Saturday, April 07, 2007

Too Proud to Fight: U.S. Involvement in World War I

On April 6, 1917, the United States formally declared war against Germany and entered The Great War in Europe.

Already in the war since the summer of 1914, Britain, France, and Russia welcomed news that American troops and supplies would be directed toward the Allied war effort, under the command of Major General John Pershing. Though the United States was already involved in the war and was already helping the Allied war effort.

What was supposed to be none of our business, quickly became our business when a British Cruise liner, the Lusitania, was sunk in the Atlantic Ocean. Of the 1,962 civilians on board, 1,198 of them died, 124 of whom were Americans.

An atrocity!! America claimed that the Lusitania was carrying innocent cargo and vacationers on a cruise ship... very brave vacationers I might add. The United States home front was stunned and demanded that Wilson go to war. But Wilson stood firm and continuously declared neutrality. What a crock! Wilson's actions were never neutral, and I secretly think he always wanted to go to war for economic reasons, but was looking for an excuse to enter the war. He would eventually get his excuse.

This, like many American conflicts was our own fault. President Woodrow Wilson had promised to stay neutral, but he hardly followed through with this promise. In fact, despite his comments, the United States was never neutral, and the Lusitania did not have 'innocent cargo'.

The United States had been shipping war materials to Germany's enemies for some time. The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 by Germany was justified.

After warning of "unrestricted submarine warfare" to ANY ships found in the Atlantic Ocean in an around Europe, the Germans had every right to torpedo the Lusitania.

Germany had already sunk a number of merchant vessels. Their ban of ships in this area was a simple war time tactic. They feared the US would supply their enemies with supplies on the sly.

Germany, sandwiched between France, Russia and Britain had almost no shot at winning the war. To remotely have a chance, Germany needed to make sure that Russia was not being sent supplies from the US or Britain for that matter. Taking Russia out of the war would eliminate the entire Eastern front and Germany could then focus on the West. Russia did eventually leave the war due to their troops' morale being low as a result of food and supplies not being replenished and the rapidly decreasing economy of their homeland. Russia's surrender was a big reason the United States joined the war... Wilson could not justify staying out of the war and allowing Germany to win.

The Lusitania's cargo, according to Howard Zinn contained the following:

1,248 cases of 3-inch shells
4,927 boxes of cartridges (1000 rounds per box)
2,000 cases of small-arms ammunition.

...hardly an innocent cargo.

Both Britain and the United States then lied about the cargo on-board, falsifying the manifests.

We were asking for it. Germany asked us not to get involved. Germany issued a warning that any ship in the area would be sunk. America claimed it was remaining neutral. As far as I'm concerned, shipping supplies to other countries is not staying neutral.

Perhaps Wilson was looking for an excuse to join the war, despite claiming that "There is such a thing as nation being too proud to fight." How about a nation, too proud to fight for the wrong reasons?

Wilson believed Germany's demands were intruding on the rights of American citizens to sail on the high seas. I believe that Wilson knowingly put American and British lives in danger by ignoring the unrestricted submarine warfare warnings.

This war was not about the United States. It was about European Alliances. It was about Nationalism, Imperialism and Militarism. The United States did not need to be involved. But there is an obvious contradiction to this neutrality with the delivery of supplies. This contradiction leads many to believe that Wilson was looking for a reason to get involved in the war.... but the US interest in the war was more about the future of the US Economy and less about the immediate defense of its citizens.

The United States would not stand to see Britain defeated by Germany. The United States' economy relied heavily on foreign markets to the tune of $3.5 billion. Britain was seen as a country that needed loans and the American companies like JP Morgan and Company were just what Britain needed.

Additionally, industrialists realized that involvement in the war would mean increased production and sale of their resources. Tycoons of steel, railroads, gun powder, automobiles and banks were sure to benefit from the US involvement in the war.

There is no doubt that a war is a good way to pull an economy out of a depression or a recession, but why can't our administrators be honest about why we go to war? It was not about the innocent lives of Americans but rather our posterity.

More to Explore:

World War I Lesson Plans/Primary Source Documents
Woodrow Wilson Lesson Plans/Primary Source Documents

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Anonymous said...

Holaaaaaaa. :]

i looveee world war oneeeeee.

klkatz said...

thanks for the provoking insight, anonymous. always nice to get your opinion.

Anonymous said...

Why would you love any war it invovles nothing but death and power. i think just about every war is stupid it proves nothing but that we can kill each other over the envey to rule and over power each other. we are not animals we shouldnt fight over practically nothing, which is what world war I was nothing but greed. there was really no need for it

Anonymous said...

Okay...this is one of the most inaccurate blogs I have ever seen. The sinking of the Lusitania, regardless of what you learned in high school, had very little to do with America's entry into World War One. Sure, Americans were pissed off by the loss of life on the Lusitania, and sure the ship was hardly a harmless civilian cruise liner. But it wasn't the final straw. In fact, the Germans agreed to stop their unrestricted submarine warfare for a time so as to keep America out of the war.

What really forced America into the war was the Zimmerman Telegram of 1917. Zimmerman, Germany's ambassador to Mexico, sent a note that had been endorsed by the kaiser, encouraging the Mexicans to invade the United States. This, combined with Germany's recent decision restart their policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, drove us into World War One.

A.T. said...

Whatever the reason was, I think the USA involvement to the war has changed the history. The end of neutrality of the USA ended the Great War and the changed the balance of forces of the international relations. The "leadership" left Europe and moved to the America. It still remains here.

Anonymous said...

I personally did not care for your side comments and all around way of describing the war. You hardly focused enough on Wilson's struggle through this time, (it wasn't easy being a pacifist president in a time of war you know) including the death of his wife. And honestly, I wouldn't say that the Germans were justified in attacking the Lusitania. Just because America sympathized with the Allies, doesn't mean Germany has the right to kill a thousand people.

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