The War Begins Some questions for reflection and
The War Begins: Some questions for reflection and discussion Why did Japan, thousands of kilometres away from West Europe, declare war on the Central Powers in August 1914? See slide 2 for clues Why did Italy join the Triple Alliance in 1915 rather than go to war on the side of its allies Germany and Austria-Hungary in August 1914? See slide 4 for clues Why might Britain, France and Russia have been particularly concerned about the entry into the war of the Ottoman Empire on the side of the Central Powers? See slide 6 for clues Why did Portugal enter the war on the side of the Entente Powers in March 1916? See slide 8 for clues Since US public opinion was so opposed to the war from 1914 to 1917 why did the White House decide to declare war on the Central Powers on 6 April 1917? See slide 10 for clues Between December 1917 and September 1918 most of the countries of Central America joined the war on the side of the United States. Why do you suppose they did this? See slide 12 for clues
Why did Japan, thousands of kilometres away from West Europe, declare war on the Central Powers in August 1914? SOME CLUES • In 1895 Japan had defeated China after a six-months war and under the terms of the Peace Treaty had occupied the Liaodong Peninsula. Russia also had designs on this area of China and persuaded France and Germany to intervene and put diplomatic pressure on Japan to return the territory to China. Japanese-British relations improved because Britain refused to join the other European powers in this intervention. • Britain played a significant role in supporting the modernization of Japan at this time. British banks had a key role in financing modernization. Most of the new warships in the japanese navy were either built in Britain or to British designs. The British navy provided training for Japanese naval officers. • In 1902 Japan and Britain signed a military alliance. Each agreed to remain neutral if the other was involved in a war with one other power and to support each other if one was at war with two or more Powers. • The Anglo-Japanese treaty was renewed in 1905 and again in 1911. • Both Japan and Russia shared a common concern at this time: Russian expansion eastwards. • In 1905 Japan attacked and destroyed the Russian fleet at Port Arthur on the Liaodong Peninsula. Officially Britain was neutral but it helped to finance the Japanese war effort and British diplomats persuaded France not to provide military support for its ally, Russia. • Japan wanted Germany’s colonies in Asia, especially the Shandong Peninsula in China and the strategically important port of Tsingtao which Germany had leased from China in 1898 after the Boxer Rebellion. • When war broke out in 1914 Japan declared war against the Central Powers and, with the assistance of British forces, laid siege to Tsingtao. [See map Slide 3]
German naval base Japanese Empire in 1914 Return to Discussion Questions
Why did Italy join the Triple Alliance in 1915 rather than go to war on the side of its allies Germany and Austria-Hungary in August 1914? SOME CLUES • The newly-unified Italy joined the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1881. Like Germany it wanted colonies. Tunisia was a potential Italian colony in North Africa. But 8 days before Italy joined the Alliance France had angered popular opinion in Italy by seizing control of Tunisia. • Germany offered Italy support for its colonial aspirations. • Austria-Hungary was the old enemy who had opposed Italian unification and still controlled parts of the north which were predominantly Italian speaking. • On paper, the Triple Alliance reduced the chances of war breaking out between Italy and Austria -Hungary. But Austria-Hungary had drawn up plans for an invasion of Italy as early as 1903. • Italy also signed a secret agreement with France in 1902 in which both countries agreed to remain neutral if either was attacked by another power. • In 1911 Italy invaded Ottoman-held Libya and the Greek-speaking Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea. Neither of her allies was happy about this. Germany was providing financial and military support to the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary feared Italian occupation of the Dodecanese would stir up Balkan nationalism. Austrian chief-of-staff, Hötzendorf called for a pre-emptive strike against Italy. • Italy remained neutral at the outbreak of war on the grounds that the Triple Alliance was a defensive agreement and did not require her to support aggressive actions by her Alliance partners. • Italy entered the war on the side of the Entente Powers, mainly because she hoped to take control of those territories in the north still controlled by Austria-Hungary where the majority population were Italian - known as the Irredenta. [See Map Slide 5] • Popular opinion in Italy was divided. A large minority wanted war, the majority still favoured neutrality. Support for war increased in May 1915 as people began to fear that a victory for the Central Powers might lead to Italy being punished for their lack of support and a victory for the Allies, without Italian involvement, might mean that there would be no support for Italian control of the Irredenta (the unrecovered).
Territories in the Adriatic promised to Italy by the Allies in the Treaty of London, 26 April 1915 Central Powers Triple Alliance Slavic allies of Russia Return to Discussion Questions Lands promised to Italy
Why might Britain, France and Russia have been particularly concerned about the entry into the war of the Ottoman Empire (OE) on the side of the Central Powers? SOME CLUES • • The OE’s entry into the war meant that the Triple Entente was now fighting on three fronts. Troops, weaponry and ammunition would have to be diverted from the Western and Eastern Fronts. The OE would pose a threat to British and French-held territories in North Africa. Maintaining supply lines using the continental railways and merchant shipping across the Channel had its problems but these would be nothing compared with the difficulty of maintaining effective supply lines to the Middle East, North Africa and to the Balkans to support Serbia and Greece, which were threatened by Ottoman forces. Russian naval and merchant shipping needed access to the Mediterranean through the Bosphorus Straits to obtain supplies. This was possible if the OE was neutral but not if it formed an alliance with the Central Powers. [See map Slide 7] The OE’s geographical position threatened the Triple Entente’s access to the Suez Canal, which gave access to the oil supplies of the Persian Gulf and was the main link between Western Europe and India, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The three Entente powers all had large Muslim populations within their empires who saw the Ottoman Sultan as their spiritual leader. If he called for a jihad this could lead to unrest in many of their colonies. The proximity of the OE to Persia threatened the Allies’ oil supplies.
