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America In World War 1

Essay by 24  •  March 28, 2011  •  1,443 Words (6 Pages)  •  925 Views

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In 1914 when war was declared in Europe, America adopted a policy of neutrality and isolation. When news of trench warfare and the horrors associated with it reached the shores of America, it confirmed to the government that they had made the right choice. Their approach had the full support of a majority of Americans, many of which could not believe that Europe, a civilized entity, could descend into the depths of carnage as depicted by trench warfare.

On August 4th, 1914 President Wilson officially announced that America would be neutral in World War One. This neutral stance extended to a policy of “fairness” by which American bankers could lend money to both sides of the war. Overseas trade was more complicated. Trade with both sides was permitted and merchants crossed the Atlantic to trade. However, when the war became an economic struggle as well as a military contest, England declared a blockade of the German coastline which made it all but impossible for Americans to conduct trade with Germany. The British naval blockade was the primary reason that Germany introduced unrestricted submarine warfare. Germany could not match the might of the British navy. However, she reasoned that by means of the submarine England’s supply lines could be cut and she would have to end the war. Accordingly, Germany began to sink as many ships supplying England as possible, even neutral vessels.

On February 4th, 1915, Germany announced that merchant shipping in a specified zone around Britain would be legitimate targets. They added this would include neutral ships because many allied ships had taken to flying the flag of a neutral nation to secure its safety. Wilson warned the Germans that he would hold them to account if any American ships were sunk. This threat was tested when on May 7th, 1915; the �Lusitania’ was sunk. 128 Americans that were on board were killed. However, the �Lusitania’ was not an American ship and Wilson accepted the Germans change in policy that their U-boats would now adopt �cruiser’ tactics and surface to attack ships with guns fitted onto their decks. While the German chancellor managed to avoid a major diplomatic issue this time, the German military was adamant that the �cruiser’ tactic was not going to be used as it was to dangerous for the lightly armored U-boats of the time.

Wilson became convinced early in the war that the best way for the United States to remain at peace would be to end the conflict in Europe. Thus, in January of 1915 and again a year later, he sent his personal adviser, Colonel Edward M. House, on peace missions to Europe to see if a peace initiative could be conducted between Germany and England with America as the intermediary. On February 22nd, 1916, the House-Grey memorandum was signed which put on paper Wilson’s plan for mediation. Unfortunately the sinking of the paddle steamer �Sussex’ by a U-boat on March 24th, 1916, all but ended this venture. After this incident Wilson warned that the United States would sever diplomatic relations with Germany if she did not abandon her monstrous tactics. This threat led to Germany issuing the �Sussex’ pledge on May4th, 1916, declaring that no more merchant ships would be sunk without warning.

Discouraged by the failure of peace Wilson at last yielded to the agitation for preparedness that had been organized by Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and others, almost from the moment Belgium had been overrun. Late in January 1916 he took off on a nationwide tour to promote the preparedness idea. By June, Congress had adopted his proposals for enlargement of the army, the navy and the merchant marine. Plans were also made for industrial mobilization.

Following his victory in the 1916 election over Charles Evans Hughes, Wilson made a speech before the Senate outlining his plans for a lasting peace and for a League of Nations to maintain it. “It must be a peace without victory,” he asserted. Unfortunately for Wilson this speech seemed to be a withdrawal of the informal sympathy the Allies had come to expect from the United States. Their distress was made especially clear by their deteriorating position in the fighting. Both of these events led Germany to boldly revoke the вЂ?Sussex’ pledge and make a strike for complete victory. On January 31, 1917, the Germans announced that their submarines would again sink all vessels on sight, armed or unarmed, within a specific zone around the British Isles. They knew they risked certain war with the United States but they hoped to knock Britain out of the war before American forces reached the battlefield. Not even two months later the March revolution in Russia supplanted the tyrannical czarist regime, thereby making it easier to describe the war against the Central Powers as a war of democracies against autocracies. On April 4th, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany.

Almost immediately after declaring war intolerance and oppression against anything German began. Although the vast majority of German вЂ"Americans accepted the necessity of war once the United States Joined the Allies, they became the most obvious targets for abuse. Libraries removed German books and sometimes publicly burned them. Schools dropped the German language from the curriculum. At the

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