World War I

1914 Christmas Truce

What Happened When WWI Paused for Christmas

On Christmas Eve 1914, in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the first world war, a remarkable thing happened. It came to be called the Christmas Truce. And it remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history.British ...read more

Archduke Ferdinand assassinated

On this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie are shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The killings sparked a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I by early ...read more

Theodore Roosevelt dies

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, dies at Sagamore Hill, his estate overlooking New York’s Long Island Sound.A dynamic and energetic politician, Theodore Roosevelt is credited with creating the modern presidency. As a young Republican, Roosevelt held a ...read more

First air raid on Britain

During World War I, Britain suffers its first casualties from an air attack when two German zeppelins drop bombs on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn on the eastern coast of England.The zeppelin, a motor-driven rigid airship, was developed by German inventor Ferdinand Graf von ...read more

Battle of Belleau Wood begins

The first large-scale battle fought by American soldiers in World War I begins in Belleau Wood, northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road.In late May 1918, the third German offensive of the year penetrated the Western Front to within 45 miles of Paris. U.S. forces under General John J. ...read more

Archduke Ferdinand assassinated

On this day in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie are shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The killings sparked a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I by early ...read more

Balfour Declaration letter written

On November 2, 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour writes an important letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The letter would eventually become ...read more

T.E. Lawrence reports on Arab affairs

On November 26, 1916, Thomas Edward Lawrence, a junior member of the British government’s Arab Bureau during World War I, publishes a detailed report analyzing the revolt led by the Arab leader Sherif Hussein against the Ottoman Empire in the late spring of 1916.As a scholar and ...read more

Seventh Battle of the Isonzo

On September 14, 1916, Italian troops during World War I launch a short, concentrated attack on Austro-Hungarian positions on the Italian Front, near the Isonzo River.Italy’s entrance into the Great War on May 23, 1915, had opened up a new front stretching 600 kilometers—most of ...read more

Second Moroccan Crisis

Six years after the First Moroccan Crisis, during which Kaiser Wilhelm’s sensational appearance in Morocco provoked international outrage and led to a strengthening of the bonds between Britain and France against Germany, French troops occupy the Moroccan city of Fez on May 21, ...read more

Second Battle of Krithia, Gallipoli

After a first attempt to capture the village of Krithia, on the Gallipoli Peninsula, failed on April 28, 1915, a second is initiated on May 6 by Allied troops under the British commander Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Fortified by 105 pieces of heavy artillery, the Allied force ...read more

Russia’s General Kaledin commits suicide

Russian General Alexei Maximovitch Kaledin, a commander of Russian forces during World War I and a staunch opponent of the Bolsheviks, commits suicide on this day in 1918. Kaledin, born in 1861, was the son of a Don Cossack officer who early on began a military career of his own. ...read more

Russian troops invade East Prussia

On this day in 1914, the Russian 1st and 2nd Armies begin their advance into East Prussia, fulfilling Russia’s promise to its ally, France, to attack Germany from the east as soon as possible so as to divert German resources and relieve pressure on France during the opening weeks ...read more

Russian czar abdicates

During the February Revolution, Czar Nicholas II, ruler of Russia since 1894, is forced to abdicate the throne on this day in 1917, after strikes and general revolts break out in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg).Crowned on May 26, 1894, Nicholas was a relatively weak and ...read more

Romania enters World War I

On this day in 1916, after Romania declares war on Austria-Hungary, formally entering World War I, Romanian troops cross the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the much-contested province of Transylvania.By the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, Romania had long been at ...read more

Red Baron killed in action

In the well-trafficked skies above the Somme River in France, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as the Red Baron,” is killed by Allied fire on April 21, 1918. Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the ...read more

Rasputin is murdered

Sometime over the course of the night and the early morning of December 29-30, 1916, Grigory Efimovich Rasputin, a self-proclaimed holy man, is murdered by Russian nobles eager to end his influence over the royal family. Rasputin, a Siberian-born muzhik, or peasant, who underwent ...read more

Pope Benedict XV named to papacy

On September 3, 1914, barely a month after the outbreak of World War I, Giacomo della Chiesa is elected to the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church, becoming Pope Benedict XV.An aristocratic native of Genoa, Italy, who had served as a cardinal since the previous May, Benedict ...read more

Poet-soldier Rupert Brooke dies in Greece

On this day in 1915, Rupert Brooke, a young scholar and poet serving as an officer in the British Royal Navy, dies of blood poisoning on a hospital ship anchored off the Greek island of Skyros, while awaiting deployment in the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Brooke, ...read more

Poet Alan Seeger volunteers in French army

On this day in 1914, the American poet Alan Seeger volunteers for service in the French Foreign Legion during the First World War.Born in New York City in 1888, Seeger attended Harvard University, where his illustrious classmates in the Class of 1910 included the poet John Reed ...read more

Poet Charles Sorley killed at Loos

On this day in 1915, the 21-year-old Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley is killed by a German sniper’s bullet during the Battle of Loos.The son of a university professor in Aberdeen and a promising scholar himself, Sorley decided to spend a year studying in Germany in 1913 ...read more

Paris hit by shells from new German gun

At 7:20 in the morning on March 23, 1918, an explosion in the Place de la Republique in Paris announces the first attack of a new German gun.The Pariskanone, or Paris gun, as it came to be known, was manufactured by Krupps; it was 210mm, with a 118-foot-long barrel, which could ...read more

Ottoman Empire declares a holy war

On November 14, 1914, in Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, the religious leader Sheikh-ul-Islam declares an Islamic holy war on behalf of the Ottoman government, urging his Muslim followers to take up arms against Britain, France, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro in ...read more

Nivelle Offensive ends in failure

On this day in 1917, an ambitious Allied offensive against German troops near the Aisne River in central France, spearheaded by the French commander in chief, Robert Nivelle, ends in dismal failure. Nivelle, who had replaced Joseph Joffre in December 1915 as head of all French ...read more

New state declared in the Balkans

Three weeks after the armistice, and on the same day that Allied troops cross into Germany for the first time, a new state is proclaimed in Belgrade, Serbia.As the great Austrian and German empires were brought low in defeat, the new “Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes” ...read more

New celebration of Armistice Day proposed

On May 8, 1919, Edward George Honey, a journalist from Melbourne, Australia, living in London at the time, writes a letter to the London Evening News proposing that the first anniversary of the armistice ending World War I—concluded on November 11, 1918—be commemorated by ...read more

New Fatherland League launched in Germany

On this day in 1914 in Germany, a small group of intellectuals led by the physician Georg Nicolai launch Bund Neues Vaterland, the New Fatherland League.One of the league’s most active supporters was Nicolai’s friend, the great physicist Albert Einstein. Together, Einstein and ...read more

Munitions ship explodes in Halifax

At 9:05 a.m., in the harbor of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating manmade explosion in the pre-atomic age occurs when the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, explodes 20 minutes after colliding with another vessel.As World War I raged in ...read more

Meuse-Argonne offensive opens

At 5:30 on the morning of September 26, 1918, after a six-hour-long bombardment over the previous night, more than 700 Allied tanks, followed closely by infantry troops, advance against German positions in the Argonne Forest and along the Meuse River.Building on the success of ...read more

Mata Hari sentenced to die

In Paris, France, on July 25, 1917, the exotic dancer Mata Hari is sentenced to death by a French court for spying on Germany’s behalf during World War I.Since 1903, Margueretha Gertruida Zelle, born in a small town in northern Holland and formerly married to a captain in the ...read more