the whole winter and have been losing heavily & has had to bury their killed in the trenches, there were legs and arms sticking out all over the place when we arrived but we have buried the most of them properly now. The ground behind us us [sic] is covered yet by dead Camerons and Germans who fell on the seventeenth of May & we go out at night & bury them, it is a very rotten job as they are very decomposed, but it has to be done.”
  • “At eight in the evening we are on the march again. We come out onto the road. It is dark. But what’s that noise? Oh my God, what’s happening on the road ahead? It is blocked by carts, full of kids and household stuff. The cows are bellowing, the dogs are barking and yelping. The poor people are going God knows where, anywhere to get away from the fighting. But the old nags don’t have the strength to pull the loads; the air is filled with the sound of horses being whipped and the Polish ‘tso,’ and still the carts won’t move. We don’t have the heart just to drive through them. It’s such a heartbreaking scene, we drag one cart after another out of the mud, get them onto the main road and then onto the bridge over the river Narew. I pity them all, particularly the little children, sitting in the carts or in their mothers’ arms. They don’t understand what is happening around them. My thoughts turn to my own family, I feel depressed and before I know it tears run down my cheeks.” 

Thought Questions The Ground Shifts

  • How did Falkenhayn use the new Eleventh Army and what factored into his choices?
  • What was the intention of the Germans on the eastern front in 1915?
  • What was the intention of the Germans for 1916 on the eastern front based on the perspective of 1915?
  • Describe the Second Battle of Artois
  • What was the result at the end of the Second Battle of Artois?
  • What was the logic behind continuing / restarting the Artois offensive?
  • How did the Second Battle of Artois change the political situation in France, England and Germany?
  • What strategy developed to fight a “war of attrition” in 1915?
  • What role did railroads play in the battles around Artois?
  • Describe the situation Winston Churchill found himself in 1915
  • Describe the significance of the Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive 
  • How did Italy become involved in World War I? What were the Italian interests and objectives?
  • Describe the significance of the Courland campaign and its impact on Russian forces and political stability
  • How did Constantinople factor into Russian thought and planning?

Thought Questions Background: Genocide

  • Please note: The Armenian Genocide is a fact of history. No living person is responsible for it. No one should attempt to deny, distort or defend the Armenian Genocide. 
  • Who were the “Young Turks”, what did they develop from, what were their motivations and intentions?
  • Who was Enver Pasha?
  • Who was Suleiman the Magnificent? 
  • Why was Armenia chosen as a target by the Young Turks?
  • Describe the stages and events of the Armenian Genocide (Հայոց ցեղասպանություն)
  • How was the American Red Cross involved in the Armenian Genocide? 
  • How was religion a factor in the outer manifestation of the Armenian Genocide?
  • What ware the political factors in the inner planning of the Armenian Genocide? 

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

Week 16 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 16: Gallipoli

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “As in Europe, the soldiers on both sides developed the familiar mixture of fear and respect, of hatred and admiration, for the men they were fighting. The Turks “came over in two great waves from their trenches, in great hulking mass,” an Australian private observed of one attack. “They were rather big men, the Turks, fine body of men. As they came over, they were shouting ‘Allah!’ and blowing their trumpets and whistling and shouting like schoolboys. As they got closer, within nice rifle range, we had the order to fire and opened up with rapid fire and brought them down in hundreds, hundreds of them fell, and in front of our trenches.” A corporal at Anzac Cove took a less admiring view: “The Turks suffer severely in their half-hearted bayonet attacks, usually delivered at night. They approach calling on Allah. We hold our fire until they are within twenty paces. Then they get a couple of stunning volleys and we hop out and bayonet anyone who cannot run away quick enough. I have not been lucky enough to catch one yet.””
  • “I don’t order you to attack, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can take our place.” 

Thought Questions Gallipoli

  • (Remember: Galli (double el) poli)
  • Describe the goals of the Gallipoli campaign
  • How did geography influence the Gallipoli campaign?
  • Describe the progress and conclusion of the Gallipolicampaign
  • What was ANZAC and what was its role in the Gallipolicampaign?
  • What impact did ANZAC have on the British Empire? 
  • Describe the mythology around the Dardanelles
  • What is the military significance of the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus channel? of  Cape Helles?
  • Who were Sir John Michael de Robeck and General Ian Hamilton?
  • Who were Enver Pasha, Mustafa Kemal and General Otto Liman von Sanders?
  • Beyond the military sphere, what role did Enver Pasha and Mustafa Kemal play in the Ottoman empire?
  • How did Allied confusion impact the Gallipolicampaign? How did the Central Powers use this confusion to their benefit?

