United States History I & II
United States History I & II

United States History I & II

Lead Author(s): Sara Eskridge

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Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

$87.99

Per volume

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

$87.99

Per volume

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

Sara Eskridge, Ph.DRandolph-Macon College, VA

Dr. Eskridge is a Professor of History at Western Governors University. She specializes in Civil Rights, Cold War, Southern, and Cultural History. She is the author of Rube Tube: CBS as Rural Comedy in the Sixties (University of Missouri Press, 2019) as well as several articles and book chapters on southern mediated images during the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.

Contributing Authors

Andrew WegmannLoyola University

Michael CarverCalifornia Polytechnic State University

Michael FrawleyUniversity of Texas of the Permian Basin

Linda ClemmonsIllinois State University

Angela HessCameron University

Sam NelsonRidgewater College

Volker JanssenCalifornia State University

Lance JandaCameron University

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Chapter 21: World War I

Chapter Overview

Before the advent of World War II, Americans knew the First World War as “The Great War” or, even more hopefully, the “war to end all wars.” Such optimism seemed justified during the interwar period. The four-year struggle had illustrated the vivid horrors of modern combat as European nations harnessed the full strength of their populations and their industries to wage war. With millions dead or wounded, few could fathom another such conflict ever happening again. The United States initially adopted an isolationist attitude when the war began in August 1914, secure in the belief that the two oceans flanking its coasts offered ample protection from the chaos abroad. While shunning European affairs, the United States continued to make its presence felt throughout Latin America, particularly in a Mexico torn apart by revolution. But the use of “total war” by World War I’s participants meant that civilians, even those from neutral countries such as the United States, might be placed in harm’s way. Germany’s use of submarines in particular tested America’s ability to remain isolated, and proved instrumental in eventually drawing the nation into the conflict. Upon committing the nation to Germany’s defeat, President Woodrow Wilson assured his fellow citizens that the war would not be one of conquest or vengeance. Rather, final victory would mark the beginning of a new era of internationalism and collaboration that would prevent any future wars. America’s involvement in World War I and the subsequent challenge of brokering the peace resulted in deeper participation in global affairs deeper than at any point in the nation’s history. It would remain to be seen whether America’s interest in world politics would continue once the war ended.

Chapter Objectives

  • Assess how the U.S.’s treatment of Latin America followed its previous dealings with the region, and how the Mexican Revolution challenged America’s Latin American policy
  • Examine the reasons why the United States initially rejected involvement in the First World War
  • Comprehend the events that culminated in the Wilson administration’s decision to declare war against Germany in 1917
  • Explore how the U.S. government redefined its responsibilities and powers to wage war
  • Understand why the United States adopted a policy of isolationism at the end of World War I


21.01 - Level 2

Click on the locations where the United States became involved militarily between 1896 and 1912.


Continued Involvement in Latin America

Woodrow Wilson, the third and final of the Progressive presidents, entered the White House in 1912 and expressed interest in focusing his energies on domestic rather than foreign matters. The imperial ventures of the previous two decades in Latin America and the Pacific left many Americans feeling that the federal government needed to refocus its efforts on what most immediately impacted their lives. Wilson pledged to utilize “moral diplomacy” in his approach to foreign affairs, showcasing the superiority of the distinctly American forms of capitalism and democracy as a means of encouraging their spread to other countries. He claimed, “I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free, than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty.”

Even with Wilson’s claims to put domestic polices first, events in the Western Hemisphere garnered a great deal of attention from American officials abiding by the Monroe Doctrine and the more recent Roosevelt Corollary. Following the tenets of President Taft’s “dollar diplomacy,” American investors and businessmen continued to place enormous emphasis on maintaining their influence in Latin America. They feared European investors’ willingness to exploit political instability in the region, worried that they would gain access to markets at Americans’ expense. This seemed imminently possible in 1910 as Mexico entered a turbulent period of political upheaval when the government of military strongman Porfirio Diaz collapsed and a series of regimes rose and fell in the chaotic aftermath. Another general, Victoriano Huerta, emerged from the bloodshed in 1913 to assume control of the government and retained it by quickly nullifying the results of free elections. Wilson initially endorsed American neutrality toward Mexico and prohibited the exportation of arms to any side in the revolution. But when Huerta assassinated his predecessor, the more democratic Francisco Madero, Wilson changed his mind.

21.02 - Level 1

What is the name of the Mexican leader whose government fell in 1911, sparking an era of political instability?

A

Francisco Madero

B

Pancho Villa

C

Porfirio Diaz

D

Victoriano Huerta

E

Venustiano Carranza


American intervention in Mexico escalated in April 1914, after soldiers of the Huerta government boarded a small U.S. navy boat docked at Tampico and took a small number of American sailors into temporary custody. Although Huerta apologized for the event, the perceived violation of U.S. sovereignty convinced Congress to grant the President authorization to use force in Mexico should circumstances justify it. He did so in April, sending a contingent of sailors and Marines to intercept a shipment of arms en route from Cuba to the coastal city of Vera Cruz. The small force seized the city at the cost of nineteen American and over one hundred Mexican lives.

Figure 21.1: “Pancho” Villa from a 1914 copy of The World’s Work. The caption read: “A born leader of men who grew up outside the law in a country where life is cheap.” This sense of cheapness applied to American lives caught up in the violence of the Mexican Revolution by 1916.​ [1]

Americans continued to suffer casualties from the Mexican Revolution. Men commanded by revolutionary leader “Pancho” Villa robbed a train on the outskirts of Chihuahua City in January 1916, killing seventeen American passengers who worked for a mining company (Figure 21.1). Villa grew bolder in March, crossing the border into the United States with more than one thousand men to attack the small community of Columbus, New Mexico. The raiders killed seventeen Americans before U.S. cavalry troops forced the attackers to retreat back to Mexico. Villa’s attack was an attempt to punish the Wilson administration for its tepid support of Venustiano Carranza, an avowed constitutionalist and the new head of the revolutionary government. An enraged Wilson demanded immediate action. Before President Carranza granted his permission, a contingent of 5,000 troops commanded by General John J. Pershing embarked from Texas on a search for Villa. Pershing, a veteran of the Spanish American War and the Filipino Insurrection, tracked the revolutionary into the Mexican interior, assisted by a small squadron of Curtiss biplanes. The expedition lasted eleven months, nearly resulted in a formal war between the U.S. and the Carranza government, and ended in failure when Villa avoided capture. Wilson further demonstrated America’s commitment to Latin America during his presidency by sending U.S. Marines to protect American interests in Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; his presidency comprised more interventions than Taft’s and Roosevelt’s combined.

Question 21.03

21.03 - Level 3

Based on what you know about the Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt Corollary, and Dollar Diplomacy, what factors influenced the United States' involvement in Latin American countries?

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.03.

21.04 - Level 1

Who was the Mexican leader that led a raid into the United States and was the target of an 11-month long military campaign?

A

Francisco Madero

B

Pancho Villa

C

Porfirio Diaz

D

Victoriano Huerta

E

Venustiano Carranza


21.05 - Level 2

In which of the following Latin American nations did President Wilson intervene militarily during his time in office?

A

Mexico

B

Haiti

C

Guatemala

D

Honduras


The Outbreak of World War I

The revolution in Mexico paled in comparison to the conflagration that swept across Europe in the summer of 1914. European wars after 1815 had generally been limited in length and breadth. Italy and Germany’s wars of unification in 1860s and 1870s involved comparatively few countries and claimed far fewer lives than the Napoleonic Wars. A new war descended upon Europe in June 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife while on a visit to Sarajevo. The assassin was a young Bosnian Serb, hoping to bring about the liberation of Yugoslavia. 

The angry Austrian government insisted upon Serbia’s full cooperation in an investigation of ties between the Archduke’s murderer and the Serbian military. Such a demand infringed upon Serbian sovereignty and alarmed Serbia’s primary ally, Russia. The Austrians pressed their ultimatum, emboldened by full support from Germany – currently led by the ambitious, expansionist emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II. Austria’s eventual declaration of war against Serbia set off a chain reaction that swept Europe into a deadly cataclysm, made all the more inevitable by various military alliances and imperial ambitions; Russia declared war against Austria, Germany mobilized against Russia, and Russia’s ally France took up arms against Germany to support Russia. When Britain decided to involve itself, attempting to uphold the neutrality of Belgium against German aggression, European powers were divided two mighty blocs: France, Russia, Britain, and later Italy, made up the Allied Nations, or Allies, while Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire united as the Central Powers.

Figure 21.2: British cavalry advancing towards the front in September 1914. Mounted soldiers such as these had been used effectively in previous European wars. Advanced weaponry of the early 20th century negated the use of horses on the field of battle, but eight million horses and other beasts of burden lost their lives carrying men and equipment to and from the front. [2]


21.06 - Level 2

What sort of event sparked the First World War?

A

A bombing

B

A military raid

C

Theft of classified documents

D

Hostage situation

E

A political assassination


21.07 - Level 1

Match each nation with the alliance to which it belonged at the start of World War I.

