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U.S. Entry into World War I

U.S. Entry into World War I



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When World War I broke out across Europe in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the United States would remain neutral, and many Americans supported this policy of nonintervention. However, public opinion about neutrality started to change after the sinking of the British ocean liner Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915; almost 2,000 people perished, including 128 Americans. Along with news of the Zimmerman telegram threatening an alliance between Germany and Mexico, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. The U.S. officially entered the conflict on April 6, 1917.

World War I Begins

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb nationalist in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One month later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Within a week, Russia, France, Belgium, Great Britain and Serbia had sided against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and the Great War, as it came to be known, was underway.

Germany and Austria-Hungary later teamed with the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria and were referred to collectively as the Central Powers. Russia, France and Great Britain, the major Allied Powers, eventually were joined Italy, Japan and Portugal, among other nations.

On August 4, as World War I erupted across Europe, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed America’s neutrality, stating the nation “must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men’s souls.”

With no vital interests at stake, many Americans supported this position. Additionally, the U.S. was home to a number of immigrants from countries at war with each other and Wilson wanted to avoid this becoming a divisive issue.

American companies, however, continue to ship food, raw materials and munitions to both the Allies and Central Powers, although trade between the Central Powers and the U.S. was severely curtailed by Britain’s naval blockade of Germany. U.S. banks also provided the warring nations with loans, the bulk of which went to the Allies.

The Lusitania Sinks

On May 7, 1915, a German submarine sank the British ocean liner Lusitania, resulting in the deaths of nearly 1,200 people, including 128 Americans. The incident strained diplomatic relations between Washington and Berlin and helped turn public opinion against Germany.

President Wilson demanded that the Germans stop unannounced submarine warfare; however, he didn’t believe the U.S. should take military action against Germany. Some Americans disagreed with this nonintervention policy, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, who criticized Wilson and advocated for going to war. Roosevelt promoted the Preparedness Movement, whose aim was to persuade the nation it must get ready for war.

In 1916, as American troops were deployed to Mexico to hunt down Mexican rebel leader Pancho Villa following his raid on Columbus, New Mexico, concerns about the readiness of the U.S. military grew. In response, Wilson signed the National Defense Act in June of that year, expanding the Army and the National Guard, and in August, the president signed legislation designed to significantly strengthen the Navy.

After campaigning on the slogans “He Kept Us Out of War” and “America First,” Wilson was elected to a second term in the White House in November 1916.

Meanwhile, some Americans joined the fighting in Europe their own. Starting in the early months of the war, a group of U.S. citizens enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. (Among them was the poet Alan Seeger, whose poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” later was a favorite of President John F. Kennedy. Seeger was killed in the war in 1916.) Other Americans volunteered with the Lafayette Escadrille, a unit of the French Air Service, or drove ambulances for the American Field Service.

Germany’s U-Boat Submarine Warfare Resumes

In March 1916, a German U-boat torpedoed a French passenger ship, the Sussex, killing dozens of people, including several Americans. Afterward, the U.S. threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Germany.

In response, the Germans issued the Sussex pledge, promising to stop attacking merchant and passenger ships without warning. However, on January 31, 1917, the Germans reversed course, announcing they would resume unrestricted submarine warfare, reasoning it would help them win the war before America, which was relatively unprepared for battle, could join the fighting on behalf of the Allies.

In response, the U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Germany on February 3. During February and March, German U-boats sank a series of U.S. merchant ships, resulting in multiple casualties.

The Zimmerman Telegram

Meanwhile, in January 1917, the British intercepted and deciphered an encrypted message from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German minister to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckhart.

The so-called Zimmerman telegram proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico—America’s southern neighbor—if America joined the war on the side of the Allies.

As part of the arrangement, the Germans would support the Mexicans in regaining the territory they’d lost in the Mexican-American War—Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Additionally, Germany wanted Mexico to help convince Japan to come over to its side in the conflict.

The British gave President Wilson the Zimmerman telegram on February 24, and on March 1 the U.S. press reported on its existence. The American public was outraged by the news of the Zimmerman telegram and it, along with Germany’s resumption of submarine attacks, helped lead to the U.S. to join the war.

The U.S. Declares War on Germany

On April 2, 1917, Wilson went before a special joint session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany, stating: “The world must be made safe for democracy.”

On April 4, the Senate voted 82 to 6 to declare war. Two days later, on April 6, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 50 in favor of adopting a war resolution against Germany. (Among the dissenters was Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman in Congress.) It was only the fourth time Congress had declared war; the others were the War of 1812, the War with Mexico in 1846 and the Spanish-American War of 1898.

In early 1917, the U.S. Army had just 133,000 members. That May, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which reinstated the draft for the first time since the Civil War and led to some 2.8 million men being inducted into the U.S. military by the end of the Great War. Around 2 million more Americans voluntarily served in the armed forces during the conflict.

The first U.S. infantry troops arrived on the European continent in June 1917; in October, the first American soldiers entered combat, in France. That December, the U.S. declared war against Austria-Hungary (America never was formally at war with the Ottoman Empire or Bulgaria).

When the war concluded in November 1918, with a victory for the Allies, more than 2 million U.S. troops had served at the Western Front in Europe, and more than 50,000 of them died.


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On April 7, 1917 at 7 p.m., more than 50,000 people throng the streets of downtown Seattle to watch a parade in support of the United States entry into World War I. The day before, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. Congress and President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) had declared war on Germany.

Brief Background of The Great War

World War I started in Europe in August 1914. The United States remained neutral until German submarines began sinking U.S. Merchant Marine ships. The war lasted until the end of 1918, when Germany surrendered. The United States entered the war on the side of the Allies (Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Rumania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Montenegro, and the United States). The Allies fought the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria).

In all, as estimated by the United States War Department (now Department of Defense) some 8 million people were killed during this Great War (5 million on the side of the Allies and about 3 million on the side of the Central Powers.) Another 21 million were wounded (12 million Allies, 8 million on the side of the Central Powers)(Encyclopaedia Britannica). Among those who lost their lives were 460 King County, Washington, residents.

Seattle's Response to War

Seattle responded to the U.S. declaration of war with a huge parade. Along the downtown parade route, women "with children in arms or hanging to their skirts stood long in the crowds voicing their enthusiasm. Grizzled veterans of other wars, men who lost a limb at Gettysburg or in the Philippines, Alaska miners who roughed it in the frozen North rubbed elbows and shouted in unison with working men, bankers, college students and professional men" (Seattle P-I, April 8, 1917).

The parade marched south on 1st Avenue from Virginia Street to James Street where it turned north on 2nd Avenue to Union Street and then east to 5th Avenue where it turned south to The Arena.

Naval Reserves Called Up First

The parade was 19 blocks long. Heading it were most of Washington's 500 to 550 Naval Militia Reserves, which were the first state military forces called up to go to war. About one-third of the Naval Reserves were from Seattle. A few of the dozens upon dozens of organizations represented in the parade were the Elks (450 members participating), Spanish American war veterans (200), city firemen, Imperial Order Daughters of the British Empire, Fraternal Order of Eagles (600), Serbo-American Society (100 Serbs), Puget Sound Section American Chemical Company, Seattle Bar Association (35), Civil War veterans, The Woodmen of the World, and the American Red Cross Society (100).

The participants in the parade were solemn and serious except for Broadway High School and University of Washington students who let out cheers. "The Oriental section of the city contributed a spectacular organization to the line of march. Japanese citizens, some 275 strong, marched with lighted paper lanterns over their heads" (Seattle P-I, April 8, 1917). The Japanese contingent was headed by H. H. Okuda, president of the Japanese Association of the Pacific Coast, and included 40 U.S. citizens ages 5 to 20.

At the Arena

Then the demonstration of support for World War I moved to The Arena at 1212 5th Avenue between Seneca and University streets. More than 7,500 people squeezed into the huge building, and thousands more were turned away. "It was a silent crowd for the most part. The people were grim, silent, [and] determined" (Seattle P-I, April 8, 1917). A few sang patriotic songs interspersed with "We'll hang Kaiser Wilhelm to a sour apple tree." But for most "An air of seriousness prevailed.

William Tucker, President of the Seattle Bar Association, introduced a resolution to the people assembled. Here is the excerpted text:

Seattle's Resolution

After it was introduced, "There was an outburst of wild applause, every one standing and cheering until the hall echoed and re-echoed." The resolution was approved by acclamation. Other speakers included Dr. Henry Suzzallo, President of the University of Washington Judge Thomas Burke (1849-1925) Ole Hanson (1874-1940), Seattle Mayor and Mrs. Almina George, Assistant Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.


Contents

Naval blockade Edit

Britain used its large navy to prevent cargo vessels entering German ports, mainly by intercepting them in the North Sea between the coasts of Scotland and Norway. The wider sea approaches to Britain and France, their distance from German harbors and the smaller size of the German surface fleet all made it harder for Germany to reciprocate. Instead, Germany used submarines to lie in wait for, and then sink, merchant ships heading for British and French ports.

The strategy behind the blockade Edit

The Royal Navy successfully stopped the shipment of most war supplies and food to Germany. Neutral American ships that tried to trade with Germany were seized or turned back by the Royal Navy who viewed such trade as in direct conflict with the Allies' war efforts. The impact from the blockade became apparent very slowly because Germany and its allies controlled extensive farmlands and raw materials. It was eventually successful because Germany and Austria-Hungary had decimated their agricultural production by taking so many farmers into their armies. By 1918, German cities were on the verge of a major food shortage the front-line soldiers were on short rations and were running out of essential supplies. [5]

Germany also considered a blockade. "England wants to starve us", said Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the man who built the German fleet and who remained a key advisor to the Kaiser Wilhelm II. "We can play the same game. We can bottle her up and destroy every ship that endeavors to break the blockade". [6] Unable to challenge the more powerful Royal Navy on the surface, Tirpitz wanted to scare off merchant and passenger ships en route to Britain. He reasoned that since the island of Britain depended on imports of food, raw materials, and manufactured goods, scaring off a substantial number of the ships would effectively undercut its long-term ability to maintain an army on the Western Front. While Germany had only nine long-range U-boats at the start of the war, it had ample shipyard capacity to build the hundreds needed. However, the United States demanded that Germany respect the international agreements upon "freedom of the seas", which protected neutral American ships on the high seas from seizure or sinking by either belligerent. Furthermore, Americans insisted that causing the deaths of innocent American civilians was unwarranted and grounds for a declaration of war. [7] The Royal Navy frequently violated America's neutral rights by seizing merchant ships. Wilson's top advisor, Colonel Edward M. House commented that, "The British have gone as far as they possibly could in violating neutral rights, though they have done it in the most courteous way". [8] When Wilson protested these violations of American neutrality, the Royal Navy backed down.

German submarines torpedoed ships without warning, causing sailors and passengers to drown. Berlin explained that submarines were so vulnerable that they dared not surface near merchant ships that might be carrying guns and which were too small to rescue submarine crews. Britain armed most of its merchant ships with medium caliber guns that could sink a submarine, making above-water attacks too risky. In February 1915, the United States warned Germany about the misuse of submarines. On April 22, the German Imperial Embassy warned U.S. citizens against boarding vessels to Britain, which would have to face German attack. On May 7, Germany torpedoed the British passenger liner RMS Lusitania, sinking her. This act of aggression caused the loss of 1,198 civilian lives, including 128 Americans. The sinking of a large, unarmed passenger ship, combined with the previous stories of atrocities in Belgium, shocked Americans and turned public opinion hostile to Germany, although not yet to the point of war. [10] Wilson issued a warning to Germany that it would face "strict accountability" if it sank more neutral U.S. passenger ships. [11] Berlin acquiesced, ordering its submarines to avoid passenger ships.

