Due to our geographical location and distance from Europe, America had enjoyed a comfortable isolation from the affairs of Europe.
George Washington in his farewell address warned Americans to “steer clear of permanent alliances.” Peacetime military alliances typically lead to war: unnecessary war for those not directly involved yet pulled in because of alliances.
When the war breaks out the United States attempts to remain aloof. However, German submarines (U-boats) threaten U.S. trade.
Woodrow Wilson was a stern moralist: he believed in a new world order where morality and idealism reigned supreme.
America, according to Wilson, should be a beacon of democracy
Two sides: Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy. Triple Alliance aka Allied Powers – France, UK, Russia (U.S. would join later)
Over 9 million people will die in World War I. Roughly 6,000 dead each day.
New military technology – machine guns, high velocity rifles, aerial bombing, poison gas, flame throwers, land mines, long-range artillery, tanks massive casualties.
Trench life – trench foot, lice, rats
Shock and awe at the thousands of casualties
Wilson urged Americans to be “neutral in thought as well as action.” This was very difficult to do because we are a nation of immigrants with deep ties to mother nations.
Those of German and Irish descent tended to favor the Central Powers. Why the Irish? They hated the British, which goes back hundreds of years.
Those of Anglo-Saxon descent favored the Allies – British
The Allied demand for war supplies led to a wartime boom in American industry. We issue loans to France and Great Britain.
We do not appear to be very neutral – Germany had a valid argument
The war bogs down in trench warfare, leads to a stalemate. Survival in a war of attrition epends on access to supplies. Naval power is of extreme importance.
Britain begins to blockade German-bound goods.
Germans respond with U-boat raids, surprise attacks on naval ships, even civilian ones.
It was international law at the time that if you stop enemy vessels on the high seas, you must provide for the safety of the passengers and crew before sinking the vessel.
The British liner the Lusitania is sunk in 1915, 128 Americans die.
Theodore Roosevelt describes this as an act of piracy. Wilson said that America was “too proud to fight.”
Unrestricted submarine warfare eventually will pull the United States into the war.
William Jennings Bryan resigns in protest of American interest in joining the war.
Wilson stressed war preparedness
Progressives, pacifists, anti-imperialists all oppose military expansion. Women like Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt – Women’s Peace Party.
National Defense Act, Naval Construction Act, Revenue Act all aimed expanding the military and preparing for war. Revenue act will raise the income tax from 1-2%.
Wilson wins reelection on the platform of social legislation, neutrality, and reasonable preparedness. Wilson begins talk of the post-war League of Nations, his brainchild for postwar peace and security.
Wins a close victory over Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes with the slogan “He kept us out of the war.” “Peace without victory.”
Zimmerman telegram – British intercept and decode a message from the German foreign secretary to his minister in Mexico. It basically said that in case the U.S. entered the war against Germany, Germany would offer financial aid to Mexico in exchange for assaulting the Southwest and diverting the United States’ attention. Also, Germany would give Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona back to Mexico if they won the war.
Sussex Pledge – Germany promises not attack passenger ships. Also, any ships stopped would be first checked for weapons before sinking. Merchant ships would not be sunk unless provisions were made for passengers and crew. Germany is not true to its word, they resume unrestricted submarine warfare.
America finally declares war – swayed by the effects of British propaganda, international trade, fear that if Germany won it would then threaten America.
Government sells liberty bonds to help pay for the cost of the war. We also loan 3 billion to the Allied Powers.
General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing – got his nickname because he led segregated black units. Leads the American Expeditionary Force – approximately 1 million American troops sent overseas to help with the war. The weary French and British armies needed help to mount an offensive against the Germans.
Pershing had gained experience in chasing Pancho Villa, a Mexican peasant leader who raided border towns in the United States, killed more than 15 Americans in one such raid. Pershing failed to capture Villa. Wilson’s interference in Mexico soured relations with the Mexicans for years to come.
The Selective Service Act of 1917 – institutes conscription (the draft) Ideal age for draftees was 21-30 years old
The Council of National Defense and the War Industries Board – both involved in controlling American business making them as efficient as possible in war production.
U.S. Food Administration – headed by Herbert Hoover: “Food will win the war.” Food was just as important as ammunition, without it the soldiers could not survive. “Meatless Tuesdays,” “Wheatless Wednesdays,” “Porkless Saturdays”.
