Ronald Schaffer's America in the Great War gives new insights into World War I.
The book gave historical accounts about the war that other books negated to included.
The thesis that Schaffer tries to prove that the Great War was the start of the American
welfare state and the beginning of "big" government. America in the Great War was
structured in chronological order of the war, from America's mobilization to the actual
fighting. What the book did not include is a detail account of the fighting. This was the
biggest draw back in a otherwise well thought book.
The book begins with the mobilization of the United State's industry and man
power. The first two chapters dealt with how the Federal Government shaped the view of
the war in America's minds. The methods that the Federal Government used varied from
propaganda to coercion. The point behind the Federal Government's involvement in
propaganda was to rally the country to fight the war. The first step in shaping the
people's mind was to get the labor and industry to work together. The Federal
Government established committees and teams to persuade the minds of the United States.
One of these committees were the Committee on Public Information established in April
13 1917 by order on the President of the United States. The committee was led by
George Creel, former social reformer. He had great power in what the United States saw
and heard for the next few years. His first order was to manage American minds without
directly using propaganda and censorship. Other nations fighting the war practiced wide
spread censorship of all war related material. Creel realized that this would not work in
the United States, instead he flooded Americans with news. The news released to the
public was in such large numbers and in such great detail that Americans could not
understand all of it. The Committee on Public Information also produced films. The films
were designed to rally Americans behind the war effort. The films were nothing else but
propaganda, but Creel designed the films to not come across as propaganda. The
committee was very successful in hiding the fact that they were engaging in propaganda.
Many Americans believed in the films and supported the war effort, but there were many
people who did not. The committee was aware of growing dissent among Americans and
took steps to keep that dissent in check.
Congress passed many acts that prevented and punished dissent in the Untied
States. Three of these acts were the Espionage Act of 1917, the Trading with the Enemy
Act of 1917, and the Sedition Act of 1918. These acts were successful in limiting the
amount of discontent towards the war. The price of this limited discontent was the
suspension of rights of American citizens. Thousands of Americans suspected of
dissension were arrested and convicted of sedition. Americans were encouraged to tell
government officials of any kind of anti-war activities that they know about. The
government arrested people and sent them to jail for even hinting about anti-war feelings.
This created fear among Americans towards the Federal Government, but did succeeded
in stopping dissension.
The next three chapters focused on the mobilization of American industry to fight
the war. In the years before the Great War, America was making the work place a safer
and better place to work. Labor unions had power to control wages, hours and working
conditions. The Great War for the most part suspended the labor movement. The United
States needed to fight a war, and American industry was key in winning that war. The
Federal Government became heavily involved in controlling industry. The level of control
that the government used was on heard of a few years ago. American labor suffered
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