World War I (1914 - 1918)

Beginnings

  • tensions have been growing
    • imperialism
    • vie for power
    • rise of nationalism
    • most see a war on the way
  • summer 1914
    • assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand starts the war in motion
    • Austria-Hungary and Germany are the Central Powers
    • the Allied Powers are France, Russia, Germany, and Britain
    • Russia mobilises to attack
    • 1 Aug 1914, Germany declares war on Russia
    • to neutralise possible opposition from France, Germany goes through neutral Belgium and invades France
    • the attack on Belgium brings Britain into the war, against Germany
  • US
    • Wilson argues for neutrality - "impartial in thought as well as action"
    • distance from Europe makes America ready to accept neutrality
    • 1/3 of the citizens are immigrants or children of immigrants - in no hurry to become re-involved in European affairs
    • smart, but not realistic, policy
  • both sides will test American neutrality
    • attempt to use propaganda to sway US opinion
      • Germany focuses on Russian autocracy and uses American anti-Semitism
      • they also appeal to German- and Irish- Americans
      • Britain appeals to common language and similar culture
      • the American people largely stood firm
    • Britain refused to allow US trade with Germany
      • seized US goods and stopped ships
      • Wilson protested, but did nothing else
    • Germany, in response to Britain, established a submarine war zone around the British isles
      • any ship in the area would be sunk
      • Wilson declared that Germany would be held to strict accountability if they injured American citizens
      • but, Germany has a powerful new weapon in the submarine
    • "Unterseeboot"
      • advantage - don't know if they're there
      • can't follow traditional rules - usually, you stop, board, inspect other vessels before attacking them (if they're smuggling war goods)
      • submarines can't stop and inspect; that would eliminate the whole point of secrecy
      • submarines can strike without warning, but can't defend themselves above water
    • Mar 1915 - Germany begins sinking vessels (90 total), with occasional American deaths
    • May 1915 - Lusitania
      • a German U-boat sank the British passenger liner Lusitania, en route from New York to Liverpool
      • 1200 were killed, included 128 Americans
      • was carrying a large supply of arms and ammunition, so the Germans felt it was justified
      • America was highly upset, many call for war
      • Wilson remained cautious - made diplomatic moves to persuade Germany to change
      • in a note, grudgingly signed by Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan (who thought it was too strongly worded), Wilson demanded that they stop unrestricted submarine warfare
      • Germany says they don't have any other options and won't change
      • Wilson sends another very strongly worded note, which caused Bryan to resign, as he thought it would lead to war
      • German realised that America was right on the edge; they don't back down in public, but secretly order their commanders to avoid sinking passenger ships
    • Aug 1915
      • Germany sank the Arabic, a British passenger liner, with 2 American deaths
      • with mounting pressure, Germany made public their announcement about avoiding passenger ships
      • but, 7 months later, a U-boat sank French steamer Sussex
      • Wilson issued the Sussex Ultimatum
        • US will break diplomatic relations with Germany if sinkings continue
        • Germany says they will stop if the US persuades the Allies to stop the blockade of Germany
        • Wilson accepts the promise to stop, but ignores the provision about the blockade
    • Jan 1917
      • Germany declared unrestricted warfare against all shipping, including American in an effort to break the military stalemate
      • Wilson breaks diplomatic relations, which is tantamount to war; he doesn't yet ask for a declaration of war from Congress, as he's still waiting for an "overt" act
    • over the next 2 months, about 5 unarmed American vessels were sunk
      • newspapers published an intercepted telegram from German Foreign Minister Zimmermann
        • proposed a German-Mexican alliance, offering Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to Mexico if they were victorious
        • Mexico would keep the Americans busy so they stay out of Europe
        • Germany tries to capitalise on the poor US-Mexico relationship
        • this concerned all America, especially those in the Southwest
      • Wilson is forced to acknowledge the high risk to America, and he could no longer manage the German threat
    • 2 Apr 1917 - requests a declaration of war from Congress
      • Wilson, in his speech, says that it is a fearful thing to lead the great peaceful American people to war
      • 6 Senators and 50 Republicans voted against it; the declaration passed