Encourages people to plant victory gardens and eat leftovers. Victory gardens – depend less on other people for individual subsistence.
Victory gardens planted in private residencies and public parks – reduce the pressure on the public food supply.
Labor shortage during the war with so many men fighting overseas. Women, African Americans, and other ethnic minorities help bridge the gap.
Over 400k blacks begin the Great Migration towards the Northern cities during the war.
Racial tensions spark riots, civil unrest
As the scope of the war widened, we see an expanded role for women past traditional roles (war relief, nurses). They start working on farms, loading docks, railway crews, armament industries, machine shops, steel and lumber mills, chemical plants.
Most women returned to their previous jobs and domestic roles once the war ended, but they had “proved their worth” to Wilson and many other Americans. Wilson finally supports female suffrage.
Committee on Public Information – headed by George Creel, believed propaganda was better than censorship. Should promote American war aims through anti-German propaganda.
Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918 – outlawed criticism of government leaders and war policies.
IWW workers go on trial for opposing the war effort. Eugene Debs is sentenced 20 years in prison for encouraging draft resistance.
Schenk vs. United States (1919) – Supreme Court upheld the Espionage and Sedition Acts. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes “Free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” Schenk’s words presented a “clear and present danger” – free speech in wartime could create problems.
Shifting back to the war, the Russians pull out after suffering 5.5 million casualties and widespread food and ammunition shortages.
Bolshevik Revolution in Russia led by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks – promised “Peace, Land, and Bread”
Russia (now the Soviet Union) signs the treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany – officially pulls out of the war.
Now that the Russians are out, the Germans can concentrate ALL of their forces on the western front of the war.
With the help of American forces, the Allies push the German front back into Belgium. The Meuse-Argonne is the major American contribution and the last great battle of the war.
After Allied victory, Allies then head to Eastern Russia to support the whites and reverse the Russian Revolution – we fail, Russians never forget or forgive that we helped the whites try to overthrow the reds.
With an armistice signed, Wilson begins to promote his plan for postwar Europe – The 14 Points
1) open diplomacy 2) freedom of the seas 3) removal of trade barriers 4) arms reduction 5) adjustment of the colonies (evacuate occupied lands and allow self-determination)
14) League of Nations – collective security
Armistice is signed on 1918, but the Treaty of Versailles would be decided in 1919.
Germans surrender their navy, pull out of occupied territory.
114k American troops killed – the U.S. is sucked into the power vacuum created by the destruction of the Great War.
Paris Peace Conference held at Versailles – 6 month conference, longest the U.S. president has left the country while in office.
At home, the Democrats lose both houses in 1918 midterm elections. Wilson failed to include any prominent Republicans in his delegation at Versailles.
Big Four dominated negotiations: Britain, France, Italy, U.S. (David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, Orlando, Woodrow Wilson)
French in particular insisted on severe measures to weaken Germany and guarantee French security.
The Big Four rejected Wilsonian idealism. Wilson concedes to allow territorial concessions and reparations.
Republican opposition in the U.S. Senate, led by Henry Cabot Lodge – ensures that U.S. will not ultimately ratify the Versailles treaty.
Wilson rightfully foresaw that if we punish Germany too harshly for the war, they would resent the Allies, rebuild their military, and push for expansion and war some 20 years later.
Germany is forced to pay reparations for the entire cost of the war.
War guilt clause – assumes the blame for everything.
Revived isolation in America. Teddy Roosevelt criticizes the League of Nations.
Many feared that new foreign commitments would threaten domestic programs and reforms.
Spanish Flu in the spring of 1918 – kills 500K in U.S. servicemen brought it home from the war, many public facilities blocked off. Killed roughly 3% of the entire world population.
Killed more people in a short amount of time than any other disease, plague, war, famine, or natural catastrophe ever in world history.
First Red Scare in America following the war – fears of revolution, witch-hunts. 100% Americanism
America returns to isolationism, disillusioned with idealistic crusades and grand political promises.
The horrors of World War I shattered the traditional belief that Western civilization was steadily progressing. A modernist sensibility emerged among artists, writers, and journalists – basically everyone was bummed out – war wasn’t glorious, it was terrible.
The political cartoon on the left is an example of war ________________.
What 1933 (remade in 2005) draws inspiration from this poster? How can you tell the ape is German?
What is the general message of the cartoon on the right?