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In Depth Comparison of World War 1 & World War 2

World Wars I (WWI) and II (WWII), two of the bloodiest and most revolutionary wars in human history, occurred in the 20th century. The entire world was affected significantly and for a very long time by these major conflicts, which took place in less than three decades. 

1) Origins of WW1 vs WW2 


A network of intricate alliances amongst European nations was the foundation of World War One. An alliance was activated after the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by a Serbian nationalist, which set off a chain of events. Following Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia, a series of nations, including Germany, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom, became involved.


WWII can be linked to the events that followed World War I. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles placed harsh conditions on Germany, including territory losses and significant reparations. These harsh sanctions planted the seeds of discontent and economic suffering in Germany, creating the ideal environment for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party to flourish.


The two conflicts had intricate, intertwined roots, with WWI originating from a network of alliances and WWII from the fallout and repercussions of the first conflict. The Treaty of Versailles, however, is directly responsible for the outbreak of World War II since it had a significant impact on the 1930s’ geopolitical climate and conflicts.

2) Key Players of WWI & WWII


a) Axis Power

Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria 

b) Allied Power

France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States.


a) Axis Power

Italy, Germany, and Japan.

b) Allied Power

United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, China, and France.


WWII witnessed the rise of new significant powers, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union, as crucial actors in the battle, however certain essential roles remained constant. Italy switched sides between the wars, and the alliances were also changed.

3) Theater


a) Primary Theater

The Western Front, a network of trenches spanning Belgium and France, served as the main battleground of World War I. Soldiers in this theater experienced horrific circumstances, harsh trench combat, and high casualty rates. 

Control of this front was vigorously contested by the Central Powers and the Allied Powers, leading to a protracted and disastrous standoff. Major conflicts like the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Verdun took place here, reflecting how brutal and lengthy the war was. 

The Western Front was the location of the greatest and bloodiest conflicts of the war, notwithstanding the importance of other theaters like the Middle East and the Eastern Front.

b) Eastern Front

The Eastern Front, a wide theater of conflict across Eastern Europe during World War I, was principally fought between Germany and Austria-Hungary (the Central Powers) and Russia (the Allies). It was marked by fluid, all-encompassing warfare and spanned from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. 

Massive troop movements and battles took place on the Eastern Front as both sides fought for control of new territory. Tannenberg and the Brusilov Offensive were two crucial engagements. The 1917 Russian Revolution was influenced by the Eastern Front, which put a strain on available resources. 

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which was signed in 1918, finally brought it to an end and caused hostilities between Russia and the Central Powers.


a) Theater in Europe

The wide area of the European continent where the Allies, notably the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, battled the Axis powers, primarily Nazi Germany and Italy, was known as the European Theater during World War II. 

The Battle of Britain, Operation Barbarossa, the fights on the Eastern Front, and D-Day, which resulted in the liberation of Western Europe, were only a few of the significant campaigns that were included in it. 

The defeat of Nazi Germany and the subsequent conclusion of the European Theater in 1945 reshaped the continent and laid the groundwork for the post-war international order.

b) Pacific

Pacific Theater was a significant area of combat where the Allies, particularly the United States and Australia, battled the Axis Powers, primarily Japan. It enveloped the neighboring islands and the huge Pacific Ocean. 

The attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa are important battles. Critical tactics included island-hopping and naval warfare. The conclusion of World War II in the Pacific was brought about by the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This contributed to the post-war geopolitics of the Pacific and American domination.


Each of the wars included several theaters of battle, but WWII had a more prominent Pacific theater in addition to the European and North African theaters, which was primarily driven by the fight between Japan and the United States.

4) Strategies Applied During War Time


a) Trench Warfare

The Western Front stalemate was defined by trenches, barbed wire, and artillery battles. Heavy reliance on artillery, machine guns, and chemical assaults characterizes industrial warfare.

b) Limited Mobility

For most of the conflict, frontlines were essentially stationary.


a) Blitzkrieg

Tanks, infantry, and air support are used in blitzkriegs, which are swift and coordinated assaults.

b) Total War 

A wider and more catastrophic battle resulted from the targeting of industrial infrastructure and civilians. Strategic bombing, fighter jets, and other aerial weapons are frequently used in aerial combat.


Military technology and tactics underwent considerable advancements during World War II. The Axis powers’ use of Blitzkrieg tactics allowed for quick gains, whereas total war tactics emphasized attacking cities and industrial hubs to sap the enemy’s will to fight.

Read more: How was Life During World War I: A Look into Turbulent Times

5) Chemical Warfare in World War I

The first major use of chemical warfare occurred during World War I. During the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, the German army employed chlorine gas as one of the first significant uses of chemical weapons. This signaled the start of the conflict’s use of chemical weapons.

During World War I, choking agents like chlorine and phosgene as well as blister agents like mustard gas were mainly employed. These substances led to serious burns, respiratory issues, and casualties. Combat in the trenches frequently involved the use of chemical weapons. In the stalemate of trench warfare, gas attacks were used by both sides to attempt to gain an edge. Gas masks were used by soldiers as protection.

In contrast to the deaths and fear that were brought on by chemical weapons in World War I, the conflict’s direction was not substantially changed. Gas assaults were occasionally unsuccessful and frequently reliant on good wind conditions.

The Geneva Protocol, which forbade the use of chemical and biological weapons in conflict, was signed in 1925 in response to the horrors of chemical warfare in World War I. The manufacturing or storing of them was incorrect and against the protocol.

6) Chemical Warfare in World War II

Chemical warfare was utilized far fewer times in WWII than it was in World War I. Germany, the United States, and the Soviet Union were among the majority of significant combatants that abstained from utilizing chemical weapons.

