Chapter 23 Americans in the Great War, 1914–1920 Learning Objectives



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Americans in the Great War, 1914–1920


Chapter 23

Americans in the Great War,
1914–1920

Learning Objectives

After you have studied Chapter 23 in your textbook and worked through this study guide chapter, you should be able to:

1. Discuss Europe’s descent into the First World War.

2. Discuss both President Woodrow Wilson’s attempts and the attempts of antiwar activists to keep the United States out of the First World War, and explain the ultimate failure of those efforts.

3. Discuss the response of Americans to the First World War and to American entry into the war, and indicate the extent to which United States participation influenced the outcome of the conflict.

4. Describe the characteristics of draftees and volunteers in the American armed forces during the First World War and discuss their lives as soldiers.

5. Examine the impact of the First World War on the American home front, including its impact on the federal government, business, labor, women, and African Americans.

6. Explain and evaluate the record of government at the local, state, and national levels on civil-liberties questions during and after the war.

7. Explain the differences and similarities between Wilsonianism and the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.

8. Examine the debate over ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and American entry into the League of Nations, and explain the Senate’s rejection of the treaty.

9. Examine the impact of the First World War on America’s role in world affairs

Thematic Guide

In Chapter 23, we deal with the causes of the First World War, American entry into the war, and the political, social, and economic impact of the war on the United States and its people. The nation’s entry into the war is discussed in “Precarious Neutrality” and “Submarine Warfare and Wilson’s Decision for War.” Although President Wilson proclaimed the United States to be a neutral in the European conflict, three realities made neutrality practically impossible. Those realities confirm the interrelation of domestic and foreign policy (a dominant theme in Chapter 22). Furthermore, the discussion of the tenets of Wilsonianism and Wilson’s strict interpretation of international law reinforces the concept that a nation’s foreign policy is based on its perception of the world community of nations and of its relationship to those nations.

Besides the underlying reasons for American entry into the war, there were obvious and immediate reasons for that decision: the naval warfare between Great Britain and Germany, the use of the submarine by the Germans, and Wilson’s interpretation of international law as he attempted to protect the rights of the United States as a neutral nation. The authors’ inference that Americans got caught in the crossfire between the Allies and the Central Powers is supported through the tracing of United States policy from the sinking of the Lusitania to the adoption of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans. Therefore, the Zimmermann telegram, perceived as a direct threat to American security by American officials, the arming of American commercial ships, and additional sinkings of American ships by German submarines brought a declaration of war by Congress. Finally, America went to war because of a special sense of mission. The country went to war to reform world politics, war being the only means that guaranteed Wilson a seat and an insider’s voice at the peace table.

In spite of antiwar sentiment in the United States, the country began to prepare for war before the actual declaration, as can be seen in the passage of the National Defense Act, the Navy Act, and the Revenue Act. Once war was declared, the country turned to the draft (the Selective Service Act) to raise the necessary army. Even though American military and political leaders believed that American virtue could reshape the world, they feared that the world would reshape the virtue of American soldiers. To protect that virtue, the government created the Commission on Training Camp Activities. In spite of this, venereal disease became a serious problem within the army. Furthermore, American soldiers could not be shielded from the graver threat of influenza and pneumonia, and more soldiers died from disease than on the battlefield. Another serious problem in the American army—one that government and army officials did little to combat—was racism. Not only were African Americans segregated within the army, but they were also subjected to various forms of racial discrimination.

Mobilization of the nation for the war effort altered American life. Government power increased, especially in the economic sphere. Government-business cooperation became part of official government policy. Centralized governmental control and planning of the nation’s economy were largely successful, but there were mistakes and problems. Government policy caused inflation; government tax policies meant that only one-third of the war was financed through taxes; and, although organized labor made some gains, it usually took a back seat to the needs of corporations.

The war intensified the divisions within the pluralistic American society. Entry of more women into previously “male” jobs brought negative reactions by male workers. Increased northward migration of African Americans intensified racist fears and animosities in factories and neighborhoods. The government’s fear of dissent and of foreigners led to the trampling of civil liberties at the national, state, and local levels. In the immediate aftermath of the war, events both within and outside the country heightened these fears, culminating in the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids. The American effort to “make the world safe for democracy” brought actions on the home front that seemed to indicate a basic distrust of democracy.

