Western Front

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Western Front was a term used during the First and Second World Wars to describe the contested armed frontier between lands controlled by Germany to the east and the Allies to the west. A contested armed frontier during a war is called a "front".

There was also an Eastern Front in both World War I and World War II.


World War I

From the end of the First Battle of Ypres, at the end of the Race to the Sea, until late 1918, the Western Front consisted of a relatively static line of trench systems which stretched from the coast of the North Sea southwards to the Swiss border. In their efforts to break through the opposing lines of trenches and barbed wire entanglements, the opposing forces employed huge artillery bombardments followed by attacks of tens of thousands of soldiers. Battles typically lasted for months and lead to casualties measured in the hundreds of thousands for attacker and defender alike, such as the Battle of the Somme, where 20,000 men died on the first day. Battles on this front were also typified by poor advance planning and the application of 19th century warfare tactics, such as direct frontal assaults on enemy positions, that were doomed to failure in the face of modern technology. The general result of these huge expenditures of effort was only a small shift, measured in a few kilometres, in a short section of the front.

The principal adversaries on the Western Front, who fielded armies of millions of men, were Germany to the east against France and the United Kingdom to the west, with sizable contingents taken from the Allied empires, especially the British Dominions. The United States entered the war on the side of the Entente Powers in 1917 and by mid-1918 had an army of around half a million men, this rising to a million by the time the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.

The Alpine Front between Italy,and Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was a member of the Central Powers, is usually considered to be a separate front.

World War II

The Western Front of World War II was generally restricted to the same geographic regions as during World War I. During the war the front moved much further, as far west as the English Channel and as far east as the line which would become the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Although fighting took place in Norway and Italy these are not usually included as part of the Western Front but as separate campaigns.

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