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This day in history: WWI begins


The Greenville Standard


Most Southerners can tell one plenty about World War II. That is because they had a grandparent, great-uncle, or other relative who participated in the war.

Yet, the same cannot be said about World War I (WWI). People in this area do not know as much about the Great War, which is what WWI was first called, in part because of the United States’ late entry into its involvement.

WWI officially began on Aug. 1, 1914; however, there were several events that led up to its start, including the June 28 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg.

According to a article about the eruption of WWI, this assassination was the impetus for the war that followed.

“On June 28, 1914, in an event that is widely regarded as sparking the outbreak of World War I,” states the article, “Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia.”

The article goes on to explain that Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack, but they were hesitant to enter into warfare until they received word from Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany would support their cause against the Serbians if Russia intervened on their behalf.

“On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia,” states the article, “and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed.

“On July 29, Austro-Hungarian forces began to shell the Serbian capital of Belgrade, and Russia, Serbia’s ally, ordered a troop mobilization against Austria-Hungary. France, allied with Russia, began to mobilize on Aug. 1.”

Before long, Russian forces invaded Belgium, which brought Great Britain into the fray. At the time, Great Britain was allied with Belgium.

The United States of America did not join in the war until April 6, 1917. The U.S. joined its allies, which were Britain, France, and Russia.

Many credit the German’s sinking of the American ocean liner “S. S. Housatonic,” which was carrying supplies to Great Britain, as the impetus that ushered America into the war.

The sinking of the “Housatonic” resulted in no casualties, but it was the fact the American ship was targeted that prompted American entry.

More than 2 million Americans fought in WWI, including some from Butler County.

Just one of those men was Sergeant William J. Frazer, who fought in some of the worst battles on the Western Front, including the Battle of Croix Rouge Farm on July 25, 1918.

Frazer received a Purple Heart during his service.

WWI would change the history of warfare because it was the first global war. Regrettably, it would not be the last, for a mere 21 years later, World War II began.

For more information about the outbreak of WWI, visit

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