World War 1

A global conflict also known as the War to End All Wars, World War I took place from 1914 to 1918 and resulted in 15 million deaths.

76,643 Questions
World War 2
World War 1
US in WW2

How many battles were there in World War 1?

Answer 89 BattlesAccording to "A Dictionary of Battles 1816-1976(1977) there were 89 battles in the First World War, all fronts included, though this does not include every skirmish or limited action that could not be considered a general "battle", perse. These engagements include, for instance, the Isonzo campaign in Italy that involved over ten separate phases over three years, as well as the East African campaign whereby the British tried desperately to hunt down the German Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck from the very beginning of the war until the German surrender. Obviously, this involved many small and fierce engagements, but it is one entry in this dictionary.

Nonetheless, I would answer 89 based on this reference material.

i went on a website recently, and gave up counting at 121 battles.

World War 1

What were the attitudes of various national leaders at the end of World War 1?

The Western Nations were moving towards a one world government known as the League of Nations. The Arab Nations mainly Persia and the Ottoman Empire seen it as a means to control them and they refused to join taking 1/3 of the world population with them.

World War 1

What caused World War I?

Superficial and more fundamental causes

The 'trigger' or 'spark' was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by the Serbian Black Hand terrorists in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. The real question is this: Why was this crisis not dealt with in a more conventional, much less destructive way? There had been several crises before in the decade before 1914 and those involving the major powers of Europe had been settled peacefully. So did something go wrong with the handling of the crisis, or did one or more of the countries involved exploit the situation to plunge Europe into war? (The view that somehow Europe merely stumbled into World War 1 by accident is not accepted by historians). It is at this point that controversy begins. Austrian Response to the Assassination The Austrians delivered an ultimatum to Serbia that was almost guaranteed to be turned down by Serbia, but in the event, Serbia accepted nearly all the points. Austria then declared war because it had not been taken in its entirety. It has become fashionable (at high school level) to claim that the Austrians had been looking for an excuse to declare war because of lingering disputes between the two countries. It is probably more accurate to say that Austria was trying to clip Serbia's wings and deny it a coastline. On July 5, 1914, Germany (which had reasons of its own for war) had given Austria a "blank check", or unconditional guarantee of support in its actions against Serbia.

Provocations and Disputes:

•Disputes over territory, especially Morocco (including the Anglo-French-German Agadir crisis of July 1911)

•The annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (a region densely populated with Serbs) by Austria in 1908 (the Balkan Crisis)

•Germany's gunboat diplomacy, meddling and conflicting alliances: "Weltpolitik."

•Imperialism, nationalism, expansionism during the final stages of world Colonialism - the intense competition and power struggles among the European nations. Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism & Nationalism The growing tensions between the European countries were caused by:


•The trend toward developing military resources, both for national defense and for the protection of colonial interests. Countries prepared for total war, using much of their resources to make armaments. [However, the concept of militarism is problematical and needs more definition].


•There were too many alliances, often conflicting ones. Every country was pledging to protect others, creating entangling mutual protection schemes.


•As fewer areas of the world were left to colonize, countries were competing for existing colonies and seeking to expand their borders with neighboring nations.


•Jingoism and national unity were promoted by governments as a means of maintaining popular domestic support. In many countries, women were increasing their role in the workforce. This greatly expanded the available labor for industrial development, freeing manpower for the military while maintaining the production of armaments. Everyone was preparing for this war.

WWI was caused by nationalism.

