Today in History

Today in History: June 28

World War I

Ypres, Belgium
Ypres, Belgium,
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

A Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sofia in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, setting off a chain of events that would culminate in a world war by August. Five years later, on June 28, 1919, Germany and the Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending World War I and providing for the creation of the League of Nations.

After the 1914 assassinations, an elaborate network of treaties among the nations of Europe led to a rapid escalation in the "Great War" between the Central Powers—including Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, and the Allied nations of Britain, France, Italy, and Russia. On April 6, 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies.

Laddie Boy
"Good Bye and Luck Be with You Laddie Boy,"
Will D. Cobb, lyrics,
Gus Edwards, music,
Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920

It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary
"It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary,"
written and composed by Jack Judge and Harry Williams, 1912.
Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920

Oui, Oui, Marie; Wee, Wee Marie. 1918
"Oui, Oui, Marie;
(Wee, Wee Marie)
Alfred Bryan and Joe McCarthy, lyrics,
Fred Fisher, music,
Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920

"It's a Long Way Back to Tipperary"
Henry Reed, fiddler,
July 17, 1967.
Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection

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In this selection from an American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 interview, a veteran recalls his experiences in the First World War:

I spent some time in Paris. Stayed at the Hotel Continental there. I remember the Crystal Palace…the soldiers and girls promenaded on the make for each other. It was a great war—but not for the poor guys up front in the mud and blood.

"No Bombs Dropping,"
Montpelier, Vermont,
Roaldus Richmond, interviewer,
circa 1936-1940.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940

A Wrecked German Ammunition Train, Destroyed by Shell Fire
A Wrecked German Ammunition Train, Destroyed by Shell Fire,
Schutz Group Photographers, circa 1918.
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

Germany eventually sought an armistice that went into effect on November 11, 1918. The peace agreement was supposed to be structured around the Fourteen Points of reconciliation developed by President Woodrow Wilson.

The Fourteen Points, which included a provision for the formation of the League of Nations, were meant to prevent "the crime of war," but the actual terms of the Treaty of Versailles were harshly punitive. The final treaty stipulated that Germany lose approximately 13 percent of its territory and all of its overseas colonies, as well as pay reparations for damages caused by the war. It also limited the size of the German military and restricted the production of armaments.

When the Good Lord makes a Record of a Hero's Deed He Draws No Color Line. 1918
"When the Good Lord Makes a Record of a Hero's Deed He Draws No Color Line,"
Val Trainor, lyrics,
Harry DeCosta, music,
Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920

The all black 369th Infantry Regiment saw extensive combat duty during World War I. Later awarded the French Croix de Guerre, the 369th was the first Allied regiment to reach the Rhine. The approximately 370,000 African-American men who served in World War I returned home to face overt racism and segregation.

In a speech just after World War I, Senator Gilbert M. Hitchcock spoke of the need for international cooperation to forestall another massive war in Europe:

The late war cost seven million lives…It has destroyed hundreds of towns…it has brought in its train…pestilence and famine. Massacre, torture, and assassinations have accompanied it…The confidence of men in government has been shaken. It will never be restored until governments devise some way to end war. The League of Nations is that way.

Senator Gilbert M. Hitchcock,
"The Trouble with Senators Who Oppose the League of Nations,"
circa 1918-1920.
American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election

The U.S. Senate refused, however, to ratify a treaty that included a provision for membership in the League of Nations. Opponents to membership feared an international organization that would have the power to impose sanctions on its members in the interest of collective security. Led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles on November 19, 1919 and again on March 19, 1920. Thus, U.S. participation in the organization that Wilson had worked so hard to create was nullified.

Not until July 2, 1921, did Congress, by joint resolution, formally end U.S. participation in the Great War. Months later, the U.S. ratified separate treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary.

"We Want Our Daddy Dear, Back Home"
"We Want Our Daddy Dear, Back Home,"
Also known as: "Baby Ballad" or "Hello Central, Give Me France",
James M. Reilly, lyrics,
Harry De Costa, music,
Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920

For American children, the end of the war meant their fathers would be coming home. The lyrics of this sentimental song were clearly meant to tug the heartstrings of parents:

"Hello, Central, give me France,
I want to talk to Daddy dear,
Because I'd like to tell him while I got the chance,
The stork brought a brand new baby here.
Won't you say that its me
And he'll answer, you'll see;
So hurry, please, and get him on the phone,
Hello, Central, give me France,
'Cause we want our Daddy dear back home."