By January 1917, however, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff decided that an unrestricted submarine blockade was the only way to achieve a decisive victory. They demanded that Kaiser Wilhelm order unrestricted submarine warfare be resumed. Germany knew this decision meant war with the United States, but they gambled that they could win before America's potential strength could be mobilized. [12] However, they overestimated how many ships they could sink and thus the extent Britain would be weakened. Finally, they did not foresee that convoys could and would be used to defeat their efforts. They believed that the United States was so weak militarily that it could not be a factor on the Western Front for more than a year. The civilian government in Berlin objected, but the Kaiser sided with his military. [13]

Business considerations Edit

The beginning of war in Europe coincided with the end of the Recession of 1913–1914 in America. Exports to belligerent nations rose rapidly over the first four years of the War from $824.8 million in 1913 to $2.25 billion in 1917. [14] Loans from American financial institutions to the Allied nations in Europe also increased dramatically over the same period. [15] Economic activity towards the end of this period boomed as government resources aided the production of the private sector. Between 1914 and 1917, industrial production increased 32% and GNP increased by almost 20%. [16] The improvements to industrial production in the United States outlasted the war. The capital build-up that had allowed American companies to supply belligerents and the American army resulted in a greater long-run rate of production even after the war had ended in 1918. [17]

In 1913, J. P. Morgan, Jr. took over the House of Morgan, an American-based investment bank consisting of separate banking operations in New York, London, and Paris, after the death of his father, J. Pierpont Morgan. [15] The House of Morgan offered assistance in the wartime financing of Britain and France from the earliest stages of the war in 1914 through America's entrance in 1917. J.P. Morgan & Co., the House of Morgan's bank in New York, was designated as the primary financial agent to the British government in 1914 after successful lobbying by the British ambassador, Sir Cecil Spring Rice. [15] The same bank would later take a similar role in France and would offer extensive financial assistance to both warring nations. J.P. Morgan &Co. became the primary issuer of loans to the French government by raising money from American investors. [15] Morgan, Harjes, the House of Morgan's French affiliated bank, controlled the majority of the wartime financial dealings between the House of Morgan and the French government after primary issuances of debt in American markets. [15] Relations between the House of Morgan and the French government became tense as the war raged on with no end in sight. [15] France's ability to borrow from other sources diminished, leading to greater lending rates and a depressing of the value of the franc. After the war, in 1918, J.P. Morgan & Co. continued to aid the French government financially through monetary stabilization and debt relief. [15]

Because America was still a declared neutral state, the financial dealings of American banks in Europe caused a great deal of contention between Wall Street and the U.S. government. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan strictly opposed financial support of warring nations and wanted to ban loans to the belligerents in August 1914. [15] He told President Wilson that "refusal to loan to any belligerent would naturally tend to hasten a conclusion of the war." Wilson at first agreed, but then reversed himself when France argued that if it was legal to buy American goods then it was legal to take out credits on the purchase. [18]

J.P. Morgan issued loans to France including one in March 1915 and, following negotiations with the Anglo-French Financial Commission, another joint loan to Britain and France in October 1915, the latter amounting to US$500,000,000. [15] Although the stance of the U.S. government was that stopping such financial assistance could hasten the end of the war and therefore save lives, little was done to insure adherence to the ban on loans, in part due to pressure from Allied governments and American business interests. [15]

The American steel industry had faced difficulties and declining profits during the Recession of 1913–1914. [19] As war began in Europe, however, the increased demand for tools of war began a period of heightened productivity that alleviated many U.S. industrial companies from the low-growth environment of the recession. Bethlehem Steel took particular advantage of the increased demand for armaments abroad. Prior to American entrance into the war, these companies benefit from unrestricted commerce with sovereign customers abroad. After President Wilson issued his declaration of war, the companies were subjected to price controls created by the U.S. Trade Commission in order to insure that the U.S. military would have access to the necessary armaments. [19]

By the end of the war in 1918, Bethlehem Steel had produced 65,000 pounds of forged military products and 70 million pounds of armor plate, 1.1 billion pounds of steel for shells, and 20.1 million rounds of artillery ammunition for Britain and France. [20] Bethlehem Steel took advantage of the domestic armaments market and produced 60% of the American weaponry and 40% of the artillery shells used in the war. [20] Even with price controls and a lower profit margin on manufactured goods, the profits resulting from wartime sales expanded the company into the third largest manufacturing company in the country. Bethlehem Steel became the primary arms supplier for the United States and other allied powers again in 1939. [20]

Views of the elites Edit

Historians divide the views of American political and social leaders into four distinct groupings—the camps were mostly informal:

The first of these were the Non-Interventionists, a loosely affiliated and politically diverse anti-war movement which sought to keep the United States out of the war altogether. Members of this group tended to view the war as a clash between the imperialist and militaristic great powers of Europe, who were seen as corrupt and unworthy of support. Others were pacifists, who objected on moral grounds. Prominent leaders included Democrats like former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, industrialist Henry Ford and publisher William Randolph Hearst Republicans Robert M. La Follette, Senator from Wisconsin and George W. Norris, Senator from Nebraska and Progressive Party activist Jane Addams.

At the far-left end of the political spectrum the Socialists, led by their perennial candidate for President Eugene V. Debs and movement veterans like Victor L. Berger and Morris Hillquit, were staunch anti-militarists and opposed to any US intervention, branding the conflict as a "capitalist war" that American workers should avoid. However, after the US did join the war in April 1917, a schism developed between the anti-war Party majority and a pro-war faction of Socialist writers, journalists and intellectuals led by John Spargo, William English Walling and E. Haldeman-Julius. This group founded the rival Social Democratic League of America to promote the war effort among their fellow Socialists. [21]

Next were the more moderate Liberal-Internationalists. This bipartisan group reluctantly supported a declaration of war against Germany with the postwar goal of establishing collective international security institutions designed to peacefully resolve future conflicts between nations and to promote liberal democratic values more broadly. This groups' views were advocated by interest groups such as the League to Enforce Peace. Adherents included US President Woodrow Wilson, his influential advisor Edward M. House, former President William Howard Taft, famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell, Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch and Harvard University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell. [19]

Finally, there were the so-called Atlanticists. Ardently pro-Entente, they had championed American intervention in the war since the sinking of the Lusitania. Their primary political motivation was to prepare the US for a war with Germany and to forge an enduring military alliance with Great Britain. This group supported the Preparedness Movement and was strong among the Anglophile establishment it included former President Theodore Roosevelt, Major General Leonard Wood, prominent attorney and diplomat Joseph Hodges Choate, former Secretary of War Henry Stimson, journalist Walter Lippman and Senators Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. of Massachusetts and Elihu Root of New York. [22]

Parties Edit

A surprising factor in the development of American public opinion was how little the political parties became involved. Wilson and the Democrats in 1916 campaigned on the slogan "He kept us out of war!", saying a Republican victory would mean war with both Mexico and Germany. His position probably was critical in winning the Western states. [23] Charles Evans Hughes, the GOP candidate, insisted on downplaying the war issue. [24]

The Socialist party talked peace. Socialist rhetoric declared the European conflict to be "an imperialist war". It won 2% of the 1916 vote for Eugene V. Debs, blamed the war on capitalism and pledged total opposition. "A bayonet", its propaganda said, "was a weapon with a worker at each end". [25] When war began, however, about half the Socialists, typified by Congressman Meyer London, supported the decision and sided with the pro-Allied efforts. The rest, led by Debs, remained ideological and die-hard opponents. [26] Many socialists came under investigation from the Espionage Act of 1917 and many suspected of treason were arrested, including Debs. This would only increase the Socialist's anti-war groups in resentment toward the American government. [27]

Workers, farmers, and African Americans Edit

The working class was relatively quiet and tended to divide along ethnic lines. At the beginning of the war, neither working men nor farmers took a large interest in the debates on war preparation. [28] [29] [30] Samuel Gompers, head of the AFL labor movement, denounced the war in 1914 as "unnatural, unjustified, and unholy", but by 1916 he was supporting Wilson's limited preparedness program, against the objections of Socialist union activists. In 1916 the labor unions supported Wilson on domestic issues and ignored the war question. [31]

The war at first disrupted the cotton market the Royal Navy blockaded shipments to Germany, and prices fell from 11 cents a pound to only 4 cents. By 1916, however, the British decided to bolster the price to 10 cents to avoid losing Southern support. The cotton growers seem to have moved from neutrality to intervention at about the same pace as the rest of the nation. [32] [33] Midwestern farmers generally opposed the war, especially those of German and Scandinavian descent. The Midwest became the stronghold of isolationism other remote rural areas also saw no need for war. [34]

The African-American community did not take a strong position one way or the other. A month after Congress declared war, W. E. B. Du Bois called on African-Americans to "fight shoulder to shoulder with the world to gain a world where war shall be no more". [35] Once the war began and black men were drafted, they worked to achieve equality. [36] Many had hoped the community's help in the war efforts abroad would earn civil rights at home. When such civil liberties were still not granted, many African-Americans grew tired of waiting for recognition of their rights as American citizens. [37]

South Edit

There was a strong antiwar element among poor rural whites in the South and border states. [38] In rural Missouri for example, distrust of powerful Eastern influences focused on the risk that Wall Street would lead America into war. [39] Across the South poor white farmers warned each other that "a rich man's war meant a poor man's fight," and they wanted nothing of it. [40] [41] Antiwar sentiment was strongest among Christians affiliated with the Churches of Christ, the Holiness movement and Pentecostal churches. [42] Congressman James Hay, Democrat of Virginia was the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Military Affairs. He repeatedly blocked prewar efforts to modernize and enlarge the army. Preparedness was not needed because Americans were already safe, he insisted in January 1915:

Isolated as we are, safe in our vastness, protected by a great navy, and possessed of an army sufficient for any emergency that may arise, we may disregard the lamentations and predictions of the militarists. [43]

Educated, urban, middle-class southerners generally supported entering the war, and many worked on mobilization committees. In contrast to this many rural southern whites opposed entering the war. [44] Those with more formal education were more in favor of entering the war and those in the south with less formal education were more likely to oppose entering the war. Letters to newspapers with spelling or grammatical errors were overwhelmingly letters which opposed entry into the war, whereas letters with no spelling or grammatical errors were overwhelming those which supported entry into the war. [45] When the war began Texas and Georgia led the southern states with volunteers. 1,404 from Texas, 1,397 from Georgia, 538 from Louisiana, 532 from Tennessee, 470 from Alabama, 353 from North Carolina, 316 from Florida, and 225 from South Carolina. [46] Every southern Senator voted in favor of entering the war except for Mississippi firebrand James K. Vardaman. [47] By coincidence, there were some regions of the south which were more heavily in favor of intervention than others. Georgia provided the most volunteers per capita out of any state in the union before conscription and had the highest portion of pro-British newspapers before America's entry into the war. There were five competing newspapers which covered the region of Southeast Georgia, all of whom were outspokenly Anglophilic during the decades preceding the war, and during the early phases of the war. All five of which also highlighted German atrocities during the rape of Belgium and the murder of Edith Cavell. Other magazines with nationwide distribution which were pro-British such as The Outlook and The Literary Digest had a disproportionately high distribution throughout every region of the state of Georgia as well as the region of northern Alabama in the area around Huntsville and Decatur (when the war began there were 470 volunteers from the state of Alabama, of these, over 400 came from Huntsville-Decatur region). [48] [49] [50] [51] Support for American entry into the war was also pronounced in central Tennessee. Letters to newspapers which expressed pro-British, anti-German or pro-interventionist sentiment were common. In between October of 1914 and April of 1917, letters about the war to newspapers from Tennessee included at least one of these three sentiments. In the Tennessee counties of Cheatham County, Robertson County, Sumner County, Wilson County, Rutherford County, Williamson County, Maury County, Marshall County, Bedford County, Coffee Couny and Cannon County over half of the letters contained all three of these elements. [52] In South Carolina there was support for America entering the war. Led by Governor Richard I. Manning, the cities of Greenville, Spartanburg, and Columbia had started lobbying for army training centers in their communities, for both economic and patriotic reasons, in preparation for American entry into the war. Similarly, Charleston had interned a German freighter in 1914, and when the freighter's skeleton crew tried to block Charleston harbor they were all arrested and imprisoned. From that point on Charleston was buzzing with "war fever." 1915, 1916 and early 1917 were all years when Charleston and the low country coastal counties to the south of Charleston, were all gripped by sentiment that was very "pro-British and anti-German." [53] [54] [55]

German Americans Edit

German Americans by this time usually had only weak ties to Germany however, they were fearful of negative treatment they might receive if the United States entered the war (such mistreatment was already happening to German-descent citizens in Canada and Australia). Almost none called for intervening on Germany's side, instead calling for neutrality and speaking of the superiority of German culture. As more nations were drawn into the conflict, however, the English-languages press increasingly supporting Britain, while the German-American media called for neutrality while also defending Germany's position. Chicago's Germans worked to secure a complete embargo on all arms shipments to Europe. In 1916, large crowds in Chicago's Germania celebrated the Kaiser's birthday, something they had not done before the war. [56] German Americans in early 1917 still called for neutrality, but proclaimed that if a war came they would be loyal to the United States. By this point, they had been excluded almost entirely from national discourse on the subject. [57] German-American Socialists in Milwaukee, Wisconsin actively campaigned against entry into the war. [58]

Christian churches and pacifists Edit

Leaders of most religious groups (except the Episcopalians) tended to pacifism, as did leaders of the woman's movement. The Methodists and Quakers among others were vocal opponents of the war. [59] President Wilson, who was a devout Presbyterian, would often frame the war in terms of good and evil in an appeal for religious support of the war. [60]

A concerted effort was made by pacifists including Jane Addams, Oswald Garrison Villard, David Starr Jordan, Henry Ford, Lillian Wald, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Their goal was to encourage Wilson's efforts to mediate an end of the war by bringing the belligerents to the conference table. [61] Finally in 1917 Wilson convinced some of them that to be truly anti-war they needed to support what he promised would be "a war to end all wars". [62]

Once war was declared, the more liberal denominations, which had endorsed the Social Gospel, called for a war for righteousness that would help uplift all mankind. The theme—an aspect of American exceptionalism—was that God had chosen America as his tool to bring redemption to the world. [63]

American Catholic bishops maintained a general silence toward the issue of intervention. Millions of Catholics lived in both warring camps, and Catholic Americans tended to split on ethnic lines in their opinions toward American involvement in the war. At the time, heavily Catholic towns and cities in the East and Midwest often contained multiple parishes, each serving a single ethnic group, such as Irish, German, Italian, Polish, or English. American Catholics of Irish and German descent opposed intervention most strongly. Pope Benedict XV made several attempts to negotiate a peace. All of his efforts were rebuffed by both the Allies and the Germans, and throughout the war the Vatican maintained a policy of strict neutrality.

