The Roles Of Congress In World Wars I And Ii

1444 words - 6 pages

The law making body of the United States of America faces some of its most trying moments during war time. There are several factors to take into account when the threat of war looms. At the time of World War I, the United States was in a period of isolationism, where foreign affairs were of little importance to the country. When war broke out overseas, America was determined to maintain neutrality. While doing so however, it was also imperative to prepare for war, should the U.S be pulled in somehow. When it was forced to go to war, a strategy for success in the war needed to be thought out. For these reasons, Congress played a significant role in the war. This importance of Congress was also proved by its role in World War II. Congress’s actions, including the passing of draft acts, preparation acts, war protection acts, and acts to ensure post-war prosperity during World War I and similar acts in World War II, allowed for American success in both wars.
President Wilson, throughout the beginning of World War I, had maintained a policy of neutrality. This changed when the actions of Germany, including the sinking of the Lusitania and other non-belligerent vessels, made it clear that the U.S could not avoid war much longer. In order to prepare for the imminent war, Congress passed the National Defense Act in May of 1916. This piece of legislation expanded state militias and put them under federal control. The president could deploy this National Guard in a state of emergency. This reinforcement of America’s armed forces allowed for their strengthening and for the increase in military prepared ness (9). Also to fortify the military, Congress passed the Selective Service Act in 1917, giving the president the power to draft soldiers. All men ages 21-30 were required to register and after just a few months the army was ten million men stronger. In passing this act, Congress ensured the Allies what they desperately needed: enough troops to defeat the Central Powers (1). Neutrality and preparedness in World War II were approached in similar and differing ways. In the Second World War, neutrality was left to Congress to proclaim with its various Neutrality Acts from 1935-1939. In 1935, Congress hoped to isolate the U.S, thereby, preventing U.S interference or assistance overseas (8). By 1939, however, Congress would be less restrictive and allow for the selling of munitions to nations at war in exchange for cash. These nations would be forced to retrieve the goods, ensuring that no U.S ships could be sunk by U-boats and thus causing U.S entry into the war (class notes 1/2/12). Despite these efforts to remain neutral, it seemed that America would be entering the war soon, therefore, the Selective Training and Service Act was passed in 1940 drafting men ages 21-35, and later requiring all men ages 18-65 to register (1). Also in preparing for the war the Military Industrial Congressional Complex was formed. An economic and administrative method for the...

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