1916 – Details of the activities of Germany’s military attaché in Washington, Franz von Papen, go public generating widespread outrage. Sent to New York City in 1915, von Papen worked at the German Consulate. He was assigned to act as a spymaster, overseeing agents assigned to disrupt the conveyance of military supplies from American manufacturers to Britain (the United States was a neutral party at the time while Britain was at war with Germany). Under his direction, agents set up phony American armaments firms and contracted with Allied countries to provide them with arms. With the Allies hopelessly waiting, the agents would make excuses for continuous delays, with the arms never being delivered. Other schemes he set into place had firms buying up gunpowder in huge quantities which preventing it from becoming available for the Allies. After being saddled with a number of incompetent and reckless agents, Papen was directed to oversee numerous sabotage efforts against U.S. interests. He set up a scheme to blow up part of the Canadian Pacific Railway in order to thwart the efforts of Canadian troops to reach England to fight on behalf of the British. The scheme failed and the saboteurs were captured. Papen also attempted to recruit German nationals living in the United States and persuading them to return to Germany to fight on behalf of their mother country. When this came to the attention of U.S. authorities, Papen was ordered to leave the United States.
1917 – President Woodrow Wilson calls on all the combatant nations fighting in World War I, to agree to ‘peace without victory.’ The British and French reject the offer, finding some of the demands made by Germany unacceptable.
1915 – The government of Germany agrees to permit an unrestricted submarine warfare campaign. Ships, even those of neutral countries, can now be sunk without warning. On 4 February the Germans announce a submarine blockade of Britain to begin on the 18th. All vessels bound for Britain are deemed legitimate targets.
1917 – Riots, strikes, and mass demonstrations break out in Moscow. People are demonstrating against shortages of food and fuel, and the autocratic style of the government. The police use lethal force against the demonstrators, but the unrest continues over the following days.
1917 – On a third day of riots and demonstrations in Moscow, Russia, an estimated 25,000 workers are on strike. Army units are called in to deal with the growing unrest, but they refuse to fire on the demonstrators. These vents become known as the ‘February Revolution’–the Russian (Julian) calendar of the time was 11 days behind the western one.
1917 – US authorities announce President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to arm all US merchant ships sailing in areas where German submarines are known to be active.
1917 – Czar Nicholas II abdicates. Proposals to replace him with his son Aleksey are rejected by the czar who favors his own brother, Grand Duke Mikhail.
1918 – General Erich Ludendorff has planned a knock-out blow on the Western Front. He recognizes that, with the imminent arrival of scores of thousands of US troops in France, Germany is likely to lose the war. Ludendorff plans to strike first. He transfers some 70 divisions of troops from the Eastern Front, where the turmoil following the Russian Revolution has effectively ended Russian involvement in the war. In the short term, therefore, Germany has a clear numerical advantage over the British and French. Ludendorff’s plan is to exploit the differences between Britain’s and France’s strategies for facing any major German offensive. He believes the French will give priority to the defense of Paris, while the British are more concerned with defending the ports along the north French coast through which their supplies and troops flow. Ludendorff aims to attack the juncture between the French and British forces in northeast France. To this end he ahs three armies, the Seventeenth under General Otto von Below, the Second led by General Georg von der Marwitz, and General Oskar von Huiter’s Eighteenth, prepare for the offensive. These are to advance along a 50-mile front from Arras to St. Quentin and La Fere. This zone is defended byt the British Third Army under General Sir Julian Byng and General Sir Hubert Gough’s Fifth Army. Ludendorff had 63 divisions, many led by elite storm trooper units, earmarked for the attack, while the British can muster just 26. the offensive is code-named Operation Michael but it is also known as the Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle). Operation Michael begins with a sudden five-hour bombardment on the British by 6,000 artillery pieces. They fire both gas and high-explosive shells. Under cover of thick fog the Germans attack, with the specially trained storm trooper units leading the way. The surprise and shock of the onslaught overwhelms the thinly spread British. Gough’s Fifth Army collapses in confusion, exposing the right flank of Byng’s Third Army. However, Bying’s forces, which are holding a narrower front than those of Gough, withdraw across the Somme River in good order. The attackers here, drawn from the German Seventeenth and Second Armies, make significantly fewer gains. Operation Michael will end on April 5th with no decisive victory along these lines on the Somme.
