The War to End War
On January 31, 1917, Germany announced its decision to wage unrestricted submarine warfare on all ships, including American ships, in the war zone. Germany hoped that this act would take Britain out of the war before the Americans joined.
War by Act of Germany
German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann secretly proposed a German-Mexican alliance with the Zimmermann note. News of the Zimmermann note leaked out to the public, infuriating Americans.
On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked for a declaration of war from Congress after 4 more unarmed merchant ships were sunk.
3 Mains Causes of the War: Zimmermann Note, Germany declares unrestricted submarine warfare, Bolshevik Revolution.
Wilsonian Idealism Enthroned
President Wilson persuaded the American public to support war by declaring that America would be fighting "for a war to end war" and "to make the world safe for democracy."
Wilson's Fourteen Potent Points
Wilson delivered his Fourteen Points Address to Congress on January 8, 1918. The message declared that WWI was being fought for a moral cause and it called for post-war peace in Europe. The message gave Wilson the position of moral leadership of the Allies.
The first 5 points and their effects were:
1) A proposal to abolish secret treaties pleased liberals of all countries.
2) Freedom of the seas appealed to the Germans, as well as to Americans who distrusted British sea power.
3) A removal of economic barriers among nations was comforting to Germany, which feared postwar vengeance.
4) Reduction of armament burdens was gratifying to taxpayers.
5) An adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of both native people and the colonizers was reassuring to the anti-imperialists.
The largest point, #14, foreshadowed the League of Nations - an international organization that Wilson dreamed would provide a system of collective security.
Creel Manipulates Minds
The Committee on Public Information was created to rally public support of war. It was led by George Creel whose job was to sell America on the war and to sell the world on Wilsonian war goals.
Enforcing Loyalty and Stifling Dissent
There were over 8 million German-Americans in America, and rumors began to spread of spying and sabotage. A hysterical hatred of Germans and things related to Germany swept the nation.
The Espionage Act of 1917 sought to prevent support of U.S. enemies during wartime. The Sedition Act of 1918 made it illegal to speak out against the government. Socialist Eugene V. Debs and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) leader William D. Haywood were convicted under the Espionage Act.
At this time, any criticism of the government could be censored and punished. The Supreme Court upheld these laws in Schenck v. United States (1919); it argued that freedom of speech could be revoked when such speech posed a danger to the nation.
The Nation's Factories Go to War
Before the war, President Wilson created a Civilian Council of National Defense to study problems of economic mobilization. He had also increased the size of the army and created a shipbuilding program.
Fears of big government restricted efforts to coordinate the economy from Washington.
In 1918, Wilson appointed Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries Board to create order over the economic confusion. The Board never had much control, but it set a precedent for how the Federal government would handle the economy in times of crisis.
Workers in Wartime
Workers were discouraged from striking by the War Department's decree in 1918 that threatened to draft any unemployed male.
The National War Labor Board tried to fix labor disputes before they hurt the war effort. The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) had some of the worst working conditions in the country. The AF of L's (American Federation of Labor) supported the war and because of this, membership had more than doubled by the end of the war.
Wartime inflation reduced wage gains; this led to thousands of strikes across the country.
In 1919, the greatest strike in American history hit the steel industry. More than 250,000 steelworkers went on strike, seeking the right to organize and collectively bargain. The steel companies refused to negotiate, and they brought in 30,000 African-Americans to keep the mills running. The strike eventually collapsed, crippling the union movement.
Thousands of blacks moved to the North in search of war-industry employment. Deadly disputes between whites and blacks broke out.
Suffering Until Suffrage
The National Woman's party, led by Alice Paul, protested the war.
The larger part of the suffrage movement, represented by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, supported the war.
After men left the country to fight in the war, women took up the factory and field jobs. Impressed by this work, President Wilson supported passage of the 19th Amendment (1920), which gave all American women the right to vote.
Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act of 1921, which gave federally financed instruction in maternal and infant health care.
Forging a War Economy
Herbert C. Hoover led the Food Administration. Unlike Europe, Hoover did not want to use ration cards to save food for export. Instead, he initiated wheatless Wednesdays and meatless Tuesdays. Like the other war administrators, this was on a voluntary basis.
Congress restricted the use of foodstuffs for manufacturing alcoholic beverages. This helped to accelerate the move to prohibition. In 1919, the 18th Amendment was passed, prohibiting all alcoholic drinks.
Making Plowboys into Doughboys
Although President Wilson initially opposed a draft, he eventually realized that a draft was necessary to raise the large army that was to be sent to France. Congress passed the draft act in 1917. It required the registration of all males between the ages of 18 and 45, and it did not allow for a man to purchase his exemption from the draft.
For the first time, women were allowed in the armed forces.
Fighting in France-Belatedly
In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution (communist) in Russia overthrew the tsar regime. The new regime decided to pull Russia out of the "capitalist" war. This freed up thousands of Germans on the Russian front to fight against France on the western front.
A year after Congress declared war, the first American troops reached France. They were used as replacements in the Allied armies and were generally deployed in quiet sectors with the British and French. Shipping shortages plagued the Allies.
