January 1918 - President Woodrow Wilson outlines an elaborate peace plan to the U.S. Congress containing Fourteen Points as the basis of its establishment.
March 3, 1918 - At Brest-Litovsk, Soviet Russia signs a treaty with Germany formally ending its participation in the war. Harsh terms imposed by the Germans force the Russians to yield a quarter of their prewar territory and over half of Russia's industries.
German Spring Offensives
March 21, 1918 - Germany's all-out gamble for victory begins upon the launch of the first of a series of successive spring offensives on the Western Front. The Saint Michael Offensive, named after Germany's patron saint, begins after a five-hour 6,000-gun artillery bombardment as 65 divisions from the German 2nd, 17th and 18th Armies attack the British 3rd and 5th Armies along a 60-mile front in the Somme. At first it seems destined to succeed as the thinly stretched British 5th Army is quickly overrun and wrecked. Using effective storm troop tactics, the Germans recapture all of the ground they lost in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme and press forward. However, during the two week offensive, the British 3rd Army manages to hold itself together and prevents the Germans from taking Arras and Amiens, key objectives of the offensive.
March 26, 1918 - At a strategic conference in Doullens, France, the British and French agree to appoint an Allied Supreme Commander on the Western Front, in place of the separate commanders they had been using, to better coordinate their efforts. Ferdinand Foch, Petain's highly regarded chief of staff, accepts the position.
April 1, 1918 - Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) is founded upon the merging of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service. By now, the British aviation industry has become the world leader.
April 9-29, 1918 - The second offensive in Germany's victory gamble, the Georgette Offensive, begins as 46 divisions from the German 6th Army attack the British 2nd Army around Ypres. The Germans push the British back three miles to the outskirts of Ypres, even taking back the hard-won Passchendaele Ridge. However, the arrival of British, French and Australian reinforcements from the south breaks the German momentum and the offensive halts. Georgette, similar to Michael, is only a partial success. General Ludendorff's goal of first separating the British and French armies via Michael and then destroying the British via Michael and Georgette is not achieved. Additionally, the Germans suffer 330,000 casualties in the two offensives and lack sufficient reserve troops.
April 21, 1918 - Germany's Red Baron (Manfred von Richthofen) is shot down and killed by the British. The German Ace was credited with shooting down 80 Allied aircraft. He is buried with military honors by the British.
May 27-June 3, 1918 - The Blücher-Yorck Offensive, Germany's third in a row, begins with the goal of bogging down the Allies in central France, thus preventing further reinforcements from reaching British positions in the north. Forty-one divisions of the German 1st and 7th Armies successfully attack the inadequate defenses of the French 6th Army along a 25-mile front east of the Aisne River. After a highly effective artillery barrage, German storm troops roll over the decimated 6th Army. This startling success emboldens General Ludendorff to change his overall strategy. He decides to make a run for Paris, hoping to draw the Allies into a final climactic battle that will decide the war. Within two days, the Germans cross the Aisne River and rapidly advance westward, coming within 50 miles of Paris. But the troops have been pushed to the limit for too long and soon succumb to exhaustion, unable to maintain the breakneck pace. The advance sputters to a halt as Allied reinforcements, including Americans, pour in to the region.
First American Action
May 28-29, 1918 - Troops of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division capture the village of Cantigny from the Germans and hold it. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) is commanded by General John Pershing who is determined to maintain all-American fighting units, rather than parcel out American troops to the British and French armies. By now, 650,000 American soldiers have arrived in France, with the number growing by 10,000 per day.
June 6, 1918 - The Battle of Belleau Wood involving the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division begins. During the three-week fight against the Germans, Americans experience their first significant battlefield casualties with 5,000 killed.
June 9, 1918 - The Germans launch their fourth offensive, once more with an eye toward Paris. In the hastily arranged Gneisenau Offensive the German 18th Army attacks in a southwest direction toward Paris. However, the Germans are stopped as French and American troops successfully counter-attack and the new offensive withers after just four days.
June 15, 1918 - Austrian troops begin an offensive along the Piave River in Italy, at the urging of the Germans. Although suffering from a lack of food, horses and supplies, they cross the river and establish a 12-mile front, but then realize they can not hold it against the now-revitalized Italian Army and withdraw after suffering 150,000 casualties. Following this, Austrian soldiers in Italy begin deserting.
