The United States’ Entry into World War I:
Was it Worth the Cost?
Kristen M. Chamberlain
Should the United States have enlisted into World War I?
World War I began because of increased competition for empires in Africa and Asia, increase of militarism, tension caused by rising nationalism, and shifts in the balance of European power leading to mistrust among nations. Alliances were made between countries by creating powerful combinations that no one would dare attack. The final impetus for war being the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The Central Powers consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire (Turkey), and Bulgaria, against the Allies comprised of Britain, France, Italy, Russia, and later on the United States. The United States exchanged its neutrality for war in 1917 by declaring war on Germany. The war ended in 1918, as Germany and Austria- Hungary were reeling into collapse, standing no chance against the incoming fresh American troops. Governments collapsed, homes, farms, factories, roads, and churches were reduced to rubble, human and material costs were staggering, and all the countries, especially the defeated Central Powers, faced large financial tolls. The United States faced a death toll of almost 120, 000 soldiers and another 200,000 were wounded (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties) along with $35 billion in financial costs (Prentice Hall: World History 2011). During the war, there was a production boom which called for technology advances and employment available for women and African- Americans to replace the men out in action. But once the men returned from overseas many women stopped working, swelling unemployment and planting the seeds for the Great Depression. World War I was one of the greatest wars in history with a death toll of an estimated 65,000, 000 soldiers and civilians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic_disasters_by_death_toll) in comparison to the Napoleonic Wars from 1804- 1815 killing 7,000,000. Germany was left in a total of 4.2 trillion marks (http://www.pvhs.chico.k12.ca.us/~bsilva/projects/great_war/effects.htm) of debt for reparations, which took nearly a century to pay off. Germany
Germany, the newest of the great European powers, was growing into an economic and military powerhouse. With strong nationalism for their military power and industrial leadership, Germany set competition with Russia in modernization, with France over territory in Africa, and naval rivalry with Britain. Because Germany was in alliance with Austria, when Austria- Hungary declared war on Serbia over the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Germany gave the promise of unconditional support, beginning their entrance into World War I joining Italy to become the Central Powers. Another secret alliance was also formed after pressure from German Advisors with the Ottoman Empire to provide Germany with easy access to African colonies and trade markets in India by encouraging Romania and Bulgaria to join the Central Powers. Kaiser Wilhelm II, German emperor, decided against renewing the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Russia, effectively opting for the Austrian alliance (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/origins_01.shtml). Despite the risk of going to war with Russia, Germany saw this as an opportunity to break up the entente, because France and Britain might refuse to support Russia and strike against them before it had finished rebuilding its military strength after its defeat by Japan in 1905. Much to Germany’s surprise, when Austria declared war on Serbia after the Archduke’s assassination, Russia joined Serbia in the war and Germany declared war on Russia. In return, Russia appealed to France for support, causing Germany to also declare war on France. Germany’s Schlieffen Plan was designed for success in their two- front war, reasoning for Germany to...
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