Premise
Response
1

Britain

A

Central Powers

2

France

B

Central Powers

3

Russia

C

Allied Powers

4

Germany

D

Allied Powers

5

Austria-Hungary

E

Allied Powers

6

The Ottoman Empire

F

Central Powers

G

Central Powers

21.08 Level 4

Why do you think Franz Ferdinand's assassination served as such a perfect catalyst for the start of the First World War?


21.09 - Level 2

Which of the following nations were not allied during the First World War?

A

France and Russia

B

Germany and Austria-Hungary

C

Belgium and Britain

D

Italy and Germany


Most Americans, like so many millions of Europeans, assumed the war would end before Christmas with relatively few deaths. It soon became clear that such an abbreviated timetable would be impossible due in large part to dramatic advances made in the previous century in military technology. German, British, Austrian, French and Russian troops marched off to war dressed in brightly colored uniforms, appearing more appropriate to the refined combat of earlier conflicts than the dehumanizing clashes of the industrial age (Figure 21.2). 

Rapid-fire artillery and machine guns capable of firing 600 rounds per minute proved incompatible with centuries-old tactics that emphasized massed attacks against enemy lines. German war planners implemented the Schlieffen Plan, a strategy devised by General Arthur von Schlieffen in 1905 to defeat France quickly before turning their attention to crushing Russia, whose large military would require additional time to mobilize war. The plan involved rapid invasion of neutral Belgium followed by France. When the undermanned but resistant Belgian army, and then the surprisingly prepared French proved effective in defending their homelands, the Schlieffen Plan proved largely unworkable. Early battles of World War, I such as the First Marne in France and Tannenberg in Russia, killed tens of thousands, providing grim proof that the war would prove longer and bloodier than first presumed. Rather than fighting on open ground, soldiers on both sides dug hundreds of miles of trenches, while their commanders used the same tactics that claimed little ground but many lives.

21.10 - Level 3

German General Arthur von Schlieffen came up with a plan that proposed what?

A

Preemptively attacking France while the nation was still mustering troops

B

Defeat Russia swiftly before turning attention to France

C

Defeat France swiftly before turning attention to Russia

D

Use submarines against the United States

E

Widespread use of poison gas


21.11 - Level 2

Which of the following types of military technologies/techniques was not widely utilized during the First World War?

A

Rapid-fire artillery machine guns

B

Trench warfare

C

Carpet bombing


America Declares Its Neutrality

Unwilling to formally align with either side, the Wilson administration formally declared American neutrality on August 4. Under neutral status, American citizens could not serve in militaries of the warring nations, and America’s coasts and ports could not accommodate any warships from the belligerent countries. Few, with notable exceptions such as Theodore Roosevelt, expressed any desire for America to support either the Allies or the Central Powers before 1916. Most Americans viewed the war as a uniquely European affair, symptomatic of Europe’s enduring corruption and imperialism, but complete objectivity proved impossible for most Americans. The U.S. ambassador to England, Walter Hines Page, summed up the quandary for the individual American: “A government can be neutral, but no man can be.” Nonetheless, President Wilson encouraged the American people to stay neutral – a particularly difficult proposition, particularly for German Americans. America’s historic relationship with France further complicated the possibility of the United States remaining, as Wilson hoped, “neutral in thought as well as in action.”

Britain’s importance as a trading partner offered the greatest challenge to long-term American neutrality, and that importance only expanded during the struggle. The increased demand for food and supplies by the British and French provided a tremendous boost to the previously stagnant American economy. Rising profits made it all the more necessary to keep sea lanes free from possible interference. Although trade between Germany and the United States had continued at the start of the war, the formidable and unmatched British navy imposed a naval blockade to discourage American businesses from sending goods to German consumers.

Question 21.12

21.12 - Level 3

Why didn’t most Americans support getting involved in the European conflict?

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.12.

21.13 - Level 2

Please click on the three member nations of the Central Powers.


Wilson, true to his neutralist credo, initially prohibited Americans from offering private loans to the participating nations. However, after some convincing from business interests, the president permitted American bankers and investors to provide short-term and later long-term interbank credits to the Allies, eventually totaling $2 billion, much more than the $28 million extended to Germany. This discrepancy alone convinced many Germans that the United States could hardly be considered a neutral nation. These disproportionately large loans to the Allies further reduced the possibility of the U.S. avoiding the war; should Germany win, then it seemed unlikely that the Allies would pay back the loans.

American industrialists, who came to be marked as “merchants of death,” reaped the benefits of war orders from the Allies in 1914, but remained unsure whether the war would be good for business in the long-term. Investing abroad posed obvious risks, and the United States still lacked adequate shipping to carry its increasing number of exports overseas. With little political pressure on Wilson to formally back either side in the war or intervene in any meaningful way, America’s neutrality seemed assured, at least as long as its foreign trade continued unabated.

Question 21.14

21.14 - Level 3

How was the outbreak of the war good for the American economy? How did this complicate Wilson’s attempts at neutrality?

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.14.

The Challenge of German Submarines

Both the Allies and the Central Powers utilized wartime strategies that challenged American neutrality. The British, with a naval blockade of Germany already in place, later boycotted any American businesses conducting trade with their enemy, declaring most exports to the Germans to be contraband. Germany sought to break the British blockade with a newer type of naval strategy: unrestricted submarine warfare. Existing international law outlined strict requirements for warships to provide ample warning to the passengers and crews of vessels they intended to sink, allowing for a safe evacuation. But the fragile nature of German submarines (or U-boats) discouraged such protocol, particularly once the British began to arm their merchant ships (Figure 21.3). The Germans contended that this development made the vessels warships and thus eligible for destruction without advance warning. U-boat captains began to torpedo ships, including those of American origin, without prior notice if they suspected they might be carrying cargo of any use to the British war effort.

Figure 21.3: A German submarine (UB-14) on patrol in the Black Sea, 1918. Serving aboard U-boats was the most dangerous of all services in the German Imperial Navy. [3]​

The U.S. government viewed Germany’s U-boat tactics as a direct violation of its neutrality, and informed German leaders they would be held accountable for any loss of American lives or property. A test of this policy came in May 1915 when a German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania, a British passenger ship known to be armed and carrying munitions. There were 128 Americans aboard counted among the 1,198 passengers and crew who lost their lives as the vessel sank off the coast of Ireland, sparking outrage and demands for war from the American public. Wilson dismissed such calls for action, remarking that: “There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.”

But the president’s outlook betrayed sympathy for the Allies. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a staunch non-partisan who held the British and the Germans equally liable for violations of American neutrality, resigned after Wilson insisted that the Germans withdraw their submarines and abide by the established rules of war. In August 1915 a U-boat torpedoed another British passenger ship, the S.S. Arabic, killing two Americans on board. Germany, anxious to avoid a confrontation with the U.S., vowed to give passenger ships sufficient warning before sinking them. After sinking the unarmed French ship Sussex in March 1916 with 80 casualties, German officials promised to spare all passenger vessels. Per the so-called Sussex Pledge,” suspicious merchant vessels would be searched prior to sinking, provided America would pressure the British to soften their naval blockade and only bar the passage of genuine contraband rather than desperately needed food and medicine. Few Americans believed the British would comply with the German request. Even fewer held out any faith in Germany keeping its oath.

Question 21.15

21.15 - Level 4

Why did U-boat captains not provide warnings before they attacked a vessel? How did providing warnings undermine the idea of unrestricted submarine warfare?

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.15.


21.16 - Level 1

Sort the following German U-boat attacks by the number of American casualties incurred, from fewest to most.

A

U-boat attack on the SS Sussex

B

U-boat attack on the RMS Lusitania

C

U-boat attack on the SS Arabic


Wilson Seeks Reelection

Even as Germany promised to use its submarines more conscientiously, the Wilson government accelerated preparations for the possibility of war. Following Wilson’s stern warning to Germany after the Lusitania incident, war seemed the only logical recourse should the U-boats violate the Sussex Pledge. However, the U.S. military as it existed in 1915 was a mere fraction of Germany’s. 1916’s National Defense Act nearly doubled the size of the U.S. Army, from 90,000 to 175,000 troops, and expanded the National Guard to 450,000 men. Congress increased income taxes on those with incomes over $2 million to pay for the expansions. To coordinate closer workings between government and business in the event of war, Wilson created the Committee on Industrial Preparedness, later replaced by the Council of National Defense.

Progressives and the inhabitants of southern and western rural communities opposed these preparative measures, and the military buildup in particular. Such preparations seemed to increase the chances of America taking up arms in a war that the country would gain little from. Wilson, sensitive to the conflicting messages sent by preparedness after months of emphasizing neutrality, implored Americans to embrace self-sacrifice and unwavering devotion with the slogan, “America First” as he began his campaign for reelection in 1916.

21.17 - Level 2

What was the purpose of the Committee on Industrial Progress/the Council of National Defense?