Thought Questions: Background: An Infinite Appetite for Shells

  • In what ways did the machine gun become the defining image of World War I?
  • In what ways did artillery dominated the battlefields of World War I?
  • How did World War I institute a new form of industrial warfare? What caused the evolution from wars of the previous decade? 

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

Week 15 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 15: Ypres Again

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Just rat holes! One hell of accommodation! Got to the trenches as a fatigue party with stake & sandbags, and though they were reserve trenches, they were so rotten. No trenches at all in parts, just isolated mounds. Found German’s feet sticking up through the ground. The Gurkhas had actually used human bodies instead of sandbags. Right beside the stream where we were working were the bodies of two dead, since November last, one face downward in full marching order, with his kit on his back. He died game! Stench something awful and dead all round. Water rats had made a home of their decomposed bodies. Visited the barbed wire with Rae—ordinary wire strung across. Quit about 1 A.M., came back to our dugouts and found them on fire. Had to march out to St. Julien, & put up in a roofless house—not a roof left on anything in the whole place. Found our sack of food had been stolen and we were famished. Certainly a most unlucky day, for I lost my cherished pipe. Bed at 4 A.M.”
  • “The advancing Germans were shocked by what they found: five thousand enemy soldiers on their backs, struggling for breath, suffocating in agony and terror.”
  • “There is nothing more bizarre about the great war than the way in which, for four years, millions of citizens of Europe’s most advanced nations lived in holes in the ground. The Western Front was unlike anything the world had seen before or has seen since.”

Thought Questions

  • Describe the events around the Second Battle of Ypres
  • What was the end result of the Second Battle of Ypres for the Germany, France and Britain?
  • What was the condition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time of the Second Battle of Ypres
  • What was the position of Italy in Europe before the war and how did they use their position to their national advantage?
  • What was the course of events that led to Italy joining the Entente?
  • Describe the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and its impact on the participants
  • What was Hill 60?
  • How was chlorine gas used in the Second Battle of Ypres
  • What role did Indian troops play in the Second Battle of Ypres?
  • What impact did the use of poison gas at the Second Battle of Ypres have on German American relations?
  • Describe the trench warfare system for the Western Allies and Germany
  • What was Trench Foot? What was Trench Mouth? How was it a life long injury?
  • How does the cliché about war: “it is tedium punctuated by eruptions of sheer terror” expressed in Trench warfare?. 

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

 

Week 14 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 14: The Dardanelles

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “To attack Turkey would be to play the German game, and to bring about the end which Germany had in mind when she induced Turkey to join the war.”
  • ““I was wounded in the battle and taken to a casualty clearing station,” said Cavalryman Walter Becklade. “I was beside a fellow who had got his arms bandaged up—I’d simply got my right arm bandaged. He was trying to light his pipe but couldn’t get on very well so I offered to fill and light it for him. But when I’d lit it I suddenly realized he had nowhere to put it, as he’d had his lower jaw blown away. So I smoked the pipe and he smelt the tobacco, that was all the poor chap could have.””
  • ““The first ammunition dump exploded with a terrifying boom, the ground shook and the glass fell out of all the windows,” a Polish woman who had gone to Przemysl in an effort to save her family’s house wrote. “Clouds of ash cascaded from chimneys and stoves, and chunks of plaster fell from the walls and ceilings. There was soon a second boom. As the day dawned the town looked like a glowing, smoking crater with pink flames glowing from below and morning mist floating above—an amazing, menacing sight. These hours were perhaps the only hours like this in the whole history of the world. Countless people died of nervous convulsions last night, without any physical injuries or illnesses. By the time the sun climbed into the sky everything was still. Soldiers knelt on their balconies, praying…There is a corpse in our house, on the floor above the Litwinskis’. The man seems to have died of fear. I have to do something about him, but nobody wants to get involved, they are all leaving it to me. I persuaded one of the workmen to go down to the army hospital to ask what to do…he was told they would deal with it tomorrow, they’ve got too many corpses today as it is, littering the streets awaiting collection.””