Mid 1918 - Soldiers from all sides begin to succumb to a deadly strain of influenza. Troop losses from the flu epidemic soon exceed combat casualties, especially weakening the hard-pressed German Army. The worldwide epidemic lasts for about a year, killing an estimated 20 million persons, then vanishes as strangely as it had appeared.
July 15-17, 1918 - The last German offensive of the war, the Marne-Reims Offensive, begins with a two-pronged attack around Reims, France, by 52 divisions. The Allies have been anticipating this battle and lie in wait. The German attack to the east of Reims is crushed that day by the French. To the west of Reims, the advance is blocked by the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, followed by a successful French and American counter-attack.
July 17, 1918 - Russian Bolsheviks murder former Czar Nicholas and his entire family. By now, an all-out civil war has erupted in Russia that features indiscriminate killings of civilians and captured fighters. Amid the chaos, disease and starvation envelop Russia. The fighting between Bolsheviks and their opponents will last three years, ending with a Bolshevik victory amid a Russian death toll estimated at 15 million persons.
July 18, 1918 - A combined French and American attack along the Marne marks the first in a series of coordinated Allied counter-offensives on the Western Front. Three French armies accompanied by five American divisions cross the Marne River. In the face of this assault, the German 7th and 9th Armies begin a withdrawal from the Marne.
August 8, 1918 - Germans in the Somme experience the "Black Day of the German Army" as later described by General Ludendorff. This occurs as the British 4th Army using 456 tanks attacks German positions east of Amiens. Six German divisions quickly fall apart and 13,000 prisoners are taken during the rapid 7-mile advance. The attack is only slowed when the Germans rush in nine divisions, their last reserves on the Western Front.
August 20, 1918 - The French 10th Army takes 8,000 prisoners at Noyon and captures the Aisne Heights.
August 21, 1918 - The British 3rd Army begins an attack along a 10-mile front south of Arras, while the adjacent 4th Army resumes it attack in the Somme, as the Germans continue to fall back.
September 12, 1918 - The first stand-alone attack by Americans occurs as the U.S. 1st Army attacks the southernmost portion of the Western Front in France at St. Mihiel. The offensive is supported by an unprecedented 1,476 Allied aircraft used as part of a coordinated air-ground attack. Within 36 hours, the Americans take 15,000 prisoners and capture over 400 pieces of artillery as the Germans withdraw.
September 15, 1918 - The Allies push the Bulgarians out of Serbia as French, Serbian and Italian troops make rapid gains, advancing nearly 20 miles northward from Greece in three days. Bulgarian troops attempting to redeploy westward through the narrow Kosturino Pass are relentlessly bombarded by airplanes and overall troop morale collapses. Meanwhile, political turmoil strikes at home as anti-war riots erupt in Bulgaria's cities along with Russian-style revolutionary fervor that results in the proclamation of local soviets.
September 19, 1918 - In the Middle East, the Allies launch a cavalry attack to push the Turks out of Palestine. Australian and Indian cavalry divisions smash through the Turkish defenses around Megiddo on the first day and gallop northward, as British infantry follow, while the RAF and Arab fighters disrupt communication and supply lines. As the Turkish armies collapse, they withdraw northward toward Damascus with the Allies in pursuit.
September 26, 1918 - The U.S. 1st Army and French 4th Army begin a joint offensive to clear out the strongly defended corridor between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest. Here, the Germans do not fall back and the battle soon resembles action from earlier years in the war. Amid a steady rain, the troops advance yard-by-yard over the muddy, crater-filled terrain with 75,000 American casualties suffered over six weeks of fighting.
Hindenburg Line Broken
September 27, 1918 - The British 1st and 3rd Armies, aided by Australians and the U.S. 2nd Corps, break through a 20-mile portion of the Hindenburg Line between Cambrai and St. Quentin.
September 28, 1918 - Belgian and British troops push back the Germans in the Fourth Battle of Ypres. Unlike the previous drawn-out battles, this one lasts just two days as the Belgians take Dixmude and the British secure Messines.
September 28, 1918 - Confronted by the unstoppable strength of the Allies and faced with the prospect of an outright military defeat on the Western Front, General Ludendorff suffers a nervous collapse at his headquarters, losing all hope for victory. He then informs his superior, Paul von Hindenburg, the war must be ended. The next day, Ludendorff, accompanied by Hindenburg, meet with the Kaiser and urge him to end the war. The Kaiser's army is becoming weaker by the day amid irreversible troop losses, declining discipline and battle-readiness due to exhaustion, illness, food shortages, desertions and drunkenness. The Kaiser takes heed from Hindenburg and Ludendorff, and agrees with the need for an armistice.