The Home Front

  • Committee on Public Information, or the "Creel Committee"
    • America is split over sending troops
    • to unify, the Wilson administration puts together propaganda
    • the Committee is headed by George Creel, whose job is to "sell" America on war
    • demoralise Central Powers, glorify Allies
    • mobilised 75,000 "four-minute men" who delivered pro-Allied speeches, distributed propaganda, etc.
    • pointed out the dangers of the Central Powers
    • established strong anti-German sentiments
    • everything German was anathema - music, literature, food (frankfurter = hot dog, etc.)
    • there's some negative impact, with extremist anti-espionage and other reactions
  • Food Administration
    • headed by Herbert Hoover
    • ensured the well-being of the nation's food supply
    • created policies to have enough food for home and for export
    • meatless Tuesdays, wheatless Wednesdays, etc.
    • victory gardens lessen food costs
    • food production increased 25%
    • exports to Allied nations increased 3 times
    • other groups would borrow the same saving ideas
    • Congress restricted use of food for manufacturing of alcohol, accelerating the Prohibition movement
  • Fuel Administration
    • save light, save coal
    • gasless Sundays, heatless Mondays
    • Daylight Savings Time was established so that farmers could work longer without using artificial lighting
  • War Industries Board
    • government was struggling to provide munitions
    • Wilson was a powerful, gifted leader, but he had a hard time gaining cooperation between business and labour
    • needed to meet the needs of the people, the Allies, and the soldiers
    • he puts this task in the hands of former stock speculator Bernard Baruch
    • standardised production, allocated war goods, fixed prices, coordinated purchases
  • National War Labour Board
    • minimised labour disputes
    • Taft is put in charge
    • maintain order in the commercial sector
    • settle management-worker disputes
    • keep production flowing
    • strong-arms businesses for higher wages and 8-hour work days
    • convinced management to accept the workers' right to unionise
    • by the end of the war, union membership had doubled
    • war was a bonus for labour
    • after the end of the war, they tried to revert to "normalcy", and the unions would lose power rapidly
    • recession after the war was blamed on unions
  • Civil Liberties
    • as with any war, there was some infringement on civil liberties
    • Espionage Act (1917) - anyone convicted of aiding the enemy, obstructing recruiting, or inciting rebellion in military could receive a $10,000 fine and 20 years in jail
    • Sedition Act (1918) - expanded the Espionage Act to make it illegal to speak against the purchase of war bonds or to write/say/publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language against the US government or the Constitution
    • provided the basis for about 2000 prosecutions, many involving anti-war socialists or the radical Industrial Workers of World
    • Debs was given 10 years in jail for a 1918 anti-war speech
    • Haywood and 99 others from the Industrial Workers of the World were convicted and jailed
    • many believe this is a violation of the 1st Amendment: Schenck v US 1919
      • Charles Shenck was the General Secretary of the Socialist Party
      • he was arrested, charged, and convicted
      • be believed that the draft should be illegal, and sent letters to draftees, urging them to not report
      • he was convicted under the Espionage Act for criticising a government initiative
      • Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes presided, and the Court upheld the Espionage Act
      • during time of war, the nation has the right to protect its interests, even if some freedoms had to be suppressed
      • Holmes argued that if the letters had been mailed during peacetime, it would have been fine; during war, they presented a "clear and present danger" to the nation
      • this "clear and present danger" becomes the Supreme Court standard for limitation of freedoms

Wilson's Ideals

  • Wilson promised America that this would be the war to end all wars
  • he pledged to make the world safe for democracy
  • as he watched other nations' turmoil, he wanted the US to become a moral compass for the world
  • compared American goals to those of other nations
    • the US wasn't looking for gain
    • rather, wanted international cooperation and the growth of democracy
  • many people came to agree with his view
  • his 14 points will come later, as a formulation of this "moral compass" idea

America at War (Summer and Fall 1917)

  • 2 million American soldiers were went to Europe in 18 months; 75% see combat
  • when America arrived in Europe, they were welcomed; Europeans leaders weren't too happy
    • liked having additional men and weapons
    • but American leaders didn't listen to European generals
    • American troops fought independently - appeared arrogant
  • Russian/Bolshevik Revolution
    • Russia pulls out of the war
    • created their own treaty with Germany
    • allowed Germany to concentrate in the West
    • fortunately, American troops had arrived in time to stop this offensive
  • the Allies decided to operate under one commander - Marshal Foch
  • the US didn't play a major part in the war, with the exception of stopping the Argonne offensive
    • 45 day battle
    • engaged 1.25 million American forces, with 120,000 casualties
    • a major victory, and a major step on the way to Germany
  • primary help that the US gave was munitions and food
    • the Germans felt that the Allies had endless supplies - bodies, weapons, food
    • the "real" role of the US in the war was the psychological benefit of having huge quantities of supplies

Fourteen Points (18 Jan 1818)

  • Wilson delivered his Fourteen Points address to Congress
  • he wanted to encourage the Allies to victory
  • he illustrated his ideal picture of the world
  • 5 general principles for any peace accord
    • open covenants of peace - no more secret diplomacy; all nations should communicate openly
    • guaranteed freedom of the seas for all in war and peace
    • free trade for all, without fear of retribution
    • drastic reduction in armaments
    • colonial claims should be adjusted to meed needs of native peoples - let them govern themselves
  • the rest of the 14 points are specific territorial adjustments
    • for example, returning land to Russia and Belgium becoming free and independent
  • the "Big Point" - create an association of nations to work for political independence, sovereignty for all nations, and international order
    • the people thought it was good; leaders thought it was too idealistic - they felt they deserved more for victory
    • at home, the Republican Party mocked Wilson's "Fourteen Commandments"
    • initially, there was more consternation at home than abroad