A

To build up America’s submarine fleet in preparation for war

B

To recruit Americans for the war

C

To coordinate government and business actions in the event of war

D

To support President Wilson’s reelection campaign


A mixture of patriotism and preparedness dominated the months leading up to the November election. Parades marched through communities across America during the summer of 1916, the largest consisting of 130,000 flag-carrying marchers wending through the streets of Chicago. Wilson himself led a column of 66,000 down Pennsylvania Avenue as part of Flag Day festivities held in the capitol. Such displays of patriotism and nationalism seemed inconsistent with the campaign flyers that claimed, “He kept us out of war.” A speech given by Wilson shortly after his acceptance of the Democratic nomination to run for reelection contained rhetoric far removed from an outlook of neutrality or unilateralism. In regards to the outcome of the European war, the president asserted, “The nations of the world must unite in joint guarantees that whatever is done to disturb the whole world’s life must first be tested in the court of the whole world’s opinion before it is attempted.” Such lofty words hinted at a long-term commitment by the United States to the prevention of future war.

Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans struggled to find an appropriate candidate. The Progressive Party, still splintered from the Republican Party, considered running Theodore Roosevelt as they had in 1912. Mainline Republicans opted to back Charles Evans Hughes, the first sitting member of the Supreme Court to run in American history. Much of the Republican platform rested on the perceived ambiguity of Wilson’s foreign policy, which wavered between continued nonalignment and preparation for possible hostilities with Germany. Few Republican leaders considered it wise to advocate for war when the majority of American voters opposed the nation’s participation. This placed Hughes in a challenging position as he attempted to set himself apart from the sitting president. Wilson managed to win the election in a close race that reflected the ongoing political division within the country as well as the waning enthusiasm for progressivism. While retaining the White House the Democrats lost two seats in the Senate and the Republicans edged out the Democrats by one seat in the House of Representatives.

21.18 - Level 1

What was President Wilson’s 1916 reelection slogan?

A

“He Kept Us Out of the War”

B

“Don’t Switch Horses in Midstream”

C

“The War to End All Wars”

D

“Peace and Prosperity”

E

“Win with Wilson”


Following his slender victory, Wilson decided to offer his skills as a mediator to end the conflict in Europe. Wilson spent weeks drafting a “peace note” before presenting his aims in an electrifying speech before Congress on January 22, 1917. He implored the warring nations to reassess their goals and recognize the virtue of declaring “peace without victory,” a collective armistice that would mark the beginning of a new era of international harmony. Furthermore, for the first time, Wilson proposed a role for the United States that he had been devising in private for some time. The U.S. would lead the way in the creation of a new international body, a “League for Peace” intended to eliminate war for all time. Republicans, seizing upon the opportunity, accused the president of self-aggrandizement in a blatant ploy to extend his personal influence beyond the borders of the Western Hemisphere.

21.19 - Level 1

What role did President Wilson envision for the United States on the international stage?

A

The most dominant military power on earth.

B

The head of an international group dedicated to peace.

C

The world’s creditor.

D

A nation committed to isolationism.


21.20 - Level 3

Which of the following contemporary international organizations most closely resembles the League of Nations?

A

The United Nations

B

The International Monetary Fund

C

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries

D

The World Bank


Germany, doubting the sincerity of Wilson’s expressed aims, rejected his offer to broker peace. The British and French displayed similar disinterest. With so much blood spilt and money spent, both sides required absolute victory so that the losing would cover the war’s costs through reparations. European leaders assumed that the public would reject any attempt at negotiating peace, particularly given that 1916 was the bloodiest year yet on record. The epic battles of the Somme and Verdun produced death tolls that matched those of entire wars. Each side viewed the prolonged stalemate as a prelude to a final triumph, and hurled huge armies against each other with grisly and futile results.

America Goes to War

The U.S. moved closer to being a combatant nation on January 31, 1917 following Germany’s announcement of its plans to revive the use of unrestricted submarine warfare. Wilson reacted privately to the news with a sorrowful observation: “This means war. The break that we have tried so hard to prevent now seems inevitable.” He severed diplomatic ties with Germany while continuing his struggle to determine the most appropriate response to the unsettling development. While his cabinet supported an immediate declaration of war, the public and Congress remained divided over what to do next. In March, Wilson sponsored a bill allowing the arming of American merchant ships in order to engage U-boats on the high seas, a circumstance perilously close to undeclared war.

Figure 21.4: The submarine found wide usage in war for the first time during World War I. Germany, lacking the time and resources necessary to surpass the strength of Britain’s Royal Navy, opted to even the odds with a fleet of much smaller and vulnerable craft, the U-boat, whose greatest advantage was their ability to escape detection before attacking. 1917 proved a particularly perilous time for Allied shipping until American convoys helped to reduce the U-boat menace.​


Mere days after renewing unrestricted submarine warfare the Germans presented yet another diplomatic challenge to the United States. British intelligence intercepted a secret cable from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the Mexican government suggesting a possible alliance between the two countries. Under this scheme, should Germany and the U.S. go to war, Mexico would invade America and reclaim the territory it lost during the Mexican War. The German government vowed to assist Mexico in its reconquering efforts following the defeat of the Allies. Unmoved, the Mexican government rejected the offer outright, realizing that such an invasion could only end in a disastrous, unwinnable war. When the Wilson administration decided not to make public news of Germany’s plot, the British passed the Zimmerman Note to the New York Times where it appeared on its front page shortly thereafter. The ensuing outrage from the American people gave greater traction to the growing pro-war faction.

Question 21.21

21.21 - Level 5

What do you think Germany’s goal was in proposing an alliance with Mexico?

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.21.

21.22 - Level 2

Click on the nation responsible for crafting the Zimmerman note.


Reports of Russian Czar Nicholas II’s abdication in March following a popular uprising removed another obstacle to American involvement in the conflict. The newly established Provisional Government emphasized self-government and extended civil freedoms for the Russian people. This development voided the excuse that America’s fighting on behalf of the Allies would preserve Russian autocracy. The war might now be viewed more clearly as one to protect and promote democracy rather than European imperialism. The timing seemed ideal for America to take up the fight and lay the groundwork for Wilson’s proposed League of Peace without the corrupting presence of monarchies among its democratic members. But the American public still required a more immediate and concrete reasons to commit to a war that would send off so many young men to an unknown fate. The German Imperial Navy helpfully obliged.

The loss of five American merchant ships in March 1917 to German submarines compelled Wilson’s cabinet to endorse a declaration of war on March 20, 1917. At a joint session of Congress on April 2, Wilson delivered his request for war, reciting the various outrages perpetrated by the German military and the need for force in order to stop the ongoing violations against international law and crimes against humanity. Most members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, greeted the war declaration with thunderous cheering and applause. The rattled president confided to his secretary afterwards: “My message today was a message of death for our young men. How strange it seemed to applaud that.”

In committing the nation to war, Wilson assured that the American people would make the world “safe for democracy.” He might have cited repeated violations of U.S. maritime rights or the loss of American lives, but Wilson instead pledged the country “to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-governing people of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles.” With such lofty words, Wilson applied the principles of progressivism to the grandest endeavor imaginable: guaranteed and lasting world peace.

21.23 - Level 3

What ultimately led the United States to declare war on Germany?

A

The use of poison gas on the battlefield

B

The Zimmerman Telegram

C

The sinking of the Lusitania

D

The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare

E

Accusations of war crimes against civilians in Belgium

Question 21.24

21.24 - Level 5

Why do you think it was important for President Wilson to refer to the United States as an “associated power”? Why would the president want American troops to be under the command of American leaders?

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Spotlight on Primary Source



In times of war throughout history, the American public have adopted songs as a source of consolation and encouragement. “Yankee Doodle” during the American Revolution and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” from the Civil War are two prominent such examples. The following songs further demonstrate the draw of music in times of conflict, this time during the First World War. The first, “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier”, conveys the decidedly antiwar sentiment expressed by many Americans before the nation went to war in April 1917. The second, “Over There”, promotes a much different outlook that accompanied the declaration of war.

“I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” (1915) by Alfred Bryan and Al Piantadosi


“Over There” (1917) by George M. Cohan


Question 21.25

21.25 - Level 4

How do these popular songs illustrate the drastic change in American attitudes towards going to war between 1915 to 1917?

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Question 21.26

21.26 - Level 4

Compare the role of gender in these two songs. How do they differ?

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.26.

Question 21.27

21.27 - Level 5

What’s the possible impact of popular music on the public when it comes to participating in a foreign war?

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Early Wartime Preparations

America’s new formal partners, France and Britain, pondered how to best employ the new arrival. Many Allied leaders believed that an expansion of the country’s existing role, providing money and material rather than untested and inexperienced troops, would be the best use of American resources. Wilson added another layer of complexity by insisting the United States fight as an “Associated Power” of France and Britain’s rather than a formal ally. Such a status would give the United States greater latitude in determining its contributions to the war; U.S. troops would fight as members of autonomous units led by American officers, not the British or French. Congress voted to make money available to the Allies, but initially hesitated to send troops until the French government pled for American soldiers to go into combat as soon as possible. America complied by sending two divisions of African American soldiers to serve in French units, followed up by an additional 14,500 men under the command of General Pershing. The U.S. expanded this initial expeditionary force with an additional one million troops in the months to come.

