The War to End All Wars: Homeschool Paper

My 12 year old studied World War I recently and wrote about it as a part of history.  She included maps of pre- and post-war Europe, as well.  I’m awfully proud of how well she did with it, and am posting it here for your perusal.

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  Let’s take a trip back to 1914. Many people, when they think of 1914, think, “Oh! That’s when my mother’s grandmother was born!” or, the children think, “Wow! That’s before even Barbies® were made!” Though it is true that this was a long time ago, important events took place from 1914-1918. These important events were all part of World War I. During this war, Woodrow Wilson was President, and he had to make some very hard decisions.  

WWI began for a few reasons: first, Nationalism was getting very popular. Nationalism was a belief that a person’s home country’s needs came before their own. Nationalist politicians then gave more people the right to vote. This was a good idea, but it also weakened the European Empires of Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Ottomans. Then, starting in the late 1800s, the Germans had started building up a military force, one that soon became the strongest in the world. At first, Britain didn’t care about this military buildup, because Britain was an island. Therefore the British relied upon their navy, and they had the strongest naval army in the world. However, Germany started to work on improving their navy, and soon they had a navy that could rival Britain’s. This made the British a bit edgy, and so the British engineers created the first modern battleship, after which Germans rushed to make one just like it.  

Next, European countries cut most of Africa and some of Asia into smaller colonies. This started a scramble for colonies. Some of the fights for more colonies almost started wars, and these tensions fueled the rising tempers, which was one of the things that started the first World War.   

Then, on June 28, 1914, the Serbians had sent an assassin to kill Austria’s Archduke Francis Ferdinand. The assassination was, unfortunately, a success. After the Archduke had been assassinated, Austria declared war on Serbia. Austria-Hungary gained an alliance with the Germans, who promised to support Austria in the war against Serbia.  

Soon enough, all the major European leaders were pulled into this war. Though there were efforts to avoid war, they were all to no avail. Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914. Two days later, Germany declared war on France. As the German army went to France, they swept through Belgium, which was neutral. This unauthorized invasion cause Britain to declare war on Germany. Eventually almost every nation was involved in the war.   

The weapons used in this war were very high tech then. Germany was the first country to use mustard gas, a gas made with mustard, that when inhaled would burn a soldier’s lungs, making it harder to breathe, and rendering the soldier useless.Even though soldiers used gas masks, the gas would still get into their lungs and hurt them. After WWI, however, all the countries agreed that mustard gas was far too harmful, and that it would never be used in war again.  

Then there were tanks. Almost every nation had tanks, which were used when big guns were needed, and if someone needed to get over a trench, in which case they would just use a tank to drive straight over the trench, which was only wide enough to let two men barely squeeze past each other.  

Machine guns were not as new in the war. Some earlier versions had been used in the Civil War, but these could shoot harder, straighter, and faster. Machine guns were weapons of mass destruction in both wars, but more so in the Civil War, because technology advanced, but fighting strategies did not. Men would use machine guns as they would rifles, but machine guns were some of the first that could shoot straight.  

Airplane bombers were another thing. In past battles, if a pilot was shooting at enemy planes, he would have to risk shooting his own propellors. However, engineers had been working to update the firing system. They came up with a gun that was synchronized with the propellors so that it would shoot in between the rotating propellors. This improved the accuracy of the pilots’ shoots, making planes more lethal, although airplanes were not a major factor in the war.  

In the trenches, men would work to shoot over barbed wire to fight, unlike hand-to-hand combat. Usually, these brave men would be surrounded by the rank smell of rotting bodies that had been hit with shrapnel or bullets and had not been moved yet. The trenches would only be 6-8 feet wide, wide enough for two men to tightly squeeze past each other. Men would work at close quarters with each other, covered in dirt and blood. They would be stuck there for hours, even days on end. It was enough to drive a person crazy, but they just bore it for the good of their country.  

There were two sides in the War, the first being the Allies. The Allies were made up of these countries: Belgium, Brazil, the British Empire, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Siam, and the United States. The other side was called the Central Powers, made up of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.  

The two sides fought for 5 years, but the fighting started winding down in 1917. That was the year America entered the war, making a big difference by bringing in fresh, strong troops who weren’t tired from months of fighting. Then, Germany collapsed after being beaten in the Second Battle of Marne by the Allies, who went on to continue winning against the Germans throughout the fall of 1918. Next, Bulgaria gave up and surrendered on September 9, 1918. Following these Ally victories, Italy, France, and Great Britain all went on to defeat Austria-Hungary. Lastly, the British conquered the Ottoman army in Palestine and Syria. This marked the end of the War.  

Nevertheless, there were important consequences after the War. One of the worst effects was the fact that almost 10 million soldiers died. Another significant difference, though not quite as serious, was that, as a total, the warring nations spent roughly $337 billion on war efforts. Besides these changes, falling empires became new countries. Austria-Hungary became the two countries Austria and Hungary, while the Ottoman Empire (along with parts of Russia and Germany) split into Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Czechoslovakia. Then, France’s birthrate dropped after the War, while women who had filled in their husbands’ jobs were reluctant to let go of such good jobs.  

Woodrow Wilson decided that he wanted to try to prevent any more wars like WWI, and so he formed the League of Nations. This League was based in Geneva, Switzerland, and would prevent war by having nations form alliances, then promise not to go to war with each other. Unfortunately, this plan backfired when Italy attacked Ethiopia, causing the entire structure of the League of Nations to collapse.  

My opinion on WWI is that Austria-Hungary did have a right to attack Serbia, but that the other nations should have tried to stay at peace in the meantime. On the League of Nations, my thoughts are that, though this was a good idea, Wilson should have realized that since we are a fallen world, there will never be complete peace throughout the nations of the world, however much mankind regrets its sins.

Below you’ll see her maps and illustrations.  She did number the countries and then create a key for the back of each map, but I’m not including those here just to conserve space a wee bit.

Pre-War Europe, with Eastern and Western Fronts and Battlefields Highlighted

Trench Warfare

A Tank and a Bi-Wing Plane: Two New Technologies Used in WWI

Post-War Europe, with New Countries Named

So what do you think? Has she conveyed the general idea here? (Next up in history: The Great Depression.)

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