America Enters World War One
The 6th of April 1917 AD
The conventional view of America’s entry into WWI is that a mixture of external factors pushed President Woodrow Wilson away from his previous neutral stance – he won the 1916 Presidential election on the slogan: “He kept us out of war,” and had not been moved to intervene by the U-Boat sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 with the loss of 128 American lives.
These tipping factors included German sabotage on American soil – the Black Tom and Kingsland outrages in July 1916 and January 1917 respectively; the Zimmerman telegram, in which the Germans were shown to be trying to draw Mexico into an alliance with the prospect of aid and the recovery of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico; and relentless British propaganda, highlighting German atrocities in Belgium. The resumption in January 1917 of Germany’s U-Boat campaign against merchant vessels quickly costing five American ships was doubtless significant.
But it may be that Wilson was moved by grander geopolitical ideas: the Tsar’s abdication and instability in Russia made a German victory more likely, threatening America’s world position; he may have wanted to be among the victors to facilitate his League of Nations project; and the idea of siding with democratic nations against autocratic (a situation made clearer with Russia’s imminent exit from the conflict) could have overlaid his thinking – when he asked Congress to declare war on April 2 1917 he used the words “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Congress concurred, and war was declared on April 6.
American and British naval power made supplying Britain and France easier; American industry swung behind the allied effort (though officially America was never part of the alliance – merely an Associated Power) and American soldiers were vital in resisting Germany’s 1918 push on the Western Front. Without American intervention complete German victory would have been a real possibility. Probably
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