Stockman's History Extravaganza
WORLD WAR I
The Root of It All
So It Begins....
The spark that ignited the “Great War” finally happened on June 28, 1914.Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary was visiting the province of Bosnia. During his visit, a Serbian nationalist group known as the Black Hand assassinated the Archduke and his wife. They believed that Bosnia belonged to Serbia rather than Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary accused Serbia of being involved in the assassination and threatened to go to war.
Russia which was allied with Serbia mobilized and vowed to intervene if Austria-Hungary attacked. Within two months the dominoes fell, due to existing alliances, Europe was divided and at war. Great Britain, France and Russia formed an alliance called the Triple Entente. Germany and Austria-Hungary lined up against them as the Central Powers.
Let's Not Get Involved
At first the U.S. did not get involved in the war. On August 4, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially declared the U.S. neutral. Many in the U.S. believed in isolationism and did not see a war in Europe as being of any concern to the U.S. Many citizens became peace activists during this period. Others supported a policy of preparedness, which advocated neutrality while taking steps to prepare for war just in case.
U.S. policy towards war became the key issue in the 1916 election. Wilson narrowly won a second term running on the slogan “he kept us out of war”.
Well That Did Not Last Long!
Despite Wilson’s original desire for neutrality, a number of factors eventually led to U.S. involvement in the war. While many recent immigrants to the U.S. were of German descent and tended to favor the Central Powers, most of the country’s public opinion supported the Triple Entente.
This was because most U.S. bankers had loaned large amounts of money to Great Britain and had vested interests in Britain winning the war. As time passed, people in the U.S. came to see Kaiser Wilhelm II, the leader of Germany, as a ruthless aggressor out to destroy democracy and freedom.
One of Germany’s fierce weapons in WWI was their dreaded U-boats (submarines) Hidden under water, these U-boats wreaked havoc in the Atlantic during the war. The Germans warned all nations that they would attack any ships entering or leaving British ports.
President Wilson rejected these warnings arguing that no party would be allowed to disrupt neutral shipping on the high seas. The U.S. wasn’t entirely neutral, unknown to passengers; the U.S. had begun shipping military supplies to Great Britain aboard commercial cruise liners. One of these liners, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915. 1200 people died in the attack including 128 citizens. People in the U.S. were furious. Not wanting the U.S. in the war, Germany agreed not to attack U.S. passenger ships however in 1917 the German resumed moving the U.S. closer to war.
Who is Zimmerman? Why is His Telegram So Important?
In 1917, the U.S. intercepted the Zimmerman Telegram. German Foreign Minister sent a telegram to the German Embassy in Mexico. In his telegram, Zimmerman told embassy officials to ask Mexico to attack the U.S. if it declared war on Germany In return Germany promised to help Mexico win back land the U.S. had acquired during the Mexican-American war.
News of this communication did not go over well in the U.S. In March 1917, President Wilson proclaimed the world must be made safe for democracy. Soon after in April 1917, the U.S. officially entered World War I.
Our Foray In WW I
This war featured new technology like the machine gun, hand grenades, and mustard gas. These advance weapons transformed warfare and leaders on both sides had a hard time adjusting tactics. This caused a stalemate and both sides were mired in trench warfare.
Trenches were long ditches in which soldiers would take cover while they fired on the enemy. Since they could not advance without being exposed to fire and suffering heavy losses, both side lived long periods of time in wet, dirty, rat infested trenches.
The U.S. was not prepared to send a large army to Europe right away. In order to boost the number of U.S. soldiers, congress passed the Selective Service Act authorizing a draft of young men for military service.
Many of these draftees as well as volunteers went overseas as part of the AEF and became known as “doughboys”. Among their number was the 369th Infantry regiment known as the “Harlem Hell fighters”. The 369th was an all-African American unit that served so admirably in combat that it was given France’s highest medal for bravery.
Russia Calls It Quits
By early 1917, the Russians were tired of fighting. They had lost almost two million lives. In March 1917, the Russian Revolution took place. Those supporting the democracy removed Czar Nicholas II from power and established a new republic.
This republican government did not last long. By November, the Bolsheviks were under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. Russia received assistance from Germany in exchange for a guarantee of peace. The Bolsheviks pulled out of the war.
États-Unis troupes sauver Paris
Now that Russia was no longer a concern, Germany concentrated all of its efforts on taking Paris. Within two months, the German forces were within 50 miles of the French Capitol.
In early June, U.S. Marines helped fight off the advancing Germans and turn the tide of the war. With Paris saved, the allies used a new weapon, the tank to push through German lines. Since the war had turned against them, the Germans had no choice but to seek peace. They signed an armistice ending hostilities in 1918
After It All
Once the fighting had ceased, the leaders of the warring nations met together for a peace conference in Paris President Wilson went there with no intentions to punish Germany, nor did he hope to acquire more territory. Wilson’s goal was to establish peace and stability in Europe. He put forth a peace proposal known as the 14 points.
Among other things, Wilson's plan called for a reduction in armaments. And the right to govern oneself. Wilson also proposed the League of Nations. Their purpose would be to provide a place where countries could engage in diplomacy solutions to their differences. A number of nations joined the League of Nations; ironically the U.S. was not one of them. Isolationism grew strong again in the U.S. after the war.
The U.S. Senate would not ratify the Treaty of Versailles which ended the war and sanctioned the League of Nations. Opponents feared that commitment to an international organization would lead to binding alliances that might drag the nation into another war.
Treaty of Versailles
While Wilson wanted peace and stability, many of his European allies wanted retribution. The European countries had already suffered longer and lost far more lives than the U.S.
In June 1919, the Allies forced Germany to sign the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty made Germany take total responsibility for the war and made it pay reparations. These conditions led to economic depression and great bitterness on the part of most Germans. The resentment felt by the German people made it possible for a young charismatic leader named Adolf Hitler to rise to power and plunge Europe back into war.
World War I had a huge effect on life in the U.S. For starters, the war in Europe meant an increased role for government in the U.S. Woodrow Wilson helped establish the War Industries Board to regulate the nation’s economy. Wilson also set up the Committee on Public Information for the purpose of encouraging public support for the U.S. war effort.
In 1917, Wilson appointed future president Herbert Hoover to head the Food Administration. Hoover’s task was to get people to conserve food so it could be used in the war effort. Congress also passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made it illegal to interfere with the draft, obstruct the sale of Liberty Bonds, or make statements considered disloyal to or critical of the government, the constitution, or the U.S. military.
The Election of 1920
After World War I, people in the U.S. wanted a return to the security they had felt before the war.
In 1920, they elected Warren g. Harding president of the U.S. Harding won support by stating that the nation needed a “return to normalcy “However the 1920's ended up being a decade of great change and innovation. What came during and after the 1920's would be one of the most challenging chapters in U.S. History.