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World War One: The Human Face of War (9 stories)

Q & A: Armenian Genocide Dispute

Hunt for Pancho Villa

Author’s Corner: Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President

Teaching World War I With The New York Times

Learning Objectives:

Why did the United States try to remain neutral and then enter the European war in 1917?
To what extent did U.S. participation influence the outcome?
Were the Espionage and Sedition Acts justifiable in a time of war? Why or why not?
What was the impact of the war on the American home front?
Examine the debate over ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and American entry into the League of Nations, and explain the Senate's rejection of the treaty.

The teenage soldiers of World War I

Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and American idealism

When the Americans turned the tide

In Sarajevo, divisions that drove an assassin have only begun to heal

The Battle of the Somme: 141 days of horror

How World War I eventually saved lives

Last U.S. veteran of World War I turns 109 -

BBC History for World War One
[Expand each of the categories]

Animated map, 1914-1918

Initial line–up

Allies: Britain, France, Russia, Japan, and Italy
Central Powers: Germany, Austria–Hungary, Turkey
Initially, the United States attempted to remain neutral

War Beginnings
1. Large armies (web of alliances) dominated European continent

2. In Sarajevo, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated.

Archdukes, Cynicism, and World War I: Crash Course World History #36 - YouTube

Archduke Ferdinand assassinated in Sarajevo (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Austria Sends Ultimatum to Serbia which will lead to WWI (New York Times)

Austria Declares War on Serbia (New York Times)

Britain Declares War on Germany 1914 [great headline] (New York Times)

3. America's initial reaction: Wilson urged "impartiality in thought and action

President Woodrow Wilson (Miller Center, University of Virginia)

a. Read the portion "The Campaign and Election of 1916"

b. Read the portions "Federal Wartime Authority" and Civil Liberties during the War Years"

c. Read the portions "Neutrality in World War I," "End of Neutrality," "American Troops in the War," and "Wilson and the 14 Points"

4. America not sure whom to root for: we had immigrants from many places
Those of British heritage cheered for Britain
Irish hoped Britain's troubles would permit Irish independence
French remembered fondly for help in American Revolution
German-Americans rooted for Germany

American financial assistance to the Allies
1. England and France bought huge amounts of arms, grain, and clothing
2. American bankers helped finance purchases
Loans to Allies exceeded $2 billion; Loans to Germany: only $27 million
U.S. was not exactly neutral

German submarine (U-boat) warfare

1. A real threat to freedom of the seas came from German submarines

2. (Feb 1915) Germans declared the waters around British Isles a war zone
Threatened to sink any ship there

3. (May 1915) Germans sank passenger liner Lusitania
Among 1,198 dead were 128 Americans
PR impact: comparable to Maine in Havana harbor
America protested through diplomatic notes

Lusitania (Today in History, Library of Congress)

4. (1 Feb 1917). Germans decided on unrestricted submarine warfare
To sink any ship found in waters around France and England
Major German miscalculation
Germany hoped to defeat Allies before American troops reached Europe

US Breaks Relations with Germany (3 February 1917) (New York Times)

Feb. 3, 1917 | U.S. Breaks Relations With Germany and Plans to Declare War (New York Times)

Zimmermann telegram (25 Feb 1917)

1. Germany asked Mexico to be their ally—and perhaps even invade a part of the U.S.—if U.S. entered the war against Germany.

2. In return, Germany would help Mexico get back territory U.S. received from the Treaty of Guadalupe (1848) ending the Mexican War.

Wilson's war message

1. Wilson wanted to make the world "safe for democracy."
Idealism, progressivism, "city on a hill"
2. America: a special sense of mission—to reform world politics
3. Wilson believed taking part in the war necessary to guarantee U.S. a seat—and an insider's voice—at the peace table.

April 2, 1917 | Woodrow Wilson Asks For Declaration of War Against Germany (New York Times)


Mobilization of the nation for war altered American life
War cost $32 billion—U.S. yearly budget only $1 billion
Centralized planning boards: New Deal and World War II precedents

(1) War Industries Board
Key name: Bernard Baruch
Coordinated the national economy

(2) Food Administration
Key name: Herbert Hoover
Meatless and wheatless days
Victory gardens

(3) Fuel Administration
Daylight savings time
Gasless days

(4) Committee on Public Opinion

Key name: George Creel
Propaganda agency to get America behind the war effort
75,000 four-minute speakers
Anti-German sentiment became pronounced in U.S.
Schools stopped teaching the German language
Sauerkraut became "liberty cabbage"
Saloons removed pretzels
German composers were not played

Espionage and Sedition Acts:
Stopped people from speaking out
Compare to Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798
Espionage Act (1917)—limited First Amendment rights
Sedition Acts (1918)—further limited free speech

Posters in World War One
Go to Posters, United States.
Click through the posters on each of the 4 pages.
What is the intended audience? What does the government want people to do?