Thought Questions

  • Describe the events that led up to the Ottoman entry into the war
  • What were the proposed objectives of the Salonika offensive?
  • How did different agendas impact the allied powers war plans?
  • What role did Winston Churchill play in the Dardanelles offensive?
  • Describe the geographic features of the Dardanelles and how they impacted the conflict
  • What was the symbolic importance of Constantinople to the allies?
  • How did the neutrality of some Central and Eastern Europeans impact the war in 1915?
  • Describe the fighting around Neuve Chapelle
  • In what ways did British naval power influence the course of the war?
  • How did the naval balance of power before the war influence events?
  • Compare and Contrast the role new weapons (poison gas, submarines, tanks, etc) had on World War I with the impact of new weapons in previous European conflicts 

Articles and Resources

 

Week 13 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 13: The Search for Elsewhere

 

Thought Questions

  • What does the author mean with the chapter heading “The Search for Elsewhere”?
  • How did various actors answer the question “What do we do now?”? 
  • What was the situation in France at the beginning of 1915? What was their goal? 
  • What was the situation in Austria Hungary at the beginning of 1915? What was their goal?
  • What was the situation in Germany at the beginning of 1915? How did they have competing priorities? How did they make the decision on how to proceed? What was that decision?
  • What was the situation in Russia at the beginning of 1915? How did they have competing priorities? How did they make the decision on how to proceed? What was that decision?
  • What was the situation in Britain at the beginning of 1915? How did they have competing priorities? How did they make the decision on how to proceed? What was that decision?
  • Why are the situations of each of the fighting powers important at this point in the war?
  • How did the events at the beginning of 1915 unfold and how did it impact the priorities of each of the fighting powers? 
  • In what ways was the war impacting the political and military systems in each of the fighting powers?
  • What role did agriculture and food supplies play in decision making at the beginning of 1915? (harvest yields and food supplies are the single most important thing to consider when looking at a war. Bad harvests mean things are going to get worse)
  • How did conflict within German military leadership impact their war at the beginning of 1915?
  • Who were the Young Turks? 
  • How was Turkey motivated into the war? 
  • In what ways did the entry of Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) into the war alter the situation for the major fighting powers? 
  • How did conflict within Britain military / political leadership impact their war at the beginning of 1915?
  • How did Western Industrialization impact World War I? 
  • What is xylyl bromide and how was it deployed as a weapon in 1915?
  • How did Industrial warfare impact the Artillery and Cavalry branches of military services?
  • How did Industrial warfare impact the Infantry branches of military services?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “I can only love and hate, and I hate General Falkenhayn,” Ludendorff declared. “It is impossible for me to work together with him.” Even Hoffmann, whose temperament was far better balanced than Ludendorff’s, told his staff that Falkenhayn was “the fatherland’s evil angel.”
  • The Great War did not end in 1914—or In 1915, 1916, or 1917 for that matter—in large part because of the state of technology in the second decade of the twentieth century. The war had broken out at the end of almost a century of dizzily accelerating advances in metallurgy, chemistry, and high-precision mass production, at a moment in history when weaponry was immeasurably more advanced than it had been a few generations before. And the war itself accelerated everything still further. The nations involved were not only the world’s military giants but its industrial leaders as well. They rolled out one innovation after another year after year; whenever one side produced an implement of destruction that promised to tip the scales, the other came up with a way to preserve the deadlock.

 

Week 12 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 12: Flanders Fields

Thought Questions

  • How did the First Battle of Ypres unfold? 
  • What was accomplished by the different sides in the First Battle of Ypres?
  • What lessons did the different sides learn in the First Battle of Ypres? 
  • How did the Battle of the Yser fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did the Battle of Langemarck fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did the Battle of Gheluvelt fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did the Battle of Nonne Bosschen fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did terrain and geography effect the First Battle of Ypres? 
  • How did communication, information and transportation effect the the First Battle of Ypres?
  • What were the two goals that the German forces needed to accomplish in the eastern theater as the First Battle of Ypres unfolded? 
  • How did the 1914 First Battle of Warsaw (the 1914 Battle of the Vistula River) unfold? 
  • What was accomplished by the different sides in the Battle of Warsaw and contemporaneous engagements?
  • What was the state of Austro-Hungarian forces at the end of 1914? 