Figure 21.5: Members of the U.S. Ambulance Service Band on parade in Camp Crane located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Members of the Ambulance Service tended to wounded soldiers from the Allied nations during World War I. Many Americans served as volunteer ambulance drivers on behalf of the French, British and Italian militaries, the most famous of them being novelist Ernest Hemingway.​ [4]


Both Britain and France faced dire challenges by late 1917 and urgently needed American assistance. Germany’s ongoing use of submarines to destroy Allied shipping deprived the British population of food and supplies necessary for survival. Eroding morale and ineffective leadership among French troops sparked an increasing number of mutinies that nearly caused France to withdraw from the war. Despite the immediate need for American soldiers, the U.S. Navy, the first branch to mobilize, lacked an adequate number of transport ships needed to ferry troops to France. It did, however, make a substantial contribution to the war effort by introducing the convoy system, which used warships to protect merchant vessels from U-boat attack. The method proved effective, reducing Allied shipping losses drastically; not a single American soldier lost their life due to sinking by torpedo. The first small contingent of American troops to arrive in France in May of 1917 from the U.S. served a more symbolic than strategic purpose, manifesting America’s commitment to Allied victory. Pershing, adamant that Americans remain independent of British and French units, took stock of the situation to determine how the so-called “doughboys” might be used most effectively.

21.28 - Level 1

What did the “convoy system” entail?

A

Arming merchant ships

B

Sailing merchant ships at random hours

C

Creating a string of merchant ships that stretched across the Atlantic

D

Using warships to protect merchant vessels


When America declared war on Germany, its 300,000-man army lacked the ability to make a substantial contribution to the war effort until the end of 1917. President Wilson, in one of his first wartime acts, introduced conscription for the first time since the Civil War. Many in Congress regarded the proposed draft with suspicion; coercing men to fight seemed inherently undemocratic. To appease the naysayers, the Wilson administration insisted the process of being drafted would unfold at the local level. Community draft boards, rather than an anonymous and remote federal entity, would make the final decision of whether or not to include someone among a list of potential draftees. The passage of the Selective Service Act required all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the draft, but most of those who went to war did so as volunteers.

In the months following America’s entry into the war, millions of men arrived at hastily constructed camps across the U.S., the first step in becoming members of the American Expeditionary Force (Figure 21.5). The recruits’ training often involved wooden rifles and artillery pieces while the government raced to provide them with genuine weapons. Initially lacking in adequate accommodations and facilities, the training camps improved rapidly and operated largely according to progressive principles. Diligent camp supervisors made sure the facilities provided recruits with adequate medical care and recreational activities with far more consideration than in previous wars. Military leaders paid particular attention to preventing the spread of venereal diseases among the young soldiers by shutting down nearby brothels and exhibiting graphic films about the symptoms of such illnesses.

Wartime Bureaucracies and Propaganda

Beyond strengthening its military America’s mobilization involved numerous measures creating new bureaucracies to oversee wartime industrial and agricultural production. To this end, business leaders assumed positions of power in the government, which allowed business and government to collaborate more closely than ever before. This partnership survived well into the postwar period. Created in the summer of 1917, the United States Food Administration supervised increases in agricultural production and encouraged, rather than coerced, American civilians to reduce consumption and waste. Americans experienced little forced rationing during the war, but some governmental controls, such as price setting, were enforced. Appealing to Americans’ sense of patriotic duty, Food Administration propaganda encouraged families to forgo eating meat on Tuesdays and bread on Wednesdays while planting “victory gardens” to supplement their diets with food items that couldn’t be exported abroad. Most Americans abided by the new bureaucracy’s recommendations without complaint, cutting back on sugar, coffee and other foodstuffs. The administration’s head, a young mining engineer named Herbert Hoover, proved an exceptional administrator: in three months, the exportation of American wheat skyrocketed by 700% (Figure 21.6).

Figure 21.6: Food Administration Head Herbert Hoover in 1917 [5]​

What the Food Administration was to agriculture, the War Industries Board (WIB) was to industry. They directed production, distributed raw materials, built new factories, and set prices for various commodities. Bernard Baruch, a prominent New York investor, assumed control of the WIB in March 1918 and set about increasing its efficiency by reorganizing the organization into separate “commodity sectors,” supervised by business leaders who awarded government contracts to competing companies. The government addressed the problematic absence of an efficient national railroad system, by creating the Railroad Administration. The Administration assumed temporary control of the nearly quarter-million miles of railroads through nationalization, reducing the number of passenger trains and ensuring war material reached its destination on schedule.

21.29 - Level 3

Which of the following statements about wartime mobilization is incorrect?

A

The Food Administration supervised agricultural production and encouraged Americans to conserve food, reduce consumption and waste.

B

The War Industries Board helped coordinate production and the distribution of materials.

C

Most American soldiers were drafted into the armed forces as a result of the Selective Service Act.

D

The Railroad Administration took control of rail lines and prioritized the transport of war materials and passenger trains.


1913’s income tax proved well-timed in assisting the government to pay for the gargantuan war costs, reaching as much as $10 billion in 1917 alone. In determining the approach that would cause the least amount of damage to the economy, Congress opted to raise revenue through taxation rather than loans. This line of logic claimed that labor demands would raise workers’ wages. Without consumer goods available for purchase, there would be little reason to protest an increase in taxes that would go towards ultimate victory over Germany. At the start of 1918, a new taxation plan, cleverly named the “Liberty Tax,” raised rates on low-earning taxpayers by 2 percent with graduated increases of 5% for those with annual salaries between $5,000 and $7,000 and over 60 percent for those bringing in over $1 million yearly.

While the nation banned immigration for the duration of the war and four million men in uniform by 1918, women and minorities found numerous job opportunities available to them. The nation’s unemployment rate shrank to roughly 3 percent by the war’s end, and large groups relocated to new homes in search of jobs. For the first time since the end of the Civil War, significant numbers of African Americans migrated from the South. 400,000 African Americans participated in what became known as the “Great Migration,” moving to northern cities such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago seeking wartime work. The growing presence of these new arrivals angered many established white residents. Escalating racial tensions gave way to instances of violence, including a July 1917 riot in the African American districts of East St. Louis during which a white mob hunted down African Americans in the city. The attacks resulted in at least 49 deaths and 300 homes destroyed before members of the National Guard restored some order. However, several of them engaged in some reported instances of brutality themselves.

When African American leaders sought an audience with President Wilson to listen to their concerns, he refused. He argued that any emphasis on racial divisions would be counterproductive at a time when the nation required the perception of unity. Some pointed out the obvious paradox of the United States’ engagement in a war to preserve and promote democracy abroad while 400,000 black Americans served in segregated units, more likely to be cooking and serving meals to white troops than serving on the front lines. In late August, a group of African American soldiers in Houston attacked a jail holding some of their comrades. Fifteen died in the ensuing melee. At the subsequent court-martial, thirteen of the men received death sentences and forty-one went to prison for life. Wilson later commuted ten of those sentenced to death to life imprisonment.

Question 21.30

21.30 - Level 5

Imagine that you are an African American soldier and you are serving in a segregated unit where you are given some of the most menial jobs. You are also aware of the discrimination that you and your loved ones face in society. At the same time, you hear lofty rhetoric about the cause for which you are fighting. How would you feel?

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American women experienced similar challenges and opportunities during the war years. Women’s clubs and organizations assisted in the war effort by selling war bonds, rolling bandages and rationing food. The Food Administration encouraged housewives to sign a formal pledge to conserve food. First Lady Edith Wilson oversaw a small flock of sheep to keep the White House lawn tidy and reduce labor. Funds raised from auctioning the wool from Mrs. Wilson’s sheep went to the Red Cross. Over a million women took advantage of wartime employment opportunities; these were primarily young, single women who already worked outside the home. Some assumed positions in the newly established government bureaucracies, performing clerical duties as typists and telephone operators. Others took positions in factories, executing tasks previously deemed unsuitable for women. Most of those who left their domestic duties for wartime work fully expected to return to their former lives when the war ended. To maximize efficiency and reduce the possibility of strikes, the government sought to ensure that managers did not overwork their employees in defense plants or subject them to potentially hazardous conditions. Federal agencies such as the War Labor Board and the War Labor Policies Board, helped to protect American labor from exploitation by endorsing an eight-hour workday and discouraging the use of young women and children on factory floors. The government also made available housing for war workers.

Before America’s declaration of war, U.S. newspapers had laid the groundwork for an effective propaganda campaign, having already published a number of stories on supposed atrocities perpetrated by German troops. The American entry into the war gave newspaper publishers even freer rein to print more outrageous accounts of “the Hun.” In addition to media efforts to increase circulation, World War I witnessed the first concerted use of propaganda by the government to consolidate support and encourage sacrifice by all Americans. The federal government created the Committee on Public Information (CPI) shortly after declaring war against Germany in the hopes of convincing skeptical Americans of the war’s necessity. Led by George Creel, the CPI devised numerous effective techniques to mold public opinion about the war. It employed journalists, artists, photographers and playwrights in the production of posters, songs, political cartoons, and motion pictures that depicted the Germans as a monstrous enemy (Figure 21.7). Creel organized regular press conferences that supplied reporters with carefully chosen stories to emphasize the justness of America’s participation in the war. 

