From: Brian Hegarty
President Wilson had to make some difficult decisions. He declared that the United States would be neutral in the war and called on Americans to be “neutral in fact as well as in name, impartial in thought as well as in action.” Other influential political leaders also argued strongly in favor of neutrality. When Europe went to war in August 1914, most Americans believed that the war did not concern them. There were other reasons why the United States tried to remain neutral, over a third of Americans were either European-born or were the children of European immigrants. Therefore American involvement would create new problems in a society already strained by the task of taking in so many diverse groups.
To stop American aid to Britain, Germany announced in February 1915 that it would use its U-boats to sink any vessels that entered or left British ports. President Wilson warned that America would hold Germany responsible for any American lives lost in submarine attacks. Determined to cut off supplies to Great Britain, the Germans ignored this threat. On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the British passenger liner Lusitania off the coast of Ireland. W.T. Turner, the captain, reported: “I saw the torpedo speeding towards us. Immediately I tried to change our course, but was unable to maneuver out of its way. There was a terrible impact as the torpedo struck the starboard side of the vessel. . . . It was cold- blooded murder.” The Lusitania sank in about 15 minutes. More than 1,000 people died, including 128 United States citizens. Americans were outraged.
In January 1917, Germany reversed its policy on submarine warfare. It announced that it would sink on sight all merchant vessels, armed or unarmed, sailing to Allied ports. While realizing that their policy might bring the Americans into the war, the Germans believed they could defeat the Allies before the United States became...