The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1917-1918.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 30.
Germany was putting peace-loving Woodrow Wilson into a corner. He has tirelessly tried to mediate peace to no avail. The interception of the Zimmerman Letter, a plea from Germany to Mexico for help, and the exit of Russia from the Allies’ side after its tsars were overthrown sealed the deal. War was on!
After facing much opposition from Midwestern Congressmen, war was declared on Germany on April 2, 1917. The US was entering into a war the size of which had never before been seen. Wilson still had much to do in order to sway the public to take up the plight of the Europeans. He eventually did so and the country thrust itself against the Germans.
First came the Ten Commandments, then came Wilson’s Fourteen Points. This is the stuff of legend. Wilson’s points outlined the peaceful end to the Great War and his last point would spur the formation of the League of Nations. But not everyone saw these goals as ideal. In order to convince people of his great plan, Wilson, among others, embraced propaganda.
George Creel was the Joseph Goebbels of the First World War. His speeches and movies glorified the Allies soldiers while portraying the Germans as pure menaces. The country took storm as if it were a religious revival. Creel led the public to expect far too much of the mere mortal President.
What everyone almost forgot about was the 8 million German-Americans. Surprisingly, they were on our side! Nevertheless, we lynched a few Germans and completely removed their culture from our libraries and classrooms. Socialism, once an up-and-coming movement, was now outlawed with the passing of the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Though they broke the First Amendment of free speech, they were deemed legal when such speech present a clear danger to the country.
Eugene Debs, the leader of the Pullman Strike, was imprisoned under the new law. He was later pardoned by Harding in 1921.
The pacifist Woodrow had surprisingly been preparing for war for a while. In 1915, he created the Council of National Defense to ensure economic stability during war. Among other programs, he enacted a new ship-building program as well. No one was sure how much steel and explosive powder the US could produce. Finally, in 1918, Wilson created the War Industries Board to end economic confusion.
WWI brought on a renewed love of labor in America. Most laborers were happy to work instead of fight; unemployed men were almost always drafted. The largest union, the AF of L, supported the war and happily complied. Wartime inflation would later take its toll on the laborers. In 1919, the largest strike ever seen in US history occurred when 250,000 steelworkers left to picket.
Most of the strike-breakers of the ‘great steel strike’ were African Americans. Though the North was considerable more tolerant than the South, the new arrival of blacks in the previously-white workplace spurred interracial violence. The 1919 Chicago race riots were perhaps the worst. In two weeks of non-stop violence, 15 whites and 23 blacks lay dead.
Now that most of the men were off fighting, some one had to pick up the slack! Women were just the folk to do so. Though many were pacifists, they sympathized with President Wilson and supported the war. Wilson, impressed by the women’s tenacity, endorsed their right to vote. After loads of states joined the bandwagon, suffrage was finally ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment.
A step back was taken in the war for women’s rights was taken was the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act was passed in 1921. It put women back into their traditional role as mothers, though it did bring reform in maternal and infant health care.
Besides winning the war, the biggest issue for Woodrow Wilson was the economy. He was determined to find a way in which the Allies could be feed and the US not become bankrupt. The future President Herbert Hoover was just the man for the job. Soon, food was being saved for exportation and everyone chipped in. Farm production was up and fuel usage was down in order to save some for the Allies.
Many brewers were Germans and we hated Germans! This finally helped prohibition become law.
Oh God. Our textbook is skipping all over the place. Now we’re back to 1917 again. Anyway, though the country was against having a draft, it was the only way the Allies would get the manpower to win. Wilson’s previous propaganda paid off when young men eagerly lined up to die for their country. The Army swelled to 4 million strong– made up of whites, blacks, and women. With little training, those chipper young men were sent off into the fray.
Now that the Russians were out of the war, the Allies lost a considerable amount of fighting power. With the Russians releasing thousands of German POW’s, the war quickly became one-sided. Like always, the great savior Americans came in and kicked some ass. We fought primarily in France, but some also fought in Italy, Belgium, and Russia. We invaded Russia on both sides with the help of the Japs.
The Germans made a last-ditch effort in Spring of 1918. Trench warfare was awfully popular and death usually came from an unknown source. We finally pushed the Germans back later that year, in September. The war reached its pinnacle when 1.2 million American troops engaged in a 47-day battle called the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Once that over, victory was in the cross-hairs of the Allies.
The Germans finally gave in on November 11, 1918. They were willing to give in to peace as long as Wilson’s Fourteen Points were upheld. The war was over. And what a war it was! For us, any way. All we did was supply ammo and food to the stressed and starved Allied forces. We only fought for two months out of the four year war. In the end, the Germans were defeated by fear of the endless supply of American troops and the British Naval blockade that starved German children.
Wilson now had to determine how to shape the world in peace. He had become a Christ-figure all over the world. He led the peace talks in Paris along with the leaders of Italy, Great Britain, and France. Speed was of the utmost importance as communism was rising from Russia. Woodrow ultimately wanted the other nations to endorse his League of Nations plan. Within a few weeks, they were in.
However, the US Congress also had to endorse the treaty and Wilson’s League as well. On a quick trip back to the states, the President realized doing just that wound not be easy. The Republicans, whom Wilson had snubbed on his trip to Paris, struck down the treaty, claiming it was imperfect.
France now demanded Allied help in case of another German invasion. The President reassembled this ideal and more into the Treaty of Versailles and finally handed it over to the Germans in June of 1919. Wilson had changed almost everything and only four of his Fourteen Points were amended. This broken promise was soon cause an uprising led by Adolf ‘Burning in Hell’ Hitler.
Wilson’s fall from grace entailed the loss of his precious League of Nations. His own country denounced his hastily-made Treaty of Versailles. He set out on a tour of the US, giving speeches at every stop. He was determined to show that the League of Nations would stop all future wars. Wilson’s health was worsening and soon he would suffer a stroke.
Leading the opposition was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Henry Cabot Lodge. Article X of the treaty claimed that the US was morally obliged to aid other nations. Lodge and just about everyone wanted the US to stay isolated and not get involved.
Though the Treaty of Versailles was already signed by the Germans, the US Senate never ratified it and the US was kept out of the League. It’s kinda like not being invited to your own party. The League ended up being pretty bad though, so no harm, no fowl.