1918 – US pilot Edward Rickenbacker scores his first air victory. By the end of the war he will be acknowledged as his country’s top ace with 26 kills.
1917 – President Woodrow Wilson addresses Congress concerning the country’s deteriorating relationship with Germany. Wilson states, “I advise that the Congress declares 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…[and] to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the government of the German Empire to terms and to end the war.”
1917 – Congress declares war on Germany. However the US Army will have to be expanded before it can contribute to the war, The Navy is more prepares. The US does not become a full ally of the British, French, and Russians, preferring to be an “Associate Power.” Wilson sees the war as a moral crusade and does not want to be associated with the motives of the other states arrayed against Germany.
1915 – A bomb planted by a German professor from Harvard University, Erich Muenter, destroys a reception room in the Senate. The Senate had been out of session since the previous March and was not due to reconvene until December, Muenter headed for the Senate Chamber. Finding the chamber doors locked, he decided that the adjacent Senate Reception Room would serve his purposes. He worked quickly, placing his deadly package under the Senate’s telephone switchboard, whose operator had left for the holiday weekend. After setting the timing mechanism for a few minutes before midnight to minimize casualties, he walked to Union Station and purchased a ticket for the midnight train to New York City. At 20 minutes before midnight, as he watched from the station, a thunderous explosion rocked the Capitol. The blast nearly knocked Capitol police officer Frank Jones from his chair at the Senate wing’s east front entrance. Ten minutes earlier, the lucky Jones had closed a window next to the switchboard. A 30-year police veteran, the officer harbored a common fear that one day the Capitol dome would fall into the rotunda. For a few frantic moments, he believed that day had come. Jones then entered the Reception Room and observed its devastation—a shattered mirror, broken window glass, smashed chandeliers, and pulverized plaster from the frescoed ceiling. In a letter to the Washington Evening Star, published after the blast, Muenter attempted to explain his outrageous act. Writing under an assumed name, he hoped that the detonation would “make enough noise to be heard above the voices that clamor for war. This explosion is an exclamation point in my appeal for peace.” The former German professor was particularly angry with American financiers who were aiding Great Britain against Germany in World War I, despite this country’s official neutrality in that conflict. Arriving in New York City early the next morning, Muenter headed for the Long Island estate of J. P. Morgan, Jr. Morgan’s company served as Great Britain’s principal U.S. purchasing agent for munitions and other war supplies. When Morgan came to the door, Muenter pulled a pistol, shot him, and fled. The financier’s wounds proved superficial and the gunman was soon captured. In jail, on 6 July, Muenter took his own life.
1918 – Various French British and US forces launch a counterattack against the German forces in the salient they hold between Soissons and Reims in Champagne. The fighting becomes known as the Second Battle of the Marne. The attack id led by three French armies, the Tenth under General Charles Mangin, the Sixth under General Jean Degoutte, and General Henri Berthelot’s Fifth. Support is offered by the French Ninth Army under General M.A.H. de Mitry. The main attack involves the French Tenth Army and its spearheaded by the US 1st and 2nd Divisions, which take 8,000 prisoners and 145 artillery pieces for the loss of 5,000 casualties. Elsewhere, General Hunter Liggett’s US I Corps fights alongside the French Sixth Army, which advances into the salient from the west along the Ourcq River. Three further US divisions for General Bullard’s III Corps are attached to the French Ninth Army which is driving into the salient from the south close to Chateau-Thierry. the German defenders begin to collapse under these converging attacks and Ludendorff has to contemplate an urgent withdrawal.
1917 – The Reichstag passes a peace resolution which backs the plans for an end to the war as proposed by US President Woodrow Wilson.
1914 – Austria-Hungary delivers an ultimatum to Serbia after several meetings with German’s Kaiser Wilhelm II and his advisors, who back Austria-Hungary’s actions. The demands of the ultimatum would, if agreed, destroy Serbia as an independent state. Austria-Hungary demands a reply within 48 hours.
1914 – The Serbians, while mobilizing their armed forces, agree to meet all but one of the ten demands outlined in the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum. The Austro-Hungarians find this unacceptable and Emperor Franz Joseph orders the mobilization of his forces to begin on the following day. Russia’s Czar Nicholas II and his minister of war, Grand Duke Nicholas, agree to partly mobilize their forces to protect Serbia from any Austro-Hungarian invasion. Germany, along with Italy, one of Austria-Hungary’s allies in the Triple Alliance, threatens to begin mobilizing its forces if Britain and France, Russia’s allies, do not succeed in curbing Russia’s war preparations.
