Also known as The Great War, or The War to End All Wars, World War I was one of the largest and deadliest wars in history. The war started after the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was killed by Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, in an attempt to end the Austro-Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) fought against the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States) in a war that involved new technological weapons such as machine guns and tanks. Militaries on both sides fought from trenches which were filled with mud, disease, boredom and fear.

World War I was the first major war to use aviation to help fight battles. Observation balloons and aircraft were used to spot structures from the air, and Germany deployed many Zeppelins over the North Sea. As airplanes became a large part of the war effort, many of World War I battles took place up in the sky. Flying aces became an icon around the world and were looked upon by many as heroes. World War I helped pave the way for better aviation technology that would come into use in World War II.

The United States remained neutral for most of the war and did not get involved in the conflict until 1917. By this time, Germany had declared a war zone around the British Isles and German U-boats had sunk several American commercial and passenger ships, notably the Lusitania, a British ocean liner carrying hundreds of American civilians onboard.

World War I lasted 4 years and ended November 11th, 1918 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Although it ended the war, the treaty did not resolve all conflicts and even created new ones that would eventually lead to WWII. More than 19 million civilians and soldiers died during WWI.

Published in London on December 8, 1915 was the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Major John McCrae. This poem was written to honor the fallen soldiers of the first World War.

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