When the war was declared on Germany, people burst out on the street celebrating in France and Britain. If the population had not been primed to support the war, the government might not have started it! WWI was the result of a long string of events dating back to the 1890's. Conflict in the Balkans and sophisticated European alliances were the main causes. Germany had a huge role in this. They fought for the independence of Morocco in an attempt to break the alliance between France and Britain. Germany also participated in an arms race. Kaiser Wilhelm II started building up a navy, trying to surpass Britain's fleet. Since Britain was an island nation and had many overseas colonies, it had a gigantic fleet, so what the Kaiser was attempting to do was no easy feat. Germany wanted to increase its colonial empire, and most of the positive colonies were already taken. These actions and policies helped fuel the fire that was WWI. The Triple Entente and The Central Powers Long-term feuds and disputes, caused by imperialism and nationalism, resulted in the "Triple Entente". England, France, and Russia created an informal alliance opposed to the "Triple Alliance" of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. When war finally broke out, it was between the Entente and its supporters and the Central Powers ). The breakup of the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine by France to Germany 1871. In Eastern Europe: The breakup of the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe, leading to the Slavic independence movements in areas such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia. The Serbian-Austrian relations were especially tense as Austria had demanded an independent Albania, thus preventing Serbia from expanding into the Adriatic during the 1900s. This aggressive movement led to increased tension between Russia and Austria as Russia supported the independence movements of the Slavs. Turkey then supported Austria to gain Austrian support. In Western Europe: The loss of Alsace-Lorraine by France to Germany in 1871 led to much ill feeling between the two countries. The Kaiser's self-proclaimed goal that Germany "have a place in the sun" did nothing to ease tensions. Instead, the military buildup in Germany, especially the expansion of the Navy, drove Britain (alarmed at the direct challenge posed by the German High Seas Fleet to the British Royal Navy) into an alliance with France. When World War I began, everything began falling into place: Austria and the Ottoman Empire declared war on Serbia. This caused Russia and France to declare war on the both of them. And this led to Germany declaring war on Russia and France (who were allied with Britain). To attack France via the Schlieffen Plan (invasion of France via Belgium), Germany invaded Belgium. This direct violation of the neutrality guarantee led to Great Britain's declaring war on the Central Powers. The Great War started. German Military LeadershipAccording to the German historian Fritz Fischer, there is a wealth of documentary evidence that points a very clear, accusing finger at Germany. By "Germany" he doesn't, of course, mean all Germans, but the German General Staff. If one examines the German and Austrian documents together, it becomes very apparent that there were 'hawks' and 'doves' in Vienna. At one point it looked as if the 'doves' were about to carry the day, and the consternation of the German General Staff knew no bounds. They used all their contacts and all their influence to make sure they got their 'jolly little war'. Austria-Hungary was put under immense pressure to escalate the crisis. This eighth reason is as important as the preceding seven put together. There is a theory by Arno Mayer that the whole period from about 1910-1945 was one of profound crisis in Europe. In most countries the old elites, especially the land-owning classes, were experiencing immense difficulty in adapting to the results of industrialization and were genuinely alarmed at the prospect of losing any real role in society.

They were also haunted by the specter of unrest and revolution. As a result, they were only too happy to deflect conflict from the domestic scene to foreign affairs and to form dangerous local alliances with new-style right-wing extremists.

One of the striking features of the specific crisis that developed as a result of the Sarajevo assassination is that few of the great powers attached much value to maintaining the peace. Even if Arno Mayer overstates his case slightly, it is interesting, and it would be a mistake just to dismiss it. Japan and Greece were persuaded to join on the side of the Triple Entente of France, Russia, and Britain. The Germans ordered the sinking of all American ships to Britain, so America joined in 1917, too late to do much. The allies took on an offensive doctrine, so they gained ground. The German economy was ruined due to it only being able to trade with Austria and Turkey. Italy made a break in the standstill with Austria-Hungary, knocking Austria out of the war. The Turks lost Arabia and surrendered. Germany stood alone. Without allies, and economically ruined, Germany surrendered.

World War 2
World War 1
Canada in WW2

How many people were killed in World War 2?

Estimates range from about 50-70 million killed in World War 2. The Wikipedia article "World War II Casualties" favours the relatively high figure of 72 million. Of these, 61 million were on the Allied side and 11 million were on the Axis side. The article gives a figure of 23 million dead for the Soviet Union and 20 million for China. These figures of course include civilian dead. (Note that the figure for China was recently revised sharply upwards from earlier estimates of about 11 million).

For Germany the overall total is given as just under 7.4 million.

When scholarly sources differ on the number of deaths in a country, a range of war losses is given, in order to inform readers that the death toll is uncertain or disputed. One also needs to know whether the statistics, especially for civilian dead, include deaths from war-related famine and disease.