The main nations in WWII were concerned that chemical warfare may become more intense and result in deadly reprisal. This prevented them from extensively using chemical weapons. There were a few sporadic cases of chemical warfare during World War II. For instance, during its invasions of China, the Japanese Imperial Army employed chemical weapons like mustard gas.

Despite the small amount of chemical weapons used in World War II, both the Allies and the Axis forces continued to develop and accumulate chemical weapons. Although they were ready for any chemical warfare, it was generally averted.

After World War II, attempts were made to get rid of chemical weapons. In 1993, the development, storage, and use of chemical weapons were outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Since then, there has been a continuous effort to destroy chemical weapon stocks.


Despite the fact that chemical weapons were used in both World Wars, there were important distinctions in the scope, efficiency, and global reaction. Due to the widespread and deadly use of chemical weapons in WWI, which led to the Geneva Protocol, and the post-war commitment to disarmament efforts, there was less use of chemical weapons in WWII.

7) Impact of WWI vs WW2


a) The Versailles Treaty 

The 1919 Treaty of Versailles put an end to the conflict. It redrew the map of Europe and imposed territorial losses and compensation on Germany.

b) Establishing League of Nations

The League of Nations was founded in an effort to stop future wars, but it eventually failed in that goal.


a) Atomic Bombs

The atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of World War II forced Japan to surrender in 1945.

b) United Nations

The United Nations was established in 1945 with the goal of fostering global peace and averting future conflicts.

c) Cold War

After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union became opposing superpowers, ushering in an era known as the Cold War.


The League of Nations and the redrawing of borders as a consequence of World War I, and the atomic bombs that ushered in the United Nations and the Cold War as a result of World War II, were both profoundly altering events.

8) Lessons Learned from World War I (1914-1918)

a) The Deadly Power of Contemporary Warfare

The use of machine guns, tanks, chemical weapons, and artillery during World War I demonstrated the destructive power of contemporary weapons. The extent of the damage and the number of casualties underscored the necessity of global efforts to avert such wars.

b) Diplomacy

The conflict began as a result of a complicated network of alliances and treaties. The League of Nations (the forerunner of the United Nations) was founded as a result of the realization that diplomacy and peaceful dispute settlement were crucial tools in averting future conflicts.

c) Economic Effects

The economic impact of World War I, particularly in Europe, resulted in significant economic suffering and aided in causing the Great Depression in the 1930s. This stressed the need for economic stability and collaboration following the war.

d) Imperialism and Nationalism 

Extreme nationalism and violent imperialistic aspirations were made dangerously clear by the conflict. It sparked the fall of empires and the struggle for independence among those who had been colonized.

e) The Versailles Treaty

Many people believed that the Treaty of Versailles, which put an end to World War I, was too harsh on Germany. This brutal treatment laid the seeds for WWII and led to the nation’s economic and political unrest.

9) Lessons Learned from World War II (1939-1945)

a) What Totalitarianism Is Like:

The atrocities of totalitarian governments, notably Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, were made widely known during World War II. It became clear how crucial it is to protect human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

b) Communal Security

The League of Nations’ inability to stop World War II brought attention to the need for stronger international institutions. As a result, the United Nations was established in 1945 with a focus on international relations and collective security.

c) Atomic Weapons

The 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs showed their destructive potential. Due to this, there was a need for arms control agreements to stop a global nuclear confrontation, which led to the Cold War.

d) Nuremberg Trials and War Crimes

The Nuremberg Trials established a standard for prosecuting people for war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a result, international institutions and legislation were developed to deal with such crimes.

e) Post-War

The Marshall Plan was used to rebuild Europe following World War II, placing a strong emphasis on collaboration, economic stability, and post-war recovery.

f) Lessons from Appeasement 

The appeasement strategy used in response to Nazi aggression, notably in the run-up to World War II, illustrated the risks of delaying a confrontation with aggression. It emphasized how crucial it is to defend international principles and resist aggressors.


The two major wars of the 20th century, World War I and World War II, each had a profound impact on the path of history. 

They were discrete conflicts with distinctive traits, methods, and ends, even though their causes and effects were somewhat similar. The analysis of these two world wars offers important insights into the complexity of international conflicts, the development of warfare, and the enduring lessons they bring for the avoidance of future battles.

These battles serve as a stark reminder of the terrible human toll that war exacts, as well as the necessity of working for peace and diplomacy in a world that still bears the scars of their memory.


What Led To World War I and World War II?

Militarization, alliances, imperialism, and the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand all contributed to the start of World War I. On the other side, the Treaty of Versailles and the expansionist goals of the Axis countries led to World War II.

How Did World War I and World War II Vary In Terms of the Number of Casualties?

WWII was more deadly and widespread than WWI, which had around 8.5 million military fatalities, with over 16 million military fatalities and an estimated 70-85 million overall casualties, including civilians.

What Part Did Modern Technology Play In Both Wars?

Tanks, chemical weapons, and machine guns were among the advanced weaponry introduced during World War I. Further developments during World War II changed the character of combat dramatically, including the development of radar, aircraft carriers, and the atomic bomb.

How Were the Aftermath and Effects of World Wars I and II Different?

The Treaty of Versailles, which punished Germany severely after World War I, exacerbated the political and economic unrest. Following World War II, initiatives like the Marshall Plan tried to reconstruct Europe and stop a recurrence of the economic miseries of the conflict.

What Impact Did WWI and WWII Have on the Political Landscape of the World?

The League of Nations was founded as a result of World War I, and Europe’s geography was altered. The end of World War II brought to the creation of the United Nations, the start of the Cold War, and the rise of the US and the USSR as superpowers, which altered the global political landscape.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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