World War I Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: April Inocente
World War I (WWI) created friends between some countries while creating enemies between others. In this lesson you'll learn about World War I, a war in which new weapons and new ways of fighting were used.

The First World War

When people think of war, they often think of fighting another country. But, there have been times in history when many countries battled each other at the same time in the same war. Imagine you and some of your classmates going to war. Five of you decide you are going to fight ten other classmates. Some pick your side, while others join your enemy's side. This is how World War I was fought.

WWI battlefield
British 39th Siege Battle RGA Somme

World War I began over 100 years ago on July 28, 1914, and ended four years later on November 11, 1918. It was fought in Europe, but 32 countries from all over the world were involved. Some joined a group of countries known as the Allied Powers and some joined a group of countries known as the Central Powers. The main countries of the Allied Powers were Russia, France, Britain, and the United States. The main countries of the Central Powers were Germany, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria.

A big reason World War I happened was because the world powers were angry at each other for differences in foreign policy, which is a plan that one country uses to deal with other countries. Basically the countries were mad at each other because they were treating each other badly. During this time, the killing of Austria's leader, Franz Ferdinand, and his pregnant wife took place. This event triggered these angry countries into war.

The United States did not enter the war until three years after it started, on April 6, 1917. They joined after a German submarine killed more than 100 Americans on a British passenger ship and said they would sink any ship that tried to approach Britain.

The Fighting

WWI trench
Soldiers in the trenches

Imagine fighting in war with a gun. You're in a dark wet, muddy, cold, rat-infested ditch (called a trench) with hundreds of other soldiers. Across the field from your protective trench, is the enemy's trench, and you are ordered to run across the field and attack. You have no idea where the enemy forces are waiting behind their trench, and to get there you must survive bullets flying all around you and poisonous, deadly gas being sprayed. This was how most of World War I was fought.

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