Please see the related links for details. During world war II over 60 million people were killed 5,341 million jillion

World War 1

How did the US become involved in World War I?

The US had been trading with almost all of the countries involved in World War I, but after 1914 began to send increased amounts of material and aid, especially to the British and French. But Woodrow Wilson had campaigned for reelection in 1916 and wanted to keep the US out of the war directly. However, Germany sought to avoid the resupply of its enemies, and its actions soon had the opposite of the intended effect.

The US entered the war in 1917 for a variety of reasons. Here are some summaries of explanations given by WikiAnswers Contributors.

Submarine Warfare and the Lusitania:

  • There were unauthorized German submarines along the US East coast. Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in the spring of 1917 provided the final straw for US politicians, and America declared war.
  • The first and foremost answer would be the sinking of the Lusitania, a British transport ship, bound for Britain from New York. The German U-boat ring sought to sink all supply ships headed for Britain in order to starve the island. It sank the Lusitania as part of its efforts. 1195 people died, including 128 Americans.
  • The Lusitania's sinking was the biggest influence on the American decision to enter the war. German submarine warfare sank many ships of many countries during the war.


Some say the "bankers" were involved.

  • The US had huge economic investments with the British and French. If they were to lose, then they would not be able to pay the U.S. debt back (amounting to about two billion dollars while Germany only borrowed a mere 27 million). If the Allies could not pay back all the loans made to them by the American bankers, the US economy could collapse.
  • France and England were financing their war with US loans. In addition, they were buying massive amounts of arms from the US on credit. The US wanted to make sure that it got paid back. Germany also purchased arms, but in a much more limited fashion.


  • Propaganda from both sides influenced the American decision.
  • Woodrow Wilson did not want to go to war but when Teddy Roosevelt decided to run for another term, Wilson felt threatened and announced that there would be a preparedness program and possibly that the country would go to war.
  • By entering the war, the US got to flex its muscles on the world stage and establish itself as a world power.
  • After both sides of the Mexican civil war demanded that our troops leave and public opinion badly swayed against US intervention in Mexico, Wilson had no choice but to withdraw. By having the threat of Germany helping Mexico fight back against him, Wilson knew he had to take action. He couldn't go back into Mexico because the American people would not allow it.


  • President Wilson wanted to make the world safe for democracy ("Wilson's War Address to Congress").
  • It was partly for idealistic reasons (propaganda was not seen as an evil until after the Great War). The occupation of Belgium and the sinking of the Lusitania changed a lot people's minds in the US about Germany.
  • There was more to it than just the submarine warfare and the sinking of the Lusitania although those were the formal and legalistic reasons for declaring war. A moral sense had developed that Britain and France were fighting the good fight for freedom against a genuine evil. If that sense had not existed, the US might have let the Lusitania pass. As it was, it was nearly two years after she was sunk that the US finally declared war.

Zimmerman Telegram:

Other points influenced entrance to the war, but the Zimmerman Telegram (sometimes called the "Zimmerman note" or "Zimmerman telegraph") finally pushed the US to war. The Zimmerman Telegram was sent from the German foreign secretary to the German Ambassador to Mexico. It stated the following:

  • On the first of February, 1917, submarine warfare will be reinstated unrestrictively.
  • The US has to stay neutral.
  • Germany proposes an alliance with Mexico on the following basis: If the US goes to war, Mexico must fight on the home front in an financially supported alliance with Germany; If Mexico agrees to fight, they will reconquer New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.

The telegraph was intercepted by British Intelligence and transmitted to the American government by the Brits. This infuriated Americans. It was the same sort of alliance that plunged Europe into war.

Other WikiAnswers Contributors agree:

  • The clincher was "discovery" of the Zimmerman Telegram (it was de-coded by the British and forwarded to US diplomats; with obvious self-interest on the part of the Brits).