Americans flocked to theaters to see pro-war movies, initially documentaries and later feature films with names such as To Hell with the Kaiser! and The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin. Major Hollywood stars of the era, including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, appeared in short films to endorse war bonds. To add a sheen of highbrow credibility to their efforts, the CPI sought the services of academics and scholars to produce a series of articles, pamphlets, and books to that held Germany accountable for the world’s problems and argued that workers must abandon strikes until the war’s end. So-called “four-minute men” able to recite a litany of reasons for buying war bonds or enlisting to fight, traveled the country on behalf of the CPI; they appeared at church services, country fairs, local theaters and other public spaces. Propaganda posters encouraged the reporting of anyone speaking ill of the war or advocating for peace to the appropriate authorities. The rampant spread of patriotism and anti-German sentiment altered the American lexicon – sauerkraut became known as “liberty cabbage” and frankfurters became “liberty sausage.” Some German Americans found themselves the target of wartime distrust and intolerance, their businesses boycotted and lives threatened.

Figure 21.7: A sample of the vivid wartime propaganda produced by the U.S. government in World War I to demonize Kaiser Wilhelm II. [6]​

Question 21.31

21.31 - Level 5

Why do you think the Committee on Public Information believed it was necessary to portray Germans in such a negative light?

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21.32 - Level 2

The Committee on Public Information

A

Attempted to convince Americans to support the war effort

B

Sought to convince Americans that they should not react negatively against German Americans

C

Relayed news about troops movements and food shortages

D

Served as a central hub of information for civilians seeking news about their loved ones overseas


21.33 - Level 3

Which nation was the target of this American propaganda poster?

question description
A

Germany

B

Hungary

C

Russia

D

Japan


Because many Americans feared the possibility of German agents committing acts of sabotage against the United States, Wilson convinced Congress of the need to pass two bills in the name of improved national security, the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. The former focused primarily on prosecuting any suspected spies while also criminalizing any act judged detrimental to military morale. The latter criminalized any criticism of government leaders or policies. A $1,500 fine and twenty years behind bars awaited those who evaded the draft, assisted the enemy or in any way undermined the war effort. Authorities used the new laws to arrest over 1,000 Americans, most of them anti-war socialists and anarchists such as Eugene v. Debs and Emma Goldman. Both right-wing and progressive Republicans lambasted Wilson for endorsing the two bills, which seemed so contrary to basic American principles.

Question 21.34

21.34 - Level 3

Why did critics charge that the Espionage and Sedition Acts were contrary to American principles?

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The Women's Suffrage Movement and the War 

Although the women’s suffrage movement began in 1848, it was not until the late 19th and early 20th century that it began to see results. Western states such as Wyoming and Utah granted woman suffrage in their state constitutions and some states even elected female representatives. As the movement gained traction, the so-called suffragettes tried any number of tactics to increase their visibility. Southern women’s groups were not above calling for white female suffrage on the grounds that it would further secure white power in southern states. Others tried to use the paradigm of inherent female morality as a selling point, claiming that by letting women vote, the nation would automatically gain more integrity. By the 1910s, enough states supported woman suffrage that Congress began seriously considering a constitutional amendment, first proposed in 1878, to extend voting rights to women on the national level.

As the suffragettes came within reach of their goal, they began using increasingly radical tactics to draw attention to their cause. The National Women’s Party (NWP), founded by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, borrowed heavily from British suffragettes, utilizing public demonstrations and picketing in order to raise public awareness. In January 1917, as the U.S. stood on the brink of war, a group of women from the NWP calling themselves the Silent Sentinels began picketing in front of the White House. They carried large signs imploring the president to give the same rights to American women that he advocated for the people of Europe. While the public initially tolerated these public displays, he atmosphere changed after the U.S. officially entered the war in April 1917. Public opinion turned against the women, with many considering their behavior traitorous and others wondering why they did not devote their energies to the war effort.


Figure 21.8: Silent Sentinels picketing in front of the White House, 1917. [7]

In June 1917, police began arresting groups of Silent Sentinels on the charge of “obstructing traffic.” Initially the women were given sentences of a few days or weeks, but as the women continued their protests, the sentences became more harsh. In October 1917, Alice Paul herself was arrested on these charges and sent away for seven months in the Occoquan Workhouse. There, she organized a hunger strike among the Silent Sentinels, which provoked the prison guards into abusing and torturing the women. Many of the women were force fed a combination of milk and raw eggs, which caused them to vomit, while still others were beaten and dragged around their cells. When word of how the women were being treated reached newspapers and the public became angry, President Wilson was forced to pardon all the women and release them in November 1917. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently found that all of the arrests, convictions and sentences related to the Silent Sentinels had been unconstitutional. Wilson, desperately afraid of losing public support for his administration during the war, now felt obligated to publicly support the woman suffrage amendment.

Americans on the Front-lines

American troops saw little frontline combat in France in 1917, but it was perhaps the most critical year of the war. French mutinies continued along the Western Front while the Italian lines began to collapse beneath mounting German and Austrian pressure. Most alarmingly, Communists under the guidance of Vladimir Lenin assumed control of the Russian Revolution in October, and the Russian forces withdrew from the fighting soon after. Germany, which returned Lenin aboard a sealed train to Russia, negotiated the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Lenin’s government in early 1918, taking a sizeable of chunk of Russian territory and ending the war in the east. Germany could then devote its military resources to an ambitious assault against the Western Front, which began in March 1918. It needed to do so with all due haste: the German High Command knew full well the arrival of American soldiers in the coming months would shift the fortunes of war in favor of the Allies. However, a major break in the French and British lines could lead to a negotiated surrender, leaving Germany in possession of much of the territory under its control, including the new Russian territory.

21.35 - Level 2

Arrange these events in proper chronological sequence.

A

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

B

The surrender of Russia

C

The sinking of the Lusitania

D

Germany sends the Zimmerman Note


President Wilson entered 1918 in the process of drafting a document that appeared to be the culmination of his political career, if not his life. On January 8th, Wilson convened Congress in order to present his master plan for lasting peace in the world, which became known as his Fourteen Points. The first five points called for the abolition of secret treaties, a commitment to free seas, an elimination of trade barriers, a decrease in national militaries, and a reduction in the colonial holdings. Points six through thirteen addressed specific territorial disagreements and the creation of new autonomous states from the ashes of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Wilson saved his most important point for last: the crux of much of what Wilson hoped to achieve, an organization of nations established “for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” In such an international forum, issues among member countries might be discussed without resorting to war. Never again should the private quarrels between two nations give way to an international struggle killing millions. America’s postwar decision-making would not be influenced by any animosity against Germany; Wilson made plain that the U.S. waged war not at the German people, but its corrupt and authoritarian government. The sentiment of Wilson’s speech resonated with Americans of all political leanings, from conservative Republicans to radical socialists. America might have been prepared to let its bygones with Germany be bygones; Britain and France proved a different story.

21.36 - Level 2

Which issues did the 14 Points not cover?

A

Abolition of secret treaties

B

Freedom of the seas

C

Strengthening of trade barriers

D

Decreasing military sizes

E

New territorial borders

F

The establishment of a League of Nations


Wilson looked ahead to a postwar world of lasting peace as the war continued to rage. Germany’s ambitious spring offensive began on March 21, 1918 with a series of attacks against the Allies, designed to hammer a wedge between the British and French armies. The Germans enjoyed initial success and pushed the French steadily towards Paris, but failed to pierce the Allied lines. In the midst of the mounting crisis, General Pershing made available some of his men to fight in combined British and French units. It was unclear whether the Americans were competent on their own until a small number of troops from the 28th Infantry Division seized the town of Catingy and the surrounding area from German forces. The battle was a minor success from a military standpoint, but a significant victory for American morale. A steady stream of American troops continued to reinforce the Allied lines and help turn the tide of battle. By June, one million U.S. soldiers took position along the Western Front, prepared to halt the Germans’ advance. Initial British apprehensions about their fighting ability dissolved once American troops displayed bravery and competence in both July’s Second Battle of the Marne and at St. Mihiel the following month, where half a million U.S. troops led an attack that assisted in pushing the Germans back.

The Allies turned the tables on the opposition by unleashing the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in late September, with 1.2 million American soldiers contributing to this final assault. Realizing the futility of continuing the war, the German government contacted Washington on October 6, asking to initiate negotiations under the auspices of the Fourteen Points. The advance towards a ceasefire took place incrementally, as the Germans agreed to end their use of submarine warfare and requested an armistice on November 7. When the final gun fired just before the armistice went into effect at 11 am on November 11, American deaths stood at over 116,000 after only 150 days of fighting. Such a statistic appeared insignificant compared to the nearly 900,000 British and 1.4 million French troops lost during four year of war.

