America and the Great War
• The “War to End all Wars”, the “Great War”
was, for America, a rather brief yet decisive
experience. Unlike the major players in
Europe, for America, the human cost was
relatively low-about 112,000.
• Economically: a boom
• Politically: propelled US into the International
• Politically: The end of Progressive ideals
Woodrow Wilson was the President
He stated to “strike a new note in international
affairs and to see that sheer honesty and even
unselfishness should prevail over nationalistic selfseeking”.
He strongly opposed imperialism
What was happening in Europe?
• Despite more than 40 years of general
peace, tensions among some European
nations—England, France and
Germany—were building in 1914.
Throughout the late 1880’s and early
1900’s, a number of factors created
problems among the powers of Europe
and set the stage for a monumental war.
• Building up arms
• When Germany stated to modernize its army
and navy, England felt it had to do the same .
Other major powers followed their lead.
• Agreements or promises to defend and
help another country.
• A series of interlocking allies
• When the conflict started, these ties led
to the division of Europe into 2 camps
Trying to build up an empire. By the
1800’s, Britain and France had colonies in
Africa and Asia that provided raw materials
and markets for their products. Germany
wanted its own colonies and trade
• Having pride in your country,
willing to defend it. As well as
self-determination-the ability to
chose own government
• Having pride in your
country, willing to defend it. As
well as self-determination-the
ability to chose own government
• Historically, the Ottoman Empire and the
Austro-Hungarian Empire had ruled the
Balkans. But as nationalism became a
powerful force in the 1800’s, the different
national groups—the Serbs, Bosnians, Croats
and Slovens-- within these empires began to
press for independence.
• The first to gain independence were the
Serbs—they formed Serbia.
Russia supported Serbia, BUT AustriaHungary did not and annexed Bosnia
The Serbs were furious-it
demonstrated to them that AustriaHungary had no intention of letting the
Slavic people become independent.
• So then the archduke of Austria-Hungary
Franz Ferdinand visited the Bosnia capital of
Sarajevo and was assassinated by a Serbian.
The War Begins
• The Austria-Hungary government blamed
Serbia so they were going to attack Serbia.
• AuHu asked Germany for support
• AuHu declared on Serbia
• Germany declared war on Russia and France
• After Germany crossed through Belgium to
France, Britain declared war on German
• Queen Victoria had just died. Her son King
George V was king.
• The Kaiser of Germany was her grandson
• The Czar of Russia was her grandson
• When the fighting began, President Wilson
declared the US to be neutral. However, that
was difficult to do.
• We were a country of immigrants—different
• There were over 8 million Germans living here
and over 4.5 million Irish.
• Most Americans did side with the Allied Powers.
• Economically hard—neutral country
• Propaganda played a very important role. Both
sides used propaganda to influence the US to
enter on either side.
Preparedness v. Pacifism
• Should the US begin making preparations for
war? If we do, what will that make the
Germans think? What will the reactions of
people at home be?
• Against desires of the pacifists, he begins to
build up the nation’s armed forces
Although most supported the Allies
and hoped for their victory, a series
of events gradually eroded
American neutrality and drew the
nation in to the war firmly on the
side of the Allies.
Unrestricted Submarine Warfare
• Shortly after the war began, the British
deployed their navy to blockade Germany and
keep it from obtaining supplies, as well as
plant mines in the North Sea.
• Germany countered that action
by deploying its newest vehicle in
their navy—the U Boats-short for
“underwater boat”. They
announced that they would
attempt to sink without warning
any ship they found in the water
• On May 7, 1915, despite warnings from
Germany, the British passenger liner Lusitania
entered the war zone. A submerged German
submarine fired on the ship, killing nearly
1,200 passengers including 128 Americans.
Americans were outraged.
• President Wilson remained neutral. He sent a
diplomatic team to Germany to negotiate
terms of unrestricted submarine warfare. The
next year Wilson’s policy was tested when
another u boat torpedoed the French
passenger ship the Sussex . Americans were
injured on board. He sent another team of
diplomats to Germany and stated that if
Germany does not stop sinking passenger
ships, the US would enter the war. Germany
agreed to stop.
Four years come and four years
“He kept us out of war”
Wilson is re-elected
• British intelligence intercepted a telegram from a
German official to the German ambassador in
Mexico. In it Zimmerman urges Mexico to declare
war on the US and Germany will help it regain
lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Americans were furious with Germany. Then in
1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine
warfare, sinking 6 American merchant ships
• In 1917 Wilson asks Congress to declare war.