World War I began 100 years ago today, July 28, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war upon the Kingdom of Serbia. That wasn’t the first event that set things in motion (that was, of course, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie), but it was a very important link in the chain.
The events it sent in train were unknown to any of the players at the time.
Would they have done what they did if they knew that both of their nations would be among the casualties?
Would they have done what they did if they thought they were unleashing trench warfare, chemical warfare, and all the other grim updates to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?
Would they have done what they did if they knew their actions were a link in the chain that would lead directly to millions of deaths, and leave a Europe so unstable than an even more destructive war would follow, soon?
We’ll never know. They did what they thought best, and opened the Gates of Hell.