Note: There are a multitude of Battles of Warsaw in history. Warsaw is grievously a necropolis that people live on top of and nations fight over.

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Thousands of schoolboy recruits, many of them as young as sixteen, followed almost equally inexperienced reserve sergeants and officers in heavily massed formations directly at the waiting BEF. They formed a wall of flesh—British soldiers recalled them advancing arm in arm, singing as they came, wearing their fraternity caps and carrying flowers—that blind men could hardly have missed. They were mowed down in rows. Where they somehow succeeded in driving back their enemies, they often didn’t know what to do next and so milled around aimlessly until hit with a counterattack. Many thousands of these youngsters lie in a single mass grave a short distance north of Ypres. At the site is a sculpture, the figures of a pair of parents kneeling in grief, created after the war by the mother of one of them.”
  • “Even the barest chronology of how the villages near Ypres were taken and surrendered and taken again is enough to show why, in the end, hardly a stone was left standing upon a stone. Lombartzyde was captured by the Germans on October 23, retaken by the French a day later, recaptured by the Germans on October 28, taken yet again by the British and French on November 4, recaptured by the Germans on November 7, only to change hands twice more before finally and permanently ending up in the possession of the Germans.” 

Articles and Resources

 

 

Week 11 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 11: Back From The Marne

Thought Questions

  • What was the condition of the western forces in early September 1914?
  • What was the condition of the eastern forces in early September 1914?
  • From the perspective of Germany, how did the situation appear at this time?
  • From the perspective of France and Russia how did the situation appear at this time?
  • From the perspective of the fighting soldiers how did the situation appear at this time?
  • How would military operations following the Battle of the Marne proceed? 
  • What role did staff planning play in early September 1914? What role did the planning at field level play in early September? 
  • What was happening in East Prussia as the Western front maneuvered after the Battle of the Marne? 
  • What role did cavalry play in the opening campaigns of World War I? 
  • How was the Austro-Hungarian Empire fighting a completely different war from the one the major powers were fighting? 
  • In what ways did the BEF and the French army cooperate and clash in the follow up to the Battle of the Marne?
  • What does the author intend when he says the follow up to the Battle of the Marne was a “series of crisis” until a breakdown occurred? What was the “breakdown”?
  • How did the Schlieffen Plan conclude? 

Thought Questions The British Commanders 

  • What were the circumstances under which British commanders gained military experience and developed their careers?
  • Who were Herbert Kitchener, John French and Douglas Haig? 
  • What was the “cult of amateurism” in Victorian Britain?
  • How was the BEF organized on the entry to World War I?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Attack, whatever happens! The Germans are at the extreme limit of their efforts…Victory will come to the side that outlasts the other.”
  • “What a mess!” he exclaimed. “What a shambles! It was a terrifying sight…no order in the ranks…straggling along…Men emaciated, in rags and tatters, most without haversacks, many without rifles, some marching painfully, leaning on sticks and looking as though they were about to fall asleep.”
  • “One of our battalions was marching wearily forward, All at once, while passing a crossroad, they discovered a signpost, on which they read: Paris, thirty-seven kilometers [twenty-three miles]. It was the first signpost that had not been erased. On seeing it, the battalion was as though shaken up by an electric current. The word Paris, which they have just read, drives them crazy. Some of them embrace the wretched signpost, others dance around it. Cries, yells of enthusiasm, accompany these mad actions. This signpost is their evidence that we are near Paris, that, without doubt, we shall soon be really there. This notice board has had a miraculous effect. Faces light up, weariness seems to disappear, the march is resumed, alert, cadenced, in spite of the abominable ground in this forest. Songs burst forth louder.”
  • “Our soldiers are worn out, For four days they have been marching forty kilometers a day. The ground is difficult, the roads are torn up, trees felled, the fields pitted by shells like strainers. The soldiers stagger at every step, their faces are plastered with dust, their uniforms are in rags; one might call them living rag-bags. They march with closed eyes, and sing in chorus to keep from falling asleep as they march. The certainty of victory close at hand and of their triumphal entry into Paris sustains them and whips up their enthusiasm. Without this certainty of victory they would fall exhausted. They would lie down where they are, to sleep at last, no matter where, no matter how. And, to give their bodies a drunkenness like that of their souls, they drink enormously. But this drunkenness also helps to keep them up. Today, after an inspection, the General [Kluck] was furiously angry. He wanted to put an end to this collective debauch. We have just persuaded him not to give severe orders. It is better not to be too strict, otherwise the army could not go on at all. For this abnormal weariness abnormal stimulants are needed. In Paris we shall remedy all this.”

