World War I and the United States’ Participation


For the United States, World War I began on April 6, 1917. This war left more than 10 million people dead, 21 million wounded, and 5 million were imprisoned. This war is known to be one of the deadliest and great wars in history. Industrialization and trade complexities created political tensions for the imperial governments, resulting in a war outbreak. In August 1914, Germany declared war on France and Russia when they failed to address its demands. When German troops invaded France, Britain stepped in to defend Belgium. By the end of August, there was a rush to the war, and states had declared the war against enemy states is forming blocks. Austria-Hungary declared the war against Russia, Japan, and Belgium. Serbia and Japan declared war against Germany. France and Great Britain declared the war against Austria-Hungary, and Montenegro declared the war against Austria-Hungary and Germany.

Alliances were formed based on the feeling of the mighty and the right. Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Turkey formed the Central Powers. On the other hand, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and France formed the Allies. It was until later that the United States joined the Allies (Carl et al. 159).

What happened during the war?

When America declared war on Germany in April 1917, the American president, Woodrow Wilson, sent American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). This force was under the command of General John Pershing. In a fast move, the congress passed a draft that was written by Brigadier General Hugh Johnson to institute a volunteer infantry force, not exceeding four divisions.

Males aged between 21 and 30 years were recruited in the army, and, by September 1918, about 23,908,566 men had been registered. Half of these were deployed overseas to reinforce the France troops. About 2 million American troops had landed in Europe, and 264,000 casualties were reported. An estimated 112,432 soldiers succumbed to diseases like influenza out of the total casualties.

The navy kept vigil in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They made supplies to France and Italy as they focused on the German U-boats. Due to America’s late entry into the war, the actions of the navy on the German’s submarines were few. The navy backed Britain and European allies who were at the Western Front (Norman et al. 387). The US ships were instrumental in escorting convoys and destroying enemy war ships.

Why US stayed neutral?

Up to April 6, 1917, the US remained neutral during the war. The US under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson pursued a goal of brokering peace and a series of top aides were sent to warring states so as to find an amicable solution. The US public also held a strong opinion that the US should keep distance to the war. However, this opinion changed gradually after German sunk a British liner in Belgium with the US citizens aboard (Norman et al. 302). Neutrality of the US lasted for long because the public was reluctant to assent joining the war. Protestant churches advocated for a pacifistic approach while the German Americans and the Scandinavian Americans wanted the US to look for peace using other means other than the war.

Why US entered the war?

Germany implemented uncontrolled marine rules that aimed at forcing Britain to surrender. The commanders of U-boat had the authority to sink vessels that were suspected to assist the Allies. America had remained neutral during the war but the German policy stroke the Americans. On February 3, 1917, a German U-boat sunk the American cargo ship known as Housatonic. 128 Americans lost their lives due to the action of Germany but America could not join the war immediately. The incident changed the neutrality of America since Wilson had to protect the plight of American people. Although America had not officially joined the war, it became evident that the majority of people were supporting the Allies. For some time, Germany stopped these actions temporarily because it had sparked mixed reactions. Without taking long, a telegraph known as the Zimmerman Note was intercepted by Britain, and its contents disclosed. This telegraph originated from Germany asking the Mexico government to declare the war on the United States. Furthermore, this telegraph promised Mexico help so as to repossess Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The note made the US make a final decision and, on April 6, 1917, the US congress declared the war on Germany.

Amount spent during the war

When America was joining the war, the military had about 200,000 soldiers. After engaging in war, the number of troops increased the government spending from around $477 million to about $8,450. The economy could not expand at the same rate to sustain military expenditure. This pushed the government to deficit budgeting, and a retarded economic growth was recorded (Norman et al. 246).

Paris Peace Conference

The Versailles Peace Treaty was signed between Germany and the Allies at the end of the World War I. Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau were among top politicians who attended the Paris meeting in 1918. After the negotiation held by the big three, the Treaty was signed on June 28, 1919 (Norton et al. 1562). America, France and Britain formed the so-called ‘Big Three’. Different ideologies and attitudes circumvented the signing of this treaty. Georges of France held a belief that Germany deserved severe punishment to compensate her contribution to this destructive war. Lloyd of Britain would publicly attack the actions of Germany to appear ruthless although major concern was on the growth of communism in Russia. On the other hand, America believed that punishing Germany should not be seen as a vengeful act but as a process of reconciling Europe. Despite the feeling by America that Europe should be left to rebuild peace alone, the United States made a remarkable contribution to the formation of the League of Nations. Versailles Treaty seemed to satisfy the Allies because they believed their resolutions had smashed Germany (Carl et al. 162).

Germany was forced to surrender territories to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, West Prussia and Upper Silesia. Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France, and the overseas colonies that Germany had captured were put under the mandate of the League of Nations. Rhineland was to be occupied, Saarland was now under the French and demilitarization took place.

Article 231 of this Treaty required Germany to accept full liability on the loss that resulted from the war. Germany became indebted in a bid to compensate the war victims, and rebuilding the nation again (Norton et al 1206). Finally, Germany was barred from maintaining an air force and to charge Kaiser among other German leaders for crimes against humanity.

Why US refused the settlement?

The US refused to ratify the multilateral peace Treaty signed in Versailles leading to a separate peace treaty. Later in November 11, 1921, ratification was done in Berlin (Norton et al 589). Ratification had initially failed because of the fourteen points which had been outlined by Wilson in the peace proposal were ignored (Norton, Katzman & Blight 35).

Presidential election of 1920

The results of the World War I dominated the US presidential election of November 2, 1920. Also, the debate on Wilson’s global idealism and Roosevelt’s nationalistic activism continued. In this election, Warren G Harging was a Republican contender while James M Cox was a Democrat contender. There were hostile reactions to policies of both sides by their opponents on the capsizing of American economy, peace treaties and the entry of America into the League on Nations (Carl et al. 59). Warren Harding won at a land slide in a historic election where women in all the states were allowed to vote.

Works Cited

Carl, Abbot, David Goldfield, Ann Jo, & Virginia Argersinger. The American Journey: A History of the United States, Volume 1. US: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2003. Print.

Norman, Graebner, and Edward Bennett. The Versailles Treaty and Its Legacy: The Failure of the Wilsonian Vision. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

Norton, Marybeth, David Katzman, & Howard Blight. People and a Nation: A History of the United States, To 1877. NY: Cengage Learning, 2005. Print.