Jewish Americans Edit

In 1914–1916, there were few Jewish Americans in favor of American entry into the war. [ citation needed ] New York City, with its Jewish community numbering 1.5 million, was a center of antiwar activism, much of which was organized by labor unions which were primarily on the political left and therefore opposed to a war that they viewed to be a battle between several great powers. [64] [65]

Some Jewish communities worked together during the war years to provide relief to Jewish communities in Eastern Europe which were decimated by fighting, famine and scorched earth policies of the Russian and Austro-German armies. [66] [67]

Of greatest concern to Jewish Americans was the tsarist regime in Russia because it was notorious for tolerating and inciting pogroms and following anti-Semitic policies. As historian Joseph Rappaport reported through his study of Yiddish press during the war, "The pro-Germanism of America's immigrant Jews was an inevitable consequence of their Russophobia". [68] However the fall of the tsarist regime in March 1917 removed a major obstacle for many Jews who refused to support American entry into the war on the side of the Russian Empire. [69] The draft went smoothly in New York City, and left-wing opposition to the war largely collapsed when Zionists saw the possibility of using the war to demand a state of Israel. [70]

Irish-Americans Edit

The most effective domestic opponents of the war were Irish-American Catholics. They had little interest in the continent, but were neutral about helping the United Kingdom because it had recently enacted the Government of Ireland Act 1914, allowing Irish Home Rule. However, the Act was suspended until the war ended. John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) declared that Irish Volunteers should support America's pro-Allied war efforts first his political opponents argued that it was not the time to support Britain in its attempt to "strengthen and expand her empire". [71] The attacks on the IPP and pro-Allied press showed a firm belief that a German victory would hasten the achievement of an independent Irish state. Yet rather than proposing intervention on behalf of the Germans, Irish American leaders and organizations focused on demanding American neutrality. But the increased contact between militant Irish nationalists and German agents in the United States only fueled concerns of where the primary loyalties of Irish Americans lay. [72] Nevertheless, close to 1,000 Irish-born Americans died fighting with the U.S. armed forces in WWI. [73] The Easter Rising in Dublin in April 1916 was defeated within a week and its leaders executed by firing squad. The mainstream American press treated the uprising as foolish and misguided, and suspected it was largely created and planned by the Germans. Overall public opinion remained faithfully pro-Entente. [74]

Irish-Americans dominated the Democratic party in many large cities, and Wilson had to take account of their political viewpoints. Irish-American political efforts influenced the United States into defining its own objectives from the war separate from those of its allies, which were primarily (among other objectives) self-determination for the various nations and ethnic groups of Europe. The Irish-American community thought they had Wilson's promise to promote Irish independence in exchange for their support of his war policies, but after the war they were disappointed by his refusal to support them in 1919. [75] Wilson saw the Irish situation purely as an internal affair and did not perceive the dispute and the unrest in Ireland as the same scenario being faced by the various other nationalities in Europe (as a fall-out from World War I). [76] The progress of the Irish Race Conventions give a flavour of the differing and changing opinions during the war.

Pro-Allied immigrants Edit

Some British immigrants worked actively for intervention. London-born Samuel Insull, Chicago's leading industrialist, for example, enthusiastically provided money, propaganda, and means for volunteers to enter the British or Canadian armies. After the United States' entry, Insull directed the Illinois State Council of Defense, with responsibility for organizing the state's mobilization. [77]

Immigrants from eastern Europe usually cared more about politics in their homeland than politics in the United States. Spokesmen for Slavic immigrants hoped that an Allied victory would bring independence for their homelands. [78] Large numbers of Hungarian immigrants who were liberal and nationalist in sentiment, and sought an independent Hungary, separate from the Austro-Hungarian Empire lobbied in favor of the war and allied themselves with the Atlanticist or Anglophile portion of the population. This community was largely pro-British and anti-German in sentiment. [79] [80] [81] Albanian-Americans in communities such as Boston also campaigned for entry into the war and were overwhelmingly pro-British and anti-German, as well as hopeful the war would lead to an independent Albania which would be free from the Ottoman Empire. [82] The state of Wisconsin had the distinction of being the most isolationist state due to the large numbers of German-Americans, socialists, pacifists and others present in the state, however, the exception to this were pockets within the state such as the city of Green Bay. Green Bay had a large number of pro-Allied immigrants, including the largest Belgian immigrant community in the entire country, and for this reason anti-German sentiment and pro-war sentiment were both significantly higher in Green Bay than in the country as a whole. [83] There was a large Serbian-American community in Alaska which also was enthusiastically in favor of American entry into World War I. In the case of Alaska, which was at the time a territory, thousands of Serbian immigrants and Serbian-Americans volunteered early to join the United States Army shortly after the declaration of war, after the community had been outspokenly in favor of America's entry into the war before this. During the First World War, many Serbian Americans volunteered to fight overseas, with thousands coming from Alaska. [84] [85]

Popular pacifism Edit

Henry Ford supported the pacifist cause by sponsoring a large-scale private peace mission, with numerous activists and intellectuals aboard the "Peace Ship' (the ocean liner Oscar II). Ford chartered the ship in 1915 and invited prominent peace activists to join him to meet with leaders on both sides in Europe. He hoped to create enough publicity to prompt the belligerent nations to convene a peace conference and mediate an end to the war. The mission was widely mocked by the press, which wrote about the "Ship of Fools." Infighting between the activists, mockery by the press contingent aboard, and an outbreak of influenza marred the voyage. Four days after the ship arrived in neutral Norway, a beleaguered and physically ill Ford abandoned the mission and returned to the United States he had demonstrated that independent small efforts accomplished nothing. [87]

German agents Edit

On July 24, 1915, the German embassy's commercial attaché, Heinrich Albert, left his briefcase on a train in New York City, where an alert Secret Service agent, Frank Burke, snatched it up. [88] Wilson let the newspapers publish the contents, which indicated a systematic effort by Berlin to subsidize friendly newspapers and block British purchases of war materials. Berlin's top espionage agent, debonnaire Franz Rintelen von Kleist was spending millions to finance sabotage in Canada, stir up trouble between the United States and Mexico and to incite labor strikes. [89] Germany took the blame as Americans grew ever more worried about the vulnerability of a free society to subversion. Indeed, one of the main fears Americans of all stations had in 1916–1919 was that spies and saboteurs were everywhere. This sentiment played a major role in arousing fear of Germany, and suspicions regarding everyone of German descent who could not "prove" 100% loyalty. [90]

By 1915, Americans were paying much more attention to the war. The sinking of the Lusitania had a strong effect on public opinion because of the deaths of American civilians. That year, a strong "Preparedness" movement emerged. [91] Proponents argued that the United States needed to immediately build up strong naval and land forces for defensive purposes an unspoken assumption was that America would fight sooner or later. General Leonard Wood (still on active duty after serving a term as Chief of Staff of the Army), former president Theodore Roosevelt, and former secretaries of war Elihu Root and Henry Stimson were the driving forces behind Preparedness, along with many of the nation's most prominent bankers, industrialists, lawyers and scions of prominent families. Indeed, there emerged an "Atlanticist" foreign policy establishment, a group of influential Americans drawn primarily from upper-class lawyers, bankers, academics, and politicians of the Northeast, committed to a strand of Anglophile internationalism. Representative was Paul D. Cravath, one of New York's foremost corporation lawyers. For Cravath, in his mid-fifties when the war began, the conflict served as an epiphany, sparking an interest in international affairs that dominated his remaining career. Fiercely Anglophile, he strongly supported American intervention in the war and hoped that close Anglo-American cooperation would be the guiding principle of postwar international organization. [92]

The Preparedness movement had a "realistic" philosophy of world affairs—they believed that economic strength and military muscle were more decisive than idealistic crusades focused on causes like democracy and national self-determination. Emphasizing over and over the weak state of national defenses, they showed that America's 100,000-man Army even augmented by the 112,000 National Guardsmen, was outnumbered 20 to one by Germany's army, which was drawn from a smaller population. Similarly in 1915, the armed forces of Britain and her Empire [93] ), France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Belgium, Japan and Greece were all larger and more experienced than the United States military, in many cases significantly so. [94]

Reform to them meant UMT or "universal military training". They proposed a national service program under which the 600,000 men who turned 18 every year would be required to spend six months in military training, and afterwards be assigned to reserve units. The small regular army would primarily be a training agency.

Antimilitarists complained the plan would make America resemble Germany (which required two years' active duty). Advocates retorted that military "service" was an essential duty of citizenship, and that without the commonality provided by such service the nation would splinter into antagonistic ethnic groups. One spokesman promised that UMT would become "a real melting pot, under which the fire is hot enough to fuse the elements into one common mass of Americanism". Furthermore, they promised, the discipline and training would make for a better paid work force. Hostility to military service was strong at the time, and the program failed to win approval. In World War II, when Stimson as Secretary of War proposed a similar program of universal peacetime service, he was defeated. [95]

Underscoring its commitment, the Preparedness movement set up and funded its own summer training camps at Plattsburgh, New York, and other sites, where 40,000 college alumni became physically fit, learned to march and shoot, and ultimately provided the cadre of a wartime officer corps. [96] Suggestions by labor unions that talented working-class youth be invited to Plattsburgh were ignored. The Preparedness movement was distant not only from the working classes but also from the middle-class leadership of most of small-town America. It had had little use for the National Guard, which it saw as politicized, localistic, poorly armed, ill trained, too inclined to idealistic crusading (as against Spain in 1898), and too lacking in understanding of world affairs. The National Guard on the other hand was securely rooted in state and local politics, with representation from a very broad cross section of American society. The Guard was one of the nation's few institutions that (in some northern states) accepted blacks on an equal footing.

The Democratic party saw the Preparedness movement as a threat. Roosevelt, Root and Wood were prospective Republican presidential candidates. More subtly, the Democrats were rooted in localism that appreciated the National Guard, and the voters were hostile to the rich and powerful in the first place. Working with the Democrats who controlled Congress, Wilson was able to sidetrack the Preparedness forces. Army and Navy leaders were forced to testify before Congress to the effect that the nation's military was in excellent shape.

In fact, neither the Army nor Navy was in shape for war. The Navy had fine ships but Wilson had been using them to threaten Mexico, and the fleet's readiness had suffered. The crews of the Texas and the New York, the two newest and largest battleships, had never fired a gun, and the morale of the sailors was low. In addition, it was outnumbered and outgunned when compared to the British and German navies. The Army and Navy air forces were tiny in size. Despite the flood of new weapons systems created by the British, Germans, French, Austro-Hungarians, Italians, and others in the war in Europe, the Army was paying scant attention. For example, it was making no studies of trench warfare, poison gas, heavy artillery, or tanks and was utterly unfamiliar with the rapid evolution of aerial warfare. The Democrats in Congress tried to cut the military budget in 1915. The Preparedness movement effectively exploited the surge of outrage over the Lusitania in May 1915, forcing the Democrats to promise some improvements to the military and naval forces. Wilson, less fearful of the Navy, embraced a long-term building program designed to make the fleet the equal of the Royal Navy by the mid-1920s, although this would not be achieved until World War II. "Realism" was at work here the admirals were Mahanians and they therefore wanted a surface fleet of heavy battleships second to none—that is, equal to Britain. The facts of submarine warfare (which necessitated destroyers, not battleships) and the possibilities of imminent war with Germany (or with Britain, for that matter), were simply ignored.

Wilson's program for the Army touched off a firestorm. [97] Secretary of War Lindley Garrison adopted many of the proposals of the Preparedness leaders, especially their emphasis on a large federal reserve and abandonment of the National Guard. Garrison's proposals not only outraged the localistic politicians of both parties, they also offended a strongly held belief shared by the liberal wing of the Progressive movement. They felt that warfare always had a hidden economic motivation. Specifically, they warned the chief warmongers were New York bankers (like J. P. Morgan) with millions at risk, profiteering munition makers (like Bethlehem Steel, which made armor, and DuPont, which made powder) and unspecified industrialists searching for global markets to control. Antiwar critics blasted them. These special interests were too powerful, especially, Senator La Follette noted, in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. The only road to peace was disarmament, reiterated Bryan.

Garrison's plan unleashed the fiercest battle in peacetime history over the relationship of military planning to national goals. [98] In peacetime, War Department arsenals and Navy yards manufactured nearly all munitions that lacked civilian uses, including warships, artillery, naval guns, and shells. Items available on the civilian market, such as food, horses, saddles, wagons, and uniforms were always purchased from civilian contractors. Armor plate (and after 1918, airplanes) was an exception that has caused unremitting controversy for a century. After World War II, the arsenals and Navy yards were much less important than giant civilian aircraft and electronics firms, which became the second half of the "military-industrial complex." Peace leaders like Jane Addams of Hull House and David Starr Jordan of Stanford redoubled their efforts, and now turned their voices against the president because he was "sowing the seeds of militarism, raising up a military and naval caste". Many ministers, professors, farm spokesmen, and labor union leaders joined in, with powerful support from Claude Kitchin and his band of four dozen southern Democrats in Congress who took control of the House Military Affairs Committee. [99] [100]

Wilson, in deep trouble, took his cause to the people in a major speaking tour in early 1916, a warmup for his reelection campaign that fall. [101] Wilson seems to have won over the middle classes, but had little impact on the largely ethnic working classes and the deeply isolationist farmers. Congress still refused to budge, so Wilson replaced Garrison as Secretary of War with Newton Baker, the Democratic mayor of Cleveland and an outspoken opponent of preparedness (Garrison kept quiet, but felt Wilson was "a man of high ideals but no principles"). The upshot was a compromise passed in May 1916, as the war raged on and Berlin was debating whether America was so weak it could be ignored. The Army was to double in size to 11,300 officers and 208,000 men, with no reserve, and a National Guard that would be enlarged in five years to 440,000 men. Summer camps on the Plattsburg model were authorized for new officers, and the government was given $20 million to build a nitrate plant of its own. Preparedness supporters were downcast, the antiwar people were jubilant: America would now be too weak to go to war.

