World War I timeline

A series of interlocking treaties ignited World War I, which would kill 16 million people, including 10 million soldiers and sailors, between August 1914 and November 1918. Tens of millions of others were wounded or left homeless.

Of the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I, just under 117,000 died. Of these, about 53,000 were killed in combat, with the rest killed by influenza and other disease. About 320,000 Americans were wounded or seriously ill from the war.

1914

June 28: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are killed by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo.

July 28: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.

Aug. 1: Germany declares war on Russia.

Aug. 3: Germany declares war on France.

Aug. 3: Germany invades neutral Belgium in attempt to sweep into France for rapid victory.

Aug. 4: Britain declares war on Germany.

1915

May 7: Sinking of the RMS Lusitania. A German submarine torpedoes the British luxury liner traveling from New York. It sinks in 18 minutes, with 120 Americans among the more than 1,100 dead. Later it is revealed the ship carried 173 tons of war munitions. Germans apologize to U.S. and curtail submarine warfare.

April 25, 1915: Disaster at Gallipoli. Australian and New Zealand soldiers lead a landing in Turkey to seize the Dardanelles passage to the Black Sea. After 250,000 dead and wounded, the allies withdraw. Winston Churchill, it’s chief proponent, resigns as First Lord of the Admiralty.

1916

Feb. 21: Battle of Verdun begins. More than 600,000 troops on both sides are killed and wounded in fight over famous but obsolete forts. The German attack is halted and the French declare victory.

June 4-Aug. 10: Brusilov Offensive. The Russian attack pushes Austro-Hungary out of the war as a major combatant. Together, the two sides suffer over 1.5 million casualties.

July 1: Battle of the Somme begins. First major British offensive. Of the 420,000 British casualties, more than 57,000 come on first day of combat, as waves of infantry are sent against German machine-guns. The cost in men shocks Britain.

1917

Feb. 1: Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare campaign begins.

Feb. 28: Zimmermann Telegram revealed: German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, sends a telegram to the German ambassador of Mexico with plan to entice Mexico into the war with the promise of the return of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

April 6: USA declares war on Germany. Congress appropriates $250 million (equivalent of $4 billion today) for the war and Americans sign up in droves to fight in Europe.

Nov. 7-8: Bolshevik Revolution. Vladimir Lenin and Bolsheviks seize power with plan to pull Russia out of the war.

1918

Feb. 5: The SS Tuscania, carrying American troops, is torpedoed off the coast of Ireland. U.S. Army Pvt. Percy Stevens, of Bend, is among those killed.

July 17-Aug. 6: Second Battle of the Marne. Germany’s last gasp offensive is halted, with American help. The U.S. suffers 12,000 killed and wounded.

Nov. 9: Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates. He is exiled to the Netherlands.

Nov. 11: Germany signs an armistice with allies. Called Armistice Day, it will become Veterans Day after future wars.

1919

Jan. 4: Treaty of Versailles. France and Britain insist on crippling war reparations from Germany. The resentment over the treaty culminates in the 1930s with the rise of Adolf Hitler and sows the seeds of World War II.

— Research by Thomas J. Warner

One hundred years ago Tuesday, residents opened the Bend Bulletin to find that World War I had come to their doorsteps. On the front page was the news that Percy Stevens was dead.

“The lad was one of the most prominent students in the high school,” The Bulletin reported on Feb. 13, 1918.

At Bend High School, Stevens was on the tennis team, secretary of the Emersonian Literature Society, member of the music society, plus a cartoonist for the school paper, The Pilot. He was elected treasurer of the class of 1917.

As Stevens prepared to graduate, the United States entered the war. After school, he worked briefly as a stenographer for the Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Co. But he enlisted in December 1917 and soon was on the other side of the country, according to accounts in The Bulletin.

Pvt. Stevens was assigned to Company D, 6th Battalion of the 20th Engineer Regiment. Mostly loggers, sawmill workers and forestry service recruits, they would cut and shape timber for Allied railroads, trenches, bridges and battlements.

Sent to Camp American, on the campus of American University in Washington, D.C., Stevens and his unit received final training, then boarded trains to Hoboken, New Jersey.

Stevens and his comrades boarded the SS Tuscania, a 14,000-ton converted Cunard-owned luxury liner. Launched in September 1914, the month after the war started, the ship made a regular run from New York to Glasgow. By 1918, it had already survived close calls with a German U-boat and a surface raider.

For this trip, the Tuscania took on 2,235 soldiers, including the three “aero squadrons”, parts of the 32nd Infantry Division, and Stevens’ engineer company.

On Jan. 24, the Tuscania crossed New York Harbor, steamed past the Statue of Liberty, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. It joined a convoy headed toward Liverpool, England, where troops would disembark.

In the early evening of Feb. 5, The ship was in its final hours of the voyage. By the middle of the next day, they would pull into Liverpool and the troops would head to their assignments.

But in the fading glow of light, the Tuscania was struck by a torpedo from the German UB-77 submarine, just of the coast of Ireland.

The Tuscania sank slowly, taking four hours to settle below the waves. Despite the dark, cold waters, more than 2,100 of the 2,397 troops and crew on board were able to get into lifeboats or were plucked out of the sea by British destroyers. The closeness of British ports made rescue and medical aid unusually rapid.

News trickled back to Oregon in drips and drabs, with The Bulletin first reporting the horror that a troop ship with likely dozens of Oregon soldiers had been sunk, then joyous relief that most had lived. A telegram from New York reported that Stevens was likely among those rescued. Then the final, tragic dispatch from the War Department on Feb. 13. By evening, The Bulletin was reporting that Percy Stevens had indeed died at sea.

Stevens’ body had washed ashore at the Isle of Islay, part of Scotland. Fishermen and villagers took his remains to Port Charlotte, a town created in 1828 to house workers at the nearby Lochindaal Distillery for Scotch whisky.

The town had no American flag to drape over the fallen as they were buried, so strips of red, white and blue fabric were sewn together to make one, according to the official historical chronicle of the war for the Isle of Islay. Stevens was buried in the village cemetery, along with 78 others from the ship. Later, his body would be moved to an American cemetery 36 miles southwest of London.

On news of Stevens’ death, flags were lowered to half-staff in Bend, and a memorial service was held at Bend High School, where thanks were also given that other Oregon boys on the ship had lived. He he would be among 224 Oregonians who would die in World War I, according to the Oregon Department of Military Affairs.

In 1919, the American Legion Post in Bend was named for Stevens. In 1930, his mother was among hundreds of “Gold Star Mothers” — women whose sons had died in the war — whom the U.S. government sent to Europe at no cost to see the graves of their sons.

When she returned home, she rarely spoke of the trip, according to “Crusade & Pilgrimage,” a 1986 book by Stevens’ descendant William Stevens Prince.

A century has passed, but Stevens remains 5,000 miles from home, forever “over there.” He is buried in Plot A, Row 4, Grave 14, at the Brookwood American Cemetery.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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