Articles

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Week 10 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 10: To The Marne

Thought Questions

  • Describe the events leading to the First Battle of the Marne? 
  • How did the events around the First Battle of the Marne begin to “favor” Joffre?
  • How did the relationship between Sir John French and the British high command evolve and how was the French high command involved?
  • What was the German plan that led to the First Battle of the Marne? 
  • In what ways did the French surprise the Germans during these events? 
  • How did the BEF work with the French forces in the First Battle of the Marne?
  • What critical mistakes did Moltke make in this period? 

Thought Questions Background: The French Commanders

  • Who was Louis Loyzeau de Grandmaison and what role did he play in 1914?
  • What was the French “cult of the offensive” and how did it impact French military thinking during the opening of World War I?
  • Why was the use of reserved troops for frontline service controversial in France?
  • How did religious practice effect the French military decision making?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “We must not deceive ourselves. We have had successes, but we have not had victory.”
  • “When French replied that he was indeed withdrawing south of the River Seine and that “my confidence in the ability of the leaders of the French Army to carry this campaign to a successful conclusion is fast waning,” Kitchener shot back another message informing him that he was expected to “as far as possible conform to the plans of General Joffre for the conduct of the campaign.” In response, French again gave vent to his disdain for his allies and emphasized how unready the BEF was to withstand further combat.”
  • “Farther to the east, the front was aflame. Moltke was hurling his Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Armies against the French Fourth, Third, Second, and First. The Germans were repulsed, fell back, and were counterattacked in their turn.”

Primary Sources

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Week 9 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 9: A Perfect Balance

Thought Questions

  • What was the “Curragh Mutiny”?
  • Who was Sir John French and what role did the BEF play in the opening of World War I?
  • How did the scale of the conflict effect how it unfolded? 
  • What advantages did the BEF have that countered their small size? 
  • Who was General Alexander von Kluck and what role did the German First Army play in the opening of World War I?
  • Who was General Otto von Bülow and what role did the German Second Army play in the opening of World War I?
  • Who was General Max von Hausen and what role did the German Third Army play in the opening of World War I?
  • How did the French doctrine of the “offensive” effect the opening of World War I and how would this impact the French in 1940? 
  • How did the Battle of Le Cateau unfold and what were its consequences for the opening of the war?
  • In what ways did communications effect the opening of World War I?
  • Describe the 1914 siege of Paris?
  • How was the war in East Prussia disruptive to German and Russian war plans?
  • How did the geography of East Prussia effect military operations? 
  • How did the Battle for East Prussia and Tannenberg unfold and what were its consequences? 
  • Who was General Pavel von Rennenkampf and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia?
  • Who was General Alexander Samsonov and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia?
  • How did the relationship between Samsonov and Rennenkampf effect their performance at the battle for East Prussia?
  • Who was Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia?
  • Who was Erich Ludendorff and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia? 
  • How did the 1914 First Battle of Masurian Lakes unfold and what were its consequences?

Thought Questions: The Junkers 

  • Who were the “Junkers” and how were they connected to the House of Hohenzollern?
  • What was the dilemma of “Old Prussia”?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “It will be obvious that the greatest care must be exercised towards a minimum of loss and wastage,” Kitchener had written. “I wish you to distinctly understand that your force is an entirely independent one and you will in no case come under the orders of any Allied general.”
  • “I will not allow General Samsonov to play the coward,” Zhilinski imperiously replied. “I insist that he continue the offensive.”
  • “without understanding what Wilhelm meant when he said that the creation of the new empire felt like a kind of death—that the day it happened was the most miserable of his life.”
  • “A culture emerged that was unlike any other in Europe, an army, it was said, that happened to have a country attached to it.” 