The House gutted Wilson's naval plans as well, defeating a "big navy" plan by 189 to 183, and scuttling the battleships. However news arrived of the great sea battle between Britain and Germany, the Battle of Jutland. The battle was used by the navalists to argue for the primacy of seapower they then took control in the Senate, broke the House coalition, and authorized a rapid three-year buildup of all classes of warships. A new weapons system, naval aviation, received $3.5 million, and the government was authorized to build its own armor plate factory. [102] The very weakness of American military power encouraged Berlin to start its unrestricted submarine attacks in 1917. It knew this meant war with America, but it could discount the immediate risk because the U.S. Army was negligible and the new warships would not be at sea until 1919, by which time it believed the war would be over, with Germany victorious. The argument that armaments led to war was turned on its head: most Americans came to fear that failure to arm in 1916 made aggression against the U.S. more likely. [103]

Size of the military Edit

The United States had remained aloof from the arms race in which the European powers had engaged during the decades leading up to the war. The American army numbered slightly more than 100,000 active duty soldiers in 1916 by that time the French, British, Russian and German armies had all fought battles in which more than 10,000 men had been killed in one day, and fought campaigns in which total casualties had exceeded 200,000. In other words, the entire United States Army, as it stood on the eve of intervention, could be wiped out in a single week of the fighting that had characterized the war to date. Americans felt an increasing need for a military that could command respect. As one editor put it, "The best thing about a large army and a strong navy is that they make it so much easier to say just what we want to say in our diplomatic correspondence." Berlin thus far had backed down and apologized when Washington was angry, thus boosting American self-confidence. America's rights and America's honor increasingly came into focus. The slogan "Peace" gave way to "Peace with Honor". The Army remained unpopular, however. A recruiter in Indianapolis noted that, "The people here do not take the right attitude towards army life as a career, and if a man joins from here he often tries to go out on the quiet". The Preparedness movement used its easy access to the mass media to demonstrate that the War Department had no plans, no equipment, little training, no reserve, a laughable National Guard, and a wholly inadequate organization for war. At a time when European generals were directing field armies that numbered several corps, on combat fronts that stretched for dozens or hundreds of miles, no active duty American general officer had commanded more than a division. Motion pictures like The Battle Cry of Peace (1915) depicted invasions of the American homeland that demanded action. [104]

Navy Edit

The readiness and capability of the U.S. Navy was a matter of controversy. The press at the time reported that the only thing the military was ready for was an enemy fleet attempting to seize New York harbor—at a time when the German battle fleet was penned up by the Royal Navy. The Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels was a journalist with pacifist leanings. [105] He had built up the educational resources of the Navy and made its Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island an essential experience for would-be admirals. However, he alienated the officer corps with his moralistic reforms, including no wine in the officers' mess, no hazing at the Naval Academy, and more chaplains and YMCAs. Daniels, as a newspaperman, knew the value of publicity. In 1915 he set up the Naval Consulting Board headed by Thomas Edison to obtain the advice and expertise of leading scientists, engineers, and industrialists. It popularized technology, naval expansion, and military preparedness, and was well covered in the media. [106] But according to Coletta he ignored the nation's strategic needs, and disdaining the advice of its experts, Daniels suspended meetings of the Joint Army and Navy Board for two years because it was giving unwelcome advice, chopped in half the General Board's recommendations for new ships, reduced the authority of officers in the Navy yards where ships were built and repaired, and ignored the administrative chaos in his department. Bradley Fiske, one of the most innovative admirals in American naval history, in 1914 was Daniels' top aide he recommended a reorganization that would prepare for war, but Daniels refused. Instead he replaced Fiske in 1915 and brought in for the new post of Chief of Naval Operations an unknown captain, William Benson. Chosen for his compliance, Benson proved to be a wily bureaucrat who was more interested in preparing the U.S. Navy for the possibility of an eventual showdown with Britain than an immediate one with Germany. Benson told Sims he "would as soon fight the British as the Germans". Proposals to send observers to Europe were blocked, leaving the Navy in the dark about the success of the German submarine campaign. Admiral William Sims charged after the war that in April 1917, only ten percent of the Navy's warships were fully manned the rest lacked 43% of their seamen. Light antisubmarine ships were few in number, as if Daniels had been unaware of the German submarine menace that had been the focus of foreign policy for two years. The Navy's only warfighting plan, the "Black Plan" assumed the Royal Navy did not exist and that German battleships were moving freely about the Atlantic and the Caribbean and threatening the Panama Canal. Daniels' tenure would have been even less successful save for the energetic efforts of Assistant Secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt, who effectively ran the Department. [105] His most recent biographer concludes that, "it is true that Daniels had not prepared the navy for the war it would have to fight." [107]

By 1916 a new factor was emerging—a sense of national self-interest and American nationalism. The unbelievable casualty figures in Europe were sobering—two vast battles caused over one million casualties each. Clearly this war would be a decisive episode in the history of the world. Every effort to find a peaceful solution was frustrated.

Decision making Edit

Kendrick Clements claims bureaucratic decision-making was one of the main sources pushing the United States to declaring war on Germany and aligning itself with the Allies. He cites the State Department's demand that Germany's submarines obey outdated 18th century sailing laws as one of the first missteps by the United States bureaucracy regarding the war. By doing so, the United States had essentially given Germany the choice of whether or not the U.S. would enter the war. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan spent most of the fall of 1914 out of contact with the State Department, leaving the more conservative Robert Lansing with the ability to shape American foreign policy at the time. One of these decisions was made in response to British protests that the Germans were using U.S. radio towers to send messages to their warships. Immediately prior to the war starting in 1914, Britain had cut all cable communications leading out of Germany, including the trans-Atlantic cable. The US Government permitted German embassies to use the US cable lines for "proper" diplomatic business. Germany argued that usage of the towers was necessary to allow efficient contact between the U.S. and Germany. Lansing responded by requiring both sides to give the U.S. Navy copies of the messages they sent over the towers. The French and British were still able to use the cables, ensuring that Germany would be the only belligerent required to provide the U.S. with their messages. This and other seemingly small decisions made by Lansing during this time would eventually stack up, shifting American support towards the Allies. [108]

Zimmermann Telegram Edit

Once Germany had decided on unrestricted submarine warfare in January 1917 it tried to line up new allies, especially Mexico. Arthur Zimmermann, the German foreign minister, sent the Zimmermann Telegram to Mexico on January 16, 1917. Zimmermann invited Mexico (knowing their resentment towards America since the 1848 Mexican Cession) to join in a war against the United States if the United States declared war on Germany. Germany promised to pay for Mexico's costs and to help it recover the territory forcibly annexed by the United States in 1848. These territories included the present day states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico and a quarter of Colorado. British intelligence intercepted and decoded the telegram and passed it to the Wilson administration. The White House would release it to the press on March 1. Anger grew further as the Germans began sinking American ships, even as isolationists in the Senate launched a filibuster to block legislation for arming American merchant ships to defend themselves. [109] [110]

Sinking of American merchant ships Edit

In early 1917, Kaiser Wilhelm II forced the issue. His declared decision on 31 January 1917 to target neutral shipping in a designated war-zone [111] became the immediate cause of the entry of the United States into the war. [112] Kaiser Wilhelm II sunk ten American merchant ships from February 3, 1917 through April 4, 1917 (but news about the schooner Marguerite didn't arrive til after Wilson signed the declaration of war). [113] Outraged public opinion now overwhelmingly supported Wilson when he asked Congress for a declaration of war on April 2, 1917. [114] It was voted approved by a Joint Session (not merely the Senate) on April 6, 1917 & Wilson signed it the following afternoon.

American-Registered ships sunk February 3, 1917-April 4, 1917 [115]
Ship name Type Date US killed Total killed Location Owner Sunk by
Housatonic Freighter Feb 3 0 0 Off Scilly Isles Housatonic Co. U-53 Hans Rose
Lyman M. Law Schooner Feb 12 0 0 Off Sardinia George A. Cardine Syndicate U-35 Von Arnauld
Algonquin Freighter Mar 12 0 0 Off Scilly Isles American Star Line U-62 Ernst Hashagen
Vigilancia Freighter Mar 16 6 15 Off Plymouth Gaston, Williams & Wigmore U-70 Otto Wunsch
City of Memphis Freighter Mar 17 0 0 Off Ireland Ocean Steamship Company UC-66 Herbert Pustkuchen
Illinois Tanker Mar 17 0 0 Off Alderney Texaco UC-21 R. Saltzwedel
Healdton Tanker Mar 21 7 21 Off Holland Standard Oil Mine
Aztec Freighter Apr 1 11 28 Off Brest Oriental Navigation U-46 Leo Hillebrand
Marguerite Schooner Apr 4 0 0 Off Sardinia William Chase U-35 Von Arnauld
Missourian Freighter Apr 4 0 0 Mediterranean Sea American-Hawaiian Line U-52 Hans Walther

Historians such as Ernest R. May have approached the process of American entry into the war as a study in how public opinion changed radically in three years' time. In 1914 most Americans called for neutrality, seeing the war as a dreadful mistake and were determined to stay out. By 1917 the same public felt just as strongly that going to war was both necessary and wise. Military leaders had little to say during this debate, and military considerations were seldom raised. The decisive questions dealt with morality and visions of the future. The prevailing attitude was that America possessed a superior moral position as the only great nation devoted to the principles of freedom and democracy. By staying aloof from the squabbles of reactionary empires, it could preserve those ideals—sooner or later the rest of the world would come to appreciate and adopt them. In 1917 this very long-run program faced the severe danger that in the short run powerful forces adverse to democracy and freedom would triumph. Strong support for moralism came from religious leaders, women (led by Jane Addams), and from public figures like long-time Democratic leader William Jennings Bryan, the Secretary of State from 1913 to 1916. The most important moralist of all was President Woodrow Wilson—the man who dominated decision making so totally that the war has been labeled, from an American perspective, "Wilson's War". [116]

In 1917 Wilson won the support of most of the moralists by proclaiming "a war to make the world safe for democracy." If they truly believed in their ideals, he explained, now was the time to fight. The question then became whether Americans would fight for what they deeply believed in, and the answer turned out to be a resounding "Yes". [117] Some of this attitude was mobilised by the Spirit of 1917, which evoked the Spirit of '76.

Antiwar activists at the time and in the 1930s, alleged that beneath the veneer of moralism and idealism there must have been ulterior motives. Some suggested a conspiracy on the part of New York City bankers holding $3 billion of war loans to the Allies, or steel and chemical firms selling munitions to the Allies. [118] The interpretation was popular among left-wing Progressives (led by Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin) and among the "agrarian" wing of the Democratic party—including the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee of the House. He strenuously opposed war, and when it came he rewrote the tax laws to make sure the rich paid the most. (In the 1930s neutrality laws were passed to prevent financial entanglements from dragging the nation into a war.) In 1915, Bryan thought that Wilson's pro-British sentiments had unduly influenced his policies, so he became the first Secretary of State ever to resign in protest. [119]

However, historian Harold C. Syrett argues that business supported neutrality. [120] Other historians state that the pro-war element was animated not by profit but by disgust with what Germany actually did, especially in Belgium, and the threat it represented to American ideals. Belgium kept the public's sympathy as the Germans executed civilians, [121] and English nurse Edith Cavell. American engineer Herbert Hoover led a private relief effort that won wide support. Compounding the Belgium atrocities were new weapons that Americans found repugnant, like poison gas and the aerial bombardment of innocent civilians as Zeppelins dropped bombs on London. [116] Even anti-war spokesmen did not claim that Germany was innocent, and pro-German scripts were poorly received. [122]

Randolph Bourne criticized the moralist philosophy claiming it was a justification by American intellectual and power elites, like President Wilson, for going to war unnecessarily. He argues that the push for war started with the Preparedness movement, fueled by big business. While big business would not push much further than Preparedness, benefitting the most from neutrality, the movement would eventually evolve into a war-cry, led by war-hawk intellectuals under the guise of moralism. Bourne believes elites knew full well what going to war would entail and the price in American lives it would cost. If American elites could portray the United States' role in the war as noble, they could convince the generally isolationist American public war would be acceptable. [123]

Above all, American attitudes towards Germany focused on the U-boats (submarines), which sank the Lusitania in 1915 and other passenger ships "without warning". [124] [125] [126] That appeared to Americans as an unacceptable challenge to America's rights as a neutral country, and as an unforgivable affront to humanity. After repeated diplomatic protests, Germany agreed to stop. But in 1917 the Germany military leadership decided that "military necessity" dictated the unrestricted use of their submarines. The Kaiser's advisors felt America was enormously powerful economically but too weak militarily to make a difference.

