World War I

During the time of World War I, the citizens of the United States often called it the Great War or the War to End All Wars. The belief was that this war was so prevailing and costly and damaging and that the world would never again repeat and suffer from such a war.

World War I was fought on a larger scale than any war before it. Twenty-seven countries on five continents fought in the war, and it is estimated that about 70 million soldiers participated. About thirteen million people died in the war with an additional thirteen million wounded. It is thought that an entire generation of young men were tragically wiped out in France, England, Germany, and other European nations.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about World War I.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about World War I.

Battle of Verdun
Travel to Verdun, France. It was the site of a major military engagement of World War I. The battle lasted for ten months in 1916, and about two million men were part of the battle. The French lost 328,500 men, and the Germans 348,000.
Flanders Field
Spend time at Flanders Field. It is a cemetery and war memorial near the town of Waregem, Belgium. Almost 400 American military personnel are buried there, most of whom gave their lives to liberate Belgium in WWI.
Travel to Gallipoli. It is a port in western Turkey at the east end of the Dardanelles, near the neck of the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was the site of a major allied offensive during World War I. The allied forces were attempting to gain control of the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits, capturing Constantinople, and open a Black Sea supply route to Russia.
Lost Liners: Lusitania
Travel on board the Lusitania. It was a British ship that was sunk off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine on May 7, 1915. Of the 1,195 people who died,128 were U.S. citizens. The sinking of this unarmed ship contributed to the rise of American sentiment for the entry of the United States into World War I.
The Versailles Treaty
Virtually visit Versailles, France. In the palace of Versailles in the great Hall of Mirrors, on June 28, 1919, one of the treaties that ended WWI was signed. Have students find out about the four other peace treaties that ended the war. The Treaty of Versailles encompassed the discussions and negotiations of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.
World War I: Trenches on the Web: An Internet History of The Great War 
Take a tour of the Western Front. The Western Front was approximately the western border of France. Both the allied and the German troops dug trenches to defend themselves and to stop the other side form advancing. It was where most of the battles of World War I took place and where most of the casualties happened.
U-boat Attack, 1916
Travel aboard a German submarine as it attacks and sinks a cargo vessel during World War I.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. An unidentified soldier who had died in the war was removed from his unmarked grave in France and sent by ship to the United States. The tomb was renamed the Tomb of the Unknowns. Other countries, such as France, have similar monuments to honor its unidentified war dead. 

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People To See

Alvin York
Alvin York is considered to be the greatest war hero of World War I. With little help, he captured 132 German prisoners while fighting in the Argonne Forest in France and killed many others.
BBC: The Great War: 80 Years On
Get to know the men and women of the Great War. Read their personal accounts and letters home. Learn using primary resources in research.
Billy Bishop Museum
Meet Billy Bishop and read his story. He was a Canadian pilot and World War I fighter ace. He flew hundreds of missions as part of the Royal Flying Corps. Learn about the many things that war pilots did besides bombing raids. For instance, they took hundreds of photographs as they flew over the German trenches so that British map-makers could trace each detail of the German trench positions and check any changes in the enemy zone.
Cher Ami--World War I Carrier Pigeon
During the fighting in France, a group of allied soldiers were trapped between their own troops and the German troops. They were fired upon by their own soldiers. The group of soldiers began to release carrier pigeons to warn their fellow soldiers to cease firing. One pigeon was finally able to fly through the gunfire helping to save the soldiers. Cher Ami was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre" with Palm for his heroic service.
Doughboy Center
Meet a WWI doughboy. Soldiers in WWI were sometimes called doughboys because women working with the Salvation Army in France during WWI wanted to make the American soldiers feel less homesick. So they began making them doughnuts. The American soldiers became known for their fondness for doughnuts and earned the nickname of doughboys.
Douglas MacArthur
Meet Douglas MacArthur. His name is associated with many of the wars of the 20th century. He was a brigadier general in World War I, a five-star general in World War II, and assumed a significant positition in the Korean War.
Eddie Rickenbacker
Meet Eddie Rickenbacker. He was called America's Ace of Aces during World War I, the highest scorer of American aerial victories over the Germans.
Ernest Hemingway
Get re-acquainted with Ernest Hemingway. He was a Red Cross ambulance driver in WWI.
Eugene Jacques Bullard
Eugene Bullard was the grandson of a slave. During World War I Bullard became a distinguished fighter pilot for the French Flying Corps. He flew 20 missions against the Germans and was wounded three times before being honorably discharged.
General John Pershing
Learn about General John Pershing. He was Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe.
Manfred von Richtofen
Meet Baron von Richtofen. He was also called the Red Baron. He was a German ace aviator and is credited with shooting down over 80 aircraft. He was killed in action on April 21, 1918. Roy Brown, flying in his Sopwith Camel, was the British aviator who was credited stopping the Red Baron.
Newton Baker
Spend time with Newton Baker. He was the Secretary of War under Woodrow Wilson. With the entry of the United States into World War I, he drew up plans for universal military conscription which resulted in the mobilization of more than 4 million men.
Robert Lindsay Mackay's First World War Diary
Make the acquaintance of Robert Lindsay Mackay and read his diary which gives an account of his day-to-day life with the 11th Batallion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from 1915 until the end of the war.
World War I Poets
Meet some of the poets who wrote about World War I.