Problem regarding the Lusitania as a reason (cause) for American entry:

Twenty-two months plus passed between the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 and U.S. entry into World War 1 in April 1917. In view of this it is very hard to see the Lusitania as a cause of American entry. It no doubt did much to turn American public opinion against Germany, but that's a different matter. It really seems that the idea that the Lusitania was a cause or the #1 reason is a myth.

(also see the related link)

World War 1
Treaty of Versailles

What was the Treaty of Versailles?

The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, one of the events that triggered the start of the war. Although the armistice signed on November 11, 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The terms of articles 231-248 were to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. The result of these competing and sometimes incompatible goals among the victors was an agreement that nobody was satisfied with. Germany was not pacified, conciliated, or permanently weakened, which would prove to be a factor leading to later conflicts.
The Treaty Of Versailles was one of the treaties at the end of world war 1. It ended the state of war between Germany and the allied powers.

World War 2
World War 1
WW2 Axis Powers

How many soldiers died in World War 2?

The main difficulties in arriving at an overall total arise from major uncertainties as to the number of Soviet soldiers killed in World War 2. The figures for military dead for the Soviet Union range from 8.8 million to 10.7 million.

See the link to the Wikipedia article, which (as accessed on 13 April 2010) gives a worldwide total of military dead ranging from about 22.6 million to about 25.5 million (and an overall worldwide range, including civilians, of 62.4 million to 78.4 million).

Please see the link and related questions.
thousands :(

(gone but not forgotten Stanley <3)
there were 56,125,262 soldiers that died in the war.

World War 1
WW2 Allied Powers
WW1 Allied Forces

What are similarities and differences between World War I and 2?

  • Causes
  • Timeline and Technology
  • Political Situations
  • Regions
  • Countries
  • Ethnic groups
  • Result

The causes for each were not entirely the same. Before WWI countries were content to wage war on each other relatively indirectly, for control of the colonies and their resources. After WWI, the possibility of directly attacking other European countries was once again raised. WWI started due to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. It involved several countries because a lot of countries had agreed to help each other if war came. It was called The War to End all Wars, or The Great War.

World war II started when Germany again began it's expansion into Europe A lot of countries didn't like that, and so there was another huge war. It didn't make sense to say 'The War' anymore, and so they came to be called World War 1 and World War 2. The Japanese, expecting America to be occupied in the European war, and considering America as a threat to it's Asia-Pacific hegemony declared war on the Americans.

World War 1 came first. Technology was relatively primitive, with most of the war being done in trenches. Early airplanes were used. Poisonous gas was deployed for the first time.

In World War 2, tanks were used as the main deployment in many areas. Planes had improved, and bombers and fighters were heavily used. Submarines were also more heavily used. Encryption codes for secret also became more complex.

In both wars Germany was fighting against Great Britain, France, Russia and United States and in both wars Germany lost the war and territory.

In First World War, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) carried genocide against Armenians; in

Second World Germans committed genocide against Jews and Romanies ('gypsies').

But while First World War was mostly the war between countries, Second World War was also the war of ideologies, such as Fascism and Communism.

Casualties and damages in the Second World War were on larger scale.

The Americans did not directly join WW2 immediately; they only joined after they were attacked at Pearl Harbour.

World War 1 came first, but there were a lot of differences. Many of the same countries were involved in World War 2, but the weaponry was more advanced and the idealogies had changed. Also, World War 2 lasted longer, and more people were killed in it worldwide.

World War One or the Great War was mostly a trench war. It mainly consisted of trench combat. One side would wait in there trench while one advanced and attacked. World War Two was a war where the Germans Italians and Japanese tried to conquer the world (Mainly Europe and the Pacific) Then the Allied powers went and retook the land.
they are completely separate wars

World War 1

Why is the Zimmerman Telegram an immediate cause of the US entering World War 1?

the zimmerman telegraph was an attempt by Germany to have the United states attacked by Mexico. it was ignored by Mexico but it infuriated the Americans.

World War 1

When did World War 1 start and end?

World War I as a declared state of war lasted from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918.

After a decade of unstable alliances and military buildups, World War I was triggered in 1914 by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. It ended in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles.