Figure 21.9: The war that so many Europeans expected to be over before Christmas of 1914 instead raged until November of 1918, taking the lives of 17 million soldiers and civilians in the process. A generation of young men in uniform sacrificed themselves on behalf of their respective nations.


News of the war’s end put Americans in a state of euphoria and relief, with parades and speeches marking the occasion. Wilson prepared himself for the complicated process of brokering peace, knowing he would need to tread lightly when dealing with the Allies. French leaders insisted the conference be held in their own nation rather than a neutral one. They knew full well the advantage of holding negotiations so close to areas devastated by war, where leaders such as Wilson might witness the full extent of France’s suffering. In a vengeful parting shot to France, German troops dynamited French coals mines and factories as they retreated back to their homeland. Most in France hoped to squeeze just as much out of Germany in the form of reparations, an attitude in diametric opposition to Wilson’s envisioned internationalism. French officials conveyed some misgivings about Wilson, as America’s head of state, representing the country instead of the Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, but Wilson insisted he lead the American delegation personally. His believed his absence would push the the British and French toward retribution rather than equanimity. He further feared that his intended League of Nations might not come to be without his direct sponsorship.

Figure 21.10: From left to right: Vitorrio Orlando of Italy, David Lloyd George of Great Britain, France’s Georges Clemenceau and President Woodrow Wilson [8]​


21.37 - Level 3

Approximately how many American soldiers died per day during the United States' involvement in the First World War?


Peace-brokering in Paris

German leaders arranged the November armistice with the Allies under the assumption that the subsequent peace talks would unfold according to the principles of President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Despite French and British assurances that they were committed to forging a lasting peace after the war, they did not bind themselves to the Fourteen Points; nor, in fact, did the United States. Wilson assumed that the moral imperative of his vision would trump formal diplomacy. From the beginning, Wilson insisted that America’s participation in the war was not motivated by the desire for additional territory or financial compensation from the defeated Central Powers. Although British and French leaders agreed to the spirit of the Fourteen Points – its emphasis on open trade and transparent diplomacy – they fully ended to impose penalties on the Germans. France in particular, having lost a generation of French youth, planned to punish Germany harshly and ensure it would never again be able to wage war. Allied leaders further noted the Fourteen Points offered specific benefits to the United States, a capitalist nation without a large overseas empire seeking to expand its business internationally through free trade and open seas.

Europeans were not the only ones uncertain about Wilson and his postwar plans. Republican leaders, in the hopes of drumming support for their party in the upcoming midterm elections of 1918, toured the nation and called attention to the inadequacies of Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Wilson initially refused to involve himself in the elections, but the prospect of the Republican dominance in Congress and a possible refusal to ratify the peace treaty compelled him to act with swiftness and desperation. He claimed a Republican majority in the House or Senate might be construed by European leaders as a rejection of his authority by the American people, thus undermining his ability to secure a lasting peace on behalf of all humanity. Wilson’s remarks understandably inflamed Republicans who had supported and sacrificed on behalf of an Allied victory, but also affronted American voters who bristled at the president instructing them on who to vote for. In the elections of November 5, much to Wilson’s disappointment, the Republicans cemented their control of the House of the Representatives with twenty-five new seats, and gained a majority in the Senate by winning seven seats.

Wilson remained convinced that his vision would come to pass in spite of this political setback. But his political blundering continued when he assembled his delegation to accompany him to the Paris Peace Conference and included only one Republican, former ambassador Henry White. Even Congressional Democrats still loyal to the president felt marginalized and slighted by Wilson’s increasingly imperious attitude. An ominous lack of support in Washington as Wilson departed the city hinted at what was to come. In order to lend his personal leadership to the negotiations in Paris, Wilson decided it necessary to spend several months abroad. No American president, before or since, has spent as much time overseas while in office as Wilson. Many Americans felt abandoned by their leader, who seemed more committed to solving the problems of distant foreigners than his own constituents.

When Wilson arrived in Paris in January 1919, French journalists compared the event to Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The president encountered jubilant receptions in every European city he visited, from London to Milan. Europeans generally viewed the United States as the only nation among the Allies possessing the moral imperative to broker peace. French leaders proved more difficult to impress. France’s Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, dubious of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, mused, “Even God Almighty has only ten.” Clemenceau rebuffed Wilson’s assertion that the formation of his League of Nations should take precedent over concerns of punishing Germany. Wilson faced the basic challenge of advocating for a sense of internationalism before a group of leaders primarily interested benefitting their respective nations. The American leader’s high-minded idealism and emphasis on cooperation among nations stood in marked contrast to the shattered cities full of starving inhabitants and acres of wooded crosses dotting the European landscape.

Four countries stood at the forefront of the peace talks: France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States, the so-called “big four” (Figure 21.10). Prime Minister Clemenceau perhaps hovered largest over the peace talks. Clemenceau expressed the most vehement need to extract a toll from Germany and ensure France need never fear another invasion from its eastern neighbor. The prime ministers of England and Italy, David Lloyd George and Vittorio Orlando, similarly intended to reap the spoils of war. As the nation to endure the least direct suffering and loss of life among the four, the United States remained something of an outsider throughout the negotiating process. No European leader could deny the dominance of the American economy and military, thanks to wartime enlargements, or the growing dependence of much of Europe on both. But accepting America’s leadership in postwar diplomacy proved a different matter. The Fourteen Points seemed naïve, completely out of step with the more cynical and secretive approach to international relations practiced by earlier generations of European diplomats.

21.38 Level 1

At the peace talks in France, which of the following countries were not considered one of the “big four”?

A

Russia

B

France

C

Great Britain

D

Germany

E

The United States

F

Italy


Question 21.39

21.39 - Level 5

What challenges did President Wilson face in attempting to secure his vision of the post-war world? Do you think these challenges could have been overcome?

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.39.

Allies at Odds

To Wilson’s chagrin, the peace talks began to drag almost immediately, the emphasis primarily on divvying up Germany’s former colonies and establishing the borders of new Central European states than establishing the League of Nations. Attendees of the conference addressed the foundation of the League of Nations for the first time on January 25. Wilson made every effort to impress upon the delegates the absolute necessity of the League, to considering its importance “not as representatives of government, but representatives of peoples.” Its creation must not be viewed as simply a temporary measure designed to create a temporary peace, he claimed, but a permanent institution intended to guarantee a lasting one.

21.40 - Level 1

Match the following leaders with their countries:

Premise
Response
1

Georges Clemenceau

A

Prime Minister of England

2

Vittorio Orlando

B

President of the United States

3

David Lloyd George

C

Prime Minister of France

4

Woodrow Wilson

D

Prime Minister of Italy


In early February the Commission on the League of Nations met regularly to draft the ten articles of governance and organization that would dictate its structure and functions. Wilson, scheduled to return to the United States at the end of the month, resolved to bring back tangible proof of progress to the American people. The Commission agreed upon thirteen articles within the League Covenant designed to limit the size of national militaries and promote the use of mediation rather than the threat of force to resolve disagreements between nations. In order to function as intended, the League depended foremost upon Article X, which called for the creation of collective security and the use of armed force by League members should any of its associates come under threat from a non-member nation.

While Wilson continued to press his European counterparts to endorse the League, suspicion about the proposed organization grew back in America. Leaked stories about the League, many of them factually inaccurate, only added to the anxiety; many Americans were already uneasy about the country assuming such a prominent role in world affairs. Republican Congressional leaders met with the president shortly after his return to Washington, taking the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding American sovereignty with the context of the League. Wilson’s assurances left the Republicans unconvinced. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge insisted that the ongoing haggling over the League obstructed the peacemaking process and left the door open for a resumption of hostilities. Even before Wilson returned to France in early March, Republican senators began to close ranks in committing themselves to preventing the U.S. from joining the League. Many in the U.S. press followed the Republicans’ lead by printing editorials critical of the president holding up the Peace Treaty in order to create the League.

During Wilson’s absence from Paris, French leaders also challenged the formation of the League by separating the League Covenant from the Peace Treaty. As the months passed in Paris following his return, Wilson struggled to respect the multiple ethnic divisions within Europe as new nations such as Poland and Czechoslovakia emerged from the shattered empires of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia. Wilson further debated the severity of punishments against Germany with the French and British, who wished to see Germany accept full responsibility for starting the war and pay for the damages caused by the conflict. In his ongoing attempts to distinguish the German government and the German people as separate entities, Wilson met with little success. The British, still recuperating from the devastation wrought by German submarines, insisted upon the destruction of Germany’s navy. The French demanded heavy reparations from the Germans, disregarding Wilson’s argument that the financial penalties would cripple the German economy and inhibit Germany’s ability to meet its payments.