September 29, 1918 - Bulgaria signs an armistice with the Allies, becoming the first of the Central Powers to quit the war.
October 1, 1918 - In the Middle East, Damascus is captured by Australian troops and Arab fighters.
October 2, 1918 - A military representative sent by Ludendorff to Berlin informs the legislature the war is lost and that armistice discussions should begin immediately. The German politicians are shocked by the news, having largely been kept in the dark by the General Staff and the Kaiser till now.
Germans Request Armistice
October 4, 1918 - President Woodrow Wilson receives a request from the German government, sent via the Swiss, asking for armistice discussions on the basis of his Fourteen Points. The Germans have bypassed the French and British in the hope of negotiating with Wilson who they perceive as more lenient. They are disappointed, however, when Wilson responds with a list of demands as a prelude to discussions including German withdrawal from all occupied territories and a total halt of U-Boat attacks.
October 5, 1918 - The Allies break through the last remnants of the Hindenburg Line.
October 6, 1918 - A provisional government proclaims the state of Yugoslavia, signaling the beginning of the breakup of the old Hapsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire in central Europe which had existed for six centuries.
October 7, 1918 - Poland, formerly part of the Russian Empire, proclaims itself as an independent state.
October 8, 1918 - The British 3rd and 4th Armies take 8,000 German prisoners while advancing toward Cambrai and LeCateau.
October 13, 1918 - The Germans engage in a general retreat along a 60-mile portion of the Western Front in France stretching from St. Quentin southward to the Argonne Forest, as French and American armies steadily advance.
October 14, 1918 - Germans abandon positions along the Belgian coast and northernmost France as the British and Belgians steadily advance.
October 17, 1918 - King Albert of Belgium enters the city of Ostend on the Belgian coast.
October 23, 1918 - Under pressure from the French and British, President Wilson informs the German government that armistice negotiations can not ensue with the current military or Imperial war leaders still in place. An outraged General Ludendorff then disavows the negotiations as 'unconditional surrender' and is forced to resign by the Kaiser. In the face of such turmoil, the armistice negotiations are conducted principally by civilian members of Germany's government. This will become the basis of a postwar "stab in the back" claim by German militarists asserting their troops at the Front were sold out by the politicians back home.
October 24, 1918 - In southern Europe, the Allies cross the Piave River to push the Austrians out of Italy as seven Italian armies, incorporating British, French and American divisions, attack the four remaining Austro-Hungarian armies from the Trentino westward to the Gulf of Venice. In its final battle of the war, the Austro-Hungarian Army sees 30,000 soldiers killed and over 400,000 taken prisoner.
October 29, 1918 - The Czechs declare their independence from Austria. Two days later, Slovakia declares independence from Hungary. Czechoslovakia is subsequently formed.
October 30, 1918 - Turkey signs an armistice with the Allies, becoming the second of the Central Powers to quit the war.
November 1, 1918 - Belgrade is liberated by French and Serbian troops.
November 1, 1918 - After pausing to regroup and resupply, Allied armies resume their eastward march as the U.S. 1st Army and newly formed U.S. 2nd Army attack remaining German positions along the Meuse River near southern Belgium, while the Belgians and British move toward Ghent and Mons in Belgium.
November 3, 1918 - Mutiny strikes the German Navy at the ports of Kiel and Wilhelmshaven as sailors refuse orders to put to sea to engage in a final colossal battle with the British Navy. Along with this, revolutionary fervor and Bolshevist-style uprisings erupt in German cities including Munich, Stuttgart and Berlin. The extent of the unrest stuns German leaders, and even the Allies, who fear Germany might now succumb to a violent Bolshevist revolution in the manner of Russia. This brings a stark urgency to the armistice negotiations.
November 3, 1918 - The only remaining ally of Germany, Austria-Hungary, signs an armistice with Italy, leaving Germany alone in the war.
November 5, 1918 - The Germans are informed by President Wilson that armistice discussions can begin on the basis of his Fourteen Points as they requested, but that an armistice must be secured through France's Marshal Foch, the Allied Supreme Commander.
November 8, 1918 - At Compiègne, France, six representatives of the German government, with Matthias Erzberger as spokesman, are brusquely presented with armistice terms by Marshal Ferdinand Foch. The terms include German evacuation of all occupied territory, an Allied occupation of Germany west of the Rhine River, surrender of weaponry including all subs and battleships, and indefinite continuation of the naval blockade.