(See related question below.)
world war 1 started in July 28 1914 and ended November 11 1918

July 1914

It ended November 11, 1918
The war began with the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary against Serbia on July 28, 1914, and within a week it had spread to involve most of Europe. The war ended with the Armistice on November 11, 1918. This was only an agreement to cease fighting, not a surrender. The formal peace treaties officially ending the war did not come until later, with the Versailles Treaty bringing an official end to the war with Germany on June 28, 1919, but there were other treaties. The final Treaty was the Treaty of Lausanne, which brought to an official end the war between the Allied Powers and Turkey, August 23, 1923.
The beginning of World War 1 is generally considered to have started with the spark of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914. The first official war declaration/invasion was on July 28, 1914. The war ended on 11-11-1918 (Armistice Day).
World war one started in 1914 and ended in 1919 but some people say that it ended in 1918 but that is when the fighting and battle stopped.

World War 1
Germany in WW2
Business Plans

Who said those who fail to plan plan to fail?

Time said and proved that those who fail to plan will not succeed eventually. Please let me know if you need clarifications :)

World War 1
Veterans Affairs and Issues
WW1 Homefront

How many World War I Veterans are still alive?

In 2010, only a handful of WW1 veterans were still alive. By early 2012, they were all deceased.

In early 2012, the last person serving in any armed service during WW1 passed away. The last combat veteran of WW1 died in 2011.

Florence Green (nee Patterson), who joined the Women's RAF at age 17 in 1918, was the last surviving armed forces member. She died on February 4, 2012, two weeks before her 111th birthday (born February 19, 1901).

World War 1

What does MAIN mean for the causes of WW1?

Main stands for:

Militarism- belief that it is necessary to have a big army to settle disputes with other countries

Alliance system- a country backs up another country or they have a defense agreement, which helps out the other country

Imperialism- a policy of establishing colonies away from the homeland and building an empire

Nationalism- a feeling of loyalty to ones country

:D hope this helps :D

History, Politics & Society
World War 1

How did the soldiers react coming home after world war 1?

With great relief! Happy to get their missing men home! Back to God loving countries and ones that did love them! Love comes with God.

Have you ever seen the WW1 move: "Sargent York"? it is true.

World War 1
Military Equipment

What weapons were used in World War I?

Here are answers from FAQ Farmers: * Mustard gas was the most notable weapon employed by the Germans. From what I've read, it had quite a horrific effect on those unfortunate enough to inhale it. When inhaled it immediately caused the lungs to liquefy. Death came quickly but painfully, so I gather. Chemical warfare was first introduced in WW1. Also Chlorine gas was another gas used by the Germans. * Aircrafts made their first appearance as weapons in WWI. Germany used Zeppelins (a type of aircraft), submarines (U-Boats), and tanks. Mustard gas along with other chemicals were used (this is the first appearance of chemical warfare). * Soldiers wore masks to protect them from a horrible new weapon called poison gas. It caused blinding and death by choking. One type of gas is mustard gas. That would kill you if you breathed it in. You would eventually choke up your liver and die instantly. The machine gun was another new weapon for World War 1. The submarine was an effective warship, known as a U-boat. It was a self-propelled underwater missile. If they didnt have gas masks they would pee in a rag and put that up to their face, for somehow something in the pee eradicates the poisin chemical when inhailed. * Rifles, artillery, machine guns, aircraft ships, submarines, poison gas, tanks, armored cars, grenades and mortars were all used during World War 1. * The Americans used the shotgun during the war, which they used to great effect at clearing the enemy trenches of German soldiers. This provoked a horrified reaction from the German government, as wounds from shotgun hits were difficult to treat. As I'm sure you know, the shots spread out and hit the victim in many different places, which would lead to a long and painful death. The Germans called on the use of shotguns in warfare to be banned. * Both sides of the trenches decided on not using mustard gas because masses of soldiers were getting wiped out, and if they threw it and the wind blew the other way, they would affect their own men. * Army: Mustard Gas, Artillery, Rifles, Mines and other sorts of guns. Navy: Battleships, Dreadnoughts, Mines, Destroyers, Cruisers, Minesweepers, U-boats or submarines (Called depending on which side you're on). Air Force: Triplanes and Biplanes. (The Germans also used Zeppelins) * Defensive technology was better than offensive which is why the stalemate situation started and the war was no longer an active war and was now a tactic war. Machine Guns - They fired about 450-600 bullets per minute. I don't know exactly, but it would wipe out any soldiers or cavalry that attempted to cross no man's land. Trenches - Both sides built trenches which barely moved during the war. Over the war, trenches were adapted and became very good. The German's trenches were especially good and provided them with a great defense against shells. (the battle of the Somme- Haig used millions of shells but the Germans survived through staying in their trenches. Barbed wire - The wire was extremely thick and took a long time to cut through. It was said that sunlight could not be seen through it. Gas - It was a very painful death although it was only useful in surprise attacks as it was easily solved with gas masks. Also it was possible that the wind could change direction and kill you instead. Tanks - These were first used by the British although were fairly unreliable as many broke down and others got stuck in shell holes. Shells - These were used in large quantities although again were fairly unreliable. It did take a long time to hit the target and many didn't go off. Also it did make no mans land very muddy and very hard to cross.
They used Mustard Gas, which was the first gas they used in World War One

