On this day, one hundred years ago, the first shot of World War 1 was fired by the Austro-Hungarian military as it prepared to invade against Serbia over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. This simple action led to a disastrous chain of catastrophic events plunging the world into total war.
With militarism, imperialism and nationalism at a fever pitch in Europe the assassination sparked the events which would come. Austro-Hungry, predictably, demanded retribution against Serbia. Serbia turned to its big ally, Russia for help against Austro-Hungry.
From here the twisted web of treaties which had been negotiated before the war took over. Russia allied with France and Great Britain, and Austro-Hungry allied with Germany and Italy (which did not hold to their treaty and joined the Allies).
When Austro-Hungry fired upon Serbia, a local conflict flared quickly out of control, so fast that even modern historians are confused to what happened. Simply put, the treaties worked as planned, but doomed many.
Russia had the best opportunity to halt the war. Instead the order was given to mobilize its army to help Serbia. The moment that happened, it started a chain of events upon which few could have stopped it. Upon learning of Russia’s mobilization, and threatening its ally, Germany mobilized. When that happened, it forced though treaties France and Britain.
The war would last years, cost millions of lives, would millions more, see some of the most gruesome fighting ever, use of gas warfare, and brutal trench warfare. By the time it was over, nations would be transformed.
There is still much to learn from this war, and I pray we have not already forgotten them.