World War I broke out in 1914, but the US only joined the war in 1917. The involvement of the US marked a pivotal moment in the war when the Allied Powers began to emerge as the stronger side. This was largely due to provision of gunpowder by the US, a huge army base and other crucial resources.
Initial Policy of Neutrality
US did not want to get involved in World War I at first. The reasons were twofold: the war was regarded as a conflict among the “old world” leaders that had little relation with them. Furthermore, many immigrants in the US had connections with both sides of the war, so they did not have a clear team to root for.
The Catalyst for War
What triggered the Americans to want to get involved was through a single act by the Germans. When they sank the British luxury cruise ship Lusitania in 1915, 1,198 civilians perished. This, and the fact that 159 Americans were on the ship when the attack happened, angered many Americans. They were motivated to support the Allied Powers.
The Last Straw
After Lusitania was sunk, there was another incident that spurred the Americans to join the war. In January, 1917, the British managed to seize and decipher a private telegram sent by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the German ambassador based in Mexico. The message was revealed to US that Germany invited Mexico to enter the war with the Central Powers, with the promise of reconquering New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
The Official Declaration of War
As US national interests were threatened by the Zimmerman Telegram, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany three months afterwards. He made a speech announcing that US would be entering the war on the side of the Allied Powers in order to bring peace to the world.
US Troops in War
US troops started off with a relatively low number, but soon expanded quickly with the influx of drafted young men and volunteers. At its peak, there were 2 million American soldiers in France. Due to the involvement of US troops, the stalemate in WWI was broken. The Allied Powers and Central Powers were both fatigued and suffered many casualties. As US joined on the side of the Allied Powers, the power dynamic suddenly swung to the Allied Powers’ favor, resulting in their victory.
Post War Developments
To recover from the war and prevent a future tragedy, American President Woodrow Wilson came up with Fourteen Points that were designed to bring peace to the world. He famously called for the League of Nations that would be used to prevent wars. He wanted every nation in Europe to bounce back from the devastation, but Britain and France had other ideas. They imposed heavy reparations on Germany through the Treaty of Versailles. The US did not participate in its signing.
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