Kansas WW1

Commemorating the First World War Centennial in Kansas

Author: Dennis Cross (page 1 of 2)

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: August 1917

It’s August 1917.  As the World War enters its fourth year, there’s no end in sight.  Pope Benedict XV makes a peace proposal, which President Wilson rejects after conferring with the other nations at war with Germany.  Former Secretary of State Elihu Root returns from a mission to Russia designed to keep Russia in the war.  An attempted coup by the commander-in-chief of the Russian Army fails, but the Provisional Government is weakened and the Bolsheviks are strengthened.  Recently arrived American troops parade in London.  The Allied offensive on the Western Front, after initial success, bogs down in the mud of Flanders.  Italy attacks Austria-Hungary again at the Isonzo River.  On the Eastern Front, the German Army advances in Romania to the south and moves against the Baltic port of Riga to the north.  In the United States, racial tensions flare as African-American troops are based in segregated southern cities and a deadly race riot breaks out in Houston.  The Senate passes a proposed Constitutional Amendment prohibiting the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquor. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: July 1917

It’s July 1917, three years since another July spun the world into global war.  A major Russian offensive ends in defeat, retreat, and massive demonstrations in the streets of Petrograd, forcing a change in the revolutionary government.  A political upheaval in Germany leads to the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann.  King George V visits the British Army on the Western Front.  While he is there German bombers attack London; when he returns he changes the name of the Royal Family.  In the Near East, Arab tribes led by Lawrence of Arabia capture the important Red Sea port of Aqaba.  Winston Churchill rejoins the British Cabinet as Minister of Munitions.  The British Army begins another major offensive at Ypres.  An American Army battalion marches through Paris and visits Lafayette’s tomb.  A large convoy of American troops arrives safely in France after a crossing contested by German U-boats.  An accidental explosion sinks a dreadnought at Scapa Flow.  In the United States the Secretary of War sets up a system of press censorship, then backs down in the face of fierce criticism.  General Pershing says he wants a three million man Army by 1919.  Compulsory military service begins as the first numbers are drawn in the draft lottery.  Exports are prohibited without a license.  Race riots explode in East St. Louis. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: June 1917

In June 1917, the United States is coming to grips with its new status as a belligerent power.  President Wilson signs the Espionage Act, which makes it unlawful to interfere with military or naval operations and gives the Postmaster General broad authority to refuse to deliver material he judges to be in violation.  The President issues an order creating an Export Council with power to control all exports from the United States.  Mandatory registration for the draft begins.  General Pershing arrives in Europe, where he confers with his counterparts in London and Paris; shortly thereafter the first American Army units arrive in France.  The first issue of Liberty Bonds sells out quickly.  A commission headed by former Secretary of State Elihu Root arrives in Russia as anarchists march in the streets of Petrograd and Lenin calls for an end to the war.  The provisional government, responding to an overture from the Central Powers, states that it will not enter into a separate peace.  Former President Roosevelt announces that two of his four sons have gone to France and that the others will follow shortly.  The British Army in Flanders attacks and occupies Messines Ridge.  Gotha bombers attack London.  King Constantine of Greece abdicates, clearing the way for Greece to enter the war on the side of the Allies. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: May 1917

It’s May 1917, and the United States has just entered the Great War.  Visiting Allied war leaders ask President Wilson for an immediate commitment of American troops.  General Pershing is named commander of the American Expeditionary Force and departs for Europe.  The United States enacts the first draft law since the Civil War.  Included is a provision authorizing the president to organize volunteer divisions such as the one former President Roosevelt wants to lead, but the President says he will not exercise that authority.  Americans are asked to subscribe to a “Liberty Loan” to finance the war effort.  President Wilson urges press censorship, but a bill giving the president censorship authority fails to pass Congress.  The Allies confront the Central Powers in the Balkans; Italy launches another attack against Austro-Hungarian forces on the Isonzo.  United States Navy warships arrive in Great Britain to assist the British with convoy escort and other duties. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: April 1917

Two events in April 1917 foreshadow the superpower alignment of the remainder of the Twentieth Century: the United States enters the Great War, meaning to make the world safe for democracy, and Lenin returns to Russia, intent on leading a Bolshevik revolution.  In Washington, the President’s request for a declaration of war is the first order of business for the newly elected 65th Congress.  War is declared, the Navy is mobilized, German ships in American ports are seized, and suspected German spies are detained.  Congress authorizes a $7 billion war loan, most of the proceeds marked for the nations already fighting Germany.  The president issues a proclamation to the American people, telling them they must “speak, act and serve together” in support of the war effort.  British and French emissaries visit the United States to participate in an International War Council.  Both houses of Congress enact draft legislation.  On the Western Front, an Anglo-French offensive is launched under the command of General Robert Nivelle, the new Commander-in-Chief of the French Army.  The Canadians capture Vimy Ridge, but the offensive as a whole is a costly failure, ending with mutinies in the French Army and the replacement of Nivelle by General Philippe Petain.  In a journey facilitated by the German government, Lenin travels from Zurich to Petrograd’s Finland Station.  Upon arrival, in what would become known as the April Theses, he calls for the overthrow of Russia’s new Provisional Government. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: March 1917