Twenty years after World War I ended, 70% of Americans polled believed that American participation in the war had been a mistake. [127]

Germany Edit

On April 2, 1917, Wilson asked a special joint session of Congress to declare war on the German Empire, stating, "We have no selfish ends to serve". [128] To make the conflict seem like a better idea, he painted the conflict idealistically, stating that the war would "make the world safe for democracy" and later that it would be a "war to end war". The United States had a moral responsibility to enter the war, Wilson proclaimed. The future of the world was being determined on the battlefield, and American national interest demanded a voice. Wilson's definition of the situation won wide acclaim, and, indeed, has shaped America's role in world and military affairs ever since. Wilson believed that if the Central Powers won, the consequences would be bad for the United States. Germany would have dominated the continent and perhaps would gain control of the seas as well. Latin America could well have fallen under Berlin's control. The dream of spreading democracy, liberalism, and independence would have been shattered. On the other hand, if the Allies had won without help, there was a danger they would carve up the world without regard to American commercial interests. They were already planning to use government subsidies, tariff walls, and controlled markets to counter the competition posed by American businessmen. The solution was a third route, a "peace without victory", according to Wilson. [129]

On April 6, 1917, Congress declared war. In the Senate, the resolution passed 82 to 6, with Senators Harry Lane, William J. Stone, James Vardaman, Asle Gronna, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., and George W. Norris voting against it. In the House, the declaration passed 373 to 50, with Claude Kitchin, a senior Democrat, notably opposing it. Another opponent was Jeannette Rankin, who alone voted against entry into both World War I and World War II. Nearly all of the opposition came from the West and the Midwest. [130]

Austria-Hungary Edit

The United States Senate, in a 74 to 0 vote, declared war on Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917, citing Austria-Hungary's severing of diplomatic relations with the United States, its use of unrestricted submarine warfare and its alliance with Germany. [131] The declaration passed in the United States House of Representatives by a vote of 365 to 1. [132]

President Wilson also came under pressure from Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and from former President Theodore Roosevelt, who demanded a declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, as Germany's allies. President Wilson drafted a statement to Congress in December 1917 which said "I. recommend that Congress immediately declare the United States in a state of war with Austria-Hungary, with Turkey and with Bulgaria". However, after further consultations, the decision to go to war against Germany's other allies was postponed. [133]


U.S. Entry into the War to End All Wars

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I. Visit the National Archives website to learn how the National Archives is commemorating the anniversary. Today’s post comes from Sonia Kahn in the National Archives History Office.

Two and a half years of American neutrality in the ongoing war in Europe came to an end on April 6, 1917, when Congress passed a resolution declaring war on Germany, thus pushing the U.S. into World War I.

Four days earlier, on April 2, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war on Imperial Germany.

Among his reasons for war was Germany’s failure to comply with its promise to halt unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic. Continued German attacks upon merchant shipping brought Wilson to insist that “warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.”

Still fresh in the nation’s memory was the May 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania, and the ensuing loss of 131 Americans, as evidence of the chaos German submarines could cause.

Wilson also cited the intercepted Zimmerman telegram as evidence that peace had been compromised. (The telegram proposed that Mexico ally itself with Germany in exchange for German assistance in recovering territory ceded to the United States after the Mexican-American War in 1848.)

The telegram proved that Germany was a real security threat to the United States and sparked anger that was instrumental in altering American public opinion towards war.

Congress concurred with the President’s reasoning and passed the resolution to declare war against Germany.

On April 6, Wilson issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring war against Germany. The United States had entered the Great War.

Despite the declaration of war in April, American troops did not see battle until late June 1917 with the arrival of the first 14,000 doughboys in Saint-Nazaire. At the time the United States still had an army of fewer than 140,000 men, tiny by European standards.

This changed with the passage of the Selective Service Act in May 1917, which allowed the government to introduce compulsory military service. Less than a year later, in August 1918, more than 500,000 American combat troops had been trained to see action in Europe.

The multiplying American soldiers stunned the Germans, who did not believe a nation with such a small army when it entered the war could amass so much manpower in so little time.

The onslaught of American reinforcements arriving in 1918 played a role in Germany’s decreased morale and eventual surrender to the Allies following a ceasefire in November 1918.

In the less than two years that the United States engaged in the World War I, the country managed to mobilize more than 4 million men. The nation saw 323,000 casualties with 116,516 killed and even more wounded, taken prisoner, and missing in action—a steep price to pay for the war that was meant to end all wars.

From April 4 through May 3, 2017, the National Archives is commemorating the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I with a featured document display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building.


100 years ago, U.S. entry into bloody World War I changed everything

CLEVELAND, Ohio - World War I, 1914-1918, was called the "Great War" until an even greater one came along with World War II in 1939.

But for its time, the First World War was unprecedented in its scale, with millions of combatants, armed with lethal new technologies, engaging in the first major war to be fought on land, sea and air.

The conflict opened with the Allies -- primarily England, France, Italy and Russia - pitted against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey.

The eventual human cost was staggering, with an estimated 38 million military and civilian casualties.

The war raged for nearly three years before the United States joined the fray, 100 years ago today, when President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany, saying, "The world must be made safe for democracy. It is a fearful thing," he told Congress, "to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance."

That request was granted four days later, and America would soon be sending its first troops ever to fight in Europe. America's role would be short, but significant in terms of the impact of its participation, both at home and abroad.

The war in Europe started as an almost inevitable outcome of jingoistic nationalism, military arms races, interlocking alliances and a desire to settle old scores from previous wars, according to George Vourlojianis, a history professor at John Carroll University.

The spark igniting this explosive mixture was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand , heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by a Serbian nationalist. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia, ultimatums were issued and entangled alliances invoked, and soon Europe was engulfed by war.

"It took on a momentum that once it began, they weren't able to stop it," Vourlojianis said.

The conflict was characterized by the horrendous carnage wrought by modern military technology including the machine gun, poison gas, flame throwers, rapid-firing field artillery, tanks, airplanes and submarines.

"I don't think they realized that this total unleashing of the industrial revolution would create the monster that it really did," Vourlojianis said.

One of those new weapons, the submarine, contributed to America's entry into the war. Germany established a policy of unrestricted warfare in its blockade of Great Britain, resulting in the 1915 sinking of the British passenger liner Lusitania, and the deaths of 1,197 passengers and crew, including 114 Americans (seven of them Clevelanders).

Unrestricted submarine warfare was suspended, but resumed at the beginning of 1917.

Vourlojianis said overwhelming anti-German propaganda produced by the British also helped sway American public opinion toward the Allies. But "what really breaks the straw on the proverbial camel's back is the Zimmerman telegram ," he noted.

The secret telegram was sent by the German Foreign Office to the German ambassador in Mexico, in 1917, proposing a military alliance between Germany and Mexico if the U.S. joined the Allies in the war. Germany promised that Mexico would get the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, after America was defeated.

The telegram was intercepted, decoded and released publicly by British intelligence.

Two weeks after the contents of the telegram were revealed, German submarines sank three American vessels, prompting an outrage that pressured President Wilson --who had been elected in 1916 in a campaign that included the slogan "he kept us out of war" - to ask the nation to join the fray.

Preparations for overseas offensive

America mobilized, building an army of 4 million through enlistments and the draft. About 2 million served overseas.


United States Enters World War I - Lesson Plan

To compare and contrast two perspectives about U.S. entry into World War I through the writings of Theodore Roosevelt and Jane Addams.

Standards:

  1. NJSLS Social Studies: 6.1.12.A.7.a: Analyze the reasons for the policy of neutrality regarding World War I and explain why the United States eventually entered the war.
  2. NJSLS English Language Arts: R8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
  3. NJSLS English Language Arts: R1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences and relevant connections from it cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Student Objectives:

  1. Using primary source documents, students will identify key components of both authors’ viewpoints.
  2. Students will compare and contrast Roosevelt and Addam’s perspectives on the United States’ neutrality and eventual entry into World War I.
  3. Extension: Students will evaluate which perspective they believe would be best for the United States.

Key Vocabulary:

  1. Conscription
  2. Militarism
  3. Pacifism
  4. Women’s Peace Party
  5. Hague Conference
  6. Conscientious objector
  7. Progressivism
  8. Unrestricted submarine warfare
  9. “Plattsburgh Idea”
  10. Non-interventionists
  11. Liberal internationalists
  12. Atlanticists

Prior Academic Knowledge:

Students will have to know about the start of World War One in Europe and the motivations that drove European nations to declare war.

  1. Why did the United States maintain its stance of neutrality?
  2. What were the main causes of the United States’ entrance into World War I?
  3. What are some of the key ideas that Roosevelt listed for entering the United States into World War I?
  4. What are some of the key ideas that Jane Addams and the Women’s Peace Party had for keeping the United States out of World War I?
  5. What actions did Theodore Roosevelt take to prepare the United States for war?
  6. What actions did Addams take to try and keep the peace within and outside of the United States?

Misconceptions:

  1. All Americans supported U.S. entry into World War I.
    • That’s not quite the whole picture. Yes, many Americans did support involvement in the War, but there was a sizable amount of the population (mostly women and socialists) who opposed the war.
  2. Jane Addams’s key contribution to history was Hull House.
    • While Hull House was one of Addams’s most famous contributions, another area she had a significant historical impact on was the pacifist movement. Not only did she write many articles and speeches about the necessity of peace, she was the president of the Woman’s Peace Party and participated in the International Congress of Women.

Instructional Materials:

  1. Laptop, iPad, etc. for accessing online materials
  2. Smartboard or projector for showing documents and video on-screen for entire class (optional)
  3. Physical copies of documents for students who prefer them
  4. Media Resources:
  1. National Park Service, The Bull Moose in Winter: Theodore Roosevelt and World War I
  2. Theodore Roosevelt Speech, Colonel Roosevelt's speech before the American Medical Association , June 7, 1917.
  1. National Constitution Center, World War I starts, America watches and worries , July 28, 2014.

Day 1: U.S. Neutrality Overview.

  • Do Now: While World War I raged in Europe, the United States made a choice to stay neutral and did not engage in warfare with either side. How and why did it do this? Did all the people support this position?
  • Explain that today starts a two-day lesson that explores the views and actions of two of these sides: the Atlanticists, who advocated military preparedness/involvement and the Pacifists, a subset of the Non-Interventionists who preferred to settle international matters with peaceful methods. We’ll use the writings of Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch Atlanticist and compare them with the writings of “America’s favorite woman,” pacifist Jane Addams.
  • To review the American perspectives on neutrality during World War I watch the video U.S. Entry into WWI and have students answer the attached questions . Be sure to emphasize the perspectives and Wilson’s actions.
  • Students will read this article, World War I starts, America watches and worries . After reading, they should free-write an initial reaction to the American neutrality: would they support this position and seek peaceful methods between the warring countries? Would they reject neutrality and push to prepare the United States for war? Or would they try both methods? Why?
  • Close: Have students share their free response answers with a partner or with the class.

Day 2: Comparing and Contrasting Jane Addams and Theodore Roosevelt

  • Opening: Take a classwide poll. Ask the students to imagine themselves as American citizens living during the United States’ period of neutrality. News about the fighting in Europe has been in the papers and you are starting to think about how the United States relates to it all. How many students would want the United States to strengthen its military and get involved? How many would try to contact European nations in hope of starting peace negotiations? How many will steer clear of the war entirely? Tally up how many students support each perspective. Have a few students share reasons why they made their choice.
    • Suggestion: Create the poll on a Google Form or a website like PollEverywhere or Mentimeter
    • Theodore Roosevelt:
    • Primary Source Analysis
      • Colonel Roosevelt's speech before the American Medical Association, June 7, 1917
        , March 5, 1915 (excerpts) October 29, 1915
    • Extension: World War I Project

      • In this project, students are given a choice in how they want to explore the perspectives of Jane Addams and Theodore Roosevelt. Students may choose to work individually or in pairs. Students will choose between an essay, musical piece, skit performance, or visual art project.

      Assessments:

      1. Using primary source documents, students will identify key components of both authors’ viewpoints.
        • Assessment: In-class worksheets.
      2. Students will compare and contrast Roosevelt and Addam’s perspectives on the United States’ neutrality and eventual entry into World War One.
        • Assessment: Class Venn Diagram and the optional final project for this lesson, which requires students to weigh the pros and cons of both Roosevelt and Addams’s arguments.
      3. Extension: Students will evaluate which perspective they believe would be best for the United States.
        • Assessment: Regardless of the option chosen for the final project, students are required to select and defend either Roosevelt or Addams’s side. This is shown in the written section of their project if they chose the musical, visual arts or skit option or continuously throughout their essay if they chose the writing option.

      Suggested Extensions:

      1. Have students delve into the lives of other famous pacifists. For example, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman member of the House of Representatives, was one of 50 members who voted against the United States going to war. She was also a suffragist and put aside her fight for this cause in order to stand against the war. Addams went through a similar experience, putting aside her goals for suffrage to advocate peace.
      2. Use the resources listed above if there is time left. For instance, the “ Roosevelt Family in World War One ” article expands on Roosevelt's changing views on the war and the war's personal impact on his family.

      Follow ups:

      How did these two perspectives impact the war? Once the United States entered the war, how did Roosevelt's push for "preparedness" make it easier for American troops to make an impact. How did the work that Addams and other pacifists impact the negotiations to end the war in 1919?

      You could also look at how Socialists and the working classes experienced the war, or explore how America's large population of European immigrants responded when their home countries were at war.