World War 2
World War 1
Canada in WW2

What were the major consequences of World War 2?

After the massive number of casualties inflicted and the physical ravaging of the nations, the biggest consequence of WW2 was the Soviet Union's occupation of eastern Europe, which allowed the forceful spread of Communism and set the stage for the Cold War, which consumed the next half-century. 21 million were left homeless in Europe. Empires such as Great Britain and France fell. The US emerged dominant as it had funded WW2 and led reconstruction. There was no all-inclusive peace settlement, but there were lots of separate treaties. Russia could not decide about the future of Germany and Austria. Nuclear weapons played a major development of the Cold War. The massive scientific research and engineering projects conducted in the United States, Germany, and Japan had a lasting effect on the way technological advancements are developed. The Manhattan Project was the most dramatic example, but throughout the war, basic scientific research played an increasing role in technological development. Also the introduction of the GI Bill accelerated the spread of college education in the American population, and from there through the rest of the world.

In short, here are the seven major consequences of World War II:

1: The End of the European Age.

2: The rise of the US to superpower status.

3: The expansion of the Soviet Union and its rise to superpower status.

4: The emergence of the Cold War.

5. The beginning of the nuclear age.

6: The rise of nationalism and independence movements in Asia and Africa.

7: A renewed effort to secure lasting peace through international organizations (such as the United Nations).

World War 1
Politics and Government
Woodrow Wilson

Is the sedition act still in effect today?

No, it was repealed on December 13, 1920.

World War 1
Newspapers and Magazines
WW1 Allied Forces
Central Powers

What is a good newspaper title for a story about Archduke Franz Ferdinand's murder?

The Assassination That Began It All

World War 2
World War 1

To define Alliance system?

a group of nations or organizations formed to supprt a common goal

World War 1
War and Military History
History and Origins of Foods

What did women cook for soldiers in world war 1?

anzac cookies!!

World War 1
History of the Middle East
Famous People

Were DH Lawrence and TE Lawrence related?

Obviously not, since Lawrence was not T.E.'s father's real name, which was Chapman. T.E.'s parents were "living in sin" under an assumed name.

World War 1
Remembrance Day

What do you do with a poppy after remembrance day?

you wear it on your chest to signify that you remember those people that fought and died on the battlefield

World War 1
Military Equipment

What was the price of mustard gas in World War 1?

Although the chemicals were fairly cheap, the equipment to manufacture the gas was extremely expensive. But not much more than the cost of other weapons. The US spent several hundred dollars (1918 dollars) for each canister of Lewisite poison gas that was manufactured in Ohio.

In the 1980s, when Luxembourg sold Iraq 650 tons of chemicals used to make mustard gas, it was valued at approximately $300 million USD. Most of the gas was destroyed by the new Iraqi government, but some apparently fell into ISIS hands.

This value would be about $460,000 USD per ton ($230 per pound in 1980 dollars).