Treaty of Versailles

  • Wilson convinced the German people to overthrow Kaiser Wilhelm and create an armistice by promising them peace under the 14 Points
  • Representatives at the treaty
    • Great Britain - David Lloyd George
    • France - Georges Clemenceau
    • Italy - Vittorio Orlando
    • US - Woodrow Wilson
  • putting together a treaty under his terms was so important to Wilson that he went to Europe for months to argue his case
    • attempted to seek a lasting peace
    • fairly popular among the people of Europe - a conquering hero
    • the leaders of Europe believe Wilson is there to interfere with their goals
    • he wants stability
  • Britain wants land - colonial world power
  • France wants safety, so they won't be attacked again
  • all want to punish Germany, to seek vengeance and to prevent the same from occuring again
  • Wilson was an idealist, and worked very hard to achieve his goals, but didn't make much progress
    • he returned to the US during the 1818 off-year elections
    • he wanted to solidify his Democratic Congressional majority
    • this would give him more clout upon returning to Europe
    • but, he'd been losing his ability to communicate with the people and with his party
    • in the election, the Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress
    • this sent a message to Versailles - Wilson didn't have the respect of his own people; they know he's a lame duck and on his way out
  • Wilson returns to Europe
    • Jan - May 1919, they hammer out a treaty
    • he gives up all of his points to retain the League of Nations
  • League of Nations
    • 42 Allied and neutral countries will be a part
    • 5 permanent members: US, France, Britain, Italy, Japan (like the UN Security Council today)
    • League Covenant (constitution): Article X
      • chief goal was for collective security among all nations
      • all League members must protect territorial integrity and political independence of all other members
      • would require members to supply troops for other nations
      • US isolationism is anti-war, and they dislike this lack of control over their own forces
  • provisions for peace
    • Germany will accept military restrictions, lose some territory, and can't join the League of Nations
    • national sovereignty for Poland, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Yugoslavia
    • clause 231: "War Guilt" clause - sole blame for the war is Germany's, and Germany will pay war reparations of $33 billion to the Allies
    • the Germans had overthrown their leadership for peace under Wilson's Fourteen Points; they feel betrayed by the treaty and by Wilson
  • Wilson's not thrilled with the Treaty, but he's willing to work with it, and seeks Senate ratification
    • WWI was one of the first time the US had been in a world-wide war
    • throughout US history, groups of people (ex. Anti-Imperialists) had been against expanding, as they thought it would cause war
    • people didn't like American troops in foreign lands
    • legislations/committees work to prevent US from further world conflict
    • Wilson has to sell the treaty to the Republican Congress, and won't have an easy time
    • future Presidents will also have trouble getting the America people and Congress involved in world events

Defeat of the Treaty

  • Wilson gets his League of Nations, but no other points are accepted in the treaty
  • the treaty gets a cool reception in America - anti-Germans thought it was too lenient; many thought it was too harsh
  • Republican critics were led by Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge
  • reservationists - had reservations about the Treaty
    • opposed to treaty, but wouldn't necessarily vote against
    • wanted to amend the Treaty, not reject it
    • Wilson hadn't asked their input, so they felt wronged
    • didn't think they could defeat the treaty
  • irreconcilables
    • mostly Democrats
    • strongly opposed to US permanent involvement in international affairs
    • had the entire treaty read out loud as a delaying tactic
    • tried to play with public opinion on the treaty
  • Wilson was concerned that if the Senate modified the treaty, European allies would feel that they could also modify the treaty
    • he didn't want to give up yet more of his ideals
    • feared elimination of the League of Nations
    • he took his case to the people, as he had done throughout his career; he went on a speech tour, despite warnings from his wife and his doctor
    • the irreconcilables Hiram Johnson and William Borah followed him, giving speeches against the treaty after he had spoken for it
    • after his speech in Colorado, Wilson collapsed from physical and mental exhaustion
    • on the train back to Washington, he had a stroke
    • he spent the next 7 months in the White House, doing nothing [some argue that his wife took over and ran the government]
  • Lodge
    • took over the treaty debate
    • mockingly created "14 Reservations"
    • they're unable to amend the treaty, so he has all the Senators review his reservations before voting
    • Article X was the most offensive
      • required US to aid any League member being victimised by external agression
      • binds the US to use military forces through the League's decisions
      • by the Constitution, only Congress can declare war - Article X would give that power to foreign nations
      • Congress is unwilling to surrender their control of the military to a third party
      • after World War II, the international atmosphere will be different, however
  • votes in the Senate
    • November 1919 - rejected; Wilson lost even Democratic support
    • in the Election of 1920, Wilson asked the people to vote Democratic to pass the treaty
      • Harding, Republican, won; Wilson is now a lame duck
    • March 1920 - treaty rejected
    • the US will never ratify the Treaty of Versailles, and will never join the League of Nations
    • the war with the Central Powers is officially ended by a joint resolution of Congress in July 1921; separate treaties with Germany and Austria-Hungary are ratified October 1921
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