In 1914 when war was declared in Europe, America adopted a policy of neutrality and isolation. When news of trench warfare and the horrors associated with it reached the shores of America, it confirmed to the government that they had made the right choice. Their approach had the full support of a majority of Americans, many of which could not believe that Europe, a civilized entity, could descend into the depths of carnage as depicted by trench warfare.
On August 4th, 1914 President Wilson officially announced that America would be neutral in World War One. This neutral stance extended to a policy of “fairness” by which American bankers could lend money to both sides of the war. Overseas trade was more complicated. Trade with both sides was permitted and merchants crossed the Atlantic to trade. However, when the war became an economic struggle as well as a military contest, England declared a blockade of the German coastline which made it all but impossible for Americans to conduct trade with Germany. The British naval blockade was the primary reason that Germany introduced unrestricted submarine warfare. Germany could not match the might of the British navy. However, she reasoned that by means of the submarine England’s supply lines could be cut and she would have to end the war. Accordingly, Germany began to sink as many ships supplying England as possible, even neutral vessels.
On February 4th, 1915, Germany announced that merchant shipping in a specified zone around Britain would be legitimate targets. They added this would include neutral ships because many allied ships had taken to flying the flag of a neutral nation to secure its safety. Wilson warned the Germans that he would hold them to account if any American ships were sunk. This threat was tested when on May 7th, 1915; the ‘Lusitania’ was sunk. 128 Americans that were on board were killed. However, the ‘Lusitania’ was not an American ship and Wilson accepted the Germans change...
Cited: 1. Keegan, John The First World War.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1998
2. Swofford, Daniel L. “World War One”
America at War copyright 1997-2006
3. Morris, Richard B. Democracy on Trial: The First World War
St, Louis: Webster Publishing Company, 1962.
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