      Supporting Diverse Learners:

      1. For students who have difficulty reading from a screen, printed documents will be available.
      2. For students who have difficulty reading from a screen and a print source, all documents will also be available in an audio format, where the computer will be able to read the text.
      3. For students who have trouble organizing their ideas when presented with large projects, all students and groups of students are required to send plans for their assignments to the teacher. The teacher will check them over and hand them back, marking any problematic spots. Then the teacher and the student or group of students will work together to fix the problem.

      Photo credit: American delegates to the International Congress of Women held in the Netherlands in 1915. (Source: Library of Congress )

      Material created by the Jane Addams Project may be used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. See individual items for copyright in documents.


      Reflecting on the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry into World War I

      One hundred years ago, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany, and on April 4, Congress declared war against Germany. As we reflect on the impact of this war on our nation, we first turn to the loss of over 100,000 American soldiers in combat or from disease. In the larger picture, however, the United States losses pale in comparison to the millions of Europeans who perished. The American Expeditionary Force only participated in a major way during the last seven months, although their contribution was decisive in many battles. Yet when we look beyond the U.S. military role, we can see the many ways that World War I impacted American society.

      For one, the war forced Americans to face how diverse their society had become. Since the Civil War, over 20 million immigrants had come to the United States, making up 15% of the population. Native-born troops found themselves fighting alongside immigrants from 46 nations. Officials also had to confront the greater religious diversity as they built the army. At first, the War Department asked the Protestant Young Men’s Christian Association to provide recreation services to the troops, but they received complaints from Catholics and Jews, who argued that large percentages of the soldiers, particularly the nearly 20% who were immigrants, were not Protestant. To accommodate this religious diversity, the military allowed the Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Board to also have recreational facilities.

      The War Department did a less impressive job of dealing with African-American soldiers. The Army was still segregated, and African Americans faced continual abuse and violence and were relegated to the worst jobs, like digging latrines and removing the dead. Those who had the opportunity to engage in battle proved their worth as soldiers, such as the infantry regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters. They fought for 190 days and ceded no ground to the Germans. They received the French Croix de Guerre and returned as heroes.

      The nation’s growing diversity also became an issue at home. Some leaders, like Theodore Roosevelt, argued that immigrants had to reject “the hyphen” and prove themselves to be “100% American.” German Americans felt the brunt of suspicion as native-born Americans went to far as to purge German words from their vocabularies. For instance, sauerkraut became known as “freedom cabbage.” Yet the Wilson administration knew that they could not alienate immigrants, and they used propaganda to promote their inclusion into American civic life. One poster, titled “Americans All.” had an image of Lady Liberty and an “honor roll” of Irish, Italian, Slavic, Scandinavian and other ethnic names (although not German). Many immigrants embraced the opportunity to prove their love of the nation by enlisting in the Army, participating in Liberty Loan campaigns, and volunteering for the Red Cross.

      World War I also made apparent to Americans how central women had become to their society. Over 20,000 women served as nurses during the war, and for the first time, active duty women served in other capacities, mostly clerical duties that freed men to fight. Thousands of women also went to France and worked for the YMCA and Red Cross. The women known as “Hello Girls” served as bilingual telephone operators and the Salvation Army’s “doughnut girls,” named after the treat they made for soldiers, became the most popular sight on the front. Beyond service to the military, American women on the home front took up industrial jobs in munitions factories and other areas as men volunteered or were drafted.

      During this time, the decades-long fight for women’s suffrage reached a crescendo. Some women took militant action, such as when Alice Paul chained herself to the White House gates and compared Wilson’s anti-suffrage stance to the oppression of the German Kaiser. Other activists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, argued that wartime service proved that women deserved full civil rights. Woodrow Wilson became convinced, and on September 30, 1918, he backed women’s suffrage, declaring, “we have made partners of the women in this war…Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?” Congress passed the 19th Amendment a year later, and on August 18, 1920, it was finally ratified.


      Contents

      The American entry into World War I came on April 6, 1917, after a year long effort by President Woodrow Wilson to get the United States into the war. Apart from an Anglophile element urging early support for the British, American public opinion sentiment for neutrality was particularly strong among Irish Americans, German Americans and Scandinavian Americans, [1] as well as among church leaders and among women in general. On the other hand, even before World War I had broken out, American opinion had been more negative toward Germany than towards any other country in Europe. [2] Over time, especially after reports of atrocities in Belgium in 1914 and following the sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1915, the American people increasingly came to see Germany as the aggressor.

      As U.S. President, it was Wilson who made the key policy decisions over foreign affairs: while the country was at peace, the domestic economy ran on a laissez-faire basis, with American banks making huge loans to Britain and France — funds that were in large part used to buy munitions, raw materials, and food from across the Atlantic. Until 1917, Wilson made minimal preparations for a land war and kept the United States Army on a small peacetime footing, despite increasing demands for enhanced preparedness. He did, however, expand the United States Navy.

      In 1917, with the Russian Revolution and widespread disillusionment over the war, and with Britain and France low on credit, Germany appeared to have the upper hand in Europe, [3] while the Ottoman Empire clung to its possessions in the Middle East. In the same year, Germany decided to resume unrestricted submarine warfare against any vessel approaching British waters this attempt to starve Britain into surrender was balanced against the knowledge that it would almost certainly bring the United States into the war. Germany also made a secret offer to help Mexico regain territories lost in the Mexican–American War in an encoded telegram known as the Zimmermann Telegram, which was intercepted by British Intelligence. Publication of that communique outraged Americans just as German U-boats started sinking American merchant ships in the North Atlantic. Wilson then asked Congress for "a war to end all wars" that would "make the world safe for democracy", and Congress voted to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917. [4] On December 7, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary. [5] [6] U.S. troops began arriving on the Western Front in large numbers in 1918.

      After the war began in 1914, the United States proclaimed a policy of neutrality despite President Woodrow Wilson's antipathies against Germany.

      When the German U-boat U-20 sank the British liner Lusitania on 7 May 1915 with 128 US citizens aboard, Wilson demanded an end to German attacks on passenger ships, and warned that the USA would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare in violation of "American rights" and of "international and obligations." [7] Wilson's Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, resigned, believing that the President's protests against the German use of U-boat attacks conflicted with America's official commitment to neutrality. On the other hand, Wilson came under pressure from war hawks led by former president Theodore Roosevelt, who denounced German acts as "piracy", [8] and from British delegations under Cecil Spring Rice and Sir Edward Grey.

      U.S. Public opinion reacted with outrage to the suspected German sabotage of Black Tom in Jersey City, New Jersey on 30 July 1916, and to the Kingsland explosion on 11 January 1917 in present-day Lyndhurst, New Jersey. [9]

      Crucially, by the spring of 1917, President Wilson's official commitment to neutrality had finally unraveled. Wilson realized he needed to enter the war in order to shape the peace and implement his vision for a League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference. [10]

      American public opinion was divided, with most Americans until early 1917 largely of the opinion that the United States should stay out of the war. Opinion changed gradually, partly in response to German actions in Belgium and the Lusitania, partly as German Americans lost influence, and partly in response to Wilson's position that America had to play a role to make the world safe for democracy. [11]

      In the general public, there was little if any support for entering the war on the side of Germany. The great majority of German Americans, as well as Scandinavian Americans, wanted the United States to remain neutral however, at the outbreak of war, thousands of US citizens had tried to enlist in the German army. [12] [13] The Irish Catholic community, based in the large cities and often in control of the Democratic Party apparatus, was strongly hostile to helping Britain in any way, especially after the Easter uprising of 1916 in Ireland. [14] Most of the Protestant church leaders in the United States, regardless of their theology, favored pacifistic solutions whereby the United States would broker a peace. [15] Most of the leaders of the women's movement, typified by Jane Addams, likewise sought pacifistic solutions. [16] The most prominent opponent of war was industrialist Henry Ford, who personally financed and led a peace ship to Europe to try to negotiate among the belligerents no negotiations resulted. [17]

      Britain had significant support among intellectuals and families with close ties to Britain. [18] The most prominent leader was Samuel Insull of Chicago, a leading industrialist who had emigrated from England. Insull funded many propaganda efforts, and financed young Americans who wished to fight by joining the Canadian military. [19] [20]

      By 1915, Americans were paying much more attention to the war. The sinking of the Lusitania aroused furious denunciations of German brutality. [21] By 1915, in Eastern cities a new "Preparedness" movement emerged. It argued that the United States needed to build up immediately strong naval and land forces for defensive purposes an unspoken assumption was that America would fight sooner or later. The driving forces behind Preparedness were all Republicans, notably General Leonard Wood, ex-president Theodore Roosevelt, and former secretaries of war Elihu Root and Henry Stimson they enlisted many of the nation's most prominent bankers, industrialists, lawyers and scions of prominent families. Indeed, there emerged an "Atlanticist" foreign policy establishment, a group of influential Americans drawn primarily from upper-class lawyers, bankers, academics, and politicians of the Northeast, committed to a strand of Anglophile internationalism. [22]

      The Preparedness movement had what political scientists call a "realism" philosophy of world affairs—they believed that economic strength and military muscle were more decisive than idealistic crusades focused on causes like democracy and national self-determination. Emphasizing over and over the weak state of national defenses, they showed that the United States' 100,000-man Army, even augmented by the 112,000-strong National Guard, was outnumbered 20 to one by the German army similarly in 1915, the armed forces of Great Britain and the British Empire, France, Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Belgium, Japan and Greece were all larger and more experienced than the United States military. [23]

      They called for UMT or "universal military service" under which the 600,000 men who turned 18 every year would be required to spend six months in military training, and then be assigned to reserve units. The small regular army would primarily be a training agency. Public opinion, however, was not willing to go that far. [24]

      Both the regular army and the Preparedness leaders had a low opinion of the National Guard, which it saw as politicized, provincial, poorly armed, ill trained, too inclined to idealistic crusading (as against Spain in 1898), and too lacking in understanding of world affairs. The National Guard on the other hand was securely rooted in state and local politics, with representation from a very broad cross section of the US political economy. The Guard was one of the nation's few institutions that (in some northern states) accepted black men on an equal footing with white men.

      Democrats respond Edit

      The Democratic party saw the Preparedness movement as a threat. Roosevelt, Root and Wood were prospective Republican presidential candidates. More subtly, the Democrats were rooted in localism that appreciated the National Guard, and the voters were hostile to the rich and powerful in the first place. Working with the Democrats who controlled Congress, Wilson was able to sidetrack the Preparedness forces. Army and Navy leaders were forced to testify before Congress to the effect that the nation's military was in excellent shape.

      In reality, neither the US Army nor US Navy was in shape for war in terms of manpower, size, military hardware or experience. The Navy had fine ships but Wilson had been using them to threaten Mexico, and the fleet's readiness had suffered. The crews of the Texas and the New York, the two newest and largest battleships, had never fired a gun, and the morale of the sailors was low. The Army and Navy air forces were tiny in size. Despite the flood of new weapons systems unveiled in the war in Europe, the Army was paying scant attention. For example, it was making no studies of trench warfare, poison gas or tanks, and was unfamiliar with the rapid evolution of aerial warfare. The Democrats in Congress tried to cut the military budget in 1915. The Preparedness movement effectively exploited the surge of outrage over the "Lusitania" in May 1915, forcing the Democrats to promise some improvements to the military and naval forces. Wilson, less fearful of the Navy, embraced a long-term building program designed to make the fleet the equal of the British Royal Navy by the mid-1920s, although this would not come to pass until World War II. [25] "Realism" was at work here the admirals were Mahanians and they therefore wanted a surface fleet of heavy battleships second to none—that is, equal to Great Britain. The facts of submarine warfare (which necessitated destroyers, not battleships) and the possibilities of imminent war with Germany (or with Britain, for that matter), were simply ignored.

      Wilson's decision touched off a firestorm. [26] Secretary of War Lindley Garrison adopted many of the proposals of the Preparedness leaders, especially their emphasis on a large federal reserves and abandonment of the National Guard. Garrison's proposals not only outraged the provincial politicians of both parties, they also offended a strongly held belief shared by the liberal wing of the Progressive movement, that was, that warfare always had a hidden economic motivation. Specifically, they warned the chief warmongers were New York bankers (such as J. P. Morgan) with millions at risk, profiteering munition makers (such as Bethlehem Steel, which made armor, and DuPont, which made powder) and unspecified industrialists searching for global markets to control. Antiwar critics blasted them. These selfish special interests were too powerful, especially, Senator La Follette noted, in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. The only road to peace was disarmament in the eyes of many.

      National debate Edit

      Garrison's plan unleashed the fiercest battle in peacetime history over the relationship of military planning to national goals. In peacetime, War Department arsenals and Navy yards manufactured nearly all munitions that lacked civilian uses, including warships, artillery, naval guns, and shells. Items available on the civilian market, such food, horses, saddles, wagons, and uniforms were always purchased from civilian contractors.

      Peace leaders like Jane Addams of Hull House and David Starr Jordan of Stanford University redoubled their efforts, and now turned their voices against the President because he was "sowing the seeds of militarism, raising up a military and naval caste." Many ministers, professors, farm spokesmen and labor union leaders joined in, with powerful support from a band of four dozen southern Democrats in Congress who took control of the House Military Affairs Committee. Wilson, in deep trouble, took his cause to the people in a major speaking tour in early 1916, a warm-up for his reelection campaign that fall.

      Wilson seemed to have won over the middle classes, but had little impact on the largely ethnic working classes and the deeply isolationist farmers. Congress still refused to budge, so Wilson replaced Garrison as Secretary of War with Newton Baker, the Democratic mayor of Cleveland and an outspoken opponent of preparedness. [27] The upshot was a compromise passed in May 1916, as the war raged on and Berlin was debating whether America was so weak it could be ignored. The Army was to double in size to 11,300 officers and 208,000 men, with no reserves, and a National Guard that would be enlarged in five years to 440,000 men. Summer camps on the Plattsburg model were authorized for new officers, and the government was given $20 million to build a nitrate plant of its own. Preparedness supporters were downcast, the antiwar people were jubilant. The United States would now be too weak to go to war. Colonel Robert L. Bullard privately complained that "Both sides [Britain and Germany] treat us with scorn and contempt our fool, smug conceit of superiority has been exploded in our faces and deservedly.". [28] The House gutted the naval plans as well, defeating a "big navy" plan by 189 to 183, and canceling the battleships. The battle of Jutland (May 31/June 1, 1916) saw the main German High Seas Fleet engage in a monumental yet inconclusive clash with the far stronger Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy. Arguing this battle proved the validity of Mahanian doctrine, the navalists took control in the Senate, broke the House coalition, and authorized a rapid three-year buildup of all classes of warships. [ citation needed ] A new weapons system, naval aviation, received $3.5 million, and the government was authorized to build its own armor-plate factory. The very weakness of American military power encouraged Germany to start its unrestricted submarine attacks in 1917. It knew this meant war with America, but it could discount the immediate risk because the US Army was negligible and the new warships would not be at sea until 1919 by which time the war would be over, Berlin thought, with Germany victorious. The notion that armaments led to war was turned on its head: refusal to arm in 1916 led to war in 1917.

      In January 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in hopes of forcing Britain to begin peace talks. The German Foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann invited revolution-torn Mexico to join the war as Germany's ally against the United States if the United States declared war on Germany in the Zimmermann Telegram. In return, the Germans would send Mexico money and help it recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona that Mexico lost during the Mexican–American War 70 years earlier. [29] British intelligence intercepted the telegram and passed the information on to Washington. Wilson released the Zimmerman note to the public and Americans saw it as a casus belli—a justification for war.

      At first, Wilson tried to maintain neutrality while fighting off the submarines by arming American merchant ships with guns powerful enough to sink German submarines on the surface (but useless when the U-boats were under water). After submarines sank seven US merchant ships, Wilson finally went to Congress calling for a declaration of war on Germany, which Congress voted on April 6, 1917. [30]

      As a result of the Russian February Revolution in 1917, the Tsar abdicated and was replaced by a Russian Provisional Government. This helped overcome Wilson's reluctance to having the US fight alongside a country ruled by an absolutist monarch. Pleased by the Provisional Government's pro-war stance, the US accorded the new government diplomatic recognition on March 9, 1917. [31]

      Congress declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 7, 1917, [32] but never made declarations of war against the other Central Powers, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire or the various small co-belligerents allied with the Central Powers. [33] Thus, the United States remained uninvolved in the military campaigns in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

      The home front required a systematic mobilization of the entire population and the entire economy to produce the soldiers, food supplies, munitions, and money needed to win the war. It took a year to reach a satisfactory state. Although the war had already raged for two years, Washington had avoided planning, or even recognition of the problems that the British and other Allies had to solve on their home fronts. As a result, the level of confusion was high at first. Finally efficiency was achieved in 1918. [34]

      The war came in the midst of the Progressive Era, when efficiency and expertise were highly valued. Therefore, the federal government set up a multitude of temporary agencies with 50,000 to 1,000,000 new employees to bring together the expertise necessary to redirect the economy into the production of munitions and food necessary for the war, as well as for propaganda purposes. [35]

      Food Edit

      The most admired agency for efficiency was the United States Food Administration under Herbert Hoover. It launched a massive campaign to teach Americans to economize on their food budgets and grow victory gardens in their backyards fort family consumption. It managed the nation's food distribution and prices and built Hoover's reputation as an independent force of presidential quality. [36]

      Finance Edit

      In 1917 the government was unprepared for the enormous economic and financial strains of the war. Washington hurriedly took direct control of the economy. The total cost of the war came to $33 billion, which was 42 times as large as all Treasury receipts in 1916. A constitutional amendment legitimized income tax in 1913 its original very low levels were dramatically increased, especially at the demand of the Southern progressive elements. North Carolina Congressman Claude Kitchin, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee argued that since Eastern businessman had been leaders in calling for war, they should pay for it. [37] In an era when most workers earned under $1000 a year, the basic exemption was $2,000 for a family. Above that level taxes began at the 2 percent rate in 1917, jumping to 12 percent in 1918. On top of that there were surcharges of one percent for incomes above $5,000 to 65 percent for incomes above $1,000,000. As a result, the richest 22 percent of American taxpayers paid 96 percent of individual income taxes. Businesses faced a series of new taxes, especially on "excess profits" ranging from 20 percent to 80 percent on profits above pre-war levels. There were also excise taxes that everyone paid who purchased an automobile, jewelry, camera, or a motorboat. [38] [39] The greatest source of revenue came from war bonds, which were effectively merchandised to the masses through an elaborate innovative campaign to reach average Americans. Movie stars and other celebrities, supported by millions of posters, and an army of Four-Minute Men speakers explained the importance of buying bonds. In the third Liberty Loan campaign of 1918, more than half of all families subscribed. In total, $21 billion in bonds were sold with interest from 3.5 to 4.7 percent. The new Federal Reserve system encouraged banks to loan families money to buy bonds. All the bonds were redeemed, with interest, after the war. Before the United States entered the war, New York banks had loaned heavily to the British. After the U.S. entered in April 1917, the Treasury made $10 billion in long-term loans to Britain, France and the other allies, with the expectation the loans would be repaid after the war. Indeed, the United States insisted on repayment, which by the 1950s eventually was achieved by every country except Russia. [40] [41]

      Labor Edit

      The American Federation of Labor (AFL) and affiliated trade unions were strong supporters of the war effort. [42] Fear of disruptions to war production by labor radicals provided the AFL political leverage to gain recognition and mediation of labor disputes, often in favor of improvements for workers. They resisted strikes in favor of arbitration and wartime policy, and wages soared as near-full employment was reached at the height of the war. The AFL unions strongly encouraged young men to enlist in the military, and fiercely opposed efforts to reduce recruiting and slow war production by pacifists, the anti-war Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and radical socialists. To keep factories running smoothly, Wilson established the National War Labor Board in 1918, which forced management to negotiate with existing unions. [43] Wilson also appointed AFL president Samuel Gompers to the powerful Council of National Defense, where he set up the War Committee on Labor.

      After initially resisting taking a stance, the IWW became actively anti-war, engaging in strikes and speeches and suffering both legal and illegal suppression by federal and local governments as well as pro-war vigilantes. The IWW was branded as anarchic, socialist, unpatriotic, alien and funded by German gold, and violent attacks on members and offices would continue into the 1920s. [44]

      Women's roles Edit

      World War I saw women taking traditionally men's jobs in large numbers for the first time in American history. Many women worked on the assembly lines of factories, assembling munitions. Some department stores employed African American women as elevator operators and cafeteria waitresses for the first time. [45]

      Most women remained housewives. The Food Administration helped housewives prepare more nutritious meals with less waste and with optimum use of the foods available. Most important, the morale of the women remained high, as millions of middle class women joined the Red Cross as volunteers to help soldiers and their families. [46] [47] With rare exceptions, women did not try to block the draft. [48]

      The Department of Labor created a Women in Industry group, headed by prominent labor researcher and social scientist Mary van Kleeck. [49] This group helped develop standards for women who were working in industries connected to the war alongside the War Labor Policies Board, of which van Kleeck was also a member. After the war, the Women in Industry Service group developed into the U.S. Women's Bureau, headed by Mary Anderson. [50] [49]

      Propaganda Edit

      Crucial to US participation was the sweeping domestic propaganda campaign. In order to achieve this, President Wilson created the Committee on Public Information through Executive Order 2594 on April 13, 1917, which was the first state bureau in the United States that's main focus was on propaganda. The man charged by President Wilson with organizing and leading the CPI was George Creel, a once relentless journalist and political campaign organizer who would search without mercy for any bit of information that would paint a bad picture on his opponents. Creel went about his task with boundless energy. He was able to create an intricate, unprecedented propaganda system that plucked and instilled an influence on almost all phases of normal American life. [51] In the press—as well as through photographs, movies, public meetings, and rallies—the CPI was able to douse the public with Propaganda that brought on American patriotism whilst creating an anti-German image into the young populace, further quieting the voice of the neutrality supporters. It also took control of market regarding the dissemination of war-related information on the American home front, which in turn promoted a system of voluntary censorship in the country's newspapers and magazines while simultaneously policing these same media outlets for seditious content or anti-American support. [ citation needed ] The campaign consisted of tens of thousands of government-selected community leaders giving brief carefully scripted pro-war speeches at thousands of public gatherings. [52] [53]

      Alongside government agencies were officially approved private vigilante groups like the American Protective League. They closely monitored (and sometimes harassed) people opposed to American entry into the war or displaying too much German heritage. [54]

      Other forms of propaganda included newsreels, large-print posters (designed by several well-known illustrators of the day, including Louis D. Fancher and Henry Reuterdahl), magazine and newspaper articles, and billboards. At the end of the war in 1918, after the Armistice was signed, the CPI was disbanded after inventing some of the tactics used by propagandists today. [55]

      Children Edit

      The nation placed a great importance on the role of children, teaching them patriotism and national service and asking them to encourage war support and educate the public about the importance of the war. The Boy Scouts of America helped distribute war pamphlets, helped sell war bonds, and helped to drive nationalism and support for the war. [56]


      Mobilizing a Nation

      The United States mobilized its home front in WWI, resulting in bureaucratic confusion but also expansion of the wartime economy and women in the workforce.

      Learning Objectives

      Describe how the United States mobilized soldiers, temporary agencies, food supplies, munitions, and money during World War I

      Key Takeaways

      Key Points

      • As part of the massive war mobilization effort, U.S. bureaucracy was expanded and temporary agencies were established, producing more than half a million new jobs in 5,000 new federal agencies.
      • The Selective Service Act of 1917 raised the military manpower for the war through conscription, and prohibited all forms of purchasing exemptions.
      • Under Herbert Hoover, the director of the U.S. Food Administration, the government managed the nation’s food distribution and prices and launched a widespread campaign to teach Americans to create food budgets and plant victory gardens.
      • The American Federation of Labor, under Samuel Gompers, supported the war and minimized strikes and labor agitations to prevent disruptions in the war effort. Wilson established the National War Labor Board in 1918 to force management to negotiate with existing unions to keep factories running efficiently.

      Key Terms

      • Selective Service Act: Legislation that authorized the federal government to raise a national army for the American entry into World War I through conscription. It was envisioned in December 1916 and brought to President Woodrow Wilson’s attention shortly after the break in relations with Germany in February 1917. The act was drafted after the United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany and canceled with the end of the war in November 1918.
      • Progressive Era: A period of American politics, from the 1890s to the Great Depression, in which reformers attempted to apply the principles of rational, scientific management to government, the economy, and society. The era included attempts to reduce governmental corruption and inefficiency (particularly at the local level), the regulation of large corporations, protections for laborers, and a foreign policy characterized by imperialism.
      • Herbert Hoover: (1874–1964) The 31st president of the United States (1929–1933), and the director of the U.S. Food Administration during WWI. Hoover was formerly a professional mining engineer and author.

      The home front of the United States in World War I saw a systematic mobilization of its entire population and economy to produce the soldiers, food, munitions, and money needed to win the war. Although the United States entered the war in 1917, there had been very little planning, or even recognition of the problems that Great Britain and other Allies had to solve on their own home fronts. As a result, the level of confusion was high in the first 12 months until efficiency took control.

      Instituting a Military Draft

      The government under President Woodrow Wilson decided to rely primarily on conscription rather than voluntary enlistment to raise military manpower. The Selective Service Act of 1917 established a, “liability for military service of all male citizens,” and authorized a selective draft of men between 21 and 31 years of age. The law—which included exemptions from military service for those who fell into special categories, such as those having dependents, working in essential occupations, and ascribing to specific religious beliefs—was carefully drawn to place each man in his proper niche in the national war effort. The act prohibited all forms of bounties, substitutions, or purchase of exemptions, all of which had been prevalent during the Civil War.

      Oversight and administration of the draft was entrusted to local boards of civilians that issued draft calls, which were ordered by numbers drawn in a national lottery, and determined exemptions. In 1917 and 1918, approximately 24 million men were registered and nearly 3 million inducted into the armed forces.

      Recruiting soldiers: As part of massive mobilization efforts, young American men volunteered or were conscripted into the armed forces.

      Establishing Temporary Agencies

      The war came in the midst of the Progressive Era, when efficiency and expertise were highly valued. The federal government established a multitude of temporary agencies to bring together the expertise necessary to redirect the economy into the production of munitions and food for the war, as well as to generate new ideas to motivate the working populace.