1918 – A group of former Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war known as the Czech legion occupy Yekaterinburg. They has been expecting to be repatriated but the plan has been blocked by the Bolsheviks. The troops of the Czech Legion respond by taking arms from Bolshevik units in order to force their way back to their homeland. They will, however, become embroiled in the Russian Civil War, fighting with anti-Bolshevik forces.
1914 – Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia at noon.
1914 – The British government orders its warships to their various war bases. The main force, the Home Fleet, begins to assemble at its anchorages in Scapa Flow in the Orkneys off the northeast coast of Scotland from where it can dominate the North Sea and block the German fleet’s access to the world’s oceans.
1914 – Germany is ordered to mobilize. This includes the main force, the High Seas Fleet, which begins to assemble along the Jade River.
1914 – The government of Belgium proclaims that it will maintain its armed neutrality in any conflict, a position guaranteed by Britain and France.
1914 – French President Raymond Poincare agrees to issue a general mobilization order.
1914 – German troops occupy neutral Luxembourg and delivers an ultimatum to Belgium at 1900 hours demanding that German forces be allowed to move through Belgian territory unhindered to pre-empt a French attack on Germany. The ultimatum expires in 12 hours.
1914 – War Minister of Turkey, Enver Pasha, an aggressive nationalist and eager to restore Turkey’s fortunes as a major regional power, arranges a secret military alliance with Germany as a means of protecting his country from a possible Russian attack.
1914 – The Belgian government rejects the German ultimatum demanding unhindered passage through Belgian territory. Belgium receives confirmation from Britain and France that they will provide armed support to combat any German attack.
1914 – Great Britain signs an order of general mobilization.
1914 – Germany declares war on France.
1914 – Turkey declares its armed neutrality and mobilizes.
1914 – Britain declares war on Germany at 2300 hours as the Germans reject a British ultimatum demanding that they leave Belgian soil.
1914 – Germany declares war on Belgium and its armies invade in force. Leading the main attack are the First Army commanded by General Alexander von Kluck and General Karl von Buelow’s Second Army.
1918 – America’s second highest-scoring ace, Frank Luke, begins his short but distinguished career. He downs 14 observation balloons and four aircraft in a few weeks. He is forced down behind German lines in late September, and refusing to surrender, will be shot.
1914 – Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia at 1200 hours.
1914 – Serbia declares war on Germany.
1918 – The Second Battle of the Marne ends In disaster for the Germans who sustain losses of 168,000 men and have been pushed back to the line of the Aisne and Vesle Rivers. Following a series of offensives since March, the Germans no longer have the resources to launch attacks. They have suffered huge casualties among their best-trained troops–the storm trooper units– and those who have survived are suffering from increasingly poor morale.
1914 – France declares war on Austria-Hungary.
1914 – Austrian-born Adolf Hitler volunteers to fight with the German Army. He will serve throughout the conflict on the Western Front as a messenger, suffer wounds, and receive various medals for valor.
1918 – The First Army of General John Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force moves into position around the German-held St. Mihiel salient to the southeast of Verdun along the Meuse River. Together with the French II Colonial Corps, the First Army will launch an attack on the position in mid-September.
1918 – General Erich Ludendorff, expecting a major US-French attack, begins to withdraw German forces from the St. Mihiel salient southeast of Verdun.
1918 – The US First Army and the French II Colonial Corps launch a five day attack on the salient at St. Mihiel. It has been held continuously by the Germans since 1914. The advance is led by the First Army’s 1 and IV Corps which advance into the southern face of the salient and V Corp, which moves against the west face. The French II Colonial Corps is positioned between the US forces. The attack begins in thick fog and is supported by 600 aircraft commanded by US Colonel William “Billy” Mitchell, a staunch advocate of the value of air power. the attackers are facing nine German divisions in the front line and a further five held in reserve. German resistance collapses on the first day with the US attacks from the south and west linking up at the village of Hattonchatel. By the 16th the entire salient has been reduced.
