After the war, disgust and horror with the use of poison gas led to its ban in 1925, which is still in effect today.

Tanks, Airplanes, and Submarines

During World War I, advances in technology, such as the gasoline-powered engine, led the opposing forces to use tanks, airplanes, and submarines against each other. In 1916, Britain introduced the first armored tank. Mounted with machine guns, the tanks were designed to move across no man's land. Still, the first tanks broke down often. They failed to break the stalemate.

Both sides also used aircraft. At first, planes were utilized simply to observe enemy troop movements. In 1915, Germany used zeppelins (ZEP uh linz), large gas-filled balloons, to bomb the English coast. Later, both sides equipped airplanes with machine guns. Pilots known as “flying aces” confronted each other in the skies. These “dogfights” were spectacular, but had little effect on the course of the war on the ground.

Submarines proved much more important. German U-boats, nicknamed from the German word for submarine, Unterseeboot, did tremendous damage to the Allied side, sinking merchant ships carrying vital supplies to Britain. To defend against the submarines, the Allies organized convoys, or groups of merchant ships protected by warships.

Other European Fronts

From the outset of World War I, Germany and Austria-Hungary battled Russia on the Eastern Front. There, battle lines shifted back and forth, sometimes over large areas. Even though the armies were not mired in trench warfare, casualties rose even higher than on the Western Front. The results were just as indecisive.

Mounting Russian Losses in the East

In August 1914, Russian armies pushed into eastern Germany. Then, the Russians suffered a disastrous defeat at Tannenberg. Reeling from the disaster, the Russians retreated. After Tannenberg, the warring armies in the east fought on Russian soil.

As the least industrialized of the great powers, Russia was poorly equipped to fight a modern war. Although Russian factories geared up to produce rifles and other machinery for war, Russia lacked the roads and railroads to carry goods to the front. As the war raged on, some troops even lacked rifles. Still, Russian commanders continued to send masses of peasant soldiers into combat.

Photo of a snowy mountain pass, where a line of men climb holding skis and packs over their coats.

On the Italian front, soldiers trekked through the Alps using snowshoes and skis. At times, they even engaged in battle while wearing their skis.

Analyze Visuals

Based on this image, what else besides deadly weapons caused high casualty rates?

War in Southern Europe

Southeastern Europe was another battleground. In 1915, Bulgaria joined the Central Powers and helped defeat its old rival Serbia. Romania, hoping to gain some land in Hungary, joined the Allies in 1916, only to be crushed by the Central Powers.

Also in 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary and later on Germany. The Allies had agreed in a secret treaty to give Italy some Austrian-ruled lands on its northern border. Over the next two years, the Italians and Austrians fought numerous battles, with few major breakthroughs. In October 1917, Italy suffered a major setback during the battle of Caporetto, but French and British forces stepped in to stop the Central Powers from advancing into Italy. Still, Caporetto proved as disastrous for Italy as Tannenberg had been for Russia.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments