In its time, it was called the Great War. The War to End All Wars. And ultimately, history came to call it World War I. And it was 100 years ago this week that the U.S. Congress formally declared that a state of war existed between the United States and the German Empire and her allies which formed the Central Powers.
The hostilities began in Europe in the summer of 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the city of Sarajevo. In short order, due to an extensive network of mutual defense treaties virtually every European nation, kingdom and empire was in armed conflict. In turn, as many of these European political entities had colonial holdings in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the war took on a global character.
The loss of life in these early battles was beyond the human comprehension of the time. Modern technology had evolved faster than battlefield tactics. This was the first conflict to see extensive use of the airplane, the submarine, the tank, poison gas, radio communications and other technical innovations.