The First World War broke out in 1914 when Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serb nationalist. At the time, the Central Powers included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire and the Allies included Great Britain, France, and Russia. Not wanting to be involved in the war, the United States declared its policy of neutrality in 1914 until 1917 when they entered the war on the side of the Allies.
The United States did attempt to practice isolationist point of views but as German aggression, the U.S’s neutrality decreased to the point of them favoriting the Allies and entering the war in 1917. When the war broke out on July 28th, 1914, President Wilson gave a speech to Congress to make sure the public knew his stance on the war. In Document A, Wilson stated his vision for neutrality because many citizens backgrounds lead to a side of the war and the country would’ve been divided once again if America entered the war (Doc A). Wilson was accurate in his assumption that Americans didn’t want to enter the war yet because people were still trying to stick to an isolationists attitude. However, America’s standoffish attitude in Germany’s eyes most likely prompted their increased aggression by 1915. Germany sent out a mass message in the New York Times intended for the American citizens warning about transatlantic travel (Doc E), and how even if it was just an American ship trading with Britain, they would be met with violence from Germany. In 1915, Germany sunk the American ship, Lusitania, killing innocent passengers and then a year later in 1916, a german submarine attacked a French passenger steamer leaving 80 casualties, including two Americans wounded.
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These acts of aggression fueled America’s decreasing neutrality. The United States mainly sent goods to Great Britain, expressing their favoritism towards the Allies. Document C even says when the U.
S ships were intercepted, the ships were sent to a British port without being examined and didn’t come back for weeks (Doc C). The government didn’t do anything about it, which means that they were helping out the British; not being neutral. This is not a very reliable source because it is from 1935 which is over 20 years after the war ended, even though the author was “Acting Secretary of State” during the period described in the excerpt. The report from the American Customs Inspector in 1915 even stated that the ship, Lusitania, contained 4200 cases of metallic cartridges to London and 1250 cases of shrapnel to England (Doc F) So, the U.S was supplying ammunition to Allies forces, even more implying the ever decreasing neutrality in the country.The United States may not have been in the war at this point but after one other major event showcasing German aggression, their stance on neutrality all but decreased to nothing. In January 1917, Germany announced their plan to resume unrestricted submarine warfare in the Zimmerman telegram (Doc H).
This felt like a direct threat to the American people after the Lusitania and Sussex incident, pushing them farther and farther away from neutrality. The telegram was intercepted by Britain and showed Germany persuading Mexico to join them with the promise of land in the United States. This swayed many people’s views on neutrality and on Germany as shown by the political cartoon in the Des Moines Register in 1917 (Doc I). The American people now saw Germany as a threat to the world, a snake trying to take over. The United States entered the war on April 6th, 1917, ultimately ending any extent of neutrality it once had. The U.
S. tried their best to stay neutral and to their beliefs but German aggression made it virtually impossible. When the U.S. entered the war, the traditional thought of isolationism shifted to nationalism in almost every American citizen.