World War 1
War and Military History

Who informs family of killed in action soldiers?

It varies from nation and from case to case. Typically a military chaplain and/or another military officer will inform the family. In some cases the wife of the officer commanding the dead soldier's unit will also visit the family during or after the notification.

Telegrams are letters are/were also used to deliver death notifications.

World War 1
Britain in WW2
Germany in WW2

What was the significance of the convoy system?

AnswerThe convoy was large group of shipping, with a smaller number of destroyers and similar protecting them. If a ship was attacked, the remainder just kept going.

If a destroyer could engage the attacker, well and good, but the safety of the convoy was of over riding importance. Often the ships of a convoy would be out of sight of each other - they just followed a communal sailing pattern.


The significance of the system is simple: groups are easier to protect that those alone. As the number of defenseless civilian cargo ships greatly outnumber that of potential protecting warships, it is more effective to group those cargo ships together and protect them as a group.

That is, if each cargo ship travelled independently, and the warships attempted to individually patrol the shipping lanes, hunting for U-Boats, then the following would happen:

  • Every time a U-Boat discovered a cargo ship, the cargo ship would be sunk.
  • If a U-Boat came upon a warship, it would generally flee. Few U-Boats would be sunk.
  • It would be modestly easy for a U-Boat to find a cargo ship, as the shipping lanes were well known, and all the U-Boats had to do would be lie in wait for one to come along
  • Warships would have a very difficult time finding U-Boats, because the U-Boats were far fewer in numbers than cargo ships, and the shipping lanes were vast areas.
  • The result is that the vast majority of U-boat attacks could be done safely (for the U-Boat), with very few chances for the warships to sink a U-Boat.

When putting several dozen cargo ships in a group, and protecting them with 10 or so warships, the following would happen:

  • U-Boats would be forced to attack convoys, as there were no other targets
  • When attacking a convoy, the U-Boat would have to expose itself to detection; since there were warships with the convoy, they would then automatically have a chance to sink the U-Boat.
  • Thus, U-Boat attacks always ran the risk to the U-Boat of being sunk
  • When U-Boats attacked convoys, they would be forced to fight the warships, giving valuable time to the cargo ships to flee the area. Thus, the total amount of "exposed" time would be significantly lower

Overall, the convoy system did two things: it lowered the loss of cargo ships to U-Boat attacks, and it significantly increased the losses to the U-Boat force, which in turn reinforced the first effect.

Overall, prior to the convoy system being put into place in both WW1 and WW2, the U-boats were winning very significantly - cargo ship losses were atrocious (well above replacement capabilities, and critically impacting delivery of desperately needed war material and food), and the U-Boats had few losses. After the convoy systems were put into effect, cargo ship losses were reduced to acceptable levels - while significant, the losses were not so much as to exceed replacement construction or endanger delivery of enough material. U-Boat losses after the convoy systems started, however, became exorbitant, and eventually unsustainable.

This made all the difference in both WW1 and WW2 for Great Britain. In both wars, prior to the convoy system being used, the UK was in critical danger of being starved into submission, or, at the very least, being rendered militarily impotent due to the strangulation of its ocean trade, which the UK depended on to survive. After the convoy system was implemented, the UK was able to resupply sufficiently to regain its fighting strength and make a war-winning contribution.

For an opposite situation, Japan in WW2 never bothered to implement a convoy system, allowing the US Pacific submarine force to virtually annihilate Japanese shipping by the end of the war, with devastating effects on the Japanese industrial output.

For comparison: in WW2, by the end of the war, allied shipping losses in the Atlantic accounted for about half of the pre-war total available ships, but less than a quarter when taking into account all mid-war ship construction. Almost 75% of the losses to allied shipping were in the pre-convoy days. On the other side, roughly 75% of all U-Boats (both pre-war and constructed) were lost, with most of the losses in the post-convoy days.

In the Pacific, the Japanese merchant marine lost close to 95% of all ships it had or built, while the US Submarine force lost roughly 18% of its subs. No convoy system was ever used by the Japanese for merchant ship protection.

The end result is that the convoy system saved Great Britain (not once, but twice).


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