Setting aside his fears that a harshly penalized Germany would result in anger and resentment towards the Allies, as well as the distinct possibility of a future war, Wilson ultimately acquiesced; he hoped future problems would be resolved by the League of Nations as it was outlined in the Treaty. In its final version, the Treaty of Versailles reduced the German army to a token force of 100,000 men and stripped the German navy of most of its warships including submarines. In addition to abandoning its Asian and African colonies, Germany would restore Alsace-Lorraine to France and cede significant territory and population to the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the newly created nations of Czechoslovakia and Poland. When the German delegates balked at the treaty’s deviation from the Fourteen Points, particularly its assigning full blame for starting the war to Germany and its allies, France threatened to invade if they refused to sign.

The Debate over the League of Nations

France’s intimidation of Germany called into question America’s participation in the war. Europe exhibited few indications of learning any lessons from the recent conflict, which raised the unsettling possibility of the League of Nations fomenting future hostilities rather than preventing them. Article X of the League Covenant, which called for the use of economic sanctions and possible military action against aggressive non-member nations, created the greatest concern for Americans. As the only Western nation with a suitable military after World War I, it seemed likely that the U.S. would be called upon by the League to provide troops for any number of international incidents. Wilson doubted this would come to pass, assuming the moral authority possessed by the League would deter any future aggression. Such thinking seemed foolish to Republican leaders, foremost Senator Lodge, who accused Wilson of undermining American nationalism with internationalism. America’s participation in the League ran contrary to its aversion to entangling alliances, following the advice of George Washington in his 1796 farewell address. Some critics of Wilson speculated he intended to parlay his international prominence into a third term as president. With dissent mounting, the Republicans planned to refuse to ratify the treaty when it came time for the Congressional vote.

21.41 - Level 1

The Treaty of Versailles obligated Germany to do all of the following except:

A

Drastically reduce the size of its military

B

Pay reparations for wartime damages

C

Join the League of Nations

D

Accept blame for causing World War I

Question 21.42

21.42 - Level 5

Why did American critics feel uneasy about Article X of the League Covenant? (Consider both the nation’s history and the immediate circumstances of the post-war era.)

Click here to see the answer to Question 21.42.

In early July, Wilson returned to the U.S. after months of exhausting work abroad to find a nation divided over the Treaty of Versailles and proposed American membership in the League of Nations. Article X proved unsettling to much of the American public, who rejected the prospect of sending soldiers from the U.S. to fight and possibly die in all corners of the world on behalf of the League. Most state governors and legislatures supported the League, but Republican members of Congress challenged the demands of League membership and stressed its possible unconstitutionality. Senators from the Western and Midwestern U.S. in particular feared that foreign commitments would undermine domestic concerns. Wilson’s insistence that the Senate vote on the Treaty immediately, without extensive debate or analysis, augmented the existing tension and animosity in Washington.

In September 1919, desperate to save the League but unwilling to compromise on the question of modifying the Treaty, particularly Article X, a visibly weary Wilson traveled 8,000 miles in 22 days to drum up support for the treaty in a series of personal appearances that brought his case directly to the people. His impassioned speeches emphasized his vision for the future and America’s critical role in giving the recent war any possible meaning. The rapid pace and stress of his efforts proved too much for the beleaguered president; already exhibiting signs of illness and erratic behavior while in Paris, he suffered an incapacitating stroke in early October. His wife Edith kept her stricken husband in a state of isolation for 17 months, refusing reporters’ requests for interviews. Speaking through his wife, he continued to refuse any compromise on the treaty. The Senate vote in March 1920 turned out as the Republicans hoped and Wilson dreaded, without the two-thirds majority needed to pass the Treaty. The League of Nations would come together with the United States conspicuously absent as a member.

21.43 - Level 2

The United States was a founding member of the League of Nations.

A

True

B

False


The Spanish Influenza and the Red Scare

Wilson’s absence from the public came at a time when the nation desperately needed strong leadership. The rapid demobilization of America’s wartime military and industry resulted in a great deal of economic and social chaos. Millions of returning doughboys expected to resume the jobs they’d left behind while at war, only to find them frequently occupied by a woman or a person of color. The bumpy transition from a wartime economy to a peacetime one resulted in a doubling of prices from the start of the war to the summer of 1919. Adding to the postwar disorder, a deadly influenza pandemic, known as the Spanish flu, swept across the globe following its initial appearance in the spring of 1918 at a military camp in Kansas (Figure 21.11). Over the next year influenza claimed the lives of 22 million people globally, more than the lives lost during the war, including 675,000 Americans. Many of the U.S. soldiers returning home from the war brought the disease with them, hastening its spread and causing panic across the nations. Some communities lacked the means of dealing with the mounting number of flu victims, often resorting to the digging of mass graves to bury the mounting dead.

Figure 21.11: Attendants at the influenza ward at Camp Funston, Kansas administer to their hundredsof patients in 1918. [9]

The pandemic disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived in the spring of 1919, but postwar turmoil continued as soldiers demobilized and the economy reconverted to its prewar ways. A modest recession began in the United States the summer before the war ended and continued for several months before a brief recovery and then a steeper economic downturn that lasted until 1922. As factories transitioned from wartime production to peacetime production, consumers faced a scarcity of goods and steeper expenses. Uncertainty grew when the government ended its price controls and cancelled war contracts, shrinking the demand for raw materials such as coal and iron. For the most part, coal miners, steelworkers and factory employees avoided the pink slip, but not reduced paychecks that failed to cover rising living costs. 

Four million dissatisfied workers went on strike in 1919 in protest of low wages and inflation, damaging public opinion of organized labor in the process. A strike by the Boston police force proved particularly challenging to Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge who called out the State Guard and garnered himself a great deal of national attention in the process. Racial tensions exacerbated by the migration of thousands of African Americans to the north gave way to a series of twenty-five riots across the nation. The violence began in Longview, Texas before spreading the Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, and, most violently, Chicago, where federal troops restored order when the local police could not. Wanton acts of arson directed against African American communities and a spike in lynchings during the summer of 1919 made it all too painfully clear to black Americans that their military service and commitment to American victory did not equate to mainstream acceptance.

Political radicals delivered violence to the homes of a number of prominent Americans in the form of letter bombs in April 1919. Most of the deadly packages, 40 in all, were intercepted before reaching their intended recipients, but a few, including one to the Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, slipped through and exploded upon delivery. Subsequent investigations revealed the source to be radical socialists and communists inspired by the recent revolution in Russia and hoping to spark a similar takeover in the United States. An American Communist Party came together in 1919, seeking a more legitimate pathway to supporting communism. Attorney General Palmer, personally impacted by a bomb that blew up the front of his house, organized a series of raids of communist clubs. With the able assistance of Palmer’s lieutenant, J. Edgar Hoover, the raids nabbed over a thousand suspects and resulted in the deportations of 249 communists to Russia without a formal hearing. Although bombings continued, by the summer of 1920 the paranoia of the “Red Scare” largely abated as Americans went about their daily lives. The general unease about communism, however, would continue.

Conclusion: The Road to “Normalcy”

Although America assumed a position of political isolationism at the end of World War I, it emerged from the conflict as the world’s strongest and fastest growing economy. America’s gross domestic profit doubled over the course of the war, reaching almost $76 billion by the end. The mighty industrial engine assembled to power the wartime economy would continue to drive the nation as an era of peace began. By the spring of 1919, U.S. corporations detected a marked increase in consumer demand. Much of Europe continued to depend on the influx of American agricultural products and raw materials. It would take several years before the exhausted economies of European countries would be able to return to their prewar levels of production. As America entered the 1920s the principles of progressivism no longer held the allure of previous decades. Possible intervention in Europe on behalf of democracy rang hollow for Americans who increasingly viewed the First World War as a costly and futile effort that seemingly solved nothing. Following the wearying efforts of improving the lives of those at home and abroad, many Americans looked forward to a return to of limited government, a return to “normalcy.”

21.44 - Level 1

What crisis did the United States not face immediately after the war in 1918-1919?

A

Spanish Flu

B

Increased prices

C

Strikes

D

Race riots

E

Oversupply of products

F

Red Scare



Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Class Discussion 21.01

Class Discussion 21.01 - Level 4

In what ways was President Wilson’s foreign policy consistent with that of his predecessors, Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 21.01.

Class Discussion 21.02

Class Discussion 21.02 - Level 4

What circumstances resulted in America going to war in 1917?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 21.02.

Class Discussion 21.03

Class Discussion 21.03 - Level 2

What sort of transformations occurred within the U.S. government during the war years?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 21.03.

Class Discussion 21.04

Class Discussion 21.04 - Level 2

Why were Republican leaders so hostile to ratifying the Treaty of Versailles?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 21.04.

Class Discussion 21.05

Class Discussion 21.05 - Level 4

What factors enabled the United States to become the most powerful nation on earth by the end of World War I?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 21.05.



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Suggested Additional Material

Berg, A. Scott Berg. Wilson. New York: Berkley Books, 2014.

Keegan, John. The First World War. New York: Vintage, 2000.

MacMillan, Margaret MacMillan. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2003.

