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The “shot that was heard around the world” would set in motion a series of events that was to lead to the outbreak of World War One. In Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and his wife. Princip was a Bosnian Serb nationalist, and as a result of his actions, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.
The conflict would probably have remained confined to the Balkans, had Germany not separately declared war on Russia and France, in the first week of August, 1914. Under earlier agreements reached with Germany, Austria-Hungary was obligated to get involved in Germany’s war. The Germans invaded the neutral country of Belgium and then continued westwards, invading France. Britain was then forced to retaliate for the invasions of France and Russia, her two allies in the Triple Entente, and declare war on Germany on August 4, 1914.
Gassed (1919) John Singer Sargent
The ensuing conflict, and the horrors it produced, engulfed the whole world and soon became known to contemporaries, as the Great War. The outcome of the war was finally decided on the Western Front in Europe, but the allies and colonies of all the major nations supplied troops and equipment, to conflicts and other fronts all over the world. So, Australians and New Zealanders were to die on beaches in Turkey; Germans would fight Britons in Africa; Chinese and Japanese forces would attack and kill each other. As the war progressed, new and increasingly sophisticated forms of killing, such as mustard gas, were employed; casualty rates mounted and the conflict gained another title: “The war to end all wars.”
On April 6, 1917, when America joined the war, the actions of millions of “doughboys” broke the stalemate on the Western Front. Finally, after four years and three months of fighting, the guns fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The total number of dead is estimated to be 8,700,000.
TIMELINE: Produced by the Library of Congress, this compact resource provides a timeline, essays, photos and statistics.