1918 – First Army of General John Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force launches what becomes known as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive to the north of Verdun. It is one of several attacks planned by France’s Marshal Ferdinand Foch to drive the Germans form the defenses of the Hindenburg Line and precipitate their surrender. First Army, some one million men split between three corps, is holding a front of about 17 miles, extending from Forges on the Meuse River into the Argonne Forrest. To the left of the First Army is Gene3ral H.J.E. Gouraud’s French Fourth Army. The US forces are opposed by General Max von Gallwitz’s Army Group, while the French are facing Crown Prince Frederick William’s Army Group. The US and French deploy 37 divisions, while German forces comprise 24 divisions. The German’s hold three strongly-fortified defensive lines in difficult terrain. The attack begins at 0525 hours and US forces make rapid gains, advancing 10 miles in the first five days of the offensive. French progress is more slow.
1918 – The first phase of the Meuse-Argonne offensive ends with two of three German defensive lines in US hands. The Germans have been rushing reinforcements to the sector, and the pace of the advance begins to slow.
1918 – Under an Anglo-French offensive, General max von Boehn’s Germany Army Group is forced to abandon the Hindenburg Line. This precipitates retreat of other German forces, which form a hasty defensive line along the Selle River, 10 miles behind their original positions.
1918 – The German chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, contacts US President Woodrow Wilson and requests and armistice based on Wilson’s 14 Points outlined the previous January. It is made clear that there will be no negotiations until the removal of the country’s military leadership.
1918 – The second phase of the US-French Meuse-Argonne Offensive begins. The intervening time has been used in reorganize. US forces are now divided into two new armies. The First under General Hunter Liggett and the Second commanded by General Robert Lee Bullard with General Pershing in overall command. Liggett’s First Army advances northward at a steady pace in the face of intense German resistance, while Bullard’s Second Army moves to the northeast between the Meuse and Moselle Rivers. The Germans are forced to rush still more reinforcements from other threatened sectors of the Western Front.
1918 – General Erich Ludendorff is replaces a deputy chief of the General Staff by General Wilhelm Groener. Ludendorff has recently quarreled with his superior, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and has suggested that Germany seek an armistice.
1918 – Pershing’s troops break through the third and final German defensive line. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive is to be renewed after a brief period of rest and reinforcement.
1918 – The third and final phase of the US-led Meuse-Argonne Offensive opens. The US First Army commanded by General Hunter Liggett resumes its northward advance and punches a way through the German defenses at Buzancy, thereby allowing the French Fourth Army to make a major crossing of the Aisne River. German resistance is collapsing and US forces move more rapidly along the valley of the Meuse River in the direction of Sedan.
1917 – Germans drew first blood from the American Expeditionary Force in the French sector on a Saturday morning. The 1st Division had nearly completed its training with the French, and final training exercises were to take place as one infantry and one artillery battalion from each American regiment went into line with a French regiment for a ten-day period. A raid by a German patrol hit the American sector at Artois on the first morning of their tour and killed three Americans and captured sixteen. After daylight, Capt. George Marshall visited the unit and determined that it had shown a good account of itself. On Monday General Pershing ordered an inspection team to visit the unit and make a report. The team included the chief of the Army schools, a lieutenant colonel from the Operations Section, and Colonel Fiske, then deputy training officer of the AEF.
1918 – Sedan, France falls to the advancing US forces in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Further progress will be made in the next five days and end with the signing of the armistice on the 11th.
1915 – The Austrian submarine U-38 shells and then torpedoes the liner, Ancona bound for New York from Italy. Among the 208 dead are 25 US citizens. The Austrian response to the protests of the US government is considered inadequate.
1918 – The abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II is announced. He goes into exile in the Netherlands the next day. The victorious powers request, halfheartedly, that he be tried as a war criminal. A member of the chancellor’s cabinet, Philipp Scheidmann, announces the creation of a republic. A new government and chancellor, Friedrich Ebert, are appointed the next day. Germany will remain politically unstable, with various left and right wing factions vying for control.
1915 – The Wilson administration rejects a German offer of $1000 for each passenger killed following the torpedoing of the Lusitania on May 7.
1917 – The US 42nd “Rainbow” Division, so named because it contains men from every state in the nation, arrives in France. The division’s chief-of-staff, and later commander, is General Douglas MacArthur.
1918 – British, French, and US forces move into the German Rhineland in accordance with the armistice agreement made on November 11. By December 9th the Americans will have established their occupation headquarters at Koblenz.
1918 – In a landmark event, Woodrow Wilson arrives in France, becoming the first US President to travel outside the United States. He will also visit Britain and Italy, before returning to negotiate on behalf of the US, the peace treaties that end World War I.