Welsome, Eileen. The General and the Jaguar: Pershing's Hunt for Pancho Villa: A True Story of Revolution and Revenge. Lincoln, Nebraska: Bison Books, 2007.

Answers to In-Chapter Discussion Questions

Answer to Question 21.03

The United States had viewed Latin America as a sphere of influence since the presidency of James Monroe of the 1820s. It deemed the projection of influence by European powers in the region to be disruptive and unwanted. The Roosevelt Corollary expanded upon this basic view with the United States constructing and managing the Panama Canal. Greater naval power further cemented America’s ambitions of dominating Latin America. Less overtly intimidated but just as influential in many respects was the Dollar Diplomacy of the Taft Administration. American investors and corporate interests sought to increase their profits and economic control of Latin America by dominating specific commodities and establishing branch offices in the region. Maintaining these political and economic ties justified the dispatching of U.S. troops to Latin American countries on a regular basis by the early 1900s. 

Click here to return to Question 21.03.


Answer to Question 21.12

German submarine were fragile craft, easily destroyed if rammed or fired upon by a surface vessel. Merchant ships, in violation of international law, began to carry deck guns to fire at submarines once they surfaced, taking further advantage of the German submarines’ vulnerability. Firing a torpedo without warning proved the most effective means of eliminating the targeted ship and keeping a submarine crew safe.  

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Answer to Question 21.14

With Europe’s major powers transitioning from peacetime economies to wartime ones, America stood to gain by filling the void and producing and shipping goods to European markets. American investors also stood to gain a great deal by offering loans to the warring governments. This made neutrality all the more difficult for the U.S. to maintain; a German victory would void the loans made to Britain and France, and American shipping found itself increasing under fire by German submarines.

Click here to return to Question 21.14.


Answer to Question 21.15

German submarine were fragile craft, easily destroyed if rammed or fired upon by a surface vessel. Merchant ships, in violation of international law, began to carry deck guns to fire at submarines once they surfaced, taking further advantage of the German submarines’ vulnerability. Firing a torpedo without warning proved the most effective means of eliminating the targeted ship and keeping a submarine crew safe.

Click here to return to Question 21.15.


Answer to Question 21.21

The Zimmerman Note speaks to the Germans’ desperation to keep the U.S out of the conflict. It also seems to reveal a certain boldness in their assumption they were close to victory, with Russia on the verge of revolution and the French army close to collapse. It resulted only in further antagonizing the American people.

Click here to return to Question 21.21.


Answer to Question 21.24

American troops had never been under the direct command of foreign officers. The British and French militaries, having sustained such high casualties, hardly seemed qualified to devise strategies that might cause a similar loss of American lives. It also seemed unlikely that the American public would support U.S. forces serving directly under European commanders.

Click here to return to Question 21.24.


Answer to Question 21.25

“I Didn’t Raise my Boy to be a Soldier” conveys the general antiwar sentiment as it existed in the early years of World War I in the United States. The conflict was viewed as a European event, one driven by the rampant imperialism of recent decades. Americans viewed themselves as above such a war; it posed little threat to their daily lives. But the period from 1915 to 1917 saw the sinking of the Lusitania as a result of German unrestricted submarine warfare, German attempts to cajole Mexico into invading the United States, and the growing perception of Germany as a threat to international trade and lasting peace. By the spring of 1917, America was prepared to go “Over There.”

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Answer to Question 21.26

“I Didn’t Raise my Boy to be a Soldier” is obviously a song written from the perspective of a mother desperate to prevent her beloved son from being sacrificed in a pointless war. It taps into the perception of women as possessing a more developed sense of morality and justness than men. In contrast, there’s no mention of mother in “Over There”, which instead includes the lyric: “Make your daddy glad to have had such a lad. Tell your sweetheart not to pine, to be proud her boy’s in line.” The focus is on impressing the male parent and the girlfriend with manly virtues such as courage.

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Answer to Question 21.27

The pervasiveness of a particular song with a patriotic message certainly heightens the sense that one must do their duty. If the song elicits a strong emotional response that strips away logic and reason, it may prove most effective in convincing young men to do their duty. If the song is catchy, it’s far more likely to take on a cachet among a significant number of people who then carry the message forward.

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Answer to Question 21.30

African Americans answered the call to serve in higher numbers disproportionate to their population in World War I, as had been the case in the Civil War and every other subsequent military action. Military service gave African Americans the opportunity to display their loyalty to the country. But the menial secondary roles assigned them reflected the general attitude that they were not prepared for frontline combat.

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Answer to Question 21.31

The Germans had taken relatively few American lives in the years leading up to the declaration of war. They also posed no immediate threat to the safety of the territorial United States. This being the case, it was necessary to make clear how threatening the Germans were. It was also necessary to win over the significant German-American population whose support of the war was viewed as indispensable.

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Answer to Question 21.34

Both laws blatantly contradicted the spirit of the First Amendment, specifically its guarantee of free speech. Leftists accused the government of taking part in a war started by capitalists who also reaped enormous financial rewards through their investments and wartime production. To point this out was to risk the imposition of a heavy fine or time behind bars. It seemed inherently hypocritical of a government waging war “to make the world safe for democracy” would impose such inherently undemocratic laws.

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Answer to Question 21.39

The sort of peaceful postwar world envisioned by Wilson necessitated an American public committed to the nation’s ongoing involvement in global affairs, and European governments willing to adopt a more forgiving attitude towards the Germans. Neither of these conditions existed at the war’s end. The war-weary Americans wished to leave Europe to its own devices once peace had been achieved. French, British, and Italian leaders had little choice but to seek any and all compensation they could get out of Germany. The people of their nations demanded financial reparations and territory from the losers.

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Answer to Question 21.42

Article X made it theoretically possible for the League of Nations to commit U.S. troops to fight on its behalf in the event of hostility anywhere in the world, without the approval of Congress. With the exception of the Spanish-American War, conflicts involving the U.S. transpired within its borders. The use of military force in Latin America and Asia came about in order to protect American economic interests, Most Americans, particularly after the unprecedented destructiveness of World War I, resisted the prospect of U.S. troops possibly being sent anywhere in the world on behalf of the League. Americans were prepared for the country to disengage itself for foreign affairs. 

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Answers to Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Answer to Class Discussion 21.01

All three made Latin America a top consideration, Wilson even more so than the previous two. Wilson continued to consider economic considerations, as evidenced by his decision to allow Americans to offer loans to the nations at war and his emphasis on free trade in the League of Nations charter. President Wilson also integrated a sense of moral imperative into his foreign policy that reflected thinking of the Progressive Era. 

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Answer to Class Discussion 21.02

America’s involvement in World War I stemmed to a large extent from economic considerations. Investors from the U.S. made considerably more money available to the French and British governments than were made to the Germans. These loans would be lost should Germany prove victorious. Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare further complicated matters for the U.S. once it began filling war orders for the British and the French. The regular torpedoing of shipping in the Atlantic resulted in loss of American lives, particularly in the case of the Lusitania in 1915. These background causes coupled with Germany’s attempt to persuade Mexico to invade the U.S. in 1917 culminated in a declaration of war in April of that year.       

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Answer to Class Discussion 21.03

The desire for quick victory encouraged the Wilson administration to integrate business leaders into the federal government more closely than ever before. Bernard Baruch, a successful stockbroker, headed the War Industries Board, a bureaucracy in charge of setting production quotas and directing distribution of military equipment. Mining engineer Herbert Hoover served as director of the Food Administration Board, which carried out similar duties in agriculture. The Espionage and Sedition Acts expanded the power of the federal government to silence any possible dissenters with the threat of imprisonment and fines. These laws came to be used primarily against socialists critical of American’s participation in the war.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 21.03.


Answer to Class Discussion 21.04

Wilson failed to include a significant number of Republicans in America’s involvement in the peace talks after the war. It appeared to be a blatant political ploy to make America’s victory one achieved by the Democrats and the Democrats alone. Republicans were also fatigued by internationalism and justifiably concerned that America’s participation in the League of Nations would usurp from Congress its right to declare war.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 21.04.


Answer to Class Discussion 21.05

Europe lay in ruins at war’s end, much of its industry and agriculture having been devastated. It would take much time and effort to rebuild all that had been lost. American trade and manufacturing benefitted enormously during the war years, as European nations turned their attention to achieving victory. America’s militarization efforts occurred relatively late in the war, allowing the U.S. to possess a sizeable military force at a time when the militaries of Europe had dwindled significantly.   

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Image Credits

[1] Image from The World's Work Volume XXVIII courtesy of University of Toronto in the Public Domain.

[2] Image courtesy of the Imperial War Museums in the Public Domain.

[3] Image courtesy of SMU Central University Libraries in the Public Domain. 

[4] Image courtesy of the United States Army in the Public Domain.

[5] Image courtesy of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in the Public Domain.

[6] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, retouched by Adam Cuerden in the Public Domain.

[7] Image courtesy of the Library of Congress in the Public Domain. 

[8] Image courtesy of Bonhams in the Public Domain.

[9] Image courtesy National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP (Washington, D.C.) in the Public Domain.