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					I. America at War: World War I Overview


A recent list of the hundred most important news stories of the twentieth century ranked the onset of
World War I eighth. This is a great error. Just about everything that happened in the remainder of the
century was in one way or another connected to World War I, including the Bolshevik Revolution in
Russia, World War II, the Holocaust, and the development of the atomic bomb. The Great Depression,
the Cold War, and the collapse of European colonialism can also be traced, at least indirectly, to the
First World War.

World War I killed more people--more than 9 million soldiers, sailors, and flyers and another 5 million
civilians--involved more countries--28--and cost more money--$186 billion in direct costs and another
$151 billion in indirect costs--than any previous war in history. It was the first war to use airplanes,
tanks, long range artillery, submarines, and poison gas. It left at least 7 million men permanently
disabled.

World War I probably had more far-reaching consequences than any other proceeding war. Politically, it
resulted in the downfall of four monarchies--in Russia in 1917, in Austria-Hungary and Germany in
1918, and in Turkey in 1922. It contributed to the Bolshevik rise to power in Russia in 1917 and the
triumph of fascism in Italy in 1922. It ignited colonial revolts in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia.

Economically, the war severely disrupted the European economies and allowed the United States to
become the world's leading creditor and industrial power. The war also brought vast social
consequences, including the mass murder of Armenians in Turkey and an influenza epidemic that killed
over 25 million people worldwide.

Few events better reveal the utter unpredictability of the future. At the dawn of the 20th century, most
Europeans looked forward to a future of peace and prosperity. Europe had not fought a major war for
100 years. But a belief in human progress was shattered by World War I, a war few wanted or expected.
At any point during the five weeks leading up to the outbreak of fighting the conflict might have been
averted. World War I was a product of miscalculation, misunderstanding, and miscommunication.

No one expected a war of the magnitude or duration of World War I. At first the armies relied on
outdated methods of communication, such as carrier pigeons. The great powers mobilized more than a
million horses. But by the time the conflict was over, tanks, submarines, airplane-dropped bombs,
machine guns, and poison gas had transformed the nature of modern warfare. In 1918, the Germans fired
shells containing both tear gas and lethal chlorine. The tear gas forced the British to remove their gas
masks; the chlorine then scarred their faces and killed them.

In a single day at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, 100,000 British troops plodded across no man's
land into steady machine-gun fire from German trenches a few yards away. Some 60,000 were killed or
wounded. At the end of the battle, 419,654 British men were killed, missing, or wounded.

Four years of war killed a million troops from the British Empire, 1.5 million troops from the Hapsburg
Empire, 1.7 million French troops, 1.7 million Russians, and 2 million German troops. The war left a
legacy of bitterness that contributed to World War II twenty-one years later.




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II. America at War: World War I
The United States Enters the War:


President Wilson was reluctant to enter World War I. When the War began, President Wilson declared
U.S. neutrality and demanded that the belligerents respect American rights as a neutral party. He
hesitated to embroil the United States in the conflict with good reason. Americans were deeply divided
about the European war and involvement in the conflict would certainly disrupt Progressive reforms. In
1914, he had warned that entry into the conflict would bring an end to Progressive reform. "Every
reform we have won will be lost if we go into this war," he said. A popular song in 1915 was "I Didn't
Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier."

In 1916, President Wilson narrowly won reelection after campaigning on the slogan, "He kept us out of
war." He won the election with a 4,000 vote margin in California. Shortly after war erupted in Europe,
President Wilson called on Americans to be "neutral in thought as well as deed." But quickly the United
States began to lean toward Britain and France.

Convinced that wartime trade was necessary to fuel the growth of American trade, President Wilson
refused to impose an embargo on trade with the belligerents. During the early years of the war, trade
with the allies tripled. This volume of trade quickly exhausted the Allies' cash reserves, forcing them to
ask the United States for credit. In October 1915, President Wilson permitted loans to belligerents, a
decision that greatly favored Britain and France. By 1917 American loans to the Allies had soared to
$2.25 billion; loans to Germany stood at a paltry $27 million.