It’s March 1917, the last month of neutrality for the United States and the last month of his reign for the Tsar of All the Russias.  In the United States, publication of the Zimmermann Telegram triggers a political firestorm.  Pacifists and isolationists at first denounce it as a forgery perpetrated by Great Britain, but Zimmermann himself acknowledges authorship and American public opinion begins to swing in favor of war.  The House of Representatives passes the Armed Ships Bill, and seventy-five senators sign a manifesto in support, but a filibuster prevents it from coming to a vote.  President Wilson denounces the filibusterers as “a little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own,” and orders that merchant ships be armed anyway.  The Senate adopts its first rule limiting debate.  Three American merchant ships are sunk by German submarines; twelve Americans die.  The Federal Reserve Board revises its advice to member banks: loans to the Allies are now encouraged.  The Cabinet unanimously recommends declaring war on Germany, and President Wilson calls Congress into special session.  In Russia, Army mutinies and demonstrations in the streets of Petrograd force Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate; he is taken into custody and replaced by a Provisional Government.  Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky set out for Russia, Lenin from Switzerland and Trotsky from New York.  In Mesopotamia, the British Army occupies Baghdad.  Alexandre Ribot succeeds Aristide Briand as Prime Minister of France.  The inventor of the Zeppelin dies. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: February 1917

In February 1917 the World War comes to the doorstep of the United States.  Following Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, President Wilson severs diplomatic relations with Germany but stops short of declaring war.  Announcing the diplomatic break to a joint session of Congress, he adheres to a policy of “armed neutrality” and declares that the United States will not go to war in the absence of an “overt act.”  As the submarine threat causes American shipping to grind to a halt, President Wilson proposes legislation authorizing the arming of merchant ships.  The month ends with another major step toward American belligerency as Great Britain, which has intercepted and decoded the Zimmermann Telegram, delivers it to the American Government and President Wilson releases it to the press.  German submarines torpedo and sink two British ocean liners, taking the lives of two Americans.  In Mesopotamia, the British Army drives the Turks out of Kut-Al-Amara.  German forces in France begin a withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line.  Mata Hari is arrested in Paris. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: January 1917

It’s January 1917.  As a New Year dawns, a global war of unprecedented scope and destruction is at the top of the political agenda in every major country, belligerent or neutral. Great Britain, ruler of a world-wide empire, has a new Prime Minister.  Russia, a major Entente power, is in political turmoil following the murder of Grigori Rasputin, a confidant of the royal family, by monarchists who feared his influence.  Russia’s offensive against Austria-Hungary has ended in stalemate, as have the German siege of Verdun and the Anglo-French attack on the Somme.  Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, whose nephew’s murder two and a half years ago led to the outbreak of the war, has died; the new emperor is his grand-nephew Charles.  The United States, the largest and most important of the neutral nations, has just elected Woodrow Wilson to a second term under the slogan “He kept us out of war.”  One of his first acts after the election was to asked the warring powers to state their war aims, asserting that the two sides’ stated objectives “are virtually the same.”  Germany has proposed a peace conference to be held in a neutral country, but has declined to state its position in advance, leading the Entente nations to denounce its proposal as a “sham.”  German military leaders, increasingly in the ascendant, are pressing for a resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: December 1916

In December 1916 a new cabinet assumes power in Great Britain.  Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who has led the government since 1908, is replaced by David Lloyd George, and Arthur Balfour replaces Sir Edward Grey as Foreign Minister.  Germany, in diplomatic notes and in a speech in the Reichstag by Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, offers to open negotiations with the Entente in a neutral country.  A few days later President Wilson sends notes to the belligerent nations asking for their views regarding terms on which the war might be ended.  Germany responds by repeating its offer to negotiate, but refuses to state its terms.  The Allies have not yet replied to the American notes, but reject the German offer as a “sham.”  On the Western Front, French forces at Verdun attack the besieging Germans and push them back to positions near the lines from which they began the siege in February.  In the Balkans, German troops occupy Bucharest.  Grigori Rasputin, the influential mystic and religious adviser to the Tsar’s family, is murdered in Petrograd.  In Greece a civil war rages between the king and his government. ...read more

Centennial Countdown to the Great War: November 1916

In November 1916 the American presidential campaign draws to a close with speeches by President Woodrow Wilson and former President Theodore Roosevelt at Cooper Union, by Wilson and his Republican challenger Charles Evans Hughes at Madison Square Garden (still in those days on Madison Square), and by President Wilson at his New Jersey estate Shadow Lawn.  After the election the outcome is unclear for days, but eventually is decided in favor of Wilson when the final tally in California narrowly goes his way.  Jeanette Rankin, a Republican, becomes the first woman elected to the United States Congress, but the Democrats retain control of both houses.  Meanwhile the World War continues in France, on the Isonzo River, in the Balkans and in Salonika.  Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary dies in Vienna at the age of eighty-six.  Germany proclaims a new Kingdom of Poland.  The British and the French fight the last battles of the Somme offensive and at Verdun.  The Federal Reserve Board warns its member banks not to buy unsecured British notes. ...read more

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