Articles

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Week 8 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 8: First Blood

Thought Questions 

  • Describe the Liège defenses, their importance and how the battle unfolded there
  • What miscalculations did France make in the disposition of their forces?
  • Describe the German siege guns at Liège
  • What were the German miscalculations regarding the eastern front? 
  • How did the 1914 Battle for East Prussia unfold? 
  • What effect the the opening of the war have on population centers?
  • How did the British surprise the Germans?
  • Describe the disposition of the French and Belgium forces at the opening of war? 

Thought Questions: London in 1914

  • What was the path the British took to involvement in the war?
  • What role did Ireland play in the opening of the war? 
  • Who were Herbert Henry Asquith, David Lloyd George and Edward Grey 
  • What was the Curragh Mutiny?
  • What was the reaction and schism in the British government before the opening of the war? 
  • What was the guiding principle of British foreign policy? 
  • What dilemmas did Britain face in the opening of war? How did Beligum and Ireland factor into these problems?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “A mass of infantry on the move is like nothing else in the world, but it may usefully be thought of as an immensely long and cumbersome caterpillar with the head of a nearsighted tiger.”
  • “the idea that Germany was in a life-or-death struggle and so had no choice but to take extreme measures.” 
  • -“with the public barely noticing, Britain was slowly being drawn into the European crisis.”
  • “It is curious,” wrote Asquith, “how, going to and from the House, we are now always surrounded and escorted by cheering crowds of loafers and holiday makers. I have never before been a popular character with ‘the man in the street,’ and in all this dark and dangerous business it gives me scant pleasure. How one loathes such levity.” 

Articles

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Week 7 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 7: The Iron Dice Roll

Thought Questions

  • What was the great fear of German leaders in international relations? How does this compare to Russia during the post World War 1 period? 
  • What was the “Schlieffen Plan” and how did it effect the opening of World War 1?
  • How did German geography and the European political situation favor military defense over offense in 1914? How was an offensive plan risky? 
  • How did the position of neutral nations effect the opening of the western front?
  • How did French history effect their preparations for war? 

Thought Questions: Background: Paris

  • What was the “Madame Caillaux affair”?
  • Who was Jean Jaurès and what role did he play in the opening of the war? 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Bismarck had joked that if it ever invaded Germany, he would have it arrested.”

Articles

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Week 6: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 6: Leaping in the Dark

Thought Questions

  • Why were German war plans at the core of the start of World War II? 
  • Who was Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and the Younger and how were they involved in the beginning of World War I
  • How did communications and transportation effect the beginning of World War I? 
  • In what ways did the different priorities and constraints of the military and political leadership effect the start of the war?
  • What was Grey’s offer of neutrality and how did it effect the situation leading up to World War I?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • ““This was a criminal act of yours,” Sazonov said. “The curses of the nations will be upon you.” “We were defending our honor.” “Your honor was not involved.”” 

Articles

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Notes

 

Week 5 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 5: Fear is a Bad Counselor 

Thought Questions

  • How was the situation of the Great Powers in the lead up to war similar to the situation Great Powers faced in the Cold War? 
  • How were the circumstances of the start of World War I different from the beginning of World War II? 
  • Who was Grigori Rasputin and how did he impact the Russian Tsar and his wife?
  • What was the “Stop in Belgrade” proposition? 
  • How did the attitudes of national leaders differ from the ministers of their government? 
  • How did the British Navy react to the crisis of July and what was Winston Churchill’s role and attitude? 
  • How was the role of national and military leaders at the outbreak of World War I different from the role of national and military leaders at the outbreak of World War II in Europe? 
  • How did Belgium become involved in the lead up to World War I? 
  • What was the “Double Ultimatum”? 
  • What was intended by the phrase “Fear is a Bad Counselor”? (Not what it means, but what does it intend to invoke in the listener)

Thought Questions: Background: The Ottoman Turks

  • How did the Ottoman Turks become involved in World War I?
  • What was the history of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans?
  • Why did the Ottoman Empire decline before World War I? 
  • What were the traditions of Ottoman succession? 
  • How did the Ottoman Empire “enter” the war? 

