5. 3. 2015

WWII? What was that? And when did it start? Part II - Road to the Treaty of Versailles

On 23 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie said farewell to their children and left chateau in small city of Chlum u Trebone in south Bohemia. They departed from nearby railway station to meet their fate in Sarajevo. Their death by hand of Gavrilo Princip on 28 June set events in deadly motion and the world felt into agony of the world war.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, shortly before his death

Assasination of Franz Ferdinand became a trigger for a global war in which two sides were the Allies (UK, France and the Russian Empire constitutes so-called "Triple Entente", Italy joined the alliance in 1915 and the USA in 1917, Japan was another member of the alliance) and Central powers (Germany and Austrian-Hungarian empire, later joined by Ottoman empire and Bulgaria). Bloody battles were seen also in Africa and Asia but it was Europe where the most brutal, bloody battles were seen. In Europe, several fronts were opened - western front, eastern front and Italian front. However, events of 1917 decided that the war will be concluded on western front. After the collapse of the Russian empire due to the Russian revolution, both Germany and Austrian-Hungarian empire was able to release a large number of troops for other European fronts. But this did not lead to victory, it was the other way around - entrance of the United States to the war and catastrophic economic situation of Germany plus collapse of the Austrian army and fail of the Ludendorff offensive followed by Allied "hundred day offensive" lead German leaders to the proposal of armistice. On 11.11 at 11:11, it took the effect. Military operations of the Great war were over.

The map below shows the operations in the last period of war and we can see where the front was in that time. Look at it carefuly because it´s of extreme importance if you try to understand the roots of WWII...

Operations on western front 20 March - 11 November 1918, American Military History, United States Army Center of Military History, 1989

As you can see, when armistice took effect, the German army was still on Belgian and French soil - it was retreating but it was not defeated. After all, Germans did not surrender, they just proposed armistice. Nevertheless, the Allies - who consider themselves as an absolute victors - organized the conference in Paris. It began in January 1919 and its aim was to set the peace terms for the Central powers which were not invited to Paris until the proposal was finished...