It was Germany's announcement in January 1917 that it would resume unrestricted submarine
warfare that helped precipitate American entry into the conflict. Germany hoped to win the war within
five months, and was willing to risk antagonizing Wilson on the assumption that even if the United
States declared war, it could not mobilize quickly enough to change the course of the conflict.

Then a fresh insult led Wilson to demand a declaration of war. In March 1917, newspapers published the
Zimmerman Note, an intercepted telegram from the German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to
the German ambassador to Mexico. The telegram said that if Germany went to war with the United
States, Germany promised to help Mexico recover the territory it had lost during the 1840s, including
Texas, New Mexico, California, and Arizona. The Zimmerman note and German attacks on three U.S.
ships in mid-March led Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war.

One reason why Wilson decided to enter the war was so he could help design the peace settlement.
Wilson viewed the war as an opportunity to destroy German militarism. "The world must be made
safe for democracy," he told a joint session of Congress. Only six Senators and 50 Representatives
voted against the war declaration.

In 1917, a high German official scoffed at American might: "America from a military point of view
means nothing, and again nothing, and for a third time nothing." The U.S. Army at the time had only
107,641 men. Within a year, however, the United States raised a five million man army. By the war's
end, the American armed forces were a decisive factor in blunting a German offensive and ending the
bloody stalemate.

Initially, President Wilson hoped to limit America's contribution to supplies, financial credits, and moral
support. But by early 1917, the allied forces were on the brink of collapse. Ten divisions of the
French army had begun to mutiny. In March 1917, the Bolsheviks, who had seized power in Russia in

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November, accepted Germany's peace terms and withdrew from the war. Then, German and Austrian
forces routed the Italian armies.

The United States was forced to quickly assume an active role in the conflict. To raise troops, President
Wilson insisted on a military draft. More than 23 million men registered during World War I, and
2,810,296 draftees served in the armed forces.

American entry into the war quickly overcame the German military's numerical advantage. In June
1918, 279,000 American soldiers crossed the Atlantic; in July over 300,000; in August, 286,000. All
told, 1.5 million American troops arrived in Europe during the last six months of the war. By the end of
the conflict the Allies could field 600,000 more men than the Germans. The influx of American forces
led the Austro-Hungarian Empire to ask for peace, Turkey and Bulgaria to stop fighting, and Germany
to request an armistice.

President Wilson announced that he would negotiate only with a democratic regime in Germany. When
the military leaders and the Kaiser wavered, a brief revolution forced the Kaiser to abdicate, and a
civilian regime assumed control of the government. At 11:00 A.M., November 11, 1918, the guns
stopped.




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III. America at War: World War I
Over Here: World War I on the Home Front


Approximately one-third of the nation, 32 million people, were either foreign born or the children of
immigrants, and more than 10 million derived from the nations of the Central Powers. Furthermore,
millions of Irish-Americans sided with the Central Powers because they hated the English.

The Wilson administration was convinced that it had to mobilize public opinion in support of the war.
To influence public opinion, the federal government embarked on its first ever domestic propaganda
campaign. Wilson chose muckraking journalist George Creel to head a government Committee on
Public Information. The CPI placed pro-war advertisements in magazines and distributed 75 million
copies of pamphlets defending America's role in the war. Creel also launched a massive advertising
campaign for war bonds, and sent some 75,000 "Four-Minute Men" to whip up enthusiasm for the war
by rallying audiences in theaters. The CPI also encouraged filmmakers to produce movies that played up
alleged German atrocities, with titles like 'The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin'. For the first time, the federal
government had demonstrated the power of propaganda.

