World War I between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers began in early August of 1914. Germany was quick to declare war on Russia and France, initiating conflict between the countries. This conflict was expressed in the form of secret alliances, nationalism, etc., beginning the first few years of the twentieth century. With hopes of preserving order, the United States declared its neutrality on August 19, 1914. Considering a lack of bias, it began that the US would trade with the opposing nations. However, the sinking of ships carrying American citizens by German submarines and the Zimmerman Note in early 1917 caused the United States to side against the Kaiser and to favor the Allies.
In a message to Congress, Woodrow Wilson encouraged "the spirit of impartiality and fairness" two weeks following the initiation of war. The concept would encourage positive treatment towards all, but considering the diversity of the American people, choosing sides was nearly inevitable. Overall, the country remained neutral; the US received an economic boost due to trading with either side. People like Hugo Munsterberg, a professor at Harvard University, insisted that America's acts were for "the unlimited sale of ammunition to beligerants" in a letter to President Wilson himself a few months after the war began. It was noted that most German-Americans from the beginning sided with the Central Powers, disrupting any true sense of neutrality in the United States. Wilson, however, refused to associate with either side directly at this point.
Great Britain blockaded the North Sea as soon as they became aware of United States' shipments to Germany. Every American ship was inspected so carefully that it "not infrequently lasted for weeks," recalled Acting Secretary of State of the time, Robert Lansing. These blockades initiated German u-boat warfare near the British Isles. This made it complicated for the United States to continue trade with either side. In January, 1915,...
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