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America's Road to War
Transcript of America's Road to War
Most Americans didn't want to get involved with the war after it broke out in 1914. Most saw it as Europeans just being Europeans- slaughtering each other over stupid little territorial disputes.
Remember though, America is a nation of immigrants. Over 12.5 million Americans were of German or Irish descent and favored the Central Powers. (why would the Irish?)
More though supported the Allies due to a strong cultural link with the British.
Both sides in the war used propaganda- both in Europe and in neutral countries like America to sway public support.
Americans were more swayed by British propaganda, however.
America's Early Involvement
America intended to trade with both sides of the war- however, Great Britain's Royal Navy was blockading Germany and would seize ships trading with the Germans. Therefore we mostly traded with the British. Perhaps more importantly, we lended billions of dollars to the British to pay for their war effort.
This in turn annoyed the Germans, who felt like we were picking sides.
To stop America sending stuff the Britain, Germany stated in February 1915 that it would sink vessels entering or leaving British ports.
On May 7, a German U-boat torpedoed a British ship the Lusitania which had 128 Americans on board. American president Woodrow Wilson denounced the attack and American public opinion turned sharply against Germany.
Despite the Lusitania, most Americans still wanted to stay out of the war. Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916 promising to keep us out.
However, soon the Germans will do something so annoying it will bring us in... (does anyone know?)
But for now back to Europe.
In January 1917, British agents (who were tapping into Atlantic telegram lines) intercepted a telegram from Germany to Mexico.
The telegram promised Mexico that if America entered the war, Germany would ally with Mexico and help return lands lost in the Mexican-American war. As you can imagine, Americans flipped out.
America Enters the War
As a revolution begins in Russia, America wants to go in.
On April 12, 1917, Woodrow Wilson asks for a declaration of war against Germany.
"The world must be made safe for democracy... It is a fearful thing to lead this great, peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars... But the right is more precious than peace."
Germany has gained a powerful new enemy.
Christmas Day Truce
On Christmas Day 1914, the war had slowed to a stalemate on the Western Front. Soldiers on both sides had been promised "the war will be over by Christmas." Not true.
On Christmas day, men on both sides left their trenches and met in No Man's Land during the "Christmas Day Truce."
Generals freaked out at this and made sure in later years that it never happened again.
Germany needs a victory- they attack the French city of Verdun.
Long story short, the Germans had attacked Verdun knowing the French would defend it. The Germans designed the battlefield to be as destructive as possible, attempting to bleed the French dry.
The battle was inconclusive. It lasted all of 1916 with over a million casualties.
Despite their wonderful army, Germany is realizing that this war has becoming a war of attrition (what does that mean) and that's bad for them.
The British, French, and Russians combined outnumber the Central Powers four to one, and that's not even counting France and Britain's colonies.
Due to the Royal Navy, Germany can't trade, and their U-Boats can't completely cut off Britain.
The war needs to end soon for Germany to have a chance.
At Verdun, the French command realized that more and more troops were either deserting, refusing to fight, or becoming insane- PTSD. The constant threat of death was more than a man can bear.
The French responded by rotating troops through and having men only spend a month at a time- this helped, but it caused every French soldier to see war at its worst.
This will have consequences in WWII.
“See that little stream — we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it — a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No Europeans will ever do that again in this generation.”
“Why, they’ve only just quit over in Turkey,” said Abe. “And in Morocco —”
“That’s different. This western-front business couldn’t be done again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn’t. They could fight the first Marne again but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes. The Russians and Italians weren’t any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancée, and little cafés in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and weddings at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather’s whiskers.”
“General Grant invented this kind of battle at Petersburg in sixty- five.”
“No, he didn’t — he just invented mass butchery. This kind of battle was invented by Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne and whoever wrote Undine, and country deacons bowling and marraines in Marseilles.... Why, this was a love battle — there was a century of middle-class love spent here. This was the last love battle.”