Divisions also intensified on the political front, as the debate over the Treaty of Versailles indicates. In “The Peace Conference, League Fight, and Postwar World” Wilson’s Fourteen Points are contrasted with the actual terms of the treaty. The divergence was an issue used in the arguments of those opposed to the treaty and to American entry into the League of Nations. But the core of the problem lay in Article 10 of the League covenant. Critics charged that the collective-security provisions of this article would allow League members to call out the United States Army without congressional approval. The belief of many that this was true was at the heart of the debate against the League. Fear that the United States would be forced to forgo its traditional unilateralism in foreign affairs led the Senate to reject the treaty and American entry into the League of Nations.

The American experience in the First World War influenced every aspect of American life, producing consequences for the future. The war changed America’s place in world affairs to one of world prominence, and it continued to shape America’s institutions and decisions both at home and abroad long after 1920.



Building Vocabulary

Listed below are important words and terms that you need to know to get the most out of Chapter 23. They are listed in the order in which they occur in the chapter. After carefully looking through the list, refer to a dictionary and jot down the definition of words that you do not know or of which you are unsure.

neurosis

psychosis

regimen

cataclysm

dreadnought

heterogeneous

fractious

pacifist


chide

tout


unilateral

collusion

engorge

conflagration

archetype

prophesy


confiscation

exceptionalism

tenet

emphatically



waive

flout


deftly

marauding

impede

avenge


filibuster

foment


maelstrom

menial


stymie

pandemic


abate

scurrilous

throttle

extol


abhorrent

exacerbate

scapegoat

ominous


belfry

vengeful


scoff

reparations

indemnity

placate


Identification and Significance

After studying Chapter 23 of A People and a Nation, you should be able to identify fully and explain the historical significance of each item listed below.

1. Identify each item in the space provided. Give an explanation or description of the item. Answer the questions who, what, where, and when.

2. Explain the historical significance of each item in the space provided. Establish the historical context in which the item exists. Establish the item as the result of or as the cause of other factors existing in the society under study. Answer this question: What were the political, social, economic, and/or cultural consequences of this item?

June 1914 assassination at Sarajevo

Identification

Significance

President Wilson’s Proclamation of Neutrality

Identification

Significance

Wilsonianism

Identification

Significance

British naval policy

Identification

Significance

neutral rights

Identification

Significance

the submarine and international law

Identification

Significance

the Lusitania

Identification

Significance

Secretary of State Bryan’s resignation

Identification

Significance

the Arabic

Identification

Significance

the Gore-McLemore resolution

Identification

Significance

the Sussex

Identification

Significance

the peace movement

Identification

Significance

unrestricted submarine warfare

Identification

Significance

the Zimmermann telegram

Identification

Significance

the armed-ship bill

Identification

Significance

Wilson’s war message

Identification

Significance

the National Defense Act of 1916 and the Navy Act of 1916

Identification

Significance

the Selective Service Act

Identification

Significance

African American enlistees in the military

Identification

Significance

Indian enlistees in the military

Identification

Significance

the Commission on Training Camp Activities

Identification

Significance

“sin-free” zones

Identification

Significance

General John J. Pershing

Identification

Significance

trench warfare

Identification

Significance

the Food Administration, the Railroad Administration, and the Fuel Administration

Identification

Significance

the War Industries Board

Identification

Significance

wartime inflation

Identification

Significance

the Revenue Act of 1916

Identification

Significance

the War Revenue Act of 1917

Identification

Significance

the National War Labor Board

Identification

Significance

women in the work force

Identification

Significance

African American migration

Identification

Significance

the “Red Summer” of 1919

Identification

Significance

the influenza pandemic

Identification

Significance

the civil-liberties issue

Identification

Significance

the Committee on Public Information

Identification

Significance

the Espionage and Sedition Acts

Identification

Significance

Eugene Debs

Identification

Significance

the Civil Liberties Bureau

Identification

Significance



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