Friday, April 28, 2017

26 April Program Review - "World War I"

CVGS member John Finch was the program speaker on 26 April on the topic of "World War I, the Centennial."

He started with a brief overview of the world situation at the beginning of World War I in 1914 and the causes of the war.  His main resource was the book To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild  and the book World War I by the Smithsonian Museum.

In the early 1900s, the European powers had colonies all over the world.  In Europe, the Allied Powers were Great Britain, France, Belgium,  Italy and Portugal; the Central Powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire.  Russia was an Empire and had allies in Serbia and Romania.  Spain, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands and Luxembourg were neutral.  Many of the most powerful countries had Kings who were related - for instance, the rulers of Germany, England and Russia were royal cousins.

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated in Serbia.  Austria attached Serbia in late July, and Russia retaliated, causing Germany to declare war on Russia and then France, England declared war on Germany, and Germany attacked Belgium and France in addition to invading western Russia.  The infantry and cavalry war in eastern France became tank and trench warfare and bogged down.    The United States did not enter the war until 6 April 1917, and was the results of German U-boat attacks on shipping and the sinking of the Lusitania.  The Bolshevik revolution in late 1917 caused Russia to make treaty with Germany, freeing up German soldiers for the Western Front.  

There were three draft registrations in the United States - in June 1917, June 1918 and September 1918.  Over 24 million males born between 1872 and 1900 were registered, providing information about their birth, employment, and health.  The United States shipped troops to France, where they took part in 13 campaigns before the Armistice on 11 November 1918.  John's grandfather, Elmore Schweser saw service in the Air Corps over France.  

After the Armistice, the Treaty of Versailles resulted in Germany losing territory to France, Denmark and Russia.  Millions of persons on both sides were killed or wounded.  As the war ended, the Spanish Flu pandemic swept through Europe and the USA, killing 675,000 in the U.S. and over 30 million worldwide.

John mentioned record collections that contained World War I records on, and  The largest collection is the World War I Draft Registration cards on Ancestry and FamilySearch, but there are several other useful databases like the U.S. Veterans Gravesites and British Army service records, pension records and medal rolls.

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