1917–Why US Went To War

For about 4 years I have been writing about the one war that most Americans have tried to put out of their memories….The Great War…..World War One.

First just what made the US feel that fighting in World War One was a necessity?

History books would have pupils believe that it was the sinking of the Lusitania which killed 128 Americans…..

A whole lot of sources say that the main reason for the US joining WWI was the attack on the British ocean liner, RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, which left 1,200 people―including 128 Americans―dead. That, however, is not the case. The sinking of Lusitania is one of the many reasons that eventually led to the US joining this war. The attack on Lusitania took place in 1915, but the US declared war on Germany only in 1917.

Many of us history wonks point to the Zimmerman Telegram as the cause that lead to the US entering to WW1…….

This ploy came to light when the British naval intelligence, on January 19, 1917, intercepted a telegram sent by the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmermann to the German Ambassador in Mexico City. In return, the Germans were to help the government of Mexico to recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona that they had ceded to the US in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War.

After a brief hesitation fearing that the Germans would come to know that they had broken their code, the Brits handed this telegram to the United States on February 24. The same was eventually published in the newspapers, and that played a crucial role in changing the public opinion in the US.

Is that the reason Wilson felt the need to fight in an European war?

(i) Some say that too much was at stake for the US on the economic front. They had already invested over $2 billion in the war, and the chances of recovering this money would have become bleak, in the event of a loss for the Allied Forces.

(ii) Some argue that by then, it had started to look like the Germans were going to be defeated, and the US didn’t want to miss the opportunity to pitch itself as the savior of democracy.

(iii) Then there is a third lot who believe that it was Britain who manipulated the US into joining the war by strategically timing the Zimmermann telegraph revelation.

Nevertheless, we often state that the US joined WW1 on April 6, 1917 after a nod from Congress. That, however, was the moment when the US had officially joined the war. Unofficially, it had become a part of the conflict the moment President Wilson placed the US navy personnel on civilian ships to protect them from the German attacks, citing an archaic anti-piracy law. In accordance to the International law, this step in itself constituted an act of war.

Whatever the true reason for our entry the result was to change the US and the world forever…..

Part Two of this post will be the debate on whether to fight or to stay neutral…..(coming soon to  blog near you)……


3 thoughts on “1917–Why US Went To War

  1. Sorry, but I am going with option two.
    If they were really concerned about the Lusitania, they would have gone in during 1915/1916. Seems to me that they sensed possible German defeat, and thought a lot of stuff was up for grabs!
    Best wishes, Pete.

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