Key Russian ports and naval bases Bosphorus Straits Suez Canal Return to Discussion Questions
Why did Portugal enter the war on the side of the Entente Powers in March 1915? SOME CLUES • • Germany declared war on Portugal on 9 March 1915. This followed a decision by the Portuguese government, at the request of Britain, to intern German ships berthed in Portuguese ports. The alliance between Britain and Portugal was the oldest existing one between European nations. However, in 1914 Britain encouraged Portugal to remain neutral. Although Portugal was neutral in 1914 -15 German troops had attempted to invade the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique and there had been skirmishes between German and Portuguese colonial troops. Portugal had only been a Republic since 1910 and the government believed that involvement in a war might unite the country against a common enemy. The new Portuguese government feared that if it did not take sides in the war the victors would seize the Portuguese colonies in Africa as part of a peace settlement. The Allies welcomed Portuguese involvement because they needed reinforcement on the Western Front and needed the Portuguese navy to help patrol the North Atlantic against German U-boat attacks on merchant shipping. [See map Slide 9]
Canada Strategic position of Portugal and its Atlantic Islands after joining the War in March 1916 Britain Belgium Germany Austria-Hungary France NORTH ATLANTIC Portugal Azores Madeira Cape Verde Islands CENTRAL ATLANTIC Return to Discussion Questions Italy
Since public opinion was so opposed to the war from 1914 to 1917 why did the White House decide to declare war on the Central Powers on 6 April 1917? SOME CLUES • In 1914 the majority view in US public opinion was for the USA to remain neutral in the war. • Woodrow Wilson fought the 1916 US election as the man who kept America out of the war. • Although majority public opinion supported neutrality many Americans adopted a negative • • • view of Germany after reading press accounts of German atrocities in Belgium in 1914 and then the sinking of the Lusitania, a passenger ship travelling from New York to Britain, in which 128 American citizens died. [See evidence of public opinion Slide 11] President Wilson continued to argue for continued US neutrality but, at the same time, he enlarged the US navy, initiated large loans to Britain and France, supported the supply of essential goods and munitions to the Allies and supported the Allied naval blockade of German ports. On 24 March 1916, The Sussex, a cross-channel passenger ferry, was torpedoed by a German U-boat and a number of civilians drowned. Again US public opinion was outraged. Wilson threatened to sever diplomatic relations with Germany and on 4 May 1916 the German government agreed to stop attacking unarmed passenger ships. But in January 1917 the German Naval Command persuaded the government to resume unrestricted submarine warfare arguing that this would enable them to defeat the British navy within 5 months, even if the US declared war. The US severed diplomatic relations with Germany but Wilson did not think US public opinion would support war. On 19 January 1917 British intelligence intercepted and decoded a telegram sent by the German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador in Mexico City promising that, if Mexico supported the Central Powers, the Mexican government would recover territory ceded to the USA following the Mexican-American War. In February and March 1917 U-boats sank US ships and Wilson went to Congress for the authority to arm US merchant ships. But anti-war Senators prevented a vote. Wilson still hesitated for over a month but then felt that US opinion had shifted sufficiently to support a declaration of war against the Central Powers.
Public opinion on the war in the United States 1914 -1917 Election button for Woodrow Wilson in the Presidential election 1916 US enlistment poster issued in 1917 Cover of the sheet music for a popular song in USA released on 1 January 1915 Come on in America the blood’s fine! Anti-war cartoon published in a leftwing journal, The Masses, in June 1917 after the USA had entered the war. Return to Discussion Questions
Between December 1917 and September 1918 most of the countries of Central America joined the war on the side of the United States. Why do you suppose they did this? SOME CLUES • In 1903 Panama, a northern province of Colombia, had received support from the USA in its fight for independence. Its alliance with the USA became critical to the building and defence of the Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914. Panama now became a US Protectorate. • Cuba had also been a US Protectorate since 1904. In 1898 US forces had supported Cuba in its war of independence against Spain. Cuba’s location in the Caribbean meant that it was strategically important in making it difficult for German U-boats to operate in the area. • After internal conflict broke out in Nicaragua in 1912 US troops were deployed to support the pro. US government against the rebels, and were still present in 1917 when the US joined the war. • US troops were deployed to the Dominican Republic in 1916 after a coup against the pro-US President Peyrera. Their purpose was “to restore order”, protect US citizens and US investments there. • In Haiti, between 1911 and 1915, seven Presidents were assassinated. Fearing political instability in the region and the influence of a large German community on Haiti, US troops invaded in 1915. • Guatemala declared war on the Central Powers just a year after the US had entered the war. This coincided with news of another German plot; this time to encourage Mexico to invade Central American countries as a way of diverting US attention away from Europe. Guatemala also had another motive. 20 years earlier German businesses had gained control of the coffee plantations which accounted for 50% of the Guatemalan economy. Guatemala wanted US support to seize back the coffee plantations. • President Tinoco of Costa Rica had seized control through a coup but this was not officially recognized by the US. He thought that if Costa Rica declared war against the Central Powers the US would recognize his regime. In fact it didn’t. • Honduras only declared war on the Central Powers in the last weeks of the war. The delay was because there was a large German community living there and the President feared their reaction. [For map see Slide 13]
Central America in 1914 Return to Discussion Questions