World War I (1914–1919)

by: History SparkNotes

Key People

key-people Key People

Prince Max von Baden

The chancellor of Germany during the final months of the war. As Kaiser Wilhelm II lost control of the country, Prince Max temporarily assumed leadership and played a major role in arranging the armistice.

Winston Churchill

The first lord of the British admiralty. Although Churchill is better known for his role as Britain’s prime minister during World War II, he played a significant role in World War I as well, serving as the head of Britain’s navy until he was demoted in 1915 following the British failure at the Dardanelles. Shortly thereafter, Churchill resigned his post and went to serve on the western front as a battalion commander.

Constantine I

The king of Greece for much of the war. Although Greece remained neutral during his reign, Constantine himself had strongly pro-German sentiments, at the same time that his government favored the Allies. He abdicated on June 12, 1917, under pressure of a threatened Allied invasion. Less than one month later, Greece entered the war on the side of the Allied forces.

Sir Christopher Cradock

A British admiral in command of the Fourth Squadron. Cradock is known primarily for his catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Coronel on November 1, 1914, in which he lost his life.

Franz Ferdinand

The archduke of Austria, nephew of Emperor Franz Joseph, and heir to the Habsburg throne. Franz Ferdinand’s assassination on June 28, 1914, by Serbian militant Gavrilo Princip, is widely considered the unofficial start of World War I.

Franz Joseph I

The emperor of Austria-Hungary until his death in late 1916.

Paul von Hindenburg

A German general credited with a major victory over Russia at the Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914. One month later, Hindenburg was promoted to commander in chief of the German land armies, the position in which he served until the end of the war.

Erich Ludendorff

A German general who assisted Paul von Hindenburg in achieving victories at the Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Throughout the rest of the war, Ludendorff continued to serve Hindenburg, first as chief of staff and later as quartermaster general.

Nicholas II

The Russian tsar who committed Russia to the defense of Serbia when Serbia was attacked by Austria. Nicholas II committed to this course only with hesitation and under great pressure from his military advisers. He abdicated in March 1917 after the “February” Revolution and was eventually murdered, along with his wife and children, by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.

John J. Pershing

The American general in command of all U.S. forces in Europe during the war. To the Allies’ consternation, Pershing strongly opposed the idea of sending American forces to fight on the front alongside regiments from Britain and France. Nevertheless, he did eventually reach a compromise, allowing limited numbers of U.S. soldiers to do exactly that.

Gavrilo Princip

A teenage Serbian militant who assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. Princip was armed and trained by a Serbian terrorist group known as the Black Hand. His assassination of Ferdinand is widely considered to be the opening shot of World War I. Princip spent the war in prison, where he died of tuberculosis in 1918.

Maximilian von Prittwitz

The German general in command of the Eighth Armyat the opening of the war. In August 1914, in the first battle Prittwitz fought following Russia’s initial invasion of Germany, he was defeated, panicked, and retreated. He was promptly replaced by Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

Radomir Putnik

The Serbian chief of general staff, known primarily for leading a successful defense of Serbia during the beginning of the war. In August 1914, Putnik’s forces ambushed the Austro-Hungarian army in the Jadar Valley and pushed them out of Serbia.

Paul von Rennenkampf

The general in command of the Russian First Army. Following his defeat in the Battle of the Masurian Lakes in September 1914, Rennenkampf was dismissed from the army on grounds of incompetence.

Alexander Samsonov

The general in command of the Russian Second Army, which suffered a catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Tannenberg on August 29, 1914. Samsonov committed suicide that same day.

Wilhelm Souchon

The admiral in command of the Mediterranean Squadron of the German navy. Souchon led the attack on Russia’s Black Sea ports in October 1914, which brought the Ottoman Empire into the war.

Maximilian von Spee

The German admiral in command of the famous East Asia Squadron. Spee is famous for his victory in the Battle of Coronel against the British admiral Sir Christopher Cradock on November 1, 1914. Just over a month later, Spee died in the Battle of the Falkland Islands, in which the East Asia Squadron was defeated.

Alfred von Tirpitz

An admiral and first secretary of the German navy. Tirpitz was largely responsible for the buildup of the German navy prior to the war, as well as for the country’s aggressive submarine strategy. Although the policy was highly effective, it damaged Germany’s international reputation, leading to Tirpitz’s resignation in 1916.

Sir Charles Townshend

British general in command of the Sixth Indian Division. Townshend is known for leading the British campaign in Mesopotamia from 1915 to 1916. On April 29, 1916, he surrendered all 10,000 of his men at Kut, Mesopotamia—the largest military surrender in British history.

Wilhelm II

The German kaiser (emperor) during the war. Wilhelm II was a cousin of Nicholas II of Russia and George V of Britain; all were grandsons of Queen Victoria of England.

Woodrow Wilson

The president of the United States for the entire period of the war. During the first half of the war, Wilson, a Democrat, maintained a strictly neutral position and tried to serve as an active intermediary between the two sides. American neutrality remained a major theme during his 1916 reelection campaign. However, Wilson was soon forced to change his position when Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare and the American public was scandalized by the infamous Zimmermann telegram in 1917.

Arthur Zimmermann

The German foreign minister responsible for the 1917Zimmermann telegram, which attempted to coerce Mexico into attacking the United States in exchange for financial incentives and a military alliance between Mexico and Germany. The exposure of Zimmermann’s communiqué was a major factor provoking the United States into declaring war on Germany.

World War I (1914–1919): Popular pages