November 9, 1918 - The Kaiser's Imperial government collapses in ruin as a German republic is proclaimed with Friedrich Ebert heading the new provisional government. Kaiser Wilhelm then seeks refuge in Holland amid concerns for his safety after his generals warn him they may not be able to adequately protect him from the volatile situation in Germany.
Armistice Ends Fighting
November 11, 1918 - At 5:10 am, in a railway car at Compiègne, France, the Germans sign the Armistice which is effective at 11 am--the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Fighting continues all along the Western Front until precisely 11 o'clock, with 2,000 casualties experienced that day by all sides. Artillery barrages also erupt as 11 am draws near as soldiers yearn to claim they fired the very last shot in the war.
November 12, 1918 - A final action occurs as Germans in Africa under the command of the elusive General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck encounter British troops in Northern Rhodesia, where news of the Armistice had not reached the Germans.
January 6, 1919 - An attempt to overthrow Germany's provisional government occurs in Berlin as several buildings are seized by members of the communist Spartacus League led by Karl Liebknecht. The revolution is violently thwarted by bands of Freikorps composed of ex-soldiers led by former German Army officers and Liebknecht is killed.
January 18, 1919 - The Paris Peace Conference opens with delegates from 32 nations invited. President Woodrow Wilson attends, marking the first-ever visit to Europe by a sitting president.
January 19, 1919 - The first-ever nationwide election in Germany results in pro-democracy political parties getting 75 percent of the vote.
February 6, 1919 - The newly elected German Assembly meets in Weimar and begins work on a new democratic constitution.
April 28, 1919 - The League of Nations is founded, championed by President Wilson as a means of peaceably resolving future conflicts. Germany is excluded for the time being. Despite Wilson's intentions, the United States never joins as an isolationist-minded U.S. Senate subsequently rejects membership to avoid further European entanglements.
June 21, 1919 - The Germans sink 74 of their own warships in anticipation of being forced to yield them to the Allies.
Treaty of Versailles
June 28, 1919 - At the Palace of Versailles in France, a German delegation signs the Treaty formally ending the war. Its 230 pages contain terms that have little in common with Wilson's Fourteen Points as the Germans had hoped. Germans back home react with mass demonstrations against the perceived harshness, especially clauses that assess sole blame for the war on Germany.
July 31, 1919 - The Weimar Republic is born in Germany from a new constitution which provides for a liberal democracy. The government consists of two houses of Parliament (Reichstag) and a president elected by the people. The president can dissolve the Reichstag and rule by decree in the event of an emergency.
September 1919 - Corporal Adolf Hitler is ordered by the German Army to investigate a small political group in Munich called the German Workers' Party. Hitler soon joins the group and begins to build it up, later changing its name to the National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party. The anti-democratic group vehemently opposes the Treaty of Versailles and claims the German Army was not defeated on the battlefield but was betrayed by a "stab in the back" wrought by disloyal politicians on the home front.
March 1920 - Freikorps groups attempt but fail to overthrow Germany's democratic government during the Kapp Putsch.
April 1921 - The Reparations Commission announces Germany must pay the Allies $28 billion over 42 years, via annual payments of cash and goods such as coal and timber.
April 1922 - Germany and Soviet Russia conclude the Treaty of Rapallo allowing for economic collaboration. Secret clauses in the treaty provide for German military activities prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles, including weapons manufacturing, to be done in Soviet Russia.
January 1923 - After Germany falls behind on its war reparation payments, French and Belgian troops occupy the Ruhr industrial region inside Germany. Workers there react by walking off the job. In a defiant show of support, the German government sends money to the out-of-work protestors. However, this soon leads to ruinous inflation and devaluation of the German deutsche mark--eventually four billion to the dollar--as the government prints an unlimited amount of money to satisfy its needs.
November 9, 1923 - Three thousand Nazis led by Adolf Hitler, and aided by former General Erich Ludendorff, attempt but fail to overthrow Germany's democratic government by staging an armed Putsch in Munich. Hitler is then sentenced to prison where he composes Mein Kampf a book outlining his racial, political and military philosophies, including the need for Germany to forcibly expand its borders eastward into Russia. The Nazis remain a fringe group until the worldwide economic collapse of 1929 causes political turmoil in Germany that generates popular support for Hitler, resulting in the election of Nazis to the government.
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