Schlieffen Plan
  • World War I began with the death of the Austro-Hungarian crown prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. While on parade in Sarajevo, Serbian terrorists (not actually sponsored by Serbia) threw a grenade at the car and it bounced harmlessly off the hood, exploding well behind the car. Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, insisted on visiting the injured at the hospital.
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  • While enroute to the hospital, their driver made a wrong turn down a side street. Gavrilo Princip (a member of a terrorist group) spotted them and shot them both while the driver was backng the car out of the side street. The two died on the way to the hospital.
  • Princip fled back to Serbia.
  • Austria wanted revenge for the assassination of their crown prince, and, after trying to strong arm Serbia, declared war.
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  • Russia, an ancient ally of Serbia, declared war on Austria in order to defend Serbia.
  • Austria called on its allies, Italy and Germany to come to its aid.
  • Italy refused because it said it had promised to help if Austria was attacked, not if Austria started attacking others.
  • Germany, however, did jump in. They had a problem, however, which was that Russia, who they were supposed to attack, had an alliance with France. Germany wanted to avoid being in a war with both France and Russia at the same time.
  • German General von Schlieffen had had an idea to deal with that. He had proposed attacking France by going through Belgium (since French defences against Germany were too strong). They would then wheel around and attack the much slower moving Russia forces.
  • Von Schlieffen had warned that German forces shouldn't get too close to Paris, because there was a large French army stationed there. Guess who got too close to Paris?
  • The French army in Paris met the German forces at the Marne River where they halted their advance.
    • The interesting story is how the French army got there. Apparently, short on other forms of transport, the army commandeered all the taxis in the city, arriving at the battle in cabs.
  • The French and German forces were at a stalemate and rapidly built trenches stretching from the Swiss border to the English Channel (about 600 miles).
  • The English became involved because they had promised to defend neutral Belgium if it was ever attacked.
  • Because Britain was involved, Canada almost automatically declared war on Germany as well.

World War I

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