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Things To Do

Adolph Hitler: A Study in Tyranny
Hitler served in World War I as a corporal who earned several military awards. He was very bitter about the settlements that were part of the Treaty of Versailles. After the war, he became part of a group whose goals were to return Germany to a leading world power.
The Aerodome: Flying Aces and Aircraft of World War I
World War I was the first war in which airplanes were used. Learn about the aircraft made famous in the war.
BBC News: The Great War: 80 Years On
Learn about the war that lasted from 1914-18, claimed 10 million lives, and forever changed the political map of Europe. BBC News Online looks back at what became known as "the war to end all wars".
Big Guns of the Great War
Prior to World War I, battles had been fought and won by soldiers being good shots and by soldiers participating in hand-to-hand combat. World War I was the first war to use machine guns and flamethrowers and sophisticated weaponry from a distance.
Eyewitness: World War One
Learn about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie.
First World War 
Find information on the outbreak of WWI, allied armed forces, the central powers, important battles, political leaders, the British home front, military leaders, trench war, etc.
Fourteen Points
Learn about Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. They were a plan establishing a peace program at the end of World War I. The League of Nations was a result of one of the fourteenth point.
The Great Zeppelin Raid
A zeppelin a large dirigible balloon consisting of a long,cylindrical, covered framework containing compartments or cells filled with gas. Imagine using zeppelins in combat! Find out more about the role of zeppelins in World War I.
Over There
Read the lyrics and listen to the midi file of the World War I patriotic song, Over There. It was written by George M. Cohan who also wrote You're A Grand Old Flag, Yankee Doodle Boy, and Give My Regards to Broadway.
Tank Museum
The American Armoured Foundation established this museum to showcase tanks of WWI and WWII.
Timeline To The Great War
The following WW1 timeline pages lay out the principal events of the Great War day by day with a year on each page.
The World War I Document Archive
Read primary source documents relating to WWI.
World War I Women's Posters
Check out some of the posters used to recruit women to join the military.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Bosco, Peter I. World War One. New York: Facts on File, 1991.
  • Dolan, Edward F. America in World War I. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, c1996.
  • Gay, Kathlyn. World War I. New York: Twenty-First Century Books, 1995.
  • Jantzen, Steven. Hooray for Peace, Hurrah for War: the United States During World War I. New York: Facts on File, c1991.
  • Kent, Zachary. World War I: The War to End Wars. Hillside, N.J., U.S.A.: Enslow Publishers, c1994.
  • McGowen, Tom. World War I. New York: F. Watts, c1993.
  • Pimlott, John. The First World War. New York: Franklin Watts, 1986.
  • Rees, Rosemary. The Western Front. Crystal Lake, IL: Rigby Interactive Library, c1997.
  • Ross, Stewart. Causes and Consequences of World War I. Austin, Tex. : Raintree Steck-Vaughn, c1998.
  • Stewart, Gail. World War I. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, c1991