“The War to End War” – 1917-1918
Major Themes: Wilson, forced grudgingly into war, took the heel-dragging American public with him. The war would forever alter American history.
1. Recommendation: If you want a more thorough account of World War I, you should read the Enduring Vision.
2. Assess the final catalysts for American involvement in WWI AND the textbooks assertion that Germany had dragged America into the war. * On January 22, 1917, Woodrow Wilson made one final, attempt to avert war, delivering a moving address that correctly declared only a “peace without victory” (beating Germany without embarrassing them) would be lasting. * Germany responded by shocking the world, announcing that it would break the Sussex pledge and return to unrestricted submarine warfare, which meant that its U-boats would now be firing on armed and unarmed ships in the war zone. * On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked Congress to declare war, which it did four days later; Wilson had lost his gamble at staying out of the war. * The Germans also began to make good on their threats, sinking numerous ships. Meanwhile, in Russia, a revolution toppled the tsarist regime. * Then, the Zimmerman note was intercepted and published on March 1, 1917. Written by German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmerman, it secretly proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico. It proposed that if Mexico fought against the U.S. and the Central Powers won, Mexico could recover Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona from the U.S.
3. To what extent did Wilson transform American involvement in WWI into a crusade? * Many people still didn’t want to enter into war, for America had prided itself in isolationism for decades, and now, Wilson was entangling America in a distant war. * To gain enthusiasm for the war, Wilson came up with the idea of America entering the war to “make the world safe for democracy.” * This idealistic motto worked brilliantly, but with the new American zeal came the loss of Wilson’s earlier motto, “peace without victory.”
4. List Wilson’s main points (not all fourteen).
* The Fourteen Points were a set of idealistic goals for peace. The main points were no more secret treaties, freedom of the seas was to be maintained, a removal of economic barriers among nations, reduction of armament burdens, adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of natives and colonizers, “Self-determination,” or independence for oppressed minority groups who’d choose their government, and a League of Nations, an international organization that would keep the peace and settle world disputes.
5. How did George Creel sell WWI to the Americans and Wilson’s ideas to the world? * The Creel organization sent out an army of 75,000 men to deliver speeches in favor of the war, showered millions of pamphlets containing the most potent “Wilsonisms” upon the world, splashed posters and billboards that had emotional appeals, and showed anti-German movies like The Kaiser and The Beast of Berlin. * There were also patriotic songs, but Creel did err in that he oversold some of the ideals, and result would be disastrous disillusionment. * The Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel, was created to “sell” the war to those people who were against it or to just gain support for it.
6. Analyze the reasons and methods that Americans stifled dissent and enforced loyalty. * Germans in America were surprisingly loyal to the U.S., but nevertheless, many Germans were blamed for espionage activities, and a few were tarred, feathered, and beaten. * The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 showed American fears and paranoia about Germans and others perceived as a threat. * Antiwar Socialists and the members of the radical union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were often prosecuted, including Socialist Eugene V. Debs and IWW leader William D. Haywood,...