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Why Germany Lost World War One

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In 1914, World War One emerged in Europe between the Entente and Triple Alliance. These alliances covered most of Europe, and defeating the German Empire was the key to victory for the Entente side. For undoubtedly, if the Entente defeated Germany the rest of its alliance would crumble fairly quickly. Germany was defeated in 1918, and there were a variety of factors behind this eventual outcome of the war.

Before the war had even begun, the seeds for Germany's defeat had been sewn. Germany had drafted the Schlieffen Plan that became the cornerstone of its military strategy. In the event of a war in Europe, in which Germany would most likely be at war with both France and Russia, the German plan targeted a quick defeat of France. With the French then defeated, only the one front with Russia would remain; and then Germany could place its whole army on the eastern front to defeat the Russians with.

Schlieffen Plan Map
As such, when the war did emerge Germany followed the Schlieffen Plan - but they did not invade Holland as originally planned. However, early advances in the West could not be sustained as France was re-enforced with British troops. At the Battle of the Marne the Germans fell back. All of a sudden the plan supposed to ensure a German victory had failed, and with the Russians also moving their army westwards a war on two fronts began to emerge. As such, Germany had to split its army between two fronts.

The failure of this plan to ensure a quick victory for Germany's army was one of the war's turning points. However, it was not necessarily enough to ensure Germany's defeat in the war. Although the Germans had no clear plan b, they still had one of Europe's best armies and a large navy.

Perhaps more significant was that Germany was at a numerical disadvantage. The combined Entente armies, which included the Russian army that was the largest in the world, had superiority in numbers. The Italians and then the USA also joined the Entente in 1918. As such, in the long run this superiority in numbers would wear down the Germans and left their eventual defeat more likely.

Entente naval superiority at sea was another factor in Germany's eventual defeat. The Royal Navy effectively blockaded Germany during the war, which reduced supplies its army. The U-boat campaign of 1917 was also one of the turning points in the conflict as the U-boats failed to defeat Britain. This campaign also ended U.S. neutrality, and the Americans joined the Entente's side, which further tipped the balance in favor of the Entente.

German U-boat
So in 1918 Germany had to defeat France or lose the war. With U.S. soldiers arriving in number to bolster the French lines it would only be a matter of time before the Entente began their own advances in Western Europe that could potentially push the Germans back. Shortages within Germany were also increasing as a result of the naval blockade. However, the last German advance was halted; and at the Battle of Amiens the Entente began to push the Germans back. Large numbers of German troops surrendered, and Germany accepted an armistice in late 1918.

Germany lost World War One because its Schlieffen Plan was ineffective and did not defeat France quickly as expected. As a result, a war on two fronts emerged in which Germany was at a numerical disadvantage. Even though the Russians were still defeated, the eventual entry of the USA ensured that the Entente maintained a significant numerical advantage. Such superiority in numbers proved decisive for the Entente, especially in 1918 as the Germans retreated. After the Battle of Amiens, the German High Command was all too aware that Germany could no longer win the war; so the armistice was accepted.



Jan 28, 2016 12:54pm
One thing that struck me is that the German navy only ventured out once, at Jutland, which ended more or less in a draw. Why didn't they try again? Their navy accomplished nothing sitting in port, so why not gamble? If they get lucky, they break the British blockade, and then it's a whole new ball game.
Mar 7, 2016 11:26am
Actually, the German navy did engage the Royal Navy in other surface fleet battles such as the Battle of Heligoland Bight, but got beaten then as well. I think you have to remember that each German dreadnought had a crew, and you can't send a fleet out unless it has some change of winning. The best alternative for the German navy was the U-boat campaign that they could wipe out UK supplies with.
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