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World War I - How Did It End?

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Various events are considered instrumental in ending the conflict of the First World War. One such effort was Great Britain’s naval blockade of Germany, which limited the Germans’ access to food and materials. Meanwhile, conditions and morale in Russia continued to worsen, until finally the Bolshevik Party came to power and promised to pull the Russians out of the war. A boost of manpower to the Allies from the United States, along with the eventual signing of treaties and armistices, helped finally lead to the end of fighting. In Part 3 of our series on WWI, finds out how World War I finally drew to a close.

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How did World War I end?

There were several key events instrumental in ending the World War I. Great Britain’s naval blockade of Germany is considered crucial. Established in the first year of the war, this blockade aimed to restrict Germany’s maritime access to raw materials and food. Germany attempted its own blockade of Great Britain, and in 1917 adopted a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. This posed a great danger to commercial shipping between the U.S. and Europe. It was for this reason the United States finally declared war on Germany April 6th, 1917.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

Meanwhile, war efforts in Russia were growing unpopular. Their economy was near collapse, and food shortages lead to protest from civilians. These protests resulted in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, and the appointment of a provisional government. Seeing their army becoming increasingly ineffective on the Eastern Front, Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik party came to power, promising to pull Russia out of the war. On the third of March, 1918, Russia agreed to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and ceded large portions of its land to Germany.

Moving West

Now that the war was all but over on the Eastern Front, Germany could transfer their troops west. However, it was necessary to leave troops behind to occupy the large amount of acquired territory. This means the number of fighters was greatly reduced.

More Manpower

On the Western Front, the Allies were set to receive a massive boost of manpower and resources from the United States. In an attempt to end the war before this could happen, Germany pushed forward with the Spring Offensive of 1918. The Germans were initially successful, and moved to within 75 miles of Paris. However, they were unable to solidify these gains, and the advance was halted through the efforts of four Australian Imperial Force divisions.

Hundred Days Offensive

Adding insult to injury, Germany’s morale at home and on the Front was quickly fading. Starting August 8th, a series of offensives was launched by the Allies which effectively ended the First World War. Now known as the Hundred Days Offensive, this surge ended when an agreement was signed to cease fighting on November 11th, 1918. The other Central Powers, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire had all signed their own armistices earlier in the year. By the 3rd of November, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had disintegrated and signed armistices separately as Austria and Hungary.

Treaty of Versailles

Despite fighting being over, the war did not formally end until numerous treaties were signed between the nations involved. Most notable of these was the Treaty of Versailles, which Germany signed on June 28th, 1919. This treaty demanded that Germany accept sole responsibility for causing the war, as well as pay billions of dollars in reparations. Ironically, the severe and controversial Treaty of Versailles is considered by many as a direct cause of the Second World War.

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