American Expeditionary Force (AEF)

1. Name given to the American armies in France
2. Commanded by General John "Black Jack" Pershing
3. U.S. came in on the side of the Allies: Britain and France

General Pershing

Leadership, Personal Courage, Devotion to Troops Won for Pershing Affection of Nation

General Pershing (Today in History, Library of Congress)

A soldier's life

I. Read these articles to get a clear picture of a soldier's life in the trenches during World War One

a. First World -Life in the Trenches

b. Trench Warfare Photos (History Channel)

II. Read each of the following articles (I tried to select ones I thought you might enjoy):

First World -No Man's Land

First World - Observation Balloons

First World -Poison Gas

First World -Creeping Barrage

First World -Big Bertha

First World -Tanks

First World - Snipers

First World - Wiring Parties

First World - A Night Counter-attack

First World - Alvin C. York
Internet Movie Data Base: Sergeant York (played by Gary Cooper)

First World - Women and WWI

First World - Hun

First World - Hitler in WWI

III. Songs from the website (they are organized by year):

Most Famous Song in U.S.: Over There
Bio of George M. Cohan

Other noteworthy WWI songs:

Major battles (all in 1918) involving Americans:
The Western Front: U.S. Participation, 1918

1. Arrival of U.S. forces was just in time

2. As a result of Bolshevik Revolution, Russia had gotten out of the war
Germans shifted their troops from Russia to France
Germans launched a major offensive in March 1918

3. Americans fought at

Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry
Saint Mihiel

4. By November 1918, Germany was retreating all along the front

Fighting ceased on 11 November 1918: our current Veterans' Day

Armistice Signed 11/11/18 (New York Times)

American dead totaled 100,000


Influenza epidemic killed some 20 million people world–wide (700,000 Americans)

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

National Archives pictures
The Influenza Epidemic of 1918

First person accounts from the History Matters website:

There Wasn't a Mine Runnin' a Lump O' Coal A Kentucky Coal Miner Remembers the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919
He'll Come Home in a Box The Spanish Influenza of 1918 Comes to Montana
Please, Let Me Put Him in a Macaroni Box The Spanish Influenza of 1918 in Philadelphia

American Experience: Influenza 1918


Bolshevik Revolution (1917)

1. Bolsheviks (Communists under Lenin) overthrew the Czar

2. March 1918: Treaty of Brest Litovsk—Russia pulled out of the World War
Germany could move its troops to France
Summer 1918: along with Allies, U.S. began intervention

3. Civil war erupted between Bolsheviks (Red Russians) and their internal enemies (White Russians)

U.S. Intervention in Russia (1918-1920)

1. Wilson sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Soviet Union
2. American aim was to defeat Bolsheviks (Red Russians) in civil war against White Russians
3. American troops remained in Russia until 1920
4. Created bad blood between U.S. and Soviets

U.S. Army in Russia during World War One (National Archives magazine)

Red Scare
Main website on the Red Scare:

Provoked by fear of Bolshevik influence
Remember: Russian Revolution in 1917
Fear in America of a similar social revolution
Much labor violence in America; many saw it as Bolshevism

Palmer raids
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer coordinated raids on alleged Communists, whose civil liberties were denied.
Seeds of McCarthyism planted during these years

Palmer Raids (Stanford History Education Group)

Rise of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI
American Legion. War veteran organization stood for 100% Americanism, social conformity, and anticommunism.
[Red Scare evaporated by 1920, but reappeared in the 1950s.]


Treaty of Versailles (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Versailles Peace Treaty Signed (New York Times)

1. British and French demanded harsh approach to defeated Germany
2. Wanted defeated Germany disarmed
3. Wanted Germany's colonies: Africa, Asia
4. Wanted monetary payback (reparations) of Allied war costs
5. Hoped reparations would cripple Germany forever ($33 billion)
6. Severity of reparations a main cause of World War II

Wilson's program (Fourteen Points)

World peace based on American principles. Highly idealistic.
Some of his points were as follows:

Open diplomacy
Freedom of the seas
Removal of trade barriers
Reduction of armaments
Impartial adjustment of colonial claims
Evacuation of occupied lands
National self-determination

League of Nations

League of Nations the most important point to Wilson
To police the world: forerunner of United Nations
Article 10: required major power intervention against aggressors
U.S. unwilling to commit to such potential intervention abroad

U.S. Senate rejection of the peace treaty

1. Senate has to approve any treaty by 2/3 vote
Wilson was a Democrat
Senate had 96 members: 49 Republicans, 47 Democrats
Close party balance as in 2001
Most Republicans opposed the treaty as written

2. Wilson stubbornly refused to work with his Republican opponents
Took his case to the American people: tiring speaking tour
Wilson suffered a stroke

3. Senate rejected the peace treaty

U.S. Senate Rejects Treaty of Versailles (New York Times)

March 19, 1920 | Senate Rejects Treaty of Versailles for Second and Final Time (New York Times)

4. America did not join the League of Nations


1. Major foreign policy debate
2. Collective security versus unilateralism
3. Most Americans preferred historical tradition of nonalignment
4. Willing to act unilaterally in world to achieve national interests
5. Reluctant to take on binding commitments to collective action