      Congress authorized President Wilson to create between 500,000 and 1 million new jobs in 5,000 new federal agencies. The War Labor Administration (WLA), headed by Wilson’s Secretary of Labor, Scottish-born former Congressman William B. Wilson, oversaw most of the wartime labor programs and included a War Labor Board to adjudicate disputes. The WLA also established the Women in Industry Service that eventually grew into a permanent Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor, a Training and Dilution Service to help simplify skilled jobs, a Division of Negro Economics, the Farm Service Division, the Working Conditions Service, and the Housing and Transportation Bureau that helped accommodate the living conditions of war workers.

      The Department of Labor’s new Employment Service attracted workers from the South and Midwest to war industries in the East and was used by federal production offices to hire fresh employees. The service also brought 110,000 workers into the country from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, enrolled 1 million people in a reserve labor force, and in early 1918 began mobilizing 3 million workers for agriculture, ship building, and defense plant positions.

      While Wilson’s policies created numerous jobs in these new agencies, he also had the less distinguished achievement of segregating the federal workforce. Upon taking office in 1913, Wilson placed many pro segregation Southerners in positions throughout the government and ordered the reversal of post-Civil War Reconstruction policies that had integrated federal agencies and enabled African Americans to work alongside white employees. This change reached throughout the civil service, including the expansive Postal Service, where African-American employees were downgraded and transferred out of jobs that interacted with the public. Segregationist policies continued into World War I. The War Department drafted hundreds of thousands of African-American men into the army with equal pay, but placed them in segregated units with black soldiers led by white officers. Largely kept out of combat, a group of black service members protested directly to Wilson but were met by his response, “Segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.”

      Economic Confusion

      The first 15 months of the war effort on the home front involved an amazing parade of mistakes, misguided enthusiasm, and confusion. Most Americans were willing to pitch in but were not clear on their proper roles, while Washington was often unable to make clear decisions about actions, timing, or even who was in charge. The coal shortage that struck the nation in December 1917 exemplified the confusion.

      Coal was the major source of energy and heat. Plenty of coal was mined, but a crisis developed when 44,000 loaded freight and coal cars were tied up in horrendous traffic jams in the rail yards of the East Coast, leaving 200 ships waiting in New York harbor for the delayed cargo. It was not until March 1918 that Washington took control, using measures such as nationalizing coal mines and railroads for the duration of the war, shutting factories one day each week to save fuel, and enforcing a strict priority system.

      Labor Unions in World War I

      Nearly all labor unions strongly supported the war effort, and during the conflict, the number of strikes were minimal, wages soared, and full employment was reached. President Wilson appointed Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor ( AFL ), to the powerful Council of National Defense. AFL membership soared to 2.4 million in 1917, and its unions strongly encouraged their young men to enlist in the military. They fiercely opposed efforts to reduce recruiting and slow war production by groups such as the International Workers of the World (IWW), which was controlled by antiwar socialists and subsequently shut down by the federal government.

      To keep factories running smoothly, the president established the National War Labor Board in 1918, which forced management to negotiate with existing unions. In 1919, the AFL tried to make its gains permanent and called a series of major strikes in meat, steel, and other industries. The strikes ultimately failed, however, forcing unions back to positions similar to those around 1910.

      Mobilizing Farming and Food

      During World War I, food production fell dramatically, especially in Europe where agricultural labor had been recruited into military service and many farms were devastated by the conflict. Numerous efforts were made in the United States to bolster domestic morale in conjunction with keeping the agriculture sector afloat. The U.S. Food Administration under Herbert Hoover managed the nation’s food distribution and prices, and launched a massive campaign to teach Americans to economize their food budgets. In addition to “Wheatless Wednesdays” and “Meatless Tuesdays” due to poor harvests in 1916 and 1917, there were “Fuelless Mondays” and “Gasless Sundays” to preserve coal and gasoline.

      “Eat More”: The United States Food Administration urged Americans to eat non-traditional grains, saving wheat for fighting soldiers.

      War Gardens

      In March 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission and launched the war garden campaign. Pack believed the supply of food could be greatly increased without the use of land and manpower already engaged in agriculture, and without the significant use of transportation facilities needed for the war. The campaign promoted the cultivation of available private and public lands, resulting in the production of foodstuffs exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war. From 1914 to 1919, gross farm income increased more than 230 percent.

      A poster campaign encouraged the planting of “victory gardens,” emphasizing to home-front urbanites and suburbanites that the produce from their gardens would help lower the price of vegetables needed by the U.S. War Department to feed the troops, thus saving money that could be spent elsewhere on the military. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt directed the planting of a victory garden on the White House grounds to support the initiative.

      Women war gardeners, 1918: This photo shows war gardeners in the Washington, D.C., vicinity, circa 1918. Women led home-front efforts, such as planting large war gardens and domestic “victory gardens,” that were an important part of U.S. entry into WWI.

      Although government officials initially feared this movement would hurt the food industry, basic information about gardening appeared in public-services booklets distributed by the Department of Agriculture and agribusiness corporations such as International Harvester and Beech-Nut. The Agriculture Department estimated that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted, with between 9 and 10 million tons of fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots, equaling all commercial production of fresh vegetables.

      The Women’s Land Army of America (WLAA) was created to replace male agricultural workers who were called up to the military. Modeled on the British Women’s Land Army, WLAA members were sometimes known as “farmerettes.” The WLAA operated from 1917 to 1921, employing between 15,000 and 20,000 urban women. Many were college educated, and units were associated with colleges. The WLAA was supported by Progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt and was strongest in the West and Northeast, where it was associated with the suffrage movement. Opposition came from Nativists, President Wilson’s agitators, and others who questioned the women’s strength and the effect of the work on their health. Yet the latter arguments were largely disproved, not only by the successful efforts of the WLAA, but by the widespread increase in women who joined the workforce to support the economy and the war effort.

      Women Workers in World War I

      As one of the first total wars, World War I mobilized women in unprecedented numbers on all sides. Some joined the military to take the jobs of men who had transferred to fighting units, serving as pilots to transport supplies, test planes, and tow targets for artillery practice. The vast majority were drafted into the civilian workforce to replace conscripted men, taking traditionally male jobs working on factory assembly lines producing tanks, trucks, and munitions. For the first time, department stores employed African-American women as elevator operators and cafeteria waitresses. This proved women were capable of a variety of work, which added to the voting-rights controversy that came later.

      As well as paid jobs, women were also expected to take on voluntary work such as packing coal into sacks for distribution wherever it was needed, or rolling bandages, knitting clothes, and preparing hampers for soldiers on the front. Millions joined the Red Cross as volunteers to help soldiers and their families. Most important, the morale of women remained high, and with rare exceptions, women did not protest the draft.


      U.S. Entry Into World War I Was a Disaster

      103 years ago, in 1914, the Federal Reserve opened-up for business as the carnage in northern France was getting under way.

      And it brought to a close the prior magnificent half-century era of liberal internationalism and honest gold-backed money.

      The Great War was nothing short of a calamity, especially for the 20 million combatants and civilians who perished for no reason discernible in any fair reading of history, or even unfair one.

      Yet the far greater calamity is that Europe’s senseless fratricide of 1914-1918 gave birth to all the great evils of the 20th century — the Great Depression, totalitarian genocides, Keynesian economics, permanent warfare states, rampaging central banks and the follies of America’s global imperialism.

      Indeed, in Old Testament fashion, one begat the next and the next and still the next.

      The old liberal international economic order — honest money, relatively free trade, rising international capital flows and rapidly growing global economic integration — resulted in a 40-year span between 1870 and 1914 of rising living standards, stable prices, massive capital investment and prolific technological progress that was never equaled either before or since.

      The Great War undid it all.

      In the case of Great Britain, for example, its national debt increased 14-fold, its price level doubled, its capital stock was depleted, most off-shore investments were liquidated and universal wartime conscription left it with a massive overhang of human and financial liabilities.

      Yet England was the least devastated. In France, the price level inflated by 300% its extensive Russian investments were confiscated by the Bolsheviks and its debts in New York and London catapulted to more than 100% of GDP.

      Among the defeated powers, currencies emerged nearly worthless with the German mark at five cents on the pre-war dollar, while wartime debts — especially after the harsh peace of Versailles — soared to crushing, unrepayable heights.

      And the Great Depression’s tardy, thoroughly misunderstood and deeply traumatic arrival happened compliments of the United States.

      In the first place, America’s wholly unwarranted intervention in April 1917 prolonged the slaughter, doubled the financial due bill and generated a cockamamie peace, giving rise to totalitarianism among the defeated powers and Keynesianism among the victors.

      Even conventional historians admit as much. Had Woodrow Wilson not misled America on a messianic crusade, the Great War would have ended in mutual exhaustion in 1917 and both sides would have gone home battered and bankrupt but no danger to the rest of mankind.

      Indeed, absent Wilson’s crusade there would have been no allied victory, no punitive peace, and no war reparations nor would there have been a Leninist coup in Petrograd or Stalin’s barbaric regime.

      Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazis, no holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan and no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

      Nor would there have followed a Cold War with the Soviets or CIA sponsored coups and assassinations in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Brazil and Chile to name a few. Surely there would have been no CIA plot to assassinate Castro, or Russian missiles in Cuba or a crisis that took the world to the brink of annihilation.

      There would have been no domino theory and no Vietnam slaughter, either.

      Nor would we have had to come to the aid of the mujahedeen and train the future al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Likewise, there would have been no Khomeini-led Islamic counter-revolution, and no U.S. aid to enable Saddam’s gas attacks on Iranian boy soldiers in the 1980s.

      Nor would there have been an American invasion of Arabia in 1991 to stop our former ally Saddam Hussein from looting the equally contemptible Emir of Kuwait’s ill-gotten oil plunder — or, alas, the horrific 9/11 blowback a decade later.

      Nor would we have been stuck with a $1 trillion Warfare State budget today. But I digress.

      Economically, the Great War enabled the already rising American economy to boom and bloat in an entirely artificial and unsustainable manner for the better part of 15 years.

      The realities of war finance also transformed the new Federal Reserve into an incipient central banking monster in a manner wholly opposite to the intentions of its great legislative architect — the incomparable Carter Glass of Virginia.

      During the Great War America became the granary and arsenal to the European Allies — triggering an eruption of domestic investment and production that transformed the nation into a massive global creditor and powerhouse exporter virtually overnight.

      Altogether, in six short years $40 billion of money GDP became $92 billion in 1920 — a sizzling 15% annual rate of gain.

      Needless to say, these fantastic figures reflected an inflationary, war-swollen economy — a phenomena that prudent finance men of the age knew was wholly artificial and destined for a thumping post-war depression.

      World War I simply gave birth to the modern Fed as we know it.

      When Congress created the Federal Reserve on Christmas Eve 1913, just six months before Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, it had provided no legal authority whatsoever for the Fed to buy government bonds or undertake so-called “open market operations” to finance the public debt.

      In part this was due to the fact that there were precious few Federal bonds to buy. The public debt then stood at just $1.5 billion, which is the same figure that had pertained 51 years earlier at the battle of Gettysburg, and amounted to just 4% of GDP.

      Thus, in an age of balanced budgets and bipartisan fiscal rectitude, the Fed’s legislative architects had not even considered the possibility of central bank monetization of the public debt, and, in any event, had a totally different mission in mind.

      The big point here is that Carter Glass’ “banker’s bank” was an instrument of the market, not an agency of state policy. The so-called economic aggregates of the later Keynesian models — GDP, employment, consumption and investment — were to remain an unmanaged outcome on the free market, reflecting the interaction of millions of producers, consumers, savers, investors, entrepreneurs and even speculators.

      But WWI crossed the Rubicon of modern Warfare State finance. During World War I the U.S. public debt rose from $1.5 billion to $27 billion — an eruption that would have been virtually impossible without wartime amendments which allowed the Fed to own or finance U.S. Treasury debt.

      These “emergency” amendments — it’s always an emergency in wartime — enabled a fiscal scheme that was ingenious, but turned the Fed’s modus operandi upside down and paved the way for today’s monetary central planning.

      Washington learned that it could unplug the free market interest rate in favor of state administered prices for money, and that credit could be massively expanded without the inconvenience of higher savings out of deferred consumption.

      Effectively, Washington financed Woodrow Wilson’s crusade with its newly discovered printing press — turning the innocent “banker’s bank” legislated in 1913 into a dangerously potent new arm of the state.

      It was this wartime transformation of the Fed into an activist central bank that postponed the normal post-war liquidation — moving the world’s scheduled depression down the road to the 1930s.

      The Fed’s role in this startling feat is in plain sight in the history books, but its significance has been obfuscated by Keynesians presuming that the state must continuously manage the business cycle and macro-economy.

      The Great Depression thus did not represent the failure of capitalism or some inherent suicidal tendency of the free market to plunge into cyclical depression — absent the constant ministrations of the state through monetary, fiscal, tax and regulatory interventions.

      Instead, the Great Depression was a unique historical occurrence — the delayed consequence of the monumental folly of the Great War, abetted by the financial deformations spawned by modern central banking.

      The “failure of capitalism” explanation of the Great Depression is exactly what enabled the Warfare State to thrive and dominate the rest of the 20th century because it gave birth to what have become its twin handmaidens — Keynesian economics and monetary central planning.

      Together, these two doctrines eroded and eventually destroyed the great policy barrier — that is, the old-time religion of balanced budgets — that had kept America a relatively peaceful Republic until 1914.

      If only we could rewind the clock to 1917 and keep Wilson out of WWI, history — and economics — likely would have been a lot different.


      Watch the video: What made the United States enter World War 1 (August 2022).