Articles

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Week 4 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 4: Secrets and Lies

Thought Questions

  • Why did Kaiser Wilhelm say Austria had won a great moral victory? 
  • Describe the events around the Austrian Ultimatum to Serbia and how it was crafted?
  • How was the process of Mobilization different in for Russia? 
  • How was the process of Mobilization different for Germany? 
  • What was Serbia’s response to Austria’s Ultimatum? 
  • How was transportation and communication a factor in different nations Mobilization?
  • How was the French-Russian Alliance alarming to Germany? 
  • What role did Britain play in the final days of July 1914? 

Thought Questions: Background: The Romanovs 

  • Briefly describe the history of the Romanov family.
  • Who was Peter the Great and how did he impact Russian history?
  • What events were taking place in British North America during Peter the Great’s reign?
  • Who was Cathrine the Great and how did she impact Russian history?
  • What events were going on in British North America during her reign? 
  • Who was Alexander I and how did he impact Russian history?
  • What events were going on in the United States during his reign?
  • Who was Alexander II and how did he impact Russian history?
  • What events were going on in the United States during his reign?
  • What was the “Stop in Belgrade” proposition? 
  • How did the attitudes of national leaders differ from the ministers of their government? 

Articles

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Week 3 :: A World Undone: Chapter 3 – Setting Fire To Europe

Thought Questions

  • How did the reaction to the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand differ in each power center in Europe and how were these reactions interpreted or misinterpreted?
  • Describe the events that took place between Germany and Austria Hungary in July 1914?
  • Why were Hungarians generally opposed to the war? 
  • What was “mobilization” of armed forces and what constraints did it place on actions? 
  • What were the “Nikky Willy” telegrams? 
  • Why was speed of action important to Austria Hungary and Germany in July 1914?
  • What demands were made on Serbia by Austria Hungary and what intentions did they include?
  • Why did Russia feel compeled to respond to the sitution between Serbia and Austria Hungary?

Thought Questions The Hohenzollern  

  • Who were the Hohenzollerns and how did they rise in Europe before 1914?
  • How was the development of power in Germany different from the development of power in Austria Hungary? 

Optional Supplemental Reading

 

Week 2: A World Undone, by G.J. Meyer – Chapter 2: Never Again

Thought Questions

  • Who were Emperor Franz Joseph, Conrad von Hötzendorf and Leopold von Berchtold and what were their roles in the beginning of World War I
  • Describe the nature and unique circumstances of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and how the forces at work in Europe made it difficult to maintain.
  • Describe the role the Ottoman Empire played in the destabilization of the Balkans? 
  • What were some of the reasons the Hungarians feared additional territorial acquisitions? 
  • Describe the role Russian weakness played in the destabilization of the Balkans? 
  • What was the German Empire’s relationship with the Austro-Hungarian Empire? 
  • How did Emperor Franz Joseph say about loneliness and death? 

Thought Questions The Hapsburgs

  • Briefly describe the rise of the Hapsburg family
  • How was the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire similar and different? 
  • Who was the American President when Emperor Franz Joseph was crowned and who was the American President when he died? What does this tell us about his life experience?

Notes: 

Articles and Primary Sources 

Optional Supplemental Reading

 

Week 1 : A World Undone, Introduction and Chapter 1 June 28th: The Black Hand Descends 

Thought Questions Introduction

  • What does the author say about his purpose in writing his history?
  • What does the author say he hopes to convey to the reader? 

Thought Questions Chapter 1

  • Who was Archduke Franz Ferdinand and what were the circumstances of his family and the period leading up to his assassination? 
  • Describe the events that occurred on the day of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
  • Along with the information about his life and marriage what do the final words of Franz Ferdinand tell us about his character in comparison with the Emperor and Imperial court? 
  • What were the circumstances in Serbia in the period leading up to the outbreak of war?
  • What is the significance of St. Vitus Day? 
  • How did Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicolas II and other governments initially react to the news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand? 
  • What was the Anarchist movement and what effect did it have on modern western history? 
  • How did conflict between the United States and revolutionary Mexico and the potential for a second Mexican-American war effect the United States response to the events leading up to World War I? 

Thought Questions The Serbs

  • What was the background of Serbia and “Greater” Serbia? 
  • How did Serbia effect the interests of the Russian, Ottoman and Austrian Empires?
  • In what ways were Serbian government officials involved in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand?

Articles and Primary Sources

Optional Supplemental Reading

Notes