HI102 – History of Western Civilization II
President Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States who served two terms of office. During President Wilson’s term, the United States witnessed the start of WWI, which he was best remembered for his leadership in this time of turmoil. The United States did everything possible to remain neutral as the event unfolded. Attempting to remain impartial and fair with all countries involved, had a major turn of events on April 6, 1917, when the US could no longer remain out of WWI.
3Millions of American troops were sent to Europe, entering WWI. Two million U.S. soldiers fought in France alone. More than two years of congressional efforts had failed. This paper looks at the events which took place from 1914 to 1917, detailing the reasons behind the United States entering WWI and the decisions that President Woodrow Wilson had to face when diplomacy failed.
On August 4, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson formally proclaimed the neutrality of the United States. There was a mix of opinions regarding this proclamation, foremost, America being comprised of immigrants from Europe, many of which had ties back to their homeland. However, much of the U.S. population was supportive in remaining neutral. There were several incidents which occurred between 1914 and 1917 that influenced President Woodrow Wilson’s decision making about WWI. In February 1915, Germany stated that there would be unrestricted warfare against all ships even if one were neutral, such as the United States. The Germans did not discriminate between ships all were acceptable targets. A month later, Germany announced that a German cruiser sunk the William P. Frye, a private American vessel that transported grain to England. Wilson was outraged by what had occurred, but Germany apologized to the U.S. President and stated that it was an unfortunate mistake. Despite this apology, Germany continued to attack and destroy ships. On May 7, 1915, the Germans sunk the Lusitania. The purpose of the Lusitania was to transport people; the civilian casualties were numerous including the death of many Americans. President Wilson knew he had to act regarding this event. The sinking of the Lusitania was what Wilson used, to gain Congressional approval for the war. This war crime was effective in altering the emotions of the American people.
The public opinions of the American populace also played a factor in the U.S. entering the war. Most America wanted to remain neutral. This view of neutrality was proven by President Wilson’s reelection, given that his slogan was “He kept us out of war.” The sinking of the Lusitania and the deaths of 131 American’s, (“The United States Department,” n.d.), potentially reversed the opinion of neutrality in the American public. The incident of The Lusitania was effectively used as propaganda, to redirect American opinion on the necessity of war involvement....