American troops were also sent to Belgium, Italy, and Russia. Americas were sent to Russia because they hoped to prevent Russian munitions from falling into the hands of the Germans.
America Helps Hammer the "Hun"
In the spring of 1918, the Allies, for the first time, united under a supreme commander, French marshal Foch to fight the German expansion on the western front.
To stop Germany from taking Paris and France, 30,000 American troops were sent to the French frontlines. This was the first significant engagement of American troops in a European war.
By July 1918, the German expansion was halted and Foch made a counteroffensive in the Second Battle of the Marne. This engagement marked the beginning of a German withdrawal.
The Americans, dissatisfied with simply bolstering the French and British, demanded a separate army; General John J. Pershing was assigned a front of 85 miles. Pershing's army undertook the Meuse-Argonne offensive from September 26 to November 11, 1918. One objective was to cut the German railroad lines feeding the western front. Inadequate training left 10% of the Americans involved in the battle injured or killed.
As German supplies ran low and as their allies began to desert them, defeat was in sight for Germany.
The Fourteen Points Disarm Germany
Germany surrendered on November 11, 1918, after the kaiser of Germany had fled to Holland.
The United States' main contributions to the victory had been foodstuffs, munitions, credits, oil, and manpower. The Americans only fought 2 major battles, at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. The prospect of endless U.S. troops, rather than America's actual military performance eventually demoralized the Germans.
Wilson Steps Down from Olympus
President Wilson had gained a lot support throughout the world because he was viewed as the moral leader of the war.
Leading up to the congressional elections of November 1918, Wilson asked the public to re-elect a Democratic majority in Congress. He thought it would help him negotiate and pass a treaty. This angered much of the public, and voters instead elected a Republican majority to Congress.
Wilson's decision to go to Paris in person to negotiate the treaty infuriated the Republicans because no president had ever traveled to Europe.
An Idealist Battles the Imperialists in Paris
The Paris Conference was dominated by the Big Four: United States, Italy, Britain, France. President Wilson (led the conference) was joined by Premier Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Britain, and Premier Georges Clemenceau of France.
Wilson's ultimate goal was the creation of the League of Nations. It would contain an assembly with seats for all nations and a council to be controlled by the great powers. Wilson envisioned it as a way to prevent future world wars. In February 1919, the the Big Four agreed to include the creation of the League in the treaty.
Hammering Out the Treaty
Some Republicans in America hated the League of Nations and refused to approve the treaty. These difficulties helped Wilson's Allied adversaries in Paris because they were given a stronger bargaining position; Wilson would have to beg them for changes in the treaty that would safeguard the Monroe Doctrine and other American interests.
France gave up claims for the Saar Valley (part of Germany); it would remain separate from France for 15 years, and then a popular vote would determine its fate. In exchange for this, Britain and America agreed to the Security Treaty: American and Britain would defend France if Germany invaded again.
Italy demanded Fiume, a valuable seaport inhabited by both Italians and Yugoslavs. Wilson wanted it to go to the Yugoslavs, but this was opposed by the Italians. Ownership of the area was ultimately not established.
Japan demanded China's Shandong Peninsula and the German islands of the Pacific, which it had seized during the war. After Japan threatened to walk out, Wilson accepted a compromise in which Japan kept Germany's economic holdings in Shandong and pledged to return the peninsula to China at a later date.
The Peace Treaty That Bred a New War
The Treaty of Versailles was forced upon the Germans in June 1919. The Germans were outraged with the treaty, which spoke more of vengeance than reconciliation. Most of the Fourteen Points were left out of the treaty.
Wilson compromised away some of his Fourteen Points in attempts to salvage the League of Nations.
The Domestic Parade of Prejudice
Critics of the League of Nations came from many different political groups in America.
Wilson's Tour and Collapse (1919)
The Republicans in Congress had no real hope of defeating the Treaty of Versailles; they hoped to "Republicanize" it so that the Republicans could claim political credit for the changes.
In an attempt to speed up the passing of the treaty in the Senate, President Wilson decided to give speeches across the country to appeal to the public. The speeches had mixed reactions.
During the tour, Wilson suffered a stroke.
Defeat Through Deadlock
Senator Lodge, a critic to the president, came up with fourteen reservations to the Treaty of Versailles. He wanted to give the U.S. more control over how it interacted with other nations and how these nations interacted with it.
Wilson strongly opposed the reservations, and after the Senate rejected the Treaty twice, the Treaty of Versailles was defeated.
The "Solemn Referendum" of 1920
Wilson decided to settle the treaty issue in the presidential campaign of 1920; if voters elected a Democrat, then this would mean they supported the treaty.
The Republicans chose Senator Warren G. Harding as their presidential nominee for the election of 1920. Their vice-presidential nominee was Governor Calvin Coolidge. The Republican platform appealed to both pro-League and anti-League sentiment in the party.
Democrats nominated pro-League Governor James. M. Cox for president and chose Franklin D. Roosevelt for vice-president.
Warren Harding won the election of 1920. Harding's victory led to the death of the League of Nations.
The Betrayal of Great Expectations
After WWI, America became isolationist and it did not embrace a role as a global leader. In the interests of its own security, the United States should have used its enormous strength to shape the world. It instead allowed the world to drift towards another war.