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HIST 102 Survey of American History II M04: Discussion (6)

Question: Why did the United States, so determined to stay out of the Great War in 1914, join the Allied cause enthusiastically in 1917? What do you think the outcome of the Great War would have been if the U.S. did not get involved?

In 1914, when the Great war started, United States was determined to stay out of the war. They did not expect the war hence did have the interest of getting involved. President Wilson government declared neutrality in the war and wanted those nations who were involved in the war to respect the United States as a neutral party, he announced that America must be neutral ,“impartial in thought as well as in action” . However Americans were divided about the Great war; some wanted the United States to get involved while others supported the neutrality. It did not take long though, United States starting leaning towards France and Britain.

During the early course of the war, some actions taken by the Germans caused the Americans to start changing their view on the war. Germans envied the fact that America traded more with France and England than with them. More so, the Germans were no longer getting goods from the United States because the British Navy unnavigable encirclement around the continent of Europe. This triggered the Germans to begin a U-boat campaign. Wilson did not like the idea, he knew that the submarine campaign would escalate the war to a dangerous level, he continued pushing for mediation. As a result, President Wilson sent Colonel Edward to Germany, France and England so that they could settle a peace agreement. Unfortunately, none of these countries listen to the proposal made by the United States through Col. Edward. Knowing that neither side was willing settle the issues in a peaceful manner, Wilson urged the Germans that they were putting American lives at risk with their submarine campaign. May of 1915, a German submarine destroyed the British ocean liner, Lusitania. Making it worse, among those who were killed in the process were more than 120 Americans. Despite this, Wilson government wished to remain uninvolved in the war. Wilson did not have any plans for retaliation; he valued peace more than anything else at that time. He sent a number of statements to Germany, notifying them to stop their attacks. Months after, another British liner was destroyed by the U-boat. Wilson again did not want to retaliate; he sent them a notification to stop their submarine attacks. In 1916, Germany announced that they would be attacking all the ships around Europe waters without any warning, including those of the neutral merchants. Wilson warned them about the action, but Germany responded harshly by attacking the steamer Sussex. This triggered an end of the diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany. Fearing this, Germany agreed to respect the shipping lines.

In February 1917 after Wilson’s reelection, Germany press more for the war; they announced that they would not spare any ship in the waters around Europe. This brought an end to the diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany. On March, 1917, three American ships were sunk by the German U-boat and on the next day, America entered the war alongside the Allied forces. If the United States had stayed out of the Great War, the war would have ended in 1915 or 1916 probably with a peace agreement. The allies got the guts of proceeding with the war because they had support from the United States, but without this, they would have been forced to abandon the war.

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