German American and Irish American communities came out strongly in favor of neutrality,
condemning massive loans and arms sales to the Allies as a violation of neutrality. Theodore Roosevelt
raised the issue of whether these communities were loyal to their mother country or to the United States
:
       Those hyphenated Americans who terrorize American politicians by threats of the foreign vote are
       engaged in treason to the American Republic.

Once the United States entered the war, a search for spies and saboteurs escalated into efforts to
suppress German culture. Many German-language newspapers were closed down. Public schools
stopped teaching German. Lutheran churches dropped German-language services.

Germans were called "Huns." In the name of patriotism, musicians no longer played Bach and
Beethoven, and schools stopped teaching the German language. Americans renamed sauerkraut "liberty
cabbage"; dachshunds, "liberty hounds"; and German measles, "liberty measles." Cincinnati, with its
large German-American population, even removed pretzels from the free lunch counters in saloons.
More alarming, vigilante groups attacked anyone suspected of being unpatriotic. Workers who refused
to buy war bonds often suffered harsh retribution, and attacks on labor protesters were nothing short of
brutal. The legal system backed the suppression. Juries routinely released defendants accused of
violence against individuals or groups critical of the war.

A St. Louis newspaper campaigned to "wipe out everything German in this city," even though St. Louis
had a large German-American population. Luxembourg, Mo. became Lemay; Berlin Avenue was
renamed Pershing; Bismarck Street became Fourth Street; Kaiser Street was changed to Gresham.

Perhaps the most horrendous anti-German act was the lynching in April 1918 of Robert Paul Prager, 29,
a German-born bakery employee, who was accused of making "disloyal utterances." A mob took him
from the basement of the Collinsville, Illinois jail, dragged him outside of town and hanged him from a
tree. In the trial that followed, the defendants wore red, white, and blue ribbons, while a band in the
court house played patriotic songs. It took the jury 25 minutes to return a not-guilty verdict.




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IV. America at War: World War I
The Espionage and Sabotage Act


In his war message to Congress, the President had warned the war would require a redefinition of
national loyalty. There were "millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy who
live amongst us", he said. "If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with a firm hand of repression."

In June 1917 Congress passed the Espionage Act, which gave postal officials the authority to ban
newspapers and magazines from the mails and threatened individuals convicted of obstructing the draft
with $10,000 fines and 20 years in jail. Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1918, which made it a
federal offense to use "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the Constitution, the
government, the American uniform, or the flag. The government prosecuted over 2100 people under
these acts.

Political dissenters bore the brunt of the repression. Eugene V. Debs, who urged socialists to resist
militarism, went to prison for nearly three years. Another Socialist, Kate Richards O'Hare served a year
in prison for stating that the women of the United States were "nothing more nor less than brood sows,
to raise children to get into the army and be made into fertilizer."

Labor radicals offered another ready target for attack. In July 1917 in Cochise County, Arizona, armed
men, under the direction of a local sheriff, rounded up 1,186 strikers at the Phelps Dodge copper mine.
They placed these workers, many of Mexican descent, on railroad cattle cars without food or water, and
left them in the New Mexico desert, 180 miles away. The Los Angeles Times editorialized: "The
citizens of Cochise County have written a lesson that the whole of America would do well to copy."

The radical labor organization the International Workers of the World never recovered from government
attacks during World War I. In September 1917 the Justice Department staged massive raids on IWW
officers, arresting 169 of its veteran leaders. The administration's purpose was, as one attorney put it,
"very largely to put the IWW out of business." Many observers thought the judicial system would
protect dissenters, but the courts handed down stiff prison sentences to the radical labor organization's
leaders

Radicals were not the only one to suffer harassment. Robert Goldstein, a motion picture producer, had
made a movie about the American Revolution called The Spirit of '76, before the United States entered
the war. When he released the picture after the declaration of war, he was accused of undermining
American morale. A judge told him that his depiction of heartless British redcoats caused Americans to
question their British allies. He was sentenced to a 10 year prison term and fined $5,000.




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